Lilly King beats Yuliya Efimova twice as rivalry resumes at FINA Champions Series

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Lilly King defeated Yuliya Efimova in a 200m breaststroke for the first time, then beat her Russian rival again 45 minutes later in the 50m breast for good measure.

King won the headline races at the FINA Champions Series stop in Indianapolis on Friday night, taking down Efimova in their first head-to-heads since the 2017 World Championships.

King, the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, gave up the lead in Friday’s 200m breast, then took it back to beat Efimova by two tenths of a second in the Russian’s trademark distance. King clocked a personal-best 2:21.39, the second-fastest time in the world this year.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” King said.

Quite an effort from King, who just completed her NCAA career at Indiana while teaching at a Bloomington middle school. King missed the Rio Olympic final in the 200m breast and was fourth at 2017 Worlds, won by Efimova.

Friday’s 50m breast went truer to form. King, who lowered the world record to 29.4 at 2017 Worlds, beat Efimova by three tenths in 29.63. In the last event of the night, King and Efimova swam on the same mixed-gender relay team (drawn randomly) that finished fourth.

Remember that King sparked a rivalry with Efimova at the Rio Olympics, wagging her finger at a ready-room TV showing the Russian. King was not a fan of Efimova being allowed to compete after serving a doping ban. The next day, King relegated the 2015 World champion Efimova to silver in the 100m breast.

“It’s a lot less tense in the ready room,” now, King told media afterward. “At some point, we grow up and move on.”

Full FINA Champions Series results are here.

FINA Champions Series meets feature four swimmers per individual event. The two-day Indianapolis meet concludes Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

In other events Friday, Ryan Murphy won a battle of Olympic champions in the 100m backstroke over Matt Grevers. The world-record holder clocked 52.99 seconds, moving to third in the world this year behind rivals Xu Jiayu and Evgeny Rylov.

Chase Kalisz topped all-American fields in the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley. Kalisz’s biggest competition in the IMs at worlds should be Japan’s Daiya Seto, who is not in Indy.

In the 200m backstroke, Italian Margherita Panziera took down Olympic and world silver medalist Katinka Hosszu and Canadian Kylie Masse, the fastest in the world in 2018. Panziera clocked 2:06.64, edging Hosszu by three tenths.

Panziera, 23, didn’t make it out of the heats in Rio and was eliminated in the semifinals at 2017 Worlds. But this year, she has the world’s fastest time of 2:05.72, which would have won the 2016 Olympics.

Swede Sarah Sjöström extended her 100m butterfly dominance, beating U.S. champion Kelsi Dahlia by 1.13 in 56.42. It’s the fastest time in the world this year for the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder. Sjöström added a 100m free title 40 minutes later against a field that did not include Olympic and world champ Simone Manuel.

Anthony Ervin, who in Rio shattered the record for oldest individual Olympic swimming gold medalist at age 35, took fourth in the 50m freestyle, 1.03 seconds behind Russian Vladimir Morozov, who clocked 21.65. World champion Caeleb Dressel was not in the field.

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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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