Archive for Tennis

The tallest and shortest

John Isner (1985-; 2007; $20m; 6’10″/2.08m) and Jack Sock (1992-; 2011; $11m; 6’3″/1.91m) are playing Santiago González (1983-; 2001; $2m; 6’3″) & Édouard Roger Vasselin (1983-; 2002; $6m; 6’2″) for the final. The prize money is $426,010, which is good (singles are $1,231,245).

Isner’s nickname is little tree. This is the first time I see him playing doubles. Sock isn’t a small guy but next to Isner, he looks like a kid. Reilly Opelka (1993-; 2015; $3m; 6’11″/2.11m) is another American who’s an inch taller than Isner. Here are a few visibly memorable photos by the nets, two are Diego Schwartzman (1992-; 2010; $11m; 5’7″), I saw on Facebook:


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Nadal vs Alcaraz

The second semi of Indian Wells is Rafael Nadal (1986-; 2001; $127m) vs Carols Alcaraz Garfia (2003-; 2018; $2.207m). Two years after Nadal turned pro did Alcaraz was born: two generations play each other. 

Can’t say I’m a fan because he represents brute force than finesse. And he grunts, however lightly. But he seldom if at all loses his temper on court, don’t remember seeing him smashes his racket or argues with the chair empire. 

During this tourney, Osaka (1997-; 2013; $20m) broke down again when someone, one spectator, called out “Naomi, you suck!” during her losing match to Veronika Kudermetova. She wanted that fan to be removed. Gosh. …  Mommy I want milk 🥛Mental toughness is part of the game, isn’t? Nadal says “We make money. And even if it is terrible to hear that … we need to be prepared for that.” 

A sensible thing to say. Thank you. Who doesn’t need mental toughness to accomplish anything? Can Serena collect 23 slams and Nadal 21 without their mental strength?  

🥛 妈妈我要喝奶

 心理韧性是人生的一部分. 不仅仅是运动员.
🇩🇪的 Boris Becker 说过 🎾第五局不是在打网球了 打的是心理战.

幼稚可笑 [呲牙]

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indian Wells Masters 2022

Indian Wells Masters (BNP Paribas), Apr 3-20.

Taylor Fritz defeated Russian Andrey Rublev 7-5 & 6-4 in the first semi match. The second is Nadal vs Alcaraz. I saw Fritz at US Open last year but didn’t much because my suddenly famous dad came and the whole section came to live.

The organizer avoids to display Russian flag. Audience is polite and there is no boos, unlike what Venue and Serena experienced in 2001. It left such traumatizing or agonizing feeling that Serena didn’t play there for the next 14 years.

只能看看 解解馋 [吃瓜]

红衣少年有点像 Tom Cruise 或者 那谁谁谁 (?) [偷笑]
年纪大 记不住
Taylor Fritz 赢了半决赛
去年🇺🇸网看他时 6⃣️ 犹爸来了
热闹非凡 简直没人看球了
孝敬他的🥟 包子都被陌生妞们秒扫光了 [偷笑]

4⃣️ 红衣哥打赢 Rublev 一个不讨人厌的🇷🇺. 主办方连人家的国旗也免了 够糟糕的.
看看你的臣民的处境. 观众还公平 没有人boo 嘘 一 好多年前 同一个地点 大小威的待遇可没有这么幸运 被嘘到 小威一气之下 14没有去打. 觉得那是明目张胆的种族 [弱]

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‘bulls**t Russian’; ‘You are a small cat’…

No love lost between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev who had met in the AO’s semi two years in a row.

Both time the Russian won.

Tsitsipas: ‘bulls**t Russian
Medvedev ‘You are a small cat

‘Shut your f**k up’: Aus Open blockbuster to reignite bitter feud after ugly ‘bulls**t Russian’ slur

David Zita from Fox Sports | January 28th, 2022

Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas will renew their fierce rivalry when they meet for a spot in the Australian Open final on Friday night.

The pair met at Melbourne Park in the semi-finals in 2021, with Medvedev steamrolling through his opponent in straight sets.

While Tsitsipas was coming off a five-set match that year, this year it’s Medvedev who comes in after a fierce contest, with the world No.2 coming back from two sets down to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime.

After losing against Medvedev in last year’s Australian Open, Tsitsipas exacted revenge at the French Open, defeating the Russian in straight sets en route to the final, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

Tsitsipas and Medvedev made headlines back in 2018 at the Miami Open when, in their first official meeting, both hurled insults at each other after some mid-match controversy.

Medvedev took issue with Tsitsipas taking a mid-match toilet break, which was further exacerbated when the latter didn’t apologise when a ball clipped the net after a rally he won.

While Medvedev would prevail in three sets, tempers flared at the net as the pair shook hands.

“Know your place, bulls–t Russian,” Tsitsipas said.

“Man, you better shut your f— up, OK?” Medvedev replied, before standing and beginning to walk towards his opponent while the chair umpire tried to intervene.

“Hey Stefanos, do you want to look at me and talk? You go emergency toilet for five minutes during and then you hit let and you don’t say sorry.

