French Open 2018

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The French Open announced on Monday it will not give Serena Williams a seeding for her return to grand slam tennis following maternity leave.

“This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA ranking,” the French Tennis Federation said in a statement. “Consequently, [the seeds] will reflect this week’s world ranking.”

Williams, a three-time French Open champion, is expected to play in her first major since giving birth to her daughter in September. While Williams can enter Roland Garros under the WTA’s protected or “special” ranking rule, it’s up to grand slam organisers to give her a seed. While she was world No1 when she left the tour to give birth, Williams is currently ranked No453. Without a seeding, the 23-time grand slam singles champion risks facing top-ranked players in the early rounds.

The WTA is considering a rule change to add protected seedings for highly ranked players returning from maternity leave but the earliest that could take effect is next year.

Several of Williams’ biggest rivals believe she deserves a seeding. “I would like to see that [rule] change,” Maria Sharapova said at the Italian Open last week. “It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally. … There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day.”

Williams returned to the tour briefly in March after a 14-month absence. She was not seeded at tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, and compiled two wins and two losses.

Williams has recounted the difficulties she faced in childbirth, and a pulmonary embolism made it hard for her to breathe shortly after her daughter was born. But after a period of training, coach Patrick Mouratoglou last week told the WTA tour website that “Serena will play the French Open to win it.”

The French Open draw will be made on Thursday, with the tournament starting on Sunday. we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.
A stroll down the alleys of the venue reveals how far work has progressed, with the expansion continuing apace days before the tournament starts.

Court Two is gone, enabling the modernization of neighboring Philippe Chatrier, the Center Court, which barring further delays will sport a new retractable roof two years from now.
The roof, which can be set up in 12 minutes, will bring the French Open on par with the other three grand slams — the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open.
After this year’s tournament, which runs from May 27-June 10, 80 percent of Philippe Chatrier will be destroyed.

“It is one of our biggest challenges,” Gilles Jourdan, director of the expansion project, told Reuters. “The stands of the Center Court will be destroyed so they can be rebuilt next spring and be ready for 2019.”A little further on, work on Court Simonne Mathieu is almost complete.
Named after France’s second-most decorated female player, the arena will replace Court One, the stadium’s third-largest court, affectionately known as the “Bullring” because of its shape and atmosphere.
The Bullring’s 5,000-seater replacement will be nestled among the area’s graceful 19-century greenhouses, and will be ready in time for the 2020 tournament.
Concern for the greenhouses was at the heart of the fierce opposition the French Tennis Federation faced when it announced the revamp, because the plan involved expanding the venue into the picturesque Serres d’Auteuil.
The famed botanical garden is home to 6,000 square meters of greenhouses built in 1898 and contain works by the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and the Roland Garros expansion has added more than 1,300 sqm of greenhouses to the existing ones.

“For the moment, the construction works are taking a lot of space,” said 73-year-old Jean-Pierre, who often walks among the greenhouses. “We fear that the tournament will attract people there who will not respect the place.”“There are three new courts: 7, 9 and 18, which will eventually become court 14,” French tennis federation president Bernard Giudicelli said.

Courts 7 and 9 have 1,500 and 550 seats, respectively, and are located in front of the new village, allowing guests to watch the action from the terraces.

Court 18 is a semi-sunken arena that can hold up to 2,200 spectators, making it the stadium’s fourth-largest in terms of capacity. The court was built in less than a year, after the litigation finally ended.

Court One will be demolished only after the 2019 French Open, and Giudicelli plans to allow supporters with a general access pass into the Bullring next year to give them an opportunity to bid adieu to the arena.

Fans with general stadium access are usually allowed into all the courts apart from Chatrier, Lenglen and Court One.The Euroclay swing is coming to a head next week at the French Open in Paris. All the big run-in tournaments are now over, and the top contenders are mostly resting and prepping this week for the second Grand Slam of the year. While legions wait on tenterhooks to learn if Serena Williams really is going to play at Roland Garros, we’ll take a look at who’s hot — and not — as the event approaches, including their spring record on clay

Roland Garros 2018

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The three-time champion has not played competitive tennis since suffering a first-round defeat to Naomi Osaka in Miami, having also been knocked out early of the Indian Wells Masters on her return from giving birth.

Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou acknowledged last week that the 23-time Grand Slam champion made her comeback too soon, but insisted she is heading to Paris to win.

And the 36-year-old was on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday, having also practiced on the red dirt a day earlier.Williams, who travelled to Paris after attending the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle in London on Saturday, opted not to play at the Madrid Open or the Internazionali d’Italia in the buildup to the second major of the season, instead training at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.Last year’s men’s champion, Rafael Nadal, will return to defend his title and go for his record 11th French Open trophy. Nadal, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, has battled with Roger Federer for the top spot throughout the year and just reclaimed it with his win in Rome. Federer has since withdrawn from the clay court circuit though and won’t be playing in the French Open for the third straight year, leaving the door open for Nadal to take the title at Roland Garros.

MORE: Serena Williams’ 2018 schedule

In the WTA, all eyes will be on Serena Williams as she participates in her first Grand Slam event since the 2017 Australian Open. The 23-time Grand Slam champion has understandably been shaking off rust in her most recent tournaments. She made it to the third round at Indian Wells before losing to sister Venus and was ousted in the opening round of the Miami Open.

Last year’s winner, Jelena Ostapenko, has climbed her way to No. 5 in the WTA rankings. The player she defeated, Simona Halep, will likely come in with the No. 1 ranking, and after losing the 2018 Australian Open to Caroline Wozniacki, will look to finally win her first career Grand Slam at Roland Garros.

Below is the schedule by round, the men’s and women’s draws and how to watch the French Open.

French Open schedule
The opening round of the French Open is set to begin on Sunday, May 27, at 5 a.m. ET. The tournament will take place almost daily over the next two weeks and will conclude with the championship match on Sunday, June 10. Below is the round-by-round breakdown of the schedule for both men and women.South Africa’s Kevin Anderson has been seeded sixth for the French Open which starts at Roland Garros on Sunday.

The 32-year-old, who is enjoying a career-high seventh in the ATP singles rankings released on Monday, is aiming to bounce back at this year’s second Grand Slam after being forced to retire last year.

Anderson, who has had greater success on the grass courts of Wimbledon and hard courts in Australia and New York, has only reached the fourth round in Paris on three occasions.

But it just wasn’t meant to be in 2017 when he was forced to call it a day in the second set against Croatia’s Marin Cilic due to a hamstring injury.

The 2017 US Open runner-up opened his clay court season as the top seed at the Estoril Open earlier this month but crashed out in the second round to Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Florida-based South African, who turned 32 last Friday, quickly put that defeat behind him when he powered his way to the semifinals of the Madrid Open two weeks ago. He eventually fell to Austria’s Dominic Thiem in straight sets, but the outing did Anderson’s confidence the world of good ahead of the French Open.The French Open organizers won’t offer special treatment to Serena Williams should she make the trip to Roland Garros in Paris this summer.

“This year again, tournament officials will establish the list and ranking of the women’s seeds based on the WTA ranking,” the French Tennis Federation said, per the Associated Press (via “Consequently, [the seeds] will reflect this week’s world ranking.”

Williams has competed in just two WTA events this year after returning to the court following the birth of her daughter. Because of that, as well as her absence for almost the entire 2017 campaign, she sits No. 453 in the WTA rankings.

Both Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep lobbied on Williams’ behalf for her to earn a seed at the 2018 French Open.

Sharapova said returning from pregnancy requires “an incredible effort” that can tax a player physically and emotionally, while Halep said it’s “normal to give birth” and “good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth.”

Williams won the 2015 French Open and was the runner-up in 2016. Failing to be seeded this season will leave her hopes of a fourth French Open title in serious jeopardy.

Williams received a wild card entry for her return at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, in March. As a result, she played No. 29 Kiki Bertans in the second round and sister Venus, who was seeded eighth, in the third round. Serena lost to Venus in straight sets. In her next event, the Miami Open, a meeting with fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina awaited Williams if she had defeated Naomi Osaka in the first round.

Something similar could happen again at the French Open without the luxury of a seeding designation.

Yankees vs Rangers

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After taking two of three against the Royals, the Yankees have now won eight consecutive series. We’re not counting the one in Washington DC, since it technically didn’t happen.Trying to continue that run, the Yankees head to Texas to play a three-game series against the Rangers. Texas currently sits in fifth in the AL West, but they have some solid pitchers, and the likes of Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo can both hit baseballs over fences. Let’s see how the pitching matchups shake out for this set.Game One: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Bartolo Colon

After going five inning in the rain-suspended game in Washington, Tanaka returns to the mound for the series opener in Texas. He wasn’t great in the Nationals’ game, getting tagged for two home runs, but he also wasn’t awful, finishing his outing on a high note. His results have been middling of late, but maybe his fortunes will change against a Texas team that is only averaging about four runs per game.

His opposite number will be former Yankee Bartolo Colon. The Rangers’ starter is having a pretty good season, especially considering that he once shared a rotation with Old Hoss Radbourn. However, in two meetings with him last year, the Yankees tagged him for ten runs in a combined 7.1 inningGame Two: Domingo German vs. Cole HamelsGerman followed up his stellar rotation debut with a less than stellar performance against the Athletics. His career is still young, so it’s far too early to tell which direction he will go in his third go-round.

Hamels has been pretty good of late, allowing just five earned runs in 23.1 innings across his last four starts. This will be the first time the Yankees have faced him since the 2016 season, when he threw seven scoreless innings. A lot has obviously changed in the meantime.
Following his excellent start to the season, Sabathia has dealt with some regression. While not all of it was his fault, he took the loss in Friday night’s game against the Royals. Like Hamels, it’s been a while since CC faced the Rangers, but he’s gotten roughed up in several of his most recent games against them.

On the other side, it’s just eight starts in, but Fister is currently on pace for his best season since 2014. His seven scoreless innings against the White Sox dropped his ERA to 3.43. However, a glance at his 4.76 FIP shows there could be some regression in store here. The Yankees certainly have the lineup to do that to him.
He’s three wins away from tying Nicaragua’s Dennis Martinez (245) for most wins by a Latin American.Colon’s impressive start to the season has been remarkable.

“It’s astonishing, remarkable, all those superlatives you want to put on it,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s believable when you’re around him. It’s believable. I think on the outside looking in, everybody is going, ‘How in the …'”You spend time around him, passion for the game, his work ethic, how he prepares, how he keeps his arm in shape and then the feel for the baseball is incredible. I think more than anything else, you get to a certain age, the drive and desire shows up more so than the overall ability. The want-to to continue to go out and do it, put yourself through what it takes to play this game at this level. It’s every day. Even for a starter, it’s still every day.”

2. Moore’s mindset. Left-hander Matt Moore has had a forgettable start to the season. He’s 1-5 with a 7.99 ERA and couldn’t make it through four innings in his last start.The Rangers opted to put Moore on the disabled list Saturday with right knee soreness, an issue that’s been bothering him since spring training. It also gives Moore a chance to exhale and clear his mind a bit.”It makes sense to let things cool off. I’m not exactly contributing in a positive fashion,” Moore said. “At the same point, it gives me time to let that heal up a little bit and basically skip a start, it sounds like.”

The most heralded power-hitting tandem since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris starts a three-game appearance in Arlington on Monday.Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees are tight-end sized sluggers who combined for 111 homers last season. Judge hit 52 with the Yankees, and Stanton had 59 with Miami. Maris and Mantle had 115 homers in the historic 1961 season.Judge and Stanton have the credentials of big-time thumpers. They will not be the most productive home run duo this season at Globe Life Park

Judge and Stanton have combined for 22 homers. Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara of the Rangers have 23 homers.Is this series a prime chance for Gallo and Mazara to measure themselves against Judge and Stanton?”I’m not that type of guy,” Mazara said. “I’m going to keep doing my job. I’m not going to try to hit home runs.”They are good hitters. And they are in New York. When you are in New York, you are going to be high profile.”

Said Gallo: “I don’t compare myself to anybody. Just go out and play. New York’s a little bit different place. We like it low key, how it is here. But they are great players.”The obvious difference is Judge and Stanton hit from the right side, and Gallo and Mazara are left-handed hitters. Judge and Stanton have power to right-center, ideal for playing in Yankee Stadium. Gallo has more straightaway strength, and Mazara is a gap-to-gap line-drive hitter.

Orioles vs White Sox

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The folks who produce MASN’s “Ain’t Baseball Great?” commercials are going to have their work cut out for them.What, pray tell, is anyone supposed to get excited about when two of the most atrocious teams in baseball face off against each other for four games?Ooh, let me try. “Only one team can get the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. Ain’t baseball great?”The Orioles continue their 11-game road trip with a set of four in the south side of Chicago, where the White Sox hold baseball’s worst record at 13-30. The Orioles are only two percentage points better, sitting at 14-32, tied for the second-worst record with the Kansas City Royals.

