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Tennis

🎾Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are the Australian Open Champions

February 22, 2021
Source: Getty Images/wtatennis.com
Source: Getty Images/wtatennis.com

Osaka: This title marked the 23-year-old’s fourth Grand Slam win in four years, after winning the 2018 and 2020 U.S. Opens and the 2019 Aussie Open. Quite the pattern. 

  • Osaka has never lost a Grand Slam final or semifinal, making her one of only three players in the Open Era to win her first four Grand Slam finals.
  • Making this Aussie Open title all the more impressive? Osaka dropped only one seton her road to victory, and beat her idol (and GOAT, according to our Sunday Scroll) Serena Williams in the semis. 

Djokovic: The Joker is unstoppable in the land down under. Yesterday’s win marked his third straight — and ninth total (a tournament record) — Aussie Open title. And similar to Osaka, Djokovic’s won every Aussie Open final he’s played in. 

  • Djokovic’s path to victory this tournament wasn’t quite as smooth as Osaka’s, thanks to a torn stomach muscle he suffered during his third-round match. He somehow powered (and suffered) through another four matches, dropping only two sets along the way.
  • This 18th Grand Slam win tightened the gap between Djokovic and the other two members of “The Big Three”: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who share the all-time men’s singles record of 20 each. 

Up next: The next major on the schedule is May’s French Open, but there’s a lot of tennis from now ’til then. Check out the WTA and ATP schedules to keep up-to-date.

🎾 The case for Serena Williams

February 21, 2021
Source: Chris Symes/ Photosport via AP
Source: Chris Symes/ Photosport via AP

 HAPPY SUNDAY!

After Tom Brady won his seventh Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago, an age-old debate was revived: who is the greatest athlete of all time (GOAT)? Brady’s name, alongside Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Wayne Gretzky and Muhammad Ali, was dropped often.

  • But here at The GIST, one name stands above the rest. Today we’re bringing you the case for the one and only Serena Williams.

What GOATs are made of

 SOURCE: CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS 

 The GIST: A GOAT is an athlete who remains consistently successful and competitive over a prolonged career, in a sport that requires mental and physical toughness, agility, stamina, hard work and dedication. One who rises above adversity to showcase their talents on the world stage and emerges as the best amongst their peers.

  • Of course, the GOAT debate is totally subjective, but to us, there’s no one else who checks all these boxes quite like Serena.

Started from the bottom

 SOURCE: MICHAEL S. GREEN/AP PHOTO 

 The youngest of five sisters, Serena Williams was born in 1981 and spent her early childhood in the city of Compton, California. Looking to set Serena and her older sister Venus on a safe and lucrative path, their father, Richard, took up tennis so he could teach his daughters the game, starting when Serena was just three years old.

  • Now let’s call a spade a spade: tennis is an elitist sport. It’s classist, expensive and predominantly white. But that never deterred Richard. Despite public, run-down courts and active gang violence, the Williams sisters honed their craft against all odds.
  • The family eventually moved to Florida, where the sisters trained with a professional academy before Serena turned pro in 1995 at the age of 14...two years earlier than her parents wanted. Oops.

The highs

 SOURCE: RICHARD DREW/AP 

 Serena notched her first professional win in 1999 at the Open Gaz de France, and her first major win came later that year at the U.S. Open. Over the past 22 years, she’s won 73 pro tournaments, and with her 2020 Auckland Open win, she became the first tennis player in the Open Era to record wins in four different decades.

  • Among the titles are 23 Grand Slams, the most by any player in the Open Era, made up of seven Australian Opens, three French Opens, seven Wimbledons and six U.S. Opens.
  • She’s won four straight majors twice (in 2002–2003 and 2014–2015), completing what is now known as the “Serena Slam.”

And she's not just a singles star. Alongside Venus, Serena has racked up 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, and three Olympic gold medals in doubles tennis (the Williams sisters each have a singles gold, too).

  • Serena’s also been named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year and AP’s Female Athlete of the Year (five times), has received 10 ESPY Awards for Best Female Tennis Player of the Year and was awarded the NAACP Image Award – President's Award.
  • Can’t believe it? Just take a look at her trophy room.

The lows

 SOURCE: CAMERON SPENCER/GETTY IMAGES 

 It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows for Serena, though. And, to us, it’s how she’s dealt with adversity that truly sets her apart.

  • While sports injuries are common for athletes, Serena has dealt with medical ailments outside of the tennis norm. She first suffered a pulmonary embolism in 2011, and her history of blood clots led to a nearly fatal episode following the birth of her daughter in 2017.

She’s also faced great personal tragedy. In 2002, just a few years into her blossoming career, Serena’s older sister Yetunde was killed, an innocent bystander in a gang-related shooting.

On top of all that, Serena has long been subjected to bullying, racism and sexism. Notably, following racist attacks in 2001, the Williams sisters boycotted the Indian Wells tournament for 14 years (Serena eventually returned in 2015 as part of a partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative).

Serena has not had an easy road, but as she herself once said, “I really think a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they can recover when they fall.”

