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CITI TASTE OF TENNIS: From Venus Williams And Chef Richard Blais To Gael Monfil and Elina Svitolina, The Event Was Ablaze With Players

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

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2011 U.S. OPEN DAY 8: Serena And Tsonga Into Quarterfinals, And Fortunately Beat The Rain

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

 Serena Williams, USA

Ana Ivanovic, Serbia
With good friend Spike Lee in attendance cheering her on, three-time US Open champion Serena Williams advanced to the quarterfinals on Monday with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 16 seed Ana Ivanovic on Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I thought she played really well," Williams said of Ivanovic's performance. "I think we could have both played a little bit better 'cause of the conditions. But I think we were just both trying to do our best."

The 13-time major champion, yet to drop a set at the tournament, played a clean match in windy conditions. "It was crazy. I didn't even go for winners at any point," said Williams. "I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was like, Wow. It was definitely tough. But you just have to win in all kinds of situations."

Each player started the match off well, with the 28th seeded Williams firing an ace out wide to begin and Ivanovic crushing a cross-court return winner on the second point. But after Williams held, Ivanovic was shaky in her opening service game, hitting two double faults and floating a backhand long to hand the American the break.

The Serbian, however, showed signs of the form that saw her win the French Open and attain the No. 1 ranking in 2008. For a few games, she managed to control her nerves and broke back when trailing 3-1 on her second break point opportunity after Williams netted a backhand. At 30-30 in the following game, Ivanovic unleashed back-to-back first serves to even the set at 3-3.

From there though, Williams took full control of the match. A solid forehand put Williams up 4-3, and she broke the Serbian for a second time after Ivanovic tossed in a double fault. Leading 5-3, 40-15, Williams closed out the set with a strong forehand that the 23-year-old was unable to handle.

The 29-year-old American converted an early break in the second set and maintained her advantage the rest of the way through to notch her third victory in three meetings with the Serbian. Williams was solid in all areas of her game, finishing the match with nine aces, winning 83 percent of her first service points. She also had a positive winners-to-unforced errors ratio of 16 to 12 respectively. While Ivanovic struck 20 winners, she committed 29 unforced errors and also hit eight double faults in the 74-minute defeat.

Williams increased her 2011 undefeated hard-court record to a 16-0 mark, which includes titles at Stanford and Toronto, and advances to her ninth quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows. In the final eight, Williams will take on 17th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The 20-year-old Russian, a former US Open junior champion, upended No. 7 seed Francesca Schiavone 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, USA

Mardy Fish, USA
Mardy Fish’s excellent summer is over.

In a match played in extremely complicated, swirling winds in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the top-ranked American surrendered a two-sets-to-one advantage to the athletic and charismatic Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and finally ran out of steam in five long sets, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 3-hour, 45-minute match kept the massive night-session crowd at bay, shut out of Ashe and forced to congregate on the esplanade watching the big screen for more than an hour.

Through three sets, Fish appeared to have the advantage, using a focused and contained game, punctuated by frequent trips to the net to withstand that powerful artillery of the Frenchman. Yet Tsonga kept swinging freely and turned the match around in the fourth set with a crucial service break at 4-4.

Behind tremendous serves that routinely topped 130 mph and forehands that saw Tsonga lift off the ground to pummel the ball, the Frenchman hit through the windy conditions.

“The wind was really hard today,” Tsonga said. “You play against yourself, against your opponent. It’s really difficult.”

This was the first meeting between the two versatile veterans, who are still hoping for that elusive Grand Slam breakthrough. The Frenchman has more big-match experience, having been to the Australian Open final and the semis at Wimbledon.

Tsonga, 26, advanced to his first US Open quarterfinal by crunching 51 winners, including 12 aces. Although not known as a returner, the Frenchman crucially converted on four of six break-point opportunities.

The strong winds may have propelled both players – each of whom is known for his all-court game – toward the net even more than usual. It was an effective ploy for both Tsonga and Fish; together they attacked the net 121 times (with Tsonga winning 63 percent and Fish 69 percent of those points).

Fish began limping noticeably at the end of the fourth, and he was treated on court for a strained knee prior to the start of the final set. Tsonga immediately came out firing and seized the early break after a ricochet net rally that saw Fish push a backhand volley long, followed by a rifled forehand pass.

Tsonga has an excellent record in five-set matches, having now won seven of nine. He has been working with Andre Agassi's former trainer, Gil Reyes, who told him to “trust your legs and make it burn,” Tsonga said.
Appropriately enough on this Labor Day, he did. “Today I make it burn,” he said.

