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‘It’s How You Finish’: Serena Williams Into Open Semifinals | Sports News

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By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — They were just two particular points from Serena Williams’ latest three-set comeback at the U.S. Open, yet they were pivotal and consisted of the sorts of lengthy exchanges filled with athleticism and brilliance that in any other, non-pandemic year would be marked by thousands of folks rising to their feet for delirious roars and raucous applause.

She needed both of these points, one of which included a shot she hit left-handed, to reverse a deficit that reached the scale of a set and a break after 45 minutes of her quarterfinal against Tsvetana Pironkova on a cloudy Wednesday in empty Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Williams needed both of these points during a five-game, match-altering run — along with 20 aces, her most in a match in eight years — to end up on the right side of a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score after more than two hours to get to the semifinals at Flushing Meadows for an 11th consecutive appearance.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, right?” Williams said.

Two more victories would allow her to claim a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

“In the beginning, I was a little fatigued, for whatever reason,” Williams said. “Obviously, I can’t do that if I want to keep winning, so I need to figure that out.”

How big an upset would this have been if Pironkova had held on? Not only is she not seeded at Flushing Meadows, she doesn’t even appear in the WTA rankings at all — this was her first tournament of any sort in more than three years, because she left the tour to become a mother.

“It’s unbelievable,” Williams said about Pironkova’s impressive return to competition. “Wow. I couldn’t even do that.”

When the players stepped out onto the court, the stadium announcer — announcing for whom, exactly, was something of a mystery — referred to Pironkova, a 32-year-old from Bulgaria, as “Alexander’s mom” and then to Williams as “Olympia’s mom” during the pre-match introductions.

“It just shows me how tough moms are,” Williams said afterward.

“You play a match and you go home and you’re still changing diapers,” said Williams, whose daughter turned 3 on Sept. 1 and is a little older than Pironkova’s son. “It’s like a double life. It’s really surreal.”

The American, who turns 39 in less than three weeks, has won six U.S. Open championships; she was the runner-up the past two years.

Williams last lost before the semifinals in New York in 2007, when Justine Henin eliminated her in the quarterfinals.

On Thursday, Williams will face Victoria Azarenka, who returned to the U.S. Open semifinals for the first time since 2013 by overwhelming Elise Mertens 6-1, 6-0 on Wednesday night. Williams leads her head-to-head series against Azarenka 18-4, including beating her in the 2012 and 2013 finals in New York.

It was in a 2012 match against Azarenka at Wimbledon that Williams last topped 20 aces, producing 24.

The other women’s semifinal Thursday will be 2018 champion Naomi Osaka vs. No. 28 seed Jennifer Brady.

In the men’s quarterfinals Wednesday, 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev beat No. 10 Andrey Rublev 7-6 (6), 6-3, 7-6 (5) to return to the final four, with No. 2 Dominic Thiem against No. 21 Alex de Minaur scheduled to meet at night. Medvedev hasn’t dropped a set in the tournament.

Williams also needed a comeback and the maximum number of sets to get through the fourth round before defeating 15th-seeded Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3.

In Wednesday’s turnaround, the first key moment involved 24 strokes, the next-to-last a cross-court forehand by Williams from wide of the doubles alley, and the last an on-the-run squash forehand by Pironkova that landed in the net. That gave Williams a break and a 5-3 edge in the second set.

Williams raised her left fist as her husband yelled from his front-row corner seat; Pironkova put a hand on her knee, smiled ruefully and squatted behind the baseline.

The other came in a four-deuce opening game of the final set, and began with the right-handed Williams taking a page out of old friend Maria Sharapova’s playbook by hitting a left-handed return of serve. Another 15 strokes followed, with Williams smacking a forehand passing shot that Pironkova volleyed into the net tape.

“That was intense,” Williams said. “I was just trying to do everything I can — whether righty or lefty.”

Pironkova dropped onto her back, chest heaving; she left so much sweat on the court that a ball person was beckoned to wipe it away with a towel. That afforded Williams a third break point, which was converted for a 1-0 lead when Pironkova sent a forehand long.

“She definitely played like the champion she is,” Pironkova said.

Williams then only added to the lead, her strokes finding targets better the longer the match went on. Her serve was especially good, as it usually is.

In contrast, Pironkova began to have more trouble on the longer points that she dominated early; she won the first half-dozen that lasted 10 strokes or more before Williams found more success.

A couple of times, Pironkova drew Williams forward with a drop shot, then took the point with a perfectly arced lob.

“I tried everything,” Pironkova said.

But after compiling only five unforced errors in the first set, Pironkova had 21 over the last two.

Williams, in contrast, made 11 in the first set, just 13 the rest of the way.

“Definitely, the first set, I think I was in control of the match. I was doing all kinds of shots, and everything went … my way,” Pironkova said. “But, you know, I was expecting (that) it’s not going to last forever.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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France church attack: Assailant’s family demands answers | NanaimoNewsNOW

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A 35-year-old man who had met with Issaoui in Nice was arrested overnight, a judicial official said Saturday. A 47-year-old man who had met with Issaoui the night before the attack was already in custody, bringing the number of detained suspects to three. Their connection to the attack remains unclear.

A previously unknown Tunisian extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack, and Tunisian and French authorities are investigating whether the claim is legitimate.

In Issaoui’s hometown of Sfax, his family expressed shock and appealed for peace. But they also expressed bewilderment that this young man who drank alcohol and showed no outward signs of radicalism would flee to France and attack a church.

“We want the truth about how my son carried out this terrorist attack. I want to see what the surveillance cameras showed. I will not give up my son’s rights outside the country. I want my son, dead or alive,” his mother Gamra told The Associated Press, her words often interrupted by tears.

His father and brother Wissem said that if Issaoui indeed carried out the attack, he should face justice.

