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Darlene Hard, 3-Time Major Tennis Champion, Dies at 85
12/03/2021 9:38pm

Darlene Hard, an aggressive serve-and-volley player who won three major singles titles and 18 major doubles titles in a Hall of Fame tennis career, has died. She was 85.She died Thursday at Northridge Hospital in the Los Angeles area after a brief illness, according to Mona Cravens, director of student publications at the University of Southern California, where Hard worked for 45 years.Hard appeared in seven major championship singles finals, winning titles at the 1960 French Championships and the 1960 and 61 U.S. Championships the tournaments that preceded the French and U.S. Opens. She was a Wimbledon finalist in 1957 losing to Althea Gibson and 59, and reached the quarterfinals of the Australian championships in 1962. She had even greater success in doubles. She won three French titles, four Wimbledon titles including 1957 with Gibson and six U.S. championships with eight different partners. In mixed doubles, she won twice at the French and three times at Wimbledon, partnering with Rod Laver for titles in 1959 and 60.Hard was ranked in the U.S. top 10 every year between 1954 and 1963, including four times as No. 1. She rose to No. 2 in the world in 1960 and 61.She helped the U.S. win Wightman Cup titles against Britain four times and played on the winning U.S. Fed Cup team in 1963.Hard played at Pomona College in 1957, competing in the first intercollegiate championship in 1958 and winning the national title. She was inducted into the schools athletic Hall of Fame in 1974. She went into the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 1997.She became a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973.Darlene Ruth Hard was born on Jan. 5, 1936, in Los Angeles. She was taught her power game by her mother, Ruth, on public courts in Southern California. She came along at a time when the womens game was transitioning from lengthy baseline rallies to an all-court style that was well-suited to Hards aggressiveness.The majority of Hards success came during tennis amateur era. The professional era began in 1968, and Hard played only briefly as a pro in the 1969 U.S. Open. She won her last doubles title in New York that year at age 33, six years after she had retired from serious competition to teach tennis. She lost in the second round of singles.Cravens met Hard when she and her husband took tennis lessons from the retired champion, who kept quiet about her accomplishments. It wasnt until Cravens went to the library and did some pre-internet research that she discovered Hards impressive career.She was gruff on the outside, but a real softy on the inside, said Cravens, who became a close friend of Hard.Cravens later offered Hard a job at USC, where she did everything from maintenance on the universitys computer systems to design work on the El Rodeo yearbook and Daily Trojan newspaper.She had a very good eye for design, Cravens said Friday. She was very committed to whatever she did.Hard is survived by her sister, Claire Brundage. She was briefly married and had no children.More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/APSports

