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Venus Williams falls on a rough day for Team USA tennis

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Seven members of the United States tennis team participated in the first round of matches in the men’s and women’s tournaments at the Rio Olympics, and five saw their runs come to an immediate end. Among those who lost was Venus Williams, with Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens beating her in three sets 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5). Next up for Flipkens is Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, who advanced with a win over Italy’s Karin Knapp.

As for Keys, she had little trouble with Danka Kovinic of Montenegro. Seeded seventh in the women’s singles draw, Keys won in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 and converted three of her nine break point opportunities. Next up for Keys is France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who beat Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic in straight sets.

Also losing in the women’s singles draw for the United States was Sloane Stephens, who tell to Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3. Stephens had three double faults in the match, and Bouchard managed to break her serve three times. Yet to compete for the United States in the women’s draw is top seed and pre-tournament favorite Serena Williams, who takes on Daria Gavrilova of Australia Sunday morning.

Stephens joins three American men on the sidelines, including Jack Sock, who lost in straight sets to Japan’s Daniel Taro 6-4, 6-4. Sock had issues with his serve Saturday, finishing the match with five double faults and he won less than 50 percent of the points available on his second serve. By comparison Taro had just one double fault and he won 57 percent of the points on his second serve. Brian Baker fell in three sets to Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. and Denis Kudla was defeated in straight sets by Slovakia’s Andrej Martin, 6-0, 6-3.

The one American male who managed to advance Saturday was 12-seed Steve Johnson, who beat Darian King of Barbados in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2. Next for Johnson is Gastao Elias of Portugal, with that match scheduled for Tuesday.

Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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