“You think you are a good kid? Look at me. Hey, look at me. You don’t look at me?”

As the chair umpire continued to try cool Medvedev’s temper, the Russian insisted: “he (Tsitsipas) started it, he said ‘Bulls–t Russian’, you think this is normal? I answer him because he doesn’t know how to fight. He’s a small kid who doesn’t know how to fight.”

Asked about the pair’s relationship earlier this week, Tsitsipas replied: “Why him specifically?”

When the reporter explained the two were projected to face each other in the semi-finals, Tsitsipas played a straight bat.

“About our relationship? Well, it‘s fine. It kind of got better after Laver Cup,” he said.

“We haven’t really spoken in the last couple of months, but our relationship is competitors on the court and kind of fighting for the same dream.”

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So, Joker was deported from AO

Australian Open is soon to begin (Jan 17-30 @ Melbourne). Who’s going and who’s not, is being reported, almost daily, due to covid-19 pandemic/omicron, at this very moment. Joker was last year’s champ, by defeating Daniil Medvedev (Later, the two met up in US Open final, and Joker lost.) and refusing vaccination.

Here is CNN timeline. I think he first said not going, due to vaccination issue who refused to indicate if he has done. Then he was going. Then this ‘jail’ episode happened after he landed: Djokovic is being held in an inner north Melbourne hotel while he awaits a court challenge to his visa cancellation. 

Serbia issues a BRUTAL warning to Australian government as Novak Djokovic’s visa battle escalates: ‘He was LURED to Australia’

“Lured”!!! Oh boy… and his father has staged a rally. I think the whole thing is a little over reacted. Let’s see a few vital info

  • Capital: Belgrade
  • Population: 6,871,547 (2021 est.)
  • GDP: $52 billion (2020 est.)
  • Per capita: $7,497 (2020 est.)

… while Joker’s vital info

  • Birth: 1987
  • Birth place: Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia
  • Residence: Monte Carlo, Monaco
  • Turning pro: 2003
  • Prize money: $154,756,726
  • 2020 prize money: $6,511,233
  • Slam won: 20 (9 of these were Aussie Open)

Saying he’s his small nation’s top dog is an understatement. Perhaps these two sets of info explains the reaction of foreign affairs ministry, and that of his father, who may consider himself the king maker of small and young Serbia.

Starovic emphasised that the Serbian public has a strong impression that Djokovic is a victim of a political game against his will, and that he was lured to travel to Australia in order to be humiliated,’ the ministry statement said.

‘They’re keeping him in captivity. They are trampling on Novak and thus they are trampling on Serbia and the Serbian people,’Djokovic’s father Srdjan said at a news conference in Belgrade on Thursday.

澳洲摊上大事儿了. 塞尔维亚最值钱的国宝被关在墨村的一个旅馆里. 塞国的外交部发出严重警告. 他老爸也气势磅礴的聚众, 曰 {‘他们将他关押在囚禁中. 他们正在践踏诺瓦克,因此他们正在践踏塞尔维亚和塞尔维亚人民,”德约科维奇的父亲斯尔詹周四在贝尔格莱德的新闻发布会上说.} (谷歌翻译) 上纲上线, 这过硬的逻辑. 2020年 塞国人均收入 $7,497, 而他网球场上的奖金是$6,511,233 不包括广告代言之类的. 他老爸是不是有些国父的感觉? 最好笑的是塞国硬称他是被引诱去的. 澳洲有这闲功夫陪你玩? 小题大做 丑人多八怪.

无论如何 他老婆漂亮

Timeline of Serbia:

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Chinese city’s tennis ambitions imperilled by Peng scandal

A gloomy morning: two staff at the pool have tested covid-19 positive, so they closed the building down. Be vigilant and be mindful.

Wishing everyone a save holiday season!

Apparently, Peng Shuai has come out to deny the sexual assault accusation. This becomes funny …

In any case, wish her safe and sound, and wishing everyone safe and well.

Chinese city’s tennis ambitions imperilled by Peng Shuai scandal

By Syndicated Content
Dec 18, 2021
By David Kirton

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Hosting the Women’s Tennis Association Finals was supposed to put the Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen on the sporting map, but the suspension of the tournament in the wake of the Peng Shuai scandal has left its ambitions in limbo.

China’s “miracle” city, best known as the launchpad of the country’s 40-year economic transformation, is among China’s wealthiest and is home to tech giants including Huawei Technologies and Tencent Holdings.

In January 2018 the WTA announced that Shenzhen had trumped rival bids from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and former host Singapore to stage what would “easily be the largest and most significant WTA Finals” in its history, its chairman and CEO Steve Simon said at the time.

The city of more than 17 million that neighbours Hong Kong had promised a state-of-the-art stadium, while local real estate developer Gemdale Corp put up $14 million in prize money – double the pot of the previous finals – winning the right to stage the event from 2019 to 2028.

But early this month, Simon announced the WTA would suspend tournaments in China over the treatment of former No.1 doubles player Peng Shuai, who was not seen in public for nearly three weeks after accusing China’s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. [L1N2SN04V]

“Unless China takes the steps we have asked for, we cannot put our players and staff at risk by holding events in China,” Simon said, taking a stand that drew support from the global tennis community but embarrassed Beijing as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February.

Doubt over the tournament’s future highlights the clash between China’s global sporting ambitions and western criticism of Beijing’s authoritarianism. A handful of countries led by the United States have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics – meaning they won’t send government representatives.

China hosted nine WTA events in 2019, but the WTA confirmed on Dec. 7 that the traditional season-opening Shenzhen Open, an event separate from the WTA Finals, will not take place in the first half of 2022. China has been all-but-shut to international visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. [L4N2SS1I0]

A spokesperson for the Shenzhen government said he did not know whether the WTA would return. The Florida-based WTA said it remained hopeful that China would do what it asked in allowing for a direct line of communication with Peng.

“That is why this is a suspension at this point, not a cancellation,” a spokesperson said.


For Shenzhen, the WTA Finals were to be a boost to its cultural and sporting prestige.

In late 2017, then-mayor Chen Rugui personally lobbied Simon to host the finals, saying Shenzhen is a young and open city and the tournament would help “take sports to a new level”, according to an official report.

Chinese media were effusive.

“It’s not just a major event for Chinese fans and tennis, but a fantastic chance for Shenzhen to become an internationally renowned name,” the Shenzhen Evening News said.

The WTA Finals is the most prestigious women’s event after the four Grand Slams, and the Shenzhen prize money was $5 million more than in the equivalent men’s ATP Finals, ensuring a star-studded draw. World No.1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia won the first Shenzhen WTA Finals in 2019.

“It’s the biggest tournament outside the Grand Slams, it’s massive, it’s hard to overstate the importance of that in terms of the prestige and the level of the players and the money involved,” said Mark Dreyer of China Sports Insider.


Shenzhen’s tennis hopes also underscored the confluence in China between sports and the now-struggling property sector.

Nine of the 16 teams in China’s troubled top soccer league, which became notorious for splashing out millions of dollars for global stars, are majority-owned by companies linked to the real estate sector, including debt-strapped China Evergrande Group and the Kaisa Group, which owns Shenzhen’s club.

Gemdale, which sponsored the tournament, operates several tennis facilities in Shenzhen including an “international” training academy.

“Their business model is not to get it back in ticket sales and all that sort of stuff, it’s political goodwill that they get from the Shenzhen government,” Dreyer said.

Gemdale declined to comment.

As for the stadium, the plan is to preserve the facade of a 1985 arena – historic by Shenzhen standards – in a 3.6 billion yuan ($566 million) renovation that would expand its capacity to 16,000, according to announcements and a person with knowledge of the matter.

Work continues as the stadium will host other events, said two people with knowledge of the matter. For now, it remains a dusty construction site in the central Futian district.

(Reporting by David Kirton; editing by Tony Munroe and Richard Pullin)

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This NYMag article is by far the best on the on going saga. Wishing best for Peng but I’ve a few questions:

1. Has anyone considered that she was forced to make the complaint – a political struggle – to humiliate Zhang and his factions? 有没有人认为她是被迫投诉——政治斗争——是为了羞辱张及其派系?

2. In her decade long affair with Zhang, she knew well he’s married. What kind of force she was under to take up this affair to begin with, or her total disregard of the wife… even out of love? She’s a successful player with nearly $10m prize money from wining tourneys (not counting the endorsements).

3. WTA threatens to pull out of China. But it was only a few years ago, 2014 USOpen semi final, to be exact, they allowed Peng to prolong her injury time out to 20 some minutes: it showed Peng had poor sportsmanship and USTA terrible regulation. The injure time is usually 3 or 4 minutes. It was super unfair to Peng’s opponent and to us, the spectators. So seven years on, WTA is willing to leave China? What’s behind this decision – MeToo movement or more?

The article ⇓ Women’s Tennis Had to Stand Up to China
By Caira Conner

Photo: VCG/Visual China Group via Getty Images
Before the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai went missing on November 2, the most notable sources of tension between Western sports leagues and China usually ended with those leagues doing their best not to offend the rising superpower.

In December 2019, after former Arsenal footballer Mesut Özil tweeted about the country’s inhumane treatment of the Uighurs, the club quickly released a statement reminding everyone that the club had always “adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.” (Though it has seemed perfectly fine with publicly supporting other political causes.) Nevertheless, within two days of the tweet, a Chinese state-run TV network pulled an Arsenal match from its schedule. They were eventually allowed back on the network, but no commentator would say Özil’s name out loud — and his name and image all but vanished from the country. When Özil was left off Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League teams last year, some speculated that his China infraction was part of the reason why.

