Getty Images

Serena Williams rallies for French Open win, nears possible showdown

1 Comment

PARIS (AP) — After playing so infrequently, it’s as if Serena Williams is starting from scratch.

Sure looked that way for a bit more than a half-hour in the French Open’s second round on Thursday, when she dealt with muscle soreness, a lack of verve and a bunch of mistakes. So many mistakes.

And then, suddenly, after unleashing one particularly powerful backhand return winner that she punctuated with a shout, Williams was back. She was animated. Determined. Dominant, even. Shaking off some rust in her first Grand Slam tournament since giving birth nine months ago, Williams recalibrated her shots and erased a deficit of a set and a break to beat 17th-seeded Ashleigh Barty of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that ended shortly before dusk.

“I lost the first set, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to try harder. I’ve got to just try harder,’ she told the crowd afterward. “And Serena came out.”

Well put.

Williams had all sorts of trouble in the opening set, compiling 12 unforced errors. By the time the second set was merely one game old, she had been broken twice in the match, each time at love, a rather surprising development for the owner of one of her sport’s most dangerous serves.

Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, attributed much of the poor start to this outing coming about 48 hours after the first match of her comeback following a two-month break. She arrived in Paris having played only four matches all season — none on the red clay used at Roland Garros, and none at a major tournament since she won her 23rd such title at the Australian Open in January 2017, while pregnant.

FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw

“She had no energy. She was struggling to move,” Mouratoglou said, adding that he had hoped for rain to postpone the match against Barty until Thursday. “She was struggling to use her legs on the serve and she was making much too many mistakes.”

And then?

“This ability to turn a match around and suddenly be like a superhero, basically — she’s normal and suddenly, Poom!” he said, snapping fingers on both hands. “Something happens, and she transforms into someone who’s almost unreachable at the level she gets to. This is something she’s always had. It’s really special, but that’s also why she is who she is.”

Williams started yelling and pumping her fist after pretty much every point that went her way. It woke up Williams’ game. Might have startled Barty, too. As big a hitter as Barty is in her own right, she is hardly in Williams’ class — who is? — and never has been past the third round at a major tournament.

The 36-year-old American, who became a mother on Sept. 1, grabbed four consecutive games over a span of less than 15 minutes to lead 4-1 in the second set, which soon enough would be hers. She gained control of the third almost immediately, breaking to go ahead 2-1, then holding for 3-1.

After only three winners in the first set, she had 25 the rest of the way.

“When push came to shove, the real Serena came out. And that’s one of her best assets: When her back is against the wall, the best comes out,” Barty said. “And that happened early in the second, and early in the third again.”

When Williams served out the victory with a backhand winner down the line, she raised both arms. In the stands, Mouratoglou, shook his fist.

“I felt like it’s been a long way and a long journey, and I’m still getting there, you know. But I have been working really hard, for a really long time,” said Williams, who is ranked 451st, 450 spots below her career high. “I just am hoping that every day I’m out there, every match I’m out there … it will come together.”

Next for Williams is a third-round match against 11th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany.

Get through that, and Williams would face either five-time major champion Maria Sharapova or 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova. Williams beat Pliskova’s twin sister, Kristyna, in the first round in Paris.

There were, to be sure, plenty of other big names in action Wednesday, including victories for Sharapova, No. 1-ranked Simona Halep and 10-time men’s champion Rafael Nadal.

But the 2018 French Open is, first and foremost, about Williams and her return to a Grand Slam stage.

“She’s not quite at the level she was when she was at her best, but that’s normal. That’s expected,” Barty said. “But her level when she’s not quite on her best is still bloody good.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Usain Bolt’s first world record on 10th anniversary

What to watch in Olympic sports this week

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mikaela Shiffrin weathered a chest cold to win her third medal (and second gold) of the World Alpine Skiing Championships on Saturday.

A hectic racing schedule means she doesn’t get much of a break.

