Serena Slam finished, Williams turns eyes to US Open

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LONDON (AP) Before Serena Williams moves on from completing a second “Serena Slam” to pursuing tennis’ first true Grand Slam in more than a quarter-century, it’s worth pausing to appreciate what she’s done.

First of all, there are the statistics. And what statistics they are:

– She’s won 21 Grand Slam titles; only Steffi Graf, with 22, has more in the Open era of professional tennis (the all-time record is Margaret Court’s 24).

– Her 6-4, 6-4 victory over Garbine Muguruza in Saturday’s final gave Williams six Wimbledon titles; only Martina Navratilova (with nine) and Graf (with seven) have more. Williams also has a half-dozen trophies each from the U.S. Open and Australian Open, along with three from the French Open.

– She’s won 28 Grand Slam matches in a row and four consecutive major titles over two seasons, something last done by – guess who? – Williams in 2002-03, when she coined the term “Serena Slam.”

– At 33, she is the oldest woman to win a major title in the Open era, nearly a month older than Navratilova was at Wimbledon in 1990.

It’s all impressive. And it all helps Williams believe she can continue this remarkable run at the U.S. Open, which begins in late August in New York. A trophy there would give Williams a calendar-year Grand Slam, which no one – not even Roger Federer – has accomplished in tennis since Graf did it in 1988.

Only two other women (Maureen Connolly in 1953, and Court in 1970) and two men (Don Budge in 1938, and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969) have pulled off the feat, and none of them had to deal with the intense media scrutiny of this day and age.

“I feel like I’ll be OK. I feel like if I can do the `Serena Slam,’ I will be OK heading into the Grand Slam. Like I always say, `There’s 127 other people that don’t want to see me win.’ Nothing personal, they just want to win,” Williams said, referring to the size of the field at a major tournament. “I had a really tough draw (at Wimbledon). This gives me confidence that if I had this draw, I can do it again. I’ll just do the best I can.”

Her best is the best there is, and might ever have been. But her story is about so much more than the numbers associated with her greatness. There’s the resilience she’s shown away from the court, too, dealing with various injuries, none more worrisome than what happened in the aftermath of her 2010 Wimbledon championship.

A few days following that final, Williams cut both feet on broken glass while leaving a restaurant in Germany. She needed two operations on her right foot. Then she got blood clots in her lungs, and needed to inject herself with a blood thinner. Those shots led to a pool of blood gathering under her stomach’s skin, requiring another procedure in the hospital.

She would be off the tour for 10 months, and go two years between major titles. Since then, though, she has won eight of the past 13 Grand Slam tournaments.

On Saturday evening, hours after admiring the gold letters of her name on the board in a hallway of the Centre Court building listing Wimbledon’s champions, Williams sat with a small group of reporters for one final interview.

As she picked at the remnants of ankle tape near a jagged scar on her lower right leg, Williams was asked whether, as she looks back on her career, she divides it into phases.

She began to answer, then paused and said: “Or there was that stage where I was in the hospital. Like, that wasn’t so fun. I was doing really well, and then I ended up in the hospital. So that was kind of devastating. But ultimately, I think that stage set up this stage, you know? And … yeah, I think it worked out for me.”

Certainly did.

Howard Fendrich covers tennis for The Associated Press. Write to him at hfendrich(at)ap.org or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Peacock Classic 2022: How to watch Gonzaga vs. Baylor, live stream info and game preview

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Two of men’s college basketball’s elite programs are set to face off when the No. 6 Baylor Bears and No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs play in the inaugural “Peacock Classic” Friday night. The game marks a rematch of the highly-anticipated 2021 NCAA National Championship Game, and the Zags will certainly look to get some revenge after Baylor ended their bid at an undefeated season.

The two programs boast two of the best coaches in the country, with Scott Drew of Baylor and Mark Few of Gonzaga working the sidelines. The “Peacock Classic” also marks a crucial point in the development of name, image and likeness deals at the collegiate level. Read on to learn everything you need to know ahead of the event.


How to watch the 2022 “Peacock Classic”

Only those with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan can stream the event. Sign up here or, if you have a free account, upgrade to Premium by going to your account settings.


