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EXCLUSIVE! Living Legend Richard Russell Of Jamaica Shares A Bit Of His History On And Off The Court, Occasionally Standing In For Friend Arthur Ashe

Monday, July 1, 2019

Jamaican Richard Russell (R) and American Arthur Ashe, Jr. (L)  (All media  property of Richard Russell)

Speaking with Richard Russell was sublimely gratifying. How I adored the peaceful pleasure emanating from that rich classic Jamaican accent. Given this conversation, I am so looking forward to doing it again.

Mr. Russell is a man of tremendous spirituality, inner peace and joy. He enjoys his life today with a tremendous depth of gratitude from all of his life experiences, with a special emphasis on his tennis journey. Some of his best times were spent with "look-a-like friend" Arthur Ashe, Jr.

He is a living legend and a member of the 2019 class of inductees into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. Although he was unable to attend the induction ceremony, he is overjoyed and grateful for the induction.

Mr. Russell is the only Jamaican to qualify for and win matches at all Grand Slam Championships. He was the youngest national champion at age 16, a founding member of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and, in 1966 achieved the distinction of holding the record of winning a first round match at the Australian Open 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. He represented the Jamaican Davis Cup and had wins over Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell.


How are you?  I so LOVED the photos that you shared with me that I had to speak with you.  Thank you, thank you, I am in good spirits.

So glad that you are being inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. It's a big honor, thank you very much.  

What are your thoughts on the induction? A year ago I was being inducted into the Jamaican Hall of Fame (Jamaica Cup Hall of Fame) and I got a call around 6:30 in the morning and it was someone that I hadn't spoken to in a year or two.  He said "Are you fine?" I said "Yeah I'm good." He said, "You sure you're okay?" I said, "Yes."  He said, "Well, my wife said to call you and congratulate you because I saw in the newspaper that you're being inducted into the Jamaican Hall of Fame, but we were so concerned, because usually when these things happen, you're either dead or dying.  I'm glad you're okay." That was so funny.

Richard, Arthur Ashe, Lance Lumsden
This is wonderful that you're being so acknowledged at this time, how's that working for you? Well, quite honestly, it's a huge surprise.  But I have to tell you, I spent many years walking the footsteps of Arthur Ashe, we were actually very good friends. In fact, in Australia we had a little music band together.  He was in Jamaica more than people thought, he had a Jamaican love. Arthur visited quite often.

When we were in Australia together he begged me, he said "Richard, I can't sign anymore autographs, can you sign some for me?"  The thing about it is this, when people would come to me, and the more I would tell then I'm not Arthur Ashe, the more they would think that I was pulling their legs. You see, in Australia, any Black person look alike to them, they can't tell one from the other.

That sounds like America too! That's funny.

But in cricket, we (Jamaica) have very good cricketers, all of them, when they would go to Australia, they were swamped, people all over them. And when I was there, they would think I was a Caribbean cricketer, they can't tell one from the other.

Quite honestly, Arthur and I, we kind of  had similar hair cuts.  In the Australian newspaper photo that I sent you where he and I are standing together, the Australian press couldn't believe it, the guy taking the picture said, "I can't tell one of you from the other! I can't tell which is Arthur Ashe and which is Richard Russell." I said, "I'm Richard Russell!" It was hilarious.

Life must have been something else at the time.  Oh, it was unbelievable.  Arthur was such a special person, who is gone too soon.  What an extraordinary human being.  You know, he kept so much inside of himself.  I went to Indianapolis to play, and one of the club members there who I became friends with said, "You know last year Arthur Ashe came with the Davis Cup team and he wasn't allowed to change in the official men's change room.  It was such an embarrassment.  Well, he came, he played, and he said nothing.  Nobody made a stink over it. That is outrageous.

This is going back to 1966-1968. I played in Pensacola, Florida, I didn't know that they had an emergency board meeting to decide whether for me to be able to play, or not to play. They decided that I'm not an American, I'm Jamaican, and those are the grounds on which they allowed me to play, cause it would have been a hell of a problem, because the Caribbean Circuit had been started,  the whole thing would've been turned upside down if they had said I couldn't play.  Arthur couldn't play there, and I was in shock, absolutely.  And there were other situations, very similar.  Just as in Washington D.C. where the mayor was Black, they had over 50% Black population, and I was staying as a guest, one block from the Washington Golf and Country Club, myself and Pancho Guzman of Ecuador, we were there to play their big tournament which is after Wimbledon.  The people who were members of the Club, one of them in particular said to me, "Listen, we have courts booked for you guys at the Club, but on second thought, I don't want anybody to be embarrassed, so you will probably need to go and play somewhere else."  He said, "Do you know that the mayor of Washington is Black, and he can't even come here." So we ended up going 20 minutes away to practice. The following year I went back there, and the same family insisted that I come and stay with them, and the first thing that was said to me was, "You know, when you left here, we cancelled our membership with the Washington Golf and Country Club.  We are now members of another club which is 15 minutes away. I just need for you to know that.  You being here made us realize that we cannot be a part of a situation like this. Having an international tennis player coming, and because you're Black, we cannot take you to the club - that's unacceptable."

