December 15, 2017

Black Women Magic on display at US OPEN 2017; two Americans not named Williams take center court for the Finals

The US Tennis Association reaped its reward for all of its efforts in creating an environment for diversity in tennis. For the first time ever, four American women reached the semifinals and three of the four were Black women.

As the tournament advanced to the finals, for the first time ever, the US OPEN Women’s Final featured two American women whose last names were not Williams and, they were two Black women, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

Fresh off semifinal victories, Keys, and Stephens, who are friends off the court were ready to do battle. The 15th -seeded Keys was favored over Stephens who came to the tournament ranked at 957 but managed to move up to 83 on Monday.

However, seeding didn’t matter much for this match. Stephens who bested No. 9-seed and seven-time grand slam winner, Venus Williams 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 in two hours and seven minutes in the U.S. Open semifinals on Thursday, cruised to victory tonight and defeated her dear friend, Madison Keys, 6-3, 6-0 in 61 minutes.Sloane Stephens hugs her friend and competitor Madison Keys after beating Keys to win 2017 US OPEN Photo Credit Getty Images 682x503

Sloane Stephens hugs her friend, Madison Keys, after winning the 2017 US OPEN Women’s Final. Photo Credit: Getty Images

With winning the 2017 US OPEN Women’s Final, Stephens is now ranked No. 17.

USTA reaps rewards of Diversity and Inclusion as three of the four American women in US Open semifinals are Black women

With professional tennis player Serena Williams out on maternity leave, many thought that this year’s US OPEN would have a little less excitement. Nothing could be further from the truth. There was plenty of excitement on the women’s side. In the opening round, Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese, stunned the tennis world when she beat German player, Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 6-1. A serious upset for Kerber, as she is only the second U.S. Open women's champion in the Open Era to lose in the first round the following year who was ranked No. 1.

And then, no one saw this coming. For the first time since 1981 at the US OPEN, the final four in the Women’s Semifinals were all Americans, Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Coco Vandeweghe, and Sloane Stephens. In 1981, the final four American women included: Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Barbara Potter. Navratilova had just become a naturalized US citizen.

Seven-time grand slam winner, Williams was up against Stephens and 15th-seeded Keys was ready to battle it out with 20th-seeded Vandeweghe. Many tennis analysts and prognosticators expected a Venus Williams and Madison Keys final, but Sloane Stephens, who ranked 957 in early August, said not so fast.

In a gritty semi-finals match on Thursday, Stephens eked out a 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 win against Williams. Also on Thursday, the 15th-seeded Keys’ dominated No. 20 Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-2, leaving the US OPEN Women’s Final to feature two American women whose last names are not Williams.

Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal came up winners at the US OPEN; the Cavs and Celtics Kyrie Irving – Isaiah Thomas trade dissected, Brooklyn Nets sale news

In this 96th episode of What's The 411Sports, hosts Keisha Wilson and Mike McDonald, are talking about how Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal  slayed at the 2017 US OPEN, the Cavaliers, and Celtics trade of Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, Danny Ainge getting thrown under the bus, Roger Goodell and the NFL on Ezekiel Elliott and Josh Brown, Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett's arrest by the Las Vegas police, the proposed sale of the Brooklyn Nets, the NY Yankees, Carmelo Anthony's outlook with the NY Knicks and his wife La La Anthony. Our Photo of the Week is Jeremy Lin and Caris Levert in Taiwan.

WHAT’S POPPIN’

2017 US OPEN

Congratulations are due to professional tennis players Sloane Stephens and Rafael Nadal on their grand slam wins at the 2017 US OPEN. Stephens beat Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0, to win the Women’s Final. And, on the men’s side, Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, beat South Africa’s Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to win the men’s US OPEN FINAL.

Boston Celtics – Cleveland Cavaliers Trade

Kyrie Irving has left the building. Irving is now with the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 pick by way of the Boston Celtics, and a 2020 pick from Boston.

The Courts Give Ezekiel Elliot a Reprieve

The Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot can play for the Cowboys this season despite Roger Goodell handing down a six-game suspension to Elliot for domestic violence. The NFL Players Association took the NFL to court to get a Temporary Restraining Order over the process by which Goodell came to Elliot’s punishment, and won.

NFL Give Josh Brown a Six-Game Suspension

The NFL, after suspending former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown 1 Game for beating his wife, quietly suspended him for 6 games. The league reopened the investigation based on new info and has yet to release its findings. The NFL concluded there was a violation of its personal conduct policy and imposed a 6-game suspension which Brown accepted without appeal.

NFL Supports Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett had a run-in with Las Vegas police when he was leaving a night club. Bennett says that the officer told him he would "blow my f*cking head off"

NBA and NBA Players Association Issue Joint Statement on Social Issues

Here’s a big contrast between the NBA and the NFL. Recently, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA Players Association executive director Michelle Roberts are encouraging players to speak out on social issues, stating to NBA players:

“None of us operates in a vacuum. Critical issues that affect our society also impact you directly. Fortunately, you are not only the world’s greatest basketball players — you have real power to make a difference in the world, and we want you know that the Players Association and the League are always available to help you figure out the most meaningful way to make that difference.”

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Our Photo of the Week is a photo of Brooklyn Nets’ players Jeremy Lin and Caris LeVert in Taiwan.

NY SPORTS REPORT

Brooklyn Nets for Sale

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is ready to do a slow dance to sell the team. Initially, Prokhorov wanted to sell a minority stake in the team, but because of the pace, he is willing to sell up to 49 percent and the remaining 51 percent shortly thereafter. Sources say Prokhorov is encouraged by the sale of the Houston Rockets for $2.2 Billion.

Carmelo Anthony Still with the NY Knicks

Carmelo Anthony is still a member of the New York Knicks even though both the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers have expressed interest in him. Additionally, the Knicks point guard situation isn’t knocking anyone’s socks off and the team is considering bringing in point guards Trey Burke and Jarrett Jack for training camp.

The New York Yankees in the Hunt

 Right now, there is enough space between the Yankees and the Orioles for the Yanks to get a wildcard spot in the playoffs.

OFF TOPIC

Now, let’s go off topic. New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony showed up unexpectedly at the launch of his estranged wife, La La Anthony’s, new denim line at Lord & Taylor in New York City. Carmelo proudly posted a photo of La La on Instagram.

Carmelo Anthony Instagram post of the launch of LaLa Anthonys new denim line at Lord and Taylor 613x400

 

Halep Reaches US Open Semi-Finals after Beating Azarenka 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

Today, I had the opportunity to watch the US OEPN 2015 quarterfinals match between second seed Romanian Simona Halep and No. 20 seed Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in the USTA’s President’s Box.

This was not my first time in a president’s suite as on two occasions, I’ve watched New York Yankees games in New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner’s box. The interior of Steinbrenner’s box reminded me of a large lounge area flanked by baseball memorabilia. On the contrary, the USTA’s President’s Suite had the feeling of a modern luxury hotel restaurant with two levels; restaurant upstairs and lounge on the main level.

A wall of glass doors led to outdoor seating to watch Halep and Azarenka play with or sans cocktail in hand. Scattered around the lounge were TV monitors to watch the match inside, and from some seating areas inside you could watch the match on the same outside Jumbotrons as the fans in the stands.

This was the third career meeting between the two tennis players, with Victoria Azarenka leading 2-0 over Simona Halep, the world’s No. 2 player. A highly motivated Halep was on a mission but seemed to be in danger as 26-year-old Azarenka came into the third set with momentum after winning the second in impressive style.

But, the rain gods had a different strategy. A rain delay took the players off the court for an hour and 25 minutes and while the players stayed dry, the guests in the President’s Suite had more of an opportunity to mingle.

USTA President Katrina Adams floated from group to group, talking and taking pictures. Actress Dawnn Lewis (A Different World), as beautiful as ever, took us back to how she met President Adams and got involved in tennis.

With the rain delay over, Halep and Azarenka returned. A revived Halep put away Azarenka and won the quarterfinals 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, and is now on her way to the US Open semi-finals for the first time.

"I got behind the baseline in the second set and had to do a lot of running,” Halep said. “That break helped me. Thanks, God, for raining,"

Flavia Pennetta defeats Roberta Vinci 7-6, 6-2

The excitement continues at the US OPEN 2015.

First, second-ranked Simona Halep loses to Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-1 in Friday's first US OPEN women's semifinal. Next the shocker of all shocks, world No. 1 Serena Williams fell to Roberta Vinci 2-6, 6-4, 6-4; which sets up the all-Italian US OPEN finals match of the over-30-year-old set, between Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci.

Today, in the US OPEN Finals, Flavia Pennetta overpowered Roberta Vinci 7-6, 6-2; which in and of itself isn’t so shocking. However, the shock came when 33-year-old Pennetta, announced to the U.S. Open crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium that she was immediately retiring from tennis.

Pennetta said: “One month ago, I made a big decision in my life; and this is the way I would like to say goodbye tennis. This was my last match and I couldn’t think to finish a better way. Before this tournament, I never thought to be this far, to be a champion. It’s been a long time getting here. It’s a dream come true. It’s also nice to play against a friend. She has had an incredible two weeks. We know each other since we were really young. Our first match, I was nine years old.”

Drop the mic.

Clarifying her plans afterwards, Pennetta said, “I will play until the end of year, but this was my last match here in New York. I’m supposed to play Wuhan, Beijing, the only two.”

As for Vinci, who just beat Serena Williams in the semi-finals the day before, offered her thoughts and congrats to Pennetta.

“It was tough, over 24 hours there were a lot of things on my mind, a little tired, Vinci stated. “But I’m really happy to be in the final, really happy for Flavia. It’s tough to play someone you have known for a long time. Flavia played a great match.”

