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Serena Williams’ Wimbledon Starts Slow; Venus Wins 6-0, 6-0

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Serena Williams of the United States celebrates a point during the women's singles first round match against Margarita Gasparyan of Russia at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday June 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Serena Williams of the United States celebrates a point during the women’s singles first round match against Margarita Gasparyan of Russia at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Monday June 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer

LONDON (AP) — As has become customary for Serena Williams of late, she got off to a rocky start.

In her first-round match at Wimbledon on Monday, Williams dropped three of the first four games. She slipped and nearly did the splits, tumbling to the turf. She was warned for using foul language.

And, as has also become customary for Williams, she wound up with a victory.

The No. 1-seeded Williams extended her pursuit of a fourth consecutive major title and her bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam, too, by taking 11 of the last 13 games to beat 113th-ranked qualifier Margarita Gasparyan 6-4, 6-1. Williams has won her past 22 Grand Slam matches.

“There are a lot of expectations on her shoulders at the moment,” said Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “It took her maybe six games to get going. At 3-all, she started to relax and play. And then there was no match.”

Gasparyan came in 0-3 in tour-level matches and was making her Wimbledon main-draw debut.

“When I (saw) her before match,” Gasparyan said, “I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I’m playing Serena.'”

Yet the 20-year-old Russian played unafraid at the outset, and her one-handed backhand withstood Williams’ power for about a half-hour. Then, Gasparyan explained, Williams began playing “unbelievable,” taking five straight games and 22 of 29 points in one stretch.

It was, otherwise, a mostly routine Day 1 for the biggest names on the schedule. Defending champion Novak Djokovic — and the player he lost to in the French Open final this month, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka — won in straight sets. So did 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and two other major title winners and former No. 1-ranked women, Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic.

Williams improved to 33-1 in 2015, competing for the first time since winning her 20th Grand Slam singles trophy at the French Open. En route to that title, Williams lost the opening set in four matches.

There, Mouratoglou said, “she had to dig deep to find a way to get her real level,” in part because Williams was dealing with an illness. On Monday, the cause for the poor beginning was twofold, he said: Williams hadn’t played on grass since she was at the All England Club a year ago, and she felt some nerves.

Really? Jitters?

“Of course she’s nervous, because she cares. She wants to do well. She wants to win, and she wants it really bad,” Mouratoglou said. “If after all these years, she wouldn’t be nervous, it would mean, probably, that she would not care enough to keep on playing.”

If, a fortnight from now, the 33-year-old Williams were to win Wimbledon for a sixth time, she would be the oldest women’s major champion in the Open era of professional tennis, which began in 1968. She also would complete a self-styled “Serena Slam” of four major titles in a row, something she pulled off in 2002-03.

“It’s definitely historic, I guess. But it’s also six matches away,” Williams said. “It’s definitely not guaranteed.”

And she would head to the U.S. Open with a chance to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four majors in a single season.

“It’s a pretty good chance,” Williams’ older sister, Venus, said about the prospect of a true Grand Slam. “Hasn’t been done that often. But then again, she’s done a lot of things that haven’t been done that often.”

Venus Williams, whose seven Grand Slam titles include five at Wimbledon, could say the same about herself, including Monday’s 6-0, 6-0 victory over 36th-ranked Madison Brengle of the U.S.

It was the first so-called “double bagel” at the All England Club in six years — No. 14 Andrea Petkovic added another later against Shelby Rogers of the U.S. — and first for the elder Williams on a grass court since her first match on the surface, back in 1997.

“I don’t remember that match,” she said. “I’m sure I enjoyed it.”

If she and her sister can each win twice more this week, they would face each other Monday in the fourth round. That would be their first Grand Slam meeting since Serena won the 2009 Wimbledon final, and their earliest matchup at a major in a decade.

When Serena was asked about that possibility, she said she didn’t know there could be an all-Williams match in the round of 16.

“You know what?” she said. “I’m going to just focus on right now.”

___

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

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Kaplan to WNBA: Bring New Team Here!

Support to bring a WNBA team extends past a solid fanbase, as local regulating agencies have also taken key votes to prepare for a WNBA team in Oakland. With the leadership of Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, in July 2021, both the Oakland Coliseum Authority and the Oakland City Council unanimously and enthusiastically voted in favor of a term sheet to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

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@PaulCobbOakland @NNPA_BlackPress @BlackPressUSA @Kaplan4Oakland @WNBA
Ray Bobbitt, President of African American Sports and Entertainment Group, who purchased the Coliseum as part of its East Oakland Development Plan, thanks Rebecca Kaplan for providing the City Council leadership in 2021 for the AASEG to bring a WNBA Franchise along with jobs, housing, businesses and sports enterprises to Oakland. Photo by Jonathan “Fitness” Jones.

By Post Staff

Oakland Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan will introduce a resolution on Sept. 20, 1:30 p.m. to the Oakland City Council urging the Women’s National Basketball Association (“WNBA”) to approve the City of Oakland as the home for a new WNBA Team.

The WNBA has discussed plans to expand the number of WNBA teams on its roster for the past number of years. Kaplan said, “the City of Oakland must make it clear that not only are we supportive of bringing a WNBA Team to Oakland but are excited to be partners and collaborators with the WNBA during the expansion. This resolution, therefore, extends our strong support towards this effort and urges the WNBA to make Oakland the home for a WNBA team.”

When asked by the Post whether she had heard that San Francisco might be a potential WNBA competitor, even though Oakland started first with its bid, Kaplan said, “Oakland is ideally suited for a WNBA team because of our fervent and rooted fanbase, existing arena space and shared core values with the WNBA. The Bay Area has the fourth-highest number of WNBA fans among U.S. markets without a WNBA team — 418,816 WNBA fans, higher than eight current markets with a WNBA team. More than a half million Bay Area market adults play basketball, and the Bay Area ranks in the top 30 markets in household delivery for the WNBA Regular Season.”

In October of 2021, it was announced that WNBA Champion and four-time WNBA All-Star Alana Beard, who spent 15 years playing the WNBA and earned back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors, and Attorney Jade Smith-Williams, of the law firm Baily & Glasser, LLP, a local Oakland women’s basketball legend and who played professionally overseas, would join in the leading efforts by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (“AASEG”) to have an Oakland Black and Women WNBA Team ownership process.

In addition to a strong fan base, Oakland already has a world-class arena at the center of a multimodal corridor ready to house a WNBA team. The Oakland Arena is easily accessible by both highway and public transportation, complete with a pedestrian bridge that allows fans direct access from the Coliseum BART station. The arena sits on 132 acres with 10,000 on-site parking spaces. It is also airport accessible, and a stone’s throw away from the Capitol Corridor rail line. This multimodal connectivity will allow not only Oaklanders to conveniently attend games but also fans from across California. From former Monarchs supporters to women’s basketball enthusiasts, Oakland will draw fans from the Bay Area megaregion and beyond.

Support to bring a WNBA team extends past a solid fanbase, as local regulating agencies have also taken key votes to prepare for a WNBA team in Oakland. With the leadership of Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, in July 2021, both the Oakland Coliseum Authority and the Oakland City Council unanimously and enthusiastically voted in favor of a term sheet to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

Kaplan states, “Oakland is a community that values social justice, equality, and women’s rights. These principles align with those of the WNBA, and we are ready to move forward as a partner in advancing those goals as the home for a new WNBA team.”

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Activism

Veterans Fish Free

NABVETS and other Bay Area veterans groups will join together with East Bay Regional Park District to go fishing, 9:00am to 2:30pm Saturday, September 27 at the Oakley Regional Shoreline (Antioch Pier) at Bridgehead Road and Wilbur Avenue, Antioch, CA. 

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NABVETS and other Bay Area veterans groups will join together with East Bay Regional Park District to go fishing, 9:00am to 2:30pm Saturday, September 27 at the Oakley Regional Shoreline (Antioch Pier) at Bridgehead Road and Wilbur Avenue, Antioch, CA.

Buses will provide free transportation from Richmond and Concord. For information, view the flyer below or call 510-545-2554.

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Black History

COMMENTARY: Inspiring Tennis from Serena, Tiafoe, and Coco Gauff

The match that had people buzzing came last Friday, featuring Serena Williams, considered the best women’s player ever. Nearly 41-years old, a mother of a young child, Serena had announced her retirement. Friday would be her last match.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

By Emil Guillermo

Tennis, anyone? In my Mission District neighborhood growing up, we had courts. But us kids always chose the adjoining basketball court. And in the summer and fall, we chose the big patch of grass for baseball and football. They tried to get us to play tennis by giving us free rackets. But they were wooden, and we broke them at the handle easily. Besides, the famous players whose names graced the rackets were Rod Laver, Tony Trabert. White guys, not like any of us.

That was in my day. If only we had seen more people like us to encourage us to play in white spaces.

But imagine growing up now watching the U.S. Open.

This week an African American from Maryland, 24-year-old Frances Tiafoe, ranked No. 22 in the world beat the No.2 seed of the tournament, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal, and became the youngest American to advance to the U.S. Open quarterfinals since Andy Roddick in 2006.

Tiafoe played with such joy, indicative of a love instilled in him by his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, who worked as a maintenance man at a tennis development facility in the DC area. While his dad worked late nights tending to the clay courts, his mother, a nurse, worked nights. It made the young Tiafoe sleep at the facility during the week. That’s how you fall in love with the game. It becomes part of your dreams.

But Tiafoe is a young emerging phenom. The match that had people buzzing came last Friday, featuring Serena Williams, considered the best women’s player ever. Nearly 41-years old, a mother of a young child, Serena had announced her retirement. Friday would be her last match.

For her send off, Serena gave us plenty of fight and passion. After a second-round victory that stunned even her fans, Serena had people talking about her possibly winning the whole thing. In the third round match, she was down 5-1 in the final set. She’s overcome that kind of deficit before, but … would she? Could she? Now?

Serena fought off six match points before she meekly hit a final ball into the net that made her younger opponent Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, the victor.

But we got what we needed. A life lesson. Serena in braids and a sparkly black tennis dress, showed the fire of never giving up. Six match points she battled. Commentator/former tennis champion Chris Evert described the Serena method as reaching for the stars, failing, then getting up to fight again.

The beauty of that process? Sometimes you’ll fail well enough to win. Over and over again.

That’s how Serena became such a dominant champion, winning 39 major titles — the most in history by man or woman in the open era. Among those laurels were 23 Grand Slam singles titles, 14 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles.

And to think, Serena and her sister Venus, another great champion, all did it out of that tennis haven — Compton, Calif.

When I saw them both play, I was already too old to play competitively. But I wasn’t too old to be motivated to pick up a racket and hit some balls. That’s how inspiring both Williams sisters have been for more than two decades.

Now here comes a new generation of fresh stars half their age, Americans in the U.S. Open quarterfinals like the exuberantly physical Tiafoe and the screaming 18-year-old Coco Gauff.

There’s some diverse tennis role models now if you want to work on your forehand.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com

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