TOTALLY!  So, very interesting times, the 60s and the 70s.

Unfortunately, here in America, not to much amazement, many aspects of those times exist today.  I realize that. When Arthur won Wimbledon he was given automatic membership, and the rules at Forest Hills were, if you win the U.S. Open you get automatic membership, and a year later Arthur Ashe still wasn't given membership.  They couldn't accept him, they had no Black members. It was about three weeks before the U.S. Open of the following year where the PTR and ATP were going to get involved and they were thinking about him even boycotting Forest Hills. But somebody in the Club really stepped up and granted him formally the membership prior to the event.  It took them one year to sort it out for him to get membership.

At the beginning of your career, did you even think that you would be as successful as you became, or did you surprise yourself?  I think my father, well, I had no intentions of being a tennis player, that was the last thing in my mind.  I was a cricketer - I was the youngest schoolboy cricketer in Jamaica.  Everything was pointing to me becoming a high rated cricketer for the Caribbean, for the West Indies.  My school teacher, the person in charge of tennis, had nobody to play on the tennis team, so he went on the field and took the best cricketers off and said "You're representing the school in tennis in two weeks times, so you have to come half an hour before you go to cricket and learn to play tennis. And then he entered me into the national championships and I got to the finals.

My father, who was saving up for four or five years to put in a swimming pool that the family wanted, when he saw me in the national championships, he went home and measured the front lawn and said he's putting in a tennis court. He put a wall in the tennis court and instructed me that I am not going to school unless I play tennis for half an hour against the wall every morning.

Wow... Much to the displeasure of my poor mother who had all of her imported roses in the front of the house, she now had to move them to the side of the house. And when I was late for school, she was in tears saying that I was late, and my father would say, "No he's not late, he's only missing chapel, he's not missing school."

My father apparently read in those days that all the top Australian players learned to play against the garage wall at their house, so my father had me, seven days a week, half an hour against the wall, and then I became the youngest national champion of Jamaica by 16.  And that started the whole thing.  He picked up the phone, called Australia, asked about the great Harry Hopman (didn't know him at all), and he got a hold of him and said "My son has just become the youngest national champion of Jamaica and I don't know what to do with him," and Harry Hopman said, "Put him on a plane and send him to me." And off I went, that was
the start of my whole development, spending a year with Harry Hopman in Australia.

Now that you had begun playing so well, even though that was not your intent, did you come to love the sport?    Well, absolutely I did, but I think the passion was my father's.  All of our entire family were all sports people, my father, his brothers, all very good sports people, they played all the sports.  My father said to me, "Son, we have played all the sports, and if you're going to get really good at any one sport, you have to focus on one, you can't play all the sports.  And it's easier for you to play tennis than play cricket.  So, we put in the tennis court, and we're going to do everything possible for you to improve your tennis."  So he was really the driving force until, at least, I got to a certain point where obviously "I" wanted to get better and improve.

Yeah, so now you began to personally enjoy it.  Exactly, but my father gets all of the credit initially for even getting me involved.

As you look back at your career now, what do you think about it?  Well, tennis has provided me every... single... thing... I have in life.  It is the most extraordinary sport of all time.  It has opened every door, and every business transaction that I've gone into.  Tennis just somehow... the doors were just opened.  I can't think of anything more fulfilling than my involvement in tennis over the years.

By extension, I got my sons involved in tennis and even at the expense of their school work at one point.  And one of my son's said to me, and I have never forgotten this in my life, he said "Dad, I want to say something to you.  I want to thank you for keeping me in tennis.  Dad, do you know that the particular academy where I am, I am over subscribed. I am full, and I have a waiting list.  Some of my closest friends, university graduates, can't get a job, or some of them, they're taking a job two levels below their qualifications, and here am I, over subscribed. Tennis is the greatest sport there is on earth." I said to myself, "Oh, thank God."  I said, "You know something, thank you very much for that."