Flavia Pennetta wins $3.3 million USD in prize money, while Roberta Vinci, as the runner-up receives $1.6 million USD.

Roberta Vinci shocks the world as she defeats Serena Williams 2-6, 6-4, 6-4

In one of the most shocking events in tennis history, 43rd-ranked player, Roberta Vinci upset world No.1 Serena Williams in the US Open 2015 semi-finals 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, ending Serena’s chances of completing a calendar grand slam.

The loss also defers Serena’s tying Steffi Graf’s record of 22 grand slam wins to another date.

Chances are the name Roberta Vinci is not in your memory bank, but going forward she will always be remembered as the player whose play on the court, said not so fast Serena Williams, your date with history breaking records will have to wait.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me," Serena Williams began in her mandatory post-match press conference, which was brief. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

Serena insisted that pressure did not aid in her defeat.

"I told you guys I don't feel pressure," she said. "I never felt pressure. I never felt that pressure to win here. I said that from the beginning.

But reporters weren’t buying that explanation.

"I made a couple of tight shots, to be honest, but maybe just about two.

"But that, I think ... in any normal match you make two tight shots. Other than that, I don't think I was that tight."

Many fans are saying if it wasn’t pressure, then perhaps, lack of focus was the issue since Serena was seen with former and rumored to be back on-again boyfriend, hip-hop artist Drake.

Oddly enough, with both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded women out in the semi-finals, this tournament could go down as one of the strangest in US OPEN history.

Italian Flavia Pennetta upset second-ranked Romanian Simona Halep 6-3, 6-1 in Friday's first women's semifinal.

So, Saturday will be an historic match, but not what fans were willing to pay $280 per ticket to watch. It will be the first US OPEN women’s final between two Italian players since the OPEN era began in 1968, and with two women over 30-years-old.

If there is any consolation for Serena Williams fans, Serena still shares the Open era record of six US Open titles with Chris Evert and she receives a check in the amount of $410,975 USD.

The TEAM USA initiative is an effort to further create and implement a structure that includes personal coaches, USTA Sections and USTA Player Development working closer together to help create the next wave of world-class American players. Our vision is to be even more inclusive, collaborative and supportive so that promising young players from all over the country will have the best chance to maximize their potential. -
Patrick McEnroe - GM USTA Player Development

Potential is what the US Open Qualifying Tournament is all about and takes place the week before official tournament play at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It gives the fans a chance to see many of the game's future stars, from around the world, compete against each other and for free. Many of today's most promising American tennis prospects are black and female. Young players such as Tornado Alicia Black (16), Taylor Townsend (18), Madison Keys (19), Sachia Vickery (19), Victoria Duval (19), Sloane Stevens (20), Alexandra Stevenson, Asia Muhammad (23) and Angela Haynes (24) and don't discount the young men, Francis Tiafoe, Michael Mmoh as well as former Junior Champion Donald Young. And they may owe much of their interest in the game to the groundbreaking success of Venus and Serena Williams.

However, equal credit must be given to the US Tennis Association's (USTA) Diversity and Inclusion programs, initiatives and the people who make it work. Deservingly, no one exemplifies the desires and benefits of the organization more than the USTA's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, D. A. Abrams, and his journey and the ever-evolving policies of D&I are a perfect marriage of potential maximized.

David Anthony Abrams has spent his adult professional life working in the game he loves after being attracted to tennis from the images of the incomparable Arthur Ashe he saw as a youngster. His affection can be seen in the lessons the sport taught him, the education it provided him and his desire to see it represented by all who felt like himself. What's The 411's interview was a great opportunity to get these complimentary stories on the record and to reflect our mutual goal, present information as a call to action, support tennis diversity and hopefully, to be an impetus to help you follow your dreams. Enjoy the video interview with USTA's D.A. Abrams below!

Watch: Interview with USTA's D.A. Abrams

A partial conversation between D.A. Abrams and Glenn Gilliam follows:

WT411: We're here at the 2014 US Open Tennis Championships and we have the distinct pleasure of having the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer joining us today, Mr. D.A. Abrams. DA, thanks so much for being here.

D.A. Abrams: Oh it's really a pleasure to be here, thanks so much for having me.

WT411: How important is it to have your young stars of color represent, be successful and it helps your cause?

D.A. Abrams: First and foremost if you take note of the demographic change in the country, the fact of the matter there are more people of color living here so it just makes sense for us to have more people of color doing well in the sport of tennis. I mean that's the way we're going to attract more folks of color, in my judgment.

WT411: What is the Chief of Diversity & Inclusion's responsibilities generally and what other departments do you oversee?

D.A. Abrams: The mission of the USTA is to promote and develop the growth of tennis, so the way in which I like to describe what I do is making tennis look like America. And we have an all-hands-on-deck approach, to how we intend to make that happen. We have a strategic direction of six different pillars which really covers everything, not just young kids playing tennis. Everything from the volunteers to the staff, to supplier diversity, you name it we're trying to touch it all.

