AP Images

Federer advances to Australian Open semifinal against Chung

1 Comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Roger Federer accounted for a long-time rival to set up a semifinal against Next Gen champion Hyeon Chung at the Australian Open.

Defending champion Federer’s 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych on Wednesday night extended his winning streak to 14 in Australian Open quarterfinals and to nine in that personal duel. The 19-time major winner leads that head-to-head contest 20-6, including all five meetings at Melbourne Park.

The 36-year-old Swiss star overcame a shaky start, dropping his opening service game and uncharacteristically challenging the chair umpire because of a technological fault.

“I had to get a bit lucky. A bit angry. A bit frustrated maybe at the umpire,” Federer said. “Anyway, glad to get out of that first set. It was key to the match.

“That first set could have gone either way. He deserved it, actually. I stole that one a little bit.”

Chung became the first Korean to make a Grand Slam tennis semifinal when he beat No. 97-ranked Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the afternoon match on Rod Laver Arena.

The 21-year-old Chung hadn’t let up when upsetting No. 4 Alexander Zverev or six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic en route to the quarterfinals, but he let his guard down in the last game and needed six match points and to fend off two break points to hold off Sandgren.

“In last game, I think at 40-love … if I win one more point, I make history in Korea. I have to think about the ceremony, something,” he said, explaining how he got slightly ahead of himself. “After deuce, break point. I was like, no, nothing to do with ceremony. But just keep playing – keep focused.”

Then he fully embraced the moment, joking in an on-court TV interview, introducing the audience to his parents and his coach, and taking the microphone to speak in Korean to millions of new tennis fans back home.

“I think all the people is watching Australian Open now because we make history in Korea,” he said.

The No. 58-ranked Chung is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Marat Safin in 2004. He’s also the youngest to reach the last four at a major since Marin Cilic did it here in 2010.

With Chung already through, and Kyle Edmund playing No. 6 Cilic in the other half of the draw, it’s the first time since 1999 that multiple unseeded players have reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Federer said he has been impressed with the way the two unseeded players have progressed, particularly Chung’s run.

“To beat Novak on this court is particularly difficult. … He’s incredibly impressive in his movement, reminds me obviously a lot of Novak,” Federer said. “He’s clearly got nothing to lose. I will tell myself the same and we’ll see what happens.”

Chung’s big wins over Zverev and Djokovic have drawn extra attention to a player who last November won the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals title.

He was too consistent for Sandgren, a 26-year-old American who had never won a match at a Grand Slam tournament or beaten a top 10 player until last week.

Sandgren’s unexpected surge to the quarterfinals – he beat 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka and No. 5 Dominic Thiem en route to the quarterfinals – was overshadowed by heavy scrutiny of his Twitter account and his follows and retweets of far-right activists.

Two women who’ve been to this stage at a Grand Slam before will meet in the last four. One has two major titles, the other still seeks a breakthrough. Top-ranked Simona Halep recovered from an early break to win nine straight games in a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 Karolina Pliskova and set up a semifinal match Thursday against 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, who routed U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.

In the other semifinal, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki will play 22-year-old Elise Mertens.

Kerber has been the only Grand Slam singles champion in the women’s draw since her third-round win over Maria Sharapova. Two-time French Open finalist Halep has had a tougher road – having to save match points in a third-round win over Lauren Davis that finished 15-13 in the third – to reach the semifinals at Melbourne Park for the first time.

Kerber has had no serious distractions on a 14-match winning streak, and is hoping to emulate her breakout year in 2016.

She won the Australian and U.S. Open titles two years ago and reached the No. 1 ranking, but slipped into the 20s last year. She didn’t win a title between the 2016 U.S. Open and the Sydney International earlier this month.

“I am just trying to find the feeling back that I had, like 2016, and just enjoying my time,” Kerber said.

Tennis star Bouchard testifies about slip, fall at US Open

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard has taken the witness stand at a New York City trial to accuse the United States Tennis Association of negligence that led to her slipping on a locker room floor and hurting her head.

