For even the most casual tennis observer, the term 'Next Gen' has been an impossible one to avoid in recent years.

The ATP has been relentless in promoting its Next Generation, the best singles players on the tour aged 21 and under. It created a Next Generation ATP Finals in 2017, but the argument that there actually is a new group of stars ready to assume the mantle from three of the greatest of all time will not gain credence until the trio's run of grand slam dominance is brought to a halt.

Not since Stan Wawrinka's triumph at the 2016 US Open has anyone other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer lifted a grand slam trophy, with Dominic Thiem's two defeats to the Spaniard the closest any of the supposed heir apparents have come to ending that run.

However, the idea there is life after the 'Big Three' could gain significant steam when the US Open comes to an end on Sunday, when one former Next Gen ATP finals participant contests the final with Nadal having been the story of the men's draw at Flushing Meadows.

As Djokovic and Federer suffered, by their incredible standards, early exits and Nadal motored his way through the draw, Daniil Medvedev has stolen the limelight.

Much of the attention he has received has come off the back of his controversial third-round match with Feliciano Lopez, in which he was seen to show a middle-finger to the crowd amid a disagreement with the umpire, making him public enemy number one, a role he accepted with relish.

Yet all the hype around the boos and the joy he has taken in receiving them has helped bring the quality of his game into focus.

A third-place finisher in the inaugural Next Gen Finals, Medvedev has demonstrated extraordinary defence, excellent movement, a strong serve and enough power to live with any player on tour.

Unbeaten in 11 matches, the world number five also displayed an ability to adapt his game to the situation, his performance on one good leg against Wawrinka, in which he worked the Swiss around the court with the drop shot and lob, among the finest of any seen in the men's draw in 2019.

That showing, and his subsequent straight-sets defeat of Grigor Dimitrov, will have raised hope that Medvedev is good enough to beat Nadal, even with the 18-time major champion appearing invincible in New York.

Should that prove to be the case, the continual disappointments of the likes of Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be forgotten.

Yet the only history Nadal and Medvedev have together is not on the Russian's side.

Medvedev's last defeat came on a hard court against Nadal, who crushed him 6-3 6-0 in the final of the Rogers Cup. Nadal, for his part, does not read too much into that going into a contest with a player whose 50 match wins is the most on the ATP Tour this year.

"Of course, [it] helps a little bit. But honestly, I think he's making the steps forward every single day," Nadal said at a media conference. "I will face the player who has won more matches this year, and the player who is playing at the highest level for a while."

It is a final defined by a fascinating narrative, the world's in-form player against an all-time great, bidding to keep the 'big three' streak alive at a tournament where the defeats and injuries suffered by Djokovic and Federer has made the era seem closer to its end than ever before.

Nadal, though, is not motivated by thoughts of keeping their superiority intact.

"We don't need to hold this era anymore," said Nadal. "We have been here for 15 years almost. [It's] going to happen sooner than later that this era is going to end. It's arriving.

"I am 33. Novak is 32. Roger is 38. Andy [Murray] is 32, too. The clock is not stopping. That's part of the cycle of life.

"I'm not worried about this because in tennis there is always going to be great champions."

There will always be great champions but, if Medvedev becomes one in New York, it will be the clearest sign yet that the ATP's 'Next Generation' is finally becoming its present.

Antonio Brown is the latest player Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have taken a punt on.

Seven-time Pro Bowler Brown is certainly not a risk when it comes to production but his acrimonious exits from Pittsburgh and Oakland means Belichick is rolling the dice again on a free agent with character concerns.

More often than no, though, Belichick gets it right - he has six Super Bowl rings as the Pats' head coach and de facto general manager after all.

Here we take a look at Belichick's personnel gambles to see which were hits and which were misses.

 

RODNEY HARRISON, 2003 (VERDICT: HIT)

Harrison was one of the most-fined players in NFL history when with the San Diego Chargers following a series of illegal hits, but New England took a chance in 2003 and reaped the rewards.

The hard-hitting safety replaced Lawyer Milloy in New England's secondary and was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams.

COREY DILLON, 2004 (VERDICT: HIT)

Running back Dillon was approaching 30 and coming off the first down year of his career when the Patriots parted with a second-round pick to bring him to Foxborough.

Having made no secret of his desire to play elsewhere, Dillon proved his 2003 season was a mere blip, rushing for 37 scores and winning a Super Bowl during his three years with Belichick.

WES WELKER, 2007 (VEDICT: HIT)

There were no character concerns over Welker, yet New England's decision to part with second and seventh-round picks appeared bold given the undrafted receiver had tallied just 1,121 yards and one touchdown in three seasons in the league.

Belichick saw the potential, though, and Welker caught more passes than any player in the league in his six seasons with the Patriots, while he was also named to the Pro Bowl in each of those half-a-dozen campaigns.

 

RANDY MOSS, 2007 (VERDICT: HIT)

Acquiring a disgruntled but extremely talented receiver from the Raiders? New England have been here before.

In 2007, New England traded for Moss, who had courted controversy in Minnesota and then outstayed his welcome in Oakland, and he proved to be the final piece of the jigsaw for one of the greatest offenses ever.

He brought in 23 touchdowns in his first year (a figure that remains a single-season record) as the 16-0 Pats went to the Super Bowl only to be beaten by the New York Giants. Moss led the league in receiving scores again in 2009 (finishing in a tie with Vernon Davis and Larry Fitzgerald on 13) before he was sent back to Minnesota - with Belichick again judging when the time was right to move on from the future Hall of Famer.

