Coco Gauff’s U.S. Open run ended by Naomi Osaka

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NEW YORK — Coco Gauff‘s first U.S. Open in the main draw proved arguably as memorable as her Wimbledon run last month. It ended Saturday, when defending champion Naomi Osaka served her out 6-3, 6-0 in the third round.

Then Osaka, 21, approached Gauff, 15, and urged the youngest woman in the tournament to share the on-court victor’s interview.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka, who was memorably in tears after beating Serena Williams in last year’s final, when boos for the chair umpire rained down, told Gauff. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff at first declined.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from her, as well.”

Gauff played her first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium and did so against the No. 1 woman in the world. She struggled with unforced errors (three times the number of her winners) and double faults (seven), while Osaka played up to her title and ranking.

Gauff ended her first Grand Slam season (in singles) having become the youngest woman to make the Wimbledon fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991 and the youngest to make the U.S. Open third round since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

“I’ll learn a lot from this match,” she said. “She’s the No. 1 player in the world right now, so I know what I need to do to get to that level.

“After the match, I think she just proved that she’s a true athlete. For me the definition of an athlete is someone who on the court treats you like your worst enemy but off the court can be your best friend. I think that’s what she did tonight.”

Osaka advanced to play No. 13 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in Monday’s fourth round. If she makes it back to the final, she would do so without having to play a top-12 seed. But, so far, she co-authored the moment of the tournament.

“I kind of thought of it when I shook her hand,” at the net, Osaka said. “She was a little bit teary-eyed. Then I was thinking to myself, [what] the people don’t see is we go into the locker room and just cry. … She’s had an incredible week, so I thought just to make a positive statement out of it.”

Four Americans are among the last 16 — Serena Williams, seeking a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, No. 10 Madison Keys, qualifier Taylor Townsend and wild card Kristie Ahn.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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