April Ross
AP

April Ross looks ahead to 2016, ongoing Brazilian rivalry

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April Ross hasn’t won an individual FIVB annual award since 2012, but her play late this season merits accolades.

While three-time Olympic champion partner Kerri Walsh Jennings earned plenty of praise for returning twice from right shoulder dislocations, it was Ross who stepped up her game the most.

Walsh Jennings was effusive in interviews at the World Series of Beach Volleyball in Long Beach, Calif., in August, saying Ross was playing the best that Walsh Jennings had ever seen.

The duo, with Walsh Jennings primarily serving underhand and swinging with her left arm and Ross taking on more offensive responsibility, lost in the final in Long Beach and then played two more tournaments before Walsh Jennings ended her season to have a fifth right shoulder surgery.

But Ross kept on playing and will finish her campaign at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in two weeks, teaming with Lauren Fendrick while Walsh Jennings is out. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will broadcast the finals live on Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s for sure tough, and it feels awkward,” Ross said in a phone interview of having a revolving door of partners this season. “I would obviously love to play with Kerri non-stop.”

Domestically, Ross won four AVP tournaments this year while using three partners — Walsh Jennings, then Jennifer Fopma for two titles and finally Fendrick in the AVP Championships in Huntington Beach, Calif., last week.

In Fort Lauderdale, Ross has her last chance at a first international tournament victory of 2015. She’s won at least one international title every full year she’s been on tour, since she was FIVB Rookie of the Year in 2007.

Ross said she will not play the remaining international events this fall and return to international play next season, either in late winter or early spring when the schedule starts up (depending on when Walsh Jennings is able to return).

Ross and Walsh Jennings’ challenges in the Olympic year are two-fold. One, qualifying for Rio.

They must play five FIVB World Tour events by June 12 to be eligible. There were six tournaments before that date on the 2015 schedule, so they will have little room for error and, more importantly, injuries next spring.

Second, winning in Rio. As of now, the favorites are Brazilians Larissa and Talita, who are also entered in the World Tour Finals and are 2-0 against Ross and Walsh Jennings.

Their first meeting was a preseason February one-set exhibition when Walsh Jennings and Ross weren’t in in-season form. The second, in the Long Beach final, came with Walsh Jennings playing with one good arm.

Larissa and Talita have won 10 of the 15 international events they’ve played since debuting in July 2014, a stretch of dominance reminiscent of Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor in past Olympic cycles.

Of course, Ross knows the challenge of both the Brazilian power pair and Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor.

She and Jennifer Kessy lost to Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor in May-Treanor’s final international match, the 2012 Olympic final.

Which is the tougher opponent — Larissa and Talita going into Rio, or Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor four years ago?

“They’re different beasts,” Ross said. “I think Misty and Kerri were definitely more formidable. I just don’t think we’ve had a good look at Larissa and Talita yet. … It’s weird how it’s shaping up. You would have totally thought we would’ve seen them a bunch, and we definitely haven’t.”

MORE: Kerri Walsh Jennings out until March

Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail at world championships, has surgery

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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail at the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title, and underwent leg surgery as a result.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, who had a left leg laceration, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken to a hospital in Bologna, Italy, about 25 miles from the worlds host of Imola.

“We are relieved that this crash was not worse than what it could have been,” USA Cycling chief of sport performance Jim Miller said in a press release. “While this crash is distressing, Chloe is young and a fighter. With Chloe’s determination, we know she will be back riding before we know it. For now, we want her to focus on healing.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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