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.

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

USP TENNIS: U.S. OPEN S TEN USA NY
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. 

Why the 2017 US Open is Worth the Watch

 Maria Sharapova First Round 2017 US Open

Maria Sharapova.  Period. End of discussion. She’s more than cute, she’s courageous. She’s a dodgy, dainty dame who can play the game of tennis like nobody’s business. Now, in front of the entire tennis world, she’s mounting a comeback after being out tennis for 15 months for doping. And if you love sports, you’ll love watching a true champion play poorly and yet still win successfully, even on a bad day (or night) at the Office.

Maria Sharapova defeated 18-year-old Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-2 last night in the third round of the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Open’s version of center court. The victory wasn’t clean, but it was conclusive, and some points were a thrill to watch. 

But Sharapova has history and baggage (don’t we all?).  She’s trying to overcome negative, popular opinion and overtake her own prideful propensity to prove to the tennis world that she’s still got it; and so far, she indeed seems to be one of the best tennis players in the tournament.

 D’Arcy Maine of espnW.com may have said it best:

“I need to get something off my chest: I have never been a Maria Sharapova fan.

From her former (and in my mind, unjustified) status as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, to her icy demeanor and less-than-stellar rapport with her peers on tour, I’ve always felt she was overhyped. Despite frequent comparisons to, and a lopsided head-to-head record with, Serena Williams, she’s nowhere near that level.

And when she got suspended in 2016 for doping, it only fueled my disdain. On top of everything else, she was using banned substances, too?

As you might imagine, I wasn’t exactly rooting for her to come back. She returned in the spring to much fanfare, but excitement quickly faded as she failed to receive a wild card to the French Open and was hampered by injuries for the rest of the summer. I didn’t feel sorry for her, and, frankly, I didn’t miss her.

Then, on Monday night, Sharapova made her post-suspension Grand Slam debut after receiving a wild card to the US Open. Playing in front of a packed and animated crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium on opening day, the unseeded Sharapova faced No. 2 Simona Halep. As the match began, I was rooting firmly for Halep.

But then a funny thing happened.

Sharapova impressively won the first set, and I found myself admiring her play and her gutsy resolve against one of the best in the game.

Halep came back to win the second set. But there was something about Sharapova’s tenacity, and all the emotions visibly strewn across her face, that was compelling. It looked like a different Sharapova than we had seen before. While her skill set has always been revered, for the first time, she was showing us just how much she wanted to be there.

When she finally closed out the match after an exhausting 2 hours and 44 minutes, she fell to her knees and cried. I couldn’t believe it. Was this the same Maria Sharapova, who was allowing all of her emotions to show as she fought for a win?

It may have just been a first-round match, but it looked like she just won the title. It was (gasp) … sort of inspiring.

As she took her seat on the sideline, she couldn’t control herself and held her head in her hands and sobbed. Meanwhile, I was thinking to myself, “Damn it, Maria! Don’t make me root for you!” But it was too late. I had been pulling for her for at least an hour without even realizing it.

‘I just thought this was another day, another opportunity, another match,’ she told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after the victory. ‘But this was so much more. You can’t control your emotions. Everything you go through is worth it just for this moment.’

As tennis fans, perhaps we needed to see and hear that from her. For once, she acknowledged her own feelings, and more importantly, her vulnerability. It was humanizing, and maybe even relatable. (Until, that is, she talked about the Swarovski crystals on her dress, but I’m going to let that slide this time.)

The reality is, it’s the human emotion, triumph of spirit and fragility of it all that makes sports so great in the first place. We need our athletes to want it as badly as we do from our seat on the couch. While Serena Williams makes cheering for her easy because she seems to live and breathe with every contested point, Sharapova’s previously cold disposition sometimes made it difficult to connect with her. Monday perhaps finally revealed the truth — she does care and isn’t afraid to let everyone know. And that makes her infinitely more likable.

