Tough road for Williams sisters as BNP Paribas Open women’s draw announced

Serena Williams, seeded 10th, could open her BNP Paribas Open campaign against Victoria Azarenka in a rematch of the 2016 finals, and possibly face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruzu in the third round.

By Leighton Ginn

Serena Williams will have a tough road in the BNP Paribas Open with possible matchups against former No. 1 players in the world in her first two matches.

Her sister Venus won’t have much of a cake walk either.

The BNP Paribas Open announced its women’s draw on Monday, and the road to the title.

Serena, who won the BNP Paribas Open title in 1999 and 2001, is the 10th seed and will have bye in the first round. In the 96- player draw, the top 32 players have a first-round bye.

To open her tournament, Serena could face Victoria Azarena in a rematch of the 2016 final, which Azarenka won 6-4, 6-4. It’s also a match up of two of the more high-profile working mothers on the tour.

Azarenka will face Vera Lapko in the first-round.

If Serena gets past Azarenka, she could face former No. 1 Garbine Muguruza, who is seeded 20th.

Serena has a 3-2 record against Muguruza.

Muguruza won their last matchup, beating Serena 7-5, 6-4 in the 2016 French Open final to claim her first major title. Muguruza also claimed the 2017 Wimbledon title when she beat Venus Williams 7-5, 6-0.

Venus Williams is unseeded and will play a first-round match against the dangerous Andrea Petkovic. They have split their four career matches, with Petkovic beating Venus in the Stanford tournament in 2014,

If Venus survives her opening match, she will then have to face third-seed Petra Kvitova, who is coming off a finals appearance at the Australian Open.

A two-time Wimbledon champion, Kvitova has a 4-2 record over Venus.

Leighton Ginn, who has covered the BNP Paribas Open for two decades, will be working with iHub Radio during the tournament. iHub will be live from 1-3 p.m. weekdays. You can go to http://www.ihubradio.com to listen or find it on the Tune In app.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, a classic rivalry that will be contested on hump day, not championship weekend

3-14-17 Federer

 

By Leighton Ginn

It is a rivalry that has had historical implications and established Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as two of the greatest players who ever played tennis.

So their showdown at the BNP Paribas Open will be unusual in that it will be contested on Hump Day, not championship weekend.

In a rare early-round matchup, Federer and Nadal will face ether other for the 36th time on Wednesday.

” I think everybody is going to watch that match, honestly,” said Garbine Muguruza, the women’s No. 7 seed. “Everybody likes Rafa. Everybody likes Roger. It’s history over there.”

Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 7-5, while Federer outlasted former USC star Steve Johnson 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4) to set up the rematch of their Australian Open final.

For Federer, he welcomes the challenge.

“That’s why I came here, play against guys like Rafa,” said Federer, who won an epic five-set final over Nadal in the Australian Open final. “I’m going to be excited now. Better be excited now. Otherwise I came for the wrong reasons.”

Giving the conditions and the round they are playing in, Federer said the match will be much different from their Australian Open final. Based on the round, Federer expects himself and Nadal to be a little more conservative.

“It’s going to be more difficult for both of us just to rip winners into the corner,” Federer said. “If you play at the early matches, you see usually the top guys not chase the lines so much. You give yourself some margins for error, really.

“So there is a bit of the unknown, which, I mean, is exciting maybe for the fans or you guys to see how we’re going to try to figure that part out. And then it’s a best-of-three-set match. This is more of a sprint than a marathon, not like in Australia.”

It is the first time they’ve faced each other before the quarterfinals since their first meeting in 2004 at Miami. That was a round of 32 match.

Nadal said he didn’t really enjoy having an epic rivalry played out in the fourth round. But when the draws came out last week, this quarter of the draw featured not only Nadal and Federer, but No. 2 Novak Djokovic, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. A few times in the press conferences, this quarter of the draw has been referred to as the “Draw of Death.”

“I think is unlucky part of the draw for everybody. I think part of the tournament, even if they can have good matches, is probably not the best thing to have that matches that early in the tournament. For the players is not good, because good players, for sure, going to go out early,” Nadal said. “Sometimes if top players are playing well, then they have the chance to go to the final rounds, no? In this case, doesn’t matter if everybody is playing well, because from our part of the draw, only one of us gonna be in that semifinals.

“So that’s tough, but that’s not happening every week. Only thing we can do to avoid that is be in higher position of the ranking.”

While Nadal might not be happy with the timing of the matchup, Muguruza said she’s just happy to see the match up again.

