Getty Images

Serena Williams overtakes Federer for most Slam match wins

1 Comment

NEW YORK —¬†Serena Williams now owns more victories in Grand Slam matches than anyone else in tennis’ Open era, surpassing Roger Federer with her 308th.

So, Serena, who’ll wind up with more?

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Williams said during her on-court interview after reaching the U.S. Open quarterfinals by beating Yaroslava Shvedova 6-2, 6-3 on Monday.

“Hopefully we’ll both keep going,” she added. “I know I plan on it. I know he does. So we’ll see.”

Federer turned 35 on Aug. 8. Williams turns 35 on Sept. 26.

Williams’ very first win at a Grand Slam tournament came way back when she was 16, a 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-1 victory over Irina Spirlea in the first round of the Australian Open on Jan. 19, 1998. Williams’ first loss at a major came in her next match, which happened to come against older sister Venus.

Nearly two decades later, through plenty of highs and lows, from championships to health scares, the younger Williams is still at it – and still winning.

“It’s a huge number,” she said about getting to 308. “I think it’s very significant, actually. I think it’s something that just really talks about the length of my career, in particular. I’ve been playing for a really long time. But also, given that consistency up there – that’s something that I’m really proud of.”

Although her 36-year-old sibling is active, many of Williams’ contemporaries have come and gone, including Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, who are both younger, and Martina Hingis, who is only a year older.

“I definitely never thought I would be playing still,” Williams said. “Now I don’t really see when I’m going to stop, because I’m just enjoying these moments out here, getting to break records that I didn’t even know existed or I didn’t even know was possible.”

Over her career, she is 308-42 at the majors, for a winning percentage of .880. Here’s the victory breakdown: 88 at the U.S. Open, 86 at Wimbledon, 74 at the Australian Open, 60 at the French Open.

Federer is 307-51 (.858) and can’t increase his total until next season, because he is sitting out the U.S. Open and the rest of 2016 because of problems with his surgically repaired right knee. Indeed, he recently tweeted pictures of himself hiking in the Swiss countryside .

Williams, meanwhile, still has work to do at Flushing Meadows as she pursues another mark: most Grand Slam singles titles in the Open era, which began in 1968. She pulled even with Steffi Graf by collecting her 22nd trophy at Wimbledon in July.

Against the 52nd-ranked Shvedova, Williams hit a tournament-leading 126 mph serve, totaled 11 aces, won 28 of 30 points when a first serve landed in, and didn’t face a break point. So far, through four matches, Williams has not been broken at all, facing only a single break point.

“She’s hitting much harder than a regular player. And the placement and the bounce is much different,” Shvedova said. “It’s harder to reach.”

Williams has reached at least the quarterfinals in each of her past nine appearances at the U.S. Open. A year ago, she was stunned in the semifinals by Roberta Vinci, ending the American’s bid to become the first player since Graf in 1988 with a calendar-year Grand Slam.

She’ll try to get back to the semifinals by beating No. 5 Simona Halep next.

“I just feel like I’m going out there, doing what I need to do,” Williams said. “I’m not overplaying, I’m not underplaying.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Serena Williams returning to competition for US Fed Cup team

AP Photo
Leave a comment

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) The U.S. Tennis Association says Serena Williams will return to competition for the first time in more than a year at the country’s Fed Cup matches against the Netherlands next month.

Williams has not played an official match since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. She was pregnant during that tournament and gave birth to a daughter on Sept. 1.

Joining Williams on U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi’s roster announced Tuesday is older sister Venus, a seven-time major champion. The siblings have not played on the Fed Cup team together in three years.

Also on the team: CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist at the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year. A fourth member of the U.S. squad will be announced next week.

The U.S. won last year’s Fed Cup.

The matches against the Netherlands will be held on an indoor hard court in Ashville, North Carolina, on Feb. 10-11.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Injured Nadal out of Australian Open; Cilic into semifinals

AP Images
3 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic.

Top-ranked Nadal fended off five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then the 16-time major winner went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.

No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semifinal in Australia since 2010 with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 2-0, retired.

Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, will next play No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, who beat No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

Nadal limped into a news conference about a half-hour later, still wincing when he stepped up onto a platform. He said he felt muscle pain in his upper right leg in the third set but played through it. In the fourth set, chasing a drop shot, he felt the pain get worse “but didn’t realize how bad.”

“Tough moments -not (for) the first time here,” he said. “I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me.

“It’s really tough to accept.”

Nadal said he’d have medical scans Wednesday to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he could only describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.

“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said. “He’s such an unbelievable competitor. He always gives his best … it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”

It was only the second time Nadal had retired during a Grand Slam match – the last time was also an Australian Open quarterfinal, in 2010 against Andy Murray.

On Tuesday night, he needed a medical timeout after going down 4-1 in the fourth set for treatment on his leg.

Nadal returned but was clearly bothered by the injury, limping and taking as much time as possible as he tried to stretch between points.

He called the trainer again after losing the fourth set, and lasted only two further games.

Cilic had only previously beaten Nadal once in their six previous matches – in their first match at Beijing in 2009.

Nadal had a delayed start to the season because of an injured right knee, but appeared to be in good form through the first four rounds. He now hasn’t won back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals since 2008 and ’09, the year he won his only Australian title.

“I worked hard to be here,” said Nadal, who skipped tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, Australia, while his knee recovered at the start of the season. “We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do.”

His absence also means there’s only one of last year’s singles finalists remaining in the tournament. Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Serena Williams didn’t defend her title, deciding she hadn’t had enough time to prepare following the birth of her first child last September. Her older sister, Venus Williams, was beaten in the first round.

On top of that, six-time champion Novak Djokovic was upset in the fourth round.

There’ll be a British man in the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time in nine years, but it won’t be five-time finalist Murray – who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.

Edmund had never played in a major quarterfinal, had never won five consecutive matches at tour level, had lost both of his previous matches against Dimitrov and had never beaten a top five player.

He checked all those boxes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” Edmund said. “My first Grand Slam semifinal. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor. They’re great feelings. So, yeah, I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

After breaking Dimitrov’s serve in the ninth game of the fourth set, Edmund set up match point with an ace. Then he had to wait before a video challenge confirmed that Dimitrov’s last shot – a floating backhand – was out.

“I just held my nerve in that last game and prayed that last ball would be out,” Edmund said. It was out. And so was Dimitrov, who lost a five-set semifinal here last year to Nadal.

“Everything went his way today,” Dimitrov said. “It’s hard to hide a disappointment. It hurts, and so it should.”

Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, is now the center of attention for the tennis-loving British public.

“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years,” he said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. Of course you take it in stride.”

Elise Mertens is facing a similar experience.

Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to extend her winning streak to 10 matches, becoming the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals here.

Mertens, who trains at Clijsters’ academy, said: “Kim, thanks for watching. I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.”

In the semis, she’ll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.