U.S. Open 2013: Unpredictable upsets make final slam worth watching

Sports are often unpredictable. Just when you think you have it figured out, the unexpected happens. Favorites don’t always win. Upsets are part of sports lore. In tennis, it’s all about making a name for yourself at the grand slams. Once, Agnieszka Radwanska upset Maria Sharapova at the U.S. Open. She became a top five player putting Poland on the map. The No.3 seed was sent packing by Ekaterina Makarova tonight. The No.24 seeded Russian followed up a third round win over Wimbledon runner up Sabine Lisicki to make the quarterfinals. If she can beat Li Na, that would be two consecutive top five players.

At the 2013 Open, upsets have become a regular occurrence. Lleyton Hewitt showed he still has some juice left upending Juan Martin Del Potro in a fantastic five setter. After another win, the 32-year old Aussie has a date with Mikhail Youzhny. Another gritty veteran who took out Tommy Haas in four sets today. Hard to believe. But here are two examples of tireless workers looking to set up a potential quarterfinal with world number one Novak Djokovic. What was supposed to be a showdown of heavy hitters Nole and DelPo is no more. Hewitt and Youzhny play similar styles. One will have the opportunity to make the semis. Who could’ve foreseen that? Not even the most daring expert.

For unheralded Spaniard Marcel Granollers, he can shock the world when he takes on Djokovic. A player with a career record under .500 who’s risen to 43. It’s as simple as beating who’s in front of you. Granollers will play in his first ever Round Of 16 match at Ashe Stadium on Labor Day. While no one expects him to pull it off, imagine what he’s thinking. A chance of a lifetime. That’s what it is. Once, Melanie Oudin was the toast of the town putting together one of the most amazing runs ever. Unfortunately, her luck ran out against Caroline Wozniacki. A former No.1 who took a seat Saturday falling to exciting 21-year old Italian Camila Giorgi. She’ll face countrywoman Roberta Vinci for a shot at the final eight. A player ranked outside the top 100 who sure can hit. Who do you think the crowd will be cheering for?

While form held with Serena Williams taking care of Sloane Stephens to avenge a loss at the Australian Open, left handed Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro ousted eighth seeded German Angelique Kerber to reach her first Open quarter. A solid player who gets the most of her talent, she will play in only her second slam quarter with the only other appearance coming at the ’09 Australian. That’s a long wait. Think she won’t be pumped up to face the best player on the planet?

For Simona Halep, it’s a chance to continue her hot play that saw her capture New Haven. Up to No.19, she can go even higher if she can topple another vet. Flavia Pennetta has always been a respected player. The gritty Italian seems to save her best for New York City. Three of the last four Opens, she’s made the quarters. Pennetta missed 2012 but is in line to make it four if she can defeat an emerging star. A winner of nine singles titles, she’ll put up a good fight.

American Allison Riske has already had a great tournament taking out two consecutive seeds including Petra Kvitova. Now, she can make her first quarterfinal with a win against experienced Slovak Daniela Hantuchova. Now 30, she once was ranked as high as five. After battling off court demons, she’s never really reached her full potential. In ’08, she appeared in semis down under but fell apart. She’s a solid doubles player teaming with unretired Hall Of Famer Martina Hingis. They lost in the first round. It’s probably the last opportunity she’ll get at going far in a major. An upstart against a vet. One will likely see Victoria Azarenka, who takes on tennis sweetheart Ana Ivanovic. Another former No.1 who won the French. Ivanovic always puts max effort in but isn’t the fleetest of foot. She’s a huge underdog against the high powered No.2 seeded Belarussian.

Wherever you look, there’s compelling match ups. On the men’s side, all the favorites are still around. There’s still a gap between our top five and the rest of the field. Especially Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, defending champ Andy Murray and Roger Federer. The biggest storyline has yet to be written. If Rafa and Roger win, they’ll meet for the first time ever at the Open. To think it could be a quarterfinal. A classic night session in the making. First things first. Federer faces Spanish vet Tommy Robredo and Nadal battles pesky German Phillipp Kohlschreiber, who for the second consecutive year ousted American John Isner in the same round. So much for Isner’s strong Open series. He admitted that he expended too much energy near the end of the fourth set. Instead of pushing it five, he went home. Kohlschreiber is a classic baseliner who makes opponents work. We’re just not too keen on if that can deter Nadal. By far the hottest player.

David Ferrer remains in the shadows. A first-time runner up at Roland Garros, he is the epitome of hard work. Always hustling down shots, Ferrer loves extended rallies and outworks opponents. Counted out due to a cold summer, here is one of the game’s most consistent players looking to reach the quarters for an eighth straight major. He’ll battle Janko Tipsarevic. A hard serving Serb who can be deadly from the baseline. The winner gets either Milos Raonic or Richard Gasquet. Raonic is well known. The big serving Canadian who’s in the top 10 looking to make his first dent at a slam. He has a great chance if he can get past Frenchman Gasquet. A solid player with one of the best one-handed backhands in the sport. A shot maker and risk taker. That should be a great match.

Stan Wawrinka edged Marcos Baghdatis in a tight four sets, nipping the popular Cypriot 9-7 in the fourth set breaker. He always springs to life on this stage. But will have to get through Tomas Berdych. One of the biggest hitters on tour. A guy you never want to see on the opposite side of the net. A guy Murray might have to deal with if he beats Denis Istomin. While most expect that to come down along with Rafa/Roger, there are sure to be a few more surprises along the way. All the more reason to watch.

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Day 3: Injuries/Upsets Plague Wimbledon

It’s only Day 3 at Wimbledon. Already many big names have bowed out. There already were upsets with none bigger than unheralded Belgian Steve Darcis conquered Rafael Nadal on the first day. Other notables included Stan Wawrinka falling victim to former champ Lleyton Hewitt and Gilles Simon losing in straights to Feliciano Lopez. American Sam Querrey also went out in an odd five setter against Australian Bernard Tomic.

As speculated, British teen Laura Robson took out Maria KirilenkoSara Errani and Nadia Petrova were also upset victims. The upset trend has continued. Ana Ivanovic was knocked out in Round 2 by Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. At least it was conventional with Bouchard beating the former world No.1 6-3, 6-3. In one of the most bizarre days at the All England Club, injuries have been the story. After falling in her first round win, No.2 ranked Victoria Azarenka was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a right knee injury. The MRI results were negative but she was unable to go, allowing Italian vet Flavia Pennetta to advance to the third round in a walkover.