In the U.S., it’s the NBA that has most vividly experienced the consequences of crossing China. Two months before Özil spoke out, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted (and later deleted) his support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The NBA released a statement explaining that while the league recognized different countries would have different viewpoints on political matters, ultimately, it was “not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.” A few days later, Morey tried to clean up his remarks. But the damage — and it was a lot of damage — was done. By January of 2020, the NBA was on track to lose up to $400 million in revenue as a result of the tweet, as Chinese business partners abandoned deals with the league.

In October of this year, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter posted a video to Twitter in which he spoke for nearly three minutes in support of Tibetan independence, calling Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator.” Tencent, one of China’s largest technology companies and streaming platforms, swiftly pulled the live broadcast of the Celtics–Knicks game off the air, and removed all replays of Celtics games from the platform. After considerable backlash over its handling of Morey’s tweet, the NBA has chosen not to publicly cave this time, and Kanter says Commissioner Adam Silver has expressed support for his views — in private. Still, the NBA has not made a statement defending Kanter’s speech, or suggesting that anything in their business relationship with China will actually change.

Of course, there is a critical difference between these players’ stories and that of Peng Shuai: None of them disappeared.

A brief summary of recent events: On November 2, Peng posted a lengthy message to the social-media platform Weibo describing how she’d been sexually assaulted by China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, 40 years her senior, three years earlier. Peng detailed the pain and confusion she experienced in their decade-long relationship, which at times had been consensual.

The post was deleted within the hour. Peng’s Weibo account disappeared. Internet searches within China for her name and “tennis” were blocked.

Suddenly, the Women’s Tennis Association, the organizing body of professional women’s tennis, was in uncharted waters. Peng wasn’t just associated with the organization; she was recently a fairly major star. In 2013, Peng was the first Chinese player to win the WTA Tour Championships. The next year, she and her doubles partner were ranked No. 1 in the world, making Peng the first Chinese tennis player of any gender to hold the top spot.

At first, the WTA took a familiar, cautious approach. The organization waited 12 days after Peng was first presumed missing to release a statement. When it finally did, on November 14, the WTA called for a comprehensive investigation into the allegations against Zhang, and for the end of censorship against Peng. Social-media users blasted the organization for taking nearly two weeks to speak out. But over the next few days, instead of slinking further into the background, or refusing to get involved in a political matter, the WTA doubled down in its efforts to intervene in China’s policies on transparency. And the narrative of sports leagues treading carefully with China took a dramatic turn.

When China state-affiliated media CGTN tweeted a copy of an email allegedly sent by Peng to Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, explaining that she was “fine and resting at home,” Simon was swift to respond, countering that the questionable email “only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.” On social media, the WTA pressed on, joining in the #WhereisPengShuai movement with a tweeted photo of the star. Simon has said that the WTA was prepared to pull out of 2022 tournaments in China should Peng’s safety not be verified. Consider that in 2018, the WTA landed a ten-year partnership with China for Shenzhen to host the WTA tour finals each year, including a record-shattering $4.7 million prize for the 2019 champion. This is no small threat.

On November 21, the president of the International Olympics Committee, Thomas Bach, said he spoke with Peng in Beijing via video chat, and that she seemed relaxed and “wished for privacy.” No mention was made of the sexual-assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, Peng’s deleted social-media accounts, or why she hadn’t been heard from in 19 days. Apart from state media releasing a couple of videos of Peng out with friends — it could not be determined when they were shot — this was the closest the public had come to knowing if Peng was, in fact, okay. Bach has a major incentive to promote the “nothing to see here” line, with the Beijing Winter Olympics coming up in February.

The WTA didn’t budge. In an email to Reuters, a spokesperson for the WTA said that while they were glad to see photos of Peng, a video call with the IOC did not “alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.” Furthermore, they still wanted a “full, fair and transparent investigation” into Peng’s allegations.

Tennis players are effectively self-employed. They have access to health insurance and pension plans through the WTA, but these programs are voluntary, not mandatory. It is only once players are ranked in the top 250 that are they required to pay an annual fee. There is no legal mandate within the WTA in which the organization has to protect its players, or a structure guaranteeing players the safety and assurances of full-time employment. In this sense, Simon’s ongoing, insistent ownership of Peng, demand for her safety, and willingness to irrevocably risk millions of WTA business dollars for the cause is remarkable.

It also feels unavoidable. Up to this point, sports leagues could uncomfortably look the other way when it was only a matter of an individual criticizing the Chinese government, and being censored in return. The cost of complicit public silence on “political matters” would pale in comparison time and again to the profits lost by an organization pushing back. But for the WTA to not have taken a stand — to have stepped aside and let China’s state media continue sending out staged photos and phony reassurances on Peng’s whereabouts, to have shouldered the reputational fallout at the cost of preserving financial security as the world’s biggest tennis stars have made increasingly forceful statements about Peng’s plight — would have been more disastrous than any financial fallout. At least, that’s the calculation Steve Simon has made.

Yet even now, Simon is on a lonely path. The IOC is no stranger to overlooking human-rights abuses, but what about the NBA, Premier League, or ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis, which has not gone nearly as far as its counterpart? The tenuous status quo of how to deal with China seems more fragile than ever.

