Serena Williams is now a mother, but dont expect the hate to stop | Paul MacInnes

The greatest champion of the modern era has had to achieve it all to a background of thinly veiled racism and unjust criticism sadly, her having a baby is unlikely to change anything

Would someone please give Serena Williams a infringe? Two weeks into her comeback, seven months after giving birth to daughter Olympia( her name chosen from a shortlist of those links with strength ), the win of 23 grand slam singles crowns was forced to endure another round of the rubbish that has been as consistent a part of her career as the titles.

Williams had to enter the Miami Open this week as an unseeded player, a wildcard in fact. This despite the fact that she left for her maternity leave as the women’s world No 1, at 35 years and seven months the oldest person ever to hold that stance. Without commenting on the issues herself, Serena’s deseeding has become a talking point in Florida after she was drawn against Naomi Osaka, last week’s Indian Wells champion, in the first round. The director of the Miami Open, James Blake, has suggested:” These kind of things shouldn’t happen .”

The seeding is in the gift of the WTA. It has a system of what it calls protected ranking, which permits an injured player to retain a rank averaged from the months immediately following their injury. But this ranking does not apply to seeding. Also, technically speaking, Williams- who plays Osaka on Wednesday evening- was never injured in the first place.

” She had a kid, which we should all be celebrating ,” Blake told.” So when she comes back there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded .” Blake is not the only person to venture an opinion on this subject and, abruptly, maternity in tennis is a hot topic. Are female players being penalise for having a child? Is having a child the same as a broken leg? Should the governing body of women’s tennis perhaps have thought about these matters before now?

Simona Halep, the current WTA No 1, believes Williams should have been granted top seeding. The world No 66, Mandy Minella, believes no adjustment should be made at all.” The regulation should stay as it is ,” said Minella, who returned to tennis in February, 99 days after giving birth.” There are many players who have been out because of pregnancy and there will be many more. I don’t think we would be talking about this if it wasn’t Serena .”

Needless to say it is not the first time that people are talking about something because of Serena. The Miami Open has given equal prize money to both its males and winners since 1985, but it is an outlier. At other events on the WTA circuit a champ will still earn far less than their equivalent on the ATP tour. Williams has been making the debate for equal pay for years. In return she has not only had to listen to snide questions from male journalists quoting court-time statistics but also enjoy the diatribes of male executives who believe female players should” get down on their knees” and” give thanks for the men who stimulated their career” possible.

That opinion belongs to Raymond Moore, the former CEO of Indian Wells who stepped down amid the outrage at his remarks and which only happens to be the other tournament Serena has entered unseeded since her return. Indian Wells is an infamous locating in the Williams legend, the place where Serena’s father Richard railed against racist abuse from the crowd when Serena won the final in 2001. She subsequently boycotted the tournament for 14 years.

The struggle of being a prominent female African-American athlete has hardly gone away during that time. This wintertime Williams learned that her fellow American player, Tennys Sandgren, had made an apparently derogatory tweet about her utilizing foul language on tribunal. It was part of a cloudburst of screenshots of deleted social media bilge attributed to Sandgren on Twitter, forcing him to deny he was an alt-right sympathiser. The female who has claimed 316 grand slam match wins in her career wrote to this human, who sounds like he changed his name to celebrate both his preferred sport and an interest in Viking lore, and asked for an apology on behalf of the members of an” entire group of people “. Sandgren has since apologised, but merely for homophobic remarks he made on another occasion.

Williams did not have to step into the Sandgren hellhole, some suggest. Neither did she have to call out Novak Djokovic over his statements on equal pay. And if she did not want to have her body criticised( as it has been throughout her career) she should not have posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated or, subsequently, Vanity Fair while pregnant.

That Williams, the only player male or female to win a career golden slam after the age of 30, has any choice in the matter seems laughable, however. For a start the idea that black people with opinions are difficult is a trope that for generations has given white people covering to provoke them with whatever material they like. Induce a narrative about Serena and it stirs up a whole slurry of related bitternes that they are able to provoked engagement in an audience. That Williams could choose to somehow ignore that seems naive.

It would be nice if Serena could have some time off from all this, perhaps expend six months without becoming the figurehead for something eminently sensible yet somehow abhorrent to reactionaries. It would be nice if she received the respect she deserves for her tennis career and that owed to her as a human being. But maybe she won’t. And if she doesn’t you can bet that a born competitor will keep up the fight at her aim. In turning that were likely to construct Williams an icon whose significance carries beyond her sporting career.

