May 28, 2016

Victoria Azarenka Defeats Serena Williams to win Indian Wells, Will Return to the Top 10

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

(March 20, 2016) Victoria Azarenka beat Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Open for the second time. The win moves Azarenka back into the top ten when the rankings come out on Monday. She was last in the top ten in August of 2014.

Azarenka broke Williams at love to start the match and held on to win the first set.

In the second set, Azarenka went up two breaks on Williams. At 3-0 Williams broke her racquet.

Azarenka took a 5-1 lead, but Williams won the next three straight games, having break points, when Azarenka served for the match a second time. The woman from Belarus held to close the match 6-4, 6-4.

Williams made 33 unforced errors during the match.

It was Azarenka’s first win over No. 1 Williams since she beat her for the Cincinnati title in August 2013. She move to No. 8 in the world.

Asked about reaching the top ten again, Azarenka said: “Feels good just to be able to, you know, see the work that I have put in and it’s paying off. But not just, you know, this year. Just everything that I have been through in the last years, it makes it more special.

“I just want to keep going. I just want to keep going. I want to keep improving myself as a player. I was very, I would say, brave to go for things that I haven’t maybe done as much before in the matches.

“I was more aggressive. I started to use my serve the way I wanted to use my serve. Sometimes it doesn’t work necessarily, like couple of matches this week. But having that big goal in mind and going after it, that’s something that makes the momentum shift on the big stages.”

Azarenka, with the win became the first to beat Williams in four different finals.

“I’m very honored to play against the best player in the world,” Azarenka said. “That’s what I said on the court. I really mean that. She’s absolutely transformed women’s sport. Her and Venus brought something unique and lifted it up.

“You know, the power, the intensity, you know, the records that I’m pretty sure she’s gonna break at some point. But just to be able to watch that and get inspired, for me, that’s more important. I mean, I’m happy that I won and I’m going to — next time we play I’m going to try to win again, but just being able to play on big stages against the best player, that’s something that I want to do every single week.”

For Williams, this was her second year was back at Indian Wells after a 14-year absence which ended last year.

“I think overall it was a good result for me just to be able to be back and to be able to play, in general, Williams said.

“Yeah, I think that overall was just really, really good. Obviously I didn’t win and that’s not the result I was looking for, but I think looking at the big picture it’s just I definitely didn’t expect to be on that stage again.

“The last time I was there (in the final in 2001) was probably the worst moment of my whole career. Not probably. Sure.

“To be back out there, which I never thought I would be, you know, was really different and special. You know, it was just — I was overwhelmed with, I think, emotions and nerves. Obviously I think everything kind of played a part.

“But for me it wasn’t about winning. It was just about, as Raymond said, coming back out here and doing well. No shade.”

Williams also addressed comment made by Tournament Director Raymond Moore that the WTA was riding the “coattails” of the men’s tour.

Indian Wells CEO Issues Apology for Sexist Comments: Serena Williams Reacts

 

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Indian Wells CEO Issues Apology for Sexist Comments; Serena Williams Reacts

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(March 20, 2016) At the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore told the media in a Sunday morning news conference that WTA players “ride on the coattails of the men.”  Here are some excerpts from the news conference:

 

How about the WTA side? Now you are one of the four premier mandatory. Would you like to be set apart from the other tournaments, as well, or are you happy…
RAYMOND MOORE: No, I think the WTA — you know, in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, (laughter) because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky.

If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.

And now the mantle is being handed over to Djokovic and Murray and some others. You know, that’s good. We have no complaints. You know, we pay equal prize money. Do all those things. We don’t have any complaints.

But we are one of the four premier mandatory events. They haven’t said anything about changing that system.

Q. This used to be a three-man show. Now it’s a one-man show. Does that mean you never needed those two other guys (Laughter)? How have you reengineered this whole thing?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, you know, Bill, to answer that, I think last year I had my 35th birthday, and now look what I look like. Steve leaving me here has contributed to my aging.

No, listen, you know, Charlie and Steve and myself and other people, everyone is passionate about this event. We sat and discussed concepts, where we wanted to go, and we are all at one.

If Charlie, Steve, and I were in here there would be no disagreements on concept and what we want to do with the sport.

Q. You said that there were six superstars in this game. I presume that’s four top men.
RAYMOND MOORE: Yes.

Q. And Serena?
RAYMOND MOORE: And Maria.

Q. Now Maria is out of the picture for…
RAYMOND MOORE: For a while.

Q. For a while. What’s that say about a sport that has one superstar?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, I don’t think you can look at it that way. I mean, Maria is a superstar. She’s an incredible superstar. Well-known throughout the world, everywhere. She may be sidelined for a while. She made a huge mistake and hopefully she doesn’t pay that price, you know, the ultimate price, career-ending suspension or anything like that.

So we sit and wait for a while or to make a decision and give their judgment.

But Serena and Maria are superstars. In the world, they are by far the two best-known female athletes, no question.

Q. What does it say that there isn’t enough competition for them?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, you know, it’s just one of those things where one lady has come in and dominated. You know, you can’t provide for that. Serena, as I said earlier, is arguably the best female player of all time. Certainly has always been in the conversation for maybe the top three. Some people may say Steffi Graf, Margaret Court, Chrissie, Martina. I think those are the five.

But she’s in there. If she stays healthy and interested, I think she’s going to beat Steffi Graf’s Grand Slam take.

But you know what? I think the WTA have a handful – not just one or two – but they have a handful of very attractive prospects that can assume the mantle. You know, Muguruza, Genie Bouchard. They have a lot of very attractive players. And the standard in ladies tennis has improved unbelievably.

Q. By attractive, you mean physically attractive or competitively attractive?
RAYMOND MOORE: No, no, no, I don’t — I mean both. They are physically attractive and competitively attractive. They can assume the mantle of leadership once Serena decides to stop.

I think they’ve got — they really have quite a few very, very attractive players.

Q. Your attendance is probably not going to go above last year.
RAYMOND MOORE: Right.

Q. Why is that? Is it obvious it’s Federer and Sharapova? How do you take an event like this and continue to grow it when that number gets so big?
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, it’s always hard when you get a huge number to increase on it.

This year our number is not quite as big as last year, but it’s very, very close. There are a number of factors. You know, we lost two days at the beginning. We lost Monday, the first Monday when it was cold, and we had 5,000 less people that day.

Big night, the Salute to Heros night when Serena was playing. We had rain at a terrible time; 5:00 to 7:00 it rained. That’s when people would be coming out to see the matches.

The afternoon session had to be extended. Serena, instead of playing at 7:00 was playing at 9:00. Walkup crowd wasn’t what we expected. We thought we would have a sellout crowd that night. All indications were we would have.

So we lose those two sessions. Then, you know, there’s no doubt about it, Roger and Maria not being there, I mean, to improve on that number we need walkup crowd to support us. Walkup is dependent on the matchups, who can play.

And, you know, as a tournament director when you’re doing the schedule and you’ve got two superstars at your disposal, I could put Roger one night and Maria another night. It changes the attendance equation.

And then there are a whole bunch of other factors. We don’t know how much they weigh into the stock market crash; the Canadian dollar is so low. You go through all these factors. They are all one spoke in the wheel of reaching major attendance records.

But having said all of that, I think we’re gonna be roundabout 40,000 people, which is right on the heels of last year’s.

So the way I look at it, this is the second-highest attendance we have ever had in 41 years of the tournament. So I’m very, very happy with the attendance numbers.

 

If a couple years ago we were sitting at this wonderful breakfast and chat and someone said, Well, Steve will be gone in a couple of years, and the tournament’s not going to have Maria and it’s not going to have Roger; Serena and Venus will be playing. What would you say and just talk about the change of life.
RAYMOND MOORE: Well, you know, things change. You have to adapt. And just now that you just jogged my memory, another thing that happened with us with attendance, we lost 15 seeded lady players in the first round, including Caroline Wozniacki and other like superstars that could have helped us.

But that happens. Venus. Venus lost in the first round. You know, would have helped us greatly if Venus had gone deep in the tournament. When we did the draw I saw she was in the same section as Serena, so if she had won through the two of them would have played in the 16s, I think.

Think if we put Serena against Venus at night that we wouldn’t have had a sellout? Sure we would have.

That’s what I’m saying. That’s what happens. We’ve got a really solid fan base. To get to those little extra numbers, you need to have the matchups with the players. That’s unpredictable.

 

Serena Williams, who lost the final to Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-4 was asked to react to Moore’s comments after the match in her news conference:

 

You just shared a beautiful moment on the court with CEO Raymond Moore, and he said earlier today, quote, if I was a lady player, I would go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born. They have carried the sport. What’s your reaction to that comment and the controversy it’s created?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t understand why I always have to answer questions about controversy like this (laughter.) Obviously I don’t think any woman should be down on their knees thanking anybody like that.

I think Venus, myself, a number of players have been — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister, I couldn’t even bring up that number. So I don’t think that is a very accurate statement.

