Carli Lloyd
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Carli Lloyd on retirement plan, career milestones, more in Q&A

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Carli Lloyd, a double Olympic gold medalist and 2015 World Cup winner, shared her time while promoting female empowerment and motivating youth at the LPGA Tour’s ANA Inspiration on Tuesday (Golf Channel broadcast schedule). Highlights …

OlympicTalk: You said last year that the national team was still trying to find its identity (after a 2016 Olympic quarterfinal loss and last-place finish at the 2017 SheBelieves Cup). After winning the SheBelieves Cup this month, has the team found its identity and can you put it into words?

Lloyd: I think it has. Obviously, since the 2015 World Cup, we’ve gone through a bit of a transition period. We’ve got younger players. We’ve got players who came through the NWSL who don’t have a ton of experience. And then we also have veterans as well in myself. I think that we just need to mold all of that together. Now we’re starting to hone in on what this team’s about, how we want to play as a team, the identity. I do think we are an exciting team to watch. As we get closer and closer to World Cup qualifying [in October], obviously we’re still the U.S. team with that fight and that mentality, but we also have a lot of talented younger players to help bridge all that together. Great result, the SheBelieves. Now we can continue to push on. We know that we can continue to get better. We all just have to do our part to keep pushing on.

OlympicTalk: You’re at 250 caps. You’re almost at 100 goals (98). Which of those numbers means more to you and why?

Lloyd: I didn’t even [know I hit 250]. After the game, [coach] Jill [Ellis] said in front of the group, congrats on 250 caps. I had no idea where I was even at. It was a bit of surprise to me. It’s really not about those numbers. That’s entirely not my focus. I’m just mainly focused on getting myself back into the groove and continuing to be better and better every single day. I have a lot more that I still want to accomplish. I think the best is yet to come.

OlympicTalk: You said in 2015 that you plan to retire from the national team after the 2020 Olympics. Is that still the plan, and is there anything that could happen at the 2019 World Cup or 2020 Olympics that could change that?

Lloyd: I don’t live too far in the future. The goal is that I will be a part of 2019, 2020. Obviously, I have to continue to keep performing, first and foremost. But I know that the only person that would hold me back is myself. So, as long as I continue to keep working as hard as I can every single day, I know that I will be at those events. Yes, you have to account for injuries and things that happen, but that’s life.

Editor’s Note: Lloyd turns 38 in 2020, when she will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic soccer player. She came back from an MCL sprain for the Rio Olympics and missed time last summer with an ankle sprain. Still, she won FIFA Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and was runner-up to Dutch Lieke Martens in 2017.

OlympicTalk: So are you leaving the option open of playing beyond 2020?

Lloyd: Internationally, most likely not. I have no clue, to be quite honest. I’m not going to rule out potentially still playing in the NWSL. I really have to kind of figure that out after 2020 and see where I’m at. The challenging thing for women is starting a family. That is something that is important to my husband and I.

OlympicTalk: What are the chances you would play for Manchester City or another European club again, knowing that the next two years are major tournament years?

Lloyd: Anything’s possible, but as we’re gearing up for these two world events, most likely not. It’s just not really feasible to be flying back and forth from Europe. My time at Manchester City for those three months was merely just for those three months, at the moment. Enjoyed my experience, glad I did it. I’m not going to say never, but, most likely, probably, won’t be going overseas again.

OlympicTalk: Do you think Hope Solo will play for the national team again?

Lloyd: No idea. I know she’s had some major shoulder surgeries. I don’t know where she’s at on that. I honestly have no idea.

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VIDEO: Olympic gold medalist pole vaults in Michelin Man costume

Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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