The Williams sisters drag women’s tennis into prime time, September 8 2001
Excerpts of The 100 greatest days in New York sports by Stuart Miller
“You gotta admit, Richard Williams was right. For all his loudmouth trash talk, his daughters were indeed the best in women’s tennis and the best thing for women’s tennis too.
They might not have made a lot of friends, but they were good and compelling. Everybody wanted to see what they’d wear, what they’d do and how they’d win.
Serena won the US Open at 17 in 1999, Venus won it at 20 in 2000. In 2001 they met in finals – the first time two sisters had met in a major final since the Watson gals (Maud and Lilian) at Wimbledon in 1884; and thanks to their riveting personalities and powerful playing, the first time women’s tennis was deemed to have players ready for prime time. After years squeezed between the men’s tennis, the women’s final got its own show under the stars.
The Harlem Gospel Choir performed, a Marine Guard unfurled a court-sized flag. Grucci provided fireworks, and Diana Ross sang ‘God Bless America’.
Then came the tennis, which, though historic, was mostly boring. The five prior intra-Williams matches had been pretty awful too. This match was better, but both sisters still played nervously, not because of the pomp and circumstance, which they both relished, but because facing each other meant one sister would go home ad the loser.
Venus was, if not more serene, less erratic, making 19 unforced errors to her younger sister’s 36 in a humdrum 6-2 6-4 win.
Before Hollywood, fashion, and injuries began distracting them, the Williams sisters staged an encore in 2002. That time Serena won. But both nights the big winner was women’s tennis.”
The real star of this first week was: the Centre Court roof. Only used for 3 matches the first two years, it has already been used 9 times in the first week this year. 3 of them featured Andy Murray, who qualified for the fourth round. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic also cruised through the second week.
The only surprise (semi-surprise) came from three-time runner-up Andy Roddick, defeated in straight sets by Feliciano Lopez, quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2005 and 2008.
Other seeds upset: Robin Soderling, Gael Monfils, Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko
On the women’s side, seeds fall one after another: Vera Zvonareva, Na Li, Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic are all out of The Championships.
Serena and Venus Williams struggle in the early rounds but qualify for the second week.
Matches to follow on Manic Monday:
Del Potro has all the weapons to beat Nadal: serve, forehand, volley. A real first test for the defending champion.
Virtua Tennis 4, the third sequel to Sega’s tennis game franchise, Virtua Tennis, has just launched in Europe and will come May 10 in North America.
Virtua Tennis 4 player line up include:
- Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Roddick, Fernando Gonzalez, Tommy Haas, Phillipp Kohlschreiber, Gael Monfils, Andreas Seppi
- Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Svetlana Kuznetzova, Maria Sharapova, Anna Chakvetadze, Laura Robson
Virtua Tennis 4 is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii.
Caroline Wozniacki, Francesca Schiavone, Victoria Azarenka and Na Li roll into fourth round with straight sets wins. Maria Sharapova had to fight 3 close sets to win over Julia Goerges.
Venus was forced to retire from her her third round encounter against Andrea Petkovic after just six minutes.
The only semi surprise today was Kuznetsova‘s win over Henin.
Stat of the day: 57
Today four-time champion Roger Federer overtook Stefan Edberg, as the player who has won the most Australian Open matches (57).
Well, Stefan still holds the record for the number of matches won by playing SERVE AND VOLLEY. Remember what it is Federer?
Match of the day: Svetlana Kuznetsova defeats Justine Henin
For me Kuznetsova has always been some kind of a female Marat Safin: an extremely talented underachiever. She was 2-16 before her third round match against Henin, but this time she dominated with her powerful groundstrokes and overcame her nerves to knock the 7-time Grand Slam champion out of the tournament in a 6-4, 7-6 (8) victory.
Matches to follow on day 6:
Samantha Stosur(AUS) vs. Petra Kvitova(CZE)
Rafael Nadal(ESP) vs. Bernard Tomic(AUS)
Flavia Pennetta(ITA) vs. Shahar Peer(ISR)
John Isner(USA) vs. Marin Cilic(CRO)
The No.5 seed in Melbourne, Sam Stosur will enter the event as Australia’s best hope and only seeded player.
It has been 28 years since the Australian Open was won by homegrown talent, not since unseeded Chris O’Neil surprised everybody for her one and only career title at the Open in 1978.
A former world number one in doubles, she was sidelined for about 9 months in 2007-2008 with the debilitating career-threatening Lyme’s disease. She recovered to regain her place in the top 30 in 2009 and since then she seems to have some kind of a second, more successful career.
Sam had a standout 2010 season, reaching the finals at Roland Garros and the Masters’ semifinals, and cracking the top 5. She is now a real threat in the Grand Slam tournaments.
Her 2011 season is quite caotic so far as she suffered two second round losses in Brisbane (lost to Jarmila Groth) and Sydney (lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova). She could face Zvonareva in quarter final and Clijsters in semies. But her biggest challenge will be to deal with the pressure.
Let’s have a look at the other contenders:
She’s probably the player (apart from Stosur) with the most pressure on her shoulder as she has to prove she can finally win a Slam.
Her best result Down Under was a fourth round last year, so nothing impressive, but she proved her game is effective on hard courts, as she reached the final at Flushing Meadows in 2009 and the semies last year.
Wozniacki has a tough half of the draw with 5 previous Grand Slam champions (Venus Williams, Francesca Schiavone, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kutznetsova).
- Nadal cruises to final with a straight sets win over Mikhail Youzhny.
World number one Rafael Nadal was just too good for Youzhny. After two defeats in semifinals the past two years (he lost to Andy Murray in 2008 and to Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009), the 24 year old Spaniard advanced to his first US Open final. With a win tonight, Nadal would become the seventh man in tennis history to complete a career Grand Slam.
- Djokovic stuns Federer in a five set thriller
To be honest, I was just closing my eyes and hitting forehands as fast as I can on match point. If it goes in, it goes in. If it goes out, just another loss to Federer in the U.S. Open. I managed to come back. I was very lucky.
- Kim Clijsters’ love story with New York continues
Clijsters won her 21st consecutive match here and her third title in her past three tries. Zvonareva, as predicted, lost her nerve.
A little bit of experience definitely helps. I told her it’s tough. It took me six or seven finals before I finally got one. ‘Vera, keep it going. It will happen.