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Serena Williams beaten by Angelique Kerber for Wimbledon title

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LONDON (AP) — Angelique Kerber was not about to be overwhelmed by the setting or the stakes in this Wimbledon final. She knew exactly what to expect — and what to do — against Serena Williams.

Two years after losing to Williams with a title on the line at Centre Court, Kerber came through. So steady, so patient, so accurate throughout, she never really gave Williams much of a chance this time, putting together a 6-3, 6-3 victory Saturday for her first championship at the All England Club and third major overall.

“I think it’s the experience. You have to go through all the things — the good things, the bad things — and then you need to learn,” said Kerber, the first German to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf in 1996.

“I know that against Serena, I have to play my best tennis, especially in the important moments,” said Kerber, who won the Australian Open and U.S. Open in 2016, but was the runner-up to Williams at Wimbledon that season, “especially in the important moments.”

That’s just what she did.

“Angelique played really well,” Williams said. “She played out of her mind.”

Kerber made only five unforced errors the entire match, 19 fewer than Williams. Perhaps more impressive was this: She broke Williams in 4 of 9 service games.

In doing so, Kerber prevented Williams from claiming an eighth title at Wimbledon and 24th from all Grand Slam tournaments, which would have equaled Margaret Court’s record. As things stand, Williams holds the mark for the half-century of professional tennis, one ahead of Kerber’s idol, Graf.

Williams gave birth only 10½ months ago, then was treated for blood clots. She wore special compression leggings as a precaution during Wimbledon, just the fourth tournament of her comeback.

After all the time away, Williams spoke about being impressed with herself for just reaching the final. She also wanted to win, of course.

“To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today — and I tried,” said the 36-year-old American, her voice shaking during the trophy ceremony.

Kerber addressed Williams during the on-court interviews, saying: “You’re such an inspiration for everybody, for all of us. I’m sure you will have your next Grand Slam title soon. I’m really, really sure.”

The final started more than two hours late, because they had to wait for the end of Novak Djokovic’s five-set victory over Rafael Nadal in a men’s semifinal that was suspended the night before. On Sunday, Djokovic will play Kevin Anderson, who won his semifinal against John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set Friday night.

Despite so much Grand Slam success, despite holding a 6-2 career edge against Kerber entering the day, Williams played tightly right from the outset.

After taking the opening two points, she made four miscues in a row to get broken. That was part of a run in which she dropped 8 of 9 points. Williams was mostly her own undoing, too: She was responsible for the final’s initial six unforced errors. By the time the first set was over, the disparity was 14-3.

That’s not going to work against an opponent of Kerber’s quality.

Trying to sneak a ball by Kerber is something akin to trying to put one past a brick wall. There are no holes.

The left-hander scurried along the baseline, this way and that, using a combination of quickness and anticipation to track down what often appeared to be winners for Williams but were not enough to end a point. Kerber would bend real low, even putting a knee right on the grass to get a ball back.

And when she swung her racket, the measure was almost always true.

Kerber is much more than a defender. She has added a more aggressive element to her game in recent years and worked to improve her serve.

“I’m still sure that we haven’t seen the best Angie,” said her coach, Wim Fissette. “The defense is one of her qualities, but she also knows now that she’s not going to win a Grand Slam with just defense, and that’s, for me, very important.”

Kerber was broken only once. And she delivered a pair of down-the-line forehand passing winners to grab the last break of Williams she’d need, for a 4-2 edge in the second set.

Kerber celebrated match point by covering her face and collapsing flat on her back, getting grass stains on her white outfit. She relished the moment she had dreamt about as a little kid, watching Graf on TV.

Williams, meanwhile, sure sounded like a tennis player who is just starting her career.

“I think these two weeks have really showed me that, OK, I can compete. Obviously I can compete for the long run in a Grand Slam,” she said. “I can, you know, come out and be a contender to win Grand Slams.”

Williams was supported by several celebrity friends at Centre Court.

That group included Tiger Woods, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and — in the front row of the Royal Box — the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

Williams was asked what she’ll tell her daughter, Olympia, about this tournament and this day.

“Well, I think it was a happy story,” Williams said with a smile. “I’ll probably change the ending.”

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Dylan Groenewegen wins consecutive Tour de France stages; cobblestones next

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AMIENS, France (AP) — Dylan Groenewegen has turned the sprinting battle at the Tour de France into a three-man race.

The 25-year-old Dutch rider won his second consecutive stage on Saturday, joining world champion Peter Sagan and Tour newcomer Fernando Gaviria as two-stage winners at this edition of the world’s leading cycling race.

Groenewegen entered the final meters of Stage 8 behind Andre Greipel, Gaviria and Sagan, but the Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider timed his last surge perfectly, swinging around his hard-charging opponents to cross first.

“It was a hectic (finish), but that’s every day in the Tour,” Groenewegen said. “I am very happy with my team. The last two days have been very good with two wins.”

Greipel and Gaviria crossed next, but their results were disqualified after they dangerously jockeyed for position in the final meters, though they both keep their times.

All of the contenders for the final podium in Paris on July 29 finished in the same time.

