No Longer Angry Serena Glad To Be Back In New Zealand

Serena Williams of the US serves against Qiang Wang of China during their Women’s Singles Quarter-finals tennis match during the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 3, 2019. DOMINICK REUTER / AFP

 

Serena Williams returns to the Auckland WTA Classic on Monday for the first time since her “miserable” debut appearance two years ago, determined to put the record straight.

“I’m in a really different frame of mind,” she said ahead of her opening match on day one — a marquee doubles appearance partnering Caroline Wozniacki — with her first-round singles against long-time rival Svetlana Kuznetsova expected on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old Williams is banking on Auckland setting her up for an unprecedented 24th major title at the Australian Open later in the month.

Williams was way below par when she played in Auckland in 2017, complaining about the windy conditions, being abrupt in interviews and could not wait to get out of the country as soon as she lost in the second round to Madison Brengle.

But she says the anger she felt then has gone.

“I’m not pregnant, as a start, so that works, so I can only do good now,” the tournament top seed and world number 10 joked with journalists as she reflected on how she was unaware at the time that she was six weeks pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia.

“I just remember it was windy and being angry, hating my now husband (Alexis Ohanian). I was like ‘I can’t stand you and I don’t know why,'” she said.

“Obviously at the time I didn’t know why either … I was six weeks pregnant and I had no idea. So looking back it’s so surreal and crazy and now that I’m here, I have all of these funny memories of being miserable.

“I always knew that I would have to come back, for sure. I didn’t even realize what was happening, and now I’m here with my daughter.

“This is kind of where it all began. It’s amazing. It’s so exciting to be here with her, and to know that this is literally where it started.”

Despite her quick exit in 2017, Williams went on to win the Australian Open for her 23rd major title, but has not won a tournament since.

Williams, who has a 10-3 record against Kuznetsova in a 16-year rivalry, said she was pleased to be playing her “really good friend” first up.

“I like to play really tough opponents in the first round, and there’s no better way to start than to start serious. I really love her and adore her, and I wish it could’ve been a little bit later, for both of us,” she said.

She was also looking forward to playing with former world number one Wozniacki in the doubles, calling the Dane “one of my best friends”.

Meanwhile, the Auckland tournament has been hit with the late withdrawal of seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko who pulled out for “personal reasons”.

The 22-year-old Latvian, who won the French Open in 2017, is the second high-profile withdrawal with Canadian Bianca Andreescu pulling out last month due to her ongoing knee problems.

Andreescu defeated Williams to claim the US Open title in September last year.

Djokovic Driven By Lasting Legacy, Not Trophy-Hunting

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Russia’s Karen Khachanov during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 3rd Place match at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, on December 21, 2019. AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic says the main source of his motivation at this stage of his career is securing a lasting legacy rather than simply trying to win tennis matches and trophies.

For nearly two years, from mid-2016 until mid-2018, the 32-year-old Serb had admittedly struggled with motivation after pulling off the historic feat of winning four Grand Slams in a row –- a first in men’s tennis since 1969.

Djokovic recaptured his spark and has since added a quartet of majors to his overall tally, which now stands at 16.

While the world number two remains in a tight battle with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the race for most Grand Slam titles won, Djokovic believes what currently drives him in the sport is something deeper than that.

“You need to constantly give yourself fuel from the source, whatever the source is,” Djokovic said at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he secured third place with victory over Karen Khachanov on Saturday.

“I think it’s always about finding that purpose, and the reason, the meaning of actually playing. For me, especially in the last couple of years, it’s not only about winning a tennis match or a trophy.

“It had to be something greater than my own achievements. Something that would be related to legacy, something that would really be inspiring the lives of others, particularly kids.”

Federer holds the men’s all-time record of most majors won, with 20, and Nadal is breathing down his neck with a total of 19.

Djokovic is younger than both of them though, and has a shot at closing the gap on his two rivals.

“That’s a goal,” said Djokovic, when asked if he is fuelled by breaking records.

“I’m motivated by breaking my own records and moving my own boundaries and that”s something that motivates me to compete.

“I do love to play tennis so I do like to be on the practice court. But competitive tennis is different. In order to compete to be a professional tennis player and to compete at the highest level, you really need goals, daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals.

“So I do have them, as everyone else. Of course, I’m aware of the privilege that I have to fight for history and to be able to possibly achieve even greater things and that’s something that drives me of course, alongside other things.”

