Serena Williams

Serena vs. Sharapova in Paris: the Olympic Rematch

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You have to go all the way back to the Athens Games – yes, those held in 2004 – to find a calendar year when Maria Sharapova has beaten Serena Williams in a tennis match.

The Russian star, who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old winning Wimbledon amid the pre-recession glory days, hasn’t beaten Serena, whom she took down for her first title, since November 2004 at the WTA Championships. It’s a streak of twelve straight matches for the American, including the London Olympics final last summer.

It was there that Serena issued the most rounding defeat of her lanky opponent, relenting just one game (6-0, 6-1) in the gold medal match less than a year ago. Saturday’s French Open Final at Roland Garros will mark the first time they’ve met in a major final since London.

Sharapova, now 26, would like nothing more than to finally exact some revenge on her 31-year-old nemesis, who hasn’t lost a single Pro Tour match since February – 29 and counting.

But Maria says her 2-13 overall record vs. Serena is looming in the back of her mind. How could it not?

“I would be lying if I didn’t say it bothered me,” Sharapova told the press Thursday in Paris. “You know, of course I have lost to her numerous amounts of times. When I go out there, I obviously — whatever I have done, like I said in the past, has not worked. You try to go out there and do something different because whatever you have done just hasn’t performed well. I hope that I can.”

Does Serena want a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing? Going one better? She certainly tried at the Olympics.

“That would have been awesome only because against Maria, if you give her any hope, she’s trying to come back,” Serena said after her gold medal performance. “It was important for me to go out there and do everything I could to win.”

It might depend on who’s hungrier: For Serena, she’s chasing her first Roland Garros crown since 2002. And Maria? She’s the defending champion on the red dirt of Paris.

“But going into a French Open final, [our record] doesn’t matter,” Sharapova mused. “It all starts from zero. You’ve got to play until the last point, and, you know, believe in yourself.”

Francesco Friedrich wins historic fourth straight bobsled world title

German bob team, Francesco Friedrich, right, and Thorsten Margis, celebrate their victory  after the men's  two-man bob race at the  Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships at Lake Koenigssee, Germany, Sunday Feb. 19. 2017. (Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP)
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KOENIGSSEE, Germany (AP) — Germany’s Francesco Friedrich was again fastest in both runs to extend his lead and beat Justin Kripps of Canada for his fourth straight world championship in two-man bobsled on Sunday.

Friedrich, who held a 0.52-lead from Saturday’s opening heats, clocked 49.17 seconds and then 48.94 with his brakeman Thorsten Margis for a combined time of 3 minutes, 16.71 seconds after four runs — 1.20 ahead of Kripps and Jesse Lumsden.

The 26-year-old Friedrich says “We were simply unbeatable this week.”

Germany’s Johannes Lochner was 1.25 back in third with Joshua Bluhm, ahead of Oskars Kibermanis and Matiss Miknis of Latvia, Nick Poloniato and Neville Wright of Canada, and Oskars Melbardis and Janis Strenga of Latvia.

American pilot Steven Holcomb was seventh with Carlo Valdes, 1.68 back.

A skeleton and bobsled team competition was scheduled later Sunday.

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Marcel Hirscher reclaims slalom title, wraps up ‘perfect worlds’

ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  Gold medalist Marcel Hirscher of Austria celebrates on the podium following the Men's Giant Slalom during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships on February 17, 2017 in St Moritz, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Austrian Marcel Hirscher reclaimed the slalom world title, wrapping up what he called “the perfect world championships” with two golds and one silver in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion, prevailed by .68 of a second combining two runs. Fellow Austrian Manuel Feller earned silver, followed by German Felix Neureuther, .93 behind.

Hirscher’s biggest slalom rival, Henrik Kristoffersen, was a disappointing fourth, giving Norway fourth-place finishers in all five men’s events at worlds.

The top American was David Chodounsky in 12th.

Full Results | Race Replay

Hirscher led by .43 after the morning run and had the third-fastest second run. He finished worlds with golds in the giant slalom and slalom and silver in the super combined, missing gold by .01. All that despite entering worlds sick, reportedly spending days ill in bed.

He said that super combined silver, and especially his maiden GS title, took the pressure off Sunday.

“It was super easy for me, mentally, to [go] into this race,” Hirscher said. “It doesn’t matter if I straddle at the first gate. The only thing that wouldn’t be fine is skiing slow.”

Hirscher is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not. He previously won the slalom world title in 2013, then was upset at the Sochi Olympics, taking silver behind countryman Mario Matt, who at 34 became the oldest Olympic Alpine champion.

Hirscher led the 2015 Worlds slalom by .88 after the first run, then straddled a gate near the end of the second run while his lead was evaporating.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

Feller, 24, took surprise silver without a World Cup podium to his name.

Neureuther earned his third straight world slalom medal, but none have been gold.

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