WT411: Do your programs talk about the history of the game, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Dr. Robert Walter Johnson their coach, to help build your volunteers and fan base and get folks excited about it?

D.A. Abrams: So earlier I said we have an all-hands-on-deck approach to how we are going to increase diversity for the betterment of the game. I talked a little bit about our pillars. The first one is human assets, so human assets is everything from volunteers, to staff, to providers, to coaches, to fans and ultimately to players, right? We believe that we need to diversify all of that in order to most effectively promote and develop the growth of tennis. The next one is image. You asked the question earlier regarding Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, I mean we want to make sure that we're putting out very positive images and we want to make sure that we're showing folks that hey you too can play this sport. So image both internally and externally is very, very important to us.

WT411: With regards to your tenure with the USTA, how did it start, how long have you been in this role, have you always had a love for tennis and what was your role prior to the Chief Officer?

D.A. Abrams: I've been with the USTA for a long time, since 1993, that's 20 plus years, but I've been in this role for a little over two and a half years. I started off as the national coordinator for a program called National Junior Tennis & Learning, which was founded by Arthur Ashe and a couple of other fellas way back in the day, 1969 or so. I did that for a while, I did Minority Participation that's what we used to call it before it became Diversity and Inclusion. From there, I became Executive Director of one of those 17 sections we talked about, did that for 4 years and then came back to the national office to serve as the Director of the NJTL. We had created its own department, which then grew into covering Special Populations, Adaptive Tennis, Wheelchair Tennis, Awards, so it became much more than what it was when I first came on. I then left to head up another one of our sections for six years and then back to USTA in this role and again it's been 20 plus years but it seems like its 20 months or so, it's been going by really, really quick.

WT411: Did you always have a love for tennis?

D.A. Abrams: I learned how to play tennis through the National Junior Tennis & Learning Program, in Philadelphia and just to go back to how I think images are very, very important. I was watching TV, now I tell this story and I just want to make sure that I'm telling it correctly. I was introduced to tennis before I actually started to really play. My sister took me out to the courts, it wasn't a lot of fun because we were just hitting at the ball and we're both picking up balls, right? So it really wasn't until I'm at home, watching PBS, cause this was back in the day when tennis used to come on TV, just about every weekend and I see this African American guy playing that happened to be Arthur Ashe. Now he made it look so easy, that I thought oh, now if Arthur Ashe can do this, I can get there and do this too. Well, that wasn't the case, but I did go out and it got me playing and it's kept me playing and that is the reason why, quite frankly, I'm in this role today. My love of tennis and just being able to, not just play tennis but use tennis as a vehicle to better myself and it's not just me, so many youngsters that were brought up in this local program in Philadelphia, which is a national program. There are over 600 such programs throughout the country touching about 300,000 kids or so every year, so it's a very powerful program.

WT411: Great story, but to get a little more personal, where's your hometown, where are you from and where did you go to school?

D.A. Abrams: I'm from Philadelphia; I grew up in North Philadelphia. Went to High School at a place called Strawberry Mansion, in a pretty tough neighborhood. Was fortunate enough to get a tennis scholarship to a small Division II state college by the name of Millersville, which is in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. So that worked out quite well for me but I think it even worked out better for my parents because they didn't have to pay anything.

WT411: In terms of your transition to the USTA, after you found your love of tennis and you were playing it, how did you find your way to the organization?

D.A. Abrams; So that's a really good question. I grew up playing tennis. When I graduated from college I went to work as an accountant for a company called Control Data Corporation, out in the twin cities of St. Paul /Minneapolis. I'm not a millennial but I probably have traits of millennials because I just wasn't patient enough, quite frankly, I wanted to get back to tennis. Now had I stayed there, I probably wouldn't be here today but it was a blessing that I wasn't patient enough wanted to get back to tennis, went back to Philly worked for an organization called the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Center, and then got the opportunity to come work at the USTA.

WT411: In terms of those Human Assets, how important is it to broaden that diversity pool at the USTA and see those people get elevated, get promoted and move on?

D.A. Abrams: Well it's very, very important. In fact it's so important that we have a, what we like to call a D&I or Diversity & Inclusion scorecard and tennis participation is one of the markers and one of the measures, that's very important, our mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis. We talked earlier about how Supplier Diversity, so that's one of the markers, but the other two markers, in my view, are very important and they both have to do with human assets. So what does that all mean, in terms of moving up to leadership positions. We're looking at everything but we're measuring who's leading these organizations, who are in management, who are the members of the C-Suites? And I will tell you, that now today if you look at where we are today as opposed to when I started, it's night and day. In fact, when I started on the board of directors, volunteer board, there was one gentleman of color, by the name of Gary Lee, Asian American male from northern California. He was on for a little bit then he dropped off and then there was an African American male that came on the board, by the name of Dwight Mosley, first AA to make the board, he was on for a little bit unfortunately he passed away and then Mayor Dinkins came on to the board and he served for a while and then other folks of color started to serve as well, so it was no longer just one at a time. So fast forward to where we are today. Our first Vice President is a woman by the name of Katrina Adams; she is the first African-American person to serve in that role. We're hoping one day that she will rise to the level of President and if that happens, she will be the first African American President of the USTA. Again, not a lot was happening in 1993 but we were trying, we're starting it but now you fast forward to today and it's looking pretty good there.

