China lead the way with four medals after the opening day of the Olympics, as Richard Carapaz doubled Ecuador's all-time tally of golds in Tokyo.

Yang Qian was the first athlete to strike gold in the Japanese capital, winning the women's 10-metre air rifle competition for China.

Sun Yiwen also claimed a gold medal for China in the women's epee individual fencing event, while compatriot Hou Zhihui came out on top with an Olympic record in the women's 49kg weightlifting.

Pang Wei claimed China's other medal on the opening day, taking bronze in the men's 10m air pistol event.

Carapaz produced a sensational ride to win the men's road race title, becoming the second athlete from Ecuador to win an Olympic gold medal.

Host nation Japan and Italy are joint-second in the medal table with a gold and a silver apiece.

There were three medals for South Korea, including a triumph for Kim Je Deok and An San in the first mixed team archery event.

The United States remain notably absent from the primitive medal table, though, having ended the first day of the Games without a medal for the first time since Munich 1972.

Jeongeun Lee6 extended her lead at the top of the Evian Championship leaderboard to five shots heading into the final round of action.

The South Korean had equalled the record for the lowest round ever played at a major by a man or woman in the second round and carded a three-under 68 at the Evian Resort Golf Club on Saturday.

Lee6 is now on the brink of winning a second major title following her 2019 U.S. Women's Open triumph.

She carded three bogeys in round three, but four birdies along with an eagle at the par-four 11th ensured the 25-year-old remains in a commanding position at the summit at 18 under.

"I'm satisfied with my result today because I did miss some shots a little bit, but I got up and down well," Lee6 said.

"At the 2019 U.S. Women's Open I didn't lead going into the final round, but this tournament I'm leading so it's a little bit different. I'm going to be a little bit nervous."

First-round co-leader Yealimi Noh is outright second after birdying her final three holes for a four-under 67 to reach 13 under, while former world number one Lydia Ko is a shot further back.

Minjee Lee birdied her last four holes to card a joint-low 65, along with Brittany Altomare and Maria Fassi, as the Australian moved into a tie for fourth with Ayaka Furue and Pajaree Anannarukarn.

The chasing pack will require a major slip-up from Lee6 to have any chance of lifting the trophy on Sunday, with five strokes the largest deficit ever overturned at the tournament in France.

Richard Carapaz and the rest of Ecuador are "over the moon" after his victory in the men's cycling road race on Saturday.

Carapaz – who finished third in the general classification of the Tour de France earlier this month – crossed the finish line on the Fuji speedway well over a minute ahead of his nearest rivals to clinch Ecuador's second Olympic gold medal.

Meanwhile in the tennis, Andy Murray, who clinched gold in the singles at the 2012 and 2016 Games, started strongly with his doubles partner Joe Salisbury, as Team GB overcame French favourites Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

There was a shock for 2008 gold medallist Phil Dalhausser, as he and fellow American Nick Lucena fell foul of Dutch duo Robert Meeuwsen and Alexander Brouwer, while Naohisa Takato won Japan's first gold of the Games.

 

CARAPAZ CLAIMS RARE ECUADOR TRIUMPH

Carapaz came close in Le Tour, but ultimately could not match the power of Tadej Pogacar, who defended his title in cycling's prime road race.

Yet on the slopes of Mount Fuji, the South American came up with the goods to deliver a long-awaited success for Ecuador.

"My country is over the moon right now. It's the second Olympic medal in the history of my country," he told a news conference after his success, with Tour champion Pogacar claiming bronze behind Belgium's Wout Van Aert.

"The last medal that we won was 25 years ago, so it's a very special moment. It's the first medal in cycling, and cycling is a big sport in my country."

Carapaz's triumph came as good news for Geraint Thomas, who crashed out of the race after colliding with his British team-mate Tao Geoghegan Hart.

"Couldn't be happier for Richard Carapaz," tweeted Thomas – the Ecuadorian's fellow INEOS Grenadiers rider. "To finish on the podium at the Tour and win gold a week later is just incredible. Enjoy it mate. King of Ecuador."

MURRAY STARTS STRONG

It has been a long comeback trail for Murray, who was at the top of his game when he won his second Olympic gold medal back in 2016.

He faces a stern test in the singles on Sunday, when he goes up against Canada's Felix Auger Aliassime, and while a defence of that win may be unlikely, he and Salisbury made good progress in the doubles.

Murray was a silver medallist in the mixed doubles at the London Games, and along with Salisbury had too much for second seeds Mahut and Herbert, with the pair needing just 75 minutes to win 6-3 6-2.

"I think we have the potential to be a really good team," said Murray. "We were well deserved winners today – we created lots of chances, but not every doubles match is like that.

"If we keep the same sort of attitude and everything, prepare diligently, I think we've got a chance of doing well."

Murray's younger brother Jamie also enjoyed a fine start, as he and Neal Skupski came from behind to beat Argentina's Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos in a final-set tie-break.

