• Serena Williams of the U.S. walks on the court during her women's singles match against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 19, 2014. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

    Last Stand

    Serena & the Decline of American Tennis

    With no obvious successor in place, 32-year-old Serena Williams, the oldest woman to ever hold the No. 1 world ranking, is one of the lone links to America's past dominance.

    The parking lots are full, but there’s only a sparse crowd this afternoon in Center Court of the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, when the chair umpire of this Cincinnati Open semifinal calls time. Serena Williams, wearing a violet sleeveless top and black miniskirt, with a bright yellow headband over her flowing, highlighted hair, moseys to the right baseline, settles atop it, and begins to sway back and forth awaiting the first serve of the match.

    The tournament is one of the last hard-court warm-ups for the upcoming U.S. Open, the latter of which Williams is the back-to-back defending champ. Like many of her compatriots, she’s in the Cincinnati suburb prepping for the final Grand Slam of the season. In what has increasingly become the norm through the years no matter the event, however, Williams is the only American singles player, male or female, to advance beyond the round of 16.

  • Ned Dishman/Getty


    Women’s Sports Are Getting Less Airtime

    Thanks to Title IX, more American women are playing sports than ever before—so why is coverage of women’s sports actually declining?

    My son doesn’t think women can play sports. He’s five. Who taught him this?

    When I looked around to point the finger at the forces corrupting my child, I was surprised when my search led right back to us: We love to watch sports on TV. And on TV women athletes wear a cloak of invisibility.

  • Former professional football player Darren Sharper appears for his arraignment at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, California February 20, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

    The Law

    Darren Sharper’s Kobe Defense

    Claiming sex with accusers was consensual worked for other athletes, but the ex-football star may not be so lucky.

    Last week a Los Angeles County judge revoked the $1 million dollar bail that was tied to the release of Darren Sharper while he awaits trial on a slew of felony charges.  The charges against Sharper include two counts of rape by use of drugs, four counts of furnishing a controlled substance (morphine and zolpidem/Ambien) and one count of possession of a controlled substance. The revocation is a direct result of Sharper’s most recent criminal indictment. A grand jury in Arizona recently retuned an indictment on two counts of sexual assault and three counts of administering a dangerous drug, stemming from accusations of two women claiming they were offered drinks laced with sedatives and then raped by Sharper. Sharper, a former NFL Pro-Bowler and former on-air analyst for the NFL Network is currently under investigation for rape and other sexual assault charges in five states including California, Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada and Florida.

    The most troubling aspect of the allegations levied against Sharper is the consistent pattern that many of the alleged attacks follow. The victims in cases based in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Miami Beach, and Arizona all contend they were out partying with Sharper, invited back to his hotel room, then served a shot of a mysterious concoction resulting in them blacking out and waking up naked or in the midst of a sexual assault. Sharper asserts that all of the sex was consensual and even points to a previous sexual relationship with some of the victims.


    Sochi Sweetheart

    Gracie Gold Goes For…You Know

    She’s the adorably blond, red lipstick-wearing teen who may be America’s best chance at ending a drought in ladies figure skating.

    American figure skater Gracie Gold, ever the perfectionist as the discipline demands, at least looks the part along her desired path to prominence.

    Sitting at attention on stage in Park City, Utah, late last year, cross-legged in front of a group of reporters, the 18-year-old had a faultless smile and not a hair out of place among her blonde locks. Gold appeared as if she awoke wearing her perfectly applied red stiletto lipstick—sponsor CoverGirl, of course—which she also modeled via Twitter and Instagram after setting down at the Olympic Village. She maintained that focusing on the task at hand, medaling for at the winter games, won’t be a problem.

  • Mikaela Shiffrin of the US, reacts after winning the women's slalom FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, in Levi, Finnish Lapland , November 16, 2013. (Markku Ulander/AP)

    Sochi 2014

    The Next Lindsey Vonn?

    Move over, Lindsey Vonn—at just 18, skier Mikaela Shiffrin is generating massive buzz ahead of the 2014 Olympics in February, heading America’s strongest team in years.

    America’s next teen sports phenom is on the rise and her name is Mikaela Shiffrin. She’s not a tennis player, golfer, or figure skater; she’s an alpine ski racer. Remember ski racing? Although most Americans only blink at it every four years, Shiffrin’s been making leaps in the sport in the run up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, racking up wins on the World Cup circuit (aka the World Series of skiing) and taking titles from alpine aces 10 years her senior. In February, the then 17-year-old Shiffrin became the youngest woman in 39 years to win an alpine World Championship gold.

    Now, the Vail, Colorado native is poised to make the U.S. Alpine Olympic Team and compete in her first games in Sochi next February. While Shiffrin has a good chance of winning a medal and gaining American household recognition, she modestly claims that neither are her top goals for the impending Olympics; rather, she hopes to better her skill and raise the profile of her high-adrenaline sport.

