The 2021 NFL season saw the advent of the 17-game schedule. Some players would like to see the number of off weeks increase as well.

Speaking on comedian Kevin Hart's Cold as Balls programme, San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle said he would be very much in favour of a second bye week added to the schedule.

"There's a huge physical toll," Kittle said about the season's current structure. "Seventeen games is a lot. It's a lot of games with one bye, whether it's Week 4 or the bye is Week 11.

"I'm advocating for two byes. If you can get that to happen, that would be cool."

Kittle, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who earned first-team All-Pro honours in 2019, has missed at least two games in each of the last three seasons due to injuries, including a broken bone in his foot that limited him to eight games in 2020.

The NFL did add a second bye week during the 1993 season but scrapped the idea after just one year.

Kittle's wish is not likely to be granted, at least any time soon. The NFL's current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expanded the regular season and increased the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams, runs through the 2029 season.

The NFL Players Association reportedly pushed for a second bye week during negotiations for the present CBA that took place in 2020, but the league wound up getting its request to have an 18th week added to the schedule for the purpose of playing another game.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury says he is "praying" quarterback Kyler Murray will have signed his new contract before training camp begins next month.

Earlier in the offseason, Murray removed references to the Cardinals on his Instagram account before his agent Erik Burkhardt issued a statement calling for the QB, who is entering his fourth NFL campaign, to be shown "a real commitment" by the franchise.

There have been reports suggesting Murray will not attend training camp under his current deal, which runs through the 2023 season, as he seeks a lucrative extension.

Kingsbury was asked about his QB's contract status when he faced reporters after the first day of Arizona's minicamp, which Murray has reported for.

"I'm praying before training camp," Kingsbury said about when the contract could be resolved.

"I just want him there day one of training camp. Personally - I'm being selfish here – I would love for him to be there the first day.

"I'm not sure [if he will report to training camp without a new deal] - that would be a Kyler question."

"We're about to make him, I'm sure, the highest-paid player in this franchise's history and so he understands what comes with that," added Kingsbury, per ESPN.

"The guys know what he can be at his best, and anytime we can get the whole band out there, things pick up.

"He is the leader of this franchise. [General Manager] Steve [Keim], Michael [Bidwill], myself, we understand what he can be and where we want to take this thing with him as our leader. 

"It will be great for this organisation when this is wrapped up."

In the 2021 season, Murray threw for 3,787 yards with 24 touchdown passes and added five rushing TDs, while he had the second-highest pass completion rate in the NFL of 69.2 per cent.

Murray was the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and an 11-6 record last season was the Cardinals' best for six years.

They lost to divisional rivals the Los Angeles Rams, who went on to win the Super Bowl, in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Rory McIlroy has always seemed to possess an older head on young shoulders.

Indeed, when the Northern Irishman burst onto the scene in 2009, his success belied his inexperience.

His first major title came at the 2011 U.S. Open, as he finished eight strokes clear of Jason Day at Congressional Country Club in Maryland. Three more followed in the space of three years; two at the US PGA Championship and one at The Open.

It has been eight years since McIlroy claimed a major honour, but heading to The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, the 33-year-old's form is as strong as it has been since he lifted his second US PGA title in 2014.

And in recent months, McIlroy has been seen as one of the voices of reason amid the emergence of the LIV Golf Invitational, which started in London last week.

Charl Schwartzel won the inaugural event of the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway competition, which has drawn the likes of Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau.

"If it keeps going the way it's going, it's going to fracture the game – sorry, it's going to fracture the game more than it already is," McIlroy, desperate to focus on his own game this week, told Sky Sports on Tuesday.

"The professional world in golf has already been fractured, there's so many different tours, so many different things to follow, and I've always been an advocate of trying to make it more cohesive and try to get people to work together more. This is ripping that apart.

"It's certainly a burden I don't need. But I have pretty strong views on the subject and I don't think it would be right for me to have these strong opinions and not share them."

Perhaps what golf needs more than ever right now is a unifying force that both players and fans can get behind. McIlroy might present just that.