TAKATO GETS JAPAN UP AND RUNNING

Naohisa Takato won Japan's first gold medal of the Tokyo Games, as he triumphed in the men's under-60kg judo final against Yang Yung-wei of Taiwan.

Takato, a three-time world champion and a bronze medallist in Rio, claimed a fitting victory for Japan in a sport that originated in the country, with the event taking place at the famous Nippon Budokan venue.

He had to beat Yeldos Smetov of Kazakhstan in a gruelling semi-final. Smetov shared the bronze medal with France’s Luka Mkheidze.

A shock earlier in the day saw Robert Mshvidobadze drop out in the last 16.

DALHAUSSER'S STRUGGLES CONTINUE, NO JOY FOR SETO

It has been a difficult start to the Games for Beijing beach volleyball champion Dalhausser, who had to quarantine after he was deemed a contact of Taylor Crabb. He was forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test, which has dented the United States' hopes.

Dalhausser could only train with Lucena on two occasions prior to Saturday's meeting with Meeuwsen and Brouwer and the lack of sharpness told as the Dutch prevailed 21-17 21-18 at the Shiokaze Park arena.

There was also no joy for home favourite Daiya Seto. The Japanese swimmer, who won a bronze medal in 2016, had been tipped to shine in the men's 400m individual medley, yet failed to qualify for the final as he finished ninth in the heat.

"In Rio I went out too fast [in the prelim] and didn't recover for the final. In the last 100 [today] I didn't let it all out. It was a misjudgement. The pressure wasn't too much," Seto said afterwards.

"I have the 200m butterfly and 200IM. I'll just forget what happened and focus on my events."

Hugo Gaston is one win away from securing his maiden ATP Tour title, but he must overcome in-form Casper Ruud at the Swiss Open Gstaad.

Gaston, ranked 155th in the world, booked his place in his first tour-level final with a 3-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Laslo Djere of Serbia on Saturday.

The 20-year-old had never advanced past the second round at an ATP Tour event before this week. He has now won three matches in a row in a third set.

"I tried to take more time with my game," Gaston said. "I made a lot of mistakes in the first set, so I tried to change my game. My serve was better in the second and third set.

"I am really happy to be in the final. It is going to be a good match, but I will try to enjoy [this] moment."

Ruud, meanwhile, enjoyed a rather more straightforward procession in his semi-final, with world number 249 Vit Kopriva little match for the 22-year-old Norwegian.

The world number 14 needed just 74 minutes to win 6-3 6-0, reaching his second final in as many weeks following his success in Bastad.

Ruud has won 23 clay-court matches already in 2021 and is in the hunt for his fourth career title.

Adam Peaty set an early benchmark but home hope Daiya Seto suffered a shock on a busy first day of swimming at Tokyo 2020, one that saw Australian duo Brendon Smith and Emma McKeon shine.

Peaty is aiming to become the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title having taken gold at Rio 2016, while Seto made an inauspicious start to the Games.

Here is a round-up from Saturday's opening heats at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

EASY PEATY! RECORD HOLDER SAFELY THROUGH

Peaty has not been beaten in a 100m breaststroke race since 2014 and is aiming to lower his own record time of 56.88 seconds, which was set at the World Championships two years ago.

The dominant 26-year-old posted a 57.56 in a solid start to his Games, qualifying fastest ahead of Dutch rival Arno Kamminga (57.80). 

Peaty produced the eighth fastest time in history, while Kamminga set a Dutch record and is the only other swimmer who has broken 58 seconds in the event.

WOE FOR SETO AS SMITH STARS

These Games were meant to be about redemption for home medal hope Seto, the bronze medallist in a men's 400m individual medley race won by compatriot Kosuke Hagino four years ago.

Seto was the favourite in the race and seeking to atone after being barred last year after his involvement in an extramarital affair. He won world gold in the 400IM two years ago, but he sensationally failed to make it out of the heats at these delayed Olympics.

Seto, who returns to the pool next in the 200m butterfly on Monday, said: "It hurts and I'm frustrated at myself. It's my mistake and I have to owe up to it. What's done is done and not a whole lot I can do about it."

By contrast, it was Smith who qualified fastest, clocking a 4:09.27 to set a new Australian and Oceanic record. New Zealander Lewis Clareburt was second quickest, winning a tight third heat over 2016 silver medallist Chase Kalisz.

Smith's compatriots Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin both made it through the men's 400m freestyle, with Germany's Henning Muhlleitner (3:43.67) fastest, just ahead of Austrian Felix Auboeck (3:43.91).

MCKEON, ZHANG SET THE MARK

There was more Aussie promise in the women's 100m butterfly – a seemingly wide-open event with three competitors having gone under 56 seconds this year.

McKeon – a winner of four medals in Rio, including relay gold in the 4x100m – and China's Zhang Yufei were two of those to achieve the feat and both recorded a 55.82 to top the timesheets in the heats, the former setting an Australian record for good measure.