  • Andrew H. Walker/Getty


    NFL Courts Female Audience

    Are rhinestoned jerseys and “fanicures” going to cut it?

    Seeking to grow its fan base, the NFL is reaching out to women—with a 16-page Marie Claire spread and a new women’s apparel line. But there’s a catch: while apparently well-intentioned, the project treats female fans as being fashion-conscious and needing their football pink, sparkly, and dumbed-down. Apparently female football fans are in high demand: former Patriots player Brian Holloway is working on a women’s football fan site called HerLeague.net, which The Cut says will be “a kind of user-generated xoJane for football.”

  • Serena Williams (R) of the United States and Andy Murray (L) of Great Britain are interviewed during the Draw Ceremony prior to the start of the 2013 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 22, 2013 in New York City. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

    Battle of the Sexes, Volume 2

    Serena vs. the Men

    Forty years after Billie Jean King’s ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match, the question returns: can an unstoppable force on the women’s side beat a man?

    “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6–0, 6–0, in 5 to 6 minutes,” Serena Williams told David Letterman on the Late Show last week. “I wouldn’t do Billie Jean any justice, so Andy, stop it. I’m not gonna let you kill me.”

    The No. 1–ranked women’s tennis player was responding to a challenge that Wimbledon champion Murray issued in June. Williams indicated that the debate over arguably the greatest female player of all time versus the men should remain exactly that—a debate. “Yeah, maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown,” Williams joked at Wimbledon. “I get alleys. He gets no serves. I get alleys on my serves, too. He gets no legs, yeah.”

  • Ray Stubblebine/AP


    King: Sexes Match Wasn’t Fixed

    ESPN reported that Riggs tanked match to settle debt.

    Was the historic 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match fixed? ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that a golf pro in Tampa heard the Mafia saying that Bobby Riggs was going to intentionally lose the match to settle a gambling debt. Billie Jean King, the famed female player who beat Riggs, issued a statement saying the story is ridiculous. “I was on the court with Bobby, and I know he was not tanking the match. I could see in his eyes and body language he wanted to win.”

    Read it at Sports Illustrated
  • ESPN

    Women in Sports News

    The Locker Room Trailblazers

    Chauvinism strikes out. Eleanor Clift on the female sports journalists in the ESPN doc ‘Let Them Wear Towels.’

    Sports was once the ultimate man’s world, and getting women sportswriters into the locker rooms of the major sports teams was one of the major battles in feminist history. Opponents said it would violate the players’ privacy, and the women seeking access were accused of being voyeurs.

    “I don’t know a reporter, male or female, who likes to go into a locker room,” says Betty Cuniberti, the first woman in the Dodgers press box. She says the locker room is “unsexy, smelly, sweaty, and awful … not a place you’d really want to go … but it’s part of the job; it’s where the stories are.”

  • Duane Burleson/AP


    NFL Names First Female Ref

    Will train at New Orleans Saints facility.

    There goes one more glass ceiling. The NFL has named its first-ever female referee. Sarah Thomas, a 40-year-old mother who has been officiating lower-level games since she was 23, began training at the New Orleans Saints facility on Thursday. In the past, she has refereed high school games and, since 2007, Conference USA games at the college level. She refereed a scrimmage for the team on Saturday and is expected to fill a permanent post in 2014. “I didn’t set out to be a first or a pioneer,” Thomas said, “but I will embrace it if that does happen.”



    Opening Up the Tour de France?

    Female cyclists petition for chance to race in 2014.

    Marianne Vos, an Olympic gold medalist, is one of many female cyclists who think that women should participate in the Tour de France. She helped launch an online petition encouraging French organizers of the Tour de France to allow women into the century-old race. In a letter to Tour Director Christian Prudhomme, they stated: “It is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too.” A Tour Feminin race was held a few years ago, but it lacked media coverage and sponsorship, according to the letter. The riders say that giving females the opportunity to ride “will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical ‘limitations’ placed on female athletes.” The question is, will men allow women to beat them at their own game?

  • Tony Barletta, of the Bronx's Pelham Panthers bocce team, makes a shot in New York's Little Italy Sunday, Oct. 13, 1996, during a city-wide bocce tournament. (Kathy Willens/AP)


    Men Debate Women’s Participation in Bocce

    While women dominate at the courts. Sorry, guys.

    Watch out, New Yorkers! There has been a dispute in Brooklyn over whether to admit women onto the bocce courts—apparently 2013 has been confused with 1913. For those who don't know what bocce is, it is similar to the game of British lawn bowling and the French game of pétanque, was played by the ancient Romans, and has a following wherever Italian migrants are settled. The courts are dominated by the elderly set, with most players past age 60. The men of the bocce courts have been up in arms about allowing women onto the courts. According to Maria Manzola, the wife of a club founder and a longtime member, when she showed up to play ball, "the big boys walked off the court, gave her the silent treatment, and offered no explanation."