My feeling is that education is for a lifetime, and I had a scholarship to Louisville, Kentucky and my father sent me to Australia - that was his decision. Looking back at it now, the education I got traveling the world, my interactions with people, the broadening of your whole horizon, you get this only from this wonderful exposure.  And to play a sport like tennis where you're literally traveling the world for free, playing different tournaments, meeting different ethnic groups, it is almost a dream, almost a fantasy world really, when you think about it.

Coming back home to Jamaica, it was like I ended up being a big fish in a small pond.  You go anywhere, I got into manufacturing.  My prime minister called me, Michael Manley, he also played tennis, he said, "Richard, I didn't know you had so many styles of shorts." Because what happened was, everybody didn't know what to give the prime minister, so you know what they did?  They gave him Richard Russell tennis shorts! He said, "I have all these different shorts from different people. I didn't know you had so many styles of shorts!" It was funny.

So many doors opened, it's gratifying even until today.  You go anywhere, people recognize you, people respect you, people love you, you give the love back and interact with people, you help out the young kids and you get satisfaction from helping people. I said to myself, "You know, the greatest satisfaction you get in life isn't from earning money, but the people you help, especially those less fortunate."  Stop and think about it for a little bit, and as you get older, you recognize this more and more.  And your legacy is for people to remember you for the good deeds that you've done for people.

Indeed, indeed, indeed.  That's your legacy - it's wonderful satisfaction.

Tell me this, in directing your tennis academy, what is the single highest priority in the lessons that you teach - what's the most important thing that you want them to learn?  Being able to get the kids on the court and for them to have fun, to enjoy the sport, to express to them that this may be the greatest sport in the world, especially recognizing young girls and the college opportunities that are available to them.  That this is the only sport in the entire world where there's equal prize money for men and women. I tell them you have no idea how special this sport is, the tennis scholarships, the opportunities.  By learning to play tennis, you can use it to further your education.  That's one of the main features, talking to the young kids and impressing upon the parents the opportunities that exist through a sport like tennis. We're here to help them move up the ladder, and maybe to consider tennis careers down the road.     

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THAT WAS FAST!!! World No. 1 Naomi Osaka Announces, Via Twitter, Her Split With Coach Sascha Bajin

Monday, February 11, 2019

World No. 1 Naomi Osaka consulting with now former coach Sascha Bajin.

Major decision making can be necessary as we move forward in life. It appears that World No. 1 Naomi Osaka has done just that. Osaka's announcement today via Twitter, "Hey everyone, I will no longer be working together with Sascha. I thank him for his work and wish him all the best in the future", has sent a slight rumble through the world of tennis.

Osaka and Coach Bajin have collaborated victoriously in the last two grand slams with Osaka earning the World No. 1 spot after the Australian Open. The two have been working together since October 2017 and created a swift, yet incredible journey.

Bajin responded cordially, “Thank you Naomi. I wish you nothing but the best as well. What a ride that was. Thank you for letting me be part of this”.

Now what? Who? We shall see...

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2019 SOFIA OPEN: Frenchman Gael Monfils Gives Wakandan Love After Defeating Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas

Friday, February 8, 2019

Frenchman Gael Monfils at the 2019 Sofia Open after defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.

ATP TOUR - Gael Monfils recorded his biggest win for four months on Friday to book his place in the Sofia Open semi-finals. The seventh-seeded Frenchman beat World No. 12 Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals champion, 6-3, 7-6(5). It was his biggest win since October 2018, when Monfils beat then No. 9-ranked John Isner at the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna.

"Stefanos is a great player. There's no doubt," Monfils said. "Today I think it was just a few points. He's a real champion and he will become a big champion."

 Monfils broke Tsitsipas in the opening game and clinched his third set point in the 35-minute opener. Solid on serve throughout — winning 93 per cent of his first-service points — the Frenchman recovered from 4/5 down in the second-set tie-break for his fourth win of the season. Tsitsipas, who had beaten Monfils in October 2018 at the Rolex Shanghai Masters, came into the match in strong form having reached the recent Australian Open semi-finals (l. to Nadal).

Monfils will now challenge Daniil Medvedev, who struck nine aces and lost only six of his service points to cruise past Martin Klizan of Slovakia 6-4, 6-1. The third-seeded Russian, who broke serve four times for victory in 70 minutes, improved to 9-2 on the season, which includes a runner-up finish at last month’s Brisbane International (l. to Nishikori).

"It's going to be a tough one as well. Daniil is coming on strong, won a lot of matches this year already," Monfils said. "It's going to be another battle. I think [I need to use] another gameplan because he's a different player. The ball stays very low, he serves big. I will have to adapt myself again, I guess be aggressive as well and also try to serve as big as I can."

