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Serena Williams makes her last appearance at the Canadian Open

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Serena Williams makes her last appearance at the Canadian Open

Toronto, Canada- 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, said her goodbyes on Thursday following a 6-2 6-4 defeat by Belinda Bencic in the second round of the National Bank Open (Canadian Open).

This comes after she announced her impending retirement from professional tennis in Vogue magazine on Tuesday.

“I love playing here, I have always loved playing here. I wish I could have played better but Belinda played so well today. It’s been an interesting 24 hours. As I said in the article, I am terrible at goodbyes, but, goodbye Toronto. I was really happy to be out here today and play in front of you guys. Thanks for the support. Thank you! I always had amazing times here both on and off the court. I will be coming back just as a visitor to the city but otherwise, it’s been remarkable.” said Serena.

Prior to the match, a tribute video was played featuring comments from tennis pioneer Billie Jean King, current players, Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu as well as ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky and highlights of Williams’s Canadian triumphs.

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Karl Hale, the tournament director of the National Bank Open, said that after the retirement news broke, the tournament sold more tickets for the Williams-Bencic showdown than it had for any of its men’s matches, notable for a tournament that began in 1881, making it almost as old as Canada itself.

“We heard it yesterday morning, and immediately ticket sales picked up. In the players’ lounge, you heard the chatter. It’s the first time I have seen so many players watch a practice. She practiced at 9 a.m, and everybody was out there watching her,” said Kale.

Serena has gone on to become the greatest women’s player of the 21st century and joins the very short list of the most successful players of all time alongside Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Margaret Court.

She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, one short of Court’s record, and has won 50 other tour singles titles, including three at the Canadian Open in 2001, 2011 and 2013.

Serena’s impact has far exceeded all of her accomplishments on the court. She has become an inspiration for women of colour everywhere, to always stand up for themselves and to never allow any criticism to destroy their self-confidence and self-worth, to dominate the competition and shine despite those who say you don’t belong.

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Emotional Bianca Andreescu leaves court in wheelchair after injury at Miami Open – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Bianca Andreescu was forced to retire from the 2023 Miami Open.

Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu was forced to leave the court in a wheelchair after suffering an injury during Monday’s match against Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Round of 16 at the Miami Open.

Andreescu officially retired at 6-7, 2-0, winning 75 percent of her points on first serve. With tears in her eyes, she left the court to a standing ovation. Alexandrova, who will face Petra Kvitova in the next round, came over to console a devastated Andreescu as her team prepared for her exit.

“I’ve never felt this kind of pain before,” Andreescu said in agony while the medical team approached.

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The 22-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., suffered the injury during the third game of the second set while tracking down a shot.

Andreescu was off to an excellent start to the tournament, defeating Emma Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the Round of 128, before proceeding to knock off No. 7 Maria Sakkari 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, then defeating Sofia Kenin in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

This is a potentially devastating injury for Andreescu, who was rounding into form with the summer schedule on the horizon. Andreescu had previously advanced to the Round of 32 in the Indian Wells Masters before losing in straight sets to No. 1 Iga Swiatek in a tightly contested match.

Andreescu has a lengthy history with long-term injuries, suffering a torn meniscus in October 2019, shortly after winning the U.S. Open against childhood hero Serena Williams. Andreescu did not play the entire 2020 season in large part due to the complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, then struggled through the 2021 season. Andreescu missed the opening three months of the 2022 season and struggled with a back injury towards the end of the year.

Andreescu said in a recent interview that she actually contemplated retiring from tennis in 2021.

“That was, honestly, about me wanting to figure out if I really wanted to continue playing tennis,” Andreescu told reporters on Sunday, per The Telegraph. “I was literally about to drop my rackets and say, ‘Screw this.’ I wasn’t happy at all and I wasn’t happy basically for the full year of 2021. I thought, if I continue like this, it’s just going to get worse.”

Those hardships from the past few years have helped Andreescu grow as both a player and a person.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Andreescu told Sportsnet’s Vivek Jacob earlier this month. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot even in the past two months about myself, which is such a great thing about life, you’re constantly growing, you’re constantly learning. The main thing is I want to be able to feel good in my own skin whether I win a match or lose a match.”

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Player grades: Edmonton Oilers survive scrambly affair in Arizona, pull out 5-4 win – Edmonton Journal

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Oilers 5, Coyotes 4

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Edmonton Oilers travel regimen on Monday night: take the two points and get the heck out of Dodge.

