WNBA’s Candace Parker will be first female basketball player on cover of NBA 2K

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Two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker will be the first female basketball player to grace the cover of the newest edition of popular video game NBA 2K

By Joseph Guzman, The Hill

Two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker will be the first female basketball player to grace the cover of the newest edition of popular video game NBA 2K when it hits shelves Sept. 10, the company announced Wednesday.

The six-time All-Star will be featured on a special edition of NBA 2K22 — in honor of the WNBA’s 25th season — that will be sold exclusively at video game retailer GameStop.

The cover shows the Chicago Sky star shooting a layup over a background of her team’s colors.

“The cover of NBA 2K is such a pivotal platform to inspire young ballers, and I wanted future WNBA stars to know that they can be cover athletes too,” Parker said in a statement.

“Representation matters, so this is a special moment of progress for the sport and the series. To be part of this historic cover is a testament to the growth and rising popularity of the women’s game, and I’m proud to be the first female cover athlete to be the face of NBA 2K,” she added.

Parker, 35, has played in the WNBA since 2008 and is currently in her first season with the Chicago Sky after spending most of her career with the Los Angeles Sparks, where she won a championship in 2016.

Click here to read the full article on The Hill.

Zendaya Responds to Space Jam 2 Lola Bunny Redesign Controversy

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Zendaya, shares her thoughts on the unexpected controversy surrounding the redesign of her character, Lola Bunny

BY Michelle Mehrtens, Screen Rant

Space Jam: A New Legacy star, Zendaya, shares her thoughts on the unexpected controversy surrounding the redesign of her character, Lola Bunny. The original 1996 comedy was a live-action/animated hybrid that starred basketball icon, Michael Jordan. In the film, he joins a basketball team led by the Looney Tunes in order to help them win a game against a group of nefarious aliens. It was a blockbuster hit, earning over $250 million worldwide and spawning a beloved following that has endured since its initial release. The highly anticipated upcoming sequel follows basketball champion, LeBron James, as he tries to save his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), from the Warner 3000 Server-Verse. To do this, he teams up with Looney Tunes favorites, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Lola Bunny, who has become a member of the Amazons.

During production of Space Jam 2, director Malcolm D. Lee decided to rework the character design of Lola Bunny after finalizing the ensemble cast. In prior interviews, he shared his surprise when he first watched Space Jam, explaining his unease when he witnessed the sexual objectification of Lola Bunny. As a result, Lee focused on adding greater depth to her character by emphasizing her skills as an athlete and leader. He also sought to remove any type of unnecessary sexualization when it came to her animation design. However, when EW released its first look cover of the Space Jam 2 cast a few months ago, many online commenters reacted negatively to the change in Lola Bunny’s appearance.

While speaking to EW, Zendaya responded to the online disputes regarding Lola Bunny’s redesign. Acknowledging her personal admiration of the character, she recognized the ways in which Lola has left her mark on the Space Jam universe. Read what Zendaya said below:

“I didn’t know that was going to happen either! I definitely know we love her, but I didn’t know it was going to be as much of a focus as it was. But I understand, because she’s a lovable character. She’s very important, so I get it.”

In his own interview with EW, Lee described his disbelief when he saw the online fervor about Lola Bunny. He added, “I had no idea that people would be that up in arms about a bunny not having boobs.” As Lee noted, it was important for him that Space Jam 2 highlighted Lola’s personal and professional evolution without reducing her to an object. He explained that he hoped young female viewers would admire Lola and her abilities as a basketball player. Moreover, the director reached out to Zendaya for the role because he respected her business acumen and confidence, which he believed were similar attributes embodied by Lola.

Click here to read the full article on Screen Rant.

Tennis-Wimbledon ends in tears for injured Serena

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Tennis- Wimbledon ends in tears for injured Serena as she is cheered on by the crowd

By Alan Baldwin, Yahoo! Sports

Tennis great Serena Williams limped out of Wimbledon in tears on Tuesday after her latest bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles crown ended in injury. The American sixth seed and seven-times Wimbledon winner was clearly in pain on a slippery Centre Court and sought treatment while 3-2 up in her first-round match against unseeded Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Williams returned after a lengthy break but the distress was evident. She grimaced and wiped away tears before preparing to serve at 3-3 after Sasnovich had pulled back from 3-1 down. The 39-year-old, who had started the match with strapping on her right thigh, then let out a shriek and sank kneeling to the grass sobbing, before being helped off the court.

“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on centre court so meaningful. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on – and off – the court meant the world to me.”

GREAT CHAMPION

Sasnovich, who practised her serve while Williams was getting treatment, commiserated with an opponent who had never gone out in the first round at Wimbledon in her previous 19 visits.

“I’m so sad for Serena, she’s a great champion,” said the world number 100. “It happens sometimes.”

Eight-times men’s singles champion Roger Federer expressed shock at Williams’ departure and voiced concern about the surface, with the roof closed on Centre Court on a rainy afternoon.

His first-round opponent Adrian Mannarino of France also retired with a knee injury after a slip in the match immediately before Williams’.

“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down,” Federer said.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Sports.

Gabby Thomas wins women’s 200 meters at U.S. Olympic trials with second-fastest time ever, Allyson Felix fails to qualify

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Gabby Thomas running before the olympics

By Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY

Gabby Thomas ran a world-leading 21.94 seconds in the semifinals of the women’s 200 meters on Friday — and her momentum carried over to Saturday. Thomas eclipsed her previous career-best as she crossed the finish line in 21.61 to win the women’s 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials. Her time is the second-fastest in the history of the women’s 200 meters and puts her in illustrious company. Only Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world-record 21.34 seconds from 1988 is faster. “I’ve been working so hard,” Thomas said. “I moved to Austin, Texas to train for this. I still just cannot believe it. I’m so, so happy. I’ve been working so hard. I’m really grateful.” Jenna Prandini ran a personal-best 21.89 to finish second, and Anavia Battle crossed the line in 21.95 to finish third.

Thomas, a Harvard graduate, has propelled herself to a serious gold-medal contender in Tokyo after speeding through the preliminary rounds and running one of the best times ever. “Since coming here my expectations for myself have gotten even higher,” Thomas said. “Now when I step on the track, I do expect to run sub-22, which is something I love for myself and I’m really excited about.”

Thomas has valid reasons to be excited after her performance in Eugene. She ran sub-22 seconds in the opening round, semifinal and final of the 200 meters. Leading up to the trials, though, Thomas had a harrowing experience. After winning the 200 meters at the Golden Games on May 9, Thomas underwent an MRI to diagnose what had seemed to be a nagging hamstring injury. The results of the MRI revealed a tumor on her liver.

“The more and more I spoke to people, the more the word ‘cancer’ was used. I was scared,” Thomas said on social media on June 7.

Thankfully, though, Thomas received news from doctors that the tumor is benign and won’t need to be operated on.

“I am so excited to compete – feeling much lighter with this weight off of my shoulders! One of the greatest gifts in life is our health,” Thomas said prior to the trials on social media.

“I remember telling God, ‘If I am healthy, I’m gonna go out and win trials,’ ” she said.

Thomas did in emphatic fashion. Now she is off to Tokyo healthy and running better than she ever has.

Click here to read the full article on USA Today.

Sha’Carri Richardson dominates 100 meters in style to clinch trip to Tokyo Olympics

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The first sprint secured Sha'Carri Richardson's place at the Tokyo Olympics.

By Tom Schad, USA TODAY

The first sprint secured Sha’Carri Richardson’s place at the Tokyo Olympics. The second one might have been even sweeter. After winning the 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Saturday with a time of 10.86 seconds, yelling in celebration as she crossed the finish line, Richardson took off into the stands. She scaled the concrete steps at Hayward Field and rounded the corner to Section 119, where her grandmother, Betty Harp, was waiting and smiling.

