November 30, 2008

'09 Australian Open: Women's Final at night

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian Open women's final will be played at night from next year on in hopes of attracting a larger television audience. The final has traditionally been played on a Saturday afternoon but officials are switching it to the evening after successfully moving the men's event in 2005 (breaking a 103-year tradition of daylight deciders).

"We have been thinking about a night final for the women ever since the men's night final proved such an outstanding success," tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement. "Our research has shown that the Australian tennis public would prefer the women's singles final to be played at night." Tilley said the move was expected to attract a bigger television, radio and internet audience and had been approved by the Women's Tennis Association and some of the top players.

"The atmosphere at Melbourne Park at night is great and the cooler conditions allow the players to really produce their best," Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova said. "I think this move will further showcase a great sporting event and is good for both players and fans." The 2009 Australian Open is scheduled from Jan. 19-Feb. 1.

Serena @ Pam Shriver Classic


Photo credit: Khalid Naji-Allah / Afro.com

November 28, 2008

Who's #1? Interesting scenario

The following is an interesting submission to Jon Wertheim's (Sport's Illustrated) Tennis Mailbag. "Since there has been a lot of chatter about who's really No. 1 in women's tennis, I took everyone who finished the year in the top 10 and divided their total number of points by the number of tournaments they played. Here are the results:

1. Serena Williams 297.38
2. Venus Williams 233.71
3. Maria Sharapova 228.63
4. Jelena Jankovic 214.09
5. Elena Dementieva 192.79
6. Ana Ivanovic 192.05
7. Dinara Safina 181.76
8. Svetlana Kuznetsova 143.47
9. Vera Zvonareva 118.08
10. Agnieszka Radwanska 95.25

If you were to ask tennis fans to rank the top 10 players of the year, I would bet that their lists would adhere more closely to this list than the official rankings. I'm not being pro Serena or anti Jelena, but these rankings seem to be a little more representative of quality rather than quantity. What are your thoughts?-- Frederick, West Hollywood

Serena: Rock-n-Racquets (Louisville, Kentucky)


Louisville will host two of the world’s top athletes in a unique mix of tennis, music and charity at a special one-night-only event next month. Andy Roddick, currently ranked No. 6 in the world, and Serena Williams, 2008 U.S. Open champion, will be in Louisville Friday, Dec. 12, at Freedom Hall as part of the ICAP Energy Rock-n-Racquets tour. Roddick and Williams will be joined by fellow players John Isner and Caroline Wozniacki. The event will feature three exhibition matches: men’s and women’s singles (Roddick vs. Isner and Williams vs. Wozniacki) and mixed doubles (Roddick and Williams vs. Isner and Wozniacki).

In a departure from normal tennis protocol, the event will include music during changeovers. “Tennis events are normally hush-hush,” said tournament director Jeff Newman. “This is a more high energy event.” The event will be emceed by Wayne Bryan, father of the world’s No. 1 doubles team, Bob and Mike Bryan.

“Rock-n-Racquets showcases tennis in a different light and brings it to cities that don’t normally see professional tennis,” Newman said. The tour will also make stops in Knoxville, Tenn. and Columbia, S.C.

Rock-n-Racquets starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 to $77 and can be purchased at the Kentucky Exposition Center ticket office or for more information, please visit: www.rocknracquets.com, www.ticketmaster.com or www.experiencebest.com.

Serena: Rock-n-Racquets (Knoxville,TN)

Tennis fanatics, prepare yourself for the first pro tennis exhibition at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN. Andy Roddick, Serena Williams, John Isner, and Caroline Wozniacki will take center court as part of a 3-city tennis exhibition called Rock-N-Racquets. Rock-N-Racquets is an event that pairs tennis with music and fun. It benefits the Andy Roddick Foundation. It will take place at Thompson Boling Arena Sunday, December 14. Doors will open at 1 p.m with the event starting at 2pm. For tickets, you can call Tickets Unlimited at (865)656-4444 or visit Knoxvilletickets.com.

November 23, 2008

From the Vault: Classic Serena PUMA video

video

WTA Roadmap 2009

Fans can get ready for a more exciting and streamlined season in 2009 with a revamped Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The "Roadmap 2009" has radically changed the current circuit structure, and with it will bring stronger rivalries on bigger stages. Top players will now face each other more often in newly designated "Premier" events, while huge investments give the Tour bigger and better venues with higher stakes in prize money.

Key elements of the Roadmap 2009 include:

Record prize money: For the 2009 season, the total prize money has gone up 40% to $86 million, and it will be equal at the four Grand Slams, four Premier cornerstone events (at Indian Wells, the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, the Mutua MadrileƱa Madrid Open, and the China Open in Beijing), Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships and the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships – Doha 2009

Bigger matches and better rivalries: The new Premiere events will see the top players facing off against each other more often and in bigger venues, creating a new level of competition and unmissable match-ups more intense than have been seen in years

An easy-to-follow calendar: The new Roadmap, with its four Premier cornerstone events (at Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing), more defined 'swings' in the Premier events, with the 26 Tier I/II events changed to 20 Premier events, and more combined back-to-back events, will make the Tour much easier to track and enjoy

A new ranking system: Best 16 results are more directly linked to the Tour's top events by awarding of "zero pointers" for any missed commitment tournament, Grand Slam or the Sony Ericsson Championships

Record investments: The 2009 season will see $710 million in stadium facility investments, and $84 million in year-end Sony Ericsson Championships deals in Doha 2008-2010 and Istanbul 2011-2013

Discussing the changes at the 2008 Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Larry Scott shared the Tour's commitment to the players' needs, and the ways the Tour has worked to streamline the Roadmap: "The 2009 Roadmap is designed around three core principles: A healthier calendar for the players, through a shorter season and longer off‑season; increased prize money, reflecting the global growth and demand for women's tennis; and a clearer presentation to the public, with the best athletes playing against each other more often."

-- article courtesy of Sony Ericsson WTA website

November 22, 2008

Serena @ Pam Shriver Charity Event (Baltimore)



The 23rd annual Pam Shriver Charity Tennis Classic was held at Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena on Friday, November 21, 2008 for the benefit of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF). Net proceeds from the Tennis Classic are distributed to children’s charities under the guidance of the BCF.

Early in the the first set of the 23rd PNC Tennis Classic last night, the sport's megastar, Serena Williams, had a ball bounce off her head from a ricochet off the baseline wall. The world's No.2 player flashed a smile after briefly feigning dizziness, and the fans laughed with her.It was that kind of night at 1st Mariner Arena, with Williams and her opponent, Elena Dementieva, putting on a polite exhibition for an adoring crowd that welcomed the opportunity to be in the presence of a superstar while at the same time contributing to a worthy cause.

"We're here to have fun," Williams said before the match. "We're not going to take it Grand Slam final serious, but at the same time, we want to give the people a great show." Judging by the loud response from the crowd throughout the evening, Williams gave the people exactly that, despite losing the match, 6-4, 6-4. Of course, Williams transcends tennis - and sports, for that matter - and she was clearly the main attraction for the announced crowd of 7,231.

November 19, 2008

UPDATE: Billie Jean King Cup to air LIVE on HBO!



HBO will air “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” live on March 2, 2009 at 7:30pm EST from Madison Square Garden. The program, which celebrates tennis legend Billie Jean King, will feature 2008 US Open Champion -Serena Williams, 2008 Wimbledon Champion - Venus Williams, 2008 French Open Champion - Ana Ivanovic and World #1 - Jelena Jankovic in a one-night-only single-elimination event. The event is part of the national “Tennis Night in America” promotion. Tickets for the match can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office, Ticketmaster outlets or at www.thegarden.com.

Limited front row VIP tickets priced at $1,000.00 and additional tickets listed at $325.00, $175.00, $125.00, $75.00, and $50.00 went on sale today. "I am honored to be part of an event that showcases Serena, Venus, Jelena, and Ana – four of the best players in women's tennis today -- in one of the most storied tennis venues in the world," said sports icon and tennis legend Billie Jean King. "This collection of players, competing in this spectacular venue, in an event that benefits the Women's Sports Foundation and other organizations, is the perfect mix to deliver an exciting and entertaining celebration of women's sports and tennis."

The pool of players for this one night event is unprecedented, including three women who over the course of the 2008 season held the World No. 1 ranking and all four of whom have been No. 1 at least once in their career. The grouping also consists of three Grand Slam winners, as well as four of the eight qualifiers of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s season-ending Championships which was recently captured by Venus Williams in Doha.

Serena Williams, currently ranked No.2 in the latest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings, holds a total of 44 titles (32 singles / 12 doubles) at Tour events, including 18 Grand Slam titles (nine singles titles, seven doubles titles and two mixed doubles titles). The summer of 2008 garnered all her highlights for this past year. Serena played in the finals at Wimbledon and most recently she captured her third US Open title when she defeated Jelena Jankovic at the USTA Center in New York and returned to the World No.1 ranking, which she held for four weeks in 2008. The Williams sisters as a team recently captured their third Wimbledon Doubles Championship this year and for the second consecutive Olympic Games captured the women’s doubles gold medal. Together they have won a total of 12 doubles championships including seven Grand Slam doubles titles.

"

November 18, 2008

Serena's former sponser, PUMA, turns 60!


PUMA History:

1998 - PUMA becomes Sponsor of Serena Williams as well as the official Corel WTA Tour Sponsor

1999 - Serena Williams wins her first Grand Slam tournament, the U.S. Open, by beating Martina Hingis

2001 - Serena Williams advances to the U.S. Open semi finals to participate in an “All-Williams” final

2002 - PUMA and Serena Williams unveil the 2002 Serena Williams Tennis Collection

2002 - Serena Williams wins the French Open wearing a sleeveless tennis dress in support of the Cameroon Football Team at the World Cup

2002 - Serena Williams wins Wimbledon and attains, for the first time, a number one ranking

2002 - Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open wearing a black PUMA catsuit

November 16, 2008

Serena hosts tennis clinic in Nairobi



Serena Williams assists local junior players during a training session at the Sadili Oval Tennis academy in Nairobi.

November 15, 2008

Laila Ali favors Williams Sisters


Boxer, Laila Ali, comments on her favorite athletes:

Which athletes do you most enjoy watching?
I like watching Venus and Serena Williams because they are so professional and dedicated.

-- quote from TimesOnline

November 14, 2008

Serena at HP store autograph session

Serena Williams attends a signing session held at the HP store on November 12, 2008 in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa

Serena opens her school


Serena Williams opens the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni 161km east, of Nairobi on November 14, 2008.

Serena press conference pic


Serena Williams speaks after opening the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni 161km east, of Nairobi on November 14, 2008.

Serena in South Africa hosting clinic for kids w/ AIDS

Image courtesy of www.serenawilliams.com

Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup

BNP Paribas presents the Showdown for the Billie-Jean King Cup, an exhibition tournament that will take place in New York on March 2, 2009. The event features Serena Williams, Venus Williams Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Dubbed “Tennis Night in America”, the indoor event at Madison Square Garden will feature a unique format, with two semi-finals preceding a final on the same night. The semi-final matches will incorporate “no-ad” scoring and will be played over one set; the final will be a best-of-three set match with traditional scoring.


The night, which will benefit the Dream Vaccines Foundation charity, will also feature a special tribute to women’s sports. StarGames President Jerry Solomon, who is the promoter of the event, said: “We saw from our Sampras/Federer ‘Battle for Tennis History’ in March that the New York audience and the tennis community was hungry to have world class tennis back at Madison Square Garden.“With the BNP Paribas Showdown we will bring together some of the biggest names in tennis, sports and entertainment to not only showcase the top women in the world but also honour Billie Jean King. We are looking forward once again to a tremendous night at the Garden, one that tennis fans won’t want to miss.” For ticket information, visit Ticketmaster or www.thegarden.com, or call (1-866-448-7849).

- Second image courtesy of www.anaivanovic.com

Common on dating Serena / Hip-Hop


Complex: So now, you’re dating Serena Williams?

Common: [Laughs] Nah man, I’m dating hip-hop.

Complex: I don’t know man, I saw you on a surfboard in Hawaii with her…

Common: That was my first time surfing, and I had an incredible time. I’ve been on
vacations with groups of friends, but of course they’re going to keep me in the pictures with Serena. They’re not going to film one of my boys, or one of my homies, like they would Serena and I.

Complex: So you’re saying you’re not dating?

Common: Nah, I’m dating hip-hop. My love is hip-hop.

Complex: So is Serena your best girl-friend?

Common: Ha, nah man. My best girl-friend is hip-hop. I’m a single man.


Interview By Joe La Puma (Complex.com)

Serena's MAD(tv)

Serena Williams guest-hosts MADtv and appears in a sketch as a tennis superhero who is called upon to serve her country. Sometimes, it's just too easy. (Nov. 15th on FOX at 11pm EST).

Serena arrives at the Serena Williams Secondary School


US tennis star Serena Williams arrives at Serena Williams Secondary School in Makueni District on Friday accompanied by Education Minister Prof. Sam Ongeri. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN.

Serena arriving in Kenya


Serena arriving at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Serena at press conference in Johannesburg

Tennis star Serena Williams has been spending some time in Johannesburg this week, conducting coaching clinics and representing her HP brand in Sandton City. Here is a clip of her during a press conference at the HP Experience store.

video

November 11, 2008

Reasons why Serena should be Player of the Year:

Serena won the Bangalore Open (Tier II)

Serena won the Sony Ericsson Open - Miami (Tier I)

Serena won the Family Circle Cup - Charleston (Tier I)

Serena was a Wimbledon (Grand Slam) Singles Finalist

Serena and Venus won the Wimbledon Doubles Title

Serena and Venus won the Olympic Gold Doubles medal

Serena won the U.S. Open (Grand Slam)

* Serena regained #1 ranking for four weeks *
(Set record for longest gap between stints at #1 for any player; 5 years, 1 month)

November 10, 2008

Serena set to open school in Kenya

Tennis icon and super star Serena Williams will officially visit Kenya (for the first time) for three days this week to officially inaugurate a school built using her funds. Ms Williams will officially open the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni, Makueni constituency in Eastern province, on Friday, November 14.

The school was built through partnership between the Build African Schools initiative - an American non profit making organization - and Hewlett Packard, the world's largest technology firm.

Hewlett Packard, as part of its commitment to support education in developing countries, will install in each school a computer laboratory and classroom, laptop, printers, the World Wide Web, and facilitate training for the teachers and students.

The school will give chance to hundreds of primary school pupils in the location to pursue secondary school education. The area is semi arid, with schools far in and between. The area suffers from high school drop out rate, and most students are orphans due to the high HIV /Aids prevalence rate in the area.

- Claire Wanja / Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

November 9, 2008

Venus dominates Doha: Wins Title


Venus holds the Billie Jean King Cup whilst standing next to Billie Jean King after her three set victory against Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the final during the Sony Ericsson Championships at the Khalifa Tennis Complex. Venus defeated Vera 6-7, 6-0, 6-2.

All I can say is WOW!! This is Vee's FIRST season-ending Sony Ericsson Championship title. I do not know what Venus had this week (to play the way she did) but I'll take two please. Venus EARNED and DESERVED this title. If Venus carries this form over into the new year, to everyone on the WTA Tour, be afraid.....BE VERY AFRAID!

Noteworthy: Venus did not lose a match during the Championships and took out the year's best players. She defeated (Olympic Gold Medalist) Elena Dementieva, (Olympic Silver Medalist) Dinara Safina, (U.S. Open Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist doubles partner and Wimbledon Champion doubles partner) Serena Williams, (World #1) Jelena Jankovic, and (Olympic Bronze Medalist) Vera Zvonareva.

Obama victory inspires Williams Sisters

The Williams sisters embraced Obama's victory during the WTA Tour's season-ending tournament in Doha.

"America is a wonderful place. I love my country, and I love living there. I love my passport. But also it's a country that almost since its beginning, it was supposed to be a place where people were escaping intolerance. It became a country that was really intolerant of different minorities and skin colors," Venus said.

"My dad grew up in Louisiana, a place where he was called 'boy' and shown no respect. Where he couldn't say anything. His mother was a poor sharecropper," she said. "So I think it's amazing that America has the opportunity to have someone who is a minority of mixed race or whatever you want to call it. Hopefully, it will just give more people opportunities and more people will work hard and say, 'Yeah, I can be my best, too, no matter what my background is'."

Serena saw it the same way. "It's just everything that I think African Americans have been through, I mean even 40 years ago, even 30 years ago, and even today still. It's just a great time to be black right now in the United States," she said. "Everyone's proud."

Serena said she was almost speechless to think of the Obama family in the White House. "I got choked up. I was just thinking about everything - Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and all the pioneers … Althea Gibson, why I'm playing tennis today. All of these people. Arthur Ashe, who led the way for us … it's amazing, she said.

November 8, 2008

Doha: Serena watching Venus vs Jankovic (Semi)


Serena watched her sister, Venus Williams, as she reached the final of the WTA Tour's year-end event for the first time in her career beating world number one Jelena Jankovic (after 2 hours and 11 minutes) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. The way Venus has played thus far at the Sony Ericsson Championships is even better than her display en route to her 5th Wimbledon title earlier this year.

