Barbora Krejcikova wins French Open, completing wild tournament

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Barbora Krejcikova, a 25-year-old Czech tagged a doubles specialist until a year ago, won the French Open, capping a topsy-turvy women’s tournament.

Krejcikova downed Russian veteran and fellow surprise finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 to become the seventh unseeded female Grand Slam singles champion.

Asked to share her emotions, Krejcikova paused for a moment, thanked the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd and, after a follow-up question, said, “I can’t believe what just happened.”

Krejcikova, a five-time Grand Slam winner in doubles and mixed, last year won her first Grand Slam main-draw singles match and broke into the top 100 in singles for the first time. She had zero wins over top-10 players until last month.

Krejcikova, formerly coached by the late 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, a fellow Czech, won a low-level clay tournament in Strasbourg, France, the day before the French Open began.

“When Jana was passing away [in 2017] I was most of the time with her,” said Krejcikova, who received the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen from Czech-born legend Martina Navratilova. “Pretty much her last words were just enjoy, just try to win a Grand Slam. I know from somewhere she is looking after me.

“I just really miss her.”

In Paris, Krejcikova is 12-0 between singles and doubles. She’ll play for another title with partner Katerina Siniakova on Sunday.

“I really don’t know how you have that courage and power, playing doubles and singles,” Pavlyuchenkova said.

In singles, she navigated a draw that was otherwise defined by missing stars. The world’s top three players were all gone before the third round without losing: Ash Barty withdrew with a hip injury, Naomi Osaka withdrew citing mental health and Simona Halep withdrew before the tournament with a calf tear.

Given all that, Serena Williams, who lost in the fourth round, could start Wimbledon in two weeks as the favorite.

Krejcikova’s path was not bulldozed clear, however. She took out No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina, 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens and two dangerous players over the last year, seeds Coco Gauff and Maria Sakkari (match point down), en route to the final.

Pavlyuchenkova, born five months before the break-up of the Soviet Union, was bidding to become the third-oldest first-time women’s Grand Slam champion in the Open Era.

She became the first woman to play more than 50 majors before reaching her first final. The former junior No. 1 lost all of her previous 12 Grand Slam quarterfinals between singles and doubles before this week. She owns 37 career wins over top-10 players, the most for any woman yet to break into the top 10.

“She’s already a great champion,” Krejcikova said.

Pavlyuchenkova suffered an upper left leg injury in the final, taking a medical timeout late in the second set and reportedly saying that she could not serve. She won five more games after that.

“In the last point I think I was dead,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I don’t have any more fuel.”

On Sunday, Novak Djokovic plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in the men’s final, live on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 9 a.m. ET.

Djokovic can become the first man to win all four majors twice in the Open Era. He can also win a 19th Grand Slam singles title, moving one shy of the record shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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