“Nobody cares who wins anymore. It’s just I want to see them play,” Muguruza said. “It’s so good to watch them play together same time on the court. Doesn’t matter. I just want to watch the match. I’m so fond of both of them. It’s so good they have this match tomorrow.”

 

 

 

 

Serena Williams’ loss might be the most disappointing in tennis history

Serena Williams talks to the media during the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

Serena Williams talks to the media during the BNP Paribas Open in March, 2015.

It is rare air to get a whiff at completing the Grand Slam, but Serena Williams coming within three sets of completing the historic milestone might be the most heartbreaking of losses.

Williams saw her Grand Slam dreams come to an end when she was upset by the unseeded Roberta Vinci 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, which also saw Williams have an early break in the third set.

Twice, Williams has won four consecutive majors, including this year, which she’s dubbed the Serena Slam. But the true Grand Slam is winning all four in the same year, starting with the Australian Open and ending with the US Open. The last person to do it was Steffi Graf in 1988, a year where she also won the Olympic gold medal.

Had Williams won, she would have joined the exclusive sorority of Graf, Margaret Court (1970) and Maureen Connelly (1953) as the only females to do it in women’s tennis. On the men’s side, only Rod Laver (1962, ’69) and Don Budge (1938) did it.

Completing the true Grand Slam would have been an indisputable fact when people argue who the greatest tennis players ever were. This is why in some circles, Laver is still considered the greatest tennis player, because he’s the only player in history to complete the Grand Slam twice and the only male player to do it on the Open era.

Because Williams didn’t complete the Grand Slam, Graf and Court are the only females to complete the Grand Slam in the Open era, and Graf is the only one to do it on three different surfaces.

Who comes that close to a Grand Slam and loses it by three sets? That will be a tough one to swallow for Williams, who was so close from a historic achievement.

Williams has tried to talk down the significance of the Grand Slam, but judging by her brief post-match press conference, it disappointed her more than she wanted to let on.

Everything was set up for Williams as she would not have had to face a top-10 player in the US Open to the title. It was tailor made for Williams to complete the Slam.

Now everyone wants to make out that this is a huge upset in the ranks of Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson, Villanova beating Georgetown in the NCAA final or the US Olympic hockey team beating the Russians. And maybe it is, as Vinci was only ranked 43rd coming into the US Open and never made it this far in a major.

But here’s a few things to consider as well: Williams has a habit of losing to unlikely players in big tournaments.

Since the start of 2012, Serena Williams has lost eight times in major tournaments, and the highest-ranked player she lost to was No. 14 Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open.

Her other losses have come to No. 56 Ekaterine Makarova in the fourth round of the 2012 Australian Open, No. 111 Virginie Razzano in the first round of the 2012 French Open, No. 25 Sloan Stephens in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open, No. 24 Sabine Lisicki in the fourth round of the 2013 Wimbledon, No. 35 Garbine Muguruza in the second round of the 2014 French Open, No. 24 Alize Cornet in the third round of Wimbledon. Vinci is ranked 43rd heading into this year’s US Open.

There is another perception of Williams that appears to be misleading. While Williams has completed her second “Serena Slam,” winning four consecutive majors, she has been anything but dominant.

In the Serena Slam from 2002-03, Williams lost four sets. This year, Williams lost five sets in the French Open alone, and a total of nine during the Serena Slam. At the US Open, Williams lost four sets (one of Bethanie Mattek-Sands, one to Venus Williams and two to Vinci).

It has been an exceptional year for Williams, but not as dominant as she can be.

The first Serena Slam was so much more impressive if you look at the depth of the women’s game, particularly at the top. During the 2002-03 Serena Slam, Williams defeated the likes of sister Venus in all four finals, but also Hall of Fame players Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Mary Pierce, Amelie Mauresmo, Jennifer Capriati and Kim Clijsters. Another Hall of Fame player in that era was Justine Henin, who ended Williams’ Grand Slam winning streak in the semifinals of the 2003 French Open.

During this Serena Slam, Williams only beat three players ranked in the top-10, and two of those wins were against Sharapova.

What made this Serena Slam so remarkable is that Williams did it on grit. She was big in the big moments, to pull out some amazing wins. And to do it at 33-years old (actually 32 at last year’s US Open which started the Serena Slam), that is a pretty remarkable outcome and a tribute to her longevity.

But coming into the semifinals against two players she had never lost to, and up a break in that third set against Vinci, this might be a loss that Williams will never be able to forget.