New-look Anna Shcherbakova leads Grand Prix France; Starr Andrews withdraws

Anna Shcherbakova
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World champion Anna Shcherbakova is one program away from setting up a likely showdown with training partner Kamila Valiyeva at December’s Grand Prix Final, a battle between medal contenders two months before the Olympics.

Shcherbakova unveiled a new short program at Internationaux de France in Grenoble on Friday. She tallied 77.94 points, edging countrywoman Aliona Kostornaya by 1.5 points.

Shcherbakova, the three-time reigning Russian national champion, scored 6.21 points more than she did with her previous short program at a Grand Prix in Italy two weeks ago, when she struggled with her jumping combination.

“My coaches decided to change the program,” the 17-year-old said, according to the International Skating Union. “Today I was nervous [performing it for the first time].”

Grand Prix France: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Valiyeva, a 15-year-old not competing in Grenoble, has the world’s top short program score of 84.19.

Both she and Shcherbakova won their first Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. Shcherbakova can clinch a spot in the six-skater Grand Prix Final with a podium finish after Saturday’s free skate, while Valiyeva can clinch in her second event at Rostelecom Cup next week.

Americans Karen Chen and Mariah Bell were fifth and 10th. Another American, Starr Andrews, withdrew after the short program due to unspecified medical reasons, according to the International Skating Union.

Andrews stopped her short program after singling her last jump. She skated toward an official with her hands on her knees, made a brief motion to her chest while talking to the official and then skated over to exit the rink, holding a woman’s hand as she left the ice and went out of camera view.

Andrews later shared on Instagram that she was “doing ok.”

Later Friday. world silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama of Japan easily won the men’s short by 10.88 points with 100.64, landing two quadruple jumps. Kagiyama, 18, became the third man to break 100 points in a short this season after Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno.

American Jason Brown was third without a quad on Friday, keeping him in the running to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Brown was second in his previous Grand Prix.

Four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France topped the rhythm dance with 89.08 points, improving on their world-leading score this season. They distanced world bronze medalists Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada by 7.73.

Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy, the world bronze medalists, led the pairs’ short with 77.17 points. U.S. champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were fourth.

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Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz exit French Open, leaving no U.S. men

Frances Tiafoe French Open

Frances Tiafoe kept coming oh so close to extending his French Open match against Alexander Zverev: 12 times Saturday night, the American was two points from forcing things to a fifth set.

Yet the 12th-seeded Tiafoe never got closer than that.

Instead, the 22nd-seeded Zverev finished out his 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory after more than 3 1/2 hours in Court Philippe Chatrier to reach the fourth round. With Tiafoe’s exit, none of the 16 men from the United States who were in the bracket at the start of the tournament are still in the field.

“I mean, for the majority of the match, I felt like I was in control,” said Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who fell to 1-7 against Zverev.

“It’s just tough,” he said about a half-hour after his loss ended, rubbing his face with his hand. “I should be playing the fifth right now.”

Two other American men lost earlier Saturday: No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz and unseeded Marcos Giron.

No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina beat Fritz 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, and Nicolas Jarry of Chile eliminated Giron 6-2, 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3.

There are three U.S women remaining: No. 6 Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Bernarda Pera.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

It is the second year in a row that zero men from the United States will participate in the fourth round at Roland Garros. If nothing else, it stands as a symbolic step back for the group after what seemed to be a couple of breakthrough showings at the past two majors.

For Tiafoe, getting to the fourth round is never the goal.

“I want to win the trophy,” he said.

Remember: No American man has won any Grand Slam title since Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open. The French Open has been the least successful major in that stretch with no U.S. men reaching the quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003.

But Tiafoe beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the U.S. Open along the way to getting to the semifinals there last September, the first time in 16 years the host nation had a representative in the men’s final four at Flushing Meadows.

Then, at the Australian Open this January, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda and Ben Shelton became the first trio of Americans in the men’s quarterfinals in Melbourne since 2000. Paul made it a step beyond that, to the semifinals.

After that came this benchmark: 10 Americans were ranked in the ATP’s Top 50, something that last happened in June 1995.

On Saturday, after putting aside a whiffed over-the-shoulder volley — he leaned atop the net for a moment in disbelief — Tiafoe served for the fourth set at 5-3, but couldn’t seal the deal.

In that game, and the next, and later on, too, including at 5-all in the tiebreaker, he would come within two points of owning that set.

Each time, Zverev claimed the very next point. When Tiafoe sent a forehand wide to end it, Zverev let out two big yells. Then the two, who have been pals for about 15 years, met for a warm embrace at the net, and Zverev placed his hand atop Tiafoe’s head.

“He’s one of my best friends on tour,” said Zverev, a German who twice has reached the semifinals on the red clay of Paris, “but on the court, I’m trying to win.”

At the 2022 French Open, Zverev tore ligaments in his right ankle while playing Nadal in the semifinals and had to stop.

“It’s been definitely the hardest year of my life, that’s for sure,” Zverev said. “I love tennis more than anything in the world.”

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, is her top remaining challenger in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round. No. 4 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who has three wins over Swiatek this year, withdrew before her third-round match due to illness.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw