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Serena berates ump at U.S. Open - again

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Serena berates ump at U.S. Open - again

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, September 12, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) -- Even before she began berating the chair umpire, things were not going well for Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final.

Her strokes were off-target. Her opponent, Sam Stosur, was playing better than ever. And Williams' deficit was growing more and more daunting.

So facing a break point at the start of the second set Sunday night, Williams ripped a forehand that she celebrated with her familiar yell of "Come on!" The problem, it turned out, was she screamed as Stosur was reaching for a backhand, so the point wasn't finished. The chair umpire awarded the point to Stosur, setting Williams off on a series of insults directed at the official, a scene far less ugly than -- yet reminiscent of -- the American's tirade at the same tournament two years ago.

In the end, Stosur's powerful shots and steadiness allowed her to beat Williams 6-2, 6-3 in a surprisingly lopsided upset for her first Grand Slam title. Stosur left the court as the U.S. Open champion; Williams' night ended with her facing possible disciplinary action.

A sampling of what Williams said to chair umpire Eva Asderaki:

--"You're out of control."

--"You're a hater, and you're just unattractive inside."

--"Really, don't even look at me."

Asked at her news conference whether she regretted any of her words, the 13-time Grand Slam champion rolled her eyes and replied: "I don't even remember what I said. It was just so intense out there. ... I guess I'll see it on YouTube."

She won't be the only one, for sure.

Stosur probably will prefer to watch footage of some of the points she dominated.

"I'm still kind of speechless. I can't actually believe I won this tournament," Stosur said later, the silver U.S. Open trophy sitting a few feet away. "I guess to go out there and play the way I did is obviously just an unbelievable feeling, and you always hope and you want to be able to do that, but to actually do it, is unbelievable."

The ninth-seeded Stosur became the first Australian woman to win a major championship since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980. Stosur received a text from the former player that read: "Twinkletoes, you finally have got what you deserved."

Only 2-9 in tournament finals before beating Williams, Stosur made the U.S. Open the third consecutive Grand Slam tournament with a first-time women's major champion, after Li Na at the French Open, and Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon.

This was only the 27-year-old Stosur's third title at any tour-level event, and what a way to do it. She took advantage of Williams' so-so serving and finished with 12 unforced errors to Williams' 25.

Most of all, Stosur avoided being distracted by the bizarre events that unfolded in the second set's opening game. Asderaki ruled that Williams hindered Stosur's ability to complete that point and awarded it to Stosur, putting her ahead 1-0.

Williams went over to talk to Asderaki, saying, "I'm not giving her that game."

Williams also said: "I promise you, that's not cool. That's totally not cool."

Spectators began jeering, delaying the start of the next game as both players waited for the noise to subside.

"It was probably the loudest I ever felt a crowd in my whole entire life. You're right in the middle of it. It was definitely a quite overwhelming feeling," Stosur said. "But once I hit that next ball in the court and started playing again, I felt settled. I guess it definitely could have been the big, pivotal point in the match."

The truth is, the outcome never really appeared to be in doubt.

Even Williams acknowledged as much.

"She was cracking 'em today," said Williams, whose five games matched her lowest total in 240 Grand Slam matches. "She definitely hit hard and just went for broke."

Tournament director Brian Earley said Asderaki's ruling was proper, according to U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier.

International Tennis Federation rules say: "If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point. However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player's own control (not including a permanent fixture)."

Williams said later she thought the last part of the rule applied -- and the point should have been replayed -- such as when one player's hat flies off during a point.

"I guess the rules of tennis are there for a reason," Stosur said. "She made the call that she felt was right."

In the heat of the moment, Williams had trouble putting the whole episode behind her and continued to berate Asderaki.

The chair umpire issued a code violation warning for verbal abuse, and the USTA said Earley would speak to the Asderaki and review tape to determine whether Williams would be fined. That decision will be announced Monday.

When Stosur wrapped up the match with a forehand winner, Williams refused the customary post-match handshake with the chair umpire.

This sort of thing has happened before at the U.S. Open to Williams, who won the tournament in 1999, 2002 and 2008.

In the 2009 semifinals against Kim Clijsters, Williams was called for a foot-fault that set her off on a profanity-laced outburst at a line judge. Williams lost a point there, and because it came on match point, Clijsters won.

That led to an immediate 10,000 fine from the U.S. Tennis Association and later a record 82,500 fine from Grand Slam committee director Bill Babcock, who also put Williams on a "probationary period" at Grand Slam tournaments in 2010 and 2011, saying that fine could wind up doubled. The USTA said Babcock will determine whether what Williams said to Asderaki on Sunday is a "major event" that counts as a violation of that probation.

A poor call during Williams' 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinal loss to Jennifer Capriati was cited as a main reason for the introduction of replay technology in tennis.

"It's just always something," said Williams' mother, Oracene Price. "And it seems to happen to us."

Because of rain during this year's tournament, the women's final was pushed from Saturday night to Sunday. It was preceded by a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "91101" was painted in white next to the blue court to commemorate the 10th anniversary, and the U.S. flag atop Arthur Ashe Stadium was at half-mast.

A couple of hours before stepping on court, Williams tweeted: "My Thoughts and prayers to all who lost loved ones on 9-11. I know the entire country is with you today. I'm playing for you today."

Stosur was playing in only her second major final -- she was the runner-up at the 2010 French Open -- while Williams was in her 17th.

"I felt like I was definitely the underdog," Stosur said.

