TIME tennis

Chris Evert: Serena Williams Is the Greatest of All-Time

Williams’ French Open victory was her 20th major win, four behind the women’s all-time career record.
Clive Brunskill—Getty Images Williams’ French Open victory was her 20th major win, four behind the women’s all-time career record.

With Wimbledon approaching, Williams is chasing history

Serena Williams owns 20 Grand Slam singles titles, just four short of Margaret Court’s record 24, and two behind Steffi Graf’s 22. But one tennis legend—who has a cool 18 major titles herself—isn’t waiting for Williams to break the record to declare her the best women’s player ever. “She is the greatest of all-time,” says Chris Evert, who spoke to TIME for our profile of Serena Williams that appears in the June 29 issue, available on newsstands starting Friday.

Evert cites Williams’ record in the finals of Grand Slam tournaments—20-4—and her lack of a rival as reasons for declaring her the GOAT. The absence of a consistent challenger for Williams usually works against her in this debate. After all, Court had Billie Jean King, Evert had Martina Navratilova, Graf had Monica Seles. Any of these Hall of Famers would dominate the competition Williams is currently facing—and pile up major championships.

Five or six years ago, Evert says, she bought the argument. But not anymore. “After watching her matches and watching her closely, these players get close, they’re doing really well, and then she’ll get to another level where she slaps winners and she starts acing people,” says Evert. “It’s not one level. All of a sudden, she’s up two or three levels better than the field. It’s not about the other women. It’s about how good Serena is.”

Evert is rooting for Williams to become the first player since Graf in 1988 to win the calendar year Grand Slam—a sweep of the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens, plus Wimbledon, which starts on June 29. She’s halfway there, having become the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the Australian and the French (the U.S. Open begins in late August).

“I think we want to look up to somebody larger than life, and kind of go along for the ride,” says Evert. “We like to be in awe of somebody, it’s superhuman what they do, it’s just nice to feel like you’re part of that journey with them.”

TIME tennis

Tennis Star Andy Murray Says He Has Become a Feminist

Andy Murray, Amelie Mauresmo london britain tennis queens club
Sang Tan—AP Andy Murray of Britain shares a laugh with his new coach Amelie Mauresmo during a training session before his Queen's Club grass court championships tennis match in London on June 12, 2014.

The tennis star says he has been apalled by the sexist treatment of his coach Amélie Mauresmo

Andy Murray, the world no. 3 tennis player, says he has become a feminist after seeing the treatment his coach Amélie Mauresmo received at the hands of the media and critics.

Writing in his blog in L’Équipe, Murray writes that he knwe that his appointment of Mauresmo would be controversial because few male tennis players have female coaches:

I realised it would create a feeling of suspicion, mistrust and perhaps even negativity. I didn’t realise, however, that Amélie would find herself up against such criticism and prejudice. The staggering thing was that she was slated every time I lost, which is something my former coaches never ever experienced.

Murray asked if he had become a feminist:

Well, if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then yes, I suppose I have. My upbringing means that I’m quite attuned to the whole thing. I came to tennis thanks to my mother. I always had a very close relationship with my grandmothers. I’ve always been surrounded by women. I find it easier to talk to them. I find it easier to open up to them. It’s a crying shame there aren’t more female coaches.

TIME movies

There Are Three Different Movies About Billie Jean King in the Works

Tennis "Battle of the Sexes"
Jim Garrett/NY Daily News—Getty Images Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs a few months before their Battle of the Sexes match.

Emma Stone is the latest to sign on to play the tennis legend

The 1973 Battle of the Sexes match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was played in three sets, and now it seems the film adaptation will play out the same way. Three different movies about King and Riggs are in development, each with its own angle on one of the most-watched televised sporting events in history.

