Russians Sinitsina, Katsalapov take early lead over U.S. teams in race for first ice dance world title


With the absence of four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, ice dance was the only discipline at the 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships guaranteed to crown a new world champion.

Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, representing the Russian Skating Federation this year, lead two U.S. teams in the tightly contested battle for gold midway through the competition, scoring 88.15 points for their “Singin’ in the Rain” rhythm dance on Friday.

After taking the silver medal at the last world championships in 2019, Sinitsina and Katsalapov are on their way to earning the first ice dance world title for Russia since 2009.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | TV, Stream Schedule

“We are very, very happy just to be here,” Sinitsina said. “We waited very long time for this. We’ve been going through it, and we are so happy to be here and compete against all the other guys. … We are thrilled with the work we did today and before the competition, so we feel great. We skated with our soul and we enjoyed it.”

Worlds is the first competition for the 2020 European champions since both skaters contracted COVID-19 in December.

Challenging them are Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Both teams have earned silver and bronze medals at past world championships, but this year could become the first U.S. world champions since Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2013.

“We definitely want to win the gold,” three-time Olympian Bates said. “We think the work that we put in and the training that we’ve done has prepared us really well for this event. We’re as strong as we’ve ever been, and we’re feeling confident. We have great programs, and we just love to skate. I think that really comes across when we’re performing. Today it certainly did, and we’ll try to do the same tomorrow, but the goal is to win the gold.”

Hubbell and Donohue’s “Burlesque” program earned 86.05 points – a new IJS personal best for the team, while Chock and Bates’ “Too Darn Hot” performance, which they kept from the 2019-2020 season, was less than one point behind with 85.15.

“That program had been a little bit harder than the free dance to find our groove, and we felt like this week we really were able to perform it and find our strengths,” Hubbell reflected. “We’re enjoying this little high that comes out of a good performance, and then we’ll focus later tonight on the free dance.”

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, three-time U.S. bronze medalists, sit in 11th with 75.08 points.

The top two U.S. teams have been neck and neck domestically throughout this Olympic cycle, with Hubbell and Donohue typically leading the way, though Chock and Bates came on strong last season, winning both the U.S. and Four Continents titles.

Both will show off standout free dances on Saturday to close out worlds, with Hubbell and Donohue’s “Hallelujah” performance and Chock and Bates’ “The Snake and the Snake Charmer,” also a reprise from last season.

“Especially when we haven’t competed against most of these teams since the [Grand Prix] Final last year, since December [2019], we’ve spoken a lot this week about we can’t know whether our best is enough to win,” Hubbell said. “You just don’t know. You don’t know the panel [of judges], you don’t know what could happen. We could skate well tomorrow and come second, we could skate okay tomorrow and win. We won’t know when we step out on the ice what it will take. We’re just going to show our best… I want to win, I hope tomorrow we’re standing on the top of the podium. That’s what our goal is.”

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Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz exit French Open, leaving no U.S. men

Frances Tiafoe French Open

Frances Tiafoe kept coming oh so close to extending his French Open match against Alexander Zverev: 12 times Saturday night, the American was two points from forcing things to a fifth set.

Yet the 12th-seeded Tiafoe never got closer than that.

Instead, the 22nd-seeded Zverev finished out his 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory after more than 3 1/2 hours in Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the fourth round. With Tiafoe’s exit, none of the 16 men from the United States who were in the bracket at the start of the tournament are still in the field.

“I mean, for the majority of the match, I felt like I was in control,” said Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who fell to 1-7 against Zverev.

“It’s just tough,” he said about a half-hour after his loss ended, rubbing his face with his hand. “I should be playing the fifth right now.”

Two other American men lost earlier Saturday: No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz and unseeded Marcos Giron.

No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina beat Fritz 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, and Nicolas Jarry of Chile eliminated Giron 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3.

There are three U.S women remaining: No. 6 Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Bernarda Pera.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

It is the second year in a row that zero men from the United States will participate in the fourth round at Roland Garros. If nothing else, it stands as a symbolic step back for the group after what seemed to be a couple of breakthrough showings at the past two majors.

For Tiafoe, getting to the fourth round is never the goal.

“I want to win the trophy,” he said.

Remember: No American man has won any Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open. The French Open has been the least successful major in that stretch with no U.S. men reaching the quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003.

But Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open along the way to getting to the semifinals there last September, the first time in 16 years the host nation had a representative in the men’s final four at Flushing Meadows.

Then, at the Australian Open this January, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Ben Shelton became the first trio of Americans in the men’s quarterfinals in Melbourne since 2000. Paul made it a step beyond that, to the semifinals.

After that came this benchmark: 10 Americans were ranked in the ATP’s Top 50, something that last happened in June 1995.

On Saturday, after putting aside a whiffed over-the-shoulder volley — he leaned atop the net for a moment in disbelief — Tiafoe served for the fourth set at 5-3, but couldn’t seal the deal.

In that game, and the next, and later on, too, including at 5-all in the tiebreaker, he would come within two points of owning that set.

Each time, Zverev claimed the very next point. When Tiafoe sent a forehand wide to end it, Zverev let out two big yells. Then the two, who have been pals for about 15 years, met for a warm embrace at the net, and Zverev placed his hand atop Tiafoe’s head.

“He’s one of my best friends on tour,” said Zverev, a German who twice has reached the semifinals on the red clay of Paris, “but on the court, I’m trying to win.”

At the 2022 French Open, Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle while playing Nadal in the semifinals and had to stop.

“It’s been definitely the hardest year of my life, that’s for sure,” Zverev said. “I love tennis more than anything in the world.”

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, is her top remaining challenger in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round. No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who has three wins over Swiatek this year, withdrew before her third-round match due to illness.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw