At the U.S. Open, three moms make quarterfinals for first time at a Slam

Serena Williams
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History was made on Labor Day at the U.S. Open, where three moms advanced to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in the professional era.

Serena Williams, Tsvetana Pironkova and Victoria Azarenka all won fourth-round matches in New York in a first since at least 1968, win the Open Era began, according to the tournament.

Williams, the third seed seeking a 24th Grand Slam singles title, began the day by battling past Greek Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3. Williams has played at least one match at the U.S. Open with 3-year-old daughter Olympia in the small crowd.

“I just have a totally new respect for moms,” she said between her third- and fourth-round matches. “I would never have thought I would be playing as a mom. … The pluses is that, one day your daughter can say she was there. Whether she remembers or not, we can always have pictures. But other than that, it’s just minus, like, I’m not with her. I’m not around her. It’s hard.”

Later in the afternoon, the Bulgarian Pironkova dispatched Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 to set up a Wednesday quarterfinal with Williams.

Pironkova, who had son Alexander in April 2018, is playing her first tournament of any kind in three years. She returned to tennis training eight months ago and is bidding to go 10 years between Grand Slam semifinal appearances.

“Everything in mothering, I guess, it’s helped me,” Pironkova said. “Obviously you become a different person. You don’t focus on yourself that much anymore, like your focus is primary on your child. And I guess that’s a good thing. I’m a lot more organized, as well. Mentally, I have more mental endurance, also. Physically, I know my body better.”

Finally, at about 10:30 p.m., the former world No. 1 but now unseeded Azarenka rallied past 20th-seeded Czech Karolina Muchova 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

Azarenka, who won two Australian Opens and made 16 total Grand Slam quarterfinals before having son Leo in December 2016, is into the last eight of a major for the first time as a mom.

“I don’t know if I feel different just because as a mother,” the Belarusian said. “I don’t identify myself on the tennis court as a mother. I still identify myself as a tennis player. Me being in the quarterfinals, I didn’t get there by being a parent. I got there by being a tennis player. But it feels amazing that I can share this moment, and hopefully be a good role model to my son.”

Other moms excelled in tennis.

Australian Margaret Court won the last three of her 24 Grand Slam singles titles as a mom. Countrywoman Evonne Goolagong Cawley won 1980 Wimbledon, three years after childbirth.

Belgian Kim Clijsters returned from childbirth and retirement to win the U.S. Open in 2009 and 2010 and the Australian Open in 2011. Clijsters unretired again this year, after seven years away, and lost in three sets in the U.S. Open first round.

“For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mom, and I love it. I really, really do,” Clijsters said when she announced a comeback last September. “But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So … what if I tried to do both? Could I be loving mum to my three kids and the best tennis player I can possibly be? Let’s do this.”

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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