Serena Williams into French Open all-American third-round match

Serena Williams French Open
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PARIS — Her superior serve back at its unreturnable best, Serena Williams was in full control of her French Open match — until, suddenly, that stroke wasn’t as dominant and neither was she.

And then, pushed to a third set by an opponent offering up all sorts of spins and speeds and angles, Williams regained her form and forged to the finish.

Williams got back to the third round at Roland Garros, where she has won three of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, by pulling away to beat 174th-ranked Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 Wednesday on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Her serving, especially at the outset, was much better than in her first-round win. In that one Monday, she only put 51% of first serves in play and got broken three times in 10 games.

“I’ve been practicing my serve a lot. I’ve been playing, in practice, unbelievable on my serve. The other night was, ‘Wooooow,’ she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m glad it came better today. My coach told me it’s good that I’m doing it well in practice, because eventually it will be good in the match.”

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It sure was, especially at the outset against Buzarnescu, who didn’t manage to put any serves in play in the first game.

By the end of the first set, Williams had won 20 of 23 points she served.

In the second set, things changed.

Buzarnescu made the measure of those powerful offerings and managed to get herself right back in the thick of things, breaking twice in a row.

“She’s one of the best servers in the world. It’s not easy to read her serve. Being the first time playing against her, it took a while for me to adjust my position in the court on the return,” said Buzarnescu, who called it “a dream” to be able to face Williams. “I’m just happy I was able to figure it out. I hope next time, I can do it earlier.”

After a bit of a reset, Williams got going back in the right direction.

“I knew going into the third, I just had to zero in on those important points,” she said. “If I could just take those, it would be an easier time for me.”

Last year, Williams withdrew before the second round in Paris because of an injured left Achilles. No such issues so far this time, and the 39-year-old American covered the court well, although she did have some tape on her right thigh.

Next for the No. 7-seeded Williams is an all-American matchup against Danielle Collins, who overwhelmed Anhelina Kalinina 6-0, 6-2.

It was a strong French Open afternoon for the U.S., including victories in the women’s draw for No. 23 Madison Keys and in the men’s for No. 31 John Isner, No. 32 Reilly Opelka and unseeded players Stevie Johnson and Marco Giron.

It’s the first time that four American men made it to the third round at Roland Garros since a half-dozen got there in 1996 — and Taylor Fritz still has to play his second match on Thursday.

Another American, Tommy Paul, got off to a good start against No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, a two-time Grand Slam runner-up, in the night session Wednesday. But Medvedev, who was 0-4 for his career at the French Open until this week, came back to eliminate Paul 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3.

Medvedev will take on Opelka for a spot in Week 2.

Earlier in the day, down 4-1 in the third set, 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Alexander Zverev decided it was time to shorten his match.

He was determined to avoid another lengthy fight following a five-setter in the first round, so he applied pressure on qualifier Roman Safiullin. The sixth-seeded German won the next game at love, broke back by pushing his rival into unforced errors and was nearly flawless in the tiebreaker.

The reward was a 7-6 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (1) victory to advance to the third round.

“I’m happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev said. “I think it’s going to be important for me during the course of this tournament.”

Zverev, facing a rival he has known since they were juniors, dropped his serve three times on Court Suzanne Lenglen and hit 10 double-faults. But a 25-shot rally in the final tiebreaker epitomized Zverev’s hang-in-there attitude.

First on the defensive, Zverev turned it around and won the point with a passing shot.

Others moving into the third round included qualifier Henri Laaksonen, who hit 53 winners to upset 11th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open runner-up, who was taken to five sets for the second consecutive match before downing the big-hitting Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The 23rd-seeded Khachanov was treated by a trainer in the fifth set after cutting his right middle finger by hitting his racket strings in anger.

Nishikori extended his record in five-set matches to 26-7.

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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