By the numbers

 SOURCE: CHRIS SYMES/PHOTOSPORT VIA AP 

 9: How many weeks pregnant Serena was with daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. when she won (!!!) the 2017 Australian Open — her last Grand Slam win to date.

17: How old she was when she won her first Grand Slam, the 1999 U.S. Open.

35: How old she was when she last held the No. 1 world ranking, making her the oldest woman to do so.

319: The number of weeks she’s spent at number one over the course of her 26-year career (that’s nearly six years in total).

362: The number of Grand Slam matches she’s won, a record she shares with Roger Federer.

 Off the court

 SOURCE: EVAN AGOSTINI/AP 

 Her off-court accomplishments probably don’t add to her “greatest athlete” title, but we can’t not mention them. On top of her tennis prowess, she’s an accomplished business woman, activist, philanthropist, writer, entertainer, wife and mom.

The future

 SOURCE: WTA/TWITTER 

 Serena’s long and illustrious career may soon be coming to an end. Since returning from her 13-month maternity leave (which she revolutionized, BTW) in 2018, Serena has continued to play extremely well, but has yet to claim her elusive 24th Grand Slam.

  • Though the 39-year-old made it to last week’s Australian Open semifinals, her post-match exit from the court and her strong reaction to a question about retirement seemed to hint that she may be starting her goodbyes. We’re crying too.
  • Whether she makes it to 24 majors, wins yet another Olympic gold, or doesn’t, Serena is the greatest athlete of all time. Period.
🏒🎾🏆

The GIST's Quick Hits - Canada

February 18, 2021
SOURCE: MATT KING/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: MATT KING/GETTY IMAGES

🏒Hockey: Are the Toronto Maple Leafs okay? The top team in the North classically collapsed against the last place Ottawa Senators on Monday and then had another rough go against their cross-province rivals last night. 

  • Sure, they won 2–1, but they didn’t look like a top team playing a bottom team. Maybe the upcoming one-year anniversary of their loss to a Zamboni driver is weighing on them?

🥌Curling: Hurry hard — it’s time for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts! The annual women’s curling championship is kicking off tomorrow in a Calgary bubble without fans (a true travesty because curling fans are a fun time). 

  • Each province and territory will be represented by one team, plus the reigning Team Canada champ and three wild card entries, for a total of 18 teams. 
  • And as usual, Team Manitoba (led by skip Jennifer Jones) and Team Ontario (led by Rachel Homan) are the overwhelming favorites. Sweet Sweep!

🎾Tennis: Just a bit more tennis news to bookend The GIST today. Bianca Andreescu is finding her footing again. After last week’s tough loss, she made it to the semifinals of the Phillip Island Trophy (a consolation tournament for the early Aussie Open losers). 

  • Unfortunately, she lost last night’s match to Marie Bouzková, but with a full calendar of upcoming WTA tournaments, she’ll be back on the court in no time. 

🎾Naomi Osaka Beats Serena Williams in Australian Open Semi-final

February 18, 2021
Source: Australian Open/Twitter
Source: Australian Open/Twitter

The GIST: The Australian Open women’s final is set, the men’s semis are underway and tennis history is about to be made. Crikey!

Women’s singles: After quickly defeating No. 10 seed Serena Williams in straight sets in last night’s should-have-been epic semifinal, No. 3 Naomi Osaka is just one victory away from winning back-to-back Grand Slams. Damn. 

  • With the win, Osaka now has the 3-2 head-to-head edge over Williams and a ticket to Saturday’s final. Osaka will now face Jennifer Brady, who won the second semifinal over Karolina Muchová.

Men’s singles: Sunday’s men’s final is half set. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOKE-OH-VITCH) beat his semifinal opponent and this year’s breakout star, Aslan Karatsev, early this morning, and should have a clear path to his 18th career Grand Slam without his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal — who lost a five-set stunner yesterday — in his way.

  • Djokovic will face tomorrow's semifinal winner, either No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev or No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas (pronounced SIT-SEE-PAHSS). 

🎾Serena Williams has yet to lose a set in Australian Open

February 11, 2021
Source: Wilson Tennis/Twitter
Source: Wilson Tennis/Twitter

Staying put: First, the really important news: through two rounds, Serena Williams hasn’t lost a set. Classic. And No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who’s playing in front of a home crowd, and most recent Grand Slam winner, No. 3 Naomi Osaka, are all still making a run for the title.

  • No major shockers on the men’s side (outside of wild card entry Thanasi Kokkinakis [pronounced TA-NA-SI KO-KI-NAK-IS] playing in a $6 Kmart shirt), and our top three Canadian men — Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime — are going strong. 

Going home: Unfortunately, our Canadian women haven’t had the same luck. After her first return to the court following a 15-month injury absence, we were pretty sad to see No. 8 Bianca Andreescu lose her second-round match, and Rebecca Marino and Leylah Annie Fernandez didn’t fare any better either. 

Up next: And some more bad news: Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime have to face each other in tomorrow’s (but tonight, our time) third-round matchup. Shapo is the higher seed, but Felix hasn’t dropped a set yet. 

On the bright side, quite a few Canadian women remain in the doubles event, so check out the schedule and follow the scores