Serena’s incredible runs show there’s no need to worry about her
Venus Williams wins in straight sets, but Serena and the sport are in a good place
7:47 AMVenus Williams beat Serena Williams in straight sets on Monday night, ending her sister’s incredible run at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California.
And women’s tennis should breathe a sigh of relief.
Let’s be clear: This is in no way throwing shade on the return of Serena Williams. What she’s been able to do this past week, with straight-sets wins over the Nos. 53 and 29 players in the world, is nothing short of incredible for a player in her first competitive tournament singles match in 14 months after enduring a difficult childbirth last September.
The straight-sets win by Venus Williams (6-3, 6-4) is good for the game, because what would it have said about the state of women’s tennis if a player had taken that long of a break and come back to reach the fourth round of a top tournament with three straight wins, including a victory over a top-10 player?
Venus, the No. 8 player in the world, won for just the second time in 10 meetings against her sister (Serena holds a 17-12 edge in head-to-head matches). The sisters played a solid match with some drama in the second set when Venus, seemingly on the way to an easy win, had to fight off a furious attempted comeback by her sister.
We don’t have to worry about Serena. She moved well in chasing down balls, showed a lot of heart and drove the ball with the same fire and fury that has led her to 23 career Grand Slam singles titles.
A month ago you would have thought Serena would be lucky if she could get back to Grand Slam form next year. Today, you can actually see her being ready to take on all comers and compete for a major by the time the US Open rolls around in August — or maybe even sooner.
Monday’s third-round match was the earliest between the Williams sisters since 1998, when they met in the second round of the Australian Open. Venus won in straight sets in what was the first meeting between the two in a professional match.
Venus won on Monday. Serena was competitive in defeat and has to feel she’s in a good place after playing three rounds in a tournament she entered with low expectations.
And women’s tennis? Women’s tennis is in a good place too.
From E:60: The improbable rise and uncertain future of Isaiah Thomas
The brand-new member of the Lakers talks about what comes next in his far-flung path through the NBA
8:34 AMMost people didn’t start hearing about Isaiah Thomas, picked dead last in the 2011 NBA draft, until the 2015–16 season. Despite his lack of size, the 5-foot-9 guard earned a starting role with the Celtics and then a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The next season he averaged 28.9 points a game, just shy of the single-season franchise record held by the legendary Larry Bird. Thomas stole the hearts of Boston sports fans and led the Celtics to the playoffs.
But just before the start of the first round, tragedy struck: Thomas was told by a teammate that his sister had been killed in a car accident. Thomas describes that day to E:60’s Ryan Smith and his decision to play Game 1 of the playoffs just hours later. Through the next two rounds, Thomas led the Celtics on a magical run until an injury sidelined him during the conference finals.
Thomas had become the face of the Celtics, and he considered Boston home. But with one year left on his contract, Thomas was unexpectedly dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster trade for Kyrie Irving. Unable to jell on the court with LeBron James and his new teammates, Thomas was traded again — this time to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that sparked his hoop dreams as a kid and with whom he hopes to keep writing his NBA success story.
Thomas also opens up about his life’s journey, beginning with his childhood love of the Lakers and being shipped off to a prep school in the middle of nowhere to his time with the Celtics and the pain of losing his sister. Thomas also reveals his thoughts on his trade to Cleveland, his former teammate James, why he thinks the Cavaliers dealt him so quickly and what he hopes the future holds for him in L.A.
‘Black Panther’ dominance: ‘A movie can’t get to $1 billion globally without tapping into some universal truths’
The superhero epic bests even ‘The Dark Knight’
12:47 PMAs of today, Marvel’s Black Panther has crossed the billion-dollar box office mark globally. The film is the 16th Walt Disney Studios film to reach this milestone — and it did so in less than a month — and it’s only the fifth Marvel film to achieve this accolade. Other films that have earned this amount include The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther continues to impress financially, as it also is now the No. 9 release of all time, and after this weekend it will be the No. 2 superhero release of all time, besting The Dark Knight, which earned $535 million domestically. Black Panther has already claimed the No. 1 February debut, among other achievements, and it’s one of only four films to surpass the $100M mark in its second weekend.
“This is the first time that a movie has opened in February and made $1 billion globally,” said Phil Contrino, the director of media and research for the National Association of Theatre Owners. “The notion that moviegoers will only come out in droves during the summer and the holiday season is now officially dead. Compelling content will play well at any point in the year.”
Overseas, Black Panther will shoot past the $500M mark this weekend, after its Friday opening in the last market for the film to open in, China, where it grabbed a first-day estimate of $22M. That the film has been able to excel, and break down long-held theories that films with largely black casts don’t sell in overseas markets, is remarkable.
“A movie can’t get to $1 billion globally without tapping into some universal truths. Black Panther’s emphasis on the importance of family and identity helped it transcend race, and that’s why it’s had no problem playing so well around the world,” Contrino said. “Audiences are sending a clear message that they want to see more diversity on the big screen. I really hope that five years from now we can look back at Black Panther as the moment that permanent change began.”
Serena displays stretches of power and precision
‘It’s incredible,’ she said of her return to competitive singles
11:19 AMThere was a loud roar as Serena Williams walked onto the main stadium court at the BNP Paribas Open, wearing a bulky black jacket and black tights. As her match against Zarina Diyas was about to begin, Williams shed her outerwear to reveal two arm sleeves, an early indicator that the visual gun show that usually intimidates opponents would not be on display.
For a moment, the best women’s player in the history of tennis displayed rare vulnerability.
For half a set, Williams appeared tight.
But in her first competitive singles match in more than a year, Williams eventually settled into a comfort zone on the way to a satisfying 7-5, 6-3 win over Diyas to advance to the second round of the tournament.
To say Williams is back would be a rush to judgment for the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, who was playing her first competitive singles match since winning the 2017 Australian Open title last January.
But she’s a lot further along than anyone who saw her play Fed Cup doubles a month ago could have anticipated.
Williams was sluggish then, surviving conditioning that was not ready for prime time as she played alongside her sister Venus.
From that doubles match, you might have pegged Williams’ return to Grand Slam form sometime next year.
Based on the promise she showed on Thursday night, that timeline might have to be adjusted.
Thursday we gave you a few things to watch in Williams’ return. Here’s how she did:
Her lateral movement was surprisingly good.
Her stamina appeared to get better as the match progressed, and she won several long points.
Her inner drive was on display as she had to dig deep and fight fatigue on a few occasions. There were several rough stretches early in the first set where you might have thought that it would be easier for Williams to ease out of the match quietly and begin focus on her next tournament.
But she recovered from those moments to display stretches of power and precision that left you thinking that she might be back to competitive form later this year.
Her focus was solid as Williams, with the exception of a few displays of emotion, maintained her cool for much of the night.
“It was incredible,” Williams said during her post-match interview. “It’s been over a year, and a kid later.”
Next up for Williams: a Saturday match against Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, the No. 29 player in the world.
‘The Boondocks’ returns — as a video game
‘Inappropriate negro humor is serious stuff’
The characters of The Boondocks, legendary for breaking barriers and pushing boundaries, spent the past two decades carving out a decidedly young, urban and black space in the mostly white worlds of syndicated comic strips and late night television. Created by Aaron McGruder, the characters of Huey Freeman, Riley Freeman, Grandpa and the other residents of Woodcrest became almost instant icons, defining the attitude and aesthetic of a generation. After the show ended in 2014, fans wanted to know what was next.
And on Thursday, McGruder took to Facebook to announce the next iteration of the Boondocks brand: a video game. Fresh for ’18 … you suckas!
Cryptically teasing an app-based experience, McGruder only promises “a bizarre political satire that is largely about race and inappropriate for children.” Considering this is the same crew that scripted the most blasphemous version of Dr. King possible, the possibilities here are endless.
If McGruder, John Imah and DJ Pooh learned from the mistakes of Bandai and allow you to actually play as one or all of the title characters, each possible selection points to a dramatically different game.
Longtime fans of the strip will remember how much time Huey and Caesar spent absorbing the messages blaring out from the TV. Considering how much can be ripped from the headlines, a game where the boys jump through the TV to deliver their trademark anime-style beatdowns would be cathartic.
And of course, if McGruder is envisioning Trump as a properly vitiligoed Uncle Ruckus, a game based on President Ruckus could reach unknown levels of foolishness. Is Tom DuBois his veep? How would Uncle Ruckus handle North Korea? Is Ronald Reagan going to send him proclamations from White Heaven? Or maybe it’s even darker? Could it be a McCarthyist sendup in the style of the epic “Thank You for Not Snitching” episode?
If Riley Freeman’s letters to the president are anything like his letters to Santa, a State of Emergency-style brawler set in the nation’s capital would be amazing. Based on the updated cover photo featuring Grandpa’s pootie-tang-like belt, Sarah DuBois with a crossbow and Tom DuBois clutching a makeshift shield with the anarchy symbol on the front, clearly things are getting too real in Woodcrest.
The only one who knows how the game will shape up is McGruder, and we will all have to wait a little longer to see what jumps out of his mind this time.
Michael Bennett couldn’t have landed in a better spot
He joins Eagles players who have been active in trying to make a difference in their communities
5:44 PMIn a major NFL move Wednesday, the Seattle Seahawks traded veteran defensive end Michael Bennett to the Philadelphia Eagles, and the on-field implications are clear: Seattle signaled that its championship window has closed with this iteration of its roster, and the reigning Super Bowl winner has gone all in to defend its first Super Bowl title.
The productive Bennett, 32, just completed his ninth season, finishing with 8.5 sacks and 40 tackles. For the third time in the past four seasons, the three-time Pro Bowler started every game. The Eagles, who cannot officially announce the trade until the league year begins on March 14, are counting on Bennett to deliver consistently off the edge again as they try to repeat.
That’s the football stuff. Now, here’s the rest of the story: The most socially conscious team in the NFL just got more socially conscious.
A leader in sports’ new civil rights movement, Bennett has been at the forefront of demonstrations during the national anthem to shine a light on racial injustice. Through his foundation, Bennett — whose brother, tight end Martellus, was just released by the New England Patriots — works to fight obesity and educate children in the United States, Ghana and Senegal.
With his outlook on the world, Bennett couldn’t have landed in a better spot. His first tweet since the trade was about jailed rapper Meek Mill.
🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🎟🏅🏅🏅🏅 free meek mill pic.twitter.com/RgpOme044m
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) March 7, 2018
Many Eagles players also have been active in trying to make a difference in their communities. And safety Malcolm Jenkins, defensive end Chris Long and wide receiver Torrey Smith, through their work with the Players Coalition, the main group of players who protested during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” have been as active as Bennett in trying to effect positive social change. Don’t be surprised if Bennett teams with his new teammates on some major projects.
Barring injury, Bennett should bolster the Eagles as they attempt to make another championship run. On the field, he’s exactly the type of player they need. And off it, Bennett figures to still deliver.