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.”

MORE: Serena would save Olympic medals first if house caught fire

Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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