Mixed results for World champions in Zurich

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce consolidated her status as world’s fastest woman, winning a 100m race at a Diamond League meet in Zurich on Thursday, 10 days after she captured her third World Championship in the sprint.

Other gold medalists from Beijing last week, including Wayde van Niekerk, David Rudisha and Genzebe Dibaba, were not as fortunate in the first top-level meet since Worlds. Full results are here.

Fraser-Pryce clocked 10.93 seconds in Zurich, pulling away from the field early and cruising over the last 20 meters. The two-time Olympic 100m gold medalist won her World Championship in 10.76 on Aug. 24 and has a personal best of 10.70.

Fraser-Pryce beat a field that included World bronze medalist Tori Bowie (third, 11.06) and two-time Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (sixth, 11.22).

“It is not easy to race again in such a close time,” after Worlds, Fraser-Pryce said, according to the IAAF. “I needed to adjust again, but we are used to it, we are professional athletes.”

Earlier, World 200m silver medalist Elaine Thompson won a separate 100m race in 11.06.

The Diamond League season concludes on Sept. 11 in Brussels, a meet that could include Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin (in a separate race from Bolt) and Allyson Felix, all of whom skipped Zurich.

Also Thursday, South African 400m World champion Wayde van Niekerk was no match for LaShawn Merritt in Zurich.

Merritt, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 and 2013 World champion, prevailed in 44.18. Reigning Olympic champion Kirani James was second in 44.28, followed by van Niekerk in 44.35. Van Niekerk won the World title in 43.48, the sixth fastest time ever, and was undefeated this season going into Zurich.

Olympic and World champion David Rudisha lost the 800m lead on the final lap and faded to fourth. That’s the first time this year Rudisha has been lower than second in a race he’s finished. Poland’s Adam Kszczot won in Zurich in 1:45.55 after placing second to Rudisha at Worlds.

Rudisha said he raced scared due to cold and wet weather, according to the IAAF.

“I was a little bit afraid of this,” he said.

Russian Sergey Shubenkov showed no fear in following his World title in the 110m hurdles with a victory in 13.14. The race was missing World silver medalist Hansle Parchment of Jamaica and bronze medalist Aries Merritt, the Olympic champion and world-record holder recovering from a kidney transplant.

The World champions in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m met up in the women’s 3000m. The 5000m title holder prevailed over the 1500m gold medalist. Ethiopian Almaz Ayana outsprinted countrywoman Genzebe Dibaba on the final lap to win in 8:22.34. American Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World 1500m champion, was fourth. Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, the World 10,000m champion, was sixth.

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop took the men’s 1500m over countryman Elijah Manangoi, just as he did at Worlds. Kiprop clocked 3:35.79, prevailing by .22.

Evan Jager finished third in the 3000m steeplechase, an improvement over his disappointing sixth at Worlds. Jager clocked 8:18.39, 10.15 seconds behind Kenyan winner Paul Koech. Jager’s personal best is 8:00.45. Nobody from the Western Hemisphere has broken eight minutes in the event.

South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana finished third in the 200m, just as he did at Worlds, but neither Bolt nor Gatlin raced in Zurich. Instead, Panama’s Alonso Edward prevailed in 20.03, followed by Jamaican Rasheed Dwyer (20.20) and Jobodwana (20.24).

Kenyan Eunice Sum won her sixth straight 800m at a Diamond League meet, after she was upset at the World Championships last week. Sum, who took bronze in Beijing, beat the World gold and silver medalists in Zurich.

Czech Zuzana Hejnova followed her second straight World title in the 400m hurdles with a victory in 54.47. World silver medalist Shamier Little wasn’t in the race, while World bronze medalist Cassandra Tate took fifth in 55.50.

Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford again held off the top Americans in the long jump. Rutherford, the Olympic and World champion, tied Marquis Dendy at 8.32 meters, but Rutherford’s second best jump was better than Dendy’s.

In the women’s long jump, World champion Tianna Bartoletta finished second to Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic. Bartoletta said she was still in pain from spraining her left ankle at the World Championships, according to the IAAF.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic was simply too good at the most crucial moments and claimed his 10th Australian Open championship and 22nd Grand Slam title overall by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in the final at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night.

The victory allows Djokovic to return to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

The 35-year-old from Serbia did not compete in the Australian Open a year ago after being deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Government restrictions have eased since, and he was able to get a visa this time despite still not having gotten the shots against the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Now Djokovic has run his winning streak at the hard-court tournament to 28 matches.

His 10th trophy in Australia adds to the record he already held. His 22 major championships — which include seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open and two from the French Open — are tied with Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in the history of tennis.

He was superior throughout against Tsitsipas, but especially so in the two tiebreakers.

Djokovic took a 4-1 lead in the first and after it was 4-all, pulled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple then climbed into the stands, pumped his fist and jumped with his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, and other members of the entourage, before collapsing, crying.

