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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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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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