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Halep taken to hospital as Australian Open defends roof decision

Simona Halep was taken to hospital with dehydration following her Australian Open final defeat by Caroline Wozniacki, forcing tournament officials to explain why the roof was left open at the Rod Laver Arena

Caroline Wozniacki wins Australian Open title after epic battle with Halep

Caroline Wozniacki won her maiden grand slam title in Melbourne, beating Simona Halep 7-6, 3-6, 6-4

Simona Halep survives marathon 28-game final set against Lauren Davis

The world No1 emerged from a titanic third-round battle with American Lauren Davis to progress to the second week of the Australian Open

Billie Jean King leaves Australian Open organisers reeling over new controversy

Billie Jean Kings call for Margaret Court Arena to be renamed over her derogatory LBGT remarks left Australian Open organisers red-faced for the second day in a row

The Australian Open was plunged into a second controversy in 24 hours when Billie Jean King declared on Friday she could not support the continued naming of Margaret Court Arena after the nation’s best player because of her “derogatory” statements about the LBGT community.

On Thursday, the tournament director, Craig Tiley, was forced to defend the decision to invite Maria Sharapova to share the podium with the men’s champion, Roger Federer, at the televised describe rite, even though she has served 15 months for failing a drugs exam here two years ago.

He argued that in the absence of the women’s champ, Serena Williams, it was appropriate to have a former title-holder in Sharapova step in for her- on the 10 th anniversary of winning the title.

That generated a minor stir locally, and there was more to come on Friday.

King, who announced she was a lesbian at 51, was responding to a New York Times story in which Martina Navratilova- another player who has pioneered homosexual rights since proclaiming her own sexuality several years ago- criticised Court for her stance.

Navratilova said she would refuse to play on Margaret Court Arena if she was still playing, and King agreed as she was being honoured at a press conference when she was named the Australian Open woman of the year.

” She won 24 grand slams, more than anyone else ,” King said of Court, who announced last month she would not attend this year’s tournament.” Rocket[ Rod Laver] got the Arena, and people said,’ What are you going to do for Margaret ?’

” I don’t know. I think it’s really important if you’re going to have a name on anything that you’re hospitable, you’re inclusive, that you open your limbs to everyone who comes to a public facility.

” I was fine until lately when she said so many derogatory things about my community, about the LBGT. That truly ran deep in my heart and soul. If I was part of voting- which I’m not; it’s really up to the people of Australia- I would[ referendum to change it ].

” I personally don’t think she should have[ her name on it] anymore. I think if you were talking about indigenous people, Jews or any other people, I can’t imagine the public would want someone[ such as Court] to have her name on something like that.

Billie Jean King talks with Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley. Photograph: Mark Baker/ AP

” Maybe because of our community, the LGBT community, people might feel differently but we’re all God’s children. I likely don’t think it’s appropriate to have her name on it.

” I have my name on a whole facility[ at Flushing Meadows] in the US. I remember that day, having my name up there, and the sense of responsibility. I could hardly breathe because of the responsibility. I think if I’m going to have my name on anything, I would welcome Margaret, I would greet whoever- whether I agreed with them or not. It’s not important.

” I think she’s just gotten genuinely derogatory. When she talks about the children of transgenders being from the demon that set me over the edge.

” I think it’s really important to be your authentic self. It took me a long time about my own sexuality. I was 51 before I felt comfortable in my own scalp. Shame-based things are very difficult, so that’s the last thing this is necessary. Children of LBGT family have a much higher rate of suicide. This is part of being derogatory towards us. I just think it’s not healthy .”

The tournament organisers posted an audio tape of the press conference on the media section of their website- only to take it down soon afterwards without explanation.

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Grigor Dimitrov edges out David Goffin in thriller to win World Tour Finals title

Grigor Dimitrov won the ATP World Tour Finals title by beating David Goffin in three defines, a victroy which will move him up to world No3

Against the high expectations of the doubters two free-hitting, first-time finalists, each trusting his abilities to breaking point, devoted a remarkable season the denouement it deserved on a cold midwinter’s evening by the Thames. Grigor Dimitrov won but David Goffin did not leave a loser.

