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.

 

Federer, Serena Breeze Into US Open Last 16 But Nishikori Out

Roger Federer and Serena Williams        Photos: AFP

 

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the all-time leaders in Grand Slam titles, cruised into the fourth round of the US Open on Friday while 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori was ousted by Australian Alex de Minaur.

Federer routed Britain’s 58th-ranked Dan Evans 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in only 80 minutes, blasting 48 winners to just seven for Evans, whose effort was hampered by an 18-hour turnaround between matches.

“I really enjoyed myself,” Federer said. “I was able to adjust and take care of business so it was good.”

Evans blasted organizers for playing him first on limited rest after a rain-delayed match on Thursday while his 38-year-old Swiss rival, a 20-time Slam champion, rested after playing Wednesday under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I was fatigued,” Evans said. “I thought it was pretty tough I was first up after playing yesterday, if I’m being brutally honest, so it was a bit disappointing.

“Just to try and beat him feeling tired, stiff, playing four sets yesterday, it’s near on impossible, but I actually thought he played pretty much no-error tennis.”

Williams continued her quest for a 24th career Grand Slam title to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record by crushing 44th-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-2 in 74 minutes.

“I had a lot of intensity today, which is really good for me,” Williams said.

The 37-year-old American, six times a US Open champion, has been a runner-up in three of the past five Slams, falling to Naomi Osaka in last year’s US Open final. She last won a Slam crown at the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant and hasn’t won the US Open title since 2014.

“I actually prefer playing in the day because I get to go home and actually see my baby,” Williams said.

Japanese seventh seed Nishikori was dispatched by the 20-year-old Aussie 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. De Minaur, on his deepest Grand Slam run, will next face Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov or Polish lucky loser Kamil Majchrzak.

“This is where I feel like my game’s at. I want to be pushing second weeks of Grand Slams and putting myself out there. So very happy,” De Minaur said. “Hopefully I can just keep it rolling.”

It was the first victory over a top-10 foe in 12 tries for De Minaur, who squandered a two-set lead over 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in last year’s Open third round.

“I had a little bit of a thriller last year versus Cilic and was two sets to love up,” De Minaur said. “I was glad I could finally get the win.”

Barty, Pliskova advance

Reigning French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the Aussie second seed, and Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova, chasing her first Grand Slam title, also reached the last 16.

Pliskova, the 2016 US Open runner-up, outlasted Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 while Barty dispatched Greek 30th seed Maria Sakkari 7-5, 6-3.

“Physically it was quite a tough battle,” Pliskova said. “It was important to win so it doesn’t matter how I feel. So pleased to be through.”

Barty and Pliskova are battling top-ranked defending champion Osaka to be world number one at the end of the Flushing Meadows fortnight.

Barty has the inside track because Osaka has so many points to defend. The Japanese 21-year-old must win the title to have any chance at staying on top while Pliskova must reach at least the semi-finals.

Top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has won four of the past five Slam titles and 16 overall, was set to play a night match against 111th-ranked American Denis Kudla, who has never beaten a top-10 rival in 10 tries.

The 32-year-old Serbian, a three-time US Open winner, has been no worse than a US Open semi-finalist since a third-round exit in 2006.

AFP

Serena Survives US Open Challenge From Teen McNally

 

Serena Williams withstood a brave display from 17-year-old American wildcard Caty McNally at the US Open on Wednesday to keep her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title intact.

READ ALSO: Federer Rallies Past Dzumhur To Reach US Open Third Round

Williams, a six-time champion in New York, recovered from dropping the opening set to prevail 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 and set up a third-round showdown with either 29th seed Hsieh Su-Wei or Karolina Muchova.

AFP

Just In: Injured Serena Retires From Toronto WTA Final, Andreescu Claims

 

Serena Williams fought back tears as back pain forced her out of the WTA Toronto final after just four games on Sunday, handing the title to home hope Bianca Andreescu.

