Mikaela Shiffrin met her biggest goal this season. It wasn’t about the Olympics.

Mikaela Shiffrin

For all the lead-up talk about Mikaela Shiffrin‘s medal possibilities at the Olympics, she said at the end of her season that her primary objective was about all of the races before and after the Games.

“I had quite a few goals, but my biggest goal was the overall globe,” she said after winning a fourth World Cup overall title last week, tying Lindsey Vonn for second-most in women’s history. “Then the next biggest goal, or goals, would have been some performance at the Olympics. Obviously that was something I really kind of messed up.”

Shiffrin, whose best finish in five individual Olympic races was ninth, returned to Europe after the Games with a miniscule 17-point lead over Slovakian Petra Vlhova in the overall standings.

The overall title goes to the skier who accumulates the most points based on results over every race during the October-to-March World Cup season, which does not include the Olympics. This season, it was 37 races.

It is the biggest annual prize in ski racing. The winner is generally regarded as the world’s best all-around skier.

As opposed to the Olympics, which crown a gold medalist who performs the best under one day’s conditions, including variable weather, surface and course setup. The World Cup often carries more weight in Europe, where ski racing is followed more closely on a seasonal basis.

Before this season began, Shiffrin said the overall wasn’t her “highest focus” and that she wanted to see where she stood in the middle of the campaign to assess her chances.

“My really top focus, that’s the thing that’s driving all of my decisions, is if I’m able to ski slalom and [giant slalom] on my top level of skiing,” she said in October of her two primary disciplines. “If I feel that it’s not there, then I will take away some speed races or this or that, or even say maybe the overall globe is not something that I want to do, because the first thing I want to do is ski well when I’m racing.”

After the Olympics, Shiffrin took a risk in skipping the first World Cup races, a pair of downhills in Switzerland the weekend after the Closing Ceremony. It wasn’t a surprise. Not just to recover after the Games, but also because Shiffrin has never raced a downhill-only World Cup stop. Downhill is her least successful of the four primary Alpine skiing disciplines.

Vlhova, who in the 2020-21 season won the overall while entering every race (a rarity), drew level with Shiffrin in this season’s overall standings going into the final eight races.

Shiffrin outperformed her longtime slalom rival over the last three weeks, mathematically clinching the overall title in unexpected fashion — placing first and second in the World Cup Finals downhill and super-G. Of Shiffrin’s 74 World Cup race victories, seven are in those two speed events.

It marked Shiffrin’s first overall title since she three-peated in 2019, when she won a record 17 races over the season. The following year, her father died unexpectedly. Then COVID hit. Then she dealt with a back injury that posed a threat to her career as she knew it. Then in December, she tested positive for COVID with mild symptoms and quarantined for a week. Then came the Olympic disappointment.

“Maybe more special, but also just in general more emotional,” she said of this year’s 20-pound crystal globe, compared to the others. “There’s also a certain level of kind of sadness that comes with it, too.”

Time after time, Shiffrin returned from her absences and disappointments and stepped back onto the top of a World Cup podium. She is now eight wins shy of Vonn’s women’s record for victories, and 12 wins away from the overall record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

“I feel a mix of motivation and also just general fatigue. This has not been a very energizing season,” she said. “I need to kind of reset a little bit. Then start to build back from the ground up because it was something I probably needed in the middle of the season but never actually got the chance.

“I have kind of a mixture of motivation and lack of motivation. I think that’s also how I felt every season.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

1 Comment

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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