Tennis isn’t much of a big deal at South L.A.’s struggling Jefferson High. The two dozen kids who play on the boys’ and girls’ teams practice on a pair of beaten courts at a gang-riddled, graffiti-tagged park. It wasn’t long ago that both squads — stacked with teens still learning basic tennis rules — shared six beaten rackets and sometimes played in jeans.
“Shoes?” said David Herrera, who coaches the girls’ team. “A lot of my players didn’t even know there was such a thing as shoes made just for tennis. They played in skateboard sneakers. One girl showed up in boots. They just didn’t know.” They do now, thanks to the venerable, 84-year-old Beverly Hills Tennis Club.
This past weekend marked the beginning of an uncommon bond between Jefferson and the club — storied in Southern California tennis circles, with a wealthy membership that once included Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin. On Saturday, Jefferson’s tennis players boarded a bus in their neighborhood and went on a 12-mile journey to a corner of the city far different from their own.
They ended up at the leafy club — as honored guests. “Most of us, we’ve never really been to Beverly Hills before, even though it’s not that far from home,” said Alma Roque, a 17-year-old senior who stood back for a moment, tentative as she surveyed her teammates.
Serena Williams won her 53rd WTA title by beating Johanna Larsson, 6-4, 6-1, in the final of the Swedish Open on Sunday at Bastad. The 24-year-old Swede broke to lead 3-1 in the first set before Williams fought back to 3-3. Larsson advanced to 4-3 before caving in to the American’s strong serve and losing the next three games. Williams dominated the second set, breaking Larsson’s serve twice. Williams also defeated 76th-ranked Larsson in their only previous match in the Fed Cup earlier this year.
PARIS (AP) — Serena Williams won her 16th Grand Slam title and her first French Open championship since 2002 on Saturday, relentlessly chasing down one shot after another to defeat familiar foil Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4. “Eleven years,” Williams said in French during the trophy ceremony. “I think it’s unbelievable. Now I have 16 Grand Slam titles. It’s difficult for me to speak because I’m so excited.”
Then the national anthem played for the first American singles champion at Roland Garros since Williams’ previous title. Williams whacked 10 aces, including three in the final game, and the last came on match point at 123 mph — her hardest serve of the day. She then sank to her knees, screamed at the sky and buried her face in the clay.
The victory completed her rebound from a shocking loss to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the first round at the French Open a year ago. Since that defeat she’s 74-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Venus Williams outlasted fellow American Ververa Lapchenko in three sets Friday to start a long day of tennis for the Williams’ family at the rain-delayed Family Circle Cup.
Venus was up a set and held a 3-0 lead in the second set before Lapchenko won six of the next seven games to force a third set. Lapchenko led 1-0 before Williams found her game and closed out the set, 6-2. Williams will face 18-year-old Madison Keys later Friday for a spot in the semifinals Saturday.
Top-ranked Serena Williams also must play twice Friday after a 7 1-2 hour rain delay wiped out much of Thursday’s schedule. Serena will play Mallory Burdette. If she wins, she’ll play either sixth-seeded Lucie Safarova or Sorana Cirstea.
Serena Williams poses with trophy after winning the womens finals beating Maria Sharapova in three sets at the Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Florida. (Mandatory Credit: INFphoto.com)
KEY BISCAYNE, Florida (AP) — Serena Williams danced to the crowd’s roar, spinning and grinning, hopping and waving, then spinning some more. If her victory celebration on the stadium court seemed well-rehearsed, it was. She earned a record sixth Key Biscayne women’s title by beating familiar foil Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 at the Sony Open on Saturday.
Sharapova set a new standard for futility in finals. She completed a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open last year, and won Indian Wells two weeks ago, but she’s winless in five Key Biscayne finals. Sharapova playing nearly flawless tennis for an hour, before her serve and groundstrokes began to lose steam. Williams swept the last 10 games and faltered only during the trophy ceremony.
The story of how Venus and Serena Williams grew to become two of the world’s most notable tennis stars is quite fascinating. The sisters, who are only 15 months apart, are finally telling their story from the beginning with the release of the documentary, Venus and Serena. Watch the super-trailer above to see the sisters give a never-before-seen glimpse into their lives as not only world-renowned champions, but sisters and best friends, too. The film will be released on iTunes April 4 and in theatres May 10.
Serena Williams of the U.S. returns the ball to Poland’s Urszula Radwanska on the fourth day of the WTA Qatar Ladies Open tennis tournament in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — An emotional Serena Williams returned to the top of women’s tennis, overcoming a series of potentially career-ending injuries since 2010 to become the oldest woman ever to hold the No. 1 ranking. The 31-year-old Williams rallied from 4-1 down in the third to beat former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open on Friday. She needed to reach the semifinals to replace Victoria Azarenka at No. 1 when the rankings come out next week.
Williams held up one finger after clinching the match with an ace and wiped away the tears as she addressed the cheering crowd. “I never thought I would be here again,” Williams said. “Oh my gosh, I’ve been through so much. I never thought I would be here.”
Chris Evert held the top ranking in 1985 just shy of her 31st birthday. It has been a long journey back to the top for Williams.