TENNIS

The uncertain status of top-ranked Novak Djokovic didn’t stop Australian Open organizers from listing him as the top seed for the Grand Slam tournament beginning next Monday at Melbourne Park.

As expected, homegrown talent and top-ranked Ash Barty was given the No. 1 seeding in the women’s singles draw when the list was released on Tuesday. Defending champion Naomi Osaka is seeded 13th.

Djokovic won a court battle to compete in the Australian Open but still faces the threat of deportation because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. He’s level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam singles titles each. A 10th Australian Open win on Jan. 30 in the men’s final would give him the men’s all-time record.

Federer is not playing in Melbourne while he continues his recovery from right knee surgery. Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in the U.S. Open final last year to prevent the Serbian player from capturing a calendar-year Grand Slam, is seeded second, followed by Alexander Zverev at No. 3, Stefanos Tsitsipas at No. 4 and Andrey Rublev at No. 5.

Nadal is seeded sixth, followed by Matteo Berrettini. Taylor Fritz leads the American men’s contingent at No. 20.

The 25-year-old Barty has two Grand Slam singles titles – the 2019 French Open and last year’s Wimbledon.

Garbiñe Muguruza will be No. 3 seed, Barbora Krejcikova No. 4 and Maria Sakkari fifth. Kenin is the top-seeded American at No. 11.

HALL OF FAME: No new inductees were selected for the International Tennis Hall of Fame for the first time in its history. The Hall has been around since 1955.

Grand Slam title winners Ana Ivanovic, Flavia Pennetta, Carlos Moya and Cara Black were the new nominees on the ballot for the Class of 2022, joining holdovers Lisa Raymond and Juan Carlos Ferrero.

None reached the required 75% of the vote in combined results from the official voting group – which includes media, histories, Hall of Famers and industry experts – and bonus percentage points awarded based on a fan vote.

SYDNEY CLASSIC: Five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray advanced to the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic by beating Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-1.

Murray entered the tournament with a wild card and has also been handed one for next week’s Australian Open. Since he last reached the Australian Open final in 2016, when he lost to Novak Djokovic, the 34-year-old Murray has only made it past the first round once at Melbourne Park.

Recurring hip injuries have meant he has played only one of the past four Australian Opens. The former No. 1-ranked player is now 135th.

BASEBALL

MINORS: Rachel Balkovec became the first woman hired to manage a minor league affiliate of a Major League Baseball team when she was promoted by the New York Yankees to dugout boss of the Low A Tampa Tarpons.

The 34-year-old joined the Yankees’ organization as a hitting coach in 2019, making her the first woman with that job full time in affiliated baseball. She got her first position in pro ball with the St. Louis Cardinals as a minor league strength and conditioning coach in 2012.

Balkovec, a former softball catcher at Creighton and New Mexico, moved from the Cardinals to the Houston Astros in 2016. She was hired as the Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator, a position for which she learned Spanish, and later became the strength and conditioning coach at Double-A Corpus Christi.

She briefly left baseball in 2018 to pursue a second master’s degree at Vrije University in the Netherlands, where she also worked with the country’s national baseball and softball teams. She then worked for Driveline Baseball, a data-driven center that has trained numerous major leaguers, before being hired by New York.

GOLF

MASTERS: Six years after Tom Watson played the Masters for the 43rd time, the two-time champion returns in April to hit the ceremonial tee shot alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

Watson, who held off Nicklaus in his Masters victories in 1977 and 1981, becomes the 11th player to be an honorary starter dating to 1963.

All but four of them were Masters champions, including Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to complete in the Masters in 1975. Elder was invited to be a one-time honorary starter last year, though his health kept him from swinging a club.

OLYMPICS

SNOWBOARD: Olympic snowboard champion Patrizia Kummer will head to the Beijing Games early to spend three weeks in quarantine because she isn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus, she said.

Chinese authorities require unvaccinated Olympians to enter quarantine upon arrival if they don’t have a valid medical exemption. Kummer, a Swiss snowboarder who won gold in the parallel giant slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games, is scheduled to arrive this week. The Olympics start on Feb. 4.

SOCCER

U.S. MEN: Midfielder Gio Reyna and forward Tim Weah remain uncertain for the United States’ next three World Cup qualifiers, which start Jan. 27 with a match against El Salvador at Columbus, Ohio.

Reyna has not played in any matches since injuring his right hamstring during the opening qualifier at El Salvador on Sept. 2.

MLS: Mexican forward Alan Pulido needs knee surgery and will miss Sporting Kansas City’s entire 2022 Major League Soccer season. The team said Tuesday that Pulido will have surgery Monday with Drs. Bert Mandelbaum and Clint Soppe in Los Angeles. Expected recovery time is nine months to a year.

Pulido, 30, had eight goals in 21 league games last year in his second season with Kansas City. He played previously for Tigers (2010-14), Greece’s Levadiakos (2015) and Olympiakos (2015-16) and Chivas (2016-19).

EQUAL PAY: The unions for the U.S. women’s and men’s national teams have not committed to agreeing to a single pay structure, the head of the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a letter to fans.

The federation went public with its proposal in September and in November met jointly with the two unions, who under federal law are not obligated to reach similar collective bargaining agreements.

“While we haven’t received a commitment from either union to move forward with a single pay structure, we have been encouraged that they are willing to join us in discussions about that possibility as we continue to negotiate separate CBAs with each for now,” federation President Cindy Parlow Cone wrote.

SKIING

MEN’S WORLD CUP: Double world champion Vincent Kriechmayr is in danger of missing the two men’s downhills in Wengen on Friday and Saturday because he tested positive for COVID-19, one month ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Kriechmayr, who won the classic race on the Lauberhorn course in 2019, was absent from the first training because he was still quarantining, a spokesman for the Austrian ski federation said.
“We hope Austrian authorities will release Vincent from quarantine. But it is unclear when that will happen,” OSV spokesman Markus Aichner said in an email to The Associated Press.

If Kriechmayr also misses the second training on Wednesday, he will not be allowed to enter the downhill races. Each skier must take part in at least one official training to be eligible to race.

WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: Mikaela Shiffrin won the last women’s slalom before the Beijing Olympics, while her Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova locked up the season title in the discipline.

Racing on the challenging Planai course at Schladming, Austria, the American improved from fifth place, posting the fastest time with an all-attacking run to beat first-run leader Vlhova by 0.15 seconds.

Germany’s Lena Durr finished 0.93 behind in third.

It was Shiffrin’s 47th career slalom win, making her the first skier in World Cup history to win that many races in a single discipline. She previously shared the best mark with Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who won 46 giant slalom in the 1970s and 80s.

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