serena and venus

5 of the Greatest Women’s Tennis Rivalries of the Last Decade

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s rivalry is considered the mother of all women’s tennis rivalries of all time. But their time has ended, and one of these modern rivalries are worth every spectator’s pondering.

Although women’s tennis is awaiting the next age of rivalries, time and again, rivalries (of epic proportions) happen on and off-court.

Below are the greatest women’s tennis rivalries of the last ten years.

Kim Clijsters vs Justine Henin

Both Belgians, Clijsters and Henin had 25 overall meetings with the former winning 13 of them. However, Henin won three out of three of their Grand Slam matches–French Open, US Open, and Australian Open.

Clijsters, on the other hand, prevailed at their last three matches – at the Brisbane International, Miami Open, and at Wimbledon – to end their rivalry in 2010. Clijsters won these matches in just three sets. Henin has 7 Grand Slam titles while Clijsters has 4.

Serena Williams vs Martina Sharapova

Williams and Sharapova are each other’s archnemesis. They met 21 times, but Williams prevailed over and over, winning 19 of these games. On the other hand, Sharapova defeated Williams twice in 2004 including her phenomenal Grand Slam finals win when she was only 17 years old. She became the third-youngest Wimbledon champion. 

Since 2007, Sharapova has not defeated Williams. Of all the sets they’ve played, Williams won 34 out of 36. Williams leads the rivalry with 19 against Sharapova’s two wins.

Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka

Williams may have the advantage over Azarenka, a Belarussian, with a 17 to 3 advantage. Nevertheless, Azarenka is one of the few tennis players who can push Williams to the edge.

Since 2008, they met up to 23 times with Williams prevailing in 19 of these games. Their 2012 US Open game was considered a classic. Although Williams dominated the match with a three-sets straight win, their style is competitive and compelling. In 2016 Indian Wells Masters, Azarenka won over Williams with a two-sets straight win.

Serena Williams vs Venus Williams

A sibling rivalry in tennis is rare, but Serena and Venus proved that one has won out over the other. The younger Williams met with her sister for a total of 29 head-to-head games throughout their career. Serena dominates the stats, cupping 23 Grand Slam singles titles compared with Venus’s 7.

At the start, Venus was ahead of Serena wherein she won their first three head-to-head and 2001 US Open Grand Slam final meetings. Venus won again against Serena in 2008 Wimbledon, and that’s it. The rest was Serena’s wins onward an impressive 23 titles, although both were ranked #1 in different times.

Simona Halep vs Serena Williams

Although criticised for targeting three sets when they should be playing five, Halep chose to end the match with just two sets against Williams. In 2015, it was a predicted rivalry, when Williams was already #1 and Halep, #3, that only happened in 2019.

Since 2011, they met 11 times head-to-head, but Halep won over just three of these matches. The 2015 Miami Open semifinals, where Williams prevailed over Halep in three sets, fueled the rivalry while earning the top seed’s respect of how she plays her game.

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NBA changes

How the NBA Has Changed Over the Past Decade

Other than the usual NBA team expansions and player turnover, new standards and rules are introduced from time to time. And much like how the three-point shot addition of the 1980s resulted in evolved team strategies, such periodic tweaks often lead to how each basketball game is played.

1) Centres no longer dominate the court

Big men dominated NBA seasons until 2010-2011 where there were only 13 giants on the court, from East and West. The majority of the players such as Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Love would spend most of their time on the perimeter if they were to play at all. While at it, they were the traditional centres. 

Indeed, the NBA is no longer the “big” man’s league it was 10 or so years ago. Nonetheless, the average height is at 6’7” and 220 lbs. And while there are still giants on the court these days, you can see more movements and actions including blocking shots and dunking from them than their counterparts a decade ago. 

2) Perimeter players are more crucial to a game

No position is more important than others. But the contributions of each are appreciated all the more today than in the 2000s or beyond. This is especially true today wherein each game is becoming more stringent than the last one. 

Nowadays, the rage revolves around being a guard or forward or assume the role whenever the need arises. Speaking of the perimeter, the handlers, jumpers, and shooters connive to dominate the court. This means centres can become shooters too, particularly those big men with the skills of a forward or guard.