Luke Kennard Hits Clutch 3s, Clippers Hold Off Lakers 119-115
12/03/2021 9:38pm

LeBron James returned from a frustrating stint in the NBAs health and safety protocols just in time for yet another frustrating loss for the Los Angeles Lakers.Luke Kennard scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and hit two clutch 3-pointers in the final minutes, sending the Los Angeles Clippers to a 119-115 victory over the Lakers on Friday night.James had 23 points and 11 rebounds in his first game back since a positive COVID-19 test kept him out of the Lakers blowout win over Sacramento on Tuesday. He received a series of negative subsequent tests that allowed him to play against the Clippers for only the 12th time in the Lakers 24 games this season, but he couldnt stop the Lakers fourth straight loss to their city rivals.Just confused, frustrated and angry, James said. I was sitting at the house and hadnt been able to do anything. Today was the first time Id been able to catch a basketball since Sunday. I felt like I was getting into a really good rhythm offensively, defensively. Its been very frustrating, not being able to get into a flow for myself. Hopefully it will lead to good things later.James said he had to find his own way home from Sacramento after the test, and his family had to go into isolation along with him until he got enough negative tests. James was asymptomatic throughout, which he found particularly frustrating even though he understands the logic behind the NBAs protocols, which he believes have been good for the game.Weve all been doing exactly what the protocol told us to do, James said. Unfortunately you get a false positive and get put right into isolation.Paul George scored 19 points for the Clippers, who never trailed and never pulled away in the teams first meeting of the season. They played a choppy, chippy game appropriate for two clubs hovering around .500 while dealing with major injury problems that have slowed the development of two rosters harboring NBA title ambitions.The Lakers, if you let them be themselves comfortably, its going to be a long, tough game, George said. We stuck to our game plan, but we just had to match up and compete. Theyre going to be themselves, but our job is to make it as tough as possible.The Clippers were blown out by New Orleans and Sacramento at home earlier in the week, but they still snapped their three-game losing streak with clutch shooting from Kennard and Marcus Morris, who scored 21 points and hit six 3-pointers. Reggie Jackson added 16 points and eight assists.The Clippers have beaten the Lakers four straight times and havent trailed in three of those victories since former Lakers guard Tyronn Lue became the Clippers head coach in October 2020.Overall I thought we did a good job on Bron and AD, Lue said. We know when they can score points and get going, theyre a tough team to beat. We just had to do a better job taking those other guys out.Anthony Davis had 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Malik Monk scored all of his 20 points in the second half for the Lakers, who dropped to 12-12.Carmelo Anthonys 3-pointer with 2:15 to play trimmed the Clippers lead to 110-109, but the Lakers then blew two chances to take their first lead on consecutive possessions, and Kennard hit his fourth 3-pointer with 1:12 left.He added his fifth with 38 seconds remaining, pounding his chest and popping his jersey and Morris nailed his sixth of the night to seal it with 7.6 seconds left.I thought we kind of controlled the game throughout the entire night, but they were able to put some runs together, Kennard said. I thought we kept our composure, stayed the course. I thought everybody responded from the other night, from the last few games. Its just something we need to build off, keep trusting each other and what we want to do, and start to put together some wins.TIP-INSClippers: Nicolas Batum missed his seventh straight game in the health and safety protocols. Serge Ibaka hit three 3-pointers and didnt make another shot in 29 minutes of play.Lakers: Dwight Howard had six points and five rebounds in his first start of the season. Coach Frank Vogel continues to tinker with his starting lineup, sometimes using Davis as his center and sometimes using DeAndre Jordan, who didnt play against the Clippers. Avery Bradley was available despite his sprained right thumb, but didnt play.AT THE LINEThe Clippers stayed ahead in the first half largely on the strength of going 19 for 20 on free throws the most theyve attempted in a half this season. They finished 21 of 24 at the line, while the Lakers went 13 of 21, with Davis twice missing free throws that would have tied the game down the stretch.It starts with me, Davis said. I missed four. They were all in and out, good looks. Weve all got to be better.UP NEXTClippers: At Sacramento on Saturday.Lakers: Host Boston on Tuesday.

Trail Blazers Fire GM Neil Olshey After Workplace Investigation
12/03/2021 12:21pm

Trail Blazers fire GM Neil Olshey after workplace investigation originally appeared on NBC Sports BayareaThe Portland Trail Blazers have fired general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, the team announced Friday afternoon.The decision comes after an independent investigation found Olshey violated the Blazers code of conduct.The Portland Trail Blazers are committed to building an organization that positively impacts our colleagues, communities and the world in which we live and play, the Blazers statement read. Following the conclusion of the independent review of concerns and complaints around our workplace environment at the practice facility, the Portland Trail Blazers organization has decided to terminate general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, effective immediately due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers code of conduct. Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it. We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment.Assistant general manager Joe Cronin, whos in his 16th season with the franchise, will serve as Portlands interim GM while the team conducts a search for Olsheys permanent replacement. Chicago Bulls general manager Marc Eversley and New York Knicks GM Scott Perry are expected to be strongly considered for the job, according to Yahoo Sports Chris Haynes.The Blazers announced in early November that there was an independent investigation ongoing after they were made aware of concerns around workplace environment by non-player personnel at the practice facility.Haynes reported at the time that Olshey allegedly created a toxic workplace with intimidation, citing team employees. Team staffers said they endured profanity-laced tirades and other bullying tactics, leading to mental and physical stress. At least one team employee reported potential misconduct that led to the investigation, according to The Athletic.Olshey was hired as Blazers GM in 2012 and was given the additional title of president of basketball operations in 2015. Portland made the playoffs in eight of the nine seasons during his tenure, but advanced past the second round just once, losing to the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 Western Conference Finals.The Blazers fired longtime head coach Terry Stotts this past offseason after the team bowed out in the first round of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Portland then made the controversial head coach hiring of Chauncey Billups, who was accused of rape in 1997. Billups was never charged and settled the civil lawsuit outside of court in 2000.The Blazers are off to an 11-12 start to the Billups era, currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference.

