Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek set an unlikely French Open final

Sofia Kenin
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Few thought Sofia Kenin could reach the French Open final when, three weeks ago, she lost 6-0, 6-0 in her lone clay-court tune-up match.

Few thought Iga Swiatek could reach the French Open final as recently as last week. Ranked 54th, the 19-year-old from Poland was promising, but had yet to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Come Saturday in Paris, Kenin and Swiatek play for the title to write the final name in one of the most bizarre brackets — and tournament settings — in major tennis history.

Kenin, the fourth-seeded American, swept seventh-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals on Thursday. Kenin, the Australian Open champion in February, and Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon winner, were the only women with Grand Slam final experience to make it past the fourth round.

“I used to hate clay,” the 21-year-old Kenin said. “[In juniors] I felt like I wasn’t strong. I’m hitting a ball. It’s not going anywhere.

“I had success last year [beating Serena Williams in the third round], and after that I feel like things clicked.”

Earlier Thursday, Swiatek became the second-lowest-ranked female French Open finalist, routing 131st-ranked Argentine Nadia Podoroska 6-2, 6-1.

Swiatek dropped just 23 games among her first six matches, the fewest of any woman who didn’t drop a set en route to the final since Mary Pierce in 1994 (10 games).

“On one hand, I know that I can play great tennis,” said Swiatek, the second Polish woman to make a Roland Garros final after Jadwiga Jedrzejowska in 1939. “On the other hand, it’s kind of surprising for me. I never would have thought that I’m going to be in the final. It’s crazy.”

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Kenin and Swiatek will meet for the first time on the WTA Tour level in the youngest Grand Slam final by combined age since the 2008 Australian Open (Maria Sharapova defeating Ana Ivanovic).

But they’ve been on opposite sides of the net before — a barely 15-year-old Swiatek beat Kenin 6-4, 7-5 in the 2016 French Open junior tournament.

“I was not as comfortable on clay as I am now, as I started to feel last year,” Kenin said. “Of course, we’re both different players now.”

Kenin, born in Moscow and raised in Florida, joined Venus and Serena Williams as U.S. women to make multiple Grand Slam finals in one year since 2006. She is shining brightest among a new group of Americans bursting through, including Amanda AnisimovaCoco Gauff and Jennifer Brady.

“It’s not easy to get respect,” said Kenin, who described herself in one word as “feisty” and is so devoted that she cries before matches and after defeats. “It’s really easy to lose it. Like I said, people respect me. I’m going to keep it that way.”

Swiatek made opponents and viewers alike respect her these last two weeks. She became the betting favorite to take the title after thrashing top seed and 2018 champion Simona Halep of Romania 6-1, 6-2 in the fourth round on Sunday. Halep beat Swiatek 6-1, 6-0 at the 2019 French Open.

“I can handle the pressure,” Swiatek said Sunday. “I grown up to play a match like that and to win it.”

Kenin and Swiatek took different paths to the final, but each came through in unprecedented circumstances. It’s the first French Open to be played in October.

The first with night matches, thanks to a new roof over Court Philippe Chatrier and lights on multiple courts, keeping it on schedule amid frequent rain and temperatures mostly in the 50s.

“I know what the emotions are getting into your first Grand Slam final,” said Kenin, who rallied past veteran Spaniard Garbine Muguruza for the Australian Open title. “I’m hoping she’s going to be a little bit nervous.”

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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