By Rob Lep / STAT Sports
Former World No. 4 Professional Tennis player James Blake made history Saturday night by winning the 12th and final event of the PowerShares Series QQQ Cup, defeating New York native and 7x Grand Slam singles Champion John McEnroe 6-4 in the one set championship match at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Saturday night’s event was the first ever tennis event at the Barclays Center and the first competitive tennis match in Brooklyn since Bill Tilden won the U.S. Open Pro Championships at the Terrace Club in 1935. Prior to that, the second-ever Davis Cup was played at the Crescent Athletic Club in August of 1902.
Blake hopes that having events like the PowerShares Series can help grow the game of Tennis in the Empire State.
“I’ve been on this tour for a couple of years and I’ve seen it grow and I’ve seen its impact,” said Blake. “I loved that feeling, and I hope we can gain that sort of excitement and enthusiasm when we bring it to Brooklyn. We can get another fun event in New York.”
Blake who was born in Yonkers, NY, learned to play tennis at the local Harlem Junior Tennis Center and competed in New York area junior tournaments while growing up in the nearby town of Fairfield, CT.
“I don’t think I have ever played more of a New Yorker in New York than myself since I was born here,” said Blake talking about going up against Mr. New York himself John McEnroe, who has lived in New York City practically his entire life and left his mark on the city with his success at the US Open winning eight Grand Slam titles (four in singles and four in doubles).
“It makes sense to cheer for John McEnroe. He has done so much for this city and so much for this sport. If I’m not playing against him, I’m in the stands cheering for him too.”
In order to reach the final, James Blake defeated his former US Davis Cup teammate and 2003 US Open Champion Andy Roddick 6-4 in the first semifinal while McEnroe defeated 4x Grand Slam Singles champion Jim Courier.
“I was just praying that he would miss a few first serves at the end,” said Blake. “I was trying to get chances early on, but he erased them all with good serves. I pray that I can serve that well at 57 years old, or moving or anything he is doing this well at 57. I am just happy to get through it. I got a little lucky at the end and took advantage of my one chance on his serve.”
The 37 year old Blake was born four months after McEnroe captured his first major singles title at the 1979 US Open, defeating Vitas Gerulaitis in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.
During the media session before the matches, McEnroe was asked about his thoughts on how players can stay competitive in the PowerShares Series while also wanting to entertain and give the fans a good show during the event.
“Change the format - you know, make it one set so at least I have a prayer. It pushes me. I like to compete, but we obviously want to entertain - you know these guys (Roddick, Blake) are the next guys trying to take over this tour and keep it going, and I think there’s a place in tennis for a champions seniors tour” said McEnroe. “It could work out real well hopefully for the sport. That’s really what it boils down to.
”With the use of the line calling technology Hawk Eye solely instead of line judges, McEnroe had no choice but to get down on both knees and plead to both the head judge and the fans when he felt a call had been made incorrectly.
It made for one of the most memorable moments of the evening and gave fans nostalgia of McEnroe’s confrontational on court behavior and emotional outbursts during matches from his playing days, most notably his “You Cannot Be Serious” outburst during Wimbledon back in 1981.
The PowerShares series has proven to be a perfect way of bringing together two different generations of tennis fans while pitting various retired champions up against one another in a four player tournament and should only continue to grow in 2017.
By Rob Lep / STAT Sports
Flashback to July 14th, 2016 amid uncertainty, instability, and a litany of question marks surrounding one of England’s premier football franchises, this day will be remembered as the day the Antonio Conte era began.
Just one year removed from a Premier League title in 2014-15 under the leadership of legendary manager Jose Mourinho, Conte addressed the media in his introductory press conference for the first time as the new man in charge at Stamford Bridge.
“I’m aware the league will be very competitive this season and I hope the title winners next season deserve to have taken home the title, said Conte. I also hope we’re slightly underrated, but I hope we’re in there, that we can surprise people and this can motivate us further. I hope there’s a small flame flickering that can burst into an inferno.”
I think it’s safe to say since the beginning of October, Chelsea has taken the rest of the League and the football world by storm, extending their winning streak to a club record 13 matches after a 4-2 victory over Stoke City at Stamford Bridge Saturday afternoon.
In the match, Cesc Fabregas registered his 100th Premier League assist joining the likes of Ryan Giggs - 162, Frank Lampard - 102, and Wayne Rooney - 101 with a cross to Gary Cahill coming off a corner kick to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.
Stoke City, who had not won at Stamford Bridge since 1974, refused to to be discouraged, answering back with the equalizer goal of their own from Bruno Martins Indi in the 46th minute to begin the second half.
After a Willian goal in the 57th minute to break the tie once again, Stoke fought back once again evening the score in the 64th minute when Peter Crouch found the back of the net for his first Premier League Goal since May of 2015.Just one minute later, Willian shot from the center of the box to the top right corner of the net past the hands of Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant.
With the score at 3-2 Chelsea in the waning moments of the match, Diego Costa scored his league leading fourteenth goal of the Premier League season to put the game out of reach in the 85th minute and send the fans home happy- closing out 2016 with great momentum heading into the new year.
“Congratulations to my players. To win 13 games in a row in this league is very difficult,” said Conte. "Now, it's important to celebrate the arrival of the new year, then to think of the next game against Tottenham.
"Stoke played very well. They hit long balls to Crouch and fought for the second ball. My players showed they can adapt to the different kinds of game we face. They showed great commitment, work-rate and will to win. I'm delighted for them.