The injury bug continues to plague Wimbledon. Players are slipping all over the place on the grass courts, forcing tournament officials to release a statement that the courts are prepared the same and are in ‘excellent condition.’ Don’t ask Maria Sharapova. The ’04 champion has taken a spill at least four times. She’s noticeably been frustrated and has complained about the court. The popular No.3 seeded Russian is trailing Portugal 20-year old Michelle Larcher De Brito 3-6, 3-4. She’s down a set and a break two games from elimination. She took an injury timeout to treat her hip. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki struggled in a straight sets defeat to Czech Petra Cetkovska, falling 6-2, 6-2. She also fell landing on a bad hip. Wozniacki also had an ankle injury. It’s a long way downhill for the former No.1.

On the men’s side, injuries have forced five different players to default. Darcis couldn’t even play his second round match after beating Nadal, allowing Poland’s Lukasz Kubot to advance to the third round. Veteran Czech Radek Stepanek retired after trailing No.24 Jerzy Janowicz 6-2, 5-3. No.10 seed Marin Cilic didn’t even pick up a racket in a walkover loss to Frenchman Kenny De Schepper. And entertaining sixth seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga called it quits after dropping the third set to Latvian Ernests Gulbis. After claiming the first set, he lost the next two and clearly wasn’t moving well. He shook hands with Gulbis, who moves onto the third round against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. One of them will make the Round Of 16 and have a great chance at a potential quarterfinal against Andy Murray if form holds. A wrist injury claimed big server John Isner just two games into his match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

What else could go wrong? We’ll keep you updated.

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Sharapova bests Venus

In the most anticipated third round match on the women’s side at the Australian Open, No.2 seeded Russian Maria Sharapova bested American Venus Williams in straight sets last night, 6-1, 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena.

Apparently, the 25-year old career grand slam winner had too much for Williams, who’s won seven majors in her brilliant career (5 Wimbledons, 2 U.S. Opens). Sharapova outslugged Venus. She won the first four games, jumping out to a double break lead and easily captured the opening set. The fiery blonde Russian got an early break in the second and never relinquished it to serve out the match.

She played very well. I expect her to play well,” Williams said of a pumped up Sharapova. “Definitely not my best day today. But, you know, there’s always other days to play better.

I was a really determined player out there because I knew the tennis that she’s capable of producing and playing,” Sharapova said.

The former Australian champion advanced to the Round Of Sixteen where she’ll meet unseeded Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.

In other action, Ana Ivanovic defeated Jelena Jankovic in straights, 7-5, 6-3 to take the all Serbian battle of former No.1’s. She’ll next face No.4 seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who made quick work of Heather Watson 6-3, 6-1. Radwanska hasn’t dropped a set this year and is favorite to beat Ivanovic, who preached patience for the upcoming fourth round encounter.

No.5 German Angelique Kerber ended American teenager

2, 7-5 triumph to make the Round Of 16. Nobody’s talking about her but the lefty has the game to give Sharapova a run if they meet in the quarterfinals.

No.6 Li Na also advanced with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sorana Cirstea. If she makes the quarters, she’ll face the Radwanska/Ivanovic winner. If it’s Radwanska, I’d lean toward the No.4 seed from Poland.

There are more third round matches for the women later today in Melbourne Park with defending champion Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki all taking the court.

One of the more intriguing match-ups pits American Sloane Stephens against unseeded Brit Laura Robson, who as speculated here took out Petra Kvitova in a long three set battle 2-6, 6-3, 11-9. Stephens is an up and coming player for our country who’s seeded No.29. She is a good ball striker who possesses power that can one day help her reach the top 10. She’ll have to be at her best to beat the feisty Robson, who fights hard. One of them will have a shot at their first slam quarter.

On the men’s side, everything held to form. Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer each prevailed in straight sets with the No.4 Spaniard taking out popular Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Djokovic defeated Czech veteran Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

The Djoker next faces Stanislas Wawrinka who took out No.20 American Sam Querrey 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-4. The No.15 seed from Switzerland is a solid player who has a great backhand but not enough consistency to upset Nole. Djokovic is a better server, stronger player and better runner. He should prevail in three. If he does, he could see big hitting Czech Tomas Berdych. A player nobody likes to play because he’s got the kind of game that can give anyone fits. With a huge serve and some of the biggest groundstrokers in tennis, he is capable of beating anybody. Just ask Roger Federer.

Berdych next takes on unseeded Kevin Anderson, who upset fading Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in five sets, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Verdasco hasn’t been the same player for a couple of years with injuries also dropping him out of the top 20. A shame for a very talented lefty with a strong game. If you don’t have it upstairs, you can’t stick. Look at James Blake, who could be following Andy Roddick out.

No.8 seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic rallied from a set down to defeat Frenchman baseliner Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to advance to a Round Of 16 match against No.10 Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. That’s a pick ’em. Tipsarevic has the better serve. I still like him to prevail and face Ferrer, who should have enough to beat Japanese No.18 Kei Nishikori.

Later tonight, the Federer Express takes on Aussie teen Bernard Tomic. Expect Federer to advance in a unique Davis Cup setting with all of Melbourne behind Tomic. The other match in his quarter should be competitive with Canadian monster server Milos Raonic taking on German Phillip Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber will have to serve extremely well to prevail. If he does, he’s capable of prevailing. I’m going to pick him in a slight upset over Raonic in four.

Federer should beat either guy to reach the quarters where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should be waiting. Another player who’s beaten Roger before. But last time out, Feds was unstoppable. I still believe he’ll make the semis.

It’s uncertain if it’ll be Andy Murray, who has the hardest section with either Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic a potential quarterfinal opponent. Murray faces unseeded Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis while an all French battle takes place between Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils. The unpredictable Monfils came back from a set back to beat Yen-Tsun Lu 7-6 (5), 4-6, 0-6, 6-1, 8-6 in sweltering conditions that saw him call for the trainer due to severe cramping. He overcame 23 double faults to prevail, later telling the French media that he was so tired that he tried to keep points short.

Monfils is way too inconsistent to beat the steady Simon, who should be fresher following a four set triumph over Jesse Levine. Simon is like a backboard, similar to Djokovic without the ridiculous shot making ability. He’s not the right opponent for the streaky Monfils. Simon is always a tough out at slams. Figure that to be the case again.

We’ll have more Australian Open coverage over the weekend, including Federer’s showdown against Tomic.

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Tomic and Wozniacki advance to 3rd round

Caroline Wozniacki (seen here emulating Serena Williams) advanced to the third round.Copyright Getty Images

Caroline Wozniacki (seen here emulating Serena Williams) advanced to the third round.
Copyright Getty Images


The heat is on in Melbourne. On Day Four of the Australian Open, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka each advanced in straight sets. The two big favorites on the women’s side seem on a collision course for a semifinal. Azarenka has never defeated Williams, who’s looking to overtake the world No.1 with a win down under. If she can win slam No.16, Williams will become the oldest woman to ever be ranked No.1. Don’t bet against it.

The defending women’s champ Azarenka dropped only one game in her early second round match over Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou. She next faces American Jamie Hampton. The recently turned 23-year old defeated Thailand’s Luksika Kumkhum 6-1, 6-2. Now, she’ll step up in competition against one of the best. Between Azarenka’s screeching and power game, she’ll need plenty of luck.

Azarenka looks to have an easy road to her semi showdown with Serena, who may not even have to face eighth seeded Petra Kvitova. The gifted Czech who surprised her by winning ’11 Wimbledon is still inconsistent and has to face young Brit Laura Robson in the night session. She’s a spunky player who plays every point hard. Don’t be shocked if Robson pulls the upset. Much will depend on if Kvitova is on. When she is, she’s deadly. The lanky lefty is very streaky. She has all the weapons to beat anyone including Williams. American Sloane Stephens could be waiting in the third round.

Former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki is in Azarenka’s section. She is a potential quarterfinal opponent if the pretty Dane continues to regain confidence. She entered the tournament seeded No.10. After pulling out a three set victory over disappointing German Sabine Lisicki, Wozniacki won in straight sets over 16-year old Croat Donna Vekic, 6-1, 6-4. The win wasn’t easy with the 22-year old nearly blowing a double break lead in the second set before closing Vekic out. It’s a step in the right direction following first round ousters at the last two grand slams in 2012. Her year didn’t start badly making the quarterfinals in Melbourne Park. But it was all downhill afterwards, losing in the third round at Roland Garros and then being upset at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She lost her confidence. Even a change in coaches didn’t work. Maybe a new year is a chance for her to start over.

Wozniacki next takes on unseeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who made the third round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Russian Daria Gavrilova. If she can Wozniacki can make the Round Of 16, she could see a familiar face. Former grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova is making a comeback. Well, not literally. The Russian is trying to get back in the top 20. At 27, she’s slipped to No.70. However, she is in better shape and next meets Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro. Navarro needed three sets in the heat to advance. She’s three years younger but is mostly a doubles player with a tricky game. Kuznetsova should prevail to set up a potential fourth round against Wozniacki. One other note from Caroline’s match. Vekic looked like her doppelganger, wearing a similar outfit with white and yellow while sporting blond locks. I don’t know if her plan was to fool Wozniacki but it didn’t work.

On the men’s side, there haven’t been many surprises. As expected, top seeded Serb Novak Djokovic rolled past American Ryan Harrison in straights late last night. The Djoker is going to be hard to beat on his best surface. He’s already won three Australians including the last two with two epic five set wins over Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal still fresh in our minds. His biggest threat is Murray, who finally got over the heap after beating Roger Federer for Olympic gold in London. Murray was able to follow it up with his first grand slam title, defeating hitting partner Djokovic to capture the U.S. Open. He became the first British male to win a major since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray doesn’t have an easy draw with dangerous Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro a potential blockbuster quarter.

Murray defeated Joao Sousa 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to set up a third round match against unseeded Lithuanian Ricardis Berankis. Berankis ousted No.25 Florian Mayer 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. Assuming he wins, the Round Of 16 could be either Gilles Simon or Gael Monfils. A pair of Frenchmen with very different styles. Simon the more grinding baseliner who can go five. Monfils the exciting player who uses a lot of energy between points and can make impossible shots. He’s playing right now and just took the first set from Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu in a tiebreaker. He already gestured after taking it. I love watching him. But he should be so much better. Injuries and inconsistencies have been the story for one of tennis’ most electrifying showmen.

The biggest story was Aussie Bernard Tomic coming back to defeat German Daniel Brands over four close sets, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (8). Tomic is a different kind of player who can’t overpower opponents. He’s a grinder like Lleyton Hewitt, who got the most of his talent winning two majors. Whether Tomic can do the same depends on how much he develops. It won’t be an easy road with grand slam record holder Roger Federer probably staring at him from the opposite end of the net. Federer faces Russian vet Nikolai Davydenko in the late match at Rod Laver Arena. Davydenko used to give Roger some good matches. He’s making his own attempt at getting back into the top 20. He’s currently ranked No.40. He’ll have to do a lot of running to upset the Maestro.

As for Tomic’s gritty win over Brands, he earned it. He needed seven match points to finally come out victorious with plenty of support from wild Aussies who were chanting, “Ber-nie, Ber-nie” throughout. There wasn’t much separating the two with both possessing strong serves. Each fired over 20 aces with Tomic edging Brands 26-23. Ironically, Brands won one more total point (154-153). Unfortunately, it was a bad omen. Brands also held the edge in winners with 73 to Tomic’s 59. Tomic produced the only break of serve in the second set, which allowed him to square the match. The last breaker could’ve gone either way with Brands continuing to save match points, even earning a set point. But a determined Tomic was able to avoid a five set marathon. During a post match interview with Jim Courier, he openly admitted he’d prefer to play Davydenko to laughter. Then drew even more chuckles referencing how Federer kicked his ass the last two times.

Tomic is currently ranked No.43. He doesn’t turn 21 until after the final slam of the season. He’ll be fun to follow and should approach the top 20.


Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams renew their rivalry tomorrow in a huge third round match down under.Copyright Getty Images

Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams renew their rivalry tomorrow in a huge third round match down under.
Copyright Getty Images


Venus/Sharapova square off tomorrow: In easily the most anticipated early match during the first week, Venus Williams takes on Maria Sharapova for a chance at the Round Of 16. Williams continues to play the game she loves while battling Sjogren’s syndrome. An illness which affects the immune system, causing weakness, fatigue and muscle pain. She went public following a second round withdrawal at the ’11 U.S. Open and then took seven months off before returning. She has altered her diet becoming a vegetarian even though she admitted to being a “cheagan” in a recent AP story entering the ’13 Australian Open.

At 32, the seven-time grand slam champion who’s won five Wimbledons and two U.S. Opens remains a classy player who’s handled even disease with elegance. She’s very different from sister Serena, who prefers to show her emotions. Venus and Sharapova are two of the biggest servers on the WTA Tour. Both extremely streaky. They both can boom the ball during rallies but Sharapova possesses more power, which is why Williams would be wise to come to the net. She is quicker able to run down more shots. If this match was on grass, it’d be a potential final. But with Venus currently seeded No.26 and the fiery Russian career grand slam winner ranked No.2, it’s a third round clash.

It should be great. Might want to go to sleep early and set your alarm clock for 3:30 on the East coast.

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Olympic Medley

The London Games continue to be a rousing success. There’s plenty of different events for fans to follow. Even the uniqueness of dressage in equestrian where horse riders depend on their horse to do the right movements to impress judges. I wish I was making this up but watching horses dance in sequences with a color commentator critiquing is bizarre.

But it appears there’s a method to the madness. One such great was going for gold again on a horse that’s taken part in the last two Summer Olympics. The rider who’s name escapes me is 44 and considered one of the greatest at her sport. Honestly, their routine was superb with the horse doing rapid movements and cool jumps that would make So You Think You Can Dance judges proud. I have no idea how they train the horses to do this but it definitely was more entertaining than Serena Williams demolishing Caroline Wozniacki (Woh-zni-acki) to reach the women’s semis in tennis.

It really is sad what’s become of Wozniacki, who has gone from No.1 in the world to an after through. One year ago, she earned that ranking by playing with more confidence and guts. Granted. She has no power but grinded out points and was resilient. Ever since she started dating PGA golfer Rory McIlroy, the bottom’s dropped out. Not to blame him for Caroline’s problems on the court. She has no concept on a serve that’s too flat and hangs up there to be punished which is exactly what Serena did to set up an intriguing match-up against Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka has cooled since a hot start and Serena is on her best surface. Azarenka can match her from the baseline but Williams should advance to face the winner of an all-Russian semifinal between Maria Sharapova and Maria Kirilenko, who upset Petra Kvitova. It looks like two of Wimbledon’s favorites could be heading for a gold medal showdown. A Williams/Sharapova match would be a dream for NBC. Azarenka has a chance to spoil the fun. Both semis are tomorrow.

On the men’s side, Roger Federer defeated American John Isner to set up a semifinal against Juan Martin Del Potro– keeping his gold medal aspirations alive. Novak Djokovic bested Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straights and will face British favorite Andy Murray. Only Rafael Nadal’s missing, having to pull out of the tournament due to bad knees. It must be killing him. Still, we again have the Big Three along with former U.S. Open champ Del Potro, who is capable of beating Federer. Just not sure if the lanky Argentine can pull it off on grass. The other semi is a dream match-up with Djoker facing Murray in what’ll be an electric atmosphere on Centre Court. It would mean everything for Murray to avenge a five set loss down under and beat Djokovic to possibly set up a Wimbledon rematch versus Federer. Murray is very rootable and it would be nice to see him achieve Olympic gold by going through two rivals who have made life difficult. A gold could give him huge momentum into the final slam of the year.

Meanwhile, the USA men handled Great Britain in water polo to conclude the preliminaries undefeated, winning all three matches to claim first in their division. They’re a fun team to watch, able to transition quickly in the pool and move the ball around well with precision finishing. Siberia is one of their biggest threats. The elimination round is coming up, which means Doc Emrick will be in vintage form. Our favorite announcer made another hockey reference when discussing a save the American back up made. A nice block that builds confidence much like in “another sport.” With Pierre McGuire handling postgame interviews, all that’s missing is Mike Milbury.

Swimming is wrapping up soon. Michael Phelps has already become the greatest Olympian ever having won a record 19 medals thanks to great teamwork in the 4 by 200 individual meter. A race USA took gold in. It was great to see after South African Chad le Clos in his signature event the 200 fly with a desperation touch that stunned Phelps. As we’re writing this, I’m proud to say that Phelps avenged the loss taking gold in the 100 butterfly, edging teammate Ryan Lochte. If you missed it like us, make sure you tune into NBC’s primetime coverage tonight. It’s can’t miss.

I’m still awaiting track and field. My all-time favorite summer event. As a former runner, I love watching the world’s fastest man in the 100. Sure. Usain Bolt should prevail but it’s always great to check out. Tyson Gay competes against Bolt while on the women’s side, Allyson Felix returns for one more go round. Can Felix win gold or make the medal stand one last time? How will Lolo Jones perform on the hurdles? Plus the Olympic marathon is a test of endurance along with the chaotic steeplechase.

In Olympic basketball, Team USA continues to roll. Unless they have an off day, it’s hard to see anyone beating them. Argentina, Spain and France should be the main competition in the medal round following prelims.

Beach volleyball sees Misty May and Kerri Walsh try to defend gold in the elimination round. They’re not favorites this time but seeing them train hard with such commitment despite being Moms in their 30’s is inspiring. They still love the competition and want to be the best. The heart warming stories we’ve seen on both from when they first teamed up 10 years ago have been well done by NBC. Good luck to them in the quarters!

We’ll get to gymnastics in the next blog. A couple of memorable days for men’s and women’s gymnastics in The States. I still don’t know how they’re able to do some of those routines. It speaks to the true dedication of each athlete. Like many, I took gymnastics as a kid and found it very challenging. I can only imagine what they’re putting their bodies and minds through. Congrats to every single one. There are no losers.

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Safina ousted again

Dinara Safina’s struggles continued. A week following an early exit at The Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, the No.1 ranked Russian fell this time in the second round at The China Open to hometown wildcard Zhang Shuai 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Last week, she fell in the second round after a bye in three tight sets to 132 ranked Kai-Chen Chang. At least the enigmatic younger sister of Marat Safin could take solace knowing Pan Pacific was marred by many upsets including Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Caroline Wozniacki, who got sick.

This time, Safina lost to No.226 in the world by committing 20 unforced errors and a dozen double faults which were her undoing. It probably spells the end of her reign as No.1 with second ranked American Serena Williams needing only a Round Two win over Ekaterina Makarova to take over the top spot. Perhaps the recent disappointments that also included a third round Open exit to Czech Petra Kvitova have finally taken their toll on the emotional Russian who was reduced to tears and cancelled her post match press conference.

“I’m just having some bad losses right now,” she said in a statement.

“So many matches that are very close, ones that I should win, having set points or match points every time. It’s very disappointing. I would like to take a break now, and I’m very upset with myself.”

Who could blame her? It’s been an emotional roller coaster that included her rise to No.1 getting to two grand slam finals before wilting, plus a Wimbledon semifinal appearance. Perhaps that’s what she needs.

“I wasn’t thinking about the result, I was just thinking about learning as much as I could from her,” a more pleased 20 year-old Zhang said. “She was not on her best form, she was impatient and made lots of mistakes.”

Staying with the upset theme, Venus was eliminated by Russian teen Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Ironically, it was the second consecutive week Pavlyuchenkova sent the seven-time slam winner out of a tournament.

The prior week, the No.3 ranked player fell in two tightly played straights. However, this time she came out firing capturing the opening set.

“She started way aggressive today. She wanted to kill me, I guess,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I had nothing to lose. I just tried to move her around as much as I could, just hit as hard as I could in the court and just enjoy the match.”

It was the younger Russian who controlled the final two sets by playing cleaner tennis while Venus went off. In particular, her serve unraveled with the 29 year-old American finishing with an uncharacteristic 14 doubles.

“She played really well, unfortunately sometimes I made errors too soon in the play,” Williams lamented.

For Pavlyuchenkova who’s highly thought of, it was another step in the right direction as she prepares for a big 2010.

