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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.”

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

Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement