All posts by garadf

serena williams

Serena Successfully Defends WTA Championships Title

serena williams*Serena Williams, 32, just punctuated a career-best season by successfully defending her title at the 2013 WTA Year End Championships in Istanbul.

It was the first title defense at the tournament since 2007, when Belgian Justine Henin accomplished the feat.

The oldest women to ever do so, Serena won the title, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, convincingly shutting the door on new world no. 3, Li Na of China.   Li had made it through all four stages of round robin play during the tournament without dropping a set and it looked as if she were well on her way to win the title for the first time by doing the same … until Serena Williams flipped her notorious “kill” switch.

The world no. 1 and favorite to win the tournament going in had a dominant road in the first few stages of the tournament, defeating Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Petra Kvitova quite convincingly, but prior to her semifinal match against Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic, she says “she hit a wall” in her hotel room.  Serena says she was overcome by fatigue that carried over into that match – which a resurgent Jankovic started out capitalizing on – but still found a way to win it.  Whether she’s bringing her A game or only her C game, Serena knows how to escape the jaws of defeat in miraculous fashion and she narrowly defeated the annoyed Serbian, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, who after the match questioned Serena’s on-court sportsmanship.  “When she’s up, she never does that [serving slow and emotional outbursts], the former world no. 1 told reporters.  “You have to practice good sportsmanship…”

No matter how bizarre the win, it earned Williams a spot in the final.

It’s rare that the active WTA title leader and 17-time Grand Slam champion has more than one successive bad day at the office, but her uninspired play seemed to carry over into today’s final against the surging Li (reached a season goal of becoming world no. 3).  Serena’s footwork was off and her power was muted compared to her normal on-court performance, leaving the door open for Li to impose her game.   The Asian came out ready to play and started the match taking Serena to the woodshed.  Li’s first serve percentage was off, but her groundstrokes, net play and mobility were all enough to win her the first set – the first she’s taken off Serena in a while, 6-2.  However, during the changeover, Serena braided her now signature windsock ponytail, and began her comeback campaign.

She started the second set with two holds – after being broken twice in the first – and a break of Li’s serve, going up 3-0.  Li, however, was no pushover and clawed her way back and leveled it at 3 all.  Serena served again and held, going up 4-3, then secured another break to go up 5-3.  After a drawn out back and forth battle at set point and deuce, Serena finally served it out at 6-3.

The shift in momentum took the wind out of the persistent Asian’s sails, which set the stage for a fully engaged and dominant performance from the defending champion, Serena.

Long story short, Li Na wasn’t able to win a game in the final set of the match (reminiscent of Serena against Maria Sharapova in Miami this year).  Serena was cranking on all gears and Li’s previously effective game plan completely evaporated.  It didn’t take very long at all for Serena to serve up her final smoking bagel of 2013, punctuating a 78-4 match season, successfully reclaiming the championship title – her 11th in 2013, and taking the throne as the top dog in active women’s tennis in 2013 and period.  The final score line, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Her performance during the final tournament of the year earned Serena record prize money, $12.3 million, for a single season for any female athlete.   What a way to close out a year … and the records continue being broken.

love peace and soul (book cover)

‘Love, Peace and Soul’: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show ‘Soul Train’

love peace and soul (book cover)*”Love, Peace and Soul” author Ericka Blount Danois has always had an affinity for now-deceased entrepreneur Don Cornelius’ ‘Soul Train,’ but she certainly wasn’t alone.

Soul Train, “The Hippest Trip in America,” was the first television show featuring and even celebrating black music and culture. It began from very humble beginnings – airing weekdays only on WCIU-TV in Chicago, but with Cornelius’ vision and business savvy went on to become a nationally syndicated institution beloved by the entire spectrum of racial diversity.  The show was hosted by the ultra-cool Cornelius himself from its start through 1993, then sought to become and even “hipper trip” by bringing on younger hosts (Shemar Moore, Dorian Gregory, Mystro Gregory and others) to freshen up its image. From the opening credits to the famous scramble board, the culture-defining memories that are held regarding the show are nearly incomparable.

