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Andreescu’s journey to Miami Open final has unlocked her greatness once more – Sportsnet.ca

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“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”


That quote has long been attributed to legendary three-time grand slam champion and African-American trailblazer Arthur Ashe, an aggressive and ruthless competitor on the tennis court, an enigmatic and thoughtful personality off it.

It is also a microcosm of what it is to watch a tennis match played by Canada’s Bianca Andreescu.

She takes us, the viewer, along for the emotional and bumpy journey as we are captivated, not simply with breathtaking shot making, but also with her unwavering sense of self-belief and determination.

That determination has pushed Andreescu into the finals of the Miami Open, just her third event of 2021 season, since she made a return to the tour following a 15-month absence.

Now she will meet world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia for the WTA 1000 title.

It is the first-career meeting between the two players, and Andreescu’s only time squaring off against a current world No. 1. It’s also an opportunity she is relishing.

“I’ve wanted to play her for a long time now, so I’m super excited for that,” Andreescu said after her semifinal win. “I love a challenge and I know she’s going to challenge me.”

Barty is a true master of her craft — a tactician with exceptional variety, angles, precision, and a penetrating forehand she can unleash at any given moment.

Her high tennis I.Q. is what helped guide her to become a French Open champion in 2019, one of the nine titles she has won on tour.

Andreescu will rely on her powerful baseline game, physicality, and tenacious resilience in tough moments to counter the Australian.

It has all served her well this fortnight.

After a straight-sets win over qualifier Tereza Martincova, Andreescu knocked out powerhouse Garbine Muguruza, the WTA leader in wins this season, with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory in the round of 16.

She physically and mentally overcame Sara Sorribes Tormo in two-hours-and-35 minutes, thwarting the Spaniard’s impeccable court coverage, spins, and competitive spirit.

Finally, she halted Greece’s Maria Sakkari 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in a rain-delayed marathon match that wrapped up at 1:35 a.m. ET.

Andreescu came back from the brink on multiple occasions in the encounter, saving two set points in the opening set, and rallying from down 4-2, and then 6-5 in the 3rd set, before taking control in the decisive tiebreak.

Andreescu has even managed to surprise herself at times with the quality of shots she can produce. Like this on the run forehand squash shot pass against Muguruza, the best of the tournament:

“Sometimes I literally feel like I’m an octopus out there, running side-to-side,” Andreescu remarked after her win over Sakkari. “I feel like I have eight legs. It’s insane – sometimes I don’t even know how I get to some shots.”

Andreescu also has a penchant for big matches. She’s 8-3 in her career against top-10 opponents.

The longer the duration of the match, the better she seems to fare as well. Twenty-three of Andreescu’s last 38 tour matches have gone the full three sets – she’s won 20 of them.

This will be her first contested final since her major victory at Flushing Meadows. Nearly 18 months ago, Andreescu defeated Serena Williams at the US Open to capture the first singles grand slam title in Canadian history.

It was one of three titles on the season from Andreescu and signalled the emergence of a full-fledged Canadian tennis superstar.

Unfortunately, that momentum was halted — not by her opponents, but her body.

After injuring her knee at the WTA Finals near the tail end of 2019, Andreescu took a pause, almost in sync with the rest of the world, and missed the 2020 season in its entirety. The 2021 Australian Open was the official site of her comeback to the tour, but Miami seems to have unlocked the greatness we witnessed in New York.

We can all now settle in for another journey Saturday afternoon.

Regardless of the outcome of the match, what she is doing on court is undeniably special.

That is more than enough for this tennis fan.

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Blue Jays optimistic Jose Berrios won’t miss next start after abdominal scare – Sportsnet.ca

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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Jose Berrios is doing much better after leaving Tuesday’s game with an abdominal injury, manager Charlie Montoyo said Wednesday.

After the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the team reported that Berrios left the game due to abdominal tightness on his left side and received post-game treatment.

Berrios threw seven innings of one run ball Tuesday, striking out six and allowing only four hits.

“He’s doing fine,” Montoyo said. “He’s doing a lot better than we thought, which is great news. Actually, you might get to see him playing catch in a little bit to see how he’s doing. He did all the tests. Everything looks good.”

The right-handed pitcher who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline is 11-8 on the season, with a 3.43 ERA in 173.1 innings pitched.

The Blue Jays wrap up their series with the Rays on Wednesday at 3:07 p.m. ET/ 12:07 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.

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France to open Billie Jean King Cup defence against Canada

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Reigning champions France will kick off this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague against Canada on Nov. 1, with the final scheduled for Nov. 6, the International Tennis Federation said on Wednesday.

Formerly called the Fed Cup, the women’s team competition featuring 12 nations was originally scheduled to be held in Budapest in April last year before being postponed twice due to the pandemic.

