Chen tops Hanyu in short program; Russia leads at World Team Trophy


Russia leads six of the top figure skating nations with a total of 49 points after the first day of competition at the ISU World Team Trophy in Osaka, Japan.

In a three-country battle for podium positions between the powerhouses who took the medals at each of the past three World Team Trophy competitions – though always in varying order – the United States trails by only two points (47), followed by Japan with 42.

Nathan Chen topped the men’s field Thursday (109.65, less than a point from his IJS personal best), redemption after finishing an unexpected third in the short program at last month’s world championships with a score 10 points lower, with his best performance to date of his short program to “Asturias” by Frida Lopez and “Cancion del Mariachi” by Los Lobos. Helping move the U.S. from third to second, Chen was followed by two-time Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan (107.12), who had an error on his triple axel, and U.S. team captain Jason Brown (94.86).

“World Team Trophy for me is always a very enjoyable and very fun event, something that I feel more relaxed going into,” Chen, a three-time World Team Trophy participant, noted. “Training between worlds and now was very relaxed because I just need to make sure I stayed healthy and kept my energy going.

“I’m friends with all my fellow U.S. skaters and we have a good sense of camaraderie and team spirit, so to be able to have your best friends at a competition that you’re competing at together as a group is just really special, so just trying to enjoy myself as much as I can and still get my job done.”

Russia earned most of its points by having the top two women – reigning world gold and silver medalists Anna Shcherbakova (81.07) and Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (80.35) – and top ice dance team in reigning world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (76.79).

The rhythm dance kicked off the event, with Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri following the Russians (82.93) and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker placing third in their World Team Trophy debut (76.79).

The women were next, with Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto (77.78) and Rika Kihira (69.74) sitting behind the Russians, followed by Team USA’s Bradie Tennell (67.40) and Karen Chen (62.48), who both had under-rotated jumps plus a fall by Chen on her opening combination.

World Team Trophy features an audience of fans – a first for many skaters this season – all at least one seat away from each other.

“It felt great to be able to skate for people; I felt a lot more energy than I did at worlds,” Nathan Chen said. “Having an audience for the first time in a while brought a completely different sense of energy and sense of fun with skating. I personally enjoyed that a lot. I was happy people were there. That being said, I know safety is the No. 1 concern. Everyone was obviously wearing masks and distancing, so hopefully that was enough to keep everyone safe.”

France, which replaced China after the fifth-ranked nation withdrew, is well back from podium position in fourth (26), followed by Italy (25) and Canada (23), which opted not to send any of its athletes who competed at worlds in late March due to the country’s mandatory two-week quarantine. Competition continues Friday with the pairs’ short program, free dance and men’s free skate, followed by the pairs’ and women’s free skates on Saturday. The biennial event is streamed live on Peacock with highlights airing on NBCSN.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Coco Gauff rallies past 16-year-old at French Open

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff rallied to defeat 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva in the French Open third round in Gauff’s first Grand Slam singles match against a younger opponent.

The sixth seed Gauff, the 2022 French Open runner-up, outlasted Andreeva 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round, where she will play Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova or American Kayla Day. Gauff could play top seed and defending champ Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals.

This week, Andreeva became the youngest player to win a French Open main draw match since 2005 (when 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria made the quarterfinals). She was bidding to become the youngest to make the last 16 of any major since Gauff’s breakout as a 15-year-old.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

The American made it that far at 2019 Wimbledon (beating Venus Williams in her Grand Slam main draw debut) and the 2020 Australian Open (beating defending champion Naomi Osaka) before turning 16. At last year’s French Open, Gauff became the youngest player to make a Grand Slam final since Maria Sharapova won 2004 Wimbledon at 17.

This was only Gauff’s third match against a younger player dating to her tour debut in 2019. It took Gauff 50 Grand Slam matches to finally face a younger player on this stage, a testament to how ahead of the curve she was (and still is at age 19).

While Gauff is the only teenager ranked in the top 49 in the world, Andreeva is the highest-ranked player under the age of 18 at No. 143 (and around No. 100 after the French). And she doesn’t turn 17 until next April. Andreeva dropped just six games in her first two matches at this French Open, fewest of any woman.

Gauff is the last seeded American woman left in the draw after No. 3 Jessica Pegula, No. 20 Madison Keys and No. 32 Shelby Rogers previously lost.

The last U.S. woman to win a major title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Rafael Nadal expected to miss rest of 2023 season after surgery

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is expected to need five months to recover from arthroscopic surgery for a left hip flexor injury that kept him out of the French Open, effectively ruling him out for the rest of 2023 ATP tournament season.

Nadal underwent the surgery Friday night in Barcelona on the eve of his 37th birthday. He posted that, if all goes well, the recovery time is five months.

The timetable leaves open the possibility that Nadal could return for the Nov. 21-26 Davis Cup Finals team event in Malaga, Spain, which take place after the ATP Tour tournament season ends.

Nadal announced on May 18 that he had to withdraw from the French Open, a tournament he won a record 14 times, due to the injury that’s sidelined him since January’s Australian Open.

Nadal also said he will likely retire from professional tennis in the second half of 2024 after a farewell season that he hopes includes playing at Roland Garros twice — for the French Open and then the Paris Olympics.

When Nadal returns to competition, he will be older than any previous Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era.

Nadal is tied with Novak Djokovic for the men’s record 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

While Nadal needs to be one of the four-highest ranked Spanish men after next year’s French Open for direct Olympic qualification in singles, he can, essentially, temporarily freeze his ranking in the top 20 under injury protection rules.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!