Djokovic will begin his 2020 season by representing Serbia in the ATP Cup in Australia.

He remains midway through his pre-season preparations, and leaves Abu Dhabi with one loss, to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and one win over Khachanov.

“I got what I came here for, two good matches,” he said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Khachanov is hoping to find consistency in the new season following a see-saw 2019.

The Russian former top-10 player has added Swedish coach Fredrik Rosengren to his team, to work alongside Vedran Martic.

The 23-year-old is also a new dad, having welcomed his son David with his wife, Veronika, three months ago.

“Fatherhood is treating me very well. I think you become more mature because you have a responsibility not only for yourself but for the whole family, so that’s one of the biggest steps,” said the 17th-ranked player.

AFP

Top 30 Player Involved In Tennis Betting Scandal – Reports

People play table tennis at a park in Beijing on December 14, 2019. NOEL CELIS / AFP

 

More than 135 tennis players, including one ranked in the ATP top 30, are implicated in an international betting scandal, German media reported Sunday.

According to a joint report by daily newspaper Die Welt and broadcaster ZDF, the players are subject to a cross-border investigation involving both the FBI and European authorities.

Among the indivuals allegedly involved is a male player in the top 30 who has won three ATP tour titles, the report said.

“We are talking about an Armenian betting mafia network which is spread across seven countries in Europe and has manipulated on a large scale,” Belgian state prosecutor Eric Bisschop told ZDF.

He added the scandal involved hundreds of small bets on fixed games, wracking up profits of tens of thousands of euros in each case.

ZDF and Die Welt also spoke to Argentinian former player Marco Trungelliti, a whistleblower who claims to have been contacted by match-fixers.

“There are pros in the world top 50 who have fixed games. It happens at all levels,” Trungelliti said.

AFP

Tsitsipas Beats Thiem To Claim ATP Finals Title

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas poses with the winner's trophy after winning the men's singles final match on day eight of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 17, 2019.
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas poses with the winner’s trophy after winning the men’s singles final match on day eight of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 17, 2019.

 

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas battled back from a set down against Dominic Thiem to win the ATP Finals title on Sunday, emphatically staking his claim as the leader of the next generation of aspiring global superstars.

The Greek 21-year-old, who won, 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/4)  is the youngest champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2001 and the fourth first-time champion at the season-ending event in as many years.

It is Tsitsipas’s third title of the season and comes a year after he was crowned champion at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

He has charmed the crowd at London’s O2 Arena all week and earned his place in the final with an impressive straight-sets win against six-time champion Roger Federer.

“I can’t sum up my emotions right now,” said Tsitsipas. “It’s amazing to be remembered as the 2019 champion. It is a dream come true and the best way to end this match.

“I did get nervous at some points in the match but I managed to forget about how I felt and I had momentum in the tie-break which was really tight.

“My fighting spirit and me constantly trying to push myself to do better got me there in the end.”

Defeat is a bitter disappointment for Thiem, who won five titles this year, including the Indian Wells Masters, and reached a second successive French Open final.

There was little to choose between sixth-seed Tsitsipas and Austria’s world number five Thiem in the first set as a total of five break points went begging.

Both players had impressed on serve during the tournament, with Tsitsipas’s figures especially striking — 44 service games won out of 47 leading into the final.

In an inevitable tie-break Tsitsipas saved a set point at 5/6 but Thiem clinched his second set point with a powerful serve that the Greek returned into the net.

Tsitsipas breaks

But Tsitsipas regrouped and within minutes Thiem, who beat his opponent in three sets in the Beijing final last month, was under pressure, spraying a forehand wide to concede first break of the match.

Tsitsipas held with ease and then produced a forehand down the line to break again, with Thiem threatening to unravel. Tsitsipas had won 12 out of 14 points in the set.

Thiem, who like Tsitsipas plays with a single-handed backhand, stemmed the tide but could make little impression on his opponent’s serve and lost the set 6-2.

Thiem was rocking again at the start of the deciding set. He saved two break points in the first game but looked increasingly shaky and was broken to trail 1-2.

The Greek was now well on top but out of nowhere Thiem was level at 3-3 after Tsitsipas put a backhand wide.

The Austrian was now playing with much more confidence, unleashing a series of blistering winners and edged ahead 5-4 after another service hold but the rest of the set went with serve.

In the deciding set tie-break Tsitsipas took a 4-2 lead but was pegged back to 4/4.

