GUARDIAN TENNIS: Serena Williams survives first-round scare to progress in French Open

GUARDIAN TENNIS: Serena Williams survives first-round scare to progress in French Open

• Williams: ‘I just had to hang in there’
• Johanna Konta breaks hoodoo with first-round victory

Serena Williams survived a briefly wretched opening to the French Open and, despite recovering well to trounce the world No 83, Vitalia Diatchenko, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, she is yet to convince her peers and rivals she can last a tournament, let alone rediscover the magic that lifted her to 23 grand slam titles.

She is not exactly a sitting target and she will play better than this but the Serena of old, the three-times champion of Paris, is a memory at the moment. She needs one more major to match the all-time record of Margaret Court. It is an assignment that grows more difficult with each passing month.

Related: French Open 2019, day two: Konta wins, Wozniacki in trouble – live!

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Mon, 27 May 2019 18:51:02 GMT


GUARDIAN TENNIS: ‘Mother, champion’: Serena Williams causes stir again with French Open outfit

GUARDIAN TENNIS: ‘Mother, champion’: Serena Williams causes stir again with French Open outfit

  • 23-time grand slam champion wears bold outfit in Paris
  • American attracted criticism from officials last year

A year after Serena caused a stir at the French Open with her Black Panther catsuit, the American chose another bold outfit for her first-round match at the tournament.

The 23-time grand slam champion had earlier showcased her outfit – a gown printed with the words mother, champion, queen and goddess in French – to her 11 million followers on Instagram. She wore a pared down version for her victory 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 over Vitalia Diatchenko on Monday.

Let the Roland Garros begin. Here is my French Open look designed by @virgilabloh and @nike.

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Mon, 27 May 2019 17:21:23 GMT


GUARDIAN TENNIS: For the unsinkable Serena Williams, the last step is proving the hardest

GUARDIAN TENNIS: For the unsinkable Serena Williams, the last step is proving the hardest

Coming back from childbirth was always going to be her biggest challenge, but the baggage of trying to become the all-time great is proving a formidable haul even for Serena

Eight years ago, the documentary Venus and Serena followed the Williams sisters as they tried to survive the nadir of their careers. Venus prepared to do battle with Sjogren’s syndrome, while Serena plotted her way back from the first pulmonary embolism that had nearly killed her. During a quiet moment of the documentary, a quick break in the middle of practice, Serena noted to no one in particular that she had returned to the top 10 of the rankings. Isha, her sister, frowned and then responded with the question that has consumed all followers of the sport for 21 years: “Girl, how can you and Venus keep in the top 10 and y’all never play?”

The question remains unanswered. This week, Williams returned to the top 10 for the second time this year, one year after her first grand slam competition following maternity leave. It is absurd. She has completed only one tournament in 2019, the Australian Open, withdrawing after one match in her last three events. Over the past 52 weeks, she has only completed five events. For much of her career, she loomed as large over the tour in her absence as when she was there, but now her absence seems normal. The sport goes on.

Related: French Open women’s form guide: the players to watch at Roland Garros | Jacob Steinberg

Related: Katie Boulter makes clumsy, belated withdrawal from French Open

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Sat, 25 May 2019 09:00:37 GMT


The Highs and Lows as a Top Tier Tennis Player

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first week of the 2019 BNP Paribas Open.

Will the real Sloane Stephens please stand up?

Oh we know, this opener is as cliché as it gets but there’s some truth behind it and we believe that it speaks to a greater, and broader, conclusion: that life on tour is really damn hard.

You know Stephens, right? Long ago announced as a possible force after her run to No. 5 in the juniors, Stephens turned pro already a decade ago in 2009 and is the current World No. 4 player with a career-high ranking of No. 3. She’s also the 2017 US Open winner, has six career WTA titles, and she also made the 2018 French Open final.

It is here that we’ll mention that if it feels like we’re just stating biographical details about Stephens, it’s a little bit by design. You see, we’re using this to show you how much success Stephens has enjoyed over the past two years, and how accomplished she’s become, and yet that she still lost in the first round this past week in Indian Wells, 6-3 and 6-0 against No. 109 Stefanie Voegele. She’s among the very best in the world, and on one of the biggest stages of the world, she can’t even win one match?

Yeah, can the real Sloane Stephens please stand up?

