Wimbledon women’s semifinals set; No. 2 men’s seed ousted

Day Eight: The Championships - Wimbledon 2021
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WIMBLEDON, England — When Angelique Kerber grabbed the opening set of her Wimbledon quarterfinal Tuesday, the full-capacity crowd saluted the accomplishment with cheers that bounced off the closed roof at No. 1 Court.

Kerber’s reaction? Just a matter-of-fact, straight-faced stroll to the sideline. No shouts or leaps or fist pumps. Unlike the other women headed to the semifinals at the All England Club, this is not new to her. Not at all. It’s just that it’s been a while.

WIMBLEDON DRAWS: Men | Women

The owner of three Grand Slam titles, including at Wimbledon in 2018, Kerber moved back into the final four at the grass-court major by using her knee-to-the-turf agility and quick reflexes to beat No. 19 seed Karolina Muchova 6-2, 6-3.

“I remember how I played here,” said Kerber, a 33-year-old left-hander from Germany, who did let loose by shaking her fists when her victory ended. “I know how to play on (a) grass court.”

Next, No. 25 seed Kerber takes on No. 1 Ash Barty, who eliminated 75th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 6-3 in the first all-Australian major quarterfinal in 40 years.

“It’s the ultimate test,” Barty said, looking ahead to Thursday’s matchup. “Angie’s obviously had success here before.”

Barty won the 2019 French Open, but she had never been to the quarterfinals at the All England Club. Indeed, this was the first time in the Open era, which began in 1968, that the tournament had six first-time women’s quarterfinalists.

Only Kerber and Muchova, who also lost at this stage in 2019, boasted past experience.

The other semifinal is No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka against No. 8 Karolina Pliskova.

Sabalenka collected her tour-leading 34th match win of 2021 by defeating No. 21 seed Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-3, and Pliskova topped unseeded Viktorija Golubic 6-2, 6-2.

This was the first day of 100% capacity in the two main stadiums after COVID-19 restrictions placed a 50% cap on attendance when the fortnight began. With rain falling much of the afternoon, the singles matches were played at Centre Court and No. 1 Court with the roofs shut and spectators allowed to be maskless — the All England Club says the arena’s ventilation systems allow them to be considered outdoor venues.

Pliskova — the 2016 U.S. Open runner-up to Kerber — claimed 24 of 26 points on her serve in one stretch, hit eight aces and saved the only three break chances she faced.

“Everything today was working quite well,” said Pliskova, who averaged 106.5 mph on her first serves, 20.5 mph faster than Golubic.

Pliskova has been broken only three times through five matches so far and has not dropped a set.

She also hasn’t played anyone ranked better than 47th yet.

Now comes a test.

Jabeur’s game is full of novelty and nuance, with drop shots and all manner of angles and spin.

Sabalenka? She is all about power and big cuts at the ball, and even with that constantly aggressive style, she managed to accumulate more winners, 27, than unforced errors, 20.

“She played,” Tunisia’s Jabeur said, “the match of her life.”

Sabalenka, a 23-year-old from Belarus, hadn’t been past the fourth round at any major previously.

But she agreed hers was a “great performance.”

“I still have this opportunity to win a Slam,” Sabalenka said. “I will do everything I can to reach my goal.”

In the day’s lone men’s match, No. 14 seed Hubert Hurkacz came back to edge No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the resumption of a fourth-rounder contest suspended Monday night.

Hurkacz’s first Grand Slam quarterfinal will come against 20-time major champion Roger Federer on Wednesday.

Kerber was certainly the best known and most accomplished of the women left in the draw as Tuesday began.

And now she’s into her eighth Grand Slam semifinal, with half coming at Wimbledon. The most recent came three years ago, when she upset Serena Williams for the championship.

Kerber extended her current winning streak to 10 matches, including a title at a grass-court tuneup in Germany last month, and her first-round exits on the Australian Open’s hard courts in February and French Open’s red clay in May seem like forever ago.

“I never stopped to believe in myself (and) how I can play,” said Kerber, like Pliskova a former No. 1.

Kerber’s game bothered Muchova the same way it troubled 17-year-old American Coco Gauff in the fourth round — with shots steered so quickly, low to the ground and flat.

“She plays good angles. It was a great match from her side,” said Muchova, who draped a towel over her head while sitting during changeovers. “So, definitely, didn’t help me.”

Kerber only compiled 15 winners, but that was enough because she limited Muchova to just two forehand winners herself — compared to a combined 33 unforced or forced errors with that stroke.

Muchova appeared to give herself at least the possibility of turning things around by breaking to lead 2-1 in the second set. But Kerber, so steady if not spectacular, broke right back when Muchova sent a forehand long to cap a 13-stroke exchange.

That was pretty much that.

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U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new up-tempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. women’s basketball team won 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, headlined a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, included neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team had 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 60 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The U.S. beat China in the final, while host Australia took bronze to send 41-year-old Lauren Jackson into retirement.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), wasn’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, Results

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 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA 88, Serbia 55 Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada 79, Puerto Rico 60 Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China 85, France 71 Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia 86, Belgium 69 Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA 83, Canada 43 Semifinals
5:30 a.m. China 61, Australia 59 Semifinals
11 p.m. Australia 95, Canada 65 Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. USA 83, China 61 Gold-Medal Game