Djokovic returned to the court, sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and let some more tears flow.

Margaret Court, with 24, Serena Williams, with 23, and Steffi Graf, with 22, have the most championships among women.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, allowing him to break a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most. Jimmy Connors holds that mark, at 109.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece’s other one also ended in a loss to Djokovic, at the 2021 French Open.

A win for Tsitsipas would have allowed him to get to No. 1 for the first time, supplanting Carlos Alcaraz, who got there after winning the U.S. Open last September but sat out the Australian Open because of a leg injury.

Little doubt this is of no solace to Tsitsipas, but there is no shame in failing to defeat Djokovic in Melbourne. Challenging his dominion on those blue hard courts is every bit the monumental task that taking on Nadal on the red clay at Roland Garros is.

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Chock/Bates, Knierim/Frazier futures unclear after clear-cut wins at figure skating nationals

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SAN JOSE, California – They have both begun the new Olympic cycle as the undisputed national leaders in their figure skating disciplines, cementing that status with U.S. titles Saturday – the fourth for ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, the second for the pairs’ team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier.

At this point, their respective paths to the 2026 Winter Games seem free and clear of challengers.

The question for the dancers and the pair is how far down that road they intend to go.

“I don’t know what the next four years will hold,” Chock said. “But we’re committed to each other and our goals, and we’ll decide when the time comes.”

Chock, 30, and Bates, 33, engaged to be married in the summer of 2024, have been at this a long time. And their trophy case is packed to the gills, with the only gaps a world title and an individual Olympic medal.

They have competed together at the senior level in the U.S. Championships for 12 seasons, winning medals at the last 11. They have been to nine world championships, winning three medals, and three Olympics (four for Bates), winning a yet-to-be-awarded team medal last year in Beijing.

(The unresolved doping case involving Russian skater Kamila Valiyeva has delayed the awarding of the 2022 team event medals. Maybe it will become a wedding present for Chock and Bates. Or a fifth anniversary present…)

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Until this year, Chock and Bates had faced formidable rivals on the national scene – 2014 Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White; 2018 Olympic bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani; and 2022 Olympic bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, with whom Chock and Bates traded gold medals over the previous four seasons. All have retired from competition.

Saturday, they cruised to the gold medal by 22.29 points over Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, the largest ice dance victory margin at nationals since 2006. In a discipline where established hierarchy weighs heavily, Chock and Bates find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being on a metaphorical easy street to the top step of the U.S. podium.

“We – at least I – felt nervous today,” Bates said. “We (still) felt compelled to skate well. The lack of maybe the Hubbell-Donohue back and forth did not mitigate the specialness today.”

Knierim, 31, and Frazier, 30, have similar longevity at nationals, even if they did not team up until 2020, taking the U.S. title in their first season together.

Knierim skated at seven nationals with her husband, Chris, winning three titles, Frazier at seven with Haven Denney, winning once.

Knierim and Frazier had expected to retire after last season, when they missed nationals because Frazier contracted Covid but went on to place sixth at the Olympics and unexpectedly became the first U.S. team to win a pairs’ world title since 1979. Their experiences on the Stars on Ice Tour led them to reconsider.

“It made sense on our timeline to move on,” Knierim told me in September. “We had done everything we could in two years.

“Yet it felt like it could be sad or disappointing to end a really talented career together so soon. Being on tour had opened our eyes to how in synch and unified we were on the ice. So there was a little bit of curiosity, a feeling of ‘What else are we capable of?’”

Their personal circumstances have changed during the course of this season. Chris Knierim starts work Thursday as skating director of a rink in the Chicago suburbs, and the Knierims recently bought a house in that area.

Knierim and Frazier have been training at a rink in Irvine, California. Should they decide to continue as competitors after this season, it would almost certainly entail a move to Chicago for Frazier.

Knierim insisted her house purchase was not an indication of what her plans with Frazier are.

“Right now, we are staying the course, based in Irvine through the world championships (in late March),” Knierim said before winning her fifth U.S. title.

“We do have some changes ahead of us. But I’d hate to jump ahead and say yes or no to next season. We learned that last season.”

Frazier spoke Saturday of reflecting throughout this season about their personal journeys and their partnership, the kind of reflection that often accompanies doing something for the last time.

“We just are trying to soak it in as if it could be your last, but the future is unknown,” Frazier said.

Knierim and Frazier prevailed Saturday with the largest winning margin, 31.11 points, in the 18 years that the International Judging System has been used at nationals.

They saved several points due to her quick thinking.

After Frazier put his hand to the ice on the triple toe loop that was to open a triple-double-double-jump combination, Knierim saw that her partner was going to follow with only a single jump and followed suit. It led to the delightful oddity of side-by-side single toe loops.

Nicely executed ones, too.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at every Winter Olympics since 1980, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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