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Andy Murray withdraws from Wimbledon

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LONDON (AP) — Two-time champion Andy Murray pulled out of Wimbledon on Sunday because of a bad hip that has been a problem for about a year and was surgically repaired less than six months ago.

The All England Club announced Murray’s withdrawal a day before the grass-court Grand Slam tournament begins.

“I’ve made significant progress in practice and matches over the last 10 days, but after lengthy discussions with my team and with a heavy heart, we’ve decided that playing best-of-five-set matches might be a bit too soon in the recovery process,” Murray said in a statement released by his manager. “We did everything we could to try to be ready in time.”

Murray’s first-round match against Benoit Paire was scheduled for Tuesday. Murray beat Paire in the fourth round at Wimbledon last year as the defending champion, then lost to Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals, clearly hampered by the hip, and did not play again for the rest of 2017.

The 31-year-old Murray had an operation in January and returned to competition a little less than two weeks ago.

“I will start practicing on the hard courts from tomorrow and continuing with my rehab and recovery and I’m looking forward to the U.S. hard-court season,” Murray’s statement read. “Thanks for all the messages of support, and I’m excited to finally be back playing after so long out.”

In 2013, he became the first British man in 77 years to collect a Wimbledon singles title, and he won the championship again in 2016. He’s reached at least the quarterfinals in each of his past 10 appearances at the All England Club.

Considered a member of the ruling “Big 4” quartet of men’s tennis, along with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Murray also won the 2012 U.S. Open and two Olympic singles gold medals.

But all of his time away meant the former No. 1-ranked Murray has fallen out of the top 150 and he was not seeded at Wimbledon.

At a pre-tournament news conference Saturday, he said he planned to play in the tournament unless, he explained, “I wake up and don’t feel good.”

He added: “There’s certain things that are still tricky and things I’m still trying to work through. These things are significantly better than what they were a few months ago. That’s for sure. But, you know, again, it just takes time.”

The first match of his comeback came at the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament on June 19. Still with a hitch in his gait, Murray played more than 2½ hours before losing to Nick Kyrgios in three sets.

This past week, again on grass, Murray beat fellow three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, before losing to countryman Kyle Edmund.

“I don’t think I played amazing in the matches,” Murray said Saturday, “but I think I’ve done well, considering the opponents.”

There will be no opponents for him next week at a place that has come to define his career. Instead, Murray’s spot in the draw will be taken by Jason Jung of Taiwan, who lost in qualifying.

MORE: Wimbledon draws announced

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World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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