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Serena Williams into U.S. Open semifinals, beats former No. 1

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NEW YORK  — Serena Williams began her U.S. Open quarterfinal tentatively. Her shots lacked their usual sting, her attitude its usual conviction.

She was facing the last player she lost to at Flushing Meadows, and perhaps that was the problem. After just 20 minutes Tuesday night, Williams was in danger of trailing by two service breaks. Not much later, the outcome was no longer in doubt, because the 23-time Grand Slam champion suddenly was in complete control.

Williams put aside some early shakiness and an early deficit, turning things around with an eight-game run en route to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the semifinals.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got to try harder,’” said Williams, who wound up with 22 of her 30 unforced errors in the first set.

Pliskova is a big server and hitter in her own right, someone who briefly spent time at No. 1 in the WTA rankings and was the runner-up at the U.S. Open in 2016, when she beat Williams in the semifinals. The 36-year-old American did not compete in New York a year ago, because she gave birth to her daughter during the tournament.

Go back to 2015, and that was another semifinal departure for Williams, whose bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam was shockingly ended by Roberta Vinci.

“Well, I want to just be able to get past the semis here. It’s been a few, couple, rough semis for me,” Williams said. “But regardless, this has been a great road.”

This time, Williams’ semifinal opponent will be No. 19 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who surprisingly beat defending champion Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3 earlier Tuesday.

“Still long way to go, I think,” Sevastova said.

Especially considering that the next step will come against Williams, who’s heading into her 36th semi at a major, 12th at Flushing Meadows.

It did take Williams a little while to get going as she pursues a seventh U.S. Open title.

That sluggish start came in the heat and humidity that hampered John Isner in his quarterfinal loss to Juan Martin del Potro on Tuesday afternoon, and Roger Federer in his fourth-round exit against John Millman a night earlier.

With her older sister, Venus — the woman she beat in the third round — in her guest box, Williams looked tight. Her timing was off. She put a backhand into the net to get broken to 2-1 at the outset.

Then, down 3-1, she faced three break points; if Pliskova won any, she would have led 4-1. But Pliskova did not manage to put any of Williams’ serves in play on those key points.

Soon after that, Williams went from trailing 4-2 to not only taking the first set but also leading 4-0 in the second.

By the end, Williams compiled a 13-3 edge in aces, and 35-12 in total winners.

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

James, Cipres ahead of pairs’ field at Europeans

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They entered as one of the favorites and left the ice in first place: France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres won the short program of the European Championships in Minsk, 2.65 points ahead of second place Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov from Russia, and 2.85 points ahead of Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise, who are standing in third before Thursday’s free skate.

Results: Pairs’ short program

Many thought that Russia’s Alexandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, who had skated earlier in the evening, would shake up the podium. They are standing in a close fourth position, 1.12 points behind the podium.

Skating first in the last group, James and Cipres fulfilled the contract they had made for the day: emerge in first, after the flaws they experienced earlier in the season with that same short program. The performance they delivered was flawless, from their opening triple twist to a perfectly synchronized side-by-side triple toe and ample throw triple flip. Their lift was particularly impressive, as they moved from one intricate position to the next with an incredible flow. They received a +1.75 points GOE (Grade of Execution) for it. Most of their other elements were rated above 1.0 points.

“We needed to change a few things to gain more speed, when we need it through the program, especially after the twist,” James explained.

“We made adjustments with Guillaume [Cizeron, who choreographed their program] during Christmas, and he found the way to overcome our problems,” Cipres added.

“We’re very happy we made these changes,” James offered, “but we need to keep going!”

Cipres reminded everyone jokingly: last year, the team had dropped from first to fourth after the free.

The Grand Prix Final gold medalists cracked their season’s best to amass 76.55 points for their short program.

Tarasova and Morozov succeeded the French team on the ice. They returned to the spectacular program to Sergei Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto they skated to last season, and displayed the unique and amazing power they have to offer. Their triple twist was incredibly high, and their throw triple flip was impressively ample. Tarasova underrotated the triple toe of the pair’s side-by-side combination. The crowd quickly understood that the hope of a superlative program had eluded them. They nonetheless garnered 73.90 points, with an artistic mark up-to-par with that of the French team (35.40 points for the Russians, and 35.40 points for the Russians).

“Going back to last year’s program was our common decision,” Tarasova explained.

“It’s more impressive, more powerful in terms of skating, it includes good transitions and great speed. Everything in this program is bigger than in the previous one. It allows to show the strong side of our team,” Morozov added.

Della Monica and Guarise took the ice after the Russians and delivered a beautiful and inspired routine to Joe Cocker’s “Never Tear Us Apart.” Their side-by-side triple Salchow was in perfect synch, and Della Monica landed her throw triple flip in full speed and control.

