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The Sports Report: Serena Williams is back in the U.S. Open final

US Open Tennis
Serena Williams
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

TENNIS

Serena Williams will vie for her seventh U.S. Open women’s title and for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam event singles crown on Saturday after she defeated Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 Thursday night. Her opponent will be Bianca Andreescu, who was down 2-5 in the second set to Belinda Bencic but won 7-6 (3), 7-5. Andreescu has never played in the final of a Grand Slam event.

Williams also tied Chris Evert’s record of 101 singles victories at the U.S. Open.

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“To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy. But I don’t really expect too much less,” Williams, 38, said. “I think today was solid. It definitely wasn’t my best tennis.

“I think it’s cool that I’ve been in more [Grand Slam] finals than, I think anyone on tour after being pregnant. I think that’s kind of awesome. [Anyone] that’s currently on tour. I kind of look at it that way because it’s not easy to go through what I did and come back, and so fast. To keep playing, to also not be 20 years old, yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself.”

And she’s not taking Andreescu lightly. “She really knows how to mix up the game and play different shots in different ways,” Williams said. “Above all, I just like her as a person. She’s amazing.”

UCLA FOOTBALL

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If you go to a Bruins home game this season, take a moment to look around and admire all the beautifully painted empty seats. UCLA’s average home attendance of 51,164 last season at the 80,616-seat Rose Bowl was its smallest since 1999, continuing a steep decline that started in 2017. Last season’s crowds were down 33.2% from the school-record 76,650 the Bruins averaged in 2014, when they went 10-3 and were ranked as high as No. 7 in national polls.

“When most of the stadium is empty, it’s not a good look,” former quarterback Kevin Prince said. “It does change the dynamic and the feel and the atmosphere for sure. So it’s sad to see.”

So what are the reasons for this decline?

1. The Bruins haven’t been very good lately.

2. Uncertain kickoff times. The times for only two of the six games at the Rose Bowl have been announced, and often aren’t known until the week of the game.

“You can’t plan your weekend, which is so precious with family time,” said Greg McGinity, a UCLA fan from Redondo Beach who hasn’t been to a game at the Rose Bowl since 2012 because of the uncertainty. “The game could be at noon or it may be at 8 o’clock and you may not be able to get home until midnight.”

3. The athletic department sharply increased mandatory donation requirements attached to some season ticket packages in 2016 in an effort to offset the rising costs of the school’s 25 sports teams. The average average donation per seat per game went up from $62.50 to $266.67

Some longtime season ticket holders revolted. Steve Prince, Kevin’s father, gave up the season tickets he had held in the family since his freshman year at UCLA in 1963. “It just wasn’t worth it,” Prince said.

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“You’ve got students who want to enjoy their weekend and do other things if the product’s not great,” said Kevin Prince. “So I think just the fact that it’s truly an all-day event and if you’re going to sacrifice your whole day to go to a game, you want to have it be worthwhile.”

And there are other factors too. But you know what the best solution is? A winning team that is exciting to watch.

UCLA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: AM 1150

Cincinnati 24, UCLA 14

Saturday vs. San Diego State, 1:15 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Sept. 14 vs. Oklahoma, 5 p.m., Fox

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Sept. 21 at Washington State, TBD

Sept. 28 at Arizona, TBD

Oct. 5 vs. Oregon State, TBD

Oct. 17 at Stanford, 6 p.m., ESPN

Oct. 26 vs. Arizona State, TBD

Nov. 2 vs. Colorado, TBD

Nov. 16 at Utah, TBD

Nov. 23 at USC, TBD

Nov. 30 vs. California, TBD

USC FOOTBALL

Coach Clay Helton says he is going to pick up the pace of the offense and rotate more receivers Saturday against a Stanford secondary that held Northwestern to 117 passing yards last week.

Maintaining that pace against the Pac-12’s preeminent ball-control offense is certainly no easy feat. Northwestern, while not a naturally up-tempo offense, managed only 60 plays against Stanford.

USC, meanwhile, had 51 plays in one half a week ago, before starting quarterback JT Daniels went down with a season-ending knee injury. They had only 26 in the second half.

“Their average snap, the play clock goes down to 10 seconds,” Helton said of the Cardinal. “You have to make the most of each and every possession.”

Tyler Vaughns, who had 11 catches against Fresno State, expressed confidence that the pace will be quicker.

“With us moving at a fast pace, everybody can get in, everybody can ball, everybody can do their jobs,” Vaughns said. “More plays, more opportunity.”

USC FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: 790 KABC

d. Fresno State, 31-23

Saturday vs. Stanford, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Sept. 14 at BYU, 12:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN or ESPN 2

Sept. 20 vs. Utah, 6 p.m., FS1

Sept. 28 at Washington, TBD

Oct. 12 at Notre Dame, 4:30 p.m. NBC

Oct. 19 vs. Arizona, TBD

Oct. 25 at Colorado, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Nov. 2 vs. Oregon, TBD

Nov. 9 at Arizona State, TBD

Nov. 16 at California, TBD

Nov. 23 vs. UCLA, TBD

RAMS

Coach Sean McVay was very careful with running back Todd Gurley‘s workload during the preseason. Gurley did not participate in team drills during the spring. He practiced every other day during training camp and did not play in preseason games. All in an effort to prevent wear and tear on his left knee. In the season opener on Sunday, that knee gets its first real test this season.

On Thursday, Gurley said his knee was “fine” and that he was looking forward to the opener.

“Pretty excited,” said Gurley, who attended junior high and high school in Tarboro, N.C. “Week 1. Going back to North Carolina.”

“I’m excited to see Todd Gurley continue to do his thing,” McVay said.

“We expect him to be his best, and he will be,” said tight end Tyler Higbee, who signed a four-year contract extension Thursday.

Said defensive tackle Aaron Donald: “He still looks fast. He looks ready.”

We’ll all find out Sunday.

RAMS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: 710 ESPN, 93.1 JACK FM

Sunday at Carolina, 10 a.m., Fox

Sept. 15 vs. New Orleans, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Sept. 22 at Cleveland, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Sept. 29 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m., Fox

Oct. 3 at Seattle, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network

Oct. 13 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m., Fox

Oct. 20 at Atlanta, 10 a.m., Fox

Oct. 27 vs. Cincinnati, 10 a.m., CBS (in London, counts as home game for Rams)

Nov. 10 at Pittsburgh, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Nov. 17 vs. Chicago, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Nov. 25 vs. Baltimore, 5:15 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 1 at Arizona, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 8 vs. Seattle, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Dec. 15 at Dallas, 1:15 p.m., Fox

Dec. 22 or 23 at San Francisco, TBD

Dec. 29 vs. Arizona, 1:15 p.m., Fox

CHARGERS

Having missed the first half of last season because of a foot injury and then playing at less than 100% when he did return, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa says he is now 100% and ready for Sunday’s season opener against Indianapolis.

In the offseason, he switched from No. 99 to No. 97, returning to what he wore in high school and at Ohio State. Bosa’s father, John, wore No. 97 during his three NFL seasons in the late 1980s.

“I can’t wait,” Bosa said. “It just feels right. It’s weird seeing 99 at this point. Just excited to get out there and play. It seems like it’s been forever.”

“It’s huge,” Bosa said of his health. “It’s what I’ve been working back toward ever since I hurt my foot. I’m feeling great, feeling really good this week. So I’m definitely ready to go.”

Bosa, along with many team veterans, did not play in the preseason.

“I think it’s going to be an advantage for us,” Bosa said. “It’s a lot of wear and tear. It may not seem like a lot … I think Philip Rivers knows how to throw a football at this point … I think it will benefit us. We’ll see.”

CHARGERS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Radio: KFI-AM 640, KFWB-AM 980

Sunday vs. Indianapolis, 1 p.m., CBS

Sept. 15 at Detroit, 10 a.m., CBS

Sept. 22 vs. Houston, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Sept. 29 at Miami, 10 a.m., CBS

Oct. 6 vs. Denver, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 13 vs. Pittsburgh, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Oct. 20 at Tennessee, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 27 at Chicago, 10 a.m., Fox

Nov. 3 vs. Green Bay, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Nov. 10 at Oakland, 5:15 p.m., Fox, NFL Network

Nov. 18 vs. Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., ESPN (at Mexico City, counts as home game for Chargers)

Dec. 1 at Denver, 1:15 p.m., CBS

Dec. 8 at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 15 vs. Minnesota, 5:15 p.m., NBC

Dec. 22 or 23 vs. Oakland, TBD

Dec. 29 at Kansas City, 10 a.m., CBS

NFL

The NFL season got off to a dull start as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears, 10-3.

SPARKS

The Sparks clinched the third seed in the playoffs by beating the Seattle Storm 102-68. The 102 points was a season-high for the Sparks and the 34-point margin of victory was the largest of the season.

Candace Parker led all scorers with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Nneka Ogwumike had her 13th double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Maria Vadeeva added 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while Chiney Ogwumike contributed 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

ANGELS

Mike Trout hit his 45th homer of the season, but it wasn’t enough as the Oakland A’s rallied to defeat and sweep the Angels, 10-6.

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

San Francisco at Dodgers, 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Angels at Chicago White Sox, 5 p.m., FSW, AM 830

BORN ON THIS DATE

1929: Golfer Dow Finsterwald

1974: Tennis player Tim Henman

1990: NBA player John Wall

DIED ON THIS DATE

1995: Boxer Buster Mathis, 52

2012: NFL team owner Art Modell, 87

AND FINALLY

Anthony Davis visits Dodger Stadium for Lakers night. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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