TENNIS

Top 30 tennis pro Dayana Yastremska was provisionally suspended for failing an out-of-competition doping test, the International Tennis Federation announced Thursday.

The ITF said Yastremska, a 20-year-old Ukrainian, tested positive for mesterolone metabolite, a prohibited substance that can be used to boost testosterone.

In a statement posted on her Twitter feed, the 29th-ranked Yastremska said she is “astonished and under shock.”

“I firmly state that I have never used any performance enhancing drugs or any prohibited substances,” Yastremska said.

A punishment would not be decided until after a full hearing. The ITF said Yastremska has a right to appeal the provisional ban but has not yet done so.

She reached a career-high ranking of No. 21 in January 2020, and her best showing at a Grand Slam tournament was reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in her main-draw debut there in 2019. Yastremska has won three WTA singles titles.

She said she passed a drug test at her most recent tournament, an event in Austria on Nov. 9.

“After this last tournament of the year, I stopped practicing to rest prior to the start of the new season,” Yastremska said.

She provided a urine sample on Nov. 24 that was tested at the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Montreal, the ITF said.

“Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine. Given that low concentration, and given my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event,” Yastremska said on Twitter.

ABU DHABI: Sofia Kenin opened her season Thursday by beating Yang Zhaoxuan 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round of the Abu Dhabi Open.

The American hit 11 aces against Yang to set up a second-round match against Kirsten Flipkens. After a long preseason, Kenin said she was happy to beat a player who had already had match practice in qualifying, but she had concerns about her own fatigue toward the end.

“I was like: ‘I just want to finish already. I’m too tired,’” Kenin said.

Second-seeded Elina Svitolina had to contend with the wind changing direction as she won 6-4, 6-3 against American Jessica Pegula. Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova hit seven double-faults in a tough match against 278th-ranked lucky loser Despina Papamichail before winning 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Also, American teenager Coco Gauff won the first 11 games in her 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Ulrikke Eikeri.

SOCCER

FA CUP: Aston Villa reported a “significant” coronavirus outbreak and closed its training ground on Thursday, putting in jeopardy its scheduled FA Cup home game against Liverpool.

The Premier League club canceled first-team training ahead of Friday’s match. Villa is also scheduled to host Tottenham in a league game next Wednesday.

“Discussions are ongoing between medical representatives of the club, the Football Association and the Premier League,” Aston Villa said in a statement.

The club said “a large number” of players and staff returned positive tests following routine testing on Monday, and they “immediately went into isolation.”

“A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today,” the club said Thursday.

Earlier, Southampton’s third-round FA Cup game against Shrewsbury scheduled for Saturday at St. Mary’s Stadium was called off after the third-division team reported a coronavirus outbreak.

OLYMPICS

FLAME OFF DISPLAY: Japan is halting a public display of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic torches as new virus cases jump in the country and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga orders a state of emergency for Tokyo and the surrounding areas until next month.

Tokyo reported 2,447 new cases on Thursday. This is a jump of 850 cases – just over 50% – from the day before. Tokyo was reporting just a few hundred new cases a few months ago. The rapid spread of the virus in Japan is imperiling plans for the postponed Tokyo Olympics, which are to open on July 23. The Paralympics begin on Aug. 24.

The Olympics were postponed nine months ago because of the pandemic. A poll last month by Japanese broadcaster NHK showed 63% of 1,200 Japanese surveyed think the Games should be postponed again – or canceled.

HOCKEY

NHL: The Devils re-signed defenseman Sami Vatanen less than a year after trading him to Carolina.

The Devils announced that the free agent was given a one-year, $2 million contract.

The Devils were without goaltender Corey Crawford for the fourth consecutive day. The 36-year-old was given off on Monday and Tuesday for what the team called “maintenance” and got personal days on Wednesday and Thursday.

• The Montreal Canadiens will be able to play home games despite the Quebec government’s imposition of a curfew aimed at curbing COVID-19 in the province.

There will be no fans at games. Players and personnel will be tested daily and they are not allowed to visit other people when off the ice.

Premier Francois Legault said the measures will take effect Saturday and remain in place until at least Feb. 8.

Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia have given the green light for their NHL teams to play home games during the pandemic.

Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer has said he’s confident the Winnipeg Jets can play home games. Ontario has yet to make a final decision.


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