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Serena Williams on chair umpire Carlos Ramos: ‘I don’t know who that is’

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NEW YORK — Serena Williams had a terse response when asked her thoughts on chair umpire Carlos Ramos not being assigned to any of her U.S. Open matches this year.

“Yeah, I don’t know who that is,” she said after crushing Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 on Monday in her first U.S. Open match since last year’s controversial final loss to Naomi Osaka.

In that 2018 defeat, Williams was given three code violations by Ramos, which resulted in a game penalty deep in the decisive set.

The violations were for illegal coaching from her box, which Williams denied receiving (though it was her coach’s intent); smashing her racket and, finally, verbal abuse for calling Ramos “a thief” over the first violation.

After the match, Williams pointed up to Ramos and said, “You owe me an apology.”

“For me to say ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark,” Williams said later. “He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’”

Williams was fined $17,000 the next day. Williams revealed earlier this summer that she later sent Osaka an apology for her behavior.

The U.S. Tennis Association decided to preemptively say that Ramos would not work any matches involving Williams or older sister Venus to keep the attention on the players.

Williams was asked if last year’s final entered her mind during Monday’s match. She answered not by mentioning 2018 specifically, but by noting the Ashe Stadium crowd.

“I’ve had a lot of tough losses here for whatever reason,” she said. “To walk back out here and hear everyone support me, from all the ups and downs, is super amazing.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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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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