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Update July 2017


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Update July 20, 2017

Aru falters, Froome soars in thin air of the Alps

Slovenia's Primoz Roglic crosses the finish line to win the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Serre-Chevalier, France, Wednesday, July 19. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

John Leicester & Samuel Petrequin

Briancon, France (AP) — One series of giant Tour de France mountains out of the way. One more to come. And one less rival for race leader Chris Froome to watch quite so closely.

By sticking like fly-paper to the enterprising Romain Bardet, despite the French rider's efforts to distance him on the race's highest peak, Froome took a big step Wednesday toward a fourth Tour victory this weekend in Paris.

Italian Fabio Aru, on the other hand, fell behind on the barren slopes of scree and patchy grass in the thinning air of the mighty Col du Galibier, one of the Tour's most fearsome Alpine climbs.

Like a yo-yo, the Italian repeatedly worked his way back to Froome's group of top contenders. But a last burst of speed from Bardet toward the top of the mountain pass, which rises 2,642 meters (8,668 feet) in altitude, proved decisive. Froome stayed with the French rider who stood next to him on the Paris podium last year, in second place. Aru did not.

On the long and hairy high-speed descent from there to the finish, they pedaled furiously to prevent Aru from catching them, whisking through the bends with no safety barriers and no margin for error. At their quickest, the riders descended at 75 kph (45 mph).

Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian who is making a habit at this Tour of being in the right place at the right time, always in Froome's shadow, zoomed down in that group, too.

The bill, at the end, was costly for Aru.

Having started Stage 17 in second place overall, just 18 seconds behind Froome, the Astana team rider slipped back to fourth — 53 seconds behind the race leader, who is getting stronger in the last week of the three-week cycling marathon.

Uran leapfrogged from fourth to second overall. Bardet is still third. That podium could stick all the way to Paris on Sunday, as they both trail Froome by 27 seconds.

"At this stage of the race, everyone's on their hands and knees, let's see what happens," Froome said. "It's still all to race for."

Beating everyone to the top of the Galibier — a feat that earned him a bonus of 5,000 euros ($5,750) from race organizers — was Tour rookie Primoz Roglic. Showing nerves of steel on the 28-kilometer (17-mile) descent to the finish at the Serre-Chevalier ski station, the former ski jumper became the first Slovenian to win a stage in the 114-year history of the Tour.

"It's unbelievable," Roglic said. "A really crazy stage."

Froome's group of Uran, Bardet and French rider Warren Barguil rolled over the line 1 minute and 13 seconds after the 27-year-old Team Lotto rider, who moved to cycling in his early twenties.

Determined not to give any ground, Froome outsprinted Bardet to the finish line, securing four bonus seconds for placing third on the stage. Uran was quicker still, beating Froome to get six bonus seconds for second place.

"It was a big day of climbing," Froome said. "My legs certainly felt a lot better than a week ago in the Pyrenees, which is a good sign."

The Team Sky leader was greeted at the finish by French President Emmanuel Macron, who followed the stage in a car with the race director.

If he wants to catch up with the main contenders, Aru will have to strike back on Thursday in the last Alpine stage, with a mountain-top finish at the Col d'Izoard — another storied 2,000-meter (6,500-feet) pass.

After that, the last big opportunity to make up places is the race-against-the-clock time trial in Marseille on Saturday. But that discipline isn't Aru's forte — unlike Froome.

"I fought until the very last meters, I gave my all to minimize losses," Aru said. "Anyway, I don't see a big drama in today's stage. The race ends in Paris."

While Bardet's repeated bursts of acceleration on the Galibier eventually cracked Aru, they couldn't shake off Froome. To hold onto the race leader's yellow jersey all the way to Paris, the three-time champion can ride defensively, keeping tabs on Uran and Bardet and, now to a lesser extent, on Aru.

"I did my utmost," Bardet said. "I raced to take the jersey and I came close to dropping them at the top of the Galibier. I attacked. That's the way I love to race. I have no regrets. I tried everything."

One of the most active riders on Wednesday was two-time champion Alberto Contador. Riding with the panache of his glory days, the 35-year-old Spaniard sped away from Froome's group on the second and longest climb, the 24-kilometer (15-mile) ascent to the Col de la Croix-de-Fer. But Contador faded in the Galibier and could not stay with Roglic.

"I want people to remember me as a rider who tried things, who was courageous," Contador said.

The Tour lost Marcel Kittel, the winner of five stages this year, after he crashed. The German had been leading the Tour's green jersey competition, awarded for points collected in sprints during and at the end of stages. With his departure, Australian Michael Matthews inherits the jersey.


Top sailors stake claims on penultimate day of Opti Worlds

Optimist dinghies line up at the start line on the penultimate day of racing at the Optimist World Championship 2017 in Pattaya, Wednesday, July 19. (Photo/Matias Capizzano)

Nima Chandler

Pattaya - Three races in medium wind on Wednesday saw some shuffling of positions on the leaderboard at the Optimist World Championship 2017, the top of the pack distinguishing themselves, although final results could still change with three more races hoped for on Thursday in slightly windier conditions.

Italy’s Marco Gradoni did not have had the perfect day but his consistent top five placements earlier have him holding onto first place overall with a significant points advantage on challenger Muhammad Fauzi Bin Kaman Shah of Malaysia who slammed home two second place finishes to climb from seventh into second place overall. Interestingly, Malaysia’s star sailor already has a bronze from the 2016 event, at which he bumped the Italian into fourth.

Holding onto third place overall is Costa Rica’s Mic Sig Kos Mohr. Still in contention for medals are the USA’s Stephan Baker, China’s Haoze Fang, and Israel’s Roy Levy. Coming up on their heels are four sailors who made significant gains on the penultimate day of racing, including Thailand’s Panwa Boonnak who slipped into tenth overall with an impressive first place finish in the last race of the day.

 “The team did very well today,” said Thai coach Somkiat Poonpat. “All managed to improve their positions.” His hopes are for similar conditions tomorrow as trophies are awarded not only to the top three sailors overall, but the best females and the best overall nation.

Currently in the top female position is Spain’s Maria Perello who said, “I am happy I got good positions today. Tomorrow, I will try to do better.”

American Stephan Baker, the current North American regional champion, who climbed into fourth overall, said, “I feel good going into the final day. I had a pretty bad first race today but the other two were much better so I am happy about that and hopefully will get some momentum going into tomorrow.”

The morning began with some tension on shore as sailors prayed for wind following a post storm calm yesterday which forced the abandonment of all racing. They arrived at the host venue, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, to find it drizzling, wind almost nonexistent. Within an hour or two, however, the breeze began building, starting at 6 knots when the first races launched and climbing to 10 knots for the last set of races.

“It was good racing today,” said Dutch team leader Jean-Bart Jaquet. “We had 10 knots, there was sun, and we had three races. We want the same tomorrow.”

Swiss coach Antonis Drosopoulos felt conditions had improved. “The wind today was not so extreme. I think it was easier than the first two days,” he said, referring to strong current and unpredictable wind in the regatta’s earliest days.

The final day of the record-breaking event, which has 281 sailors from 62 countries competing, will see trophies awarded in the evening on Thursday after what organizers hope will be three more races per fleet in great sailing conditions.


British Open officials draw line at hitting over grandstands

Australia's Jason Day prepares to play a shot on the 3rd hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf Championship, at Royal Birkdale, Southport, England Tuesday, July 18. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Doug Ferguson

Southport, England (AP) — Jason Day's caddie presented British Open officials with an interesting option on the par-4 ninth hole at Royal Birkdale. Colin Swatton wondered about hitting a tee shot onto the adjacent 10th fairway for a shorter, clearer shot into the green.

The R&A responded with an invisible white line in the turf.

In a decision aimed primarily at spectator safety, R&A chief rules director David Rickman issued a notice of a local rule for the week: "When playing the ninth hole only, a ball on or beyond the 10th fairway (defined by the edge of the closely-mown area) is out of bounds."

Out-of-bounds stakes typically are on the boundary of a golf course. It is rare a links course to have internal out-of-bounds, especially when it involves the golf ball landing in short grass.

R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said officials were concerned because the only way to drive from the ninth tee onto the 10th fairway is to hit a drive over the top of the grandstand, and then hit over the gallery to the green.

"And we felt that was just dangerous," Slumbers said. "So that's been put in there to protect the fans and the players."

The ninth hole, with the wind at the players' back, requires a blind tee shot to a fairway and bends sharply to the right toward the green. A shot onto the 10th fairway also would be a blind shot.

It was reminiscent of the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness, when the USGA planted a tree overnight after Lon Hinkle found a way to shorten the first hole by going down an adjacent fairway. The R&A opted for a local rule instead of going to the trouble of planting dozens of trees.

Day thought it was an overreaction, especially with no one even attempting such a shot. What troubled him was someone blasting one far to the right by accident and getting penalized two shots for being O.B.

"I don't think anyone was going to go down there, anyway. We just asked," Day said. "I can understand if guys are actually going to think about going there. But I understand the safety issue, as well, because if you're hitting a driver and guys are walking straight up the 10th fairway, you can hit someone or injure somebody pretty badly. But if you lose one in the wind or something like that, and it bounces awkwardly and you're a foot on the fairway or an inch on the fairway, you're out-of-bounds. It's a little unfair."

___

TIGER EFFECT: No Tiger, no problem.

British Open organizers say they are expecting big crowds this week at Royal Birkdale that will rival the attendance records set at the Open when Tiger Woods was in his dominant prime.

More than 220,000 people are expected on the course set on the northwest England coast by the time play ends Sunday. That ranks high among recent Opens, some of which was blamed on Woods not being in the field.

"I think the sport should be eternally grateful for the transformation he drove in golf," said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A. "I hope he tees it up at The Open again. He'd be extremely welcomed. But the game moves on."

Slumbers said the crowd this week should rank No. 4 among biggest crowds since the R&A started keeping attendance figures in 1960. The two biggest crowds were 239,000 at St. Andrews in 2000 and 237,000 on the same course in 2010, followed by 230,000 at Royal Liverpool in 2006.

Woods won the Open in both 2000 and 2006.

"I think there are some wonderful players out there now that people want to come and watch, and the game is moving forward," Slumbers said.

___

BUDDY SYSTEM: Dustin Johnson is close friends with Brooks Koepka and called him the night before Koepka won the U.S. Open to share some advice. They live close to each other in South Florida, practice together and spend plenty of time in the gym.

Johnson was on his own for a few weeks when Koepka headed from Wisconsin to Las Vegas to celebrate.

"He had a good couple weeks," Johnson said. "There was nothing for me to celebrate. I've been working pretty hard the last month. He had a few weeks off, which was well deserved. But yeah, he's back on it now."

If they are competitive on the golf course — they are the last two U.S. Open champions — they apparently are competitive in the gym, too. Johnson said they train at the same place.

"I usually get to the gym a little bit earlier than he does," Johnson said.

___

RORY'S MAJORS: Rory McIlroy has gone 10 majors without winning, and he still hasn't won a tournament this year. He's in one of his mini-slumps at the moment, though he only has to go back to his British Open debut to realize it's not all bad.

McIlroy played Carnoustie in 2007 as an amateur, opened with 68 and tied for 42nd as an 18-year-old. He turned pro later that year and quickly earned a European Tour card, and he was on his way.

He tried to imagine what he would have taken for a career 10 years later.

"If someone told me, 'You're going to be a four-time major winner and you won the Open and you're one leg away from the career Grand Slam, you've played on three winning Ryder Cup teams, you've won the Order of Merit three times in Europe, you've won the FedEx Cup in the States,' I'd be like, 'Yeah, I'll take that.'"

___

DIVOTS: The R&A plans tributes around the 18th for two of its former champions who died since the last British Open — Arnold Palmer, who won at Royal Birkdale in 1961 and Royal Troon in 1962, and Roberto De Vicnenzo, who won at Royal Liverpool in 1967. ... Mark O'Meara, who hits the opening tee shot Thursday morning, is playing in his final British Open. He won at Royal Birkdale in 1998 for his second major that year. ... Jason Day received the Mark McCormack Award for spending the most weeks at No. 1 in the world in 2016. Day lost the No. 1 ranking to Dustin Johnson in February. The Australian now is No. 6.


Formula 1 cars to use 'halo' protection device from 2018

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany tried out the F1 shield at Silverstone but didn't like it. (AP Photo/David Davies)

Jerome Pugmire

Paris (AP) — More than one year after it was first tested, and after consideration of a recent alternative, the "halo" cockpit protection system will be used on Formula One cars from next year onward.

Motorsport's governing body, which began testing the system prior to the 2016 season, finally approved it on Wednesday following a meeting of its strategy group which all F1 teams attended.

The FIA has been looking at ways to improve cockpit protection and limit the risk of head injuries, after French F1 driver Jules Bianchi died in July 2015 and British IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died a month later.

The halo design forms a semi-circular barrier around the driver's head, protecting against flying debris without completely closing the cockpit. When first tested ahead of 2016, drivers were divided as to whether they liked it with some — like three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton — criticizing it on aesthetic grounds.

Other safety devices were therefore considered.

As recently as last week, a transparent open canopy system constructed using polycarbonate, known as the "shield," was tested by four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel during last the British Grand Prix in Silverstone.

But Vettel, who has previously spoken in favor of the halo, was critical and said it made him feel dizzy and that visibility was another issue.

The FIA felt that reverting back to the halo was the best option, especially considering that the sport needs more time to make some modifications to it.

"The FIA confirms the introduction of the Halo for 2018. With the support of the teams, certain features of its design will be further enhanced," the FIA said in its statement Wednesday. "It had become clear that the halo presents the best overall safety performance."

Bianchi died at the age of 25 after battling for months to recover from massive head injuries sustained at the Japanese Grand Prix in October 2014.

Bianchi's accident at Suzuka occurred at the end of the race in rainy, gloomy conditions, when his Marussia team car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.

Wilson died on Aug. 23, a day after being hit on the helmet by debris from another car at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.

While Hamilton had been critical of the halo's appearance when it was first introduced, Vettel and retired F1 champion Nico Rosberg had championed it, saying it was vital for the sport to enhance protection following Bianchi's death, and that visibility was not a significant problem when driving with it.

Other matters discussed at the strategy meeting included plans to control costs in order to ensure "the sport remains sustainable in the coming years."

No further financial details were given, but it is widely considered that engine costs for some teams need to be lowered, particularly considering the disparity in prize money awarded to teams at the end of each year.


Medals all around! Plenty of gold, silver, bronze at worlds

Svetlana Kolesnichenko of Russia performs in the Women's Solo Technical Synchronized Swimming event at the FINA Swimming World Championships 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, July 17. (Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)

Paul Newberry

Budapest, Hungary (AP) — Not everyone gets a medal at the world aquatic championships. It only seems that way.

A plethora of titles are being handed out along the banks of Danube, far more than are available at the Olympics, though there are some downright puzzling events.

Anyone up for some solo synchronized swimming?

"I get many questions online," Russia's Svetlana Kolesnichenko said through a translator, after capturing the gold medal Wednesday in the solo free event. "The question is: What is the synchronicity in (solo) synchronized swimming? My answer would be: It's a different type of work. When you synchronize to the music, you have your own vision, your own interpretation of the music."

Synchronized swimmers have far more medal opportunities at the every-other-year world championships than they get at the Olympics, where duet and team are the only events.

In Budapest, there are nine gold medals on the line — including a pair of mixed events in which women and men compete in tandem.

The Olympics are women's only.

Spain's Ona Carbonell noted the huge discrepancy between the number of medals that regular swimmers have a shot at during the Olympics compared with their gelled-up counterparts.

It was 32-2 at the Rio Olympics — and swimming is getting three more events at the 2020 Tokyo Games with the addition of the men's 800-meter freestyle, the women's 1,500 free and a 4x100 mixed-gender free relay, which will give men and women a chance to compete together for the first time.

"Obviously, we would like for the Olympics to be like the world championships, to have more medals," Carbonell said. "Swimming gets a lot of tests, and we only get two."

The world championships are packed with events that don't get a chance to shine on the Olympic stage, such as mixed team diving and downright brutal 25-kilometer open water race, which will be held Friday. Not to mention the relatively new sport of high diving, a thrilling spectacle that will be conducted along the banks of the Danube from a 27-meter tower — roughly 90 feet high — right across the river from the stately Hungarian parliament building.

The worlds not only give more athletes a chance to pad their resume. They also serve as a testing ground for events that might find their way onto the Olympic program someday, especially in the quest to appeal to more young people.

Rest assured, there's plenty of Olympic lobbying going on during the 17-day championships. Take mixed team diving, which features one man and one woman from each country, performing dives off both the 10-meter platform and the 3-meter springboard.

"I like that they're bringing these events in," said Krysta Palmer, who teamed with David Dinsmore to take a bronze for the United States — the country's first diving medal of the meet. "Diving is a very individualized sport. Having these kind of events really brings the team together."

Dinsmore said team diving fits perfectly with the International Olympic Committee's goal to bring a more youthful approach to the Summer Games. In all, there are 13 diving events at the world championships, compared with eight in the Olympics.

"It's awesome to see how far this sport has progressed," Dinsmore said.

Then there's open water swimming, which was added to the Olympic program in 2008 and features just two events — 10-kilometer races for both men and women. At the worlds, there are gender-specific events covering 5, 10 and 25 kilometers, as well as a team event that features both men and women.

Seven shots at a medal.

"It's definitely the hope that one day they will add more at the Olympics," said American Haley Anderson, making her plea Wednesday shortly after a fifth-place finish in the women's 5k — an event she won at the 2015 world championships. "I would love to see the 5k and 25k at the Olympics, not to mention the team relay, which is so exciting."

The 5k team event probably has the best shot at getting on the Olympic program, while the 25k hardly seems like the sort of TV-friendly race that would win over the IOC, taking around 5 hours to produce a winner.

Now that's a marathon.

"Distance swimming is a very unappreciated event sometimes," Anderson acknowledged. "Even when you see the mile and 800 meters in the pool, they always go to commercial breaks during the event. But actual distance athletes appreciate it more. They appreciate what goes into it. Sure, everyone loves the sprinters and those 50s. But it's good when you hear people saying: 'Oh my god, I watched your 10k. It was so exciting. There was so much going on it.' That's what we want to hear."

At the world championships, at least, they all get a chance to shine.


Chelsea strike deal to sign Morata from Real Madrid

Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata (centre) is reportedly set to sign for English Premier League champions Chelsea. (AP Photo/Daniel Tejedor, File)

London (AP) — Chelsea are set to strengthen their attacking options for their Premier League title defence by signing Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.

The London club say they have agreed terms with Madrid to sign the 24-year-old striker.

The transfer will be completed after Morata's personal terms are finalized and a medical examination is passed.

Morata will be leaving Madrid for a second time. The Spain international was only bought back a year ago after two seasons at Juventus.

Although Morata won the Champions League final for a second time in June, he was only a late substitute in the victory over Juventus.


Update July 19, 2017

Matthews wins Stage 16 in Tour, Froome keeps yellow jersey

Australia's Michael Matthews, left, sprints to win the sixteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Romans-sur-Isere, France,, Tuesday, July 18. Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen, right, finished second. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Samuel Petrequin & John Leicester

Romans-sur-Isere, France (AP) — Ahead of two grueling Alpine stages likely to decide the outcome of the 104th Tour de France, Chris Froome and his teammates have sent a clear message to their rivals with another impressive display of collective strength.

Amid heavy crosswinds that played havoc in the finale of Tuesday's 165-kilometer (102.5-mile) Stage 16 between Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-en-Isere, Team Sky riders tried to unsettle their opponents by setting a frenetic tempo that split the pack like a jigsaw puzzle.

After relentless work from Vasil Kiryienka and Michal Kwiatkowski, only 22 riders including Froome and teammate Mikel Landa managed to stay in the reduced bunch at the front.

Also among them were Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran, who avoided the trap. But Dan Martin lost 51 seconds after getting caught in a split in the finale. He dropped to seventh place overall, 2:03 off the pace.

