Wil­liams cruises, sets up fi­nal vs. Halep

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Sam Farmer

WIM­BLE­DON, Eng­land — The op­po­nents of Ser­ena Wil­liams and Si­mona Halep didn’t of­fer much re­sis­tance Thurs­day in their women’s semi­fi­nal matches. The foes won a com­bined seven games. That’s run-the-table ten­nis for Wil­liams and Halep — in a Grand Slam semi­fi­nal, no less — and proof that it’s the two best play­ers at the mo­ment who will meet in Satur­day’s fi­nal. Barbora Strycova and Elina Svi­tolina didn’t stand a chance.

Halep routed Svi­tolina 6-1, 6-3, fol­lowed by Wil­liams brush­ing aside Strycova 6-1, 6-2 in a breezy 59 min­utes.

Wil­liams, who lost in last year’s fi­nal, has won 23 ma­jor cham­pi­onships and needs one more to match the all-time record set by Mar­garet Court.

“It’s re­ally not about 24 or 23 or 25,” Wil­liams said. “It’s re­ally just about go­ing out there and giv­ing my best ef­fort no mat­ter what. No mat­ter what I do, I will al­ways have a great ca­reer.”

Wil­liams is the old­est woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam fi­nal, at 37 years and 290 days. Martina Navratilov­a set the record by reach­ing a slam fi­nal at 37 years, 258 days.

“Tech­nol­ogy has re­ally changed; that’s the only rea­son I’m able to com­pete,” Wil­liams said. “I feel like if we had this tech­nol­ogy 20 years ago, maybe Michael Jor­dan would still be play­ing bas­ket­ball. I just feel like we know so much more about our bod­ies.

“Things I do dif­fer­ent now than when I first was on tour, it’s length­en­ing my ca­reer. It’s not just me, it’s Roger (Fed­erer), Tom Brady, Pey­ton (Man­ning) played for­ever. There are so many ath­letes now that are able to do bet­ter and play longer, even play some of their best way af­ter their 30s.

“Those ath­letes, Tiger (Woods) ob­vi­ously, what he did at the Masters, was on top of my mind. Those ath­letes are in­cred­i­bly in­spir­ing. That’s one thing that keeps me

mov­ing for­ward.”

Wil­liams has won her last 11 Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nal matches. She hasn’t lost one since falling to her sis­ter, Venus, in 2000.

That said, it has been far from a smooth ride for Wil­liams of late. Ill­ness and in­jury cur­tailed her play this year, and she was lim­ited to 12 matches head­ing into Wim­ble­don. Last month, she stayed in France for med­i­cal treat­ment af­ter a third-round loss at the French Open.

“I’m just now start­ing to use my legs again,” said Wil­liams, who leads the tour­na­ment with 45 aces. “Well, two weeks ago in the tour­na­ment. Then I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I for­got about my serve.’ It was kind of back. It felt good.

“It’s re­ally just about re­dis­cov­er­ing my tech­nique on my serve, how I use my body, how I use ev­ery part of it, just re­ally know that I can still im­prove.”

With sur­pris­ing ease and brevity, An­gelique Ker­ber dis­patched Wil­liams in last year’s fi­nal, 6-3, 6-3.

“I just re­mem­ber I was tired and Angie played un­be­liev­able,” said Wil­liams, who was re­cov­er­ing from a dif­fi­cult child­birth at the time. “I ac­tu­ally was sad but I was also proud of my­self. There was noth­ing I could do in that match. I did ev­ery­thing I could. Phys­i­cally I just wasn’t there.”

Halep, the 2018 French Open cham­pion who ended last year as the world No. 1 for the sec­ond time in her ca­reer, is 1-9 against Wil­liams life­time and has lost their last five meet­ings.

Still, Halep is con­fi­dent this year will be dif­fer­ent.

“I have played many matches against her. Many of them were very close,” she said.

“I have learned that I have a chance. Now I believe that I have my chance to win against her. Of course, I re­spect what she has done and what she’s do­ing. But now I feel stronger men­tally fac­ing her. We will see what is go­ing to happen. It’s just a big chal­lenge for me.”

It has been a long road for for­mer Fresno State wide re­ceiver Brian Burt. He doesn’t mind it if it means get­ting an op­por­tu­nity in the NFL.

Burt, listed at 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, did well in an Oak­land Raiders try­out and earned a spot at Raiders train­ing camp in Napa on July 26, try­ing to earn his way on the 53-man ros­ter.

“I’m go­ing to do what I’ve al­ways done and just fight,” he said. “Train­ing camp is just go­ing to be fun. Play foot­ball and com­pete and do all the stuff with pads and sep­a­rate the men from the boys. I can­not wait to keep learn­ing from AB (An­to­nio Brown), Tyrell (Wil­liams) and all of the good re­ceivers and just build to­gether.”

The jour­ney started for Burt when he com­peted foot­ball and track and field at East­mont High in East We­natchee, Wash.

He was an all-around track stand­out, com­pet­ing in the 100, 200, high jump, long jump, triple jump and 400 and 1,600 re­lay teams. His speed helped him get a track schol­ar­ship to Lane Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Eu­gene, Ore., where in 2015 he ran the 100 and 400 re­lay.

But Lane didn’t have foot­ball and Burt trans­ferred to Mesa Col­lege in Ari­zona, where be­gan to concentrat­e on the game. He trans­ferred from there to Ven­tura Col­lege, coached by for­mer Fresno State as­sis­tant/Fresno City Col­lege coach Steve Moosha­gian.

Moosha­gian switched Burt to run­ning back. As a sopho­more,

The Lodi Mo­tor­cy­cle Club will hold its in­au­gu­ral Russ Brown Golden State Flat Track TT Cham­pi­onship at the Lodi Cycle Bowl on Satur­day, with top rid­ers vy­ing for a $5,000 purse.

The event will pair rid­ers run­ning heats and semi­fi­nals un­til 12 rid­ers re­main for the cham­pi­onship.

This race will run along with the AMA Dis­trict 36 rac­ing pro­gram from the 50cc mini bikes up to the Open Pro class.

Gates open at 1 p.m., prac­tice be­gins at 2:30 and rac­ing will start at 4 p.m. Burt ap­peared in 11 games and rushed 87 times for 563 yards and four touch­downs and added 14 re­cep­tions for 212 yards and a pair of re­ceiv­ing touch­downs.

Burt trans­ferred to Fresno State and played spar­ingly, ap­pear­ing in one game in 2016 and six last sea­son, with just 24 to­tal yards.

No mat­ter, Moosha­gian said. “He has a hum­ble chip on his shoul­der,” the coach said. “We gave him an op­por­tu­nity to play tail­back and we would go to the empty sets and he would play re­ceiver. He started evolv­ing as a re­ceiver. There were still some learn­ing curves for him and the fact he was learn­ing a new of­fense was a big thing.”

Burt so­lid­i­fied his po­ten­tial in front of NFL scouts at Fresno State Pro Day.

He ran the 40-yard sprint in 4.31 sec­onds. Burt said he didn’t want to give up on foot­ball.

“I could’ve eas­ily given up at Fresno State,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to do and this is what God wanted me to do. You get to play foot­ball on the big­gest stage. I’m just a fighter. I love foot­ball.”

He’ll get an op­por­tu­nity at train­ing camp when “Hard Knocks” is there to film the Raiders for HBO.

On July 23, rook­ies re­port to the team’s train­ing camp fa­cil­ity at the Napa Val­ley Mar­riott. Burt said he’s ready.

“I’m a fighter and I’m a grinder,” he said. “I’ve been like that my whole life. I made it this far. I’m blessed and hum­ble and I’m go­ing to keep work­ing and I prom­ise you I’ll be a prob­lem in the NFL”

CLIVE BRUN­SKILL/GETTY IMAGES/TNS

Ser­ena Wil­liams cel­e­brates vic­tory in her Ladies’ Sin­gles semi-fi­nal match against Barbora Strycova on Thurs­day in Lon­don, Eng­land.

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