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Classy Kenin storms past Kvitova into French Open final

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No.4 seed Sofia Kenin remains on course for a second major title of 2020 after defeating Petra Kvitova in straight sets.

By Robin Bairner

PARIS, France – Sofia Kenin is into her second Grand Slam final of 2020 after overcoming No.7 seed Petra Kvitova, 6-4, 7-5 at Roland Garros.

The Australian Open champion had lost both her previous meetings with the Czech – including a heavy loss in Madrid last year on clay – but came through on this occasion in one hour 45 minutes.

The 21-year-old, who boasts a 16-1 winning record in majors this year, avoided the need for a deciding set, having shown something of a penchant for going all the way, doing so in four of her five previous matches.

She also maintained her startling record at the cutting edge of tournaments, with six titles from the last eight she has made the semis in, and showed remarkable efficiency, claiming four of her five break points while fending off 10 of 12 she faced.

Although Kvitova, who was playing in her first French Open semifinal since 2012, eased to the opening game of the match, the early stages of the opening set were dictated by Kenin, who gained sufficient momentum to seal the frame. In a hard-fought second, Kenin failed first time around when serving for the match, but completed the job given another opportunity.

“She’s such a tough player, she’s got a great aggressive game and such a big serve. I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game in order to win,” she said.

“I’m super proud of myself, it was a great match, and I’m super happy.”

Kenin bounced back from losing the opening game to love in formidable style, securing four successive games, aided by some unusual misses from the opposite end of the court. She gained momentum until the middle part of the set, peaking with a return winner that helped push her 4-1 clear.

The response of Kvitova was a positive one when faced with this adversity. On the Kenin serve, she raced 0-40 clear, and though she missed the first two points, an extraordinary rally saw her seal the break after a ball popped off the net cord and left her with a simple winner when it seemed she had been passed.

This set up a thrilling climax to the frame, with Kvitova apparently in the ascendancy but unable to claim the break that was required to save it.

Although Kenin won a mere 14% of points on her second serve, she found her first delivery enough to get over the line after 36 minutes.

Where the first set had moved along at a brisk pace, the second was far tighter, with more extended games.

Kvitova was the first to come under pressure and greeted her hold in the third game with a roar, but the next time she was asked to deliver, she was broken. On the second deuce, she netted and was subsequently worked out of position by Kenin, who hooked the ball into the open court as she harried to run down an all-or-nothing shot from the 30-year-old.

Having squandered five break points previously in the set, Kvitova successfully stepped up as Kenin served for the match, but in the following game her own delivery wobbled, presenting her rival with a second chance.

This time the WTA World No.6 was not to be denied, prevailing in a lengthy game in which she fought back from break point down.

Kenin, who has won two titles this year, will tackle Poland’s Iga Swiatek in Saturday’s showpiece as she seeks to add to her haul.

“I’ve already done it in Australia,” she said, considering Saturday’s showpiece. “I’ve had tough matches these past two weeks and I’m so excited to be in the final. It’s incredible. I’m going to enjoy this moment today and get ready for the final tomorrow.

“We played in juniors in the French Open. It was a close one. I’m going to prepare for the final and I’m going to do my best.”

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Report: Ravens acquire DE Ngakoue – TSN

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Yannick Ngakoue is on the move again.

The Minnesota Vikings have traded the defensive end to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2022.

 Through six games this season, Ngakoue has recorded 12 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.

In his fifth year out of Maryland, Ngakoue was acquired by the Vikings from the Jacksonville Jaguars – with whom he spent the first four seasons of his career – at the end of August.

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Virtanen signs two-year, $5.1 million contract with Canucks – NHL.com

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Jake Virtanen signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. It has an average annual value of $2.55 million.

The 24-year old forward was a restricted free agent and avoided a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Oct. 28. He scored 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 69 games with the Canucks last season and three points (two goals, one assist) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

“Obviously there’s a bright future with the Canucks organization, so many young, talented players coming in and the moves that we’ve made, I think it’s going to be just a brighter future for our team moving forward,” Virtanen said. “I’m excited to see how it all pans out and how our team’s going to do and super excited to get things going.

“[Contract negotiations] felt like a long time but obviously super excited to get this done and be back with the Canucks for two more years. Just happy to get it done and get it over with and just focus on training and skating and the whole thing, being ready to go.”

With forward Tyler Toffoli signing a four-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 12, it opened up a spot on one of the top two lines, and Virtanen is hoping he’ll get a chance to play there.

“Obviously I’d love to play top six and have a bigger opportunity, more responsibilities,” Virtanen said. “That’s what I really hope I get. I want to be able to prove that to the team and my teammates that I can play up there and be consistent every night, making sure that I can play night in and night out. It’s an opening for me to try to jump up there. I’ve got to make sure I’m coming to camp ready to go.”

Selected by Vancouver in the first round (No. 6) of the 2014 NHL Draft, Virtanen has scored 95 points (50 goals, 45 assists) in 279 regular-season games and three points in 16 playoff games.

“Jake has continued to make progress on his two-way game and remains a contributor offensively, using his speed and size to generate chances,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. “We look forward to him taking additional steps in his growth this year to help our team be successful.”

NHL.com staff writer Tim Campbell contributed to this report

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NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Game – TSN

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The NHL has announced the postponement of the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Game. The annual outdoor game was scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minnesota. The All-Star Game was scheduled for Jan. 30 in Sunrise, FL.

The postponements were expected as the dates were scheduled prior to beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL concluded the 2020 playoffs in September — over three months later than originally scheduled — as part of the league’s negotiated Return To Play format. The regular season concluded on Mar. 11, after the league was forced to its season on pause due to the pandemic.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. “Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended. We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

Both events will be rescheduled, according to the league.

The NHL also announced that the postponement of the events doesn’t change their target date of Jan. 1 to begin the 2020-21 season. 

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