At some point, it looked like Bardet was going to be left behind but he was helped back in the leading group by Oliver Naesen. Australian Michael Matthews won the stage in a sprint to the line.

With the race now in money time, with stages set to decide the final podium, Froome went straight to the point with his aggressive racing. He appears in great shape and has the best team surrounding him in his bid to win a fourth Tour title.

"Everyone knew it was going to split at some point," said Froome. "For us it was more about just being on the right side of it. Knowing it was going to kick off on that open section in the last 20 kilometers to go, the guys committed to that and we saw the gaps opening out straight away."

Froome, the defending champion, has an 18-second overall lead over Aru, with Romain Bardet 23 seconds back in third place. Colombian Rigoberto Uran completes the leading quartet, 29 seconds off the pace.

Landa, who has been impressive since the start of the Tour despite dedicating himself to Froome, moved back to fifth overall, 1 minute, 17 seconds back.

"Myself and Mikel Landa are feeling great," said Froome. "The next two days are the biggest consecutive days in this year's Tour de France. And the goal of my preparation for the Tour de France was to head into the third week feeling the way I'm feeling now."

The battle for the yellow jersey will resume on Wednesday during the first of two Alpine stages in high altitude. It will lead riders to the ski station of Serre Chevalier through a grueling 183-kilometer trek featuring four climbs, including the Col du Galibier — one of the Tour's most fearsome and famed climbs at 18 kilometers (11 miles), with a 10-percent gradient at the top.

Next will be the daunting Stage 18 to the Col d'Izoard , which features a final 14.1-kilometer ascent to the top of the mountain, at an altitude of 2,360 meters.

"I'm looking forward to the Alps," Froome said.

Three days after his victory in Rodez, Matthews reduced the gap with green jersey holder Marcel Kittel to 29 points in the best sprinter's classification with his second stage win.

He made the most of a slightly uphill section 500 meters from the line and accelerated after Greg Van Avermaet launched the sprint. Matthews then resisted Edvald Boasson Hagen's late surge to prevail by a wheel's length. John Degenkolb completed the podium.

Tempers frayed after the stage. Matthews claimed Degenkolb grabbed him by the neck out of frustration and accused him of going into his line during the sprint.

"I did a clean sprint, I did not change my line," Matthews said. "After the finish, I was waiting for the results, he came past and grabbed my neck. It was not very sportsmanlike."

On a difficult terrain with constant up-and-downs across the lush forests of Massif Central, several attacks had taken place during the first hour of racing. Kittel was dropped in the first climb and struggled at the back throughout the day.

The German ace sprinter could not count on teammate Philippe Gilbert to bring him back — the former world champion did not start the stage in Le Puy-en-Velay due to gastroenteritis. Standing 12th overall, Lotto NL Jumbo rider George Bennett had a bad day and dropped out about 100 kilometers from the finish.


Post storm calm stalls Optimist sailors

A race official looks out from the starters’ boat as Optimist sailors wait for the wind to arrive off Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, Tuesday, July 18. (Photo/Matias Capizzano)

Nima Chandler

Pattaya - The second half of the individual series of the Optimist World Championship 2017 was abandoned Tuesday after a midday rainstorm followed by a fruitless four hour wait on the water for wind to return.  Most participants accepted the situation as out of the race committee’s control, but, in retrospect, wished they had waited just a little bit longer to call it a day.

“Full credit to the race team for giving it a go,” said New Zealand’s team leader Susannah Pyatt, happy the race committee at least tried to deliver.

“I think it was a good call the race committee postponed the launch, keeping us onshore until after the storm passed,” said USA coach Lior Lavie. “Then we had no wind, but we went out and waited and waited. The race committee made a good decision to send us in because another storm was supposed to come. Unfortunately, after abandoning the races, the wind picked up and the storm did not show, but this was not something anyone can control.”

Croatian coach Tina Mihelic was a bit more wistful. “It is what they decided. We didn’t have any races today, but I think the coaches are not so happy because after we returned to shore, there was nice wind and we could have done at least one race,” she said.

Local Race Officer Neil Dunkley said it is one of the risks in a sport that relies on nature to deliver. “If there is wind, we go racing. If there is no wind, we can’t go racing. It’s that simple.”

Sailors seemed to enjoy the chance to get to know each other better onshore and were accepting of the situation at sea.

As Russian sailor Roman Lutsenko put it. “It happens. And we are happy, because there was no wind.” Slovakian sailor Alex Malina simply said, “I want wind.” Another sailor joked that he fell asleep in his boat.

Hopes are the winds will return to get racing back on track on Wednesday for the final two days of competition.


Mickelson to play British Open with no drivers

Phil Mickelson of the United States watches his shot from 9th tee the during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf Championship, at Royal Birkdale, Southport, England Tuesday, July 18. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Doug Ferguson

Southport, England (AP) — Royal Birkdale and Torrey Pines would seem to have nothing in common except that Phil Mickelson is playing major championships on both without a driver in his bag.

Mickelson carried only the 3-wood with him during his practice round Tuesday at the British Open, and he plans to keep it that way.

"We won't be playing in this wind," Mickelson said as he finished up his round with a light blowing toward the Irish Sea. "And when we get the normal wind, there really isn't a driver for me until we get to 15. And then that brings the bunkers into play."

Mickelson, who once had two drivers in his bag at the Masters, didn't hit a driver in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He wasn't much of a factor that week and finished five shots out of the playoff that Tiger Woods won over Rocco Mediate.

Mickelson instead has four wedges, including a 64-degree sand wedge that he can use for flop shots off tight lies on a links course. He also has two 3-irons, one of them with the loft tweaked to make a strong, driving club.

The 3-wood is the same club he had when he won the British Open at Muirfield in 2013, his last victory.

"It's a much easier club for me to hit low," Mickelson said on Golf Channel. "So even into the wind, I hit it every bit as far as I hit a driver."

___

TIGER FALLING: Tiger Woods is out of golf for the rest of the season as he recovers from a fourth back surgery, and that means he finally is out of the top 1,000 players listed in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Woods is at No. 1,005 in the world this week, one spot ahead of Henric Sturehed of Sweden.

That's no surprise. In the two-year counting period, Woods has only seven tournaments on his record and he earned ranking points at just three of them — a tie for 18th in the Greenbrier in 2015, a tie for 10th in the Wyndham Classic that same year and his 15th-place finish at the no-cut Hero World Challenge in December.

Woods was at No. 1 for 683 weeks, twice as long as anyone else in the history of the ranking that dates to 1986.

___

TAKING IT IN: Bill Haas has played as much links golf as anyone in this part of England. He even finally got around to playing Royal Birkdale.

Haas is among those players who love seeing other courses when they come to the British Open. When it was played at Royal Liverpool in 2014, Jason Dufner went over to play Royal Birkdale on the weekend. Brad Faxon used to find smaller links courses to play after a practice round at the championship course.

Haas brought over his brother-in-law and two friends. They played Royal Liverpool on Friday, Royal Lytham & St. Annes on Saturday and Hillside on Sunday. And then it was time to get to work, so he made his way to Royal Birkdale.

"I did the same trip for Lytham in 2012," he said. "I played Liverpool, here and West Lancashire, so I've seen the course. I feel like I'm getting the same practice in, just not at the tournament course. But I've got Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to see the course and know the course."

Most surprising to Haas at Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham was seeing the courses without the grandstands and tented villages that are in place for the Open.

"Liverpool was the one that was the most shocking without the grandstand surrounding the 18th (the 16th green during normal play). You're amazed at how small the space is and how they make it work," he said. "And Lytham, there's gorse way right on 18. I didn't remember that being in play. When you hit it right, I think you're in the grandstands. But it was fun to see."

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SPIETH RETURNS: Jordan Spieth was still in college in 2012 when the British Open was at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and this is his first time at Royal Birkdale. But he's no stranger to the area. It's where Spieth got his first taste of links golf.

He played in the Junior British Open in 2008, and he finished first — at least among the boys.

The overall winner that week was Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand, playing from a forward set of tees.

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GETTING AWAY: Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open, headed off to Las Vegas and hasn't been seen in the golfing world since then.

That's just the way he had it planned.

Koepka is playing for the first time since that four-shot victory at Erin Hills. He had a big stretch at the end of the year with two majors, a World Golf Championship, the four FedEx Cup playoff events and the Presidents Cup, so he wanted to be fresh.

"I found it pretty easy to get away," Koepka said. "I was not looking for a break, but I kind of needed one, more mentally than anything. And it was nice to have a few weeks off. But last week I started getting into it and getting antsy to get back out here."

He didn't put the clubs away, playing plenty of golf and working on his game when he got back home to Florida. He arrived at Birkdale on Saturday.

"It felt good to get out here and play some holes and actually feel like you're back in the normal routine," he said.


England beat SA to reach Women's Cricket World Cup final

England Anya Shrubsole celebrates hitting the winning runs with teammate Jenny Gunn during the ICC Women's World Cup semifinal match against South Africa at the The County Ground in Bristol, England, Tuesday, July 18. (David Davies/PA via AP)

Bristol, England (AP) — England reached the Women's Cricket World Cup final by beating South Africa with only two balls to spare on Tuesday.

Anya Shrubsole hit the decisive boundary to seal a two-wicket win for England, who required two runs from the last three balls of a dramatic semifinal in Bristol, southwest England.

South Africa earlier won the toss and chose to bat. They scored 218-6 off 50 overs after opener Laura Wolvaardt (66) and the unbeaten Mignon du Preez (76) had given the underdogs hope of a shock victory.

But Sarah Taylor set England on their way with 54 before Jenny Gunn (27 not out) and Shrubsole dragged the hosts over the line to 221-8.

England will now face either Australia or India in the final at Lord's on Sunday.


Quade Cooper omitted from Wallabies training squad

In this Oct. 1, 2016 file photo, South Africa's Lionel Mapoe, left, is tackled by Australia's Quade Cooper, top right, and teammate Bernard Foley, during a Rugby Championship match in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Sydney (AP) — Quade Cooper has been omitted from Australia's 38-man training squad for the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup, raising questions about the future test prospects of the flashy but often unpredictable playmaker.

The move leaves Bernard Foley as the only specialist flyhalf in the extended squad announced by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika on Wednesday for a series of training camps starting north of Sydney next week. Kurtley Beale, a utility back who recently returned from England, was recalled to the Wallabies squad for the first time since the 2015 World Cup and is only other potential No. 10 in the initial group.

Cooper's omission is his first based on form since former Wallaby coach Robbie Deans left him out of the 2013 British and Irish Lions series.

Cheika indicated it was not necessarily the end of international rugby for 29-year-old Cooper, who was only used sparingly off the bench in the June test matches against Fiji, Scotland and Italy.

"We have had a talk about the reasons why and obviously a lot of that is around trying to get him back into the space where he can be that player that is going to get us around the park and do the stuff we want him to do," Cheika said. "I don't feel like that has been happening."

Cheika did not select any players from the Brumbies, who are hosting a Super Rugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes on Friday in Canberra.

The squad includes 11 uncapped players, and seven others with four or fewer test caps. Cooper's absence didn't appear to be injury related. In a statement confirming the squad, the Australian Rugby Union said only three players — Kyle Goodwin, Lukhan Tui and James Slipper — were not considered for selection because of injuries.

Backrower Scott Higginbotham, who has played 34 tests for Australia, was one of the other notable omissions.

The test squad will be chosen in the first week of August.

"We have a lot of work to get done between now and Aug. 9 when we play New Zealand in Sydney," Cheika said. "That work started in June, we tried to maintain some of that throughout the last rounds of Super Rugby and now we start to take it up a level."

___

Australia squad:

Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley, Adam Coleman, Pek Cowan, Jack Dempsey, Kane Douglas, Sef Fa'agase, Tetera Faulkner, Ned Hanigan, Richard Hardwick, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Adam Korczyk, Tolu Latu, Sean McMahon, Stephen Moore (captain), Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, Lopeti Timani, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese.

Backs: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Campbell Magnay, Billy Meakes, Eto Nabuli, Sefa Naivalu, Izaia Perese, Nick Phipps, Curtis Rona.


Weertman edges Wilimovsky for 10K open water title at worlds

Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands celebrates after he won the gold medal in men's open water 10km final of FINA Swimming World Championships 2017 in Balatonfured, 124 kms southwest of Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, July 18. (Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP)

Ciaran Fahey

Budapest, Hungary (AP) — After swimming for almost two hours in open water, Olympic champion Ferry Weertman edged defending champion Jordan Wilimovsky by one tenth of a second for the 10-kilometer title at the world championships on Tuesday.

Weertman earned the Netherlands' first medal of the championships, on Lake Balaton, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of Budapest.

"I just love swimming ... I haven't stopped for a moment, and this hard work paid off," said the 25-year-old Weertman, who began swimming at age 6 because his brother made it look like fun.

Wilimovsky had no regrets, despite the closest of finishes.

"I cannot complain about my swim. I tried everything I could. There are plenty of very good swimmers in the 10k, so the silver medal is all right," the American said.

Marc-Antoine Olivier of France, who won the 5K on Saturday, was 0.70 seconds behind for bronze. He became the first Frenchman to win more than one medal in open water swimming at the worlds.

Neither Weertman nor Wilimovsky raced the 5K.

In Budapest, Matthieu Rosset and Laura Marino won the mixed 3-meter and 10-meter team event for France's first medal in any diving competition at a worlds.

"It's a great thing," said Rosset, who finished with a forward 2-1/2 somersaults 2 twists pike to snatch the gold from Mexico's Rommel Pacheco Marrufo and Viviana del Angel Peniche by 4.05 points.

"It's good to show the (French) federation that diving can bring medals," Marino said. "It's not just open water swimming — there is diving too!"

Mexico had been leading from the third round but there was no immediate disappointment from the silver medalists.

"It's my seventh world championships and my second medal," Pacheco said. "I'm very happy."

Krysta Palmer and David Dinsmore of the United States claimed the bronze.

The 25-year-old Palmer claimed a surprising medal in her first international meet.

Knee injuries forced her to switch from gymnastics and trampoline to diving at age 20, and she hopes it leads all the way to Tokyo in 2020.

"It's always been (the goal to make) the Olympics," Palmer said. "To be in diving now and know this is only the beginning is really cool."

Earlier, Russia won its sixth straight women's team technical synchronized swimming title for its fourth gold medal of the championships.

The team of Maria Shurochkina, Vlada Chigireva, Veronika Kalinina, Daria Bayandina, Anastasia Bayandina, Maryna Goliadkina, Darina Valitova, and Polina Komar performed last and maintained the team's unbeaten record in the event with 96.0109 points.

"There is no limit to perfection," said Chigireva, one of only two swimmers alongside Shurochkina left from the team that won Olympic gold in 2016.

Shurochkina said the new members "took the challenge and they really mingled with us, they are now part of the team."

Chinese swimmers Wang Qianyi, Wang Liuyi, Guo Li, Xiao Yanning, Tang Mengni, Feng Yu, Liang Xinping and Yin Chengxin claimed silver with 94.2165, followed by Japan on 93.1690 for its first medal of the championships.

Chigireva and Shurochkina equaled Daria Korobova's three gold medals in this event. Only Russian compatriots Aleksandra Patskevich, Alla Shishkina and Angelika Timanina have more with four.


Update July 18, 2017

USA retains team racing trophy at Opti Worlds

Team USA sailors celebrate by jumping into the water after retaining the IODA Challenge Cup team racing trophy during the Optimist World Championship 2017 at Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya, Monday, July 17. (Photo/Matias Capizzano)

Nima Chandler

Pattaya - Team USA beat Team China in a dramatic, hard-won, winner-takes-all 'Sail Off' in the team racing portion of the Optimist World Championship 2017 on Monday, the Americans holding on to the IODA Challenge Cup team racing trophy for the second year in a row.

In high winds of 13-18 knots, huge swell, and choppy seas, the USA squad set off in the morning alongside 15 other teams, each determined to do their best on the final day of the team racing championship.

"It was going to be challenging. All the teams are excellent. We knew that going into the day," said Justin Callahan, Team USA's sailor spokesman and the only remaining member of last year's winning team.

The day opened with a series of flights which ensured each of the top 16 teams had a chance to race twice before being eliminated if they lost twice. Team USA skillfully bested Ireland, Germany, Thailand, and Singapore in turn to earn the first assured place in the final Sail Off.

In contrast, the Chinese had to duel with six teams to secure their spot in the finals. Ironically, in their second race, they were beaten by the Malaysians, but, in the showdown for the second seat in the Sail Off, they found themselves up against Team Malaysia again, this time besting them and sending them to shore with bronze.

The final Sail Off was a best-of-three race series, the first race won by Team USA, the second by Team China. This made the third race a 'must win'. As the race committee, described it, the deciding race was a "great race", the winner unclear until the very end.

As Justin described it, "We were first, second and third at Mark 3 in the final race, but then things got a little messy". After an incident with a Chinese sailor who pushed the limits of what is allowed in team racing, Justin found himself in sixth position. He managed to gain ground, and, as he put it "somehow, right at the finish, we pinned them back and finished first, second and third. It was a very close finish."

On the water observers described a lot of shouting by sailors and whistle blowing by umpires as rules were broken and sailors called each other out, all part of the drama of team racing, in which competitors may push or hold their opponents back in what might otherwise be considered unsportsmanlike behavior.

Team USA had no complaints about the high intensity of the action on the water, however. As Justin said, "The umpiring was amazing. They were calling all the right calls. We got flags when we knew should have got flags."

Asked what the team's secret to success was, he did not hesitate. "Chemistry. Synergy on the team," he said.

"Training. Training in team racing," answered the team's coach, Lior Lavie, who credited silver medalists Team China as excellent in the event.

"Their devotion to excellence in sailing," added Paul Callahan, country representative, president of the US Optimist Dinghy Association, a two time Paralympian, and, most importantly today, proud father to Justin and his twin brother Mitchell, who both qualified for Team USA on their own merits.

Other members of the team - Stephan Baker, Liam O'Keefe, and Charlotte Leigh - were beaming ear to ear at the end of the day as well.

The team's only issue now is how to get the large IODA Challenge Cup back to the USA, the box they carried it over in is damaged and organizers are hurriedly looking for a replacement.

On Tuesday, the individual world championships series continues with fleets split into four based on their rankings after six earlier this week. The Americans can expect to do battle with the Chinese again in the coming days.

Four members of Team USA and three of Team China are in the gold fleet.


Root's honeymoon over, SAfrica hammer England in 2nd test

England's Keaton Jennings is bowled out by South Africa's Vernon Philander during day four of the Second Test cricket match at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, England, Monday July 17. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

Nottingham, England (AP) — South Africa cut short Joe Root's honeymoon as England captain with an emphatic 340-run win in the second test on Monday, leveling the four-match series and shifting the pressure onto the home team and their rookie skipper.

South Africa needed little more than 40 overs to take all 10 wickets on Day 4 as England succumbed at Trent Bridge, all out for 133 in their second innings facing an almost insurmountable target of 474.

England only just scraped past 200 in their first innings to go with that second-innings collapse, while South Africa made 335 and 343-9 declared.

From the highs of his first test in charge, when England won by 211 runs at Lord's and he made a magnificent 190, Root now has to muster his men for the two remaining tests with doubts growing over the makeup of the top three batsmen, a crucial part of the team.

Opener Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance, Root's Yorkshire teammate and reportedly his choice to bat at No. 3, are yet to make significant scores in this series and South Africa's quicks exploited that area especially at Trent Bridge.

England were 3-2 in the first innings and 28-2 in the second, and never got going with the bat.

"No, I don't think it (the top three) is a concern. They just need some runs and to spend some time out in the middle," Root said. "I'm sure if they get the opportunity to do that in the next game they will go on and make big scores.

"We'll sit down with selection and make sure we're happy with what we have going into the next one."

England have time to ponder the problem, with the third test at the Oval starting in 10 days.

The second test at Nottingham was a tale of two captains: While Root learned how quickly things can go wrong as a captain in test cricket, Faf du Plessis' return to lead South Africa provided an immediate lift for the tourists after missing the Lord's defeat for the birth of his first child.