For all of her edges in experience, Williams was the one who started a bit shakily. She was back in action less than 18 hours after winning her semifinal over No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday night, and Williams' game was sleepy.

"It was a little bit of a tough turnaround, but I don't think it would have made a difference today," said Williams, who said she didn't fall asleep until after 4 a.m. "I just probably should have been lighter on my toes and move in a little faster."

Her serve -- usually one of her top shots -- was problematic, slower and less accurate than usual: Only three of her initial 14 first serves landed in, and they hovered around 100 mph. Told she'd put 35 percent of her first serves in play during the first set, Williams replied: "Wow. That's not so good."

Williams pushed a backhand long to get broken and fall behind 2-1. She flubbed another backhand to lose serve and make it 5-2. When Stosur smacked a forehand winner moments later, she had taken 12 points in a row and owned the first set.

That was the first set Williams had lost in seven matches during this U.S. Open, a run that included four victories over women ranked in the top 20. She said her poor play Sunday is what made her so excited when she hit the forehand that led to all the commotion.

"It was beautiful. I hit it, like, right in the sweet spot," Williams said. "It was a good shot, and it was the only good shot I think I hit. I was like, 'Woo-hoo!'"

That moment of joy didn't last long.

Entering the final, Williams was 18-0 on hard courts this season, a full-throttle comeback after missing nearly a year because of health scares, including cuts on her feet from glass at a restaurant, two foot operations, clots in her lungs and a gathering of blood beneath the skin of her stomach.

She was ranked 175th after a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon, but hadn't lost since then until Sunday and was seeded 28th at the U.S. Open.

"It's been an arduous road. Six months ago in the hospital, I never thought I'd be standing here today," Williams said. "I didn't think I'd be standing, let alone here."

Stosur dealt with her own health issues that could have sidetracked her career, and she became the oldest U.S. Open champion since Martina Navratilova was 30 in 1987.

Once a doubles specialist -- she's won Grand Slam titles in women's and mixed -- Stosur only once got past the third round in singles at a major tournament before reaching the 2009 semifinals at the French Open.

Her game has improved dramatically since she returned to the tour in April 2008 after about nine months away while recovering from Lyme disease, a tick-born illness that can affect a person's joints and nervous system. She was ranked 149th two years ago; on Monday, she'll rise to No. 7.

"It kind of made me open my eyes more that you don't necessarily always get a second chance," Stosur said. "I wanted to take every opportunity I had, and I have now been able to fulfill that."

Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

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Cavs expect Isaiah Thomas playing in games by January

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.

The All-Star point guard, acquired from the Celtics this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.

Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.

Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.

When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.

Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.

Copyright The Associated Press.
 

Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

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Tom Brady on pace to dwarf deep-ball passing numbers from 2016

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots traded their first-round pick in the 2017 draft for Brandin Cooks, they gave Tom Brady one of the most productive deep-ball receivers in the NFL over the course of the last few seasons. 

The Cooks acquisition not only made the Patriots offense more versatile, it also may have signaled an acknowledgement that the team needed more pass-catchers who could produce down the field and outside the numbers.

In the playoffs last season, against Houston's and Atlanta's defenses -- both of which were effective at times in taking away the short-to-intermediate areas of the field -- the Patriots could have benefited from someone like Cooks. In both games, the Patriots were able to hit on throws deep and on the outside in critical moments with likes of Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. 

Now after three weeks, and after having faced two defenses in Houston's and Kansas City's that were intent on packing the middle of the field with defenders, it's clear that the move to grab Cooks is paying dividends. 

In Sunday's win over the Texans, 36-33, Brady threw eight passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, and he completed five for 185 yards and three scores, according to Pro Football Focus. On the season, Brady leads the league with 22 attempts of 20 yards or more, per PFF. He's completed 11 of those for 368 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating on deep attempts (135.4) is second in the league. 

Compare that to last season's totals for Brady on deep passes -- 23 completions for 834 yards and eight touchdowns -- and he's on pace to blow those numbers away. Whereas he only attempted deep passes on just over 11 percent of his throws last season, according to PFF, so far this year one in every five of his throws is traveling 20 yards or more.

The biggest beneficiary of the new approach? Cooks, of course, who Brady has dubbed "Cookie." 

PFF says Cooks is leading the league in deep-ball receiving through three weeks, with 187 yards on five deep catches. Three of those came on Sunday and they resulted in 111 yards and two scores. In Week 1, Cooks had three catches for 88 yards -- including a 54-yarder -- and he drew three penalties that resulted in an additional 38 yards. In Week 2, Cooks had two catches for 37 yards -- including a 22-yarder.

Last year? The leading receiver for the Patriots on passes that traveled 20 yards or more was Hogan (10 catches for 397 yards). 

One more indication that the Patriots offense has shifted with Cooks in and Edelman sidelined: Cooks leads the NFL in yards per catch through three games (25.6 yards per reception), while Danny Amendola (16.4 yards per reception, seventh) and Rob Gronkowski (14.9, 13th) are all found among the league leaders in that category.  

Opposing defenses may continue to play the Patriots as the Texans and Chiefs did this season: Flood the middle of the field and pressure Brady with just three or four linemen. They may be content with allowing Brady to attempt lower-percentage throws down the field as opposed to letting him slice them up with shorter tosses. 

It worked well enough for the Chiefs to win, and it nearly worked well enough for the Texans. Perhaps "the blueprint" is still the blueprint. But with the addition to Cooks, Brady and the Patriots have proven that they've evolved to more efficiently combat those schemes.

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