Alysa Liu
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Alysa Liu, U.S. figure skating champion, changes coaches

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Two-time reigning U.S. figure skating champion Alysa Liu has left her longtime coach, Laura Lipetsky, to work with a team including coaches in California and Canada.

Liu, 14, of Richmond, Calif. had been coached by Lipetsky since she began skating at age 5.

Liu is now to train with three-time Italian Olympic ice dancer Massimo Scali, who is based in Oakland, and with Lori Nichol and Lee Barkell, who are based at the Granite Club in Toronto.

“I have really enjoyed working with Alysa for her entire skating career,” Lipetsky said in a text message. “Massimo Scali and her father informed me that I would no longer be working with her. To not add to her distraction and allow her the opportunity to focus on being the best she can be, I prefer not to comment any further.”

A U.S. Figure Skating release about Liu’s coaching change did not provide details of the logistics involved in the two-country arrangement, complicated now by Covid-19 restrictions on entry to Canada.

Liu’s father, Arthur, said in a text message, “We are staying in the Bay Area.”

Team Liu will apparently rely on Zoom and occasional visits for the work with the Toronto coaches. They have been doing Zoom sessions in recent weeks. 

“I look forward to working with all my coaches even though some of them are located in different parts of the world,” the skater said via USFS.

Barkell did not immediately answer messages seeking comment.

Liu has already worked on choreography with Nichol, one of the sport’s leading choreographers for 25 years, and on skating skills with Scali.

Neither Liu nor her father gave any reasons for what seemed an unexpected change, given the skater’s success the past two seasons.

In 2019, at 13, Liu stunned the skating world by becoming the youngest senior national champion ever. In 2020, she became the youngest ever to win two senior U.S. titles.

MORE: Takeaways from abbreviated figure skating season

Last season, she also won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships and a silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final. At her first Junior Grand Prix competition last August in Lake Placid, N.Y., Liu became the first U.S. woman to land a quadruple jump in competition.

Liu, an 11th grader who turns 15 on August 8, is not eligible for senior international competition until the 2021-22 season.

Liu was Lipetsky’s first student to qualify for nationals. It was not surprising that some in the skating community had questioned the idea of Liu staying with such a little-known coach.

In a 2018 interview for an NBCSports.com/figure-skating story, Lipetsky admitted she had heard the questions but was not concerned.

“Alysa is a very smart girl, and she knows what works for her,” Lipetsky told me then. “She understands me very well, and she and her dad have trust in me. I know when to give her easy days and when to push her. It has been proven in the results.”

In the USFS release, Liu acknowledged and thanked Lipetsky for the coach’s role in the skater’s success.

“We’ve worked so closely together, and she has helped me get to where I am today,” Liu said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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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, bracket

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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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