Australian Open quarterfinals set, including daughter of Buffalo Bills, Sabres owners

Jessica Pegula
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MELBOURNE, Australia — After Jessica Pegula earned her first trip to a Grand Slam quarterfinal, the daughter of the owners of Buffalo’s NFL and NHL franchises scribbled on the screen of an Australian Open courtside TV camera: “hi mom, hi dad, see you next rd Jen B.”

In addition to a shoutout to her parents, that was a message for Jennifer Brady, a good pal of Pegula’s whose fourth-round match was up next in Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

And after Brady won, too, setting up an all-American matchup against Pegula with a berth in the final four at stake, she used a blue marker to respond in kind, writing: “Bring it Jess!”

“It’s an opportunity for both of us,” Pegula said, recalling that she and Brady became close after playing doubles together for the United States in the team competition now known as the Billie Jean King Cup. “I’m just happy I’m here; she’s been playing some good tennis, solidifying herself as a top player.”

The 61st-ranked Pegula beat No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, before the 22nd-seeded Brady, a Pennsylvanian who played college tennis at UCLA, had a 6-1, 7-5 victory over No. 28 Donna Vekic of Croatia.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

Brady was one of the 72 players who had to go through a hard lockdown — two weeks stuck in a hotel room, not allowed to leave for any reason — after flying to Australia in January because someone on their flight tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival.

“A lot of people were complaining, and I told myself I wasn’t going to complain,” Brady said. “I mean, there’s way worse things going on in the world than me being stuck in a hotel room for 14 days.”

Brady and Pegula gave the U.S. three women’s quarterfinalists at Melbourne Park, joining 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who advanced a day earlier.

Top-ranked Ash Barty ensured a fourth American didn’t make it to the last eight, beating unseeded Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal match against No. 25 Karolina Muchova.

“I mean, it’s pretty awesome to see. I hope we can all push through,” Pegula said. “The last, I don’t know, year or so, we’ve really all pushed each other. Maybe we haven’t said it to each other, but I think we all can feel it.”

She is on quite a breakthrough run.

Pegula has won four matches at Melbourne Park over the past week — including victories over two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur — after entering the hard-court tournament with a total of three wins at majors for her career.

Also significant for Pegula, who works with Venus Williams’ former coach, David Witt: She came into the day with an 0-6 record against Top 10 women.

Witt said Pegula’s rising confidence is a big part of her progress. She found a sort of kinship with her family’s football team, the Bills, who made the playoffs three of the past four seasons behind quarterback Josh Allen after going nearly two decades without a trip to the postseason.

“Even last year, when he wasn’t playing that well, I was like, ‘I like this kid.’ I loved his competitive spirit. He was a gamer. He just wanted to win. That’s something you love to see,” she said about Allen. “It’s definitely something I think I tried to take into my game a little bit, even watching the team getting that grit, that competitive attitude, having that mindset — in tennis, it’s like 90%, sometimes, of the matches. I think it’s been really cool to watch them and kind of channel that energy into how I’ve been doing.”

Brady’s progress is far less surprising, given that she made it to the semifinals at the U.S. Open in September before losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka.

Vekic’s right knee was heavily taped by a trainer early in the second set, which eventually got to 5-all. But Brady broke at love there when Vekic double-faulted, then held for the victory.

There will be a one-nation men’s quarterfinal, too, between Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. Medvedev, the 2019 U.S. Open runner-up, eliminated 192nd-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in 1 1/2 hours, while Rublev moved on when No. 22 Casper Ruud stopped because of an injury after dropping the first two sets.

A third Russian man, 114th-ranked qualifier Aslan Karatsev, already had advanced, giving the country a trio of quarterfinalists at a major tournament for the only time in the professional era.

Also on that half of the draw, Rafael Nadal moved closer to a men’s-record 21st Grand Slam trophy by overwhelming No. 16 Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Nadal’s next opponent will be No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose fourth-round match was canceled when No. 9 Matteo Berrettini withdrew because of an abdominal injury.

With the sky blue and the temperature in the low 70s, and no fans in the stands for the third day in a row because of a local COVID-19 lockdown, Pegula dictated groundstroke exchanges from right along the baseline.

In the early going, she pushed around two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Svitolina, who eliminated American teenager Coco Gauff in the second round, and went up by a set and a break at 1-0 in the second.

After Svitolina forced a third, Pegula returned to her more aggressive brand of hit-to-the-corners play and led 4-1. She was broken to 4-3, but broke right back, then served out the most important victory of her career by grabbing the last four points after falling behind love-30.

Now it’ll be Brady vs. Pegula.

“I’m super excited for her making her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. I know the emotions that she’s feeling. You feel like you’re on cloud nine, definitely,” Brady said. “We both know each other so well and I’m really looking forward to it. It will be a lot of fun. I think everyone back home in America will be watching, definitely.”

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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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