I think there is a lot of women out there who are more — are very exciting to watch. I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways. I think those remarks are very much mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate.

Q. Do you feel like there is maybe a misunderstanding behind how people are interpreting that in some way?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, if you read the transcript you can only interpret it one way. I speak very good English. I’m sure he does, too.

You know, there’s only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man, which is not — we, as women, have come a long way. We shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.

 

You have led women, and Venus also, have led women through a lot of struggles. Are you surprised in 2016 that’s issues and complaints and sexism are still cropping up?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I’m still surprised, especially with me and Venus and all the other women on the tour that’s done well. Last year the women’s final at the US Open sold out well before the men. I’m sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men’s final? I think not.

So I just feel like in order to make a comment you have to have history and you have to have facts and you have to know things. You have to know of everything. I mean, you look at someone like Billie Jean King who opened so many doors for not only women’s players but women’s athletes in general.

So I feel like, you know, that is such a disservice to her and every female, not only a female athlete but every woman on this planet, that has ever tried to stand up for what they believed in and being proud to be a woman.

Q. What was your reaction when you saw it? You said you saw the transcript.
SERENA WILLIAMS: “Really?”

Q. How did it come to your attention?
SERENA WILLIAMS: (Laughter.)

Actually, I love that quote.

How did it come to my attention? Well, unfortunately, you know, sometimes we — if someone makes irrational comments or if something unfortunate goes on in the sport, you know, everyone hears about it. I’m on social media enough to hear about it.

So, yeah.
 

The BNP Paribas Open issued a statement from Tournament Director and CEO Raymond Moore:

 

“At my morning breakfast with the media, I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous. I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole. We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA. Again, I am truly sorry for my remarks.”

 

Victoria Azarenka:

Q. I must do my job and ask you whether you heard the comments that Mr. Moore made.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I did.

Q. As a woman who has put all you have into this sport, could you reflect on those, please?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it’s something that, again, we have to work through as women. Men don’t get those comments. I don’t want to address or insult anybody like we got a little bit.

But I have just spoken to Paul, [sic] and he apologized. My thing is I don’t understand any man comments in general towards women, because as simple as that, every single person on earth was brought and was born by a woman, right?

Right?

Q. Absolutely.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think that’s a good comment and I think people should remember that sometimes.

Q. I want to also ask you this as someone who has followed you with great joy.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Thank you.

Q. Throughout your career. Let’s face it. You and other women were criticized harshly for the sounds they made on court, while men, from Jimmy Connors onward, basically were not. Did that ever cross your mind, that there was a gender difference and a response there?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think it’s still a problem in the world. It’s not just in sports. It’s in business. We try to talk about the equality. Sometimes it just gets unrecognized. I think what women do best is rise above those comments. You don’t hear complaints or bad comments towards men.

From my perspective, if we rise above that and keep working hard in everything we do, we’re better. We’re better at taking opportunities and being graceful. Why do you have to make the comment? Who cares? Who cares? Simple as that. Just to make more drama or jokes?

I mean, if that makes that person feel better or bigger or whatever, it’s a pretty sad person, I think. Because if you’re happy you don’t care what other people do. You just take care of you.

I think that’s more important to focus on us. That’s what women players and examples like Venus and Serena and other players have been doing for — you know, we got it from Billie Jean King where she proved everybody, Hey, look at me. I started something, so let’s go after it.

So I think it’s our duty to keep just working hard through whatever comments there is. We’ve got to rise above that.

Q. You commented about the grunting at Wimbledon last year, your reaction to it. Do you think this is something you have embraced more as you have gotten older in this sport, embracing this role as being a leader for women through your status as a top athlete?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I believe in giving back to a sport that gave me so much. I’m very passionate. I see how hard it is to make something out of yourself and stand your ground, so I believe that it’s my duty for players maybe after me or during this time to really have this respect for our sport.

I think that comes with it. Through the years, yeah. The comments, the grunting. I, don’t care about this. I could give less of shit about it.

Because to me, I work my butt off on the court to try to win the match. And whatever it takes, I’m going to do it.

Q. Do you think that Raymond Moore’s apology is a little disingenuous given the nature of the comments he made just a few hours previously?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I’m trying not to think about it. As all my other comments, I’m not gonna bring somebody down. I’m just gonna rise above that.

Today I think it was a great match. It was a great day for women’s sport. Isn’t it international happiest day or something like this? That’s what I heard. Why can’t we just be happy and enjoy and support each other, because that’s what the world is missing a little bit.

It’s the support towards each other. Not just bashing and, oh, who is prettier or who is this, who has more, who has less.

Let’s just take care of each other.

 

 

Novak Djokovic:

Q. The tournament director, Ray Moore – there was some controversy today – saying women players should go down on their knees and thank the men for carrying the sport. I was wondering what your thoughts are on that comment.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: (Smiling.) I don’t know what to say. I heard about it. Obviously it’s a very delicate and sensitive subject to talk about. Women deserve respect and admiration for what they are doing. You know, equal prize money was the main subject of the tennis world in the last seven, eight years.

I have been through that process, as well, so I understand how much power and energy WTA and all the advocates for equal prize money have invested in order to reach that.

I applaud them for that. I honestly do. They fought for what they deserve, and they got it. On the other hand, I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more, because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches.

I think that’s one of the, you know, reasons why maybe we should get awarded more. But, again, you know, we can’t complain because we also have great prize money in men’s tennis is at the right moment in the right time.

Look, I don’t know what Raymond Moore was exactly referring to when he was saying that, but this is all I can say from my perspective.

Q. But you don’t think the prize money should be equal if it was up to you?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Listen, again, my answer to you is not yes and no. It’s women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve. I think as long as it’s like that and there is data and stats available and information, you know, upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed.

Q. So if the stats show at some point that women’s tennis attracts more tennis, men should get less?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Q. One of the great things about our sport is not only WTA and ATP, but the entire interaction of men and women in this global sport, do you think you’d be here today without your first coach, Jelena?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I wouldn’t be. That’s why — you know, don’t get me wrong. As I said, I have tremendous respect for what women in global sport are doing and achieving.

It’s knowing what they have to go through with their bodies, and their bodies are much different than men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details. Ladies know what I’m talking about.

But it’s really for great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level. Many of them, you know, they kind of have to sacrifice for certain periods of time, you know, the family time or decisions that they make with their own bodies, you know, in order to play the tennis and to play the professional sport.

So I appreciate that. I have had a woman that was my coach, and that was a huge part of my tennis career. I’m surrounded with women. I’m very happy obviously to be married with one and to have a child. (Smiling.)

I’m completely for women power.

Q. Do you think the language that Ray Moore used was offensive? He said that if I was a lady player I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think we — yeah, we have to be fair to say that it’s not politically correct. I mean, it was maybe exaggerated a little bit, but that’s just my opinion.

21 March 2016

ATP Statement Regarding Raymond Moore’s Comments & Equal Prize Money

Following Raymond’s Moore recent comments, ATP Executive Chairman & President Chris Kermode said:

“Ray Moore’s comments towards women’s tennis were disparaging and made in poor taste, as Ray has subsequently acknowledged. The ATP fully supports equality across society, while at the same time acknowledging that we operate in the sports & entertainment business. The ATP seeks to achieve fair compensation for its players by setting minimum prize money levels for ATP events in accordance with the revenues that are generated from men’s professional tennis. The ATP also respects the right of tournaments to make their own decisions relating to prize money for women’s tennis, which is run as a separate Tour.”

 

Statement by Katrina Adams, Chairman of the Board, CEO and President, USTA, in response to the comments of Raymond Moore:

“The USTA and the US Open hold player equality as one of our bedrock principles. As the first Grand Slam to award equal prize money, we have endeavored to lead the way for gender equality in sports. We appreciate the hard work and incredible skill demonstrated by all those at the professional level, and the USTA hopes these tremendous athletes help to inspire the next generation of boys’ and girls’ players in this country. There is no place in this sport for antiquated, sexist or uninformed ideologies, and the comments made yesterday in no way reflect the beliefs of the vast majority of those in the tennis world.”

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Serena Williams Reaches First Indian Wells Final Since 2001

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 18, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Serena Williams had to rally in both sets before advancing to the Indian Wells final defeating No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6(1) on Saturday night.

Radwanska was a point away from a 5-2 lead in the first set when Williams won seven straight games to take a 6-4, 3-0 lead.

Radwanska got back on serve and broke Williams to serve for the second set at 6-5. Williams broke back and sent the set to a tiebreak, which Williams dominated.

Williams hit 41 winners in the match to her opponent’s 18.

“I just made a few errors in the beginning and then just started to get a bit more pumped up toward the middle,” said the world No. 1.

Well, in the first set she served pretty much every ball to my forehand. I started reading it, so she obviously changed her strategy, which is obviously — she’s a very smart player, so she knows that you just can’t go into the match and just do the exact same thing against anybody for the whole match.”