A new world of NIL opportunities

For the first time, college athletes will be able to earn money by promoting a game in which they are playing.

Eligible players for both Baylor and Gonzaga can opt-in through NBC Sports Athlete Direct – a NIL community connecting student-athletes, advertisers and fans – and promote the game’s sponsors on their personal social media channels.

All participating players will be paid the same rate for their involvement.


Rematch of 2021 NCAA National Championship Game and series history

Baylor’s 86-70 victory over Gonzaga in the 2021 championship game marked the Bears’ first-ever NCAA men’s basketball title. The game carried added stakes since the Bulldogs entered it with a 31-0 record – the first team to make the championship game without a loss since Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in 1979.

That matchup was a rightful bout between the two behemoths of that season – it was the first championship game that featured the tournament’s top two overall seeds since North Carolina beat Illinois in 2005. Baylor jumped all over Gonzaga in the early going, playing an aggressive style that prevented the Bulldogs from getting into their fluid offense and opened up its own attack for 3-pointers. Gonzaga was a -4.5-point favorite but never led in the game.

Gonzaga leads the all-time series between the teams 5-1, having won all their matchups with Baylor before the championship game. The previous meeting before 2021 saw Gonzaga eliminate Baylor from the 2019 NCAA tournament in the second round by a score of 83-71.


How Baylor and Gonzaga match up with each other

Both teams have been tested multiple times early in their seasons. Gonzaga (5-2) has defeated two teams currently ranked – No. 20 Michigan State and No. 19 Kentucky – but lost to No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Purdue. The Zags last played on Sunday, when they outlasted Xavier 88-84 to secure third place in the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Baylor (5-2) has had it slightly easier but has still had to deal with talented teams; they lost to No. 3 Virginia and defeated No. 21 UCLA in back-to-back games earlier this month. They’re coming off a surprising 96-70 loss to Marquette in Wisconsin Tuesday night as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Gonzaga will face a tough task in trying to slow down Baylor’s offense, whose 88.1 points per game ranks ninth in the country.

The Bears are paced by a duo of strong guards. LJ Cryer leads the team at 17.9 points per game, and Adam Flagler is not far behind at 16.9 points per contest while averaging 6.9 assists.

Baylor also boasts the services of freshman Keyonte George, another talented guard who could be a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Naismith Player of the Year Award candidate Drew Timme leads the way for the Zags, averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s flanked by Julian Strawther, who’s putting up 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per night.

Timme and Strawther are two of the six Gonzaga players left over from the 2021 finalist team, so vengeance will be top of mind. Baylor also has six holdovers from that championship matchup, including Cryer and Flagler.

With both teams ranked and looking to prove themselves early in the season, Friday will be a statement game – in more ways than one.

Davide Rebellin dies after hit by truck while training

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MILAN — Italian cyclist Davide Rebellin, one of the sport’s longest-serving professionals, died after being struck by a truck while training. He was 51.

Rebellin was riding near the town of Montebello Vicentino in northern Italy when he was hit by a truck near a motorway junction. The vehicle did not stop, although Italian media reported that the driver may have been unaware of the collision.

Local police are working to reconstruct the incident and find the driver.

Rebellin had only retired from professional cycling last month, bringing to an end a career that had spanned 30 years. He last competed for Work Service-Vitalcare-Dynatek and the UCI Continental team posted a tribute on its social media accounts.

“Dear Davide, keep pedaling, with the same smile, the same enthusiasm and the same passion as always,” the Italian team said. “This is not how we imagined the future together and it is not fair to have to surrender so suddenly to your tragic absence.”

“To your family, your loved ones, your friends and all the enthusiasts who, like us, are crying for you right now, we just want to say that we imagine you on a bicycle, looking for new roads, new climbs and new challenges even up there, in the sky.”

Rebellin’s successes included victories at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico as well as winning a stage in the 1996 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which he also led for six stages.

Rebellin won silver in the road race at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he was later stripped of his medal and banned for two years after a positive doping test. He had denied wrongdoing.