But on the next point Tsitsipas earned a mini-break, giving him the chance to serve out for the match and he made no mistake, closing out the biggest victory of his career.

Tsitsipas has competition among his peers as the new generation attempt to dislodge Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who have dominated the men’s game for the past 15 years.

World number four Daniil Medvedev won two Masters titles this year and reached the US Open final while Alexander Zverev was in London defending the title he won last year.

But Tsitsipas, who has beaten every member of the “Big Three” in 2019, will go into the new season with the belief he can take the next step towards the apex of the men’s game.

 

AFP

Thiem into ATP Finals Semis As Djokovic And Federer Face Shootout

 

 

Dominic Thiem produced a scintillating display of attacking tennis to beat Novak Djokovic and qualify for the last four at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, leaving the Serbian facing a shootout against Roger Federer.

In the standout match so far at London’s O2 Arena, the Austrian fifth seed took the fight to the world number two, recovering from losing the first set to triumph 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 7-6 (7/5)

Earlier, Federer put himself back in the mix at the end-of-season event with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 win against Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini in their round-robin clash.

Federer and Djokovic will face off on Thursday in a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final to determine who else will progress from Group Bjorn Borg.

Thiem was forced to play high-stakes tennis against the 16-time Grand Slam winner, taking the breath away with some of his inside-out forehands and single-handed backhands

Forced to play at his limit, he hit 50 winners compared with Djokovic’s tally of 27 but also racked up 44 unforced errors.

“This was really one of these special matches, what I’ve practised all my life for, all my childhood for,” Thiem said.

“Really epic one in an amazing atmosphere, beating a legend of our game. And also I’ve qualified for the semi-finals, which is the best.

”Coming back from 1-4 (down in the deciding tie-break) was a little bit of luck, but it was an unbelievable match and one I’ll never forget. Novak is the best player in the world and I had to do something special.”

In a captivating first set the players swapped a break apiece but Djokovic, a five-time ATP Finals champion, edged the tie-break.

Undaunted, Thiem broke his opponent at the first opportunity in the second set and, with Djokovic’s error count climbing, went on to level the match.

Thiem also drew first blood in the decider but cracked in the sixth game as Djokovic levelled the match and appeared to have engineered a switch in momentum.

The Austrian successfully challenged at 30-30 in the 10th game after his forehand was ruled out, preventing a match point for Djokovic and he toughed it out to level at 5-5.

He then broke Djokovic to love to earn a chance to serve for the match but stumbled and the decider went to a tie-break.

Still the drama was not finished. Thiem slipped to 4-1 down but battled back to win it on his second match point when Djokovic dumped a forehand into the net.

Federer stays alive

Third seed Federer had put himself under the cosh by losing his opening round-robin match to Thiem.

The six-time champion was not at his fluent best on Tuesday but ultimately had too much for his Italian opponent.

The Swiss upped his game to take the first set tie-break comfortably and broke immediately at the start of the second set to leave the big-serving Berrettini with too much to do.

Federer was asked after his win against Berrettini whether his defeat to Djokovic at Wimbledon had left emotional or mental scars.

“We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side,” said the Swiss.

“A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.”

Djokovic is hunting a sixth ATP Finals title to pull level with Federer’s record and is also seeking to pip Rafael Nadal to the year-end number one ranking.

On Monday, top seed Nadal lost his opener in Group Andre Agassi to defending champion Alexander Zverev while Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Daniil Medvedev.

France Crush Australian Dreams To Win Fed Cup Final

France’s Caroline Garcia (R) talks with Kristina Mladenovic during the doubles match against Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur of Australia in the Fed Cup final tennis competition between Australia and France in Perth on November 10, 2019. Tony Ashby / AFP

 

A jubilant Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia led France to its first Fed Cup title since 2003 on Sunday, winning a deciding doubles rubber to crush Australian dreams 3-2.

In the last tournament played under the current format, the pair kept their focus at Perth Arena to overcome Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-3, denying the home team their first crown in 45 years.

It was France’s third title and first since they beat the United States 16 years ago, piling more misery on seven-time champions Australia who have now lost all nine of the last Fed Cup finals they have appeared in.

Mladenovic and Garcia, who won the 2016 French Open doubles title, bounced back from going an early break down in the first set to expose Stosur’s weaknesses, with the veteran out-of-sorts and making too many mistakes.

World number one Barty, stunned by Mladenovic in a singles rubber earlier Sunday, did her best to keep Australia in the hunt, but the French pair were clinical, racing to victory as their team-mates went wild.

