Serena Williams, after mulling skipping French Open, rallies for first-round win

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Serena Williams considered daily whether to skip the French Open. She could have been sent packing after the first round on Monday.

Williams rallied to avoid the second first-round loss in her 71-Grand Slam career, topping Russian Vitalia Diatchenko 2-6, 6-1, 6-0.

“I didn’t play great in this match, but it is what it is,” Williams said on Tennis Channel after notching her 800th tour-level main-draw match victory. “I’m happy I got through it. I knew that it could go worse.”

It could have been the first time Serena and older sister Venus Williams lost in the first round of the same major. Williams, eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, moved on to face Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara or Slovenian Dalila Jakupović in the second round.

Williams withdrew from her previous three tournaments with health problems, citing a left knee injury at the last two.

“It crossed my mind every day,” whether to pass on Paris, Williams said, “but I’m here. And to do the best that I can do.”

She played well save that first set, being broken twice in a row with 14 unforced errors. Diatchenko won eight of nine points on Williams’ serve at one stretch.

“I’m a little upset,” Williams said. “I’ve been practicing extremely well, and I didn’t play like that at all. I think I’m going to take a deep breath. I was also a little nervous today. Usually I’m never nervous. That also means that I absolutely love what I do and means I want to be out here, so it’s a good sign.”

Williams, 37, is taking her fifth crack at tying Margaret Court‘s record 24 majors. She made her Grand Slam return from childbirth at the French Open last year. In career match wins, Williams trails only Martina Navratilova (1,442), Chris Evert (1,309), Steffi Graf (902) and Virginia Wade (839).

FRENCH OPEN: TV Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Earlier Monday, Rafael Nadal began his bid for a record 12th championship in Paris and Novak Djokovic got started on his quest for a fourth consecutive major trophy with easy wins.

Nadal was a bit shaky in the very first game against 184th-ranked German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, facing four break points, but he saved them all — and didn’t face another the rest of the way for a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Nadal’s feared forehand was not at its dangerous best, accounting for more unforced errors (11) than winners (nine).

“I had my match plan and, yeah, some of the things, they didn’t work out well,” said Hanfmann, who played college tennis at USC. “But, I mean, that’s why he’s as good as he is.”

Djokovic also needed under two hours to reach the second round, running his Grand Slam winning streak to 22 matches by getting past 44th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Upsets included former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who went out 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 to 68th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

Frances Tiafoe, the only seeded U.S. man at No. 32 and a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open in January, threw up a couple of times and his game came apart late in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 loss to Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

“Obviously very depleted and had nothing really in me,” said Tiafoe, now 0-4 at Roland Garros.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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