The latest news is that Emma Stone will star opposite Steve Carell in the movie with the most official name, Battle of the Sexes, with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (the Little Miss Sunshine team). King has been involved in the development process for several years, and this version probably has the best chance of becoming the definitive filmic take on the event.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Banks will put on her tennis whites for an untitled HBO movie with Paul Giamatti as her rival. Will Ferrell will star in a third version, The Match Maker, focused more on Riggs and speculation that he threw the match at the request of the mafia to pay off gambling debts. No actress has signed on yet to play King.

At worst, the movies risk canceling each other out (especially if they all end up debuting in the same season). At best, we get to see some great actors duke it out on the tennis court for glory—and that’s definitely worth a box seat.

TIME tennis

Andy Murray Tells Wayne Odesnik ‘Good Riddance’ After 15-Year Ban for Steroids

FILE - In this Wednesday, June 27, 2012 file photo, Wayne Odesnik of the United States returns a shot during a first round men's singles match against Bjorn Phau of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, England. The International Tennis Federation has banned American player Wayne Odesnik for 15 years after a second doping violation
Sang Tan—AP Wayne Odesnik of the United States returns a shot during a first round men's singles match against Bjorn Phau of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon, England, on June 27, 2012

"He is a cheat and it is good for everyone in tennis he is dealt with in the right way"

British tennis star Andy Murray has welcomed a 15-year ban for the relatively unknown American player Wayne Odesnik, who on Wednesday was revealed to have tested positive for multiple banned substances, including steroids, from Dec. 17 and Jan. 12 tests.

“It is good for tennis that they got him off tour. It is the end of his career and he can’t even come on site to events or coach. That is a good thing,” Murray, the world’s fourth-ranked player, told BBC Sport on Wednesday.

“He is a cheat and it is good for everyone in tennis he is dealt with in the right way.”

When the news of Odesnik’s suspension first broke, Murray tweeted:

The 267th ranked Odesnik, who retired almost immediately after the news became public, had previously tested positive for human growth hormone in 2010.

In a statement on Wednesday, he blamed his latest positive result on unknowingly taking a contaminated over-the-counter-supplement.

“I was immediately heartbroken as words could not describe my shock and disappointment,” he said. “Being the most tested American tennis player on tour, I would never knowingly have taken any chance of consuming a banned substance.”

While steroids have damaged the reputation of many other sports, tennis has remained relatively free from controversy.

TIME tennis

Did Andy Murray Just Reveal His Teammate Is Cheating on His Girlfriend?

Murray serves up some laughs

Scottish tennis star Andy Murray may have just landed his teammate in a lot of trouble, by seemingly revealing on international television that he was dating two girls at once.

In an interview following Great Britain’s 3-1 win over the U.S. in the Davis Cup in Glasgow, Scotland, Eurosport presenter Annabel Croft asked the team about their celebration plans.

Murray said his teammate Dominic Inglot “had a little girlfriend on the go” in Glasgow and so would be celebrating with her.

“You’ve actually landed me in this,” replied Inglot, “I actually have a girlfriend who is watching this!”

Cue a lot of nervous laughing.

But Inglot later tweeted that the whole thing was just a bit of banter. Well, he would say that wouldn’t he.

TIME tennis

Serena Williams: I’m Going Back to Indian Wells

2015 Australian Open - Day 13
Hannah Peters—Getty Images Serena Williams holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning the women's final match against Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open on Jan. 31, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.

The tennis star writes exclusively in TIME about her decision to return to a tournament that has haunted her

We were outsiders.

It was March 2001, and I was a 19-year-old focused on winning and being the best I could be, both for me and for the kids who looked up to me. I had spent tens of thousands of hours—most of my ­adolescence—­serving, running, practicing, training day in and day out in pursuit of a dream. And it had started to become a reality. As a black tennis player, I looked different. I sounded different. I dressed differently. I served differently. But when I stepped onto the court, I could compete with anyone.

The tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., held a special place in my heart. I won my first pro match there in 1997, alongside my sister in doubles. I then sat and watched Venus qualify for the singles event and make a magical run all the way to the quarterfinals. It was a giant win not only for her but also for our whole family, and it marked the beginning of a new era that we were unknowingly writing. My first big tournament win also happened there, when I beat Steffi Graf in the ’99 final.