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It was a scrambly affair in cramped Mullett Arena, where a clear majority of the 4,600 spectators seemed to be rooting for the visiting team. For the second time in the last week, the Oilers were in tough to shake the pesky Coyotes. This time they managed to get the job done in regulation, but not without a few nervous moments down the stretch as Arizona pressed but failed to overcome Edmonton’s 5-4 lead.

The Oilers had seemed fully in control with a 4-2 lead after a dominant second period, but that went away in the first 5 minutes of the third. The Oilers managed just a single Grade A shot in that final frame, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins buried that shot on the powerplay to put them back in front by the enventual winning margin.

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If the stats are to be believed, this was a stolen win by the Oilers, who were outshot 33-29 and on the short end of Grade A shots by a 19-13 margin, including 10-6 in 5-alarm shots (running count). In each player’s comment we’ll record his individual contributions to Grade A shots (GAS) at both ends of the sheet.

Player grades

#2 Evan Bouchard, 7. Strong on the attack. Scored the 2-2 goal at even strength on an excellent shot, later set up the game winner on the powerplay with a one-timer that created a dangerous rebound. Perhaps his best play was a lovely delayed stretch pass that sent his partner Ekholm in on a breakaway. Not your standard D-to-D pass. Did have a couple of adventures on defence, wandering way out of position and getting burned for a breakaway that Campbell stopped, later losing a battle in the low slot that resulted in the 4-4. Now has 12 points in 13 games since the big trade on Feb 28. GAS: +3/-4.

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#5 Cody Ceci, 4. His lost battle was a key element on the second Arizona tally. Otherwise largely held his own. GAS: +0/-1.

#10 Derek Ryan, 5. Quiet night with 0 shots and just 1/6=17% on the dot. Decent on the penalty kill. GAS: +0/-1.

#14 Mattias Ekholm, 7. Played a team-high 24:56 on what was the club’s most effective pairing. Unlucky that the second Arizona goal caromed in off him. Burned on another ‘yotes chance when his hard clearing pass hit a sign on the boards and just died, one of many funky bounces in the old barn Arizona now calls home. Won more than his share of battles, including a couple that set up McDavid’s 2 best chances of the game, both in the first period. Robbed on a breakaway of his own on a full stretch stop by Karel Vejmelka. Also robbed of an assist on Draisaitl’s goal when his pass was deflected from its intended recipient directly to the goal scorer, without possession ever being achieved. Played 24:58 to lead both teams, including 23:01 at even strength. Excellent shot shares. GAS: +4/-4.

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#18 Zach Hyman, 6. His biggest contribution was finishing off a 5-way passing play just 6 seconds into Edmonton’s first powerplay to tie the game 1-1. Another great chance off a Nurse feed, but couldn’t bury. A couple of issues in defensive coverage. GAS: +2/-3.

#19 Devin Shore, 4. Scoreless in almost 10 minutes, not a bad outcome. Not his best night handling the puck, though. GAS: +0/-0

#21 Klim Kostin, 6. A decent shot on net, a couple of shot blocks, a couple of hits, and a positive influence overall.  GAS: +1/-0.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. His big moment was scoring the shorthanded goal that gave the Oilers their first lead, joining the rush as a trailer, taking Yamamoto’s drop pass, and overpowering Vejmelka with a wrist shot. Made a great pass to Hyman for another 5-alarm shot. Allowed an outside shot on the sequence that resulted in Arizona’s third goal, and was a better door than window in screening Campbell on a couple of other shots (both stopped). 4 shots, 2 blocks. GAS: +2/-4.

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#26 Mattias Janmark, 6. Started the game on the McDavid line, but soon moved down to a bottom-6 trio with Bjugstad and Foegele which was highly effective. Did get burned on a bad pinch on the first Arizona goal, but made up for it with a strong charge to the net front as a decoy on Nurse’s shorty. GAS: +2/-1.

#27 Brett Kulak, 5. His pairing with Desharnais had its struggles at even strength and were badly outshot (+3/-10 in Kulak’s 14 minutes at 5v5), and were dominated in Grade A shots. Managed to saw off 0-0 where it mattered most. Kulak mustered a couple of shots, a hit and a takeaway. GAS: +0/-4.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Entered the game tied with McDavid and Kane, each with 299 goals. Won the race to 300 when he scored on his only official shot of the game, surprising Vejmelka with a quick-release outside shot through traffic. This after finding iron on a great look from the slot on his previous shift. Set up the game winner by teeing up Bouchard’s one-timer in the third. Also won the powerplay faceoff that led directly to Oilers’ first goal, whough no point awarded on that one. Now up to 46-68-114 on the season, 26 points behind McDavid but 12 clear of third-place Nikita Kucherov. Led the Oilers with 2 blocked shots and with 13/23=57% on the faceoff dot. GAS: +5/-6.