Rory reinvigorated

It has been a brilliant year so far for McIlroy. According to official PGA Tour statistics, he ranks first for scoring average (68.842), top for strokes gained: tee-to-green (1.888) and strokes gained total (2.282), while he also comes in third for driving distance (319.1 metres) and strokes gained off-the-tee (.913) so far this season.

That form has resulted in six top-10 finishes, including his second place at the Masters in April, which came courtesy of a bogey free 64 in the final round, and his victory at the Canadian Open last week.

Defending his Canadian Open crown will have given McIlroy a timely boost heading to Massachusetts, following on from his eighth place at the US PGA Championship last month. He is in fine fettle, but needs to overcome his major hoodoo...

Getting over the line

Four major titles in the space of four years seemed to have paved the way for McIlroy to go on and join the true greats of golf, but it has not quite been that way.

Since winning the U.S. Open in 2011, McIlroy has failed to make the cut on four occasions at this major, though has recorded top-10 finishes in each of the last three editions of the tournament.

His best result at any of the majors since 2014 came at Augusta earlier this year, but as we have seen in other tournaments on the circuit, McIlroy has been known to squander strong positions, and he might even prefer to be in the chasing pack come Sunday.

In January 2021, McIlroy held the 54-hole lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship, but a final-round 72 saw him finish third. He finished five shots back from the winner and it was a similar story at the DP World Tour Championship in December, when he missed the chance to become the first player to win the event for a third time, giving up a last-day lead to finish five behind Collin Morikawa. 

Composure will be key for McIlroy this time around, should he be in contention.

 

A date with fate?

It might just be a coincidence, but fate is a funny old thing, and Sunday will mark 11 years to the day since McIlroy won his first major, when he claimed the U.S. Open so convincingly.

Another iron in McIlroy's fire could be that his win at the Canadian Open moved him onto 21 PGA Tour titles, edging him ahead of LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman. Going on to seal his second U.S. Open triumph, 11 years since he claimed his first, would be a fitting way for McIlroy to prove he is on the right side of this particular divide.

Now, he just has to go out and perform.

Ferrari's recent issues with reliability have put a major dent in their driver's and constructor's title hopes, but they will need to quickly bounce back at this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix.

It was a painful day for the Scuderia at the Azerbaijan GP on Sunday, with both cars retiring due to technical issues.

For Charles Leclerc, it was the second time in three races he was forced out because of a power unit problem while leading, and the fourth consecutive race where he failed to convert pole position into a race win.

Sergio Perez took full advantage in Baku, moving ahead of Leclerc in the driver's standings with his win, with Max Verstappen opening up a 34-point gap to the Ferrari driver.

With two retirements sandwiching Ferrari's strategic blunder at his home race in Monaco, the Monegasque moves to four wins from 15 pole positions, with only Jarno Trulli holding a lower conversion rate (25 per cent) among winning drivers in the history F1.

Meanwhile, only Michael Schumacher (+23) and Alain Prost (+18) have a higher differential between race wins and pole positions than Max Verstappen, who has claimed 25 and 14 respectively.

Verstappen will already be making his 150th GP appearance at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, looking for his sixth win of the season out of nine starts.

It would provide little solace to the 24-year-old but he has been in supreme form on the Saturday, claiming six poles out of eight this season, and could match his highest tally in a single season from 2019.

Pole position is not essential but it has proved to be convenient in recent years, with each of the past five winners in Montreal coming from the front of grid on the Saturday, the longest such streak in F1.

Since the opening race of the season in Bahrain, Ferrari remain one more one-two finish away from surpassing Mercedes for the most all-time in F1, with both on 82.

Ferrari customers facing similar strife

Problems have persisted for the factory team and Ferrari power unit customers since the first upgrade at the Miami Grand Prix, where Zhou Guanyu retired.

Both he and Leclerc then retired from the Spanish GP, after Valtteri Bottas was forced out of FP2 in the other Alfa Romeo due to an engine failure.

Both Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen experienced MGU-K failures in Monaco, before Leclerc, Magnussen and Zhou had power unit-related DNFs in Baku.

Red Bull in control

After rectifying their own reliability issues at the start of the season, Red Bull have picked up the pieces and are now in control of both championships.

Red Bull drivers have finished on the podium in 11 of their 13 finished races, securing the one-two in three of the last five Grands Prix and are one more from securing the highest tally in a single season.

