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.

ATA
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.

WTA Rankings Report – May 8, 2017

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Serena Williams remains No. 1 in the rankings this week. But that will be it for a long while.

With her first-round win in Madrid Sunday, Angelique Kerber already has surpassed her effort in the tournament a year ago, when she lost in the first round to Barbora Strycova.

Williams has significant points coming off her ranking from her Rome title, and later the French Open final and her Wimbledon win.

So Kerber will regain the top spot, and she’ll extend her lead. No. 3 Karolina Pliskova is not winning matches and the rest are far behind.

Get ready for another long stretch with the German in the top spot, unless someone finally steps up in a major way.

Players on the upswing

Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP):
No. 6 ————> No. 4 
(It’s a brief jump for the Spaniard, who will drop back to to No. 6, and maybe further, next Monday after her first-round loss in Madrid)

Johanna Konta (GBR):
No. 7 ————> No. 6
(The career high will also be brief for the Brit, who also lost in the first round in Madrid).

rankings
Things haven’t been great for Konta since winning Miami.

Ana Konjuh (CRO):
No. 33 ————> No. 29
(Career high for the 19-year-old)

Kristyna Pliskova (CZE):
No. 58 ————> No. 48
(The lefty joins her twin sister in the top 50 after Prague final)

Mona Barthel (GER):
No. 82 ————> No. 56
(From the qualifying to the title in Prague)

Natalia Vikhlyantseva (RUS):
No. 77 ————> No. 70
(A career high, and a moment with her idol)

Francesca Schiavone (ITA):
No. 100 ————> No. 77
(Wonderwoman continues to amaze at age 36)

Madison Brengle (USA):
No. 91 ————> No. 81

Sara Errani (ITA):
No. 102 ————> No. 90

Players on the downswing

Simona Halep (ROU):
No. 4 ————> No. 8
(The fall should be brief for Halep, whose points as Madrid champion dropped but can be re-earned this week)

Madison Keys (USA):
No. 10 ————> No. 13
(Out of the top 10, a first-round stumble in Madrid this week, and finalist’s points in Rome falling off)

A new coach, a late start, and some wrist issues are making 2017 challenging for Keys. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Samantha Stosur (AUS):
No. 19 ————> No. 26

Sorana Cirstea (ROU):
No. 64 ————> No. 83
(Down, but Cirstea made good on a wild card into Madrid offered by the owner, fellow Romanian Ion Tiriac. She upset Anastasia Pavlychukenkova in the first round)

Louisa Chirico (USA):
No. 69 ————> No. 128
(The 20-year-old New Yorker has won just one match in seven tournaments this season – a first-round win over Schiavone at Indian Wells).

Taylor Townsend (USA):
No. 116 ————> No. 134
(The USTA Pro Circuit events in April, a boon for her in the past, turned out to be a bust this year)

Players defending points this week

Serena Williams – 900 points

Madison Keys – 585 points

Garbiñe Muguruza – 350 points

Irina-Camelia Begu – 350 points

Svetlana Kuznetsova – 190 points

Timea Bacsinszky – 190 points

Barbora Strycova – 190 points

Misaki Doi – 190 points

For the complete WTA Tour rankings picture, updated May 8, click here.

Bombshell on Snapchat: Serena pregnant (updated)

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Out of the blue, a bombshell announcement from Serena Williams Wednesday via Snapchat.

The 35-year-old, who will return to the No. 1 ranking next week, posted a photo with the caption, “20 weeks”.

Less than an hour later, she deleted the post.

Tennis.Life has reached out to Williams’ agent for confirmation, denial, anything. If we hear back – the odds are against it – we’ll update. But a knowledgeable source tells us that she is indeed expecting her first child.

In that case, she and her team didn’t exactly do a seamless job of making the announcement, which happens to come the same day as IMG stablemate Maria Sharapova’s 30th birthday.

So there will be a little Williams-Ohanian coming, right around the US Open.

The timing on that means that Williams was already pregnant when she won the Australian Open in January – without dropping a set. That’s a pretty impressive feat in itself.

Williams announced her engagement to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian at the end of December, a little more than a year after reports they were a couple began to surface.

My only regret is not pointing my toe sorry coach Garry 🙈

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

WTA Tour Rankings report – April 17, 2017

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The big news on the women’s side is that, despite the fact both are idle this week, Serena Williams will return to the No. 1 spot next Monday.

Angelique Kerber will drop the 470 points she earned by winning the big Stuttgart event (again, like the men, the points will drop off a week before the players have a chance to defend them).

That means Serena, who has played just two tournaments over the last 12 months other than the four Grand Slams and the (non-counting) Olympics – Rome last May and Auckland in January – will again be the top female player on the planet.

For now, Kerber remains at the top. She needs to make the semi-finals in Stuttgart next week (i.e. win two matches) to get it back.

Today is also the entry deadline for the French Open. The player who did herself the most good last week was 36-year-old Francesca Schiavone, whose victory in Bogotá put her right at the cutoff. So the 2010 champion should be straight into the main draw. American Irina Falconi, conversely, took herself right out of the main draw and will have to qualify after she failed to defend her title in Bogotá.

The top 108 players in the rankings (notwithstanding players with injury-protected rankings) are straight in.

 

Big jumps

Lara Arruabarrena jumps 6 spots, to No. 59 (Bogotá semi-finalist)

Anett Kontaveit jumps 25 spots, to No. 74 (Biel finalist)

Anisimova
Amanda Anisimova makes a big jump

Aliaksandra Sasnovich jumps 12 spots, to No. 96**

Francesca Schiavone jumps 64 spots, to No. 104 (Bogotá champion)

Sara Errani jumps 11 spots, to No. 110

Marketa Vondrousova jumps 116 spots, to No. 117 (Biel champion) **

Olga Govortsova jumps 43 spots, to No. 147 (Indian Harbour Beach ITF champion)

Amanda Anisimova jumps 170 spots, to No. 309 (IHB finalist) **

**career highs

Big drops

Sílvia Soler-Espinosa drops 38 spots , to No. 156

FALCONI, IRINA drops 62 spots , to No. 165 (won Bogotá last year)

New career highs

Elise Mertens – No. 66

Sara Sorribes Tormo – No. 82

Veronica Cepede Royg – No. 108

Players defending big points this week

There are no WTA Tour events this week, because it’s a Fed Cup week. So no opportunity to defend the points won last year in Stuttgart and Istanbul.

Buyukakcay, who was the surprise winner of her home-country event, is in a terrible slump at the moment – hardly in good form to even try to duplicate the feat. Without those points, she drops 70 spots in the rankings. Luckily for her, the deadline for the French Open entry is today and at No. 107, she should squeeze in.

Angelique Kerber – 470 points

Laura Siegemund – 330 points

Cagla Buyukakcay – 280 points

Petra Kvitova – 185 points

Agnieszka Radwanska – 185 points

Danka Kovinic – 180 points

 

(For the complete WTA Tour rankings picture, click here)