NEW YORK –
Leave it to Serena Williams to not want to go quietly, to not want this match, this trip to the U.S. Open, this transcendent career of hers, to really, truly end.
Right down to what were, barring a change of heart, the final minutes of her quarter-century of excellence on the tennis court, and an unbending unwillingness to be told what wasn’t possible, Williams tried to mount one last classic comeback, earn one last vintage victory, with fans on their feet in a full Arthur Ashe Stadium, cellphone cameras at the ready.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion staved off five match points to prolong the three-hours-plus proceedings, but could not do more, and was eliminated from the U.S. Open in the third round by Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 on Friday night in what is expected to be her final contest.
“I’ve been down before. … I don’t really give up,” Williams said. “In my career, I’ve never given up. In matches, I don’t give up. Definitely wasn’t giving up tonight.”
She turns 41 this month and recently told the world that she is ready to start “evolving” away from her playing days — she expressed distaste for the word “retirement” — and while she remained purposely vague about whether this appearance at Flushing Meadows definitely would represent her last hurrah, everyone assumed it will be.
“It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on in my life,” Williams said, tears streaming down her cheeks shortly after one final shot landed in the net. “I’m so grateful to every single person that’s ever said, `Go, Serena!’ in their life.”
Asked during an on-court interview whether she might reconsider walking away, Williams replied: “I don’t think so, but you never know.”
A little later, pressed on the same topic at her post-match news conference, Williams joked, “I always did love Australia,” the country that hosts the next Grand Slam tournament in January.
With two victories in singles this week, including over the No. 2 player in the world, Anett Kontaveit, on Wednesday, Williams took her fans on a thrill-a-minute throwback trip at the hard-court tournament that was the site of a half-dozen of her championships.
The first came in 1999 in New York, when Williams was a teen. Now she’s married and a mother; her daughter, Olympia, turned 5 on Thursday.
“Clearly, I’m still capable. … (But) I’m ready to be a mom, explore a different version of Serena,” she said. “Technically, in the world, I’m still super young, so I want to have a little bit of a life while I’m still walking.”
With 23,859 of her closest friends cheering raucously again Friday, Williams faltered against Tomljanovic, a 29-year-old Australian who is ranked 46th.
Williams gave away leads in each set, including the last, in which she was up 1-0 before dropping the final six games.
Tomljanovic is unabashedly a fan of Williams, having growing up watching her play on TV.
“I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do. And what she’s done for me, for the sport of tennis, is incredible,” said Tomljanovic, who has never been past the quarterfinals at any major. “This is a surreal moment for me.”
Then, drawing laughs, Tomljanovic added: “I just thought she would beat me. … She’s Serena. That’s that’s just who she is: She’s the greatest of all time. Period.”
Asked what she planned to do on the first day of the rest of her life Saturday, Williams said she’d rest, spend time with Olympia and then added: “I’m definitely probably going to be karaoke-ing.”
Her performance with her racket Friday showed grit and featured some terrific serving, but it was not perfect.
On one point in the second set, Williams’ feet got tangled and she fell to the court, dropping her racket. She finished with 51 unforced errors, 21 more than Tomljanovic.
Williams let a 5-3 lead vanish in the first set. She did something similar in the second, giving away edges of 4-0 and 5-2, and requiring five set points to finally put that one in her pocket. From 4-all in the tiebreaker, meaning Williams was three points from defeat, she pounded a 117 mph ace, hit a forehand winner to cap a 20-stroke exchange, then watched Tomljanovic push a forehand long.
Momentum appeared to be on Williams’ side. But she could not pull off the sort of never-admit-defeat triumph she did so often over the years.
“Oh, my God, thank you so much. You guys were amazing today. I tried,” Williams told the audience, hands on her hips, before mentioning, among others, her parents and her older sister, Venus, a seven-time major champion who is 42.
“I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus. So thank you, Venus,” Williams said. “She’s the only reason that Serena Williams ever existed.”
They started in tennis as kids in Compton, California, coached by their father, Richard, who taught himself about the sport after watching on television while a player received a winner’s check. He was the central figure in the Oscar-winning film “King Richard,” produced by his daughters.
The siblings lost together in the first round of doubles on Thursday night, drawing another sellout. And on Friday, as during the younger Williams’ other outings this week, there could be no doubt about which player the paying public favored.
