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Danell Leyva: Olympic all-around was ‘unfair’

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U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva felt for Oleg Verniaiev after the Ukrainian finished a controversial second in the Rio Olympic all-around, .099 behind Japan’s Kohei Uchimura.

“What they did in the all-around was super unfair,” Leyva said on the Gymcastic podcast (10-minute mark). “I sincerely just feel like Oleg outperformed Uchimura in a couple of different events, in most events. We all know how political gymnastics is. I guess they were probably just like, yeah, we’ve got to give it to Uchi because it’s Uchi.”

Uchimura became the first gymnast to repeat as Olympic all-around champion in 44 years, adding to his collection that includes the last six world all-around titles.

Uchimura went into the sixth and final Olympic all-around rotation trailing Verniaiev by .901. They both went on high bar, one of Uchimura’s best events. Uchimura outscored Verniaiev by a full point to take the come-from-behind title.

Leyva did not do the all-around in Rio after taking bronze behind Uchimura in London. He criticized high bar scoring at the Rio Games, saying others did amazing routines and received low scores. But he was OK with it, because everybody was getting judged the same way (strictly).

Until Uchimura.

The Japanese fell on high bar in qualifying and scored a 14.3, among the bottom half of scores for the 24 men who made the all-around final. In the team final, Uchimura scored 15.166. In the all-around final, he scored 15.8, the best high bar score of the Games across qualifying and finals.

German Fabian Hambuechen won the high bar event final with a 15.766, while Leyva took silver with a 15.5.

“It’s like he’s in a different competition,” Leyva, who also took Rio parallel bars silver behind Verniaiev, said of Uchimura’s high bar scores. “Everybody is getting judged incredibly strict like that, OK, whatever. Then Uchi went, and his routine wasn’t that great, like it wasn’t perfect at all, and they gave him a near-perfect score. And it’s just like but no, because the other people.”

Verniaiev did not dispute the all-around results in the press conference after the event and was effusive of Uchimura, calling him a legend.

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Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said later. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from [Osaka], as well.”

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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