Serena Williams routs Maria Sharapova at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Serena Williams‘ first match against Maria Sharapova at the U.S. Open had the same result as their last 18 meetings around the globe. A Williams victory, further cementing that it is a rivalry in every sense except the win-loss record.

Williams cruised 6-1, 6-1 in the highest-profile first-round match of her career. It marked her most lopsided win over Sharapova since the 2012 Olympic final.

“Every time I come up against her, I just bring out some of my best tennis,” Williams said, later noting that she didn’t know she had a 19-match win streak over Sharapova. “Every practice after [learning she would play Sharapova on Thursday] was super intense and super focused because it’s an incredibly tough draw.”

She was dialed in from the start Monday night, beginning her march to what she hopes is a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title and first as a mom. Williams won nearly twice as many points as Sharapova, who had 20 unforced errors and just six winners.

“If [Williams] can play seven matches like this, the U.S. Open is hers,” Chris Evert said on ESPN2.

Williams was runner-up at three of her six Slams since returning last year from life-threatening childbirth. Most memorably, she dropped the last U.S. Open final to Naomi Osaka, overshadowed by her spat with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

It was revealed last week that Ramos would not be working any of Williams’ matches at the U.S. Open.

“I don’t know who that is,” she said when asked about that Ramos measure Monday night.

The eighth seed Williams next gets 17-year-old American wild card Caty McNally in the second round Wednesday. Williams, 37, hasn’t finished a non-major tournament this season, retiring and withdrawing from the last two with a back injury.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

It’s been 15 years since Sharapova only wins against Williams, both in the Wimbledon final and at the year-end championships. Williams vowed to put the hammer down in their rivalry and has won 18 straight sets against the Russian since 2013. This marked their first meeting since 2016.

“Her game matches up really well against mine,” Williams said. “Her ball somehow lands in my strike zone. It’s just perfect for me.”

The frostiness between the two icons has been well-documented. They’ve taken jabs at each other’s personal lives. Sharapova, in her 2017 book, wrote about Williams’ private sobbing in the locker room after that 2004 Wimbledon final. Williams called what she read 100 percent hearsay.

This may well have been their last meeting, particularly due to the 32-year-old Sharapova’s recent setbacks. She is 2-5 since February shoulder surgery and will drop out of the top 100 after the U.S. Open.

“Bottom line is, I believe in my ability,” Sharapova said when asked her motivation at this point in her career. “You can write me off. There are many people that can write me off, especially after going down 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the U.S. Open. As long as it’s not the person that’s inside of you, you’ll be OK.

“I really want to play as much as I can till the end of the year.”

Every top-10 seed in action advanced Monday, led by top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic. The Serb swept Spaniard Roberto Carballés Baena 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

Djokovic, winner of four of the last five majors, saw his early draw open up when 2017 U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson withdrew with a right knee injury. Then potential second-round opponent Sam Querrey was upset Monday. Querrey memorably ousted Djokovic at 2016 Wimbledon. Red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev is the only other top-16 seed left in Djokovic’s quarter of the draw.

Roger Federer, a possible semifinal opponent for Djokovic, dropped the first set to 190th-ranked Indian Sumit Nagal but overcame the rustiness to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

Venus Williams matched Martina Navratilova‘s record 21 U.S. Open main-draw appearances in the Open Era. The 39-year-old swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-1, 6-0 to avoid losing in the first round of a third straight major for the first time in her career. Venus’ second round should be much closer against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina.

Tuesday’s featured matches include top-ranked Osaka against Russian Anna Blinkova at 12 p.m. ET. No. 2 Rafael Nadal gets Aussie John Millman at 7 p.m. Sloane StephensSimona Halep and 15-year-old Coco Gauff also play their first-round matches.

MORE: U.S. Olympic women’s tennis qualifying already intense

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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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