Andreescu, 19, was up 3-1 with a break of serve when 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams found she couldn’t continue.

Thiem Wins Home Ground Title In Kitzbuhel

Dominic Thiem of Austria (L) and Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain celebrate with Champagne after the singles final match of the Generali Open Tennis Tournament of the ATP Tour in Kitzbuehel, Austria on August 3, 2019. Stefan ADELDBERGER / EXPA / APA / AFP

 

 

Top seed and world number four Dominic Thiem captured his 14th career title and first on home ground on Saturday with a 7-6 (7/0), 6-1 win over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the final of the Kitzbuhel clay-court tournament.

It was Thiem’s third title of 2019 after a maiden Masters win at Indian Wells and in Barcelona on the eve of Roland Garros where he eventually went on to finish runner-up to Rafael Nadal for a second successive year.

Thiem, who lost the 2014 Kitzbuhel final to David Goffin, becomes only the second Austrian player to lift his home title following former world number one Thomas Muster in 1993.

“It’s already one of my most beautiful moments ever in my tennis career,” said Thiem.

“It was one of the most emotional moments because I have a special connection with Kitzbuhel. I was here for the first time when I was six on this huge centre court. I was watching the tournament many times.

“I got my first wild card here and now to finish the tournament as the champion is incredible. I reached one big childhood goal today.”

READ ALSO: Texas Store Shooting Leaves Multiple Dead

Next up for Thiem is a return to hard courts and the Montreal Masters from next week where he starts as second seed to Nadal after the withdrawals of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The 25-year-old will face either 2017 Montreal semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov or Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in his Canadian opener.

Wimbledon Men’s Final – Five Facts

 

 

Five facts on Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer:

‘Big Three’ dominate

— With Djokovic and Federer in the final, the winner of Sunday’s match will extend the streak of Grand Slam titles won by the ‘Big Three’ of the pair plus Rafael Nadal to 11 straight major titles. Since Federer won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, just five Grand Slam finals have been contested by pairs of players outside the ‘Big Three’.

Golden oldie Federer

— At 37 years 340 days, Federer is bidding to become the oldest player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title.

Ken Rosewall is the only 37-year-old to have won a major singles title in that time – he won the 1972 Australian Open aged 37 years 62 days.

30-somethings still special

— The champion will extend the streak of Grand Slam titles won by players aged 30 or older. The last 12 Grand Slam titles – including at Wimbledon this year – will have been shared between players aged 30 or older.

Djokovic chases fifth Wimbledon title
— Defending champion Djokovic is bidding to win his fifth Wimbledon title and equal Bjorn Borg and Laurie Doherty in fourth place on the all-time list. He is also chasing a 16th career major.

Federer to level Navratilova with nine?

— Federer is bidding to become the second player in history to win nine Wimbledon singles titles after Martina Navratilova who won nine women’s singles. Federer is also after 21st career Grand Slam title.

AFP

Miss Congeniality: Halep Proves Nice Girls Do Win

Romania’s Simona Halep celebrates beating US player Serena Williams during their women’s singles final on day twelve of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 13, 2019.
GLYN KIRK / AFP

 

Simona Halep handed Serena Williams her most lopsided Grand Slam final loss to clinch the Wimbledon title on Saturday and there will be few more popular champions.

Humble and grounded, Halep had already showed incredible resolve to win the 2018 Roland Garros title having lost all three of her previous Slam finals.

She further endeared herself by announcing before that Paris final that she “would be okay” if she lost again, as “no-one would have died”.

Halep, 27, is only the second Romanian woman to win a major after Virginia Ruzici claimed the 1978 French Open. Ruzici is now her manager.

Before her 2018 Roland Garros breakthrough, Halep had suffered three agonising defeats when one set from glory at the majors.

She lost the 2014 Roland Garros final to Maria Sharapova and the 2017 championship match in Paris after leading Jelena Ostapenko by a set and 3-0.

