Greg Bretz

Greg Bretz upsets Shaun White for Dew Tour halfpipe title (video)

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Greg Bretz crossed his fingers at the end of a 600-foot halfpipe and watched Shaun White take his final run, expecting White to do what he always does.

White didn’t.

Bretz upset the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion in the first of five Olympic selection events in Breckenridge, Colo., on Saturday. Bretz, who was 12th at the 2010 Olympics, won the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships with a first-run score of 91.40.

“I’m ecstatic right now,” Bretz, 22, said on NBC. “I don’t know what to say. Olympics, here I come.”

Actually, Bretz has not qualified for the Olympics yet.

Breckenridge marks the first of five Olympic selection events for freeskiing and snowboarding. The others are on the U.S. Grand Prix schedule — Copper Mountain, Colo., next weekend, followed by Northstar, Calif., Park City, Utah, and Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

The five events will determine Olympians in snowboard halfpipe and the new Olympic events of snowboard slopestyle and ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle. The Olympic rosters are expected to be announced Jan. 22.

The overall Olympic qualification standings will be determined by the two best results for an athlete over the selection events. No more than four athletes can make the U.S. Olympic Team per event. It’s possible fewer than four will be named for some events.

13-year-old makes podium in women’s halfpipe

Bretz’s first run was the best out of a 16-rider field. White, the top qualifier, was the last man on the world’s largest halfpipe for both runs. After uncharacteristically crashing in his first run, White put down a solid but not spectacular second run.

Both he and Bretz waited, and waited, and waited for White’s score to come down. White just missed, getting a 90.40 to grab second place. Another American, Taylor Gold, was third with 89.60.

“My first hit I think was a little squirrely,” White said on NBC. “I think that’s what maybe cost me the win.”

White stood in 11th place after his first run, when he under-rotated a backside double McTwist 1260 and fell to the snow at the bottom of the 600-foot long, 22-foot high halfpipe. That run scored a 37.40.

“I just kind of, I half-assed it is the technical term,” White said, according to USA Today. “I was killing my run out. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really doing it.’ And I kind of got in my head and just forgot what I was doing. I didn’t take off with enough momentum off the lip and it just came around too slow. It happens.”

White, who spent time this fall on a special training area in Australia, didn’t pull out all of his best tricks in either run.

“I did some tricks in practice that I think only one guy has done before so I am pretty excited,” he told the newspaper.

White gave his second-place trophy to 11-year-old Connor Tripp.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

White will compete in the slopestyle final Sunday. He was the top qualifier. He told reporters he tweaked an ankle in his Saturday crash and would ice it before riding Sunday.

There were some surprises in the halfpipe final. 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Scotty Lago took 11th, putting him behind in the race for an Olympic berth.

Top international stars Ayumu Hirano and Iouri Podladtchikov were sixth and 13th, respectively.

Bretz’s second run was also uninspiring. He fell on his butt, slowly slid to the end of the pipe and dropped to the snow.

“I was super amped,” Bretz said on NBC. “I just didn’t throw it properly. I’m fine. I’ve been working out a lot this summer just for that reason. It helps out.”

The Breckenridge action can be live streamed here all weekend.

Breckenridge Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe
1. Greg Bretz (USA) 91.40
2. Shaun White (USA) 90.40
3. Taylor Gold (USA) 89.60

Star U.S. freeskier’s Olympic hopes in doubt

Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

“I don’t like usually comparing the years,” he said. “But I think [the conditions are] quite suitable to my style of the game.”

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

Sebastian Korda
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The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. It could have been nine, had Sam Querrey served out the match in the third set against 13th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Still, the U.S. has more men in the second round than any other nation. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

“A pretty horrific two years in a row,” Sock said. “I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the last couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back.”

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Sunday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second- and 22nd-ranked female golfers (Nelly and Jessica).

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats: winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11. It was around that age that he gave up ice hockey and focused solely on tennis.

Korda was hooked after watching a Czech whom his dad coached, Radek Stepanek, at the U.S. Open in 2009.

“He played Djokovic on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium] like at 10:30 at night,” Korda, nicknamed Sebi, said on Tennis Channel. “Completely packed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went home, and I was like, this is exactly what I want to do.”

An American man is already guaranteed to make the third round in Paris. Korda faces Isner on Thursday.

“I grew up on the clay,” Korda said, “so I know how to play on it a little bit.”

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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