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Sloane Stephens upset at U.S. Open before possible Serena Williams match

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NEW YORK — Sloane Stephens‘ U.S. Open title defense ended in the quarterfinals, one match shy of a possible Serena Williams showdown.

Latvian Anastasija Sevastova upset the American 6-2, 6-3 on another steamy day inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Temperatures reached the low 90s. All but a few games were won by the player on the shady side of the net.

Stephens also dealt with a “bad” sinus infection since Monday.

“Nothing was wrong with me before the match,” Stephens said. “Obviously, the better player won. … It was hot for both of us. She handled it better.”

The 18th-ranked Sevastova, not No. 3 Stephens, will face the winner of Tuesday night’s match between Williams and former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the final.

Williams is now the only woman left in the draw with a Grand Slam singles title — 23 of them, one shy of Margaret Court‘s record.

Stephens ended an up-and-down year in Grand Slams that included a French Open final loss to Simona Halep and first-round defeats at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Stephens made a remarkable run to her first Grand Slam final at the 2017 U.S. Open. She had missed 10 months due to a foot injury, unable to walk for four months after January 2017 surgery, and was ranked No. 957 less than a month before the tournament.

Her run included a three-set quarterfinal win over Sevastova, followed by ousting Venus Williams and Madison Keys to become the first U.S. woman other than the Williams sisters to win a Grand Slam singles title in nearly 16 years.

Stephens followed that by losing eight straight matches between September and January.

“I s— the bed for, like, 10 tournaments in a row,” she said. “I could have s— the bed in the first round [here], and that would have been really bad. So the fact that I made it to the quarterfinals and played some really good matches and I just competed as hard as I could, I mean, a lot to be proud of.”

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

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned four years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)