”The loss at Stamford Bridge extends the Stoke City winless streak to five consecutive matches including losses with losses to Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool as well as two draws at home to Southampton and Leicester in consecutive matches.
"I thought we did really well, showing courage to get back in the game,” said Stoke City manager Mark Hughes. “I thought we were good value to get a draw, but we can't keep on making the mistakes we are at the moment because it's hurting us."
"We were positive, got back level and it was up for grabs. For their third goal, the ball went through about four of our players. We can't keep defending as we are in key moments. If we take that out of our game, we will be fine."
The victory puts Chelsea in uncharted territory, just one win away from matching the all time mark of 14 matches set by Arsenal back in 2002 over the course of two seasons. The 13th win of the streak ended with the Gunners clinching the Premier League title at Old Trafford vs Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. The final win of the streak came in the first match of the 2002-03 season vs Birmingham before being snapped by a 2-2 draw to West Ham one week later.
It’s only fitting that the three month perfect run for Chelsea started after a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at Emirates back on September 24th, where the usually soft spoken Conte stated, “we are a great team only on paper, and not on the pitch.
”Over the course of this thirteen match winning streak, Chelsea has dominated every team in its path at an almost unprecedented rate, outscoring its opponents 32-4 with 10 clean sheets and scoring at least three goals on six occasions.
The Blue Lions seemingly catapulted to the top of the Premier League standings from sixth to first, changing the narrative from whether or not Conte was the answer to Chelsea’s problems to essentially what club can reach the Blues in 2017.
Chelsea will take on the Tottenham Hotspurs at White Hart Lane on Wednesday January 4th in their first match of 2017.
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson Wins the 2016 Heisman Trophy, Becomes the Youngest Heisman Winner In CFB History!
By Rob Lep / STAT Sports
On Saturday Night, in front of a packed crowd at the Playstation Theater in Times Square Manhattan, QB Lamar Jackson became the first Louisville player in the 105 year history of the Heisman Trophy to be enshrined into College Football’s highest honor.
Jackson also became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy, given to College Football’s most outstanding player.
Lamar received 2,144 total points and 526 first-place votes, beating out Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had 1,524 total points and 269 first-place votes. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield finished in third followed by his fellow teammate Dede Westbrook. Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers finished in fifth.
‘To the Heisman voters, I am truly honored and humbled to be the the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. To be able to stand up here like all the other former Heisman Trophy winners, I’m extremely proud to represent this class and the University of Louisville with their first Heisman Trophy, said Jackson. “I’d like to extend my appreciation to the Heisman Trust and all the people, this tremendous award for making this an experience of a lifetime that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
“Bobby Petrino, he came to my house on a home visit, he told my mother he’s going to give me an opportunity because I’m ready to play, and I love you coach,” said Jackson.
It’s safe to say Lamar made the most of his opportunity. At 19 years 337 days, Lamar is the youngest player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Jameis Winston was 19 years 342 days old when he won the award back in 2013.
Speaking of the Seminoles, one of Jackson’s signature performance of his Heisman campaign came against the #2 ranked Florida State Seminoles on September 17th when he torched Jimbo Fisher’s team accounting for five touchdowns and 362 total yards in a 63-20 upset win to catapult him into the early Heisman conversation.
Jackson kicked off the 2016 campaign with an all time great performance vs Charlotte on September 1st, tallying eight total touchdowns through the air and on the ground while not throwing an interception to go along with 405 yards of total offense.
In a 62-28 win over Syracuse on Sept. 9th, Lamar Jackson became the first F.B.S player to throw for more than 400 yards and rush for 175 in a game. Jackson finished the game with 610 total yards breaking both ACC and school records to go along with five touchdowns and his now iconic Lamar Leap over a defender that will forever be a part of his most iconic moments.
At the end of the first four weeks of the season, Jackson had compiled 25 total touchdowns and just 3 interceptions while throwing for over 400 yards passing twice (both on the road, at Syracuse and at Marshall).
Jackson finished his 2016 campaign with 4928 total yards of offense and 51 touchdowns and is the first player to win the award with at least 30 touchdowns passing and at least 21 touchdowns rushing. Jackson also became the first player in FBS history to gain 3000 yards passing and 1500 yards rushing in the same season.
Jackson is just the third player in F.B.S history - joining Cam Newton and Tim Tebow - with 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in a season.
Oklahoma teammates Dede Westbrook and Baker Mayfield were the first teammates to be selected as Heisman finalists since Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart back in 2005, who finished in first and third respectively.
Jackson did not end his 2016 campaign the way he would have wanted with back to back losses vs Houston and Kentucky to end 9-3 on the season for a berth in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on Dec. 31st but ultimately Jackson was still College Football’s most outstanding player in 2016.
Jackson also won the ACC Player of the Year Award from the media and coaches along with the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award.
Deshaun Watson finished the 2016 campaign with 4593 passing yards 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as well as 629 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns.
Led by Watson, the #2 ranked Clemson Tigers will face off against the #3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31st at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Watson became the 11th player in with multiple top-three finishes without a Heisman win, the first since Andrew Luck during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
“He’s such a great athlete — everyone knows that,” said Watson earlier Saturday night talking about Jackson. “But it’s not just that. The person he is, the leadership he brings to the table — he makes everyone around him better.
“It’s been fun to watch him this season, and it’ll be fun to watch him grow in the coming years.”
Led by their Heisman award winning quarterback, Louisville will be back in action on Dec. 31st vs LSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.