“I want to win a Grand Slam really so much,” she expressed after advancing to a third round encounter against Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, who bested Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-4. “[Maria] Sharapova won it when she was 17, really quite young also. And others before. So, why not? I can do this.”

Another first round upset victim was Wozniacki, who fell in three sets to Spaniard Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-0. Perhaps the U.S. Open runner-up wasn’t fully recovered from her sickness that forced her to retire last week in a loss to Wozniak. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer fared no better dropping a three set decision to Russian Alisa Kleybanova 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Daniela Hantuchova advanced to a second round meeting against Nadia Petrova by posting a straight sets win over Carla Suarez Navarro. Meanwhile, advancing to the third round were two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and China’s Li Na as did Alona Bondarenko.

One player not participating is Ana Ivanovic, who’s had a forgetful season. She pulled out with an upper respiratory problem. It’s just as well.

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Little sis similar to Marat

There’s no denying Dinara Safina’s talent. At 23, the younger sister of former Grand Slam champion Marat Safin has accomplished plenty, joining older brother as the only siblings to ever reach No.1 in the world.

Despite holding the top spot after finishing runner-up at the first two grand slams (Australian, French), the enigmatic Safina has fizzled lately with a poor second half this season that’s included a blowout Wimbledon semifinal defeat in which she got only a game off Venus Williams and a third round U.S. Open exit at the hands of unheralded Czech Petra Kvitova to conclude a disappointing stay in New York.

Though it’s been a breakthrough year in terms of rankings and reaching her first ever major finals, something seems to be missing. After another disappointment at the upset marred Pan Pacific Open, falling to unknown qualifier Chang Kai-Chen in three sets, Safina continues to receive heavy criticism for something she can’t control. When she became the 19th women’s top ranked player on April 20, it was due to hard work.

Not long ago, the second ever female Russian to hit No.1 (joined Maria Sharapova) was ranked just outside the Top 15 when she upset seven-time slam winner Justine Henin in a French tuneup, sending the Belgian to retirement. Two and a half years later, the 27 year-old saw that it was possible to return thanks to countrywoman Kim Clijsters’ impressive run claiming her second Open earlier this month with triumphs over both Williams sisters, completing it with a straight set victory over current No.5 riser Caroline Wozniacki.

So, Safina’s path to winning that elusive major just got tougher. She certainly hits one of the biggest balls on the WTA Tour. But thus far, her struggle to gain worldwide respect reminds us too much of Marat, who’s hanging it up later this year. Sadly, one of the game’s most gifted players on the ATP is burnt out at 29. While that’s an age when many in tennis call it quits, one ponders how many more majors he could’ve won if he’d put his mind to it.

Back in 2000, anything seemed possible with the then 20 year-old destroying Pete Sampras in straights at the Open. Something unheard of. With a great serve and blistering ground strokes that included a deadly backhand, the big man’s future looked very promising. Instead of continuing to win majors, he enjoyed his success a little too much. Perhaps the new lifestyle contributed to him not fulfilling potential.

Though the root of the problem couldn’t really be blamed on partying but rather Safin losing concentration during matches. He was always a tough out making three Australian Open finals. After dropping the first two due to an admitted bout with confidence, he won his second slam in grand fashion by upsetting Roger Federer in a memorable five set semifinal that saw him fight off match point. Fresh off ending the Swiss Maestro’s 26-match win streak over Top 10 foes, he completed it by besting Aussie hometown favorite Lleyton Hewitt in four sets.

Following the impressive run, many including us expected him to get back in contention. However, that never came to fruition with Safin teasing many with his immense skills. Amazingly, he had his best run at Wimbledon in 2008 going all the way to the semis before Federer drove him nuts in three tight sets. That it came with him ranked No.75 was no shock. You never could tell what you were getting from the only Russian man who ever made the Final Four at the All England Club.

Maybe that helps better explain Safina who’s still young enough to have a great career. She can take solace knowing that Marat has a Hall of Fame resume featuring the two slams, two Aussie runner-ups, No.1 ranking and helping their home country Russia win its first ever Davis Cup in 2002 on a stacked team that included former No.1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Mikhail Youzhny and Andrei Stoliarov. They also won in 2006 with Safin an integral part winning doubles with Dmitry Tursunov and a singles win over Argentina’s Jose Acasuso.

For the younger Safina, she’s already won 12 titles, reached two slam finals, hit No.1 and won Olympic silver in singles when she fell to countrywoman Elena Dementieva in three tight sets at Beijing. So, her career has hardly been disappointing. If only she could get over the hump and win a slam, it would silence many critics. But hey. We could easily say the same thing for the talented Dementieva and former outspoken No.1 Jelena Jankovic, who’s dipped to No.8.

For the ladies, it’s not easy to win majors when you’re competing with Venus and Serena Williams. If Sharapova returns to form next year, watch out. With Clijsters and Henin back along with Wozniacki looking to take the next step, the women’s game has become much better. Another proven Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova also won her second slam routing Safina at Roland Garros earlier this year. American Melanie Oudin made a name for herself at Flushing Meadows as did German Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon.

There’s plenty of talent which also includes Russian enigmas Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova, who have big enough games to compete but lack the mental capacity. This is a similar issue Safina’s dealing with as is former 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic, who continued to struggle in a first round loss to Czech Lucie Safarova in which she had 11 double faults. Italian Flavia Pennetta, who reached the Open quarters before falling to Serena also is a good player. So too is 20 year-old Serbian Victoria Azarenka who after a strong start has experienced growing pains which have included temper tantrums.

So much of the battle is the head. Something Safina’s older brother referred to when he conquered Federer down under, terming the big upset a “head battle.” Very little separates the top players on each side. However, sometimes it’s what’s going on upstairs which can determine the outcome. This is also true of sports in general where even the biggest stars such as Alex Rodriguez can struggle under the spotlight. Whether that continues for the Yankee star third baseman on a superb team this October, we’ll know soon enough.

Aside from dealing with confidence issues, there’s also strategy which comes into play in an ultra competitive sport like tennis. Players who can adjust during matches usually have success. That can sometimes require alternating game plans. Something we haven’t seen a whole lot of on the women’s side where a plethora of top ranked players go bigger and bigger 24/7. Even with her injuries, Sharapova’s been a disappointment who should have more than two slams (2004 Wimbledon, 2007 U.S. Open). Power can only take you so far.

Tennis can use players who think outside the box like former No.1 Martina Hingis. Precisely what they’re getting with Clijsters and Henin who can hit with the best of them but also possess great speed and balance which helps create angles. They also aren’t afraid to come to the net to finish points. Something we saw the 19 year-old Dane Wozniacki do in her loss to Clijsters. Another player who closes well is Venus by using her size and athleticism effectively. Younger sis Serena is capable but usually prefers outslugging opponents while playing great D.

