Tagged in: returns

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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Daniil Medvedev returns after six-week injury layoff, but loses to Richard Gasquet in Geneva Open

Second-ranked Daniil Medvedev lost his comeback match Tuesday after a six-week injury layoff, defeated 6-2, 7-6 (5) by Richard Gasquet in the second round at the Geneva Open.

Medvedev, who underwent hernia surgery last month, cautioned Sunday he was often a slow starter on clay courts. So it proved in his first match on the surface this season, in the last tournament before the French Open.

Medvedev double-faulted for the seventh time on Gasquet’s first match point, as the Frenchman ended a 36-match losing streak against adversaries ranked No. 1 or 2 after beating Roger Federer 17 years ago at Monte Carlo.

“It’s tough. I don’t play my best tennis on clay courts,” Medvedev said. “I kind of need to be in the zone, which I was not today.”

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Unlike Medvedev, Gasquet has won titles on clay in his career, and the 35-year-old Frenchman frustrated his top-seeded opponent in an assured first set.

Medvedev had three double faults when his serve was broken to open the second set, and he broke a racket on the court in the next game. He leveled at 3-3 and clinched the next game at love with a second-service ace.

In the tiebreaker, Medvedev twice recovered from being a mini-break down before his serve faltered again.

“I think more days of practice and (I) should be ready for Roland Garros because physically, even right now, my body feels good,” he said.

Gasquet will face Kamil Majchrzak in the quarterfinals after the Polish player beat qualifier Marco Cecchinato 6-2, 6-3. Cecchinato had defeated Dominic Thiem, the two-time French Open runner-up, on Monday.

In a first-round match, fifth-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili advanced when Facundo Bagnis retired after losing the first set.

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Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green returns off bench, with minutes restriction

Draymond Green returned for the Golden State Warriors on Monday versus the Washington Wizards in Chase Center after missing the past two months with a lower back injury.

Green came off the bench in Monday’s game, and coach Steve Kerr stated he probably won’t start his first several games back. Green said he expects to play with a 20- to 23-minute restriction for the next 10 to 14 days as he builds up his conditioning.

“I’m usually against any restrictions. I hate them,” Green said earlier Monday. “Any time I’ve had one I get into a fight with Coach or with [team president] Rick [Welts]. I am actually very inviting of it this time around. I know I need it. I know I need them to protect me from myself.”

Kerr said he wants to make Green available for end-of-half and end-of-game scenarios, which would be hard to do under his minutes restriction if he started the game.

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“We’ve found this with Klay [Thompson] and Otto [Porter Jr.] — it’s really hard to start a guy on a minutes restriction and get him into some meaningful parts of the game,” Kerr said. “This is very temporary.”

Green said he plans on using the next two to three weeks to get his legs under him and his reaction-time quickness back, with the hope that by the time there is a week or more left in the regular season, he will be close to where he was before his injury as the team gears for the playoffs.

“In returning from an injury, it’s never what you left,” Green said. “It’s not like I’m going to come back doing all the same things I was doing when I went out. Just kind of coming in and figuring out where I can help. I’ve watched for two months — I already have in my mind where I can help … But you still have to figure the flow of the game out. I’ll just come in and let the game come to me.”

It had been 1,005 days since Green, Thompson and Stephen Curry had played in a game together, not including the seven seconds Green was on the court for Klay Day on Jan. 9.

The Warriors have been tracking the numbers until the trio would reunite because, as Green put it, “we built this thing from ground zero.”

During Green’s absence the Warriors have struggled, stringing together a five-game losing streak for the first time this season.

The hope, and expectation, is that simply having Green on the court will address a lot of the issues the Warriors have had. But they know he won’t fix everything, especially as he gets back into game shape.

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Joe Judge returns to New England Patriots as offensive assistant

Former New England Patriots special-teams coordinator Joe Judge — who was fired after two seasons as head coach of the New York Giants — is returning to the franchise as an offensive assistant, it was revealed Tuesday.

Judge coached with New England from 2012 to 2019 before becoming the Giants’ head coach.

In his final season working under Bill Belichick, the 40-year-old Judge served as wide receivers coach in addition to his longtime role coordinating special teams.

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Judge was then hired for his first NFL head-coaching job, going 10-23 in two seasons with the Giants.

He had been set to become the head coach at Mississippi State, his alma mater, before the Giants offered him the job.

In Judge’s final season in New England, Belichick had said that he “could probably coach any position on the field,” crediting his teaching ability and knack for thinking quickly.

The Patriots are undergoing a significant change on their offensive coaching staff. They don’t have an offensive coordinator after Josh McDaniels was named head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree is joining McDaniels, and it’s possible other assistants could follow. In addition, veteran running backs coach Ivan Fears is anticipated to retire.

In past years, Belichick hasn’t always given out titles at the outset when filling out his coaching staff. Judge’s role, assuming there are no unexpected holdups, could depend on other additions to the staff.

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Two-time All-Star Luis Severino returns to New York Yankees, works two innings in 7-1 victory

Luis Severino took the mound in a major-league game for the first time since the 2019 American League Championship Series on Tuesday.

The two-time All-Star, who has battled myriad injuries since re-signing with the Yankees, entered in the unfamiliar role of reliever, working the final two innings of New York’s 7-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

“Proud moment for him and for his teammates and for all of us who have seen him go through a lot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated. “He’s battled different things, and has worked his tail off to get to this moment.”

He worked a quick eighth, authoring two strikeouts and a groundout to go along with a double. In the ninth, he permitted a single before ending it with a double play and a flyout.

“I was feeling a lot of different emotions. But I’m happy to be back, happy to finally help the team,” Severino told the YES Network. “I knew after the first pitch, that it was going to come back to normal.”

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He concluded with 30 pitches, 19 of which were strikes.