Should Peng resurface in the coming weeks, the WTA will have to decide on its course of action for 2022. Right now, it feels plausible that Steve Simon could actually steer the organization the way of LinkedIn, and out of China altogether. That would be a true inflection point, and one that has been a long time coming.

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Prospect Park Tennis Center

50 Parkside Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11226

This center has  ( har tru and hard), cross street from Prospect Park. Street parking is relative easy. The shower rooms are on the 2nd floor. The center will be closed from Oct 4, to put up the bubble. The 2021-22 season runs from Oct 18 to May 1, 2022. Rates are here.


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The little-known story of Serena Williams’ first endorsement deal

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at The Undefeated. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s “Sneaker Box” video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint” Air Jordan 9s sparked his passion for kicks. 

link from Apple News – unstable at the moment, so I copy/paste

Antonio Bertone can’t forget that fateful day he met the quiet young girl who changed everything.

It was the fall of 1997, one evening in Los Angeles, where Bertone, then in his mid-20s, worked as a global director of brand management for the German sportswear company Puma.
At the time, Regency Enterprises held the claim as Puma’s principal shareholder. The mastermind of that unique union of entertainment, footwear and apparel was Regency founder Arnon Milchan, a successful business executive from Israel who became the high-profile film producer behind blockbusters such as Pretty Woman (1990), JFK (1991) and L.A. Confidential (1997). Milchan always thought big picture and had one secretly ambitious plan for Puma, surrounding his off-screen obsession with tennis.
“I got a call from Arnon’s assistant,” Bertone remembered. “She said, ‘Hey, can you come over to the studio tonight around 5 or 6 o’clock? Arnon wants you to join this meeting.’ I was like, ‘OK. Any idea of what the meeting is about?’ She said, ‘I have no idea.’ ”
Around 5:30 p.m., Bertone arrived at Milchan’s office, then located on the lot of Warner Bros. Studios. The meeting had lasted since midday.
“Sitting in the office is Serena Williams,” he recalled. “I don’t think she was even 16 yet.”

Williams, who turns 40 this week, would go on to endorse Puma into her early 20s, wearing custom-designed outfits that made her into a revolutionary of tennis fashion. But her ongoing 18-year partnership with Nike, the brand she’d join in 2003, has overshadowed the oft-forgotten first endorsement deal of her career. It all began, for Williams, with an offer from Puma, negotiated in this meeting.

