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Sabalenka, Pliskova claim straight-set wins to set up Montreal semifinal clash – WTA Tennis

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In an all-Belarusian battle, No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka eased past 8th-seeded Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-4 to reach the Omnium Banque Nationale semifinals.

The World No.3 Sabalenka is currently the match-win leader for the season on the WTA, with her 1-hour and 19-minute victory over Azarenka marking her 38th victory of the year.

“I’m really happy with this, it was a tough match,” Sabalenka said to the media after her win. “[Azarenka] played really well. The second set was a little tricky. I’m really happy that I came back in the end of the set and won it actually.”

Sabalenka had to come back from a break down in the second set, but she is now 3-1 against her two-time Grand Slam-winning compatriot. In their most recent prior meeting, Sabalenka beat Azarenka for one of her 10 career WTA singles titles, in the Ostrava final last season.

Top-seeded Sabalenka was the aggressor in the match, as she had 33 winners to just eight from Azarenka. Sabalenka also won 74 percent of points behind her first serve, while Azarenka’s success rate behind her first delivery was 58 percent.

“I knew that even if I am down with the score, I still can come back in the match,” Sabalenka said. “These kind of thoughts help me to be a little bit more free on the court.”

Thus, Azarenka was denied a trip to the Omnium Banque Nationale semifinals for the first time in a decade. Azarenka reached the semifinals of this event three times in a four-year span between 2008 and 2011.

Sabalenka began her romp through the first set by breaking for 2-0 on her fifth break point of a marathon game. After the top seed raced to 5-1, Azarenka made a late charge to grab one break back, but Sabalenka returned with intense pressure to notch the following game and close out the opener.

A dropshot miscue by Sabalenka handed Azarenka a break in the first game of the second set, which Azarenka dutifully maintained through 4-3. But in that game, power and passes from Sabalenka helped her break back to get level at 4-4, and the No.1 seed ultimately reeled off the final four games of the match to clinch victory.

Sabalenka will face No.4 seed Karolina Pliskova in the semifinals, after the Czech defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in their quarterfinal clash, 6-4, 6-0. It will be a rematch of last month’s Wimbledon semifinal, which Pliskova won in three sets.

Against Sorribes Tormo, Pliskova was down an early break in the opening set, but she turned the match around to cruise to victory in an hour and 20 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead in her head-to-head with the World No.48 from Spain.

“I really improved my game, especially [at the] end of the first set,” Pliskova told the press, after her win. “Of course, in the second set I think I did a good job, good points there, much better serving than in the first set.”

As expected, Pliskova was powerful on serve but she was truly overwhelming on return, as she collected 85 percent of points returning the Sorribes Tormo second serve. That helped Pliskova convert six of her seven break points on the way to the win.

Pliskova storms past Sorribes Tormo into Montreal semis: Highlights

2021 Montreal

Bolstered by impeccable defense and a challenging slice, Sorribes Tormo grasped the early lead by breaking Pliskova for 3-1. However, that started a run of four straight breaks which ended with Pliskova back on serve at 4-3, and the Czech at last took charge with a break at love for 5-4. Pliskova served out the first set from there.

Pliskova won the first 13 points of the second set, leading 3-0 before Sorribes Tormo pulled her into a topsy-turvy game. But Pliskova won that five-deuce game to lead 4-0, and the Czech eased home from there, finishing the match by winning 10 games in a row.

Looking forward to another battle with Sabalenka, Pliskova said that “we played in Wimbledon not many weeks ago, so I know what to expect. I know what I have to do to beat her, or at least to be close. So let’s see if I can do that.”

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Early game, massive opportunity, especially for two Edmonton Oilers prospects – Edmonton Journal

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This in from Reid Wilkins of 630 CHED, the Edmonton Oilers expected line combos tonight against the Calgary Flames, a game that will live-streamed on EdmontonOilers.com.