“I’m the proudest man on the planet right now, I’m so proud of my girls and my team. They deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title,” ecstatic France captain Julien Benneteau said courtside.

“For sure I am going to have a lot of beers now.”

The final marked the last Fed Cup played under the current format, with an overhaul next year seeing 12 nations compete in a six-day event in Budapest.

That will mean an end to home ties and the atmosphere they bring, with the 26,951 fans turning up over two days in Perth the second-highest Fed Cup attendance on record after Roland Garros (30,000) in 2005.

The doubles clash was set up by Ajla Tomljanovic hauling the home team back into the tie by beating France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 7-5.

She came on court after 40th-ranked Mladenovic upset Barty 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) in an epic.

Croatian-born Tomljanovic, in her Fed Cup debut for Australia, had been thrashed 6-1, 6-1 by Mladenovic in the opening singles rubber on Saturday.

But captain Alica Molik kept faith with her and she bounced back to beat Parmentier 6-4, 7-5.

“Really glad I got a second chance today and got the win and kept us in,” said the Australian. “The team has been unbelievable all week and it is such a privilege to play for you guys.”

Earlier Barty, who has been in scintillating form, whipping Garcia 6-0, 6-0 on Saturday after winning the WTA Finals in China last weekend, crashed in a classic.

“From my point of view I fought as hard as I could and I hope that I did my team proud and all Australians proud. I fought with everything I had left,” said Barty.

Barty started where she left off after the “double bagel” of Garcia on Saturday, breaking Mladenovic’s first service game with a net volley to extend her streak to 15 games this weekend.

But Mladenovic held serve to end the Barty run and it became a closer affair before the Australian began forcing errors to take the first set.

Barty saved five break points in the opening game of the second set, but Mladenovic finally worked a first crucial break with some quality passing shots, with a forehand long from Barty giving her a 5-4 lead.

She held her nerve to serve out the set.

Mladenovic, who beat Barty on clay in Rome earlier this year, was on a roll with the French star breaking then holding for a 3-1 third-set lead.

Stung, Barty rallied for 3-3 but the errors again crept in and the set ultimately went to a tense tie breaker where Mladenovic triumphed.

“I just kept believing because I felt I was out there fighting and giving her a hard battle. I’m just so proud how I kept pushing and obviously won the game,” said Mladenovic.

Federer Drops Out Of Inaugural ATP Cup For Family Reasons

Swiss Roger Federer returns a ball to Australian Alex De Minaur during their final match at the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel on October 27, 2019.
FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

 

Roger Federer has withdrawn from the ATP Cup, a new team competition to be held in Australia in January, citing “family reasons”.

“It is with great regret that I am withdrawing from the inaugural ATP Cup event,” Federer said in a statement.

“When I entered the event last month, it was a really difficult decision because it meant less time at home with the family and a fully intense start to the season.

“After much discussion with both my family and my team about the year ahead, I have decided that the extra two weeks at home will be beneficial for both my family and my tennis.”

The world number three, 38 years old, withdrew on Monday from this week’s Masters 1000 tournament in Paris, two hours before the start also saying he needed to rest.

The ATP Cup organisers tweeted: “@rogerfederer announced that he would not play the #ATPCup for family reasons and therefore Switzerland was removed” from the competition.

The ATP Cup is a new competition which competes with the revamped Davis Cup and will be held in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from January 3-12.

“It pains me to not be a part of the most exciting new event on the calendar,” Federer said.

“But this is the right thing to do if I want to continue to play for a longer period of time on the ATP Tour.”

“For my Australian fans, I look forward to seeing you all at the Australian Open, fresh and ready to go.”

The Davis Cup will be held November 18-24 in Madrid but Switzerland did not qualify.

Federer will next play at the ATP Tour Finals in London, which get underway on November 10.

France-Born Nigerian Star, Hemery, Indian Lady Bhatia Win Lagos Open Tennis 2019

Representative of Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwolu-Olu, Executive Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr. Kweku Tandoh (left) presents Men’s singles trophy to Calvin Hemery from France.

 

The 2019 Lagos Open Tennis Championship ended on Monday with France-born Nigerian player, Calvin Hemery and Indian Riya Bhatia winning the men and women’s singles respectively.

The finals, which was shifted 24 hours because of heavy downpour in Lagos metropolis on Sunday, was the climax of the second leg of the ITF World Tennis Tour at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan.

