Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina in a Wimbledon women’s final of firsts

Ons Jabeur
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Neither Ons Jabeur nor Elena Rybakina had been to a major semifinal before this Wimbledon. Neither Tunisia nor Kazakhstan had ever been represented in a major singles semifinal.

On Saturday, Jabeur of Tunisia and Rybakina, a Moscow-born Kazakh, will play for the Wimbledon title.

Jabeur defeated German Tatjana Maria in Thursday’s semifinals to become the first African woman, and first Arab or North African man or woman, to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open Era.

Jabeur, the No. 3 seed, prevailed 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 over her friend Maria, a 34-year-old mother of two ranked 103rd.

“It’s a dream coming true from years and years of work and sacrifice,” Jabeur said. “I’m really happy it’s paying off. I continue for one more match now.”

The 27-year-old Jabeur continued an ascent from junior Grand Slam champion (2011 French Open). She made her WTA Tour main draw debut in 2012 at age 14, made her first major quarterfinal in 2020, broke into the top 10 in the world in 2021 and is now ranked second.

“I’m a proud Tunisian woman standing here today,” said Jabeur, who is called the “Minister of Happiness” back home. “I know in Tunisia they’re going crazy right now. I just try to inspire as much as I can.”

WIMBLEDON DRAWS: Women | Men

Rybakina, the No. 17 seed, rode a powerful serve to upset 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 in her first match on Centre Court.

“I was nervous of course, but I think the matches before [on Court 1] helped me,” she said.

Russian players are banned from this tournament due to the nation’s invasion of Ukraine. Rybakina, 23, was born in Moscow, but in 2018 switched nationality to Kazakhstan, which offered her financial support.

She was a rising star before the pandemic, reaching four finals in her first five WTA tournaments of 2020 and getting up to No. 17 in the rankings.

Rybakina didn’t take a similar leap in 2021, though she did beat Serena Williams during a French Open quarterfinal run. She lost two medal matches at the Olympics and ended the year ranked 14th.

Rybakina opened 2022 by taking runner-up to world No. 1 Ash Barty in an Australian Open tune-up. She hadn’t reached another tournament semifinal before her Wimbledon run.

Saturday’s matchup will continue a recent trend in women’s tennis — the third final in the last six majors to pit players who had not previously made a major semifinal.

But it’s an anomaly at Wimbledon, which has been defined by dominating stretches from the Williams sisters, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.

Jabeur vs. Rybakina is the first Wimbledon final pitting two women in their first major final since 1962.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde
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BEAVER CREEK, Colorado — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph (121 kph) in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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