ALBERT HAYNESWORTH, 2011 (VERDICT: MISS)

Two years after signing a seven-year, $100million deal with the Washington Redskins, defensive lineman Haynesworth was traded to New England for a fifth-round pick having failed to make an impression in the capital amid concerns over his attitude and fitness.

His time in Boston was also short-lived, though, with Haynesworth waived less than four months after signing having clashed with assistant Pepper Johnson. He would play just seven more games in the NFL.

CHAD OCHOCINCO, 2011 (VERDICT: MISS)

One of the NFL's biggest characters hardly seemed suited to 'The Patriot Way'. Wide-out Ochocinco, formerly Johnson until he changed his name to correspond with his jersey number - a move he later reversed, was brash - once wearing a jacket that suggested he was a future Hall of Famer - but productive, with seven 1,000-yard seasons in his 10 years in the league.

Ochocinco joined New England on the same day as Haynesworth in 2011 and cost the Patriots two draft picks. However, he lasted only one season, making 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown in what proved to be his final NFL stop.

AQIB TALIB, 2012 (VERDICT: HIT)

A former first-round pick, Talib was considered surplus to requirements in Tampa Bay after his time with the Buccaneers was blighted by off-field issues.

The cornerback's New England debut was delayed by a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances, but Talib made his first Pro Bowl in 2013 before leaving for Denver - where he won a Super Bowl ring - in free agency.

JOSH GORDON, 2018 (VERDICT: JURY'S STILL OUT)

Gordon and Brown will be in the same offense in 2019, having led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

There were red flags against Gordon coming out of college after he failed a drugs test and was kicked off Baylor's team.

He has continued to be troubled by his demons and has served multiple suspensions in the NFL, including one last season, but is now back with New England and will surely be a hit if he plays enough games.

The worst part for Abbie McManus was she knew what was coming.

England defender McManus, formerly of Manchester City, made her debut for United in Saturday's Manchester derby before a record Women's Super League crowd at the Etihad Stadium.

Casey Stoney's top-flight newcomers had the better of the first half, with Ellie Roebuck forced into a remarkable point-blank save to deny Jane Ross – another of United's ex-City contingent.

Then, in the 48th minute, Caroline Weir collected a loose clearance 25 yards from goal, sized things up and let fly left-footed.

"The shots from distance from Georgia Stanway and Caroline Weir we knew about but, unfortunately, on that one goal, we didn't get tight enough to her," McManus said, thoughts of training sessions past undoubtedly having flashed through her mind.

"It was an unbelievable strike by Caroline Weir."

The vast majority of the 31,213 in attendance rose to their feet as Weir tore away in celebration, soon subsumed by her team-mates. Ideally, all big sporting events need their moment, and City's matchwinner provided it when securing a 1-0 victory.

These are buoyant times for women's football in the UK, following a World Cup where England captured the imagination of millions on their way to the semi-finals.

"It's a great moment for women's football coming back off the successful World Cup. It's a turning point for women's football," Weir said, in acknowledgement of the bigger picture despite her VAR-laced heartache during the group stages with Scotland.

"Support is coming from all places. It's about pushing on and improving at all levels."

The Football Association has shrewdly looked to grasp the sense of positivity by staging showpiece fixtures at some of England's premier venues on this opening weekend of the WSL season.

The Manchester derby crowd was a six-fold improvement on the league's previous best attendance, although the record will not have a chance to dry in the books before a near-capacity crowd watch Chelsea entertain Tottenham on Sunday.

Steph Houghton, City and England captain and the lynchpin of a defence placed under greater scrutiny than they might have imagined at the Etihad, knows these are changing times to be seized.

"We played here a few years ago and there were only 2,000 people," Houghton said, recalling the 2014 Continental Cup clash with Everton, where the attendance actually failed to breach 1,500.

"To get a record-breaking crowd and attendance, and for us to make sure that Manchester stays blue, it was unbelievable.

"There are a lot of big games going on this weekend. I think it's important that we get bums on seats as much as we can."

Houghton is hopeful plenty of those who revelled in derby delight will follow the team back across Alan Turing Way to their usual home at the City Football Academy.

At that stage, when sunlit September afternoons become an inevitably bleak English winter, the domestic football season reverts to a slog that feelgood factors and a sense of novelty alone cannot sustain.

The good news is the evidence in Manchester and beyond is of sport repeatedly capable of capturing the imagination on its own terms.

Before the derby, lifelong City fan Keira Walsh said with relish that she wanted to "absolutely smash" United and her calm, crisp passing granted early control to Nick Cushing's side.

However, the brilliant Netherlands midfielder Jackie Groenen turned the contest in United's favour and, when the visitors seemed to have faded as an attacking force inside the final 10 minutes, she bundled against the base of the post.

In between heroics from Roebuck and Weir, Groenen found herself briefly squared up to the City goalscorer – a late tackle having touched a calf and a nerve. Every one moment stitching new storylines on to the tapestry of a grand old rivalry, with threads everyone involved will be itching to pick up next time.

"The style of football we've just played and both teams have put on, it's a good show," McManus added.

"I hope it's not classed as women's football anymore and I hope that we get the men's fans in now.

"It's getting bigger and better and the crowd make it a little bit more exciting for us. We hope to see those fans back."

Finally, the wait is over. No more concerns about combine performances, training camp activities or injuries in meaningless pre-season fixtures.

On Thursday, the 2019 NFL season kicked off with the Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers. The long-time rivalry failed to deliver a thriller on opening night – the Packers prevailed 10-3 – but it did signal the start of Week 1.

Sundays will never be the same again (well, until the Super Bowl next February at least).

As the rest of the league wait to get started, we look at some of the key Opta facts for seven games in Week 1 - including the New England Patriots, the reigning champions no less, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Los Angeles Rams @ Carolina Panthers

The Rams finished the last campaign as bridesmaids, beaten 13-3 by the Pats in Super Bowl LIII. So, can Sean McVay’s team go one better this season? Well, the schedule has thrown up a tricky start away to Carolina – the Rams have not triumphed in Charlotte since 2001.

However, while the head-to-head history favours the Panthers, the Rams have won 13 road games since the start of 2017 season, which is the most in the NFL in that span.

 

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have dominated this divisional rivalry of late, winning the last four straight. Their most recent meeting was in Week 17 last year, with the Redskins shut out in a 24-0 loss.

Philadelphia went 5-3 at home last season and will be wary of a Washington team who have won their last three road openers. However, the Redskins still have a long way to go to match the franchise record in such games, having triumphed in seven on the spin between 1937 and 1943.

 

Atlanta Falcons @ Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are on a three-game winning streak against the Falcons, while they have also not lost a home opener since 2014.

So no hope for Atlanta this week? Actually, the Falcons finished the last campaign with back-to-back road wins, plus their only other away success in 2018 came in Minnesota. They have done a good job keeping Adam Thielen quiet in previous meetings, too. The wide receiver has recorded just four catches in three games against them.

 

Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City have beaten Jacksonville in four straight games, including a 30-14 result last season. Still, the Jaguars managed 502 yards of offense (and had five turnovers) in a losing cause.

The Jags will be hoping to do better at home in 2019. They went 3-5 in front of their own fans last season, one of just eight teams to post a losing record at their own stadium. They conceded the fewest and scored the second-fewest points at home in 2018, so reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may find it tough going this weekend.

 

Indianapolis Colts @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Colts begin life without the now-retired Andrew Luck in LA. They closed out the previous season with successive road wins but have not won three in a row away from Indianapolis since a four-game run between October and December in 2016.

As for the Chargers, quarterback Philip Rivers has just three touchdowns in five regular-season games against the Colts. He has thrown for fewer against just one NFL team (Atlanta - one in three games).

 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots

The Steelers' 17-10 win last season was their first success in five over the Patriots. They have become accustomed to starting on the road, having done so for the past four seasons.

Tom Brady has certainly enjoyed coming up against Pittsburgh in the past, though. In his 11 regular season games against them, the quarterback has thrown for 26 touchdowns (his second most against a team outside of the AFC East) compared to just five interceptions.

 

Houston Texans @ New Orleans Saints

These two teams have not faced each other since 2015, the Texans winning 24-6 the last time they met. The Saints have not scored six or fewer points in a game since, by the way.

New Orleans have home advantage but will be looking to end a miserable Week 1 record. They have lost their last five season openers, allowing an average of 36.0 points per game.

The US Open women's singles final delivered once again as a fascinating spectacle ended with an emerging star defeating arguably the greatest player to pick up a racquet.

Bianca Andreescu won her first grand slam title in her first main draw appearance at the US Open by denying Serena Williams a record-tying 24th major.

Andreescu claimed victory despite a furious comeback from Williams in a second set in which a deafening crowd attempted to will the American into forcing a decider.

There was a clear indicator of how much support Williams would have during her practice session prior to the showpiece.

Omnisport's man on the ground, Nicholas McGee, provides the details in our daily diary from New York.

 

FAN SOBS AT SERENA PRACTICE

Just a few hours before her clash with Andreescu, Williams took to the practice courts, briefly greeting men's finalist Rafael Nadal as he walked off following the end of his session.

The mere sight of the 23-time grand slam champion was too much to handle for one fan, who immediately began sobbing upon spotting the 37-year-old.

Unfortunately for Serena and her fans, it was to be a day that ended in tears.

MUTED CELEBRATIONS FOR MURRAY

Jamie Murray and Bethanie Mattek-Sands successfully defended their mixed doubles title, defeating top seeds Michael Venus and Chan Hao-ching in the final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

There were no plans for major celebrations, however, with Mattek-Sands telling a media conference: "I'm making him drink some champagne out of the trophy, we're having some pizza. But he's leaving. It's not like we're partying till 4 a.m. tonight.

"Next time."

"Yeah, next year," Murray replied.

SYLVAIN SHARES THE GLORY

The Andreescu team was able to celebrate winning two trophies as, at an emotional ceremony after her media conference, the Canadian's coach Sylvain Bruneau was also presented with one.

Bruneau initially held the trophy the wrong way and apologised, joking: "I'm not used to holding trophies."

Andreescu's response perfectly encapsulated her remarkable confidence. "Well get used to it," said the champion.

On the evidence of Saturday, Bruneau can indeed look forward to watching his protege secure many more major titles.

It will be a familiar scenario for Rafael Nadal when he faces Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final on Sunday.

Nadal will be taking on a first-time grand slam finalist for the third successive year.

Six of Nadal's previous 26 major finals have been against debutants in that arena and the Spaniard has predictably dominated such matchups.

Here we look back at the 18-time grand slam champion's record against first-timers ahead of what should be an intriguing battle with Medvedev.

 

2005 French Open v Mariano Puerta: Won 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 6-1 7-5

Nadal's first major final saw him battle another debutant in Mariano Puerta at Roland Garros. The Argentinian took the first set in a tie-break but Nadal dominated from there to complete a 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 6-1 7-5 win.

It would mark the start of nine French Open wins in 10 years as Nadal solidified his reputation as the King of Clay. Puerta, meanwhile, received a second suspension for a doping offence and never returned to such a stage.

