Tagged in: return

23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams skips practice ahead of doubles match that will mark competitive return

Serena Williams skipped her arranged practice session at Eastbourne with late notice on Monday as the 23-time Grand Slam champion prepares to make her return to competition after a year away.

Williams trained at a nearby club over the weekend and was expected to have an on-site session at Devonshire Park ahead of playing doubles with Ons Jabeur. Their first match is set for Tuesday versus Sara Sorribes Tormo and Marie Bouzkova.

Williams, 40, who hasn’t competed anywhere since she was injured in the first round of Wimbledon last year, was awarded a wild card for singles at the All England Club.

Jabeur stated it was “unbelievable” to have been asked by Williams to be part of her journey back to competition at the Wimbledon warm-up. “I’m a good secret keeper — yes, I’ve known [since] before the French Open,” said the No. 3-ranked Jabeur, who arrived at Eastbourne after winning the title in Berlin on Sunday.

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“Many players were jealous because I’m playing with her. Honestly, Serena is Serena. She is a legend and always will be.”

Jabeur said she is hoping to learn “even like 2% from it.”

“Now I’m joking with other doubles players,” she said. “I was like, ‘If you have minus 20 grand slams, don’t even ask me to play doubles with you anymore.'”

Jabeur has pulled out of the singles at Eastbourne following her run to the title in Germany and will play only the doubles. Still, she’ll likely be kept busy this week given her partner.

“I cannot wait to see her; I haven’t seen her yet,” Jabeur said of Williams. “Hopefully we will get together and talk a little bit and see, because I’m really pumped. I want to win this doubles and why not win the title here, you know?”

Among those to advance in the singles Monday were three qualifiers — Donna Vekic, Kirsten Flipkens and Lesia Tsurenko — and a wild card in Britain’s Jodie Burrage. American player Alison Riske was beaten by Magda Linette of Poland 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (4).

In the men’s event, sixth-seeded Alex de Minaur of Australia started his title defense by beating Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3. Two Americans — fifth-seeded Reilly Opelka and seventh-seeded Frances Tiafoe — lost in the first round on Monday.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft tight end, but GM says that won’t affect potential Rob Gronkowski return

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did select a tight end to start the fourth round of the NFL draft on Saturday — taking Washington’s Cade Otton with the 106th overall pick — general manager Jason Licht stated that would not affect the status of Rob Gronkowski, who remains undecided about playing in 2022.

“I’m still giving him that time,” Licht said Friday night prior to the Buccaneers’ selection.

“We still talk. I think it didn’t matter if we drafted two tight ends. It wouldn’t matter. I think Rob welcomes that; the more the merrier for him. So that doesn’t show our hand on or foretell what’s going to happen in the future.”

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Speaking from his “Gronk Beach” party at the NFL draft in Las Vegas, Gronkowski told TMZ that he was still undecided on his future but that the Buccaneers are the only team he would contemplate playing for next season.

“It’s just the Bucs,” Gronkowski said. “Love that organization, man. Love the guys there. It’s family over there.”

Gronkowski is still living in Tampa, Florida, and has worked out at the Buccaneers’ facility this offseason two days per week to stay in shape.

Otton, who had 695 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 39 matches for the Huskies, helps offset not only the potential loss of Gronkowski but also the loss of former first-round draft pick O.J. Howard, who signed with the Buffalo Bills in free agency.

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Roger Federer plans return to tournament play at Swiss Indoors

Roger Federer intends to return to tournament tennis after what will have been more than a year away from the tour by playing at the Swiss Indoors in October.

The event in Basel revealed in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday that the 20-time Grand Slam champion “has officially entered the tournament and will appear on the entry list with the protected ATP ranking” of No. 9.

His agent, Tony Godsick, confirmed Federer’s plan to The Associated Press.

Federer’s first match there is scheduled for Oct. 25, according to the website. The Swiss star has not played a competitive match since losing to Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0 in the Wimbledon quarterfinals on July 7.

Soon after that defeat, Federer had surgery to repair damage to his meniscus and cartilage in his right knee — the third time in a span of 1½ years that knee was operated on.

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Federer, 40, has won a men’s record eight championships at the All England Club.

He and Novak Djokovic are tied for the second-most overall major tennis titles acquired by a man; they trail Rafael Nadal, who has 21.

Federer said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in November that he expected to miss Wimbledon this year — it starts on June 27 — and was not sure when, if ever, he might be able to play again at a high level, although he did “want to see one last time what I’m capable of as a professional tennis player.”

In February, Federer and Nadal announced they were both planning to participate in the Laver Cup in London on Sept. 23-25.

