Maria Sharapova exits Wimbledon; Serena, Federer, Nadal advance

AP
0 Comments

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Maria Sharapova retired from her first-round match at Wimbledon with a left wrist injury while trailing 5-0 in the third set.

The 2004 Wimbledon champion served for the match while leading 5-3 in the second set but lost to Pauline Parmentier of France 4-6, 7-6 (4), 5-0.

Sharapova, who was unseeded at the All England Club for the first time since her debut in 2003, called for a medical timeout after the second set and a trainer put some taping on her wrist. She called for the trainer a second time in the third set, and stopped just after Parmentier served for the 5-0 lead.

“I’ve had a history of a tendon in my left forearm flaring up,” Sharapova said. “It happened today in the second set.

“I probably couldn’t have gotten through the whole final set, but I did my best.”

This year’s Wimbledon was only Sharapova’s second tournament since January following shoulder surgery. She lost in the second round in Mallorca last month.

Also Tuesday, Serena Williams opened her bid for a 24th Grand Slam title with a straight-set victory on Centre Court.

The seven-time champion at the All England Club beat Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy 6-2, 7-5.

Williams, who lost in the Wimbledon final last year, is short on matches and training time this season, factors she cited after her third-round exit at the French Open, her most recent tournament.

Williams has been dealing with an injured left knee. She said on Saturday she has been “feeling better” and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, said the 37-year-old American “doesn’t have pain anymore.”

The 31-year-old Gatto-Monticone was making her debut in Wimbledon’s main draw.

“I haven’t felt this good in months, almost five months,” Williams said. “Right now I have to have every match count, like 10 matches, because I haven’t had a ton of matches this year.”

Roger Federer rallied after losing the first set against an opponent playing his first tour-level match on grass.

Federer shrugged off an early deficit to beat Lloyd Harris of South Africa 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 on Centre Court as he began his search for a record-extending ninth Wimbledon title.

“Once I got going, just legs weren’t moving and things were not happening,” Federer said. “You know, it is always, yeah, slightly unusual first, let’s say, two to three matches maybe, here at Wimbledon, they’re always so different to any other court in the world, the way the ball bounces, the kick goes or doesn’t go.”

Harris was making his debut at the grass-court Grand Slam but rode his powerful serve to a one-set lead. But Federer dominated after that, breaking his opponent twice in each of the next three sets and serving out the match with an ace.

Playing his first match since winning his 12th French Open title, Rafael Nadal had little trouble in making the switch from clay to grass.

Nadal began his search for a third Wimbledon title by beating Japanese qualifier Yuichi Sugita 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 on No. 1 Court to reach the second round.

Nadal was broken in the opening game but dominated after that, breaking his opponent six times and served out the match when Sugita sent a return long. He will next face Nick Kyrgios.

Last year, the Spaniard reached the semifinals at the All England Club for the first time since 2011 before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in five sets.

However, former women’s champion Garbine Muguruza is heading home early again.

Muguruza lost to Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4, 6-4 in the opening round, making for a second straight early exit for the Spaniard since winning the title in 2017. She lost in the second round last year.

American Sam Querrey, a 2017 Wimbledon semifinalist, ousted two-time French Open runner-up and fifth seed Dominic Thiem 6-7 (4), 7-6 (1), 6-3, 6-0. Thiem lost in the first or second round in five of his six Wimbledons.

WIMBLEDON: Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

John McFall, Paralympic medalist, becomes first parastronaut in Europe

John McFall
Getty
0 Comments

The European Space Agency made history Wednesday by selecting an amputee who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident to be among its newest batch of astronauts — a leap toward its pioneering ambition to send someone with a physical disability into space.

John McFall, a 41-year-old Briton who lost his right leg when he was 19 and later won a Paralympic 100m bronze medal in 2008, called his selection at Europe’s answer to NASA “a real turning point and mark in history.”

“ESA has a commitment to send an astronaut with a physical disability into space … This is the first time that a space agency has endeavored to embark on a project like this. And it sends a really, really strong message to humanity,” he said.

The newly-minted parastronaut joins five career astronauts in the final selection unveiled during a Paris news conference — the conclusion of the agency’s first recruitment drive in over a decade aimed at bringing diversity to space travel.

McFall will follow a different path than his fellow astronauts because he will participate in a groundbreaking feasibility study exploring whether physical disability will impair space travel. It’s uncharted land, since no major Western space agency has ever put a parastronaut into space, according to the ESA.

Speaking with pride amid flashes of emotion, McFall said that he was uniquely suited to the mission because of the vigor of his mind and body.

“I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I lost my leg about twenty plus years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to be a Paralympic athlete and really explored myself emotionally … All those factors and hardships in life have given me confidence and strength — the ability to believe in myself that I can do anything I put my mind to,” he added.

“I never dreamt of being an astronaut. It was only when ESA announced that they were looking for a candidate with a physical disability to embark on this project that it really sparked my interest.”

The feasibility study, that will last two to three years, will examine the basic hurdles for a parastronaut including how a physical disability might impact mission training, and if modifications to spacesuits and aircraft are required, for example.

ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said it was still a “long road” for McFall but described the fresh recruitment as a long-held ambition.

Parker said it started with a question. “Maybe there are people out there that are almost superhuman in that they’ve already overcome challenges. And could they become astronauts?”

Parker also says that he “thinks” it may be the first time the word “parastronaut” has been used, but “I do not claim ownership.”

“We’re saying that John (McFall) could be the first parastronaut, that means someone who has been selected by the regular astronaut selection process but happens to have a disability that would normally have ruled him out,” he said.

It will be at least five years before McFall goes into space as an astronaut — if he is successful.

Across the Atlantic, Houston is taking note. Dan Huot, a spokesman for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home to the American agency’s astronaut corps, told the AP that “we at NASA are watching ESA’s para-astronaut selection process with great interest.”

Huot acknowledged that “NASA’s selection criteria currently remains the same” but said the agency is looking forward to working with the “new astronauts in the future” from partners such as the ESA.

NASA stressed that it has a safety-conscious process for vetting future astronauts who might be put in life-threatening situations.

“For maximum crew safety, NASA’s current requirements call for each crew member to be free of medical conditions that could either impair the person’s ability to participate in, or be aggravated by, spaceflight, as determined by NASA physicians,” Huot added.

NASA said future “assistive technology” might change the game for “some candidates” to meet their stringent safety requirements.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Ilia Malinin in familiar position after Grand Prix Finland short program

Ilia Malinin
Getty
0 Comments

Ilia Malinin landed a quadruple Axel in his free skate to win his first two competitions this season. Less known was that the 17-year-old American had to come from behind to win each time.

An at least slightly injured Malinin looks up in the standings again after the short program of his third event, Grand Prix Finland. Malinin had erred landings on two of his three jumping passes in Friday’s short, where quad Axels are not allowed, then said he had a left foot problem, according to the International Skating Union.

“I’m a little bit injured, I’m playing it safe, protect it to make sure the injury doesn’t get worse,” he said, according to the ISU.

He tallied 85.57 points for second place, which is 3.39 fewer than leader Kevin Aymoz of France going into Saturday’s free skate.

Malinin, the world junior champion ranked No. 1 in the world in his first full senior season, merely needs to finish fourth or better (perhaps even fifth) to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final, which pits the top six per discipline in the world in a preview of March’s world championships.

Grand Prix Finland concludes with all of the free skates on Saturday.

GRAND PRIX FINLAND: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier Friday, world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium led the women’s short with 74.88 points, edging Mai Mihara of Japan by 1.3. Hendrickx and Mihara are in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. World champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, South Korea’s Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito already have spots in the Final.

The world’s top ice dance couple this season, Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, improved on their world-leading rhythm dance score by tallying 87.80 points. They lead Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker by 6.87, with both couples in position to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini topped the pairs’ short program by 4.3 points over Americans Anastasiia Smirnova and Danil Siianytsia. The Italians rank fourth in the world this season behind three teams that aren’t in the Finland field but will be at the Grand Prix Final, including world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the U.S.

Smirnova and Silanytsia are competing in their lone Grand Prix this season after withdrawing before Skate America, making them ineligible for Grand Prix Final qualification. Their short program score ranks fourth among American pairs this season, putting them in contention for one of three spots on the team for worlds, to be decided after January’s national championships.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!