2010 Wimbledon v Tomas Berdych: Won 6-3 7-5 6-4

Two years after he won arguably the greatest ever final at the All England Club by beating Roger Federer in five sets, Nadal enjoyed a much more serene victory in what still stands as Berdych's sole major final.

Nadal saw off Andy Murray in the semi-finals while Berdych had stunningly beaten Federer and then Novak Djokovic to progress to the final. However, he ran out of steam against Nadal in routine fashion.

2013 French Open v David Ferrer: Won 6-3 6-2 6-3

Nadal had to come through an epic five-setter with Djokovic in the last four to reach the final but still had far too much for his compatriot, losing just eight games across three sets.

The victory secured his eighth French Open title but he would have to wait four more years for La Decima.

2014 Australian Open v Stan Wawrinka: Lost 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-3

Wawrinka had fallen just short in his previous grand slam, losing in the semi-finals at the 2013 US Open, but the Swiss was inspired in Melbourne as he defeated Djokovic in five sets in the quarter-finals and needed under two and a half hours to see off Nadal.

The Spaniard did win the third set to suggest a comeback was on the cards, but this was Wawrinka's day and he served the fourth out to win the first of three major titles.

2017 US Open v Kevin Anderson: Won 6-3 6-3 6-4

Nadal enjoyed a remarkable 2017, reaching three major finals after many thought his days of contending for slams were over.

He lost a five-set thriller to Federer in Australia before completing La Decima against Wawrinka in Paris.

A stunning year was rounded off in New York as the absence of Djokovic and Murray and Federer's quarter-final exit opened up the draw, with surprise package Anderson the beneficiary.

Nadal made light work of the big-serving South African, though, and faces another player who profited from an open draw on Sunday. Medvedev, however, promises to present a much stiffer challenge.

2018 French Open v Dominic Thiem: Won 6-4 6-3 6-2

The first of two meetings with the Austrian in the decider at Roland Garros was much more one-sided than the second, though he still needed two hours and 42 minutes to see off Thiem.

Thiem took a set off Nadal a year later in a rematch, indicating the possible start of an intriguing clay-court rivalry in the coming years.

If his performances at Flushing Meadows are any evidence, Nadal should see plenty more of Medvedev in the latter stages of his career.

The other side of the net from Serena Williams at the US Open is a lonely place.

It's extremely lonely when you are in the final and have just spurned two chances to serve out to win a grand slam, with a packed crowd bursting for you to collapse in the biggest match of your career.

That was the challenge 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu faced at Flushing Meadows on Saturday, and at that point it looked very much as if the vast majority of the fans inside Arthur Ashe Stadium were going to get their wish.

For Williams has broken the hearts of so many opponents throughout her glorious career that has encompassed 23 grand slam titles. Her resilience and remarkable ability to come back from the death have been the defining features of the greatest Open Era career in professional tennis.

As Andreescu stuck her fingers in her ears in a vain attempt to drown out deafening noise that greeted Williams going 40-0 up on the Canadian's serve to cut a 5-1 deficit to 5-4, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone inside the planet's largest tennis stadium that did not believe a history-making comeback was about to be made.

It didn't matter that Williams had been completely outplayed for a set and a half. It didn't matter that she had served pitifully for the vast majority of the match. All that mattered was who had the momentum, and it was firmly in the possession of the player who has long since made the most devastating use of it.

With this contest featuring the largest age gap between grand slam finalists in the Open Era, the odds were firmly on Williams using her experience and riding the tidal wave building against an opponent who appeared increasingly powerless to stop it.

Williams' long history of completing spectacular turnarounds may have seemed key at that moment. However, it was Andreescu's recent history of thriving in pressure situations and closing out matches that ultimately proved instructive in her incredible 6-3 7-5 triumph.

Andreescu came into the final having not lost a completed match since March and won all of her seven previous encounters with top-10 opponents. Her prior three matches at the US Open had seen her survive a second-set blip against Taylor Townsend, come from a set down to defeat Elise Mertens and recover from a 5-2 deficit in the second set to claim victory over Belinda Bencic in the semi-final.

Even at her tender age, Andreescu is battle hardened and she proved it once again, rediscovering her composure and her confidence on serve to hold, and finding her fierce forehand in the subsequent game as the teenager chose not to settle for the tie-break, but to go on the attack.

Had she done otherwise and lost the tie-break, the odds would have been firmly in favour of Williams going on to win the decider and a historic title in handsome fashion.

Instead it was Williams who cracked in the most crucial juncture of a match, as a forehand winner saw Andreescu complete one of the most unpredictable championship runs of recent memory in her main draw debut.

It leaves Williams facing a hard truth. The other side of the net from her is a lonely place, but it's one an increasing number of her rivals are becoming more comfortable in.

Williams understandably does not put much stock in her 2018 Wimbledon final defeat to Angelique Kerber, given it came less than a year after she gave birth to her daughter. 

There is a lot of weight, though, in the three major final losses that have followed. Naomi Osaka rose to the occasion on the same stage as Andreescu 12 months ago, and Williams was dismantled by Simona Halep at the All England Club in July.

Against Andreescu she was a comfortable second best for all but four games and, when it came time for her to deliver the blows that would change the course of the contest for good, she found her opponent more ready to seize the opportunity and the title.

Williams conceded in her post-match media conference that she did not believe Serena showed up.

She will be 38 by the time she has another chance to "show up" at the Australian Open and, with Osaka, Andreescu and an ever expanding cast of determined young women showing no fear in facing her, it is fair to question whether it will even make a difference if she does.

Bianca Andreescu claimed the biggest win of her career on Saturday, but the teenager's US Open triumph was just her latest over a top-10 player.

The 19-year-old Canadian beat Serena Williams in straight sets at Arthur Ashe Stadium for her first grand slam title.

Andreescu now holds an 8-0 record over top-10 players in her career, with each of those wins coming in 2019, showcasing her ability to step up against the best.

Omnisport takes a look at the teenager's top-10 wins.

2019 Auckland Open: defeated Caroline Wozniacki (1) 6-4 6-4

A qualifier facing the top seed, Andreescu stunned Wozniacki in Auckland in January. She was ranked 152nd in the world at the time.

2019 Indian Wells Open: defeated Elina Svitolina (6) 6-3 2-6 6-4

Andreescu put together a fine run on her way to a first WTA Tour title at Indian Wells, including saving nine of 10 break points in the final set in a semi-final win over Svitolina.

2019 Indian Wells Open: defeated Angelique Kerber (8) 6-4 3-6 6-4

A wildcard, Andreescu joined Williams (1999), Kim Clijsters (2005) and Naomi Osaka (2018) as the only unseeded champions at Indian Wells.

2019 Miami Open: defeated Angelique Kerber (8) 6-4 4-6 6-1

Less than a week after beating Kerber in the final at Indian Wells, Andreescu repeated the feat in Miami.

2019 Rogers Cup: defeated Kiki Bertens (5) 6-1 6-7 (7-9) 6-4

Andreescu's run in Toronto surely sparked hopes she could contend at Flushing Meadows, beginning with her last-16 victory over Bertens.

2019 Rogers Cup: defeated Karolina Pliskova (3) 6-0 2-6 6-4

Andreescu made it four straight three-set wins by overcoming Pliskova, again delivering in a key moment by breaking decisively in the ninth game of the decider.

2019 Rogers Cup: defeated Serena Williams (8) 3-1 ret.

It may not have been the way she wanted to win a title at home, but Andreescu was ahead in the final when Williams retired due to a back injury.

2019 US Open: defeated Serena Williams 6-3 7-5

She got another chance in New York and delivered an impressive display in front of a raucous crowd supporting the American great. After taking the first set, Andreescu saw Williams come from 5-1 down in the second, only to steady and close out her maiden major success.

Serena Williams' quest for a 24th grand slam title continues after she succumbed to an inspired performance by teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu in the US Open final.

The 19-year-old Canadian capped an extraordinary rise in 2019 by clinching the final slam of the season at Flushing Meadows with a 6-3 7-5 victory, maintaining her incredible run of having never lost to a top-10 player.

While it was Andreescu this time around, it was Naomi Osaka who beat Williams at Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2018, with the 37-year-old having been stuck on 23 victories – one shy of Margaret Court's record – since January 2017.

For a spell in a dramatic second set, it looked as though Williams had the upper hand, but Andreescu held firm to condemn her opponent to a fourth successive grand slam final defeat.

KERBER PROVES TOO MUCH AT WIMBLEDON

Williams was around eight weeks pregnant when she won the Australian Open against her sister Venus in January 2017 and, after pulling out of the Indian Wells and Miami Opens, the then world number one confirmed she was expecting her first child.

She returned to tennis in 2018, making her grand slam comeback at Roland Garros. However, it was at Wimbledon that Williams got back into her grand slam stride, until she met Angelique Kerber, who was in no mood to give up on a chance to clinch a maiden Wimbledon crown and won 6-3 6-3. 

"To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried," said an emotional Williams, just 10 months after giving birth.  

CONTROVERSY OVERSHADOWS OSAKA'S TRIUMPH

Osaka's sensational triumph should have been the main story from the 2018 US Open final, but unfortunately Williams stole the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Williams' tournament ended in controversy, as she received a game penalty in the second set after she had reacted badly to a code violation issued by the chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

She demanded an apology from Ramos, who Williams accused of being a "liar" and a "thief" after she received a further two violations for smashing her racket and abusing the umpire.

HALEP SHOWS NO MERCY

After a quarter-final defeat in Melbourne and a round-of-32 exit in Paris, Williams returned to grand slam contention as she charged to the final at Wimbledon earlier this year.   But former world number one Simona Halep put in one of the best – if not the best – performances of her career to brush her opponent aside 6-2 6-2, taking just 56 minutes to do so.   "I don't think it's a surprise for anyone to play great against me," Williams said. "When someone plays lights out, there's really not much you can do. You just have to understand that that was their day today."

NO FAIRYTALE IN NEW YORK

A chance at Flushing Meadows redemption came in Saturday's final. Osaka had been reduced to tears at the end of the 2018 final, in part it seemed due to the partisan crowd in Williams' favour that day, with the youngster apologising for beating the fan favourite.

However, despite equally vociferous support at Arthur Ashe, Williams could not muster enough to beat the exceptional Andreescu.

A stunning recovery seemed on when Williams fought back from 5-1 down to draw level in the second set, but Andreescu – who was not born when Williams won the 1999 title – regained her composure to seal a memorable victory on her major final debut.

Baker Mayfield is going to be an NFL great and does not care about pundits' criticism, according to Cleveland Browns team-mate Jamie Gillan.

Quarterback Mayfield was selected with the first overall pick by the Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft and went 6-7 as a starter for Cleveland in his rookie season.

However, Mayfield is a man who splits opinion due to his outspoken nature, which included taking a dig at ex-team-mate Duke Johnson for requesting a trade.

Mayfield has also taken aim at Giants fans following the trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, while he said "it blows my mind" when the New York franchise picked Duke QB Daniel Jones with the sixth pick in April's draft.

Two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora, who played for the Giants and the Atlanta Falcons during his career and is now a prominent pundit, this week said when previewing the season with BBC Sport: "I cannot stand this young man.

"I tried to give him a chance because I liked him coming out of college but I mean this guy just keeps spouting off at the mouth man, you are a quarterback, you are an endangered species man because you're so protected. 

"You shouldn't be talking like that, if I was still playing this is the kind of guy we would sack, remove his helmet, take the football and shove it directly down his throat."

But Scotsman Gillan, picked up as a free agent by the Browns and retained on their roster for this season, defended Mayfield and said any athlete gives little credence to what is said about them.

"I don't know who that is or why he said that, a lot of people have opinions on people," Gillan said. 

"He's a fantastic guy and he's that good for a reason because he believes in himself and that he is number one. 

"Who cares what that guy says and what other people say? That's just his opinion. You can't listen to that sort of stuff and he won't, that's why he's going to be great. 

"We don't care what people say on the TV etc. We're going out to do our jobs and win games and if that's his opinion, whatever! Baker is an awesome guy who's going to do great this season."

Gillan moved to America at the age of 16 and the rugby-mad Scotsman took up American football as a punter in high school to hone his kicking skills.

Six years later and he was retained by the Browns at the expense of Super Bowl winner Britton Colquitt.

Now sharing a locker room with the likes of Mayfield, Beckham and Jarvis Landry, Gillan says his new team-mates have been great to work with.

"They've been fantastic. I get a bit of a rookie banter, people just having a little laugh you know but at the end of the day everybody has been supportive and fantastic," he added. 

"They know how cut-throat the business is and I feel like in this business you need to show that you're a team player. Everybody can see the people who are there for themselves or those who want to be a team player. 

"If you keep working really hard and tell them that you want to be on this team and want to be great, people will respond well. 

"That's just how I've always been. I'm always going be a team player. I'm always going to want to win with the team. I did not like losing at all when I was young. So that's how I am, and I've been getting along with everybody and I always will."


Watch Jamie Gillan in action as the Cleveland Browns host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday 8th September on Sky Sports Action at 17:00 and Sky Sports Main Event at 18:00. You can also catch-up on the action on Tuesday with the NFL This Week highlights show available on BBC Two and iPlayer.

It may raise a few eyebrows that a proud, rugby-mad Scotsman like Jamie Gillan would admit his role model growing up was one of England's greatest ever players.

"Jonny Wilkinson was my favourite rugby player. When YouTube first appeared, as a kid, I think I watched every YouTube highlights video of Jonny Wilkinson," Gillan said of the hero of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup triumph. 

"I've probably watched them about 100 times each. I loved how he played. He played with a lot of heart and was an awesome kicker as well. 

"I also liked watching [former Scotland fly-half] Chris Paterson kick conversions. I like him and Jonny Wilkinson. I looked up to Jonny Wilkinson the most, I liked watching how he played."

It is that sort of forensic-like analysis and willingness to learn that helped Gillan on a path from aspiring rugby union international to a career in the NFL as a punter with the Cleveland Browns.

Growing up in Inverness, Gillan spent four years playing for the youth teams of Highland RFC before relocating to Merchiston Castle boarding school in Edinburgh where he went to chase his dream of playing for Scotland.

But the course of Gillan's personal journey would change at the age of 16. His father Colin, a navigator with the Royal Air Force, was posted to Maryland.

"It was a really big decision that me and my family made. I was doing really well in Merchiston. I got really good results in my GCSEs and had just come off winning the Scottish schools cup for youth 16s," Gillan said of the life-altering moment. 

"We had a really great team, I didn't want to leave! I was rugby mad and we had such a stellar team, I really enjoyed playing. 

"My goal was to play professional rugby and pull on the Scotland jersey one day, but with my parents moving across the Atlantic and the fact my Dad didn't want to be that far away from us, I decided to move out.

"Coming to school in America was way different, having to do the different tests and classes. There were some subjects I had dropped when I was 14 years old, but I had to do them again over here which made it more difficult." 

Fast forward six years and Gillan is about to make his NFL debut against the Tennessee Titans for an ambitious Browns side that boasts superstar talent in the form of Odell Beckham Jr, Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry.

But American football was not necessarily at the forefront of Gillan's mind from the second he touched down Stateside.

It was only when Gillan sought out the coach of his high-school team – the man credited with coining his 'Scottish Hammer' nickname – with the intention of honing his kicking skills and staying fit to play rugby that things accelerated.

His hammer of a left boot caught the eyes of scouts and scholarship offers soon arrived for Gillan, who rocked up at the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

College life provided another culture shock. The gruelling demands of mixing a full training schedule with studies and sleep deprivation was an experience he credits with preparing him for the NFL.

"Going into college life was even crazier because you're doing classes per semester, so you've only got two months to finish these classes and with the NCAA rules you have to take a certain number of classes," he reflected.

"A lot of people don't realise but playing college sports is ridiculously hard, in terms of your timetable and the amount of sleep you're getting. You're up at 5am running until you're throwing up. We've got five classes, have to squeeze in some food and lift right after that for an hour and a half, then punting for two hours, then dinner, then study hall/team meetings before getting into bed around 11.30/12pm. 

"We're doing that Monday-Friday during the season. During the offseason you're doing it for about two months and in the summer, you stay doing the same thing on top of doing the work. It's a hard schedule but it moulds you well if you stick to it and take it and run with it. I ended up doing okay and playing in the NFL so…"

Gillan went undrafted in April's draft, not uncommon for punters, but was picked up by the Browns in free agency and was in direct competition with Super Bowl winner Britton Colquitt for a place on the roster.

Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had a tough decision on his hands, but the raw potential of Gillan – whose rugby-style tackling adds another dimension – saw him earn the nod.