Soul Train not only showcased the breadth of musical talent that exists within the black community through featuring fledgling and established R&B acts – and a few blue-eyed honoraries to boot, but it also featured an intriguing revolving cast of talented dancers, some of whom are still remembered today and went on to achieve greater success (Jody Watley, Jeffrey Daniel, “the Asian lady” Cheryl Song …).  Anybody who was or wanted to be anybody – from Gladys Knight to Elton John – wanted to be part of the black entertainment juggernaut.  The show almost instantly made being black cool, amassing rabidly devoted fans who propelled it to becoming “the longest running first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history.”  It aired from 1971 to 2006 and also spawned shows such as The Lady of Soul Awards, The Soul Train Awards (still airing today) and just recently the brand to the sea as the Soul Train Cruise, featuring some of the artists that contributed to it’s greatness.

ericka blount

Ericka Blount Danois

Danois’ love for Soul Train and awareness that she was obviously joined by millions of other die-hard fans compelled her do her part in preserving and celebrating its legacy.  She went to work writing the recently released book, Love, Peace and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments  (now available thru Amazon and other book stores), to keep Cornelius’ inspiring legacy alive and churned out a compelling labor of love.

This brief intro only scratches the surface of what made Soul Train great, but Danois digs way beneath the surface to revisit widely known moments about the show and to reveal some not so known.  At an event celebrating the release of the book in Brooklyn, New York, Danois gave a personal account of why she wrote the book, what it’s about and whose input she sought to flesh it out.  She stopped short of dancing, but also shared some of her favorite Soul Train moments.

Mara Brock Akil, Bevy Smith, Woody Wilson, Carmen Murray

Lincoln, Uptown Mag Tap Industry Luminaries to Inspire through ‘The Journey’ Series

Lincoln Uptown Journey Series: LA Kick-Off Event*Information on how to achieve success is floating around everywhere, but considering the source is the wisest starting point when determining whether to take or leave what you hear.

In that vein, it is always better to receive wisdom from those who have not only talked the talk, but who have also successfully walked the walk … and the Lincoln company and Uptown magazine have set the stage for an exchange that absolutely meets that criteria.

Through their recently conceived four-city “The Journey” series, Lincoln has identified several different arenas that would likely be of interest to consumers who align with its product offerings, specifically the new MKZ premium midsize sedan.   Within those arenas (Arts, Sports, Music, Theater, etc), recognizable luminaries from each were commissioned  to not only talk about the inspiring success they’ve achieved, but also – and more usefully – to talk about the obstacles they encountered along the way.  Emphasis was placed on the obstacles because – similar to the fascinating journey of the Lincoln brand, typically, it’s the perseverance and overcoming of those obstacles that produces the most savory and lasting triumphs.

2013 Lincoln MKZ

2013 Lincoln MKZ

Lincoln wanted to indirectly share its ongoing story of overcoming challenges and reintroduce itself as a long-standing luxury automotive brand, while using the panel experience to enhance the lives of tastemakers and urban professionals who took time out to support it:

“We didn’t want to just have an event and put the new MKZ in the middle of the room so people could just look at it,” said Lincoln executive, Jose Ortiz.  “We wanted to create an environment of exchange, where those in attendance could truly take something away from the experience, something life changing.”

Mara Brock Akil, Bevy Smith, Woody Wilson, Carmen Murray

From left, producer Mara Brock Akil, moderator Bevy Smith, fashion designer Woody Wilson and Television & Music Executive Carmen Murray attend the Lincoln Uptown Journey Series: LA Kick-Off Event, on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Invision for Ford Motor Company /AP Images)

In the first installment of the Journey series, held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, screenwriter/producer, Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, The Game), fashion designer, Woody Wilson (Arsenio Hall, Diddy), and music executive Carmen Murray (Melanie Fiona) all participated in an extremely informative panel discussion hosted by lifestyle maven and TV personality, Bevy Smith (Fashion Queens).  Guided by the provocative and humorous Smith, the panelists were refreshingly candid about their pre-success struggles and kept the attendees on the edge of their seats with exciting stories about how they became industry leaders and turned their long-shot dreams real-life dilemmas into enviable careers.

Though many valuable words were spoken during the discussion, here are some of the most compelling takeaways from each success story that could get you over the hump of turning your dreams – no matter how difficult – to reality:

Carmen Murray: 

Starting Point: hailing from Oakland, CA, Carmen was working a local job, when a random guy told her she didn’t belong.

“He said ‘I see you come in here and work, day in and day out and you need to leave.’ I wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but I discussed it with my mom and she said, you know, you should.  And I wasn’t one of those people who knew exactly what they wanted to do, but I tried a lot of things.  I did well at some of it, but at some of it I was horrible, but it was OK, because it was part of it.  So, I went to my mom and told her I was leaving and she gave me money, $350, and I drove to LA with a Kodak picture, and I said you know what, I’m here and I’m gonna audition, no agent, no manager or nothing, I just knew I needed to eat the next day. So, I knew I wasn’t as talented, but I knew that I didn’t have a choice and that was the difference and it all started to happen for me from there.”

Obstacle: not being respected as a female music executive.

Solution: purchased the rights to song, It Kills Me, performed by Melanie Fiona, that no one in the music industry would hear, and it went on to become a resounding hit, nominated for a Grammy.  It was that instinctive move that earned her respect as a bonafide music executive.

How long it took for her to realize what she considered success: 10 years

Woody Wilson:

Starting Point:  “I was at a crossroads. I grew up in Columbia, Maryland and all my friends’ parents were in Corporate America, attorneys and lawyers and professional folks, so that’s all I knew.  So, I went to college and graduated with a business degree and joined Corporate America, too.  I had a lot of success, moved around the country, Delaware, Boston, Chicago, Houston and came out to Los Angeles, but I was confronted at the time where my next promotion would place me somewhere else, outside of California. But there was a guy who I was sitting across from who was my boss and he determined my future … and he didn’t like me … and at the time, the results of our meeting resulted in me looking at him thinking, should I choke him or just punch him? At that very moment I knew that I could no longer work for him, so I had to really look within myself to figure out what I really wanted to do, because I had dedicated so much time and energy to Corporate America and climbing the corporate ladder …

Obstacle:  making the career change from Corporate America to what became his passion, working the fashion industry, but with no experience and not being taken seriously.

Solution: so, what I did was take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the center and wrote out my strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes … I was true to myself and fashion jumped off the page.  So, I said how in the world am I gonna do this?  So, I prayed on it, contemplated … more prayer and I shared it with my friends [networking is essential] and one of them introduced me to his partner [in fashion] and I fell in love with the business.  We went to Las Vegas and outfitted Don King, Mike Tyson … I knew it was what I wanted to do. You don’t want to grow up doing a job that you hate, because you won’t be successful at it.

How long it took to realize what he considered success: 13 years

Mara Brock Akil:

Starting Point:  “I often tell people don’t criticize children for talking to themselves, because you should recognize that as writing, as imagining, it was my first expression.  When I hit the wave of writing … writing is like sitting in the ocean and you catch a little wave and it’s enough to keep you sitting in the ocean waiting, but when you ride that big wave, it is a high unlike any other.  I really didn’t need a bunch of playmates, because where I was is where it was at.  I’m thankful to my mother who didn’t thwart that and I think it’s very important as adults to see that spark in a child.  So that’s mine and it carried me to know that writing was definitely my path, but at the time careers in journalism were for you to be a journalist and most people assumed that I wanted to be a broadcaster.  They thought “you’re pretty and you should be on TV.”  I stutter, I mess up words a lot … I’m getting better at these things but they make me really want to vomit.  I don’t want to be in a career that makes me want to vomit everyday, so I thought I’d be a print journalist and be a novelist. [I was] the product of a single mother and being raised by my grandmother and my aunt, strong women around me, so I just wanted the best for myself at all times, and I knew that very on in my life, so I wanted to be a journalist and I looked up the best journalism schools and at the time, Northwestern was it for me.  I only applied to Northwestern and I got in and somewhere along the line (my relationship with God was established very early on in my life), I just believed and so I got in.  I loved my experience.  I was very aware that this was a major university and I made it there and all that stuff but the interesting thing was I did not become a real student until I got into the screenwriting class … I was a senior.  I was always on time, the assignments, I read them twice, I couldn’t stop … we had the choice of writing a treatment of a half hour or an hour … I wanted the hour.  I was in love.  I fell in love with it just like I love my husband.

Obstacle: Once she received her big break and sold a show, she had to work under the thumb of controlling executive producers of the show she created, but she wanted to control her own destiny and get paid what she was worth.

