Serena, Venus Williams set up U.S. Open sisters showdown

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NEW YORK — Serena and Venus Williams will play in the U.S. Open third round, their earliest Grand Slam meeting since their first at the 1998 Australian Open.

“I wouldn’t say it’s exciting,” Serena said. “We would rather have met later [in the tournament]. … Normally I would say cheer for me, but whoever you’re feeling like, me or Venus, either one will work.”

Serena ensured the sisters’ 30th career match Friday by beating German Carina Witthöft 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday night. Six hours earlier, Venus swept Italian Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5 on another sweltering day in Queens.

“I never root against her, no matter what,” Serena said. “When you always want someone to win, to have to beat them. I know the same thing is for her. When she beats me, she always roots for me as well.”

Serena leads the head-to-head 17-12, winning eight of the last 10. Venus took the most recent, 6-3, 6-4 at Indian Wells in March, Serena’s first WTA event since having daughter Olympia on Sept. 1.

They also played in Serena’s last match before her maternity leave. Serena won the 2017 Australian Open final 6-4, 6-4 while eight weeks pregnant.

“It was two against one,” Venus joked Wednesday. “At least this time it’ll be fair.”

The two women with 30 combined Grand Slam singles titles are playing so early here because of Serena’s maternity leave. Her ranking was not protected for the absence, which meant Serena was No. 26 going into the U.S. Open even with making the Wimbledon final last month.

Venus is ranked 16th, and Serena received a seeding bump from tournament organizers to No. 17. They were randomly drawn into the same section of the top half of the draw and now meet in the round of 32.

“It’s really interesting to play someone that knows [you],” Serena said. “You have to almost become a different player, which is another challenge, as well. I think that’s also something that helps her.”

U.S. OPEN: Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Venus faced a tougher road to their 16th matchup at a Slam and sixth at the U.S. Open.

She needed three sets to outlast 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round. Giorgi, at No. 40, is the highest-ranked player either Williams has faced so far.

Venus, 38, is also playing to make the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time this year after doing so at all four majors in a resurgent 2017. She finished the year ranked No. 5 but has since dropped to No. 16.

The Williams-Williams winner would have been due to play No. 1 SImona Halep in the fourth round, but Halep became the first women’s top seed to lose in the U.S. Open first round in the 51-year Open Era.

Instead, Serena or Venus will play either Estonian Kaia Kanepi or Swede Rebecca Peterson in the round of 16.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi

Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth


France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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