The last time the team had six wins in the opening eight races of the season was when Sebastian Vettel coasted his way to the driver's title in 2011.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 150
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) 129
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 116
4. George Russell (Mercedes) 99
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 83

Constructors

1. Red Bull 279
2. Ferrari 199
3. Mercedes 161
4. McLaren 65
5. Alpine 47

Tyson Fury has said he will "100 per cent" return to the boxing ring and hinted he could face the winner of Oleksandr Usyk's rematch with Anthony Joshua in a unification bout.

The 33-year-old stated he would retire following his knockout of Dillian Whyte at Wembley in April, retaining his WBC heavyweight title, but has now seemingly backtracked by revealing he was planning for "something big" to happen.

However, those immediate plans do not involve either Usyk or Joshua, who clash once again in Saudi Arabia later this year, but he will be back in the ring towards the backend of 2022.

Asked by Queensbury Promotions whether he'd return to the ring, he said: "100 per cent. Just like in the movie when Jerry Maguire shouted 'Show Me The Money!'

"Me and Frank have something spectacular coming but it does not involve Usyk or Joshua, at this moment.

"I will make a decision on all this but I have only just fought three months ago. I would not be expected to fight until October, November, December anyway.

"But because I have said I am retiring everyone is on me. 'Are you really retired? Have a couple more fights' - every single day."

While Usyk and Joshua are not immediately on the horizon, Fury made it clear he would consider the bout but warned his participation would come at a heavy cost.

"What I would say to the people who want this fight to happen is: you better have a big cheque book," he added.

"Because to bring the big GK out of retirement to redeem this country - yet again - it's going to cost.

"I am a prize fighter and I do fight for prizes, but it is going to cost if you want me to do a mission on this middleweight and show what a real heavyweight does to them.

"And that will be expensive, they will need deep pockets and then we can talk."

The season's third major begins on Thursday in Brookline, Massachusetts as the U.S. Open gets under way at The Country Club.

There will be a strange feeling at the tournament with it being the first major since the controversial LIV Golf International Series began.

The USGA has confirmed that players involved in the Saudi-backed breakaway who qualified for the U.S. Open will still be allowed to compete, despite the PGA Tour taking a harder stance and suspending those who played in last week's inaugural LIV Golf event in London.

That means the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia will be present in Brookline.

Tiger Woods will not participate due to fitness concerns, but there are plenty of other potential candidates to go for victory at The Country Club, such as world number one Scottie Scheffler and defending champion Jon Rahm.

Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at who they believe could succeed.

RORY'S THE STORY AND HE'S PRIMED FOR MORE GLORY – Russell Greaves

Rory McIlroy has set the standards on and off the course in recent weeks, his win at the Canadian Open coming after he had pledged his allegiance to the PGA Tour in the midst of the inaugural LIV Golf event. That was the Northern Irishman's 21st PGA Tour title, fittingly edging him ahead of LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, a fact McIlroy himself was quick to point out. In Massachusetts, McIlroy can distinguish himself even further from the likes of two-time major winner Norman as he seeks a fifth such title and second at this event. With accuracy off the tee likely to yield a premium on this course, McIlroy has the game to match his momentum and will doubtless be well backed by punters and fans alike. Sunday also marks 11 years to the day since McIlroy won the U.S. Open, collecting his first major success in the process.

DJ READY TO PLAY THE VILLAIN – Ben Spratt

Sure, Rory's return to the winners' circle at a major would be great, but that story surely pales next to the possibility of one of the LIV Golf rebels swooping in and taking the title. Johnson likely remains the breakaway league's best bet. Of course, he would not be a popular winner in front of a presumably vociferous Boston crowd, and the form book is not in his favour either, but Johnson has the talent to spoil the party; a U.S. Open victory in 2016 was the third of three straight top-five finishes – and it was only 18 months ago he was dominating the Masters. The 37-year-old has not won any event this year, in what stands as a career first, but this would be some time to end that drought.