That would mark Federer’s return to action for the first time since last July — albeit not at a full-fledged tournament but at a team event founded by his management company.

Federer has won the Swiss Indoors trophy 10 times. The tournament will return this year after being called off in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Chicago Bulls’ Patrick Williams to make return against Toronto Raptors

Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams will return Monday night versus the Toronto Raptors to play in his first game since having wrist surgery in October, the team said Sunday.

Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has not played since Oct. 28, when he tore ligaments in his left wrist during the fifth game of the season.

Although he started the season in the starting lineup, Williams is expected to return in a reserve role with a minutes restriction. “He’s anxious to get back,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Friday.

“Physically, he feels good. He knows the timing part is going to take a little bit of time. But I think just how he feels and where he’s at mentally, he wants to come back and play.”

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Williams, 20, had a promising rookie season as one of the youngest players in his draft class, but his second season didn’t get off to much of a start.

He averaged 6.6 points on 56.5% shooting and 2.2 rebounds in five games before he tore his wrist ligaments falling on a flagrant foul by the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson.

While the Bulls were on a three-game West Coast road trip this past week, Williams remained in Chicago to practice with the Windy City Bulls, the team’s G League affiliate.

Donovan said reports have been encouraging about Williams’ conditioning but that his timing was off after being sidelined for five months.

The Bulls are on a back-to-back Monday and Tuesday, and Donovan stated it was possible that Williams could play in both games.

Williams’ return comes as the Bulls are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped eight of their past 10 games. They started Sunday fifth in the Eastern Conference. “He makes our team better,” Donovan told reporters.

“There’ll probably be some growing pains of him finding a rhythm. With Patrick, the biggest thing is going to be how he fits into a rotation and what a realistic number of minutes look like for him.”

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Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry has sprained left foot, expected to return by playoffs

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is expected to return for the beginning of the Western Conference playoffs with a left foot sprain, but will undergo further evaluation with specialists, sources told ESPN.

Curry and the Warriors are conferring with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a renowned foot specialist, on the injury, sources said.

Curry suffered the injury in a collision with Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart on Wednesday night, and an MRI overnight revealed the foot sprain. There’s no structural damage and Curry is considered to have avoided serious injury, sources said.

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The play occurred in the second quarter when Curry and Smart dove for a loose ball and Smart rolled on top of Curry’s leg.

Curry initially tried to walk off the pain but left the game after being checked out on the bench. After halftime, he was ruled out for the rest of the night.

Neither Warriors coach Steve Kerr or forward Draymond Green called the play on which Curry was injured dirty but deemed it “dangerous” and “unnecessary.”

“I saw the ball, I dove for the ball, trying to make a play,” Smart stated after the game. “Unfortunately, that occurred.”

Curry’s injury comes just two games after Green returned from a back injury that held him out two-and-a-half months. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, who returned from two-and-a-half-month hiatus in January, have played just 11 minutes together this campaign.

“It seems like every time we get someone back, someone else goes down,” Green said. “So, it’s definitely a worry.”

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Naomi Osaka rallies past Sloane Stephens in return at Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka made a winning return to the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, rallying to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a first-round meeting of former major champions.

Trailing 2-0 in the third set, Osaka fought off three break points to hold and begin a run of six consecutive games to close out the match in just under two hours. She broke Stephens three times in the set, including at love in the sixth game.

“That was a really good test for me,” Osaka said.

Cold winds blowing from 20 to 30 mph sent debris swirling around the court.

“I felt like I was fighting for my life. I was fighting against her, I was fighting against the wind. It was crazy,” Osaka said.

“I’m really proud with how I handled it.” Osaka, the 2018 winner at Indian Wells, is back in the desert for the first time since 2019. The Japanese star hadn’t played a tournament since January when she lost in the round of 32 at the Australian Open.

Having played only a handful of events last year, her ranking has dropped to 78th in the world.

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“I keep taking these long breaks,” she said. “I do need to play a lot more matches and I do need to give myself the opportunity to get more into the swing of things.”

Osaka has stated she has faced bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018.

The four-time major champion withdrew from the French Open last year to preserve her mental health.

Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, lost for the first time in three career meetings with Osaka. The American’s ranking has dropped to 38th, although she was coming off a win in the tournament at Guadalajara, Mexico, last month.

Other first-round winners were Yulia Putintseva, Daria Saville and Tereza Martincova. Shelby Rogers, an Indian Wells quarterfinalist last year, needed nearly three hours to get by Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (3).

In men’s first-round matches, Americans Mackenzie McDonald, Jenson Brooksby, Jack Sock and J.J. Wolf all won.

