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Sabalenka ends Marino run, Azarenka edges Sakkari in epic to set all-Belarusian QF in Montreal – WTA Tennis



The Omnium Banque Nationale quarterfinals will see the fourth edition of the big-name all-Belarusian rivalry between Aryna Sabalenka, after the countrywomen won their third round matches in contrasting fashion.

No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka became the first player into the last eight of the Omnium Banque Nationale with a 6-1, 6-3 defeat of wildcard Rebecca Marino.

The result marks Sabalenka’s eighth quarterfinal run of the year, and first in Montreal. Having battled for two hours and 25 minutes to overcome Sloane Stephens less than 24 hours previously, the Belarusian bounced back to race past Marino in only 59 minutes.

She was followed on Centre Court by No.8 seed Azarenka, who needed two hours and 34 minutes to triumph in a nailbiter over No.11 seed Maria Sakkari 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2). Three-time Montreal/Toronto semifinalist Azarenka needed to overturn a 2-4 deficit in the third set to reach her fifth quarterfinal of 2021.

Given both players’ power-centric approach to the game, the contest was unsurprisingly decided by the quality of their serving. World No.220 Marino had upset two Top 50 players in Madison Keys and Paula Badosa to reach this stage, but was unable to find the same form at first. A flurry of unforced errors saw her drop her opening service game to love; landing only 39% of her first serves in the first set, the Canadian did not get on the board until the sixth game.

Sabalenka’s service stats ostensibly indicate inconsistency, with six aces outweighed by seven double faults, but it was when they came that was important. The double faults rarely got the Wimbledon semifinalist into scoreboard trouble, mostly occurring when she already had a lead in a game; by contrast, she saved all five break points she faced with either aces or service winners.

Read more: Healthy mentally and physically, Marino showing strong form in Montreal

Marino, the former World No.38 who is returning to the sport after retiring in 2013 due to depression, delivered a better serving performance in the second set, raising her first serve percentage to 59%. But at 3-3, Sabalenka gave herself an opening with one of her best forehand winners of the day, and Marino responded with a forehand over the baseline to drop serve.

Marino’s best shots had come in flurries – three heavy returns in a row in the third game of the first set, three aces in the first game of the second. But serving to stay in the match, she coughed up consecutive double faults. Sabalenka made no mistake in taking advantage, sealing her second match point with a backhand winner.

Azarenka survives Sakkari in 3rd-set tiebreak: Montreal Highlights

2021 Montreal

Azarenka holds nerve to win nailbiter

Azarenka’s only previous encounter with Sakkari had been a straightforward 6-1, 6-3 defeat in last year’s Ostrava semifinals – a match which, coincidentally, also set up a clash against Sabalenka.

It was very different this time round, with the former World No.1 pushed to the limit by Sakkari, whose full commitment to more aggressive tactics has been evident in 2021. The Greek finished with 35 winners to 44 unforced errors, compared to Azarenka’s 17 winners and 27 unforced errors.

Throughout the match, Sakkari walked a tightrope of keeping Azarenka on the back foot while battling her own inconsistency. A forehand winner gained her an immediate break of serve, but errors off that wing saw the 26-year-old broken at 3-3 and come up short down set point.

Sakkari’s subpar 46% first serve percentage had also hampered her in the first set, but raising it to 65% in the second enabled her to turn the match around. As in the opener, she was unable to hold on to an early break – but this time, Sakkari responded with a mid-set purple patch in which she fired a series of down-the-line winners past Azarenka. The scintillating form continued into the decider, which saw Sakkari save four break points in grinding out her first two service games en route to a 4-2 lead.

To this point, Azarenka had opted for a steady strategy. Just five of her 17 winners had come in the first two sets. But with her back to the wall, the two-time Australian Open champion rose to the occasion. She came up with her finest shots in the home stretch of the match, including a magnificent reflex pass to bring up a crucial break-back point for 4-4 – converted as Sakkari committed her seventh of eight double faults.

The set would head inexorably towards a deciding tiebreak, and once there it was Sakkari whose game proved less reliable. The Roland Garros semifinalist opened with three unforced errors and a double fault, and the 0-4 hole was too deep to overcome.

Friday’s quarterfinal will be the fourth meeting between Azarenka and Sabalenka. Sabalenka leads the head-to-head 2-1, having scored wins at the 2019 US Open and the 2020 Ostrava final. In between, Azarenka triumphed at the 2020 US Open en route to her fifth major final.

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2020 Ryder Cup pairings: U.S. runs it back, Rory McIlroy out for Saturday foursomes – Golf Channel



After his team dug itself a 6-2 hole on Friday at the Ryder Cup, European captain Padraig Harrington had some decisions to make when deciding on his pairings for Saturday morning’s foursomes session.

One pressing question was whether he’d sit Rory McIlroy for the first time in McIlroy’s cup career. McIlroy had played in every session since making his debut in 2010 (26 for 26), but he’d dropped both his team-play matches on Friday at Whistling Straits while failing to reach the 16th hole in either one.

Ultimately, Harrington decided that his visiting side’s best chance at a comeback was to sit McIlroy on Saturday morning.

“We have plenty of options on our team,” Harrington said. “Spoiled for choice in many ways, and yeah … I’m very comfortable again with the team I’ve put out tomorrow. Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team.”

