Unseeded American Sloane Stephens wins US Open for first major title

This was only the seventh time in the Open Era, and the second time at the US Open, that two first-time finalists have faced off in a grand slam final. This also was the first all-American US Open final since 2002, when Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams. Stephens is the first American woman other than the Williams sisters to win a grand slam title in 15 years
None of this looked possible earlier this summer.
Stephens, who had been sidelined for 11 months after a foot injury and underwent surgery in January, made her comeback at Wimbledon and entered this summer’s US Open Series ranked 957th. But she’s been on a tear in the North American events, reaching the semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
“I had surgery January 23,” Stephens said. “If someone told me then that I’d win the US Open, ‘It’s impossible,’ I would say. ‘It’s absolutely impossible.’ My journey to get here, coming back, just being able to keep it all together and have such a great team behind me — this journey’s been incredible. And I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.”
With the win, Stephens is projected to rise to No. 17. She also nets a hefty payday: $3.7 million. Her career earnings heading into this tournament were $4,519,709, with $310,546 coming this year.
“That’s a lot of money,” a visibly surprised Stephens said, as Keys jokingly tried to take the check.
Keys, 22, is projected to move up to No. 12 by reaching the final.
“Sloane is truly one of my favorite people, and to get to play her was really special,” Keys said. “Obviously, I didn’t play my best tennis today and was disappointed, but Sloane, being the great friend that she was, was very supportive. If there’s someone I have to lose to today, I’m glad it’s her.”
An improbable run
Stephens, who started playing tennis at age 9, comes from an athletic family. Her mother, Smith, is a former collegiate swimmer at Boston University. Her late father, John Stephens, was an NFL running back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Stephens made her breakthrough in 2013 when she defeated Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open semifinal. She would go on to lose to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.
Her first singles title was in 2015 in Washington. She added three more titles in 2016.
The potential has been there for her to win a grand slam, but what she’s done this summer, considering the circumstances with her previous injury, is shocking.
Heading into Saturday’s final, Stephens had won 14 of her last 16 matches, including defeating No. 9 Venus Williams in the semifinal. She’s one of three players who have never held the No. 1 ranking who have beaten both Williams sisters in grand slam events.

Stoke 2-2 Manchester United: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scores twice

Stoke 2-2 Man Utd
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Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored twice as Stoke ended Manchester United’s perfect start to the season with a 2-2 draw at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Summer signing Choupo-Moting put the hosts ahead in the 43rd minute, only for United to reply before the break as Paul Pogba’s header deflected in off Marcus Rashford.

Romelu Lukaku fired United in front in the second half, but Choupo-Moting levelled from a corner in the 63rd minute and Lukaku spurned the best chance for a winner when he swiped a shot over from close range with ten minutes to go.

Tim Duncan pledges to match $1 million for U.S. Virgin Islands relief

Former San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan has never been one to say much, but there was something important he wanted to publicly address — and request — on Friday evening.

Help for his hometown in need.

The U.S. Virgin Islands suffered severe damage due to Hurricane Irma and is bracing for another Category 5 storm, Hurricane Jose, that weather reports say is close behind. Duncan, who grew up in the Virgin Islands before moving to the United States for college in 1993, mentions in The Player’s Tribune he has already donated $250,000 and pledges to match “donations up to the first $1 million.”

I know not everyone can give, and that’s O.K. — after all, a lot of you just got done giving financial support to the victims of Hurricane Harvey and the fires on the West Coast. But if you’re able, here’s what I can promise: Every dollar donated will go directly to relief efforts on the ground. Starting as soon as the weather permits, I’ll be chartering an airplane full of supplies from San Antonio to St. Croix, the biggest town in the Virgin Islands. And I’m already busy putting together a team — some from the Virgin Islands and some who will fly in from elsewhere — to help manage the relief effort.

Deaths have been reported and properties have been destroyed due to the massive hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Duncan asks that donations be made here.Duncan1440-368x207

new hall of famer!

The skinny on jersey numbers — Did you know that not every member of the Basketball Hall of Fame has his jersey retired? The latest player to be inducted into the Hall, and this group, is Tracy McGrady. He starred mostly with the Rockets and Magic and yet his No. 1 doesn’t hang in the ceiling of either team’s arena. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com examined the art of the retired jersey and T-Mac’s role — or lack thereof — in the process:mcgrady_tracy_g_mp_64011

Is it the classic Orlando No. 1 in which he won two scoring titles and established the backboard self alley-oop?