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Australian Open 2015: Madison Keys Upsets Petra Kvitova To Advance To Fourth Round

Sunday, January 25, 2015

 American Madison Keys celebrates third round victory over Petra Kvitova at the 2015 Australian Open.

(REUTERS) - American teenager Madison Keys has toppled fourth seed Petra Kvitova 6-4, 7-5 in an impressive display of clean hitting to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open.

The 19-year-old captured the decisive break at 5-5 in the second set and served out the match nervelessly under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, stunning the two-time Wimbledon champion.

Keys' win made it four American women in the last 16 at Melbourne Park, the most since five made it to the fourth round of the 2003 Australian Open.

She will play compatriot Madison Brengle for a place in the quarter-finals.

"I think my hands are still shaking," said Keys, who is coached by former number one Lindsay Davenport.

"I'm excited to play Maddie in the next round."

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AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015: Peerless and fearless: Serena and Venus Williams Chase a New Landmark

The amazing sister act are still inspiring each other as they head for another improbable grand slam semi-final meeting at the Australian Open

Venus Williams ackowledges the fans after defeating Camila Giorgi of Italy in their third round match at the Australian Open.

(The Guardian) - Sisters, friends, survivors: all the strengths and virtues that Serena and Venus Williams have shown in adversity over the years arrived for them on day six of the 2015 Australian Open. However, after good wins from a set down against Elina Svitolina and Camila Giorgi respectively, there are a couple of formidable challenges immediately ahead for them if they are to collide in the semi-finals, which last happened in a slam at Wimbledon 15 years ago.

The day after Roger Federer left an unfillable space in the men’s draw following defeat to Andreas Seppi in the third round, there were some anxious moments on Saturday as Serena, the women’s favourite, had to fight from a set down to beat the tough young Ukrainian 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 on another hot, still day on Rod Laver Arena. A final withering forehand left Svitolina flailing at air to bring 96 minutes of struggle to an end. The scoreline told the story of a slow start, recovery and finishing flourish; a familiar pattern for Williams.

“She played really well, one to watch,” Williams said. “She made me work very hard. She kept hitting winners in the first set and there wasn’t much I could do. Then I heard so many people say: ‘Serena, Serena,’ and I thought you guys are really here for me. I looked up at the screen and saw Venus was 1-4 down and I thought: ‘Come on, we can do this.’ We really inspire each other.”

What an enigma the younger Williams sister is. Last year she failed to make even the quarters of three majors then won the US Open to take her career slams to 18 – one ahead of Federer, but, more pertinently, four behind Steffi Graf, who heads the women’s list in the Open era.

On Monday she plays the talented Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza, who put her out of the French Open last year and here beat the Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. “She’s had a really good win and I have nothing to lose,” Williams said. “I’ll do my best.”If that seemed false modesty on a grand scale, Serena has suffered enough shock defeats in recent years to be wary, although the tennis she produced in the third set resembled her awesome best.

Venus’s 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 win over the promising Giorgi continued her run of decent form and she seems to be in good health, which is always her priority since the auto-immune disease Sjögren’s syndrome struck her three years ago. Her next opponent provides tougher opposition than Muguruza: the sixth seed, Agnieszka Radwanska, who impressed while beating Varvara Lepchenko 6-0, 7-5 in an hour and a half, although the Uzbeki-American put up stern resistance in the second set, which lasted nearly an hour.

If Serena and Venus, who is seeded 18th, do meet in the semi-finals, they will resume the game’s greatest friendly rivalry. Since they first played each other on the tour in 1998, in the second round of the Australian Open (Venus won in two sets), they have met 25 times. Serena leads 14-11 overall and 6-2 in slams. This is the 29th time the sisters have made the fourth round of the same slam.

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova hold the all-time record for Open era slam matches with 14. It is unlikely, given their ages and career patterns, that the Williams sisters will get close to that number but the girls who hit their way out of a ghetto with their tennis rackets have reignited interest in one of the game’s remarkable stories. Venus, at 34 a year older than Serena, said later: “The years go by so fast. It’s definitely been a lot of work and a lot of learning and a lot of perseverance. It will continue to be that for me. Just have to come to terms with it.

“We talk about all the players we see that aren’t playing any more. We just can’t figure out how we’re still here. When you walk on that court, there is no such thing as age, height, any of that stuff. It’s really an even playing field. It’s a matter of can you get the ball in? Can you win the point or not? It doesn’t matter, any of these variables. That’s what they are: variables.

