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Naomi Osaka, who stopped Andreescu’s undefeated streak earlier, wins China Open final

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Naomi Osaka hits a return during the women’s singles final against Ashleigh Barty at the China Open on Sunday.

NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

A surging Naomi Osaka won her second consecutive final with a three-set victory over top-seeded Ashleigh Barty at the China Open on Sunday.

Osaka bounced back from a set down to cruise through the final sets, defeating the Australian top seed 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

That follows the two-time Grand Slam winner’s victory last month at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in her birthplace of Osaka, Japan, her first singles title since the Australian Open in January.

Osaka also defeated Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., in the quarter-finals of this week’s China Open, stopping the Canadian teen’s months-long winning streak.

Japan’s dominant player came into the tour’s Asian leg determined to make a statement following what she has called an on-and-off year that included failing to make a final in Europe or America.

Osaka’s shaky start included a trio of double faults midway through the first set that helped put the French Open champion in the driver’s seat.

The second and third sets were entirely different stories, however, with Osaka bringing her service game under control and pounding her returns down the line. After breaking Barty in the seventh game, victory was all but assured, despite an attempted comeback by the Queensland native in the final game.

In the men’s final, Austrian top seed Dominic Thiem overcame a sluggish start and clawed his way back from a set and a break down to beat Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The win secured Thiem’s fourth title of the year after triumphs at Indian Wells, Barcelona and Austria.

Thiem, who was forced to dig deep and come back from a set down in the semi-final against Karen Khachanov, broke Tsitsipas five times while dropping serve three times to lift his first ever title in Asia.

“Honestly I think this was one of the best matches I’ve played so far in my whole career,” Thiem said. “I know it’s hard for you, Stefanos. You played amazing and I really hope that we have a lot more finals in the biggest tournaments.

“Last year we had a great rivalry going on and I hope it continues with many more finals to come.”

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Kipchoge shoes spark backlash

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Early Saturday morning, Eliud Kipchoge became the first person to run under two hours for the marathon. The run accomplished something that many believed to be years away from happening, but this accomplishment has been met with criticism from some experts and spectators in the running community.

There are some who believe that Kipchoge’s attempt was too calculated, too contrived and too much about the shoes. Ross Tucker and Steve Magness are two running experts who have expressed that they believe this accomplishment is about leaps in technology as opposed to leaps in raw marathoning ability. Even Yannis Pitsiladis, who was one of the main scientists behind the initial sub-two push, said to The Times that he couldn’t get behind Saturday’s run, calling it “meaningless.”

Pitsiladis said, “I think it’s all about the shoe now. My life has been dedicated to the sports integrity, but this is the complete opposite. My advisors tell me not to be negative when I talk about this, but it’s not about being negative, it’s about being accurate.”

Magness pointed out in a series of tweets that a jump like this has to be attributed to technology. “That’s not taking away from Kipchoge, but the marathon has taken a quantum leap in the last couple of years thanks to changes in shoe technology. The same athletes who were running roughly 2:04 to 2:05 three to four years ago are now running significantly faster. We saw it with Kipchoge. We just saw it with Bekele. More will follow. Should the shoes be banned? Most likely.”

The IAAF has banned shoes before. The organization’s shoe rules are as follows: “Athletes may compete barefoot or with footwear on one or both feet. The purpose of shoes for competition is to give protection and stability to the feet and a firm grip on the ground. Such shoes, however, must not be constructed so as to give athletes any unfair assistance or advantage.”

They continue, “Athletes may not use any appliance, either inside or outside the shoe, which will have the effect of increasing the thickness of the sole above the permitted maximum, or which can give the wearer any advantage which he would not obtain from the type of shoe described in the previous paragraphs.”

Kipchoge wore a speciality shoe for the marathon on Saturday. This shoe isn’t available to the public, and it wasn’t even given to his 41 pacers. Kipchoge’s shoe was more built-up than previous Vaporflys. The midsole was still cushioned with a carbon-fibre plate and Nike’s ZoomX foam, but there was also a new compartment in the front of the shoe.

Kipchoge shoes spark

Runner’s World reported on an interesting discussion of the shoe on the Believe in the Run site, published last week, who found a 2018 patent application by Nike for something that looks a lot like what Kipchoge wore on Saturday. While cautioning that we can’t be certain this is what he wore, it’s worth taking a closer look at the technology in the patent-application shoe (which Nike calls the alphaFLY), since it goes far beyond either the Vaporfly 4% or the NEXT% (which was worn by the 41 pacers during the run). Not only is the foam midsole more built-up–it contains as many as three layers of carbon-fibre plates, and there are also two stacked chambers in the forefoot which may be filled with air, fluid or foam (or some combination thereof). The site refers to this arrangement as a “club sandwich” of cushioning, and compares the effect to that of a diving board.

It’s hard to quantify exactly how much the shoe is giving to the runner, but based on the volume of criticism, the Nike shoe could face serious scrutiny in the near future.

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Maple Leafs send Rasmus Sandin to the Marlies, recall Kevin Gravel

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Kyle Dubas never takes a day off. Even Thanksgiving. While you are busy prepping your dinner, he made a swap of defenceman with the Marlies. Rasmus Sandin has been sent down to the AHL while they have called up Kevin Gravel.

