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French Open takeaways: Can anyone stop Iga Swiatek?

Iga Swiatek poses with the Suzanne Lenglen Cup in front of the Eiffel Tower. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The French Open had plenty of exciting storylines to follow, with the women’s bracket showing up and showing out. Just Women’s Sports has three takeaways from Roland-Garros as attention shifts away from clay and towards the grass.

Coco Gauff has arrived

Coco Gauff advanced to her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, capping off a month in which she also graduated high school.

She also appears to have graduated to another level of play.

In the singles bracket, Gauff didn’t drop a set en route to the championship match. Her only stumbling block was Swiatek, who sits No. 1 in the world and is on a 35-match winning streak. Since her finals loss, Gauff has risen 10 spots in the world rankings to a career-high No. 13.

“I feel like throughout my career, and even in juniors, the reason I had success so early is that I was able to see that level and then go back and practice and try to reach that level,” Gauff said after the final singles match.

“Now that I have seen the level, this level of No.1 and 35 matches [won in a row], I know what I have to do,” she said. “I’m sure I’m going to play her in another final and hopefully it’s a different result.”

Admittedly, Gauff’s mindset around the big matches has changed, which she says is a big contributor to her success. She handled her first major final like a pro.

“In the match it probably looked like I was freaking out, but really it was just Iga was too good,” Gauff said. “I wasn’t freaking out. So I think the moment, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be.”

Can anyone stop Iga Swiatek?

Entering the French Open, there was no question about Iga Swiatek’s dominance since she ascended to the world No. 1 ranking. En route to her second title in three years at Roland Garros, Swiatek dropped just one set.

While there was no doubt that she would keep her current ranking, she’s only solidified her grip on No. 1. With 8,631 points, she has a 4,305-point lead on second-ranked Anett Kontaveit.

With a 35-match winning streak, Swiatek has bested Serena Williams and tied with Venus Williams for the longest streak since 2000. The Polish player will forever have her name etched into the history books.

The only question that remains is what could have happened if the Swiatek of right now had the chance to go up against Ash Barty, who retired after her dominant Australian Open win.

“I do,” Swiatek told the Guardian when asked if she wished she could play Barty right now. “I was thinking about that yesterday. I would love to be in a better shape than I was when I was playing against her, just have more variety and more abilities and to win against Ash. That would be great.”

The women deserve more respect

French Open director Amelie Mauresmo made headlines when she said that women’s tennis has less “appeal” than men’s tennis in attempting to defend the decision to schedule just one women’s match across 10 night sessions.

Following criticism from both fans and players, Mauresmo walked her comments back, apologizing to the players and saying that she was taken out of context. She said on the Tennis Channel that it was about whether or not it was “fair to ticketholders” to put a three-set women’s match in the night spot versus a five-set men’s match.

“I feel that it’s really tougher to schedule a women’s match because we have to take into consideration the length [of the matches],” she said, adding that next year they may look into having two matches at night “or maybe a women’s match plus a doubles match.”

On average, best-of-three matches last 90 minutes, while best-of-five matches can last around 2 hours and 45 minutes. But questions about the length of men’s matches – and whether or not they’re too long – have also risen. The night match between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic went until past 1 a.m. – long after public transportation had stopped running.

Meanwhile, the women’s bracket had Swiatek – who wasn’t awarded a night match – and her winning streak. Gauff and her incredible run. Some high-profile upsets – including Amanda Anisimova over Naomi Osaka in the first round.

No matter the length of the matches, the women seemed ready for prime time.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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