“I’ve been motivated by Serena since day one, since 1998 or 97 actually. She’s always been someone that anyone can learn from: the way she faces her life, the way she is fearless on the court. I probably take it a lot more to heart because she’s my sister and we’ve had the fortunate relationship, to be able to motivate each other and grow from each other. I don’t think I could have done the things I’ve done without her.”

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2012 FED CUP TEAM: Venus And Serena To Join Team For February Belarus Meeting

Monday, January 30, 2012

2007 USA Fed Cup Team (l-r) Vania King, Lisa Raymond, Venus Williams, Serena Williams

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Venus Williams will return from illness and her sister, Serena, will play Fed Cup for the first time in nearly five years after being selected to the U.S. team to meet Belarus in a Feb. 4-5 World Group II match at Worcester, Mass.

U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez announced the team, also containing Christina McHale and Liezel Huber, late Tuesday.

"I am looking forward to having Serena and Venus on the team for the first time since I became U.S. Fed Cup captain," Fernandez said. "They bring so much to this team, not only for what they can do on court, but the influence they will have on Christina and the rest of the team."

It will be Venus Williams' first appearance in a sanctioned competition since the U.S. Open, when she revealed she had Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain.

Serena Williams, who lost in the fourth round at the Australian Open, has not played Fed Cup since 2007.

The 19-year-old McHale, ranked a career-high No. 42, will be making her second consecutive appearance and third overall for the American team. Her highlights last year included a win over No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki at Cincinnati and a run to the third round of the U.S. Open.

South African-born Huber, 35, has won six of her eight career matches for the U.S. Fed Cup team.

The winner of the Worcester match will advance to the World Group playoff and a chance to compete for the Fed Cup title in 2013.

Victoria Azarenka, who is expected to lead the Belarus team, will face defending champion Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday.

"Victoria is playing the best tennis I have seen from her, so we are excited to be facing Belarus in our first match in the United States in two years," Fernandez said.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
Photo by Getty Images

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Venus Williams Withdraws From 2011 Sony Ericsson Open

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Venus Williams at the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open Players Welcome Party at the Paris Nightclub Key Biscayne, Florida.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL, USA - Venus Williams has withdrawn from the Sony Ericsson Open, where she is a three-time champion, due to an abdominal injury.

Williams, who has a phenomenal 47-9 record at the Premier-level stop, which includes title runs in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and one more final (last year, falling to Kim Clijsters), is currently receiving ongoing rehabilitation at home.

"I am very sorry to not be playing in the Sony Ericsson Open this year. It is one of my favorite tournaments, especially because it is so close to my home in South Florida," Williams said. "I look forward to returning to the tour soon."

"It is unfortunate that Venus Williams will be unable to play at this year's," Tournament Director Adam Barrett added. "She will be missed and we wish her a speedy recovery. We hope to see her back on court soon."

Williams has only played two events since Wimbledon last year, making the semifinals of the US Open (losing to eventual champion Clijsters in a tight three-setter) and reaching the third round of this year's Australian Open (where she retired against Andrea Petkovic after one game in the third round).

Photo by WireImage

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Davis Cup: Tsonga And Monfils Lead France To Quarterfinal Round

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2010 Davis CupJo-Wilfried Tsonga, France, 2010 Davis Cup
(Photos by Paul Zimmer)

Black Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils 2010 Davis CupTOULON, France — Jo Wilfried Tsonga’s unbeaten run in the Davis Cup ended Sunday when the Frenchman was forced to retire with a sprained ankle against Simon Greul of Germany.

France had already qualified for the quarterfinals after Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber and Christopher Kas on Saturday for an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Tsonga retired while trailing 4-6, 6-2, 1-0. The former Australian Open runner-up is expected to play the BNP Paribas Open starting next week at Indian Wells, California.

"I preferred to stop because it hurt me when I walked," Tsonga said. "It should take a few days before returning to normal. I will undergo scans tomorrow morning."

Julien Benneteau, who was named as a replacement for Gael Monfils, then gave his country a 4-1 victory with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Benjamin Becker in the last meaningless singles match. Benneteau won 83 percent of the points played on his first serve and broke his opponent four times.

On Friday, Gael Monfils and Tsonga won the opening singles against Kohlschreiber and Benjamin Becker respectively.

France will play Spain at home in the quarterfinals July 9-11. France’s last victory over Spain dates back to 1923.

"We won’t be favorites," Tsonga said. "They are the best and it’s a good moment to write history."