Mind you, diehard fans of the player have become accustomed of such highs and lows in the unfolding of her career. After a stunning run to the 2013 Australian Open semifinal, where she upset Serena Williams in the process, Stephens, well, didn’t really do much afterward. She won her first career title two full years later in Washington, DC, then mostly progressed until the 2016 Rio Olympics before shutting things down with a foot fracture.

Until then, things are fairly fine but they would get much, much worse before they got better. The American couldn’t come back to the WTA before Wimbledon in 2017 after an 11-month layoff; by August, she was ranked No. 957, which seems unspeakably low for anyone let alone someone of Stephens’s reputation and accomplishment.

From there, a mere weeks later, Stephens snagged a US Open title. Surely, this would be the break and result she needed, right? Wrong, as the newly crowned champion proceeded to lose her next eight matches immediately following her win at Flushing Meadows, a streak that lasted through the 2018 Australian Open. If you’re saying “what the fuck?” under your breath, you’re not alone.

We say all this to say that perhaps more than anyone else currently playing, Stephens is a good emblem for how ridiculously difficult life is as a tennis pro: one day you’re on top, but the next one you could find yourself down in the ditch—or, in the case of Stephens, in the Tennis Channel announcer’s booth.

We’re not revealing you any secrets by stating that tennis is a freaking ruthless and unforgiving sport and that perhaps we’ve lost our perspective on this recently.

In tennis, you stand alone on a court and hit a yellow ball over and over and over and over again over a net and into an opposing court, and if you do it well enough you win a point. And if you do it well enough for long enough, then you might win a game, a set and even a match. Once you’ve done that, you get to move on to another match against a new opponent and with the same yellow ball. Rinse repeat, until one day you’ve won a tournament because you’ve nagged six or seven match wins in a row at the same event. That’s when tennis tells you, “Congrats, you’re a champ now; now do it all again next week.”

We’ve grown accustomed to the fact that top players should perform exceedingly well every single time they step on the courts when that’s simply impossible.

It’s not either that this is restricted to women’s tennis either. There was a time when we ridiculed Tomas Berdych for never managing to get over the hump when, in fact, we should have been cheering him on for even making 11 of 19 Grand Slam quarterfinals from 2012 through the end of 2016. Just ask players like Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Milos Raonic or Nick Kyrgios how easy this all is.

It’s all so difficult, and yet Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams manage to (almost) always do it. We’re tipping our virtual hats off to them, but this shouldn’t be an indictment on the highs and lows of a player as accomplished as Sloane Stephens, who, we’re repeating it here just so it’s clear, is the current fourth best player in the world.

She’s the fourth best player in the world, and she can lose in the first round to no real surprise.

If this can happen to her, what chance do other players have?

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

GUARDIAN TENNIS: Serena Williams cartoon not racist, Australian media watchdog rules

GUARDIAN TENNIS: Serena Williams cartoon not racist, Australian media watchdog rules

Herald Sun newspaper’s depiction of player ‘spitting the dummy’ at US Open had been widely condemned

A Herald Sun cartoon that depicted Serena Williams jumping in the air and “spitting the dummy” after losing a match to Naomi Osaka was not racist, the Press Council has found.

Related: The Serena cartoon debate: calling out racism is not ‘censorship’ | Gary Younge

@Knightcartoons cartoon is not racist or sexist …. it rightly mocks poor behavior by a tennis legend … Mark has the full support of everyone @theheraldsun

Related: News Corp defiant after ‘racist’ Serena Williams cartoon sparks global furore

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Sun, 24 Feb 2019 23:32:49 GMT


GUARDIAN TENNIS: Serena Williams’ coach advocates change in rules after US Open controversy

GUARDIAN TENNIS: Serena Williams’ coach advocates change in rules after US Open controversy

  • Patrick Mouratoglou says in-match coaching would help tennis
  • Williams was given violation for being coached at US Open

Serena Williams’ coach says in-match coaching should be allowed in tennis to help the sport’s popularity.

Patrick Mouratoglou, who admitted he used hand signals to try to help Williams during her controversial loss in this year’s US Open final, posted a statement to Twitter on Thursday saying that coaching would let “viewers enjoy it as a show” and “ensure that it remains pivotal in the sport.” Mouratoglou also pointed out that other non-team sports such as boxing and golf permit athletes to consult someone during competition.

Related: Serena Williams rails at umpire as superb Naomi Osaka wins US Open

The status of coaching in tennis needs reforming. Read my opinion below

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Thu, 18 Oct 2018 20:12:03 GMT