PARIS — After Jelena Ostapenko eliminated No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova at the French Open on Thursday, the conversation quickly turned to 2017.
Which made sense, of course, because that was when Ostapenko surprisingly won the championship at Roland Garros — and the last year she even won so much as one match at the clay-court tournament, let alone two, the way she has this week.
“Of course it’s in my memory, because it’s the biggest win of my career so far, but I have to move forward. And just, like, the world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more and I want to be back in top 5, top 10,” Ostapenko said after beating Pliskova 6-4, 6-2 with the help of a 27-9 edge in total winners.
“Step by step. That’s what I’m working on: my consistency,” Ostapenko said. “Still being an aggressive player — I think it can bring me a lot of wins — but consistency, probably, in my game is the key.”
Her next opponent is 87th-ranked Paula Badosa, who showed up this week with a 1-5 career record in Grand Slam matches but is into the third round at a major for the first time thanks to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over 2017 U.S. Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens.
Ostapenko has been as high as No. 5 and is currently No. 43. That’s not very different from where she was three years ago in Paris, ranked 47th and just two days past her 20th birthday when she became an impossible-to-predict Grand Slam champion.
“I was fearless,” she recalled Thursday. “Nobody really knew me.”
Using a grip-it-and-rip-it style, Ostapenko upset Simona Halep in the final, making the Latvian the first woman since 1979 to earn her first tour-level title at a major tournament.
Nowadays, there is more subtlety to Ostapenko’s style.
Against Pliskova, she built points. She used drop shots effectively. And she handled Pliskova’s serve, one of the best on tour: Ostapenko won 54% of her return points and broke five times.
Pliskova, who came into the French Open dealing with a leg injury, was not the most gracious foe after Thursday’s loss.
“I know that she can be tough if she’s playing well,” Pliskova said, “but I think everything started with me. Definitely, I was not playing great.”
From what Denis Shapovalov called the French Open’s “trash scheduling” and its “freezing” weather, to a call on a shot by his opponent that looked “one inch out” to the “annoying” state of the clay and tennis balls, it seems safe to say the No. 9 seed was not in the best of moods after a five-hour loss in the second round.
What the 21-year-old Canadian did not mention were his 106 unforced errors or that he got broken twice while serving for the victory in the fifth set along the way to getting beaten 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 by 101st-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena.
Understandably, Carballes Baena’s spirits were a tad higher.
“For me, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s the first (time) I beat a top 10 (player). The first time I’m in the third round in a Grand Slam. First time I win a match in the 5th set. So I couldn’t be more happy.”
Not much rest for the weary: Shapovalov also needed to play a doubles match later Thursday, and that might have displeased him the most.
“Scheduling is absolutely awful. I mean, after a five-hour match I have to play doubles now. It’s just like, it’s just complete trash scheduling. It’s disappointing,” he said. “I mean you’re in a Grand Slam — and I don’t want to sound spoiled, you know, but you expect at least some help from the tournament to help you compete. I mean, how am I supposed to come out and play doubles now after a five-hour match?”
Shapovalov and partner Rohan Bopanna wound up losing 6-2, 6-2 in 51 minutes to 2014 Wimbledon champions Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock.
DON’T CRY FOR ME
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin takes the highs and lows of being a professional athlete to heart.
When she isn’t on the court, anyway.
“Before the match, I get quite emotional. Sometimes crying,” said the No. 4-seeded Kenin, who reached the third round in Paris with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory against 93rd-ranked Ana Bogdan of Romania. “Luckily, here, there are no tears, thank God.”
But while she gets nervous while waiting to play, once she is in the thick of things, trying to win, it’s a different story.
“During the match, I just try to put the emotions aside. I don’t have time to think about my emotions. I have to play one point at a time,” Kenin said. “After, if I win, I’m happy. … If I lose, I’m crying. So far, so good.”
AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich reported from Washington; AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire reported from Paris.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
2020-21 start date moved back to Feb. 5 | TheAHL.com – American Hockey League
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO Scott Howson has announced that the league’s Board of Governors has approved moving the anticipated start date of the 2020-21 season to February 5, 2021, due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.
The AHL continues to work with its member clubs to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities. Further details regarding the 2020-21 American Hockey League season are still to be determined.
In operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 31 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.
What Joey Moss and those in similar roles contribute to sports locker rooms – Sportsnet.ca
One thing I’ve been blessed to see over the course of my life is how a circumstance of inclusion helps both parties, and to a degree few people seem to understand.
The life of Joey Moss makes everyone even tangentially related feel good, and so it should. So often when hearing his story, though, people consider the great life that hockey and football seem to have provided for him, while understating just how valuable his daily presence was to others. What most see is someone simply getting to spend time with a pro team, when a line from the piece Mark Spector wrote after Moss’s passing more accurately sums up the immediate relationships at play:
“In the heartless world that pro sports can be, Joey became the goat in the horse barn, putting an arm around a player that had just been released, assuring him better days lie ahead, and leaving an impression that no coach, GM or teammate possibly could.”
“The goat in the horse barn” is nothing but a compliment, as it’s a very real thing (seriously, google “comfort goats” — it’s amazing).
So let me frame what I’ve seen and learned given my somewhat-unique experience around those in roles like the ones Joey Moss held.