Her third came earlier in 2018 against another perennial underachiever on the biggest stage, Caroline Wozniacki, in a marathon match in sweltering conditions at Melbourne Park.

Halep became world number one in August 2017 and her 2018 French Open win over Sloane Stephens made her the first player to win her first Grand Slam title while holding the top ranking.

A huge star in her home country — Halep has appeared on the front cover of Romania’s ‘Elle’ magazine and opened a restaurant called ‘SH’ in her hometown of Constanta, which lies on the Black Sea.

“The fact that I am able to win maybe will give an inspiration also to Romanians, the kids, that it’s possible, even if you come from a little country, it’s possible if you work and if you believe.”

One of the main reasons why Halep had to wait so long to lift a major title was her relative lack of power when compared to the game’s other big stars.

But she has found compensation. “I’m fast, though, no?”

Halep, who Sports Illustrated once described as an ‘anti-diva’, now has $33 million banked from her career.

But she has not been seduced by the glitter of the sports world.

On Saturday, she made a point of thanking her mother for inspiration while light-heartedly winning the hearts of the All England Club.

“My mom said when I was 10 that if I want to do something in tennis I have to play in the final at Wimbledon,” she told Centre Court.

“I had lots of nerves, my stomach wasn’t very well.

She added: “I said at the start of the tournament that one of my motivations was to win and become a lifetime member of the club!”

Her folksy charm has also seduced hardened reporters.

She only follows two people on Twitter — one is former coach Darren Cahill and the other, bizarrely, is three-time world snooker champion Mark Selby.

“I have no idea how you play snooker. But I appreciate him,” said Halep.

“He’s been in Romania a few times. I met him. Also I have a snooker ball signed from him. That’s why I follow him.”

Halep has also expressed a childlike delight in the British royal family, confessing she’s a particular fan of the Duchess of Cambridge.

“Kate’s my favourite,” said Halep as the object of her regal affection looked down from the Royal Box.

But there still remains a steely streak, illustrated by the decision she made 10 years ago to undergo breast reduction surgery.

“It’s the weight that troubles me. My ability to react quickly, my breasts make me uncomfortable when I play,” she once said.

“I didn’t like them in my everyday life, either. I would have gone for surgery even if I hadn’t been a sportswoman.”

Federer, Nadal Braced For Wimbledon Epic

 

 

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battle for a place in the Wimbledon final on Friday, 11 years after they mesmerised Centre Court in a Grand Slam championship match widely regarded as the greatest ever played.

Nadal emerged triumphant that day, winning in five sets in a four-hour 48-minute epic of fluctuating fortunes that stretched out over seven hours because of constant, momentum-shifting rain interruptions.

The Spaniard won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 as the clock ticked past 9pm and with the famous stadium in near-darkness.

Over a decade later, the sport’s two most successful players now have 38 Grand Slam titles between them and more than $100 million in prize money each.

Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion at Wimbledon, has the edge overall, leading his great rival and friend 24-15 and 10-3 at the Slams.

However, it is eight-time champion Federer who just edges their Wimbledon head-to-head 2-1 after winning the 2006 and 2007 finals before Nadal famously broke the spell in 2008.

Nadal, who demolished Federer in straight sets in the semi-finals at Roland Garros last month on his way to a 12th title in Paris, admits his game has developed since 2008.

Mostly, that’s due to his age as well as the desperate need to protect his creaking knees which so often conspired against him on the low-bouncing lawns of the All England Club.

“I am running less so I need to serve better. I probably cannot play 20 weeks a year any more,’ said 33-year-old Nadal.

“I am serving better. I am hitting the backhand better. Maybe volleying better, slicing better.”

In terms of the bare statistics, there is little to choose between them.

Nadal has served up 47 aces so far and been broken just four times; Federer has 42 aces, dropping serve on only three occasions.

The Spanish third seed has yet to face a seeded player and has only been truly tested once, in his four-set second round victory over Nick Kyrgios in what was comfortably the tournament’s most bad-tempered match.