RAHM READY TO MAKE HISTORY AFTER PLEDGING PGA LOYALTY – Patric Ridge

"I've never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that." Those were the words of world number two Rahm, who is out to defend his title this week. Rahm finished T23 on his first appearance at the U.S. Open as a low amateur back in 2016, before he failed to make the cut in the next two years. However, he was tied for third in 2019 and T23 in 2020 prior to clinching his first major crown last year, finishing with two birdies on the final two holes to become the first Spanish golfer to win the major. The 27-year-old ranks first on the PGA Tour for shots gained off-the-tee, and although he struggled at the US PGA Championship, he has the opportunity to make history and create the legacy he dreams of in Massachusetts.

ROSE CAN BE A THORN IN RIVALS' SIDE – Peter Hanson

On the face of it, tipping a player ranked 48th in the world without a win to his name since January 2019 (Farmers Insurance Open) looks a little right field. At the time of that triumph, Justin Rose was world number one, but it has been a pretty mixed bag since then. Momentum is king in golf, though, and the Englishman scored a tie for fourth at the Canadian Open last weekend after shooting a sensational 10-under-par 60 in round four. Moreover, to win a U.S. Open you have to fight and scramble for a good score – qualities Rose, the 2013 champion, certainly possesses.

THOMAS HAS THE ENGINE NOT TO TANK – David Segar

Having won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in May, Justin Thomas comes into this full of confidence and with good reason. He showed incredible fight to edge victory against Will Zalatoris in a play-off in Tulsa, having trailed by eight shots with 10 holes to play in the final round. Ranked fifth in the world, Thomas has always had the talent but, like many, it was always a question of putting it all together when the majors came around. With the experience of doing so fresh in his mind, and showing good form with third place at the Canadian Open, Thomas could pull off the rare feat of back-to-back major wins.

St Louis Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas fell agonisingly short of a career-first no-hitter as his side won 9-1 over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.

Mikolas came within one strike of the rare feat, achieved only 10 times in Cardinals' history, with two outs and two strikes against the Pirates in the ninth inning.

It was Cal Mitchell who denied Mikolas in his no-no bid with a center-field hit that eluded Harrison Bader by inches and bounced over the wall.

Mikolas tossed down a season-high 129 pitches throughout the game, with six strikeouts.

"It kinda stinks to not finish that out," Mikolas said after the game. "I don’t have one yet. I've got friends who have one, it would’ve been nice to join that conversation but I can't say enough about our defense. I kinda feel like I let them down."

Mikolas overshadowed Mike Goldschmidt who had a four-hit, two-homer and five-RBI display in the second game of the double-header.

Goldschmidt sits atop the National League (NL) rankings for batting average (.349) and on-base plus slugging (1.073). He is second in the NL for RBIs (56) and tied for second for home runs (16).

The Cardinals won both games, triumphing 3-1 in the earlier match-up, with Yadier Molina reaching 14,865 putouts which is the most by a catcher in MLB history.

 

Voit leads Padres' turnaround against Cubs

The Chicago Cubs' slide continued despite boasting a 5-0 lead heading into the sixth inning as Luke Voit turned things around for the San Diego Padres in a 12-5 win.

Willson Contreras enjoyed his 10th career multi-home run game to help the Cubs lead 5-0 before Voit's two-run blast narrowed the gap, followed by another two runs in the sixth for the Padres.

Voit emptied the bases in the seventh inning, finishing the game with five RBIs along with his two hits and two runs from six at-bats.

 

Astros launch with eighth-inning rearguard

The Texas Rangers blew their shot at a fourth consecutive win after poor fielding cost them in the eighth inning, losing 4-3 to the Houston Astros.

The Rangers were leading 3-0 in the eighth when third baseman Ezequiel Duran misplayed, allowing Jose Altuve to get home despite a mix-up between bases from Alex Bregman's hit.

Two batters later, with Michael Brantley having added a second run, Kyle Tucker hit a two-run blast to clinch a 4-3 victory for the Astros. Tucker extended his active hitting streak to 13 games.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson repeated that he is innocent of the inappropriate sexual conduct alleged in the now 24 lawsuits against him when speaking publicly for the first time in nearly three months.

Despite the increasing number of civil suits against him, including two more filed within the last 15 days, Watson has insisted he is innocent.

Watson is accused of sexual assault and harassment by over two dozen massage therapists who visited his home for private sessions while he played for the Houston Texans.

Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson, said on Monday that he plans to file two more lawsuits against the embattled quarterback.

"I never assaulted anyone," Watson told reporters on Tuesday following practice at Browns mini-camp. "I never harassed anyone, or I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything. I just want to clear my name.

"I've been honest and I've been truthful about my stance. I never forced on anyone and I never assaulted anyone. That's what I've been saying since the beginning and I'll continue to do that until all the facts come out."

Last week, the New York Times reported that Watson hired at least 66 different women for private massages over the course of 17 months, including all 24 plaintiffs.

Despite Watson’s legal troubles, the Browns convinced him to drop his no-trade clause and gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230million contract after acquiring him this off-season.

The 26-year-old quarterback had criminal complaints dropped in two Texas counties, but both he and the Browns continue to face public backlash.

Watson’s short-term future on the field hangs in the balance as the NFL conducts its own investigation into whether he has violated the league’s code of conduct. Commissioner Roger Goodell said during spring meetings that the investigation was nearing an end but would not name a target date.

"I can't control that," Watson said. "I did everything they asked me to do. I answered every question truthfully that the NFL asked me.

"That's all I can do, is be honest and tell them exactly what happened. They have a job, and so I have to respect that. And that's what we want to do is cooperate. They have to make a decision that's best for the league."

All-Star Fernando Tatis Jr. is closing in on a return but has still not been cleared to swing a bat following wrist surgery in March.

The 2020 and 2021 All-MLB First Team shortstop had a follow-up exam on Monday after an operation on his broken wrist in March.

The San Diego Padres had initially placed a three-month timeframe on his recovery but general manager A.J. Preller said in an update after his latest exam that he has not yet been cleared to bat.

"Another MRI scan continues to show healing, but it was not quite at the level for ... a full green light," Preller said.

"Basically we're in a spot where we're going to progress week to week."

Tatis has resumed some baseball activities, including taking ground balls, throwing and running.

The 23-year-old has not played at all this season for the Padres, who held a 38-24 record prior to Tuesday's games, sitting second in the NL West behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Just over a week after he was fired by the Boston Bruins, Bruce Cassidy has been hired as the next coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Cassidy guided the Bruins to the playoffs in each of his seasons and compiled a 245-108-46 record during his tenure in Boston. He led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018-19 before losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven games.

In the following season, Cassidy won the Jack Adams Award as the top coach in the league after the Bruins finished with the NHL’s best record (44-14-12).

Despite that success and coming off a 51-26-5 record this past season, Cassidy was fired on June 6, a month after the Bruins lost a seven-game first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"The Golden Knights are very pleased to have Bruce come in to coach our team," Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon said.

"His success in Boston over six years is extremely impressive. His teams have had a clear identity, having been among the very best in the NHL in terms of goals for, goals against, goal differential and special teams. This is the right coach for our team at this time."

Cassidy fills the opening left when Vegas fired Peter DeBoer on May 16 after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s five-year history.

"I am excited to join an organisation that shares my commitment to winning and can’t wait to work with the talent that has been assembled in Vegas," Cassidy said.

"It’s been impressive to watch the city embrace the Golden Knights from afar, and my family and I look forward to becoming a part of that."

Cassidy is 292-155-53 as a head coach in the NHL, also serving as the Washington Capitals coach for two seasons (2002-2004).

Berlin Open top seeds Ons Jabeur and Maria Sakkari progressed with relative ease from their first-round matches, but Aryna Sabalenka and Garbine Muguruza were not so fortunate.

World number four Jabeur, who will team up with Serena Williams at the Eastbourne International, suffered a shock first-round exit at the French Open, but the Tunisian showed no signs of that defeat having affected her in her first grass-court appearance of the season.

Top seed Jabeur required just 73 minutes to overcome Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-3 on Tuesday, with American qualifier Alycia Parks next up after she defeated Qinwen Zheng in straight sets.

Second seed Sakkari, meanwhile, had a similarly comfortable start to her campaign, beating Leolia Jeanjean 6-3 6-2.

Meanwhile, reigning champion Liudmila Samsonova took her place in round two with a 7-5 6-1 victory over Tamara Zidansek.

