Note to Serena: Don’t Let The Ump Beat You On the Inside

Serena US Open 2018
Was Serena Williams treated differently than a man would have been treated for doing exactly what she did and saying exactly what she said?

Serena let her emotions get the best of her. In the US Open Women’s Final, Serena was offended and insulted and slighted; she was harmed and therefore she hurt and was unhappy and upset all at the same time. Ever been there? I’m there now. But thank God there’s a way out of the darkness of defeat.

The remedy for pain is praise. The remedy for hurt is to sing hallelujah. The remedy for sorrow is to shout for joy. Only God can give beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for morning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

I’m proud of how Serena stood up for herself. She was affronted, but she stood her ground and did not back down. Even though it cost her the match and millions of dollars, in the end she won the admiration and adoration of loyal fans the word over. She was wronged, and, in an effort to clear her name, she took a loss, and a worthy opponent got the win.

In other words, Serena won on the inside. Outside she was heated and it caused her to be hampered. She was upset, but that’s ok.

She won anyway.

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Is Serena Williams The Best Women’s Tennis Player Ever?

serena-williams-wins-wimbledon

Who are the best athletes ever?

In some sports, there is an ongoing, if not raging debate about who is the G.O.A.T., a.k.a., the greatest of all time. But not in women’s tennis. In women’s tennis there isn’t even the slightest hint of discussion about the best to play the game, ever.

In Basketball, the debate rages on between LeBron and Michael. And for football quarterbacks, it’s Brady vs. Montana, with honorable mentions to Bradshaw, Marino and Favre, Steve Young and John Elway and Peyton Manning, and of course, Roger Staubach.

Hockey is easy: Gretzy the Great will forever hold that title. Baseball is a little harder to pin down, but certainly it’s got to be the Babe or some other Yankee. In other sports, such as women’s gymnastics, Nadia Comaneci’s name comes immediately to mind as she is certainly is at the top of the list. In men’s swimming, Michael Phelps has dominated of late.

Since it’s the season for Wimbledon, we focus on tennis. In men’s tennis, Federer just lost in the quarterfinals for the first time ever (that was a fluke, right?), but he’s still got to be at the top of the list along with Nadal and Sampras and my man Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl and McEnroe and Andre Agassi and even Jimmy Connors.

But when it comes to women’s tennis, there is absolutely no debate. None. We all loved watching Chrissy Everett, and respected Martina Navratilova, and Monica Seles and Steffi Graff. But when it comes to tennis, there is only one queen. Serena. Not even her sister Venus gets an honorable mention. Serena reigns supreme.

Serena is one win away from wining her eighth major championship, at Wimbledon alone. Here’s how ESPN put it:

“Even after more than a year away from the tour, even after a health scare while having a baby a little more than 10 months ago, Williams is still capable of dominance.

A relatively routine 6-2, 6-4 semifinal victory over 13th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany on Thursday put Williams into her 10th final at the All England Club and moved her closer to a 24th Grand Slam title, which would equal Margaret Court’s record.

‘It’s crazy. I don’t even know how to feel, you know, because literally, I didn’t expect to do this well in my fourth tournament back,’ Williams said. ‘I just feel like when I don’t have anything to lose, I just can play so free, and that’s kind of what I’m doing.’

After hitting five aces with a serve that reached 119 mph, delivering 16 winners to only seven unforced errors, and covering the court so well with speed and effort against Goerges, Williams will face another German, 11th-seeded Angelique Kerber, on Saturday. http://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/24076249/wimbledon-2018-serena-williams-angelique-kerber-reach-final

That was the play-by-play. Now here’s the commentary: the great ones in every sport inspire us to do our best, to be at our best, and to stay at our best. Because we love to watch the best, and only the best. We like excellence in everything, especially sports. And that’s what sports do for us. Great players give us excellence, and the best ones do that (mostly) all of the time.

Spiritually, God requires excellence as well. Since we can’t be at our best all of the time on our own, He now asks — not demands, but asks — that allow Him to help us be at our best, live at our best, and stay at our best, all of the time. Naturally, that’s what Serena is doing on the court. Naturally and spiritually, that’s God wants to help us do every day in every way.

A Philadelphia 76ers Sports Prophecy: Philly Philly!

They said it couldn’t be done. They said it wouldn’t be done. But done it was. Here we have an example of negative prophecy, or false prophecy, if you will. What the sports “prophets” said wouldn’t come to pass did in fact come to pass. The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles, our beloved back up QB.

And now this. Philly’s professional basketball team, our beloved 76ers, have made the playoffs and have won — get this– 12 straight games. That’s a three week winning streak, the longest in memory. Allen Iverson led the Sixers to a ten game winning streak to start the season back in 2000 on the way to a NBA Finals matchup with the Lakers. And Dr. J and Moses Malone certainly had a few winning streaks of their own during the 1983 Championship season when we beat the Lakers. And that’s just off the top of my head.