Or is it the red No. 1 on white, the one he wore with the Rockets when he poured in an epic 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs back in 2004?

It’s not an easy answer. And that might be part of the reason that McGrady — for all his other-worldly talents — may find himself in a unique group of NBA legends: in the Hall, but somehow not in the rafters.

It’s looking like McGrady, despite entering the Naismith Hall of Fame on Friday, will not have his jersey retired by either the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic or any of the seven franchises he played for.

“Tracy has been one of my favorite Rockets during my ownership and one of the greatest players in NBA history,” said longtime Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “I’m incredibly proud of Tracy’s well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame.”

But what about retiring his number?

According to league sources, the Rockets have made no plans to retire McGrady’s jersey in Houston, and revisiting that decision has been put on hold while the new ownership comes into place. Last week, Alexander reportedly agreed to sell the franchise to Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion. Currently, Trevor Ariza has been wearing No. 1 for the Rockets over the past three seasons. As of now, he won’t have to find another jersey for training camp.

In Orlando, where McGrady is the all-time leader in points per game, the situation is a little trickier.

Unlike the Rockets — who have retired the jerseys of Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Moses Malone (24), Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Rudy Tomjanovich (45) and McGrady’s teammate Yao Ming (11) — the Magic have zero former players whose jerseys hang in the rafters. But if you look up at the Amway Center, you’ll find No. 6, which has been worn only on one occasion in its team history. And it was by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, of all people, in his final season.

But the No. 6 isn’t for Ewing in honor of his four starts with the organization. No. 6 is a tribute to its fans. The Sixth Man. The Orlando Magic, as of now, have no plans to retire a jersey beyond No. 6.

But that doesn’t mean the Magic won’t be honoring McGrady. He could be the seventh member of the Magic Hall of Fame, which, starting in 2014, “celebrates great players, coaches and executives who have had a major impact during the team’s history.” McGrady would join three other players — Nick Anderson, Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway — in the Magic Hall.

But again: a spot in Springfield, but no retired jersey. How rare is that? This hasn’t happened in nearly two decades.

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Wizards look to take over the Nation’s Capitol — For so many years Washington belonged to the Redskins, with good reason; they won Super Bowls. And football is the unofficial national sport. But there’s an uptick with the Wizards right now, and the Redskins haven’t been on championship radar for decades now, and so maybe the time is ripe for a takeover in the pecking order? Perhaps. It’s fashionable to be a Wizards fan right now and John Wall is the coolest pro athlete in town (arguably, anyway). Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post spoke with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and sends this along:

The Wizards shouldn’t be the least relevant pro sports team in Washington.

That’s so obvious almost no one thinks to say it, but it’s still true. This is one of the most fertile basketball recruiting areas in the country. Two traditional college basketball powers play within a few miles of the White House. A 2011 Washington Post poll of area sports fans found the NBA tied with Major League Baseball for the second-strongest interest.

And yet over the past few years, the Wizards lagged behind. They were usually last among Washington’s four major teams in local television ratings, last in attendance, last in buzz, and a decided last in random sightings of people wearing their gear. The Wizards had about two-thirds the season ticket holders of the Caps last season, plus a worse renewal rate — this in a town more famous for artisanal ice cubes than actual frozen bodies of water.

Well, things might finally, finally be changing. The Wizards’ local TV ratings remained modest last season, but they had the third-biggest increase in the NBA, according to Sports Business Journal. The team’s season-ticket renewal rate is up significantly to around 95 percent; “this was the first offseason that we’ve been kind of like the Caps,” owner Ted Leonsis said in a recent conversation. The team added more than 2,000 new season-ticket holders, too, and should have around 12,000 this year. (The Caps have had around 16,000 in recent years.) The Wizards are uniformly picked as the third- or fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, which helped earn them a shocking 18 national TV dates this season — nearly double what they were given the past two seasons, combined.

Some skeptics remain, but the past few months have felt significant, from the first division title since the ’70s to the nationally interesting seven-game series with the Celtics. Wall was one of the most captivating figures in the first two rounds of the playoffs, reaching at least the outskirts of the NBA’s core of true stars. During the playoffs, he had the league’s 12th-best selling jersey. (No one on the Redskins, by way of comparison, is in the top 45 of NFL jersey sales.)

Leonsis compared Wall’s supermax to the megadeal Alex Ovechkin once signed with the Capitals: “It was, ‘Wow that’s different — great player wants to spend his career here,’ ” the owner said. And in a star-driven league, having an actual star — someone worthy of an ABC appearance on Christmas night — might finally start winnowing out some of those visiting-team jerseys on F Street.