Samsonova beat Belinda Bencic to claim the title in 2021, and the pair will meet again the quarter-finals should they win respective second-round ties against Veronika Kudermetova and Anna Kalinskaya.

But Kudermetova goes into her clash with Samsonova on a high, having eliminated third seed Sabalenka in a 2-6 7-5 6-4 comeback victory.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza will not be in round two after the Spaniard fell foul of Germany's Andrea Petkovic, who prevailed 7-6 (10-8) 6-4.

"I really do believe that in these really close matches, the simple and little shift of energy can make the difference," Petkovic said.

"If you have the crowd on your side, and they are willing you to the win somehow, I think that can really make a difference."

At the Birmingham Classic, top seed Jelena Ostapenko booked a second-round meeting with Dayana Yastremska.

While Yastremska beat Magda Linette in straight sets, Ostapenko was made to work, with the Latvian requiring two hours to overcome Canada's Rebecca Marino 6-2 5-7 6-3.

Fourth seed Elise Mertens was ditched out by Caty McNally, while former world number two and two-time major champion Petra Kvitova lost to Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Camila Giorgi, the third seed, leads Tereza Martincova after claiming a close first set 9-7 in the tie-break before the match was suspended.

Top seed Casper Ruud suffered a shock first-round exit at the Queen's Club Championships, going down in straight sets to British ATP Tour debutant Ryan Peniston in west London.

The French Open runner-up struggled to get going as he fell to a 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-2) defeat to the world number 180, who was backed by a boisterous home crowd throughout.

Ruud struggled from the off as Peniston forced four break points in the Norwegian's first service game, and his miserable outing was rounded off when his opponent raced into a 5-1 lead before serving out a second-set tie-break.

After claiming the scalp of the world number five, Peniston told the BBC: "I can't really believe it. It feels like a dream. It doesn't feel real.

"I think I've been playing well. Casper is an unreal player and he did so well at the French Open, so I knew it was a tough ask. Four or five years ago I was sitting in the crowd just watching so to be here now is just unreal."

Ruud was not the only big name to fall at the first hurdle, with fifth seed Diego Schwartzman going down 6-1 6-4 against big-serving Sam Querrey to become the fourth of the top five seeds to fail to reach the round of 16.

Second seed and defending champion Matteo Berrettini is the exception after faring much better against another home favourite, cruising past Dan Evans 6-3 6-3, while Stan Wawrinka downed Francis Tiafoe 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-5), and Denis Shapovalov's clash with Tommy Paul was suspended by darkness at one set apiece. 

Elsewhere, world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas progressed through his opening match at the Halle Open, beating Benjamin Bonzi 7-6 (7-1) 1-6 6-3 to set up an enticing last-16 clash with Nick Kyrgios, who bested Daniel Altmaier 6-3 7-5.

Fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime also progressed after being taken to three sets, beating Marcos Giron 6-3 5-7 6-3.

Meanwhile, defending champion Ugo Humbert will face a tough round-of-16 match against fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz after the Pole overcame Maxime Cressy 6-4 4-6 6-4. 

The US Open has announced players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete in this year’s tournament despite the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The decision means world number one Daniil Medvedev can defend his title.

While the United States Tennis Association is allowing Russian and Belarusians to enter the tournament, the athletes must play under a neutral flag. The French Open, which concluded on June 5, allowed Russian and Belarusians to compete under the same conditions.

"Alongside the other grand slams, the ITF, the ATP and the WTA, the USTA, which owns and operates the US Open, has previously condemned, and continues to condemn, the unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia," the USTA said in a statement.

"The USTA, standing with these other tennis entities, supported the banning of the Russian and Belarusian Tennis Federations from the ITF, and therefore all international team competitions, and the directive for players from those countries to play under a neutral flag when competing outside of international team competitions."

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, several organisations have banned Russian athletes from participating. Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, announced back in April that Russian and Belarusians would be barred from competing.

"We recognise that each organisation has had to deal with unique circumstances that affect their decisions," the USTA's statement read. "Based on our own circumstances, the USTA will allow all eligible players, regardless of nationality, to compete at the 2022 US Open."

The US Open begins on August 29 in New York.

The defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves will be without Ozzie Albies for at least two months.

