by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams lost her semifinal at the US Open on Thursday to Karolina Pliskova, 6-2 7-6(5), but that may not be the most important thing she lost on Thursday. The 22-time major champion also lost her world No. 1 ranking for the first time since February of 2013 to Angelique Kerber of Germany.
“I’m not talking about No. 1,” said Williams in her post-match press conference. “I think Karolina played great today…I wasn’t at 100 percent but I also think she played well and she deserved to win today.”
Williams discussed having a knee injury that occurred after her second round match that had been hampering her movement around the court, but was gracious in defeat as she was able to give Pliskova the credit she deserves for winning the match.
Pliskova, from the Czech Republic, has now won 11 matches in a row. After winning the premier-level event in Cincinnati, the No. 11 player in the world has come into New York and won six matches. Her goal coming into the event was to reach the fourth round of a major for the first time, and she has been able to go three rounds further, all the way into the final.
“I said I don’t believe it…actually I do believe it. I always knew I had a chance to beat anyone if I am playing my game,” said Pliskova.
The first set was dominated by the 10th-seeded Pliskova, as she went two-for-three on break points and didn’t have to face one herself. After Williams fought off a break point to hold for 2-3, she was able to take Pliskova to deuce and almost turned the tables on the first set.
Pliskova, though, withstood the effort from the American to hold before breaking her at love in the next game for a 5-2 lead, and that momentum carried over into the next game as the Czech easily held to close out the first set.
“The serve today was the key why I won,” said Pliskova.
Thanks to her dominance on serve that saw seven aces and 84-percent of first serve points won, Pliskova was able to continuously apply pressure on the Williams serve, earning a break point in the opening game of the second set. The Czech didn’t convert at that time, but would convert a few games later to break Williams for a 3-2 lead.
In the very next game, though, Pliskova faltered for the first and only time in the match, allowing Williams to have a look at a 0-40 opportunity. The American would not miss out on this chance, capitalizing on the first break point to even up the set.
Straightforward holds took the set into a tiebreak after the exchange of breaks early on. After dropping the first set on serve, Williams was able to bounce back and win both of Pliskova’s service points later in the set to grab a 4-3 lead.
The American was unable to take advantage of this lead, though, and lost her next service point before ultimately grabbing a 5-4 lead and putting herself within two matches of forcing a deciding third set. From that point on, though, Pliskova was able to win the next three points, including a double fault on match point from Williams, giving the Czech the win and putting her in the final.
“This is something amazing and I’m really excited to be in the final, and especially to beat a player like this. Serena is a champion so it’s never easy to play her…it was very hard,” said Pliskova. “I had a goal today to beat Serena and that’s what I did…I don’t care who is there in the final.”
Wilson Sporting Goods announced that it will honor 20-year veteran Advisory Staff Member Serena Williams with an Autograph tennis racket.
The Blade Serena Williams (SW) 104 Autograph racket marks only the 16th time in the brand’s 102-year history, and only the second time in the last 38 years, that it has celebrated an athlete with Autograph racket. Serena will debut her new racket at the start of the 2017 season in Australia.
“I’ve played with Wilson rackets since I was a young girl, and to now hold an Autograph racket of my own is a great moment,” said Serena Williams. “I am just thrilled that players of all ages around the world will be able to play with a Wilson racket that bears my signature. This racket feels like me – it reflects my passion, perseverance and drive – and I hope it energizes and encourages those that play with it to always chase their dreams.”
The 2017Blade SW 104 Autograph racket features the new design DNA for Wilson performance tennis rackets. This design includes a simple, bold, and clean aesthetic that features a specially engineered, high performance paint never used in the tennis industry before called Black Velvet. This matte paint provides a smooth, soft, light-absorbing finish Wilson created to significantly improve the “feel,” or tactile experience, a player has when the racket is in his/her hands. This new dimension of “feel” is a unique innovation in the performance tennis rackets space.
The racket also features strong electric green accents, a signature look from the Blade franchise, at the three and nine o’clock positions on the racket’s frame.
To customize her Autograph racket, Serena William chose to add special gold accents to the design, including her signature, initials and the Blade name in gold chrome letters. The racket features a red Wilson-branded butt cap.
The Blade SW 104 Autograph racket is constructed with the latest racket technology from Wilson LABS, the innovation hub at Wilson, including a revolutionary material called Countervail®. With Countervail in a tennis racket, players feel less fatigue, recover quicker and experience better control – without sacrificing stiffness, feedback, or feel.
After a first-round exit at the Olympic Games and a surprise third-round loss at Wimbledon, one has to wonder the status of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic heading into the U.S. Open?