* * *

MVP odds already? — It’s not too early to weigh the favorites for the MVP race, right? What else is there to do in early September except some forecasting, which is the favorite sport of preseason? Well, then: Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated takes a stab at it and of course it’s filled with the usual suspects, plus a few longshots:

Dirk Nowitzki: 500/1
Dwight Howard: 500/1

Imagine: Dirk enters camp with a bloodstream that’s 85% exotic growth hormone, and he has an out-ofbody experience for seven months straight. He turns the league upside down with 27 and 8, 40 minutes per game, and game-winner after game-winner. The Mavs win 58 games and take the No. 2 seed out West. Nobody’s arguing about the Warriors, there are no Anthony Davis rumors, nobody cares about this year’s Fake Cavs Challenger in the East. By March and April, The Year of Dirk is the only story that matters.

What I’m saying is, the 1-in-500 Dirk MVP season is the greatest possible timeline for the NBA in 2018. Likewise, we don’t need to get into it, but the timeline for the 1-in-500 Dwight Howard MVP season in Charlotte is darker than you can possibly imagine.

Ben Simmons: 75/1
Damian Lillard: 75/1

Damian Lillard has been consistently great for a solid three years now, and at 27 years old, he’s smack in the middle of his prime. He’s on a playoff team with only moderate expectations and real potential to surprise people in the West. He hits big shots as a rule, and he’s the sort of magnetic personality who can build a ton of momentum if things break right along the way. So how—how—does he have the same MVP odds as Ben Simmons?

Simmons hasn’t played a competitive game in more than 18 months. He maybe (probably?) shoots like Rajon Rondo. He’s fought to be announced as the point guard for some reason, even though Markelle Fultz is also on the team. As for magnetism, I’m not sure I’ve heard him speak since the draft 14 months ago.

Between this and the Sixers over/under number—opened at 42.5, bet down to do 40.5, still at least five wins too high—Vegas Sixers hype is one of the more inexplicable phenomenons of the summer. It’s one thing to like the what the Sixers are building, it’s another to expect a real, functional basketball team for the next eight months. This is out of hand. Ben Simmons should have Dwight odds, not Lillard odds.

DeMarcus Cousins: 50/1

OK. Probably a horrible bet. But hear me out: What if Anthony Davis misses a significant amount of time, only the Pels somehow stay afloat? Boogie carries them with something like 30, 12, and 5 while playing the best defense of his career, and they land somewhere in the middle of the West with 50 wins, while the Warriors and Cavs coast, OKC and Houston underwhelm. Granted, this scenario involves both a Brow injury and Boogie turning into a force of stability that he’s never, ever been before. But at least one of those things is a genuine possibility.

Giannis Antetokuonmpo: 10/1

At first, this seemed a little optimistic. Giannis was fantastic last year and I’m sure he’ll be even better this season, but the Bucks were still 42-40 in a terrible conference, and barely squeaked into the playoffs. Jabari Parker’s health this year is an unknown, Khris Middleton isn’t a a convincing enough sidekick, and … Yeah. That’s it. There’s not much else unless you’re banking on a breakout year from Malcolm Brogdon.

But then, that might be why Giannis has a chance. The Bucks have no business winning 50 games, but with Giannis there, you can’t totally count them out, right? The East is even worse than it was last year. Boston has depth issues, and the Cavs may not have a reason to care until March. If Giannis somehow carries this Bucks roster to a top-two seed in the East, he will have as good of a case as anyone. And that scenario’s not quite as crazy as it sounds.

Kyrie Irving: 25/1

The case against Kyrie: the NBA already rewarded a deeply polarizing point guard who plays no defense, and it’s unlikely that Kyrie will be as dominant individually as Westbrook was last year, nor as valuable. There’s a much better chance we spend the entire season yelling about his flaws and whether he can truly be the best player on a contender, because that’s how Kyrie’s career has always been.

The second you think he’s overrated, he’ll go off and drop an effortless 45 and look like the most unstoppable scorer on earth. Then you start talking about him like he’s better than Steph, and he’ll go 7-of-20 from the floor and dribble for 45 minutes straight in a double-digit loss. I don’t think this will change on a new team. Kyrie could average 30 points per game in Boston, be more efficient than he’s ever been, and continue to be the most inscrutable player in the NBA. That’s not an MVP.