Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
It wasn't always pretty, but Serena Williams rained on Justine Henin's fairytale comeback parade to take her fifth Australian Open crown, an Open Era record.
Fighting through nerves, sticky feet, and legs heavy as wet hay, the world No. 1 picked apart Henin's game at the most crucial moments of the match for a gritty 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena last night.
It's the first time the American defended a Slam since Wimbledon 2003. The first to defend a title Down Under since Jennifer Capriati in 2002. And she finally broke the even-year jinx, winning a title in the first year of the decade to go with crowns in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009.
Serena has now won a Slam in three different decades, beginning with her maiden US Open title in 1999 at age seventeen.
With the victory, she claimed her 12th major title, equaling her idol Billie Jean King for sixth place on the all-time list. Serena now trails only Margaret Smith Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills Moody (19), Martina Navratilova (19) and Chris Evert (18).
With her five Australian Opens, she surpasses Smith Court, Graf, Monica Seles, and Evonne Goolagong for the most won in the Open Era. And she improves her overall winning percentage in Grand Slam finals to 12-3 (.800) the best among active players, woman or man.
Henin, who retired in a cloud of questions 20 months ago, was trying to repeat Kim Clijsters' comeback success by winning her first major entered, and to become the second unranked woman to win a Slam in the Open Era. (Bet I know who Clijsters was rooting for last night.) Despite Henin's run to the finals, she'll remain unranked on Monday. The WTA rankings system requires three events on the computer before spitting out a number before your name.
The Little Backhand That (Almost) Could played brilliantly in stretches and fought like she always fights, but it wasn't enough to overcome a determined defending champion. Despite being mummified with tape on her right thigh and left calf, and playing every day of the event for the last week and a half, including defending her doubles title with her big sister the day before, Serena had two practice sessions earlier in the day to get her feet moving and prepare for Henin's low slices.
In the first few games of the match, you would've never known. Serena had to serve 29 times, fight through two break points and five deuces just to hold her opening service game. She broke Henin's serve to lead 3-1 but faced another 15-40 deficit. She saved the first break point with a 119 MPH service winner.
On the second, a controversial line call denied the Belgian a break back. Henin played a great point to win the game but it had to be replayed because the linesperson called Henin's short volley out, corrected herself, but Serena chased the ball down and got her racquet on it. The crowd booed. When Serena struck another service winner to save break point, Henin cursed behind the baseline, and the crowd booed again. From thereon, it was firmly in Henin's corner.
Serena dropped the next three games to level the set and 4-4, but composed herself and broke Henin again in the ninth game to take the first set.
40 for 40 in wins Down Under after taking the first set, Serena was poised to run away with the match. Leading 3-2 in set two, she earned a break point on Henin's serve, but hit a forehand into Melbourne. After a few more deuces, Henin held on.
At 3-3, 30-0, Serena tossed in a wild double fault that landed halfway between the service line and the baseline. I gagged. So did Serena. She won a single point the rest of the set. Her feet froze, her mind wandered, and Henin took full advantage, striking line-cleaning winners off both wings from all over the court to win the set 6-3 and level the match.
Surely the match was now Henin's to lost, right? After all, she had the advantage of opening the third set on her serve.
After both players took an extended bathroom break, Serena returned to the court composed and ready to take names. After the match, she told Mary Jo Fernandez she might not ever get another chance and had to "man up", dig in and go for it. But that's not exactly what she did.
The intensity when these two play is unrivaled and I wasn't sure who would raise her game, hold it together, and seize control of the match. Was this see-saw affair headed to 12-10 in the third?
Momentum still on her side, Henin opened the set with a strong hold at love. Serena once again had to save 15-40 on her serve to level the match. After trading three nervy breaks, Serena finally consolidated one to lead 4-2. The finish line in view, the defending champ switched tactics, adding more topspin and less pace to her shots, spreading the court with angles instead of depth. Henin had trouble creating her own pace on the higher bouncing shots and finally capitulated another break to a fiercely focused Serena who was not to be denied.
With a strong service game, including the fastest ace of the match at 123 MPH, Serena closed out the tug of war in two hours and seven minutes. Falling on her back in victory, relief broke over her face like surf. When she finally got up to approach the net, she could hardly walk, a fortnight of fatigue on full display. Almost thought she was going to fall down again before reaching the stands and sharing celebratory hugs with her mother and sister.
A double duty champion Down Under two years running and fifth overall, Serena the Great put out an extraordinary effort. Now that she's reached her goal of equaling King's Slam victories, she may be more relaxed on the crushed brick of Paris and finally win another crown there.
Surely, Henin will have something to say about that.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Serena is gunning for Slam title No. 12, which will tie her with the legendary Billie Jean King on the all-time list. Henin is going for Slam No. 8 which will tie her with Monica Seles on the all-time list and move her past Venus Williams into second place among active players behind Serena.
There's mutual respect and a few vials of bad blood. Henin will never be able to live down her infamous hand shenanigans in the Roland Garros semifinal, which ultimately cost Serena the match and a chance to defend her first Roland Garros title. And after a string of successive defeats in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2007, Serena virtually ran Justine off the tour with a 6-2, 6-0 beatdown in the quarterfinals of Key Biscayne in 2008.
