24 September 2014

FASHION: Ranking Serena's 18 Grand Slam winning outfits

I am no fashionista, so this is actually the first fashion related post I've ever done on my blog.

Serena Williams just captured her 18th grand slam title, and in each of those slams and the 38 other slams she's contest but not won she has always tried to look her best. She's rocked some of the most memorable tennis outfits in history!


But which of her 18 winning slam outfits was her best look overall, taking into count her dress (or bodysuit), hair and accessories? I thought it was my duty to offer my own views of Serena's best slams according to fashion!


Serena won her first slam at age 17 while she was a Puma girl (I miss those days!) and won her last at age 32 mere weeks ago. She's been with Nike since late 2003.


So here's my attempt to rank all Serena's slam winning outfits. Do you agree? Be sure to vote in the best and worst polls and add your comments below!


#18 - 2005 Australian Open (Slam #7)



  

I do like Serena in yellow, but this Nike kit was weird and I did not love Serena's reddish hair. What was that neck adornment meant to be? It looks like a jockstrap. And is that an apron in the front? What in the world Nike.


#17 - 2009 Wimbledon (Grand Slam #11)






This was just a boring dress. And the big blazer she wore over it did nothing for her. Dislike.


#16 - 2002 Wimbledon (Grand Slam #3)




Puma merely changed Serena's black French Open dress to white and I liked it less in white. Also think her roots were a bit overdue so a headband of some kind might have made the outfit less drab.


#15 - 2007 Australian Open (Grand Slam #8)




I know this is one of Serena's best slams but I always hated the lime dress and those huge earrings. The lines on the dress were unnecessary to me.


#14 - 2013 US Open (Grand Slam #17)




Serena's hair and makeup were top-notch at the 2013 US Open, and I love the shade of pink for the top half of Serena's dress but this awful skirt was just...awful. It was so short and flimsy so in the windy Ashe Stadium we saw more of her grey shorts than we did the skirt.


#13 - 2009 Australian Open (Grand Slam #10)




The blue really popped and I liked the yellow accents. I like Serena so much better with longer hair so looking at this look overall I can't really get into the shorter curls, but loved the heart necklace.


#12 - 2010 Australian Open (Grand Slam #12)




It's funny to look back to this pic, which is less than 5 years ago, and notice that Serena is so much fitter than she was before her health scares. I liked the gold color of this dress tho and thought it simple but nice. It helps that she wore this dress while ending the comeback hopes of Henin. Good times.


#11 - French Open 2003 (Grand Slam #2)




    
We just don't see Serena in black enough but I always loved this black and gold Puma dress. Still didn't care for her hair but this dress was fantastic.

#10 - 2003 Wimbledon (Grand Slam #6)




Puma didn't mix things up much for Serena for Wimbledon, as this outfit wasn't far off from her 2003 Australian Open attire. But that color combo still worked great and I loved the belt. The hoop earrings were big but complemented the outfit well.



#9 - 2014 US Open (Grand Slam #18)





This leopard print dress grew on me, but definitely liked it better in the white she won her 18th slam in. The pink accessories were perfect (need to find me some of those wristbands). I'd be happy if she changed her hair as the frizzy blonde is the only thing I didn't like about her most recent slam look.


#8 - 2008 US Open (Grand Slam #9)





Serena in red. This shade of red just popped and just seeing it reminds me of the sheer joy when Serena beat Jankovic to win this title. I wish the headband wasn't quite so thick but otherwise this was a winner.


#7 - 1999 US Open (Grand Slam #1)




The only Serena slam with beads. I loved this Puma dress - the light yellow, the length of the dress was great. I thought the big gold necklace was a bit much but overall this was a great look for the 17-year old.


#6 - Wimbledon 2012 (Grand Slam #14)







I loved the purple accessories and thought this was her second-best Wimbledon look. The v-neck cut was cute and again just loved the 2012 summer hair Serena was rocking.

#5 - 2013 US Open (Grand Slam #15)




This was great dress, and she wore a pink version for the day matches but I liked this better. The dark blue and yellow went great together and I loved the big hair she was rocking in 2012).


#4- 2002 US Open (Grand Slam #4)




The Catsuit. Puma you are so missed. This was actually my first live Serena - and wow.  What can you say about this outfit? It was AMAZING. Loved the light link headband which is in this pic is hiding Serena's long blonde locks.


#3 - 2003 Australian Open (Grand Slam #5)




I loved the bright orange and white Puma had for Serena in Melbourne when she achieved the Serena Slam. Her jewelry was simple and thought her hair with the white headband kept the whole look very clean. The glittery strap was a great touch and loved the orange belt.


#2 - 2013 French Open (Grand Slam #16)




Who would have thought navy blue and a tangerine orange would look so good? This was such a great "Sweet 16" dress for Serena. And the hair was rocking!


#1 - 2010 Wimbledon (Grand Slam #13)



  

My top dress is Serena's best Wimbledon look ever for me, and she coined this outfit "strawberries and cream." I loved the cute ruffles around the skirt and her hair looked great with the tiny headband keeping her naturally darker hair in place. Just loved this and even didn't hate the little warm-up jacket she wore over it. She even rocked red shorts under the dress. Perfection.


So what's your vote? What is Serena's best and worst Grand Slam winning outfits?


19 September 2014

Thanks Li Na

Li Na - 2012 Cincy
Oh what a sad time for the tennis world on the heels of Li Na's announcement that she is retiring from tennis.

The Chinese woman achieved so many firsts not just in women's tennis, but tennis in general, and she was a groundbreaker in so many ways. I was lucky to witness a few of her milestones in person, including her run at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and her first grand slam final at the 2011 Australian Open. How amazing it has been to watch the surge in her tennis as well as her popularity both in China and globally.

Li Na, Eastbourne 2013
I lived in Beijing, China for two years from 1999-2001 and tennis was not even remotely a sport that got much attention. At that time, badminton, ping pong and women's soccer had all the attention in the Chinese sports world, and I was thrilled anytime Hong Kong's Star Sports had any tennis coverage.

I worked for the China Daily newspaper for part of my time in Beijing, and anytime tennis made the cut for coverage I was delighted, but the news was never about any Chinese players. I can't remember hearing about any tennis tourneys that took place anywhere in China at the time, and couldn't have named a Chinese player back then.

Fast forward seven years to 2008, when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics and things had changed so much, so quickly. Li Na was one of four Chinese women in the singles draw (the others were Peng Shuai, Zheng Jie and Yan Zi) and was ranked #42 in the world at the time. I was so keen to see how the Chinese ladies would do in their home country and was lucky enough to attend many days of tennis.

Zheng Jie made it to the third round, Peng Shaui won a round and Yan Zi lost in the first round, but would partner with Zheng Jie to take bronze in the doubles.

Li Na arriving to face Venus Williams - 2008 Beijing Olympics
But Li Na....she would make a run to the semifinals and was part of the two of the most memorable matches I saw at the Olympics. She had ousted #3 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round and had advanced to the quarterfinal stage to face Venus Williams, who was the 7th seed and had just won her 5th Wimbledon.

I thought Venus had a great shot to advance to the medal rounds but in a great, great match, Li Na would thrill the locals and upset Venus 7-5, 7-5.  This was a tense match, as the Chinese fans just didn't understand tennis etiquette. They didn't know they needed to be so quiet, or not shout out often during points or not use their phones during play. Li Na got annoyed with the crowd during this match and at one point stared down a fan who called a ball out during a rally. Here's my recap of that match and others that day.

In the semifinals, Li Na faced 6th seed Dinara Safina and one of the tensest tennis matches I'd ever seen. I blogged about it here and won't repeat all the details but it was so tense I actually left after the first set to go watch Venus and Serena contest a doubles match.