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Benson-McLeod-Marody
Perlini-Shore-Turris
Sceviour-Ryan-Bourgault
Hamblin-Cracknell-Lavoie

Koekkoek-Bouchard
Broberg-Berglund
Lagesson-Kemp

Skinner
Konovalov

My take

1. It’s the first pre-season game, but first impressions are huge for at least two young-ish Edmonton Oilers prospects who need to put on a big show if they’re finally going to crack the Oilers roster. They will have other chances to do so, yes, but the clock is ticking, all Oilers organizational eyes are on them, and it’s time to shine if they hope to stick in Edmonton. They both have golden opportunities.

2. Tyler Benson is the first of the two. The kid was drafted in 2016, five years ago. Indeed, Benson is no longer a kid. He’s 23, and all kinds of fellow forwards from that draft have established themselves as NHLers, like Auston Matthews, Matt Tkachuk and Patrik Laine from the top of the draft, but also forwards taken late in the first round or in the second round and after, such as Alex DeBrincat, Jordan Kyrou, Jesper Bratt, Tage Thompson, Max Jones, and Brett Howden. It’s Last-Chance-Gas for other relatively high picks like Sam Steel, Rasmus Asplund, Nathan Bastian and Boris Katchouk. Can they finally grab an NHL job?

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3. Oilers GM Ken Holland said this past week in a radio interview that Benson is penciled into the line-up and that it’s his job to loose. That’s good news for the young forward, but as the old saying goes, that and $2.00 will get him a coffee at Tim Horton’s. Benson has to earn it now on the ice, Holland said. So far in camp, the reports have been good, with Benson coming to camp in excellent shape and looking quicker on the ice.

4. Benson has been teamed up in camp with his AHL linemates Ryan McLeod and Cooper Marody. They were arguably the AHL’s best two-way line last year. McLeod has already made the jump to the NHL and played OK two-way hockey there late last season. He earned a spot in some playoff games. Marody, like Benson, is in Last-Chance-Gas territory as a prospect. But the trio can wheel on the attack and defend effectively. They need to do both tonight against Calgary. There is an outside shot, say 20 per cent, that the trio could somehow find their way forward together as the Oil’s third scoring line to start the year.

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5. The other Oilers prospect on the hot seat is “Wild” Bill Lagesson, who has played seven full seasons since he was drafted 91st overalll in 2014. If he makes it, he’ll be a super rarity, a player who eventually makes the NHL as 25-year-old who is still with the original team that drafted him. It’s such a glorious storyline that one has to think whichever entity is running The Simulation will align things to make it happen.

6. Lagesson got an early boost heading into camp, with veteran Kris Russell still injured and with even more veteran Duncan Keith out until his COVID quarantine ends next Friday. Lagesson is going to get some exhibition games, maybe a few more than anyone had originally planned, but what will he do with them? Will he be the player who looked like he might just hand in there as a shut-down d-man when he played so well with Adam Larsson early in the 2020-21 season? Or will he be the guy who struggled as that same season went on and he got hurt? Injury is a major factor in any player’s career, of course.

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7. Right now, Benson is slotted into the fourth line left wing spot. Lagesson ranks fifth on the left d-man chart, after Darnell Nurse, Keith, Slater Koekkoek and Russell. But injuries happen. Veterans slide. And sometimes a long-time prospect turns the corner and plays the kind of impactful hockey that allows him to stick in the NHL for a season or two or five.

8. The Flames have plenty of Big Bobby Clobbers in their line-up — Erik Gudbranson, Nikita Zadorov, Milan Lucic, Brett Ritchie and Martin Posisil — while the Oilers are going with skill. It will be an interesting test to see if Edmonton’s skill can stand up to and get the best of Calgary’s muscle. Rock beats scissors, so the Oilers will have to do more than make fancy plays. They’ll have to fight through the rough stuff and be all over these Flames, harassing and covering them at every turn. Paper beats rock.

At the Cult

LEAVINS: The Archibald conundrum

McCURDY: Day 3 of on-ice at Edmonton Oilers camp and the first cuts come down

STAPLES: What the Josh Archibald situation mean for the Edmonton Oilers

LEAVINS: Oilers off-season makeover made with an analytics brush

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Is this it as a Ryder Cup player? Lee Westwood shares singles win with son as caddie – Golf Channel

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Whether or not Lee Westwood will captain the European Ryder Cup team in Rome, Italy in 2023, he seemed resigned to the fact that this was his last competition as a player.

