Mrs. Ohanian has dream wedding

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All brides are beautiful. And everyone looks happy at their wedding, of course.

But doesn’t it feel like Serena Williams just seems … over the moon as she made it legal with Alexis Ohanian Thursday in New Orleans?

Just beaming.

The rights to photograph the wedding went to Vogue. And they’ve got a 50-plus slideshow of photos from the ceremony and reception up already.

The wedding day was the ninth anniversary of the passing of Ohanian’s mom. It was just one of those picture-perfect details of the event that looked to be bursting with them.

The story that accompanies the photos has Williams all gushy and wedding-y and making sure the chemistry is right with the wedding planner and all these things you just never imagined Williams saying.

It doesn’t actually sound like her saying the. But of course we’ve never heard “Bridal Serena” before.

Williams been rather circumspect about her love interests over the years. And even in the early days of courtship with Ohanian, she always seemed to act so casual about it.

He, on the other hand, made no secret of how besotted he is.

But just look at her. At age 36, she has the handsome prince and the beautiful baby girl and the dream wedding that looked perfect down to the last detail. So it was all worth waiting for.

And have you ever seen her mother Oracene Price look more beautiful? And sisters Venus and Isha? 

Now … will we see Serena in January in Australia? It’s just two months away.

Daily Mail: Serena to tie knot Thursday

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It’s the Daily Mail, so take it as a “watch this space” more than a definite “save the date”.

But the British newspaper appears to have an impressive amount of details about a wedding on Thursday in New Orleans between Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian.

(If you can’t trust a guy named “Sebastian Shakespeare”, who can you trust?)

The Daily Mail had a scoop last month about Williams and Ohanian making a quick trip to New Orleans to scout wedding locations, and leaving by private jet. (They left the baby at home, but brought Chip).

Among the secret details of the reported Thursday nuptials:

*Wedding guests will include Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Kris Jenner (mother of the Kardashians)

*It’s all so top secret that the guests won’t even know where the wedding will take place until the day, although the Daily Mail says it has the venue nailed down.

*Williams signed an exclusive deal with Vogue’s Anna Wintour to run the wedding photos. So no cell phones allowed.

Lots more minute details in the newspaper’s exclusive, here.

Williams fierce in NYC

Meanwhile, Williams was in New York Monday night for the Glamour Women of the Year Awards.

And she looked amazing.

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Serena in Oz – will she, or won’t she?

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As part of the launching of the 2018 Australian Open Tuesday, tournament director Craig Tiley announced that the top 100 men and women will be in Melbourne for next year’s event.

It sounds good. But of course there’s no way he can guarantee that.

Certainly all of the top male players Tiley mentioned – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori – have announced that they expect to be back and raring to go in 2018. All of them have cutt short their 2017 seasons due to injury.

But there’s no way to know.

 

Nevertheless, so many of the headlines Tuesday  “confirmed” Serena Williams’ return after maternity leave at the first Grand Slam of the 2018 season.

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(That’s the Independent, which may think Williams will give birth only in mid-October, given the Australian Open starts Jan. 15)

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That’s the Melbourne Age, which quotes Tiley thusly: 

“Her baby’s initials are AO (Alexis Ohanian) and she’s suggested she should also have her name on the 2017 trophy, so the AO is well and truly top of mind for her at the moment,” Tiley said.

Well, Williams didn’t actually do that. The Australian Open tournament Twitter did that.

“If anyone can do it, she can and I’m certainly not counting her out of a return come January,” Tiley added.

That sounds more reasonable.

Sort of, kind of, hope so, maybe!

Tiley never specifically confirmed Williams would play. But he didn’t unsay it, either.

“I’ve been in contact with all the top players and am pleased to announce we’ll have the full top 100 men and women returning to the Australian Open in January,” Tiley said. “It’s exciting to think Serena could return to defend her title after motherhood, and it’s also exciting to speculate on who can break through the pack to win.”

“Serena, the competitor that she is, she wants to win more than the 23 Grand Slam titles that she has. She was eight weeks pregnant when she played the Australian Open and very few people knew that,” he also said. “We have a special relationship with Serena, the Williams family, both her and Venus. She wants to come back in 2018 and defend her title. Obviously, at training now, there is several months to go and it will be up to her as far as where she is with her fitness.”

Still, that didn’t stop the headlines. They’re everywhere.

The tournament’s Twitter stated it emphatically.

Here’s Channel 9 in Australia:

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And the Daily Mail:

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And The Guardian:

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Baby changes everything

Before she gave birth, Serena Williams said – and coach Patrick Mouratoglou confirmed – that her intention was to return in Australia, just 4 1/2 months after giving birth.

Since then, as she enjoys the first months of Alexis Olympia Ohanian’s life, Williams hasn’t said anything one way or the other. Certainly Williams hasn’t posted anything on social media indicating she has returned to training.

But she did say that she spent six days in the hospital after the birth, which was probably unexpected.

The latest word from Serena to her fans doesn’t mention the Australian Open.

You’d think, if she had already decided, that she’d have considered the Hopman Cup. It’s a relaxed, non-tournament, low-key way to ease back into the game – much like Roger Federer used it last January to return after a six-month absence.

So we’ll just have to wait until Williams is spotted somewhere Down Under in January to be certain.

Or, at least, wait for the lady herself to weigh in. She may also change her mind a few times between now and then – mother’s prerogative, you know.

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Serena announces daughter’s name

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Naming her baby girl Serena Jr. would have put a whole lot of pressure on a newborn.

But as it turns out, Serena Williams’ fiancé has a perfectly gender-neutral name. And so the new bundle of joy will be called Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

(Probably not a tyical thing to have a daughter be named “junior” after her father – but why not? Great idea, and very evolved).

Williams also revealed on the Instagram announcement that there were “a lot of complications” after the birth. And she spent nearly a week in hospital.

And the baby already has a video of the leadup, with lots of never-before seen goodies.

Another tennis baby: welcome Tara Djokovic

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NEW YORK – Who could have imagined, in the space of 24 hours, that two legendary champions would become parents?

In Novak Djokovic’s case – for the second time.

Less than a day after Serena Williams gave birth to a baby girl, Novak Djokovic’s wife Jelena had a baby girl of her own. There’s already a name: Tara.

Maybe, two decades down the road, there will be two little champions making their moves at the US Open, as the both turn 20.

Serena’s little girl, of course, will always be able to brag that she’s one day older.

Congratulations to the Djokovics, and to Williams and fiancé Alexis Ohanian.

With all the crazy news happening on court this week, it kind of brings a sense of wonder and normalcy to things, doesn’t it?

It’s a girl for Serena Williams

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NEW YORK – Less than an hour before sister Venus Williams arrived on Arthur Ashe Stadium to play her third-round match against Maria Sakkari of Greece, little sister Serena had an arrival of her own.

And it’s a girl.

According to Chris Shepherd, a senior news producer at WPBF 25, a television station in Palm Beach, Fla., Serena gave birth to a baby girl weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces Friday afternoon.

Another local TV station said Williams had arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach Thursday evening, and labour was induced then.

So the 2017 Grand Slam circle is complete.

Williams won the Australian Open in January while already nearly two months’ pregnant. And now, her daughter is born in the middle of the final Grand Slam of the season – with her sister very much still in contention.

No. 701 Tursunov – “I hope I would win”

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WIMBLEDON – Yes, it’s 2017. 

Given this week’s “Is the best woman ever better than a journeyman” debate, sparked by John McEnroe’s tour of the chat circuit in promotion of his new memoir, it was worth checking to make sure.

Asked to compare during an interview with NPR last weekend, McEnroe figured Serena Williams would rank “about No. 700” on the ATP Tour.

Issam Haitham Taweel, a 27-year-old Egyptian who is ranked No. 700, wouldn’t have made for very good copy. And that’s if anyone could find him; he hasn’t played in two months. But it turns out that a serendipitous bit of luck checked in at No. 701 in the rankings Monday.

Former top-20 player Dmitry Tursunov, who has been trying to come back from injury for what seems like years, is in that spot. And the San Francisco-area resident, who is just 15 months younger than Serena at 34, has never shied away from saying what he thinks.

Better than 701

Tursunov said he didn’t think McEnroe was trying to denigrate women’s tennis. But he felt he had to point out out the reality that “men are stronger in general”

Would he win? He hopes he would. 

700“It would be a similar argument to: who would run faster, the fastest woman or the fastest man? Tennis is becoming more and more a physical sport, so it’s going to be hard for a woman to beat the men, he told BBC World Service Sport. “There are lots of factors to take into account. Physically I might not be in the best shape of my life but as an overall package I’m much better than my ranking would suggest.”

“I’ve never heard John say anything absolutely stupid; he knows his stuff.,” Tursunov added. “What he said about her being an incredible player is correct – explosive, powerful and she puts in a lot of work. But I would hope that I would win.”

Serena ripostes

The woman herself responded to McEnroe via Twitter.

Owned!

At any rate, Williams already answered this point herself on David Letterman a while back. But if she says it, it’s perfectly fine. And, it should be pointed out, she wasn’t talking about No. 700.

During a conference call Tuesday to promote ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of Wimbledon, commentator Brad Gilbert pronounced those Tweets a straight-set rout.

700“I thought Serena had a 6-1, 6-1 beatdown on her tweet to John. It was tremendous. I thought that said everything, and nothing else needs to be said. … It was perfect,” Gilbert said.

On CBS This Morning Tuesday, McEnroe snapped at host Charlie Rose when he said McEnroe knew the comment would create controversy.

“I don’t want to upset her or whatever it was. She’s — I think she was doing a tongue-in-cheek as well. And I think that deep down we’re talking about something — I can’t even believe we’re talking about it,” McEnroe said.

On the conference call, Gilbert added this: 

” I don’t know what the context of why he said it, why he doubled-down on it.  I will tell you (Serena) is the greatest female athlete in any sport ever, and maybe Steffi Graf is the second-best athlete,” Gilbert said. “Let’s say a 130-pound boxer might be the best ever. You don’t ask if he could beat, like, a heavyweight. He might be a better boxer than the heavyweight, but obviously he wouldn’t beat him. It’s totally ridiculous to ask or think about it. They don’t compete against each other.”

That’s a great analogy, actually. 

On the same call, fellow American tennis Chris Evert also made a pretty good point.

“I feel like it’s irrelevant. It doesn’t mean anything.  I also feel if – and I hate to say it – but if Serena Williams played the No. 200 male player, she might beat him. If she played the No. 500 man, she might lose to him,” Evert said. “It depends on their styles, how the games match up. So that’s my answer.”

Their two cents

Young American Tommy Paul, who has a long way to go before he has a playing resumé that will result in social media “allowing” him to have a say, had his say.

Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, who is no stranger to this sort of opinion, picks Nick Kyrgios to drop a double bagel on Serena in a fictional match – or perhaps to be “gentlemanly enough” to cede a mercy game.

The thing about all this is that the “argument”, if it even needs to be brought up, was settled long ago. 

Braasch’s double battle of the sexes

German journeyman Karsten Braasch, ranked No. 203 at the time, and a notorious smoker and enjoyer of the good life, played a set each against Serena and Venus Williams, 

It was 1998; the sisters were just teenagers. And they talked a lot more trash back then, with the insouciance of youth.

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Braasch tells that story here, a few years later.

“Both sisters are great tennis players and hit the ball extremely well. However, if you’ve been playing on the men’s tour there are certain shots you can play that are going to put them in difficulty. Try and put a lot spin on the ball -– I was hitting the ball with a degree of spin they don’t face week-in, week-out,” Braasch wrote. “Another key is to chase down every shot. In our match, they were putting shots into the corners that on the women’s tour would be winners but I was able to return them.”