“I think it was pretty good match,” said the woman from Poland. “I started very well. Unfortunately I didn’t took chances I had in the first set, so many break points I couldn’t even count.”

“Think it was a really good match. I think we both played very well.

“In important moments she played really amazing shots. I think maybe I just didn’t really step enough in some of the important moments that I have a chance.

“Then she took it and it was too late. But I think that was really match in that kind of level that we have ranking.”
Williams returns to the BNP Paribas Open final for the first time since 2001. She returned to play the tournament last year after not playing it from 2002-2014. “Definitely didn’t think I would be in another final here ever,” Williams said. “Then last year just really, really bad luck. I felt devastated that I wasn’t in the final or at least even being able to play.

“After the last final I had here, I never pictured myself being back. So it’s interesting feeling.”

“Well, hopefully it will be very different than last final,” Williams said smiling.  “But my goal is just to be out there, and I think it’s kind of cool that I can really close the door by being in the final again.

“So I think it’s something that really kind of came full circle.”

In the other women’s semifinal, Victoria Azarenka defeated Karolina Pliskova 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-2. Williams has a 17-3 record against the Belarusian.

 

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Top Seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic Advance in Straight Sets

Serena gets ready for bh 3112016

(March 15, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic advanced in straight sets on Tuesday at the BNP Paribas Open.

Serena Williams dominated qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-2, despite 22 unforced errors in the match. The 21-time major winner has not lost a set in Indian Wells. The women’s draw has been decimated by a number of seeds upset in the early rounds.

“I’m just happy to be in the quarters after three matches, so I feel all right,” Williams said.

“I haven’t been making that many errors in the past, so just have to cut back on my errors and I’ll be fine.”

“So far I think my consistency has been well; being aggressive has been well; everything that I’ve wanted to do I’ve kind of been doing,” she said.

Williams opponent in the final eight will be defending champion Simona Halep.

“I like how she’s aggressive. She’s a fighter,” Williams said. “She killed me at one point, so I definitely have to be ready.

“Yeah, and it’ll be a really good match I think for both of us to kind of see where we want to be at at this point in the year.”

Halep moved into the quarterfinals when Barbora Strycova retired trailing 6-3, 1-0.

“It was short and I feel sorry for her because she’s sick. It’s not easy to be sick and to keep continue playing the match.

“So I understand her. I’m happy that I am again in the quarterfinals. I feel good here. You know, I started to feel my game. I started to feel very well on court. I move well. It’s the most important thing.

“Of course the matches, it’s important to win a match, but it’s better to feel that you are like strong on court and then to think about winning a match.”

Halep talked about playing Williams: “I expect a tough one, of course. She’s very strong. I know her pretty well. We played each other many times.

“I know that it’s gonna be tough to win, but still, I have my chance. I believe that I have my chance, and I just have to go to play my best, to try everything to win.

First I have to believe that I can win. So then if my game is going well it’s gonna be a good match. I’m waiting for it, and I’m ready to play.”

“I think I have to do my game like I did every day since I came in the U.S.: aggressive, not very strong. I don’t hit very strong. I just take the ball fast. I move well. I hit with confidence. Also, the serve is going well.

“So I feel okay. I feel that I have the game to play against her. We will see tomorrow. It’s tough. I repeat that, because it’s normal to be tough. She’s No. 1 in the world.

“Yeah, it’s good experience for me to play against her and also big challenge.”

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-5. Each set the German came back from a break down before Djokovic shut down each set. In the second set Djokovic served for the match at 5-3 and had four match points he could not convert. Djokovic closed the match breaking serve in the 12th game.

“I felt better on the court than I did in the first round, which comforts me obviously,” Djokovic said of his tricky contest with the German.

“But, again, you know, I allowed myself twice to lose the serve when I was break up in both sets. Especially in the second, 40-Love smash, easy backhand, match points, got him back.

“As I said, those things cannot happen. I cannot allow myself any more to react that way in those particular circumstances. Because, you know, I was fortunate today to manage win in straight sets. But Kohlschreiber is an experienced player. He has played so many times on the big occasions, so he knows how to capitalize on the opportunities and come back to the match.

“I just put myself in a very difficult position after that. But, you know, there are more positive things I can take out of this match today comparing first one.”

Djokovic is seeking a record fifth Indian Wells title.

 

 

 

Related article:

Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori Advance to Fourth Round of Indian Wells

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Serena Williams Rebounds From Sluggish Start to Reach Fourth Round of Indian Wells

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 13, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Serena Williams was pushed to the brink in the first set but defeated Yulia Putintseva 7-6(2), 6-0 to advance to the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

Putintseva went up a break to take a 3-1 lead in the first set against the world No. 1 and served for the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5 but failed to close. Williams dominated the tiebreak 7-2, and did not lose another game. The 21-time major champion ended he match with an ace.

Williams talked about the first set rollercoaster: “I was just trying to find my rhythm out there. Trying my best to not get off to a slow start. Then I got broken really early and I couldn’t manage to break back.

“But I was just trying to fight out there and do what I could.”

Asked about what makes Putintseva’s game frustrating, Williams said: I don’t know. I found it good to play. I just wasn’t finding my rhythm. I hadn’t played someone like her in a second, so I was just trying to get my bearings there.

“I made a lot of errors in that first set. I went for a lot and I usually make those, but I kept missing. Even in the first game. Wow, this echo is annoying. Is that better? Yes, I think. Yeah. Okay.

“Even though I won, I made some simple errors that just kept going for the first set.”

Williams had 29 unforced errors in the first set.

Third seed Agnieszka Radwanska, making a 10th straight appearance in Indian Wells defeated 32nd seed Monica Niculescu 6-2, 6-1. She was the 2014 runner-up.

She was asked about the upsets tournament, but in women’s tennis in general. Half of the women’s seeds are out of the tournament.

“I think the conditions also are very tough,” she. But, well, to be honest, those lower-ranked players are also playing good tennis, so it’s not like you can play your 50% and you’re gonna win.

“Maybe that how was like maybe 10 years ago, that you really didn’t play your best and you was still keep winning even two easy sets

“And I think at the moment you really have to play 100% from the first rounds because there are no easy matches. Especially that a lot of players unseeded, and you think they kind of should be in the top 20 and you are playing them in the first round and you’re in trouble.

“Well, I think that’s tennis. What you’re not have your day, you are in trouble.”

Eighth seed Petra Kvitova survived Johanna Larsson 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. Larsson was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set before Kvitova broke serve.

The Czech was very happy to advance.

“It’s such a relief, I think. I think I fought much more than the first set, so the relief is a little bit bigger.

“I think I played better, as well, especially first set. Unfortunately the accident happen on the stands, so it was kind of weird, you know, to sitting on the chair and someone is really struggling with the hot. It was just tough.

“I think that she really pushed me a lot, because she couldn’t really miss anything. I was like really have to doing everything what I could in the moment and really trying to have some winners, because otherwise we can play still now,” she said with a smile.

 

More to follow….

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BNP Paribas Open Photo Gallery from Friday, March 11, 2016

(March 11, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Photo gallery from around the grounds of the BNP Paribas Open. All photos by Curt Janka.

 

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Serena Williams with an Easy Win to Open Indian Wells

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 11, 2016) INDIAN WELLS, California – Serena Williams opened her BNP Paribas Open with an easy 6-2, 6-1 victory over German qualifier Laura Siegemund in a second round match on Friday night. The No. 1 player in the world needed only 63 minutes to complete her match. This was Williams’s first match since losing the Australian Open final.

“My intensity was the key,” Williams said in her on court post-match interview. “(Siegemund) actually started out really strong in that first game when I was serving, she was close to breaking me.

“I knew right then and there if I wasn’t going to come out at 100% it would be a long match.”

Williams hit 21 winners with 11 unforced errors.

Earlier in the day, sister Venus made her return to Indian Wells for the first time since 2001, losing to Kurumi Nara. Serena did not watch the match.

“I watched a little bit the scores, but not so much her match,” Serena said. Serena admitted to being nervous. “Yeah. And I was playing right after. I thought I was playing after, but I didn’t realize there was a match in between. So I was in focus mode and I was like, oh, there is a match in between.”

Asked about how the 34-year-old thought she and her sister “navigated” the incident in 2001 and coming back last year, Serena said: “I hope so. We always try to be an example, positive role model, and a positive example to our colleagues as well as people that are outside of tennis and everyone of all walks of life.”

“Well, it was a lot less stressful tonight. I was really kind of stressed out last year. It was a lot of emotions last year. This year it was a lot easier.

“I mean, obviously there is still something there, but it’s a lot easier to just deal with everything.”

“I think it wasn’t about winning. When I come here, even to this day it’s not about winning. It’s just about closing that chapter in my life and her life and our lives and try to move on with our heads up, as we always had our heads up. But just continue to do that.”

