Buzz rally past Serena, Kastles

>Five days and thousands of miles removed from the Wimbledon final on the Centre Court grass, Serena
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Five days and thousands of miles removed from the Wimbledon final on the Centre Court grass, Serena Williams was smacking tennis balls inside the brick walls of the Washington Avenue Armory on Wednesday night.

From a historic palace of tennis, to an old fortress-like gym hard by a bus-stop shelter.

That’s the way it goes, and goes, for the No. 5-ranked woman in the world.

She repeated the word “going” five times in succession to describe her activity after losing to her sister, Venus, in the women’s singles championship match at the All-England Club in London on Saturday.

It’s hectic, but then, this type of schedule doesn’t afford any time to simmer over a gut-wrenching loss to Venus, who has fewer Grand Slam singles titles than her sister, but more Wimbledons.

Not that the 26-year-old Serena Williams would dwell on a finals loss, especially one against her older sister, anyway.

It’s always on to the next thing, and on Wednesday, that meant a World TeamTennis match with the Washington Kastles against the New York Buzz, who won, 22-21.

“We don’t really talk about tennis too much, myself and Venus,” Serena said. “We’ve just been going. We haven’t even had time to stop and think, and we never really think about it, anyway. We’re going to leave that for when we retire. We’ll have plenty of time to think about it.”

This is Williams’ second WTT stint, and second appearance in the Capital Region.

She played for the Delaware Smash in front of a sold-out crowd in Schenectady’s Central Park in 2000, and was scheduled to play last year, but bowed out due to injuries.

On Wednesday, she seemed fresh despite a travel schedule that included a stop at her home in Paris and a home match in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night. She claimed to have been “a little rusty” in that match, although she won seven of 10 games against Marie-Eve Pelletier.

Against the Buzz, she won her singles set over No. 115 Yaroslava Shvedova, 5-4, and teamed with Mashona Washington for a 5-4 doubles win over Shvedova and Gabriela Navratilova.

There was nary a seat to be had in the once-again sweltering Armory, and half the crowd of 2,150 filed out after the fourth set — when Will­iams was done for the night — a 5-4 Buzz win by Shvedova and Nathan Healey over Williams and Justin Gimelstob.

After just 500 showed up for New York’s home opener on Sunday, the presence of a two-time Wimbledon champ and eight-time Grand Slam winner made the packed, sweaty gym the place to be on Wednesday.

“How lucky can you be to have this?” said 59-year-old Jeff Levine of Chestertown, who works in Albany as a financial consultant. He was referring to the opportunity to hit balls with Williams during intermission, but really could have been speaking for everyone there.

Williams’ play was spotty, but she showed some of the power and expertise that have made her one of the best in the world, especially on her serve.

She and Shvedova, who have never faced each other in tourn­ament play, swapped double-fault service breaks early in the set, and Shvedova had leads of 3-2 and 4-3

before Williams got her serve

going, with back-to-back aces in a 4-1 win to tie the set at 4-4.

Williams attacked Shvedova’s serve with huge returns that put her ahead, 4-2, and she closed out the set with a crippling serve that left

Shvedova stretched out on the return, which Williams played back deep and Shvedova couldn’t handle.

“I played alright,” Williams said. “I served well, and that always helps.”

“When it’s against good players, I always play better,” Shvedova said. “I concentrate so much and play better, and today, I played very good. If I had a serve, I think I would have won.”

The Kastles led throughout, until Healey beat Gimelstob in the final set, 5-2, to tie it at 21-21, then Healey won the supertiebreaker, 7-4, to push the Buzz’s record to 4-1.

A week of WTT is supposed to serve a dual purpose for Williams, giving her some time to have fun while keeping her game at a peak level, something she hasn’t been able to maintain through a variety of injuries in recent years.

“This year, I’m kind of looking at it as a way of staying sharp,” she said. “I think it’ll help me, especially with having the Olympics this year, you definitely want to keep playing and stay match-fit.

“I’m excited about going to

Beijing. I mean, I really want to get there, and I want to do well there. And I plan on doing well there, and enjoying the moment. I’m just getting better and better as the weeks go on and on, and hopefully, I can win a Grand Slam this year.”

Williams, an Olympic doubles gold medalist with Venus in 2000, believes that, despite losing, Wimbledon will serve to keep her

momentum going this season.

“I feel like it was just really

intense,” Williams said. “Honestly, I haven’t had much time to look back at it, because I’ve just been going, going, going, going, going, so … yeah, I haven’t really had the time.

“It was a grueling two weeks, but I feel good, I feel fit, I feel better than I’ve felt after so many matches, I think, ever.”

Gimelstob ads dropped

Gimelstob’s sexist comments on a radio show have gotten him in trouble again.

Television commercials featuring Gimelstob promoting the U.S. Open Series are being scrapped by the U.S. Tennis Association because of what he said about Anna Kournikova and other women last month.

“Justin Gimelstob’s recent comments on a Washington, D.C., radio

program were derogatory and demeaning to female tennis players and to women in general,” the USTA said in a statement released to The Associated Press.

“As a result of his remarks, the USTA is discontinuing its planned use of Justin Gimelstob in the 2008 Olympus U.S. Open Series televis­ion ad campaign.”

New York Buzz 22,

Washington Kastles 21 (OT)

Men’s doubles: Justin Gimelstob/Scott Oudsema (W) def. Nathan Healey/Patrick Briaud, 5-3. Women’s doubles: Serena Williams/Mashona Washington (W) def. Yaroslava Shvedova/Gabriela Navratilova, 5-4. Women’s singles: Williams (W) def. Shvedova, 5-4. Mixed doubles: Healey/

Shvedova (NY) def. Gimelstob/Williams, 5-4. Men’s singles: Healey (NY) def. Gimelstob, 5-2. Supertiebreaker: Healey (NY) def. Gimelstob, 7-4.

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