The bottom line is this: who is actually the better tennis player between Serena Williams and Braasch? And, whose career would you choose? It’s a no-brainer. 

And in 2017, it’s really not worth debating again.

Unless you have a book to sell, of course.

Serena Williams in Vanity Fair, on love

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Serena Williams, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, and a story written by Buzz Bissinger in Vanity Fair.

That’s restaurant-quality stuff all around.

Williams, who is expecting her first child with fiancé Alex Ohanian this summer, poses for some amazing photos and talks about love.

Well, sort of. She’s circumspect about her feelings, but they shine through the piece. And Ohanian has no trouble talking about how he feels.

The pics of the two together are amazing.

The Vanity Fair baby bump has been done before – actress Demi Moore was the first, back in August of 1991 (can it really be almost 26 years ago?).

But Williams puts her own spin on it.

The American has had a few beaus in her life – she’s 35, after all – but her personal life has most often, admirably, been kept private.

A meet-cute love story

She lets it loose a little here. And once she inadvertently let the pregnancy news slip on Snapchat, she’s been generous in sharing her journey with her many fans.

It’s opened up a whole new dimension to her public persona. This is  woman who always took such great pains to rarely show either exultation or disappointment once she left the court of play. She seems in genuine wonder and awe about this entire process.

Actress Demi Moore showed off her baby bump in the Aug. 1991 issue of the magazine. It was a pretty huge deal at the time.

In the story, which is a little gushing but extremely well written, she talks about taking six pregnancy tests before she was convinced. 

Ohanian talks about the day he knew he wanted to marry her.

“I felt like a door had been opened to a person who made me want to be my best self. . . . I find myself just wanting to be better by simply being around her because of the standard she holds.”

Williams figured out Ohanian was going to propose on the plane to the place they had first met.

“I knew it was coming. I was like, ‘Serena, you’re 35, you’re ready. This is what you want.’ ”

When Williams found out she was pregnant just before the Australian Open, the doctor thought she might be 3-4 weeks pregnant. It turned out, when she was examined again upon her return to the U.S., that she was more like 7-8 weeks along. In winning the Australian Open, she didn’t lose a set. Already feeling her endurance taking a hit, she didn’t want to be pushed to three sets. And so she wasn’t.

She plans to be back for the 2018 Australian Open.

(Feature pics from Vanity Fair)

Venus and Serena to donate $1 million to the ATA in honor of father Richard

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A century ago, when the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association formalized a policy barring African-American players, the American Tennis Association – the ATA – was born.

It had to be born.

As it celebrates its 100th anniversary, the oldest African-American sporting organization in the U.S. has ambitious goals.

And Serena and Venus Williams may play a major role in helping the organization cement its legacy.

The ATA wants to set down permanent roots to help ensure African-American kids get every opportunity to thrive in the sport.

Lasting legacy

To that end, it plans to build a new facility in south Florida. The location, subject to municipal procedures, is set for the city of Miramar’s regional park. The complex, to be called the ATA Tennis and Education Complex, will house the association’s relocated offices as well as a museum.

And it also will include a national training centre for promising young African-American players. 

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The Williams family celebrates after Serena Williams won Wimbledon in 2012.

The first major news is the imminent announcement that the first inductee into the ATA’s new Hall of Fame will be … Richard Williams.

There will be a stadium court in the middle of the proposed new complex. And in appreciation of the court being named after their father, Tennis.Life has learned that daughters Venus and Serena intend to endow the project with a hefty sum – $1 million.

Now 75, Williams did the seemingly impossible when he brought daughters Serena and Venus from the pitted courts of Compton, California to sporting immortality.

“Everyone thought he was a buffoon, that his process was ridiculous, that his girls would never make it. And he proved them wrong,” former ATA executive director Albert Tucker told Tennis.Life.

Offices, a training centre and museum

The first two phases will cost about $7 million. First will be tennis courts and the ATA offices. Phase 2 will add more courts, and the museum.

Richard Williams holds court at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, back in 2009.

“Not only will it be a permanent home, but it also will help the development of the city,” Tucker said. In addition to being an ATA member, Tucker also is vice-president of multicultural business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The organization has been trying for decades to make this a reality. There were plans even as far back as 20 years ago in south Florida. 

But the ATA’s visibility will increase with the Hall of Fame induction, the 100th anniversary and the significant gesture by the Williams sisters. So there may never be a better time to bring the project to fruition.

Cultural gap

The Williams family walks off the practice court following a warmup prior to their meeting in the 2001 US Open singles final. The glamour Saturday night stand-alone slot inaugurated that year would never have happened, had the sisters not been the star attractions.

The Fort Lauderdale area was a natural for the project.

The ATA held a national tournament in the area the last five years. And more than 3,000 amateur and junior tennis players and their families took part. The contribution to the local economy did not go unnoticed.

There are more African-American kids playing tennis at the professional level than there have been in a long time.

No doubt that growth can largely be attributed to the success of the Williams family. 

But who knows how many more players slip through the cracks?

“We need additional resources out there for these young people and their parents, additional conversations about what the process is. And a focus on reaching out to more individuals of colour,” Tucker said.

“The biggest thing, from a cultural perspective, is that it’s almost imperative that individuals understand the history so they can understand how certain things have transpired. But the (current) players don’t understand how we got to where we are.”

The museum will highlight the accomplishments of distinguished ATA alumni. But there are many more beyond Gibson and the late Arthur Ashe. The ATA was an integral part of the development of Zina Garrison, Chanda Rubin, MaliVai Washington and current USTA president Katrina Adams.

“Katrina’s first access to tennis wasn’t the USTA, it was the ATA,” Tucker said. “Lori (McNeil) and Zina were her mentors. And her name is in ATA history from the time she was a junior.”

The museum also will be a repository of information on tennis at historically black colleges, as well as Caribbean tennis.

Festivities in Baltimore

Williams will be officially inducted Aug. 2 in Baltimore during the combined ATA centennial celebrations and national championships.

The joint ATP/WTA tournament in nearby Washington, D.C., is held the same week. The Citi Open benefits the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation as part of its philanthropic mission.

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Nobody believed Richard Williams when he said his two young daughters would be the best in the world.

Tucker remembers Richard Williams bringing young Venus and Serena to the program’s courts to train, when their sister attended nearby Howard University.

“I learned a lot from him. But also I learned a lot about the sport. I learned about the discrepancy that exists in the narrative, depending on who was speaking,” Tucker said. “If we had more athletes into the game, more resources into the game, more direction for families and individuals and more of a comfort level in who they can talk to, it would help tremendously in getting more kids into the sport.”

The task of fundraising, with brick sales a part of the project, will officially begin there.

The sisters, to say the least,  have given the effort a hefty head start.

“We have resources in the greater Fort Lauderdale community that are committed to the process,” Tucker said.

Mother-to-be Serena finds perfect sponsor

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What’s one of the key things a mother-to-be needs – other than a supportive partner and family?

A great bed for those uncomfortable stretches the next few months. Not to mention the all-too-brief moments of respite once the baby is born.

We joke, but Serena Williams has signed the perfect endorsement to accompany her imminent life change. A Pampers or baby wipes deal would work, too. Perhaps that’s in the works.

She may have thrown them a curve with the surprise baby announcement, but Williams is the new face of Tempur-pedic’s “Sleep Is Power™” campaign.

The ads roll out this month in Canada and the U.S. They also will hit international markets including Great Britain, France, Australia and Germany.

Williams could have delivered her lines in the first one with a little more pep. The one with all the jumping up and down on the bed is pretty funny.

She is by the most famous of the athletes and “regular people” involved. Canadian professional surfer Catherine Bruhwhiler, Paralympian Michelle Salt and two-time Olympic bobsledder Neville Wright are also part of the campaign.