Next to her in the room sat Richard Williams, who moved his family from Saginaw, Michigan, to Compton, California, in 1983. He taught the game of tennis on the city’s public courts to his daughters, Venus and Serena, who are 15 months apart.
Milchan had met his ultimate match in Richard Williams. The self-proclaimed “James Bond” (who once said that he covertly negotiated arms deals for the Israeli government in the 1960s) took serve against “King Richard,” the hands-on father who leveraged his elder daughter, Venus, an eight-figure endorsement deal with Reebok in 1995. That same year, Williams turned pro at 14, joining her sister on the WTA tour.
“Arnon recognized Serena and Venus’ ability to change the sport of tennis,” Bertone said. “Puma wasn’t in tennis then. But Arnon went from 0 to 100 … like, ‘We’re totally getting back into tennis with Serena.’ ”
Technically, Milchan didn’t have the power to discuss financial terms on Puma’s behalf. And Bertone didn’t have the authority to offer a multiyear contract to an athlete. So they called Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz in Germany. Zeitz woke up in the middle of the night to sign off on the deal. Back in the corner of the LA office, Richard Williams periodically called his wife Oracene on the room’s landline to provide updates. “I was convinced he wasn’t even talking to her,” Bertone noted. “That he was just buying time, drawing things out to see where we’d end up.”
At one point, as detailed in her 2009 autobiography, On The Line, Williams placed her head down on the conference table and dozed off. Negotiations went past midnight, lasting more than 12 hours. The meeting ultimately ended with a multimillion-dollar commitment from Zeitz and Puma, and a verbal agreement from Richard and Serena Williams.
“It was really hard to imagine how her career would evolve,” Bertone said. “But you had to believe, right? It was like, ‘We’re gonna do this.’ At the same time, I kept on going into these obsessive, compulsive loops in my head … like, ‘How the f— are we gonna figure this out?’ ”
Williams, now with 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her legacy, has since been transformed into one of the most admired — and scrutinized — athletes of all time in sport and style. But in the late ’90s, both Puma and a young Williams had much to prove.
“I wanted a sponsor. I wanted someone to believe in me,” wrote Williams in On The Line. “It wasn’t just Puma taking a chance on me. It was me taking a chance on Puma. It cut both ways.”
A week or so after that initial meeting, a large package addressed to Williams arrived at her family’s home in Florida. She opened it and tried on everything inside, gaining validation extending beyond how each outfit appeared in the mirror. It was about more than just the free clothes or even her first endorsement deal.
“It was this moment,” she wrote in On The Line, “going through this giant box of Puma gear that all fit perfectly, where I felt I’d finally arrived as a player.”
By February 1998, approximately five months after negotiations on the Warner Bros. lot, Puma officially announced its partnership with a 16-year-old Serena, then the No. 41-ranked women’s singles player in the world.
“I could have signed with any sports brand, but this was the most promising and felt right for me,” Williams said at the time. (Due to scheduling, Williams declined The Undefeated’s request to be interviewed for this story.)
The unprecedented agreement not only included her promotion of the company’s sportswear products, but also said that she would “participate in various film, music and media projects produced by Regency,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Spoiler: Regency never landed Williams on the silver screen (even though the Los Angeles Times reported in March 1999 that she and her sister completed screen tests for an undisclosed film). But Puma certainly delivered in fostering the tennis phenom’s passion for design. Williams made sure she made the most out of the partnership in that regard.
Related Story
Tracking Serena Williams’ journey through pictures
For her first meeting with Alden Sheets, who became president of worldwide apparel at Puma in 1997, Williams came prepared. She gave him a handwritten note and outfit sketches she drew herself while on tour.
“Alden,” wrote Williams, who, at 16, had her own custom-branded letterhead, adorned with her first and last name at the top of each page. “Here are some of the designs that I have thought of. There were many more but this requires many late nights and hard work, especially during a tournament.” On two sheets of paper, Williams outlined her vision for on-court apparel she called the “Petal” and “Mod” series. She traced concepts for jackets, dresses, biker shorts and pants that she filled in with colored pencils and added explanatory notes.
“As I said before,” she continued, “Puma is behind in a lot of ways. And I believe I can help bring the company back to its feet and into the lead once again.”
Remember, Puma didn’t have a presence in tennis when the company signed her. More than a decade had passed since Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova last repped the brand on the court. “We exited tennis in the ’80s, vowing to never get back,” said Bertone, who would become Puma’s chief marketing officer before leaving the company in 2012. Yet Puma returned with Williams. She was an athlete — from her background to the frame of her body and the way she moved — unlike any other the brand had experienced.
“I saw her and Venus play doubles at Wimbledon. These amazing, powerful women of color in sport,” said Amy Denet Deal, a former senior women’s designer for Puma, who is Native American. “Being a woman of color, it was groundbreaking to see that shift.”
Then overseeing a design office in Herzogenaurach, Germany, where the company is headquartered, Deal received the assignment of being Williams’ first lead designer. Puma also paired Williams with Linda Long, a former tennis player-turned-marketing director who operated as a daily brand manager, traveling with her on tour. Deal and Williams first met at a tournament in Indian Wells, California, and bonded over a shared love for apparel in eye-catching colors. Williams gave Deal drawings depicting what she dreamed of wearing on the court.
“I just thought that was the coolest thing ever that this young woman showed up with a bunch of sketches,” said Deal, now the owner and creative director of a design consulting firm and sustainable upcycling brand. “You’re talking about someone who was 17 and had no training in design. She wanted to be the most powerful player. But this effortless sense of style that she’s developed over all these years — that was in her heart.”
Deal designed the yellow dress Williams wore when she won the US Open in September 1999 after upsetting world No. 1 Martina Hingis, 6-3, 7-6, in straight sets. At 17, she became the first African American woman to claim a Grand Slam singles title since Althea Gibson in 1958. She also won the tournament’s women’s doubles title with her sister Venus. Puma celebrated Williams’ first career major singles victory with a $500,000 bonus. And a few weeks later, her tennis coronation gown hit the rack at the first Puma store in the United States, which opened in Santa Monica, California.
“Head-to-toe yellow,” Deal said. “Quite different from what would be expected. It was so beautiful. Back when she first started playing and had all the beads in her hair, she was always matching them with her outfit.”
Her career-long catalog of on-court outfits considered, Williams’ Puma dress from the 1999 US Open is relatively tame. It took some time for her to get comfortable with the brand as she grew into a young woman.
She turned 18. She transitioned from beaded braids to new hairstyles. She announced a joint plan with her sister Venus for offseason enrollment at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where they would major in fashion. And, most importantly, she started winning. By the end of 1999, she ranked No. 4 in the world in women’s singles.
“Our eye was always on majors,” Sheets said. “Every major, there would be a new series of apparel and a statement outfit. We started conservatively. Then we started to get wild.”
A young designer named Bonnie Dominguez, who specialized in lifestyle clothing, took over as the visionary behind Williams’ apparel after Deal left the company in November 1999. Closer to Williams in age, Dominguez and the tennis star clicked immediately. Williams nicknamed the 5-foot-2 Dominguez “Little Bonnie.”
“Serena was always the muse,” said Dominguez, who designed for Puma from 1998 to 2005. She’s been with New Balance since 2013. “I don’t know if that could’ve happened with any other player — to take that many fashion risks that early in a career. I don’t think the world was ready for it. I don’t think design was ready for it.”
In 2000, classes at the Art Institute started for Williams, who was deemed the “single-most recognizable athlete Puma endorses worldwide” in The Palm Beach Post by the brand’s head of U.S. marketing. She also began addressing her outfits in news conferences, while opening up more about her lifelong love of fashion. Williams quipped, however, that design didn’t come to her as naturally as tennis.
