Amanda Anisimova upsets Simona Halep at French Open

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Amanda Anisimova couldn’t believe it as she flung her racket behind her. Couldn’t believe that last backhand landed for a winner. Couldn’t believe she was a winner, over the defending champion in the French Open quarterfinals.

Anisimova, a 17-year-old born to Russian immigrants in Freehold Township, N.J., bossed Simona Halep around Court Philippe Chatrier, 6-2, 6-4, becoming the first singles player born in the 2000s to make a Grand Slam semifinal on Friday. She was already the first to make a fourth round and a quarterfinal.

“This is honestly more than I could ask for,” she said in an-court interview afterward, according to media in Paris. “I’ve been working so hard, but I didn’t think it would pay off like this.”

Anisimova called it one of the best matches she’s played. It was undoubtedly the biggest match. She had never faced a player ranked as high as No. 3 Halep.

She plays the highest seed left, No. 8 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, in Friday’s semifinals. Barty denied an all-American semifinal by ousting No. 14 Madison Keys 6-3, 7-5, on Thursday. The other semi pits No. 20 Jo Konta of Great Britain against unseeded, 19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova. None of the final four have ever reached a Grand Slam final.

Anisimova had the longest odds of them all at the start of the tournament, 100 to 1 via Ladbrokes.

“She will be in the top soon, because she has, you know, the game,” said Halep, who broke her opponents’ serve 16 straight times coming into Thursday. Anisimova then held serve her first seven games. Halep broke just once in seven tries for the match.

Anisimova became the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Nicole Vaidosova at the 2007 Australian Open. The youngest U.S. Grand Slam semifinalist since Venus Williams at the 1997 U.S. Open. The youngest U.S. French Open semifinalist since a 14-year-old Jennifer Capriati in 1990.

Promise has shadowed her for years. In the junior division, Anisimova was the 2016 French Open runner-up and 2017 U.S. Open champion. She made her Grand Slam main-draw debut at the 2017 French Open as a 15-year-old.

“I don’t really feel pressure. I only feel pressure if I put it on myself,” she said on Tennis Channel. “But, honestly, the only thing that motivates me is when people don’t believe in me.”

Men’s Quarterfinals
(1) Novak Djokovic – (5) Alexander Zverev (Thursday)
(4) Dominic Thiem – (10) Karen Khachanov (Thursday)
(3) Roger Federer def. (24) Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4
(2) Rafael Nadal def. (7) Kei Nishikori, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3

Women’s Quarterfinals
(8) Ashleigh Barty def. (14) Madison Keys, 6-3, 7-5
Amanda Anisimova def. (3) Simona Halep 6-2, 6-4
(26) Jo Konta def. (7) Sloane Stephens, 6-1, 6-4
Marketa Vondrousova def. (31) Petra Martic, 7-6 (1), 7-5

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

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Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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