Naomi Osaka sweeps Serena Williams, into Australian Open final

2021 Australian Open: Day 11
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Naomi Osaka denied Serena Williams‘ latest bid for a 24th Grand Slam singles title and moved one match from a fourth major crown of her own.

Osaka swept Williams 6-3, 6-4 in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday, her 20th consecutive match win since her last defeat in February 2020.

“It’s always an honor to play [Williams],” said Osaka, who beat Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open final for her breakthrough Slam title. “I just didn’t want to go out really bad. … Just to be on the court playing against her, for me, is a dream. The biggest thing that I’ve learned over the years is … you’re a competitor. You’re playing against another competitor.”

The third seed from Japan plays Saturday’s final against 22nd-seeded American Jennifer Brady, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 winner over 25th-seeded Czech Karolina Muchova in a later semifinal. Osaka beat Brady in a high-quality, three-set semifinal en route to the 2020 U.S. Open title.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

In a poignant post-semifinal moment, Williams paused on her exit out of Rod Laver Arena. She put her hand over her heart and acknowledged the not-half-full crowd, partially allowed back after a five-day coronavirus lockdown in the area.

Told in a press conference that some wondered if she was almost saying farewell, Williams said, “I don’t know. If I ever say farewell, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

Williams broke into tears starting to answer the next question, about what went wrong in the match, and ended the press conference after three and a half minutes. Press conference video is here.

“I want her to play forever,” Osaka said. “That’s the little kid in me.”

Williams, in her 11th major tournament since life-threatening 2017 childbirth, once again came just shy of tying Margaret Court‘s all-time major titles record. The 39-year-old owns the record in the Open Era (since 1968), where the standard of competition has been considerably stronger.

Williams has reached six semifinals and four finals in those 11 majors as a mom. She’s lifted strictly runner-up trophies and is no longer the favorite at Slams.

Osaka, even with major titles each of the last three years and increasing spotlight, is still intimidated to see Williams on the other side of the net.

It showed in the opening game in near 90 degrees under a blinding sun with no wind.

Osaka had trouble with her ball toss and was broken. But she regrouped, later reeling off five consecutive games. Neither played well in the opening frame — Osaka got just 36 percent of her first serves in.

“I just started making way too much unforced errors because I was worried about what she would do if I were to hit a soft ball,” Osaka said. “I’ve grown up watching what she does to people’s serves when they’re soft.”

Williams, whose movement in her first five matches in Melbourne was her best since she won her 23rd major title while pregnant four years ago, had four winners to 16 unforced errors in the first set.

“I wouldn’t say I was nervous,” Williams said. “The difference today was errors. I made so many errors today. Honestly, it was opportunities where I could have been up 5-love and I made so many errors.”

Williams tried firing herself up in the second set, yelling “Make a shot! Make a shot!” after a forehand winner on the second point. But Osaka, dictating with more powerful groundstrokes, broke her again moments later.

Osaka tightened up while up 4-3 and serving, committing three double faults to let Williams back into the match. But Osaka broke Williams back at love and served out the match.

Williams lost to a top-three player for the first time in nearly six years, a span that included a win over Osaka in their last meeting in 2019.

Osaka is 32-2 over her last six Grand Slams on hard courts, winning the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020 and the Australian Open in 2019. She’s bidding to become the third active woman to win at least four majors, joining the Williams sisters.

“I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up,” said Osaka, who is 11-0 at Slams in the quarterfinal stage and beyond. “You might, but the winner’s name is the one that’s engraved. I think I fight the hardest in the finals. I think that’s where you sort of set yourself apart.”

In the men’s tournament, eight-time champ Novak Djokovic swept 114th-ranked Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 later Thursday for a place in Sunday’s final. The other semifinal, pitting No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, is Friday.

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Ukraine Olympic champion auctions gold medals to support his country

Yuriy Cheban
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Sprint canoeist Yuriy Cheban, Ukraine’s most decorated male Olympian, is auctioning his two gold medals and one bronze medal to support his country’s defense and recovery efforts amid the war with Russia.

“It was one of the best moments of my life that can be compared only with the birth of my child,” Cheban posted specifically about his repeat 200m gold at his last Olympics in Rio in 2016. “This Olympic finish left a great memory forever in the world history and in the hearts of Ukraine.

“Time to move on, I would like these medals to benefit Ukrainians once again.”