Peng Shuai's Sexual Assault Allegations Roil China and the Tennis World. Here's What to Know
12/03/2021 10:44am

A Chinese tennis star accused a former high-ranking government official of sexual assault, setting off a MeToo crisis in the sports and political worlds. The athlete, Peng Shuai, has largely disappeared from public view, her tennis colleagues are worried and the International Olympic Committee is under criticism for its response. Heres a look at the allegations and what followed.Who is Peng ShuaiPeng Shuai is a Chinese Grand Slam doubles champion who was once ranked Number 1 in doubles and Number 14 in singles, according to The New York Times. She has won 25 titles on tour, including Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014, in doubles and reached the semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2014 in singles, ESPN reported. Her last appearance was at the Qatar Total Open in 2020. She is 35, and has mostly disappeared from public view since Nov. 2 when she accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, of sexual assault in a social media post.Peng Shuai, of China, returns a shot to Maria Sakkari, of Greece, during the second round of the US Open tennis championships, Aug. 29, 2019, in New York. What has Peng alleged Peng Shuai made the sexual assault allegation against Zhang on Nov. 2 on her verified account on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. The post was taken down within 20 minutes, but screen shots of it went viral. The New York Times reported that in it she wrote that Zhang sexually assaulted her after his retirement in 2018, after he had invited her to play tennis with him and his wife. Peng, who said she had had an earlier on-and-off relationship with Zhang, also wrote that she could not corroborate her allegation.Who is Zhang GaoliZhang was once one of Chinas most powerful officials under President Xi Jinping. The New York Times reported that Chinese media described him as a stern, low-key, taciturn technocrat whose interests included tennis, chess and books. He had until now avoided scandals. He retired in 2018 and has not commented on the allegation.This combination of file photos shows tennis player Peng Shuai of China, left, during her womens singles first round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan. 16, 2017 and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, right, during a visit to Russia at the Saint Petersburg International Investment Forum in Saint Petersburg on June 18, 2015. Paul Crock, Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP via Getty ImagesHow is the International Olympic Committee reactingBeijing is to host the Winter Olympics, scheduled to begin Feb. 4., and the International Olympic Committee has moved cautiously. The committees president, Thomas Bach, said in late November that he and two other officials had spoken with Peng on a video call. He said that she reported that she was doing well, that she was living at her home in Beijing and that she has asked for privacy. The call failed to appease human rights activists. Amnesty International warned the IOC not to participate in any whitewash of possible human rights violations, Reuters reported.On Dec. 2, the committee said in a statement that it was concerned about the well-being of the three-time Olympian, had had a second video call with her on Dec. 1 and was planning a meeting with her in January. We are using quiet diplomacy which, given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organizations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters, it said in its statement.Tennis stars rally for PengTennis stars from around the world who were worried about her safety rallied for Peng. They promoted the hashtag WhereIsPengShuai across social media. Her supporters include some of tennis biggest names, among them Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic.I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai, Williams tweeted. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time.Since then the Chinese foreign ministry said Peng had attended public events, and she was shown in a 25-second video of the opening ceremony of the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Final in Beijing on Nov. 21.Athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka, right, are concerned about the disappearance of notable tennis player Peng Shuai, left, after Peng accused a Chinese former vice premier of sexual harassment on social media. Peng has not been seen in public since she made the Nov. 2 accusation, which was swiftly deleted from Chinese social media platform Weibo. Tennis association suspends play in ChinaThe Womens Tennis Association has suspended all tournaments in China, on the mainland and in Hong Kong, as of Dec. 1. The associations chairman, Steve Simon, accused Chinese leadership of failing to address the issues surrounding Shuais allegation credibly. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation, Simon said in a statement.Several tennis tournaments are scheduled for China for next year, including the WTA finals, but Simon said he could not ask the players to compete there when, he said, Peng Shuai is seemingly under pressure to contradict her allegation.Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022, he said.Peng ShuaiDec 2IOC Releases Statement, Holds Second Video Call With Peng ShuaiPeng ShuaiNov 24It&039s Not Just Peng. China Is Cracking Down on MeToo Movement

