Ashleigh Barty wins French Open for first Grand Slam title, after cricketing

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Ashleigh Barty was ranked No. 623 at this time three years ago. She’ll be No. 2 on Monday after winning the French Open, her maiden Grand Slam singles title.

Barty capped a return from a 21-month leave from the sport by overwhelming fellow Grand Slam final debutante Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3.

“It’s mind-boggling,” Barty told Mary Carillo on NBC. “I’ve enjoyed every single minute. And today was the perfect tennis match.”

Barty will be the highest-ranked Australian since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in December 1976. She joined Sam Stosur as the only Aussie women to win a Grand Slam singles title in the last 40 years.

Barty, the eight seed, caught a break in not having to play anyone seeded higher than 14th the last two weeks.

“I just told myself I may never get this opportunity again, so try and grab it with both hands,” she said.

Barty is having the best season of a two-staged career, making her first Slam quarterfinal at January’s Australian Open and notching her biggest title at the Miami Open in March.

The 5-foot-5 firecracker from Queensland beat a handful of top-10 players between January and March, including then-No. 1 Simona Halep, plus Kiki Bertens, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova in Miami.

She fulfilled promise shown as the 2011 Wimbledon junior champion at age 15. But she burned out from the sport by 2014, having never made it past the second round of a Slam. Barty, wanting “normal teenage experiences,” turned to cricket despite having no competitive experience in the sport. She played for a pair of Queensland clubs in domestic leagues in 2015.

Barty announced a return to tennis in February 2016.

“I’ll be able to do it my way a little bit more,” she said then, according to the WTA. “If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I can’t really complain. I’ve had a phenomenal career for the short time that I did play. I’m just prepared to work up that slow grind up the ITFs and hopefully be up with the WTA soon.”

Barty played her first ITF-level event with the ranking 9,999. She made the top 100 within a year and finished 2017 at No. 17.

The Czech Vondrousova was the first teen in a Slam final since Caroline Wozniacki. She, too, is on a rankings rise, from No. 422 in January 2017 to No. 16 on Monday. She didn’t drop a set in Paris until a Saturday she might not soon forget.

“You gave me a lesson today,” Vondrousova told Barty.

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

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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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