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.


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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Ryan Crouser breaks world record in shot put at Los Angeles Grand Prix


Two-time Olympic champion Ryan Crouser registered one of the greatest performances in track and field history, breaking his world record and throwing three of the six farthest shot puts of all time at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on Saturday.

Crouser unleashed throws of 23.56 meters, 23.31 and 23.23 at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. His previous world record from the Tokyo Olympic Trials was 23.37. He now owns the top four throws in history, and the 23.23 is tied for the fifth-best throw in history.

“The best thing is I’m still on high volume [training], heavy throws in the ring and heavy weights in the weight room, so we’re just starting to work in some speed,” the 6-foot-7 Crouser, who is perfecting a new technique coined the “Crouser slide,” told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sha’Carri Richardson won her 100m heat in 10.90 seconds into a slight headwind, then did not start the final about 90 minutes later due to cramping, Johnson said. Richardson is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m in 2023 (10.76) and No. 2 in the 200m (22.07).

Jamaican Ackeem Blake won the men’s 100m in a personal best 9.89 seconds. He now ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala and American Fred Kerley, who meet in the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday (2-4 p.m. ET, CNBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock).

The next major meet is the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in early July, when the top three in most individual events qualify for August’s world championships.

Richardson will bid to make her first global championships team, two years after having her Olympic Trials win stripped for testing positive for marijuana and one year after being eliminated in the first round of the 100m at USATF Outdoors.

LA GRAND PRIX: Full Results

Also Saturday, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico won the 100m hurdles in 12.31, the fastest time ever this early in a year. Nigerian Tobi Amusan, who at last July’s worlds lowered the world record to 12.12, was eighth in the eight-woman field in 12.69.

Maggie Ewen upset world champion Chase Ealey in the shot put by throwing 20.45 meters, upping her personal best by more than three feet. Ewen went from 12th-best in American history to third behind 2016 Olympic champion Michelle Carter and Ealey.

Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic ran the fastest women’s 400m since the Tokyo Olympics, clocking 48.98 seconds. Paulino is the Olympic and world silver medalist. Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas is on a maternity break.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy won the 800m in 1:44.75, beating a field that included most of the top Americans in the event. Notably absent was 2019 World champion Donovan Brazier, who hasn’t raced since July 20 of last year amid foot problems.

CJ Allen won the 400m hurdles in a personal best 47.91, consolidating his argument as the second-best American in the event behind Olympic and world silver medalist Rai Benjamin, who withdrew from the meet earlier this week.

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Primoz Roglic set to win Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 20
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Primož Roglič all but secured the Giro d’Italia title on Saturday by overtaking leader Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage despite having a mechanical problem on the mountain time trial.

Roglič started the stage 26 seconds behind Thomas — who was trying to become the oldest Giro champion in history — but finished the route 40 seconds quicker than the British cyclist after the demanding climb of the Monte Lussari.

That saw Roglič move into the leader’s pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Thomas going into the race’s mainly ceremonial final stage.

Roglič was cheered on all the way by thousands of fans from just across the border to his native Slovenia. They packed the slopes of the brutal ascent up Monte Lussari, which had an elevation of more than 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

The 33-year-old Roglič celebrated at the end with his wife and son, who was wearing a replica of the pink jersey.

“Just something amazing, eh? It’s not at the end about the win itself, but about the people, and the energy here, so incredible, really moments to live and to remember,” said Roglič, who had tears in his eyes during the post-stage television interview, which he did with his son in his arms.

It will be a fourth Grand Tour victory for Roglič, who won the Spanish Vuelta three years in a row from 2019-2021

Roglič also almost won the Tour de France in 2020, when he was leading going into another mountain time trial on the penultimate stage. But that time it was Roglič who lost time and the race to compatriot Tadej Pogačar in one of the most memorable upsets in a Grand Tour in recent years.

It appeared as if the Jumbo-Visma cyclist’s hopes were evaporating again when he rode over a pothole about halfway through the brutal climb up Monte Lussari and his chain came off, meaning he had to quickly change bicycles.

His teammates and staff had their hands over their heads in disbelief.

Despite that setback, Roglič — who had been 16 seconds ahead of Thomas at the previous intermediate time check — went on to increase his advantage.

“I dropped the chain, I mean it’s part of it,” he said. “But I got started again and I just went … I had the legs, the people gave me extra (energy).”

The 33-year-old Roglič won the stage ahead of Thomas. Joao Almeida was third, 42 seconds slower.

For Thomas, his bad luck at the Giro continued. In 2017, he was involved in a crash caused by a police motorbike, and three years later he fractured his hip after a drinks bottle became lodged under his wheel – being forced to abandon both times.

Thomas turned 37 on Thursday. The Ineos Grenadiers cyclist had seemed poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history — beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

“I could feel my legs going about a kilometer and a half from the top. I just didn’t feel I had that real grunt,” Thomas said. “I guess it’s nice to lose by that much rather than a second or two, because that would be worse I think.

“At least he smashed me and to be honest Primoz deserves that. He had a mechanical as well, still put 40 seconds into me so chapeau to him. If you’d told me this back in (February), March, I would have bit your hand off but now I’m devastated.”

Thomas and Roglič exchanged fist bumps as they waited their turn to ride down the ramp at the start of the 11.6-mile time trial.

The Giro will finish in Rome on Sunday, with 10 laps of a seven-mile circuit through the streets of the capital, taking in many of its historic sites.

“One more day to go, one more focus, because I think the lap is quite hard, technical. So it’s not over til it’s finished,” Roglič said. “But looks good, voila.”

The route will pass by places such as the Altare della Patria, the Capitoline Hill, the Circus Maximus and finish at the Imperial Forums, in the shadow of the Colosseum.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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