Federer, 37, is the oldest man in the semi-finals of a Slam since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.

He is in his 13th semi-final at the tournament and 45th at the majors.

In a career illuminated by landmarks, he became the first man to register 100 match wins at a single Slam when he came back from a set down to beat Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals.

‘Rafa can hurt you’

Federer is wary of the dangers presented by Nadal.

His loss in Paris, which took place in what he described as “insane” windy conditions, was his heaviest at the Slams in 11 years.

“Rafa really can hurt anybody on any surface,” said Federer.

“He’s serving way different. I remember back in the day how he used to serve, and now how much bigger he’s serving, how much faster he finishes points.”

The eager anticipation of their 40th clash has relegated defending champion Novak Djokovic’s push for a fifth title to second billing.

The top seed and world number one reached the semi-finals for the ninth time, racking up his 70th career win at the All England Club by sweeping past David Goffin in straight sets, reeling off 15 of the last 17 games.

In his 36th Grand Slam semi-final, the 15-time major winner faces Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut who is in his maiden last-four at the majors at the 27th attempt.

Djokovic leads the 31-year-old 7-3 in career meetings, including 3-0 at the majors.

However, the unheralded Spaniard, who had to cancel plans for his stag party in Ibiza as a consequence of his run to the semi-finals, has defeated Djokovic twice in 2019, in Doha and Miami.

‘Oldest semi-final’

“He’s got amazing consistency,” said Djokovic.

“Very flat from both forehand and backhand. He has improved his backhand. I think he’s got more depth on his backhand.

“The ball bounces lower on the grass, which is I think more suitable to his style of game.”

Should Djokovic win, it would be the 22nd occasion that a Grand Slam final has been contested by two of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal.

For the second straight year, all four of the men’s semi-finalists are aged 30 or over.

This year’s final four have also set the record for the oldest combined age of Grand Slam men’s singles semi-finalists in the Open era.

They have a combined age of 134 years 160 days -– 23 days older than the previous record, which was set at Roland Garros in 1968, when Pancho Gonzales (40), Ken Rosewall (33), Andres Gimeno (30) and Rod Laver (29) had a combined age of 134 years 137 days.

AFP

Calm Before The storm? Halep Stands Between Serena And Court Landmark

Romania’s Simona Halep celebrates beating Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina during their women’s singles semi-final match on day ten of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2019.
Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP

 

Serena Williams’s place among the legends of tennis is assured but her mission will not be accomplished unless she at least equals Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

The 37-year-old American gets a third chance in a year to go level with the controversial Australian when she plays another former world number one Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.

Aside from the one-on-one rivalry on court, both women have a member of the royal family rooting for them — Williams’s friend Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Halep favouring Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.

Williams will hope for a happier ending than being out-played both by Angelique Kerber in last year’s Wimbledon final and Naomi Osaka in the US Open final where a spectacular meltdown torpedoed her cause, leading her to eventually consult a therapist.

Williams claimed after her semi-final romp over unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova that the Court landmark is not on her mind.

“I thought about it this morning,” she said.

“I actually didn’t think about it since because it’s really not about 24 or 23 or 25.

“It’s really just about going out there and giving my best effort no matter what.

“No matter what I do, I will always have a great career. I just kind of let it go this morning. I feel really calm about it.”

Her claiming to be calm — she attributes this to digging into her memory and recalling how she felt when she beat sister Venus in 2002 for her first Wimbledon title — will reassure her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

The 49-year-old Frenchman is more forthright over the reason why Williams has returned to the tour after giving birth to her daughter Olympia.

It is chasing down 76-year-old Court’s landmark set between 1960 and 1973.

‘Stronger mentally’

“That’s why she came back to playing tennis after having a baby and so many medical complications,” he said.

“The effort she’s put in, I’ve never seen something like this.

“You have no idea how hard she worked to come back to that level, and she came back for that, so it will probably mean a lot if she makes it.”

Williams’s campaign has been something of a rollercoaster.