Following her performance at Worlds in Are, Sweden, Shiffrin headed to Stockholm for a city event, which involves a series of head-to-head, knockout-style races in a bracket format. That event will re-air tonight at 11:30 PM on NBCSN. The World Cup circuit continues in Switzerland for the women and Bulgaria for the men, where two-time Olympic gold medalist Ted Ligety is expected to compete in Sunday’s giant slalom.

Winter sports action continues in Seefeld, Austria, which will host the world’s top cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and nordic combined athletes at the World Nordic Skiing Championships over the next two weeks. The U.S. contingent is headlined by PyeongChang gold medalist Jessie Diggins, who won her first World Cup race of the season, an individual sprint, last Saturday.

Meanwhile, the road to Tokyo passes through New York City with the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships on Staten Island. Two Rio Olympic bronze medalists, Emma Coburn (3000m steeplechase) and Clayton Murphy (800m) headline the U.S. field, along with their Olympic teammate and 2016 world indoor high jump champion Vashti Cunningham. The event will air Saturday and Sunday on NBCSN.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Stockholm, Sweden; Bansko, Bulgaria; Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 11:30 a.m. City Event – Stockholm Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. City Event – Stockholm* NBCSN
Friday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Men’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:15 a.m. Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
5:45 a.m. Men’s Super-G Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 p.m. Women’s Combined (Run 2)* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

WORLD JUNIOR ALPINE SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Val di Fassa, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Wednesday 5:00 a.m. Men’s Downhill OlympicChannel.com

BOBSLED AND SKELETON WORLD CUP — Calgary, Alberta

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 4:30 p.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
5:30 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:00 p.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
8:00 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Saturday 11:00 a.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
12:30 p.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:30 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
4:45 p.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Midnight Women’s Bobsled (Run 2) NBCSN
5:45 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Sunday 10:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
12:15 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
3:30 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
4:00 p.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2)* Olympic Channel
5:00 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 2) Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Monday 12:30 a.m. Four-man Bobsled (Run 2) NBCSN

*Same-day delay

FENCING GRAND PRIX — Cairo, Egypt; Torino, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 6:00 a.m.  From Torino, Italy* Olympic Channel
Sunday 8:40 a.m. From Cairo, Egypt OlympicChannel.com

*Pre-recorded

FREESTYLE SKIING WORLD CUP — Tazawako, Japan; Sunny Valley, Russia; Minsk, Belarus

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 11:30 p.m. Moguls Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 3:00 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
11:00 a.m. Aerials OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
3:00 p.m. Aerials* Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. Dual Moguls Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:00 a.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

*Same-day delay

GYMNASTICS WORLD CUP — Melbourne, Australia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 2:00 a.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 1) OlympicChannel.com
9:00 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 1)* Olympic Channel
11:00 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 2) OlympicChannel.com
Sunday 9:00 p.m. Apparatus Finals (Day 2)* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

LUGE WORLD CUP — Sochi, Russia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 2:30 a.m. Doubles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:50 a.m. Doubles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
5:55 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:20 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
1:30 p.m. Doubles (Run 2)* Olympic Channel
7:00 p.m. Women’s Singles (Run 2)* Olympic Channel
Sunday 1:40 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
3:15 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
5:00 a.m. Sprints OlympicChannel.com
7:30 a.m. Team Relay OlympicChannel.com
7:00 p.m. Men’s Singles (Run 2)* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

WORLD NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Seefeld, Austria

 

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 8:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M & W Sprint Finals Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
11:30 p.m. Cross-Country: M & W Sprint Finals* NBCSN
Friday 4:30 a.m. Nordic combined: LH Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. Nordic combined: Indiv. 10km Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
10:15 a.m. Nordic combined: Indiv. 10km NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 5:00 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Women’s 15km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
8:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Cross-Country: Men’s 30km Skiathlon* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Final* Olympic Channel
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M & W Team Sprint Final OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:45 a.m. Ski jumping: Men’s LH Team Final* OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:30 a.m. Nordic Combined: Team LH* Olympic Channel
10:30 a.m. Cross-Country: M&W Team Sprint Finals* Olympic Channel
2 p.m. Nordic Combined: Team Sprint* Olympic Channel
3 p.m. Ski Jumping: Men’s LH Team Final Olympic Channel
11:30 p.m. Cross-Country: Women’s Team Sprint Final* NBCSN

