French Open: Iga Swiatek extends win streak, rest of top 10 loses

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PARIS — It’s been so long since No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek lost — 31 matches now — and even since she ceded so much as a set — that last happened more than a month ago — that she could be forgiven if she couldn’t recall how to react when in trouble on a tennis court.

Which is why it was worth watching as the 2020 French Open champion navigated a couple of tricky spots in the third round at Roland Garros on Saturday.

Turns out Swiatek didn’t panic and didn’t allow thoughts about this dominant run coming to an end distract her in what would become a 6-3, 7-5 victory against hard-hitting Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.

“Thinking about all these stats, it’s not really helpful. So basically I try to be really strict in terms of my thoughts and try to really focus on … finding solutions,” said Swiatek, a 20-year-old from Poland whose last name is pronounced shvee-ON’-tek. “The thoughts are there, but I’m accepting that.”

The other two remaining top-10 women’s seeds — No. 3 Paula Badosa and No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka — both lost, marking the third time in the Open Era (since 1968) that one top 10 singles seed reached the round of 16 at a major. The others were the 1998 French Open (men, No. 3 Marcelo Rios) and 2018 Wimbledon (women, No. 7 Karolina Pliskova).

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Kovinic also got a too-close-for-comfort look at Swiatek’s predecessor atop the WTA rankings, the since-retired Ash Barty, during a 6-0, 6-0 loss at the Australian Open in January.

After Saturday’s setback, Kovinic said she was dealing with a nerve issue in her right shoulder and felt tingling in that arm and two of her fingers. She also said she made sure to deliver a message to Swiatek when they shook hands at the net.

“I told her, ‘Keep going.’ It’s really great for tennis, for our sport, what she’s doing. Obviously, she has something extra that the rest of us don’t have,” the 95th-ranked Kovinic said. “She has something special. What it is, I don’t know.”

Well, let’s try to answer. Swiatek’s serve, for example, is solid but not especially speedy; her fastest Saturday was 108 mph, 7 mph slower than Kovinic produced. Swiatek’s groundstrokes are smooth, sure, but as with anyone’s are liable to waver; her forehand was particularly problematic on a windy afternoon with the temperature in the low 60s Fahrenheit (teens in Celsius), accounting for 17 of her 23 unforced errors.

Speed guns and statistics, though, can’t account for two traits that stand out: an ability to remain in the moment and willingness to think her way out of a corner.

Early on, when a 3-0 lead shrank to 4-3, Swiatek grabbed eight consecutive points to own that set. In the second, she dropped four straight games to trail 5-4. Might have been time to think, “Uh, oh.” Instead, Swiatek adjusted to Kovinic’s style by using guile instead of attempting to match power with power, and she reeled off the last three games to finish the job.

“For sure,” Swiatek said, “played a little bit more smart.”

Her next opponent is Zheng Qinwen, a 19-year-old from China who is ranked 74th and in her second Grand Slam tournament.

“I really want to play against her,” said Zheng, who was ahead 6-0, 3-0 when Alize Cornet stopped playing because of an injured left leg.

Other women’s fourth-rounders are Jessica Pegula vs. Irina-Camelia Begu, who was fined $10,000 after she threw her racket and it bounced into the stands and brushed a child in the stands earlier in the week; Daria Kasatkina vs. Camila Giorgi; and Madison Keys vs. Veronika Kudermetova.

Pegula and Keys are two of five American women still in the tournament.

The relatively surprise-free men’s results continued to pour in, with No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 7 Andrey Rublev, No. 8 Casper Ruud, No. 11 Jannik Sinner, No. 12 Hubert Hurkacz and No. 20 Marin Cilic advancing. All won in straight sets, except for Rublev, who required four, and Ruud, who edged No. 32 Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-7 (3), 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 at night.

The top nine men’s seeds are into the fourth round, where Monday’s matchups will be Medvedev vs. Cilic in a showdown between past U.S. Open champions; 2021 finalist Tsitsipas vs. Holger Rune, a 19-year-old from Denmark ranked 40th; Rublev vs. Sinner; and Ruud vs. Hurkacz.

No. 11 Pegula, whose parents own the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, and Swiatek are the only two of the top 15 seeds remaining in the women’s bracket.

“She’s kind of hit another level than all of us right now. Yeah, it’s a little scary,” said Pegula, who needed 10 match points to close out her first-round victory, then eight more in her next match, but sealed Saturday’s 6-1, 7-6 (2) win over 2021 semifinalist Tamara Zidansek on her initial chance.

One more victory apiece, and Swiatek becomes Pegula’s problem in the quarterfinals.

“Her athleticism and defensive skills are really, really good,” Pegula said. “And then, I think, she’s gotten much more offensive this year. Been more aggressive when she’s needed to be.”

Swiatek has won her past four tournaments and 48 of her past 49 sets; the exception came against Liudmila Samsonova in the semifinals at Stuttgart on April 23. The last match Swiatek lost was against 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko back on Feb. 16 in the round of 16 at Dubai.

She’s won a total of 15 sets by a 6-0 score this season, but Swiatek showed Saturday she can handle it when things get tight.

“It wasn’t surprising, it wasn’t weird,” Swiatek said. “It’s not that I forgot how to play these kinds of sets.”

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Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

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LA 2028
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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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