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Sloane Stephens

Soul of the US Open: Brutal Round Two Leaves Sloane Stephens …

Soul of the US Open: Brutal Round Two Leaves Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens of the United States returns a shot to Johanna Larsson of Sweden during her women’s singles second round match on Day Three of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 27, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City

*Two questions have already been answered at this year’s US Open: Will Donald Young break his performance drought and go deep in the tournament? No; bounced in first round.

Will Sloane Stephens break HER recent performance drought and live up to expectations? No; bounced in the second round along with big-hitting compatriot Madison Keys.

The latter questions bears a little discussion, though, since expectations for Young fizzled years ago and Keys is still in the early stages of building a name for herself. She was supposed to be the next Serena Williams, right?

With that, what’s troubling Sloane Stephens’ game?

She’s sure not gonna help in figuring it out. After a puzzling loss to Johanna Larsson in the second round of the US Open, on Arthur Ashe court, she was very tight lipped in her presser. Obviously agitated, she was short with her answers and defiantly adamant that the loss was “just a little speed bump” and she just “needs to keep working hard.”

Meanwhile her peers are beginning to pass her by.

Sloane played a topsy turvy first set in the match she ultimately lost, but was able to turn things around and take it, 7-5 when Larsson was up 5-4, but failed to serve it out. The erratic play could’ve been attributed to the heat, as it was close to 100 degree on court, but when asked if the heat was a factor, she replied with a simple, “no.”

She started off the second set by holding serve, indicating that she had found her groove and was poised to run away with the rest of the match, but the scripts got mixed up. Instead of going for her shots and playing inside the baseline, Stephens became reactive, which is a good way to lose a match. Larsson was able to break down her game from that point on with consistency and deep hitting, drawing error after error from the usually dominant American. Stephens seemed to lose her resolve and faded away. She tumbled out of the tournament 7-5,4-6,2-6.

Stephens is known for making deep runs at majors, even taking out a *granted* hobbled Serena Williams in Australia a couple of years back, but her latest string of Grand Slam results have been dismal in comparison. She lost in the early rounds in Australia and Wimbledon and managed the only the 4th round at the French Open … now round two in New York. She changed coaches after Wimbledon, dropping Paul Annacone and picking up Maria Sharapova’s, Caroline Wozniacki’s and Li Na’s former coach, Thomas Hogstedt, but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference. It’s too early to say that her career is on the decline, but it’s fair to say that her 2014 season has been a bust – though she begs to differ:

“There is a lot of the year left. There is probably like seven more tournaments after that. It’s far from over.”

Sloane’s reputation for not getting up for regular tour tournaments was already common opinion, but expectations of the young American hopeful at Majors are now even beginning to slip.

Another unexpected early departure from the tournament was Poland’s Agniezska Radwanska. She surprisingly lost on Armstrong to China’s Peng Shua. The world no. 4 has never done extremely well at the US Open, but expectations are well beyond a second round exit. She was in the same part of the draw as Sloane Stephens, leaving that section wide open now for a dark horse like Lucie Safarova, Angelique Kerber or Jelena Jankovic to gallop into week two.

Additionally, Sam Stosur (to Kai Kanepi, 6-3,3-6,6-7), Ana Ivanovic  (to K. Pliskova, 5-7,4-6) – both in Serena’s part of the draw and one’s who normally trouble her, and Madison Keys (to A. Krunic, 6-7,6-2,5-7)  all went down in flames on Thursday – and it wasn’t even the hottest day of the tournament so far. It WAS windy and those players who typically use power and finding the lines to get them through , such as the fallen trio, were SOL on the blustery and bloody Thursday.

Conversely, Venus Williams and Serena Williams both skated their way into round 2, comprehensively beating Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky and fellow American Vania King respectively on Ashe court.

Venus played her round two match on Wednesday night, with very pleasant temperatures and to a packed stadium. The conditions were just right for her to call upon her all court game in dispatching her otherwise solid opponent. She easily won the match, in vintage form, 6-1,6-4.

Serena played her round two match on Thursday afternoon, and though she struggled with her serve in the swirling wind, she all but completely shut King out, smothering her with power, winning the match at 6-1,6-0.

