U.S. Open: Carlos Alcaraz outlasts Frances Tiafoe, into historic final

Carlos Alcaraz
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At a U.S. Open that has at times looked like a guard-changing, Carlos Alcaraz faces Casper Ruud in a men’s final with unprecedented stakes: each eyeing his first major title and to seize the No. 1 ranking for the first time.

Alcaraz, at 19, can become the first teenage man to win a major since Rafael Nadal‘s first of a men’s record 22 titles at the 2005 French Open. He can also become the first teenage No. 1 in the world since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973.

He dropped Frances Tiafoe in Friday’s semifinals 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3, denying the first American men’s major finalist since 2009.

“I gave it everything I had, too good for Carlos tonight,” Tiafoe told a crowd that included Michelle Obama. “I gave everything I had the last two weeks. I came here wanting to win the U.S. Open. I feel like I let you guys down. This one hurts.

“I’m going to come back and I will win this thing one day.”

Alcaraz had already survived back-to-back five-setters that ended between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. to become the youngest men’s major semifinalist since Nadal at the 2005 French. He was also the youngest U.S. Open men’s semifinalist since Pete Sampras won the first of his 14 majors in 1990.

“In a semifinal of a Grand Slam, we have to give everything we have inside,” Alcaraz said. “I can see the No. 1 in the world, but at the same time it’s so far away.”

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

Ruud, the 23-year-old French Open runner-up, can make the single biggest jump to No. 1 in the world — from seventh in the rankings going into the U.S. Open. He dispatched Russian Karen Khachanov 7-6 (5), 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 — including a 55-shot rally to win the first set — in the early semifinal.

No Norwegian man or woman has been No. 1 in the ATP or WTA rankings since they were introduced in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Unlike Alcaraz, Ruud has major final experience — getting crushed by Nadal in the French Open final in June, winning just six games.

“After Roland Garros, I was of course extremely happy but at the same time humble enough to think that could be my only final in a Grand Slam in my career,” said Ruud, whose goal coming into the year was to make one Grand Slam quarterfinal. “In Roland Garros, there was royal families there watching. That was a little bit new experience for me. I hope I can be more ready for that on Sunday.”

Norway has been on a tear in international sport over the last two years.

At the Tokyo Olympics, it won gold medals in the men’s 400m hurdles (Karsten Warholm‘s world record) and 1500m (Jakob Ingebrigtsen), men’s beach volleyball (Anders Mol and Christian Sorum) and men’s triathlon (Kristian Blummenfelt, who this year won the World Ironman Championship).

It then won a record 16 Winter Olympic gold medals at the Beijing Games.

Erling Haaland made FIFA’s best 11 male soccer players for 2021, the first Norwegian to do so. Viktor Hovland ascended to No. 3 in the world men’s golf rankings, highest-ever for a Norwegian.

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Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden
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Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth

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Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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