Serena rallies past Venus, builds confidence for US Open

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Serena Williams returns a shot to her sister Venus Williams during the WTA tennis tournament in Nicholasville, Kentucky, on Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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Serena Williams (L) and Venus Williams touch rackets after the game. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Serena rallies past Venus, builds confidence for US Open

  • Ninth-ranked Serena is preparing to chase a seventh career US Open singles crown at Flushing Meadows
  • Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus, currently ranked 67th, ousted world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the first round

WASHINGTON: Serena Williams rallied to defeat sister Venus Williams 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday in a second-round matchup of Grand Slam champions at the WTA Top Seed Open.
Top-seeded Serena, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, said the victory will boost her confidence heading into the US Open as she improved to 19-12 in the 22-year-old rivalry with Venus.
“I wanted to win this for my game and my confidence,” said Serena, whose only title as a mother came in January at Auckland.
“I honestly didn’t come here to win (a title) for the first time in my career. I just came here to get some matches. I haven’t had this much time off since I had the baby.”
Ninth-ranked Serena is one shy of matching Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles and she is preparing to chase a seventh career US Open singles crown at Flushing Meadows.
Serena smacked a cross-court forehand winner to break Venus for a 2-1 lead in the third set, then dropped the next four games, only to break again in the seventh on another forehand cross-court winner, then hold to 4-4.
Serena zipped a backhand cross-court winner past Venus to break for a 5-4 lead and served out the match, aided by an umpire over-rule ace to reach 30-30.
Serena followed the call with her 14th ace and won after two hours and 19 minutes when Venus sent a forehand beyond the baseline.
“The last couple games I just wanted to win because I’ve been losing a lot of those tight sets,” Serena said. “I just tried to focus on those last two games.”
Serena improved to 100-110 after losing the first set, the best of any active WTA players. In the Williams sisters rivalry, the first-set winner has taken 26 of 31 meetings.
“This was right up there,” Serena said. “I’d say it was one of the all-time top five super-competitive matches between the two of us.”
Serena had six double faults and hit 67% of her first serves while winning 46% of second-serve points and taking 5-of-15 break points in her first event since February’s Fed Cup.
Venus, ranked 67th, had six aces with 11 double faults. The seven-time Grand Slam champion ousted Victoria Azarenka in the first round.
“She played unbelievable,” Serena said of Venus. “She’s doing so good. I honestly don’t know how I was able to pull it off at the end. She played so well.”
Venus, 40, and Serena, 38, had a combined age of 79 years and 19 days, the third-oldest combined age of any WTA Tour match.
The sisters concluded matters with a racquet tap at the net, a nod to the COVID-19 pandemic that had shut down the season for five months until last week and forced the Lexington, Kentucky, event to be played without public spectators.
Serena advanced to a quarter-final on Friday against fellow American Shelby Rogers, who ousted Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 7-5.
Thursday’s match marked the earliest Serena and Venus have met in a draw since their first tour-level meeting in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open.
Serena has won 10 of their past 12 meetings dating to Miami 2009.
It was the first match between the superstar siblings since the third round of the 2018 US Open, when Serena, in her comeback season from maternity leave, won 6-1, 6-2.
Also into the last eight was Jil Teichmann, who eliminated Kazak fifth seed Yulia Putintseva 6-2, 6-2. The Swiss next plays Catherine Bellis, who beat US compatriot Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-2.


Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

Updated 33 min 17 sec ago

Bucks’ Antetokounmpo named NBA MVP for second straight year

  • The 25-year-old became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994
  • The MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals

LOS ANGELES: Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday he’ll treasure his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player award and redouble his efforts to capture a league crown.
The 25-year-old from Greece became just the third player in history to earn MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season, after Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.
“Michael Jordan, one of the best players who’s ever done it, if not the best,” Antetokounmpo said, speaking from a rooftop in Athens during the televised announcement of the award. “Hakeem, a guy that I look up to, he came from where I’m from, Nigeria, where I have roots.
“Just being in the same sentence with them, that means a lot to me.”
The player dubbed the “Greek Freak” became the 12th player to win back-to-back MVPs, joining Jordan, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
But, once again, the MVP award carries a bittersweet tinge after the top-seeded Bucks fell in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Last year, Antetokounmpo won the MVP only for eventual champion Toronto to oust the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously I would love to be still in the bubble playing games, fighting,” Antetokounmpo said. “But at the end of the day I won the award. I’m extremely blessed.
“It’s been a long journey,” Antetokounmpo added. “The people that know me, the people that know my story, you can never take these moments for granted.”
Antetokounmpo won in a landslide, receiving 85 first-place votes from a global panel of sports reporters and broadcasters, the league announced on Friday.
Los Angeles Lakers star James received 16 first-place votes and the third finalist, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, did not receive any first-place votes.
The voting was based on performance from the start of the season through March 11, when play was shut down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
It did not included the “seeding games” played when teams in contention for playoff spots once play resumed in Orlando.
Antetokounmpo averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists in leading the Bucks to the best regular-season record in the pandemic-disrupted season.
But he had to watch from the sidelines as the Heat won game five of their semifinal series, nursing a sprained ankle suffered in game three and aggravated in game four.
“Obviously, I am disappointed to not be able to help our team go to the third round,” he said. “That feeling cannot take away from this award.
“I’m happy for this award, but I want more,” he said. “I want to be a champion.”
As a veteran entering his eighth season, Antetokounmpo will be eligible to receive a supermax contract extension from the Bucks.
The Bucks reportedly plan to extend that offer as soon as they can — after the 2019-20 season officially ends.
There has been widespread speculation as to whether a player of Antetokounmpo’s stature will be happy to remain in the small market of Milwaukee.
He met with Bucks owners including Marc Lasry before heading to Greece and has indicated he’d be open to staying.
Providing he’s convinced the team is determined to invest the resources to pursue a title, Antetokounmpo said Friday, “I don’t see why not to be in Milwaukee for the next 15 years.”