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Serena Williams reaches U.S. Open final, again one win from record

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NEW YORK — For the fourth time, Serena Williams is one match win from a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Williams overpowered No. 5 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 in the U.S. Open semifinals on Thursday night.

She’s into a final (Saturday) for the fourth time in her seven Grand Slams since returning from life-threatening childbirth.

The foe is Canadian 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t lost a completed match in six months but withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon with a shoulder injury. She swept Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-6 (3), 7-5 later Thursday.

“To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy,” Williams said. “But I don’t really expect too much less.”

Williams lost the previous three finals: 2018 Wimbledon to Angelique Kerber, 2018 U.S. Open to Naomi Osaka and 2019 Wimbledon to Simona Halep. This time feels different as she continues to chase Margaret Court‘s record.

“In this tournament, I guess, I have definitely turned a different zone,” Williams, who spans a record 20 years between her first and most recent Slam finals, said after her fourth-round sweep Sunday. “I’m not sure if I can articulate what zone that is.”

Since those comments, Williams had what her coach called her best performance as a mom, a 6-1, 6-0 rout of Chinese Wang Qiang in the quarterfinals.

Then she took out Svitolina, the highest seed of the quarterfinalists who hadn’t dropped a set in her first five matches. The Ukrainian squandered a chance for a hot start, going 0 for 6 on break points in the first set.

“It definitely wasn’t my best tennis,” said Williams, who had 34 winners to 20 unforced errors.

Williams is favored against Andreescu, looking to become the fourth mom to win a major singles title.

In their only head-to-head, Andreescu led Williams 3-1 in the final of their last event before the U.S. Open, when Williams retired with back spasms, part of a string of injuries since having daughter Olympia two years ago.

Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, pointed to her recently improved fitness and health as a key to finally winning her first title as a mom come Saturday.

“I know she’s played a lot in her life, but still, there is a special emotion in a final, especially when you’re supposed to win, and when you are called Serena you are supposed to win all the time,” he said Sunday. “It’s not the same as for another player playing a final, an unexpected player in the final..

“The pressure is very important, even more when you play to beat the record of all times.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with the men’s semifinals — Rafael Nadal, seeking a 19th Slam title to move within one of Roger Federer, takes on Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini. The other semi pits No. 5 Daniil Medvedev of Russia against former world No. 3 but now 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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Mikaela Shiffrin returns with mantra, stuck to her helmet, to carry forever

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Look close at Mikaela Shiffrin as she steps into a race start gate for the first time in eight months on Oct. 17.

Shiffrin, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Cup overall champion, plans to wear a helmet with two special stickers on the back.

She’s donned the first decal for years — the initials ABFTTB, which stand for “Always Be Faster Than The Boys,” a personalized autograph motto from retired Olympic Alpine skier Heidi Voelker.

The new sticker reads, Be nice. Think first. Have fun.

Those lines came from Shiffrin’s father, Jeff — the mantra instilled in her and older brother Taylor, also a young ski racer at the time.

After Jeff died on Feb. 2, Shiffrin regularly remembered the question that Jeff posed years ago: “What are the golden rules?”

Be nice. Think first.

When the Shiffrin siblings were old enough, Jeff added the third rule.

“He felt like we could understand that having fun wasn’t just about going and doing whatever you want because it’s instantly gratifying,” Shiffrin told NBC Sports’ Alex Azzi in an On Her Turf interview. “Fun is doing something well and the satisfaction you get from sticking to something.”

She plans to race all season with the golden rules sticker on her helmet, right next to ABFTTB.

Shiffrin detailed more about her prep for a very different World Cup campaign, in conjunction with a new fund in honor of her late father, in this On Her Turf report.

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2020 Tour de France results

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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