French Open: Iga Swiatek runs win streak to 30 matches, longest in 9 years

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Iga Swiatek is not keeping track, but she’s now up 30 consecutive match victories.

“I know how many matches I have won in a row because you keep reminding me,” she said in a press conference answer after sweeping American Alison Riske 6-0, 6-2 to reach the French Open third round.

Top-ranked Swiatek of Poland is on the WTA’s longest streak in nine years, having won her last five tournaments. If she wins her next five matches for a second Roland Garros title, she will have the longest women’s win streak since Venus Williams also won 35 in a row in 2000.

“I was saying from the beginning that for sure I’m going to reach a point where I’m going to lose a match, and it’s pretty normal,” she said Thursday, after visiting Versailles between her first and second matches at Roland Garros. “I have been losing matches in tennis for a long time. For sure the things we are doing right now are pretty extraordinary, but I know in tennis that only one person wins at the end. I will be OK with that. For sure it’s not fun to lose, but I think it wouldn’t be different than any other loss.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

She has bageled an opponent — winning a set 6-0 — 15 times in 42 matches in 2022, more than any player in an entire year since Serena Williams had 25 in 2013, according to the WTA.

In 1988, Steffi Graf had 15 bagels through the French Open (40 matches) in her Golden Slam year, sweeping the four majors and winning the Olympic title.

Swiatek, who gets Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the third round, credited the work put in and experience gained in 2021. She didn’t win a major last year — after breaking through to win Roland Garros at age 19 in 2020 — but was the only woman to reach the fourth round of every Slam.

“It finally clicked somehow,” said Swiatek, who has been rolling since ascending to No. 1 in the world when Australian Ash Barty retired in a surprise in March. “Winning all these matches gave me a lot of confidence, but I also knew that it could really press me down if I don’t adjust to it well. Yeah, I feel like I’m using my new position to put more pressure on my opponents.”

Almost all of her primary challengers in Paris lost in the first two rounds. On Thursday, No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova and No. 9 Danielle Collins became the sixth and seventh top-10 women’s seeds to lose.

Leolia Jeanjean, the 227th-ranked French wild card, took out the Wimbledon finalist Pliskova 6-2, 6-2.

Shelby Rogers ousted Collins 6-4, 6-3 in an all-American match.

China’s 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen eliminated 2018 Roland Garros champion Simona Halep 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Swiatek’s biggest threat left is No. 3 Paula Badosa, who beat Kaja Juvan 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.

No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka is the other top-10 seed remaining, also in the top half of the draw.

Americans Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova are among the leading contenders to make the final from the bottom half, where the top remaining seed is No. 14 Belinda Bencic.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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