Frenchman Hemery won the tournament back to back as he was the winner of the first leg. Interestingly, his opponent in Monday’s final was the same Bosnia Herzegovina opponent Aldin Setkic, who he defeated in the first leg.

The final was an easy one for Hemery as Setkic retired when the game result was 4-2.

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To Hemery, whose father is from Edo State, winning the ITF World Tour was a thing of joy for him, adding that he felt elated with the support he received from Nigerian fans, which he described as one of the rallying forces that propelled the victory.

The women’s singles final was a tough match for the winner, Indian Riya Bhatia, who was stretched in the three sets thriller by opponent from Slovenia, Nastja Kolar. The crucial match ended 7-5,1-6,6-3.

Bhatia described her opponent as a good player, adding that it took her determined effort to win the match.

The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwolu-Olu, who could not physically present at the finals was represented by Dr. Kweku Tandoh, the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission and the Director General, Mr. Oluwatoyin Gafar.

Dr Tandoh who represented the Governor gave kudos to the finalists, most especially the winners. He praised, on behalf of the State government, the Local Organising Committee LOC headed by Chief Pius Akinyelure for putting up a good organisation of the competition. He wished all the players safe journey to their respective destinations.

Tennis: Ukrainian Star Edges Nigeria’s Qaudre In Lagos Open

Nigeria’s Barakat Quadre reacts after she lost to her Ukrainian opponent, Strakhova Valeriya, in the quarter-final match of the Lagos Open Tennis played at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan on October 18, 2019.

 

 

The only Nigerian standing in the ongoing second leg Lagos Open Tennis, Barakat Quadre, has crashed out of the tournament.

Quadre was unable to survive the superior power of her Ukrainian opponent, Strakhova Valeriya, in their quarter-final match decided on Friday at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan.

Morroco-based Quadre had broken a record as the only Nigerian woman player to have qualified to the quarter-final level of the ITF World Tour in Lagos on Thursday.

Despite playing a determined game against the Ukrainian, the Nigerian could not proceed to the next round of the competition.

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Quadre earned a 7-5 win in the first set – an early break that she failed to sustain and consolidate on.

Valeriya, however, forcefully came back to take the game out of Quadre as she won the remaining two sets – 6-3, 6-1 in a pulsating match that lasted two hours 35 minutes.

In other quarter-final matches in the women’s singles, top seed Mendez Seone from Austria lost 6-4, 0-6, 0-6 to sixth seed Bhatia Riya.

The fifth seed, Bhosale Rutuja from India also upset Samir Sandra from Egypt, who is the tournament’s number three seed in a straight set of  6-2, 6-0 to book a semi-final ticket.

Brazil’s Luara Pigozzi who was runner up in the final last week failed to make it to the semis as she lost to Nastja Kolar from Slovenia 2-6, 6-5, 5-7.

In the men’s singles, Zimbabwe’s Takanyi Garanganga beat Frenchman Gianni Mina 6-0, 6-4, while Calvin Hemery from France defeated Benjamin Lock in a straight set of 6-3, 6-0.

Tunisia’s Aziz Quakaa also defeated his brother Dougaz 5-7, 6-4, 4-2.

The semi-final and final matches have been scheduled for Saturday while the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, would declare the competition closed.

Medvedev Revives Russia’s Tennis Hopes

Russia’s tennis player Daniil Medvedev arrives for a meeting with the Russian media at the GUM department store in downtown Moscow on October 14, 2019. Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

 

Daniil Medvedev, Russia’s number one tennis player, on Monday signed caps and tennis balls for fans in his native city of Moscow, hours after landing from China, where he won the Shanghai Masters Sunday.

After a period in the doldrums, Russian tennis is now infused with a new generation of young male players and Medvedev, 23, is leading the pack, now at a career-best of fourth in the world.

Tired after a long flight and admitting he was surviving on coffee, Medvedev posed for selfies with fans.

“I do feel there’s a lot of support coming from Russia. it’s huge and it’s great,” he told AFP. “A lot of support coming from social media (and) support from my friends, because most of my friends are still Russian guys.”

Fans hailed his influence.

“The main thing is that tennis is becoming more popular in Russia thanks to him,” said one fan, 19-year-old student Daniil Trefilov.

Trefilov hopes to watch Medvedev play in the city’s Kremlin Cup this week — Medvedev said he will decide on Tuesday if he will participate.