WT411: We know the goal is to reflect America and for African Americans the barriers remain economic, access to courts, training, instruction and equipment. What are you guys doing specifically to address those things?

D.A. Abrams: Well we do a number of things, let's first start with that NJTL program, what I failed to say earlier is that NJTL program is an outreach program it's really designed to attract youngsters that would not ordinarily play the sport and that's in 600 markets across the country. No. 2 is we have schools program, where we actually take tennis to where the kids are during the day and we partner with other organizations to provide after-school programs. So we are ensuring that we are going to reach African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, members of the LGBT community and others. In terms of the equipment, as of a few years ago we started youth-sizing the equipment. Think about that, when I started to play I was trying to play with the same racket as Arthur Ashe. Today, the balls are softer, they bounce higher, the equipment's a lot smaller, the nets are shorter so when you go out, you're pretty much going to have instant success. You may not be able to hit the ball like Serena Williams or Venus Williams but you will have instant success and it makes the game a lot of fun, which will keep you coming back.

WT411: Congratulations on the 2014 nomination for the DANDI Award, that's the Diversity and Inclusion Award, what are you doing with your initiatives to distinguish yourself from your competitor?

D.A. Abrams: Again, we have a D&I all hands on deck strategic plan and approach to really ensuring that diversity and inclusion is utilized as a strategy to grow tennis. We went through the six pillars earlier, what we didn't talk about is how we have those six pillars supported by recommended goals for each one of the pillars, in addition to that suggested tactics.

WT411: The JTLs (Junior Tennis Leagues), there are 6oo across the country, how influential is it that you have with those JTLs, in terms of delivering your programs and how do you interact with them to reach your goals?

D.A. Abrams: I mean this is not hip hop but in hip hop you would say "street cred", right? I think that's what the young people say. I grew up playing in JTL, I am an NJTL graduate, so I can go in and talk to folks, not just the administrators, but I can identify, if I can identify with the young folks, I can at least pull that card. I think it helps, we work very closely with that department, in fact, we have a number of cross-functional teams, we're working very, very closely with that department to ensure that we're supplying them with what they need and they're helping us achieve our goals as well.

WT411: With regards to what's going on in the country today, obviously with Ferguson, here in New York City, it's got to be even more important the work that you guys are doing, do you try to relate any of that current events, that real time stuff to your trainers or your volunteers when your implementing your programs?

D.A. Abrams: For the most part, we do and we don't, if it comes up in a discussion and current events they do come up in discussions we are prepared to answer that and to answer those questions and to incorporate the learnings within the training. The big thing for us is to get across the idea that D&I is a strategy. It's a legitimate and very powerful strategy to help you achieve your already existing goals, whether they be USTA, whether they be tennis related, whether they be life skills, life goals, you need this in order to really do extremely well, not just well but extremely well.

WT411: I want to touch on Supplier Diversity, we talked about it earlier, how important is it to increase those ranks, to bring other suppliers into it and what is the USTA looking for, what kinds of companies is the USTA interested in?

D.A. Abrams: Anyone that can provide a value-add to us, we're very interested in learning more about them. We're very, very serious about Supplier Diversity. Two years ago we had 15% diverse spent, across the enterprise, which is very powerful, a lot of companies on average maybe about 6% or 7%, last year we went down slightly, we're still at 13.5%. We have an individual on our team that that's all they do, in fact the USTA is so serious about really utilizing Diversity & Inclusion to help us grow the sport, we have a department of six and that's pretty big for D&I. We're really walking the talk if you will and I'm very proud of what our leadership is doing both our President and the Board, as well as my boss, I'm a direct report to Gordon Smith, it's just couldn't be more supportive so it's a great place to be right now.

WT411: Are you familiar with MLBs Diversity Summit and do you take some best practices from that?

D.A. Abrams: Yes we steal a lot of those best practices. We're very familiar with that and we've been to all three, the last one was in New York. We're very familiar with what they do and steal a lot of what they do.

WT411: What's your most rewarding moment in your present position, for yourself individually and with your team?

D.A. Abrams: Well I have to go back, I started a long, long time ago and to know that we have an African-American serving as the first Vice President of the USTA is extremely rewarding to me. It's not that I did that, but the fact that I work for an organization that has elevated someone of that stature to that position, means a great deal to me and I think it means a great deal to the organization and certainly to tennis. I think I said earlier that at the USTA, all directors and above must have a D&I related goal, it's not an option, they must have it. Now that's new in 2014 and trust me that's very big.