“Listen, this match I played this afternoon, it might be the last match I’ve played in the Ryder Cup. I’d rather it wasn’t, but I’m 49 next April, and the likelihood is it is. I got to share it with my son. Won my point,” Westwood said Sunday evening, pausing to hold back tears.

“I hate this tournament. It makes you so emotional, but that’s what makes it great as well.”

Westwood’s son, Sam, was his caddie this week as the 48-year-old Englishman won his singles match, 1 up, over Harris English.


Match scoring for the 43rd Ryder Cup


Westwood went 1-2-0 at Whistling Straits, moving his all-time record to 21-20-6. His 11 appearances tie him with Nick Faldo for most ever, on either side.

Westwood was one of four 40-somethings on this year’s European team, along with Ian Poulter, 45, Paul Casey, 44, and Sergio Garcia, 41. While this may mark the end of Westwood’s career as a player (he’ll most certainly be a future captain), Poulter, Casey and Garcia weren’t ready to concede to the future.

The Europeans were routed at the Ryder Cup. Here’s a look at the individual player records for the away team.

When asked by a reporter, “For the veteran guys, I don’t want to suggest for a second that you won’t be back, but do you find yourself taking it in more just in case?”

Garcia responded, I’m not answering this one. I’m not a veteran.”

To which Westwood followed, “I guess that’s me, then, is it?”

If this is it for Westwood, he leaves as a member of seven victorious European teams.

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Blue Jays beat Twins; stay two back in AL wild-card race – TSN

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Teoscar Hernández, Marcus Semien and George Springer homered, and the Toronto Blue Jays held their position in the playoff chase by beating the Minnesota Twins 6-1 Saturday night.

Robbie Ray (13-6) scattered three hits in six innings as the Blue Jays ended a three-game slide.

Toronto stayed two games behind Boston and New York in the AL wild-card race with seven games remaining.

Semien hit his 43rd home run in the sixth for a 3-1 lead. That tied him with Dave Johnson of Atlanta in 1973 for the most home runs in a season by a second baseman.

Springer snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a two-run shot in the seventh. It was his 18th of the season and first since Sept. 11.

Ray, who leads the AL with a 2.68 ERA and tops the majors with 244 strikeouts, gave up one run and fanned six.

Minnesota scored on a sacrifice fly in the first and had runners on in four of the next five innings. Ray escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth, ending his outing by getting Miguel Sanó to foul out and Nick Gordon to line out. The Twins were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

Hernández homered and Santiago Espinal scored on a double by Randal Grichuk, coupled with an error by right fielder Brent Rooker, for a 2-1 lead in the second.

Out since Sept. 14 with a left abdominal strain, Minnesota starter John Gant (5-10) came off the 10-day injured list and allowed two runs — one earned — in three innings.

MINNESOTA’S MORNEAU

Former 1B Justin Morneau was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame.

The native of New Westminster, British Columbia, hit .278 in 11 years with the club. Morneau ranks second on the Twins all-time list in games played at first base (1,124), third in home runs (221), sixth in RBI (860), and eighth in hits (1,318) and walks (501). The American League MVP in 2006 also was a four-time All-Star. He finished his 14-year career with stints in Pittsburgh, Colorado and with the White Sox, and was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. He remains with the Twins as a special assistant to baseball operations and part-time analyst on the team’s television broadcasts.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Joakim Soria was placed on the COVID-related injured list and LHP Kirby Snead was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. … Manager Charlie Montoyo said OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. might not return to the lineup until Tuesday. Gurriel’s hand was stepped on by a teammate during an outfield play Thursday and he received stitches in his middle finger.

Twins: To make room for Gant, RHP Joe Ryan was placed on the family medical emergency/bereavement list.

UP NEXT

Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (7-2, 3.36) and Twins RHP Griffin Jax (3-4, 6.75) are Sunday afternoon’s scheduled starters. Manoah has allowed just two earned runs and six hits over 14 innings across his past two starts.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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