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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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AO Day 3: Monfils In, Blake Out, Young Does Press

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gael Monfils, France

France’s Gael Monfils didn’t show his best form in cruising past Croatia ‘s Antonio Veic 6-4, 6-4 6-4 in the second round. Next, he faces a much taller task in American John Isner.

Putting his various ailments behind him, the 12th seed played an athletic and fairly effective game behind the baseline match in besting the Croat, cranking big forehand winners when called upon to ice the contest.
“I’ve had two easy rounds, and that’s never happened to me at Grand Slam before.”

But Monfils, who is coached by Australian Roger Rasheed, wasn’t thrilled with his play.

“On a scale of 1 to 20, I would give myself a five,” he said. “Roger would probably give me a two. Against Isner, I’m planning on giving him a much better number.”

“He has a monster serve,” said Monfils. “It’s going to be really hard to return serve. If he’s serving well, it’s almost a bet as to whether I go left or right. I’m going to have to try and read his serve really well.”

James Blake, USA

I don't know what this exchange of glances on the sidelines was about, but there was definitely a fight happening on court. Blake was not able to topple Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, who won the match 6-4, 6-7(3), 5-7, 6-3, 10-8, but he put up one hell of of a contest.

In the best match on the men’s side to date, del Potro had to come up with every shot in the book to repel the veteran American, who fought off one break point after another late in the fifth set in an attempt to pull off what could have been one of the most critical victories of his career.

“As soon as I let any ball sit up a little, he was taking it to me,” Blake said. “That’s my goal too, and I had chances at them and made some mistakes. That's the difference. You miss a couple balls and he’s moving on, and I'm not. But that’s why he won the US Open and is No. 4 in the world.”

“It’s tough to rank the [five set losses] but right now it hurts pretty bad,” said Blake. “I had plenty of messages from people back home who were up until 5 am watching me, and I don’t even want to respond to many. I just feel bad that they were up watching and are probably going to sleep a little disappointed. Luckily for me they will all be my friends tomorrow, which will help me get through after I stop beating myself up for a few hours or few days.”

That was an encouraging battle to watch, no disappointment here Blake.

Donald Young, USA

"Every match I played in the qualies, it seemed like they were rooting for the other guy, but this will just be at a totally different level, obviously," he said."I'll just have to go out there and play and imagine they're cheering my name."I've played a couple of pretty top players, but none like Lleyton here with the crowd. He's from here and they love him. (But) that's what you look for, you want to play these players."

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Around The Net...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams At Press Conference Wearing Serena Signature Collection RingAmerican Serena Williams shows off her 'Hello Kitty' handbag in a media conference during day four of the 2010 Medibank International at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.
Serena is also wearing the Pave Dome Lucky Ring from her Signature Collection, the very same ring that you will be able to enter to win right here on Black Tennis Pro's next week!

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams At Press Conference Wearing Serena Signature Collection RingBlack Tennis Pro's James Blake practicing for Australian OpenAmerican James Blake is all smiles and looking in good form during a practice session in the lead-up to the Australian Open. (Photos by Paul Crock AFP/Getty Images)

Black Tennis Pro's James Blake practicing for Australian OpenBlack Tennis Pro's James Blake practicing for Australian OpenBlack Tennis Pro's Venus Williams practicing for Australian OpenAmerican Venus Williams also looks pretty pleased as she puts it all together in her pre-Australian Open practice session.
(Photos by Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images)

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams practicing for Australian OpenBlack Tennis Pro's Venus Williams practicing for Australian OpenBlack Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga speaks to media about wrist injury prior to AAMI Classic KooyongFrenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga speaks to the media about an injury to his wrist during a press conference for the Kooyong Classic, in Melbourne on January 12, 2010. The round-robin tournament is used by top male players, incluing six ranked in the top eleven, as a warm-up to the Australian Open.
(Photos by William West/AFP/Getty Images)

Black Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga speaks to media about wrist injury prior to AAMI Classic KooyongBlack Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga speaks to media about wrist injury prior to AAMI Classic Kooyong

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Serena Dispatches Dushevina In Sydney

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams vs. Very Dushevina Sydney InternationalSerena Williams, USA
Photos by Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images)

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams vs. Very Dushevina Sydney InternationalSYDNEY — Serena Williams stormed into the semi-finals of the Sydney International on Wednesday, cranking up the heat on her opponents ahead of next week's Australian Open.

The American world number one tossed aside Russian Vera Dushevina 6-2, 6-2, making it just seven games she has dropped on her way to the last four of the Sydney tournament.