On the doubles front, while longtime fan Gladys Knight looked on from the stands, the Williams sisters were challenged by the no. 7 seeds and 2014 Wimbledon finalists, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, in their first round match. The first two hard fought sets went to a tiebreaker, but in the third, the sisters found their groove and ran away with the match. Serena tossed in an unusual amount of double faults during the match, when it really mattered, she was able to find her powerful serve and assist Venus, the steadier of the two, with securing the win, 7-6 (0), 6-7 (4), 6-1.

The seedings on the women’s side have been decimated at Flushing, and it’s only the second round. The men, however are performing true to form, with no real upsets to mention. Round three play begins on Friday.

For full results click here.

For scheduling information, click here.

venus & serena

Soul of the US Open: Venus, Serena Williams Advance to Second Round; Most Seeds Follow

venus & serena

*Round one of the 2014 US Open has come to a close, with struggles for sure, but not very many surprises.

The Marquee players, Serena Williams, Roger Federer John Isner, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, Sloane Stephens, Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, John Isner, Gael Monfils, Eugenie Bouchard, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniaki, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilifred Tsonga, all pulled through their first round matches, but things weren’t that straightforward for some of them.

Romanian Simona Halep started on day one on Arthur Ashe against a young American qualifier, Danielle Rose Collins, who came out playing “lights out” tennis against the jittery world no. 2. Halep lost the first set, but found a way to turn the match around and she escaped an early departure with the score line 6-7,6-1,6-2.

Venus Williams had nearly the same narrative, except she started strong then the wheels fell off early in the first set. She was up a game with three break points to lead 2-0 against the oldest woman in the tournament, 43-year-old Kamiko Date-Krumm of Japan, but she couldn’t convert; the first set was all down hill from there. Venus couldn’t find her rhythm and the unforced errors began to mount, causing her to lose the set 2-6. She recovered at the beginning of the second, however, by securing an immediate break, then went on to comfortably take it, 6-3. She built on that momentum and cruised all the way to a 5-0 lead in the third, but the wheels, once again, began to fall off. She couldn’t close the set out and allowed Date-Krum to stage a mini-comeback, drawing closer to the former champion’s score. But as tensions rose for Venus, Date-Krumm ultimately succumbed to her own and handed Venus the win through unforced errors while serving at 3-5 in the third. The final scoreline was Venus, 2-6,6-3,6-3.

Andy Murray was similarly met with turbulence on day one, but it was of a different nature. He comfortably took the first set, 6-3, but then experienced a loss of concentration and inexplicable discomfort that turned the match into a drama-filled seesaw. The Brit, who’s struggled the entire 2014 season, ultimately ended up on top, but not before dropping a set and trailing 0-4 in another against his unseeded opponent. Murray sealed it with a 6-3,7-6,1-6,7-5 scoreline, but now has plenty of questions to answer about his erratic play.

Caroline Wozniaki of Denmark (aka Serena Wiliams’ tour “bestie”), Angelique Kerber (GER) and Jo-Wilifred Tsonga (FRA) all dropped sets as well on day one, but were able to come out with first round wins, Wozniacki’s by retirement.

Also on day one, Russia’s Maria Sharapova and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic both cruised to easy wins over Russia’s Maria Kirilenko (aka Sharapova’s former “bestie”) and D. Schwartzman respectively; Agnieszka Radwanska completed her first round drubbing of Canadian Sharon Finchman in just 48 minutes, with a 6-1,6-0 scoreline; and American, Sloane Stephens, true to form for her at Grand Slams, took her opponent, Germany’s Annika Beck to the woodshed with a 6-0,6-3 beat down.

On Tuesday, the legend that is America’s Serena Williams played the future of American tennis, Taylor Townsend, in a night match on Ashe. It was relatively highly anticipated due to strides Townsend has made on the WTA tour recently, but she was unable to trouble Williams, a veteran, not only on the tour, but at the US Open. Williams has won it five times and obviously knows her way around the at-times-hot-and-blustery Ashe stadium court. The top seed and two-time defending champion easily dispatched the youngster, sealing deal with a 6-3,6-1 scoreline.

Another accomplished US Open seed, however, wasn’t so fortunate. Dominika Cibulkova, the tournament’s no. 12 seed was eliminated after a three-set battle with a 15-year-old American. Catherine Bellis qualified for the tournament by winning a junior’s tournament, but played well beyond her age in sending the Slovakian packing. Bellis is now this year’s Cinderella story on the order of USA’s Melanie Oudin, who toppled several top players on her way reaching the quarterfinals back in 2009.