VIDEO Serena Williams describes her decision to play again at Indian Wells

When I arrived at Indian Wells in 2001, I was looking to take another title. I was ready. But however ready I was, nothing could have prepared me for what happened in the final. As I walked out onto the court, the crowd immediately started jeering and booing. In my last match, the semifinals, I was set to play my sister, but Venus had tendinitis and had to pull out. Apparently that angered many fans. Throughout my whole career, integrity has been everything to me. It is also everything and more to Venus. The false allegations that our matches were fixed hurt, cut and ripped into us deeply. The under­current of racism was painful, confusing and unfair. In a game I loved with all my heart, at one of my most cherished tournaments, I suddenly felt unwelcome, alone and afraid.

For all their practice, preparation and confidence, even the best competitors in every sport have a voice of doubt inside them that says they are not good enough. I am lucky that whatever fear I have inside me, my desire to win is always stronger.

When I was booed at Indian Wells—by what seemed like the whole world—my voice of doubt became real. I didn’t understand what was going on in that moment. But worse, I had no desire to even win. It happened very quickly.

This haunted me for a long time. It haunted Venus and our family as well. But most of all, it angered and saddened my father. He dedicated his whole life to prepping us for this incredible journey, and there he had to sit and watch his daughter being taunted, sparking cold memories of his experiences growing up in the South.

Thirteen years and a lifetime in tennis later, things feel different. A few months ago, when Russian official Shamil Tarpischev made racist and sexist remarks about Venus and me, the WTA and USTA immediately condemned him. It reminded me how far the sport has come, and how far I’ve come too.

I have thought about going back to Indian Wells many times over my career. I said a few times that I would never play there again. And believe me, I meant it. I admit it scared me. What if I walked onto the court and the entire crowd booed me? The nightmare would start all over.

It has been difficult for me to forget spending hours crying in the Indian Wells locker room after winning in 2001, driving back to Los Angeles feeling as if I had lost the biggest game ever—not a mere tennis game but a bigger fight for equality. Emotionally it seemed easier to stay away. There are some who say I should never go back. There are others who say I should’ve returned years ago. I understand both perspectives very well and wrestled with them for a long time. I’m just following my heart on this one.

I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove. I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game. And it is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015.

I was raised by my mom to love and forgive freely. “When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25). I have faith that fans at Indian Wells have grown with the game and know me better than they did in 2001.

Indian Wells was a pivotal moment of my story, and I am a part of the tournament’s story as well. Together we have a chance to write a different ­ending.

Read next: U.S. Golfer and Civil Rights Pioneer Charlie Sifford Dies at 92

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME tennis

Serena Williams Wins Australian Open in Champion Form

Serena Williams
William West—AFP/Getty Images Serena Williams of the US celebrates after victory in her women's singles final match against Russia's Maria Sharapova on day thirteen of the 2015 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan. 31, 2015.

It's her 19th major title

They come in all varieties. There are micromanagers and bloviators. There are delegators and relegators and benevolent despots. Kiss-ups and kick-downs. There are authentic leaders and natural born chiefs. Name a workforce and, almost by definition, there is a boss. In sports, bosses cut a remarkably wide swath. Armed with talking points, projecting defiance as he defends what is often indefensible, Roger Goodell is one kind of boss. Adam Silver, self-deprecating and often smiling, is another.

Tennis has bosses, too. Many, in fact, given its oxymoronic fractured structure. But the sport’s uberboss might be Serena Williams. She has won more major titles than anyone else currently playing. She has a cast of underlings and an entire tour that bends to her accord.

Her leadership style? She’s one of those bosses who is not always present. Early in the process, you wonder if she hasn’t spread herself too thin, if she’s fully committed, if she’s pondering her next move. And then, once the deal is on the table and it’s time to close, she arrives in full force, reminding you of why it is she resides at the top of the org chart.

The 2015 Australian Open animated Serena-as-boss. Early on, she looked sluggish. She faced 31 break points through the first six rounds of the tournament. For the first week, Serena looked disengaged. In two of her first four matches, she dropped the first set. For the first week, it looked like her older sister—herself a tennis boss at one time—might be more likely to win the title

Then, when it was time to get down to brass tacks, the Boss came to work. This is how she rolls. This is how she has always rolled. How did she respond to those 31 break points? By making 23 first serves, winning 21 of them, eight of them by serving aces. How did she respond once she dropped those first sets? By winning 6-2, 6-0, 6-3, and 6-2. The second week of the tournament? In the last three rounds, when the competition is (notionally) tightest, she lost a grand total of 21 games and zero sets.

In tonight’s final against Maria Sharapova, Serena reconfirmed that, yes, she is the boss. Though cast as rivals, they have rivalry the way a juicer has a rivalry with an orange. Their record is not a head-to-head, so much as it is a foot-to-backside. What started as a “streak” has since grown legs and tale. Coming into this match, Serena had beaten Sharapova 15 straight times, going back more than 15 years. As Serena put it the other day: “I think my game matches up well against her. I love playing her. I think it’s fun. I love her intensity. For whatever reason, I love playing. I have the time of my life.”

That fun continued tonight. In a thoroughly enthralling match, Serena won on every dimension outserving, outslugging, outrunning and outfighting Sharapova 6-3, 7-6 (5). A player beats you this ritually and it becomes deeply mental. But what is Sharapova to do? She can’t move to Serena side-to-side. She won’t outserve her. She can’t really pin her deep to the baseline either, not with Serena dictating play.

And then there is the matter of clutch play. As Sharapova, admirably, found her game and dialed in her shots, Williams went one better. Serena sent 18 aces hissing across the net and won 84 percent of her first serves. In a tiebreaker, Serena, predictably, summoned her best work. Serving at match point, Serena hit ace, only to get a dubious let call. She smiled, inhaled and hit the exact same serve for another ace. That’s her career, distilled to its essence.

For whatever indifference Serena may have projected earlier in her career, her legacy and reputation now matter greatly. She is still going strong, meeting her quarterly targets (and targets on the court). But no one stays in the corner office forever. She is concerned now about how history recalls her. Once blissfully unaware of tennis history, she now knows that passed Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, with 19 major titles, well within sniffing distance of Steffi Graf’s 22. By the shrieks and jumps after she clubbed that last ace, you have a feeling that she knew she hadn’t just beat Sharapova; she had beaten some more history.

The hallways here are adorned with photos of former champions. After still another close, Serena left the court, headed to the locker room and passed them all. Evert,Navratilova, Monica Seles, Graf.

Serena kept walking. Walking like a boss.

This article was originally published on SI.com

TIME celebrity

Tennis Star Andy Murray’s Fiancée Drops the F-Bomb Courtside, Internet Goes Wild

You need to have this girl on your side

Scottish tennis star Andy Murray may have just beaten Czech Tomas Berdych to make it through to the finals of the Australian Open, but it’s his fiancée Kim Sears who has taken social media by storm.

Cameras caught 27-year-old Sears’ apparent expletive-filled reaction to Murray’s break in the first set.

 

And professional lip-readers have been called in to suggest what Sears — an artist who specializes in animal portraits — was actually saying, the Telegraph reports.

Lip reader Tina Lannin believes Sears says,“F—— have that you flashy Czech, you flashy f—. If that’s what you get…”

Whereas lip reader and teacher Martine Monksfield thinks it was, “F—— have that Czech you fat old f—.”

But Jessica Rees, a forensic lip reader says it could be, “F—— hell! That f—— Czech could fight to five now he’s one down.”

Murray came to her defense after the match, saying the outburst was “completely normal.”

The Internet too found little wrong with somebody voicing, shall we say, impassioned support for her partner. German tennis player Andrew Petkovic summed up the feelings of many when she tweeted:

[Telegraph]

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