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Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks qualify for U.S. Olympic surfing team

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Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks, the world’s top two female surfers, will make up the first U.S. Olympic women’s surfing team. Lakey Peterson, who entered this week’s season finale ranked No. 2, will not be competing in Tokyo.

Moore and Marks prevailed in one of the most competitive Olympic qualifying races across all sports and all nations. The U.S. has the top three female surfers in the World Surf League rankings, but a maximum of two surfers per gender per nation can compete at the Tokyo Games.

Peterson was eliminated from Olympic contention after she lost in the round of 16 — and Marks advanced to the quarterfinals — at the Championship Tour finale in Maui on Sunday.

“That was a rough blow, for sure, but that’s the way it goes,” Peterson said. “Great job to Carissa and Caroline. They’ve had incredible years.”

Moore, Marks and Peterson each won two of the first nine events this season to take up the top three spots going into Maui. Moore and Marks are vying for the world title at the contest, which continues Monday.

Moore, a three-time world champion, and Marks, a 17-year-old in her second full season on the Championship Tour, are gold-medal contenders for surfing’s Olympic debut next year.

Moore, a Hawaiian, was ticketed for stardom as a preteen. In 2011 at 18, she became the youngest world champion in history. Two years ago, the Floridian Marks became the youngest surfer ever to qualify for the Championship Tour.

Peterson, whose mom is a former Guinness World Record holder and grandfather the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin creator, finished last season ranked No. 2 in the world.

But, crucially, she was beaten by two-time world champion Tyler Wright of Australia in the round of 16 on Sunday. Wright is competing for the first time since a 17-month contest break due to illness.

“I pretty much wanted to cry,” Wright said of crushing Peterson’s world title and Olympic qualification hopes. “I’m so sorry. I was banking on that she would catch another wave and convert.”

There is one more men’s spot available on the U.S. Olympic surfing team. It will likely be filled by either 11-time world champion Kelly Slater or 2016 and 2017 World champion John John Florence, decided at the Billabong Pipe Masters later this month.

Kolohe Andino was the first U.S. surfer to qualify for Tokyo.

MORE: Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

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Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

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

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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