Sarah Sjostrom, who holds the world record, was not even certain to race in this event after fracturing her elbow earlier this year, but posted an impressive 56.18 to go third quickest. The Swede was ahead of American Torri Huske (56.29), the third woman who has gone under 56 seconds this year.

Australia were also dominant in the women's 4x100m freestyle, their time of 3:31.73 almost two seconds better than the Netherlands.

Teenager Emma Weyant bettered her personal best with a 4:33.55 to comfortably post the best time in the women's 400 individual medley prelims. The 19-year-old - a winner at the U.S. Olympic trials - was almost two seconds quicker than Great Britain's Aimee Willmott (4:35.28).

Rory Sutherland has been promoted to the British and Irish Lions starting line-up to face South Africa in the first Test after Wyn Jones was ruled out with a minor shoulder injury.

Scotland prop Sutherland was given a late call to come into the side for Saturday's showdown at Cape Town Stadium in the absence of Jones, who is expected to return to training next week.

England front-rower Mako Vunipola replaces Sutherland on the bench.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: "It's really bad luck for Wyn and we all feel for him missing out on tonight's game.

"However, we're confident he'll be back in training next week and have no plans to bring in anyone else at this stage."

 

British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams.

Whatever the Boston Red Sox had in mind heading into Friday's showdown with Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees, it did not include their own starting pitcher leaving the game after recording just three outs.

Even after Eduardo Rodriguez was forced to leave the game in the second inning due to what the team described as migraine symptoms, the Red Sox had enough firepower to defeat their rivals 6-2 at Fenway Park.

After Rodriguez's unexpectedly early exit, Phillips Valdez stepped in to get out of a second-inning jam and strike out seven in three scoreless innings of relief on the day he was called up from the minor leagues.

Rafael Devers gave the home side the lead with a two-run homer off Cole in the fifth and added a three-run shot against Nestor Cortes in the seventh to put the game away. The latter was the 100th home run of Devers' career.

 

Mets blank Blue Jays

Pete Alonso accounted for all of the New York Mets' runs with a pair of homers and Tylor Megill had the best start of his career with six shutout innings in a 3-0 defeat of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Colorado Rockies picked up their 10th road win in 44 games away from Coors Field this season, rallying to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 as Charlie Blackmon had three hits incluing the extra-inning homer that sealed the victory.

Nelson Cruz homered in his first game after being traded to Tampa Bay and Ji-Man Choi's three-run homer in the ninth blew open a close game as the Rays beat the Cleveland Indians 10-5.

 

Rangers pounded again

Kolby Allard surrendered a three-run homer to Kyle Tucker to cap a five-run third inning for the Houston Astros that helped send the Texas Rangers to a 7-3 loss, their 10th consecutive defeat. The Rangers have been outscored 73-18 in that span and have not held a lead for 86 straight innings. According to Stats Perform, that drought is the longest since the Atlanta Braves went 96 innings without a lead in April and May 1977.

 

Brewers slam White Sox

In a matchup of NL and AL Central division leaders, the Milwaukee Brewers got a boost from Tyrone Taylor's seventh-inning grand slam to down the Chicago White Sox 7-1.

 

Friday's results

Chicago Cubs 8-3 Arizona Diamondbacks
Tampa Bay Rays 10-5 Cleveland Indians
Philadelphia Phillies 5-1 Atlanta Braves
Boston Red Sox 6-2 New York Yankees
New York Mets 3-0 Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles 6-1 Washington Nationals
San Diego Padres 5-2 Miami Marlins
Cincinnati Reds 6-5 St Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals 5-3 Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins 5-4 Los Angeles Angels
Milwaukee Brewers 7-1 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 7-3 Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners 4-3 Oakland Athletics
Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 San Francisco Giants
Colorado Rockies 9-6 Los Angeles Dodgers

White Sox at Brewers

A pair of All-Star pitchers go head-to-head as Carlos Rodon and the Chicago White Sox (58-39) continue their series against Corbin Burnes and the Milwaukee Brewers (57-41).

For Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, reminders of their blowout Super Bowl LV loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been everywhere. 

From Tom Brady's trophy toss during the Bucs' boat parade to Thursday's unveiling of Tampa Bay's massive Super Bowl rings, the champs have stayed in the spotlight throughout the off-season. 

With training camp finally set to begin next week, though, the Chiefs are ready to clear the slate and move on.

"I think the best thing about getting to training camp is it all starts over," Mahomes said at a news conference Friday as the team's quarterbacks and rookies reported to camp.

"No matter how you ended the year before, you have to go in with the mindset of starting from scratch. We’re excited to do that and try and make another run at it.”

The Chiefs have made it to the final game two years in a row, with Mahomes taking MVP honors in their Super Bowl LIV triumph over the San Francisco 49ers. 

To Mahomes, the path back to the Super Bowl starts immediately, not in the September 12 season opener against the Cleveland Browns. 

"I think we’ve learned that if we put in the work now, that we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season," he said.