Kevin Gravel is a 27 year-old, 6’4 left shooting defenceman. He was drafted in 2010 and has appeared in 106 NHL games over that time for both the Kings and Oilers. He has played in three games for the Marlies so far this season.

Rasmus Sandin is the top prospect for the team right now. He’s been used in limited minutes so far this season by Mike Babcock.

Sandin is waiver exempt and could be recalled at any time. Kevin Gravel cleared waivers and will now remain waiver exempt for nine NHL games played or 29 days on the NHL roster.

The move creates more LTIR room — there should be just under $400,000 when the assignments are final — but was not necessary to allow the eventual recall to active duty of Travis Dermott. It is worth noting, that at $700,000 in AAV, Gravel is the lowest-cost defender after Justin Holl.

Sandin has now accrued six NHL games played. More than three more, and this season will “burn a year” of his ELC and it will not slide. If he stays in the AHL, his contract will expire in 2023 instead of 2022. If the assignment to the AHL is permanent, or is meant to last at least until the NHL trade deadline, we should expect to see Sandin loaned in December to the Swedish national team for the World Junior Championship.

Sandin had a highly successful season with the Marlies in 2018-19, earning 28 points in 44 games, most of that time as only an 18 year-old.

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The Marlies’ next game is Wednesday. The Leafs play the Wild at home tomorrow.

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Flames losing to Vegas Golden Knights

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LAS VEGAS — If you make at least two trips each year to Sin City, you’ve gotta win eventually.

Right?

That’s certainly what the Calgary Flames are hoping.

After Saturday’s 6-2 thumping from the Vegas Golden Knights, the Flames are now winless in five all-time visits to T-Mobile Arena, home to a skilled and speedy team that always seems to get a boost from a boisterous and boozy crowd.

There are other NHL squads that have never picked up two points on The Strip, but not with so many cracks at it.

The Flames are the only Pacific Division posse that has never left Vegas a winner.

They have scored a grand total of six goals in this raucous rink. They have allowed 21.

This could be their new Anaheim.

“We didn’t play hard enough,” seethed Flames head coach Bill Peters after Saturday’s shellacking. “Until we start to play hard, and play hard for 60 minutes, it’s going to be up in the air all night long or you’re going to get blown out. We’ve got to develop a little bit of a work ethic here.

“We’re disappointed the way we’ve played. We haven’t played hard enough. We’re well aware we haven’t played hard enough and we haven’t played hard enough on a consistent basis.”

The Golden Knights’ fifth goal Saturday really summed up this evening.

A pair of Flames forwards, Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski, crashed into each other in the defensive zone and both tumbled to the ice.

Amidst that chaos, Rasmus Andersson’s breakout pass missed the target.

Moments later, fourth-line thumper Ryan Reaves squeaked a shot through the five-hole on what should have been a routine stop for David Rittich.

This 24-save showing was Rittich’s worst performance of the fall. He had company.

“If you make mistakes against a team like that, they’re going to punish you. And that’s what they did,” Andersson said, taking the blame for Reaves’ goal. “We have moments where we’re really good, but we haven’t really found our game for 60 minutes yet.”

Tomas Nosek, Mark Stone, William Carrier, Paul Stastny and Cody Glass also rippled twine for the Golden Knights, while Andersson and Johnny Gaudreau were the only guys who could solve Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end.

The Flames insisted that a solid start would be key to snapping out of their Sin City skid, but the hosts managed to crank the volume just 3:24 in, with a crease-crashing Nosek cleaning up the leftovers as Rittich searched for the puck after a save on Carrier’s initial effort.

Andersson evened it up early in the middle stanza, jumping into the attack and ripping a short-side shot past Marc-Andre Fleury on a two-on-one rush.

Only 33 seconds later, Gaudreau tried to thread a pass to linemate Elias Lindholm, but a back-checking William Karlsson instead deflected the puck into the back of his net.

That lead lasted barely two minutes before Stone — his older brother, Michael, patrols the blue-line for the Flames — swatted home his own rebound for the equalizer.

It was all Golden Knights from then on.

The locals pulled ahead on Carrier’s top-shelf backhander, then started to pull away when Stastny found the five-hole for a marker that could cost Rittich a few winks of sleep.

Reaves’ third-period strike, which completed a hat-trick for the Golden Knights’ fourth line, wasn’t any better. The late goal by Glass glanced off Calgary’s captain Mark Giordano.

“I think we started playing the right way for a couple of minutes, and we got rewarded for it, and then we went kind of back to cheating for offence,” said Flames off-season addition Milan Lucic. “And once we started turning the puck over and not covering up, we gave up some odd-man rushes and it ends up in the back of our net. You know, it’s one of those games early on that you can learn a lot from, and that’s what we need to do with a quick turnaround.”

Backup netminder Cam Talbot will be between the pipes as the Flames cap this three-game roadie with Sunday’s clash against the Sharks in San Jose (8 p.m. MT, Sportsnet One/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

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