When Tomljanovic broke to go up 6-5 as part of a four-game run to take the opening set, one person in her guest box rose to applaud — and he was pretty much on his own.
Otherwise, folks applauded when Tomljanovic double-faulted, generally considered a faux pas for tennis crowds.
They got loud in the middle of lengthy exchanges, also frowned upon.
They offered sympathetic sounds of “Awwwwww” when Williams flubbed a shot, and leapt out of their seats when she did something they found extraordinary. A rather routine service break was cause for a standing ovation.
Tomljanovic draped a blue-and-white U.S. Open towel over her head at changeovers, shielding herself from the noise and distractions.
“Just really blocked it out as much as I could. It did get to me a few times, internally. I mean, I didn’t take it personally because, I mean, I would be cheering for Serena, too, if I wasn’t playing her,” Tomljanovic said. “But it was definitely not easy.”
After Williams struck a swinging backhand volley winner to take a 4-0 lead in the second set, her play improving with every passing moment, the reaction was earsplitting. Billie Jean King, a Hall of Famer with 39 total Grand Slam titles across singles, doubles and mixed doubles, raised her cellphone to capture the scene.
“You’re everywhere!” yelled Williams’ husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, from a courtside guest box that also contained power couple Ciara and Russell Wilson.
When Williams drove two consecutive forehand winners to lead 5-2 in the second set, she screamed and leaned forward after each.
She could not sustain that level.
Williams entered the night having won 19 times in a row in the U.S. Open’s third round of singles competition, including reaching at least the semifinals in her most recent 11 appearances in New York.
Talk about a full-circle moment: The only other third-round loss she’s ever had at Flushing Meadows (she is 42-0 in the first and second rounds) came in 1998, the year Williams made her tournament debut at age 16.
She would win her first major trophy 12 months later at the U.S. Open. And now she said goodbye in that same stadium.
“It’s been a long time. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life,” Williams said Friday night, after performing one last twirl-and-wave move usually reserved for victories. “It is a little soon, but I’m also happy because, I mean, this is what I wanted, what I want.”
Auger-Aliassime, Sock cut Team World's deficit at Laver Cup – TSN
LONDON (AP) — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”
Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.
Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.
“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”
When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest — and the three-day competition — Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”
“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”
Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is ‘Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”
McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.
This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.
Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).
“I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years — after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”
Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.
Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.
Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.
He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.
“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”
That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker — first to 10, win by two — Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.
While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.
“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, a 25-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Homer-happy Blue Jays regain 2-game lead over Rays in AL wild-card race – CBC Sports
Tampa Bay’s two-year reign as AL East champion is over.
George Springer homered twice, Alejandro Kirk and Teoscar Hernandez also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Rays 7-1 on Sunday to gain a four-game split.
The New York Yankees hold a comfortable lead in the AL East, and Sunday’s loss eliminated the third-place Rays from the division race, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Toronto (86-67) opened a two-game lead over Tampa Bay (84-69) for the top AL wild card with nine games left. Seattle (83-69) is 2 1/2 games back of the Blue Jays and a half-game behind the Rays after blowing a big lead in a 13-12 loss to Kansas City. Baltimore remains four games behind the Mariners for the third and final spot.
The Blue Jays return home for six games against the Yankees and Boston before heading to Baltimore for three.
The Rays close out the regular season with a nine-game trip to AL Central champion Cleveland, AL West champion Houston and Boston.
“We control our own destiny on this,” Tampa Bay infielder Taylor Walls said. “Not winning today hurts a little bit, but at the same time we have enough games ahead of us if we play well enough, I’m pretty confident that we can be where we want to be.”
Toronto allowed 20 runs in losing the first two games of the series, but limited Tampa Bay to a total of two runs in winning the final two.
Ross Stripling (9-4) permitted one run and six hits in five innings. Zach Pop, Adam Cimber, Trevor Richards and Yusei Kikuchi combined to give up one hit over four innings.
Rays all-star Shane McClanahan (12-7), pulled in the fifth inning of his previous start due to neck tightness, gave up four runs and six hits, including a career-high three homers, over five innings.
McClanahan said he is healthy, but struggled with command. This was his third start since spending 15 days on the injured list with a left shoulder impingement.