To truly be great, a player must always be willing to adjust on the fly. If something’s not working, change it up. How many times do you hear the frustration in Brad Gilbert or Martina Navratilova’s voice? They beat it over and over again and probably shake their heads in disgust at such gifted players not getting the most out of their God given ability.

For Safina, who can implode on the court similarly to emotional brother Marat, she must address this. It will be crucial to her future. She’s plenty good enough to win majors. But it’s taking that next step which will help determine how successful she is.

She seems like a wonderful person with her entertaining brother’s winning personality. So, she knows what’s wrong. It’s how she goes about fixing it that could wind up in even better results.

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Random Thoughts

Just a few quick hits from the peanut gallery:

1.Hard to believe Roger Federer was so shaky with more history up for grabs. Sure. The men’s grand slam record holder battled through his serve to grab a two sets to one lead over Juan Martin Del Potro even getting within two points of a sixth consecutive title which would’ve matched Bill Tilden and also become first player to win three in a row in one year since Rod Laver in 1969. But he never got untracked with the serve and made some uncharacteristic errors due in large part to Del Potro who deserves such kudos for fighting so hard to win a first slam.

2.Wonder what Andy Roddick thought?

3.Only the Bills could find a way to blow a 10-point lead with less than six minutes left in a game they owned in New England last night. I even said to my brother that they couldn’t blow it but again was proven wrong due to Leodis McKelvin’s foolishness. What was the point of trying for that extra yard on the kickoff? He had to know the situation that a desperate Pats special teams would be going for the strip. Like breaking that tackle for the extra yard really mattered. Unbelievable.

4.Kim Clijsters’ successful comeback winning her second Open beating both Williams sisters along the way while defeating a game Caroline Wozniacki was a feel good story. Who says Moms can’t do it?

5.Melanie Oudin’s run was special but do we really need to know about her parents’ divorce? She’s only 17. Leave her alone!

6.I love Derek Jeter and was very proud to see him get the Yankee hit record surpassing Lou Gehrig but that three hit barrage to tie last week in a comeback win over the Birds was the epitome of what makes the Yankee captain great. What a special year for the ageless 35 year-old shortstop who should have a few big swings left in the postseason. Whenever it’s over, next stop. Cooperstown.

7.He was money when it came to the big shot but why does Michael Jordan have to be so arrogant when he gets inducted into Springfield? Just enjoy the moment instead of taking shots for proving people wrong.

8.I still say it’s a great thing that NY Post hoops writer Peter Vecsey was included with Air Jordan, John Stockton and David Robinson because he’s damn good at what he does and not afraid to pull punches. One of our own made it.

9.Does anyone have a nicer smile than Wozniacki? She could sure light up even the darkest room. The 19 year-old Danish Princess can also play a little tennis and has a great demeanor.

10.If only we could say the same about Serena Williams who embarrassed herself in that semi loss to Clijsters. We really hope she learned a valuable lesson from that sad display and is really sorry. Even if it was a lousy call at an inopportune time, the 11-time slam winner must know better. Why can’t she be more like older/wiser sis Venus who is so elegant and handles herself well?

11.It’s early but Mark Sanchez didn’t intimidated against the Texans who once again are being overhyped in a tough division. Try telling that to all the so-called ‘experts.’

12.Eli Manning has some new receivers to play with. Hopefully, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks continue to develop. Big Blue must be glad to have Osi Umenyiora back. This week in Big D should be a good early test to see where they are.

13.Those four picks Jay Cutler threw in an inauspicious Bear debut. If you listened to the great insight Sunday night, you would’ve thought none were his fault.

14.Find me another athlete with as much heart as Rafael Nadal who only played with a possible torn abdominal muscle before succumbing to Del Potro in the semis. Even after getting dismantled in straights winning only six games, there was the charismatic 23 year-old Spaniard doing a brief interview and then signing autographs for the kids who will never forget that. The man gets it.

15.Michael Crabtree is holding out in case we didn’t know. What exactly has he proven? Does the name Mike Williams ring a bell?

16.Make me watch the VMAs. MTV hasn’t cared about music for years. Kanye West is a dog. Taylor Swift a sweetheart. Next.

17.Preseason puck at MSG tonight. Can hardly believe it!

18.Pretty fitting that Pedro Martinez would turn back the clock with a virtuoso performance fanning seven and tossing 130 pitches in a 1-0 win over the Mets eliminating them. But hey. They had Tim Redding and Livan Hernandez.

19.The Melk Man has quietly had a nice season playing center in the Bronx.

20.Why is it so hard for Phil Mushnick to only point out Mike Francesa’s shortcomings and not the WFAN vet talkie’s good side like what he did flashing back to 9/11? Because the NY Post columnist only writes what’s convenient.

21.Our Super Bowl pick is Eagles over Steelers. Yes. Those Eagles even though it looks like we jinxed them with Donovan McNabb already breaking a rib.

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Mom knows best

There she was winning on the big stage once again. Sometimes, Mom really does know best.

That proved true in Kim Clijsters’ amazing comeback story as she ran all the way to her second U.S. Open title with cute 18-month old daughter Jada looking on before a great Ashe Stadium environment in Flushing.

In just her third tournament back after taking two and a half years off to marry former Villanova hoops star Brian Lynch and start a family, the delightful 26 year-old Belgian’s experience proved too much for first-time slam finalist Caroline Wozniacki– besting the sweet ninth seed from Denmark 7-5, 6-3 in a match which took over an hour and a half.

“It was not really our plan,” an exhilerated Clijsters said after becoming the first Mom to win a grand slam title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley back in 1980 (Wimbledon). “I just wanted to start these three tournaments and get back into the rhythm of playing tennis and get used to the surroundings again.”

“You know, little nervous today and probably didn’t play as well as I did against Serena [Williams], but I still won. That’s all that counts for me now.”

Though it was the 19 year-old Dane’s first time playing for a major, she acquitted herself well proving that her run was no fluke. Following a shaky beginning in which she fell behind an early break 0-2, Wozniacki played some serious defense to reel off four consecutive games against a nervous Clijsters who began spraying shots.

“No, actually I wasn’t too nervous. I mean, you’re always excited when you’re going out to a match. But, you know, I just thought, I’m playing a Grand Slam final. I have nothing to lose. I just need to go out there and try to do my best, and that’s what I did,” Wozniacki said after becoming the first ever Dane to ever make it this far in a slam.

During that run, the New York crowd got to see some excellent rallies between the two in which Wozniacki mixed up her shots well including a solid two handed backhand and topspin forehand to gain an edge. After breaking back to get on the board, she settled down playing the conservative hustling style that had suited her well during the two weeks that included a straight set quarter ouster of American Melanie Oudin.

