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

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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.

 

 

 

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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