Naomi Osaka wins at French Open, speaks briefly

French Open 2021 Day 1, Patricia Maria Tig vs Naomi Osaka
Getty Images
0 Comments

PARIS — Naomi Osaka skipped her post-match news conference at the French Open on Sunday, as promised.

That didn’t mean she avoided a question about her problems succeeding on red clay.

Osaka returned to Roland Garros after skipping the trip last time, turning in a mistake-filled 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over 63rd-ranked Patricia Maria Tig at Court Philippe Chatrier on Day 1 of the Grand Slam tournament.

After the 2020 French Open was pushed to a September start with a limit of 1,000 spectators per day because of the coronavirus outbreak, things were closer to normal Sunday: It was a sun-kissed May day and more than 5,000 fans permitted, with a delay of only a week this year due to COVID-19 concerns.

While not quite back to its packed pre-pandemic self, Roland Garros did bubble with cheers and tennis.

Other results perhaps were more newsworthy — three-time major champion Angelique Kerber’s third straight first-round loss in Paris, for example — but the No. 2-ranked Osaka’s actions after her match were of interest.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

That’s because she declared during the week that she won’t participate in news conferences in Paris — and she did not do a pre-tournament session with the media. What remained unclear was whether she would participate in the perfunctory exchange of pleasantries with on-court “interviewers” who lob softball questions so spectators can hear something from match winners.

As it turned out, Osaka did go ahead with that chat with former player Fabrice Santoro, who is hardly a journalist and kindly offered to help Osaka by carrying the flowers she was given by the tournament.

Santoro actually did raise the topic of the event’s surface, noting that Osaka’s Grand Slam titles only have come on hard courts.

She has won the Australian Open twice, including this year, and the U.S. Open twice, including last year. But she never has been past the third round at the French Open.

“I would say it’s a work in progress,” Osaka said about her game on clay. “Hopefully the more I play, the better it will get.”

Osaka wrote in a Twitter post Wednesday that she was not going to participate in the standard back-and-forth with the media in Paris — the sort of thing athletes in various sports do as a matter of course. She framed it as a mental health issue, saying that it creates self-doubt to have to answer questions after a loss.

Players at Grand Slam tournaments are required to attend news conferences if requested to do so; refusing is punishable by fines of up to $20,000, which is not much of a big deal to Osaka, the world’s highest-earning female athlete thanks to endorsement deals totaling tens of millions of dollars.

French Open organizers didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions about Osaka’s press conference and whether she would be fined.

“It’s her own choice. I think she’s capable of making her own choices and obviously she will do always what’s best for her,” Tig said. “I think that’s what’s happening now. It’s her choice of doing what she feels is best for her.”

As for her impression of Osaka’s on-court ability on clay, Tig offered this assessment: “If she wins, she’ll get used to it. She can play as good on clay as she plays on hard courts.”

Osaka showed how Sunday: controlling points with her attacking game. She won 31 of 35 points when her first serve landed in and accumulated 39 winners — more than twice as many as Tig’s 18.

Osaka next faces 102nd-ranked Ana Bogdan, who swept aside Italian qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto 6-1, 6-3.

The 26th-seeded Kerber was beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Anhelina Kalinina, a qualifier from Ukraine ranked 139th and making her tournament debut.

Roland Garros thus remains the only Grand Slam title that Kerber hasn’t won: She was the champion at the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2018.

Also, 2019 Australian Open semifinalist and 2020 French Open quarterfinalist Danielle Collins defeated Wang Xiyu 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

In men’s action, 12th seeded Pablo Carreno Busta beat Norbert Gombos 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, and 27th-seeded Fabio Fognini broke a racket along the way to eliminating French wild-card entry Gregoire Barrere 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

0 Comments

France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!