The only other remotely surprising outcomes of the first round were American Donald Young going out in the first round to Slovak, Blaz Kavcic in straight sets, 7-5,6-4,6-4; 21st seeded Mikhail Youzhny being taking out by Australian teen sensation Nick Kyrgios 7-5,7-6,2-6,7-6; former US Open champion, 20th seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, going out to unseeded New Zealander, Marina Erakovic, and Jack Sock retiring due to injury against Spaniard Pablo Andujar. Krygios had already earned a name for himself by decisively taking out then world no. 1, Rafael Nadal recently during the Wimbledon championships and his ascension continues. The young Aussie, whom they call “wild thing” plays a mature game, but his age shows in his temperament as he was issued three code violations on Monday for tantrum-throwing (launched a ball out of the stadium, spewed audible expletive and racquet abuse). He came just one violation shy of being booted from the tournament.

For a full list of Round One results, click here.

For the schedule for Round Two play, click here.

serena & novak1

Soul of the US Open: Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic Lead Fields

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic Lead Fields in 2014 US Open

Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic

*As of today, Monday, August 25, the world’s most attended sporting event (1 million fans expected this year) has officially begun. The top tennis players in the world from both the ATP and WTA tours, 128 total from each organization, have all ascended on New York City to fight and scrap for arguably the most rewarding prize of the tennis season, the 2014 US Open trophy.

The US Open, the last of the four annual Grand Slams, is held at the Billie Jean King Tennis center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and is considered by many of the players as the most challenging to win. The fans are rowdy and obtrusively passionate, planes continually fly overhead disrupting concentration, and the weather is wholly unpredictable – from intense heat to intermittent rain, making for a tumultuous road to the finish line.

Only the strong survive.

And speaking of strong, leading the field on the women’s side as the number one seed, defending champion and 2014 United Emirates US open series winner is Serena Williams. The 17-time Grand Slam champion’s resume’ speaks for itself, but on her way to amassing that impressive number of Slam wins, she’s conquered New York five times. She’ll open this year’s bid against fellow American Taylor Townsend, a former US Open junior champion whose expected to be among the WTA elite in the future.

Serena Williams is coming into the week riding a wave of momentum. After a disappointing year of Slam performances thus far and a zany 2014 Wimbledon bid, she turned things around by winning “Road to the US Open” tune-up titles in Stanford and Cincinnati and by reaching the semifinals in Montreal before being taken out by her surging sister, Venus Williams. Her recent turn in fortunes also earned her a chance to win an additional $1 million in prize money if she’s the last woman standing at the end of these next two grueling weeks.

Click here for the complete listing of WTA contenders and draw.

On the men’s side, in the absence of last year’s champion and world no. 2, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic will lead the field as the current ATP world no. 1 and the tournament’s no. 1 seed. Djokovic currently owns a single US open title and is looking to claim no. 2 to cap off a topsy turvy season that has some questioning his resolve. He’ll open the 2014 US Open against Argentinian, Diego Schwartzman to begin proving one way or the other.

Novak Djokovic’s fortunes haven’t been so great in 2014, coming into the week having been bounced early in his most recent tournament, leaving him very little match-play preparation for this last push of the season in terms of Grand  Slams. In his favor, however, is his ability to grind his way to Slam finals despite performance otherwise and the fact that the man he’d typically meet on the other side of the net of a final, Rafael Nadal, is out nursing a wrist injury he sustained during practice. As a result, Novak becomes this year’s favorite by default.

Click here for the complete listing of ATP contenders and draw.

There are a number of dark horses, sleepers and “favorite adjacents” on both the men’s and women’s sides, including Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard, Simona Halep, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Milos Raonic, Stan Warwrinka, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Grigor Dmitrov etc, who all have their compelling narratives, but most bets are on the number one seeds on both sides.

Keep up with the Soul of the US Open as the tournament progresses to see who actually wins and to get answers to the scintillating questions of:

*Can Serena Williams salvage her Slamless 2014 season and take home the big prize in New York to finally make a legend-matching 18 slams?
*Will a lines person or chair umpire rub Serena the wrong way and cause a New York meltdown as has happened on two occasions before?
*Will Novak Djokovic’s new wife and baby steal his concentration and stall him at just one Slam this year?
*Will Venus Williams clinch one more Grand Slam before retiring or will father time, Sjogren’s or both keep her talents at bay?
*What fashion statements will be made by the Williams sisters and others who are known to shock with their tennis fashions?
*Will the tournament reach the anticipated and unprecedented crowd attendance number of 1 million fans?
*Will Sloane Stephens break her recent performance drought and live up to expectations?
*Will Donald Young break HIS performance drought and go deep in the tournament?
*Will any of the young US hopefuls on the women’s side finally breakthrough at this year’s US Open?

and more…

Check your local listings for tournament play or click here for scheduling information.

serena & venus

Venus Williams Flips Script in Sister Rivalry: Takes Down Serena in Montreal

serena & venus

*Venus Williams has just claimed the biggest scalp on in women’s tennis by taking down her sister in Montreal.

