updated 2:33 PM UTC, Aug 20, 2019

Tiger leaves door open to playing on Presidents Cup team

U.S. Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods said on Monday he may select himself to play for the team in December but he would need to see how sharp his game is before making the call.

Woods was not among the top eight players to automatically qualify for the squad after he finished 13th on the points list but he has the power to name himself to the roster with one of the four captain’s picks for the event at Royal Melbourne.

“My job as the captain is to put together the best team possible, to try to put together the best 12 guys,” he told reporters on a call.

“We’ll have open communication with our top eight guys and my vice captains and we will certainly talk about whether I should play or not play,” he said.

“Ultimately it is going to be my call,” added Woods.

Apart from his win at the Masters for his 15th major title, the 43-year-old had a relatively quiet season, which petered out with a whimper amid physical and emotional fatigue.

Woods missed the chance to defend his Tour Championship title when he could only manage to tie for 37th at the BMW Championship on Sunday, far from the sixth-place finish he likely needed to qualify for the season-ending event.

Woods said his Presidents Cup decision will depend on how he fares in informal rounds against players preparing for the fall season as well as his performance at the Zozo Championship in October in Japan.

“It’s practising, it’s playing, it’s staying sharp,” he said when asked what he needs to do to make the U.S. side, which has dominated the International team since the biennial event’s inception in 1994.

The only U.S. loss came in Melbourne in 1998 with a team that included Woods.

Stephens splits with coach Groeneveld ahead of U.S. Open

American Sloane Stephens has parted ways with her coach Sven Groeneveld less than a week before the U.S. Open gets underway, the former champion has said.

Stephens, who only teamed up with Dutchman Groeneveld in May, has not announced a replacement ahead of the year’s final Grand Slam, which begins on Monday.

"After much thought, Sven Groeneveld and I have decided to go our separate ways," 2017 champion Stephens said in a tweet.

“Change is never easy, but I’m so appreciative of our time together. Onward!”

Groeneveld, who has previously coached former world number ones Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova, thanked Stephens for their time together.

“I wish you a strong @usopen, you have all it takes, I believe in you!” he wrote on Twitter.

Vanquished Djokovic heaps praise on mercurial Medvedev

Novak Djokovic acknowledged he had rarely faced the sort of barrage a resilient Daniil Medvedev used so effectively to shock the world number one 3-6 6-3 6-3 in the Cincinnati Masters semi-finals on Saturday.

After losing the first set, Medvedev changed his approach midway through the second set, the Russian going for broke with pretty much every shot, particularly on second serve.

The complexion of the match changed in a heartbeat as Medvedev overpowered the previously dominant Djokovic.

“I did not experience this too many times in my career that someone goes so big on second serves and just serves two first serves basically for an extended period of time,” the vanquished Serbian told reporters.

“When someone serves a 128 miles-per-hour second serve and doesn’t make too many doubles faults and goes for every shot, you just have to put your hat down and congratulate him.”

Medvedev explained why he had switched tactics.

“I was so tired in the first set and playing Novak, I thought I’m not going to be able to keep the intensity,” the world number eight said in a courtside interview with ESPN.

“Then there was one momentum change in the second and I just started playing unbelievable.”

Medvedev added that it was par for the course to go for broke on his second serve when trailing in a match.

“I do it all the time when my second serve doesn’t work. Novak, he was destroying me on the second serve so at one moment, at three-all, love-30, I’m like ‘okay, what’s the matter.’”

He reeled off four successive points, including an ace on second serve, to hold and then broke Djokovic in the next game by ripping a winner down the line to seize the initiative.

Medvedev, who also beat Djokovic in April at Monte Carlo, will play Belgian David Goffin in the final on Sunday.

It will be the third successive final for 23-year-old Medvedev, who lost to Nick Kyrgios in Washington and Rafa Nada in Montreal.

Djokovic, meanwhile, will regroup for the U.S. Open starting on Monday week, and he did not sound particularly concerned by his latest defeat, preferring instead to heap praise on his opponent.

“He played amazing tennis from 4-3 in the second set. Not much that I could really do.

“He’s working his way to the top five (in the world). Today I did lose a tennis match, but I didn’t do too much wrong.”