Yes, these are two terrible teams. But here’s the difference: the White Sox weren’t even trying to win this year. They were fully committed to this being a rebuilding season, so the losses aren’t surprising. The Orioles, meanwhile, actually were trying to compete! And here they are alongside the White Sox at the bottom of the league standings. Ouch.The White Sox are last in the AL in runs scored, but they have a better team average, OBP, and SLG (.242/.309/.407) than the Orioles (.232/.297/.401). Their most high-profile hitter is slugger Jose Abreu, who’s batting .306 with a .906 OPS and eight homers.

They’ve also gotten good production from relatively unknown DH Matt Davidson (.917 OPS, 11 homers) and 23-year-old second baseman Yoan Moncada (.848 OPS, six homers), their top prospect acquired in the Chris Sale trade with Boston two years ago.The rotation has been a mess for the White Sox; they have the worst starters’ ERA in the AL at 5.98. (The Orioles, at 5.55, are second-worst.) Chicago’s only competent starter is Reynaldo Lopez, whom the O’s will not face in this series.On paper, the White Sox are a team the Orioles should beat. Then again, on paper, the Orioles are a team the White Sox should beat. Who will prove more inept than the other?Game 1: Monday, 8:10 PM.RHP Andrew Cashner (1-5, 4.83) vs. LHP Hector Santiago (0-1, 5.29 ERA)

The Orioles’ recent spate of games against lefties continues, as they’ll face their fourth southpaw in the last five games. That probably means Chance Sisco will be benched again, but on the flip side, it could mean Chris Davis will be benched, too.Santiago, who signed as a free agent this past offseason, is back on the team he began his career with from 2011-2013. He’s spent most of the year in the bullpen; this will be only his fourth start in 13 appearances. He hasn’t lasted longer than five innings in any of the others. Current Orioles hitters have combined for six homers off Santiago, including two by Mark Trumbo, while Danny Valencia has reached base 11 times in 24 plate appearances against him.

Cashner, making his 10th start, has yet to win since April 5. He’s already given up 11 homers in 50.1 innings after surrendering just 15 in 166.2 innings for the Rangers last year. He’s never beaten the White Sox in his career (0-2 with a 4.61 ERA in four games, two starts). The Chicago batter he’s faced the most is former Oriole Welington Castillo, who is 5-for-12 against him.Game 2: Tuesday, 8:10 PM.RHP Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.88) vs. James Shields (1-4, 4.88)

How far Shields’ career has fallen since he was “Big Game James” for the Rays and Royals. After posting a 111 ERA+ in his first nine seasons in the majors, Shields has been a liability since, dipping to an 81 ERA+ from 2015 to today. He has particularly struggled with his control, with his walk rate inflating from 2.1 to 3.9 in those two time spans. He’s in the final season of a four-year, $75 million contract he signed with the Padres in February 2015.

With his many years pitching in the AL East for the Rays, Shields is intimately familiar with the Orioles. In 27 career starts against them, he’s 11-8 with a 3.90 ERA. Adam Jones has had 52 plate appearances against Shields, batting .300 with an .827 OPS. Davis has also torched Shields, hitting three home runs in 16 at-bats.

Gausman had been on a nice groove for the Orioles, with five quality starts in his last six outings, before getting bamboozled by the Red Sox in his most recent start. His only career start against the White Sox was in April 2016, and it was a quality start (six innings, two earned runs). Of course, only one current White Sox hitter was in the lineup then (Abreu), so it doesn’t mean much.Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria tried to send a message to his team by benching veteran catcher Welington Castillo after he did not run out a pop fly in the series opener against the Baltimore Orioles.



USGA Four Ball 2018

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Stuart resident Garrett Barber and partner Cole Hammer won four of their first five holes and cruised to a 7-and-6 victory in a first-round match Monday in the rain-soaked U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Jupiter Hills Club.

Barber and Cole, high school seniors who are ranked 57th and 52nd in the world amateur rankings, won their first two holes and were only slowed by a 2 1/4-hour rain delay while beating Ed Brown and Jay Whitby in the Round of 32.

That dominating golf came a day after Barber and Hammer birdied seven of their first eight holes to finish third in stroke-play qualifying.

“We’ve gotten into a rhythm and the putts have started to fall,” said Barber, who had an illustrious career at the Pine School. “We are actually trying to play against each other because it keeps us aggressive.”

The team of Barber-Cole advances to Tuesday’s Round of 16. If they win, they advance to Tuesday afternoon’s quarterfinals.

The final two matches are Wednesday – weather permitting. More than 15 inches has pelted Jupiter Hills Club in the last week, with play stopped three times Saturday and once Monday.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) has announced tee times for the first two rounds of the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 at the 7,253-yard Hills Course and the 6,630-yard Village Course at Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla.

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball consists of 18 holes of stroke play on May 19 and 18 holes of stroke play on May 20, after which the 128 sides (256 players) will be reduced to the low 32 sides (64 players) for match play. There will be five rounds of match play, starting May 21 with the first round. The second and quarterfinal rounds are slated for May 22. The semifinals will be played the morning of May 23, with the 18-hole championship match scheduled to follow at 1 p.m. ET.

Saturday (May 19), Hills Course, Hole No. 1 / Sunday (May 20), Village Course, Hole No. 1
7 a.m./10:24 a.m. – Timothy Connors, Rye, N.Y. & Bradford Tilley, Easton, Conn.; Jesse Daley, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. & Justin Goodhue, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

7:12 a.m./10:36 a.m. – Chad Wilfong, Charlotte, N.C. & Davis Womble, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Stephen Dressel, Wayne, Pa. & Brian Gillespie, Newtown Square, Pa.

7:24 a.m./10:48 a.m. – Matthew Considine, Akron, Ohio & Putter Johnson, Chicago, Ill.; Stephen Brown, Canada & Ethan O’Meara, Canada

7:36 a.m./11 a.m. – Matthew Gibb, Canada & Ben Greve, Golden Valley, Minn.; Chris Dukeminier, Portland, Ore. & Jack Dukeminier, Beaverton, Ore.