Guards and forwards, of course, are expected to have decent defensive and offensive skills as well.

3) Three-point plays are taking over

The three-point shooting has come a long way since it was introduced. Today, a team recruit based on how a player makes plays and shoots balls. So stats such as field goal percentage and long-distance shooting accuracy and matter.

All 30 NBA teams have tremendously increased in their three-point attempts. In the 2017-2018 season, an average team has 28.98 attempts per game compared with that of in the 2007-2008 season with 18.04 attempts.

4) More possessions lead to bigger performances

The high volume of three-point attempts and makes result in two things: faster and more ball possessions and more triple-doubles league-wide.

Teams speed up their games deliberately to take advantage of three-point plays. Games are not only quicker; they have possessions 10x more on average. Furthermore, since a shot happens earlier in the shot clock compared with a close-to-the-basket shot, NBA teams and players alike had a higher chance of amping up their stats. 

More and more players–from Lebron James to Ben Simmons–accumulate more points, assists, rebounds, blocks and stills. As if the triple-doubles are not enough, they also break records – their own and that of the others. Milestones are reached on a nightly game basis. 

While it would be unfair for the NBA players to be compared by generations because of these changes, there is no denying how these tweaks have influenced all the teams’ game strategy. It all boils down to turning the tables and playing on what changed. Quite literally.

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NBA kawhi leonard 2

Player Feature: Kawhi Leonard

Full Name: Kawhi Anthony Leonard 

Birthdate: June 29, 1991

Birthplace: Los Angeles, California 

Current team: Los Angeles Clippers

Position: Small forward

Years active: 2011 – present

Key statistics

  • Known for his ball-hawking skills
  • A physical marvel with 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan
  • Has won both Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year
  • With six straight 30-point performance games
  • Won the semifinals against Philadelphia 76ers with a 4.2-second buzzer-beater
  • Scored 732 points and became the 3rd best scoring NBA player in history

Kawhi Leonard earned his moniker the “Claw” (or “Klaw” to denote the first letter of his name) because of his ball-hawking skills.

Sports Illustrated lauded Leonard’s strong work ethics as well as “physical marvel” with his 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan. All the more, he knows how to use this to his advantage for defensive and rebounding purposes. Screening and eluding him on the court would be difficult.

One weakness of Leonard, however, was his weak offensive capabilities during his first few seasons with San Antonio Spurs. Another concern was his shooting skills, especially outside. And which he addressed by training off-season with his former San Diego State University’s strength and conditioning coach, Randy Shelton.

Anything he knows about basketball he was able to demonstrate throughout his seven-season stint with the Spurs. In 2014, he brought an NBA championship and named the Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was technically the third youngest NBA player to win the said award; Magic Johnson held the first two positions. 

Leonard was also the 2014-2015 season’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was the third player to win both Finals MVP and this title, next to Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In the next three seasons, he set new records including back-to-back Defensive of the Year award, six straight 30-point performance games, Player of the Week for the fourth time, All-NBA First Team inclusion for two years straight, All-Defensive Team First Team award for three consecutive seasons, and career-high points game after game.

The 2017-2018 season was a controversial year for Leonard’s career. He only played 27 games due to a series of injuries (right quadriceps and left shoulder). Leonard was ruled out to pursue a right quadriceps tendinopathy rehabilitation procedure. 

The Spurs medical staff, on the other hand, gave him clearance to play. Leonard sought a second opinion, and the fallout among his management, teammates and him ensued. A players-only meeting was held in March, his teammates entreating him to start playing for the team. Leonard chose not to play any more game during the season.

In 2018-2019, Leonard was traded as per his request and became the key player of the Toronto Raptors. He led the team to its first-ever NBA championship with a 4.2-second buzzer-beater show–the first in NBA history. The small forward was also named the Finals MVP.

During the playoffs, he scored 732 points and became the third best-scoring player throughout NBA history. 

To date, Leonard has played 467 games with an average 30.8 minutes per game and 17.7 points per game. About 111 of these games were playoffs.

On July 20, 2019, he signed with Los Angeles Clippers. 

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