The Braves placed the All-Star second baseman on the 60-day injured list a day after he fractured his left foot in Monday's 9-5 win over the Washington Nationals.

Albies sustained the injury on an awkward swing while batting in the fifth inning. He took a step out of the batter's box on a groundout to the shortstop before falling to the ground in pain.

"Hate it for Ozzie. Hate it for us," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He'll be fine. He's young, he'll heal quick.

"Like I said, I just hate it for the kid, because he loves to play baseball and he's such a big part of our club. It's a chance for somebody else to do something good."

Orlando Arcia took over for Albies and is expected be Atlanta's primary second baseman for the foreseeable future.

It will be virtually impossible, however, to replace Albies' bat.

The 25-year-old hit a career-high 30 home runs last season and his 98 career homers are the most by a Braves second baseman in franchise history. He is batting .244 with eight home runs, 33 RBIs and 34 runs scored in 62 games this season.

Albies' injury marred yet another victory for the Braves, who have won 13 in a row to pull within five games of the NL East-leading New York Mets. This is Atlanta's longest winning streak since a 14-game run from July 26 to August 9, 2013.

With Albies sidelined, this marks the second year in a row the Braves will have to overcome an injury to one of their young stars.

Ronald Acuna Jr. had just been named to his second All-Star Game before suffering a torn right ACL while trying to make a leaping catch in the outfield at Marlins Park on July 10 last year.

The knee injury sidelined him for the final three months of the regular season and forced him to miss Atlanta's run to the franchise's first World Series championship since 1995.

Jon Rahm says he is unsurprised by the amount of big-name golfers participating in the LIV Golf series given the financial rewards on offer, but sees more "meaning" in competing for historic prizes on the PGA Tour.

The Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, which held its first event in London last weekend with victor Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner, has attracted several the game's biggest names by offering eye-watering prize sums.

The likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia are among those to have signed up to the new circuit, with players participating in the first LIV event having been suspended by the PGA Tour last week.

Other stars, including Rory McIlroy, have made their opposition to the new tour clear, with the four-time major winner claiming on Tuesday it will "fracture" the sport.

And while world number two Rahm respects other players' decisions to feature in the breakaway competition, he simply does not see the appeal.

Speaking ahead of the U.S. Open, defending champion Rahm explained that he sees more "meaning" in competing with the world's best players in historic competitions on the PGA Tour.

"I mean, hundreds of millions of dollars are a pretty good damn reason for people to decide and go, and I see a lot of comments that's regarding it, but the high majority of the population, if they offered you 100 million or more for the next four years, a lot of people would go, right?" he said. 

"I'm not surprised at the number of players that went. I do see the appeal that other people see towards LIV Golf.

"[But] to be honest, part of the format is not really appealing to me. I want to play against the best in the world in a format that's been going on for hundreds of years. 

"There's meaning when you win the Memorial Championship. There's meaning when you win Arnold Palmer's event at Bay Hill. There's a meaning when you win, [at] LA, Torrey, some of the historic venues. That to me matters a lot.

"My heart is with the PGA Tour. That's all I can say. It's not my business or my character to judge anybody who thinks otherwise."

Rahm also added that the financial rewards on offer on the new tour – headed up by chief executive Greg Norman – would not change his mind.

"Truth be told, I could retire right now with what I've made and live a very happy life and not play golf again," the 27-year-old said. 

"I've never really played the game of golf for monetary reasons. I play for the love of the game, and I want to play against the best in the world. I've always been interested in history and legacy, and right now the PGA Tour has that."

Rahm's compatriot Garcia, meanwhile, joined Johnson in resigning his membership of the PGA Tour last month.

While Rahm says Garcia's decision is none of his concern, he hopes the split will not impact players' chances of competing at the Ryder Cup.

"[It's] not my business," he added. "He has given golf, [the] European Tour and the PGA Tour 20, 25 years of his life. It's his decision. It's not my job to judge. 

"That's all I can say. I don't know what's going to happen. I think the one thing that keeps coming to me out of all this and what can happen… I hope the Ryder Cup doesn't suffer.

"Are they going to be able to play Ryder Cup or not, the players that went? In my mind, Sergio, even if he is not breaking 90, he's a no-brainer pick, right? So what's going to happen? 