McIlroy and Poulter, who lost in foursomes on Friday morning, will both be benched, while Harrington will mix things up slightly elsewhere, splitting Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland, and pairing them with Tyrrell Hatton and Bernd Wiesberger, respectively. Two of Europe’s foursomes pairings are intact: Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Match scoring for the 43rd Ryder Cup

Meanwhile, on the American side, captain Steve Stricker is going back to the well, keeping all four of his previous foursomes teams. All but Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth won on Friday morning, though Thomas helped lead a four-ball rally alongside Patrick Cantlay on Friday afternoon as the U.S. duo tied Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

Cantlay reunites with Xander Schauffele, who is 2-0. Dustin Johnson, also 2-0, reunites with Collin Morikawa.

“We had one other group that we were thinking about putting out, but it went so well this morning that I figured why mess things up and change things up at all,” Stricker said. “We changed the order a little bit is all, but we kept the same pairings.”

The U.S. leads by four points, its largest advantage after Day 1 since 1975. History is on the Americans’ side, too, as just once in five previous instances since 1979 (the year that the Great Britain and Ireland side was expanded to include continental Europe) has a team coughed up a lead of more than three points after the opening day.

Here are the matchups and starting times for Saturday morning’s foursomes session:

8:05 a.m. ET: Koepka/Berger vs. Rahm/Garcia
8:21 a.m.: Johnson/Morikawa vs. Casey/Hatton
8:37 a.m.: Thomas/Spieth vs. Hovland/Wiesberger
8:53 a.m.: Schauffele/Cantlay vs. Westwood/Fitzpatrick

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Lululemon named official Canadian outfitter for next four Olympics | Offside – Daily Hive



Lululemon will be officially heading to the Olympics.

The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees announced Thursday a partnership with the Canadian clothing brand Lululemon, making it the country’s official outfitter of Team Canada for the next four Olympics.

“As a Canadian and lifelong fan of the Games, I could not be prouder for Lululemon to partner with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee,” said Calvin McDonald, the CEO of Lululemon in a release. “Supporting these incredible athletes as they prepare to compete on the world’s largest sporting stage is a privilege. Through this partnership, all of us at Lululemon are honoured to play our part to inspire, unite and transform the world through sport and share in this excitement alongside all of Canada.”

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A small selection of Lululemon Olympic apparel is available online and in-store already, with more to be revealed next month.

The partnership will start at the Beijing 2022 Games, continuing through 2024 in Paris, 2026 in Milan, and 2028 in Los Angeles.

This replaces the Hudson’s Bay partnership that first began in Torino 2006 and expired after Tokyo 2020.

While it’s Lululemon’s first official Olympic partnership, they actually launched a collection that appeared to be heavily inspired by Vancouver 2010.

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San Jose Sharks open training camp without Evander Kane amid NHL investigation – ESPN



SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks opened training camp with a big void at forward with Evander Kane not participating and little idea of when or if he will come back.

The Sharks took the ice for the first time this season Thursday, a day after Kane was cleared by the NHL of gambling allegations. But with the league still looking into allegations of physical and sexual abuse made by his estranged wife, Kane and the Sharks decided he will not take part in practice until further notice.

“It’s not ideal, but there is an ongoing investigation from the NHL,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “The focus has to be on our group here, the guys that are here today and the things that we can control, but also respect the process of dealing with some very serious allegations and some things that need to be addressed with the right process.”

The Kane saga has been hanging over the Sharks for weeks after Anna Kane alleged in an Instagram post this summer that Kane bet on NHL games and was “obviously throwing games to win money.”

That launched a probe by the league, and the NHL said Wednesday there was no evidence to back up those charges and that the investigation “raises doubts about the veracity of the allegations.”

But Anna Kane also made additional allegations this week of sexual and physical abuse in a restraining order application filed in Santa Clara County Family Court.

Kane’s attorney denied those charges, but the team said it came to an agreement with Kane that he won’t participate in camp until further notice while the league looks into the allegations.

None of the players made available to the media would comment on the specifics.

“No one knew about anything and no one still knows about anything,” defenseman Erik Karlsson said. “We’re here to focus on the things that we can control and everything other than that is out of our hands.”

There was also a report this offseason from The Athletic that there was a rift between Kane and his teammates, many of whom don’t want him back on the team.

Kane’s teammates said any issues would be dealt with privately in the dressing room and they were happy with the mindset of the group that was on hand for the start of camp.

“I thought today was a real good day,” captain Logan Couture said. “When you get to the rink, you show up, you play hockey, you work hard. You play for the guy next to you. Everyone that’s here is proud to be a San Jose Shark and we want to win for this organization.”

Kane’s absence will be felt on the ice as he was the team’s most consistent forward last season, when he led the Sharks with 22 goals and 49 points.

If Kane can’t play, San Jose will have a hard time reversing the dramatic fall the team has taken the past two seasons after making it to the Western Conference finals in 2019.

“We all just play,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “It’s no different than anything else. At the end of the day, we just make coffee in the morning, come to the rink, get ready to play and you do it. I don’t think it’s any different than guys getting hurt, not being there for lineup. We don’t worry about that stuff. We can’t. There’s too much other stuff.”

The Sharks finished last in the Western Conference in 2019-20 — firing coach Peter DeBoer in December — and they took only small steps forward last season when they finished near the bottom of the West Division with 49 points in the first full season under Boughner.

They made few big moves in the offseason outside of buying out ineffective goalie Martin Jones, acquiring Adin Hill from Arizona in a trade and signing James Reimer for a second stint with the organization. The Sharks’ .891 save percentage over the past three seasons is the lowest in the NHL.

They also added some depth forwards in Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano, but there will still be questions about whether there’s enough firepower on the top two lines, which will be an even greater concern if Kane doesn’t play.

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