WT411: As a media company, is there any opportunity to include more media partners of color to get your message out, to be a little bit more of a voice in those communities you're trying to target?

D.A. Abrams: No, we would love that, I was a panelist along with Wendy Lewis of Major League Baseball and a fella from NASCAR at the National Association of Black Journalists in early August. I asked them, you got to ask for what you want, right? For what you're asking me the answer is yes, we would love for you and other companies such as yours to be supportive in getting the message out. We've got a lot of good stories to tell, from the grassroots, to what we're doing in youth tennis, to what we're doing with adult tennis, to what we're doing to get these youngsters that are on the cusp of being, maybe great players, we've got a lot of good stories to tell.

 

Flushing Meadows, NY - The air is filled with anticipation, as kids from Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities Community Center from Corona, Queens, fill the Grandstand court waiting to meet the reigning US Open Women's Champion, Serena Williams.

It is Thursday afternoon of "Qualies" week and after participating in the Open "Draw Ceremony", the No.1 Women's Player in the world who had already appeared on Dave Letterman the day before, will be front and center during Arthur Ashe Kids Day in two days on Saturday. I mention these activities because I think we take for granted the Williams Sisters and Serena especially and the hefty responsibilities that she and her sister have carried for the better part of 15 years as the best of American tennis and never more so than now. It's amazing to watch them handle their media and philanthropic obligations, play singles and doubles in the same day, and on consecutive days. It really shows how strong-willed they are, their incredible commitment, sacrifice and desire to win and how important it is to have that strong family bond that their parents created from the start. It's also been a real boon, as fan favorites, to the entertainment value of each day's US Open ticket, to have them as part of the daily draw.

An unfortunate casualty of the first round draw was pitting the defending champ against American Junior Champion, Taylor Townsend of Chicago. The eighteen-year-old lefty, as an American and African American, may have made some noise in the tournament, if not for playing her mentor and friend in the opening round. That is correct, I said friend, as we confirmed in Serena's first interview when asked What was your initial reaction when you found out you were opening against top-ranked junior, Taylor Townsend?

"Yeah it's going to be a great match for me," said Serena. "She's such a great player. Extremely young, I have been able to see her play a little bit. She does everything really, really well. We're really good friends. We always talk and always text each other. It's going to be a really tough match for me."

I followed by asking about her thoughts on the history that lay ahead.

"You talked after winning the Western & Southern, you feel like you could play for a long time," I said. "If you get to 22 or 23 Grand Slam titles might you decide to hang them up?"

"Well, that would be just really amazing if I can make it that far,' she said. "Competition is a little stiff now, so I have to do the best I can and I can't even think that far to be honest."

Watch Video: Serena Williams on Getting to 22 or 23 Grand Slams

"Well, would you consider it an unsuccessful year if you don't win a Grand Slam," I asked.

"Probably, yes," Serena stated. "But there's always next year and the year after, so I don't necessarily – you don't give up. You just keep going and you keep fighting to continue to win more."

Watch Video: Serena Williams on If She Didn't Win a Grand Slam This Year

How is your school in Kenya going," I asked switching the subject.

"It's going good," responded Serena. "We just had a great update. We built a new building. It's been really, really amazing".

A reporter asked Serena that a couple of people had heard that she was having a show for Aneras in a couple of months and asked if she could talk about it.

"Yeah, no; I'm having a fashion show for Serena's Signature Statement and I'm launching Aneras," Serena Williams responded. "They are two totally separate fashion lines. This show we are doing for fashion week, New York has always been a dream of mine to have a fashion show at NY Fashion Week. We are doing the collection that sold on HSN for Serena's Signature Statement. We have casted the models and it's been a really great experience. I'm really excited and nervous at the same time to see the reactions and hopefully, we'll get a full house."

Watch Serena Williams talk about her fashion line, Serena's Signature Statement

During her early matches, Serena's biggest challenge was the unpredictable winds that made consistent serving difficult. Until adjustments could be made, her opponents never really threatened her, as she never conceded more than 3 games in any set, winning each match in straight sets as she did in two previous title wins. Although she hadn't really been tested in the singles and unfortunately lost in the doubles with sister Venus, this is the first Grand Slam all year that she had reached the Singles Quarterfinal round and it showed as she raised her arms in victory over Kaia Kanepi in the 4th Round and gave a ball to an adoring fan and emphatically declared to the cheering crowds "I made it to the Quarterfinals!" And with all that was riding on it, it seemed like destiny, here's what was at stake.