GOFFIN THROUGH

The 16th seeded Goffin beat France’s Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 in the other semi-final.

“I’m really happy,” said Goffin. “I’ve played the best tennis here in the past few years... It’s a great moment for me.”

A quick break saw Goffin surge to a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line in the first set.

Gasquet grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second set before Goffin claimed five of the next six games.

He won the set and the match when a Gasquet backhand was long.

Goffin had received a walkover into the semi-finals after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw due to food poisoning.

“It was almost a day off, so I was fresh and physically 100 percent today to play against Richard,” the Belgian said.

Goffin added that he was “lost” after the walkover.

“I didn’t know what to do. Do I have another practice session, go to the physio and have some treatment? I didn’t know,” the Belgian said.

“I decided to go on the court for some practice and do what I normally do after.”

History repeats itself as McIlroy gets another police escort

Seven years after Rory McIlroy was given a police escort to make his tee time for the Ryder Cup, history repeated itself when the Northern Irishman received the same treatment for the third round of the BMW Championship in suburban Chicago.

In 2012 it was an urgent matter after European team member McIlroy got his starting time confused for the final day’s play at Medinah, before a police officer came to the rescue by escorting him swiftly to the course.

It was a more leisurely trip this time for McIlroy, who took up the offer of an escort from the local police department for a trip down memory lane.

He was greeted upon arriving at the course by the same officer who provided the 2012 escort.

The announcer on the first tee then had some fun, gently teasing McIlroy.

“From Northern Ireland, who is here thankfully on time, the 2016 FedEx Cup champion ... please welcome Rory McIlroy,” he said as the player smiled.

McIlroy shot two-under-par 70 for a share of 13th place behind runaway leader Justin Thomas.

Seven more Russian weightlifters banned

Another seven Russian weightlifters have been provisionally suspended for doping violations, joining five compatriots already banned from the sport earlier this week.

The International Weightlifting Federation said on Friday the seven had been charged based on data from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory.

The announcement come days after the IWF said five other Russian weightlifters had been provisionally suspended.

The latest batch include Dmitry Lapikov and Nadezhda Evstyukhina, who had Olympic medals from the 2008 Beijing Games stripped for doping.

“There is no certainty that there won’t be more suspensions,” the president of Russia’s weightlifting federation, Maxim Agapitov, told RIA news agency.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is in the process of analysing data retrieved earlier this year from the Moscow laboratory and submitting the results to international sports federations.

Barty stunned by Kuznetsova in Cincinnati semi-finals

Ash Barty stunningly lost her chance to regain the number one world ranking when the Australian was beaten in straight sets by Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters on Saturday.

Top seed Barty, who would have replaced the injured Naomi Osaka as the world number one with a victory, struggled with the rhythm off her serve as she lost 6-2 6-4, losing eight consecutive games to the Russian at one point.

Kuznetsova, ranked world number 153, will play the winner of Saturday’s later semi-final between Americans Madison Keys and Sofia Kenin for the title on Sunday.

Winner of the U.S. Open in 2004 and the French Open in 2009, the 34-year-old has struggled with injuries throughout her career but has now defeated Czech third seeded Karolina Pliskova and Barty in successive matches.

She entered the Cincinnati tournament as a wild card after earlier having issues in obtaining a U.S. visa that kept her from defending her Washington DC title.

“Maybe one week or two weeks helped me back home,” she said. “Something important happened in my life and now I feel better.”

Barty won the first two games, then lost the set as Kuznetsova, handling the Australian’s slices effectively and serving well, won the next six.

Barty at one point called a medical time-out to have her right ankle retaped.

But the streak continued in the second set, with Kuznetsova winning the opening two games before Barty held.

The Australian rallied to 4-3 and 5-4 before Kuznetsova served out the victory.

Murray to play singles in Winston-Salem next week

Andy Murray will play in the singles at next week’s Winston-Salem Open as he continues his comeback from hip surgery, tournament officials told Reuters on Thursday.

The Scot lost 6-4 6-4 to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati on Monday in his first singles match since January and later said he would not accept a wild card for the men’s draw at the U.S. Open, the year’s final Grand Slam.

“Andy will be playing singles, but he will not be playing doubles,” Bill Oakes, tournament director for the North Carolina event, said by telephone.

“It’s amazing to have a guy who has won three Grand Slams, been ranked number one and may be the fiercest competitor coming to Winston-Salem.”

The tournament starts on Sunday, and Murray, who will not be seeded, could play his first match on Monday, Oakes said, adding that he had met with Murray’s team two weeks ago in Washington and talks had continued this week.

Murray will be making his first appearance in the Winston-Salem tournament, though his brother Jamie has played there.

Murray, who reached the doubles quarter-finals with his partner Feliciano Lopez at the Cincinnati Open, told the BBC that he would play no part in next month’s U.S. Open in order to focus on his singles game.

“I’m not going to play doubles at the U.S. Open,” he said

“My goal is to get back playing at the level that I want to on the singles court, and I’ve decided that I need to focus all my energies on that right now.

“The US Open, doubles and mixed, can be another couple of weeks that you are slowing things down.”

Osaka survives Hsieh to reach quarters in Cincinnati

World number one Naomi Osaka survived a tough test against Hsieh Su-Wei and eked out a 7-6(3) 5-7 6-2 victory to reach her first ever quarter-final at the Cincinnati Masters on Thursday.

Osaka, who lost to Hsieh at the Miami Open in March, admitted a day earlier that the Taiwanese challenger was an unpredictable opponent for her.

But she was ready this time around, firing 15 aces and breaking Hsieh five times.

“I thought I did pretty well,” Osaka told reporters afterwards. “I feel like I knew going into the match that she was going to play really well. Like, we have such long matches every time we play, so I wasn’t expecting anything different this time around.” In the decisive third set, Osaka faced four break points on her opening service but fought them all off. She then seized four straight games to take firm control.

Osaka now gets a matchup with 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin who took down seventh-seed Elina Svitolina 6-3 7-6(3).

Earlier in the day, top seed Ash Barty overcame 49 unforced errors and a stiff challenge from Anett Kontaveit to reach the quarter-finals with a 4-6 7-5 7-5 win of the Cincinnati Masters on Thursday.

On a day of epic three-set battles, French Open champion Barty needed more than two hours to tame her Estonian rival, rifling a forehand winner on match point.

Barty set up a meeting with Maria Sakkari, who needed even longer to dispatch Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4 on a hot and humid day.

Venus Williams also went the distance before claiming a 2-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Croatia’s Donna Vekic.

The 39-year-old Williams has struggled at times this season but has been resilient in Cincinnati, defeating defending champion Kiki Bertens in three sets in the previous round.

“There are no easy matches out here,” Williams said.

“I cannot emphasise that enough.”

The seven-times Grand Slam champion will have her work cut out in the next round when she faces big-serving American Madison Keys who took down Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5. Keys fired 10 aces in a back and forth duel that nearly lasted two hours.

Third seed Karolina Pliskova, of Czech Republic, earned a straight set triumph to reach the quarter-final. She will meet Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova who upended American Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-2.

Wallabies eye history as All Blacks face World Cup pressure

Australia have their best chance of getting their hands on the Bledisloe Cup since 2002 on Saturday when they meet an All Blacks side facing the prospect of the wheels falling off their bid for a third successive World Cup.

The Wallabies revived their own World Cup prospects by producing arguably their best and most consistent 80 minutes of rugby in more than a decade in their record 47-26 win over the world champions in Perth last week.A fierce backlash is widely expected at Eden Park but if it fails to materialise and New Zealand go three matches without a win for the first time since 1998, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big questions to answer.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been under all kinds of pressure for the last four years and knows very well that the All Blacks typically follow a defeat to Australia by handing out a mauling in the following game.

Recent history is firmly against the visitors with Australia not having beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001 — a run of 22 losses — and winless in Bledisloe tests at Eden Park for the last 33 years.

Cheika, however, also recognised how close his side were to overturning a long period of frustration on Saturday.

“The Bledisloe Cup means a lot,” Cheika told reporters in Melbourne after he made one injury-enforced change to the side that won in Perth with Adam Coleman moving from the bench to the second row to replace Rory Arnold.