"It’s about putting in the work right now, day by day, getting better and better so that at the end of the year you have no regrets about what you did in the season.”

Mahomes had surgery to repair a turf toe issue immediately following the Super Bowl but will be ready to go for training camp. 

Head coach Andy Reid said his 25-year-old quarterback, already among the best in the league, has spent the off-season working to be even better and he expects more of the same in camp. 

"He’s always looking for that next thing that makes him even better than what he is now, and that’s the part you love about him," Reid said. "He has that type of personality. He wants to be the best, and he’s not just talk."

The Chiefs are one of a handful of NFL teams who spend training camp away from their team headquarters, setting up shop at Missouri Western State University about 60 miles north of Kansas City. 

Reid said the more secluded location helps eliminate distractions and he looks forward to watching his team bond along the way. 

"We come up, it’s a time for camaraderie and bringing things together as a team. It’s hard work. There are no shortcuts obviously," he said. 

"We’re going to try to make sure we cover everything we possibly can, but there’s this concentration of football that you take in here.

"You’re sleeping in a dorm, you’re eating over in the dorm and you’re doing all of that. You’re here and it’s football kind of 24/7 right now.”

After months spent rehashing what went wrong in Tampa Bay, that probably is the best thing possible for the Chiefs. 

Adam Hadwin and Ryan Armour have waited a long time for their second PGA Tour wins, and they will enter the weekend with a chance as they sit atop the leaderboard at the 3M Open. 

The Canadian Hadwin and the American Armour each followed opening-round 67s at TPC Twin Cities with six-under-par 65s Friday to sit at 10-under for the tournament as first-round co-leader Rickie Fowler crashed out of the top spot after shooting 73.  

The 45-year-old Armour birdied four of the last eight holes with a bogey mixed in at 13 to claim a share of the lead.

Hadwin, 33, started on the back nine and had a roller-coaster ride through the same stretch of course, taking a bogey at 13 and double bogey at 15 with birdies on 14 and 16 before settling in for a more consistent final nine holes. 

Armour's lone Tour win came at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2017, while Hadwin secured his only title to date seven months earlier at the Valspar Championship. 

Fowler entered the day tied with Troy Merritt and Jhonattan Vegas after carding a bogey-free 64 Thursday for his best score of the year, but he managed only one birdie Friday and finished his round tied for 26th at five under overall. 

Merritt also dropped off the pace with a 71, leaving him three back of the leaders, while the Venezuelan Vegas (69) is one stroke back along with Bo Hoag, Chez Reavie and Roger Sloan. 

Louis Oosthuizen is four back of the lead after a second consecutive 68, while former world number one Luke Donald (68) is five back at five under. 

Former Masters champions Sergio Garcia (70), Patrick Reed (70) and Bubba Watson (68) just made the two-under cut.

Among the high-profile players missing the cut were Dustin Johnson (72) and Stewart Cink (73), who were both at even par for the tournament. 

Dylan Frittelli (76) also did not make it to the weekend on the heels of his fifth-place finish at The Open. 

Christian Horner says Max Verstappen's Silverstone crash with Lewis Hamilton has cost Red Bull around $1.8million, an outlay that will have "massive ramifications" for the team.

Verstappen was taken to hospital for checks after being left badly winded by his high-speed collision with title rival Hamilton at the British Grand Prix last weekend.

Dutchman Verstappen spun into the barriers following a dramatic crash on the first lap at Copse corner.

Hamilton went on to win on home soil and reduce Verstappen's championship lead to only eight points despite being given a 10-second penalty for being "predominantly to blame" for the incident.

Verstappen accused the Brit of being "disrespectful and unsportsmanlike", while Red Bull team principal Horner felt Hamilton was guilty of "dirty driving".

With a budget cap at $145m in Formula One this year, Horner has revealed it was not just the number of points Verstappen lost that Red Bull could be left to rue at the end of the season.

He said in a column on Red Bull's website: "It is no secret that we felt at the time, and still feel, that Hamilton was given a light penalty for this type of incident

"Given the severity of the incident and the lenient penalty, we are reviewing all data and have the right to request a review. We are therefore still looking at the evidence and considering all of our sporting options.

"The other significant factor is the cost-cap element of this. That crash has cost us approximately $1.8million and an accident like that has massive ramifications in a budget cap era."

Horner also offered a message for Mercedes boss Toto Wolff after the title battle took a sensational twist.

He added: "I would like to respond to some comments I have seen from Toto, who is quoted as saying our comments regarding Hamilton having caused the accident were 'so personal'.

"I would like to make it clear. This was an on-track incident between two of the best drivers in the world.

"At the point in time when you have a driver in hospital and the extent of any injuries have not yet been made clear, your car has been written off and the stewards have penalised the driver seen to be responsible, it is natural that emotion comes into play, for all involved, whether you feel wronged or victorious.

"I also felt the narrative that Max was being 'overly aggressive' at that stage was unjustified. You only have to look at the fact Max has zero penalty points on his licence and has not been found guilty of any on-track misjudgements in recent years.