For extended passageways of the choosing match of the 2017 ATP World Tour Finals they brought freshness and daring to a task that has historically been fulfilled by more illustrious rivals. After two and a half hours of often tense, high-grade tennis- the longest final since John McEnroe defeated Arthur Ashe at Madison Square Garden in 1978- Dimitrov, Bulgaria’s first representative at this end-of-year event, predominated 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

It was his fourth title of the year, adding $2,549, 000 to the$ 3m he had already gathered from 44 match wins, and 1,500 ranking points to lift him three places to No3 in the world. At last the results and the performance have matched the glamour. If Dimitrov can sustain his run in Melbourne in January the Bulgarian and his trainer, Dani Vallverdu, for so long at Andy Murray’s side- can expect a season of much fruitfulness.

A tearful Goffin – who represents Belgium against France in the Davis Cup final later this week – said afterwards:” It was a special week for me, a lot of emotions, a lot of wearines. It was tough. It was not easy to come back after losing to Grigor in the group. Congratulations to Grigor for a fantastic year .”

Dimitrov reciprocated, adding,” It’s such an honour to play here. This has been one of the best weeks I’ve ever had. Unbelievable endeavour by David and I wish him the best in the Davis Cup .”

Some guessed the deviation of Roger Federer( beaten on Saturday by Goffin ), Rafael Nadal( defeated by Goffin four days previously ), and the is a lack of Andy Murray( beaten by his unreliable knee) along with the Tour’s other walking wounded had ripped the heart out of this tournament, an event in its ninth year at the venue, with three more to come, under the new sponsorship of Nitto.

However, there have been six sell-out conferences of 17,800, including the final, and 13 of 15 matches described more than 16,000. The lowest attendance was 15,193 on Tuesday afternoon for the match between Jack Sock and Marin Cilic, but the tournament total of 253,642- just ahead of last year, if short of the 2012 record of 263,229- the year London went Olympics crazy. There are tournament directors around the world in all sorts of athletics who would die happy persuading more than a quarter of a million fans to watch their product.The start was riddled with nerves on both sides of the net, neither player able to hold serve until the 19 th minute as they tentatively investigated all the safe options before opening their shoulders.

Consecutive hotshots by Goffin secured the first hold of the match and there was a restlessness in the capacity mob, who were waiting for caviar and were having to make do with fish fingers. The menu was about to change.

Both humen were going for their shoots, and Dimitrov transgressed to level in the eighth game as the level of the exchanges grew in quality and duration, although Goffin’s overcooked forehand betrayed persisting uncertainty under pressure. At last the arena was warming to the contest and the combatants responded.

Goffin, the first Belgian since doubles specialist Dick Norman in 2010 to reach this tournament, was get in and out of difficulty like a frog in a hot tub. He quivered again with ball in hand in the 12 th game, but it took Dimitrov five defined points to cracking his resolve and take the frame in only under an hour, forcing a sixth unforced fault from him on the backhand.

Just as Dimitrov looked to be pulling away, Goffin broke for a third time in the second defined. A rare double net-cord off his deep backhand that dribbled over, and a ridiculously brilliant half-volley off his toes in the 10 th game helped Dimitrov to keep the set alive. There was little he could do, though, to stop the Belgian holding to love and level the match at one defined each.

It took Dimitrov 11 minutes to hold in the early stages of the third- about the same period it took him to seal the first- so there was no absence of commitment under fire. Goffin’s serve was discrepancies between then- “hes lost” only five first serves in virtually two hours, a crushing 87 per cent- so Dimitrov had to find his crumb elsewhere, and he did in the sixth game where reference is pushed Goffin deep and watched his backhand float wide for the break.

In the penultimate game Dimitrov lobbed then passed Goffin, who saved three match point, held then turned to the crowd to conduct them in their thunder of support. Dimitrov sweated heavily as he set about serving out for the biggest win of his career, grateful for two tired groundstrokes by Goffin. Handed his fifth match point, he saw a forehand inch long. And how grateful he was when Goffin dumped a simple backhand into the net. The mob dedicated both of them an ovation every bit as loud as if Federer had won another title here.

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Billie Jean King: Be ahead of your time thats what you have to do

The tennis champs lifelong fight for equality and freedom is celebrated in a new cinema about the Battle of the Sexes. She talks about not being comfy in her own scalp until she was 51, and why millennials give her hope

In 1955, when she was 12 years old, Billie Jean King says she had an epiphany.” I was daydreaming about my little tiny universe of tennis, and I thought to myself:’ Everybody’s wearing white shoes, white socks, white clothes, playing with white balls, everybody who plays is white. Where is everybody else ?'” she recollects.” That was the moment I decided to fight for equality and freedom and equal rights and opportunities for everyone. Everyone. Not merely daughters. Everyone .”

Now, 62 years later, the most sensational moment of her long, boundary-smashing tennis career has been turned into a cinema. Directed by Little Miss Sunshine’s Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Battle of the Sexes tells of the run-up to that infamous high-stakes 1973 match between King( Emma Stone) and the showboating, self-confessed “male chauvinist pig” Bobby Riggs( Steve Carell ), in front of 30, 000 live spectators and a colossal Superbowl-sized TV audience. But those expecting a straightforward sports movie may be surprised by its intimacy, as it draws a parallel between the weight of having to prove the worth of all female athletes in that one match, and the distress of hiding a secret affair with her female hairdresser from both her husband Larry and the world.

When meeting King, it is obvious why she has been at the vanguard of so much change, having dedicated much of her life to the fight for equality. When the men’s tour refused to address women’s concerns over pay inequality, King violated away to be established a women’s tour, with each of the” Original Nine” players signing a symbolic$ 1 contract( it is a barnstorming moment in the film, although the timeline has been loosened somewhat to fit dramatic demands ). Shortly afterwards, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association. But when President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom in 2009, he praised” all the off-the-court stuff- what she did to broaden the reach of video games, to change how women athletes and women everywhere view themselves, and to give everyone, regardless of gender or sex orientation- including my two daughters- a chance to compete both on the court and in life .”

King with 55 -year-old Bobby Riggs ahead of the match. Photograph: Bettmann Archive

In person, she is a brilliant and invigorating livewire, hands knitted together, leaning in to answer questions long before they are finished. She practically triggers with exuberance. She has a boundless curiousity about what other people believe, and before the hour is up she has discovered how old I am, where I grew up and what it was like. She is adopting the word ” fag ” because young people tell her they opt it to “gay” (” although I still feel gay. You know why I like it? Because it’s happy, happy, happy “). She genuinely wants to know why: why did millennials not trust Hillary Clinton? Why did women, any women, vote for Donald Trump? She slaps her hands together joyfully when she hits on a phase she wants to emphasise, which is usually a life lesson about how people can be more kind to one another. At periods, chatting to her is like is available on a one-on-one TED Talk. Her positivity is utterly contagious.

The story of the Battle of the Sexes match is familiar, thanks to its place in the history of athletic and the many documentaries that have been made about it, but some of its more gruesomely misogynistic details are shocking for a modern audience , not least the complete refusal of the tennis establishment to take the idea of a professional women’s game severely. King is pleased that parts of the film will alarm a younger generation, for whom she has a great deal of respect.” I’m truly optimistic about millennials ,” she beams.” And the Gen Z, I don’t know what you call them here- the ones that are 18, 19 now .”

In 2014, King founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting equality in the workplace. She says that, based on research it has carried out,” this is the greatest generation on inclusion ever. And that gives me hope. We’ve done all kinds of studies and it holds true that young people don’t want to be in a workplace that doesn’t have inclusion. They’ll leave work and go to another company if it has better inclusion .” She starts to rap on the table, delivering a speech. Diversity is absolutely vital to her worldview.” I suppose the children that are younger are going to learn from millennials, and pick up on that, too, and I think this could probably save the world .”

She says this with such certainty that it feels mean-spirited to cast doubt on it, but I wonder if she still feels optimistic when the political establishment in the US and the UK feel so far away from that ethos.” But some of the person or persons in the establishment believes in inclusion, so you have to look at each person .” King is big on trying to see the best in everyone, although she admits that, in one respect, during the 2016 general elections, young people frustrated her- she feels they didn’t use the internet as a research tool.” These kids didn’t know one thing about Hillary. Not one thing. They only knew that Bernie was hollering’ revolution !’ and’ free education !’. I’m like: Truly? What’s his policy to pay for the free education?’ I don’t know.’ Well, you guys, it takes fund. All these things that you want, they take fund. You’ve got to be a little deeper in the weeds on this. Oh, my God ,” she says, exasperated.” I would have given anything to have this technology at my fingertips. I would have loved it as a young person. But, use it! They didn’t use it for the elections , not at all .”