France triumphed in the 2019 edition when a team featuring Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia and Pauline Parmentier defeated Australia.

This year, Belgium, the 2001 winners, will face 2017 runners-up Belarus on the opening day, while eleven-times winners Czech Republic will play on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.

The competing nations will each play two group-stage ties to determine the winners of the four three-team groups, who will then progress to the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of two singles matches and a doubles match.

Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Australia, the U.S., Russia and Switzerland will be the other nations competing.

 

(Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Gymnasts Biles, Maroney demand justice in botched FBI sex abuse probe

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) –Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney on Wednesday told U.S. lawmakers she feels betrayed by FBI agents, after they failed to investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, despite her telling them he had sexually abused her.

FBI Director Chris Wray told the Senate panel that the actions of the agents who botched the investigation are inexcusable, and he announced that one of the agents “no longer works for the bureau in any capacity.”

“I’m deeply and profoundly sorry,” Wray said.

Maroney is one of four athletes, along with Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, who testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee as it probes the FBI’s mishandling of the investigation.

Maroney recalled how in 2015 she spent three hours on the phone telling the FBI the details of her story that her own mother had not even heard, including accounts of sexual abuse she endured during the Olympic games in London by Nassar, whom she described as “more of a pedophile” than he was a doctor.

It was not until July of this year, however, that she said the Justice Department inspector general revealed in a scathing report  what the FBI actually did with the information she provided: Failing to document it for a year and a half, and misrepresenting what she told them about her experiences.

“Not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney said, with anger in her voice.

Wednesday’s hearing comes after the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz in July issued a scathing report https://oig.justice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/21-093.pdf which blasted the FBI for botching its investigation https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-justice-watchdog-release-report-into-fbi-probe-ex-usa-gymnastics-doctor-2021-07-14 in a series of errors that allowed the abuse to continue for months.

Several of the gymnasts said they were furious that the FBI failed to immediately interview them about the abuse after they had reported it. Once the FBI finally did contact them, they said the agents tried to downplay the severity of the abuse.

“I remember sitting with the FBI agent and him trying to convince me that it wasn’t that bad,” Raisman said.

“It’s taken me years of therapy to realize that my abuse was bad, that it does matter.”

Horowitz also appeared on Wednesday along with Wray.

Horowitz said that the now-fired agent who falsified Maroney’s statement “could have actually jeopardized the criminal investigation by providing false information that could have bolstered Nassar’s defense.”

The FBI declined to name the fired agent, but Senator Richard Blumenthal identified him as Michael Langeman.

Langeman served as a supervisory special agent in Indianapolis, where he led a task force that investigated child sexual exploitation, according to an interview he gave to a local podcast in 2018.

Reuters could not immediately reach Langeman for comment.

The FBI’s investigation into Nassar started in July 2015, after USA Gymnastics President and CEO Stephen Penny reported the allegations to the FBI’s Indianapolis field office.

That office, then led by Special Agent in Charge W. Jay Abbott, did not formally open an investigation. The FBI only interviewed one witness months later, in September 2015, and failed to formally document that interview in an official report known as a “302” until February 2017 – well after the FBI had arrested Nassar on charges of possessing sexually explicit images of children in December 2016.

When the interview was finally documented in 2017 by an unnamed supervisory special agent, the report was filled with “materially false information and omitted material information,” Horowitz’s report determined.

Abbott, who retired from the FBI in 2018, also violated the FBI’s conflict of interest policy by discussing a possible job with the U.S. Olympic Committee while he was involved with the Nassar investigation.

As the FBI delayed its probe, Nassar went on to abuse more victims. At one point in Wednesday’s hearing, Senator Richard Blumenthal asked all four athletes whether they knew of victims who were abused after the July 2015 disclosure to the FBI.

“Yes,” all four of them said.

Neither Abbott nor the other unnamed supervisory special agent who botched the Nassar probe were prosecuted for their actions.

Wray said the case was presented twice for possible prosecution and declined, but he deferred to federal prosecutors to explain their reasoning.

“We have been failed and we deserve answers,” Biles said on Wednesday.

Raisman, meanwhile, expressed frustrations that more has not been done to investigate USA Gymnastics or the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee for covering up Nassar’s abuse for years.

“Why did none of these organizations warn anyone? USAG and USOPC have a long history of enabling abuse by turning a blind eye. Both organizations knew of Nassar’s abuse, long before it became public,” she said.

In a statement, the USOPC said it remains “completely dedicated to the safety and well-being” of its athletes, and it has implemented reforms after hiring a law firm to conduct an independent investigation.

USA Gymnastics did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Nassar has been found guilty in three separate cases, with one of the prison sentences running up to 175 years. Prosecutors have estimated he sexually assaulted hundreds of women and girls.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)

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