*Same-day delay

WORLD PARA NORDIC SKIING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 1:00 p.m. Biathlon: Individual OlympicChannel.com
Saturday 1:00 p.m. Cross-Country Skiing: Relays OlympicChannel.com
Sunday 1:00 p.m. Cross-Country Skiing: Long Distance OlympicChannel.com

SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP — Secret Garden, China

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 1:00 a.m. Parallel Giant Slalom OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 1:00 a.m. Parallel Slalom OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

WORLD SPRINT SPEED SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Heerenveen, Netherlands

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 9:00 a.m. Day 1 NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 1* Olympic Channel
Sunday 9:00 a.m. Day 2 NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Day 2* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay

USA TRACK & FIELD INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS — New York City, New York

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6:30 p.m. Day 2 NBCSN NBCSN
Sunday 4:00 p.m. Day 3 NBCSN NBCSN

Shiffrin wins city event, locks up World Cup slalom title

Leave a comment

STOCKHOLM — Mikaela Shiffrin wrapped up the season-long slalom World Cup title Tuesday, three days after winning her record fourth straight world title in the discipline. And she matched yet another record in the process.

Shiffrin won a parallel city event, defeating Christina Geiger of Germany in both runs to win the final by 0.27 seconds.

The victory gave the American two-time overall champion an insurmountable 203-point lead in the season standings with two races remaining. Her closest challenger, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, was beaten by Geiger in the quarterfinals.

“Each run I was pretty good but not always the fastest,” Shiffrin said. “But I was consistent and for tonight, that was enough. It was really fun, actually.”

It was Shiffrin’s 57th career win and 14th of the season, matching the record for most World Cup victories in a single campaign, set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in the 1990s.

Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland won the men’s event, beating Olympic champion Andre Myhrer of Sweden in the final.

Marcel Hirscher lost in the quarterfinals but the Austrian seven-time overall champion gained enough World Cup points to lock up the slalom season title.

Both Shiffrin and Hirscher have won the crystal globe for best slalom skier six times in the past seven seasons. They both missed the title in 2016, when Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen finished top of the rankings.

Beaten by Vlhova in a similar event in Oslo on New Year’s Day, this time Shiffrin took the win, but she had to overcome a tough fight with Anna Swenn Larsson in the semifinal.

Cheered by her Swedish home crowd, Larsson won the first run by 0.09 seconds, but Shiffrin edged her by 0.10 in the second run to progress with the smallest margin possible.

In the final, Shiffrin was faster than Geiger twice as the German settled for her career best result and first World Cup podium in eight years.

Shiffrin triumphed despite still suffering from the cold she also had to deal with at the worlds in Are last week.

“I skied as well as I could. Even if I was healthy, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do better. Now I have some time to really recover,” she said.

Shiffrin will sit out races in Crans Montana this weekend and Sochi next week, before returning to the circuit on March 8-9 for technical events in Spindleruv Mlyn in Czech Republic, the resort where she had her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.

In the men’s event, Zenhaeusern beat Hirscher in the quarterfinal on his way to his second career victory, after also winning here last year.

Hirscher still ended up winning the season title as his two main rivals, Clement Noel and Kristoffersen, had gone out in the opening round.

“I am very happy. Winning the title today was one of the reasons for my start here,” said Hirscher, who successfully defended his world title in the discipline just two days earlier.

Noel, who won the World Cup slaloms in Wengen and Kitzbuehel last month, looked like defeating Manfred Moelgg of Italy but the Frenchman was disqualified for straddling the final gate.

And Kristoffersen, beaten by Norwegian teammate Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, has failed to go beyond the opening round of all six city events he has competed in.

The next men’s World Cup races are in Bansko, Bulgaria, from Friday through Sunday.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports