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Russia men’s hockey coach quits month after Olympic title

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MOSCOW (AP) — Oleg Znarok has stepped down as coach of the Russian men’s hockey team less than two months after leading it to its first Olympic gold medal in 26 years.

Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak told Russian news agencies that Znarok “got tired psychologically” and will be replaced by Ilya Vorobyov for next month’s world championship, though he will still work with the team as a consultant.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the switch would be permanent.

Playing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” Znarok’s team beat Germany 4-3 in overtime for the gold medal in PyeongChang at the first tournament since 1994 without NHL players.

The last Russian team to win gold was the post-Soviet Unified Team in 1992. Znarok’s was the first to win gold exclusively representing Russia.

Znarok, 55, was hired in March 2014 to replace Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who in Sochi led a Russian team that underwhelmed and was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Znarok played for the Soviet Union and, after its breakup, was captain of the Latvian national team. He later coached Latvia at the 2010 Olympics, where it lost all four of its games with the worst goal differential in group play.

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2018 French Open women’s draw

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Unseeded Serena Williams will play Czech Kristyna Pliskova in the French Open first round, with Maria Sharapova as a possible fourth-round opponent.

Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles titlist and three-time winner at Roland Garros, plays her first Grand Slam since giving birth to daughter Alexis Ohanian on Sept. 1. Williams was not given a seen by French Open organizers as she comes back from maternity leave, ranked No. 453 due to her absence.

Williams has played four WTA Tour matches, all in March, since winning the 2017 Australian Open. She is one Grand Slam singles title shy of Margaret Court‘s career record of 24.

Pliskova, whose identical twin is former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, is ranked No. 70 and has never advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam in singles.

Williams is on the opposite half of the draw as older sister Venus Williams, U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens, Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki and defending French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Other noteworthy first-round matchups: No. 1 Simona Halep against American Alison Riske and 2016 French Open winner Garbine Muguruza against 2009 French Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova.

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Brazil beach volleyball shakeup breaks up world champions

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Olympic champions Alison and Bruno‘s breakup was quickly felt throughout the top level of Brazilian beach volleyball. The 2017 World champions are no longer a pair as a result.

Alison, the 6-foot-8 blocker nicknamed “Woolly Mammoth” with a matching rib tattoo, will now partner with Andre, a 2017 World champion with Evandro.

Bruno, a 6-foot-1 defensive standout known as the “Magician,” will play with former partner Pedro. Pedro and Evandro made up the other Brazilian team at the Rio Olympics, getting eliminated in the quarterfinals and then breaking up at the end of 2016 as Evandro began playing with Andre.

Andre and Evandro’s announced breakup came days after they won the most recent FIVB World Tour event in Itapema, Brazil, without dropping a set in six matches.

“I’m very frustrated with [Andre’s] decision,” Evandro said, according to an FIVB translation of a Globo story, “but it happened, and I need to move forward.”

Evandro will be reunited with Vitor Felipe, according to the FIVB. Abrupt changes in Brazilian partnerships, sometimes with federation involvement, are common.

The biggest rival to the top Brazilian pairs the last two seasons has been the U.S. team of 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and his 2016 Olympic partner, Nick Lucena.

Dalhausser and Lucena won the first of three majors this season in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in March. They also won the last major of the 2017 season as well as the World Tour Finals, beating Andre and Evandro in the latter final.

The next major tournament this season is in Gstaad, Switzerland, in July. There are no world championships in even-numbered years.

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