Christopher Eubanks saved three match points in outlasting Maxime Cressy 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in an all-American matchup. Nick Kyrgios, who received a wild card, beat Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-0.

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UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman has hand surgery, is targeting July return

The best MMA fighter in the world went under the knife Monday.

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman had surgery to repair a ligament in his hand, Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA confirmed to ESPN. UFC president Dana White posted a gruesome photo of the operation on social media.

Abdelaziz stated Usman is targeting a return for International Fight Week, the UFC’s big annual summer celebration in Las Vegas. UFC 276, the culmination of this year’s festivities, is arranged for July 2 at T-Mobile Arena. Abdelaziz would not say which hand Usman had surgery on.

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White has said that Usman’s next title defense likely will come versus top contender Leon Edwards, who is coming off a win over Nate Diaz last June.

ESPN has Usman ranked as the top pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world.

Usman (20-1) is putting together one of the best resumes in UFC history. The Nigeria native, who grew up in Texas, has won 15 consecutive fights, one off the UFC record winning streak held by former middleweight champion and all-time great Anderson Silva. Usman, 34, is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Colby Covington at UFC 268 last November.

Usman has been welterweight champion since 2019, collecting five title defenses.

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LeBron James, thrilled to be ‘able to play basketball,’ steers Los Angeles Lakers to victory in return

LeBron James picked things back up right where he left them, continuing his offensive surge with 29 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-115 overtime victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday following a five-game absence with swelling in his left knee.

“After the first quarter, the knee loosened up a lot more,” James said after accompanying the points with 13 rebounds and 10 assists to notch his 103rd career triple-double. “My mind loosened up a lot more. And I was just able to play basketball. But just excited to be back in the uniform, back on the floor with my guys. Missed them, missed the game. I was happy I was able to make a few plays and help us win a ballgame.”

Los Angeles went 1-4 without him and his return initially didn’t seem to do much to impact that trend as the Knicks led 42-29 after the first quarter. But James, who stated he “didn’t feel that great” during his pregame warmup as he attempted to play a game for the first time in a week and a half, got it going and so did his team, coming back from as many as 21 points, accounting for the franchise’s biggest comeback since December 2015.

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“It’s a hell of a return,” said Anthony Davis who put up 28 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. “He’s doing LeBron-type things. Expected nothing less from him. Efficient from the field. S—, he did what he’s supposed to do. He helped us, for sure. So, I missed him. He’s a big part of our team with his voice, his leadership, play-making ability. And he came back and showed it.”

James extended his streak of scoring 25-plus points to 19 games, the second longest streak of that nature of his 19-year career.

He played 39 minutes and 55 seconds on Saturday, which Lakers coach Frank Vogel admitted was more than he wanted to play the 37-year old in his first game back.

“He’s incredible,” Vogel said. “I guess the time off served him well. We didn’t want to play him 39 minutes and obviously the overtime impacted that, but just played a great basketball game. His defensive competitive spirit and IQ is everything to us and the way he scores the basketball in all ways and the way he sets up teammates it’s just, it’s rare and he was special tonight. Just a great performance.”

While James was out, one of his professional athlete peers, Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, retired after 22 seasons in the NFL.

“I personally was just so in shock when I saw it … as a guy who’s kind of been my motivation factor over the last few years, seeing what he’s able to do at his age and always kind of being a leader of a team and even at his age people still gravitate towards him and gravitate towards his energy and how he prepares and things of that nature,” James said. “So, a small piece of me definitely left when Brady decided to retire, that’s for sure.”

James has one more season on his deal with the Lakers, that will take him through 20 seasons in the NBA.

Even at this stage of his career, there’s no disputing his importance to the Lakers. He was a plus-12 in the minutes he appeared on the court, and he played all but one minute and 29 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime to close things out.

“I mean obviously the computer — his ability to process and read offensively, it’s something that’s always missed,” Vogel said. “You miss him on both ends, but I would say in this situation, late game, that’s where you miss him the most.”

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DeRozan leads Bulls over Lakers 115-110 in team’s return

DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points after missing two weeks in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 115-110 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Lonzo Ball added 19 points as the Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak. It was Chicago’s first match since Dec. 11 after two were postponed.

LeBron James had 31 points, Carmelo Anthony added 21 and Russell Westbrook 20 as Los Angeles dropped its second straight.

With the Bulls trailing by a point in the final minute, DeRozan hit an 18-footer for a 111-110 lead with 52 seconds remaining. Following a Lakers miss, DeRozan missed a shot but then was fouled with 15.6 seconds left after Ball grabbed the offensive rebound. DeRozan then hit both free throws for a 113-110 edge.