"The aggressive 17-year-old F1 rookie Max Verstappen that Hamilton is referring to is not the Max Verstappen of today, just as Hamilton is not the same driver he was when he entered the sport.

"Both drivers are of course uncompromising in their driving style, but they are both highly skilled drivers with a great deal of experience.

"The reality is that Hamilton has met his match in a car that is now competitive, and I agree that both drivers need to show each other respect, but Hamilton was the aggressor on Sunday."

Siya Kolisi hopes South Africa's rugby team can lift the spirits of a nation as they prepare to take on the British and Irish Lions in front of an empty Cape Town Stadium.

The first Test of the three-match series takes place on Saturday, though no fans will be at the venue to watch the action unfold due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

South Africa has seen an upsurge in COVID-19 cases during the past month - there were over 14,000 positive tests in the country on Thursday - while there have been 69,075 deaths connected to the virus amid the ongoing global health crisis.

Springboks captain Kolisi tested positive himself earlier this month, though the World Cup winner has been cleared to lead a team that understands the importance of the upcoming games.

"Obviously, we are South Africans before we are Springbok rugby players. What affects our people affects us as players," Kolisi told the media on the eve of the opening Test.

"We are going to do everything we can to focus on the job we have to do. Like coach Rassie Erasmus said at the World Cup, what we do is in a place of privilege.

"We're doing what we love every single day, and that we're able to put a smile on someone's face, or we're able to, for a moment in time, let everybody else forget and put their problems aside and focus on what we're doing. When we win, they feel like they win too.

"No matter how difficult the situation is, we are always able to pull together. We've got families, we've got friends, we've got people out there suffering during this time. We want to make sure that, while we still have the privilege to be able to do what we love, we give it our ultimate best.

"We know the people will be behind us, no matter what it is they are going through. We want to make sure we give it everything and give it our best on Saturday.

"If we are able to put a smile on someone's face, that will obviously make us happy and drive us even more to make sure that we don't give up and give our ultimate everything."

Cape Town will now stage all the Tests, a change from the original schedule as Johannesburg was due to host the second and third matches.

The Springboks also saw their series with Georgia cut short due to COVID-19 cases in both camps, meaning Kolisi has not played since July 2. However, despite the lengthy absence from the field, the 30-year-old remained heavily involved in the build-up.

"Honestly, I didn't have a lot of symptoms. I was fortunate with that. I didn't have anything at all," he said. "I think I was fine by the second day. That didn't play a big role with me. It was all the mental things, isolating in the room.

"What helped me the most is that I was still part of the meetings, talking to the team, viewing videos, adding input to the guys who were playing before, talking to Marco (van Staden, who started at flanker in Kolisi's absence for South Africa A against the Lions), making sure that Marco knows every single role before Saturday, because that's what we're about.

"Just because you're not playing with us, it doesn't mean you're off. The next thing for you to do is to make sure the next guy around you knows his job and he's prepared as much as he can. At the end of the day, the most important thing in our group is the Springboks.

"We want to make sure, whether you're playing or not, that you're actually adding value some way or another. In that regard, I was fine because I had a lot of things to keep me positive and keep me active during the time."

The New Orleans Saints have long since enjoyed the benefit of continuity on offense in Sean Payton era, but in 2021 they will have to contend with some significant changes.

For the first time since the 2005 campaign, the Saints will begin a season with a quarterback not named Drew Brees as their starter.

Brees' retirement was regarded by some as overdue but, if his decision to ride off into the sunset was not viewed as a damaging one for New Orleans, the loss of the receiver with whom he had built a devastating rapport certainly is a significant blow.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Friday that Michael Thomas is expected to miss the start of the season having undergone ankle ligament surgery in June.

Thomas was limited to just seven games last year because of persistent ankle injuries and the procedure to fix those problems will, at least in the opening weeks, rob the Saints' 2021 starting quarterback of a two-time first-team All-Pro who has blossomed from 2016 second-round pick into one of the most dependable wideouts in the NFL.

Renowned for his route-running and his proficiency in making contested catches, Thomas produced at a historic level in 2019.

He broke the single-season receptions record with 149, racking up a career-high 1,725 receiving yards at an average of 107.8 per game.

Per Stats Perform data, Thomas registered a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the ball is catchable, on 76.1 per cent of his 184 targets.

That was the fourth-highest rate among wide receivers in the NFL. Only one player who finished above him, Corey Davis (69), had even 50 targets.

Thomas was tied for the second-most burn yards per route, trailing only Stefon Diggs (3.9) with an average of 3.6.

He got open on 83.2 per cent of his targets, though he did so with an average depth of target of 8.1 yards, illustrating the Saints' dependence on shorter passes in the latter stages of Brees' career.

Thomas will now miss out on the chance to quickly develop an even better understanding with the two quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, vying to be Brees' successor.