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Venus Defends Dubai And Earns 42nd Title

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka Dubai FinalVenus Williams, USA (Photos by Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images)

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka Dubai FinalDUBAI (AFP) — Venus Williams became the most successful active woman player on the WTA Tour when she secured her 42nd title by successfully defending the Dubai Open here on Saturday.

Williams, who beat Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 in an absorbing final, thus overtook Justine Henin's record of 41 titles, only two months after achieving another notable statistic -- a career total of 25 million dollars in prize money.

She and her sister Serena are the only two women to have achieved this feat, but both Venus's resilient performance and her optimistic words suggested that further remarkable statistics are in the pipeline.

Asked if she now hoped to add to her tally of Grand Slam titles, the five-time Wimbledon champion replied: "Absolutely. I am so happy to have added to my collection here. And I am keen to keep adding every time."

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka Dubai FinalVenus also made reference to the diplomatic success of a tournament which accommodated the first Israeli woman, Shahar Peer, ever to compete in the United Arab Emirates.

"It was a great tournament to have everyone included," she said.

Later she added: "Obviously we had issues with everyone getting included," referring to the refusal of Peer's UAE visa in 2009. "But this year it was great to show a spirit of inclusion and equality."

Venus went on: "I definitely think her playing has an influence on things outside the tennis. We need government to do the right thing like they did here and people of courage to come here and play, to play so well with focus."

Venus felt her good form was in significant measure due to having found a way of managing her long-lasting fitness problems, especially with a knee, and she delighted, she said, in being able to throw away the bandages she had to wear for much of last year.

The match was full of noisily powerful rallies -- Azarenka usually trying to work an initiative, Venus more likely to win the rally with one blow, Azarenka accompanying everything with a loud coo, Venus with an ominous roar.

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka Dubai FinalThe first set hinged on the pressure Venus placed on her opponent's second serves, which brought an Azarenka double fault on game point at 2-3 -- though it required Venus to make a successful appeal to Hawkeye to prove that the second serve was too long.

Having closed out the first set, Venus's momentum accelerated. She struck the ball with even more confidence, broke again immediately, and the feeling of the contest changed dramatically as she hurtled to 3-1.

However, as against Anastasia Pavluchenkova and Shahar Peer, Venus's serve wobbled a little with the end in sight. A creaky double fault at 3-2 gave Azarenka a break back point, and a moderate second serve allowed the fourth seed to make a return which converted that chance immediately.

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka Dubai FinalBut Venus broke again for 6-5, courtesy of an ill-timed foray to the net by the 20-year-old Azarenka, and closed out the match in the next game at the third attempt.

"I'm definitely starting to feel better," Venus concluded.

"It's been a learning curve in managing the playing and keep the swelling (of the knee) down. I don't usually talk about my injuries this much, but I am excited about what is happening."

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Got A Semifinal Ticket For Center Court In Dubai? Well, Venus Won't Be On It

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis ChampionshipsVenus Williams, USA
(Photos by Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

DUBAI (AFP) - Venus Williams will have to play her semi-final in the two-million-dollar WTA Dubai Open on a distant outside court on Friday after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 6-4 in the last eight here.

That is because the defense of her title has carried her to a meeting with Shahar Peer, the first Israeli ever to compete in the United Arab Emirates, who has been playing her matches on a low-profile court where security is more manageable.

It means that many of the 5,000 fans who have pre-booked centre court tickets in the hope of seeing one or more of the the world's best known players will be unable to do so, because the five-time former Wimbledon champion will be on a faraway court out by the trees and the shops.

"I guess I just want what is best for everyone," said Williams, after admitting that it was a long time since she had been scheduled to play on such a minor court. "And if this is the best decision then I support it."

Williams looked as though she might have a spot of bother when she went 1-3 down in the first set to an 18-year-old former world junior champion, who hit the ball like an express train and had the titleholder scrambling to contain her early on.

But the match changed mood after Pavlyuchenkova served a double fault in the sixth game and then played an indifferent point at 30-40 to allow a Williams break back.

It led to the champion taking six matches in a row and gaining such a hold on the match that she accelerated to 4-2 in the second set, with the teenager's error ratio rising to self-destructive levels.

However the potential danger of the fierce-hitting young Russian's game showed itself again near the end, when she began to put Williams under more consistent pressure again with raking drives.

Pavlyuchenkova even looked capable of breaking back in the final game, and Williams needed fully seven match points before she closed it out with a heavy service winner.

Earlier Peer scored her third victory over a seeded player, reaching the semis when Li Na retired after "suddenly feeling a click" in her back early in the second set.

Peer's 7-5, 3-0 success over the Australian Open semi-finalist nevertheless looked like a genuine victory, based again on tremendous consistency, rhythmic and varied driving, tenacious mobility and intense focus.