The Serbian has been the dominant force in tennis for most of the last two years, winning three of the four major titles in 2015 and completing a “Novak Slam” by winning his four straight major title at Roland Garros in June. However, since then Djokovic has shown vulnerabilities that will affect his online tennis betting odds at the U.S. Open.
After winning his second straight Olympic singles gold medal in Rio – a first in tennis history – Andy Murray is seen as Djokovic’s main rival in New York. Murray is also primed with the confidence of winning a second Wimbledon title in July.
Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Djokovic in the first round of the Olympics and eventually earning the silver medal, seems back in the form that lead him to the 2009 U.S. Open title. However, he is ranked No. 141 in the world and did not gain direct entry into the U.S. Open. He will need a wild card entry from the tournament or be forced to win three qualifying matches the week before the main draw. Exhaustion – physical and mental from his Rio efforts – could also affect him in New York.
Monica Puig was the sensation of the women’s Olympic tennis competition becoming the longest shot winner of the gold medal in women’s singles with a rank of No. 34. She posted stunning upsets of No. 4 Garbine Muguruza and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova en route to the final where she hit an incredible 54 winners to upset world No. 2 Angelique Kerber in the gold medal match. Puig will likely not be emotionally ready to contend for a major title in New York, but Muguruza, Kvitova and Kerber will be favored to go deep in the draw. Serena Williams, the world No. 1 and reigning Olympic gold medal winner, was a shock upset victim in the third round in Rio by the hands of Elina Svitolina from Ukraine. She seemed stricken with a should problem that affected her famous powerful serve – as well as being under the weather – and, if healthy – will be motivated to win another U.S. Open title where she would eclipse Steffi Graf’s Open Era record with 23 major singles titles.
Two Wimbledon titles. Two Olympic Gold Medals. How about two U.S. Opens for Andy Murray?
The Scotsman won his second Olympic Gold Medal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil beating Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the gold medal match to become the first singles player in Olympic history to win two gold medals – and repeat as champion. The Olympic gold medal for Murray comes on the heels of him winning his second Wimbledon singles title in July.
He now heads to New York as a betting favorite for the U.S. Open, the site of his first major singles title in 2012.
Murray has won his last 18 singles matches – not losing since the French Open final to Novak Djokovic and since he rehired former coach Ivan Lendl, himself a three-time U.S. Open champion. It is his longest winning streak of his professional career.
After being the dominant force in men’s tennis for much of the last three years, Djokovic has shown chinks in his game after a surprising third-round loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon and an opening-round loss to del Potro at the Olympics. However, redemption is a motivator for the Serbian as he looks to win in New York for a third time.
The U.S. Open women’s singles event may also be a battle for the No. 1 ranking with Serena Williams seeking to hold off the challenge of world No. 2 Angelique Kerber of Germany. Williams had trouble with her health and her shoulder in her upset loss to Elina Svitolina in the third round at the Olympics that could hamper her in New York. Despite her upset loss to upstart Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in the gold medal match in Rio, Kerber could counter-punch her win to a second major singles title of the year after her win over Williams in the Australian Open final in January. Garbine Muguruza of Spain, the French Open champion, may also contend in New York, but has struggled since achieving her new status in the tennis world order in Paris.
With the Olympics proving to be a physical and emotional drain for many athletes who competed, a dark horse could also emerge in either the men’s or women’s field and win a first major singles title. New top 10 stars Dominic Thiem of Austria and Milos Raonic of Canada, the Wimbledon finalist, may be fresh enough to make a mark at Flushing Meadows. Romania’s Simona Halep, who also skipped Rio, and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, a first-round loser at the Olympics, may also be ready to break through in New York. Madison Keys of the United States, who finished a painful fourth in Rio, is moving fast up the rankings and may be fueled by her disappointment in not winning a medal in Rio into Grand Slam success in New York.
by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams captured her 22nd major championship on Saturday as she was able to defend her Wimbledon title, beating Angelique Kerber in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.
Williams, who has been the No. 1 player in the world for well over the past three years, had been attempting to tie Steffi Graf’s mark of 22 major titles since she won the Wimbledon title in 2015, but a semifinal appearance at the US Open followed by two runner-up performances delayed her efforts. Now that the American has grabbed No. 22, though, she currently sits just two major titles behind the record holder Margaret Court, who won 24 in her career.
“It’s been incredibly difficult not to think about it. I had a couple of tries this year…but it makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked for it,” said Williams of her 22nd major title.