“We push every day at our maximum,” Guarise emphasized after the competition was over. “Our coaches keep telling us ‘stronger, faster, stronger, faster, push, push, push’ … And we keep falling and falling. And then one day comes and you manage to stay on your feet. From then on you start to show good skating, and also your emotions. That’s the only way we know!”

Boikova and Kozlovskii certainly put the strongest energy into their program, at a level only the Italians could match. They amassed 72.58 points, a new season’s best for the fourth-place team.

MORE: Behind the scenes at the European Championships: Day 1

As a reminder, you can watch the European Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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What to watch in Olympic sports this week

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A busy week in Olympic sports is headlined by two marquee figure skating events: the U.S. Championships and European Championships. Reigning world champion Nathan Chen will try to win his third straight U.S. title in Detroit, and 2018 U.S. champion Bradie Tennell will attempt to repeat against an unpredictable ladies’ field. Coverage begins with the pairs’ short on Thursday at 5 pm, live on NBCSN. Meanwhile in Minsk, Belarus, reigning Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova of Russia will look to win her second straight European title, though she hasn’t had her best season: a rough showing last month left her fifth at the Russian national championships (PyeongChang silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva, who has struggled this season, was not named to the team). In men’s singles, 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Javier Fernandez of Spain seeks a seventh straight European title in what he says will be the final competition of his career.

Lindsey Vonn was expected to compete at this weekend’s World Cup in Germany, but after injuring her knee in her season debut last weekend, Vonn said on social media she was taking things “day by day.” The men’s alpine World Cup circuit continues in Kitzbuehel, at the renowned Hahnenkamm mountain in Austria, considered one of the most famous and thrilling races of the year. Olympians Bryce BennettTravis Ganong and Steven Nyman headline the American contingent. The Kitzbuehel races can be streamed live on NBC Sports Gold, and the speed races will air on Monday, January 28 on NBCSN.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; Kitzbuehel, Austria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Super-G NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 4:00 a.m. Women’s Downhill Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Men’s Downhill NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. Women’s Downhill* NBCSN
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) NBC Sports Gold
9:00 p.m. Women’s Super-G* NBCSN

*Same-day delay All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

BIATHLON WORLD CUP — Antholz-Anterselva, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 8:30 a.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint OlympicChannel.com
12:00 p.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint* Olympic Channel
Friday 8:30 a.m. Men’s 10km Sprint OlympicChannel.com
6:00 p.m. Men’s 10km Sprint* Olympic Channel
Saturday 7:30 a.m. Women’s 10km Pursuit OlympicChannel.com
9:30 a.m. Men’s 12.5km Pursuit OlympicChannel.com
8:30 p.m. Women’s 10km Pursuit* Olympic Channel
9:30 p.m. Men’s 12.5km Pursuit* Olympic Channel
Sunday 6:45 a.m. Women’s 12.5km Mass Start OlympicChannel.com
9:30 a.m. Men’s 15km Mass Start OlympicChannel.com
9:30 p.m. Women’s 12.5km Mass Start* Olympic Channel
10:30 p.m. Men’s 15km Mass Start* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay All races stream live on OlympicChannel.com.

BOBSLED AND SKELETON WORLD CUP — St. Moritz, Switzerland

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 3:30 a.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
5:15 a.m. Men’s Skeleton (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
7:00 a.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
8:30 a.m. Women’s Skeleton (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
4:00 p.m. Men’s Skeleton* Olympic Channel
5:00 p.m. Women’s Skeleton* Olympic Channel
Saturday 3:30 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
5:00 a.m. Two-Man Bobsled (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
7:00 a.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
12:00 p.m. Two-Man Bobsled* Olympic Channel
3:00 p.m. Women’s Bobsled* Olympic Channel
8:30 a.m. Women’s Bobsled (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
Sunday 4:30 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
6:00 a.m. Four-Man Bobsled (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
3:00 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled* Olympic Channel
8:00 p.m. Four-Man Bobsled* NBCSN

*Same-day delay All events stream live on OlympicChannel.com

CROSS-COUNTRY WORLD CUP — Ulricehamn, Sweden

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6:00 a.m. Men’ 15km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Women’s 10km Olympic Channel OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 5:15 a.m. Women’s Relay OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:15 a.m. Men’s Relay OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:00 p.m. Women’s Relay* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay Live races stream on OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold

CYCLO-CROSS WORLD CUP — Pont-Château, France; Hoogerheide, Netherlands

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 10:30 a.m. Men’ Elite* Olympic Channel
Sunday 7:30 a.m. Women’s Elite Olympic Channel OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
9:00 a.m. Men’s Elite OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
1:00 p.m. Men’s Elite* Olympic Channel
2:00 p.m. Men’s Elite* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay Live races stream on OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold

EUROPEAN FIGURE SKATING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS — Minsk, Belarus

