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Gary Bettman: No evidence Olympics has improved NHL in North America

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there’s no tangible, concrete evidence that Olympic participation since 1998 has benefited the NHL in North America.

“It hasn’t any impact,” Bettman said in a radio interview Wednesday. “We look at TV ratings, we look at attendance, we look at everything, and it’s been disruptive. Is it conceivable that in some places around the world, where they’re watching the Olympics, it might have a positive impact? I suppose, but I think back when we went to Nagano, Japan, [in 1998] the building that we played the event in, the day after the Olympics were over, they ripped out the ice.”

NHL officials have said there are no plans to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games unless the status quo changes, but they haven’t made a final decision. They don’t want to take a break during their season to send players to the Olympics for a sixth straight time.

Bettman repeated some of the league’s concerns on Wednesday.

“We don’t even get the opportunity to promote the fact that we’re at the Olympics,” he said. “We don’t get to use the [Olympic] rings. I’ve said to the IOC, you know, Coca-Cola is a sponsor, they get to promote their association and say proud sponsor of the Olympics. They won’t let us do that, and we would lend player contracts worth something like $3.5 billion for those 17 days. There’s no recognition of the value by the IOC and the IIHF that we bring to the Olympics.

“To do it when there’s no football, and there’s no baseball, it’s really just us and basketball, and to get really no benefit of it. I’m not talking about compensation. We can’t market or promote that we’re there. We’re just there. And the IOC and the IIHF seem to be of the opinion that we should just be there, and whatever it takes, it takes.”

Four years ago, the NHL didn’t announce until seven months before the Sochi Olympics that it was participating in those Winter Games. But the NHL and Olympic officials had a handshake agreement one year before Sochi, according to Sportsnet.

“I understand why the Olympics want us there,” Bettman said Wednesday. “In terms of hours of TV programming in the Winter Olympics. In terms of most number of tickets sold for a sport in the Winter Olympics, hockey dominates.”

Bettman has cited owner fatigue, even negativity after five Olympics. Plus the 14-hour time difference from New York to PyeongChang, making for some Olympic games take place during the early morning for U.S. viewers.

“The world has changed since we started going, having our own network, having our own website,” Bettman said. “All of the things that we do with our fans, social media, on a daily basis, poof, we disappear. Because the IOC doesn’t let us do anything.”

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MORE: If no NHL at Olympics, who goes to PyeongChang?

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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