“There’s got to be rust, nerves, all of that, going out there,” Boone said. “And I thought he executed, and hopefully this is a step forward for him to help us here down the stretch.”

Severino was activated before Monday’s 4-3 victory over the Rangers, with Boone clearly saying he wanted to start him out as a reliever. Where he goes from here, an optimistic Boone wouldn’t say.

“I’m not going to cap what that can be. We’ll see,” he said. “That’s a talented person and a great pitcher. I’m not going to limit what he’s capable of.”

Giancarlo Stanton hit his 31st home run in the victory, while Joey Gallo added his 38th and Aaron Judge launched his 36th as New York’s offense woke up. It indeed was a feel-good night in The Bronx, despite the fact that the Yankees did not gain any ground in the American League wild-card race.

“He felt great to be a part of it,” Boone said of Severino. “There was some emotion in his voice, and you can imagine the hard work he’s put in to get to this point. It was a good night for him.”

The 27-year-old right-hander had Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020. He made four minor league appearances totaling 10⅔ innings for Tampa, Hudson Valley and Somerset, permitting four runs, five hits and one home run with three walks and 15 strikeouts.

His rehabilitation was slowed when he injured his right groin on June 12 in his second minor league appearance for Hudson Valley at Brooklyn.

Severino returned to pitch for Somerset on Aug. 3 and Aug. 8, then was scratched from an Aug. 13 outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because of shoulder tightness.

“The fans always help me, every time I’m out there, and I knew we scored seven runs,” Severino said. “So, I was pretty calm out there.”

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Nick Van Exel returns to Atlanta Hawks as assistant coach

Nick Van Exel has returned to the Atlanta Hawks, joining Nate McMillan’s staff as an assistant coach.

Van Exel spent the past two years as a scout with the Dallas Mavericks. The Hawks announced his hiring Wednesday, bringing back a former All-Star who served as a player development instructor for Atlanta from 2010 to 2012.

“Since his playing career ended, Nick has been very successful in helping develop young guards for the teams he’s worked with, including several that have turned into All-Stars,”

McMillan, who led the Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals last season after taking over as interim coach, said in a statement.

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The Hawks are led by 22-year-old point guard Trae Young, who is heading into his fourth season.

They also have young swingmen De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish as well as a pair of second-round picks they hope will develop into solid NBA guards in Skylar Mays and Sharife Cooper.

Van Exel will get a chance to work with that promising group under McMillan, who was retained as the permanent coach after the Hawks’ playoff run.

“We feel he’ll be a great addition helping our young core guards continue to progress,” McMillan said.

Van Exel has previous coaching experience with the Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks. He also was a head coach for one season in the G League and spent a year as an assistant at Texas Southern.

Over a 13-year playing career in the NBA, Van Exel played with six teams. He earned a spot in the 1998 All-Star Game while with the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Donovan Mitchell returns to practice, expects to play in Sunday’s playoff opener for Utah Jazz

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell practiced Thursday for the first time since spraining his right ankle more than a month ago and plans to play in the Utah Jazz’s playoff opener.

“That’s the goal,” Mitchell said. “Barring any setbacks, God forbid — knock on wood — that’s the goal. I’m just trying to go out there and be there for my teammates and try to help to go out there and win a championship. That’s the goal. It’s been the goal all year.”

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Mitchell, who averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game this season, sat out the last 16 games as the 52-20 Jazz wrapped up the NBA’s best record and the top overall seed.

Utah will open the playoffs Sunday at home against the winner of the Western Conference play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell suffered the injury April 16 against the Indiana Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner.

Mitchell has ramped up his on-court work in the past two weeks, staying in Salt Lake City when the team was on the road to work out with assistant coach Keyon Dooling, but hadn’t participated in competitive, full-contact action until Thursday.

Mitchell said that the ankle still has some soreness but that he didn’t experience any significant pain. “Practice was good,” Mitchell said.

“I got out there and competed. You could definitely tell it was the first time in four or five weeks, but that’s to be expected. I’m just trying to find ways to get back in a groove.”

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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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Alonso discharged from hospital following cycling accident

Alpine Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has been discharged from hospital following a road traffic accident last week.

Alonso was knocked off his bike while cycling in Switzerland on Thursday and underwent corrective surgery on his upper jaw as a result of his injuries.

After a period of 48 hours observation following the surgery, Alonso left hospital on Monday and will keep his recovery at home.

“He will now have a short period of complete rest before progressively resuming training to undertake preparation for the start of the season,” a statement from the Alpine team said.

Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, returns to the series this campaign after two years racing in other categories.

He became a two-time World Endurance Champion with Toyota while away from F1, which incorporated two victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018. His quest to become only the second driver to collect the Triple Crown — victories at the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and Indy 500 — has been put on hold.

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Alonso entered the Indy 500 in 2017 and 2020, and failed to qualify in 2019, but will not be competing in the event while he is contracted to Alpine’s F1 operation.

He is due to take part in pre-season testing in Bahrain between March 12-14 before the first race of the new season gets underway on March 28 at the same circuit.

The incident did lead to some doubt over Alonso’s fitness ahead of the new campaign, only for Alpine to say last week that it expected him to be “fully operational to undertake preparation for the season.”

Alonso tweeted last Friday that he was “OK and looking forward to getting 2021 underway”, with his extending first outing in the Alpine A521 car due to come in pre-season testing in Bahrain.

Alpine is yet to ratify launch plans for its new car, but will take the covers off prior to the start of the running at the Bahrain International Circuit on 12-14 March.

The new season will then get underway on 28 March with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the same circuit. It will mark Alonso’s maiden outing with the Enstone-based team since his final appearance with the squad in 2009, having also won both of his world titles in Renault colors in 2005 and 2006.

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