“We are Muslims, we are against terrorism, we are poor. Show me that my brother committed the attack and judge him as a terrorist,” Wissem said. “If he was the attacker, he will take his responsibility.”

On the dusty Tina Street in the Nasr neighbourhood of Sfax, his friends and neighbours described Issaoui as a man who sold gasoline for motorcycles. While not starving or homeless, he was poor like many in the area, poverty that is driving more and more young Tunisians to seek jobs and opportunity in Europe.

He had had small-time run-ins with the law as a teen, but nothing that alerted Tunisian authorities to possible extremist leanings. That meant that when he was served an expulsion order from Italy, he was basically free to go where he pleased.

Italy’s interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, told the AP that Italy’s overburdened repatriation centres had no place for him, despite agreements with Tunisia governing the return of citizens who don’t qualify for asylum in Italy.

“Obviously, we give precedence to people who are signalled by law enforcement or by Tunisian authorities,’’ Lamorgese said. “The number of spots are not infinite, and he could not therefore be placed inside a repatriation centre.’’

___

Charlton reported from Paris. Trisha Thomas in Rome contributed.

Mehdi El-Arem And Angela Charlton, The Associated Press

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Brenham 41, Pflugerville Connally 0 | Sports News

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PFLUGERVILLE — Brenham senior J’Sin Lopez ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries, and Kaden Watts returned a punt 74 yards for another score to lead the Cubs past Pflugerville Connally 41-0 on Friday in District 13-5A Division II play.

Brenham senior Cameron Richardson caught four passes for 105 yards and two TDs as the Cubs improved to 4-2 overall and 4-0 in district.

Brenham will host Leander Rouse next week, while Connally will host Elgin.

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Alberta colleges exploring e-sports opportunities amid pandemic athletics shutdowns

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The Lethbridge College Kodiaks were supposed to be be hosting the 2020 ACAC soccer championships this weekend, but with COVID-19 shutting the door on traditional sports, it’s opened the door for a different type of competition.

Read more:
Kodiaks riding historic season into 1st CCAA nationals appearance

The Kodiaks are among many schools exploring e-sports opportunities.

“We’ve actually talked about e-sports for quite some time now,” said Lethbridge College’s manager of athletics, Todd Caughlin.

“It’s always kind of been in the background, but also on the horizon, as something we could look at.”

COVID-19 shutdowns have provided the time for schools like Lethbridge College to try out e-sports, with the a pair of Kodiaks e-athletes taking part in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s first ever Gaming Challenge, competing in the FIFA20 game on both Xbox and Playstation.

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While the CCAA Gaming Challenge is on a national scale, provincially, the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association (ACAC) is also taking steps to welcome e-sports into the collegiate space.

Earlier this month, the ACAC announced a partnership with the Alberta E-Sports Association (AESA), a non-profit looking to grow competitive gaming in the province.

“We have been talking about it for a number of years and we certainly weren’t ignoring the fact that e-sports had been growing in popularity,” said ACAC CEO Mark Kosak.

“We hadn’t really had a chance to sink our teeth into it, but unquestionably, COVID has been the catalyst.”

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Kosak says when word got out that the ACAC was exploring options, it was approached by other schools.

“[We have had] non-ACAC members who have actually knocked on our door, and said, ‘Listen, can we partner with you? We’re not part of your conference, but we understand you’re preparing to deliver e-sports as an activity, and we’re looking for a league,’” he said.

Read more:
Kodiaks men eye up chance at battling for ACAC volleyball title on home court: ‘We want that feeling’

AESA co-founder Victor Ly says he’s thrilled the ACAC approached his organization and that supporting e-sports in colleges just makes sense.

“E-sports has been around, especially in the college space, for years,” Ly said.

“Kids were playing arcade cabinets within their dorms, and there’s not a college dorm on the planet that you’re going to walk down the hallway and not see someone playing Smash Bros.”

Ly also works as an instructor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, which is now offering an e-sports management certificate.

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Ly and his co-founder Brad Jones created AESA in April of 2020, and Ly says the industry has seen even more growth than it was already experiencing thanks to COVID-19.

“The industry as a whole – in terms of gamership – has grown about 46 per cent, in terms of daily active users, and as a result stock prices for game developers have also gone up about 25 per cent during this time, so that is kind of the silver lining,” he said.

“E-sports at a global level has become a billion-dollar industry, from it’s very humble beginnings in these college dorms, in arcades, in our parents’ basements, and especially in the last five years, e-sports has become a legitimate career opportunity,” he said.

Read more:
Kodiaks confident despite heightened expectations ahead of new men’s volleyball season

Ly says the hope from both him and the ACAC is that one day e-sports teams could operate under the traditional collegiate athletics umbrella, with all the resources available to student athletes.

“The goal is to ultimately incorporate and sanction e-sports in line with traditional sports,” he said.

“What these colleges can provide are streamlined opportunities, scholarship opportunities, for these students that have these high aspirations, and to help supplement their growth.”

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At Lethbridge College, Caughlin says discussions have already started about how e-sports could look under the Kodiaks.

“We’ve already talked about how it would be housed under the athletics department, but it would be a true college team,” Caughlin said. “Because you don’t have to be an athlete – per se, as in on the court every day – to participate, but I wouldn’t ever want to run the program without the standards that we work so hard to put in place for all the student athletes.”

Caughlin said he believes the appetite for collegiate e-sports will quickly grow.

“You have to start somewhere, and I think once people start seeing the results of this, and that there is more structure to it, then I think we will see big interest,” he said.

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The CCAA FIFA20 Gaming Challenge is in action from Oct. 27 to Nov. 12. The first tournament put on by the ACAC and AESA — playing Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch — is set for Nov. 21.


© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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