Then Richardson, one of the fastest American women ever, celebrated in the only way that felt right to her in the moment. She gave her grandmother a hug. “My grandmother is my heart. My grandmother is my superwoman,” Richardson said.”Honestly, that was one of my biggest goals in life – to have her see me compete in one of the highest levels, and be successful.”

Richardson, 21, said Harp has been a constant presence in her life, from her childhood in Dallas to her brief college stint at LSU, when she won a national title. The sprinter has fond memories of the time they spent cooking together, or just watching TV shows. She was always there, Richardson said.

“From Day 1 up until now,” she explained, “always being in my corner, no matter what I did, no matter if it was good, no matter if it was bad.”

Earlier, in a post-race interview with NBC, Richardson said that her family “has kept me grounded.” She also revealed that her biological mother recently died. She declined to go into details about their relationship with reporters in a news conference.

“That’s not anything I want to talk about, so I’m not going to get too much into details,” she said. “… But what I will say is I am grateful for her giving me life, bringing me into this world.”

Click here to read the full article on USA Today.

Michael Jordan will make an appearance in ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy,’ Don Cheadle says

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Bill Murray, Micheal Jordan, and bugs bunny featured in space jam

By , CBS Sports

Michael Jordan is coming out of retirement again. Movie retirement, that is. MJ will make an appearance in “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” according to actor Don Cheadle, who is also in the movie. In an interview with Access Hollywood, Cheadle, who plays a rogue artificial intelligence named Al-G Rhythm in the film, said that Jordan will be on screen at some point in the movie. However, Cheadle did say that Jordan has a role but, “not in the way you’d expect it.”

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is slated to be released in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16. It’s the long-anticipated sequel to the original “Space Jam,” which was released back in 1996 with Jordan as the main star. This time around, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is stepping in to team up with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes. The trailer for “Space Jam: A New Legacy” was released last month and the film is expected to feature cameos from other NBA stars, such as Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Klay Thompson, as well as WNBA legend Diana Taurasi and more.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

Simone Biles wins record-breaking seventh U.S. all-around title ahead of Tokyo Olympics

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Simone Biles holding a bouquet of flowers after a gymnastics competition while waving at fans

By , CBS Sport

Yet again, Simone Biles has done something that no female gymnast has ever done before. Yet again, Biles is going to be representing U.S. Gymnastics in the Olympics. Yet again, Simone Biles is a winner.

On Sunday, Biles claimed her seventh U.S. all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, setting a new record for the most all-around titles ever for an American woman. According to Olympics.com, Biles breaks a tie she had held with Clara Schroth Lombady, who won six titles in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and is now tied with Alfred Jochim for the most overall titles by a U.S. gymnast.

Biles topped the podium with a two-day total of 119.650, followed by Suni Lee (114.950) and Jordan Chiles (114.450). Biles totaled 60.100 points in the all-around on Sunday, never scoring less than 14.700 in any event. In addition to the all-around title, Biles also took top honors in the vault, balance beam, and floor exercises.

While Biles’ place on the U.S. Olympic team is seemingly assured, there is still a great deal of competition to see who will be joining her at the Tokyo Olympics later this summer. Suni Lee and Jordan Chiles both staked their claims towards that distinction. Lee’s path towards qualifying for the Olympics has been a difficult one, as this weekend marked the first time she has competed on all four apparatus as she’s dealt with an Achilles injury. Meanwhile, Chiles followed up strong performances at the Winter Cup and U.S. Classic with another score of over 57 points in the all-around.

Lee and Chiles appear to be favorites to join Biles on the four-woman Olympic team, but the last spot on the team remains up for grabs. Among those competing for that spot include Leanne Wong, Skye Blakely, and Riley McCusker, with Emma Malabuyo entering the picture with a fourth-place finish on Sunday.

Click here to read the full article on CBS Sports.

Damian Lillard Encourages Others to ‘Be Good Allies’ in NBA’s AAPI Month PSA: ‘Stand Up, Speak Out’

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Damian Lillard wearing an oregon basketball jersey during a game

By Lindsay Kimble, People

Damian Lillard is helping the NBA advocate for change in America. In a new PSA launched in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month this May, Lillard — who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers — decries the recent rise in violence against the AAPI community.

“May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month,” Lillard says. “As we celebrate, we must also acknowledge the troubling rise in violence and discrimination towards Asian Americans this year. Hate and bigotry against anyone have no place in our game — or in our communities.”

RELATED: 14 Brands to Support for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month — and Always

Lillard, 30, adds, “Now is the time to stand up, speak out, and be good allies. We must continue our fight to stop discrimination and xenophobia, together. To find out how you can get engaged, visit StandAgainstHatred.org.”

The findings of a study released in March of police department statistics shows that hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020 amid the coronaviurs pandemic, despite hate crimes overall dropping by 7 percent.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Kendrick Carmouche to be first Black jockey in Kentucky Derby since 2013

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Kendrick Carmouche pictures in a blue jockey helmet while smiling away from the camera with joy

By the Associated Press, ESPN

Long before Kendrick Carmouche started riding horses growing up in Louisiana, Black jockeys were synonymous with the sport.

Black riders were atop 13 of the 15 horses in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 and won 15 of the first 28 editions of the race. Everything has changed since: Carmouche on Saturday will be the first Black jockey in the Kentucky Derby since 2013 and is just one of a handful over the past century.

Carmouche is one of the few remaining Black jockeys in the United States. Much like Marlon St. Julien in 2000, Patrick Husbands in 2006 and Kevin Krigger in 2013, his presence in horse racing’s biggest event is a reminder of how the industry marginalized Black jockeys to the point they all but disappeared from the sport.

“As a Black rider getting to the Kentucky Derby, I hope it inspires a lot of people because my road wasn’t easy to get there and I never quit,” Carmouche said. “What I’ve been wanting all my career is to inspire people and make people know that it’s not about color. It’s about how successful you are in life and how far you can fight to get to that point.”

Carmouche is the son of a jockey, and he has won more than 3,400 races and earned $118 million since beginning to ride professionally in 2000. He came back from a broken leg three years ago and set himself up for his first Kentucky Derby mount by riding 72-1 long shot Bourbonic to victory in the Wood Memorial on April 3. Bourbonic will leave from the 20th post in Saturday’s race at Churchill Downs.

He is also a rarity in a sport now dominated by jockeys from Latin America.

“Obviously there haven’t been many in recent decades, but if you go back to the early years of the Derby, the late 1800s, early 1900s, Black jockeys dominated the Kentucky Derby,” NBC Sports analyst Randy Moss said. “Guys like Isaac Murphy and Jimmy Winkfield.”

Carmouche joins St. Julien as the only U.S.-born Black jockeys in the Derby since 1921, which even then was long after the era dominated by Murphy, Winkfield and others.

Chris Goodlett, a historian at the Kentucky Derby Museum, cited a combination of Jim Crow laws and segregation in the United States, intimidation by white riders, and decisions by racing officials, owners and trainers for the decline of Black jockeys in the early 20th century. One example was white counterparts riding Winkfield into the rail at Harlem Race Track outside Chicago and injuring him and his horse.

“Consequently, white trainers and owners would be [more] reluctant to ride Black jockeys on their horses due to instances like that,” Goodlett said. “We see it also just from an administrative point of view, as well: fewer licenses being issued to Black jockeys, sometimes not issued at all.”

Brien Bouyea, communications director for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, said many Black jockeys left for Europe because of better working conditions and never returned. Manny Ycaza came from Panama and blazed a trail for Latin American jockeys, who used riding schools and other factors that changed on-track demographics.

Along the way, participation by Black people in the Kentucky Derby ebbed and flowed with significant contributions along the way, including grooms Will Harbut with Man O’War in 1920 and Eddie Sweat with Secretariat in 1973 and trainer Hank Allen with Northern Wolf in 1989. Harbut’s great-grandson, Greg Harbut, co-owned 2020 Derby runner Necker Island and helped found the Ed Brown Society, named after the 19th-century Black jockey and trainer, to further diversify racing.

Husbands was well aware of his place in history when he rode Seaside Retreat in the 2006 Derby and said he feels a connection to Carmouche this year because “the steppingstone that he’s doing for his culture is the same stuff I was trying to do for my culture.”

He said Carmouche becoming the first Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since 1902 “would be a blessing. It would bring tears to a lot of people’s eyes.”

Click here to read the full article on ESPN.

Two Black women will be head coaches in the same NCAA women’s Final Four for the first time

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South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley celebrates after cutting the last piece of the net during the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

By Matias Grez and Jill Martin

This year’s March Madness might have exposed gaps in gender equity in college sports, but for two Black women, the 2021 NCAA women’s tournament will always represent a moment when history was made.

For the first time in NCAA women’s tournament history, two Black women will be head coaches in the same Final Four.
South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will be appearing in her third Final Four, winning the title back in 2017, while Adia Barnes and her Arizona team will make their debut appearance.
March Madness is the pinnacle of college basketball, where 64 teams — full of the next generation of WNBA and NBA players — duke it out in a single-elimination tournament over two weeks to crown the best team. The event is known for big moments, upsets and great action.
Photo: CNN
Speaking to reporters about the historic feat following South Carolina’s win over Texas, Staley said she was “super proud of Adia” and was “cheering for her to get it done.”
“It was not for any other reason besides us being represented at the biggest stage of women’s college basketball,” she said.
“And that’s because there are so many Black coaches out there that don’t get opportunity because when ADs [Athletics Directors] don’t see it, they don’t see it — and they’re going to see it on the biggest stage of a Friday night, that two Black women are representing two programs in the Final Four, something that has never been done before.
“You know, our history here in women’s basketball is so filled with so many Black bodies that for this to be happening in 2021, to me, is long overdue, but we’re proud. We’re happy.
“I know my phone is probably full of text messages of Black coaches all across the country, just congratulating us on doing that, on being present, being in the moment, being able to take our programs to this place.”
Both Staley and Barnes are former WNBA players — the latter winning a title with the Seattle Storm in 2004 — and Barnes revealed she has been inundated with messages from former teammates.
On Friday, South Carolina will face Stanford, while Arizona will meet UConn.
The two women have guided their respective teams to the Final Four in impressive fashion, with Staley’s South Carolina comfortably swatting Texas aside in a 62-34 win, while Barnes’ Arizona powered past Indiana in a bruising 66-53 victory.
It also means Staley and Barnes are the only former WNBA players to have led teams to the Final Four as head coaches.
“I know Adia utilizes all of her basketball knowledge as a player and she’s been a coach long enough that she’s not just a suit,” Staley said.
“It’s always going to be part player in us and that’s why our players … we are so relatable to them. They understand it because it’s coming from a place of ‘we’ve done that. We’re trying to help you get to that place where we can have longevity in our league.’
“Representation matters. It’s nothing against anybody else that lost to us, but when you see two Black women representing in this way, I hope the decision makers who — because there are a lot of jobs out there that you give Black women an opportunity — not just give them the job.
Read the full article at CNN. 

Venus Williams Pens Powerful Essay on Gender Equality, Announces Campaign to Advocate for Equal Pay

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Venus williams wearing a gray suit jacket smiling at the camera

By Katie Campione, People

Venus Williams is once again lending her voice to the movement for gender equality.

The five-time Wimbledon champion penned a moving essay for British Vogue on Monday about using her platform to advocate for equal pay.

In 2007, Williams became the first woman to receive equal prize money to her male counterparts. While men and women now get equal prize money at the majors and combined events, Williams said there is still a long way to go in the sport and across all industries to make sure women are valued in their fields.

“There is still a mindset that women’s tennis isn’t as valuable as men’s,” she wrote. As four-time Olympic gold medalist, Williams said “we must not allow [that mindset] to dictate society’s progress.”