Another fan, David Umarkhadzhiyev who leads an online group of Russian supporters, said he “fell in love with the game” from watching Medvedev play.

“After (Marat) Safin and (Yevgeny) Kafelnikov there was a kind of stagnation,” Umarkhadzhiyev said, referring to top players of past decades.

“There were no men and suddenly one or two years ago, Medvedev, (Karen) Khachanov and (Andrei) Rublev appeared.”

The trio are Russia’s top-ranking men’s players and Medvedev says they share a healthy rivalry.

“We have a great competition between us three guys and we really push each other.”

Speaking fluent English and French as well as Russian, he looks tanned and relaxed but his eyes sometimes half-close from fatigue.

Beyond rivalry with fellow Russian players, Medvedev is now challenging the dominance of tennis’s big three much older players: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and  Novak Djokovic.

“These guys are just from another planet, we have to admit it, they are really strong and we are trying our best to beat them,” he said.

He did not attach much significance to claims by commentators such as Boris Becker that the younger generation of players may not be strong enough mentally to seize the crown from the old guard.

“I just can continue to work hard, to improve every day and to try my best to be at the top of the tennis world,” he said.

“If it works out, I will be extremely happy, if it doesn’t, I know I did my best.”

How Motherhood Helped Serena Reach Brink Of History

Serena Williams of the US serves against Qiang Wang of China during their Women’s Singles Quarter-finals tennis match during the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 3, 2019. DOMINICK REUTER / AFP

 

 

Serena Williams finds chasing after her two-year-old daughter Olympia has helped her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open as her 38th birthday approaches.

Williams would match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Slam singles titles and claim an unprecedented seventh US Open title with a victory in Saturday’s final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Being on the court is almost a little bit more relaxing than hanging out with a two-year-old that’s dragging you everywhere. I think that has kind of been a little helpful,” Williams said after her 6-3, 6-1 semi-final victory Thursday over Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Just two years ago, Williams was fighting for her life with a blood clot in her lung after giving birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Now she could become only the fourth mother in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title after Aussies Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters.

“I think it’s amazing to come back with a baby and win because it’s hard,” Williams said. “My day off isn’t a day off.

“I’m literally hanging out with baby. I’m doing activities with her. I don’t want her to forget me. I try to spend as much time (as I can) with her. I’m a full-time mom first, foremost. That means the most to me. So I train and then I rush home.

“Being in a Grand Slam is difficult because it takes away a lot of time that we normally have together.”

Three weeks shy of her 38th birthday, Williams would become the oldest women’s champion in Grand Slam history, surpassing the age mark she set in winning the 2017 Australian Open at 35 while pregnant.

Williams seeks a record seventh US Open title to surpass the mark she now shares with Chris Evert. If she wins the finale it would give her 102 US Open match wins, one more than the record 101 she shares with Evert.

Williams says she definitely would still be playing at an age when most rivals have put down the racquet even if she had already passed Court’s once-thought unassailable mark.

“I definitely would still be playing if I had already passed it. I’ve had so many chances to pass it and (hope) to have a lot more, but it’s cool because I’m playing in an era… five eras with so many amazing players.

“If you look at the span of the career, the players I’ve played, it’s amazing that I was able to get this many.”

‘A sick joke’

Williams, who won her first Slam title 20 years ago at the US Open, said if someone had told her at 17 she would still be playing two decades later, “I would definitely not have believed them.

“At 17 I thought for sure I’d be retired at 28, 29, living my life. So I would have thought it was a sick joke.”

Williams has missed three prior Grand Slam finals chances to match Court and collect her first Slam as a mom, falling in last year’s US Open and the past two Wimbledons.

“I think it’s great. To be this far in my career, to be playing at this level with these amazing new players, is cool,” Williams said.

“It’s cool that I’ve been in more finals than I think anyone on tour after being pregnant. I think that’s kind of awesome.

“It’s not easy to go through what I did and come back, and so fast. To keep playing, to also not be 20 years old, yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself.”

Svitolina marvels at Williams as well.

“What she does is unbelievable effort on a daily basis. You have to work every day. You have to be always ready, always prepared for any match,” Svitolina said.

“What she does and what she achieved, it’s something unbelievable. For sure, everyone dream about it. For now, only her who can do it.”

Serena powers into 10th US Open final

Serena Williams cruised into a 10th US Open final Thursday as she brushed aside fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 to claim a record-equaling 101st win at Flushing Meadows.