On Saturday in a Rogers Cup semifinal, Venus played not only her little sister, but the WTA’s current world no. 1 and the tournament’s defending champion, Serena Williams, winning the match in three hard fought sets at 6-7,6-2,6-3.

It was a thoroughly entertaining match that could’ve gone either way.

Serena was her big-serving self, firing down 19 aces to keep her afloat during the match, but Venus’s usually erratic serve remained reliable throughout, producing six aces of her own and seven fewer double faults than Serena. Venus dictated play during the match with bludgeoning ground strokes and great shot making, keeping Serena on her heels. Though Serena took the first set by dominating in a tiebreaker, she was unable to sink her teeth in the last two, becoming visibly frustrated by the turn of events as she’s been known to do.

Venus being the eldest of the two (who are already outside the age bracket for the best results in tennis) and battling an energy depleting disease (Sjogren’s), many thought the 7-time Slam winner would run out of gas against her younger sister … but not so. Those factors didn’t matter and neither did the fact that she played two grueling 3-setters on consecutive days (Angelique Kerber and Carla Suarez Navarro) to arrive in the semis. She dug into her obviously deep reserves and found the will to beat her Serena for the first time in 5 years, only dropping serve once.

Contrary to past critiques of matches between the two, the 2-hour match lacked no quality. Both Williams sisters were firing on all cylinders, but Venus, currently ranked at world no. 26 (20 after the win), was simply a little bit better. The unforced errors to winners ratio, net points won and serving percentages were good for both, but Venus’s stats trumped Serena’s just enough to pull off the upset.

After an across-the-net-hug, Serena Williams will now set off to compete in Cincinnati in a mandatory joint WTA and ATP tournament (with Venus to follow after her final on Sunday) which is the next step on the road to the upcoming US Open. For Venus, the big win now firmly places her in the conversation of possible favorites in New York major, which starts at the end of the month.

Venus Williams has come a long way from not being able to string together consecutive wins to reach the business end of tournaments and with each win against a top ten player she not only validates her chances to win another major, but also inspires fans and foes with her ability to beat the odds.

She’ll meet either Poland’s Agniezska Radwanska or Germany’s Ekaterina Makarova in Sunday’s final.

flavor flav,flavor flav might get indicted,speeding & driving without license

KeKe Wyatt Stars in New Stage Play ‘In God’s Hands’

Keke Wyatt poses with movie poster
(Atlanta, GA) – Platinum-selling recording artist and R&B Diva KeKe Wyatt took Atlanta by storm yesterday as she promoted In God’s Hands, a new stage play written and directed by Alvin Moore, Jr. and produced by One Village Entertainment and Swirl Films. In God’s Hands will be available on DVD (Amazon) and digital download (iTunes) on July 15.
Throughout the day, Keke participated in interviews with key media outlets including Fox 5’s “Good Day Atlanta,” Radio One’s Praise 102.5, 11 Alive’s “ATL & CO” and CBS Radio’s V103 and WAOK. 
 
The highlight of the day was an exclusive meet and greet at Twelve Hotel in Atlantic Station where local and national press were invited to speak with Keke about her involvement in the play. Attending press included Britt Middleton (BET.com), Dea Winfrey (Freddy-O.com), Kia Kellibrew (Sister 2 Sister), Gerald Radford (EURweb.com), Kim G (Jubilee Magazine), Yvette Caslin (Rolling Out) and many more.
 

Keke Wyatt with Nina Henderson Moore, President of RLJ Entertainment – Urban

Keke Wyatt with Nina Henderson Moore, President of RLJ Entertainment – Urban

To kick things off for the meet and greet, Nina Henderson Moore, President of RLJ Entertainment – Urban, provided remarks about the RLJ brand, the importance of urban films in today’s culture as well as RLJ’s plans for current and future digital initiatives. Nina also introduced KeKe and stated how inspiring she is to women and how excited she is to have her as part of In God’s Hands.
 