At the time, I actually felt happy that Li Na went onto lose that match to Safina because I was so irate at the Chinese crowd. I have never seen a player's coach stand up and scream at the chair umpire to do something about the crowd other than at Davis Cup. I mean, Safina was getting booed and laughed at constantly in that first set for fist pumping a point or catching a ball toss. Oof. But tennis wasn't a common sport there - I'm sure most of the Chinese fans in attendance had never watched live tennis before.

A few years later, in early 2010, I was living in Auckland, New Zealand and Li Na was competing in the ASB Classic. I was excited to see her again and at the time she was ranked at No. 15 in the world. Sadly, Li Na lost in the first round quite badly to Kaia Kanepi, but after she lost she did what many people do when they visit New Zealand - she bungy jumped!

Check out the video below:



At the time, I worked for Tourism New Zealand as the PR Manager for Asian markets. Once we got wind that Li Na did the bungy jump we got photos from the company and had our Chinese PR agency send them to Chinese media outlets. That photo ended up being published EVERYWHERE. I couldn't believe how much interest there was in the photo and it really hit me how much of a star she was back in China. How quickly things changed!

Li Na pre-bungy jump in Auckland. Photo: WTA
After she left Auckland, Li Na would again defeat Venus Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals (7-5 in the third set), and put a scare into Serena in their semifinal clash. Serena battled hard and would win in two tiebreakers and go on to win her 5th Aussie Open in the final. (See highlights here). After her run in Melbourne, Li Na broke into the top 10 for the first time.

The Australian Open would be the place of Li Na's best grand slam successes and the next year she'd make the first of her three finals at the Aussie Open. In the 2011 semifinals, she fought off a match point against then No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and ended up coming back from a set and break down to make the final. The crowd LOVED her and we got to witness her memorable on-court interview when she talked about feeling tired due to her husband's snoring. Her jokes, her laughter, it was just a joy to witness and hear the crowd so warmly embrace her. Sadly (for me anyway), she would lose the final to Kim Clijsters after leading by a set but of course she'd win the French Open months later to become the first Chinese player to win a grand slam. (I wrote about the 2011 AO final here.)

Here's her hilarious semifinal presser:



The 2011 Aussie Open final would be the first of four slam finals, and it's fitting that she won her second slam at the "Grand Slam of Asia-Pacific." Tennis in Asia is now booming and especially on the women's side it would just not be possible without Li Na. It's sad that she will be unable to play in the inaugural Wuhan Open which starts next week in her hometown. I will have my tissues ready for the tribute the WTA is planning to hold the next week in Beijing.

The tributes to Li Na, her career and contributions to the sport are flooding in and her letter announcing her retirement is well worth a read. And I loved this post by SI featuring some of the best Li Na quotes from her career.

Others will say it more poignantly that I can, but thank you Li Na for being a trailblazer, a true individual, a joy on the court, a comedian, a fighter and a strong woman.

You will be missed.

Xie xie nin.

13 September 2014

2014 US Open - around the grounds

Just a few photos from around the grounds at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center!

Love walking over the boardwalk from the subway station:







The area around Arthur Ashe Stadium includes a popular fountain area and the big Nike store plus tourney shops:















The practice court area has been redone, and now includes a raised viewing gallery plus screens with practice schedules on them:






Courts 4, 5 and 6 have also been redone:



Ashe Stadium:


The view toward the Unisphere is always special, whether day or night:



Be sure to splurge on the Honey Deuce in its souvenir glass:


If you're lucky enough to be credentialed, here's the main interview room:


11 September 2014

Photo spam - US Open 2014 Qualifying Tournament

I am not a photographer in any way, and I only use my iPhone 4S to take pics, but here are some of my 'best' pics from my time at the 2014 US Open Qualifying Tournament:

Anastasia Rodionova always has thoughts to share

Mackenzie McDonald, from UCLA

Ricardas Berankis

Ula Radwanska

Yulia Putinseva

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

Putinseva again - she's great to photograph