Getty Images

Andy Murray set to skip U.S. Open to focus on singles

Leave a comment

Former No. 1 tennis player Andy Murray said Thursday he will bypass the U.S. Open entirely to work instead on rebuilding his singles career in smaller events.

Earlier this year, the two-time defending Olympic champion and three-time Grand Slam winner was set to retire due to nagging hip problems, but he decided in June to ease his way back into tennis by playing doubles. He won his comeback tournament with Spanish player Feliciano Lopez in a Wimbledon warmup. He returned to Wimbledon, where his 2013 and 2016 singles titles sent his home nation of Britain into a frenzy, to play doubles with Pierre-Hugues Herbert but lost in the second round.

He teamed up with his brother, Jamie, and won his first-round match in the Citi Open in Washington before losing in the second round, then returned to play with Lopez in Montreal, where he again advanced to the second round.

This week in Cincinnati, he and Lopez have advanced to the quarterfinals, where they will face off this afternoon against his brother.

“My goal is to get back playing at the level that I want to on the singles court, and I’ve decided that I need to focus all my energies on that right now,” Murray said in comments reported by BBC Sport.

The next step on his agenda is a tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., with a field filled with mid-tier and lower-tier players. He may enter a Challenger tournament after that.

Murray, who played his first singles match since January’s Australian Open on Monday, said earlier in the week that he would not take a wild card in the U.S. Open singles draw. But he was still set to play men’s and mixed doubles in the U.S. Open until announcing his change of plans on Thursday.

In 2016, Murray won nine tournaments, including his second Wimbledon and Olympic titles. He finally broke the stranglehold of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to claim the No. 1 ranking after a couple of years in the top three.

But in 2017, he only won one tournament, a March event in Dubai. He still advanced to the French Open semifinals and Wimbledon quarterfinals, losing each match in five sets, and he held the No. 1 ranking until August.

After Wimbledon, he was idle for nearly a year. A loss in the 2018 U.S. Open second round, his only major of the year, seemed likely to be his last Grand Slam appearance.

His second hip surgery, though, has helped the 32-year-old Murray play without pain.

 

 

 

Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

Leave a comment

If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: World Wrestling Championships TV Schedule