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No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, unseeded Barbora Krejcikova advance to French Open final

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No. 31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, unseeded Barbora Krejcikova advance to French Open final. The ball landing at Barbora Krejcikova’s feet on match point appeared to come down behind the baseline.

The linesman thought so and called the shot long. A TV replay confirmed so much, and the unseeded Krejcikova was so sure she raised her arms in triumph to celebrate a berth in her first Grand Slam final at the French Open.

Chair umpire Pierre Bacchi disagreed. He reversed the call, sparking a fresh round of debate about video replay and briefly delaying Krejcikova’s victory.

Tennis was spared an unjust result five points later, when she hit a backhand champ to close out the biggest victory of her career. The Czech saved a match point halfway through the final set and outlasted No. 17-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece, 7-5, 4-6, 9-7.

“I generally wanted to play matches like this,” Krejcikova said.

She must like roller coasters, too. Her opponent Saturday will be 29-year-old Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also advanced to her first significant final by beating unseeded Tamara Zidansek, 7-5, 6-3.

It was only the second time in the professional time that there were four first-time Grand Slam women semifinalists at a significant tournament, and the first time since the 1978 Australian Open.

The men’s semifinals Friday include a showdown between 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and 2016 winner Novak Djokovic. It’s their 58th meeting, and a rematch of last year’s Roland Garros final. The other semifinal will match No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas against No. 6 Alexander Zverev, and one of them will have a shot Sunday at his first Grand Slam title.

Krejcikova, a two-time significant doubles champion ranked 33rd, is playing singles in the fundamental draw of a significant tournament for just the fifth time. The No. 31-seeded Pavlyuchenkova, by contrast, has played in more majors before reaching a final – 52 – than some other woman.

A top-20 player as a teen, Pavlyuchenkova had been 0-6 in significant quarterfinals before finally surmounting that obstacle on Tuesday, and was steadier than the big-swinging Zidansek in their semifinal.

“I wanted this so much that right now I don’t feel anything,” Pavlyuchenkova told the crowd in French. Krejcikova’s run to the final is equally improbable.

“It sounds incredible,” she said. “I cannot believe it. It’s actually happening.”

It seemed especially impossible nine games into the third set, when Sakkari held a match point. She confessed she then became less aggressive.

“I got stressed, start thinking that I’m a point away from being in the final,” she said. “I get it’s a newbie mistake.”

Krejcikova erased the match point with a swinging volley for a cheeky champ, and 40 minutes later they were still playing.

Then came the real show. With Krejcikova holding a match point in the final game, Sakkari hit a forehand close to the baseline. Bacchi climbed off his chair, took a look, called the shot good and ordered the point replayed.

“He came and he resembles, ‘It’s in,’ and I’m similar to, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. Why?”’ she said with a laugh. “But what can I do? I cannot change his decision. It’s fine; let’s go. Let’s try to just win the next one.”

A TV replay indicated the ball was obviously long, but video review isn’t used at Roland Garros, where the balls usually leave clear marks in the dirt.

Krejcikova kept her cool and was celebrating for good moments later after converting her fifth match point.

There wasn’t as much dramatization in the day’s first match, but the quality of play was just about as enjoyable as the warm, cloudless weather. The 85th-ranked Zidansek, who this week became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, was the better player for much of the first set, moving well and hitting the more aggressive groundstrokes.

But Pavlyuchenkova won the most important points, and Zidansek dumped consecutive unsteady serves into the net to lose the set.

Pavlyuchenkova’s groundstrokes carried more sting in the second set as she raced to a 4-1 lead. Her first indication of nerves came as she double-faulted twice, including on break point, to make it 4-3, but she broke back and effortlessly served out the victory.

“Tennis is a particularly mental sport,” she said. “That’s what is really hard about tennis.”

Zidansek could only agree.

“Another situation for me, semifinals of a Grand Slam,” she said. “So, no doubt, I was nervous. But who isn’t at this point? I was just trying to compose my nerves too as I could.”

Pavlyuchenkova, who has won 12 tour titles, will climb back into the Top 20 next week for first time since January 2018.

“She’s in the final,” Krejcikova said. “She must be playing well.”

The equivalent could be said for Krejcikova, who has won 11 consecutive matches, including her first WTA singles title last month at Strasbourg. She is the eighth unseeded women’s finalist at the French Open in the professional time, and the fourth in the past five years.

A protege of the late Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna, Krejcikova seeks to become the first Czech woman to win Roland Garros since Hana Mandlikova in 1981.

She’s also bidding to become the first woman to win both in doubles and singles at Roland Garros since Mary Pierce in 2000. She and Katerina Siniakova have advanced to the semifinals Friday.

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Sergio Ramos leaving Real Madrid after 16 years

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Sergio Ramos leaving Real Madrid after 16 years. Sergio Ramos will leave Real Madrid after 16 seasons with the La Liga giants when his contract expires at the end of the month, the club announced on Wednesday.

Madrid have scheduled a farewell ceremony for their longtime captain in the presence of club president Florentino Perez on Thursday.

Ramos, 35, wanted another two-year deal to stay at Madrid, but sources told ESPN that Perez was not prepared to break his policy of handing only one-year contracts to players over 30.

Conversations between Perez and Ramos have been ongoing throughout the past year and continued into June. Nonetheless, neither party was prepared to compromise.

Despite reports to the contrary, sources told ESPN that Ramos didn’t demand a compensation ascend to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ramos, who made 671 appearances for Madrid, scoring 101 goals, has still not made a firm decision on his future and isn’t expected to announce his next destination at Thursday’s goodbye event.

ESPN revealed recently that Manchester City are the front-runners to land his signature, although there are other options on the table.