Venus has not lost a match at the year-ending Sony Ericsson Championships and has beaten four of the Top 5 players in the world: (1) Jelena Jankovic, (2) Dinara Safina, (3) Serena Williams and (4) Elena Dementieva. Venus is truly on another level right now and is taking no prisoners! If she continues to play at this level, she will return to the Top 5 if not Top 3 sooner than some expect. Having said that, I predict that Venus is poised to win her 1st Sony Ericsson Championship title.

November 7, 2008

Doha: Serena withdraws w/ stomach injury

Serena Williams' chances of ending the year on a high note evaporated unexpectedly when she withdrew Friday from the Sony Ericsson championships with a stomach muscle problem. The younger of the two world-beating sisters had been in tears during her oddly one-sided 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 defeat to Venus Williams during their round robin match Thursday - and it emerged that she may have suffered the injury then.

"I had zero pain last night," Serena said of her post-match experience. ""I felt like I didn't serve well, I had a lot of double faults. Looking back, I think maybe that's why I was doing it, because I didn't feel it at the time. I think I might have been overcompensating. I did feel pain last night,'' the U.S. Open champion said. ``I was still in pain just getting out of bed. I have had this before and so when I felt this it was like a red flag. I went to see how I felt in practice yesterday, and it was hard when I was hitting ground strokes. I didn't want to risk it."

Serena was challenged by a British journalist who suggested that sometimes in a major tournament such as this she should play through the pain for the sake of the event and for the sponsors. "I think what I should do is make you work out for 22 years, have a severe stomach strain and play for the sponsors," she chided. Later she explained: "I had this once in LA and played through it and I was out for six to eight weeks. So when I had these symptoms I thought I must start the new year well. I can't afford to be out for so long.

Williams declined to say whether she would play next year at Indian Wells, California, one of the Tour’s nine top tournaments. The Williams sisters haven’t played there since 2001, when the family was booed after Venus withdrew just before a semifinal match against Serena. “We’ll see. Who knows,” Serena said. “We’ve had a lot of discussions with a lot of people. I don’t want to get into that right now. I just want to keep focused on other things.”

November 6, 2008

Doha: Round Robin Friday (3rd Rnd) - Do or Die



3rd Rnd - Round Robin
Serena Williams (USA)[3] vs Elena Dementieva (RUS)[4]
Serena leads Head-to-Head 4-2
2nd Match of the day at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex

* The Winner of this match finishes 2nd in the Maroon Group and advances to the Semi-Finals. Venus Williams leads the Maroon Group going 3-0 in Round Robin action.

Venus SLAMS Serena!

Venus defeated Serena 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 to reach the semifinals of the WTA Tour's season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships. I believe this was the WORST match that I have ever seen Serena play. After only playing one match since the US Open, today's match is what I would have expected in the first round. Rust, rust and more rust. To top it all off, she left her serve at yesterday's match. Serena survived the first set by the skin of her teeth and could have won the first set 6-3. Now, having said that, Serena can still advance to the semifinals if she wins her next match against Elena Dementieva.

Serena started to unravel early in the second set. "I just couldn't keep a ball in play," she said. "Everything was off." Serena dropped to 1-1 in Round Robin play. The sisters are 9-9 in career matchups. Serena defeated Venus in the U.S. Open quarterfinals en route to the title this year, and Venus won their title match at Wimbledon. Serena also defeated Venus in a three-setter earlier this year during Serena's title run at the Bangalore Open.

Venus stayed composed throughout the match, using her powerful serve to frustrate Serena, but refrained from celebrating after winning."It wasn't the happiest match," Venus said. "The best part is that she still has an opportunity to qualify." Both sisters played their trademark power tennis in the first set before the rallies turned shorter in the second, with Serena growing increasingly frustrated by her errors. Venus is match tough and played three tournaments after the US Open while Serena only played one match after the US Open, prior to winning yesterday against Safina. In my honest opinion, when fit and focused, Serena is unstoppable. If she does not take too many "extended" breaks she can rule the roost in 2009.

"I didn't even look like a top-eight player today. Maybe top 600, in the juniors," said Serena, who has won nine majors and is making her fifth appearance at the season-ending championships. She won the event in 2001.
Serena has put herself in a must-win situation in tomorrow's Round Robin play. She has a track record of turning things around and I trust that she can do it again. One more thing, VENUS is playing some phenomenal tennis and is currently playing like the Champion she is.