Du Plessis led impressively — tactically and with a valuable innings of 63 in the second innings — to give South Africa momentum heading into the second half of the series.

"Faf brings a sense of calmness and his intellect on the field, there's not many people who can compare," South African spin bowler Keshav Maharaj said.

South Africa's players said they were prepared for a two-day scrap to win the test. In the end, England didn't last two sessions on the fourth day.

Chris Morris took two key wickets for South Africa before lunch, knocking over Root's off stump and then bouncing out former skipper Alastair Cook, who top-scored with 42.

At 79-4 at lunch, England collapsed in an hour after the break, losing their last five wickets for 11 runs.

Duanne Olivier wrapped it up for South Africa with two wickets in two balls, while seamer Vernon Philander and left-arm spinner Maharaj collected three wickets each.

South Africa took England's last three wickets for no runs in four balls, hammering home their big victory and completing a dramatic turnaround in the series after the Proteas were the ones who appeared vulnerable in the first test.

"I think we were all disappointed after the Lord's test match and we all knew we had to step up," Philander said.


Local lad Fleetwood back at Birkdale as an Open contender

English golfer Tommy Fleetwood smiles during a press conference in the second practice day at the British Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, Monday, July 17. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

Steve Douglas

Southport, England (AP) — He is the poster boy of the upcoming British Open, his flowing hair and stubbly face adorning the banners draped across lamp-posts on the approaches to Royal Birkdale.

Tommy Fleetwood has the looks of a rock star and the popularity of one in this seaside town in northwest England, especially this week.

Golf's oldest major is back in Southport for the first time since 2008 and, in Fleetwood, one of the sport's rising stars, the locals have one of their own to cheer for.

"I'll have the most support I've ever had in my life, from people I've grown up with, friends, family, you name it," Fleetwood said on Monday. "It's going to be a different experience, for sure."

Growing up, Fleetwood lived in a house just round the corner from Royal Birkdale. The place always held a mystical quality to a golf-loving kid who dreamed of winning the Open Championship from the age of 5.

He'd play at the local municipals — Southport, Formby Hall, and Southport & Ainsdale, where he'd sweep the paths — and would get on Birkdale only when accompanying his father, Peter, on evening dog walks.

"I might have bunked on the odd time and hit the odd shot," Fleetwood recalled. "But that was about as far as it goes."

The first British Open he went to watch was at Royal Birkdale in 1998. He remembers defending champion Justin Leonard being on the front cover of the program, being in awe of a 22-year-old Tiger Woods walking past him, and faking golfers' signatures in his autograph book because he failed to get any himself.

Nineteen years on, it's his signature in demand.

Fleetwood is at his highest-ever world ranking of No. 14, he's currently the No. 1 player on the European Tour after winning in Abu Dhabi and France this year, and played in the final group on the Sunday of a U.S. Open last month.

To a former coach and mentor, Fleetwood is not just a sentimental pick this week but a logical one.

"He's the player in form, he's one of the best players in the world, and he's playing a course he knows," Jim Payne told The Associated Press. "Some people talk about pressure he'll be under but I don't see that. I only think he can do well. It's set up for him, really."

Payne recalls Fleetwood being 10 or 11 when he met him for the first time, and young Tommy playing "like someone who was three years older."

"This might not sound right, but he was bothered," Payne said, pausing to find the correct words. "If it didn't work out, he wanted to do something about it. Some people just accept if it wasn't good or it wasn't a win, but he was always striving to get better."

Fleetwood was also aged 11 — with a handicap of 11 and already hitting the ball 230 yards — when he was voted as junior sports personality of the year at a ceremony in nearby Sefton. Peter Fleetwood said at the time that the costs of his son's early golfing career "will all come back the day Tommy wins the Open."

How fitting if he achieved that at Birkdale and became the first Englishman to win an Open in England since Tony Jacklin in 1969 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"Recent results have clearly put me in the eye and made people talk about me as a chance," Fleetwood said. "It's nice to be spoken of in that light, to be honest. I find it very flattering and, I mean, it doesn't affect me in any way, apart from it's very nice and makes me smile, really."

Fleetwood is often seen smiling these days. He says his home life is "as good as it's ever been." He is engaged to his manager, Clare, and they have a baby due in October. And he is over an alarming dip in form triggered when he tried to change his swing in 2015 to become a "world-class golfer."

He returned to another of his old coaches, Alan Thompson, re-employed his old caddie, Ian Finnis, and set about climbing the rankings from a recent low of No. 188 in September 2016.

Now he is that world-class golfer, and ready to add the claret jug to his growing haul of trophies.


4 riders bid for victory at unpredictable Tour de France

Britain's Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, grimaces, as he climbs with France's Romain Bardet, right, Colombia's Rigoberto Uran, second left, and Italy's Fabio Aru, left, during the fifteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Le Puy-en-Velay, France, Sunday, July 16. (Jeff Pachoud, Pool photo via AP)

Samuel Petrequin

Le Puy-en-Velay, France (AP) — The battle for victory will go down to the wire at the Tour de France.

With just six stages left before the three-week race reaches the Champs-Elysees, only 29 seconds separate the top four riders in the general classification.

Defending champion and three-time winner Chris Froome has an 18-second lead over Fabio Aru of Italy. Frenchman Romain Bardet, the runner-up to Froome last year, is 23 seconds back from the leader, in third place. In fourth, is Colombian Rigoberto Uran.

It's an unusual situation ahead of an intense final week of racing that includes two Alpine stages in high altitude and a short time trial.

"It's the hardest fought battle in terms of Tours de France I've done before," Froome said during Monday's rest day. "I'm just grateful I'm on the right side of those gaps."

Froome has the strongest team and remains the favorite to win in Paris, despite some rare signs of weakness.

He endured a bad day in the Pyrenees during a grueling stage to the ski station of Peyragudes, when he lost the overall lead to Aru after wearing the race leader's yellow jersey for seven days. But the Team Sky leader recovered in style two days later, when Aru was trapped at the back of the peloton in Rodez.

On a windy day in the south of France, Froome and his teammates showed their superiority by riding at the front when the peloton stretched out and managed to put 24 seconds into their leader's closest rival.

Froome's main asset in the final stretch will be the strength of his teammates. Expect them to ride at the front in the mountains and to set a punishingly fast tempo - all designed to prevent others from attacking. If Froome is in form, he will be untouchable.

The collective strength of the Sky Team was on display Sunday when Froome was forced to change his rear wheel in the final 40 kilometers and got dropped.

"I was just standing there on the side of the road with my teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, trying to change wheels. I thought it was potentially game over for me," Froome said.

But Kwiatkowski quickly handed over his wheel and Froome was helped back to the front by teammates Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka and Mikel Nieve, erasing a 45-second gap.

Mikel Landa, who looks strong enough to be a leader in another team, was riding at the front but waited for Froome to catch up and the pair worked together to finish with the main contenders.

Froome has also showed great composure and calm when in trouble. In danger of losing the coveted leader's jersey, he did not panic while Bardet, Uran and Aru failed to join forces at the front.

"I think Chris was strong because he was calm. The temptation can be to go too hard too quickly, you panic a little bit, go really, really deep to get on too quickly and of course you just explode," Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said.

Froome's rivals have now to find a way to unsettle and isolate him in the Alps before Saturday's time trial in Marseille, where the British rider will have the upper hand in the race against the clock.

Here is a look at the other contenders ahead of Tuesday's Stage 16 that will lead the peloton to the gateway to the Alps in Romans-sur-Isere.

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FABIO ARU

Aru was the big winner in Peyragudes, where he took the yellow jersey for the first time after Froome cracked in the last 500 meters of the stage.

But he could not build on the momentum and was isolated in the finale of the Rodez stage, handing overall lead back to Froome after only two days in yellow.

The former Vuelta champion is paying the price for his Astana team's weaknesses. The Kazakhstan-funded team has lost key members Jakob Fuglsang and Dario Cataldo in crashes, and Aru has to count on his own skills when in trouble.

He will ride on his favorite terrain from Wednesday when the race enters the Alps. His only option if he wants to succeed Vincenzo Nibali on the list of Italian winners of the Tour will be to attack.

"This is going to be a very tough final week and so not everything is lost," Aru said. "There aren't just a few seconds difference now between me and Froome, but there aren't so many either. So the Tour is still wide open."

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ROMAIN BARDET

Bardet has made no mistake so far in his bid to become the first Frenchman in 32 years to win cycling's biggest race.

The 26-year-old climbing specialist finished runner-up to Froome last year and wants to move one step higher on the podium.

"I'm waiting for an opportunity to create a time difference," Bardet said.

A very attack-minded cyclist with a natural instinct for racing, Bardet is in superb physical shape. In Peyragudes, his lethal acceleration earned him the stage win. He will try to reproduce the move in the mammoth Stage 18 to the Col d'Izoard, which features a final 14.1-kilometer ascent to the top of the mountain, at an altitude of 2,360 meters.

"I'm not thinking about the time trial," Bardet said. "We'll check the situation after the Izoard. I'm going to ride two Alpine stages as if they were classics."

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RIGOBERTO URAN

Twice a runner-up at the Giro, the Colombian from Cannondale-Drapac is now a serious contender for the overall win in France.

"We knew Rigo was super good and capable of winning mountain stages, and that he was capable of being in the top five overall," said Jonathan Vaughters, manager of Uran's Cannondale-Drapac team. "But that he was going to be 29 seconds behind? No."

An excellent climber with good downhill skills, Uran made headlines during the first week when he won a stage in Chambery despite riding on a faulty bike, unable to change gears for the final 23 kilometers.

Uran, a former Team Sky rider, finished second at the Giro in 2013 and 2014 after winning the Olympic silver medal in the road race in London in 2012. He decided not to compete at this year's Giro to arrive in perfect shape at the Tour, a good strategy so far.

Vaughters said Uran will not be content with a podium finish in Paris.

"That's not really Rigos's mentality, he is a kind of all-in guy," Vaughters said. "For me, if we risk everything and he ends up in fifth place because we rolled the dice and it went the wrong way, c'est la vie."


Chinese domination of diving events continues at worlds

 

Shi Tingmao, left, and Chang Yani of China are congratulated on winning the women's 3m synchro springboard event in the women's 3m synchro springboard final of the 17th FINA Swimming World Championships in Duna Arena in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, July 17. (Tibor Illyes/MTI via AP)

Ciaran Fahey

Budapest, Hungary (AP) — Chinese domination of diving continued at the world championships with gold in the women's 3-meter springboard and men's 10-meter platform synchronized finals on Monday.

Shi Tingmao and Chang Yani won the team's ninth straight world title in women's 3-meter springboard synchronized diving, then Chen Aisen and Yang Hao delivered China's fifth gold of the championships in the men's 10-meter.

Chen and Yang, who won all four meets in the diving world series this season, led from the start and finished with their best dive of six for a total of 498.48 points.

It was Chen's second gold in this event after winning at the 2015 worlds with Lin Yue.

"The last time my partner was a stable, calm person (Lin), and this time I came with a new partner (Yang). So it was a challenge. The last time was a more relaxed competition," Chen said.

Russia's Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev, almost 40 points behind, came closest to the Chinese for the silver, and Germany's first medal of the week went to third-placed Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein.

The latter equaled the record of three medals in this event at the worlds, after winning in 2013 in Barcelona and claiming silver in 2011.

"We couldn't be more satisfied," Hausding said. He said it was the last dive for Klein, who retired. "This was our last competition as a team so getting a medal at the end, with all our family and friends watching, is everything we could ask for."

Shi and Chang upheld China's winning streak from Sunday. They also led from the first round and produced an almost-perfect forward 2-1/2 somersaults, one twist pike in the fifth for a total of 333.30.

It brought Shi her sixth gold medal in diving at the worlds and her fourth in this event.

Shi said: "First of all, I feel really happy we won this gold medal, and then I would like to mention that my partner is only 15 and (this) was her first (worlds), so I feel very happy for her."

Melissa Citrini Beaulieu and Jennifer Abel finished with an inward 2-1/2 somersaults pike to claim Canada's first medal of the championships, a silver, with 323.43.

Abel claimed a medal in this event at the previous three worlds, and her fourth made her the most decorated non-Chinese athlete in women's 3-meter springboard.

"I didn't know that, it feels great, and it was part of the plan. Every time I compete it's to be on the podium. Having one more medal makes my career even better at the end," Abel said.

Kristina Ilinykh and Nadezhda Bazhina won the bronze for Russia, its first of the championships and sixth at the time. Bondar and Minibaev made it seven later.


IAAF provisionally suspends Fredericks in payment probe

 

Former Olympic medalist Frank Fredericks of Namibia is shown in this May 8, 1999 file photo. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Monaco (AP) — Four-time Olympic medalist Frank Fredericks has been suspended from duty by track and field's governing body, the IAAF, while he is investigated for alleged corruption suspected of being linked to the 2016 Olympics hosting vote.

The independent Athletics Integrity Unit said Monday that its request for an interim ban on Fredericks, a former sprinter from Namibia, was granted by the IAAF disciplinary panel.

Fredericks, who is also an International Olympic Committee member, is separately being investigated by the IOC ethics commission over a near-$300,000 payment he received on Oct. 2, 2009 — the same day Rio de Janeiro won the 2016 Olympic hosting vote in a four-city contest.

French daily Le Monde alleged in March that the payment came from a Brazilian businessman and was channeled through a sports marketing company created by Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF president Lamine Diack. Both Diacks are implicated by French prosecutors in a corruption case that includes extorting money from athletes to cover up doping.

Fredericks denies wrongdoing, claiming the money was for contracted consultancy work. He previously offered to step aside from his IOC work and his IAAF duties except his seat on the ruling Council.

"I am not prepared to voluntarily consent not to undertake my duties in respect of the position I hold as IAAF Council Member," Fredericks wrote to the disciplinary panel.

However, he did agree to avoid attending a meeting in London next month on the sidelines of the Aug. 4-13 world championships.

Fredericks plans to contest the suspension at a hearing, the integrity unit says.

In its published interim ruling, the IAAF disciplinary panel said Fredericks had the presumption of innocence while under investigation.

Still, the panel chairman noted that "Fredericks has not, in the answers and explanations he has provided to date, disturbed the prima facie case of matters warranting investigation."

Those matters include "whether there was any connection between the Payment and the IOC vote to award the 2016 summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro," the IAAF panel said.

Fredericks was seen as a rising star in Olympic circles until the case was reported. He had to resign as chairman of the IOC panel evaluating the bids of Los Angeles and Paris to host the 2024 Olympics, and agreed not to take part in that hosting decision due in September.

The 49-year-old official won silver medals in 100 and 200 meters at both the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 1996 Atlanta Olympics.


Update July 17, 2017

Federer wins record-breaking 8th Wimbledon title

Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates with the trophy after beating Croatia's Marin Cilic in the men's singles final match on day thirteen at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Sunday, July 16. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool Photo via AP)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) — After Roger Federer closed out a Wimbledon final that was more of a coronation than a contest with an ace, he sat in his changeover chair and wiped away tears.

That is when it hit him: His wait for record-breaking No. 8 was over. Until then, Federer wasn't focused on the notion of winning the grass-court tournament more often than any other man in the history of an event first held in 1877. All he'd been concerned with, consumed with, was being healthy enough to compete at a high level and, he hoped, to win a title, regardless of what the total count would be.

Capping a marvelous fortnight in which he never dropped a set, Federer won his eighth Wimbledon trophy and 19th Grand Slam championship overall by overwhelming Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in merely 1 hour, 41 minutes Sunday.

"Wimbledon was always my favorite tournament. Will always be my favorite tournament. My heroes walked the grounds here and walked the courts here. Because of them, I think I became a better player, too," said Federer, who will turn 36 next month and is the oldest male champion at the All England Club in the Open era, which began in 1968.

"To mark history here at Wimbledon really means a lot to me just because of all of that, really," he said. "It's that simple."

His first major title came at Wimbledon in 2003, and was followed by others in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He won again in 2009 and 2012. But then he lost finals in 2014 and 2015 to Novak Djokovic.

He couldn't be sure another final, let alone title, was possible a year ago, when he lost in the semifinals, then took the rest of 2016 off to let his surgically repaired left knee heal.

"It's been a long road," he said.

Sunday's outcome was only in doubt for about 20 minutes, the amount of time it took Federer to grab his first lead.

Cilic said afterward he developed a painful blister on his left foot during his semifinal Friday, and that affected his ability to move properly or summon the intimidating serves that carried him to his lone Grand Slam title at the 2014 U.S. Open, where he surprisingly beat Federer in the semifinals.

This one was all Federer, who had been tied at seven championships with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw in what's still officially called Gentlemen's Singles. Sampras won all but one of his in the 1990s; Renshaw won each of his in the 1880s, when the previous year's winner advanced automatically to the final.

With clouds overhead and a bit of chill in the air Sunday, Federer's early play was symptomatic of jitters. For everything he's accomplished, for all of the bright lights and big settings to which he's become accustomed, the guy many have labeled the "GOAT" — Greatest of All Time — admits to feeling heavy legs and jumbled thoughts to this day.

It was Federer, not Cilic, who double-faulted in his first two service games. And it was Federer, not Cilic, who faced the initial break point, in the fourth game. But Cilic netted a return, beginning a run of 17 points in a row won by Federer on his serve. He would never be confronted with another break point.

"I gave it my best," Cilic said. "That's all I could do."

In the next game, Federer broke to lead 3-2. He broke again to take that set when Cilic double-faulted, walked to the changeover and slammed his racket. Cilic sat and covered his head with a white towel.

With Federer up 3-0 in the second set, Cilic cried while he was visited by a doctor and trainer. He said that was not so much a result of his foot's pain as the idea that he could not play well enough to present a challenge.

"Very tough emotionally," said Cilic, whose foot was re-taped by a trainer after the second set. "I knew that I cannot give my best on the court."

It might not have mattered. Federer was, as he'd been all tournament, flawless, the first man in 41 years to win Wimbledon without ceding a set. Against Cilic, he had 23 winners, only eight unforced errors.

This caps a remarkable reboot for Federer, who departed Wimbledon a year ago with a lot of doubts: His body was letting him down for the first time in his career. He skipped the Rio Olympics, the U.S. Open and everything else in an attempt to try to get healthy.

It worked. And how.

Feeling refreshed and fully fit, Federer returned to the tour in January and was suddenly playing like the guy of old, rather than like an old guy.

In a turn-back-the-clock moment, he faced rival Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final and, with a fifth-set comeback, won. It was Federer's 18th Grand Slam title, adding to his own record, and first in 4 years. Those who had written Federer off needed to grab their erasers.

The formula made sense, clearly, so why not try it again? Federer skipped this year's clay-court circuit to be in top shape for the grass courts he loves so dearly. Sunday's victory made Federer 31-2 in 2017, with a tour-leading five titles.

"On one side, yes, it surprises me. On the other side, I know he's able to do so many things. So it's not surprising," coach Severin Luthi said. "But when it happens, it's amazing."

Yes, Federer is back to being supreme in tennis, lording over the sport the way no man has.

He's not, of course, the same 21-year-old kid who had a ponytail and scruff when he beat Mark Philippoussis in the 2003 Wimbledon final. Or the teen who, two years earlier, beat Sampras himself at Centre Court in the fourth round, their only tour-level meeting.

Federer's hair is cropped, his face clean shaven. He's a father of four, and both sets of twins — boys, 3, in their light blue blazers; girls, 7, in their dresses — were in the guest box for Sunday's trophy ceremony.

One son stuck a couple of fingers in his mouth until a sister grabbed his hand.

"They have no clue what's going on. They think it's probably a nice view and a nice playground. But it's not quite like that here, so one day, hopefully, they'll understand," Federer said about his boys.

As for the girls, he said: "They enjoy to watch a little bit. They come for the finals, I guess."

When Dad is Roger Federer, you can wait until the last Sunday to show up.

And you just might get to see him cradle that gold trophy.


