French Open: Rafael Nadal wins first match in record bid; Ash Barty manages injury

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PARIS — Rafael Nadal’s bid for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title started with a straight-set victory at the French Open.

Nadal twice was a point from dropping the third set against Alexei Popyrin but eventually held on there and wound up winning the first-round match at Court Philippe Chatrier 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3).

Nadal has now won 26 consecutive sets at Roland Garros dating to the 2019 final that he won. He won last year’s title at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament for his record-extending 13th trophy in Paris. That also allowed him to tie Roger Federer for the men’s record with 20 major singles championships.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

At the mercy of Bernarda Pera’s deep groundstrokes and struggling with her moves, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty gave the impression that her return to Roland Garros would be short-lived.

In ideal playing conditions on the sun-kissed Court Philippe Chatrier, Barty was often left stranded on the red clay by the big shots of her American rival.

But two years after claiming the French Open title, the top-ranked Australian fought hard enough to overcome the challenge and eventually prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-2

As Pera lost her focus and hit 19 unforced errors in the deciding set, Barty made up for her lack of mobility with clever combinations of lobs and angled shots. She played with her left thigh bandaged and received medical treatment after Pera leveled at one-set apiece.

“I just keep fighting, I just keep trying,” Barty said after improving her three-set match record to 12-2 this year.

Barty decided not to defend her title last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the buildup to the French Open, she played 13 matches on clay, winning 11. But she was forced to retire in the quarterfinals in Rome because of an injury to her right arm, raising concerns about her condition ahead of the tournament in Paris.

“It’s going to be a little bit tough this week,” she said. “I think over the weekend we had a bit of a flare-up through my left hip, which obviously just needed a bit of help today, needed some assistance to try and release it off as best I could.”

American teenager Coco Gauff won her first match as a seeded player at any Grand Slam tournament.

The 17-year-old Gauff erased set points before pulling out the opening tiebreaker and went on to beat Aleksandra Krunic 7-6 (11), 6-4. Gauff next faces Wang Qiang, who happens to be the woman she beat in straight sets in the final of the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Italy, on Saturday.

That gave Gauff — who also won the doubles title there — her first clay-court singles title and pushed her up to No. 25 in the WTA rankings. That career best made Gauff the youngest American woman to make her Top 25 debut since Serena Williams in 1998. Gauff is seeded 24th at Roland Garros.

Venus Williams was runner-up at Roland Garros against her sister 19 years ago but has now lost her opening match at the clay-court major for the fourth year in a row.

The American veteran’s 24th appearance at the French Open ended in a 6-3, 6-1 defeat against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia.

The seeded players in the women’s draw scheduled early in the day got off solid starts. Fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina trailed 5-2 in the second set but beat wild card Oceane Babel 6-2, 7-5. Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady breezed past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-3 to reach the second round and match her best performance at the French Open.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova pulled out of the tournament because of an ankle injury. Kvitova said she fell and hurt her ankle during “post-match press requirements” after her first-round victory on Sunday. The 11th-seeded Kvitova saved a match point before coming back to beat Greet Minnen 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-1.

In the men’s draw, No. 1 Novak Djokovic improved to 17-0 in first-round matches at Roland Garros by beating Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in just under two hours on Tuesday night. Djokovic saved all six break points he faced and compiled a total of 33 winners in the last match of the clay-court tournament’s first round.

Up-and-coming Aslan Karatsev beat American Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and was joined in the second round by 14th-seeded Gael Monfils.

Seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev was knocked out in the first round, losing 6-3, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 to Jan-Lennard Struff.

Earlier, play was briefly delayed on Court Simonne-Mathieu following a bomb scare near the stadium that turned out to be a false alarm, according to French police. A security perimeter was quickly set up as spectators and tournament employees were forced to enter the venue via another access.

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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final