Priefer admitted "it would have been very difficult to let a guy like Jamie out the building" but Gillan – who learned of the news while in the Flying Monkey Pub with his father – would have had no regrets regardless of the outcome.

"I was out with my dad enjoying myself a little bit. It was like D-Day, everyone was finding out if they were cut or put on the practice squad or traded or making the team," he said. 

"I didn't have a whole lot of emotions to be honest. I think my dad was more emotional and nervous than I was because I knew what I had done in the past four months. 

"I know what I have done in the pre-season. I've worked really hard and regardless of what happens, I can sit back and be happy with what I've done. I didn't know if I was going to get cut, traded or make the team so I was just enjoying the experience. 

"I didn't want to be in my room or hanging out and not really doing much. Me and my dad were like let's go out and enjoy ourselves and see what happens. So, we did and then I got the phone call from the GM saying that I made the team, so I was extremely happy."  

Gillan insists he has not felt overawed by sharing a locker room with his more globally recognised team-mates, who he says have welcomed him with open arms.

That's not to say there hasn't been any playful hazing.

"Yeah there is a little bit," he said. "We had to get up and sing in front of the team, so that was fun. 

"I sung Evil Scotsman by Billy Connelly in front of the whole team and they thought that was really funny, so you know little stuff like that makes it fun.

"I get a bit of a rookie banter, people just having a little laugh you know but at the end of the day everybody has been supportive and fantastic."


Watch Jamie Gillan in action as the Cleveland Browns host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday 8th September on Sky Sports Action at 17:00 and Sky Sports Main Event at 18:00. You can also catch-up on the action on Tuesday with the NFL This Week highlights show available on BBC Two and iPlayer.

The Antonio Brown Era in Oakland is over before it even began, after the Raiders decided to release the wideout on Saturday.

Elite players rarely stay on the market for long and Brown's agent has made it clear his client is looking to explore his options.

ESPN's Adam Schefter quoted Brown's representative, Drew Rosenhaus, as saying: "Now that Antonio is a free agent, we are focused on the future and I will immediately work on signing him to a new team. Antonio is looking forward to a new beginning."

There is surely no way 30 teams - excluding the Pittsburgh Steelers, who traded Brown to Oakland following a fallout, and Raiders - could pass on a chance to land one of the NFL's best, right?

Here are three teams that should consider signing Antonio Brown.

 

New England Patriots

New England are bound to pop up in plenty of people's heads. The Patriots have an elite coach in Bill Belichick, a tight-knit system and certainly are no strangers to taking risks. While last year's gamble that brought Josh Gordon over from the Cleveland Browns did not quite work out in 2018, the wideout made valuable contributions en route to the Patriots' latest Super Bowl win. Better yet, he will have a chance to redeem himself this year. The jury is still out on whether they made the right choice, so why not give it another go?

Brown, 31, is still at the peak of his career and has eclipsed 1,200 receiving yards in six consecutive seasons. He would certainly improve a receiving corps that already features Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and Julian Edelman.

If Brown wants to play for a winner, joining a team that's won three of the last five Super Bowls might not be a bad idea.

 

Dallas Cowboys

America's team already has plenty of drama surrounding it, so why not add more? Surely Jerry Jones has at least considered bringing Brown aboard.

Dallas has a dynamic running back in Ezekiel Elliott, a dangerous dual threat quarterback under center in Dak Prescott and received great production from Amari Cooper after acquiring the wideout in a midseason trade last year.

With Brown in the fold, the Cowboys would have an abundance of elite options. If there's one statement move Dallas could make to show it's dedicated to winning now, it's this.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals owner Mike Brown has been changing Cincinnati's culture by taking chances on wayward players over the years. If Adam 'Pacman' Jones and Vontaze Burfict could carve out roles, Brown might be able to do the same.

But that is not the only reason this move could make sense.

A.J .Green has been at the heart of Cincinnati's offense for years but he is expected to miss the start of 2019 due to an ankle injury he suffered in practice this offseason. If Green misses the first half of the campaign, pairing him with Brown would allow him to ease back into things while demanding a little less attention every play.

Tyler Boyd had a breakout season in 2018 and John Ross has the breakaway speed to be a major downfield threat moving forward. Then there's tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Joe Mixon.

An explosive player like Brown that can open up the field might be just what Cincinnati needs to rebound from last year's 6-10 finish.

It was only a matter of time before Australia paceman Mitchell Starc left his mark on the Ashes series.

Starc played no part in the tourists' win at Edgbaston, a draw at Lord's or England's astonishing triumph at Headingley.

The left-arm quick was unleashed for the pivotal fourth Test at Old Trafford, but was expensive with his radar off on day three as Australia looked to strengthen their grip on the match.

Starc's time came when he was tossed the second new ball under grey skies in Manchester on the penultimate day.

England were in desperate need of something special when they resumed on 200-5 in reply to 497-8 declared, knowing a defeat would put them 2-1 down and unable to regain the urn.

Much rested on the shoulders on Ben Stokes, match-winner at Headingley with an astonishing unbeaten century, and Jonny Bairstow when they marched out at the start of the day.

Starc ensured neither man remained at the crease for long, roaring in from the Brian Statham End like a man on a mission with a point to prove.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were outstanding on the third day as Starc sprayed it around.

It was a different story when the 29-year-old steamed in from the same end with a new missile in hand, generating late swing to clean Bairstow up with a sharp delivery.

He then claimed the huge scalp of Stokes, who nicked one that nipped away off the seam into the safe hands of Steve Smith.

Starc sent Stuart Broad's off stump cartwheeling from the other end after lunch before Cummins bowled Jos Buttler to dismiss England for 301.

The lethal Starc finished with figures of 3-80 as he demonstrated Australia's embarrassment of riches in the bowling department.

A first-innings lead of 196 has Tim Paine's side scenting victory and Starc is surely not finished yet as they strive to keep the urn.

Rafael Nadal will unquestionably go down as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, and another of the sport's legends was honoured at the US Open before his semi-final.

The man known as Rocket Rod received recognition for a feat no player has been able to replicate, before taking in Nadal's straight-sets win over Matteo Berrettini.

Nadal set up a final with Daniil Medvedev, who defeated Grigor Dimitrov, but the winner of their clash will have to go some way to match the celebrations that marked the end of the men's doubles showpiece.

Omnisport's man on the ground, Nicholas McGee, provides the details in our daily diary from New York.

 

GOOD WEATHER FOR DUCKS

Very little play was possible on the outside courts as heavy rain persisted throughout day 12.

Those dressed for warmer weather may have needed to make an emergency purchase to stay dry.

Thankfully the US Open shop has plenty of options for those needing to wrap up.

It is said rain is good weather for ducks and there are plenty of the rubber variety on offer for those looking to make the bizarre move of adding tennis memorabilia to their bathroom.

FARAH AND CABAL GO BACK TO BACK

Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal secured back-to-back grand slam titles at Arthur Ashe Stadium as the Colombian men's doubles team overcame Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 6-4 7-5.

The crowd was filled with fans wearing Colombia national football team jerseys, who greeted the pair claiming match point with a huge roar.

Farah is expecting wilder celebrations when they return to their homeland, telling a post-match media conference: "The way Colombia received us when we came back from Wimbledon was really breathtaking. I don't even want to think about how crazy it's gonna be now that we come back from the US Open.

"I think that back-to-back is quite an achievement, and we just have to say, thank you, Colombia, for all that support and the good vibes they always give us. We are very happy to represent our country in the way that we are doing it."

ROCKET ROD HONOURED

Rod Laver has been in attendance throughout the tournament at Flushing Meadows, and on Friday the 50th anniversary of his second Grand Slam was celebrated.

Laver is the only man in history to win the calendar Grand Slam twice, his second coming at the 1969 US Open.

To honour that incredible achievement, Laver was presented with a replica of the US Open trophy and then with a plaque from representatives of all four major tournaments as the Arthur Ashe crowd came to its feet to show its appreciation for Rocket Rod.

As players walk out of the the tunnel and into Arthur Ashe Stadium, they are greeted by a plaque adorned with four famous words uttered by Billie Jean King - "Pressure is a privilege".

Of all the greats to have graced the sport of tennis, no player has embraced that motto more than Serena Williams.

At her most dangerous with her back against the wall, Williams' major-trophy laden career has been defined by the American's ability to thrive when the match situation appears most dire, to ratchet up the intensity and summon her very best when it is most needed.

However, standing between her and a record-tying 24th grand slam title in the US Open final is a teenager who may be her heir apparent in that regard.

Bianca Andreescu only has eight major match wins to her name, six of them coming in this year's event at Flushing Meadows. She was not even born when Williams appeared in her first slam final.

The contrast between the two finalists could not be more stark. Yet, when it comes to on-court intensity, there is a strong argument that Andreescu is already the 37-year-old's equal.

If she continues to produce turnarounds akin to her second-set comeback in the semi-final with Belinda Bencic, the Canadian will soon have a similar reputation for excelling in the moments the vast majority shrink under.

Aptly described as a "warrior and a street fighter" by her coach Sylvain Bruneau on Friday, at the age of 19 Andreescu is a wonderfully entertaining player to watch.

She is blessed with great power and brings tremendous variety to her game, but it is what she does after and in-between points that makes so mesmeric.

Andreescu lives and breathes for every point. In each game she seems to fight with her own internal sense of frustation and it is a surprise when a point she wins is not greeted by a vociferous "Yes! C'mon!" or by her barking at her support team.

Comfort is not a word that naturally comes to mind when watching Andreescu. However, she seems most at ease when in need of a fightback, so being break-point down is viewed more as an opportunity rather than a problem.

Trailing 5-2 in the second against Bencic, having won the first on a tie-break, there was never any thought of her easing off and saving energy for a decider. Andreescu attacked, Bencic got tight and any confidence the Swiss had built up ebbed away as she lost five straight games and handed the match to the main-draw debutant.

"I think when I'm down, I play my best tennis. Whenever my back is against the wall, I think I'm just extra focused in those moments," Andreescu told a news conference.

"I remember I told myself at 5-2 that I didn't want to go in three sets. So I think just that switched my mindset. I was just really, really focused.

"It's [fearlessness] just inside of me somehow. I think it's just my passion for the game, as well. I don't like to lose, so I just try my best every match. I expect a lot from myself, so I think that pressure also helps me do my best in matches."

Andreescu's belief has grown throughout a stunning year. Having failed to qualify for the US Open last year, her 2019 has encompassed a final in Auckland and titles at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup, where an ailing Williams retired four games into the final.

The desire to win at Flushing Meadows, however, has been there for a long time.

"When I was 16, after I won the Orange Bowl title, I remember I wrote myself a cheque of this tournament, winning the tournament obviously," said Andreescu. "Ever since that moment, I just kept visualising that.

"If that can happen on Saturday, then that would be pretty cool."

She will be able to cash a cheque for $3.85million should she prevail on Saturday. To do so, Andreescu will need to overcome the greatest player of all time, with Williams chasing history in front of her home crowd at the world's biggest tennis stadium.

A monumental challenge, but one Andreescu will unquestionably show no fear in facing.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.