Jalen Ramsey Not Looking Back to Stormy Time in Jacksonville
12/02/2021 11:28pm

Jalen Ramsey had spent his entire football life within 600 miles of his native Nashville until he left the Jacksonville Jaguars for the West Coast just over two years ago, and the fresh start did him a world of good.The versatile defensive back has become the best version of himself with the Los Angeles Rams, and hes looking forward to many years ahead in the current chapter of his career. He isnt looking back at the Jaguars, not even with the franchise coming to SoFi Stadium on Sunday for Ramseys first career game against the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2016.It was part of my journey, Ramsey said Thursday night after practice at the Rams training complex. Im grateful for my time there, but Im happy to be here.Jalen Ramsey 20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars plays to the crowd after he knocked the ball away from DeAndre Hopkins 10 of the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty ImagesThe 2020 All-Pro says he doesnt even think that much about his stormy times with the Jaguars not after two years of largely sunny skies in Southern California.This isnt really about me playing Jacksonville, Ramsey said. Its another game, right I dont even really much know people there no more. Theyve got a whole new damn near organization. I only know probably like five people on the team, and I dont even really be talking to them like that. I only talk to maybe two of them.The Jaguars actually have 17 players on their active roster who were acquired before Ramsey left in October 2019, but the organizations front office and coaching staff have undergone a thorough overhaul from the group that reached the AFC title game in January 2018. Ramsey is correct in saying he would hardly recognize much about the Jaguars, who have even made uniform changes.I went through things there that made me a better man today, made me appreciate the situation Im in today even more, because of some things I went through there, Ramsey said. Im grateful for that part of my journey, and now Im super blessed and happy to be on this part of my journey.Although Ramsey didnt mention Tom Coughlin by name, its clear he feels many of the negative parts of his Jacksonville experience can be traced to the football veteran who became the Jaguars executive vice president of football operations the year after Ramsey was drafted. Coughlin was fired in December 2019 after clashing with players and running afoul of their union.Ramsey was upset with the Jags when he wasnt offered a long-term deal after three seasons with the team, and he eventually had an argument on the sideline with coach Doug Marrone. A month later, he was traded to Los Angeles for two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder a deal that has proven to be wildly one-sided in the Rams favor.Ramseys disdain for Coughlin has not faded: He tweeted Tried to tell yall after Coughlins firing, and he was even more blunt last June on former Rams teammate Aqib Talibs podcast, saying: We didnt like Tom Coughlin.Ramsey hinted at those trying times Thursday night while always looking ahead.I dont like to compare Jacksonville to here, Ramsey said. Im genuinely grateful for my time there and my whole experience. It was a part of my life that I needed, that I appreciated.Ramsey is far from the only Jaguars player who had to leave to thrive. Pass rushers Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, running back Leonard Fournette, receiver Allen Robinson and safety Ronnie Harrison have all gone on from Jacksonville to bigger things, while the Jaguars have lost 30 of their last 35 games.But none has succeeded like Ramsey, who earned two more Pro Bowl selections in Los Angeles while getting his second first-team All-Pro nod last year. He also got the contract extension he desired last year, agreeing to a five-year, $105 million deal that made him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history.Sean McVay knew the Rams were getting an elite cornerback, but he didnt anticipate the type of team leader Ramsey would become.I didnt know much about him other than he had a charisma and a presence about himself, McVay said. Getting around him, just watching him really continue to just grow into a leader, mature as a person a special player, special person. He cares a lot about the people that hes around. He goes out of his way to help, to share. He cares about his teammates, and he cares about winning. Hes demanding. Hes a great, elite competitor.Now in the first year of that extended deal, Ramsey seems headed toward more postseason honors while playing a do-everything role for the Rams defense that allows him to showcase the full breadth of his skills.Ramseys three interceptions a big number for a defensive back avoided by almost every quarterback are one off his career high, while he is likely to surpass his career high for tackles 65 with 56 already this season.Ramsey also has become a vocal team leader who isnt afraid to call out the defenses collective effort. After the Rams 36-28 loss to Green Bay last weekend, Ramsey said the Rams have guys that are way too good for us to be losing games like this and losing games in a row. Weve just got to get it right.NOTES: WR Odell Beckham Jr. didnt participate in practice Thursday because of his hip injury. RB Darrell Henderson also sat out with a thigh injury. McVay will update their prognoses on Friday. CB David Long Jr. stayed away for the second straight day due to a non-COVID-19 illness.

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