7:48 a.m./11:12 a.m. – Peter Anderson, New York, N.Y. & John McCarthy, Cambridge, Mass.; Brett Hudson, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. & Scott Strickland, Birmingham, Mich.

8 a.m./11:24 a.m. – Alex Cusumano, St. Louis, Mo. & Garrett Marschke, Suwanee, Ga.; J.C. Riter, Portland, Ore. & Blake Seabaugh, Tigard, Ore.

8:12 a.m./11:36 a.m. – Clark Collier, Dallas, Texas & Kyle Hudelson, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Jeremy Grab, Daniel Island, S.C. & Jake McGlone, Charlotte, N.C.

8:24 a.m./11:48 a.m. – James Donley, Phoenix, Ariz. & Rob McIver, Phoenix, Ariz.; Thomas Eubanks, Charlotte, N.C. & Luke Hackworth, Charlotte, N.C.

8:36 a.m./12 p.m. – Zach Burry, Quincy, Ill. & Trent Wallace, Joliet, Ill.; Scott Shingler, Haymarket, Va. & Justin Young, Salem, Va.

8:48 a.m./12:12 p.m. – Jason Debuhr, Charlotte, N.C. & Jim Gates, Overland Park, Kan.; Rij Patel, Hunt Valley, Md. & Gregory Royston, South Africa

9 a.m./12:24 p.m. – Drew Mayhew, Canada & Peter Sauerbrei, Canada; Alex Jeffers, Watertown, Mass. & Garren Poirier, Killington, Vt.

9:12 a.m./12:36 p.m. – David Denham, Athens, Ga. & Stuart Moore, Gainesville, Ga.; Jason Buffone, New Lenox, Ill. & Andy Roderique, Frankfort, Ill.

9:24 a.m./12:48 p.m. – Nicholas Engen, Denver, Colo. & John Jarmul, Greenwood Village, Colo.; Bobby Bucey, Concord, Calif. & Brett Viboch, Moraga, Calif.

9:36 a.m./1 p.m. – Kenny Cook, Noblesville, Ind. & Sean Rowen, Greenwood, Ind.; Matt Hendrix, Greenville, S.C. & Michael Sims, Lexington, S.C.

9:48 a.m./1:12 p.m. – Sean Semenetz, Philadelphia, Pa. & Jack Wallace, Beverly, N.J.; Tommy Hart, Denver, Colo. & Jonathan Marsico, Englewood, Colo.

10 a.m./1:24 p.m. – Shawn Stoute, Katy, Texas & Toby Zeringue, Katy, Texas; Zachary Frazier, Las Vegas, Nev. & Christopher Laughlin, Edmond, Okla.

10:24 a.m./7 a.m. – Thomas Jenkins, Champlin, Minn. & Kevin Krigbaum, Champlin, Minn.; Jeff Fujimoto, Phoenix, Ariz. & Patrick Moore, Phoenix, Ariz.

10:36 a.m./7:12 a.m. – Frankie Capan, North Oaks, Minn. & Shuai Ming Wong, Hong Kong China; Jamie Miller, Orchard Park, N.Y. & James Smith, Juno Beach, Fla.

 Bemidji natives Thomas Jenkins and Kevin Krigbaum failed to advance past the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Tournament this past weekend.

The duo finished at at plus-10 150 after two rounds, carding a 77 Saturday and a 73 Sunday.

NASCAR All-Star Race 2018

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In some ways, the NASCAR All-Star Race portrayed aspects of a typical 1.5-mile event.But the NASCAR All-Star Race wouldn’t rate as typical as NASCAR experimented with an aerodynamic package that featured restrictor plates, front air ducts that pushed air through the front wheel wells and a big spoiler.For an event desperately needing a boost, the non-points race got one Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The lead changed 12 times when counted at the start/finish line — none in the final 11 laps — but 38 times, according to NASCAR, when using its timing lines scattered throughout the track.NASCAR had one promising night. But don’t get too excited just yet. NASCAR’s charter agreements with the teams require several months of lead time for major aerodynamic changes. They can’t make the change for this year (at least with approval from the teams, which is doubtful, because of the costs involved).

As much as anyone hates to hear it, the prudent approach is the right approach even after a relatively successful All-Star Race that saw cars run much closer together and drivers working together to get their lane to run faster and push each other to the lead. The race featured the typical move of helping a driver to make some passes and then hanging that driver out to dry in order to advance positions.”From an eye test, we were certainly pleased with what we saw,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said. “I think you’ll hear drivers say, directionally, there’s some things we can look at. We agree. … We’ll try to put a timeline together to look toward 2019.”

Brad Keselowski, not a fan of the package when announced last month, delivered this assessment:”You definitely seem to draft a little bit more, which has its highs and lows, but track position is super important, drag is super important,” he said. “Give us a few weeks to work on the race cars with a package like this and I’m sure we can mess it up.”Keselowski was not being sarcastic. The teams were given the front aero ducts and didn’t know their exact design until Friday. Their wind tunnel time and simulation data were limited because of it.Not surprising, drivers had different ideas for how to work on it, how to tweak it.

“It’s interesting for sure,” AJ Allmendinger said after he won the last-chance qualifying race. “I’ve still got mixed feelings on it. … Part of me thinks if we didn’t have as much restrictor, maybe a little more motor, it would be a little bit better. It was interesting for sure.”The top speeds in practice clocked in at 16 mph slower than with the previous package.”There is some tweaking [needed],” Joey Logano said after his third-place finish. “Personally, I would like to get rid of the drag ducts, just to try it. I don’t think that’s the right direction. Maybe it is. You don’t know until you try it.”I thought the racing was pretty entertaining from the driver’s seat. I would assume from TV and from the grandstands it was pretty entertaining.”

NASCAR will use the package for the Xfinity Series cars at Pocono, Michigan and Indianapolis. Harvick and O’Donnell said the key is engine development so they don’t have three different engine packages — one for restrictor plates at Daytona/Talladega, another for restrictor-plate races at select intermediate tracks, and then non-restricted engines for the rest of the races.”By the time it evolves, especially for the engine shop, this particular engine package would need to look very similar to what your Daytona and Talladega package [need] to look like. … That’s the reason you can’t just say, ‘Pull the trigger, let’s do it,'” Harvick said.Any rules package for 2019 likely would have to be decided by early September.”It’s a [new] motor package; it’s potential body change from what we race,” said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing vice president of competition. “We’re just creating more work for ourselves, which just takes more resources.

