Venus Williams

Can Venus Williams qualify for a fifth Olympics?

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NEW YORK — Four years ago, Venus Williams pulled out of the U.S. Open before a second-round match and announced she had been suffering for years from the symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome, an energy-sapping autoimmune disorder.

She wouldn’t return to the WTA Tour for nearly seven months, and it could have been longer if not for one source of motivation.

“That’s all I want now, to be an Olympian again,” Williams said at the 2012 French Open, according to The New York Times. “If not for the Olympics, I would probably have come back around now [in May 2012 rather than in March 2012]. I would have waited until I was comfortable. Because I was a wreck. My first match back, I couldn’t move my arms. I was like, ‘Can I even win a set?’”

The Olympic tennis fields of 64 singles players per gender are determined by world rankings, with no more than four women’s singles players per country. Williams, with that extended absence, fell to No. 137 in early 2012, well out of the Olympic picture, and faced the challenge of climbing to the London Games in a three-month window.

Williams reached three WTA event quarterfinals that spring and moved to No. 47 in the world and third among Americans on the date that the Olympic tennis field was determined.

She made her fourth Olympic team, reached the round of 16 in singles and took doubles gold with sister Serena on the lawns of Wimbledon. Williams owns four Olympic medals, all gold — doubles with Serena in 2000, 2008 and 2012 and singles in 2000.

Now, less than one year before the Rio Games, Williams is in a better personal situation to qualify for the Olympics in singles, but the domestic competition is tougher.

Williams is ranked No. 23 in the world and No. 3 among Americans, behind top-ranked Serena and No. 19 Madison Keys, an Australian Open semifinalist and Wimbledon quarterfinalist who was born four months after Venus turned professional in 1994.

Williams is in the running with other younger players, such as Sloane Stephens, 22, who won her first WTA tournament title in August and CoCo Vandweghe, 23, who made the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Williams gets another countrywoman, 25-year-old Irina Falconi, in the second round of the U.S. Open, a key tournament as the four Grand Slam events offer more rankings points that go toward Olympic qualification.

On Monday, Williams was asked if a fifth Olympics in Rio were as important to her as her fourth Olympics in London. She said all the right things but was not exactly enthusiastic.

“The Olympics were my dream come true,” the noted Olympic pin collector said softly after winning a three-set, two-hour first-round match under a new, partial roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, shading her somewhat from nearly 90-degree heat. “I believe I’ll be a real asset for the team, were I to make it. I’ll try to put my best foot forward.”

If Williams is one of the maximum four 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s singles players, she could become, at 36, the second-oldest Olympic singles player since the sport returned to the Olympic program following a 64-year break in 1988, according to sports-reference.com.

The oldest was Swede Jonas Bjorkman, also 36, at Beijing 2008.

She and Roger Federer are attempting to become the first athletes to play in five Olympic singles tennis tournaments.

She and Serena are attempting to extend their shared record for Olympic tennis gold medals and, with one medal, match the Olympic record for overall tennis medals held by 1920s British player Kitty McKane.

The 2016 Olympic tennis fields will be determined by rankings on June 6.

Roger Federer, Martina Hingis may play mixed doubles in Rio

Anna van der Breggen is first cyclist to sweep road world titles in 25 years

Anna van der Breggen
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Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen added the road race crown to her time trial victory at the world road cycling championships, becoming the second rider in history to win both events at the same edition.

“This is, for me, pretty good so far,” she said.

Van der Breggen, the Rio Olympic road race champion, won after a solo attack with more than 25 miles left of an 89-mile course in Imola, Italy, on Saturday.

She prevailed after more than four hours of racing by 80 seconds over countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, the 2019 champion. Van Vleuten raced nine days after breaking her left wrist in a Giro Rosa crash.

Italian Elisa Longo Borghini took bronze in the same time as van Vleuten after losing a photo-finish sprint. Lauren Stephens was the top American in 11th.

Full results are here.

The race lacked American standout Chloé Dygert, who crashed out of the time trial while leading on Thursday and required leg surgery.

Van der Breggen joined Frenchwoman Jeannie Longo as the only male or female cyclists to sweep the time trial and road race at a single worlds. Longo did so in 1995 at age 36.

Van der Breggen, 30, said in May that she will retire after the 2021 Olympic season.

It will be the end of one of the great cycling careers. She is now a three-time world champion and nine-time world medalist to go along with her road race gold and time trial bronze in her Olympic debut in Rio.

Worlds conclude Sunday with the men’s road race. A TV and stream schedule is here.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes

2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final