Serena Williams stunned by Sofia Kenin at French Open

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Serena Williams lost to a younger American in their first match together for the first time in her two-decade career. Sofia Kenin, a 20-year-old born in Moscow and raised in Florida, upset the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion 6-2, 7-5 in the French Open third round.

“In that first set in particular, she hit pretty much inches from the line, and I haven’t played anyone like that in a long time,” Williams said. “She just played literally unbelievable.”

Williams dropped to 34-3 all-time against younger Americans (h/t @BenRothenberg). Kenin joins Sloane Stephens and Madison Brengle as the slayers, but Stephens and Brengle needed three sets to do it in second career meetings with the legend.

“It’s a lot of emotions,” said Kenin, who saw her father and longtime coach in the stands filming her on-court interview with a smartphone. “Serena’s such a great player and a true champion, so all respect for her.”

It’s the end of an up-and-down tournament for Williams, who said she debated daily last week whether to withdraw. The 37-year-old pulled out of her previous three tournaments with health problems, citing a left knee injury at the last two.

Then she had to rally past her 83-ranked first-round foe, Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0. Though Williams swept Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara in round two, she would lose seven straight games to Kenin between the first and second sets on Saturday. It’s her earliest Grand Slam loss since 2014 Wimbledon.

Williams said after Saturday’s loss that she wasn’t fully match fit. She hopes she’ll be in optimal shape by Wimbledon in a month.

“I’m just pretty far away, but that’s the optimistic part is I haven’t been able to be on the court as much as I would have,” she said. “It’s just been a really grueling season for me.”

Kenin proved herself after needing three sets to get past an Italian qualifier in round one, then receiving a walkover against injured Canadian Bianca Andreescu in the second round.

Kenin, ranked No. 35, is into the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in nine tries. No. 8 Ashleigh Barty awaits.

Williams made her Grand Slam return from childbirth in Paris last year, reaching the fourth round before withdrawing minutes before a match with Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral injury. She then made the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, but couldn’t grab the crowns, and seemed destined for the Australian Open semifinals before a late-match ankle injury.

She remains one shy of Margaret Court‘s record 24 Slam singles titles

Earlier Saturday, No. 1 Naomi Osaka was knocked out by the world’s top doubles player, Czech Katerina Siniakova. Defending champion Simona Halep is the lone Grand Slam winner left in the top half of the draw and the only top-five player left at all.

Amanda Anisimova, 17, became the youngest U.S. woman to reach the French Open fourth round since Williams in 1998. She took out Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6 (6), 6-4.

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

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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