“If it puts good racing on and the races are spread out, we’ll all figure it out as teams. Dumping it on us right now wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”But there will be plenty of conversations, and soon.”Directionally [we] do like some of the things you see,” O’Donnell said. “Now you’ve got to get together with the industry, debrief like we always do with the race teams, the drivers, certainly listen to the tracks and the fans, then the [manufacturers], talk about how do we continue to look at this and look at it in a smart way, look at it in an efficient way.”The drivers seemed relatively content with the racing. Harvick, mired in the pack for the second and third stages of the four-stage event, said it felt a little bit like an old race at Daytona when the track had several bumps.

“You could dive to the bottom, and the middle and the top was still going to be faster coming on the outside of you,” Harvick said. “I probably made a lot moves I shouldn’t have made, but you are trying to make something happen.”There was one big wreck, and it occurred because Martin Truex Jr. was taking more than giving, a typical restrictor-plate crash.”I knew if I let off and made sure we all didn’t crash, none of the other guys would have and I wasn’t going to win,” Truex said. “So I kept my foot in it and hoped we all could keep it straight. And I guess we all ran out of room. … We were four-wide going into [Turn 3] and there’s just not enough room for that.”

Truex quipped the package “was fun while it lasted” and the one good thing was he was able to improve on being awful in practice Saturday morning to running well Saturday night.No cars got airborne, a typical concern on restrictor-plate tracks.”I’m pretty sure there’s still a chance,” Allmendinger said. “That giant thing [of a spoiler] that hangs on the back of our race car, if it turns backward, I’m pretty sure [it will go over].”This is a test. That is what this race is about. … I wish the cars will be a little bit faster, but they sure put on a good race.”

“That’s not my decision to make,” Keselowski said. “They’re going to do what they want to do. It doesn’t matter what I like. I like having a job.”President Donald Trump congratulated 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and also thanked NASCAR for its support of him and his policies during a 10-minute ceremony Monday at the White House.”You [had] 19 top-5 finishes and led more than 2,000 laps. Does it get lonely being in front?” Trump said as he turned to Truex. “Not at all. Never, right? … Thanks to incredible speed, lightning-fast pit stops and exceptional driving, this team stood alone among NASCAR’s many contenders.”

Trump said NASCAR chairman Brian France has been his friend “for a long time” and said France has been doing “a fantastic job” running NASCAR.France’s endorsement of Trump in February 2016 was both celebrated and criticized within the NASCAR industry.”Brian has been with us since the beginning, like so many others who love NASCAR,” Trump said. “He’s been really a supporter right from the beginning. He said, ‘We support Trump.’ And so I want to thank you very much, Brian. That was incredible. That meant a lot.”The president also thanked NASCAR for its patriotism and for the drivers standing during the national anthem. NASCAR has no written policy on whether drivers and crews must stand for the national anthem, but no driver or crew member is known to have demonstrated during its playing.

“At every NASCAR race, you will see thousands of patriotic Americans from the grandstands to the pit stalls proudly waving our flag and roaring with joy at the words, ‘Start your engines,'” Trump said. “I will tell you, one thing I know about NASCAR, they do indeed, Brian, stand for the playing of the national anthem, right? They do indeed. Somebody said maybe you shouldn’t say that, that will be controversial. I said ‘That’s OK. NASCAR is not going to mind it at all, right, fellas?'”In congratulating Furniture Row Racing, Trump spoke about how the team overcame heartbreak in winning the race the day after crew member Jim Watson died away from the track at Kansas in October. Trump also spoke about Truex’s girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, and her fight against ovarian cancer.

“She is an incredible woman, and, Sherry, your determination in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to millions of Americans who know what you’re going through,” Trump said. “You’ve endured extremely tough treatments with grace and grit and a tremendous and beautiful smile. You are Sherry strong.”Truex presented Trump with a replica of one of his racing helmets.”I’m just really proud to be here today to represent the sport, to represent our millions of fans out there across the world,” Truex said.Chase Elliott was announced Saturday as the winner in fan voting for the final spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Elliott, 22, was the top vote-getter among drivers not already qualified for the main event for the third consecutive year. The balloting puts his Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet into the exhibition’s field as the 21st and final entry.“I’m just appreciative of the support, especially it being the third year in a row,” Elliott said. “That does mean a lot to me, and it’s pretty special as a racer to know that the folk that are at home voting have my back like that. I definitely would love to make the people that voted for me proud and that’s the ultimate goal. I’ll keep working at it and hopefully get there one day.”

Elliott led twice for three laps and finished third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Open qualifying race. He also placed third in the first two stages, narrowly missing a transfer spot into the main event by his preferred method of racing his way in.

“For sure, I rather wanted to race my way in and not have to even worry about the fan vote this year, but it was a fun race, really,” Elliott said. “It was interesting to drive it, and I’m sure it was interesting to watch. I’m looking forward to being in the big show. I appreciate all the folks that voted for me again this year. Hopefully this time last year, we’ll be in the big show and won’t have to worry about it.”As we mentioned earlier, prior to the All-Star Race drivers who haven’t qualified can compete in the Monster Energy Open to claim a spot in the field. Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. are among those expected to compete in the open. The winners of the three stages in the open will qualify for the All-Star Race.Last year’s winner, Kyle Busch, is looking to defend his title and add another million to his purse. Busch has been hot to start the season, claiming three wins which is second in the series to Kevin Harvick with five.

“For us, being an all-star and being in the All-Star Race is one of the most fun things we get to do each year,” Busch said to NASCAR. “I’d say the Clash is another one of those and, with the All-Star Race, they are certainly two fun races where we get a chance to go after just a win and bring home the checkers or end up on the wrecker.

“It’s an exciting night and there’s a lot of energy there. It gives you the opportunity to run that many qualifying laps in a row. That’s all you’re doing – you’re giving it all you’ve got every single lap.”Unfortunately for Busch, history is not on his side. Only one driver since 1998 has secured multiple victories in the All-Star Race and that driver is none other than seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano have also won the event.

Geneva Open 2018

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Wawrinka is a two-time defending champion at the tournament, having beaten Marin Cilic in the 2016 final, and Mischa Zverev in 2017. Both title runs have ushered in strong performances at Roland Garros, with the Swiss reaching the semi-finals in Paris in 2016; and finishing runner-up in 2017. That said, a deep run at Roland Garros in 2018 is highly unlikely, regardless of whatever results Wawrinka produces in Geneva.