Serena Williams' milestones are historic:

-15th Anniversary of her first Grand Slam victory, and US Open - the 1999 US Open.
-18th Grand Slam Title which ties her with Chris Evert & Martina Navratilova, for fourth all time. Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills Moody (19)
-She is a three-peat US Open Champion, winning the Open 3 years in a row.
-Her 6th US Open Title overall, tying Chris Evert for top honors.
-At 32, Serena continues to extend her reign as the Women's Champion with the greatest number of years between her first and last titles (15)
-She is the 2014 Emirates Airlines US Open Series Champion winning an additional $1MM and Serena's prize money has made Women's Tennis history, taking home a record $3MM check for a new highest payday in tennis and wining $4MM total after clinching the title. She already holds the previous record at $3.6MM, with Rafael Nadal, for winning it last year.

In our last interview we asked her what we know everyone's been dying to know.

"Does the new leopard print outfits mean the "catsuit" might be making a comeback," I asked.

"That's a good question," said Serena. "We all loved the catsuit; at least I did."

"Gives us hope," I responded.

"Keep hope alive," Serena added.

"Where is the catsuit," another reporter inquired.

"Yeah, I have all of my outfits. I saw it the other day actually in my closet, Serena said.

"Sounds like a hashtag campaign," I added.

"Right," Serena concurred and then added, "Of course hashtags didn't exist back then."

So please hit us up at #411SportsTV and join the #BringBackSerenaWilliamsCatsuit campaign.

Watch Serena Williams Talk About Her Famous Catsuit

 All jokes aside, Serena Williams' victory in the US OPEN 2014 Women's Final over close friend Caroline Wozniaki (6-3, 6-3) was another seminal moment in arguably the greatest female athlete's career ever and it makes us even more excited about 2015 and going down under to Australia...we'll see ya there.

 

Taylor Townsend found out on Twitter that she would be playing Serena Williams

It was 2007 when Taylor Townsend was sitting in the nosebleeds watching Serena and Venus Williams play a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Fast-forward to 2014 where Townsend earned a huge seat upgrade, not simply in the front row, but on the court, as the opponent of the No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, at the same stadium for the opening-round match of her US Open debut.

When Townsend found out about the news she didn't believe it.

"I found out on Twitter," she said. "Okay, let me double-check. It was true. So then I was just immediately really excited. I just thought that it was a huge opportunity."

Townsend turned professional at the end of the 2012 season after achieving the world No. 1-ranking as a junior, the first American girl to do so in 30 years. She made her Grand Slam debut earlier this year at Roland Garros as a wild card and advanced to the third round.

Taylor Townsend 2012 Australian Open Girls Singles Champ Shuji Kajiyama APTownsend winning 2012 Australian Open girls’ singles title. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/Associated Press

In lieu of the 18-year old Townsend's success, she looks up to Serena as she is one of the main reasons why Townsend is present in the tennis world.

"I mean, Serena's an African-American woman from Compton, California who won [now 18] Grand Slam titles. Like, who would have thought? Anything is possible. She's paved the way for me and not only African-American girls but girls in general, people in general, [she] just has changed the game of tennis. I think I've just learned from her story that anything is possible."

Their friendship blossomed last year at the Fed Cup in Delray Beach, Florida, when she talked to Serena and Venus Williams during a rain delay. Surprisingly they didn't talk about tennis, just casual girl-talk about hair and nails. Then later in Charleston, South Carolina, they chatted again for more than an hour and capped it off with selfies at the players' party.

Taylor Townsend Selfie With Serena and Venus Williams resized 540x829Taylor Townsend’s selfie with Serena and Venus Williams

Williams was just as excited to play Townsend for the opening draw match.

"We're really good friends. We always talk and always text each other. It's going to be a really tough match for me." Serena continued,"she's such a great player. [She's] extremely young. I have been able to see her play a little bit. She does everything really, really well."

Entering the match, they both won in the nail department. Townsend wore a gel manicure with deep, hot pink polish with blue tips. Williams rocked pastel pink nail polish with crystal, pink and black leopard prints her middle nails. But only one could win the tennis match, which was Serena 6-3, 6-1 who moved on to win her first 1st Grand Slam title of 2014.

Taylor Townsend Power Hitter Getty ImagesAmerican professional tennis player, Taylor Townsend Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

Serena Williams Finger Nails Collage Getty APLegendary American professional tennis player, Serena Williams, rocking pale pink manicure. Photo Credits: Getty Images (right) and AP (left)

Although Townsend lost the match she didn't let it get to her negatively. She was honored to face her idol and was all smiles.

"I just tried to go out on the court and really have a good time, embrace the moment, embrace the crowd and just use it. I did the best that I could."

The match helped put in perspective that she's doing all the right things - her serve can be a weapon and she can be a threat in the pro circuit with her style of play.
Serena also applauded Taylor and referred to her as the "Future of Tennis." Williams continued to speak positively of Townsend.

