Both outside the top 50, Tiafoe and Stephens take down top-10 players at Wimbledon

Day One: The Championships - Wimbledon 2021
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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Frances Tiafoe had no doubts about his friend Sloane Stephens’ chances on Centre Court against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova on Monday.

The Americans, both ranked outside the Top 50 at the moment, bumped into each other shortly before their matches against seeded opponents on Day 1 at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

“She was coming up; I was going to practice. I was just like, ‘Sloane, I back you to win today. I’m not even worried about it,’” said Tiafoe, who went up against French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas at No. 1 Court. “She’s cracking up, laughing. She’s like, ’Well, you better do the same thing.′ I was like, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it.’”

Indeed, there was little to worry about. Both pulled off convincing victories.

Stephens dispatched the No. 10 seed Kvitova 6-3, 6-4, committing only 14 unforced errors, and Tiafoe beat No. 3 Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.


“First thing I came off (court), seeing if she won. That made me even happier. I’m happy for both of us,” the 23-year-old Tiafoe said.

People forget, he said, that Stephens is a former US Open champion (2017) and French Open finalist (2018). Her best showing at Wimbledon was in 2013, when she reached the quarterfinals.

“She’s one of the best girls on tour, arguably, when she’s fully there. There’s no gimmick. This is a fact,” he said of Stephens, a former Top 5 player now ranked 73rd.

The 28-year-old Stephens said reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros boosted her confidence.

“Even though obviously it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, I was just feeling more like myself on court,” the Florida-based Stephens said. “I’m just trying to keep the momentum going, trying to find that, like, good, consistent level again.”

Tiafoe should have plenty of momentum after his entertaining match against Tsitsipas in a test of desire — and hunger.

The 57th-ranked Maryland native applied pressure by charging the net, where he won 24 points. Tsitsipas acknowledged that this tactic gave Tiafoe a “psychological lead” and he cited bubble fatigue for a lack of motivation.

Tiafoe said his advantage began even earlier.

“I woke up this morning like, ‘Yeah, I’m beating Stefanos,’” he said at his video conference, wearing a T-shirt with an image of Arthur Ashe in a fur coat.

Tiafoe’s elaborate on-court victory celebration included rolling up his short sleeves, slapping his chest and mimicking eating from a bowl.

“The more matches you win, the better you do, the better the meal is,” he explained. “It’s like, you know, I’m out here trying to eat. Steak dinners aren’t going to pay for themselves. Nice dinners aren’t going to pay for themselves. You got to perform and you got to win.”

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Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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