Solution:  In the third season of Girlfriends, she nervously, but resolutely confronted a major studio head with her demands and was willing to walk away from that show – her own show, if she wasn’t given the control and money that she wanted.  After prayer and much courage, her demands were met and the rest is history.

How long it took to realize what she considered success: 8 years

Take heed and be inspired! Lincoln Uptown “The Journey” will soon pass through a city near you.  To learn more, checkout the #lincolnjourney conversation on Twitter or visit uptownmagazine.com.

serena williams

Serena Overcomes Wind, Nerves, Azarenka to Nab 17th Grand Slam

serena-williams*The 2013 Us Open women’s trophy has been claimed … and the rightful owner is Serena Williams.

Now adding a 17th title to her trophy case, Serena did something, well many things that either she’s never done or hasn’t been done before at all (not exhaustive).

– She had never defended a US Open title but has now checked that off.
– She received the largest one-time payout in the history of the sport, at $3.6 million in prize money.
– She lost the fewest games of any US Open winner’s campaign
– She has come the closest than any other active woman has or likely ever will come to matching the records of all time greats like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
– She has matched Roger Federer’s record 17 Slams on the men’s side

All those feats by the world no. 1 taken together, plus those not mentioned, have convinced many that she is the official GOAT (greatest of all time).  The holdouts that are left are shy about assigning her the title because she has at the very least, one and at the most eight more Slam titles to go before she matches are breaks Slam records set by “the greats” of yesterday when things were a little different.

Never the less, she is on a mission and continues defying the odds.

At a very ripe age of 31-years-old, Serena Williams seems to be playing the best tennis she’s ever played – taken with a grain of salt, because she had already won double digit Slams before finding this new form.   Since she’s returned from a medical challenge that almost claimed her life a couple of years ago, she has been on a baffling ascension to untouchable status, defying the odds of your average tennis player.

In tennis, the players seem to age in a way similar to dog years, because 30 is typically the “I still play because I love it, but I’m not what I used to be” zone.  31 is simply considered “old.”  Look at Roger Federer.  At 32, for the first time in his elite career, he wasn’t able to reach a single Slam final this year.  He went from winning Wimbledon last year to now being beaten by virtual amateurs as compared to his usual level of play.

So, while Roger Federer is now considered aging and his game diminished, Serena has just – with two occurring this year (French Open, US Open), along with seven other tour titles – met his career best of 17 Grand Slams and did it in the most devastating of ways.  She served up 5 bagels (0s) and 4 breadsticks (1s), all straight sets wins but one, with a draw that contained surging American hope, Sloane Stephens, two former Grand Slam champions, Li Na and Francesca Schiavone, and a tenacious 24-year-old world no. 2 and holder of two Grand Slam titles herself, Victoria Azarenka … a stunning performance to say the least.

The latter of those opponents in the no. 1 seeded Williams’ US Open draw is who she had to take down in Sunday’s 2013 US Open women’s final.  And as it has been over the last year between the two talented women, the match was one to remember.

With a 3:30 pm start time following the fanfare of Ne-Yo performing America the Beautiful as a massive American flag was unfurled by soldiers of the US Armed Forces, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and an unexpected opponent took to center court in Ashe Stadium to play for this year’s US Open title.

Who was the third opponent, you ask?  The wind.

The configuration of Ashe is such that its bowl like structure seems to attract and capture swirling wind, wreaking havoc on the the well-intentioned shots of all who take to it to play.  And it did just that to both opponents who were already riddled with nerves due to the magnitude of Sunday’s occasion: Azarenka was trying to avenge her devastating championship match loss to Serena during last year’s US Open where she had served for the match and Serena was attempting to take another step toward matching the records of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, 18 Slams, along with attempting to earn the largest one-time payout in the history of the sport, $3.6 million.

But mother nature hasn’t been known to show any sympathy, so the conditions were as they were.

The swirling wind, fiercely blowing the American flag flying above the stadium, caused two immediate breaks of serves.  Victoria gave up her opening service game and Serena donated her directly afterwards. The scoreline was 1-1.   After giving the break right back, Serena was seen on the monitor extending her arms toward her box and frustratingly mouthing,  “I can’t play in this wind!”

But the match went on.