In a rematch of the 2016 Australian Open final in which Kerber won in three sets, the 34-year old Williams looked to be the one to get off to a fast start as she had three break chances in the second game of the match. The German, though, was able to fight each of those off, and actually looked like the more comfortable player on serve from that point on.
That quickly changed in the 12th game, though, as Kerber, the 28-year old who was playing in just her second major final, served to take the set into a tiebreak. Williams was able to crush a few returns when it mattered most, opening up a 15-40 lead which gave her a look at two set points. After missing out on the first, Williams, who hit 39 winners compared to Kerber’s 12, capitalized on the second with an un-returnable backhand to take the set.
The second set was completely dominated by the servers as there was only one break point in the first seven games. Williams, though, has always been able to turn her level of play up a notch or two when she needs to the most, and, just like in the first set, that is what she did in the second.
With Kerber serving at 3-4, Williams fought back from a 40-15 deficit and won four points in a row to break and set up an opportunity to serve for the title. Three unreturned serves later, Williams, who hit 13 aces, found herself at championship point.
A brief rally ensued before Williams was able to come to the net and put away an easy forehand volley for the win. Falling to the court in joy, the American had just placed herself in the record books again as she earned her seventh Wimbledon title.
“It’s an honor to play on Centre Court and a great feeling,” said Williams, who faced just one break point in the match. “This court definitely feels like home.”
by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber of Germany was able to prevent an all-Williams sister final from happening at Wimbledon as she defeated Venus Williams on Thursday, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the final.
“It’s just amazing…to beat Venus in the semis. It’s always tough. I’m so excited to be in the final here,” said Kerber. “I’m just happy to be playing my best and to be in my second grand slam final.”
The match got off to a very unexpected and topsy-turvy start as each of the first five games were breaks, as well as seven of the first eight. It was Kerber, though, who was able to get that crucial extra break and first hold of the match for 4-2, before eventually snatching the first set.
“I don’t know what was the problem. I think we both were returning very well at the beginning of the first set. I mean I was a little bit nervous when I go out there because I was trying to play my best tennis,” said Kerber.
The second set looked like it could be similar to the first as the German was able to break in the opening game, but that was that. The No. 4 seed felt little pressure from that point as she lost just five points in her five service games of the set, setting up a rematch of the 2016 Australian Open final in which she was able to defeat the 21-time major champion Serena Williams, who needed just 48 minutes to win her semifinal against Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 6-0.
“I know that she played long matches, in the first week especially. I was trying to move her. That was the plan,” said Kerber of her strategy against the 36-year old Venus, who made 10 more unforced errors than her opponent.
“I played against a lot of great opponents. I had a lot of tough matches. It’s not easy out there,” said Venus. “There is no such thing as impossible. It’s always possible. That’s what you feel as an athlete.”
Venus did manage to show signs of life halfway through the second set as she was able to fend off three break points while down 1-3 to hold before earning a 0-30 lead on Kerber’s serve in the next game. The German was too good though and managed to hold on, making her eager for another shot at arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time.
“I know she will go out and try everything to beat me right now,” said Kerber of her matchup with Serena which will take place on Saturday at Wimbledon.
by Kevin Craig
Sisters Serena and Venus Williams both won quarterfinal matches Tuesday at Wimbledon, meaning they are both just one win away from setting up an all-Williams Wimbledon final, the first since 2009.
“I’m so happy we’re both in the semifinals…Obviously, she’s such a tough opponent. I want her to win. But not the final, if I’m there,” said Serena.
Serena, who has won six Wimbledon titles, defeated Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-4, while Venus, who has won five Wimbledon titles, defeated Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, 7-6(5), 6-4.
Serena, who is defending the Wimbledon title she won in 2015, got off to a slower start than she would’ve liked on Tuesday as she was unable to work her way into any of Pavlyuchenkova’s service games. The 21-time major champion persisted, though, and stood strong on her serve, allowing her to capitalize on the one weak service game of the set from the Russian. It came at a costly time too, as Serena, who won 90 percent of her first serve points in the match, earned a 0-40 lead at 4-4, converting on the first break chance before holding at love to close out the first set.
The second set was not any easier for the American, though, as Pavlyuchenkova refused to go away. After fighting through a long game on serve to open up the second set, the Russian appeared to have the momentum on her side. Pavlyuchenkova became the aggressor, forcing Serena to work for her service games.
That time of the match was short lived, though, as once again at 4-4, the Russian played a poor service game and Serena capitalized on her first break chance. The break earned the No. 1 player in the world a 5-4 lead, a carbon copy of the first set, before holding comfortably to close out the match and reach her 10th semifinal at Wimbledon.
