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Sloane Stephens upset, Roger Federer debuts new look to open Wimbledon

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LONDON (AP) — Sloane Stephens’ Grand Slam career has fallen into an all-or-nothing pattern: She alternates runs to the final with first-round losses.

At Wimbledon on Monday, it was time for another early exit.

Stephens, No.5 Elina Svitolina and No. 6 Grigor Dimitrov were the top-15 seeds sent packing on the opening day. Roger Federer, wearing Uniqlo for the first time after his Nike contract ended, and Serena Williams, in her first grass-court match in two years, swept into the second round.

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Stephens was the U.S. Open champion last season and the French Open runner-up last month, but otherwise, she can’t seem to win a match at the majors.

The No. 4-seeded American bowed out at the All England Club in the first round for the second straight year, lasting a mere 71 minutes in the tournament before her 6-1, 6-3 loss to 55th-ranked Donna Vekic of Croatia was over.

“Not too much you can do,” said Stephens, her arms crossed and face a blank slate, revealing no emotion. “I’m not going to, like, go cry a bit, bang my racket.”

Might have made her forget how she played, though.

Vekic, who entered the day with a 0-5 record against opponents ranked in the top five, barely needed to produce much in the way of the spectacular. She generated only 12 winners among the 64 points she won.

The other 52 were split evenly between forced and unforced errors by Stephens, who is capable of playing much more cleanly and letting her superior defense hurt opponents. Instead, Stephens’ uneven strokes allowed Vekic to overcome nine double-faults.

“It was frustrating. Obviously I wasn’t making the shots I wanted to make. Wasn’t being as consistent as I wanted to. My feet were a little bit slow,” Stephens said. “Sometimes it happens. There’s nothing more, nothing less to it. I wish I would have made some more shots.”

In 2017, she arrived at Wimbledon to begin a comeback after sitting out for about 11 months because of an injured right foot that required surgery. Stephens quickly began playing the best tennis of her life, posting a 15-2 record to climb from 957th in the rankings and collect her first Grand Slam title in New York.

Right after that U.S. Open triumph, though, Stephens went through a rough patch, losing eight matches in a row, including a first-round loss at the Australian Open in January.

Her coach, Kamau Murray, spoke at Roland Garros last month about how Stephens was able to shrug off that troublesome time without letting it push her off course. He credited Stephens with knowing what matters and what doesn’t, and not allowing “the outside pressure to sort of … make her panic. That’s sort of the key to her success.”

Asked about her attitude in the face of days such as Monday, Stephens said she doesn’t dwell on the bad moments.

“We play a very long season. There’s no one that is going to win every single week. Even the No. 1 player in the world loses. It happens. Sometimes people do overreact, say, ‘I need a new coach, new physio,’ whatever it is,” she said. “I do believe that if you just work on yourself and focus on yourself, you’ll allow yourself to have success, no matter what else is going on around you.”

The eight-time champion Federer began his title defense in style, brushing aside Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 in 79 minutes on Centre Court.

Lajovic held serve in the opening game but that was as good as it got for the 58th-ranked Serb. Federer, 36, reeled off the next nine games to take charge and was in cruise control for the rest of the match.

Williams needed six match points to finish off a 7-5, 6-3 win over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands.

Williams broke for a 5-3 lead in the second set and led 40-15 when serving for the match, but Rus saved the first two match points and then another three after reaching deuce. However, Rus finally sent a shot into the net to give Williams a winning return to the All England Club.

The seven-time champion missed last year’s tournament while pregnant and is playing this week for the first time since withdrawing during the French Open with a pectoral muscle injury.

Williams could have played Svitolina in the third round but now would not play a seed until at least the fourth round (No. 10 Madison Keys).

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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