Roundup: Williams sisters sent packing in doubles
A day later, things weren’t much better for Venus Williams.
And this time, her sister Serena, was around to feel the pain.
The three-time doubles gold medalists lost an Olympic match as partners for the first time, stunned in the opening round by the Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, 6-3, 6-4.
The Williams sisters entered Sunday’s match 15-0 at the Olympics, winning the gold medal in women’s doubles every time they entered the event: in 2000, 2008 and 2012.
“We played terrible,” Serena said. “And it showed.”
This was the 34-year-old Serena’s second match of the day: The 22-time major singles champion won her first-rounder in that event earlier Sunday. The 36-year-old Venus, meanwhile, now has two first-round exits at the Rio Olympics, because she was beaten in singles on Saturday night.
The American duo was seeded No. 1 and coming off a 14th Grand Slam championship together at Wimbledon a month ago.
The Czechs, meanwhile, are unseeded. They weren’t even supposed to be playing together at the Olympics. Strycova was a late replacement for Karolina Pliskova, who withdrew from the tournament.
Indeed, Strycova and Safarova had played only one match as a team before Sunday — and they lost that, in a Fed Cup match last year.
“That’s true, but we are really good friends. We know each other’s games,” said Strycova, never better than a doubles semifinalist at a Grand Slam tournament. “I know what I have to do on the court, and she knows what she has to do.”
Safarova is a strong doubles player, and she won two major titles in 2015 with Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States.
When the Czechs found out who they’d be facing to start things off in Brazil, Safarova said their reaction was: “The draw could be better.”
And then she and Strycova started laughing.
“But it was a challenge,” Safarova continued, “and we love challenges. We had nothing to lose. We stepped out there today and played a great game and deserved to win.”
Safarova and Strycova did their best to keep hitting shots toward Venus when she was at the baseline, while Serena was left to stand near the net and watch those exchanges.
“I wasn’t playing the way I needed to play,” Serena said. “I wasn’t crossing the way I need to cross.”
The Williams sisters appeared to be getting back into the match in the second set, which was even at 4-all.
But Venus got broken there, allowing Strycova to serve out the surprising victory.
“Lucie was playing unbelievable from the baseline,” Strycova said. “She was hitting amazing winners, returns.”
At that point, Safarova interjected: “And Barbora was a magician at the net.”
Djokovic ousted; Nadal moves on
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic was swept out of the singles tournament at the Olympics in the first round by 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), in a result that left both players sobbing.
After three left wrist surgeries that had him contemplating retirement from tennis, del Potro is ranked just 145th in the world.
But in the second-set tiebreaker, the big Argentine crushed two straight forehand winners on Djokovic’s serve to take a 3-0 lead. It would be 5-0 before Djokovic scored a point.
Del Potro hit 41 winners Sunday, 29 on his forehand. Djokovic, a 12-time major champion, had more unforced errors than winners: 32-26.
Rafael Nadal, who’s been battling a wrist injury, was back in action for his first match in 2½ months and scored a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis.
Nadal appeared a tad tentative in the early going against Delbonis, a fellow left-hander who is ranked 43rd, but eventually displayed confidence with his heavy-topspin forehand, producing half of his 14 winners with that stroke.
Dutch cyclist overtakes Americans to win women’s gold
The Americans had another shattering disappointment in the women’s road race when three cyclists blew past Mara Abbott within sight of the finish line. Dutch rider Anna van der Breggen led the charge, giving the Netherlands back-to-back golds in the event.
Van der Breggen was greeted first by a light mist and then moments later by compatriot Marianne Vos, who won gold in London, where a puncture near the finish line cost American rider Shelley Olds a spot on the podium.
... Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten sustained three small fractures to her spine and is in intensive care at a Rio hospital after her crash during the race.
Van Vleuten was leading on the fast, slippery downhill toward the final stretch when she appeared to lock up her brakes. She tumbled onto the road and lay on the pavement as the rest of the field swept past.
Another gold for China’s Wu Minxia
Wu Minxia ended her record-setting Olympic career the way it began: with a gold medal.
Shi Tingmao and Wu totaled 345.60 points to win the women’s 3-meter synchronized title. They led throughout the five-round competition and won by a whopping 31.77 points.
“We have a high standard,” Wu said through a translator.
Wu claimed her fourth consecutive gold in the event, becoming the first woman to win four golds in the same event at the Olympics. She also won in 2004, 2008 and 2012, and has had three partners.
Italy’s Tania Cagnotto and Francesca Dallape took silver at 313.83.
“We are used to diving against the Chinese,” Cagnotto said. “We don’t even think about the gold. Gold is for China.”
U.S. men fall in volleyball
Brothers Erik and Kawika Shoji and the young U.S. men’s volleyball team lost its opener in straight sets to Canada.
The No. 5-ranked Americans watched as the hard-hitting and 12th-ranked Canadians celebrated in the first pool-play match for both countries.
Tied 23-23 in the third set, Canada held on after ending the second set on a 10-2 run.
Upsets the norm in fencing
Monumental upsets have been the theme of the fencing tournament, and the men’s foil competition produced the biggest yet.
Brazil’s Guilherme Toldo, ranked 66th in the world, beat Japan’s Yoki Ota, 15-13. Ota is ranked No. 2.
The top three fencers in women’s epee were knocked out before the semifinals.
South Korea dominates archery
The South Koreans win the women’s team archery title all the time. Seriously, all the time — 8-for-8 since the event was added in 1988.
And, Ki Bo-bae, Choi Mi-sun and Chang Hye-jin weren’t the least bit bothered by a swirling wind as they led South Korea past Russia, 5-1, in the final, giving the country a sweep after the men won Saturday.
Kosovo gets first medal in judo
Kosovo moves to top of podium for first time in history
Majlinda Kelmendi won Kosovo’s first Olympic medal, taking gold in the 52-kilogram judo division.
The top-ranked Kelmendi struggled for years to represent her country, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. At the last Olympics she represented Albania because Kosovo was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee until 2014.
China’s Long Qingquan set a world record in winning Olympic gold in the men’s weightlifting 53-kilogram category. His score of 307 kilograms was aided by a final 170-kilo lift in clean and jerk.
... Olympic organizers say Kenya is sending a track and field official Michael Rotich home over “very serious allegations” he offered to protect cheating athletes from drug testing.
... The entire Russia team was banned from competing in next month’s Paralympic Games in Rio as punishment for the country running a doping operation.
News wire services