Not only is Sharapova’s story one of redemption and determination — two things I’m always a sucker for — but it also makes this tournament a heck of a lot more fun. With the absence of Williams and the early elimination of Halep and defending champion Angelique Kerber (not to mention everyone else who’s out on the men’s side), the US Open is somewhat lacking in its usual drama and star power.

But with Sharapova, we have someone to get behind — or, for those who still haven’t come over to the dark side, against. Either way, we’ll be watching.”

 http://www.espn.com/espnw/voices/article/20501359/never-liked-maria-sharapova-rooting-the-us-open?addata=espn:tennis:index

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.

Moral Character Wins

andre-agassi

Guest Blog From Verne Harnish, EO Barcelona member and founding partner of Gazelles, Inc.

Companies that build teams with strong moral character win. Their teams are happier, perform better and are more successful overall.

This bold claim stems from the work of Jim Loehr, renowned performance psychologist and author of the book The Only Way to Win. Loehr´s research, which in part is based on his experience taking 16 world-class athletes to number one in their sport and working with thousands of “corporate athletes,”  shows that the satisfaction we get from achieving extrinsic accomplishments (number one in tennis, a new job, winning a deal, building a company) is mostly shallow and fleeting.

Instead, what gives us a long lasting feeling of fulfillment and happiness is having practiced integrity, generosity, gratefulness, humility, optimism, and compassion in the pursuit of these goals. CEOs with the mindset of a “servant leader” are in a unique position to support the development of these strengths.

 

CHARACTER STRENGTHS WIN IN SPORTS

Loehr recently founded a junior tennis academy at his Human Performance Institute. On their first day, the students hear: “We care about your tennis but care more about who you become because of tennis. Our most important imperative at this academy is winning with character.”

Working from a list of moral strengths, the students are required to journal about lessons learned that day, on and off the court. Not surprisingly, this has helped their performance. All 15 students going through the program are currently nationally ranked.

 

… AND IN BUSINESS

What Loehr has learned works in business, as well. After the tragic loss of his wife, Jay Steinfeld, founder and CEO of Blinds.com, reached a turning point.  “My future really began to take shape only when I began to define my success as being in the act of continuous improvement and improving the lives of others around me,” he recalls.

Realizing, as he put it, that he was “an overly burdensome micromanager, always finding fault in others,” he concentrated on identifying and recognizing the successes of his team. As he became more empathetic, his team relaxed—and performed better. To help his employees to stick with their own self-improvement goals, he put up a white board where individuals could share such commitments

As the company has grown increasingly successful—it is now the world’s largest online retailer for window blinds and shades, with $120 million in annual revenue and 180 employees—Steinfeld has tried to help his team stay true to its humble beginnings. He personally brings new recruits to a run-down alleyway in Houston where the thriving company had its first office back in 1996. There, he shares the history and core values of the company. He even built a reproduction of the alleyway at the company’s new offices.

“This way, we keep our humble history fresh in our minds and it also reinforces our core value ´Help People Achieve What They Never Thought They Could,’ ” he explains.

 

ANDRE AGASSI’S DAILY JOURNEY

Andre Agassi shares in his memoirs how writing down his goals every morning and how he wants to achieve them that day helped him gain that “steely resolve” that brought him back to the #1 spot in world tennis. “After putting them on paper, saying them out a loud, I also say aloud: `No shortcuts.’”

As Loehr emphasizes, Agassi’s reinvention of himself—from an obnoxious player who became number one but hated his fame and wealth and at one point battled drug addiction—to “the compassionate, generous, thoughtful and humble person he is today,” as Loehr puts it, shows how moral character development ultimately supports performance. When he focused on improving himself, he came back as number one and was happier.

As a servant leader, consider how you might use your company as a vehicle for building your own character strengths and those of your team. The results will likely astound you.

 

Read more: http://blog.eonetwork.org/2013/10/moral-character-wins/#ixzz3JwaFqVP2