The frustration of that for the Saints will be two-fold. Winston's aggressiveness -- he was second in the NFL in air yards per attempt (10.7) in his last season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019 -- could unlock Thomas' potential as a downfield receiver to a greater extent than Brees did.

Meanwhile, Thomas' dependability would be a significant aid to an interception-prone quarterback or to a passer in Hill whose only four pro starts came last season.

Instead of enjoying those possible benefits, with Thomas on the sideline, Payton and the Saints have the imposing challenge of maintaining their offensive consistency without a Hall of Fame quarterback and without their All-Pro wide receiver.

The Saints are used to life among the NFL's offensive elite, but with the two most important parts of the equation on that side of the ball out of the picture, at least for the start of 2021, they face being removed from the top table.

Hugo Gaston showed admirable spirit as the young Frenchman saved four match points in a gripping tie-break against Cristian Garin en route to reaching his first ATP Tour semi-final.

Garin, the fourth seed, responded impressively to going a set down and then got to match point four times in their third-set tie-break, but he could not hold his nerve and Gaston got the job done 6-4 1-6 7-6 (13-11).

The Chilean was on the back foot right from the start Gaston broke him in the first game, and although Garin did hit back to make it 3-3, his opponent quickly had the advantage again and went on to seal the first set.

Garin's response was emphatic and clinical, dropping just three points on his serve and taking both of the break points that came his way to level the match.

The pair could not be separated in a back-and-forth third set, but Garin was the first to get match point at 6-5 in the tie-break – they would trade another six equally between them before Gaston finally prevailed at 13-11, leaving the 20-year-old satisfied.

"I am very happy to be in my first [ATP Tour] semi-final," Gaston said after.

"It was a great fight. It was a really long match. I always tried to play my game, and it is a good win for me. I hope I can continue like that."

Up next for Gaston will be Laslo Djere after he saw off Arthur Rinderknech 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4, while Casper Ruud – the highest seed remaining – is also into the final four.

The Norwegian was victorious at the Swedish Open last week, his second title of the year, and dispatched Benoit Paire on Friday to reach another semi.

Ruud won 6-2 5-7 6-3 in just under two hours and will face Vit Kopriva, a qualifier, who secured his first semi-final appearance thanks to a stunning 6-1 6-0 win over Mikael Ymer.

At the Croatia Open in Umag, top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas cruised into the last four with a straightforward 6-2 6-1 defeat of Stefano Travaglia, setting up a meeting with either Filip Krajinovic or Carlos Alcaraz.

The other semi will be contested between Richard Gasquet and Daniel Altmaier, who produced something of a shock by ousting second seed Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-4.

The veteran Frenchman came through against Damir Dzumhur 6-3 7-6 (9-7), clinching the second set at the fourth opportunity.

Jeongeun Lee6 enjoyed a remarkable round on day two of the Evian Championship as she recorded a 10-under-61 to equal the record for the lowest round ever played at a major by a man or woman to hold the lead heading into the weekend.

Previously, Lee6's South Korean compatriot Kim Hyo-joo was the sole holder of the record, having shot 61 in Evian seven years ago on her way to claiming a first LPGA Tour title.

Having also enjoyed a fine first round of five under – one off overnight leaders Yealimi Noh and Pajaree Anannaukarn – Lee6's 61 on Friday means her score of 127 over 36 holes is the lowest in majors history, surpassing the 128 Brooks Koepka managed at the 2019 PGA Championship.

Lee6 – who adds a number to her name due to the fact five other Jeongeun Lees were on the LPGA Tour when she started – made a solid start that had her two under by the fourth hole after starting on the 10th, and she made it to the turn at four under for the day.

She then picked up another couple of birdies on holes one and four, but it was the final four where she truly came into her own.

Lee6 rattled off four birdies in succession, including a 16-foot putt on the last hole that remarkably showed no hint of nervousness despite the gravity of the achievement it confirmed.

Even with the historic nature of her feat, Lee was reserved at the end as she said: "I try to keep it on the fairway and keep it on the green and I focused on putting speed. That's it.

"I had a lot of birdie chances. I could play easily. My putting was really, really good, so, yeah, that's it."

Nevertheless, Lee6 is not so far clear that she cannot worry about those chasing her, as Anannarukarn enjoyed another impressive day to sit tied for second with Ariya Jutanugarn on 12 under – the latter's 63 was bettered only by Lee6.

The men's road cycling race is a standout event as dreams will turn into a reality a year later than athletes might have hoped for at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.

After Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Friday, Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar will be striving to light up the opening day of competition.

Pogacar goes for gold less than a week after the Slovenian sensation retained his Tour title in Paris and it will be an incredible achievement if he is on top of the podium again.

There will also be archery, judo, shooting, taekwondo and weightlifting titles up for grabs on the first day of the Games 12 months after they were due to be contested.

Stats Perform pick out what to look out for on Saturday.

 

POGACAR FACES ANOTHER HUGE STAMINA TEST

Pogacar dominated the Tour de France and is the favourite to follow that up with Olympic gold in what promises to be a thrilling road race.

