Venus Williams has earliest U.S. Open exit in six years

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NEW YORK — Venus Williams in 2019 Grand Slams: three match wins, four match losses. She hasn’t reached the second week of a major since her resurgent 2017, and, at age 39, has fallen outside the top 50 for the first year since 2013.

Williams lost to fifth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the U.S. Open second round on Wednesday, two days after dropping just one game in round one. It’s her earliest exit from the tournament since 2013.

Also Wednesday, Roger Federer dropped the opening set of his first two matches at a Slam for the first time. He rallied again, beating Bosnian Damir Džumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round. Later, Novak Djokovic swept into round three, while Serena Williams rallied past 17-year-old American Caty McNally 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

Play on courts without roofs — all but Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums — was cancelled due to rain.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Venus Williams, a seven-time major singles champion, played strong at times this season, reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells in March and in Cincinnati two weeks ago. She beat top-10 players Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens.

She gritted her teeth and challenged Svitolina in the second set, after coffee was delivered to her chair following the opening frame. That included saving five match points in her final service game that lasted 17 minutes.

“I did a lot of things right today,” said Williams, who was up 3-0 in the second set. “A lot of great things to build on.”

A slide wasn’t surprising after that incredible 2017, when she made two Grand Slam finals and re-entered the top five for the first time since she was diagnosed with energy-sapping Sjögren’s syndrome in 2011.

This year, Williams was stopped in the Australian Open third round by No. 1 Simona Halep. Swept by Svitolina in a tough French Open first round draw (so it goes when you’re not ranked high enough for a seed). Booted by 15-year-old Coco Gauff on the opening day of Wimbledon, where she won five titles between 2000 and 2008.

Williams customarily bats away questions about her future, but has said she will play in 2020.

“As Billie Jean King says, I love this game,” Williams said in a rare public moment of exclamation on court after Monday’s opening rout. “I love, love, love my job. I get to work outside. My whole job is to stay fit and get a six-pack. You don’t get better than that. I love what I do. I’ll be doing it as long as I can, and when I can’t, I’ll be watching with y’all.”

A potential sixth Olympics is a goal. It would take an incredible turnaround to qualify for the four-woman U.S. team in singles. More on the intense U.S. battle for Olympic spots here.

“It’s something that is the peak of your life, of your career,” Williams said of the Olympics in 2016.

Williams, the most decorated Olympic tennis player with five medals, could be chosen via discretionary pick for Olympic doubles. She has the credentials: Olympic golds with her sister in 2000, 2008 and 2012 and a mixed doubles silver in 2016.

If she goes to Tokyo, Williams will do it at age 40, older than any previous, modern-era Olympic tennis medalist.

“I’m trying to stick around for that,” she reportedly said in 2017 of the Games.

MORE: Serena Williams gives terse response when asked about 2018 chair umpire

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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