About Last Night: Serena Falls to Serena 2.0

Sloane StephensIn case you were out brainstorming baby names with Shakira and Gerard Pique last night, here’s what you missed in sports on Tuesday.

  • American teenager Sloane Stephens upset Serena Williams at the Australian Open in an exhilarating, injury-plagued three-set thriller, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. As the final shot was struck just before the clock struck midnight in New York, a hirsute figure scaled the walls of Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center. “American tennis is dead! Long live American Tennis! American Tennis is dead! Long live American Tennis!” Was the figure that of Pete Sampras? Was it? Who could possibly know? (It was.)
  • Kansas topped in-state rival Kansas State, 59-55, in the so-called “Battle of Dorothy” named after the main character in The Wizard of Oz. Back at Lawrence, as is customary after a win in the rivalry, a hirsute figure scaled the walls of Allen Fieldhouse and sang, “Ding-dong. The witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked witch. Ding-dong, the wicked witch is dead.” Was the hirsute figure former Kansas star Wayne Simien? Was it? (No, it wasn’t; Simien is merely his last name and not a description of his appearance. It was former Jayhawk Scot Pollard.)
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers in a battle of Western Conference titans, 109-97. The Thunder won in spite of a particularly poor performance from center Kendrick Perkins, who scored zero points in seven minutes while plagued with foul trouble. “Well, with the Sonics coming back, and our franchise’s legacy feeling more secure, I thought I would offer up a well-studied tribute to my namesake (former Sonics center) Sam Perkins,” he said. “But it turns out I accidentally watched highlights of (former Sonics center) Jim McIlvaine. That’s my bad on the one hand, but on the other, I think it made my tribute all the more poignant.”
  • The NFL officially reinstated Saints coach Sean Payton, after he served a year-long suspension in the wake of the New Orleans bounty scandal. A chastened Payton, standing next to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, said of his reinstatement, “I clearly recognize that mistakes were made, which led to league violations. Furthermore, I have assured the Commissioner a more diligent protocol will be followed. I’ll just let my players’ massive salaries and fear of being cut for the slightest moment of hesitation motivate them to injure their opponents.” Goodell and Payton then high-fived, low-fived, shimmied and spun, fist-bumped, chest-bumped, and then went to high-five again, before simultaneously pulling the classic high-five-denied hair-slick maneuver.
  • The Dallas Stars held on to beat the Detroit Red Wings on the road, 2-1. The Stars won in spite of a zero-point effort from forward Jaromir Jagr, which is surprising because Jaromir Jagr is still playing? And he’s in Dallas? Really? Is everybody else as woefully unprepared for the NHL season as I am?
  • League Two side Bradford City completed their two-leg upset of Aston Villa to advance to the League Cup Finals at Wembley Stadium. There they will face another Premiership side, either Chelsea or Swansea, who will surely be bigger, taller, and faster than Bradford. But before the match, Bradford manager Phil Parkinson will take his admittedly awed team on a tour of Wembley, where he’ll measure the size of the goals (8 feet high, 8 yards wide) before telling his team, “I think you’ll find the exact same measurements at our pitch back at Bradford.” The team will then laugh softly and nod, knowing that they’re fully capable of mounting a historic upset no matter what pitch they’re playing on. Then, moments before kickoff, Parkinson will huddle his team up. “There’s a tradition in tournament play to not talk about the next step until you’ve climbed the one in front of you,” he’ll say. “I’m sure that going to the League Cup finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there. I don’t care what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, in my book we’re gonna be winners.” And if they’re playing Chelsea, he’ll be right, as Fernando Torres will surely find a way to mess it up for the Blues.
  • John and Jim Harbaugh, who are apparently related (what are the odds? Why is no one talking about this?), are consciously limiting their pre-Super Bowl communications to cordial text messages, while their father has agreed to limit contact with both of them in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVII. This ranks the Harbaughs as America’s most healthfully communicative family for the next two weeks, edging out the Wilsons of St. Paul, Minnesota, who pioneered the “hot seat” system, which allows any family member sitting in the old wicker chair on the porch to vent their frustrations without fear or shame.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers completed a trade where the Grizzlies sent three players and a protected first-round draft pick to Cleveland in exchange for Cavaliers reserve Jon Leuer to get under the NBA’s luxury tax. “This Leuer kid must be some player,” said overexcited Grizzlies fan Shaun Overholdt, who was unaware that the NBA functions under a salary-cap system. “I remember him, yeah, coming out of Seton Hall,” Overholdt said about the University of Wisconsin alumnus, confusing him with Seton Hall alumnus Eddie Griffin. “Guy’s a real gamer. Slasher. Cutter. Great shooter. Good to see he finally panned out. I think I’m going to buy his jersey.”
  • Roger Federer needed five sets to defeat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, setting up a tantalizing Australian Open semifinal match with Andy Murray. As the final shot was struck just after the clock struck noon in Paris, a hirsute figure scaled the walls of Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros. As the figure reached the wall’s apex, between drags off of his Gauloises, he shouted the words of Jean-Paul Sartre: “Man cannot will unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.” Was the figure that of French tennis legend Yannick Noah? Was it? Who could possibly know? (It wasn’t. It was legendary French actor Jean Reno, who was wholly unaware that Tsonga has lost in Australia, and was just out doing his “normal Wednesday thing.”)

Filed Under: About Last Night, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Red Wings, Jim Harbaugh, Kansas, Kansas State, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder, Roger Federer, Sean Payton, Serena Williams

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Spike Friedman is a contributing writer for Grantland and makes theater with the Satori Group in Seattle, Washington.

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