“I am excited to be able to win and get through, it felt really good,” said Serena. “I am just trying to win my match…one thing I have learned this year is just to focus on the match.”
Venus, who is the oldest player in the Top 200, looked like she would have a tough day at the office from the get go. The American found herself down break point four times total in her first two service games of the match before being broken in her third game, giving Shvedova a 3-2 lead. The seven-time major champion was able to break right back, though, settling things down in the set.
Venus earned a set point on Shvedova’s serve at 5-4, but the Kazakh was able to fight it off and eventually force a tiebreak. Shvedova, the No. 96 player in the world who was playing in her third major quarterfinal, raced out to a 5-2 lead and looked to be in charge. No pressure was felt by Venus, though, as she was able rattle off five points in a row to steal the set.
“She was on fire…somehow I walked out with the set,” said Venus.
Shvedova wasn’t able to bounce back from the disappointment of dropping the first set in a tiebreak, as Venus broke in each of her first three service games, grabbing a 4-1 lead. It was straightforward from there for the American as she closed out the match to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009.
“What a tough day on court…I love playing the game, I always have. The wins and losses all lead to this big moment,” said Venus. “This is an awesome day. I would love to be walking towards the final.”
Serena will take on Elena Vesnina in the semifinals, while Venus have the more difficult task of battling the 2016 Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber on Thursday.
Not only is a potential matchup in the final on their minds. The sisters are playing doubles together at Wimbledon for the first time since 2014 and have reached the quarterfinals as they look to snag their sixth Wimbledon doubles title and 14th major title overall.
by Kevin Craig
Garbine Muguruza of Spain won her first major title Saturday defeating defending champion and world No. 1 Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open women’s singles final.
The Spaniard, who was the No. 4 seed in the tournament, gave Williams a taste of her own medicine as she was able to completely outhit the 21-time major champion, blasting winner after winner.
Muguruza came into the match on a roll, having won 10 sets in a row and nine of her last 10 matches. The 22-year old, after dropping her first set of her French Open, was able to grow in confidence throughout her run in Paris, beating the 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and the 2010 French Open runner up Sam Stosur along the way, while also losing more than three games only three times in 10 sets, as well as winning two sets at 6-0.
Not only was her recent run of form a reason to feel confident heading into this match, but so was the fact that she had already defeated Williams at the French Open, coming in the second round of the 2014 edition of the tournament.
The confidence of Muguruza carried over into the final and never wavered throughout the match despite how many opportunities she had to crumble under the pressure of playing in just her second major final, the previous coming in 2015 at Wimbledon where she lost to her opponent on Saturday.
Williams, who was the defending French Open champion, started off well, dropping just one point in her first two service games and forcing Muguruza to save two break points in just her second service game of the match. Saving those break points proved to be a turning point for the Spaniard, though, as she was able to break in the next game, eventually holding a 4-2 lead.
Williams, who was seeking her fourth French Open title, was able to break back later in the set, but Muguruza continued to go for her shots and asserted herself on the court, allowing her to break in the 11th game of the first set before fighting off two more break points in the next game to take the one set lead.
That run continued for Muguruza as she was able to break Williams in her first two service games of the second set, allowing the American to win just two points on serve, but those two breaks bookended a run of three consecutive breaks overall, meaning Muguruza only had a one-break advantage to work with.
With Muguruza holding a break lead at 2-1, it was a test of nerves for the rest of the match as the whole tennis world waited to see how long it would be before she would falter. That moment never came, though, as Muguruza only lost a total of four points on serve in her final four service games.
When Williams served to stay in the match at 3-5, Muguruza looked poised to take the title in that game as she had a look at four championship points in a 16-point game, but Williams showed her tenacious spirit that she has become known for, fighting them all off and extending the match.
The feeling was present that Williams would be able to apply pressure on Muguruza as she served for the title, especially after saving those four championship points, but the Spaniard was having none of that as she held at love to win her first major title, sealing the deal with a lob winner that landed on the baseline.
Muguruza, who will now reach a new career high ranking and become the No. 2 player in the world, has proven to the tennis world that she will be a major threat on the WTA Tour for a long time.
This title makes her the third consecutive first time major champion as Flavia Pennetta won the US Open last year and Angelique Kerber won the Australian Open earlier this year, both being first time winners.
Muguruza also tied the record for fewest titles owned when winning her first major title, as she had only won two titles on the WTA Tour coming into this event.
by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams was able to fight off a spirited attack from Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday at the French Open as she won their third round encounter, 6-4, 7-6(10).
