Tagged in: classic

Naomi Osaka returns to court for first time since May, wins in first round of Silicon Valley Classic

Four-time major champion Naomi Osaka collected the first match she has played since May, defeating Zheng Qinwen 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 on Tuesday night at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

Osaka hit 11 aces and saved 7 of 8 break points in the hard-court tournament that serves as a tuneup for the US Open.

Osaka, who had not played anywhere since a first-round loss to Amanda Anisimova at the French Open on May 23, was all smiles after the match, waving and clapping back at the crowd, which gave her a standing ovation.

“It’s really good to be back,” she said in her on-court interview after the win. “I’m just really happy.”

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The former No. 1-ranked player was bothered by her left Achilles tendon during that defeat, then cited that lingering injury when she pulled out of Wimbledon in June. Osaka won the US Open in 2018 and 2020.

Next up for Osaka is Coco Gauff, who won her match 6-0, 6-1 over Anhelina Kalinina.

Osaka leads their head-to-head series 2-1, including a triumph over Gauff at the 2019 US Open. Gauff was the runner-up at this year’s French Open.

Another past champion at Flushing Meadows, 2019 winner Bianca Andreescu, lost Tuesday in San Jose, beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Shelby Rogers.

In other first-round action, qualifier Elizabeth Mandlik won her WTA debut, defeating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-3, 6-3, and No. 9 seed Veronika Kudermetova beat Camila Giorgi 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-5.

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Super Bowl preview: Rams-Bengals

When you think of a classic Super Bowl matchup, you think of two teams that have dominated their competition and run rampant through the playoffs. 

Rams vs. Bengals is not that matchup.

Both teams trailed in their respective conference championship matches as the fourth quarter started.

The Bengals needed a dramatic comeback and a spectacular self-destruction from the Chiefs to move on. The Rams blew a 24-point lead in the divisional round versus the Bucs and needed Jaquiski Tartt to drop a gift-wrapped interception to spur their win over the 49ers.

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And yet, both teams are here because their stars did star things. Cooper Kupp and Ja’Marr Chase made huge catches to set up game-winning field goals. 

Jessie Bates started the Titans game with an interception and sent the Chiefs’ offense to the sideline for the winter by creating another. Aaron Donald finished Jimmy Garoppolo’s 49ers career with a pressure to force a pick. Joe Burrow ducked through a sure sack to scramble for a critical first down.

These two teams have weapons on both sides of the ball that can single-handedly decide games. Winning this game, then, might come down to whichever team can diminish or even eliminate as many of those mismatches as possible.

The Bengals, helpless for most of the first half in the AFC title game, shut down Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and the entire Chiefs offense after the break.

The Rams limited the vaunted 49ers rushing attack to 50 yards on 20 carries. We know what these teams and their stars are capable of doing.

Whichever team stops more of those stars wins this game.

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