After the introduction, KeKe participated in a very candid Q&A and kept everyone laughing with her special brand of humor. During the discussion, she shared her thoughts on her involvement in the production of In God’s Hands, how she relates to her character ‘Angie,” and important themes she hopes people take away from watching. She also talked about her career as a music artist and a reality TV star and concluded by sharing inspiring words for women looking to be a part of the entertainment industry.  
 
After the Q&A, Keke took photos with guests and autographed copies of the In God’s Hands DVD. The play features an ensemble cast including Tommy Ford (“Martin,” ”The Parkers”), Omar Gooding (“Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” ”Playmakers”) and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams (“Prison Break,” ”Real Husbands of Hollywood”).
 
In God’s Hands will be available for digital download and on DVD at Amazon, Watch Image and iTunes on July 15.
jermaine dupri - award

Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo & Mike Will Honored with 2014 ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards (Photos)

jermaine mike ne-yo

*Los Angeles, CA – The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) hosted its 27th annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards on Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, CA.

The invitation-only event honored music producer and mogul Jermaine Dupri, singer-songwriter and producer Ne-Yo, and hit music maker Mike WiLL along with honoring the songwriters and publishers of the most performed ASCAP songs on the 2013 R&B/hip-hop, rap and gospel charts.

During the ceremony, Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist, songwriter and producer Jermaine Dupri was presented with the prestigious ASCAP Founders Award by ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams, along with surprise guests Usher and Bow Wow, and ASCAP VP of Rhythm & Soul/Urban Music Nicole George-Middleton. The award is among the most prestigious honors that ASCAP gives, and is awarded to songwriters and composers who have made pioneering contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their fellow music creators. Each recipient is a musical innovator who possesses a unique style of creative genius that will enrich generations to come. Past recipients include Ashford & Simpson, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Dr. Dre, Berry Gordy Jr. & Motown Industries, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Patti Smith, Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder.

Prolific songwriter-producer Ne-Yo was awarded the ASCAP Golden Note Award by Nicole George-Middleton. This award is presented to songwriters, composers and artists who have achieved extraordinary career milestones. Previous honorees include Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Jay Z, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, Lionel Richie, Usher, Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder.

The Songwriter of the Year Award went to hit maker Mike WiLL, who has amassed great success through the numerous top 10 hits he’s written including “Bandz a Make Her Dance” for Juicy J, “Pour It Up” for Rihanna, “Bugatti” for Ace Hood and “Body Party” for Ciara, to name a few.

Other winners include Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford “T.I.” Harris, who received the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song award for the hit “Blurred Lines;” Dion “NO ID” Wilson, Justin Timberlake, Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, Terius “The-Dream” Nash and Timbaland were awarded the Top Rap Song of the Year for “Holy Grail;” and Anthony Brown was honored with the Top Gospel Song Award for “Testimony.” The Publisher of the Year Award went to Warner/Chappell Music Inc.

The evening featured performances by Lecrae, Anthony Brown, Jekalyn Carr, Jennifer Hudson, Mario, Mike WiLL protégés Rae Sremmurd, a DJ battle between DJ Nabs and DJ SNS, and house band The Komposers. The Jermaine Dupri segment was also highlighted by surprise performances by Usher and Bow Wow. Other evening highlights included a fun-filled DJ Battle with DJ Nabs and DJ SNS as well as an interactive photo booth with BEATS Music.

Members of the press may download images here.

About ASCAP

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a professional membership organization of songwriters, composers and music publishers of every kind of music. ASCAP’s mission is to license and promote the music of its members and foreign affiliates, obtain fair compensation for the public performance of their works and to distribute the royalties that it collects based upon those performances. ASCAP members write the world’s best-loved music and ASCAP has pioneered the efficient licensing of that music to hundreds of thousands of enterprises who use it to add value to their business – from bars, restaurants and retail, to radio, TV and cable, to Internet, mobile services and more. The ASCAP license offers an efficient solution for businesses to legally perform ASCAP music while respecting the right of songwriters and composers to be paid fairly. With 500,000 members representing more than 9 million copyrighted works, ASCAP is the worldwide leader in performance royalties, service and advocacy for songwriters and composers, and the only American performing rights organization (PRO) owned and governed by its writer and publisher members. www.ascap.com

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