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Serena Williams: No men have asked about Olympic mixed doubles

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ROME (AP) — The Williams sisters are making another run for Olympic gold.

The winningest team in Olympic tennis history has entered the doubles draw at this week’s Italian Open to kick off their preparations for the Rio de Janeiro Games.

It will mark the first time that Serena and Venus Williams have played doubles together since the 2014 U.S. Open.

“Obviously we would love to play in the Olympics. I love playing with Venus. She’s the best partner, and hopefully she feels the same about me. We make a great team,” Serena said Sunday. “Hopefully we’ll be able to at least win a couple of matches here, just shake off the dust and keep playing.”

The Williams sisters already have three golds in doubles, from the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Each sister has also won a gold in singles — Venus at the 2000 Sydney Games and Serena at the 2012 London Games.

Having obtained a wild card entry in Rome, the sisters open against Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and could meet top-seeded Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza in the final.

“The doubles teams have gotten really good, so we look forward to it,” Serena said.

Serena added that she had not been asked by any of the men to play mixed doubles in Rio yet, and is not really focusing on that possibility.

“It’s just one at a time. Hopefully I can be chosen for the doubles. That would be the best opportunity,” she said. “And then after that we’ll see.”

Having missed the Madrid Open due to a fever, top-ranked Serena is also hoping to get her singles game back on track.

“I wasn’t feeling really good for the past several weeks and even the past few days,” Serena said. “But right now I’m better. I will see how I’m doing when I step on the court for the first time, but overall I think I’m feeling a lot better.”

Having had her attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam derailed by Roberta Vinci at the U.S. Open in September, Serena could meet the Italian again in the semifinals here.

A 21-time Grand Slam winner in singles, Serena hasn’t won a title since a hard-court event in Cincinnati last August. She was beaten by Angelique Kerber in this year’s Australian Open final then fell to Victoria Azarenka in the title-match in Indian Wells, Calif. In her only other appearance this year, Serena lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Miami Open.

Given a first-round bye, Serena’s opening opponent in Rome will be either 51st-ranked Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany or 35th-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.

“It’s always nice when Serena is in the draw. It’s tougher, for sure, but the challenge, it’s also bigger,” said Kerber, who is seeded second. “It’s good for the tournament. It’s good for the fans that she is playing always in the big events.”

Kerber said she plans on playing doubles at the Olympics with Andrea Petkovic. The Rio tennis program runs from Aug. 6-14 on hard courts.

Defending Rome champion Maria Sharapova is out awaiting a verdict in her doping case.

Williams is aiming for her fourth title at the Foro Italico — the last big warmup for the French Open, which starts in two weeks.

Playing only one clay-court tournament before Paris isn’t a concern.

“Every year I only play one tournament before Australia — done OK there,” Serena said, referring to her six Grand Slam singles titles in Melbourne. “So I’d like to think positive. I don’t play anything thinking I’m going to lose. I always just play thinking I’m going to do the best I can. For me, that’s winning.”

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Joey Mantia extends U.S. medal streak at speed skating worlds; Dutch dominance returns

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Joey Mantia ensured the host U.S. finished with a medal at the world single distances championships. Ireen WüstKjeld Nuis and Jorrit Bergsma ensured the Netherlands finished atop the medal standings.

Mantia joined Shani Davis as the only U.S. men to earn individual medals at three different editions of the championships, taking bronze in the 1500m on the last day of the speed skating meet at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Mantia won the mass start at the last two worlds in 2017 and 2019 (and finished fifth on Sunday, after the 1500m bronze).

Mantia clocked a personal best 1:42.16 in the fifth of 12 pairs of the 1500m. It held up until Nuis (1:41.66) and countryman Thomas Krol (1:41.73) in the last two pairs.

Mantia’s medal extended the U.S. streak of making the podium at every world championships this millennium — 16 straight. The single bronze is the smallest medal output since 2000.

Full results are here.

Wüst and Nuis gave the Dutch a sweep of the men’s and women’s 1500m titles, two years after they did the same at the PyeongChang Olympics. Bergsma, an Olympic and world 10,000m champion, earned his first global medal of any color — gold — in the 16-lap mass start.

The Netherlands failed to earn any golds on the first two days of the four-day competition. The dominant Dutch, who topped the medal standings at every Olympics and worlds dating to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, entered Sunday trailing Russia.

But Wüst began the day by clocking 1:50.92 to win the 1500m by .21 over Russian Yevgenia Lalenkova. American medal hope Brittany Bowe, the 2015 World champion who took bronze last year, finished 14th a day after taking eighth in her world-record 1000m distance.

Nuis and Krol went one-two in the men’s 1500m to tie Russia’s medal total. Then Irene Schouten took bronze in the women’s mass start to put the Netherlands ahead for good, followed by Bergsma’s capper.

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MORE: Shani Davis retires, takes new role in speed skating

Netherlands on the board; more world records at speed skating worlds

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It took four world records from other countries before the Netherlands won its first title in an Olympic program event at the world single distances speed skating championships.

Jutta Leerdam got the dominant skating nation on the board on the third day of the four-day competition and in the ninth Olympic program event. Leerdam scored an upset over defending champion and world-record holder Brittany Bowe, the American who ended up eighth.

Leerdam, 21, prevailed despite having zero World Cup podiums to her name. She clocked 1:11.84, just .23 slower than Bowe’s world record set on the same Utah Olympic Oval last year. Bowe, who recently had her yearlong win streak snapped in the 1000m, finished in 1:12.92.

“It’s a nightmare,” Bowe said, according to media on site.

Later, the Netherlands won the men’s team pursuit in a world record 3:34.68, the fifth world record in Olympic events the last two days on the world’s fastest ice at the 2002 Olympic oval outside Salt Lake City.

Full results are here.

The world championships conclude Sunday, highlighted by American Joey Mantia defending his world title in the mass start.

In other Saturday events, both the men’s 1000m and women’s 5000m world records fell. On Friday, world records were lowered in the men’s 10,000m and women’s team pursuit.

Pavel Kulizhnikov followed his Friday world 500m title with the 1000m crown, repeating his double gold from 2016. Kulizhnikov was one of the Russians banned from the PyeongChang Olympics after he served a prior doping ban.

On Saturday, Kulizhnikov clocked 1:05.69 to take .49 off Dutchman Kjeld Nuis‘ record from last March, also set at Salt Lake City. Nuis, the Olympic 1000m and 1500m champion, took silver, 1.03 seconds behind.

Russian Natalya Voronina and Czech Martina Sablikova both went under Sablikova’s world record in the 5000m. Voronina came out on top in 6:39.02, 2.99 seconds faster than Sablikova’s record from a year ago and 2.16 seconds faster than Sablikova on Saturday.

Voronina’s time would have been the men’s world record as recently as 1993. Sablikova won the previous 10 world titles in the event dating to 2007.

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MORE: World Single Distances Championships broadcast schedule