Madison Chock, Evan Bates snake to first U.S. ice dance title in 5 years

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Madison Chock and Evan Bates pulled off a rare feat in top-level ice dancing — reclaiming a national title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Chock and Bates, two-time Olympic partners, became the first U.S. skater, couple or pair to go five years between national titles in many decades. They clinched it in Saturday’s free dance with an Egyptian snake performance to distance two-time defending champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said.

The margin of victory: 4.67 points, the largest in U.S. ice dance since Meryl Davis and Charlie White completed their dominant run in 2014. Chock and Bates led by 1.32 after Friday’s rhythm dance.

They returned atop the podium after finishing second or third at the last four nationals. A second act like this can be hard to come by in ice dance, where the longstanding politics of judging most come into play. Once couples fall out of favor, they usually stay there.

The U.S. Championships conclude Sunday with the men’s free skate in Greensboro, N.C., live on NBC Sports.

NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

Chock and Bates came out of the Sochi Olympics as the top U.S. couple, succeeding Davis and White. But they dropped behind both Hubbell and Donohue and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani going into the PyeongChang Olympics (where they placed ninth).

After that, Chock underwent ankle surgery. The couple moved from Michigan to Montreal. They now train with Hubbell and Donohue, U.S. bronze medalists Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

“The trajectory for our skating right now is great,” Bates said. “Our mindset is right. Our coaching team is right. Our connection is as strong as ever, and we’re going to keep riding it.”

Hubbell said she and Donohue came out of their first free dance element, a spin, in the wrong direction. That caused them to continue facing the wrong way for their next four elements.

“The rotational lift, there’s a large leg flair that looks very cool going the opposite direction,” Hubbell said. “Today, I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

Internationally, Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue rank fourth and fifth in the world by best scores this season. A U.S. couple earned a medal at 10 of the last 11 world championships, but no gold since 2013.

Make it two potentially landscape-altering ice dance results on Saturday. Papadakis and Cizeron were beaten at the European Championships, their first loss to a couple other than retired Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir since December 2014.

“I’m hoping that it has a surge of fans,” Hubbell said of that result, “because there’s nothing more boring than knowing the outcome before it happens.”

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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.

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, results

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, results

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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