Like much of the first two months of the season, the Bulls turned to DeRozan in crunch time and he delivered.

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“It’s an honor to be trusted in those moments,” he said. “I never take it for granted. It’s an adrenaline rush that you can’t duplicate, so you try to make the most of it every time you’re put in that position. There’s nothing like it. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, and I’m willing to take both.”

Before having two matches postponed last week due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the Bulls had 10 players in the health and safety protocols. That number is down to four right now, including All-Star Zach LaVine.

Although the Lakers haven’t had any games postponed, they currently have six players — Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker. Dwight Howard, Malik Monk and Austin Reaves — and coach Frank Vogel in the health and safety protocols.

Assistant David Fizdale served as coach on Sunday.

It also was Los Angeles’ first match since forward Anthony Davis sprained his left knee on Friday. He is expected to miss four weeks.

“Obviously we’re doing things on the fly, figuring out how to play with the lineups we have and the people we have available,” Westbrook said. “New guys are stepping in here, so we’ve got to do what we can. That’s it. You’ve just got to play hard and let the rest take care of itself.”

Chicago led nearly the entire first half and by as much as 10 points before taking a 61-59 halftime lead. The Lakers went ahead 65-64 early in the third quarter on a floater by Isaiah Thomas.

The teams traded baskets and leads for the remainder of the quarter before Los Angeles took an 84-83 advantage into the fourth.

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Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor ready to return, to start Sunday vs. Miami Dolphins

Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, coach David Culley said Thursday.

Taylor has not played since the second quarter in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns when he injured his left hamstring. Culley stated Thursday that there haven’t been any setbacks with Taylor’s hamstring injury and that the quarterback is finally healthy enough to play.

From the beginning of Taylor’s time on injured reserve, Culley said that Taylor would return as the Texans’ starter and that he gave Houston the best chance to win.

“Coach [Culley] said early on that I would be the starter when healthy and thankful that he stood by that,” Taylor said.

Taylor has seen the opposite come true too many times before. In 2018, Taylor left a Week 3 game with a concussion and was replaced by then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns won the game, and Mayfield kept the starting job.

And in 2020 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor was named the starting quarterback going into the season. Taylor cracked two of his ribs during the Chargers’ first offensive drive in the season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals but finished the game.

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The following week, a Chargers team doctor tried to give Taylor a pain-killing injection just before kickoff and accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung.

Rookie first-round pick Justin Herbert started that game and every other game the rest of the season. He went on to collect Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Taylor said when he suffered his hamstring injury this season, he initially thought about his injury history and the fact it happened again.

“But that thought hasn’t necessarily resonated since then,” Taylor said. “It was unfortunate that it happened … but I can’t control it. You have to shift your mindset to getting back healthy and doing the things day in and day out so you stay on track so I could get back out and still be able to perform at a high level.”

Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve before Houston’s Week 3 game, said he was initially told it would be a four-to-six week window to come back from his injury.

“Hamstrings are tricky,” Taylor said. “Typically, you feel good mentally before you actually feel better physically. So, you try to test it, you do as much as you can, but at the same time, you also have to listen to your body. You don’t want to put yourself at a bigger risk coming back too early.”

Taylor injured his hamstring while running in for a touchdown during the second quarter in Cleveland and said he immediately knew something was wrong.

“I knew that I was injured at the time, tried to jog off the field,” Taylor said. “Still in pain, didn’t necessarily know what it was, just knew that something wasn’t right with the hamstring. Went back on for the two-minute drive. Got flushed out of the pocket one time and tried to accelerate and … just tried to get to the halftime and basically see what the doctor said.

“Obviously, I didn’t want to come out. Coach made the decision, thought it was best before I go out there and injured it even more.”

Taylor returned to practice on Oct. 27 but was not ready to return in Week 8.

Before he was hurt in Week 2, Taylor had completed 70.5% of his passes for 416 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Taylor was replaced by rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who went 0-6 in his six starts and completed 67% of his passes with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Texans have been outscored by an NFL-worst 122 points in eight games this season. Houston’s only victory came against Jacksonville in Week 1 with Taylor under center.

Taylor said it was frustrating being on the sidelines during the losing streak, not being able to do anything about it but “lead in my own way” and help Mills the best he could. On Wednesday, Taylor was able to take part in a full practice in the same way he was before he injured his hamstring.

“I think our trainer told me yesterday … I guess he read our numbers or my numbers from practice and was like you must have been excited yesterday just to be back out there,” Taylor said.

“Yeah, I felt like a little kid running around and being able to just be myself. So, you definitely miss it when you’re not out there.”

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