“It means a lot when you have it, but it probably means more when you don’t have it. That pursuit of trying to get it, sometimes you take a step off and say we’ll take the game in our stride.

“But that’s only hiding from the fact that we haven’t had it for a while and we are going to do our best to play well and get hold of the trophy, obviously.”

A loss on Saturday to their closest neighbours and giving up the Bledisloe Cup after 16 years would be the cause of major concern for rugby-mad New Zealand, whose fans have become accustomed to success after success from the All Blacks.

With the Perth drubbing, albeit after playing half the game with 14 men, coming after a home draw against South Africa, some are already questioning whether the All Blacks are losing their aura at just the wrong time with World Cup so close.

Hansen responded to the concerns by swinging the axe and dropping three formerly first-choice players in prop Owen Franks and outside backs Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane.

Australian media suggested Hansen was panicking just five weeks out from the global showpiece and while he confirmed the trio had been dropped, the coach added he had also needed to run an eye over his less-experienced players before the World Cup.

“Obviously we’d like to see Ben, Owen and Rieko playing better,” Hansen told reporters in Auckland.

“But we’ve made decisions because we’ve got to find out more about people ... in these big pressure cooker situations, and you don’t get much bigger than this one.

“We have to find out more about other people and to win this World Cup we have had to roll the dice a bit.

“We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think that the guys we’re putting in are good enough to do the job on Saturday ... I don’t think it’s a risk and there’s lots of rewards in it.”

Triathlon changes add to Tokyo 2020's heat headache

The International Triathlon Union’s decision to reduce the distance of the run segment in Thursday’s women’s Olympics qualifying event because of heat concerns is the latest setback for Tokyo 2020 organisers battling extreme temperatures.

The ITU reduced the distance of the run section with concerns the weather conditions at the end of the race would have fallen within “extreme levels”.

It is the latest of Tokyo 2020’s test events to highlight concerns over the sweltering summer temperatures that can be expected at next year’s July 24-Aug. 9 Games.

Soaring temperatures have killed at least 57 people across Japan since late July, highlighting the possible health threat to athletes and fans.

Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said lessons would be learnt from the triathlon event.

“The ITU informed Tokyo 2020 that a comprehensive review is necessary soon after the competitions this week,” Takaya said in a statement to Reuters.

“In this respect, we will continue to work closely together with the team.

“Tokyo 2020’s collaboration with the ITU (has) led to the implementation of measures to combat summer heat, including change of races’ start time, revised heat stress protocols, specially trained personnel and extra water stations on the course.”

The swimming and cycling segments remained the same after the ITU deemed the water quality and temperature in the Odaiba Marine Park course to be within regulation.

Thursday’s triathlon race, however, is another setback for Tokyo 2020 organisers, following a difficult period of test events.

Kyodo News reported last weekend that several athletes were treated for heatstroke at the 2019 World Rowing Junior Championships in Tokyo, which was another test event.

There were also complaints from spectators at the lack of protection from the sun, as the venue was constructed with the roof only covering about half of the 2,000 seats.

The decision was made in 2016 to reduce the size of the roof at the newly-built venue as a cost-cutting measure by Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“We will not be changing the venue in any way and will not be increasing the size of the stand cover before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” TMG told Reuters via email.

At the swimming marathon test event last weekend, also held at Odaiba Marine Park, local media reported athletes complaining of a bad smell in the water.

Tokyo organisers, however, said earlier this week the water quality was not an issue for the ITU, who were prepared to let their test event to go ahead as scheduled.

“The test results for the past week show that the water quality is good enough and that the number of E. Coli and enterococci are continuously well below the level of ITU criteria,” Tokyo 2020 told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday.

They added they would install more filtering screens ahead of the Games to those already in place after 2017 tests showed levels of E. Coli up to 20 times above the accepted limit and faecal coliform bacteria seven times higher.

The single-layer underwater screens installed in Tokyo Bay have helped reduce the bacteria, according to organisers.

“For next year, we will install triple-layer screens to assure the successful delivery of the competitions,” they added

“The installation of triple-layer screens takes a significant amount of time and... (so) we decided to go with the single-layer screen under the agreement with the federations.”

There are four Olympics test events happening in Tokyo this week, involving golf, sailing, triathlon and hockey.

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