"She's a lefty. I always wanted to be lefty," she said smiling with envy. Why does Serena envy lefties? "That just in general puts you on a whole new level as a player. She's a very aggressive player. She comes to the net, she makes her shots. You don't really see that in tennis so much. You see players that, you know, stay aback and hug the baselines, as I do. But it's good, refreshing, and I think it's the future of tennis just by doing what she does."

Just how Townsend is inspired by Serena's story, Taylor is creating a story of her own for the current and future generations of tennis.

"I've always said that I wanted to use my tennis to inspire and help people. I want to continue [to be an inspiration and role model] as I progress in the pros and get better just because if we have these gifts and talents [and] we don't use it to help try to make a difference, then it really doesn't matter."

Taylor Townsend with kids before 2013 New Haven Open Yale UniversityTaylor Townsend with kids before the 2013 New Haven Open Tennis Tournament at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo Credit: Bill Weiss/New Haven Open

As Townsend said, "anything is possible." It took her seven years to earn her huge seat upgrade, which she saw as unfathomable at the time.

Townsend serves as a refreshing reminder that one can achieve their dreams with hard work and dedication.

 

 

Mind of Monfils

September 05, 2014

If you're looking for an extra dose of excitement during a tennis match, you have to tune in the Frenchman, Gael Monfils.

Whether he is sliding side-to-side in nearly full splits or executing jaw-dropping between-the-legs shots, his performance on the court continuously keeps you in awe. Couple his athleticism with a free-spirited personality, and you have yourself one of the most fascinating players in tennis today.

Gael Monfils Getty ImagesFrench professional tennis player, Gael Monfils. Photo: Getty Images

Monfils, ranked No. 20 at the 2014 US Open, advanced to the quarterfinals in the tournament for the second time in his career. In the quarters, Gael was leading two sets to love against 5-time US Open Champion Roger Federer, and unluckily let it slip away-- twice--failing to convert two match points in the fourth set, before losing in five.

"I was saying to myself, keep it simple and try to make Roger play them because I knew that he will force it ... he will put the first ball in and then for sure come to the net very quick," Monfils said in reference to the two match-point opportunities. "So it was more like be relaxed and just lean a bit more on my forehand return and try to make it. And then we just played those two points, and well done [for Roger]."

Monfils did not dwell too hard on the loss, as he recently called Federer an idol and the legend of tennis. "I come strong. I played good, I [stuck] to my tactic, I was happy that I could do it. I was happy that also -- you know, sometimes when you want to do [well], it's tough to deliver." He continued. "At the end I'm frustrated, but I'm happy. I think I gave my best. Simply Roger was too good at the end...I need a bit of time to forget this, but then it (will) give me more motivation."

Gael Monfils Roger Federer 2009 French Open Ryan Pierse Getty Images EuropeGael Monfils (left) Roger Federer (right) at 2009 Men's Singles Quarter Final French Open at Roland Garros in Paris, France. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Europe

A professional tennis player who hasn't had a coach since November 2012 and won't settle for just anyone, Monfils should be commended for maintaining his physical and mental toughness.

"For sure it's better to have a coach. I won't lie to you. It's better to have someone to help you. I need it. But as I say all the time, it's not easy to feel someone. That person has to be -- has to be, for me, like good, first of all, but has to be hard and also understand my personality. Because I don't think I'm easy, but I think I'm quite a good worker."

Monfils knows the type of coach he wants and has reached out to a select few, but they aren't able to travel full time.

As Monfils remains coachless, it's just him and his Coca-Cola (yes, that's right.) During changeovers, you can catch him quenching his thirst with a cold Coke. "Well, sometimes, you know, I just feel like I want a Coke, and I drink a Coke," Monfils said while smiling.

Before leaving New York after a long run at the Open, Monfils was given a personalized can of Coca Cola by the company as part of their "Share a Coke" campaign.

Gael Monfils Coca Cola Twitter

The US Open and New York City is practically a second home for Monfils, as New York was the first place he traveled to overseas with his parents, who are Caribbean. His late father introduced him to family friends in the Bronx.

"Then he [my father] showed me that the community, the black community was behind me. I was not aware about that also, here. You know, and then they started to come to the stadium, bring me that energy, and then they just [taught] me that here that I can feel ... at home and I have a second family also, as I say as even in the French Open," Monfils said explaining why New York City is so important to him.

"So when I feel good, the crowd is behind me and has great spirit, [then] I think I can be very tough to beat."

Monfils has the talent and can win a Grand Slam Title; however, it's simply a matter of him staying healthy, focused, and understanding court position throughout matches. His highest world rank is No. 7 and the furthest he has advanced in a Grand Slam was the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2008.

In the midst of watching Monfils win a title, you can sit back and relish his raw talent. And if you are lucky enough you can "Share a Coke" with Gael.

Watch Video: Gael Monfils and Laurent Lokoli performing in a dance battle during a rain delay at Roland Garros in May 2014. 

Page 1 of 3
© 1993 - 2017 What's The 411 Networks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.