May 21, 2022

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.

VIDEO: Serena Williams Answers Reporters Questions at the 2015 Pre-US OPEN Press Conference

VIDEO DISCUSSION: Maria Sharapova drops out of US OPEN 2015

The US OPEN for tennis is on and poppin’.

Most are expecting that Serena Williams will add another grand slam to her tally. However, it will be without going through Maria Sharapova, as the Russian tennis star pulled out of the US OPEN because of a thigh injury. Some are saying Maria Sharapova did not want to face Serena Williams.

Do you think Maria Sharapova's injury is real?

Do you think Maria Sharapova's presence would affect Serena Williams performance at the US OPEN?


Welcome back to What's The 411Sports, and the following events are in the pipeline:

On Tuesday, September 1, the New York Liberty will take on the Atlanta Dream at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.

On Thursday, September 3, the Liberty will play the Chicago Sky at Madison Square Garden at 7:00 P.M.

The 2015 US OPEN for tennis will be held on August 31 – September 13.

Welcome back to What’s The 411Sports, and now these are stories in the pipeline:

The WNBA All-Star Game takes place today, July 25th at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The New York Liberty will take on the Seattle Storm Sunday, August 2nd at Madison Square Garden.

U.S. Tennis Association's Connecticut Open is August 21 -29 at Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut.

The US OPEN for tennis will be held on August 31 – September 13, at the USTA National Tennis Center in Queens, NY.

The Qualies: A jam-packed, exciting event at the US OPEN

The first week of the US OPEN is not what many people may think. In fact, it isn’t even the US Open, it’s actually the US Open Qualifying Tournament and it’s one of the biggest tennis competitions on the planet, awarding almost $2 million in winnings. As it does every year, the “Qualies,” as it is commonly called, is packed into four days, from Tuesday, August 25th to Friday, August 28th. The Qualies showcase 128 men and women routinely ranked from 105 to 250 in the world. Each player must try and win three matches to secure one of the 32 spots available in the main draw, 16 men, and 16 women.

This time of year is always filled with excitement and anticipation of seeing the greatest tennis players in the world on our home turf, New York, USA. There is no greater feeling than arriving at the USTA National Tennis Center and picking up the media credentials that allow #What’sThe411Sports & #411SportsTV to cover the biggest annual event hosted in NYC and maybe the country.

US OPEN 2015 Glenn Gilliam Media Credential on US OPEN 2015 Draw Ceremony Program

The Qualies: Early Exits from US OPEN

The US OPEN spans a full three weeks, starting with the Qualifying Week for all the unseeded and in some cases former established players, like fan favorite Nicholas Almagro of Spain, who lost after an incredible three set match 6-7, 6-4, 4-6 to Guilherme Clezar and his raucous Brazilian fans, late into Thursday evening. And it’s been an extremely difficult “Qualies” for the Americans, with many hopefuls, like former World Juniors Girls Champion, Taylor Townsend, who had to play World #1, Serena Williams, in her opening match last year after getting through Qualies and 2014 sensation, Victoria Duval, whose dad miraculously survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Collage 2015 US OPEN Victoria Duvall Taylor TownsendProfessional tennis players Victoria Duval (left) and Taylor Townsend

On the men’s side, the very lengthy 6’10” Reilly Opelka of Florida and last year’s local standout, 19 year-old Noah Rubin from Long Island are also out after the second round.

Tennis Legend Althea Gibson Gets Long-Awaited Recognition

The other amazing celebration that always signals the start of the US Open Championships is on August 25th, the birthday of US Open and major champion winner and first African-American to win a major tennis tournament, Althea Gibson.

Tennis legend, Althea Gibson

This amazing tennis legend is finally receiving appropriate recognition this year because of a long overdue award-winning documentary on her life’s triumphs and travails. It’s ALTHEA week all this week and the documentary film is being screened at six venues in seven days giving it momentum going into its airing on PBS’ American Masters on September 4th.

Behold the US Open Food Tasting Preview

Another “Qualies” week celebration is food and more precisely, gourmet food, was the name of the game at the always well-attended US Open Food Tasting Preview that brings all the top chefs who are contributing dishes to this year’s US Open.

US OPEN 2015 USTA Food Tasting Preview Menu

Not to rub it in, but some of the selections were out of this world, like Marea’s Lobster Burrata and Champions Bar and Grill’s Costata, a 40 oz. dry aged tomahawk ribeye steak. And, to make it all taste even better was beverage host, Grey Goose’s signature, Honey Duece cocktail.

US OPEN 2015 Glenn Gilliam in USTA Dining Room with Renown Celebrity Chef Masaharu Morimoto who makes Serena Williams favorite 700x525Glenn Gilliam, What's The 411Sports Host (in front), with renown Celebrity Chef Masaharu Morimoto who makes Serena Williams favorite sushi dishes

US OPEN: A Place to See World-class Tennis and Meet New Friends

But the best part of the US OPEN’s Qualies Week is that it is free to attend (the rest of the US OPEN tournament is a paid event, sorry) and the people you meet everywhere on the tennis center grounds…usually at the food court, or at least often.

US OPEN 2015 Glenn Gilliam in USTA Dining Room with newfound friends 600x450Glenn Gilliam, What's The 411Sports Host (center), with newfound friends at the 2015 US OPEN

I met two wonderful gentlemen, Joe “King” Cole, and Edwin Douglas, both 90-years young.

Cole, who lives not far from me in Southeast Queens, plays tennis twice a week and takes it indoors during the winter months. He lives in Cambria Heights and plays at the Rochdale Tennis Courts behind the Count Basie School at 133-25 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard during the summer and at Alley Pond Park inside the bubble when it’s cold.

US OPEN 2015 Joe King Cole William Klint from Pennsylvania 600x450Joe "King" Cole (left) and his friend William Klint from Pennsylvania at the 2015 US OPEN in New York City 

Both gentlemen have won the Senior Olympics title for their age group in tennis and Mr. Douglas met Althea Gibson in her prime at the original home of the US OPEN in Forest Hills back in the 1960s. Sharing stories about the game we love with wise and proud men like these are what makes the US OPEN so special…see ya on the courts and on the TV. #411SportsTV

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