Tag Archives: No. 1

Serena No. 1 Again. Still Time to be Best Ever?

Serena Williams No. 1 again

Serena Williams No. 1 again

In summer 2009, Serena Williams was playing a mandatory tournament in Cincinnati against a woman most people have never heard of, Sybille Bammer. By “playing,” what I mean is that Williams was there, on the court, holding a racket. Bammer won that day, as Williams, the best player in the world, committed two unforced errors per game.

A bad day? No. Williams wasn’t trying, or at least she wasn’t fighting. In tennis, it’s called tanking a match. So ticket-buyers and tournament officials were angry. Williams was in a stretch of 17 straight months where she wouldn’t win any tournament unless it was a major. In every nowhere she went to, she lost to nobodies, often in the first round. Or she faked an injury and didn’t go at all.

She went to one tournament saying she was going only to avoid being fined an amount that would equal her remodeling budget. She went. She left in the middle of a match.

On Monday, Williams regained the No. 1 ranking in the world. She’s 31 now, the oldest woman to hold the top spot. It’s a big deal, a huge accomplishment. And as much as she has downplayed the No. 1 ranking, it meant a lot to her. Last week, when she knew she had done enough to move to No. 1, she cried.

“I’m so sensitive nowadays; I’m always crying,” she said on the court. “But I never thought I would be here again. I’ve been through so much.”

A few years ago, I thought Williams was showing a serious lack of respect for the sport and the fans by not trying unless a tournament was a major. At one point, Chris Evert wrote her a letter begging her to focus, saying she could reach incredible heights.

Well, Williams did it her way.

Feb. 18, 2013: Serena No. 1 again, but might not reach best ever

Please read the rest of the column here at FoxSports.com


WIMBLEDON: Serena Williams Wins 5th Title. Great Comeback Story. Is She the Best Player Ever?

 

REPORTING FROM WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — This was not just more of the same for Serena Williams, another Wimbledon, another championship. No, what’s lost is that this was a great comeback story for her.

Two years ago, she won Wimbledon and seemed unbeatable. Since then, she had been beaten down. A foot injury followed by life-threatening blood clots in her lungs. Then, lost confidence followed by lost composure.

Her match Saturday, like her life the past two years, was filled with crazy ups and downs. And how does her story end? Williams beat Aga Radwanska 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 on Saturday to win her fifth Wimbledon title.

She dropped to her back on the court in joy, then climbed into the stands and hugged her dad and her mom and sister Venus, as well as her other sisters. Then she broke into tears while publicly thanking friends and family who were with her in the hospital day after day.

“There was a moment, I just remember, I was on the couch and I didn’t leave the whole day, for two days,’’ she said later. “I was praying, like `I can’t take any more. I’ve endured enough.’ Let me be able to get through this. I was just so tired at that point.

“I had a tube in my stomach and it was draining constantly. Gosh, I mean, right before that I had the blood clot. I had lung problems. You know, then I had two foot surgeries. It was a lot. It was a lot. I felt like I didn’t do anything to bring on that.’

Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com


U.S. OPEN: Will Tennis Survive After Serena Williams?

Reporting from the U.S. Open for FoxSports.com

Serena Williams

NEW YORK — The cliff is always there. The road is always going to end.

But the joy ride is just too fun to worry about it, or to do anything about it.

The Indianapolis Colts have been riding Peyton Manning for years, building everything around him. And now, suddenly, the cliff: He apparently has had neck fusion surgery and will miss the season. You’re reminded that at some point, sometime soon, the whole ride will end.

Should the Colts have done something before now to prepare?

Tiger Woods ran off the cliff, too. Golf was a thrill with him on top. Now golf is just golf again.

Serena Williams is driving perilously close to the cliff. Venus Williams, too. But Serena is so amazing in general that no one seems to notice how amazing her story has been these past two weeks at the US Open. Amazing is commonplace for her, expected.

 

Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com


FRENCH OPEN: Roger Federer Will Beat Novak Djokovic. Here are 4 Reasons why

Roger Federer is going to beat Novak Djokovic Friday in the French Open semifinals.

The washed-up old guy is going to end the never-ending streak, beat the unbeatable player. He is going to ruin the coronation that everyone thought this tournament was all about, and remind people that he’s still here, still on the mountaintop.

This is Fab Friday at Roland Garros, as the world’s top four men’s players are meeting up. First, it’s Rafael Nadal against Andy Murray. Murray has been playing on a sore ankle, and Nadal finally found his mojo in the quarterfinals. I’ll take Nadal. 

