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Latest – American Serena Williams was knocked out in the fourth round of the French Open by Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Sunday, losing 6-3 7-5 to the 21st seed.

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Photo: Photosport Ltd 2021

Williams, 39, was below her best as her wait for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title went on.

Rybakina held her nerve superbly to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final, sealing victory as Williams struck a backhand return out.

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There was no big celebration though from the 21-year-old whose reaction was as if she had just finished a practice session, rather than beating a true great of the sport in her first ever match against her.

From the moment Rybakina polished off her first two service games without dropping a point she looked completely unfazed by the reputation of the player across the net.

And she finished the match off as coolly as she ‘celebrated’.

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“Everybody laughs about my reactions, to be honest, but I mean, for me it’s much easier like this, not to show any reactions,” the 21-year-old Rybakina said of her nonchalant response to the biggest win of her career.

“Of course inside it’s like a lot of different emotions. I’m happy. I’m really calm person, but on top of this, all my nerves inside sometimes is good. Sometimes of course it’s not, because to hold everything inside it’s not possible.

“One day it’s going to explode, and who knows when, so it’s dangerous for other people, especially close ones.”

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Rybakina, who is playing in only her seventh Grand Slam main draw, will now face 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the last 16.

“I just try to forget now about this match and keep on focusing for another on,” she said.

Reuters

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Evert 100% behind Federer’s decision to pull out of French Open

Roger Federer’s decision to withdraw from the French Open, having fought his way into the fourth round the previous evening, received a mixed reaction.

The 39-year-old Swiss came thorough a fierce battle with Germany’s Dominik Koepfer in a match lasting over three and a half hours and finishing at nearly 1am.

It set up a last-16 clash with Italian Matteo Berrettini but having hinted after his win that he would have to think seriously about his next move, Federer, who has played only six matches in 17 months and underwent knee surgery last year, pulled out as a precaution ahead of Wimbledon.

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Seven-time French Open winner Chris Evert said 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer had earned the right to do what he wanted, but others were less charitable.

“I think Roger has free rein to do whatever he wants,” Evert, an analyst for Eurosport, told Reuters shortly after Federer’s withdrawal was confirmed.

“He has paid his dues, he’s 39, his goal is Wimbledon on the grass, his dream tournament, where the rallies are shorter and it favours mobility and power.

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“I’m 100% behind him and it shouldn’t be a knock to the tournament. He wants to be the best prepared for Wimbledon.”

Former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee criticised Federer on Twitter, when rumours that the Swiss might pull out began to circulate.

“You’re not at a candy store, able to pick and choose which matches you play, as your actions affect others, and the tournament,” he said.

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Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas said he was “surprised” at Federer’s decision but Russian Daniil Medvedev, the world number two, said it was understandable and Federer should not be criticised for his decision.

Reuters

Giants rebound with quality win

The Nelson Giants have responded to Thursday’s dramatic one-point loss to the Manawatu Jets by disposing of the Taranaki Airs 100-86 on Sunday.

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Giants player Tysxun Aiolupotea

Giants player Tysxun Aiolupotea
Photo: Photosport

The Giants settled into their game early, Hunter Hale and Donte Ingram finding their range to push the home team to a 29-16 lead at the first break.

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By the end of the half, the Giants held a 57-35 lead, and were equally dominant on the boards.

Though down by as much as 34 points at one stage, the Airs battled back late to win the last quarter 27-14, but it all came too late.

The win pushes the Giants up to equal-fourth, four points astray of competition leaders Southland while Taranaki prop up the ladder with just one win from nine games.

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In Saturday’s games, the Manawatu Jets overwhelmed the Franklin Bulls 118-86, while the Hawke’s Bay Hawks edged the Auckland Huskies 80-75.

Hassan smashes women’s 10,000 metres world record

Dutch long-distance runner Sifan Hassan broke the women’s 10,000 metres world record on Sunday, clocking 29 minutes 6.82 seconds in a Continental Tour meeting on home soil in Hengelo, World Athletics said.

Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana held the previous record of 29:17.45, set at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but Hassan shaved more than 10 seconds off that mark.

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Hassan is the reigning world champion having won gold in Doha in 2019 and the 28-year-old set down a marker before next month’s Tokyo Games, blowing away the competition and sprinting solo across the line with her arms outstretched in celebration.

Hassan also holds the record for the mile, one-hour event and five-kilometre road race.

Reuters

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Biles warms up for Olympics with seventh US title

Simone Biles again showed her quality, outclassing the field at the US Gymnastics Championships to claim a record seventh all-around national title and make her selection to the Tokyo Olympic team a mere formality.

Simone Biles

Simone Biles
Photo: AFLOSPORT

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Biles won four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and will be targeting the same haul or more in Tokyo. She added to her billing as the greatest gymnast of all time, putting up a winning score of 119.65, almost a full five points clear of second place Sunisa Lee on 114.95.

“It’s really emotional, especially going into my second time doing a Olympic run, it’s really crazy,” said Biles, who has won every all-around competition she’s contested since the 2013 US Championships.

“It’s been a lot of fun but it’s been a lot of stress too.

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In what was just her second competition in 18 months, Biles shook off any remaining rust. She delivered a dazzling display that left the crowd in awe, even without pulling out her show stoppers like the Yurchenko double-pike vault which she is the only woman to land in competition.

The reigning world and Olympic all-around champion showed little emotion as she ran through her routines, posting top marks on three of four apparatus – the vault, floor exercise and balance beam.

– Reuters

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