TENNIS

Get ready for Coco Gauff vs. Venus Williams, Part II.

That headline-grabbing pair of tennis players — Gauff, 15, is the youngest woman in the Australian Open; Williams is the oldest — will meet again in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament after Thursday’s draw at Melbourne Park put them in a tough quarter that also includes Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff had a breakout run at Wimbledon last year, when she became the youngest qualifier in tournament history, upset Venus Williams to start her main draw run, and became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 there since Martina Hingis in 1996.

The winner of Coco vs. Venus — no last names required — could meet defending champion Osaka in the third round. The winner there potentially faces Venus’ younger sister, 23-time major winner Serena, in the quarterfinals.

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were drawn into the same half of the field, so they could meet in the semifinals.

The tournament begins Monday.

• Alex de Minaur withdrew from the Australian Open because of an abdominal strain.

The same injury also forced the 20-year-old Australian to pull out of the Adelaide International on Monday. He was the top-seeded player in that tournament.

• Tournament director Craig Tiley defended the decision to hold qualifying matches this week even though Melbourne’s air quality was among the worst in the world because of smoke from wildfires devastating parts of the country.

The tournament has drawn criticism from players for contesting matches in conditions that led one, Dalila Jakupovic, to collapse to her knees while coughing heavily, and another, Bernard Tomic, to seek medical attention because of trouble breathing.

Tiley said the conditions were under a threshold set after Australian Open organizers consulted with with sports and medical experts, and scientists from the Environmental Protection Authority.

“Our medical team were satisfied with the conditions that the players were competing in, per all of the research and the data and the science that they have,” Tiley said.

He said matches would have been stopped if medical staff at Melbourne Park decided it was too unhealthy to keep playing.

Qualifying matches were delayed for an hour on Tuesday and two hours on Wednesday until smoke and haze from the regional wildfires cleared enough to allow play to proceed. Rain late Wednesday improved the air quality in Melbourne.

ASB CLASSIC: Two-time champion John Isner edged Kyle Edmund 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) to reach the semifinals in Auckland, New Zealand.

ADELAIDE INTERNATIONAL: Top-ranked Ash Barty advanced to semifinals in Australia with a 6-3, 6-3 win over the player she defeated in last year’s French Open final – Marketa Vondrousova.

Barty will next play American Danielle Collins, who beat No. 7 Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-1.

Aryna Sabalenka will meet Dayana Yastremska in the other semifinal on Friday.

HOBART INTERNATIONAL: Two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza withdrew from her quarterfinal in Australia because of a viral illness.

GOLF

LPGA: American Danielle Kang made nine birdies en route to an 8-under 63 and a two-shot lead in the LPGA’s season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Gaby Lopez, Angela Stanford and Inbee Park, recently named the LPGA’s player of the decade, each opened with a 65. Lexi Thompson was in a group at 5-under 66.

Temperatures in the low 80s and gentle winds made scoring conducive for the elite field of 26 players who won tournaments the past two seasons.

BASKETBALL

WNBA: The WNBA season is expanding to a 36-game schedule and adding a Commissioner’s Cup tournament, the league announced.

The league has had a 34-game schedule since 2003. The regular season begins May 15 and ends Sept. 20.

Each team will play 10 Cup games, with the last one happening on July 10. The games will be the first home and road games against conference opponents. The championship is between the top team in each conference in Cup standings and is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 14.

 

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