Day Time (ET) Event TV Streaming
Wednesday 3:00 a.m. Ladies’ Short Program NBC Sports Gold
10:45 a.m. Pairs’ Short Program NBC Sports Gold
4:30 p.m. Ladies’ Short Program NBCSN NBCSN
Thursday 4:00 a.m. Men’s Short Program NBC Sports Gold
11:25 a.m. Pairs’ Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
7:00 p.m. Men’s Short Program NBCSN NBCSN
11:00 p.m. Pairs’ Free Skate NBCSN NBCSN
Friday 4:40 a.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold
10:00 a.m. Ladies’ Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
2:00 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBCSN NBCSN
6:00 p.m. Ladies’ Free Skate NBCSN NBCSN
Saturday 3:15 a.m. Men’s Free Skate NBC Sports Gold
8:25 a.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold
11:00 a.m. Men’s Free Skate NBCSN NBCSN
Sunday 1:30 p.m. Ladies’ & Men’s Free Skate NBC NBC

U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS — Detroit, Michigan

Day Time (ET) Event TV Streaming
Thursday 5:00 p.m. Pairs’ Short Program NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
9:00 p.m. Ladies’ Short Program NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Friday 4:00 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 p.m. Ladies’ Free Skate NBC NBC/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 1:30 p.m. Pairs’ Free Skate & Men’s Short Program NBC NBC/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 p.m. Free Dance NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:30 p.m. Men’s Free Skate NBC NBC/NBC Sports Gold

FREESTYLE SKIING WORLD CUP –Blue Mountain, Ontario; Mt. Tremblant, Quebec; Seiser Alm, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 12:00 p.m. Ski Cross OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
1:30 p.m. Moguls Olympic Channel OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 6:30 a.m. Slopestyle OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. Slopestyle Olympic Channel

MEN’S HANDBALL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Monday 12:00 p.m. Spain vs. Brazil Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Croatia vs. Germany Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Wednesday 12:00 p.m. Norway vs. Hungary Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. Denmark vs. Sweden Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Friday 11:30 a.m. Semifinals #1 Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
2:00 p.m. Semifinals #2 Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
Sunday 8:30 a.m. Bronze Medal Game Olympic Channel Olympic Channel
11:30 a.m. Gold Medal Game Olympic Channel Olympic Channel

LUGE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 7:35 a.m. Doubles Sprint OlympicChannel.com
8:30 a.m. Women’s Sprint OlympicChannel.com
9:25 a.m. Men’s Sprint OlympicChannel.com
Saturday 5:05 a.m. Doubles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
6:35 a.m. Doubles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
8:00 a.m. Sprint Events & Doubles* NBCSN
8:15 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
10:05 a.m. Women’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
7:00 p.m. Doubles* Olympic Channel
7:30 p.m. Women’s Singles* Olympic Channel
Sunday 5:00 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 1) OlympicChannel.com
7:10 a.m. Men’s Singles (Run 2) OlympicChannel.com
9:45 a.m. Team Relay OlympicChannel.com
5:00 p.m. Men’s Singles* Olympic Channel
6:00 p.m. From Winterberg, Germany* NBCSN

*Same-day delay Live events stream on OlympicChannel.com

NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP –Trondheim, Norway

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Men’s HS140 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
8:00 a.m. Men’s 10km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 3:00 a.m. Men’s HS140 OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:15 a.m. Men’s 10km OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

SKI JUMPING WORLD CUP — Sapporo, Japan; Rasnov, Romania

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 4:00 a.m. Men’s Individual (Qualifying) OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 2:00 a.m. Men’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. Women’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
4:00 p.m. Men’s Individual* Olympic Channel
5:30 p.m. Women’s Individual* Olympic Channel
8:00 p.m. Men’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 6:30 a.m. Women’s Individual OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
6:30 p.m. Men’s Individual* Olympic Channel
8:00 p.m. Women’s Individual* Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay Live events stream on OlympicChannel.com and NBC Sports Gold

SNOWBOARDING WORLD CUP — Seiser Alm, Italy; Moscow, Russia

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6:30 a.m. Slopestyle Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
10:30 a.m. Parallel Slalom Olympic Channel Olympic Channel/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 10:30 a.m. Team Parallel Slalom OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold

NEW BALANCE INDOOR GRAND PRIX TRACK & FIELD  — Boston, Massachusetts

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 5:00 p.m. From Boston, Massachusetts NBCSN NBCSN/NBC Sports Gold

TRACK CYCLING WORLD CUP — Hong Kong

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 6:00 a.m. Day 1 — From Hong Kong OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 6:00 a.m. Day 2 — From Hong Kong OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 7:00 a.m. Day 3 — From Hong Kong OlympicChannel.com/NBC Sports Gold
Monday 12:00 p.m. Day 3 — From Hong Kong* Olympic Channel