Hamilton wins British GP, cuts Vettel's F1 lead to 1 point

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain, center, leads at the start of the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone racetrack in Silverstone, England, Sunday, July 16. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Rob Harris

Silverstone, England (AP) — Just like his tire, Sebastian Vettel's championship lead was shredded at the British Grand Prix.

A 20-point lead was slashed to a single point by Lewis Hamilton after the Mercedes driver led from start to finish to cruise to a fourth win of the season.

Vettel was never in realistic contention for victory on Sunday, but he was still third entering the penultimate lap — a finish that would have ensured 10 points still separated him from Hamilton. But Silverstone witnessed a remarkable collapse, a final twist on an afternoon of thrilling racing.

A front-left blowout on Vettel's Ferrari sent rubber remnants of the tire flying across the track as the four-time world champion crawled back into the pits for repairs just in time. It ensured Vettel was still able to finish seventh and collect the points that kept him top heading into the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 30.

"It could have been a bit better for sure, but a disaster? I don't think so," Vettel said. "I don't think there is anyone particularly to blame."

Troublingly for Ferrari, Vettel's tire trouble struck a lap after teammate Kimi Raikkonen's car also experienced a puncture as he was set for second. It allowed Valtteri Bottas to complete a Mercedes one-two with Hamilton as Raikkonen completed the podium.

"I don't wish any misfortune on anyone," Hamilton said. "But we didn't have any issues."

Unlike the last two races when Hamilton lost ground in the championship.

There was a faulty head rest in Azerbaijan that contributed to Hamilton finishing fifth, followed by a five-place grid penalty for an unauthorized gearbox in Austria where he was fourth.

Now Hamilton is back on top of the podium, for a record-equaling fifth time at his home race.

"Obviously the pendulum has swung this weekend," Hamilton said. "That is only good for Formula One and good for the fans with the close battle we continue to have."

Hamilton wasn't on the podium for long. Soon he was among the fans who roared him to glory, vaulting out of the pit line and crowd-surfing.

The celebration carried a pointed message to critics of his failure to attend a showcase of the sport in central London that was attended by the 19 other drivers. Unlike in Trafalgar Square, there certainly weren't any jeers of Hamilton's name at Silverstone as he joined Jim Clark and Alain Prost as five-time winners of the race.

"There is no reason to question my preparations," Hamilton said. "(There was) so much negativity trying to pull the weekend down but obviously it had no effect ... the fans were out-and-out loving and supporting all weekend."

Perhaps recuperating with two-day holidays in Greece is now the blueprint for Hamilton in his quest for a fourth world title.

"I don't understand why the British hero was being beaten up before his home grand prix," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said. "l think that made him even more determined."

There was also an unexpected second-place finish after Bottas made up seven places following a five-place penalty for a gearbox change like Hamilton's a week earlier. As Bottas surged up the order there was an exhilarating battle with Vettel for third that the Finnish driver won on lap 44 of 51.

There was also combative racing early on between Vettel and Max Verstappen as they initially fought for third in a wheel-to-wheel challenge.

"He wants to play bumper cars or something," Verstappen complained over the team radio as Vettel attempted to overtake him on the inside after 14 of 51 laps.

Thanks to Vettel's misfortune, Verstappen was able to finish fourth, having provided much early entertainment, while Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was fifth.

"At the beginning I knew I was quite a bit slower than Seb so I just did my best to stay in front and have some fun," Verstappen said. "It was the only thing I could do and luckily he didn't manage to pass me on track, after that little battle my race became a bit lonely."


South Africa set England mammoth 474 to win 2nd test

South Africa's Hashim Amla hits out during day three of the Second Test match against England, at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, England, Sunday July 16. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

Nottingham, England (AP) — South Africa set England an almost insurmountable 474 to win the second test after declaring their second innings on 343-9 on Sunday.

England saw out four testing overs before stumps to be 1-0, but have two full days left to survive if they are to save the match and preserve their 1-0 lead in the four-test series.

Never mind that England would set a world record for the highest fourth-innings score to win a test, they also need to make the biggest fourth-innings score ever at Trent Bridge.

Only once, New Zealand in 1973, has a team made over 400 in the final innings at Nottingham.

South Africa's big lead was built on second-innings half-centuries by opener Dean Elgar (80), Hashim Amla (87) and captain Faf du Plessis (63), who is on course to lead his team to a series-leveling victory on his return after missing the defeat at Lord's for the birth of his first child.

South Africa also had some fun at the back end of their second innings as the declaration approached in the late afternoon, with Vernon Philander (42) and Morne Morkel (17 not out) given license to swing at anything in a final hurrah.

Morkel connected for three fours and Philander heaved Moeen Ali away for two big sixes off successive balls before falling caught and bowled to the spinner.

Ali finished with 4-78 to lead England's bowling effort but the Day 3 pitch didn't offer the pronounced swing and seam movement for the quick bowlers it did in the early stages of this test.

Instead, there were signs late in the day of uneven bounce as the surface wears away, something that will be in South Africa's favor over the final two days.

Elgar and Amla, continuing their partnership from Day 2, put on 135 for the second wicket in a stand that wasn't flashy or fast, but ground down England's bowlers and ensured South Africa held the upper hand from the start of the day onward.

They both had let-offs, chances that might have changed the complexion of the day if England had taken them.

First, Amla got away with what appeared to be a faint outside edge behind off Stuart Broad when on 25. Umpire Simon Fry turned down a half-hearted appeal by fielders and England didn't go for a TV review, with replays showing Amla got a nick.

Elgar was missed just after reaching 50 when James Anderson couldn't hold on to a flying, one-handed chance at gully, also off Broad. Reflecting England's bowling struggles, Broad returned figures of 0-60 and Mark Wood 0-68. Anderson took 2-45 to take his match haul to seven wickets.

England had South Africa under real pressure just once in the day, when Ben Stokes (2-34) served up a spell of aggressive short-pitched bowling that unsettled Elgar and Amla and got Elgar out when he spooned a catch to backward square leg.

Anderson removed Quinton de Kock next over for one, but the Amla-Du Plessis stand seemed to have taken the game well out of England's reach.


Park wins US Women's Open

South Korea's Sung Hyun Park tees off on the fourth hole during the final round of the U.S. Women's Open Golf tournament Sunday, July 16, in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tom Canavan

Bedminster, N.J. (AP) — Sung Hyun Park won the U.S. Women's Open on Sunday for her first LPGA Tour victory.

The 23-year-old from South Korea shot her second straight 5-under 67 and won a final-round battle with front-running Shanshan Feng and teenage amateur Hye-Jin Choi at Trump National Golf Club.

Park birdied the 15th to move into a tie for the lead and the 17th to open a two-shot edge after Choi made a double bogey on the previous hole. Park finished at 11-under 277 for a two-stroke win over Choi.

President Donald Trump attended the biggest event in women's golf for the third straight day. There was a peaceful protest after he arrived at his box near the 15th green shortly after 3 p.m.

It ended up being a quiet week of politics. The golf was excellent.

Park needed a fine chip from over the green on the par-5 18th hole to save par and win the $900,000 top prize from the $5 million event.

Walking to the scoring tent to sign her card, she got a thumps-up from Trump from his box.

Choi finished with a 71 to finish as the low amateur for the second straight year. She was 38th in 2016.

Top-ranked So Yeon Ryu (70) and fellow South Korean Mi Jung Hur (68) tied for third at 7 under. Feng, from China, had a 75 to drop into a tie for fifth at 6 under with Spain's Carlota Ciganda (70) and South Korea's Jeongeun6 Lee (71).

South Koreans Sei Young Kim (69), Mirim Lee (72) and Amy Yang (75) tied for eighth at 5 under. Marina Alex of nearby Wayne, New Jersey, was the best of the American at  4 under after a 70. It was the worst finish in the Open for the top American since Paula Creamer was seventh in 2012.

Choi was the story for most of the final round. The 17-year-old had a two-shot lead with nine holes to play and needed a birdie at 15 to regain a piece with Park.

The 139-yard, par-3 16th over water ended her hopes. Her tee shot landed in the water to the right of the hole. She ended with a double bogey and basically lost her chance of becoming the second amateur to win the Open. She birdied the final hole.

Catherine Lacoste remains the only amateur to win the Open, doing it in 1967.

Feng, who was the leader after the first three rounds and carried a one-shot edge into the final 18 holes, triple bogeyed the final hole.

The win was redemption for Park, who is the leading rookie on the LPGA Tour this year. She had the 36-hole lead in the Open last year and shot final rounds of 74-74 to finish two shots out of a playoff with eventual champion Brittany Lang and Anna Nordqvist.

Park saved her best for the last two rounds this year and won. It was not her first professional win, she won seven times on the KLPGA Tour in 2016 and three times the year before.


Bike problem nearly derails Froome on Stage 15

Britain's Chris Froome puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey on the podium of the fifteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Le Puy-en-Velay, France, Sunday, July 16. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

John Leicester & Samuel Petrequin

Le Puy-en-Velay, France (AP) — If Chris Froome rides into Paris next Sunday with the Tour de France's famed yellow jersey still on his shoulders, it will be impossible to argue that he didn't earn the win.

In another day of drama Sunday in a 104th Tour full of twists, Froome broke a back-wheel spoke at the worst possible time on Stage 15 — just as his top rivals were picking up speed in front of him going into yet another punishing climb.

By the time Froome had stopped, taken a wheel off his teammate Michal Kwiatkowski and got going again, they were long gone, already about one minute down the road.

Froome had two choices: pour all his energy into catching them or lose his overall race lead and its yellow jersey that has already changed hands three times since the Tour started in Germany on July 1.

"Panic stations," he said. "I really thought that that could be the yellow jersey changing shoulders again."

Like a hound chasing prey, Froome hared off after Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Uran — the three riders all within 30 seconds of Froome in the overall standings of the Tour that, after a ho-hum beginning, has become thrillingly close.

Earlier at the Tour, Froome's rivals had waited for the race leader to catch them back up when he suffered another mechanical problem, that one with his gears.

There was no such politeness this time.

Cheered on by partisan crowds on the 8.3-kilometer (5-mile) slog up the steep Col de Peyra Taillade — scaled for the very first time by the Tour — Bardet's French team AG2R put the hammer down.

Further back, Froome realized that if he didn't catch them by the top, he might never do so.

The race was on.

Helped first by teammates Mikel Nieve and then by Mikel Landa, and booed by some spectators as he labored past them, Froome worked furiously on the climb to reel in Bardet's group.

"They all emptied themselves to get me back into the race," Froome said of his teammates. "I had to get back by the top of the climb. Otherwise it was game over for me."

"It was a stressful moment," Froome said. "I thought I might not get back to the front."

Froome said the back-wheel problem seemed to be a broken spoke. "The wheel wasn't straight anymore," he said.

By recovering from the misfortune, Froome now takes the jersey and an 18-second lead over Aru into Monday's rest day, the last of two at the Tour, ahead of a crucial last week of racing in the Alps and with a time trial in Marseille.

The stage itself was won by Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands, with a courageous solo breakaway at the front of the race.

Mollema, a top-10 finisher at the Tours of 2013, 2014 and 2015, sped away on the descent from the Peyra Taillade climb and endured over the last 30 kilometers (20 miles) in front of a group of four riders who laid chase.

They couldn't catch the Trek-Segafredo rider, who was determined to secure his first-ever win at the Tour.

Mollema held his arms out in a cross shape as he sped across the finish in Le Puy-en-Velay, the start of a famed Christian pilgrimage route to Spain. Champagne would be uncorked in celebration, he promised.

"I've never ridden so many kilometers alone in my life," Mollema said. "But I made it!"

The arduously bumpy 189.5-kilometer (117-mile) stage from the cattle-market town of Laissac-Severac L'Eglise, past rocky outcrops and patchwork fields on the high plateaus of France's Massif Central mountains, offered two important insights going into the final week: Froome's rivals haven't given up trying to unseat him, and he still has energy to burn.

Riding back into Bardet's group required a big effort, especially since the French rider and his AG2R teammates were scaling the ascent at a brisk pace, roared on by the crowds. At one point, they rode over the words "Go Romain" that someone had painted on the tarmac.

"I had to go very deep," Froome said.

But he still had reserves at the end to finish the stage with a sprint, making clear that he's not prepared to cede an inch of road without a fight. The top four standings remained unchanged: Aru, 18 seconds back in second place; Bardet 23 seconds behind the leader in third; Uran, 29 seconds off the lead, in fourth.

Irish rider Dan Martin moved up from sixth to fifth overall by powering ahead of the leaders' group in the final stretch. Now just 1:12 behind Froome — having started the day 1:26 back — Martin can expect to be watched even more closely by Froome and his Team Sky support riders from now on.

"It's going to be every second at this point," Froome said, "every second all the way into Paris."


Cabrera Bello beats Shinkwin in playoff, wins Scottish Open

Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello plays his second shot on the 1st hole during day four of the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, Troon, Scotland, Sunday July 16. (Mark Runnacles/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

Irvine, Scotland (AP) — Rafa Cabrera Bello needed the best round of the week and one of the best shots of his life to end his 5-year wait for a victory on Sunday.

A final-hole meltdown from Callum Shinkwin helped, too, at the Scottish Open.

On another signature day for Spanish golf in 2017, Cabrera Bello followed up an 8-under 64 — a course record at Dundonald Links — with a birdie in a sudden-death playoff against Shinkwin to win his third European Tour title.

He set up the birdie with a 3-wood to 8 feet from 275 yards on his second shot at the par-5 18th, having nearly found a burn running alongside the green with a similar shot in regulation play.

"I executed it perfectly," Cabrera Bello said. "One of the shots of my life."

Shinkwin, an unheralded Englishman ranked No. 405, left western Scotland with a spot in this week's British Open and the belief that he can compete with the game's best players.

And probably bad memories of the 18th hole at Dundonald Links.

Shinkwin started the final round in a share of the lead with Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt, and led by a shot going down the last for the first time Sunday. Needing only a par to be assured of victory, he sent his second shot left and behind a greenside bunker, before chipping short of the green and seeing his ball roll back down beside the bunker.

From just off the green, he rolled a putt to 4 feet and left his par putt two inches short. He laughed and held his face in his hands, knowing he had dropped into a playoff with his only bogey in a round of 68. Shinkwin and Cabrera Bello finished on 13-under 275 overall.

Returning to the 18th for the playoff, Shinkwin was first with his second shot and put it exactly where he did about 30 minutes earlier. His chip shot over the bunker was only slightly better and he left his birdie putt agonizingly short again.

"It's all a learning curve and obviously if you win, you have to have luck on your side. It wasn't there for me," Shinkwin said.

"Under the gun, I didn't miss a shot until the last hole."

In his final round, Cabrera Bello made eight birdies and didn't drop a shot. On his 72nd hole, his approach landed on the bank and nearly dropped into the burn, drawing gasps from spectators. He chipped out and made a birdie that ultimately forced the playoff.

His win continues a stunning year for Spanish golf, with Sergio Garcia winning the Masters for his first major title and Jon Rahm — a rising star of the sport — winning two titles, most recently at the Irish Open last week.

The last of Cabrera Bello's previous two titles on the European Tour came at the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2012.

"I have been fighting for this win for many years," he said. "Sometimes I did mistakes, sometimes it didn't work out for me.

"I think this is long overdue."

Cabrera Bello will climb into the world's top 20 heading into the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Matthieu Pavon and Dodt joined Shinkwin in qualifying for the Open courtesy of a top-10 finish for non-exempt players. Dodt was due to fly to New York on Monday for a five-day holiday with his wife.

Poulter was seeking a 14th worldwide win — and first since November 2012 — but was always playing catch-up after three-putting Nos. 1 and 4 for bogeys. He tied for ninth place alongside 2015 champion Rickie Fowler, who shot 70.


Update July 15 - 16, 2017

Federer into 11th Wimbledon final, faces Cilic for 8th title

Switzerland's Roger Federer returns to Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych during their men's singles semifinal match on day eleven at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Friday, July 14. (Gareth Fuller/Pool Photo via AP)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) — They love their history around these parts and they love Roger Federer and, above all, they love watching him make history.

Now he stands one victory from an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon men's singles championship after qualifying for his 11th appearance in the final, breaking a record he already held.

Just weeks from turning 36, and a father of four, Federer continued his resurgent season and unchallenged run through this fortnight at the All England Club by conjuring up just enough brilliance to beat 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the semifinals Friday.

"It's great, but it doesn't give me the title quite yet. That's why I came here this year," Federer said. "I'm so close now, so I just got to stay focused."

He has won every set he's played in six matches, and while he did not exactly dominate against the 11th-seeded Berdych, Federer was never in much trouble. On Sunday, Federer will face 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, who reached his first Wimbledon final by eliminating 24th-seeded Sam Querrey of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 with the help of 25 aces and some terrific returning.

"This is his home court," Cilic said about Federer, "(the) place where he feels the best and knows that he can play the best game."

Since equaling Pete Sampras and William Renshaw (who played in the 1880s) with a seventh trophy at Wimbledon in 2012, Federer has come this close before to No. 8. But he lost to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 finals.

Here comes another chance.

Federer would be the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era, which dates to 1968; as it is, he's the oldest finalist since Ken Rosewall was 39 in 1974.

"I mean, I don't see anything that would indicate really Roger is getting older or anything like that," said Berdych, who wore sneakers with a silhouette of Djokovic's face on the tongue because his own usual shoes were uncomfortable. "He's just proving his greatness in our sport."

Also noteworthy: This is Federer's second major final of 2017. After losing in the Wimbledon semifinals last year, he took the rest of 2016 off to let his surgically repaired left knee heal. He came back fit and refreshed and won the Australian Open in January for his record-extending 18th Grand Slam title and first anywhere in 4 years.

"Giving your body rest from time to time is a good thing, as we see now," Federer said. "And I'm happy it's paying off because for a second, of course, there is doubts there that maybe one day you'll never be able to come back and play a match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. But it happened, and it's happened many, many times this week."

And most of the 15,000 or so people in attendance were pulling for him. That was evident throughout Friday, from the cries of "Go, Roger!" to the roars of approval and thunderous applause that greeted some of his best efforts on a day when he was not necessarily at his vintage, wondrous best.

The down-the-line forehand passing winner that landed right on the opposite baseline in the second set, leaving Berdych slumping his shoulders. Or the no-look, flicked backhand winner several games later that not many players would even try, let alone manage to do.

Or the way he extricated himself from a sticky situation down 3-2 in the third, facing break points at 15-40: 107 mph (173 kph) ace, 116 mph (187 kph) ace, 120 mph (194 kph) service winner, 119 mph (192 kph) ace. In the very next game, he surged to a 4-3 lead by breaking Berdych. That was pretty much that.

"I was able to come up with the goods when it mattered," Federer said.

The No. 7-seeded Cilic was not able to do that in the opening tiebreaker against Querrey, the first man from the U.S. in any major semifinals since 2009.

At 6-all, Cilic seemed distracted by a delay of a couple of minutes when a spectator who appeared to feel ill was helped from her seat and out of the stands. When action resumed, Cilic flubbed two backhands to cede the set.

But from there, he steadied, handling Querrey's big serves rather well. A trio of superb returns earned a key break in the fourth set, the last a massive forehand off a 79 mph (127 kph) second serve that drew a shanked backhand and a yell of "No!" from Querrey.

The next test for Cilic is the toughest of all: beating Federer at Centre Court. They met in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year, when Cilic took the opening two sets and even held a match point before Federer came all the way back to win, improving to 6-1 head-to-head.

That lone win for Cilic was by straight sets in the semifinals in New York three years ago, on the way to his one major title.

"I still know that it's a big mountain to climb," Cilic said. "Roger is playing maybe (some) of his best tennis of his career at the moment."


Wind delivers on day 2 of Optimist Worlds

Strong winds and a freak storm challenged the young Optimist sailors on Day 2 of the Optimist World Championship 2017 at Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya. (Photo/Matias Capizzano)

Nima Chandler

Pattaya - A sunny, windy day greeted sailors on the second day of the Optimist World Championships 2017 in Pattaya, setting the stage for a day of perfect racing conditions with a dramatic ending sure to remembered for years to come.

White caps offshore of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club heralded winds of 15 to 18 knots that lasted through the day. As Local Race Officer Neil Dunkley put it, “Bigger wind sailors are going to have their day today.”

He also warned that the wind might soften at the end of the day, but, as the last fleet finished its second race, the wind suddenly gained strength, a freak storm rolling in with little warning, sending Optimists speeding over large waves in torrential rain on their way home.

At the host venue, it was all helping hands into the sea to assist sailors trying to return to shore, a reminder of the community spirit that sailing fosters. As Malta’s Andrea Schultheis put it, “That is sailing. Everyone understands the weather is the one thing you can’t control. Everything else has been great. With the storm, we just needed more hands, which we got.”

All fleets did finish their two scheduled races, which was what was most important to coaches and sailors alike going into the final day before the fleet splits. Hopes were the stronger wind would overcome the difficult starting sequence seen on the first day of qualification trials when a strong current pushed many sailors over the line. Several fleets did experience general recalls on Friday, however, with 18 competitors black flagged on restarts. While such may have dashed the hopes of a few aspiring to make the gold fleet, it was a great day of sailing for others.

As Australian coach Rob Brewer said, “It was a beautiful racing day. It was perfect until the storm came. Then it got busy, but was a fun ride home.”

“It was awesome,” said Indian youth sailor Navyn Prabhakar, who was thrilled to fly home in five minutes instead of 20.

“It was a good racing day and it was fun coming home,” said Peru’s Florencia Chiarella.

“Everyone was helping,” said another sailor, appreciative of the volunteers who rushed to shore to assist in the torrential rain.

All sailors and boats were accounted for at the end of day. Only one set of spars was bent beyond use, replacements authorized.

Macau’s coach Tablate J-Monday described it as “a good experience”, proud his sailors managed to finish although at the back of their fleets.

China’s team leader Chen Chunxin said, “The storm is over. Now what were the results?”

Coaches from South Africa and New Zealand coaches were not flustered. “This is what we are used to,” said one of the wild weather at day end, which was followed by a spectacular sunset.

When results were released late Friday evening, it was clear stronger winds led to a shakeup at the top of the fleet, with only four repeats on the leaderboard of the top ten from the first day of racing - Mic Sig Kos Mohr of Costa Rica, Marco Gradoni of Italy, Oliver Jacket of the Netherlands, and Haoze Fang of China.

One more day of qualifying races are scheduled before sailors will be split into gold, silver and bronze fleets based on rankings. At that time, the battle for the four trophies on offer will heat up at the world youth regatta, which sees a record-breaking 281 entries from 62 countries this year.


Valtteri Bottas receives 5-place grid penalty for British GP

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during the second free practice at the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone racetrack, Silverstone, England, Friday, July 14. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Rob Harris

Silverstone, England (AP) — After setting the pace in practice for the British Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas' bid for a second successive victory was hit by a five-place penalty on the grid for the Formula One race.

The sanction was imposed due to an unscheduled change of gearbox because it has not been used for six consecutive races.

Bottas, who won the Austrian race last weekend, had outpaced Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in practice on Friday.

Bottas was less than a tenth of a second faster than Hamilton in the afternoon at the Silverstone circuit.

"There is still work to do to get the car more drivable and to be able to trust it more in the high-speed corners," Bottas said. "But overall it was a good start for the weekend. I'm impressed by the new cars on this track with its high-speed corners. They're so much quicker."

Hamilton, who failed to make the podium in the last two races, was competing in front of home fans amid an ongoing backlash for being the only driver to fail to attend a live F1 showcase in central London on Wednesday.

Hamilton's name was jeered when it was mentioned at the Trafalgar Square event, but the three-time world champion reveled in the warm reception at Silverstone.

"It was already one of the very best circuits in the world. But with this car and the speed we are able to carry through the corners, it's just phenomenal, it's like the greatest roller-coaster ride ever," Hamilton said. "Each time I left the garage I gave the fans a wave and I could see them waving back. I just want them to know that I can see them and I really appreciate all the love and support."

Hamilton is looking to re-ignite his title challenge, having slipped 20 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel was fourth fastest in the second practice session, behind Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, after an experimental transparent screen was removed from the car in the morning. The polycarbonate shield, placed on Vettel's Ferrari for the first time, is designed to protect against flying debris while offering an unrestricted view.

But it made him feel "dizzy" and he was not overly impressed.

"The vision is not very good and it's because of the curvature that creates a bit of distortion," Vettel said. "We had a run plan but I didn't like it too much. I couldn't see much."

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo had gone faster than their Ferrari counterparts in the morning, but they were behind the Italian constructor in the second session.

"Mercedes are very fast, but if we get everything right we can be challenging Ferrari tomorrow," Ricciardo said, looking ahead to Saturday's qualifying.


Barguil delivers Bastille Day win to France; Aru still leads

France's Warren Barguil, wearing the best climber's dotted jersey, celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the thirteenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Foix, France, Friday, July 14. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

John Leicester & Samuel Petrequin

Foix, France (AP) — After the setback, the fightback.

The day after losing the Tour de France lead to Fabio Aru, Chris Froome and his Team Sky showed on Friday they still have cards up their sleeves. On the shortest stage of the 104th Tour, barring the two time-trials, Sky brought Mikel Landa into play — sending Froome's Spanish teammate racing off ahead on a fast and furious Stage 13 that became part-chess, part a test of speed and endurance over a close-packed succession of three climbs in the Pyrenees.

End result: Sky has two riders — Froome and Landa — in the top five. From here to the July 23 finish in Paris, Aru will have to watch both like a hawk and not let either race off ahead of him in order to keep the famed yellow jersey.

"It's perfect for us," Froome said.

At just 101 kilometers (63 miles), less than half the distance of some of this Tour's longest stages, the up-down, up-down, up-down route through the Ariege region of mountain cheeses and peak-perched fortresses delivered exactly what Tour organizers were hoping for: Full-on racing. They even got a cherry on top, with French rider Warren Barguil winning the stage on Bastille Day — the first tricolor victory on France's national holiday since David Moncoutie in 2005.

"It's incredible," said Barguil, who has recovered remarkably quickly from a pelvis fracture in a crash in April. "I said before the start it would be good if a Frenchman won. It's exceptional."

The Sunweb team rider sped into the finish in Foix, overlooked by its imposing 11th century castle decorated with a French tricolor of red, white and blue, as part of a four-man group that included Landa, two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador, and Nairo Quintana, a podium finisher at three previous Tours.

Contador accelerated first in the final sprint, but Barguil reacted immediately and adeptly negotiated the last U-bend on a bridge over the Ariege river, holding off Quintana to the line. Contador placed third. Testifying to the brevity and relentless racing action of the stage, Barguil covered the distance in just 2 1/2 hours, half the time of longer stages with twice as much road to cover.

By finishing fourth in that leading pack that sped in nearly two minutes ahead of a chasing group that included the Tour's top four riders overall — Aru, Froome, French rider Romain Bardet and Colombian Rigoberto Uran — Landa clawed back valuable time in the overall standings. From seventh overall at the start of the stage, Landa is fifth, just 1:09 behind Aru.

The Italian said there won't be a next time that he gives Landa such freedom to escape.

"I knew he would try something," he said. "But I could not chase every single attack. From now he won't get so much room."

Aru stuck to Froome like glue on the stage, showing a cool head and strong legs as he rode much of the way without any teammates, who couldn't stay with the pace of their group. When Froome hared away on downhills, Aru quickly followed in his wheels. With Froome only six seconds behind him overall, the leader of the Astana team knows he can't afford to let the Briton get away from him. The same is true with Bardet and Uran, who are only 25 seconds and 35 seconds back from the race leader, respectively. The thrillingly tight grouping at the top promises vigorous battles between them in the last week of racing.

"It was a short stage but it was filled with emotions," Aru said. "There were attacks, people tried to attack me several times but I responded every time. I stayed calm and focused. I used my experience."

Aru suffered the blow of losing one of the strongest Astana riders, Jakob Fuglsang, during the stage, the last of two in the Pyrenees. The Danish rider bravely took the stage start with fractures in his left wrist and elbow sustained in a crash earlier in the week. Struggling from the outset, he later abandoned. His departure means Aru will have less support to count on during climbs next week in the Alps, where he could again find himself having to fight off attacks alone.

And having seen its tactics work this time, Sky is already planning its next move to put Froome back in the yellow jersey he held for seven days before Aru took it — with Landa as the team's new joker.

"He's a real threat now for the overall title in Paris," Froome said. "It's a great card for us to play, especially when Astana don't have the numbers to control the race."


South Africa gamble, 309-6 on Day 1 of 2nd test vs. England

South Africa's Hashim Amla, right, sees his drive stopped by England's Alastair Cook, bottom left, during day one of the second cricket Test match between England and South Africa at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, England Friday July 14. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

Nottingham, England (AP) — South Africa came through two difficult periods to reach 309-6 against England at stumps on Day 1 of the second test on Friday, suggesting the Proteas' gamble to bat first in difficult conditions may have paid off.

South Africa were 66-2 and 235-6 before fighting their way back both times and edging the opening day on a Trent Bridge pitch where runs may be hard to come by.

First, a 113-run partnership between Hashim Amla (78) and Quinton de Kock (68) took the Proteas out of early trouble and to 179-2 at tea.

Stuart Broad (3-47) and Ben Stokes (2-77) combined to take four wickets early in the final session for England but South Africa came back again with an unbroken 74-run stand between bowlers Vernon Philander (54 not out) and Chris Morris.

Returning South Africa captain Faf du Plessis trusted his batting lineup on a cloudy morning at Trent Bridge, choosing to bat first in a calculated gamble.

England got what they wanted after skipper Joe Root said he would have bowled anyway, yet despite having the South Africans on the ropes early in the final session, when De Kock fell first ball after tea, the home team couldn't force home their advantage.

England's seamers have had big recent success at Trent Bridge, including bowling Australia out for 60 in less than 20 overs in the Ashes two years ago, and James Anderson and Broad both have their career-best figures at the ground.

That made Du Plessis' decision to bat first a debatable one, and South Africa had to negotiate an abundance of swing from England's quick bowlers throughout the day — and also a 20-minute rain delay just before lunch.

Anderson removed opener Dean Elgar (6) early via a sharp diving catch at backward point by Liam Dawson. Heino Kuhn weathered an early storm, when he got hit on the helmet, but Broad bowled him for 34 with a delivery that seamed back a long way.

Amla became the fourth South African past 8,000 tests runs. Alongside him De Kock, promoted up to No. 4, played his attacking game, hitting eight fours and scoring quickly to take the Proteas to a position of control after two sessions.

England's persistence paid off in a 15-over spell after tea, beginning when De Kock tried to play expansively to the first ball of the session from Broad and edged to Alastair Cook at first slip.

Amla, Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma followed, with Broad and Stokes swinging the ball both ways in a period of complete dominance for England.

Philander and Morris swung the momentum back South Africa's way in the last hour, though, with Philander collecting 36 of his 54 runs in boundaries.

England lead the four-test series after a convincing 211-run win at Lord's in the first game.


Out-of-form McIlroy misses the cut at Scottish Open

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his second shot to the 8th hole during day two of the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, Troon, Scotland, Friday, July 14. (Mark Runnacles/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

Irvine, Scotland (AP) — It started with a shout of "FORE LEFT!" and ended with a putt from about 7 feet that didn't come close to finding the cup.

Rory McIlroy is making an earlier-than-planned journey south to Royal Birkdale for next week's British Open after missing the cut by two strokes at the Scottish Open following a 1-under 71 in his second round on Friday. He was 10 shots off the lead after two days that exposed the current frailties in his wedge play and putting.

It was the world No. 4's third missed cut in his last four events — he also failed to make the weekend at the U.S. Open and last week's Irish Open — and the latest low point in an injury-affected 2017 for the four-time major winner.

"I'm just waiting for something," McIlroy said. "Waiting for something, some sort of spark. Just something to go right, and the last couple of weeks haven't been like that. Just got to keep plugging away and hopefully it turns around next week.

"I would have loved to have played more rounds going into not just the Open but the rest of the year. But I'm sort of trying to learn as I go along."

With little wind protecting Dundonald Links, McIlroy encountered benign conditions in his bid to make up for an opening-round 74 in the British Open warmup but still came up short.

The Northern Irishman pulled his tee shot on No. 1 into a gorse bush, only to get a free drop — because the ball was ruled to have been embedded — and get up and down from a greenside bunker. He tapped in for birdie on Nos. 3 and 5, both par fives, and got into red figures for the first time this week with a close-range birdie at No. 7.

However, he needed two shots to get out of a greenside bunker on No. 13, eventually making double-bogey there for the second straight day, and went down the par-5 18th knowing he needed at least a birdie. McIlroy pulled his approach from 220 yards into the light rough, chipped to 7 feet, but his birdie putt back didn't break and missed by some distance.

"It was a terrible putt," said McIlroy, who has been working hard on his putting.

Of his seven birdies this week, five of them came on par fives.

McIlroy said he would be heading to Birkdale early to get in some practice rounds on one of the hardest courses on the Open rotation.

"I'd be much more worried if I went out there and shot a couple of 76s and I'm nowhere near trying to make the cut or whatever," McIlroy said. "The difference between shooting 1-under par and 4- or 5-under par isn't that much of a difference.

"I feel like I'm more than capable of going down there and shooting a couple of even pars or shooting something in the 60s and getting myself into contention."

Padraig Harrington (68), Callum Shinkwin (68) and Alexander Knappe (65) shared the lead, with Ian Poulter and Andrew Dodt a shot back after 69s. Rickie Fowler, playing in McIlroy's group, shot 70 and was two strokes off the lead.

Other players to miss the cut, which was at 1 under, were defending champion Alex Noren, Americans Patrick Reed and Jason Dufner, and former No. 1 Martin Kaymer.


Update July 14, 2017

Hamilton feeling heat after snubbing event before British GP

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain films with his phone during a press conference ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone circuit, Silverstone, England, Thursday, July 13. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Rob Harris

Silverstone, England (AP) — Britain should be the one stop on the Formula One calendar where Lewis Hamilton is guaranteed a warm welcome.

Not this year.

The British Grand Prix race weekend opened Thursday with an irritated and fidgety Hamilton having to field repeated questions at Silverstone about snubbing his loyal home fans.

In an effort to swell the F1 audience, the new owners of the series took over Trafalgar Square in London to showcase the cars and the stars of the track on Wednesday night. Of the sport's 20 drivers, only one didn't turn up. Hamilton instead opted for a two-day holiday in Greece after finishing fourth in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

Unsurprisingly, it didn't go down well in central London. Hamilton's name was jeered when his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff tried to explain the absence of the three-time world champion.

On Thursday, when he faced reporters at Silverstone, Hamilton said he hadn't heard about the booing.

Hamilton justified his decision to skip the London event by saying he needed a break, has his own vast social media following to connect with fans and conducts hospital visits that he complained don't generate as much coverage as this controversy.

"Everyone has the right to make the decision for themselves," Hamilton said. "I felt it's been a pretty intense season so far and I felt it's the best way to prepare for this weekend. The season is the most important thing for me. That's it. I told the organizers last week that I wouldn't be going."

Other drivers felt more of a duty to promote the sport in front of 100,000 fans who watched a pop concert and saw F1 cars take to Whitehall, the road leading to the prime minister's home at Downing Street and parliament.

Since Hamilton rejected the invitation, Valtteri Bottas was the only Mercedes driver to attend.

"They asked all the drivers to attend and I immediately said 'yeah'," said Bottas, who is third in the drivers' championship. "We had a bit of time on track to try to give the fans what they wanted to see. I doubt they left disappointed."

The importance of engaging with fans was also recognized by championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who is 20 points ahead of second-place Hamilton after nine of 20 races.

"There are not many times in your life you have this kind of opportunity," the Ferrari driver said. "It turned out a great event, a fun event for us as well as for the people."

Hamilton, though, wasn't wavering as listened to fellow drivers extolling the virtues of the extravaganza.

Asked if he would attend a similar promotional event in future, Hamilton responded: "I guess I'll decide when the time comes."

How often Hamilton will race at Silverstone in future is unclear. The race he has won four times could be wiped from the F1 calendar after 2019 unless the circuit's owners secure a cheaper deal to host the best-attended grand prix.

"(It's) the home of motorsport," Hamilton said, "such an incredible, intense weekend."


Fowler makes up for lost time at Scottish Open

 

Ricky Fowler of the United States plays his tee shot at the 4th hole, during day one of the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, Troon, Scotland Thursday July 13. (Mark Runnacles/PA via AP)

Steve Douglas

Irvine, Scotland (AP) — Rickie Fowler skipped the defense of his Scottish Open title last year with a heavy heart.

He began making up for lost time on Thursday.

The American picked up where he left off in 2015 at the warmup event for the British Open, avoiding trouble and rolling in five birdies at Dundonald Links to shoot a 5-under 67 in the first round. He was in a six-way tie for second place, two shots behind Mikko Ilonen.

Fowler, who won the Scottish Open when it was held at Gullane, missed the 2016 tournament because of scheduling conflicts arising from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which clogged up the golfing calendar last summer.

"I would have loved to have been here," he said. "Coming off winning the year before, I love playing links golf and I love playing the week before a major. It was tough to miss it.

"I'm just glad to be back."

The highlight of a stress-free and well-managed round, when he only ran out of position once, was a left-to-right birdie putt at No. 4 that curled into the cup from 20 feet. That came in the midst of three straight birdies on his back nine as Fowler outplayed his partners Rory McIlroy (74) and Henrik Stenson (72) in the marquee group, continuing his consistent form this year.

Fowler has contended at both majors so far and has seven top-10 finishes this season.

Ilonen, the world No. 335 from Finland who arrived in Scotland on the back of four straight missed cuts, said he only made one bad swing in what he described as his best round of the season. He thinned his tee shot right at No. 8 — his second-to-last hole — using a rescue club, only to pull off a superb approach from the thick rough and salvage a par from 10 feet.

He had seven birdies in all — five of them coming in six holes from Nos. 1-6 — and was delighted that a decision to use a new set of irons this week paid off.

Ilonen is a five-time winner on the European Tour and has links pedigree, having won the British Amateur in 2000. His highest finish in 2017, however, was tied for 32nd in Dubai.

"I haven't been able to put two rounds together, never mind four," said Ilonen, who wasn't getting carried away.

Ilonen, an afternoon starter, was giving his post-round interviews just as rain began to fall for the first time in an opening round that featured a sometimes-fierce breeze off the Ayrshire coast in western Scotland.

Padraig Harrington battled through the rain to roll in a 25-yard par putt from off the 16th green and chip in from the back of No. 17 to complete a 67, joining Fowler, Ian Poulter, Paul Peterson, Callum Shinkwin and Andrew Dodt.

Harrington called his par at No. 16 a "minor miracle," having thought he'd lost his ball off the tee. It was found by a scorer in an unplayable lie, so Harrington took a penalty drop, hacked out and made the putt.

"Seven would have been a good score there," said Harrington, who won the British Open in 2008 on the last occasion it was held at Royal Birkdale — the venue for the major next week.

Reigning Open champion Stenson rebounded from a triple-bogey 7 on his first hole (No. 10) — after driving left into thick rough and needing three hacks to get the ball out — to shoot level par. He cut a frustrated figure on his back nine, chucking his club high into the air on his last hole after a weak approach.

Wedge play was McIlroy's undoing, too, on a day the out-of-form world No. 4 failed to shoot the consistent round he has seeking ahead of the Open. On his third and fourth holes, he was in the middle of the fairway and less than 100 yards out, yet fell short and right with his approaches — the latter into a burn to necessitate a drop for a double-bogey.

From 4 over after four holes, McIlroy recovered to 1 over after 16, with three of his four birdies coming via tap-ins on par fives.

McIlroy has missed the cut in two of his last three events, the U.S. Open and the Irish Open.


Shanshan Feng leads in rain-delayed US Women's Open

China's Shanshan Feng tees off on the 13th hole during the first round of the U.S. Women's Open Golf tournament Thursday, July 13, in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tom Canavan

Bedminster, N.J. (AP) — Shanshan Feng shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 and held a one-shot lead over Amy Yang on Thursday when the first round of the U.S. Women's Open at a quiet Trump National Golf Club was suspended by darkness.

Despite complaints over playing the biggest event in women's golf on a course owned by President Donald Trump, there were no apparent protests Thursday over his comments about women. The road outside the club was relatively traffic-free and those in in attendance were there for the golf.

The only problem was the weather. Lightning delayed play for 2 hours, 5 minutes late in the afternoon and 30 players were still on the course when the horn sounded to stop play for the day at 8:33 p.m. Play was scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. Friday.

Lydia Ko played in the same threesome with Feng and finished at 68 along with top-ranked So Yeon Ryu, the only two-time winner this year on the LPGA Tour. Carlota Ciganda also was 4 under with a hole left.

Feng started her round on the 10th hole and played the back side in 5 under, rolling in five birdies. The Chinese star added another at No. 1 and then parred her last eight holes. She won the major LPGA Championship in 2012 for the first of her seven LPGA Tour titles.

Yang has two seconds, a third and a fourth in the event in the last five years. The South Korean player had six birdies and a bogey. She took advantage of the back nine, playing it in 4 under.

Former Open winner Cristie Kerr and Megan Khang were the best U.S. finishers, tied at 69. Amateur Rachel Heck, the 15-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, who is the youngster player in the field, also was at 3 under with five holes to play. Third-ranked Lexi Thompson was at 71, along with Stacy Lewis.

Defending champion Brittany Lang had a 72 in a round where the players who teed off in the morning had the better conditions.

Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn shot 79.


Venus Williams gains 9th Wimbledon final, awaits Muguruza

Venus Williams of the United States returns to Britain's Johanna Konta during their women's singles semifinal match on day nine at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Thursday, July 13. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) — All these years later, Wimbledon still brings out the best in Venus Williams.

With her latest display of gutsy serving and big hitting, Williams beat Johanna Konta 6-4, 6-2 on Thursday to reach her ninth title match at the All England Club and first since 2009.

At 37, Williams is the oldest Wimbledon finalist since Martina Navratilova was the 1994 runner-up at that age.

Williams also stopped Konta's bid to become the first woman from Britain in 40 years to win the country's Grand Slam tournament.

"I couldn't have asked for more, but I'll ask for a little more. One more win would be amazing," Williams said. "It won't be a given, but I'm going to give it my all."

She will be seeking her sixth Wimbledon championship and eighth Grand Slam singles trophy overall. Her most recent came in 2008, when she defeated her younger sister, Serena, for the title at the All England Club. A year later, she lost the final to Serena.

In the time since, Williams revealed that she was diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, which can sap energy and cause joint pain. As time went on, there were questions about whether she might retire, especially after a half-dozen first-round losses at major tournaments. But she kept on going, and lately has returned to winning.

Her resurgence began in earnest at Wimbledon a year ago, when she made it to the semifinals. Then, at the Australian Open in January, Williams reached the final, where she lost to — yes, you guessed it — her sister. Serena is off the tour for the rest of this year because she is pregnant.

"I missed her so much before this match. And I was like, 'I just wish she was here.' And I was like, 'I wish she could do this for me,'" Williams said with a laugh. "And I was like, 'No, this time you have to do it for yourself.' So here we are."

On Saturday, the 10th-seeded American will participate in her second Grand Slam final of the season, and 16th of her career, this time against 14th-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

"She knows how to play, especially Wimbledon finals," Muguruza, the 2015 Wimbledon runner-up and 2016 French Open champion, said about Williams. "It's going to be, like, a historic final again."

Muguruza overwhelmed 87th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1 in the earlier semifinal.

Williams arrived in England a few weeks after being involved in a two-car accident in Florida; not long afterward, a passenger in the other vehicle died. At her initial news conference at Wimbledon, a tearful Williams briefly left the room to compose herself after being asked about the crash.

She has tried, coach David Witt said, to "just focus on the tennis."

In the semifinals, it was Konta who had the first chance to nose ahead, a point from serving from the opening set when it was 4-all and Williams was serving down 15-40.

Williams erased the first break point with a backhand winner down the line, and the second with a 106 mph (171 kph) second serve that went right at Konta's body. It was a risky strategy, going for so much pace on a second serve, but it worked. That opened a run in which Williams won 12 of 13 points.

"She looks to dictate from the very first ball," Konta said. "When she puts herself in a position to do that, she plays with a lot of depth, a lot of speed, and you don't get much of a chance to get your, I guess, grip into the points."

Williams wouldn't face another break point and, later, produced another impressive second serve — in the second set, at 103 mph (166 kph), it went right at Konta, who jumped out of the way.

Konta played quite well, especially early, and finished with more winners, 20 to 19, each greeted by roars from the Centre Court spectators.

"They could have really been even more boisterous. I thought the crowd was so fair. And I know that they love Jo, and she gave it her all today," Williams said. "It's a lot of pressure. It's a lot of pressure. I thought she handled it well. I think my experience just helped a lot."

This was her 10th semifinal in 20 Wimbledon appearances; Konta had never been past the second round at the grass-court tournament before this year.

In the other semifinal, Muguruza won 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 5-0 lead. Even though Rybarikova entered having won 18 of her past 19 grass-court matches, mostly at lower-level tournaments, she suddenly looked a lot more like someone whose career record at Wimbledon before last week was 2-9.

"Not my best day," Rybarikova said. "But she didn't give me much chance to do something."

Muguruza won the point on 19 of 25 trips to the net and had a 22-8 edge in winners.

That earned the 23-year-old Muguruza a berth in her third career Grand Slam final, second at the All England Club. She lost to Serena Williams with the title on the line at Wimbledon in 2015, then beat her at Roland Garros last year.

"I'll have to ask Serena for some pointers," Venus Williams said. "Serena's always in my corner. And usually it's her in these finals, so I'm trying my best to represent 'Williams' as best as I can."


Froome loses Tour lead to Aru, Bardet wins 12th stage

Italy's Fabio Aru, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, celebrates on the podium after the twelfth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Peyragudes, France, Thursday, July 13. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Samuel Petrequin & John Leicester

Peyragudes, France (AP) — For his three previous victories at the Tour de France, Chris Froome took advantage of the first big mountain stage to deliver the decisive blow.

On Thursday, that tried and trusted strategy never got going, and he surrendered the overall race lead to Fabio Aru.

With its mountain top finish, the hugely demanding first stage in the Pyrenees looked like the perfect setting for his Sky Team to stamp its authority on the race, and to help Froome increase his lead in the general classification.

Until the final 350 meters of the 214.5-kilometer (133 miles) marathon through six grueling ascents in the Pyrenees, the well-oiled Sky machine had everything under control.

Froome's teammates had set a fast tempo that prevented others from attacking - a tactic that prepared the ground for Froome's expected assault in the steep final section leading to the finish in the ski station of Peyragudes.

Froome's move never came.

Not only was he unable to attack, the British rider also cracked during the climb. Frenchman Romain Bardet won Stage 12 ahead of Rigoberto Uran and Aru, who seized the lead from Froome by six seconds.

Bardet is third overall, 25 seconds off the pace. Uran was handed a 20-second penalty for accepting a water bottle in the last five kilometers, which is not allowed, and lies in fourth place overall, 55 seconds back.

"My teammates did such an amazing job," Froome said. "I didn't have the legs at the end to finish it off. Simple as that. No excuses."

When Aru launched his attack in the final few hundred meters, Froome was only able to follow the Astana team leader for a few bike lengths before he cracked. He ended up crossing the line in seventh place, 22 seconds behind Bardet.

Bidding to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985, Bardet was the strongest in the brutal incline and described his third stage win on the Tour as "an immense joy."

He said he had visited the ski station with his parents to scout out the final climb.

"I knew it could suit me," he said. "I was patient. I made the difference on the final hill. There was not much to do before that with the wind and the Sky train."

Aru had trailed Froome by 18 seconds at the start of the stage.

"It's one of the most beautiful things that can happen to you in life, wearing the yellow jersey," said Aru. "Clearly, it won't be easy to defend it. There are still nine more stages, we'll do our best."

The final of the six ascents on the menu of the stage between Pau and the ski station was too difficult for Froome, who had worn the yellow jersey over the previous seven stages.

He was grimacing with the effort, his arms glistening with sweat, as he wrestled his bike up the super-steep climb that was used as a location for the 1997 James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies."

Froome zig-zagged his bike across the tarmac as he tried to cope with a gradient so steep that it seemed to glue his wheels to the road.

The only yellow item he wore after the finish was the small ring in his nose to help him breathe.

"I did my utmost at the end. But I didn't have the legs to follow," he said.

Froome has only a few hours to bounce back before Friday's short but hard stage to Foix, which features three Category 1 climbs — the second-hardest difficulty rating. Now that Froome has shown signs of weakness, the attacks could come right from the start as his rivals look to build on the momentum.

"Aru attacked a bit too early to win the stage, but he got the jersey and saw that Froome can be beaten. He'll definitely try some more," Astana manager Alexandre Vinokourov said. "Sky is very strong, but today Froome took a hit and his team could be demoralized. Let's hope our guys find more motivation."

Rain was falling as the peloton started the stage in Pau, before a breakaway of 12 riders gained a lead of more than six minutes on some fairly flat sections of the course.

Froome's teammates rode at the front with Aru's squad just behind, but showed no interest in reducing the gap with the breakaways.

Sky stepped up the tempo in the first really difficult ascent, the Col de Mente, where Spanish great Luis Ocana crashed out in a downhill section in 1971 while wearing the yellow jersey. The twisting and punishing Port de Bales, a narrow, 11.7-kilometer climb at an average gradient of 7.7 percent - rated as 'beyond a category' because of its difficulty - took a heavy toll on the lead riders. The breakaway group split up as Stephen Cummings launched a solo offensive.

Aru's teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who broke two bones in a crash during Wednesday's stage, struggled at the back and dropped out of contention after starting the day in fifth place overall.

Cummings had a two-minute lead at the top of Port de Bales and went all out in the descent as the fog broke and the weather picked up. Froome, Aru and Mikel Nieve misjudged a turn in the downhill but the race leader and his rival pushed hard on the brakes to avoid a crash. Nieve went straight onto the grass between lorries and camping caravans.

It was nothing more than a scare for Froome, who had three teammates by his side to tackle the two final climbs, the Peyresourde and the Peyragudes ascent.

Nairo Quintana was dropped in the Peyresourde and, with no teammate to bring him back, saw his hopes of winning the Tour vanish. Cummings was then caught with 8 kilometers left, lining up a dramatic finale.


Update July 13, 2017

Querrey tops Murray at Wimbledon; Djokovic out; Federer wins

Britain's Andy Murray reacts as he loses a point to Sam Querrey of the United States during their men's singles quarterfinal match on day nine at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Wednesday, July 12. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) — The first portentous sign of trouble for Andy Murray, surprisingly enough, came right as the two-time Wimbledon champion constructed an ample lead over Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

The top-seeded Murray flicked a cross-court backhand passing shot so forcefully, placed it so perfectly, that Querrey barely got his racket on the ball, sending a volley well wide. With that, Murray was up by a set plus a break in the second. As he headed to the sideline for the changeover, though, Murray limped, bothered by a sore left hip.

As the match wore on, the hitch in Murray's step became more pronounced, his shots less effective. And Querrey, an American seeded 24th, took full advantage, hitting 27 aces and dominating down the stretch to stun Murray, and a partisan Centre Court crowd, with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1 victory, earning a spot in the initial Grand Slam semifinal of his career.

"I am still in a little bit of shock myself," said Querrey, the first U.S. man to reach a major semifinal since Andy Roddick was the 2009 Wimbledon runner-up.

Another quarterfinal surprise arrived later Wednesday, taking out yet another member of the sport's Big 4 and owner of multiple Wimbledon titles: Novak Djokovic stopped playing because of a right elbow injury while trailing 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 7-6 (2), 2-0. Djokovic's elbow was massaged by a trainer during a medical timeout after the opening set. A day earlier, during his fourth-round match, Djokovic also took a medical timeout.

"It was only getting worse," said Djokovic, explaining his elbow was in the most pain when he hit serves and forehands. "Unfortunately today was the worst day. Probably the fact that I played yesterday, kind of days adding up, as I've said before, it wasn't helping at all."

The owner of three championships at the All England Club, and 12 major trophies overall, said his elbow has been bothering him for more than a year, that he opted against surgery and that he will consider taking a break from the tour.

Time off has paid dividends for Roger Federer, who missed the last half of 2016 to allow his surgically repaired left knee heal, then skipped the clay-court season this year. He, Djokovic, Murray and Rafael Nadal combined to win the past 14 Wimbledon titles, but only Federer now remains in the field.

The 35-year-old Federer, who has won seven of his record 18 Grand Slam championships at the All England Club, is the grass-court tournament's oldest semifinalist since Ken Rosewall in 1974 at age 39. Federer produced a straightforward 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory over Milos Raonic, the man who beat him in last year's semifinals.

On Friday, Federer will face Berdych for a berth in the final. Querrey meets 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia, who got past 16th-seeded Gilles Muller 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 with the help of 33 aces. Muller eliminated Nadal in the fourth round.

Querrey hit 27 aces against Murray and was impeccable for portions of the match, finishing with 70 winners and only 30 unforced errors. He also managed to move past one really bad mistake in the third-set tiebreaker: an overhead that he dumped into the bottom of the net.

"He was dictating all of the points," Murray said.

And Murray was fading.

From 1-all in the fourth, Querrey grabbed eight games in a row to take that set and lead 3-0 in the last.

"I didn't start my best, but I just kept with it. Kept swinging away and then really found a groove in the fourth and fifth set," Querrey said. "And everything kind of seemed to be falling my way then."

It's the second year in a row the 29-year-old Californian upset the defending champion and No. 1 seed at the All England Club. In 2016, he ended Djokovic's 30-match Grand Slam winning streak by beating him in the third round.

This is Querrey's 42nd Grand Slam tournament, the most ever played by a man in the Open era before getting to his first semifinal.

And there were moments along the way when Querrey himself doubted he'd ever accomplish this.

"Last year definitely kind of gave me a new boost that I could do it. But there have been times in my career," he said, "where I definitely thought: If had to bet — 'Am I going to make a semi?' — I probably would have gone, 'No.'"

But he's won three straight five-setters.

Murray, meanwhile, has been dealing with that hip. Before Wimbledon, he skipped some practice sessions and pulled out of two exhibition matches.

His serve speeds slowed in the latter stages Wednesday. His backhands didn't have their usual verve. He couldn't play his usual court-covering defense.

"I was pretty close today. It wasn't like I was, like, a million miles away from winning the match," Murray said. "Obviously, the end was a bit of a struggle."


Kittel wins crash-marred Tour stage 11, Froome stays safe

Stage winner Marcel Kittel of Germany flashes five fingers for his fifth victory as he celebrates on the podium after the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Pau, France, Wednesday, July 12. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Samuel Petrequin & John Leicester

Pau, France (AP) — Ahead of two grueling days filled with some truly punishing ascents, the main contenders on the Tour de France were all hoping that Wednesday would be a nice, relaxed day on the bike.

It didn't happen.

Instead of what riders call a "transition" day, with a comfortable run to the gateway to the Pyrenees mountains, Stage 11 proved to be a brutal experience for some of the top riders after a series of crashes left them nursing cuts and bruises.

When crosswinds started making the bunch nervous toward the end of the 203.5-kilometer (126-mile) stage from Eymet to Pau, the stress became palpable and led to several crashes at the back of the peloton.

German sprinter Marcel Kittel steered clear of trouble and claimed the stage in a sprint finish, taking his tally to five stage wins since the race started.

But Frenchman Romain Bardet, who is third overall behind race leader Chris Froome, was not so fortunate. He hit the deck and slightly hurt his knee, but the AG2R La Mondiale rider was able to continue after changing bikes and did not lose any time.

"It was a nervous day and I was caught in a crash," said Bardet, who is trying to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault last managed the feat in 1985.

"It's never enjoyable to fall. I just have to soak it up and to wait for better days."

Two-time champion Alberto Contador went down twice, while second-place Fabio Aru lost one of his Astana teammates when Dario Cataldo was forced to retire with a broken wrist after a crash in the feed zone midway through the stage.

Fifth-place Jakob Fuglsang, another Astana rider expected to play a key role alongside Aru in the mountains, was caught in the same crash.

Though he was able to reach the finish, Astana later said in a statement that Fuglsang had suffered two minor fractures in his left wrist and left elbow. However, they will not prevent him from starting Thursday's stage.

"It was a nervous day," Froome said of the crashes. "Everything was good on our side."

Froome kept his overall lead intact ahead of the big battle in the Pyrenees. He has an 18 second-lead over Aru, with Bardet 51 seconds off the pace. Trailing 55 seconds behind Froome in the general classification, Rigoberto Uran remains in contention and Fuglsang is still within reach of the podium, 1:37 behind the yellow jersey.

Thursday's stage will be extremely difficult, with six categorized climbs — three of them either rated Category 1 or "hors categorie" — beyond categorizing. It features a short, but steep uphill finish at an altitude of 1,580 meters (5,200 feet).

Froome described the finish as "quite savage."

"If someone blows in those few hundred meters, there could be some really significant time gaps," the Team Sky leader said. "One of the really key stages of this year's race."

Froome also expects Contador to try and wreak havoc during Friday's shorter stage to Foix. Contador has already lost 5:15 overall, but could still ruin the Team Sky masterplan with some relentless attacks on his favorite ground.

"He's never shy to attack from far out. We'd be ready for that," said Froome, adding that his team is "not going to allow anyone to come back on GC (General Classification)."

A sprint specialist, Kittel has now won 14 Tour de France stages in five appearances at cycling's showcase event, a record for a German rider.

Kittel's power in the bunch sprint could not be matched on Wednesday and the Quick-Step Floors rider easily beat Dylan Groenewegen and Edvald Boasson Hagen by half a bike's length, easing up well before the line as he extended his lead in the points classification.

Kittel has lost only one sprint since the Tour started and has been in a class of his own since sprint rivals Mark Cavendish and Arnaud Demare left the race.

"It was a nervy day," Kittel said. "It could have been worse with all the wind."

Three riders — Frederick Backaert, Marco Marcato and Maciej Bodnar escaped from the pack right from the start at the picturesque town of Eymet in the Dordogne, a tourist hotspot with its castles, caves and other sights.

They built a lead of about four minutes over a laid-back peloton, but the breakaway had few chances of succeeding on the flat, straight roads. The peloton trailed by 30 seconds with 30 kilometers left when Bodnar attacked to go on his own.

The Polish rider went all out, using his time trial skills to resist the peloton's pursuit as long as possible. But despite looking for the best possible aerodynamics position in the downhill section leading to Pau, he was swallowed up with just 250 meters left.

"I thought, 'Oof. That was close,'" Kittel said of Bodnar's effort. "This time, the sprinters won."


Forbes says Cowboys most valuable sports team, worth $4.2B

In this Sept. 8, 2013, file photo, fans watch the start of an NFL football game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys are worth the most valuable sports franchise in the world according to Forbes. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

New York (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys are worth $4.2 billion, making them the most valuable sports franchise in the world for the second straight year, according to Forbes .

In its annual rankings, Forbes placed the New York Yankees second — up from fourth a year ago — with a value of $3.7 billion.

Next are three soccer clubs: Manchester United ($3.69 billion), Barcelona ($3.64) and Real Madrid ($3.58).

The rest of the top 10 includes the New England Patriots ($3.4 billion), New York Knicks ($3.3 billion), New York Giants ($3.1 billion), San Francisco 49ers ($3 billion) and Los Angeles Lakers ($3 billion).

The rankings are based on Forbes' valuations done over the last year for all NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, soccer, NASCAR and Formula One teams.

The average current value of the top most valuable teams is $2.5 billion, the highest to date and an increase over last year when the average value was $2.2 billion.


NBA eliminates timeouts to keep the ends of games moving

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Jon Krawczynski

Las Vegas (AP) — The NBA has for years heard complaints that a free-flowing, fast-paced and athletic game grinds to a halt at the most important and compelling time, when everyone tunes in to watch the final few minutes of a tight game.

Now the league is finally taking steps to make sure crunch time doesn't get bogged down by commercial time.

The league's Board of Governors unanimously approved some changes that will potentially eliminate four timeouts per game, help speed up the final minutes of games and emphasize a timely resumption of play after halftime.

The changes all go into effect starting this coming season, the NBA said Wednesday.

Teams will be limited to two timeouts in the final three minutes of a game, instead of having up to three. All four quarters will have two mandatory timeouts, after the 7- and 3-minute marks.

"We're pretty happy with the length of the game," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "We were more focused here on the pace and flow of the game. What we heard from our fans, what we heard from many of our teams, was that the end of the games in particular were too choppy. And I think since I was a kid, that was an issue people were talking about, the last two minutes of a game."

Silver said the full complement of commercial-showing opportunities will still be available to the league's broadcast partners, and that the league doesn't believe player in-game rest will be affected by speeding up some aspects.

Also, all halftimes will be 15 minutes and delay of game penalties will be issued if teams are not ready to immediately play when intermission ends.

"These changes will help us fulfill our goal of improving game flow and pace of play," NBA President of League Operations Byron Spruell said. "Fewer stoppages and less time without action, especially at the end of a game, will further enhance the viewing experience for our fans."

The league also changed the trade deadline, moving it up so teams would not have their rosters significantly altered during the All-Star break.

This season's deadline will be Feb. 8 — 10 days before the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Under the old system the deadline would have been Feb. 22, when teams are getting ready to resume their seasons after the break.

If an All-Star is traded to the other conference before the game, Silver said the league will review which side that player should play for on a case-by-case basis.

The NBA's Competition Committee also considered making other tweaks — such as the oft-criticized play where so many shooting fouls are now called on 3-point attempts, often when the offending contact there seems to be initiated by the offensive player.

But on that front, no changes are coming at this point.

In other news from the Board of Governors meeting and Silver's news conference:

— One and done. Silver said the NBA will take "a complete, holistic look" at the one-and-done rule and how prepared players are going into their pro careers. He said that Kobe Bryant spoke with teams on Tuesday about his development before entering the league straight out of high school.

"I don't believe the system is working well for anyone," Silver said.

— Tanking. Silver addressed comments made by Dallas owner Mark Cuban that when the Mavericks were eliminated from playoff contention last season, they tanked with hopes of improving their draft lottery odds.

"Yes, it's not what you want to hear as commissioner," Silver said. The league and Cuban discussed it, and moved on, Silver said.

— Luxury tax. Silver said it's too early to say if the NBA is concerned about the chance that 10 or more teams could be in the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season.

"These systems are so hard to calibrate. As the money's gotten bigger, it's gotten harder to project future cap and tax levels," Silver said. "And I think those are all things that we continue to look at. Our teams are smart. They find ways to compete. They work within the existing system but always with one eye on the next time we sit down at the bargaining table."

— Playoff seeding. Silver also spoke about the perception of conference imbalance, and the notion of seeding the top 16 teams for the playoffs with no limitations based on conferences. He said a study two years ago showed it wouldn't be ideal, though Silver noted that it will likely be looked at again in the future.

"The only fair way to do it is to have a balanced schedule throughout the season," Silver said.

— Expansion. Silver reiterated that neither relocation nor expansion is not in the NBA's plans right now, and that there's no focus on putting a team in Las Vegas anytime soon. He did say that when the NBA looks to grow in the future, and it will, the league will look at the Las Vegas market — which it has been fond of for years, especially the role it plays in the summer league.


Cricket Australia, players remain far apart in pay dispute

Australian cricket captain Steve Smith. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Dennis Passa

Sydney (AP) - The chairman of Cricket Australia has heavily criticized the country's top players for their stance in a long-running pay dispute, and accused their union of a "reckless strategy that can only damage the game."

In an opinion piece for The Australian newspaper, Cricket Australia chairman David Peever said he was a victim of "personality focused myth-making."

Those comments, combined with social media posts from Australia captain Steve Smith earlier this week, suggest the game's governing body and its players are further apart than ever.

Peever, a former managing director of mining giant Rio Tinto's Australian operations, wants to erase the revenue-sharing model that has helped determine payments to players since the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the administration and the Australian Cricketers' Association was set up 20 years ago. The previous agreement expired on June 30, but CA and the union remain deadlocked, leaving about 230 players technically unemployed.

Last week, the players pulled out of an Australian A tour of South Africa.  A two-test tour of Bangladesh scheduled for the end of August and early September remains in doubt, and the five-test Ashes series against England beginning in Brisbane in late November is also under threat.

Former test stars have urged both sides to reach an agreement, although there's not unanimous agreement among the ex-players about which side should concede. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland reportedly met with the head of the ACA this week — getting involved in the direct negotiations for the first time — but there was no official word on the outcome of the meeting.

Smith said there was no chance of the players folding in the pay dispute.

"I'll say what we as players have been saying for some time now: we are not giving up the revenue-sharing model for all players," Smith said in an Instagram post. "But, through the ACA (we) are willing to make important changes to modernize the existing model for the good of the game. We are and have always been willing to make those changes."

Peever, who took over as CA chairman in late 2015, said the sport's national governing body has made a "very generous offer" to the players.

"The ACA has responded by not only rejecting that proposal (and recent concessions) out of hand, but by launching a campaign of such sustained ferocity that anyone could be forgiven for thinking CA was proposing the reintroduction of slavery rather than healthy pay rises," Peever wrote in The Australian on Thursday.

"Not content with that level of over-reaction, the ACA has gone much further. Refusing to allow players to tour, threatening to drive away commercial sponsors and damage the prospects of broadcast partners ... it's a reckless strategy that can only damage the game and therefore the interests of the ACA's own members."

Cricket Australia says the current revenue-sharing model takes funding away from community clubs.

"The suggestion that CA's push to modify the player payments model has nothing to do with genuine issues facing the game is an insult to everyone involved at CA, including other members of the board," Peever said. "Even worse, it disrespects all those from across the cricket community who have flooded CA and me personally with messages of support because they see first-hand the chronic underfunding of the game at the grass-roots level."

In his earlier comments, Smith said the players "have always been willing to make those changes ... for how the model can be adapted for the even greater benefit of grass-roots cricket, which is after all where we all started."

But he said that can't be at the expense of the professional players.

"I have been fighting for a fair share for state players who are also partners in cricket," Smith said. "I know from my career that when I was dropped (from the Australian team) in 2011 if I didn't have a strong domestic competition to go back to, I certainly wouldn't be in the position that I'm in today."

Smith said the country's female cricketers must also be covered in the same deal as the male players.  Cricket Australia has paid the women's World Cup squad in advance for the ongoing tournament in England, where the Australians have reached the semifinals.

"As women's cricket gets bigger and bigger in Australia women players must also be able to share in what they will be earning," he said, adding "it's time to get a deal done."


Update July 12, 2017

Kittel wins Tour stage 10, Froome keeps race lead

Germany's Marcel Kittel, wearing the best sprinter's green jersey celebrates on the podium after winning the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race in Bergerac, France, Tuesday, July 11. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Samuel Petrequin & John Leicester

Bergerac, France (AP) — Marcel Kittel has no serious challenger for the King of the Sprint title at this year's Tour de France.

The German sprinter won the 10th stage with remarkable ease on Tuesday, while Chris Froome stayed safely in the main pack to retain the race leader's yellow jersey.

Kittel perfectly timed his effort in the final straight to post his fourth stage win since the start of the race, crossing the line ahead of fellow German John Degenkolb.

The stage took the peloton on a flat, 178-kilometer (111-mile) run from Perigueux to Bergerac in southwestern France.

Froome, the three-time Tour champion, will be wear the yellow jersey for the 50th time on Wednesday - joining five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil in fourth place on the all-time list behind Eddy Merckx (96), Bernard Hinault (75), and Miguel Indurain (60).

"A huge, huge honor," the British rider said of the 50 days in yellow.

Kittel was in 10th place after negotiating the two sharp corners of a challenging final kilometer, before turning on the power to surge ahead of his rivals with 150 meters left and securing his 13th career win on the Tour.

He won by a bike's length and had plenty of time to raise his arms in celebration before crossing the line.

Kittel said his confidence is high after his string of victories.

"I know now from the last sprints that I can hold that speed to the finish line," he said. "I almost cannot believe what's happening here at the Tour."

Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen completed the podium in the medieval town.

With Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan and Arnaud Demare out of the race, Kittel strengthened his grip on the best sprinter's green jersey. French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni, who had to settle for a sixth-place finish, acknowledged Kittel's superiority.

"Kittel was the strongest, he came from behind," Bouhanni said. "He won four sprints out of five, he is the best sprinter of this Tour."

Bouhanni was later fined 200 Swiss francs ($207) and given a one-minute penalty in the general classification for "assault," the race jury said without elaborating. Video footage shows the French rider elbowing an unidentified rider from the Quick-Step Floors team toward the end of the stage.

After a plane journey across France and a rest day, the race resumed in Perigueux for a flat ride through the lush landscapes of the Dordogne province in southwestern France.

Following a hectic stage in the Jura on Sunday and with two hard stages in the Pyrenees mountains later this week, Froome and his main rivals were happy to let two French riders with no ambitions for the overall race lead escape from the pack.

Yoann Offredo went on his own immediately after the race director waved the flag to signal the start. He was joined soon afterward by Elie Gesbert, the youngest rider in the peloton at 22 years old, and the pair quickly opened a gap.

Their lead stabilized at about five minutes as the peloton moved past the Lascaux cave, a prehistoric World Heritage site featuring some superb hunting scenes. Second-place Fabio Aru was all smiles near Domme - a picturesque town perched on a breathtaking cliff above the Dordogne river - and shook hands with another rider at a pedestrian pace.

"We chatted, admired the countryside. It was very pleasant," Warren Barguil said, summing up the day.

Toward the end, the sprinters' teams organized the chase, reducing the deficit of the peloton to a little more than two minutes with 40 kilometers left. Offredo and Gesbert fought hard until the end, but were hampered by a strong headwind and were caught seven kilometers from the finish.

There was no major change in the overall standings, with Aru still trailing 18 seconds behind Froome and Frenchman Romain Bardet in third place, 51 seconds back.

"It was a more quite day today, without wind, no stress," Froome said. "I'm already thinking about the Pyrenees, it's the next big goal, I'll need to be ready."

Wednesday's stage is a flat and long 203.5-kilometer (126.5-mile) route from Eymet to Pau. It will be another day for the sprinters before a mountain marathon of more than 200 kilometers the next day.

Froome said Friday's stage could be decisive and the next big battle between the contenders for overall victory.

"In the past, we have seen Grand Tours shaped by these stages before," he said. "That could be another day that could be decisive in this year's Tour."


Mayweather-McGregor promo tour gets off to frenzied start

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and Conor McGregor pause for photos during a news conference at Staples Center on Tuesday, July 11, in Los Angeles. The two will fight in a boxing match in Las Vegas on Aug. 26. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Greg Beacham

Los Angeles (AP) — Floyd Mayweather Jr. reached into a backpack and held out a $100 million check for the crowd of 11,000 fight fans to see.

"Let me show you what a $100 million fighter looks like," he said.

Conor McGregor interrupted from his stool behind the podium: "That's to the tax man."

Mayweather replied: "You're right. I'm the IRS, and I'm going to tax your ass."

The undefeated boxer and the Irish UFC champion have thrown their first jabs in a summer of verbal sparring before the fighting spectacle of the year.

Mayweather and McGregor kicked off a four-city promotional tour Tuesday at Staples Center, facing off in front of a raucous crowd that thoroughly enjoyed this circus' first stop in Hollywood. Both fighters promised a knockout, and they had a prolonged shouting match during their second faceoff, with UFC President Dana White stepping between them.

"I am fighting, and he is boxing," McGregor said. "It's two men at the top of their game competing. It's two worlds colliding. That enough is reason why this is what it is."

All but the most naive fight fans realize the promotion for this bout could be much more entertaining than the historic 154-pound fight Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.

McGregor and Mayweather traded clever insults and profane boasts that quickly showed why this boxing match should be a rare spectacle — before the opening bell, anyway.

"He looks good for a seven- or eight-figure fighter, but I'm a nine-figure fighter," Mayweather said. "This (guy) made 3 million dollars his last fight, but we know that's training camp money for me."

The 40-year-old Mayweather has been coaxed out of his latest retirement for the colossal payday coming from this unique matchup. The bout will cost $99.95 on high-definition pay-per-view, while tickets at T-Mobile Arena will range from $500 to $10,000 — and there aren't many $500 seats.

In a tailor-made pinstripe suit that repeated a profane phrase in tiny letters as its stripe, McGregor didn't try to disguise his glee at the prospect of his mammoth financial reward for seeing how his heavy hands can fare against Mayweather's famed defensive skills in this cross-disciplinary experiment.

McGregor got more personal than Mayweather, going after everything from the boxer's apparent money troubles to his attire. McGregor also risked racial offensiveness when he yelled, "Dance for me, boy! Dance for me, son!" during an exchange with Mayweather.

"He's in a ... track suit," McGregor said, looking at Mayweather. "He can't even afford a suit anymore. The Rolls is a 2012 outside. He is (expletive). There's no other way about it. I'm going to knock him out inside of four rounds, mark my words."

Two years after his last fight and several years after his trash-talking heyday, Mayweather rose to the promotional challenge in an energetic, biting performance. The unbeaten star led his fans in a call-and-response cheer that derided McGregor as "easy work!"

"That's what the people want to see," Mayweather said. "To have a sold-out arena and just give these people something just real smooth and calm, they don't want that. That's not what they want. These fans want entertainment, and that's what we're here to give them."

And while the 40-year-old Mayweather acknowledged his skills have declined and claimed his comeback is for one fight only, he also said he has "more than enough" to beat a rookie boxer.

"We know Mr. Tapout likes to quit," Mayweather said, referring to McGregor's submission loss to Nate Diaz in UFC competition last year.

When McGregor spoke to the media after the public show, Floyd Mayweather Sr. relentlessly heckled him from the back of the room. The 64-year-old trainer's presence provoked genuine amusement from the two-division mixed martial arts champion, who suggested he might not abide by the contract that would punish him for MMA tactics with an enormous financial penalty.

"Tell him as long as he speaks my name with respect, I will abide by the boxing rules," McGregor said to Mayweather Sr. "I'll abide by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules only if he speaks my name. If he disrespects me during this buildup, then maybe I might just bounce an elbow off his eyebrow. So that's on him how he does it."


Silverstone tells F1: Cut fees or lose British GP after 2019

The Silverstone race circuit in England. (Jon Super / AP)

Rob Harris

Silverstone, England (AP) — The heartland of Formula One will lose its home race from 2020 unless Silverstone is handed a cheaper deal to stage the British Grand Prix.

Despite seven of the 10 teams being based in Britain and Silverstone attracting the biggest crowds in the sport, the circuit has told F1 owner Liberty Media that escalating race fees have made the historic race unsustainable.

Silverstone on Tuesday activated a break clause in the contract that was signed in 2009 when the British GP was last under threat, providing two years' notice of its intention to walk away from F1.

Losing Silverstone would deprive the series of a huge dose of its heritage, given that the former airfield first staged an F1 race in 1948 and the opened the inaugural world championship season two years later.

"We don't have infinite resources to keep on subsidizing the Grand Prix and it's wrong to do that," British Racing Drivers' Club chairman John Grant told The Associated Press as the circuit was being prepared for Sunday's race. "We only have one opportunity to bring it to a stop, legally. We have this one opportunity to exercise the break clause and we have to do it today."

The BRDC reported losses in 2015 of 2.8 million pounds (now about $3.5 million) and 4.8 million pounds in 2016. Race fees rise 5 percent annually and will hit 16.2 million pounds for this weekend's race. The race organizers said the fee will have leapt to 25 million pounds by 2026 — the last year of the current contract.

F1 came under new ownership earlier this year when U.S. sports and entertainment firm Liberty bought out investment fund CVC Capital Partners. Liberty said Tuesday it is focused on preserving the race and promised to "carry on negotiating with the promoter in good faith and in private to reach a fair and equitable solution."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was less diplomatic, saying he was "amazed" the break clause had been triggered and questioning the circuit's leadership.

"They have now realized that they can't afford it despite having a full house every year," said Horner, whose team is based nearby in Milton Keynes. "They either should not have signed it in the first place or they got their maths wrong. Silverstone gets favorable rates anyway."

Horner seized on the uncertainty over the future of Silverstone as a chance to criticize the layout of the central England circuit.

"They spent a fortune on the pits and they put them in the wrong place," Horner said. "They have created a paddock with zero atmosphere at one of the most historic race tracks in the UK, so there has been some serious misjudgment and mismanagement."

The BRDC claims that Silverstone is the most popular stop on the F1 calendar, with 350,000 attending a race weekend. Grant hopes that Liberty recognizes that the F1 brand is underpinned by the traditional races.

"You can't just go to a bunch of new video game circuits and pretend the fans are going to remain interested and pay," Grant said.

Many newer circuits benefit from government funding, including in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Qatar and Abu Dhabi. Silverstone would be keen on similar financial support given the status of the race. Grant said the British GP was the "halo" of a British motorsport industry he said is worth 10.5 billion pounds a year, employs 45,000 people and exports more than 75 percent of its output.

"We think there is a great national interest in preserving (the race)," Grant said. "It will continue to create wealth for the UK, so there are arguments we could demand support but the government has to come to its own conclusion on that."

The government's focus is currently on preparing for the country's planned exit from the European Union in 2019 — the last year Silverstone will stage a race unless a new deal is cut.

For Grant, the event just the type of "big flag carrier for the UK" that government is trying to promote to attract investment post-Brexit.

"At this particular time I think it is important to demonstrate that we are doing things the UK is really good at, and this is one," Grant said. "I wouldn't want to get into Brexit politics but absolutely the timing is right to reinforce the message about Silverstone."


Djokovic reaches Wimbledon quarters with injured shoulder

Serbia's Novak Djokovic receives treatment from a trainer during a break in his men's singles match against Adrian Mannarino of France on day eight at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Tuesday, July 11. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Zac Boyer

London (AP) — Novak Djokovic may wish he had as much time to prepare for his next match as he did for his previous one.

A lingering right shoulder injury flared up in Djokovic's victory over 51st-ranked Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round at Wimbledon on Tuesday, adding a measure of doubt to his quarterfinal match against 11th-seeded Tomas Berdych on Wednesday.

Djokovic, who won 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 under a closed roof at Centre Court, had his match delayed from the night before after Gilles Muller needed 4 hours, 48 minutes to defeat Rafael Nadal.

"It's been something that I've been dragging back and forth for a while now," said Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion and 12-time Grand Slam winner. "But I'm still managing to play, which is the most important thing."

Later, when asked in Serbian about the injury, Djokovic said through a translator: "I don't want to talk about it."

After Djokovic took a 4-3 lead in the third set, he called for a medical timeout and had a trainer work on his right shoulder.

He also winced following the first serve of his third and final match point — a 24-shot rally that ended when Mannarino's forehand went into the net.

The match between Djokovic and Mannarino was originally scheduled for No. 1 Court on Monday, but Muller's victory, which ended after 8:30 p.m., led to the decision to push it back a day.

Djokovic said he and Mannarino were in communication with tournament organizers throughout the evening. They were told fan safety was the reason why they did not move the match to Centre Court, which was vacant after Roger Federer's three-set victory over Grigor Dimitrov.

"I just think it was a wrong decision not to play us last night, because we could have played," Djokovic said. "I think the last match on the Centre Court was done before 7. Having in mind that Centre Court has the roof and lights, we could have played 'til 11. I just didn't see any logic in not playing us on the Centre Court."

Rain began to fall on Tuesday about 30 minutes before Djokovic and Mannarino were to begin, and as others were suspended, they played the first match of the tournament under the roof.

Djokovic broke his opponent twice in the first set and took a 4-1 lead in the second before Mannarino, who matched his best finish in a Grand Slam event by reaching the fourth round, broke back and then forced the tiebreaker.

Several rallies went more than 15 shots, including one that went 29 and ended with the Frenchman picking up a break point in the second set.

"I think that after a while, I realized that playing full power was useless against Novak because he was responding well," Mannarino said. "He was moving well. When I tried to slow the game down, I think that I was feeling more comfortable."

One thing that did cause Djokovic concern was the appearance of what he called a "hole" in the middle of the court near the service line. After the match, he pointed the spot out to chair umpire Carlos Bernardes.

"He wanted me to show him, so I showed him," Djokovic said. "His reaction wasn't that great."

With the victory, Djokovic will be one of an event-record five quarterfinalists aged 30 or older, with Berdych, Federer, Muller and Andy Murray also advancing.

Berdych, who defeated Dominic Thiem on Monday, last beat Djokovic in Miami in 2013. He also won in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2010, when he was the runner-up to Nadal.

Also rekindling their history in the quarterfinals will be Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion, and Milos Raonic, who will meet for the third time in four years.

After Federer won in straight sets in the semifinals in 2014, Raonic beat him in five sets last year before losing to Murray in the final.

"Roger's been the best player I think this year, hands down, when he's been on court," Raonic said. "But it's not about six months or whatnot. It comes down to Wednesday, one day, so I've just got to try to find a way to try to be better on that day."

The top-ranked Murray will face 24th-seeded Sam Querrey, with the winner facing either Muller or Marin Cilic in the semifinals.

Querrey, who is from the United States, is in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year and has only beaten Murray once in eight previous meetings.

"The crowd is going to be behind him," Querrey said, "but sometimes, it's fun to go out there and play where the crowd is behind the other player 100 percent."


Konta teaching history at Wimbledon with another victory

Britain's Johanna Konta returns to Romania's Simona Halep during their women's quarterfinal singles match on day eight at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Tuesday, July 11. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Chris Lehourites

London (AP) — With every victory at Wimbledon this week, Johanna Konta is teaching the British public more and more about its tennis history.

Tuesday's lesson involved Virginia Wade, the previous British woman to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon. Not too coincidentally, Wade was sitting in the Royal Box watching as Konta beat Simona Halep 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-4 to match that feat.

"I guess to be in the semifinals of my home Slam, and to do that in front of a full Centre Court, I mean, it's pretty, pretty special," Konta said.

The sixth-seeded Konta was the first British woman to reach the quarterfinals at the All England Club since Jo Durie in 1984. She is now the first since Wade in 1978 to reach the semifinals.

Wade made the final that year, but lost to Chris Evert. Wade won the title a year earlier, however.

"I'm just surprised it's taken so long," Wade said. "It's fine to be the last British women's winner to win Wimbledon, but it's better to have plenty of British players to win. It's a win-win situation, frankly, and I'm thrilled for her."

Konta will next face Venus Williams on Thursday for a spot in the final. Williams is a five-time Wimbledon champion who is playing in the semifinals at the All England Club for the 10th time in her 20th appearance.

Konta has won three of her five previous matches against Williams, but the American took the last one on clay at the Italian Open in May.

At the Australian Open last year, Konta reached her only pervious major semifinal, beating Williams in the first round.

"We've had a few battles in the past," Konta said. "She's got the better of me the last time we played, so I'm really looking forward to playing her."

One thing Konta will be able to rely on again in the semifinals will be another enthusiastic home crowd. On Tuesday, that enthusiasm led to a bizarre moment on match point when someone screamed and appeared to distract Halep.

"I think it's a part of sport, the crowd getting excited and getting sometimes a little too involved," Konta said. "I think we experienced it a couple of times in the match. All of us players have experienced that throughout our careers."

On Thursday, back on Centre Court, Konta will get to experience it all over again.


Update July 11, 2017

2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set at Wimbledon

Spain's Rafael Nadal leaves the court after losing to Luxembourg's Gilles Muller in their Men's Singles match on day seven at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Monday, July 10. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) — Rafael Nadal kept getting pushed to the brink of defeat. He kept resisting.

He dropped the first two sets, then won the next two. He erased two match points in the riveting fifth set's 10th game, then another two in its 20th game. Only when his fourth-round match against 16th-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg stretched past 4 hours, the sunlight fading, did Nadal blink.

After repeatedly digging himself out of difficult situations, Nadal finally succumbed, broken in the last game of a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 loss to Muller on Monday.

"I played with the right determination, right passion, right attitude," Nadal said, "to win the match."

But he could not pull through, extending his drought without a quarterfinal berth at the All England Club to six years.

"Just tried to hang in there," Muller said. "Still kept believing. Yeah, somehow in the end, I made it."

Nadal won two of his 15 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, and played in the final three other times, most recently in 2011. But since then, Nadal's exits at the All England Club have come in the first round (2013), second round (2012, 2015) or fourth round (2014, 2017).

All of those losses, except Monday's, came against men ranked 100th or worse. The 34-year-old Muller is not exactly a giant-killer: He had lost 22 consecutive matches against players in the top five. And he'd only reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal once before, at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Nadal said Muller's powerful serve and crisp volleys make him "uncomfortable" to play.

Now Muller, who also beat Nadal at Wimbledon in 2005, will get a much-needed chance to recover before facing 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

Other men's quarterfinals: defending champion Andy Murray against Sam Querrey of the U.S., Roger Federer against Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych against Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino. The Djokovic-Mannarino fourth-rounder was postponed until Tuesday; it had been scheduled for No. 1 Court after Nadal-Muller concluded.

But that duo played on and on, past 8 p.m., when the descending sun's reflection off the arena bothered Nadal so much that he held up action; chair umpire Ali Nili asked spectators to stand in the way and block the rays. A few games later, Nili told fans to stop doing the wave, suggesting they wait for the next changeover so play could proceed.

Hours earlier came what might be interpreted as a bad omen for Nadal: Going through his prematch rituals on the way to the court, he jumped up so high that he banged his head on the doorway's transom. He staggered back a bit, then tried to laugh it off, before rubbing the top of his head.

"Maybe that's why the first two sets I was winning quite easy," Muller joked. "Maybe still a little bit feeling dizzy."

After all, until Monday, Nadal hadn't lost a Grand Slam set since the fifth of the Australian Open final in January against Federer. From the outset of the French Open — where he won a record 10th championship last month — and through his first three matches at Wimbledon, Nadal won 28 consecutive completed sets at the majors. Healthy and playing terrifically, Nadal seemed poised to again be a factor at the All England Club.

Don't forget: From 2006-11, he reached the final in five consecutive Wimbledon tournaments (he missed it in 2009 because of bad knees), winning titles in 2008 and 2010.

After losing two sets in the opening 75 minutes against Muller, Nadal adjusted. He stepped a little farther behind the baseline to give himself more time to react. He also fared better on his own serve, finishing with 23 aces, an unusually high total for Nadal and only seven fewer than Muller.

So they headed to a fifth set, which was masterful, filled with brilliance from both.

Still, things were not looking good for Nadal when he served while down 5-4 and double-faulted to trail 15-40. But Nadal deflected those initial two match points for Muller with an ace and a service winner. Muller's next two match points came at 10-9: Nadal deleted the first with a volley winner, and the second disappeared when Muller shanked a return.

"It was not easy," Muller said, "to keep believing."

One key: Nadal converted only 2 of 16 break points. That included going 0 for 5 in the fifth set, four in one game, and was a big reason that the No. 4-seeded Spaniard lost despite remarkable totals of 77 winners and 17 unforced errors.

"When you are in the fifth, against a player like him, (the outcome) just depends on a few balls," Nadal said.

The fifth set alone lasted 2 hours, 15 minutes, until Nadal pushed a forehand long, meaning he would not manage to complete what would have been his fourth career comeback from two sets down.

Instead, it was Muller who was able to enjoy a win that seemed to be slipping away.


Lukaku joins Man United for 75 million pounds from Everton

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku has joined Manchester United from Everton for a fee of approximately 75 million pounds. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Steve Douglas

Manchester, England (AP) — Romelu Lukaku joined Manchester United from Everton for 75 million pounds on Monday after the striker rejected a late bid by former club Chelsea.

The 24-year-old Belgium international signed a five-year deal and became the second most expensive player in United's history after close friend Paul Pogba, who joined last offseason.

Lukaku, a powerfully built, 6-foot-3 (1.90-meter) striker, links for a second time with manager Jose Mourinho, who sold the player to Everton in 2014 when both were at Chelsea. Lukaku failed to establish a first-team place at Chelsea and had to spend most of his time on loan first at West Bromwich Albion and then Everton.

"Romelu is a natural fit for Manchester United. He is a big personality and a big player," Mourinho said.

Bolstering his strike force has been a priority for Mourinho ahead of his second season in charge at United after Zlatan Ibrahimovic — currently out with a knee injury — wasn't offered a contract extension.

Lukaku was the second highest scorer in the English Premier League last season, netting 25 goals as Everton finished seventh in the standings. United were a place higher but qualified for the Champions League by winning the Europa League.

"When Manchester United and Jose Mourinho come knocking at the door, it is an opportunity of a lifetime and one that I could not turn down," Lukaku said. "You could see the fight, determination and the spirit in this team during the Europa League final and I want to become a part of that."

In an interview with ESPN published on Sunday, Lukaku said he turned down an offer from Chelsea, the current English champions, because he had already given his word to United.

Lukaku is United's second signing of the summer, after center back Victor Lindelof, and will join the team in Los Angeles for preseason training.

Mourinho has stamped his own imprint on the United team, with Lukaku's arrival confirmed a day after Wayne Rooney left Old Trafford after 13 years to return to Everton.

With Lukaku up front, Pogba in central midfield, and Lindelof and Eric Bailly as center backs, Mourinho has a physically imposing spine to the side.

Lukaku said Pogba played a big role in convincing him to join United.

"Of course he is one of my best friends and he is my neighbour as well," Lukaku said. "We are always together on a daily basis so he would explain to me how things were going.

"Last season when he signed for United, to have witnessed that, it really triggered something in my brain and I knew that if one day I had the chance to sign then I would not say 'No.'"


Williams vs. Ostapenko at Wimbledon as court questions arise

Venus Williams of the United States returns to Croatia's Ana Konjuh during their Women's Singles match on day seven at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London Monday, July 10. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Howard Fendrich

London (AP) — Venus Williams is the oldest woman in the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 1994. Johanna Konta is the first British woman to make it that far since 1984. Angelique Kerber's loss means she'll relinquish the No. 1 ranking.

Jelena Ostapenko needed eight match points for her latest win — and latest proof that last month's French Open title was no fluke. Magdalena Rybarikova, a Slovakian ranked 87th, reached her first quarterfinal in 36 Grand Slam tournaments.

Those were among the significant goings-on in women's fourth-round action at the All England Club on Monday, when another topic took hold: Why were so few of these matches played on the tournament's biggest courts?

"I mean, honestly, I didn't think about that," the 13th-seeded Ostapenko said, then quickly added: "But, I mean, yeah, I think I deserve to play on a better court than Court 12, I guess."

The site of her 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over No. 4 Elina Svitolina has a seating capacity of 1,065, making it only the fifth largest for the event.

Garbine Muguruza beat Kerber 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 at Court No. 2, with its 4,063 seats, in a matchup between the past two Wimbledon runners-up, a pair of players with a combined three major championships, and the woman atop the WTA rankings (well, until next week).

While Kerber noted that scheduling is "not so easy" on the second Monday at Wimbledon — the only major with all men's and women's singles matches on one day — she added: "Of course, I was surprised."

Muguruza's take?

"I don't want to make any problem. I'm so focused on what I do, I don't care if I played on 13, 1, 5," she said, then acknowledged: "I was expecting another court."

All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said scheduling decisions involve "some difficult choices."

Lewis said one factor Monday was that "four of the all-time great male players" — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — were all playing. Their matches were all on the tournament's two principal courts.

Both Centre Court (nearly 15,000 seats) and No. 1 Court (more than 11,000) had two men's matches and one women's match.

"I wouldn't say it's favoritism," Lewis said.

"In the end, it's not about male-female," he said. "It's about which matches in the end are the ones that the public and broadcasters most of all would like to see."

Five-time champion Williams played in the main stadium, winning 31 of 36 first-serve points while overpowering 27th-seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-3, 6-2.

Williams, a vocal advocate for Wimbledon's switch in 2007 to equal prize money for the genders, said about the court assignments: "I'm sure that the women ... would want more matches on Centre or Court No. 1 over the whole fortnight."

She and Murray think the All England Club should consider placing four matches — two men's, two women's — at each of the top two arenas on what's called "Manic Monday."

Over on No. 1 Court, Konta won 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 against No. 21 Caroline Garcia of France. Not since Jo Durie 33 years ago has the host country had a woman in the quarterfinals.

Britain's last female champion was Virginia Wade in 1977.

"I've dreamed of it ever since I was a little girl — to be a Grand Slam champion," said Konta, who had won just one match in five previous Wimbledon appearances.

Five-time champion Williams is 37; each of her past two opponents is 19. Now the American faces Ostapenko, who turned 20 last month and was born after Williams made her Grand Slam debut at the 1997 French Open.

"Winning never gets old at any stage in your career. Ever," Williams said, then repeated that final word for emphasis.

The other women's quarterfinal matchups Tuesday: Konta vs. No. 2-seeded Simona Halep, Muguruza vs. two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Rybarikova against 24th-seeded CoCo Vandeweghe of the U.S.

Halep, who lost to Ostapenko in the French Open final, defeated former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (3), 6-2 and would replace Kerber at No. 1 if she eliminates Konta next. If Halep loses, then 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova would move atop the rankings despite a second-round exit at Wimbledon.

Rybarikova, a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 winner against 135th-ranked qualifier Petra Martic at Court 18 (capacity: 782), had no problem with the way matches were organized.

"To be honest, really, I enjoy watching more men's tennis," she said. "Also for the spectators, it's more enjoyable to watch, because it's ... Federer, Murray. Huge names. And I think they deserve, obviously, to be on Centre Court and Court 1. For me, myself, I'm happy to be on any court."


Froome denies barging into Tour rival Aru

Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, leads the pack of race favourites up the climb towards Mont du Chat pass during the ninth stage of the Tour de France cycling race, Sunday, July 9. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Bergerac, France (AP) — Race leader Chris Froome has described suggestions that he deliberately barged into rival Fabio Aru during a grueling Tour de France stage as "crazy."

Froome, who leads Aru by 18 seconds after nine stages, said during Monday's first rest day that he just made a mistake.

Many race observers thought the British rider might have barged into Aru in retaliation after the Italian champion appeared to launch an attack when Froome had a mechanical problem on the Mont du Chat climb.

"It was clear to me I had to change bikes straight away and it appeared that Fabio Aru accelerated at that moment," Froome said in comments provided by the Sky Team. "I think certainly in the peloton there's a bit of an unwritten rule that when the race leader has some kind of an issue that prevents him from racing, then the group doesn't take advantage of a situation like that."

Froome later caught the Aru group but said the contact with the Astana rider was unintentional.

"Once I got back to the group I think the very next hairpin we went round I lost my balance a little bit and swerved to the right," he said. "Aru happened to be on my right and he had to swerve as well. It was a genuine mistake and I think Fabio was the first to recognize that. I apologized straight away on the road as soon as it happened.

"Any suggestion that it was on purpose is just crazy. First of all, it's not anything I would ever do, and I was already on my spare bike, so to risk putting my derailleur into Aru's front wheel - it's just crazy. I wouldn't risk that at all."

Sunday's stage to Chambery was filled with drama and crashes. Among those who did not finish the stage was Froome's teammate Geraint Thomas, who retired with a fractured pelvis and collarbone, along with concussion.

"It's a massive blow to the team," Froome said.


Independent review confirms decision for Horn over Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines reacts after his loss to Jeff Horn of Australia during their WBO World Welterweight title fight in Brisbane, Sunday, July 2. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard, File)

San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) — An independent review of the scoring in Manny Pacquiao's contentious WBO welterweight world title loss to Jeff Horn has confirmed the outcome in favor of the Australian former schoolteacher.

A Philippines government department asked the WBO to review the refereeing and the judging of the so-called "Battle of Brisbane" in Australia on July 2 after Horn, fighting for his first world title, won a unanimous points decision against Pacquiao, an 11-time world champion.

In a statement late Monday, the WBO said three of the five independent judges who reviewed the bout awarded it to Horn, one awarded it to Pacquiao and one scored a draw.

WBO President Francisco Valcarcel asked the judges, who came from different countries and remained anonymous, to assign their own scores to rounds, saying the results would be tabulated to ascertain which rounds each fighter won using an average scale based on 100, 80 and 60 percent.

Based on the analysis, the WBO said Pacquiao won the 3rd, 8th and 9th round by 100 percent, the 5th round by 80 percent and the 11th by 60 percent. Horn was given the 1st, 6th and 12th rounds by 100 percent, the 2nd, 4th and 7th by 80 percent and the 10th by 60 percent.

"From the results, it can be established that Pacquiao won 5 rounds while Horn won 7 rounds," the WBO statement said.

A further step of combining the independent judge's scores for each round with the bout judge's scores for each round also confirmed a win for Horn, the WBO said.

The Philippines Games and Amusements Board (GAB) last week urged a review, saying it wanted to protect the integrity of the sport.

The fight, in front of more than 51,000 people at a rugby stadium in Brisbane, was scored 117-111 by Waleksa Roldan and 115-113 each by Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan — Roldan's score coming in for most criticism. Pacquiao had Horn in wobbling and in trouble in the 9th round, but couldn't finish him off. Horn rallied late to hold on for a points decision and remain unbeaten in 18 professional fights.

"It gives me evidence behind me that I can just use now. Instead of saying 'I think I won the fight,' now a heap of other people — professionally — think I won the fight," Horn told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday as he prepared to board a flight for Los Angeles. "It's definitely nice to have it finally put on paper.

"Now just to have it clear in front of us is good."

Pacquiao had a rematch clause in his rich contract for the fight, and speculating is mounting about another showdown in Australia in November.

GAB chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra last week welcomed the WBO's decision to conduct the review, saying it would send a strong signal that any sign of leniency, abuse of authority or wrongdoing would not be tolerated.

"Our feeling is, if you're quiet, you'll get abused but if you complain, they'll be careful ... Manny is a senator, a champion, but was like wrestled there, abused by them," Mitra told The Associated Press in the Philippines' capital after the WBO confirmed it would review the scoring. "If it can be done to him, it can be done to any other Filipino boxer."
 


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Out-of-form McIlroy misses the cut at Scottish Open


Hamilton feeling heat after snubbing event before British GP

Fowler makes up for lost time at Scottish Open

Shanshan Feng leads in rain-delayed US Women's Open

Venus Williams gains 9th Wimbledon final, awaits Muguruza

Froome loses Tour lead to Aru, Bardet wins 12th stage


Querrey tops Murray at Wimbledon; Djokovic out; Federer wins

Kittel wins crash-marred Tour stage 11, Froome stays safe

Forbes says Cowboys most valuable sports team, worth $4.2B

NBA eliminates timeouts to keep the ends of games moving

Cricket Australia, players remain far apart in pay dispute


Kittel wins Tour stage 10, Froome keeps race lead

Mayweather-McGregor promo tour gets off to frenzied start

Silverstone tells F1: Cut fees or lose British GP after 2019

Djokovic reaches Wimbledon quarters with injured shoulder

Konta teaching history at Wimbledon with another victory


2-time champ Nadal loses 15-13 in 5th set at Wimbledon

Lukaku joins Man United for 75 million pounds from Everton

Williams vs. Ostapenko at Wimbledon as court questions arise

Froome denies barging into Tour rival Aru

Independent review confirms decision for Horn over Pacquiao

 



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