U.S. Olympic tennis team official; 546th-ranked singles player goes to Rio

Brian Baker
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The U.S. Olympic tennis team of 12 players was made official Friday, and it includes the 546th-ranked men’s singles player.

The team is headlined by Venus and Serena Williams, going to their fifth and fourth Olympics, respectively. They have combined to win two Olympic singles titles and three Olympic doubles titles.

The Williams sisters and the other women’s players — Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens in singles and Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe in doubles — were confirmed by the USTA on June 30.

Made official on Friday was the men’s singles team of Jack SockSteve JohnsonDenis Kudla and Brian Baker. Previously confirmed were brothers Bob and Mike Bryan in doubles, the reigning Olympic champs.

Baker is the most intriguing. He is ranked No. 546 in the world, and 41st among Americans, but can use a protected ranking for Olympic consideration, as he missed all of 2014 and 2015 due to injury.

Baker first used the protected ranking this year to get into the Australian Open at No. 56, which would rank him among the top four American men (not including John Isner and Sam Querrey, who previously withdrew from Olympic consideration).

Sock, ranked No. 26, celebrated his first Olympic qualification by picking out a Team USA-themed T-shirt with an eagle across the chest on a visit to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., this week. Sock, Isner and the Bryan brothers are facing Croatia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals just outside Portland.

“As a kid you grow up watching a lot of the Olympics — not only tennis, but a lot of the sports,” said Sock, who rallied from two sets down to beat 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic on Friday afternoon. “Kind of a bucket list for every athlete I feel like to be able to represent your country on the biggest stage possible.”

Mixed doubles entries will be decided later, perhaps not until the Games in August.

The U.S. Olympic team is now at 524 qualified athletes. It is expected to reach at least 555 athletes by the time the team is officially named by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is expected next week.

It’s expected that seven golfers will be named to the team in the next week, plus 12 men’s and 12 women’s rugby players. Also, kayaker Tim Hornsby could be added to the Olympic field. Replacement athletes, especially in fencing, would be added to the U.S. Olympic team if and when they compete in Rio.

MORE: Tennis stars, unlike golfers, not deterred by Zika virus in Rio

Women’s Singles
Serena Williams (also doubles)
Venus Williams (also doubles)
Madison Keys
Sloane Stephens

Men’s Singles
Jack Sock (also doubles)
Steve Johnson (also doubles)
Denis Kudla
Brian Baker

Women’s Doubles
Bethanie Mattek-Sands/CoCo Vandeweghe

Men’s Doubles
Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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