Serena’s usually devastating serve had very little power on it, her groundstrokes were hit or miss in finding their intended targets and her footwork was surprisingly flat (given her dominating tournament statistics) as the two successfully battled to hold their service games and advance to the business end of the first set.  Vika seemed to be more in control of the match and the wind, but as usual, the switch that the then-16-time-Slam-champion, Serena, seems to have at her disposal was then flipped and she broke Azarenka’s serve just when it counted, at 6-5, Serena.  With the break, she took the first set 7-5.

And with a set to the good, the confidence of Williams began to take over.

As the ladies returned from the in-between-sets break, Serena came out firing.  She had sharpened up her game from the ground, her serve velocity went up dramatically and after trading service holds with her now-fading opponent, Serena cranked it up another gear and got the early break to go up 3-1.  She was cruising at that point, headed for a sure straight sets finish, including grabbing a second “insurance break” at 3-1 to give herself room for mistakes.

With the second break, Serena went up 4-1, but that’s when things got a little tricky.

That insurance policy she took out had to be cashed in immediately, because Azarenka began to scrap and go for broke – aided by loose play from Serena – and she got one of the breaks of serve back.  It was then 4-2, but Serena wasn’t fretting much, because she had found her ground game form and used it to negate the burgeoning loss of confidence on her serve.  She held and went up 5-2.

The energy inside Ashe at that point was on full tilt, because the crowd – having been boisterously backing Serena from the time the players were called to the court – could almost taste their “Queen of New York” hoisting 2013 US Open trophy, defending her title and edging closer to making history.   And Serena could taste it too … but to ill affect.

Inspired “all or nothing” play from Azarenka and nervous unforced errors by the defending champion, likely due to what was as stake, allowed Vika to hold for 5-3 and when Serena went to her usually “sure thing” serve to serve it out, she faltered … badly.  She lost the game on a double fault, something she rarely does.

Now it’s at 5-4 and Vika holds, coming up with powerful groundstrokes and near-perfect net play, troubling Serena into making more errors.  No worries, though, because there was no way the great, experienced Serena Williams was gonna drop serve twice in trying to close out a match, but … yep, she did.  5-5.

Then comes the hand, which deserves credit for many of Serena’s accomplishments over the recent years, because it’s her way of calming down and getting back to the task at hand.  When she extends her well-manicured hands, she finds the peace she needs to regain control.  Thus, she finally held serve again.  Now it’s  6-5.    But Vika was well aware of the momentum shift and was buoyed by it to level it at 6 all.

Then come the tiebreaker.

Vika started out by narrowly avoiding the mini break and Serena followed by holding her two serves.  It was 2-1, Serena.  Vika, up to serve again, lost one of her serves, taking the score to 3-2, Serena. After a few more points and a cat fight, the Belarusian found herself serving for the set.  She dropped one chance, making the score 6-7, Vika, and evoking a signature “c’mon” roar from Serena as they changed ends, but was able to seal the deal off a careless return mistake by Williams.  The set was over and in deja vu-like fashion (2012 US Open and Cincinnati), Vika had fought back from being down 4-1 to level the match at a set a piece.

Serena was devastated and the fans were in shock and disbelief.  She motioned as if she were going to smash her racquet into the court as she walked toward her chair, but chose to angrily toss it at it once she got there.  Good move, given her history in New York.

Time … play … set three begins.

The wind had become a non-factor by this point, because with more determination comes more power and that tends to equalize its effects.  So, on serve first, Serena and her “steady hand” went back to work.  She had more game from the start, so it was her mind that failed her as opposed to her abilities, which “the hand” helped calm and refocus on the mission.

The devastating loss of those multiple opportunities seemed to free her up to just play tennis and in a zen-like fashion, and she all but eliminated the unforced errors and started taking it to Azarenka off the ground again.  She was using short angles, drop shots, lobs and her serve reached velocities that went as high as 125mph.  The Queen of New York was back and nothing was going to stop her from reaching the finish line this time.

Azarenka held serve just once starting out set three, but never won another game beyond that point. Her once efficient serve melted into double faults, pressured by Serena’s devastating returns.  Serena had righted the ship and she coasted to match point, taking the next 5 games for a 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 win over her once again devastated rival.

Serena bounded in the air multiple times with glee when the match ending shot from Azarenka went long, as she had conquered her nerves and the Belarusian to best herself, yet again.

It was a gut wrenching final, with both ladies bringing their best and giving all they had, but the predicted conclusion, Serena Williams defending her title in New York and walking away with R.E.S.P.E.C.T and an enormous cash prize came to pass.

“I gave it my all and left everything on the court,” Azarenka said, “but I was playing against the greatest of all time … and she deserves the win.”

Congratulations, Serena Williams, on a job well done and taking one more step toward being The GOAT of women’s tennis.

serena williams

Soul of the US Open: Serena Williams Remains to Defend Title

serena williams*It’s now down to the wire of the 2013 US Open.

With the second week of the tournament well underway in New York, the weak have been separated from the strong and the lucky from the unlucky.

And regardless of which of the two groups they’re repping, those who remain are so close to taking home the coveted US Open trophy and record prize money, they can almost taste it.

Left to scrap it out Friday in the upcoming semifinals on the women’s side are unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta, a surprise to all; no. 5 seed, China’s  Li Na; no. 2 seed, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus; and last but certainly not least, the no. 1 seeded American, Serena Williams.

Ready to duel to the finish on the men’s side are, nos. 8 and 9 seeds, Frenchman Richard Gasquet and Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka – both surprises; no. 1 seeded and world no. 1 Serbian, Novak Djokovic; and the no. 2 seeded tenacious Spaniard, Rafael Nadal.

Of those 8 men and women, two will rise above the rest to earn the honor of being named 2013 US Open champions.

Based on the results of the US Open series leading up to this point, the winners are predicted to be Serena Williams and Raphael Nadal.  Both accomplished athletes won the series on their respective tours (WTA and ATP ), earning enough tournament wins and points to set themselves up for record-setting payouts for two weeks of work – and I don’t use that term loosely, of 3.6 million dollars – if they win their championship matches.  There are formidable obstacles in their way, such as the Serena-solving Victoria Azarenka and  Li Na, whose playing lights out tennis lately, and as for Nadal, Novak Djokovic, who has something to prove.   Most betting folks, though, have their money on the American and the Spaniard.

Joining the usual suspects, Serena and Azarenka, world nos. 1 and 2 respectively, Li Na’s  was somewhat expected to go deep in the tournament; she’s been playing very well.  The unseeded Pennetta, however,  wasn’t on anyone’s radar and has caught the tennis talking heads and fans completely by surprise (in other words, she’s the lucky one). Her results have been insignificant this season and to find herself at this stage of a Slam is pretty stunning … but she’ll take it, I’m sure.  On-paper deep-run favorites such as Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic leaving their games in the locker room, plus the sudden injury withdrawal of Maria Sharapova opened the door for an expected entrant like Pennetta to steal one of the semifinal slots.  Only God can get her past this point, though, as she has a losing record to those who stand in her way of winning her first Grand Slam.  She faces Azarenka in the first match held on Friday.

The ATP was poised to see all four of its top dogs, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer (with an asterisks due to a shaky series showing) make it through to the final rounds, but last minute upsets of Ferrer and Murray have altered that outcome.  Now, as it is with Pennetta, Gasquet and Wawrinka (also falling in the lucky group) are occupying those slots, praying to find the game to outlast the “two kings.”  Again, only God … Yeah, you know the rest.

And shouts out to the 30-something women that have displaced the youngsters at the US Open.   Li Na, Pennetta and Serena Williams are all 31 years old, which by conventional tennis wisdom, would have them out behind the BJK tennis center chewing on grass … But they’re here, competing for the grand prize.  Roger Federer, Tommy Haas, and Lleyton Hewitt, all over thirty, had chances to join the elder ladies, but tumbled out just before the semifinals stage.

venus and serena Also down to the wire are the men’s and women’s doubles championships.  Repping for the US, the record smashing Bryan twins were just ousted from the tournament in the quarters, en route to winning the only Grand Slam in the men’s doubles in 60 years, but Venus and Serena have quietly … well, sort of … crushed the number 1 seeds, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, 6-3, 6-1, earning a spot in the semis.  The win for the sisters was revenge for a loss the pair dealt them at the most recent Australian Open.  Venus and Serena don’t play doubles much, but when they do, they are obviously the team to beat.  Being lower ranked due to the lack play, they always end up as unseeded dangerous floaters who knock out the top teams earlier than usual and … oops, they did it again.

Catch Serena (taking on Li Na) in action in both singles and doubles on Friday beginning at 3:45pm Eastern.

serena williams (us open)

Soul of the US Open: Serena Williams Continues Campaign for 17th Major Title

serena  williams (us open)*Today (Tuesday, 09-03-13) at the US Open, inside a windy Arthur Ashe Stadium- where men’s world no. 1 Novak Djokovic had just annihilated his opponent 6-3, 6-0, 6-0, Serena Williams continued her campaign en route to winning a 17th Grand Slam title, putting her closer to being named the Official GOAT of the sport on the women’s side.

Tonight’s hurdle in the round of 16 is 25-year-old Spaniard, Carla Suarez Navarro, who only stands about 5’4″ tall, but has a world class one-handed backhand that has been known to trouble the average WTA player. But, if history is any indicator, Serena hasn’t lost even a set to a one-handed backhander since the 2010 Australian Open, when she ultimately defeated  the now-retired Belgian Justine Henin and she certainly isn’t the average tour player.

The defending  US Open champion started out the match with two aces, a deft net volley and won the game with a thumping forehand; 1-0.  Carla, who’s birthday it happens to be,  was able to take the first two points of her opening service game, but Serena quickly got her nose out in front with the next two points , taking the scoreline to 30-40, Serena. A netted forehand by Navarro earned williams the first break of the match; now the score is 2-0.

There’s been frighteningly efficient play, thus far, from Serena – wind a non-factor, except for wreaking havoc on her now-signature windsock ponytail.  A focused Serena is just proving too much to handle for the birthday girl; she can’t seem to find the time to set up enough to display her inferior, but impressive arsenal of clay court honed weapons.  To that point, the first five games have gone the world no. 1′s way.   The score is now 5-0.

There’s an eery silence on center court as Serena proceeds to the baseline to receive serve, possibly for the last time in the 1st set given her performance so far.  To the script, the forehand still proves too much to bear for the Spaniard, and the set draws to a close in just 19 minutes with Navarro earning just five points during the rout.

With no need to towel off between sets, Serena returns to the service line to open the second.  The wind decides to challenge her more than her opponent, sending a ball wide for 0-15, but she quickly adjusts with an ace, an unreturnable serve and a dropshot/lob/smash combo that Navarro had no chance at handling at 5’4″.   We’re now at 1-0, Serena.

On serve, Navarro does manage the first two points, but nets the third attempt, backed up from the baseline by Williams power … and the same goes for the fourth attempt;  30 all.  A brief rally evoked a challenge in favor of Navarro, taking it to 40-30, and she serves for her first game of the match … But  not a chance; she’s thwarted by an over hit forehand, now advantage Williams and she’s disappointingly broken again..

Serena easily holds serve in the next game, including sending a blistering forehand cross court, shutting Navarro out at 15 and taking the second set score to 3-0.

Carla is serving for 3-1, but was unable to earn even a point … 4-0, Serena.

The sweat is just beginning to form on Serena’s gear, but we’re 10 games in and well into the home stretch of the embarrassingly brief match.  After two rare errors, “the greatest serve in women’s tennis” bales Williams out and makes it 30 all.  A third error comes off Serena racquet and Navarro arrives at her first break point … but its quickly erased.  Error number four comes from Serena and we’re at deuce; an unexpected spot of drama to disrupt the mauling. Another break point is earned by Navarro, but Serena’s doubles enhanced net play takes it back to deuce and a brief rally ensues. A forehand down the line gives Williams the advantage and she closes the game out with a backhand winner. We’re now at one set and 5-0, just 49 minutes in.

Carla now serves to stay in the match.  She earns the first point, but a protracted rally that ends in Serena’s favor makes it 15 all.  A double fault and a netted forehand brings up match point. She saves one … nets the first serve then has her second serve shoved down her throat to end the agony.

Happy Birthday, Carla, you’ve just been served two birthday bagels, courtesy of the great Serena Williams … enjoy!

It was a stunning display of skill, discipline and focus by Serena and she now moves on to the semis in just 52 minutes, with a 6-0, 6-0 score line.

“I’m just trying to do the best that I can and I’m so happy to have everyone’s support,” she said of the easy win.

She’ll next meet former French Open champion, Li Na, who is also playing lights out tennis and will likely present her with more of a challenge and she has a doubles date with her sister, Venus Williams, on Wednesday afternoon.