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

Oleksandr Abramenko
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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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Freestyle skiers in World Cup action on NBC Sports, Peacock

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Olympic gold medalists David Wise and Alex Hall headline World Cup freestyle skiing and snowboarding stops in the U.S. this weekend, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

Wise, who last Sunday won his fifth X Games Aspen ski halfpipe title, led the qualifiers into the final at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in California.

He’s joined in the 10-man final by U.S. Olympic teammates Aaron Blunck and Birk Irving. The women’s ski halfpipe final includes the top three from last week’s X Games — Brit Zoe Atkin, Canadian Rachael Karker and American Svea Irving. Olympic champion Eileen Gu of China is out after suffering a knee injury in an X Games training crash.

The ski slopestyle finals include the reigning men’s and women’s Olympic gold medalists — Hall, plus Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland.

The marquee snowboarders in Mammoth finals are Olympic big air silver medalist Julia Marino (slopestyle) and X Games silver medalist Maddie Mastro (halfpipe). Two-time Olympic champion Chloe Kim is taking the season off, and another double Olympic champion, Jamie Anderson, is pregnant.

Aerials and moguls skiers are competing in their lone U.S. World Cup stop in Park City, Utah.

The moguls fields including Olympic gold medalists Walter Wallberg of Sweden, Mikael Kingsbury of the U.S., Perrine Laffont of France and Jakara Anthony of Australia. Olympic silver medalist Jaelin Kauf is the standout American.

The aerials include every member of the U.S. team that took gold at last year’s Olympics — Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schoenefeld.

Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding World Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Saturday Moguls 11 a.m. CNBC, Peacock
Ski Halfpipe 3 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Sunday Ski Slopestyle 12 p.m. CNBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Aerials, Dual Moguls 2 p.m. NBC, Peacock
Snowboard Halfpipe 2 p.m. CNBC, Peacock

All NBC and CNBC coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

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