But why Federer, when Djokovic has surpassed him and keeps looking stronger and stronger while Federer is starting to show age? Well, to me, everything is lining up perfectly for Federer. Every Federer flaw is negated, every strength enhanced. The predicted heavy winds, the new Babolat ball, the buildup, the slow clay. It all adds up on Federer’s side. Plus, Djokovic has to lose sometime. Plus, Federer has won the French before. Plus. . .

There is still the chance that Djokovic will simply power Federer off the court, push him backward. I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Here are four reasons why: Continue reading


FRENCH OPEN: Caroline Wozniacki Loses Big to Career Choker, Daniela Hantuchova. Could This Start the Fall of Another No. 1?

Caroline Wozniacki loses at French Open

At least Caroline Wozniacki didn’t start crying on the court and openly, loudly, asking why she’s such a chicken. That’s what Dinara Safina did a few years ago, in her classic No. 1 women’s tennis meltdown.

We’ve seen all sorts of No. 1 players on the women’s tour get to the top and then just blow away like a leaf in the wind. Wozniacki, the current No. 1, lost to career choker Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 6-3 Friday in the third round of the French Open. It was another embarrassing moment for women’s tennis, but more importantly, I wonder if this was the beginning of the fall of Wozniacki.

It’s not that she lacks mental fortitude like Safina. Or Ana Ivanovic. Or Jelena Jankovic. The problem with her is her game. And I’ve gone into it enough times in this space that I won’t spend much time on it now. But she’s way too passive, and doesn’t go out and take anything. She won’t lose to you, but will let you beat her if you are strong enough mentally to bash several shots on the court in a row. That has worked for her, except in majors, because of the nervousness throughout the women’s tour.

But the pressure on other players going against Wozniacki has just dropped for good. She lost her mystique with this match. If Hantuchova can hold it together against her for two sets in a major, then anyone can.

First set: Zero winners. What’s to be afraid of, anyway?

Women’s tennis has a problem. A sport needs to have a champion, someone who is best. Instead, this sport now has a void. A computer has to spit out a name, so it will still say Wozniacki. But she still hasn’t won a major. Serena Williams was best a year ago when she left, but who knows now? And she doesn’t play enough. Kim Clijsters has won the past two majors, so maybe she’s best, but her collapse to a nobody on Wednesday suggests her focus might be slipping, and her future short.

We’re still learning about Wozniacki. She tried to become more aggressive in the second set, even drilling a forehand right at Hantuchova once and knocking her off the baseline. Wozniacki came to net a few times, too, but didn’t seem to know how to get there. She tried to do more with her serve. And she hit eight winners in the set.

Give her credit for trying to adjust. It was still awfully passive to count as “aggressive,’’ though, and she also wasn’t very good at it. But this was a disturbing quote from her afterward: “She knew what she was going to do, and she was too good.’’ Continue reading


COUNTDOWN TO FRENCH OPEN (6 DAYS): Reverse Chase on. No. 1 Rafael Nadal Trying to Catch No. 2 Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic beats Rafael Nadal...again

Novak Djokovic doesn’t just have Rafael Nadal’s number, he also has his address, his email, his Facebook page and his girlfriend’s number, too. Four straight wins over Nadal in the past two months, including Sunday’s 6-4, 6-4 win in the Italian Open.

So the French Open starts this Sunday, and the chase is on now in men’s tennis. But it’s going in reverse order, with No. 1 trying to catch No. 2.

Djokovic has blown right past Nadal. And maybe I’m just in denial or something, but I still think Nadal is going to win the French. If so, it will be a typically goofy moment for tennis’ goofy computer rankings, as Nadal beats Djokovic in the final to re-establish himself. He will have won four of the past five majors, including two final wins over Djokovic.

Next day? Djokovic will climb over Nadal to No. 1. That’s how this is set up.

Whatever. If Djokovic wins, everything makes sense. And at this point, that’s what most people expect. There are no more excuses or reasons for Djokovic beating Nadal. It’s not that Nadal is coming back from injury, or that anything can happen on any given day. In Madrid, the high altitude and speedy clay favored Djokovic.

In Rome Sunday, no altitude issues, healthy Nadal, French Open-like clay and conditions. But I don’t think this was the moment when Djokovic finally made his point to Nadal. That happened a week earlier, in Madrid.

This was the moment the chase started. On Sunday, Nadal was making an unbelievable concession. Instead of waiting to see how he would do against Djokovic with circumstances favoring him, he cut and ran. Nadal was acknowledging that Djokovic is better now, or at least that he’s playing better.

It wasn’t the denial we saw in Roger Federer when Nadal passed him. It wasn’t the stubbornness we saw from Andy Roddick for years after the top of the game passed him.

Nadal wanted to beat Djokovic, but this was about when and where. While they were playing in Italy Sunday, Nadal was trying to beat Djokovic in Paris three weeks from now. Continue reading


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