2019 Tour de France
Tour de France

2019 Tour de France route revealed

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The 2019 Tour de France will be “the highest Tour in history” — with a record 30 mountain passes and five summit finishes — Tour general director Christian Prudhomme said, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The planning here means it is impossible to win this Tour unless you are a great climber,” Prudhomme said, according to the report.

The Tour route, revealed Thursday, starts in Brussels on July 6 and includes three summit finishes above 2,000 meters — the Col du Tourmalet pass, Tignes and Val Thorens.

“That’s really going to stand this route apart from previous editions,” four-time Tour winner Chris Froome said.

It’s the 106th edition of the Tour, celebrating 100 years of the yellow jersey worn by the race leader. Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to win the Tour this past July, succeeding Team Sky leader Froome, who finished third.

“I think that [the 2019 Tour] will be similar to this year in the way that we rode together,” Thomas said Thursday, according to Cyclingnews.com. “We were always honest with each other and I don’t see why we can’t do that again.”

The 2019 Tour also marks 50 years since the first of Belgian Eddy Merckx‘s five titles, making Brussels a fitting start.

Brussels hosted the Grand Départ one other time in 1958 during the Universal Exhibition and the inauguration of the Atomium.

The three-week stage race includes a team time trial for stage 2 and an individual time trial for stage 13, each just shy of 17 miles.

“More individual time trial kilometers would have been better, so it’s not an ideal course for me, but that was also the case this year,” 2018 Tour runner-up Tom Dumoulin said.

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Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said later. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from [Osaka], as well.”

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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