And now this. Now the new, next-gen Sixers are following the pattern and winning games and hearts the world over. First of all, they have great players and they make up a great team. And those two main ingredients don’t always go hand in hand.

And so here’s the prophecy: the Sixers will win the NBA Title. They will. It’s just a matter of time. How do I know? Here’s how C.H. Spurgeon put it:

Courage, you that prayerfully work and toil for Christ with success of the very smallest kind, it shall not be so always; better times are before you.

Success of the very smallest kind. Wow. Sound familiar? Sometimes that’s how life feels. So you’ve got to believe that things will turn around and in fact are turning around. Determine to disappoint the devil and expect to experience victory in every area every day.

Some say that prophecy and sports don’t go together, but I beg to differ. Joe Namath predicted that the Jets would win the Super Bowl in ’69. And they did, even though they were the underdog of underdogs. That’s just the most famous sports prophecy that I can remember. Certainly there are many others.

Better times are ahead. The Sixers have endured the hard times. They certainly had some bad times. Now it’s time for the good times. And it will happen.

Just have faith and believe.

Sloane Stephens Wins the 2017 US Open: The Impossible is Possible

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September 7, 2017 New York, NY, USA– Sloane Stephens of the United States celebrates after match point against Venus Williams of the United States on day eleven of the U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY

Once again, we have yet another “David” pulling off an upset win when no one, and I mean NO ONE, gave her a chance. The “her” is Sloane Stephens. 

Who is Sloane Stephens?  Who knew or even wildly guessed she would win the US Open?  And who saw this one coming? We’ll field the answers to Questions 2 and 3 first: nobody and not anybody.  Now for Question No. 1: Sloane, a 24 year old who has been playing professional tennis since she was 16, came from nowhere and ended up somewhere very special. The winners circle at the US Open is a pretty special place to be, especially when you didn’t expect to end up there.  Good for her. For more on Stephens, check out her web site http://sloanestephens.com/about/ which is pretty nice.

Sloane Stephens, who was unseeded and ranked 83rd, defeated Venus Williams in the semi-finals of the US Open, and in 2013.  At the tender age of 15, she defeated Serena in the Australian Open! Sheeesh!  I love it. 

Once again, sports stands at the front of the classroom, with chalk in hand at the blackboard drawing X’s and O’s, teaching us once again that an unknown can come from the unknown and become so well known that we can’t ignore how hard work and faith can combine and collaborate in a comeback conquest for the ages.  But none of this looked possible earlier this summer.

Stephens, who had been sidelined for 11 months after a foot injury and underwent surgery in January, made her comeback at Wimbledon and entered this summer’s US Open Series ranked 957th.  Talk about sitting in the back of the bus! But she’s been on a tear in the North American events, reaching the semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.  

“I had surgery January 23,” Stephens said. “If someone told me then that I’d win the US Open, I would say ‘It’s impossible – it’s absolutely impossible.’  My journey to get here, coming back, just being able to keep it all together and have such a great team behind me — this journey’s been incredible. And I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. 

Wow. What a humble, meek and modest message.

With the win, Stephens is projected to rise to No. 17. She also nets a hefty payday: $3.7 million. Her career earnings heading into this tournament were $4,519,709, with $310,546 coming this year.  http://us.cnn.com/2017/09/09/tennis/us-open-final-madison-keys-sloane-stephens/index.html

 Sloane Stephens

And her reaction and facial expression after she found out how much her earnings were is priceless.  “That’s a lot of money,” a visibly surprised Stephens said.

 Sloane Stephens Wins 3.7 Mil

Get used to it sista. 

Serena Is At It Again

Serena-US Open 2015

When you’re hot you’re hot. And Serena Williams is hot and she’s at it again. She’s playing at a high level and showing the rest of the tennis world how it’s done. And in so doing, she is showing us how life can be lived when we focus and dial in and double down on destiny.

Serena is marching and moving and making her way toward destiny and history. Serena sees the light at the end of the tunnel, which is a calendar year Grand Slam – winning the Australian, French, and US Tennis Opens in a calendar year, with Wimbledon mixed in between.

Serena is in the moment. And knowing and seizing and grasping and grabbing the moment is something that few athletes can do. And yet Serena is right there. And that’s a testimony and a testament for us all. Serena is on a mission, and we are going along for the ride. Serena is sassy and sizzling and yes, sensational. And we are enjoying every point and every serve and every return and every forehand and every backhand and every ace of this race to extend her dynasty and to further establish her legacy.

For those of that can’t play a lick of tennis, we can listen and learn and study and survey and assess and appraise the great ones, and take from them the nuggets and tidbits and morsels and fragments that fall from their tables and feast on them ourselves.

And more than that, we can learn the lessons and take the treats and pocket the pleasures that a sports great like Serena is serving up and apply them to our everyday lives.