‘Mookie’ Blaylock’s condition improves after crash, off life support

first_imgIn this May 8, 1997, photo, Atlanta Hawks’ Mookie Blaylock (10) drives against the Chicago Bulls’ Ron Harper during an NBA basketball playoff game in Chicago. (AP Photo/Michael S. Green, File)ATLANTA (AP) — Former NBA All-Star guard Daron “Mookie” Blaylock was upgraded to serious condition at an Atlanta hospital Saturday, a day after his SUV crashed head-on into a van and killed a woman.Atlanta Medical Center spokeswoman Nicole Gustin confirmed that the 46-year-old Blaylock’s condition had improved since he was airlifted to the hospital. Police said the former Atlanta Hawks player was initially placed on life support and was in critical condition late Friday even after he was taken off of it.Blaylock was driving in neighboring Jonesboro Friday afternoon when he crashed, said Clayton County police spokesman Clarence Cox. Police said his SUV crossed the center line and slammed into an oncoming van.A passenger in the van, 43-year-old Monica Murphy, died Friday night, Jonesboro Police Chief Franklin Allen said. Her husband, 41-year-old Frankie Murphy, suffered a broken ankle.last_img read more

After 17 major titles, Serena wants to improve

first_imgSerena Williams hugs the championship trophy after defeating Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, during the women’s singles final of the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/David Goldman)  by Howard FendrichAP Tennis WriterNEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams won her first major title at the 1999 U.S. Open, when she was just 17.She won her 17th at the same site, at age 31.Given the way she’s playing right now, and the way her game keeps evolving, there’s every reason to believe that collection will grow some more.“I’m already thinking about what I could have done better. I think I’m a little crazy in that (way), like something must not be right, because I don’t even relish the moment enough,” said Williams, who turns 32 on Sept. 26. “I just automatically think: What’s next?”Serena Williams, right, greets Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, at the net after winning the women’s singles final of the 2013 U.S. Open tennis tournament, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/David Goldman)After wasting a big lead in the U.S. Open final Sunday against Victoria Azarenka, Williams put aside all sorts of problems — including, she acknowledged later, some nerves — to regroup and regain control. Pulling away down the stretch, the No. 1-seeded Williams beat No. 2 Azarenka 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1 for her second consecutive championship at Flushing Meadows.“When you’re always trying to write history — or join history, in my case — maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should. I also think it’s kind of cool, because it means that it means a lot to you. It means a lot to me, this trophy,” Williams said, pointing her right hand at her fifth silver cup from the U.S. Open, “and every single trophy that I have.”She has won four of the past six major tournaments. Her 17 Grand Slam titles are the sixth-most in history for a woman, only one behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, and the same total as the men’s record-holder, Roger Federer.“It feels really good to be in that same league as him,” Williams said.She earned $3.6 million in prize money to become the first woman to surpass $9 million in a season and $50 million in a career.But that’s not what excites her.“I don’t play tennis for the money. I honestly love to play. I love Grand Slams. When I grew up playing tennis in Compton, I just never thought about any of this,” Williams said. “I think my dad got me into tennis because of the money, but me being naive and silly, I never thought about it. I just thought, ‘I want to win.’”Sure doing a lot of that lately.Williams is 67-4 with a career-high nine titles this season. Since a first-round loss at the French Open in June 2012, she is 98-5 with 14 titles.“She’s become a better player, a more intense player. Tougher overall,” said Patrick Mouratoglou, the French coach who began working with Williams shortly after that defeat in Paris last year. “This year, every time she steps on the court, she’s the favorite. Every time. And she’s played so many matches with this on her back.”On Monday, No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the men’s title match for the third time in four years. It’s the first time since 1996 that both U.S. Open singles finals were 1-vs.-2 matchups.Nadal has 12 major titles, Djokovic six. This is their 37th meeting, the most between any two men in the professional era.Williams and Azarenka were facing each other for the 16th time, and Williams has won 13. But Azarenka is responsible for half of Williams’ losses in 2013, including in the final of a hard-court tournament at Mason, Ohio, last month.Plus, Azarenka is a two-time Australian Open champion and was 31-1 on hard courts this season until Sunday.Oh, and then there’s what happened last year in New York: Azarenka pushed Williams to three sets in the U.S. Open final back then, too.So it should not have been surprising that Williams’ edge evaporated. She went ahead by a set and two breaks in the second at 4-1, then served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5. But Azarenka kept breaking her, then pulled out the tiebreaker.For Williams, there were some jitters. Her usually trusty serve, which did produce nine aces at up to 126 mph, got shaky. Azarenka’s powerful swings off both wings gave her fits. So did the gusting wind. A couple of foot-fault calls added to the angst.As Williams headed to the sideline after dropping a set for the first time in the tournament, she chucked her racket, which ricocheted onto the court.“I got a little uptight, which probably wasn’t the best thing at that moment,” Williams said. “I wasn’t playing very smart tennis then, so I just had to relax and not do that again.”After that rough second set, Williams gave herself a pep talk.“Serena really found a way to calm down and restart from zero and quickly erase what happened,” Mouratoglou said.A year ago, Williams and Azarenka played the first three-set women’s final in New York since 1995. This time, they went the distance again, playing a total of 2 hours, 45 minutes.“She’s a champion, and she knows how to repeat that. She knows what it takes to get there. I know that feeling, too. And when two people who want that feeling so bad meet,” Azarenka said, pounding her fists together, “it’s like a clash.”Williams added to her U.S. Open titles from 1999, 2002, 2008 and 2012.Those go alongside five from Wimbledon, five from the Australian Open, and two from the French Open, which she won this year.“Being older, it’s always awesome and such a great honor, because I don’t know if I’ll ever win another Grand Slam,” Williams said. “Obviously, I hope so.”___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrichlast_img read more

GRADE I WINNER STELLAR WIND HEADS FIELD OF 10 IN SATURDAY’S GRADE II, $200,000 SUMMERTIME OAKS AT SANTA ANITA; IDLE SINCE FINISHING FOURTH AS FAVORITE IN GRADE I KENTUCKY OAKS MAY 1, SADLER TRAINEE TO AGAIN BE RIDDEN BY ‘TRIPLE CROWN MAN’ ESPINOZA

first_imgARCADIA, Calif. (June 17, 2015)–Idle since running a disappointing fourth as the favorite in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks May 1, Hronis Racing, LLC’s Stellar Wind heads a field of ten 3-year-old fillies going a mile and a sixteenth in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. A winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks two starts back on April 4, the John Sadler-conditioned daughter of Curlin will again be ridden by racing’s “Triple Crown Man,” Victor Espinoza.Dispatched at 3-1 in a field of 14 in the mile and one eighth Kentucky Oaks, Stellar Wind’s chances were significantly compromised in the early running, as she steadied at the break and fell 10 lengths off the lead over a strip that was conducive to speed. Despite getting hung nine-wide turning for home, Stellar Wind called upon her considerable class and rallied to be beaten 4 ¾ lengths.A winner of three consecutive races prior to her defeat in the Kentucky Oaks, Stellar Wind, who ran her first two races before being purchased privately at Laurel Race Course in Maryland, is 5-3-0-1 with earnings of $373,200.Trainer Phil D’Amato’s Sheer Pleasure, who comes off a pair of state-bred tallies in the 6 ½ furlong Evening Jewel Stakes April 4 and the 1 1/16 miles Melair Stakes May 23, tries graded stakes competition for the first time and retains the services of Tyler Baze. A California-bred filly by Birdonthewire, Sheer Pleasure sat close to the pace and rambled to a 7 ¼ length win in the Melair at odds of 4-5.Owned by Little Red Feather Racing and R/M Racing, Sheer Pleasure has three wins from five starts and has earnings of $257,450.Bob Baffert’s Fantastic Style comes off an impressive gate to wire win in the seven furlong Angels Flight Stakes May 16 and could pose an elusive target as she tries two turns for the first time on Saturday. Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., the Kentucky-bred filly by Harlan’s Holiday took the Angels Flight by 3 ¼ lengths and was third, beaten 3 ½ lengths in the Grade II, seven furlong Beaumont Stakes two starts back at Keeneland on April 12.With an overall mark of 5-3-1-1, Fantastic Style has earnings of $152,000.Second as the 3-5 favorite in the Angels Flight on May 16, Stonestreet Stables, LLC’s Tara’s Tango will also “two-turn” for the first time Saturday and will be ridden back by Mike Smith. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Tara’s Tango, a daughter of Unbridled’s Song, has a win and two seconds from three starts.Trainer Mark Casse’s lightly raced Conquest Curlgirl comes off a gate to wire one mile maiden win at Santa Anita on May 7 and rates a “live” look with Joe Talamo set to ride back. Owned by Conquest Stables, LLC, the Kentucky-bred filly by Curlin broke her maiden by a half length at odds of 9-5. She’ll make her third career start in the Summertime Oaks.The complete field for the Grade II Summertime Oaks, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: All Star Bub, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Sheer Pleasure, Tyler Baze, 118; Danette, Fernando Perez, 118; Guild, Flavien Prat, 118; Roksana, Felipe Valdez, 118; Tara’s Tango, Mike Smith, 118; Conquest Curlgirl, Joe Talamo, 118; Scat Means Go, Gary Stevens, 118, Stellar Wind, Victor Espinoza, 123, and Fantastic Style, Martin Garcia, 118.                First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.last_img read more