EVEN WONDER WOMEN STRUGGLE – AILING SERENA STUMBLES

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Bill Simons

Indian Wells

SERENA AND VENUS – EVEN WONDER WOMEN STRUGGLE: They are wonder women – they do what other mortals can only imagine. Yesterday thirty-eight year-old Venus Williams inspired adoring fans and told the Indian Wells crowd that she “loves the battle.” Amazingly, she’s been fighting Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, for years. She returned to Indian Wells after 15 years of absence. This week she fought back from a set and two breaks down against Petra Kvitova to win the match.

And is there any greater warrior in sports then Serena? She fought off a devastating knee surgery during which she was troubled by a near-deadly aneurysm and had a rugged pregnancy that threatened her life. In 2014 she got frighteningly woozy while playing doubles at Wimbledon and had to retire.

Now, oddly, Serena’s last three tourneys have ended with stunning twists that shocked many. Of course, there was all the fury at the unforgettable US Open. At the Aussie Open she couldn’t close out her match against Karolina Pliskova, despite having match points and being up 5-1 in the third. And in Indian Wells, she comfortably cruised out of the starting blocks to a 3-0 lead against two-time winner Garbine Muguruza.

And again something odd happened. Suddenly she was no longer dominating from the baseline. Her serve faltered, her movement seemed leaden and she lost seven straight games. The reason soon became clear. She slumped over and withdrew due to a viral illness. She says when she recovers she’ll be prepping for Miami. It’s amazing that since returning from having her daughter, Serena reached both the Wimbledon and US Open finals. But she hasn’t won a tourney since the 2017 Aussie Open. Since winning in Tawain in 2016, Venus reached four finals, but did not win any of them.

NOT A BAD TICKET: Today having Federer and Serena playing back-to-back matches on Indian Wells’ Stadium 1 was an incredible ticket – until Serena’s withdrawal turned a dream day of superstars into a bit of a nightmare. But here’s some good news. In back-to-back day sessions the tourney set attendance records, with over 77,000 fans attending the two sessions.

TREE HOUSE INVASION? The Tennis Channel noted all the great singles players who are in this year’s Indian Wells doubles draw, and asked the Bryan Brothers, “Do you like that, or do you feel your treehouse has been invaded?”

IRON MAN: Mike Bryan said his brother Bob is actually moving well considering he has an iron hip. Bob then noted, “We know that this is our last chapter. Being on the couch for 9 months puts things in perspective.”

IS PETRA TOO KIND? Petra Kvitova has won two Wimbledons. Still, Mary Carillo said, “She’s too much of a people pleaser. She has trouble saying no.”

WHAT MAKES ROGER TICK? After Federer’s win today over Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, Jon Wertheim asked Roger what still gives him goosebumps in tennis. The Swiss replied, “Saving breakpoints, winning big titles, hearing the roar of the crowd and playing in front of legends like Pete [Sampras],” who was in the house today.

STAT OF THE DAY: Ever-alert Indian Wells PA announcer Andrew Krasny noted that when Federer took off his shirt following his win today, four women fainted.

CARILLO’S COMMENT ON CANDOR: While announcing Simona Halep’s match with her broadcast partner Martina Navratilova, Mary Carillo said, “What I like about Simona is her candor and honesty, like the woman I’m sitting next to.”

KUDOS TO CAHILL: Halep told IT that the best decision of her career was hiring Darren Cahill as her coach. She said, “He gave me a lot – many things that I’ve learned. The fact that I could become No. 1 and win a Grand Slam is because of him.”

QUOTEBOOK:

“Roger is cocky in a subtle way.” – Jimmy Arias on Federer

“I’m happy if they can sit through a match.”  – Federer on his kids’ relationship to tennis

“For selfish reasons I wish he’d won here.” – BNP Paribas Open Tournament Director Tommy Haas on Federer winning his 100th title in Dubai.

“That wasn’t even self-talk, that was a self-growl.” – Mary Carillo during the intense Serena vs. Vika Azarenka battle

RAFA AND ROGER ON THE KERMODE KERFUFFLE: At first Rafa hesitated to take a stance on the Kermode kerfuffle – the firing of the group’s president, Chris Kermode. “I can’t say much about this, because…I am outside of the politics.” But then he complained, “Nobody came to me to explain why this stuff happened…I’m disappointed.” Rafa noted that the Players Council represents the players. “Normally, they have to ask the players about what they think…[about] a crucial decision…Nobody texted me…and I have my phone with me.”

For his part, when asked what he wanted to see in a new ATP leader, Federer said, “It has to be somebody who knows the game, otherwise, we will lose a year…[with] that person having to meet all the people. We’ve had that in the past. It takes a lot of time.”

LOOK FOR THE LOVE WITHIN: It seems obvious that the thoughtfulness of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ dad Apostolos has something to do with the astounding success of his insightful son. He said that when it comes to parenting, “The number one thing is to motivate the children and look for the love inside and if you stay around them you can fulfill all their wishes.” His mom Julia, a former Russian player who once beat Virginia Wade, recalled her son as a young boy: “He was listening. He wasn’t a softy, but he always figured out what he was going to do by discussing it with us, and that was a pleasure.” For his part, Stefanos said, “In our society in Greece, we love to be family.”

YOUNG LOSS, OLD LOSS: Last year Petra Kvitova lost in the third round to 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova. This year she lost to Venus Williams – who’s 20 years older than Anisimova.

HEY RAFA – YOU WANT A GRANDE, A VENTI OR A TRENTA? Federer reported that Nadal came over to his house for a morning coffee and that they discussed the leadership change in the ATP. After deciding they needed to “take a more active role,” we wonder what else these two greats talked about.

HELP WANTED: There are now two big leadership positions in tennis that are vacant. The presidency of the ATP and the Executive Director post at the USTA, which is open now that Gordon Smith is retiring.

THE MAN WHO DEFIES TIME: Broadcaster Chris Bradnam claimed Federer “seems to be getting younger every year. In that sense he’s going backward.”

JUST WONDERING: The Tennis Channel asked whether we would ever again see Venus and Serena play doubles together…Jim Courier asked rhetorically, “When you’re nervous, is there anyone tougher to play than Djokovic, with his defensive skills?”

A PLEA TO TENNIS FANS ACROSS THE GLOBE: After praising the great 14-Slam winner Pete Sampras, Mary Carillo said, “From this booth we ask you: keep Sampras in the conversation.”

BRUIN BATTLER: Marcus Giron won the 2014 NCAA Singles Championship, but has since mostly competed on the Challenger circuit. Here the Thousand Oaks native and former UCLA Bruin beat former top-25 Jeremy Chardy and Australia’s Next Gen star Alex de Minaur.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Hochmuth)

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