“I firmly believe that sport mirrors life and life mirrors sport,” Williams wrote. “The lack of equality and equal opportunities in tennis is a symptom of the obstacles women face around the world.”

The tennis player added that, in the United States, women made 82.3 cents for every dollar men made in 2019. Inspired by that “shocking” statistic, Williams said she is initiating a campaign called #PrivilegeTax.

Ahead of Equal Pay Day on March 24, customers at participating brands can donate 19 cents at checkout to benefit the Girls Inc. of Greater Los Angeles organization. Brands partnering with Williams for the campaign include Nordstrom, Tracy Anderson, Tom Brady’s TB12, Carbon38, Credo Beauty and Happy Viking.

Click here to read the full article on People.

Master P Changes Focus from Owning NBA Team to Owning an HBCU

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Master P posing with his hand over his mouth, wearing a suit and glasses

By Will Moss, HBCU Connect

The recent highlighting of Historically Black Colleges and Universities has led many to learn that most of these schools were founded on land grants provided by the government during the Reconstruction Era. Realizing this has motivated Master P to take matters into his own hands to change the future.

Master P took to Instagram where he revealed his life goal has now changed.

“I used to want to own an NBA team but now I want to own a HBCU,” opens his video’s caption.

“This message is all about educating our people,” Master P said in the video. “Anybody that’s listening to this and has a business, I want y’all to join this movement with me. We need to make sure our kids get educated the way other the cultures are educated.”

The spotlight has been refocused on HBCUs in recent years. Michael B. Jordan created a basketball invitational to showcase talent at the institutions and the NBA has put an emphasis on supporting them. During the NBA All-Star Game, the league generated $3 million that will be used to promote these colleges and universities.

“It was part of the reason why we’re here in Atlanta,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, per CNN. Atlanta is home to a host of HBCUs including the acclaimed Atlanta University Center (AUC) which consists of legendary schools Morehouse College, Spellman College, and Clark Atlanta University. “This was an opportunity to focus on the HBCUs,” Silver added.

Master P wanted to extend this goal on his own. He explained in his IG caption that HBCUs graduate more women than any other league of higher education. This includes the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, who graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Click here to read the full article on HBCU Connect

Naomi Osaka cruises to Australian Open title, claiming her FOURTH Grand Slam and second triumph at Melbourne Park

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A Herculean effort was required to stage the 2021 Australian Open and navigate many of the pandemic restrictions. But the tournament still provided high-quality matches and produced two incredible champions in Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic.

With a delayed start, quarantine woes and the reemergence of the fans (then their absence and return yet again), Tennis Australia managed the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus as best as possible and continued to build on the successes of the 2020 US Open and French Open. There were upsets, miraculous runs by unknowns and thrilling on-court battles.

If there’s one thing the tournament made perfectly clear, it’s that, much like its predecessor, the 2021 season will be full of constant change — on and off the court.

Here are some key takeaways from the year’s first major.

The 23-year-old left little doubt about her current place in women’s tennis with another dominant performance. Defeating Jennifer Brady in the final, Osaka notched her fourth major title, tying her with Kim Clijsters and trailing just Serena and Venus Williams among active players — and is now on a 21-match win streak.

While her straight-set victory over Serena Williams in the semifinals garnered most of the attention during her run in Melbourne, it was perhaps her match against two-time Slam champion Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round that was the most impressive. Pushed to the brink in the third set and down 5-3, Osaka staved off two match points and never looked back. She won the next three games and advanced, ultimately becoming the eighth woman in the Open era to win the Australian Open after saving a match point.

With her latest triumph, as well as her current activism and celebrity off the court, Osaka is unquestionably the new face of the sport. But she doesn’t seem particularly fazed.

“Honestly, I don’t really think too much about it,” she said on Sunday. “For me, I just focus on myself and what I can do. So I don’t really put too much pressure on myself in that way.”

Read the full article at ESPN.

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