The Premier League champions are prepared to offer a two-year deal until the summer of 2023. From that point, depending on performances and Ramos’ own arrangements, the defender could either continue for a third season at City or take up an option to join Major League Soccer side New York City FC, who are also owned by the City Football Group.

Ramos is a direct petition from City coach Pep Guardiola. The former Barcelona boss qualities the experience he would add to his squad and the competition and direction he would provide for younger center-backs Ruben Dias and John Stones.

City also have Nathan Ake, but they’ve lost Eric Garcia to Barca on a free transfer and Aymeric Laporte could also leave this summer after losing his place in the side.

Ramos turned 35 in March, but sources have told ESPN that City manage data that suggests he’s still able to perform physically at the level of a player “aged between 28 and 30.”

ESPN first reported on Jan. 4 that City were monitoring Ramos’ situation. Guardiola’s insistence has been the way to them continuing to follow developments with Madrid.

Notwithstanding, the player’s camp aren’t precluding anything, with several clubs expressing interest in recent months.

Madrid signed Ramos in 2005 from Sevilla, paying his €27 million release clause.

He soon became a critical member of the side and in 16 years at the club has won five La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, four Club World Cups, three European Super Cups, two Copa del Reys and four Spanish Super Cups.

In that time, he has also won two European Championships with Spain and the World Cup, although injury problems in 2021 led to him missing out on Luis Enrique’s squad for Euro 2020.

Ramos made just 21 appearances for Madrid in all competitions last season as Los Blancos ended the campaign without a trophy, missing out on the league title to rivals Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season.

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Euro 2020: Bale sparkles as Wales defeat Turkey in Group A

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Bale sparkles as Wales defeat Turkey in Group A. Ribs captain Gareth Bale set up Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts to score for a 2-0 victory over Turkey in their Group A match at Baku’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday to take a big step towards fitting the bill for the European Championship knockout stages.

Ramsey failed to convert two possibilities from the get-go in the first half but scored just before halftime when he made a run through the center to chest down Bale’s perfect ball over the defense and slip it past the goalkeeper.

Ribs could have doubled the lead at the hour mark when Bale was tripped by Zeki Celik and awarded a penalty, but the Welsh skipper skied his effort after a stuttering run up.

Ribs scored right at the death in injury time when a corner was played short and Connor Roberts was on hand to divert a Bale pass past goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to seal the victory.

“I’m delighted with the success. We fought hard, we worked our socks off like we generally do,” Bale said after the game, adding that his contributions compensated for the penalty miss.

The surprise semi-finalists of Euro 2016 now have four points, after drawing with Switzerland in their opener. Their final game is against Italy next week. Turkey take on the Swiss.

Ramsey was twice picked out by Bale with superb defense-splitting passes but both times he failed to score, with Cakır denying him from a tight point in the sixth minute and then thundering a shot over the bar in the 24th.

There was nothing fortunate about the third time with Bale floating a superbly-timed cross in the 42nd minute for Ramsey who brought the ball down perfectly and slotted under Cakir.

With Turkish and Azeri Presidents Tayyip Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev in the stands, Turkey upped the pace after the break.

Captain Burat Yilmaz, who had missed a good possibility in the first half, ought to have scored 10 minutes after the restart when he was left completely unmarked in front of the Welsh goal but blazed a volley from three meters out well over the crossbar.

Ridges discovered space to counter attack and Ramsey’s low shot was blocked before Bale was brought down just inside the box to procure a spot kick at the top of the hour.

But the 31-year-old’s effort took off and wide to keep the Turks in the game, who then forced a good save from keeper Danny Ward when he punched a Merih Demiral header wide in the 87th.

With the Turks having run out of steam in stoppage time, Bale cut inside to feed Roberts for their second goal.

“We’re in a fantastic position now. In the event that you’d offered us 4 points at the start, we’d have bitten your hand off,” Bale said, paying tribute to Welsh fans who were intensely outnumbered by Turks in the stadium.

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Euro 2020: Finland sink to Russia defeat in first match since Eriksen collapse

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Finland sink to Russia defeat in first match since Eriksen collapse. Finland lost 1-0 to Russia in Saint Petersburg in their second Euro 2020 Group B match on Wednesday, in their first match since Denmark’s Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest against them in their tournament opener.

Aleksey Miranchuk’s strike in first-half stoppage time was the difference between the two teams in Finland’s first match since their opening success over Denmark on Saturday, which was overshadowed by the incident which halted the game. Finland warmed up for Wednesday’s conflict wearing t-shirts with “Get well Christian” written across them.

Russia suffered a blow on 25 minutes when defender Mario Fernandes was taken off on a stretcher, but they almost went ahead when substitute Vyacheslav Karavaev looked set to tap-in, only to be denied by Finland defender Jere Uronen.

Both teams looked like they could not be separated going into the break but in first half stoppage time, the deadlock was broken. Miranchuk played a neat one-two with Artem Dzyuba inside the box, and then lifted a fine strike into the far corner.

Finland would have been 1-0 up after only three minutes with a superb header from Joel Pohjanpalo, but it was ruled out by VAR for offside. Ten minutes later, Russia missed an opportunity as Magomed Ozdoev’s attempt went wide.

Finland, who qualified for their first-historically speaking significant football tournament, made two late substitutions with Pyry Soiri coming on for Jukka Raitala and Lassi Lappalainen replacing Teemu Pukki, but could not make an attempt.

Belgium face Denmark on Thursday in Group B’s other game. Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand has said Eriksen will watch the match from hospital.

Finland’s next Group B game is against Belgium on June 21 at St Petersberg, while Russia will face Denmark in Copenhagen around the same time.

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