Update on the latest sports


Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic among winners

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams has kept her bid for a 24th Grand Slam singles title on track. She made only 11 unforced errors and dropped three games against Nina Stojanovic (stoy-AN’-oh-vihch). But a 21st trip to Melbourne Park ended painfully for her older sister Venus, who rolled her ankle during a loss to Sara Errani (ehr-RAH’-nee).

Second-seeded Simona Halep narrowly averted an early exit, rallying from 5-2 down in the third set to beat No. 72 Ajla Tomljanovic. Naomi Osaka needed only an hour to sweep Caroline Garcia.

Two top 10 players went out of the women’s draw: 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu (an-dree-EHS’-koo), coming back from 15 months out with injury, was beaten by Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan and ninth-seeded Petra Kvitova (kuh-VIHT’-oh-vuh), a two-time Wimbledon champion and the 2019 Australian Open runner-up, lost to Sorana Cirstea.

French Open champion Iga Swiatek, seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka (ah-REE’-nah sa-bah-LEHN’-kah) and 2020 Australian Open runner-up Garbiñe Muguruza (moo-gah-ROO’-thah),all advanced, along with Ann Li, a 20-year-old American who beat Alize Cornet (uh-LEEZ’ kohr-NAY’).

Eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) fended off 23-year-old American Frances Tiafoe to reach the third round, where he will play another American, No. 27-seeded Taylor Fritz. Nick Kyrgios (KEER’-ee-ohs) saved two match points in the fourth set before rebounding to beat 29th-seeded Ugo Humbert. The mercurial Australian will meet third-seeded Dominic Thiem (teem) in the third round.

Thiem lost the final at last year’s Australian Open and went on to win the U.S. Open title. Kyrgios is playing in his first major since the 2020 Australian Open. He hasn’t left Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

No. 11 Denis Shapovalov, No. 14 Milos Raonic (ROW’-nihch) and No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime advanced, keeping Canadian interest alive, and sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev completed the night session on Rod Laver with a win over American qualifier Maxime Cressy.


Super Bowl champion Buccaneers celebrating with boat parade

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are celebrating their victory Wednesday with a boat parade amid continued concern over the coronavirus pandemic.

The parade will be held on the Hillsborough River near downtown Tampa. Mayor Jane Castor is again emphasizing that people attending the parade must wear masks outdoors and observe social distancing rules.

After Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s title game, throngs of people gathered in the city’s entertainment districts. Many were seen maskless despite the ordinances requiring them.

Brian Ford, chief operating officer of the Buccaneers, said in video announcement that fans should heed the rules as they celebrate the team’s victory. He said, “It’s essential we do it the right way.”

The boat parade is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST Wednesday.


QB Heinicke re-signs with Washington for $8.75M over 2 years

UNDATED (AP) — Washington has re-signed quarterback Taylor Heinicke (HY’-nih-kee) to a two-year, $8.75 million contract.

Heinicke was out of football when Washington signed him to the practice squad in December. The 27-year-old impressed in his NFL playoff debut despite losing to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers. Heinicke was 26 of 44 for 306 yards, a touchdown pass and an interception against Tampa Bay. He also had six carries for a team-leading 46 yards and a score.

The Old Dominion product who bounced around the league for several seasons said afterward he’d like to be back. Heinicke will be in Washington’s QB mix, which remains in flux.


R&A has ‘cautious optimism’ that British Open will go ahead

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — British Open organizers said Wednesday they have “cautious optimism” that golf’s oldest major will go ahead at Royal St. George’s in July.

The event was canceled last year — for the first time since 1945 — because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the R&A effectively pushing its schedule back one year. That meant the 149th Open would still be held on the links in Sandwich in southeast England this year and R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said a “rigorous scenario-planning exercise” is underway to ensure it takes place.

Slumbers says planning continues for “a full-scale Championship,” but he says there are also plans in place for a “reduced capacity or behind-closed-doors model.”

There is currently a lockdown in place in England amid the rollout of a vaccination program.

The British Open is scheduled to take place from July 15-18.


Pandemic shakes up Olympic gymnastics qualification

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The United States, Russia and China were each given an extra entry to the Olympic women’s gymnastics competition in Tokyo on Wednesday after the coronavirus pandemic forced a shake-up in qualifying.

The International Gymnastics Federation said it was canceling its all-around World Cup series of events because of the pandemic.

Those events were supposed to offer countries one extra spot for the postponed Tokyo Games, helping the top nations to compensate after Olympic teams were reduced in size from five athletes to four.

The federation is going back to 2019 world championship results to determine those places. That means the United States, Russia and China get one extra women’s spot each, and that Russia, China and Japan each receive an extra men’s spot. All those countries had already qualified a four-person team for the men’s and women’s competitions.

Of the four planned all-around World Cup events, only one has taken place, in Milwaukee last year. Events in Germany and Britain were canceled, leaving the series below the minimum number of three events required to be a valid Olympic qualifier.

FIG said it will proceed with plans to offer Olympic spots through other World Cup events focusing on the individual apparatus events and through continental championships.


NBC will air opening ceremony of Tokyo Olympics live

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. Olympic viewers who have long clamored to view the opening ceremony live when it hasn’t been in North America will finally get their wish.

NBC plans to air the opening ceremony from the Tokyo Olympics live on Friday, July 23. With Tokyo 13 hours ahead of New York and 16 ahead of Los Angeles, the opening ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. in Japan, which is 7 a.m. ET and 4 a.m. PT.

Molly Solomon, the executive producer and president of NBC Olympics, said the global significance of gathering in Tokyo during the time of the coronavirus pandemic as well as changing viewing habits, were the main factors in deciding to air the opening live in the morning for the first time.

NBC live streamed the opening and closing ceremonies from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games on its Olympic site before airing delayed coverage of both in the evening. NBC hasn’t made a final decision on who will host the opening ceremony. Primetime host Mike Tirico and Katie Couric anchored coverage from Korea three years ago.

Solomon said the past nine months since the Tokyo Games were postponed have been spent refining coverage plans, including reducing how many people will be taken to Japan.

NBC plans on airing more than 7,000 hours of coverage across its many networks. There will also be live streaming of all sports on its NBCOlympics website.