“I felt good. … Just didn’t have it today,” McClanahan said. “I’ve got to do better. It’s frustrating.”
The left-hander is 2-4 with a 4.26 ERA in nine outings since the all-star break.
Springer had a two-run shot in the third and added a fifth-inning solo drive for his 23rd homer this season as the Blue Jays took a 4-1 lead. He finished with three hits in his 20th career multi-homer game — 19 in the leadoff spot. Only Mookie Betts (20) has more in major league history.
SPRING AND A DRIVE 🤩 <br><br>He did it AGAIN! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/SpringerDinger?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#SpringerDinger</a> <a href=”https://t.co/sPZJ5pj89i”>pic.twitter.com/sPZJ5pj89i</a>
Kirk had a solo homer during the second, and Hernandez made it 6-1 with a two-run homer in the eighth off Garrett Cleavinger.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a ninth-inning RBI single.
Randy Arozarena pulled the Rays to 3-1 on a sacrifice fly in the third.
Sunday’s announced crowd was 16,394, giving the Rays a final home attendance for the season of 1,128,127. The total will be the third lowest in the majors. Tampa Bay drew 1,178,735 in 2019, the least year before two seasons with COVID attendance restrictions in place. The Rays have drawn under 1.3 million at home every year since 2015.
Springer has three homers in 13 at-bats against McClanahan. … Rays shortstop Wander Franco extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a third-inning single. … Tampa Bay first baseman Harold Ramirez had three hits.
Retiring Rays bullpen coach Stan Boroski and major league medical coordinator Paul Harker threw ceremonial first pitches. Boroski is in his 13th season with the team, while Harker joined the Rays for their inaugural season in 1998.
Rays: Third baseman Yandy Diaz (left shoulder) was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game but could start Tuesday.
Blue Jays: Open a home series Monday night against the New York Yankees.
Rays: Corey Kluber (10-9) will pitch in Cleveland for first since leaving the team after the 2019 season. Kluber, who won the AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland in 2014 and 17, will face fellow right-hander Shane Bieber (12-8).
Glasnow expected to start Wednesday
Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to rejoin the rotation Wednesday night at Cleveland after missing nearly 14 months because of Tommy John surgery.
The Rays’ opening day starter last year hasn’t pitched this season after undergoing the procedure on Aug. 4, 2021.
“I think we’re pretty confident he’ll be starting for us Wednesday,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said Sunday. “This is the first time he’s thrown pain-free in quite some time, so he’s encouraged by it.”
The six-foot-eight right-hander went 5-2 with a 2.66 earned-run average in 14 starts last year and is a key addition as the Rays near a wild-card spot.
“Compared to the past, like, three years it feels way better … the week leading into starts and stuff,” Glasnow said. “It’s good to have an [ulnar collateral ligament], you know.”
Cash said Glasnow would throw around 45 pitches in his initial outing, which should allow him to go two or three innings.
Kiermaier playing future unclear
Injured Tampa Bay centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier had an eventful week during the Rays’ final regular-season homestand.
He was the third person in the television booth for Wednesday night’s game against Houston, and got a video tribute during Saturday night’s game with Toronto.
The 32-year-old Kiermaier, in the final season of a six-year deal worth $53.5 million, faces an uncertain off-season following season-ending left hip surgery nearly two months ago. The Rays have a $13 million option for 2023, which they will likely decline in favor of a $2.5 million buyout.
Kiermaier said no when asked if he thought the video tribute felt like a goodbye.
“It was more of an appreciation to me,” Kiermaier said before the Rays’ regular-season home finale Sunday. “Being realistic, I don’t know if that was my final Saturday game for me here in the regular season. A lot of unknowns. I don’t know if I will be putting on this uniform and taking that field again.”
Kyle Dubas begins Maple Leafs training camp with an Intro to Tragedy 101 lecture – The Globe and Mail
At this point, you sort of feel sorry for Kyle Dubas every time he talks.
What’s he going to say that will change anybody’s mind? And given that impossibility, why does he have to keep saying it?
But the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager keeps getting pushed out on stage at the end of a sword. Once there, he keeps saying the same silly things. He was out there again this week as training camp started, doing this semester’s first lecture of Intro to Tragedy 101.