I’ve been in dressing rooms my whole life, first with my Dad’s teams and then in my own career both playing and coaching. It’s not at all uncommon for a team to employ a helper of sorts. These helpers maintain a variety of titles and duties depending on their age and capabilities, and almost all of whom are beloved if they have any run of time at all with the team. Some of these people are physically disabled, some intellectually; some are just kids, and some are seniors. But make no mistake: There’s a lot of work to be done to keep a pro hockey team clicking along at max capacity, and these are the people who help them get from 99 per cent to 100.
I also have a brother who’s active in the disability community and has been his whole life. Being from Kelowna, B.C. – a good-size town but not exactly a metropolis – meant that growing up I was a full-time member of wheelchair basketball teams, and a participant on numerous other wheelchair teams, given finding enough people between a reasonable age range with comparable limitations can be tough without a huge population to draw from.
I was around when the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL got my brother involved, and heard numerous stories of team experiences that have been provided to those within the disability community.
I’ve seen the benefits to both parties here in the immediate, from the person getting the opportunity (the value of the confidence and sense of purpose is immeasurable), to the team getting the help, both tangible and emotional.
It’s the value of that “emotional” part I don’t think many teams fully understand or even appreciate, given it’s rarely anywhere near the focus of often stressful in-season days.
It wasn’t until I took my role with the Marlies that I was really able to step back and process the true value someone like Joey Moss would’ve provided, and that’s because we had Pistol Pete Flagler. Sportsnet featured the Marlies’ locker-room attendant a couple years back:
You can follow Pistol on Instagram here.
Pete has a very real job working with the team, but he also moonlights in a kind of voluntary advisory role. One day Pete had me set up a laptop so he could go through the shifts of a Marlies centreman to help find him more ice time. He regularly campaigned to Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe for more opportunity for his favourite players, which included a group of … basically everyone who was nice to him, which was pretty much everyone (extra love here for Connor Brown, Justin Holl and Rich Clune). He even addressed the full team on multiple occasions, and when he did he could wipe away tension in a way no player or coach ever could.
He earned his jewelry:
Here’s the thing with a pro hockey locker room. With the exception of those who’ve made it to the highest level and have long-term deals and no-move clauses, almost every day and every interaction is vaguely competitive. It’s exhausting. The players are trying to climb past the players beside them with their performance on the ice.
But part of being put in good positions with linemates and ice time to do that means impressing upon staff on a daily basis that they deserve the best opportunities, which means for those more-unestablished players, even the most random conversations matter. Players aside, coaches have to juggle giving direction with keeping players happy, and how they do that is judged by the players and other around them. The evaluation rarely stops for anyone.
To go with that, every day exists in the shadow of the previous game. Players who underperformed are held to vaguely higher standards whether that’s spoken or not. There’s handwringing over team shortcomings. And if the team lost (or is generally losing a lot), the strain of each day becomes immense. Blame is just floating around, looking to land on the most inactive of the team members in the room.
Having someone like Pistol Pete, or Joey Moss, or anyone who exists somewhat outside that competitive ecosystem creates the opportunity for everyone to talk to without pressure. In the midst of the darkest times, there’s a ray of light. And if you’re ever so misfortunate as to be stuck in a cave at night, you’ll come to see just how much you can appreciate a single candle.
So while I know Joey and Pistol and their cohorts benefit from their roles, I know the players and staff benefit, too — and I don’t think either side realizes how much. When the medical staff has that ray of light around, that candle, they’re often put in better mental frames to do their job, and that trickles down to those they work on. The coaches benefit, the extended staff and management benefits — even if just in small amounts. But those small bits, for everyone, accumulated, can have a profound effect on a locker room. I believe the whole of the operation makes larger gains than any one person may feel them.
For those teams in development leagues, these relationships also provide younger players an opportunity to learn about compassion and kindness.
If there are teams out there not offering a role like this up to someone from their community, they’re missing out. Missing out on making someone’s life better, but also missing out on helping their team grow, both on the ice and off. Guys like Joey and Pistol Pete are proof of the impact that can be made in those jobs, and in turn, the positive effect that can be had on so many people.
Justin Turner tests COVID-positive at World Series, hugs teammate after win – CBC.ca
Star player tested positive in 6th inning
The Los Angeles Dodgers just won their first World Series in 32 years, but the big win comes with a serious foul.
An hour after securing a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, star player Justin Turner stepped onto the field to celebrate with his team, despite testing positive for COVID-19 earlier in the game.
Once on the field, Turner hugged longtime teammate Clayton Kershaw and pulled his mask down to sit front and centre for a team photo, potentially putting his team at risk of catching the coronavirus.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and third baseman Justin Turner, with the red beard, pose for a group photo after the Dodgers’ World Series win. (Image credit: Eric Gay/The Associated Press)
Turner’s result, which came during the game’s sixth inning, was Major League Baseball’s first positive test in 59 days.
Test results can sometimes be wrong, and follow-up testing is needed to confirm a false positive.
In a post-game tweet, Turner didn’t comment on potentially having exposed his teammates to the coronavirus.
Turner’s teammate and World Series MVP Corey Seager sympathized with Turner, who has waited years for the win, only to test positive for COVID-19 during the final game.
“It’s gut-wrenching … If I could switch places with him right now, I would. That’s just not right.”
Turner is L.A.’s career leader in post-season home runs, with 12, including a pair in this series, in which he hit .364.
What happens next?
It’s unclear whether Turner will face any repercussions for his actions, but MLB is expected to make a statement in the coming days.
Despite the sour moment, the night was still a massive triumph for the Dodgers, who now have a total of seven World Series wins.
With files from The Associated Press
TOP PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Jairaj-USA-TODAY
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