However those standings could be rattled by cobblestones on the road to Roubaix in Sunday’s ninth stage, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet, who is riding in support of BMC leader Richie Porte, kept the overall lead for a fifth consecutive day Saturday.

Van Avermaet picked up a one-second bonus overall during an intermediate bonus sprint at 20km from the finish. That increased his lead over Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas in second to 7 seconds and his own BMC teammate Tejay Van Garderen to 9 seconds.

The only incident to interrupt the leg was a pile-up with just under 20km to go. UAE Emirates leader Dan Martin, the winner of Stage 6, bloodied his left elbow and tore the back of his shirt. Martin, sixth at last year’s Tour, and 11 other riders couldn’t reconnect, and Martin lost more than a minute, falling from 21st to 31st place at 2:47 behind.

Every cyclist at the Tour de France, from title favorite Chris Froome to the lowliest support rider, has Sunday circled on their calendar.

Riders will try to stay upright as they bump and bounce their way over 15 cobbled paths scattered along 22 kilometers of the 156.5-kilometer course of Stage 9 from Arras to Roubaix, near the Belgian border.

For four-time champion Froome and most of other title contenders, the ride over the cobbles is about surviving. The top riders who fight for every second on normal roads usually prefer losing time to risking a fall that could knock them out of contention.

As Movistar veteran Alejandro Valverde puts it, “You can’t win the Tour on the cobbles, but you sure can lose it.”

There is one exception to the extreme caution usually shown by the team leaders.

Vincenzo Nibali, the last rider other than Froome to win the Tour, took a huge step to securing his 2014 title when he skillfully traversed the slick cobbles to extend his overall lead.

Valverde and Alberto Contador were both slowed by crashes and finished more than two minutes behind the Italian, as did Americans van Garderen and Andrew Talansky. Froome had to withdraw from that fifth stage when he fell early before the course had reached the cobbles.

Froome did manage to make it through the cobbles in 2015 en route to winning his second Tour.

“I’m not scared,” Froome said.

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Texas tough: Injured Lawson Craddock soldiers on at Tour de France

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CHARTRES, France (AP) — Lawson Craddock is giving new meaning to the term “Texas Tough.”

After breaking his shoulder and bloodying his face in an unfortunate crash during the first stage of the Tour de France, the American rider has soldiered on through six more grueling days of the world’s biggest bike race.

“My parents raised me as a fighter,” Craddock said. “I grew up in Texas and that’s just what I have grown up to be. I keep pushing my body as far as I can. At this point I am doing it for the others, doing it for the kids in Houston so they can have a good, safe environment to ride a bike in.”

Craddock has taken advantage of the attention his crash received to start a fundraising effort for the Alkek velodrome in Houston, which is where he started cycling.

He is donating $100 to the venue — which was damaged in Hurricane Harvey — for every Tour stage he finishes. He’s asking others to contribute, too.

As of Friday, the relief effort had raised $64,000.

“It gives me goose bumps just to think if I can make it to Paris what will be possible,” Craddock said of the race’s conclusion on July 29.

He grew up 10 minutes away from the velodrome. “There are not that many in the U.S,” he said. “Kids … don’t have to worry about traffic, cars. They are watched the entire time.”

Craddock’s crash occurred when he hit a dropped water bottle in the feeding zone and collided with a spectator. Blood from a cut to his left eyebrow covered his face.

He was diagnosed with a fracture of 1-2 centimeters in his scapula. “It’s stable. It’s not dangerous in any way,” said EF Education First-Drapac team physician Kevin Sprouse. “It’s safe for him to be racing. The biggest concern is not necessarily the fracture. … It’s how he can handle the bike.”

Craddock is receiving treatment day and night to ensure he can apply enough pressure on the handlebars to control his bike. Sessions with the team’s chiropractor have made him “close to tears.”

He has to ask teammates to pass him energy bars since he can’t maneuver his body to grab them from the pockets on the back of his jersey.

But after missing last year’s Tour, Craddock has no plans to give up — even with the bone-jarring cobblestoned route of Stage 9 to Roubaix approaching. He was last of 170 riders (more than 1 hour behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet) following Friday’s stage of 143.5-miles — the longest of this year’s Tour.

“I had such a rough year last year I wanted to be at this race so bad,” he said. “My focus this entire season, while trying to get the most out of the other races, was also to be at the Tour de France. To crash on Stage 1 and have this happen to me is a big blow but you know if I can still ride, why not try?”

Craddock’s perseverance has attracted plenty of attention, especially from Lance Armstrong, a fellow Texan and sometimes training partner.

“It is great he has given me so much encouragement. Hearing from him, hearing from everyone, is just incredible,” Craddock said. “It’s hard to keep up with all the messages, but I am doing my best and reading them all and I love the support I am getting.”

His ordeal has made Craddock wonder about the significance of the No. 13 he was assigned to put on his jersey. He attaches the number upside down.

“When I got No. 13 I tried to tell myself it was lucky, but when I hit that bottle in the feed zone it was one of the first things that came into my mind,” he said. “But at this point, something really great has come out of it.”

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