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Serena Williams, Roger Federer roll at U.S. Open with Wimbledon behind them

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NEW YORK — Serena Williams and Roger Federer, each coming off stinging Wimbledon final defeats, are on form going into the second week of the U.S. Open.

Williams, in her seventh try to match Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, swept Czech Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-2 on Friday afternoon, two days after rallying from a set down in the second round.

Federer, eyeing his 21st major title and some cushion on the all-time list over Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, won the first set for the first time this week. He dispatched Brit Dan Evans 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the fourth round.

Top-ranked Djokovic looks to join them in week two. He plays Friday night against American Denis Kudla.

Williams gets Croatian Petra Martic on Sunday with second-ranked Ash Barty potentially waiting in the quarterfinals. Federer will also play Sunday, against No. 15 David Goffin. Federer caught a break when No. 7 Kei Nishikori, a possible quarterfinal foe, was upset by Australian Alex de Minaur.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Both Williams and Federer, born within two months of each other in 1981, continue to go into Grand Slams facing similar questions. Can Williams go the distance in a two-week event after withdrawing from her previous tournament with a back injury?

“I’ve always been really mentally strong. I’ve always been really physically strong,” said Williams, also slowed by ankle, knee and pectoral injuries since returning in 2018 from life-threatening childbirth. “I think just putting those two together at an event would be the biggest obstacle for me.”

In the Wimbledon final, Williams ran into a lights-out Simona Halep, who routed her 6-2, 6-2.

“There’s really not much you can do. You just have to understand that that was their day today,” Williams said after that loss, her third time losing a Slam final since coming back from childbirth (she hasn’t won a tournament in the comeback). “Hopefully I can raise the level of my game sometimes.”

“Seems like every Grand Slam final I’m in recently has been an unbelievable effort to get there.”

Can Federer get past Djokovic and Nadal to lift his first major title since the 2018 Australian Open, especially after such a heartbreaking loss to Djokovic in the epic Wimbledon final?

“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed,” Federer said after squandering two match points on his own serve before Djokovic prevailed 7–6 (5), 1–6, 7–6 (4), 4–6, 13–12 (3).

The bigger picture: Djokovic reached 16 Grand Slams. Nadal is at 18. They are closer to Federer’s men’s record 20 than ever before.

“I take motivation from different places,” Federer said at Wimbledon. “Not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that’s great for them. You can’t protect everything anyway.”

MORE: Serena Williams has terse reply to question about chair umpire

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French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Later Thursday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had a second straight win ceding just five games, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. Djokovic undefeated in 2020 save his U.S. Open default for smacking a ball that inadvertently struck a linesperson, next gets Colombian lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galán.

Nobody else in Djokovic’s half of the draw at the start of the tournament made a French Open semifinal before.

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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