April 23, 2018

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.


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.”


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


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.


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


Serena Williams and Madison Keys move on to second round

On Tuesday, No. 8 seeded Venus Williams lost her first round match to upstart Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2, at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Not many people saw this coming, least of all Venus Williams because she was one of the favorites coming into the Australian Open. After all, Venus reached the Australian Open quarterfinals last year and she won three titles last year: 2015 ASB Classic; Wuhan Open, and the 2015 WTA Elite Trophy.

Not to mention that Venus was seeded inside the top 8 at a major for the first time since the 2011 Australian Open, she had played the Australian Open 16 times prior, and she was playing an opponent making her Australian Open debut.

The pair only met once and that was last fall in Wuhan, China. Venus prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in a match that required a staggering 2 hours, 39 minutes.

Additionally, Venus had won 47 WTA singles titles, compared to zero for Konta.

Konta told the media on the court after the upset that when she realized that Venus Williams was her first round opponent, she thought to herself, "I just hope I stay out there more than an hour."

Perhaps, disturbed at her performance against Konta, Venus Williams skipped her post-match news conference. Venus does suffer from the effects of Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune condition that leaves her prematurely tired and could have affected her execution.

Nonetheless, since the post-match press conference is mandatory for players, Venus faces a fine up to $20,000. It should be noted that Venus also skipped the post-match press conference at the 2015 French Open and was fined $3,000 USD, after losing to fellow American Sloan Stephens.

Venus, who will be 36-years-old in June, was the oldest woman in the draw and it was only the eighth time in 62 Grand Slam appearances that she lost her opening match.

Meanwhile, her younger sister, defending Australian Open champion and No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, won her opening round against Italian Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5. This was Serena’s first competitive match in four months.

Ranking at No. 15, fellow American, Madison Keys, overcame some nerves in a first-set tiebreaker and defeated Kazakhstani Zarina Diyas 7-6 (5), 6-1 in another bottom-half match. Keys, a 20-year-old Floridian, was a semifinalist at last year's Australian Open. She lost to Serena Williams in the semis.



Venus Williams defeats Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-2 in Inaugural Taiwan Open to capture her 49th WTA singles title

It’s Valentine’s Day in the United States, and while lots of women are receiving flowers, Venus Williams collected her 49th WTA title and a check for $500,000, by defeating Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-2 at the inaugural Taiwan Open on Sunday.

The former No. 1 and seven-time grand slam winner, who exited in the first round of the Australian Open, felt lucky in Asia.

"I've had so much success in Asia," Williams said after the match, having won her past two titles in China. "I feel like it's very lucky to play here."

"The last five days were so exciting, just to feel the enthusiasm and to play great tennis every day," Williams added. "It was a perfect week for me, and the tournament did an amazing job with everything. The players and fans felt so welcome, so it was perfect."

With Venus Williams’ 49th career women’s singles title, she is now seventh on the all-time tournament victories list for Women’s singles; and she is within striking distance of Monica Seles (53) and Lindsay Davenport (55).

Doi, who was playing Venus Williams for the first time, was bidding for her second WTA career title following last year's win in Luxembourg.

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.



Lisicki receives Guinness World Record Award for accomplishing world's fastest tennis serve

July 29, 2014, marked a historic date for the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) where Sabine Lisicki from Germany clocked the world's fastest serve among women at 131 MPH in Stanford, California.

Guinness World Record awarded Lisicki with a certificate on Friday, August 22 before the  US Open 2014 kicked off. At the time when she set the record, Lisicki didn't realize her serve was that fast.

"I felt that I hit it very hard and good but it was only when I heard the crowd that I realized it was 131 (MPH) when I looked at the board."

As with any tennis player, Lisicki's main priority is to serve the ball inbounds.

"It's a natural thing. I just throw up the ball and hit it as hard as I can but not really thinking about it because it obviously has to go in so that's the main priority."

Lisicki is very excited about her world record and added: "I had 130 (MPH) serve about four years ago but it wasn't an official one, so I'm very happy that this one's official."

The previous record was set in 2007 by Venus Williams, who clocked in at 129 MPH during the US Open against Alla Kudryavtseva from Russia. This was the same year Venus won Wimbledon. Williams still holds a separate record where she became the lowest-ranked (no. 31) and lowest-seeded player (23 seed) to ever win Wimbledon.

