August 26th, 2016

Friday Tennis Blog: Serena’s Draw, All Revealed Today at US Open

Friday Blog


If you haven’t already, say thanks and a belated happy birthday to Althea Gibson, who was born 89 years ago yesterday, Saying Gibson, who died in 2003, “broke racial barriers in tennis” is underselling it to the point of saying Serena Williams isn’t bad at hitting balls over a net. During rampant racism and prejudice in the 1940s and ’50s, she dominated to an extent where white athletes recognized her greatness and lobbied for her to play the major tournaments where players of color were not allowed. She came to the game through paddle tennis, played with wooden paddles in her Harlem neighborhood, and by age 12 won the New York City women’s championships. She switched to tennis, attended the historically black Florida A&M University, and in 1956 became the first person of color to win the French Open. A year later she did the same at Wimbledon, then the U.S. Championships (now known as the US Open). In all she won three of the four Slams in both singles and doubles. In 1957 (when she reached the finals of all four Slams) and ’58 she was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. Add to that she subsequently later became the first black woman on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour, was an accomplished singer signed to a record deal and acted in movies, and was outspoken with social issues and in community activities. She was paid tribute to this year as the subject of the Arthur Ashe Essay Contest. “Her road to success was a challenging one,” said Billie Jean King, “but I never saw her back down.”


serena-superwoman-197x300Really, can’t we just call it that? At least until the younger Williams sister retires? Because for the second straight year the men will take a back seat beginning in a few days, and all eyes will be on the women’s world No. 1 — to see if, at the end of the fortnight in New York, she can remain No. 1. Last year it was Serena just matches away from winning the calendar-year Grand Slam, losing in the semis to Roberta Vinci. Now this year Serena is gunning for a 23rd Grand Slam title, which would leave her only one short of the all-time 24 Grand Slams won by Margaret Court. Adding to the numerical drama, no more than four different players could end this year’s US Open at No. 1 on the WTA rankings. Let the battle begin.


Stewart (right) after winning the Girls' 18s "Bobby Curtis" title in 2014

Stewart (right) after winning the Girls’ 18s “Bobby Curtis” title in 2014

Coral Gables’ Katerina Stewart went from a junior on the verge of a pro tennis breakthrough to the Army this summer, and she couldn’t be happierMadison Keys says it took her a while to learn to deal with all the jerks on Twitter…World No. 8 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic has picked up Goran Ivanisevic as his new coach, but will miss the US Open with appendicitis…The US Open draw will be made this afternoon…Men’s Journal and Gil Reyes explain some of the out-of-the-ordinary training Andre Agassi underwent to reach the top of the game…Going to be in NYC for the Open? Then take in some off-Broadway plays about tennis, which are all the rage…If Serena Williams wins the US Open it would be her seventh crown in Flushing Meadows, surpassing the record six held jointly by her and Chris Evert in the Open Era (since 1968)…Caroline Wozniacki says bagels, Fashion Week, and watching Property Brothers will be the keys to her successful US Open experience…What’s your take on the just-announced Laver Cup — just another tennis exhibition, or something that will become meaningful like golf’s Ryder Cup?

They Said It

bobby riggs billi jean king“Serena is fantastic. If she breaks Steffi’s record, then Margaret Court’s, OK, but let’s take one step at a time.”
Billie Jean King on not yet naming Serena Williams the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), speaking to the New York Post

“I even actually asked Roger [Federer] about scheduling when I ran into him at a basketball game. From every [player], the consensus was, ‘What are you talking about? Play up.’ Anyone who had been a top player couldn’t see the reasoning of wanting to play down when you could play up.”
— American Taylor Fritz on trying to make an impact at tennis’ biggest events, speaking to tennis writer Ben Rothenberg

“My mom and grandma always told me: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’ It’s something everyone needs to be more conscious about. Putting more positive energy out into the world would be so beneficial.”
Madison Keys speaking to Teen Vogue

Tennis on TV This Weekend

(EST, times subject to change)

1-3pm — WTA New Haven (live), ESPN2
3-5pm — ATP Winston-Salem (live), ESPN2
7-9pm — WTA New Haven (live), ESPN2
7-9pm — ATP Winston-Salem (live), ESPN3 streaming

2-4pm — ATP Winston-Salem final (live), ESPN2
4-6pm — WTA New Haven final (live), ESPN2

2-3pm — Arthur Ashe Kids Day, ABC