Sublime against Strycova — who had ousted four seeds on her way to the semi-finals — she wobbled badly against compatriot Alison Riske in the previous round.

Calmness was not the adjective to describe her emotions during the Riske match and even she admits her serenity on Thursday could be replaced by a contrasting demeanour come Saturday.

“It’s a day-to-day basis with me,” she said.

“We all know that. I’m far from perfect.”

Halep, the first Romanian woman to play in the Wimbledon final, has the weaponry to upset Williams.

However, she will want her serve to be more reliable than it was in the early stages of her ultimately easy semi-final win over Elina Svitolina.

The 27-year-old has won just one of the four Grand Slam finals in which she has appeared — last year’s French Open.

But she has shown already she can deal with a partisan crowd having beaten 15-year-old Coco Gauff on Monday.

The size of the challenge confronting her is reflected in having won just one of her 10 previous meetings with Williams, although she has regularly taken her to three sets.

“I believe that I have my chance to win against her,” said Halep.

“Of course, I respect a lot what she has done and what she’s doing. But now I feel stronger mentally facing her.

“We will see what is going to happen. It’s just a big challenge for me.”

However, for Halep it is not about being the latest player to deny Williams equalling Court’s landmark.

“I’m desperate to win Wimbledon more than to stop her.”

AFP

Serena Williams’s Seven Wimbledon Titles

 

On Saturday, Serena Williams will try to win an eighth Wimbledon title and record-equalling 24th Grand Slam.

Here is a look at her previous seven victories at the All England Club:

2002 bt Venus Williams (USA) 7-6 (7/4), 6-3

— Serena defeats two-time defending champion and sister Venus to win her first Wimbledon singles title. Serena also claims the world number one ranking for the first time, adding the All England Club crown to her win the previous month at the French Open.

2003 bt Venus Williams (USA) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2

— Serena clinches her second straight Wimbledon crown with victory coming in the wake of her defeat to Justine Henin in the Roland Garros semi-finals.

Venus struggled with an abdominal and thigh injury which affected her serve and movement as the final went on.

“She’s tougher than I ever thought she was,” said Serena.

“I knew she was tough but she’s gone on to a whole different level. To play today knowing she was injured, she’s definitely up there with the real fighters and champions.”

2009 bt Venus Williams 7-6 (7/3), 6-2

— Serena again defeats her sister, the two-time defending champion. It is her third Wimbledon singles title and 11th Grand Slam singles trophy overall. She takes victory after having saved a match point against Elena Dementieva in the semi-finals.

Venus was attempting to become the first player to win the women’s singles title for three consecutive years since Steffi Graf from 1991-1993.

2010 bt Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 6-3, 6-2

— World number one Serena powers past Vera Zvonareva in just 66 minutes to win a fourth Wimbledon, preserving her record of not having dropped a set in the process.

It is her 13th Grand Slam singles title.

2012 bt Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 6-1, 5-7, 6-2

— The 30-year-old American wins a fifth Wimbledon and 14th major, becoming the oldest winner since Martina Navratilova in 1990.

The younger Williams sister draws level with Venus on five titles at the tournament.

Radwanska is the first Polish woman in a Grand Slam final since 1939.

2015 bt Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 6-4, 6-4

— A 21st major for Serena as she adds Wimbledon to her Australian and French Open titles in 2015, completing the ‘Serena Slam’ having also won the US Open in the previous year.

“There was definitely pressure towards the end. Garbine started playing really well and I just had to think to stay out there and work really hard.”

Serena was unable to complete the calendar Grand Slam when she went on to lose in the semi-finals in New York to Roberta Vinci.

2016 bt Angelique Kerber (GER) 7-5, 6-3

— A seventh Wimbledon for the American and 22nd Grand Slam title, equalling Steffi Graf’s Open era record of major titles.

“It makes the victory even sweeter to know how hard I worked hard for it. This court definitely feels like home,” she said.

AFP