In addition to No. 10 seed Venus Williams losing, other seeds also fell including No.11 Lucie Safarova, No.16 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No.15 Sara Errani, No. 22 Andrea Petkovic No.23 Madison Keys, No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No.27 Kristina Mladenovic. No. 5 seed and defending champion Simona Halep won her match against Vania King 6-1, 6-1.

Related articles:

Venus Williams’ Return to Indian Wells Ends in a Loss to Qualifier Kurumi Nara

 

All photos by Curt Janka.

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BNP Paribas Showdown Sees Serena Williams win “Garden Party”

BNPPS Serena Wozniacki

By Vito Ellison

(March 8, 2016) NEW YORK, NY – The match-functional braid was traded for a sleek shoulder-length ‘do, the intense self-flagellation for ingratiating smiles.  Yes, the groundies still stung at times; yes, the serve was still fluid, but as Serena Williams took to the court with Caroline Wozniacki last night in midtown Manhattan, the mood was not combative, it was celebratory.

The ninth edition of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden segued into the night’s headliners, Williams and Wozniacki, after a stirring opening act delivered by the matchup between World No. 4 Stan Wawrinka and superstar showman Gael Monfils.

BNPPS Monfils wawrinka

Everyone wore their loyalty on their sleeves throughout the evening. The 2-time major champion, Wawrinka, was greeted with polite applause when he entered the arena in a Henrik Lundqvist jersey, before Monfils entered to full-on cheers in the Knicks’ home whites.

Determined to draw more of the crowd to his side, Wawrinka came out firing, engaging Monfils in high-octane exchanges headlined by his renowned one-handed backhand including a winner to take the first break in the match. Monfils, though, would not be denied.  At times, he let his (not so) inner clown prince get the best of him, including an attempted header where a put-away forehand into the open court would’ve sufficed, before securing a 7-6 (6) first set.

The rest of the match played out like a competitive friendly between the two Swiss residents (the Frenchman, Monfils, maintains a residence in the country), with Wawrinka setting Monfils up for a couple attempts at show-stoppers that, to the dismay of the Garden crowd, didn’t materialize. Late in the second set, Williams joined Wawrinka while Wozniacki teamed with Monfils for some light-hearted mixed doubles during which Serena jokingly chastised the Swiss that her sister, Venus, would’ve gotten to a shot that he missed. Before Monfils ultimately dealt Wawrinka the 7-6 (6), 6-3 loss, Wawrinka tried to convince Chris Evert to join them on court, but the 18-time major winner was a few steps ahead of him, demurring and holding up her glass of wine.

Where previous editions maintained the facade of full-on competition, this year’s BNP Showdown felt more like a “Night with Serena and Friends.” The first time we saw the 21-time major champion last night she was pitching in on background vocals with a kids’ choir.  Then there was the mixed doubles jaunt in a figure-hugging bodysuit that recalled Serena’s late Puma era, before the main event, a “showdown” between the two BFFs and WTA No. 1s.

 

After decades of watching the younger of the Sisters Sledgehammer sometimes play in front of often ambivalent crowds, it was heartwarming on this March evening to see the lovefest between Williams and the crowd. While Wozniacki could count a couple of fans in the near-capacity MSG crowd, the vast majority were here to watch–and celebrate Serena who won the match 7-5, 6-4. She was at turns, gracious, giving tips to a young player during a mid-match interview and gritty, leaving Wozniacki lunging after winners during play.
Amid the smiles and light-hearted attitudes of the participants, there lurked the feeling that the celebration was still a bit muted. There was the lingering feeling that the powers that be, and Serena herself, when signing the contract months ago, might have expected this night would celebrate, not only Serena and her Sportsperson of the Year title, but a Calendar Slam and perhaps an Open-era majors record. None of that mattered though, not for this crowd, not for this night, not for Serena either.

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Juniors Hurricane Black and Carson Branstine to Kick Off BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG on March 8

BNP Paribas Showdown

From Madison Square Garden: (February 10, 2016) New York, NY –  The BNP Paribas Showdown will once again present two  junior circuit players when Tyra Hurricane Black squares off against Carson Branstine in an opening match presented by HEAD Penn Racquet Sports as part of World Tennis Day at Madison Square Garden on March 8.

 

The future pro stars take to the court to kick off the annual BNP Paribas Showdown featuring the colorful Gael Monfils, world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and 21-time Major Champion Serena Williams.

 

Born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida, 14 year old, Tyra Hurricane Black is currently ranked No. 86 on the ITF World Junior Ranking.  She won three ITF junior titles in 2015 and reached the finals in the recent 52nd Coffee Bowl in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Additionally, Black helped lead the US team to the finals of the 2015 ITF World Junior Tennis Competition in the Czech Republic.  Her older sister, Alicia Black is a former top-5 world-ranked junior now playing on the pro circuit.

 

Branstine, who started playing tennis at seven years old, is 15 and hails from Orange County, California.  She is currently No. 184 on the ITF World Junior Ranking and holds 26 career singles titles.  She has played in the 2015 US Open Junior Slam and was a member of the USA Team National Junior Team. Additionally, Branstine played on an 18s national team where she went undefeated and was a finalist in the 2015 Plantation ITF.

 

Black and Branstine add to a considerable list of exceptional juniors who have taken to the Madison Square Garden tennis court at the BNP Paribas Showdown including the likes of Francis Tiafoe who turned pro in May 2015 and is said to be one of the prominent young up and coming stars as well as Sloane Stephens who is ranked No. 26 on the WTA Tour and currently representing the United States at the Fed Cup in Hawaii.

 

Previous junior matches featured:

2008: Denis Kudla (15 years old) vs Junior Ore (15)

2009: Sloane Stephens (15) vs Gail Brodsky (17)

2010: Nicole Gibbs (16) vs Sachia Vickery (14)

2014: Tiafoe (16) vs Reilly Opelka (16)

2015: Cori “Coco” Gauff (10) vs Gabriella Price (11)

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Angelique Kerber Upsets Serena Williams to Win Australian Open Title

Kerber

(January 30, 2016) A point away from being knocked out in the first round 13 days ago, No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber came back to win her match against  Misaki Doi and on Saturday surprised No. 1 seed and six-time champion Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to claim her first major title, the 2016 Australian Open.

The last Australian Open Champion to save a match point on the way to the title was 2014 champion Li Na.

Williams came into the final as an overwhelming favorite to win her 22nd major and equal Steffi Graf for the most in the Open Era. Williams had not lost an Australian final before Saturday.

Conversely, with the victory, Kerber became the first German to win a major since Graf. Coming into Melbourne, Kerber was the only member of the Top Ten yet to reach a major final. The win gave Kerber her first win over a No. 1 player. She was 0-8 previously.

Kerber is the first lefthander to win the Australina Open since Monica Seles in 1996.

“I had goosebumps. My whole life I’ve worked hard. To say ‘I am a Grand Slam champion’ is crazy,” Kerber said during the trophy ceremony. “My dream has come true tonight”

A gracious Williams crossed over the net to congratulate Kerber at the end of the match, giving her a big hug. “Congratulations Angie,” Williams said. “You were the best player this tournament. I really hope you enjoy this moment. You truly deserve it.”

Kerber was consistent through the match hitting 25 winners to 13 errors. She made Williams run from corner to corner. Williams had 46 errors and 47 winners but her powerful serve was broken five times by the 28-year-old. This was only Kerber’s second victory over Williams, with the first one coming in Cincinnati in 2012. Williams leads the head-to-head record at 5-2.

“I was actually really happy for her,” Williams said in her post-match news conference. “She’s been around a really long time. We’ve had a number of matches. I’ve beaten her a lot.

“She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up.

“I was really inspired by that. So, honestly, she’s a really good girl. If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”

“I was missing a lot off the ground, coming to the net,” said the 34-year-old. “She kept hitting some great shots actually every time I came in. I think I kept picking the wrong shots coming into it.

“But, honestly, it’s something to learn from, just to try to get better.”

“I had really crazy two weeks,” kerber said to media. “I mean, with the first round where I was match point down, and then with the win over (Victoria) Azarenka in the quarters. I never beat her.

“And now to play against Serena, what was a really honor to play against her in a Grand Slam final. It was my first final. You know, I was really looking forward. I was really excited.

“I knew before that I beat her once in Cincinnati, that I really must go out there to try to beat her again because she will not give it to me. It was a really great match from both of us.

“Yeah, really it’s a special moment for me.”

 

“I was trying to stay relaxed until the last point,” Kerber said. “The first set I played very well. The second set she was serving much better. The third set every game was really close.

“I mean, the game to 3-2, it was like 10 minutes, I think. You know, I was trying really to focusing on myself because when I was up 5-2, I was sure the match is not over yet, you know.

“Then like 5-3, 5-4, and she was serving, so I was just telling myself, Okay, you breaked her before few times, so you can do it again. Just play point by point.

“When I hit the match point, I was just try to hoping to return the ball over the net. Just hoping, yeah, that I can make the ball and just going for it if I have the chance.

“Yeah, when the ball was out from her, I was just, yeah, so happy. I mean, it’s amazing.”

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