“I like drawing ideas of things to wear and just, like, sketching out things,” she said in 2000. “I’m not the greatest artist, but I’ve got ideas.”
Ahead of the 2000 US Open, Sheets discovered a new type of fabric and a factory in LA that could manipulate it through a unique tie-dyeing process. He challenged Dominguez to use his findings in her debut ensemble for Williams to wear at that season’s final major.
“One of the first outfits that got the most attention was Williams’ purple and black tie-dye coverup,” Sheets said. “She had a pair of compression shorts underneath a bare midriff and bra top. So, at various angles, you were seeing through that garment, because it was mesh. That outfit had the WTA calling me to question what we were doing to tennis, which was a very white, conservative sport.”
The policing of Williams’ style started early in her career. Notably at Wimbledon, tennis’ most revered Grand Slam, where there’s a No. 1 rule: Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white.During Williams’ five-year partnership with Puma, certain tournaments began mandating that the brand show Williams’ outfits in advance. Sheets fielded frequent calls from tennis officials, including one that still stands out from the All England Club, where Williams won Wimbledon singles titles in 2002 and 2003.
“I remember I was on a shopping tour, walking the streets of Florence and my cellphone rings,” recalled Sheets. “It was the head of the Wimbledon approval committee saying, ‘Mr. Sheets, we’re very concerned Serena’s outfits will be outside of the ethics of our organization. We’d very much like to see what you’re planning to have her wear. In fact, send the garments to us for our pre-approval before she’s allowed to be on court.’
“I was stunned,” Sheets continued. “The people at Wimbledon were worried we were gonna put Serena out there in a red outfit or something. We wanted to. But we knew we couldn’t get it done. Not there.”
Puma truly flipped the script of traditional tennis attire at the French Open in 2002. The tournament was held during the first two weeks of the FIFA World Cup in South Korea. The marketing team at the brand, which also sponsored Cameroon’s national men’s soccer team, came up with the crazy concept of outfitting Williams in a dress resembling the kit the African nation would wear at the World Cup. Dominguez sketched a sample and pitched it to Williams, who loved the idea. In her opening match at the French Open, she took the court in Cameroon-themed apparel, down to a pair of yellow soccer socks pulled up to her knees.
After Williams won the French Open and at Wimbledon in 2002, Puma needed another head-turning design for the 21-year-old star, who had reached the world No. 1 in women’s singles. She was preparing to compete for her third straight Grand Slam title at the US Open.
“With her pushing so many style boundaries, it was like, ‘What do we do next?’ ” Dominguez remembers thinking. “Does it have to be a skirt? Does it have to be a dress?”
A better question, she asked herself: “How do we make a statement?”
Sketches and design materials were sprawled across her hotel room in Germany as Dominguez prepared for a sales meeting to introduce what she had in store for Williams.
From the television in the background, Dominguez heard speculation that actress Halle Berry was being cast as the lead in the film Catwoman. She turned around and watched the program roll vintage footage of the actress Eartha Kitt, who in 1967 became the first African American woman to star as the comic book character in the TV series Batman.
It was in this moment that Dominguez found inspiration for Williams’ infamous catsuit that she’d debut months later at the 2002 US Open.
“I don’t think anyone else would’ve looked good in that catsuit,” said Dominguez, who immediately got to drawing after “badass Eartha Kitt” reminded her of Williams. For the outfit, she planned to use Lycra, a high-shine spandex brand that looked like faux leather and would tightly hug Williams’ muscular physique. Dominguez complemented the look with a biker-style jacket that she could wear over the catsuit while warming up.
“ ‘Let’s try it,’ ” recalled Dominguez of the customary approval Williams gave to move a design concept into production. By the time Sheets delivered a sample at a memorable 7 a.m. fitting session in her hotel room at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, Williams had forgotten about the rebellious outfit.
“We hand her the catsuit and she says, ‘This is for me … to wear playing tennis?’ ” Sheets recalled. “She went into the bathroom and came out where there was a full mirror in front of the door. She was just glowing, with this huge grin on her face.”
At the sight of Williams in the catsuit for the first time, Sheets’ split conscience spoke up.
“I remember very specifically having two guys on my shoulders. One on my left and one on my right,” Sheets said. “The one on my left said, ‘You are absolutely crazy if you’re gonna have her walk out at the US Open, upset the USTA, the WTA and have Puma scrutinized. … You can’t allow this.’
“The one on my right said,‘This is the most incredible thing we’ve ever done. We’re gonna upset all of tennis. We’re gonna upset the entire world. The press is gonna be all over this. And Serena loves it. We’re not turning back at this point.’ ”
Due to delays at a factory in China, the catsuit almost didn’t make it in time for the US Open. At the 11th hour, a Puma representative flew the garment from Hong Kong to New York, where Sheets picked it up at the airport. He handed it off to Long, Williams’ brand manager, who gave it to her and advised she try it on before her opening match at the US Open.
“I had to beg Jim Curley, who was the tournament director then, to allow Serena to wear it. He thought I’d lost my mind but gave the OK,” Long said. “I’m standing in the hallway waiting for Serena to come out to go on to Arthur Ashe Stadium court in the catsuit. She bends over and whispers in my ear, ‘This is the first time I’ve put this catsuit on … hope I don’t lose.’ ”
On Aug. 26, 2002, Williams stepped onto the tennis court and unzipped her jacket to unveil her skintight catsuit. Later that evening, this is how CNN anchor Anderson Cooper opened the program:
Despite widespread criticism, Williams went on to win the 2002 US Open, defeating her sister Venus while wearing the outfit that she accented in the final match with a pink headband and armband.
“Man, that outfit turned a lot of heads …,” wrote Williams years later in On The Line. “But what most people don’t realize is it was so comfortable! Of course the catsuit was so hot I would have worn it even if it was the most uncomfortable thing in the world.”
It doesn’t feel like common knowledge that Puma designed the first catsuit Williams wore in her career. Type “Serena catsuit” in Google, and the first images and news stories that surface are those surrounding the Nike one she wore at the French Open in 2018 that the French Tennis Federation barred from returning, saying “one must respect the game.” Nike responded to the ban and comments by releasing an ad with the powerful tagline: “You can take a superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers.”
“Serena’s legacy with Puma feels like it all got erased when she went to Nike,” Bertone said.
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In December 2003, after winning her first six Grand Slam singles titles while repping Puma, Williams left the company to join Nike on an eight-year endorsement deal reported to be worth up to $55 million with performance incentives. By comparison, Williams earned a reported $13 million from Puma in the first five years of her career. (Dominguez recalled that Williams never had the opportunity to wear the final outfit she designed for her. So Puma outfitted actress Kirsten Dunst in it for the 2004 film Wimbledon.)
“At the time, we went as high as we could go for an athlete, knowing full well that Nike would outbid us,” Bertone said. “People nowadays have no idea about Serena and Puma.”
There’s a memory in particular that Bertone cherishes from Williams’ early days with Puma. In the late ’90s, they crossed paths at the Atlanta Super Show, a sporting goods trade convention.
“I remember seeing her and shaking her hand, like, ‘Holy s—. You’re a superstar now,’ ” Bertone recalled. “She had become a young woman and was much taller than the first time I saw her. She was wearing all her Puma apparel and it was just so nice to be like, ‘This is working!’ ”
She’s since gone from a promising 16-year-old athlete a brand took a chance on to reaching the pinnacle of both tennis and style-bending.
“I consider her a fashion icon,” said Deal, the first designer of color Williams worked with at Puma. “She’s completely changed the way that women dress for sport.”
In 2019, Williams and Nike teamed up to create an apprenticeship program to promote diversity in design and provide a foundation for a new generation of designers from underrepresented backgrounds. In August, Nike announced the Serena Williams Design Crew’s first collection, set for a fall release, featuring apparel, footwear and accessories and crafted by 10 designers from diverse backgrounds.
Now, it seems, Williams is the one on the receiving end of a young aspiring designer’s sketches.

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US Open, Day 11

US Open 2021 offers a free day for the fans today. We watched four matches, two main draw men’s doubles semi and two wheelchair men’s singles, quarter final @ Armstrong. Either it’s a rainy day or New Yorkers don’t care for freebies (as no free lunch … inferior …), the stadium is very empty.

We stayed on to watch two wheelchair men’s quarter final singles matches. Oh boy, both matches are exciting, especially the second one.


The broken racket is from Sam Querrey.

  1. Johnson/Querrey lost to #4 R. Ram/J. Salisbury
  2. #8 J Peers n F Polasek lost to #7 Jamie Murray/B Soares
  3. #1 Shingo Kunieda 🇯🇵 def Casey Ratzlaff 🇺🇸 6:1, 6:0
  4. Tom Egberink lost to Gordon Reid 🇬🇧

Men’s doubles semi: Johnson/Querrey lost to R. Ram/J. Salisbury @ Armstrong. We stayed a few rows from the court because the players are so tall: Sam Querrey (1987-) is 6’6″ and Steve Johnson (1989-) is 6’2″. Not to mention the little tree John Isner (1985-) who is 6’7″. No wonder Pete Sampras (1971-) who is 6’1″ said, that during his time, he was considered tall.

Murray/Soares won their first set on their opponents’ double fault. Has any one saw his mother Judy watched him – Jamie (1986-) play? Mrs. Murray is always a presence at her other son, Andy’s (1987-) match all the time.

The first wheelchair men’s singles quarter final, #1 seed Shingo Kunieda 🇯🇵 def Casey Ratzlaff 🇺🇸 6:1, 6:0

The second singles, Tom Egberink lost to Gordon Reid 🇬🇧

As we were leaving, the evening crowd gets in. The Mets dog is working, again, and the pretty sunset color.

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