Cheban, a 36-year-old who coached Ukraine canoeists at the Tokyo Games, took 500m bronze in 2008 before his 200m golds in 2012 and 2016, all in individual races.

He and boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko are the only men to win two Olympic gold medals for Ukraine, which began competing independently in 1994. Cheban is the only man to win three total Olympic medals for Ukraine, according to Olympedia.org.

Swimmer Yana Klochkova won the most medals for Ukraine — four golds and five total.

All proceeds from the sales will go to Ukraine’s Olympic Circle charity, according to SCP Auctions.

Olympic Circle was created by sportsmen to help Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine, fight Russian occupants, according to SCP.

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Alpine skiing TV, live stream schedule for 2022-23 World Cup season

Mikaela Shiffrin, Marco Odermatt
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NBC Sports and Peacock combine to air live coverage of the 2022-23 Alpine skiing season, including races on the World Cup, which starts this weekend.

Coverage begins with the traditional season-opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria, this Saturday and Sunday, streaming live on Peacock.

The first of four stops in the U.S. — the most in 26 years — is Thanksgiving weekend with a women’s giant slalom and slalom in Killington, Vermont. The men’s tour visits Beaver Creek, Colorado the following week, as well as Palisades Tahoe, California, and Aspen, Colorado after worlds in Courchevel and Meribel, France.

NBC Sports platforms will broadcast all four U.S. stops in the Alpine World Cup season, plus four more World Cups in other ski and snowboard disciplines. All Alpine World Cups in Austria will stream live on Peacock.

Mikaela Shiffrin, who last year won her fourth World Cup overall title, is the headliner. Shiffrin, who has 74 career World Cup race victories, will try to close the gap on the only Alpine skiers with more: Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86). Shiffrin won an average of five times per season the last three years and is hopeful of racing more often this season.

On the men’s side, 25-year-old Swiss Marco Odermatt returns after becoming the youngest man to win the overall, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, since Marcel Hirscher won the second of his record eight in a row in 2013.

2022-23 Alpine Skiing World Cup Broadcast Schedule
Schedule will be added to as the season progresses. All NBC Sports TV coverage also streams live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Date Coverage Network/Platform Time (ET)
Sat., Oct. 22 Women’s GS (Run 1) – Soelden (PPD) Peacock 4 a.m.
Women’s GS (Run 2) – Soelden (PPD) Peacock 7:05 a.m.
Sun., Oct. 23 Men’s GS (Run 1) — Soelden Peacock 4 a.m.
Men’s GS (Run 2) – Soelden Peacock 7 a.m.
Sat., Nov. 12 Women’s Parallel (Qualifying) — Lech (PPD) Peacock 6 a.m.
Women’s Parallel (Finals) — Lech (PPD) Peacock 12 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 13 Men’s Parallel (Qualifying) — Lech (PPD) Peacock 4 a.m.
Men’s Parallel (Finals) — Lech (PPD) Peacock 10 a.m.
Sat., Nov. 19 Women’s SL (Run 1) — Levi Skiandsnowboard.live 4 a.m.
Women’s SL (Run 2) — Levi Skiandsnowboard.live 7 a.m.
Sun., Nov. 20 Women’s SL (Run 1) — Levi Skiandsnowboard.live 4:15 a.m.
Women’s SL (Run 2) — Levi Skiandsnowboard.live 7:15 a.m.
Fri., Nov. 25 Men’s DH — Lake Louise (PPD) Skiandsnowboard.live 2:30 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 26 Women’s GS (Run 2) — Killington NBC, Peacock 12:30 p.m.
Men’s DH — Lake Louise Skiandsnowboard.live 2:30 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 27 Women’s SL (Run 2) — Killington NBC, Peacock 12:30 p.m.
Men’s SG — Lake Louise Skiandsnowboard.live 2:15 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 2 Women’s DH — Lake Louise Skiandsnowboard.live 2 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 3 Women’s DH — Lake Louise Skiandsnowboard.live 2:30 p.m.
Men’s DH — Beaver Creek CNBC, Peacock 4 p.m.*
Men’s DH — Beaver Creek NBC, Peacock 5 p.m.*
Sun., Dec. 4 Women’s SG — Lake Louise Skiandsnowboard.live 1 p.m.
Men’s SG — Beaver Creek NBC, Peacock 5 p.m.*

*Delayed broadcast.

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