His compatriot Primoz Roglic is another strong contender for gold, while Canada's Michael Woods and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde will start the race with high hopes of securing a medal.

Belgian duo Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert are also expected to be in the mix.

The 234-kilometre course starts at Musashinonomori Park and finishes at the Fuji International Speedway and features five big ascents, including one on Mount Fuji.

 

HIGH HOPES FOR JAPANESE JUDOKAS

There will be no spectators to provide support, but that is not expected to stop Japanese judokas from setting the standard once again.

The host nation has 39 gold, 19 silver and 26 bronze medals in judo, making it the only sport the country tops the all-time Olympic medal table in.

Naoki Ogata, technical operations manager with the International Judo Federation, is setting the bar high with his expectations on home soil.

"No doubt, we want a gold medal in all weight categories," said Ogata.

 

DJOKOVIC IN HUNT FOR GOLDEN SLAM

Novak Djokovic has already won three of the four majors this year and an Olympic title would leave him heading to the US Open knowing victory would complete the Golden Slam.

The world number one from Serbia plays Hugo Dellien of Bolivia when the men's singles starts on Saturday, while Poland's Iga Swiatek is among the standout players in action in the women's singles - which she begins against Mona Barthel.

There is also women's and men's doubles action on Saturday. 

The pick of the other events to be getting under way will be artistic gymnastics, badminton, swimming, boxing, hockey and rowing.

After months of uncertainty over whether the tour will go ahead, the British and Irish Lions start their quest to secure a series win over South Africa on Saturday.

The two sides will go into battle at Cape Town Stadium without the roars of partisan Springboks fans and passionate Lions supporters who have made the trip, as no spectators are allowed in due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

However, neither team should require a raucous atmosphere to get fired up for a first contest between South Africa and the Lions in 12 years.

Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has selected 21 of the 23 players who were World Cup winners in Japan two years ago in the matchday squad for such an eagerly awaited opening showdown. The world champions' preparation has been far from ideal, with 14 players and six members of the management team having tested positive for COVID-19 this month.

Captain Siya Kolisi was among those to have contracted the virus, but he will lead a formidable side that will be so tough to beat on home turf.

As for the Lions, Alun Wyn Jones has made an astonishing recovery to captain the tourists only four weeks after suffering a dislocated shoulder against Japan.

South Africa can win consecutive series against the Lions for the first time since they were successful in both 1962 and 1968, having come out on top by a 2-1 scoreline in 2009.

Yet the Lions have been racking up the points in their tour matches ahead of the three Tests, scoring 39 tries in six games in 2021 - which is 21 more than they managed in the entire 2017 trip to New Zealand.

Warren Gatland's men were beaten 17-13 by a strong South Africa A team during the warm-up fixtures, though, getting a taste of the sort of power they know they will come up against when facing the Boks.

 

TMO CHANGE STOKES THE FIRES

There is never a shortage of off-field sub-plots to fan the flames ahead of a Lions series - and this trip has been no different.

Lions head coach Gatland is said to be fuming over a chance of TMO for the first Test, with South African Marius Jonker replacing New Zealander Brendon Pickerill, who was unable to officiate due to coronavirus-related travel issues.

Robin McBryde, forwards coach for the Lions, said: "It [Jonker stepping in] was a bit unexpected. We only found out on Wednesday. There's a slight like lack of foresight because there's a reason why that position is neutral. There's no plan B put in place. You've just got to get on with it really."

Jonker was the TMO in a clash with South Africa A that saw Faf de Klerk avoid a red card for a high tackle on Josh Navidi.

VAN DER MERWE READY TO BE TARGETED

Duhan van der Merwe gets the nod to start against his country of birth, with the Scotland wing accepting he will be targeted.

Gatland said: "It's a challenge for him. I've spoken to him about what's coming on the weekend and he's fully aware.

"I presume every time he touches the ball, they'll be trying to hit him with everything they've got and there will probably be some verbals as well. So he's well aware of what's at stake and he's been incredibly relaxed."

 

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kwagga Smith.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alan Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This is the 14th Test series between South Africa and the Lions, with the Springboks winning eight of the previous 13 editions and the Lions triumphant in four.
- South Africa hold the head-to-head advantage in individual Test matches between the sides, winning 23 of their 46 previous Test encounters (L17, D6).
- The Lions are unbeaten in their past two Tests (W1, D1) and have not enjoyed a longer such run since a six-game run spanning the 1971 and 1974 tours (W4, D2).
- South Africa have lost just one of their previous 13 Tests (W11, D1), winning the last seven in a row – their longest winning run since 2013-14 (W8)
- Lions captain Jones will win his 10th Lions Test cap, becoming the eighth player to achieve that feat and the first this century.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were declared open on Friday, with the global face of Japanese sport, Naomi Osaka, given the honour of lighting the cauldron.

Osaka carried the torch on its short final leg at the newly-built Japan National Stadium before walking the steps to light the flame and end an opening ceremony that took place with no spectators, save for 1,000 delegates and the athletes from 205 countries.

