Caroline Ouellette

Canadian women beat U.S. to open pre-Olympic exhibition series

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The U.S. handed Canada defeat on Canadian ice at April’s World Championships. The Canadians returned the favor on Saturday night.

The three-time reigning Olympic champion defeated the U.S. 3-2 in Burlington, Vt., in the first of six pre-Olympic games between the two best women’s hockey nations.

They next play Thursday in Boisbriand, Quebec.

Full U.S.-Canada exhibition schedule

Vermont’s largest city was also the site of the 2012 World Championships, where Canada ousted the U.S. 5-4 in overtime in the gold-medal game.

The Americans had won three straight World Championships before that and, this year, came back to beat Canada at April’s World Championships in Ottawa.

The U.S. nearly erased a 3-0 deficit midway through the third period. Brianna Decker and Gigi Marvin scored in a four-minute span. The U.S. was outshot 29 to 18.

For Canada, Caroline Ouellette and Bailey Bram scored in the second period, and Tara Watchorn tacked one on in the third at the University of Vermont’s Gutterson Fieldhouse.

Hayley Wickenheiser, the all-time leading Olympic scorer, pitched in two assists.

The rivalry, with a history of not-so-friendly moments, was in form.

The U.S. started Brianne McLaughlin in goal, though Jessie Vetter is the presumed No. 1.

Canada countered with its first stringer, Shannon Szabados, the top goaltender from the 2010 Olympics who shut out the U.S. in the gold-medal game.

Szabados, 27, has played for men’s teams in Canada, including last season, when she set team records for shutouts (five) and goals-against average (1.58).

Greatest Olympic women’s hockey player ever’s future uncertain

World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

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Serena Williams battles, then rolls into French Open second round

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Serena Williams overcame early struggles, sweeping past countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0 to reach the French Open second round.

Williams, again eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, started out like somebody who went 16 months between clay-court matches. She needed 74 minutes to take the first set from the 102nd-ranked Ahn, recovering twice after having her serve broken.

She dominated the second set in 27 minutes, advancing to play Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Williams, in long sleeves and tights, had 15 winners to 28 unforced errors in the first set in cloudy, sub-60-degree weather on Monday.

“I hate the cold. I’m from L.A. and I live in Florida,” Williams said before the tournament, which was postponed from its usual May/June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic. “For half my life I’ve never seen snow. Cold weather and me do not mix.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Williams also noted before the tournament that she was “not at 100 percent physically” and spent most of her time in France “rehabbing” without giving specifics. She took a medical timeout with a left Achilles injury in her last match, a U.S. Open semifinal loss to Victoria Azarenka,

“I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t think I could perform,” Williams said Saturday. “I don’t know any athlete that ever plays physically when they’re feeling perfect. That’s just something I think as athletes we have to play with.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310. Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a record-extending 13th French Open title and male record-tying 20th Grand Slam singles title later Monday.

The French Open first round concludes Tuesday with top-ranked Novak Djokovic in action.

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