Lisicki opened against a qualifier, Françoise Abanda from Canada. Abanda is a young star, 17 years old, whose parents hail from Cameroon, Africa. This is Abanda's debut at the senior level in the main draw of the US Open, ranking in at her career high, number 205.

Francoise Abanda The Canadian Press Graham HughesCanadian tennis player by way of the Cameroon, Francoise Abanda. Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Graham-Hughes

 Williams, who is 34 years old, knocked out an even older opponent, 43-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm from Japan in the first round in a three-set thriller.

We'll look forward to seeing milestones reached in this tournament whether it's Lisicki meeting or surpassing her current serving speed record, Taylor Townsend shocking the world by defeating Serena Williams, or perhaps, Venus Williams winning the US Open.

…And her name is Serena Williams

This week has been a long time coming and it almost seems as if the Hollywood stars aligned and decided to drop this mega-hit movie, Straight Outta Compton at the same time that a little girl from South Central, LA born just a few years before NWA would change the music game, would be the unexpected, uninvited mega-Watts (see what I did there) superstar that would change the game of tennis and women’s place in sports. Regardless, or better yet, in spite of what advertisers or marketing “know-it-alls” might say, or where they invest their dollars, it’s Serena Williams’ world and we’re all just visiting!

It cannot be overstated how historic this particular moment is for the world of tennis, sports, America and African Americans. Unfortunately, it’s all too common these days for pop culture and the media to bloviate over the significance of an artist, athlete or celebrity…just look at the hours, days, weeks and months wasted on trying to substantiate Donald Trump’s circus of a presidential campaign. However, this is real and Serena’s Grand Slam campaign highlights in the best way possible what can be achieved if you have a strong family foundation that emphasizes faith, family, education, loyalty and hard work.

It would be compelling just to be the three-time defending US Open Champion going for her fourth in a row and it would be impractical to list here all the milestones Serena Williams is amassing through this seemingly never-ending display of excellence at the highest level, but here’s a few:

• World No.1 Serena Williams is on a 28-match winning streak at Grand Slam level having won the 2014 US Open, 2015 Australian Open, 2015 Roland Garros and 2015 Wimbledon – her second non-calendar year Grand Slam.

• Serena is trying to win her seventh US Open title (wouldn't just be the first Grand Slam she'll have seven of, but also the most US Open titles for a woman in Open Era – currently tied with Chris Evert at six)

• Serena has made over $73 million in prize money and by comparison, Sharapova earned $35 million.

• The legacy Serena Williams and her sister Venus have built with the likes of Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend, Victoria Duval, Sacha Vickery, Heather Watson, Tornado & Hurricane Black, etc. is transformational and extends well beyond players of African ancestry.

• The 2015 US Open Women’s Final has sold out already and is the first time it has done so ahead of the Men’s Final and it’s trending as the excitement and anticipation of Serena’s unparalleled mark on history draws closer.

Leading up to the US Open Draw Ceremony and her first Press Conference everyone was primed with their obligatory questions about the elephant in the room, PRESSURE!!…and how do you deal with it? And while she gave very thoughtful and honest answers about feeling more pressure to win at Wimbledon to complete the second “Serena Slam”, I wanted to inject some historical context, if given the chance and we were. Given her recent interview where she was asked about Maria Sharapova making more endorsement money than her, Serena explained that it may not be meant for her to be that top earner and she was grateful for the doors opened by Althea Gibson, Zina Garrison, Arthur Ashe and her own sister Venus Williams and that she is trying to open doors for the next generation, so the next might be that top earner.

So I asked, “Have you seen the new documentary about Althea Gibson that was being screened throughout the opening week?”

Serena Williams responded: “I have not seen it yet. I knew it was coming out around the OPEN (US OPEN). I’ll definitely have to check that out.”

And, I had the opportunity to ask a follow-up question, “Everybody talks about the pressure, is that something by seeing those previous players allows you to bear it easier?”

Serena proceeded with a thoughtful response, “Well, I just look at someone like Althea and Zina. Let’s face it, I have it a lot easier than them. There are so many barriers that have been broken. When I look at it in that point of view, that aspect, a whole weight is like lifted off my shoulders. I’m doing well and I’m really happy to be here.”

Her new campaign is #BESERENA but she’s humble and gracious enough to acknowledge #AltheaCameFirst.

We’re even happier for you Serena and can’t wait until you raise our national trophy again, “Straight Into the Record Books” is the title of her movie. #411SportsTV and #Whatsthe411Sports

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