Williams, strong favourite to lift her fifth Australian Open crown and her 12th Grand Slam, takes on world number 27 Aravane Rezai of France in Thursday's semi-finals.

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams vs. Very Dushevina Sydney International
Rezai won her third match of the tournament against Italian Flavia Pennetta, 6-3, 6-0 on Wednesday.

In the bottom half of the draw, Belarus sixth seed Victoria Azarenka is through to the semi-finals after beating Slovak Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 7-5, while defending champion Elena Dementieva was due to face world number two Dinara Safina later Wednesday.

"I definitely enjoy playing in the heat," Williams said of steamy Melbourne, home to the Open. "I usually enjoy playing in the heat. I live in Florida, so it's all about hot weather there.

"So I think maybe that's one of the reasons why I do so well down here.

"The past couple of times I won it's been extremely hot, so I expect the same temperatures again."

Asked during her post-match press conference how close she was to her best form, Williams said: "I always try to get there usually around the semi-finals and finals of the Grand Slams.

"I'm just doing the best that I can now to get there. Hopefully I have a long way to go, which I think is always good."

Williams said she was expecting her toughest match of the week against Rezai.

"I haven't played her, but I know her game," she said. "I played her in doubles and (sister) Venus has played her before.

"She's a good player and she's really young. She has a lot of drive. I think she can be really good. It'll definitely be my toughest match yet."

Azarenka had to again work hard to stay alive in the tournament, taking two hours 20 minutes to extinguish the challenge of the 24th-ranked Cibulkova.

So far Azarenka has been taken to three sets in all her three matches at the tournament.

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams vs. Very Dushevina Sydney International

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Venus Continues Success In Hong Kong, Shuts Down Media Talk Of Retirement

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Zheng Zie at 2010 Hong Kong Tennis ClassicVenus Williams, USA
Photos by (AP)

Black Tennis Pro's Venus Williams vs. Zheng Zie at 2010 Hong Kong Tennis ClassicVenus Williams beat Zheng Jie 6-3 6-3 at the Hong Kong Classic exhibition event in her final match before the Australian Open starts on 18 January.

The seven-time Grand Slam champion powered to victory in 85 minutes and afterwards dismissed speculation she is considering retiring from the sport.

"I know I have so much more to give. As long as I keep playing well, I'll stay," said the world number six.

The 29-year-old will now head to Melbourne to complete her preparations.

Williams said she was happy with Friday's workout, which came the day after rain had prematurely ended her match against Caroline Wozniacki.

"The match was through in two sets but it took 85 minutes. She is an extremely tough competitor and does so many things well so it felt good to get the win," said the American.

And Williams, who has never won the Australian Open, is confident she will be ready to compete for the title in Melbourne.

"I know how to play tennis and I now just have to do it in Melbourne," she added.

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'The Early Bird Gets The Ring' Giveaway Coming Soon

Friday, January 8, 2010

Want to rock this very fab Pavé Dome Lucky Ring from the Serena Signature Collection in 2010?
Visit Black Tennis Pro's the first week of the Australian Open and it could be yours!

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Serena Limps To Victory In Win Over Venus

Friday, April 3, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams Sony Ericsson Open SemifinalSerena Williams, USA

On Thursday evening American sisters Venus and Serena Williams provided scintillating rallies as the two battled for a slot in the Sony Ericsson Open Women's Final on Saturday, April 4.

Maintaining her World No. 1 status while securing her place in the championship match, Serena defeated World No. 6 Venus 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The sisters now stand at an even 10-10 in their 20 meetings.

Black Tennis Pro's Venus and Serena Williams Sony Ericsson Open SemifinalVenus and Serena Williams, USA

Of the sister's record Serena said, "I definitely knew about it. It's definitely good to even it up. I would love to be in the lead again."

While moderately entertaining, this match was filled with errors. Venus suffered six double faults and the biggest serving players in women's tennis served just above average (for them of course). Additionally, somewhere in the midst of the second set Serena began to have a slight limp, which by mid third set was very apparent. Nonetheless, she soldiered on and ran down every ball that came back across the net.

"Venus never gives up," said Serena. "She gets a lot of balls back and has a massive serve. Just when you get her down she gets an extra umph and plays extra hard. You can't lose focus at all, especially when you're up. You have to actually play better when you're in the lead."

"It was a well fought match," said Venus. "I definitely would have liked to get a few more points off my serve. I think my serve wasn't going as well as I wanted today. But she brought a lot have balls back and played tough. I did the best I could today. I'm just looking to do better always."