Needless to say, she wouldn't be phased by where she plays.

"I'm the only player that hasn't played on centre court," she said. "But whatever will be, will be. I'm not controlling it. I'm doing what I've been told, and wherever I need to play, I'll play on."

Asked if it would be a disadvantage if she reaches a final on centre court not once having played there, Peer answered: "I guess not, because I am winning. But you know I'm doing what I've been told. I'm not involved in the schedule.

"I just get it when my coach tells me where I'm playing, and I'm getting ready for the match."

Similarly Williams wouldn't admit to any disadvantage for her match on Friday, which will be the first time she has played away from the centre court this week.

"I am just focused on the semi-final and executing my game," she said.

"I have practiced out there before, but I have not played a match out there before. I will obviously try to make the experience I have gained from all these years count for me."

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Serena's Absence Felt At Paris Open

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams withdraws from Paris Open due to leg injurySerena Williams, USA
(Photo by Getty Images)

On Friday, February 6, American Serena Williams pulled out of the Paris Open because of a leg injury. This injury and her inability to play comes as no surprise to anyone who watched her win her fifth Australian Open last month in spite of having her leg and other places heavily taped.

At the Paris Open on Wednesday, Russian Elena Dementieva spoke about Serena's absence.

"It's very disappointing for the tournament because she is a great player."

"We have had some great matches. I always like to play against her. It is a great experience. But you saw her in Australia with all that taping on her leg and she still produced a great win.

"So it is not surprising that she isn't here -- especially as she is always playing to win a tournament and pushing herself."

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Venus Toppled In Tokyo

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Toray Pan Pacific OpenVenus Williams, USA
(Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Tokyo (AP) --
Defending champion Dinara Safina and Venus Williams were knocked out of the second round by qualifiers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open on Monday.

Chang Kai-chen, an 18-year-old from Taiwan, upset the top-ranked Safina 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-5. Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova edged Williams 7-6 (6), 7-5 to reach the third round.

Safina was serving for the match in the third set when she double-faulted to give up a break. Chang, ranked 132nd and playing only the fourth time in a WTA main draw, held her serve and broke Safina again for victory.

“The double-fault didn't affect me that much,” Safina said. “Whether it's a double-fault or a mistake it's the same. It's just the way I played at 5-4. It wasn't the right game, I didn't use my first serve the whole game.”

A dejected Williams made a hasty exit from Ariake Colosseum, saying only she was looking forward to her next match in Beijing.

Williams took a 3-0 lead in the first set but the 18-year-old Pavlyuchenkova fought back, breaking Williams to tie it 5-5 before holding serve and winning the tiebreak.

Pavlyuchenkova hit a forehand down the line to go up 6-5 in the second set. She had a triple-match point in the 12th game and won when Williams' return was long.

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Venus and Serena Begin Dubai Tournament Very Differently; Venus Speaks Out On Current Drug Testing

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis ChampionshipsIn a fast 57 minutes, American Venus Williams polished off her first opponent to begin her run at the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. After firing off seven aces and never facing a break point, Venus sent Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova off to consider her next tournament. The win came in at 6-0, 6-1.

Venus is scheduled to play Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in the next round.

Since arriving in Dubai, Venus has been asked about her thoughts on the state of drug testing in tennis, and in particular, whether she thinks the regulation which requires players to make it known where they will be available for one hour of every day places too much of a demand on the players.

Venus said, "if your match goes to one o'clock at night you don't know what's going to happen if you are focusing on recovery for the next day."

"You are not focusing on where you are going to be. You are trying to do what you have to do - even at home. First thing you do is wake up and go to play.

"There are some things in the system which need to be looked at. We want a system which works and then it's fair."

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis ChampionshipsAnd then there was Serena... yes, she won her match too, but very differently. Serena's first opponent was Italy's Sara Errani who took the first set 4-6. In typical Serena fashion, she regrouped between sets and was then merciless to Errani, defeating her 6-2, 6-0.

When asked how her knee was holding up Serena said, "it held up well. I got off to a slow start ... just trying to get used to the conditions, and I did not really like the ball being used here.

"But I never doubted that I will win. Even when I was 4-0 down in the first set, I told myself I am just two breaks down and I can still win the set."

Therein lies the problem for anyone who stands across the net from Serena.

Photos of Venus and Serena In Dubai

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis TournamentBlack Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis TournamentBlack Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis TournamentBlack Tennis Pro's Venus Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis TournamentBlack Tennis Pro's Serena Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis TournamentBlack Tennis Pro's Serena Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis TournamentBlack Tennis Pro's Serena Williams Barclays Dubai Tennis Tournament

Photos by Getty Images

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