Venus Williams ousted; young American will win U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Venus Williams‘ incredible Grand Slam season ended without her first major title in nine years.

Instead, a younger American will win her first Slam at the U.S. Open on Saturday.

An inconsistent Williams fell to speedy Sloane Stephens 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 in the first of two all-American semifinals at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night.

Stephens won 10 of the last 11 points in a 73-minute rubber set after being two points away from defeat.

Stephens, into her first major final in her fifth event back from foot surgery, will play another first-time finalist, Madison Keys, for the championship.

“When I started my comeback [on July 4], if somebody told me I’d make two semis and a Grand Slam final, I would have passed out,” said Stephens, whose biggest prior win was over Serena Williams in the 2013 Australian Open quarterfinals.

A former No. 11 player, she was ranked outside the top 900 a month ago due to the 10-month injury absence.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to run down every ball, didn’t know if my power and timing was still going to be there,” said Stephens, who was still in a walking boot in June. “I didn’t know if everything was still going to be right. The only thing I had to rely on was my fight.”

Keys swept CoCo Vandweghe 6-1, 6-2 in the other semifinal for the biggest win of her career.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Keys said on court shortly after. “I’m still shaking.”

Stephens, 24, or Keys, 22, will become the first U.S. woman other than a Williams to win a Grand Slam since Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open.

Venus Williams’ run to the semifinals at age 37 continued a resurgent campaign. Stephens clapped for Williams as she walked off the court immediately after its conclusion. Williams wasn’t in much of a mood for plaudits.

“I’m definitely here to win my matches, not for consolations,” she said later.

The quadruple Olympic champion won the most Grand Slam singles matches of any woman in 2017 — also making the finals of the Australian Open and Wimbledon and the fourth round at the French Open.

She posted her best results at every Slam since her last title at Wimbledon in 2008.

Williams will move into the top five of the WTA rankings next week for the first time in nearly seven years with a great shot to move even higher before the Australian Open in January.

“I will continue to play tennis,” Williams said when asked about her near future plans. “It’s nothing complicated.”

With play like this, Williams, who adores the Olympics, can qualify to play singles at Tokyo 2020 at age 40.

However, U.S. women’s tennis is at its deepest in more than a decade: Stephens, Keys and Vandeweghe, plus Serena Williams to return next year from childbirth.

A nation can qualify a maximum of four singles players per gender for the Olympics.

If Williams is not one of the top four Americans come summer 2020, she could be selected for her sixth Olympics in doubles only.

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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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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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