"I'm excited because I was thinking that I would love to remain No. 1, so obviously I was really excited about that," said Serena. "I mean, I think I was more happy about that than winning the match at the end."

Serena will meet Victoria Azarenka in the final. The two last played one another in January at the Australian Open at which time Azarenka retired. With regard to meeting Azarenka again Serena said, "She played me really, really tough in Australia. She was not feeling great, but I thought she did a pretty good job."

Black Tennis Pro's Victoria Azarenka Sony Ericsson Open SemifinalVictoria Azarenka, Belarus

Photos by Getty Images

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Serena Into Paris Quarterfinals; Not Feeling ITF New Doping Rules

Friday, February 13, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Serena Williams Open GDF SuezPARIS (AP) — Top-ranked Serena Williams showed no signs of the illness which kept her bedridden last week as she ousted Karolina Sprem 6-1, 6-2 to reach the Open GDF Suez quarterfinals on Thursday.

Williams, after winning the Australian Open, didn't practice until Monday, and was relieved to get through the first round of the indoor tournament she's won twice.

Her second-round match was easier, as Williams took less than an hour to beat the Croatian qualifier, converting her first match point with a forehand return winner down the line.

Next up will be French qualifier Emilie Loit, whom Williams hasn't met in six years.

"She's a lefty, she uses a lot of spins and slices," Williams said about Loit. "She's a very experienced player and tricky."


Serena Williams joined the chorus of top tennis players who believe the new anti-doping measures on athletes are too strong, she called the rules implemented by the International Tennis Federation as “over the top.”

“It’s very invasive,” she said. “Basically, they show up at your house on any day.

Under the new rules, athletes must specify one hour each day when and where they can be located for testing. They also must tell anti-doping authorities where they will be over the next three months, but they can update this by e-mail or phone message.

Photo by AP


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All French South African Open Final Goes To Tsonga

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga South African OpenTop seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated first-time finalist Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7-6(5) in an all-French final at the SA Tennis Open on Sunday to win his third ATP World Tour title. Courtesy of winning the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Johannesburg, Tsonga collects 250 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points and $79,000.

World No. 14 Tsonga was contesting his fourth ATP World Tour final. The Le Mans native reached his first final at the 2008 Australian Open, where he lost out to No. 3 Novak Djokovic. However, he was able to avenge that defeat later in the season by defeating the Serbian to capture his first ATP World Tour title at Bangkok. One month later in November he won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament in Paris (d. Nalbandian) to clinch his spot at Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai.

“Every time I play [ATP World Tour] finals now my level is going up and I play great, so it is good,” said Tsonga afterwards. “I think for the first edition it was just amazing,” added the Frenchman about the inaugural tournament. “Everything was fine, I have nothing negative to say. The court was perfect.”

The 23-year-old Tsonga, who raced to the Johannesburg title without the loss of a set, made a strong start to his 2009 ATP World Tour campaign by reaching three consecutive quarter-finals at Brisbane (l. to Gasquet), Sydney (withdrew due to back injury against Nieminen) and the Australian Open (l. to Verdasco). However, his South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings dropped from No. 7 to No. 14 after his 2008 Australian Open final points dropped off.

In the first all-French ATP World Tour final since Casablanca in May 2008, Tsonga was able to secure a one-set lead after breaking through in the 10th game to seal it 6-4. A fifth double fault from the right-hander gave Chardy a triple break-point chance at the start of the second set, however he was able to recover and hold for 1-0. Tsonga was presented with his first match point with Chardy serving at 4-5, but he failed to convert and the set went to a tie-break – which the older Frenchman won 7-5 after one hour and 48 minutes to improve to a 12-2 match record on the season. After his customary post-match celebration, Tsonga dropped to his hands and knees and kissed the court in jubilation.

“I think he played well today because it was really tough,” said Tsonga. “I played a great match, I served very well and I think his inexperience was evident at 5-4 in the first set when he missed some easy shots. But now he has some experience and I hope he’s going to do well next time.”

Tsonga, who saved all eight break points that he faced in the final, lost serve only twice in 48 service games in his five matches at the SA Tennis Open. He served 16 aces in Sunday’s championship match and lost only six points behind his first serve.

“I think it’s the best part of my game,” said the Frenchman. “I improved it a lot last year and now I’m really confident on important points.”

Photo by © SATO/Reg Caldecott

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The Face Of No. 1: Serena Beams In Trophy Photo Shoot

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Black Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena WilliamsBlack Tennis Pro's Serena Williams

Photos by Getty Images

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