• 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.

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  • 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.”

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  • Ray Stubblebine/AP

    MAFIA MEETS TENNIS?

    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
  • Serena Williams apologized after landing in hot water over comments she made about the Steubenville rape case. (Michel Spingler/AP, Michel Spingler)

    In Trouble

    Understanding Serena

    Williams’s comments reveal something important about her tough worldview.

    Years ago, during the first of my many interviews with Venus and Serena Williams, I was immediately struck by the obvious personality differences between the two sisters.

    Venus was the quiet one: pensive and observant of everything around her. Serena, on the other hand, was the quintessential youngest child: free-spirited, kind, uninhibited, and prone to do or say just about anything to anyone at any time.

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  • Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Sport (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images Sport)

    French Open

    Serena Gets A New Coach

    Tennis great Serena Williams looks better than ever heading into final against Maria Sharapova.

    Serena Williams, who will play Maria Sharapova on Saturday for her first French Open title since 2002, has embraced the French life as much as possible. She has recently bought an apartment in Paris, has taken painting classes and, perhaps most importantly, has gotten a new French coach. Patrick Mouratoglou has helped Serena to improve her focus, movement balance and overall game. According to Fed Cup coach Mary Joe Fernandez, Mouratoglou has had “a very calming influence on her. His demeanor is just very down to earth. She has said how she gets anxious sometimes and has to tell herself to relax at times. I think she’s much more calm when she plays now.” Serena is not showing any sign of slowing down soon, as her crushing of Sara Errani showed yesterday, a match that ended in just 46 minutes and ended in Errani getting only one game from Serena.

    Read it at ESPN
  • KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

    Independence

    Fêting The Ladies Of Tennis

    It's been 40 years since women demanded equality in tennis—and now they're dominating the French Open.

    For some Americans, it seems like just yesterday that Billie Jean King and the dozen or more women rebelled against tournament organizers in 1973 to form their own international tour, initially financed by a tobacco company. In that era, women still received far less prize money than men did. Equality only began to emerge in recent years. At the same time, paychecks have grown enormously for the top players. Downstairs after her loss to Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka said “It’s an incredible thing, what happened 40 years ago to start something from scratch and to look where we are today, you know, with one of the biggest women’s sports in the world.”

    Read it at The New York Times
  • Azarenka after Open win on Satuday. (Andy Wong/AP)

    GAME OVER

    Azarenka Defends Australian Open Title

    Second Grand Slam for tennis pro.

    Victoria Azarenka, the Belarusian tennis player and current world champ, defended her Australian Open title (along with her number-one status) on Saturday against popular Chinese player Li Na. Coming back from a poor opening set, Azarenka eventually beat Li 4-6 6-4 6-3, giving Azarenka her second Grand Slam title. Li, the French open champion, twice rolled her ankle during the match, as well as hitting her head after two falls.

    Read it at BBC
  • Williams reacts during match with Sloane. (William West/AFP/Getty)

    SHOCKER

    Serena Williams Out at Australian Open

    Loses to 19-year-old Sloane Stephens.

    Is this the changing of the guard in tennis? Sloane Stephens, 19, won an upset victory against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at the Australian open on Wednesday. Williams won the first set 6–3, but Stephens came back to dominate the second set 7–5 before capping off the match with a 6–4 victory. Williams said she suffered a back injury at a point close to the net, but the match overall proved frustrating—causing her to take out her anger on her racket, which she broke when she slammed it down during the second set. On Tuesday, Williams and sister Venus lost in the doubles quarterfinals.

    Read it at The Daily Beast
  • Sloane Stephens of the United States of America plays a backhand in her fourth round match against Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia during day eight of the 2013 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty)

    GIRL POWER

    The New Serena? Not Quite

    Sloane Stephens might be African-American and a future champ in tennis, but that doesn’t mean she’s Serena Williams 2.0, writes Nicholas McCarvel.

    The day before the biggest match of her young tennis career, 19-year-old Sloane Stephens made her way to a hot dog stand on the grounds of the Australian Open, holding a tennis ball with her named signed on it.

    “Hey all! I’m hiding this ball on-site at the @AustralianOpen,” she tweeted, attaching a photo of her grinning along with the signed ball. “Find it & win 2 box tix 2 my match 2mrw. Clue to come.”

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