Williams, who has been the No. 1 player in the world for the past 172 weeks, got the match started in a manner that most of her matches go, holding at love and forcing her opponent to stress in her first service game, winning the first six points of the match. Mladenovic, though, was able to fight for the hold and quickly turned the first set in her favor as she became the aggressor and was dominating the majority of the points, bringing the French crowd to life.
“I had not been playing my game. I was playing really defensive. It’s not me,” said Williams.
Mladenovic was able to take Williams to deuce in three of her last four service games in the set, having a look at four break points in that span.
Williams, being the fierce warrior that the tennis world has come to know, fought off all of that pressure and quickly applied it to Mladenovic as she served to stay in the first set at 4-5. Williams raced out to a 0-40 lead in the game, eventually converting on her third break point to close out the set with the only break of the match.
In the second set, Williams carried the momentum and played dominantly as she never fell behind in any of her service games. Playing so freely on her own serve, Williams continuously had looks to break Mladenovic’s serve, seeing nine in total in the set, but was unable to take advantage of any of them and was forced to play an epic tiebreak that lasted 19 minutes.
That tiebreak was put on hold for more than two and a half hours as a massive thunderstorm passed over Paris and delayed all play at Roland Garros. But once the rain had subsided and the courts were prepared for play again, the level of play from Williams and Mladenovic was just as high as it was before the rain came.
Mladenovic, the No. 26 seed, held leads at 3-0 and 5-2 in the tiebreak, but Williams was able to win four points in a row for a 6-5 lead and a match point. Mladenovic was able to save four match points, and had a set point of her own, but in the end, the 21-time major champion was too good and capitalized on her fifth match point to close out the two set win in over two and a half hours.
“I think she played well. I feel like I made a tremendous amount of errors, but I feel like she kind of forced me to,” said Williams, praising Mladenovic’s play.
Williams’ win sees her move into the fourth round of the French Open where only 16 women are left, and she will take on Elina Svitolina, the No. 18 seed.
by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber stunned the tennis world on Saturday in Melbourne as she defeated Serena Williams to win the Australian Open title, 6-4 3-6 6-4. The win gives Kerber her first major title in her first attempt as she became the first German woman to win a major title since Steffi Graf won the French Open in 1999.
The match started off as many would have expected, Williams held at love in the first game and got up 15-30 in Kerber’s first service game. The German quickly calmed down, though, as she won three points in a row to get the hold and then applied her own pressure on return, getting two break chances at 1-1. Kerber only needed the first chance as she broke to go up 2-1, then held for a 3-1 lead. Williams, who is used to being forced to fight from behind, had no issue getting the break back and levelling things at 3-3. Kerber, though, was up to the task again and broke right back to regain her lead, and would hold on to it this time as she closed out the set only losing one point in her last two service games.
The second set was much more straightforward as only one of the nine games played saw the returner get past 30. That one game was the difference though, as Williams had two break chances at 2-1 and took advantage of the second one to go up 3-1. That was all she wrote in the set as Williams would go on to force a decider. Williams’ ability to calm her nerves and focus better after going down a set saw her unforced errors tally drop from 23 in the first to just five in the second, allowing her to get back into the match.
Kerber and Williams exchanged breaks early in the third as both attempted to get out to a lead in the deciding set. Kerber was the one who was able to break and then consolidate later in the set, as she broke to go up 4-2 and held at love for a 5-2 lead, looking as if she was well on her way to the title. The game in which she broke was a 16-point game that lasted more than 11 minutes, and was further proof that Kerber belonged on this stage. It was not to be for Kerber on the first attempt though, as Williams broke the German as she served for the match. With the 21-time grand slam champion getting back on serve in the final set, all the momentum felt as if it was on her side of the net. Despite the momentum shift, Kerber was able to relax on the changeover and regroup, as she would go on to have a championship point as Williams served at 4-5. At advantage-Kerber, Williams sent a volley long, crowing Kerber the 2016 Australian Open champion.
The German was just too good for Williams as she hit only 13 unforced errors in the match, seven of which came in the second set, which she lost. Kerber winning the title in Melbourne this year looked unlikely in the first round as she was down a match point to Misaki Doi in her opening match. If she had lost in the first round, it would have matched her 2015 result at the Australian Open in which she lost her opening round match to Irina-Camelia Begu. That was not the case though, as Kerber fought back from the edge in the first round and would go on to only lose one more set en route to her maiden grand slam title. The win will see her move up to No. 2 in the world rankings, behind only the woman she beat in the final on Saturday.