Men’s Wimbledon final to feature Djokovic, in his 30th major final, and Berrettini, in his first

Wimbledon 2021 - Day Eleven - The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
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WIMBLEDON, England — We know, of course, that Novak Djokovic can lose matches at Wimbledon, and he can lose at other Grand Slam tournaments, too, because it has happened — and actuality proves possibility.

And yet he keeps showing, over and over again, that it is foolhardy to doubt his supremacy at the moment.

The top-seeded Djokovic stretched his current runs to 20 consecutive victories at Wimbledon, dating to 2018, and 20 in a row at all majors this season, working his way in and out of trouble against a much younger, much-less-experienced opponent until eliminating No. 10 Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 on Friday night to reach the final at the All England Club.

Each set was tight and intense. Each appeared to be within Shapovalov’s grasp. Until it was in Djokovic’s.

“I don’t think that the scoreline says enough about the performance and about the match,” said Djokovic, who saved 5 of 5 break points in the second set, then 3 of 3 in the third.

Then, talking about Shapovalov, a 22-year-old from Canada, Djokovic said: “We’re going to see a lot of him in the future, definitely.”

And now, if he can beat another new-to-these-stages foe, Matteo Berrettini, in Sunday’s final, Djokovic will collect a sixth championship at Wimbledon — third straight — and, more importantly, a 20th Grand Slam title, which would tie his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in tennis history.

And then there’s this: He already won the Australian Open in February and the French Open in June, so a Wimbledon triumph would put him three-quarters of the way to a calendar-year Grand Slam, with only the U.S. Open remaining.

First things first. This will be Djokovic’s 30th major final, Berrettini’s first. Much as it was Djokovic’s 41st major semifinal, Shapovalov’s first.

Cries of “Vai!” (Go!), “Forza!” (Let’s go!) and even “Andiamo, amore mio!” (Let’s go, my love!) rang through Centre Court earlier, supporting Berrettini in his native tongue on his way to becoming Italy’s first Grand Slam male finalist in 45 years.

With booming serves delivering 22 aces, and powerful forehands helping compile a total of 60 winners, the No. 7-seeded Berrettini used an 11-game run to grab a big lead and then held on to beat No. 14 Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in the first semifinal.

“Obviously, the job is not done yet. I want to get the trophy now that I’m here,” said the 25-year-old Berrettini, who lost his only previous Slam semifinal, at the 2019 U.S. Open. “But just, it’s a really unbelievable feeling.”

He’s now on an 11-match winning streak on grass courts, including a title at the Queen’s Club tuneup last month, when he became the first man since Boris Becker in 1985 to win the trophy in his debut at that event. Becker went on to triumph at Wimbledon that year.

The outcome Friday seemed to turn early against Hurkacz, never before past the third round at a Slam but coming off victories over eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.

A key moment, oddly enough, came less than 20 minutes in, when Hurkacz was ahead 3-2 and held a break point. That was erased by Berrettini — no surprise here — by a service winner at 130 mph, punctuated by one of his many yells of “Si!”

From there, Hurkacz morphed from the guy coming off the biggest win of his career — in straight sets in the quarterfinals against his idol, Federer — back to the player who arrived in England on a six-match losing streak.

Berrettini (almost) couldn’t miss. Hurkacz (almost) couldn’t connect.

By the finish, Berrettini had 24 winners off his forehand alone, and merely 18 unforced errors. Hurkacz’s totals? Just 27 winners — four on forehands — and 26 unforced errors.

When Hurkacz got broken for the first time, the 24-year-old from Poland sat for the ensuing changeover and, between bites of a banana, motioned to his American coach, Craig Boynton, to adjust the seating arrangements in their guest box.

As if that were the issue.

Cheered from the stands by his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic, who made it to the quarterfinals this week, and his parents and brother — Mom captured his on-court interview with her cellphone — Berrettini was two points from winning in the third set.

But Hurkacz extended the contest, before Berrettini asserted himself again.

Shapovalov kept pushing Djokovic to the brink, but couldn’t quite get the job done.

Djokovic dropped his opening set this fortnight to British teen Jack Draper — and has won all 18 since.

When Djokovic and Shapovalov took over the arena in the late afternoon, it was filled with whipping wind that rippled the players’ shirts and covered by dark clouds. The sun did make an appearance in the third set, however.

Djokovic’s 6-0 record head-to-head entering Friday did not portend a fair fight. But Shapovalov is a lefty with a vibrant, sometimes violent, swing, especially when it comes to his serves and his one-handed backhand. There’s hardly a hint of subtlety, nary a trace of playing it safe, and he loves high-risk, high-reward shot-making.

That backhand forced a Djokovic error to conclude a 15-stroke exchange that provided Shapovalov with a break and a 2-1 edge. He stretched that to 5-3 and was two points from taking the set in the next game, but couldn’t get closer.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Shapovalov faltered for the first time — pushed by Djokovic’s indefatigable defense.

Djokovic broke there, then was better in the tiebreaker. Not that he was perfect. He double-faulted, after all, and gave away another point by plopping a backhand into the net.

But mostly playing it safe and letting Shapovalov err worked just fine. Shapovalov double-faulted to end that set. He did so again to get broken to trail 6-5 in the second. And again in the game that left him behind 6-5 in the third.

By then, Djokovic was punching the air and shouting, knowing the match’s end, and another final, was near.

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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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