Not that the Swiss is thinking too much about a deep run in Paris at the moment, his main aim at this point is to get through as many matches as possible unscathed, get that confidence going again, and redirect that ranking in the right direction.

A former world number three, and three-time Grand Slam champion, Wawrinka is down at No. 25 in the world heading into Geneva, following an extended period of inactivity. Following an opening round loss to Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon last year, the Swiss underwent two surgeries on his left knee, and subsequently ended his season. He returned at the Australian Open, beat Ricardas Berankis and then falls to Tennys Sandgren. He made a promising semi-final in Sofia, but then lost successive opening matches in Rotterdam and Marseille, the later via a retirement that would keep him out for another fairly lengthy period. After a series of withdrawals, he eventual made his comeback in Rome, where he was beaten by Steve Johnson in the opening round. That defeat means Wawrinka has now lost four in a row, starting with that semi-final loss in Sofia to Mirza Basic, and then consecutive opening round exits in Rotterdam, Marseille and Rome.

“Disappointed with the result, that’s for sure. Would have loved to win,” Wawrinka said after losing to Johnson in Rome. “[But] if I really look where I am right now, I’m really happy. I think, in general, my level is really high, it’s better than what I expected…. I’m happy with the level I have in practice. I’m happy with physically where I am right now. I feel quite good, I have to say, on the court.”

Looking to avoid a fifth successive defeat, Wawrinka takes on American, Jared Donaldson in the second round on Tuesday.

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Interestingly, Donaldson has just snapped a five-match losing streak of his own, beating Denis Istomin in the opening round in Geneva to record his first win since the Miami Open.

The American had endured a torrid time on clay- failing to win a match in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, but he finally got his first win on the surface this season, recovering from losing the opening set to beat Istomin 5-7 6-4 6-0. Another defeat seemed on the cards when he dropped the first set, but once he got the early break in the second set, he was always in control of the match from there. Donaldson got broken in the final game of the opening set to concede the set, but he didn’t face a single break point in the remainder of the match, capping a fine performance by winning the final set to love.

The 21-year-old had had a quiet start to the year on hard courts, the highlights of which were a semi-final in Acapulco (a result which took him to a career-high ranking of 48), and a third-round run in Miami. He didn’t win back-to-back matches anywhere else, falling at the first hurdle in Melbourne and New York, and reaching the second round in Brisbane, Sydney, Delray Beach and Indian Wells to record an indifferent 9-8 record.

He was only 21-22 in 2017; but scattered amongst several early exits were some really good runs, such as the quarter final in Cincinnati, making the fourth round in Masters 1000 meets Montreal and Miami, and reaching the third round at Wimbledon, all of which lifted him to a very healthy year-end ranking of No. 54.

Donaldson pushed Wawrinka to three sets in their only previous meeting back in Cincinnati in 2016, with the American taking the opening set before Wawrinka hit back to power through the next two. The American’s game isn’t based on big-serving or heavy-hitting, unlike most of his compatriots, but he moves and defends well, and forces his opponents to hit plenty of balls. He comes in with renewed confidence as well, after picking up his first win on clay this season in the previous round. Donaldson will not serve or hit Wawrinka off the court, which presents the Swiss the chance to hit quite a few more balls and test out those knees. If the knees come through unscathed, I think Wawrinka comes through this unscathed as well. The Swiss is no slouch when it comes to movement, hence he is not an easy man to outmaneuve, plus he has got the advantage of having the far greater firepower and shot-making ability.

Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open – Follow the Tennis match between Andreas Seppi and Bernabé Zapata live with Eurosport. The match starts at 11:00 on 22 May 2018. Our live coverage lets you follow all the key moments as they happen.Head-to-head: see historical stats and visit our detailed profiles for Andreas Seppi vs Bernabé Zapata. Get all the latest on Tennis: fixtures, results and tables.

Mariners vs Athletics

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Seattle Mariners (27-19) at Oakland Athletics (25-22)

MLB Baseball: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 10:05 pm (Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum)
M Leake (4-3) (6.00) vs. T Cahill (1-2) (2.79)
The Line: Oakland Athletics -150 / Seattle Mariners +135 — Over/Under: 9 See the Latest Odds
TV: ROOT-Northwest
The Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s meet in game one of a three game AL West division set in MLB action on Tuesday.

The Seattle Mariners will look to keep the ball rolling after winning the final three games of their series with Detroit, taking the finale in 11 innings on Sunday by a final score of 3-2. Mitch Haniger tied the game in the 9th with a two-run homer, going 2 for 3 in the game, while Jean Segura hit the walk-off RBI single, also logging two hits in the win. Dee Gordon and Mike Zunino each contributed base hits as well in the winning effort as Seattle managed just six hits as a team. Wade LeBlanc gave up both runs on seven hits while striking out five over 5.1 innings of work, not factoring in the decision. Nick Vincent became the pitcher of record in extra innings, striking out a pair in the top half of the 11th to improve to 2-1 this season with the win. Mike Leake will start game one and is 4-3 with a 6.00 ERA and 34 strikeouts this season. In his career, Leake is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 16 strikeouts against Oakland.

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The Oakland A’s will look to keep their momentum going after sweeping Toronto over the weekend, including a 9-2 beatdown in the series finale on Sunday, giving Oakland their sixth win in their last seven games. Marcus Semien led the A’s with three RBIs, going 2 for 4 with a home run, while Dustin Fowler added two RBIs and Chad Pinder and Jonathan Lucroy each had an RBI of their own in the win. Matt Chapman went 3 for 4 with a pair of double, while Matt Joyce and Matt Olson each added a two-bagger respectively as well in the win. Daniel Mengden threw a gem in getting the victory, throwing seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits to improve his record to 4-4 this season. Trevor Cahill will start game one and is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA and 32 strikeouts this season. In his career, Cahill is 5-4 with a 3.48 ERA and 52 strikeouts against Seattle.

Seattle is 4-1 in Leake’s last 5 road starts and 5-1 in their last 6 games against a right-handed starter while the over is 10-2-2 in their last 14 road games against a team with a winning home record. Oakland is 0-4 in their last 4 division matchups and 5-2 in Cahill’s last 7 starts while the over is 12-3-1 in their last 16 series opening games. Seattle is 12-3 in the last 15 meetings between these two teams and 20-7 in the last 27 meetings between these two teams in Oakland.

The A’s looked dominant against the Blue Jays, but Toronto is struggling right now. Wins over Detroit aren’t weighed much heavier, but the M’s have had success with Leake on the mound on the road, and have owned the A’s in this matchup. Add in the fact that we’re getting plus money, and I think you have to go with Seattle to draw first blood on Tuesday.

The Seattle Mariners are back at it Tuesday night beginning a series in Oakland against the Athletics. Mike Leake takes a 4-3 record to the mound for the M’s. 1-2 Trevor Cahill will counter for the A’s.

It’s a 6:00 pre-game show and 7:05 first pitch on KPUG 1170 AM and 97.9 FM The Sports Leader.Once Francisco Liriano was finished, the Seattle Mariners finally got started.

Mitch Haniger kept Seattle alive with a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning and Jean Segura’s RBI single in the 11th gave the Mariners a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. The Mariners improved to 3-0 in extra-inning games this season.

“The heart that this club has is pretty, pretty impressive, it really is,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “These guys, they just keep battling through adversity.”

Liriano took a no-hitter into the seventh but closer Shane Greene blew his third save of the season, giving up Haniger’s 11th home run on an 0-2 pitch with one out. Haniger has hit two game-tying home runs in the seventh inning or later this season.

“I couldn’t have made a worse pitch at a worse time, and I paid for it,” Greene said.

Second baseman Dee Gordon led off the 11th with a single against Buck Farmer (0-3), stole his AL-leading 16th base to advance to second, then scored on Segura’s single down the right-field line, his second career game-ending hit.

“When (Gordon) gets on base, he sets the tone,” Segura said. “. You put some much pressure on the pitcher because Dee is running. He left a fastball right down the middle and I was able to put some good contact on it.”

Liriano attempted to become the first Tigers pitcher not named Justin Verlander to throw a no-hitter since 1984, but Haniger’s line drive single with one out in the seventh ended his run at history. The lefty already has one no-hitter to his credit, blanking the White Sox while walking six in a 1-0 win on May 3, 2011, as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

Haniger reached on a two-out walk in the first inning, one of two in the inning for Liriano, before 17 straight Mariners failed to reach base.

“Great feeling for me to be able to go out there and go deep in the game,” Liriano said. “That’s my whole mentality every five days. Very happy for it.”

A one-out walk by third baseman Gordon Beckham in the eighth appeared to end Liriano’s night. Liriano held out the ball for manager Ron Gardenhire as he walked out for a mound visit, but stayed in and struck out pinch-hitter Mike Zunino and left fielder Andrew Romine to end his night, finishing with five strikeouts and three walks over 102 pitches.

“Great performance by Liriano,” Gardenhire said. “Exactly what we asked for before the day. Get deep into the game with our starter and figure out a way to get your closer in there. It just didn’t work out.”

First baseman John Hicks provided Detroit with its only offense, launching a 1-1 pitch from Seattle starter Wade LeBlanc deep into the left-field bullpen with two outs in the first for his fifth home run of the season. LeBlanc quickly retired the first two batters of the game before a single by Nicholas Castellanos set up Hicks’ second homer of the season against his former team.

LeBlanc lasted 5 1/3 innings before a single by catcher James McCann ended his day. He gave up seven hits while striking out five with no walks.

RHP Nick Vincent (2-1) picked up the win for the Mariners, allowing one hit and striking out two in the 11th.


Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (shoulder) is expected to throw a bullpen session this week and could follow with a rehab appearance as long as there are no setbacks. 1B Miguel Cabrera took batting practice Saturday in his first on-field action since a hamstring strain earlier this month.

Mariners: DH Nelson Cruz got the day off Sunday to rest soreness in his foot and elbow and is expected to return when the Mariners open against the Athletics on Tuesday.


Tigers: Blaine Hardy (0-0) will make his second spot start of the season when the Tigers continue their road trip against the Twins on Monday. Hardy allowed two runs and struck out three in 4 1/3 innings in his first start of the season.

Mariners: Mike Leake (4-3) will start Tuesday when the Mariners begin a three-game series against Oakland. Leake is riding a two-game winning streak and has lasted five or more innings in each of his last four starts

Lyon Open 2018

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The Lyon Open is one of the final clay events before Roland Garros – and some of the world’s best players are in the French city for the ATP 250 tournament.Austrian Dominic Thiem will hope to continue his excellent stint on clay this season with a title this weekend.

He is the top seed for the Lyon Open, with American John Isner leader the other half of the draw.Fellow American Jack Sock is the third seed and in desperate need of form as he battles to be ready for the French Open.

Chung Hyeon is seeded fourth and a strong outside tip to claim the title, but seeds Adrian Mannarino and John Millman are already out.

It was Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who won the Lyon Open last year but he is not here to defend his title.(Reuters) – Fifth seed Adrian Mannarino’s disappointing run on clay continued as he suffered a 6-3 4-6 6-1 defeat by Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the opening round of the Lyon Open on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Davis Cup – First Round – France vs Netherlands – Halle Olympique, Albertville, France – February 4, 2018 France’s Adrian Mannarino celebrates after winning his match against Netherlands’ Robin Haase and the First Round for France REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot.World number 71 Garcia-Lopez converted six break point opportunities to inflict a fourth straight defeat on Frenchman Mannarino, who also suffered early exits in Rome, Madrid and Barcelona.

British number three Cameron Norrie progressed with a comfortable 7-6(5) 6-1 win over Dominican Republic qualifier Jose Hernandez-Fernandez.

The 22-year-old overcame a slow start to break his opponent twice in the second set and book a second round meeting with Germany’s Maximilian Marterer.

Marterer, ranked 69th in the world, rallied back from a set down to beat home favorite Gael Monfils 2-6 6-4 6-4.Share

(Reuters) – Fifth seed Adrian Mannarino’s disappointing run on clay continued as he suffered a 6-3 4-6 6-1 defeat by Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the opening round of the Lyon Open on Monday.

World number 71 Garcia-Lopez converted six break point opportunities to inflict a fourth straight defeat on Frenchman Mannarino, who also suffered early exits in Rome, Madrid and Barcelona.

British number three Cameron Norrie progressed with a comfortable 7-6(5) 6-1 win over Dominican Republic qualifier Jose Hernandez-Fernandez.The 22-year-old overcame a slow start to break his opponent twice in the second set and book a second round meeting with Germany’s Maximilian Marterer.Marterer, ranked 69th in the world, rallied back from a set down to beat home favourite Gael Monfils 2-6 6-4 6-4.

Giro d’Italia 2018

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His performances have not been without their critics, mind. By finishing behind Froome on Monte Zoncolan, the sceptics raised their eyebrows at a British one-two from two riders with well documented asthma problems on the hardest ascent in Europe. (Yates, if you remember, sat out a four-month ban in 2015 for “non-intentional doping” over a doctor’s TUE mix-up for an inhaler.)

Meanwhile, the outspoken French trainer and anti-doping campaigner Antoine Vayer described his performance in Stage 15 as Riccardo Ricco-esque and drew parallels between the Bury-born rider and Messrs Pantani, Indurain and Simoni, followed by an ellipsis of heavy inference…

Even his biggest rival has been caught unawares by Yates’s unexpectedly strong race.Looking back at the only other time trial the pair have ridden together this year, Dumoulin finished 18 seconds clear in Abu Dhabi over 12.6km (adjusted up to 49 seconds over Tuesday’s 34.2km).

In 2016, Dumoulin’s advantage in the Paris-Nice 6.1km prologue was 19 seconds (+106 seconds). In the 2015 Tour de France at Utrecht the gap was 38 seconds over 13.8km (+94 seconds) and in Paris-Nice that year, over 6.7km, it was 28 seconds (+143 seconds).

The only shoddy comparisons we can make from last year is taking Dumoulin’s effort in the Giro’s deciding time trial in Monza (33’23” over 29.3km) set against Yates’ effort in Marseille in stage 20 of the Tour (29’49” over 22.5km). That works out at a 6’04” (or 364-second) swing.But the hillier nature of the Marseille course skews the result – so let’s factor in Yates’s opening TT of 16’41” over 14km in Dusseldorf, which brings down the gap to 1’30” or 90 seconds.

Taking an average from all the above (913 divided by 7) puts Dumoulin 131 seconds to the better of Yates over 34.2km. And that – I kid you not – is exactly 2’11”. Of course, this doesn’t factor in fatigue, adrenaline, wind, morale and all that jazz, but wow, we’re in for a tight final week.It’s a rolling stage that suits a breakaway but could see Bora-Hansgrohe do their best to distance Elia Viviani and deliver San Bennett to the line for a third win that could put him back in the frame for the maglia ciclamino. Either way, there shouldn’t be a major casualty in the battle for GC although you expect someone to ‘do a Chaves’ and crack soon after the start as the road ramps up from the outset for a 10km uncategorised climb. One name springs to mind…A break should form early on as the race covers flat plains of rice fields, vineyards and hazelnut plantations. The gap should be big enough to take the bonus seconds out of the equation, while the final 20km climb to the finish should be long and steady enough for Dumoulin to match Yates pedal for pedal. Froome’s yo-yoing may continue – and he should be concerned that this is where Denis Menchov crashed while going uphill in 2008.

Perhaps the likes of Thibaut Pinot, Domenico Pozzovivo, Richard Carapaz and Miguel Angel Lopez will claw back some time here while the two big guns cancel each other out.It’s rare to go an entire Grand Tour without an off-day – and the commanding Yates has yet to have his jours sans. Could this be the stage where he has his Steven Kruijswijk moment? Perhaps it will be more like his Alberto-Contador-in-2015 moment, when the Spaniard was forced to ride the Colle delle Finestre alone and limit his losses to Fabio Aru to under two-and-a-half minutes.

Such was his buffer on the race’s penultimate stage, Contador still held on to the pink jersey in spite of his loss. And there’s been something of the vintage Contador in the way Yates has been riding this Giro. But say he has a problem on the first climb of the day and is forced to ride with team-mate Jack Haig up the gravel tracks of the Cima Coppi before clawing back on the final climb of the Jafferau to keep his dream alive – that would be the sign of a real champion.Of course, Dumoulin, too, has not really had a bad day either. Even when distanced on the zinger of a stage to Sappada, he managed to fight back and take third place and some bonus seconds. And while the Dutch powerhouse is too meticulous to suffer the indignity of another call-of-nature blunder, he’s not beyond feeling the pressure while in pink and cracking on the third of successive summit finishes.

A role reversal of last year’s decisive final-day time trial, Dumoulin may find himself needing the ride of his life to keep hold of the pink jersey with Yates looking to overturn a negative split at the 11th hour. The final climb to Cervinia is not too tough but comes after two highly challenging ascents. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s hard looking beyond Yates for the win here – whether he’ll do it in pink or in pursuit of pink.

Each Grand Tour is different but the start to the 101st Giro d’Italia is like nothing before; three stages in Israel weaving around Jerusalem’s ancient walls, through the cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, up the rugged Mediterranean coast line and down through the exposed Negev Desert to the Red Sea.

This will be the first Grand Tour to start outside Europe, before the whole shebang packs up and returns to familiar Italian terrain on the first of three rest days. Race organisers believe the move to the Middle East is a bold step which will show and grow cycling’s global appeal, while Israel is desperate to successfully pull off with what will be the biggest sporting event the country has ever hosted and show itself off to the world.

The rise and fall of Team Sky: A parable of our own wretched nature
Moving the Grande Partenza to Israel has drawn criticism, but organisers point to the success of cycling’s previous jaunts; in the past the Tour de France in particular has demonstrated a habit of sweeping excitement through new places as locals embrace the spirit of an international sporting event rolling past their porch.

Much of the pre-race interest has inevitably been overshadowed by Chris Froome‘s participation, with his case regarding excess levels of Salbutamol during last year’s Vuelta a Espana triumph still unresolved. But beyond the debate around Froome there is an intriguing bike race, with changes in the rules which could undermine the dominance of Team Sky and open up the field.

There have been plenty of controversies in the build-up. When Israel was announced as the start point, several prominent groups spoke out against cycling’s endorsement of a state accused of human rights abuses in its conflict with Palestine. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement led accusations of a “sports-washing of Israel’s occupation and apartheid”. Meanwhile the Israeli government itself was angered when Giro organisers announced that the opening stage would begin in ‘West Jerusalem’, a sensitive issue to clumsily step into.

There have also been underlying security concerns, although they were dismissed by last year’s winner, Tom Dumoulin: “I can’t say that I’m more afraid than riding on the Champs Elysées. Enough has happened in Paris in recent years,” he said. This is the backdrop against which the Giro will begin; criticism, protest and an underlying nervousness. Ultimately its success or otherwise will determine whether or not cycling’s high profile events continue to eagerly spread beyond their traditional borders.