Bouchard testified Wednesday a wet floor caused her to slip and fall inside a locker room at the 2015 U.S. Open.

Her lawsuit contends the USTA should have done more to warn her the area had just been cleaned. The defense says she shouldn’t have entered without being accompanied by tournament personnel.

The lawsuit says the fall left Bouchard with a concussion and “serious head injury.”

Bouchard says she was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open and tournaments in China and Japan. She’s seeking unspecified damages.

The 23-year-old Canadian player is ranked 116th in the world.

Serena Williams champions issues on, off court

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Moments after Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon title, she proudly raised her fist in a black power salute.

It caused a bit of frenzy at the All-England Club in 2016, but Williams’ action shouldn’t have surprised anyone: She’d already been one of the most vocal supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was one of the first major athletes to decry the failure to indict a white officer in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – while also condemning violence against police.

“What caused me to speak out? Just life,” Williams said. “That’s just who I am. I always believe in the greater good and doing what’s right.”

Williams isn’t alone in her activism. Female athletes – especially black women – have long been out there pushing for social change. Wilma Rudolph’s victory parade celebrating her three gold medals from the 1960 Olympics in Rome was the first integrated event in Clarksville, Tennessee.

But despite their efforts on the field and off, women athletes have to struggle to get the same attention as men despite having as much to say, said Harry Edwards, a scholar of race and sports who has worked as a consultant for several U.S. pro teams.

“We have this twisted, almost-demented obsession with women’s second-class status with their physical inferiority,” he said. “It prevents us from appreciating the great athletes that they are … but it also means that it shuts down a potential forum that these great athletes would have where they’re valued for their athletic prowess in the same way that Muhammad Ali was, that Bill Russell was, that Tommy Smith and John Carlos were, that Arthur Ashe was, that Curt Flood was, so that when they speak, people listen.”

While Williams has long been an advocate of Black Lives Matter, it was only after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016 season that the country really began to pay attention to black athlete activism. Kaepernick added his voice to a growing national movement, enveloping the entire league and starting an ongoing conversation that ventured outside football arenas.

Similarly, few people acknowledge that after the 2016 deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the killing of Dallas police officers, dozens of WNBA players wore shirts with the men’s names and kneeled for the national anthem.

It was a black woman, Knox College basketball player Ariyana Smith, who started the wave of athletic protest about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

On Nov. 29, 2014, Smith made the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture during the national anthem before a game at Fontbonne University in Clayton, Missouri, before walking toward the American flag and laying prone on the floor for 4 1/2 minutes to symbolize the 4 + hours Brown lay in the streets of nearby Ferguson.

“We as black women are often invisible, so we don’t get that credit,” said Akilah Francique, a former athlete who cofounded the Sista to Sista program to foster a sense of connectedness among black female collegiate athletes.

Williams has been a presence on and off the tennis court, not shying away from opponents en route to winning 23 Grand Slam titles or social and political issues.

She spoke up in 2015, encouraging Black Lives Matter activists not to get discouraged: “To those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. Don’t let those trolls stop you. We’ve been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too,” she wrote in Wired magazine.

Since then, Williams has become the symbol for other causes affecting people of color, including medical issues. In February, she told Vogue that she dealt with a medical scare after the birth of her daughter. She had to insist on getting extra medical tests, overruling her nurse, before her doctors discovered several small blood clots in her lungs.

Women around the country related to her story, talking about similar difficulties in getting proper medical attention.

Female-led activism can also look different than men’s, Francique said, because of the unique positions and pressures women face in sports and in life. She pointed to the criticism black women athletes have to overcome about their body shapes, training regimens, skin color, clothing and even hair when they compete in sports – criticism that Williams has endured.

“For many of them just by merely being there and having a presence is activism,” Francique said.

Williams’ older sister, Venus, who has advocated for equal pay for professional tennis while winning seven Grand Slam titles, believes it is important to have a voice on these issues.

“I think more than anything, we see ourselves as Americans, and that’s what we want to be able to see ourselves as, regardless of color,” said Venus Williams. “I think that’s what everyone is fighting for, that one day we don’t have to see that anymore.”