While Wozniacki’s ground attack was working, Clijsters’ went off going for too much which put the 2005 Open champ in a hole. Her opponent also showed strong will fighting off three break points by drawing errors before holding in the sixth game for 4-2.

The set nearly slipped away from the fan favorite who gave Wozniacki two more break opportunities in the next game. But that’s when her true mettle showed saving both including one with an inside out forehand crosscourt winner before gaining a critical hold for 3-4.

“She [Wozniacki] hits the ball very heavy, but she doesn’t miss. Against the Williams sisters, you always have the feeling that if you can just hang in there, they might give you more easy points,” assessed Clijsters on the style adjustment..

“She didn’t do that today. I think I really had to be patient, as well, but also try not to play along with her game. So I didn’t have that feeling until, you know, when I had match point. I was like, Okay, maybe I can do this.”

With momentum, Clijsters broke back in the eighth game to draw even. Following a nifty backhand defensive lob by a grinning Wozniacki to win a highly entertaining point for 15-30, a focused Kim locked in earning the break when her younger opponent double faulted.

However, she couldn’t keep it going blowing a 40-Love lead as a determined Wozniacki used some sheer hustle to get back in a point before a couple of nice half volleys forced a Clijsters’ miss for her third break of the opening set.

“But actually I was surprised myself that I wasn’t more nervous,” mentioned Wozniacki who still took plenty of positives from the tough defeat.

“And I just think that the thing that I was just thinking about one point at a time, one ball at a time, and I was really focused on what I really wanted to do out there. I think that really helped me. I think that helped me through the whole tournament.”

A game away from closing out the set, Wozniacki ran into trouble getting broken back by an equally focused Clijsters who began the game with a great backhand crosscourt. Wozy rebounded to grab the next pair moving two points from the set after a backhand winner. But Kim didn’t give in taking the next three including a return forehand winner to setup the break chance which she converted on a wide Wozniacki forehand making it five all.

Finally looking settled, she took the first three points. But again, Wozniacki came back getting it to Deuce before some big serving which included one of Clijsters’ three aces allowed her to escape for 6-5 swinging the momentum.

Finally more under control, she applied pressure to the teenager by continuing to dictate points with more pace forcing errors off Wozniacki’s racket to break at love, claiming the set.

“She’s playing because she thinks it’s fun and because she likes it,” said Wozniacki, who faced someone she admired for the first time. “I really think she might be a better player now than she was before.”

Perhaps the situation got to the Great Dane with Clijsters’ experience pushing her through a seesaw set that had seven combined breaks of serve. Not surprisingly, Kim had double the winners (16-8) and five more unforced errors (20-15) but most importantly, pulled the tight set out.

“Actually, I didn’t think too much about the score. I was just focused a lot about just playing one point at a time,” explained Wozniacki.

“But, you know, the thing was I couldn’t keep my serve in the end of the first set, and that just caused me trouble. She was right there. She started serving well, and, yeah, that’s why I lost the first set.”

During her run to the final, Wozniacki had only dropped one set with it coming against former Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in a come from behind three set Round of 16 win.

Could she mount a comeback? There certainly was no quit from her side as she continued to stick to the strategy of staying in rallies by making Clijsters hit another ball. The contrasting styles made for more intriguing points with the New Haven champ not afraid to come to net where she fared well taking 11 of 17 (65 percent) while Kim countered with a solid 10 of 15 (67 percent).

Indeed, the Ashe crowd enjoyed the variety as opposed to what the women’s game has become lately. With big girls swinging for the fences point after point without any alternative plan.

“I think Wozniacki is a great player. I think she’s someone who is going to have a really great future ahead of her. She’s a smart girl. I think she played some smart tennis today. That’s something I think we want to see. It’s not just the hard hitters,” praised Clijsters while adding:

“She’s really someone who thinks out there, and that is fun to see, as well.”

No wonder most games were so competitive. Despite that, each player did a better job protecting their serve with no breaks the first five games following another Clijsters ace for 3-2.

That’s when she sensed the finish line using powerful strokes and splendid angles to break Wozniacki at love highlighted by a forehand pass for Love-30 beating Caroline at the net along with a nice rally which finally drew an error for 4-2.

If she was going to make history becoming the first ever women’s wildcard to win the Open (Venus Williams made ’97 Final-lost to Martina Hingis), it was gonna be tough.

Wozniacki didn’t go away getting a couple of tight long backhands from Clijsters to pull within two points of getting back on serve. But Kim wouldn’t allow it taking the next four including an ace and forehand winner for 5-2. Suddenly, she was a game away.

With the fans encouraging Wozniacki because they wanted more tennis, she held her nerve to hold for 3-5 putting it on Clijsters’ racket.

“You know, Kim just played a great match. She really showed that she’s playing great tennis, and I’m happy to have her back. But of course I’d like to have taken the next step and have won this match. I mean, she played better to me today, and that’s why she won,” credited the runner-up.

Here she was needing four more points to complete one of the greatest storylines ever. It wasn’t long ago that she retired because the game wasn’t fun anymore and she wanted to start a family. And now, here she was having already knocked off both Williams sisters along with Marion Bartoli back in the second round to reach this point.

“Well, the motivation was missing then. It was something that, yeah, I came to an age where I really felt like, you know, combined with the injuries, I think, I wasn’t really 100% focused on my tennis anymore.”

“But I’m just very lucky that I’m able to combine both and that my family supports me in doing this.”

With that family behind her including Jada who made the funniest gestures all night, Clijsters seized the moment. Following two shaky points giving Wozniacki hope, she recovered well with a service winner pulling her even and then struck a forehand winner to setup championship point.

Of course, Wozniacki wouldn’t give it to her getting into one more fun rally before an aggressive Clijsters nailed a forehand which drew a short reply giving her an easy putaway into the open court for the win.

“I’m still, whenever I see my group, every time I say, like, I can’t believe this happened. Because it still seems so surreal that, yeah, in my third tournament back won my second Grand Slam,” the emotional winner pointed out.

“It’s a great feeling to have, but it’s confusing in a lot of ways, as well. It went so quickly, everything, so I didn’t really- especially after yesterday’s match. And then with the rain delays and everything, it just felt like especially these last couple of days everything went so quickly.”

The emotional champion dropped to her knees and then received a nice hug from Wozniacki before turning emotional with tears of joy as Jada held up 1 finger for Mom and her box cheered on. She then made it up there to celebrate with them embracing everyone and receiving a kiss from her proud husband.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world being a mother,” the two-time Open champ said while reminding fans that she finally got to defend her 2005 title to chuckles. “I just can’t wait to spend next the few weeks with her and have her routine schedule at home again.”

A special moment for a wonderful player who handles herself so well. This was the kind of champion the Open deserved and the crowd let her know it just by their reaction.

