Anna Shcherbakova extends Russian teen figure skating reign at Cup of China

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Anna Shcherbakova extended the new reign of Russian 15- and 16-year-olds, making it four wins in four Grand Prix events this season for her group.

Shcherbakova, 15, comfortably took Cup of China by 14.86 points over Japanese veteran Satoko Miyahara, totaling 226.04. Another Russian, the 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, was third.

Shcherbakova became the first woman to qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final by coupling her Cup of China title with her Skate America crown from three weeks ago.

She did so by landing a pair of quadruple Lutzes in Saturday’s free skate — changing her blue costume to a red one mid-performance — just as she did at Skate America (though one quad was deemed under-rotated in Chongqing).

Countrywomen Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia, 15- and 16-year-olds taught quads (Trusova) and the triple Axel (Kostornaia) by the same coaches as Shcherbakova, won the previous two Grand Prix events. They compete separately in the last two competitions the next two weeks, looking to make it an unprecedented Russian women’s sweep of the series leading into the Final.

China’s Jin Boyang took the men’s title by overtaking countryman and short-program leader Han Yan. Jin, a two-time world bronze medalist, earned his first Grand Prix title by 12.08 points, landing two quads in Saturday’s free skate.

Jin is questionable to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, however, since he was sixth at Skate America. He is ranked third in the world by best scores this season behind Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen, who are expected to headline the Final.

China also went one-two in pairs, led by world champions and Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. Sui and Han, who missed the last Grand Prix season due to her stress fracture in her right foot, tallied 228.37 points in their season debut. It’s the highest score in the world this season, supplanting Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by 11.66.

Earlier in ice dance, Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov held on to beat Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 1.35 despite the Americans topping the free dance.

Chock and Bates, who missed the last Grand Prix season due to Chock’s recovery from ankle surgery, earned their seventh straight Grand Prix runner-up finish (not counting Grand Prix Finals).

They will likely clinch a spot in their fifth straight Grand Prix Final spot (not counting last season’s injury absence) and rank fifth in the world this season.

Cup of China
Women
1. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS) — 226.04
2. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 211.18
3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 209.10

4. You Young (KOR) — 191.81
5. Sofia Samodurova (RUS) — 185.29
6. Amber Glenn (USA) — 178.35
7. Marin Honda (JPN) — 168.09
8. Yi Christy Leung (HKG) — 157.47
9. Chen Hongyi (CHN) — 155.12
10. Kailani Craine (AUS) — 149.83
11. Zhu Yi (CHN) — 139.63
12. Choi Yujin (KOR) — 131.48

Men
1. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 261.53

2. Yan Han (CHN) — 249.45
3. Matteo Rizzo (ITA) — 241.88
4. Keegan Messing (CAN) — 237.36
5. Keiji Tanaka (JPN) — 233.62
6. Cha Junhwan (KOR) — 222.26
7. Brendan Kerry (AUS) — 220.31
8. Camden Pulkinen (USA) — 218.67
9. Zhang He (CHN) — 217.42
10. Andrei Lazukin (RUS) — 210.01
11. Conrad Orzel (CAN) — 192.60
12. Chih-I Tsao (TPE) — 186.82

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 228.37

2. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 199.97
3. Lyubov Ilyushechkina/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 190.73
4. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 182.88
5. Ryom Tae Ok/Kim Ju Sik (PRK) — 179.55
6. Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea (USA) — 178.79
7. Tang Feiyao/Yang Yongchao (CHN) — 172.53
8. Alisa Efimova/Alexander Korovin (RUS) — 170.19

Ice Dance
1. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 209.90
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 208.55
3. Laurence Fournier Beaudry/Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN) — 190.74
4. Wang Shiyue/Liu Xinyu (CHN) — 186.45
5. Katilin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) — 179.96
6. Sofia Evdokimova/Egor Bazin (RUS) — 169.27
7. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin (RUS) — 169.24
8. Chen Hong/Sun Zhuoming (CHN) — 162.91
9. Guo Yuzhu/Zhao Pengkun (CHN) — 150.91
10. Misato Komatsubara/Tim Koleto (JPN) — 145.35

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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

Karolina Pliskova
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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

Nathan Chen
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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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