Williams is seeking a 24th Grand Slam singles title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record and will face either Belinda Bencic or Bianca Andreescu on Saturday in her bid for a seventh US Open triumph.

The 37-year-old American, who made her US Open debut in 1998, also drew level with Chris Evert for the most wins in tournament history after advancing to a 33rd major final.

“It’s impressive. To be in any club with Chrissie is awesome,” said Williams, who lifted her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open.

“I couldn’t have done it without this crowd. You guys have literally been here for 20 years and I’m still here.”

Williams fought off six breaks points across her opening three service games before finding her rhythm to dispatch Wimbledon semi-finalist Svitolina in 70 minutes, hitting 34 winners against just 20 unforced errors.

“I know how (Svitolina) can play, she’s such a good player. Obviously two semis in a row is really hard to do and I just wanted to not get off to a slow start and I wanted to hang on in there.”

Williams, who was beaten by Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final in July, returns to the championship match in New York a year on from her infamous meltdown in a loss to Naomi Osaka overshadowed by controversy.

She is chasing a first Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open and hasn’t won the US Open since 2014.

Svitolina was attempting to become just the second Ukrainian to play in a Grand Slam singles final after Andrei Medvedev, who lost in five sets to Andre Agassi at the 1999 French Open.

Benic Ousts Osaka While Vekic Rallies For US Open Win

 

Belinda Bencic stunned top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka to reach the US Open quarter-finals, where she will face Donna Vekic, who rallied from match point down on Monday to advance.

Bencic’s 7-5, 6-4 triumph, her WTA-best sixth over a top-five foe this year, ensured 21-year-old Japanese star Osaka will fall from the world number one spot next week.

“The challenge cannot be bigger against Naomi,” Bencic said. “I had to be at the top of my game and I’m really pleased how well I handled my nerves at the end.”

The 22-year-old Swiss 13th seed matched her deepest career Grand Slam run from the 2014 US Open with her third victory of the year over Osaka, having also won at Indian Wells and Madrid.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, the reigning French Open champion who was beaten Sunday, will move into the world number one position next Monday.

Vekic, the 23rd seed from Croatia, saved a match point in the second set and made her first Slam quarter-final by rallying past German 26th seed Julia Goerges 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-3.

“I don’t even know how I won this match,” Vekic said. “She was serving for the match. She had match point. I just kept fighting and believing I could win. It feels pretty amazing.”

Bencic owns a 2-1 career edge over Vekic from two 2014 wins but Vekic won the most recent meeting with her friend and frequent practice partner in the third round of this year’s French Open.

“It’s going to be a tough match for sure,” Vekic said. “She’s one of the best players this year.”

Osaka’s exit means there will be four different women’s Grand Slam winners in a season for the third consecutive year, a first in the Open era.

Reigning Australian Open champion Osaka struggled from the start on the same Arthur Ashe Stadium court where she consoled tearful US teen Coco Gauff just two days earlier.

“It was just an unbelievable moment for tennis,” Bencic said of Osaka helping Gauff cope with her sadness. “Coco’s story is unbelievable but what Naomi did is what a true champion would do.”

Osaka double faulted to surrender a break in the opening game of the match, but leveled at 2-2 when Bencic netted a backhand.

Bencic swatted a backhand down-the-line winner for a break to seize a 6-5 lead then held on a service winner to capture the first set.

Osaka double faulted away a break to hand Vekic a 3-2 lead and the Swiss never faced a break point in the second set, finishing off the victory with a forehand winner to end matters after 87 minutes.

“I was taking the serve early, trying to anticipate, because she has so much power,” Bencic said. “I’m trying to play like chess and make it tactical on the court.”

Bencic hit 29 winners with only 12 unforced errors to Osaka’s 26 winners and 21 unforced errors.

Confident in rallies

Goerges won the tie-breaker with consecutive forehand winners, then broke Vekic to open the second set and fired four consecutive aces for a 2-0 lead.

But the German was broken serving for the match, squandering a match point in the 10th game, and Vekic broke again when Goerges hit a forehand wide to force a third set.

“I was just trying to get a return in the court,” Vekic said. “She was serving amazing. I was feeling confident in the rallies and I knew if I could get that return in I would have an advantage.”

US upstarts play seeds in later matches as 116th-ranked qualifier Taylor Townsend faces Canadian teen 15th seed Bianca Andreescu and Belgian 25th seed Elise Mertens meets 141st-ranked wildcard Kristie Ahn.