If one great Belgian can do it this way after playing only two tournaments, might we get the other one back in Justine Henin? For another day.

Wozniacki also got plenty of love from the crowd who enjoyed Sunshine’s easy demeanor and smile which was still there when she received the runner-up crown even speaking three languages including her native Danish and Polish thanking all her supporters. Why not? This was a major breakthrough for the WTA Tour wins leader who entered with 62. It just wasn’t her time which should come soon enough.

“I think it’s important to thank all my fans in Poland, as well, because I know that there are a lot of fans out there that are rooting for me. I think it’s important just to give something back,” she wisely noted.

This was Kim’s moment. Her tournament writing a perfect script which you only get in movies.

“Well, I mean, if I inspired them, great. But, you know, this is something that I, yeah, in my wildest dreams could never imagine happening.”

Twenty nine years later, Mom won and she got to celebrate with family including Jada who came onto the court taking cute pictures with Brian and Kim along with the trophy.

“That’s why it’s good all the photographers were there. Maybe I can get some pictures.”

Somehow, we don’t think that will be a problem. A night she’ll never forget.

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Kim was cooler player

The circumstances were far from ideal. The rain hadn’t stopped all day throwing another curve into the schedule which forced both women’s semifinals to be played at the same time in Ashe and Louis Armstrong while both doubles matches were pushed back.

Perhaps that’s why Kim Clijsters is in her second straight U.S. Open final trying to become the first Mom to win a grand slam title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley back in 1980 (Wimbledon).

Oh. Did we also mention that when the Mom of 18-month old Jade plays ninth seeded Caroline Wozniacki for all the marbles later tonight in primetime at 9 PM on CBS, the unseeded Belgian was absent from the last three? Indeed, the 26 year-old former 2005 champ missed a chance to defend her crown due to injury and wasn’t even on the WTA Tour the past two years until 10 weeks ago. Since then, she’s gone 11-2 and will aim to become the first ever ladies wildcard to win a major.

“Maybe a little out of today’s match just because, you know, you want to finish that last point, kind of, especially when you hit like I was seeing the ball really well, I was hitting well, and I was really focused,” a pleased Clijsters said on whether her return has inspired people.

“It’s a little bit unfortunate that I didn’t have that, but it’s not going to take anything away from tomorrow’s match or how special that would be for me, and for both of us.”

Now, her incredible comeback continues by doing something few have. Not beating one Williams but both even if it was under bizarre circumstances with Serena Williams losing her cool late on a controversial call in a very tight second set.

Yes, the overwhelming favorite didn’t keep it together after a line judge nailed her for a foot fault handing Clijsters double match point. CBS replays were inconclusive with the call coming at a pivotal moment. As she was about to step up and serve, Williams made the costly mistake of walking over to have a few choice words for the poor judge. Unfortunately, the 27 year-old American let out several expletives which resulted in a very awkward and devastating conclusion to a quality match.

“I”m not going to sit here and make an excuse. If I foot fault, I did. It was what it was, and that’s basically all it was,” lamented Williams.

Following a meeting between the chair umpire and lines person, she reported what was said. With Serena anxiously waiting at the baseline and Clijsters wondering what was happening, eventually the 11-time slam winner was called up by the umpire forcing tournament referee Brian Earley to pay a visit along with tournament official Donna Kelso.

“She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty,” a very subdued Earley explained. “And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Due to Williams breaking her racket following losing the first set which she received a warning for, the temper tantrum cost her any chance to repeat, resulting in a point penalty which meant the match. When Serena walked across the net to congratulate Clijsters, the stunned Belgian almost didn’t want to accept the 6-4, 7-5 semi victory which she quite deserved before a stunned, loyal half capacity crowd.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” a surprised Clijsters remarked after improving to 2-8 career versus Serena.

“You know, obviously, yeah, I still to this point I’m a little confused about what happened out there, and, um, just because I was so focused. You know, just trying to win that last point for me. So then things ended up ending a little bit different than I expected.”

“Well, I said something that I guess they gave me a point penalty. Unfortunately it was on match point,” was how Williams put it while adding:

No, I didn’t think I would get a point penalty. I didn’t think about it.”

Sometimes in sports, things happen. Chalk it up to emotions getting the better turning the champ into chump. Yes. The cooler player prevailed. With few giving her a chance after already sending Venus Williams home two rounds prior, Clijsters was superior.

Following a lengthy eight and a half hour delay, it was Kim who dealt with the elements better to pull off another upset knocking out the three-time Open winner.

It took a while for both players to get going due to a few sprinkles which fell and seemed to unnerve Serena more than Clijsters. The difference was that Clijsters hit the cleaner ball while an unsteady Williams misfired from the baseline. Able to deal with the pace, the speedy popular former champ was able to run down shots and come up with precision hitting creating nice angles.

They exchanged breaks in the sixth and seventh games but ultimately, Clijsters stayed strong holding for 5-4 to put pressure on Serena to stay in the set. A couple of points from squaring it, she fell apart dropping the next four to hand it over. After a Clijsters forehand winner made it 30-all, two Williams miscues including a netted backhand gave her gritty opponent a set lead to which she slammed her racket in disgust. Who knew that would play such a big role in a match of this magnitude?

When Williams seemed ready to make a run breaking Clijsters in the opening game of the second set highlighted by a couple of lethal return winners, she allowed Kim to stick around by dropping serve with a double fault.

All match, the WTA’s best server struggled mightily winning just 32 percent of second serves (10 of 31) due in large part to Clijsters’ aggressive play. That was the biggest difference making Williams’ serve attackable with Clijsters breaking her one more time than she’d been all tournament. Four when she had only allowed three entering last night.

Despite her serving issues, a sharper Williams pressed on earning a break in the fifth game when a nice dropshot setup a textbook crosscourt pass for 3-2. But yet again, a resilient Clijsters came right back. After Serena fought off three break points, she earned a fourth and converted thanks to a big forehand which drew an error to get back even.

Following Clijsters digging out of 15-30 to hold for 4-3, a big backhand gave her two more chances to break and serve for the match. However, as often happens with Williams, she toughened saving both winning a baseline exchange and a swinging volley winner. Still in trouble, she delivered an ace out wide to fight off a third. Entering the game, she had three aces but matched that total with clutch serving for four all.

Each then traded holds. A Clijsters ace out wide put her a game away from the final. Then came the embarrassing conclusion to a great set that had fans into it.

Already trailing in the critical game 15-30 due to a pair of errors, Williams faulted. Then came the foot fault from Hell.

“I used to have a real temper, and I’ve gotten a lot better,” an under control Williams said during a long postmatch press conference. “So I know you don’t believe me, but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed.”

Not on this night.

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