A few weeks ago, when the Sydney draw came out, Serena and Henin were to face off in a potential second-round encounter. But Henin withdrew citing injury. She had just completed a grueling three-set final against her Belgian rival Kim Clijsters in the Brisbane final, so the tennis world would have to wait to see these mulitple Slam champions go at it.
Didn't have to wait too long. Some are calling it a dream final, others a cat fight. Based upon the player's current form, the encounter could be over in an hour. Serena's serve and return are the key. As much as Henin fights, her serve hasn't held up well throughout the fortnight. But her opponents haven't been able to fend off her aggressive return game to hold their own serves.
Serena went through four rounds without dropping serve and it wasn't until nerves overcame her at the outset of her quarterfinal encounter against Victoria Azarenka that she finally surrendered a service game. Several of them. But if she's comfortably holding serve -- she's served the most aces (53) and clocked the fastest serve (126.7 MPH) through 6 rounds -- and breaking serve at will, Henin won't win a set.
But Serena is trying to defend a Slam title for the first time since Wimbledon 2003. And while she asserted in a presser that she doesn't enter events to defend titles but to win them, I can't imagine some nervous pressure won't leaden her feet in the first few games of the match.
Henin, who recently admitted being afraid of playing Serena, could play with nothing to lose or as anxiously as she did against Elena Dementieva in the second round. Either way, her second serve is a wasteland and her penchant for double faulting at the crucial junctures of a match could be her undoing. However, if she's cracking forehand winners with that shorter backswing and earlier contact and wearing Serena down with dropshots, she could take Serena the distance.
Serena leads their career head-to-head 7-6. The American is 4-1 on hardcourts, the Belgian, 4-2 in Slams. They're tied at 2 wins apiece in event finals. Amazingly, this will be their first match in a Slam final and their first match in Melbourne.
Even though Serena has never lost a final Down Under, she's never won the title in an even year. Henin's only Australian Open title came in an even year.
ESPN will air the finals live at 3:30AM eastern standard time. Take your naps, set your alarms, prepare the popcorn and get ready for the fireworks.
Cross posted to Huffington Post
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
from poster Trumystique
Hello JJP family
(Sorry to be a stranger for so long but I have been swamped with life and work)
We have witnessed one of the largest natural disasters and likely the most devastating to affect Haiti in the last 200 years. Many of you are reacting to the news of the earthquake in Haiti in different ways. Many children of Haiti, like me, are calling friends and family to find out if they are ok. (So far the news from my family is heartening though we are waiting with baited breath for word from cousins who we have been unable to get in touch with.)
Others of you seeing the pictures of poverty, grief, destruction and devastation are wondering how you can help. In many times of crisis, the first impulse is to give to any organization that seems like it might help. While Haiti is known by many to be the poorest nation in this hemisphere- it is also the first independent black nation of the world, home to great intellectuals, artists, musicians and a rich spiritual/cultural tradition. There are many local organizations on the ground- formed by Haitians’ helping each other- that I would ask you to consider. Additionally, there are many international organizations that have a demonstrated and independently verified record of helping people in need, responding to disasters etc.
I would ask you to consider giving to the organizations below. These organizations are ones in which close friends or family members of mine have witnessed the quality and dedication of the humanitarian work performed.
You can also collect cash donations at your place of work in the days and coming weeks and send to the organizations below. The motto on the Haitian flag “L’Union fait la force” means in “ in unity is strength” so many small donations as little as $1 would be a help to the organizations below.
Finally, the first 72 hours of a disaster are critical. You can also help by calling your elected officials and ask them what they are doing to ensure a swift, sure and effective US government led humanitarian response. Contact the White House at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414. And contact your Senator or Representative . Tell them that the world and country is watching how the most powerful country in this world will respond to this crisis.
St. Boniface Haiti Foundation
400 North Main St.
Randolph, MA 02368
Catholic clinic and organization that my sister volunteered with in Haiti. Do amazing work taking care of the medical and social needs of the whole family and village.
2. H.E.L.P Inc
Director Michel Brutus email@example.com
14 Impasse Heraux – Entrée Sylvio Cator
Port-au-Prince Haiti W.I.
011 509 246-5710(Home)
011 509 555-5410(Cellular)
011 509 510-8238(Hospital)
Louise A. Smith
Advisory Board General Secretary 31 Galty Avenue – Dorchester, MA 02124 617-287-8445
This clinic is near the epicenter of the disaster. I have not been able to confirm if the hospital is still standing. But the staff at this hospital are a dedicated group and will be at the heart of reaching out and helping.
One-time giving/Emergency relief
P.O. Box 9716
Federal Way, WA 98063-9716
Me and my sister contribute to this organization on a regular basis. I saw them on the front line in Uganda helping constantly in many ways ( building wells, homes, clinics, vaccinating kids etc). They are in Haiti with a significant presence and have a proven track record in disaster relief. They do this work well, with low administrative overhead so you know the money will be going directly to people in need.
333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001-5004
Finally another well known organization that is always on the front lines of disaster relief. I have many close friends who volunteered with this organization and have nothing but wonderful things to say about their work. They do this work well and with low administrative overhead.
I thank you in advance for your help. Continue to keep your positive thoughts, prayers and actions focused on Haiti.
Times are tough. Do whatever you can. But do it now.