“Nobody wants to hear us talking about it,” Dubas said. “They want to see us do.”
Fair enough. Under the circumstances, not bad.
Then, not one minute later: “Our goal is not to win one round. It’s to win four.”
There you go talking about it. How about you win one round and then start lipping off about how you’ve got the big one right there in your sights.
At this point, you sound like a guy who’s just booked his flight to Kathmandu, looks off in the general direction of Everest and says, “Just a few more steps.” Maybe get to base camp before you start setting your intentions in front of the class.
This is the conundrum of modern sports communications. You don’t want to say nothing, because people will fill the void for you. But anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of media law.
Nobody’s good at explaining losing, but right now no one is as bad at it as the Leafs. Their answer to everything is that meme of a cartoon dog drinking coffee in the midst of a house fire saying, “This is fine.”
Has that dog been copyrighted? Because he should be the new Leafs mascot. Then they can send him out to do the talking.
To varying degrees, everyone on this team is trapped in a conversational loop from four years ago.
“We’ve obviously been right there,” captain John Tavares said.
To whom is that obvious, exactly? And how are you defining “right there?”
“We’ve established ourselves as an elite team in this league,” head coach Sheldon Keefe said.
I’ve just realized the perfect thing to get the Leafs for their birthday – a dictionary.
First thing you do, look up the words ‘established,’ ‘elite’ and, just for kicks, ‘team.’
Everybody’s bad at it, but the weight falls on Dubas. He’s the boss, plus he wears glasses. So he must know what’s going on.
Once one of the more forthcoming, three-dimensional GMs in hockey, Dubas’s public persona has been beaten flat by years of failure. He still sounds excited, but excited about talking so fast, for so long, that there is the slim possibility he may avoid facing more questions.
When he gets one he doesn’t have a great answer to (ie. a lot of them), he retreats into hockey boilerplate.
Why do you like this team, someone asked (an inside-out way of asking the more interesting question – why don’t you dislike this team?).
“Everything they are doing now is about winning,” Dubas said.
What were they doing before when, you know, they were losing? Was that about winning, too? When I’m in my car, is everything I’m doing about driving, even when I’m wrapping it around a phone pole?
‘Leafs disease’ – that’s what they used to call losing on the steady with no hint of an intention to change. The virus has mutated. Leafs disease is now a condition whereby rampant verbosity replaces results.
The miserable teams of Leafs yore knew enough to hang their heads when things were going sideways. This team believes the answer to every disaster is to schedule a TED Talk called Losing Your Way to Victory.
The sentences are a problem, but the presentation may be worse.
Has there ever been a more mirthless pro sports organization? When it gets dark for other teams in other sports, a few of them are able to triangulate the ridiculousness of treating who wins this or that game like a real-world problem.
Not the Leafs.
No jokes. No little asides. Absolutely zero capacity to laugh at themselves, from any member of the organization.
To be fair, this isn’t just a Toronto problem – it’s a hockey problem. But it’s still a shame. Canadians are supposed to be funny and hockey is meant to be a retreat from real life. A little gallows humour might put this team’s situation into perspective. It might even win you some credit for having your priorities straight.
Instead, the Leafs have confused solemnity for seriousness. That doesn’t leave them any room to say, “Listen, I didn’t blow that play. I was trying to wave at my mom in the crowd as the puck drifted between my skates” when things go wrong.
They have figured out one thing – that no one is going to believe this team is for real until the second after it proves it is.
That moment cannot arrive until the third or fourth week of April (though it can certainly be disproven before then).
That leaves the Leafs with seven months of sound bites to fill. When you lose three in a row, “four rounds,” “proved we are elite” and “been right there” is not going to work. You’ve set yourself a standard both so high and so hard to credit that you have no rhetorical wiggle room. All you can do is repeat the same affirmations while your audience turns into 20,000 hecklers. That’s a lot of pressure.
So forget about the playoffs. If the Leafs can make it to December without at least one of them cracking it’ll be a Christmas miracle.
The obvious solution – from here until April, don’t say anything. If you feel you must, hire Rick Mercer or Ali Hassan as your next assistant GM. I’m not sure how big they are on hockey, but they will vastly improve the entertainment value of your excuses.
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