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#36 Jack Campbell, 5. Another frenetic night that saw him allow at least 4 goals in his seventh straight start. On the bright side, his teammates have scored at least 4 in his last sixteen starts, and once again on this night scored 1 more than they gave up. Campbell was beaten by a pair of first-period deflections, both of which found a hole between his arm and body. His bigger problem was rebound control, with numerous pucks trampolining off of him back into the slot or in unexpected directions that left him scrambling. This proved especially costly on the third Arizona goal, and arguably the fourth as well. Did face 19 Grade A shots (4 of them off his own bad rebounds)  and came up with a number of good stops. Stiffened down the stretch and managed to contain the puck for a couple of key stoppages in the late going. 33 shots, 29 saves, .879 save percentage.

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#37 Warren Foegele, 7. Another strong game with dominant shot shares (+13/-3 in shot attempts, +7/-1 in actual shots) on a strong trio with Bjugstad and Janmark. His fine pass to Bouchard was buried for the 2-2. Now had 13 points in his last 19 games. 3 shots on net, the best a quick wraparound that nearly cashed. GAS: +3/-0.

#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. Quiet game with 0 shots and 0 hits. Whiffed entirely on his best look, wasting a nice set up by Ekholm. Did find a way to contribute with a nice rush and pass to Nurse on the penalty kill that resulted in the 3-2 goal. GAS: +2/-0.

#72 Nick Bjugstad, 7. Became one of the first NHLers to experience Mullett Arena as both a home and away player. Certainly looked right at home with a very strong effort. Skated extremely well. Earned a secondary assist on the Bouchard goal. Fired 3 shots of his own (6 attempts) and also landed 3 hits, with a takeaway and a block and 5/10=50% on the dot. GAS: +2/-2.

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#73 Vincent Desharnais, 4. Had his struggles in this one. Managed to saw off 0-0 at evens, despite being penned in his own end for much of his 12 even strength minutes. Was in the box for the Arizona powerplay goal, albeit for something of a ticky-tack holding penalty. GAS: +0/-5.

#91 Evander Kane, 4. Skated better, producing 5 shot attempts (2 on net). Involved in the physical aspect, landing a team-high 4 hits. But all too frequently, the play died on his stick. Directly caused a too-many-men penalty when he chose to play the puck right at the player’s gate, even as his replacement had already taken the ice. Screened his own goalie and very likely deflected in the second Arizona goal. No points and -2 on the night. Now a dismal dash-9 on the season, the only current Oiler in red figures. GAS: +2/-3.

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#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. Scored 1-1-2, doing all of that damage on the powerplay. His fine cross-seam pass to McDavid set the stage for the 1-1, while he took care of business himself cashing the 5-4 from the edge of the crease. That stood up as the game-winner. A couple of hiccups in the defensive zone but nothing costly. GAS: +4/-1.

#97 Connor McDavid, 5. A couple of early chances, and a great pass to Hyman on the PP for the 1-1, his 140th (!!!) point of the season. Gradually had less impact as the game went on. Beaten on the 4-3 when he wasn’t quite able to cut out the shot. Did land a couple of heavy hits and held his own on the dot at 7/13=54%. GAS: +3/-2.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

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Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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FTB: The Maple Leafs clinch – Pension Plan Puppets

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It’s always fun when your team clinches without doing anything. The Maple Leafs were at home last night when the news broke that because some other team won or lost, they were officially in the playoffs.

So now that’s out of the way, the Leafs play the waiting game, oh and also eight more regular season games, one of which is against the Lightning, which will be the most interesting to watch, while for the others we simply hope no one is injured.

The next game is tomorrow against the Panthers here in Toronto.

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Other News

Hockey Canada rules 2018 junior players ineligible for international competition pending investigation – CBC
The statement comes hours after a parliamentary committee unanimously passed a motion ordering Hockey Canada to hand over a report from an investigation into the 2018 allegations.

Who are the top candidates for NHL coach, GM jobs? – ESPN
[SPECIES: ESPN reports that Maple Leafs assistant coach Craig Carberry is a hot commodity in the NHL coaching market.]

Voit’s playmaking skills put him in Sting’s record book – Observer
Ty Voit is so crafty with the puck, he keeps his own teammates guessing what he’s about to do.
[SPECIES: OK I cannot resist the pun on the Sarnia Sting and that headline so here we go:
[music] Every single day
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching Voit]

Now to be extra sure I have a 1980’s Sting song stuck in your head all day… here you go! Have a nice Tuesday.

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