The four-time grand slam champion is the face of the Games for the host country, having become the first Japanese player to win a major title at the 2018 US Open.

She followed that success with victory at the 2019 Australian Open that saw her become the first Asian player to be ranked number one in the world in singles.

Though she followed up another success in New York by winning again in Australia in 2021, it has been a tumultuous year for Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open after the first round to protect her well-being having caused controversy by electing not to take part in post-match media conferences.

She subsequently skipped Wimbledon but will be back in action in Tokyo, where she is competing in the Olympics for the first time.

And, regardless of what happens on the court, it is a Games she will forever remember, with Osaka's lighting of the cauldron the defining image of a unique opening ceremony.

 

 

Cleveland's MLB team will be known as the Guardians once the 2021 season has been completed.

Known as the Indians since 1915, the organisation announced in December 2020 that they were to begin the search for a new nickname, having held discussions with a number of different groups, including the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition and the National Congress of American Indians.

Team owner and chairman Paul Dolan said in a statement confirming the decision to make a change: "Hearing first-hand the stories and experiences of Native American people, we gained a deep understanding of how tribal communities feel about the team name and the detrimental effects it has on them.

"We also spoke to local civic leaders who represent diverse populations in our city and who highlighted the negative impact our team name has had on our broader population and on under-represented groups across our community.

"I am truly grateful for their engagement and input, which I found enlightening and insightful. When a sports team is aligned with its community, it unlocks the ability to unite people from different backgrounds and bring people together in support of their home team.

"While Indians will always be a part of our history, it is time to move forward and work to unify our stakeholders and fans through a new name."

Guardians was announced as the choice through a video, narrated by Tom Hanks, which was posted on social media on Friday, though the red, white and navy colour scheme will remain.

The name was selected following extensive interviews with fans, community leaders and front office staff, with over 40,000 supporters surveyed during the process.

"To protect, to keep watch, to defend. For Clevelanders, this is a way of life. We fight together for what we believe in. And if we get knocked down, we pick each other right back up and keep fighting. We're resilient, hard working and loyal – to this city and to each other. That's what it means to be Cleveland Guardians," a statement read on the team's website.

Cleveland has a 48-46 record during the current campaign to sit second in the AL Central, nine games back of the Chicago White Sox.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants produced an MLB first as a controversial end to the latest series in their historic rivalry left ejected manager Dave Roberts apoplectic.

Dodgers manager Roberts sprinted to confront first-base umpire Ed Hickox in the ninth inning after he ruled Darin Ruf did not swing on a pitch outside the strike zone on a full 3-2 count with two men out and the bases loaded, awarding the Giants a walk that tied the game at 3-3.

Los Angeles thought the game was over moments earlier when Jason Vosler was ruled to have been thrown out at second base, only for the umpires to rule him safe on review, with Sheldon Neuse unable to keep his foot on the bag as he caught Chris Taylor's throw, meaning Thairo Estrada's groundball trimmed the Dodgers' lead to 3-2.

Hickox's contentious decision followed, setting up LaMonte Wade Jr to give the Giants a 5-3 lead with the next at-bat with a two-run single to right field.

The Giants held on to that advantage to take a three-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West, with Los Angeles left to pick up the pieces after a third successive blown save from closer Kenley Jansen and his second in as many nights against San Francisco.

San Francisco prevailed 3-1 in the four-game series, which is the first in the modern era to have three games in which the team trailing in the ninth inning scored three runs to win, according to Stats Perform data. The Dodgers scored three runs in the last to emerge victorious on Tuesday, before the Giants scored three on Wednesday and four on Thursday to solidify their grip on the division.

But that piece of league history will have been of no interest to a furious Roberts.

"There's no doubt in my mind that he went [around and swung] and the game should have been over," Roberts said. "Eddie's a very good umpire, been around a long time. But in that spot, two contending teams, you just can't miss that call.

"The game should have been over and there's no other way to look at it.

"There's a lot of people that are really p****d off and I'm leading the way. We should have won that game. It's a game we really wanted, we had and we didn't. The game should have been over, man. I don't think the blame should be all on Kenley at all.

"I thought that play at second base, if we stretch, he's out and the game's over. The checked swing, the game's over and we're not having this conversation. I'm not reconsidering his [Jansen's] role."

Ruf, meanwhile, was able to reflect on the turning point with a smile.

"At that point, I'm just trying to have a good at-bat," Ruf said. "The 2-0 pitch was probably outside, but those things happen throughout the course of an at-bat. You just have to move on.

"After I got to 2-2, I just really wanted to see a pitch in the middle. He has three pretty good pitches and luckily I laid off the 2-2. The 3-2 was kind of a high backup cutter and luckily that call went our way.

"I'm just thinking, 'Please say I didn't go [and swing]. I think at full speed it was really, really close.

"Luckily that call went our way tonight and then LaMonte came up huge."

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