"You have quite a few young Americans. Bryson went, somebody that's probably going to be on the team in the future. 

"I think a week like that is a true essence of the game. That's where we all love to play."

Rory McIlroy says the ongoing LIV Golf series saga will serve to "fracture" the sport and the four-time major winner feels many PGA Tour players viewed those joining the Saudi-backed circuit as "selfish". 

The LIV Golf series - headed up by chief executive Greg Norman - has faced immense criticism since it launched, with opponents labelling the new tour as an exercise in "sportswashing". 

That has not stopped several of the game's biggest stars signing up, however, with Bryson DeChambeau calling his own choice to feature on the circuit a "business decision" after joining the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Lee Westwood in competing. 

The first LIV Golf event took place last weekend in London, with South Africa's Charl Schwartzel pocketing $4.75million as the inaugural winner.

McIlroy has been one of the most open critics of the new series, appearing to taunt Norman after surpassing his tally of 20 PGA Tour victories with his 21st triumph on Sunday, the successful defence of his Canadian Open title.

Before conducting a press conference ahead of the U.S. Open – which begins on Thursday – McIlroy insisted the new venture was only going to widen divides within the sport. 

"If it keeps going the way it's going, it's going to fracture the game – sorry, it's going to fracture the game more than it already is," he told Sky Sports.

"The professional world in golf has already been fractured, there's so many different tours, so many different things to follow.

"I've always been an advocate of trying to make it more cohesive and trying to get people to work together more. This is ripping that apart. 

"If people want to spend money in the game - and it's not regardless of where that money comes from - I think, if the Saudis are hell-bent on spending money in golf, let's get it spent in a way that benefits the wider ecosystem.

"That's where I would like to see it going, but whether that happens or not remains to be seen."

While McIlroy was reluctant to label any player's decision to feature on the new circuit as a "betrayal", he said many of his peers on the PGA Tour did not look upon such choices kindly.

"Betrayal's a very strong word," he said. "It's disappointing, I think the players that have decided to stay on the PGA Tour maybe feel slighted in some way, or feel those guys have been selfish, because it's for personal gain.

"I think in any industry or business, we have to lift each other up and try to make it as best we can for everyone. 

"I think if those guys [the LIV Golf players] thought outside of themselves, they'd see this wasn't best for everyone, that's my point of view on it.

"Everyone has their own goals and their own ambitions and thoughts, and they have to do what they feel is right for themselves."

Having reluctantly emerged as one of the most heralded opponents of the new circuit, McIlroy feels defending the PGA Tour is the right thing to do, considering his strong views.

"It's certainly a burden I don't need," he added. "But I have pretty strong views on the subject, and I don't think it would be right for me to have these strong opinions and not share them.

"I think I'm providing the commentary for a different thought process that is shared by a lot of people, that's the thing.

"I'm put in front of a camera more than most and everyone's here for me all the time about this subject."

A week after calling the United States Capitol insurrection a 'dust-up,' Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio apologised to his team on Tuesday before they opened their three-day mandatory minicamp. 

Commanders coach Ron Rivera said the apology was "well-received" and Del Rio met individually with several players to further address his comments. 

"Jack spoke to the team this morning during the team meeting and was very open and contrite and apologised and was open to questions," Rivera said.

"He said, 'Guys, if you have any questions come see me and let's talk about that.' It was good. I'm about reconciliation." 

Del Rio created a stir last week when he compared on social media the protests following the police killing of George Floyd and the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

The 59-year-old Del Rio, who had regularly posted conservative opinions to his Twitter account, then defended his tweet when asked about it following an offseason practice. 

''People's livelihoods are being destroyed, businesses are being burned down, no problem,'' Del Rio said last Wednesday.

''And then we have a dust-up at the Capitol, nothing burned down, and we're going to make that a major deal. I just think it's kind of two standards.'' 

Rivera fined Del Rio $100,000 last week, and said Tuesday the fine was issued because the comments created a distraction for the team. 

"This is not about the fact he exercised his right to free speech," Rivera said. "This is about what impacted this football team. I believe in the First Amendment very strongly. 

"It's a very serious question and topic, but at the end of the day, it did impact us. That's why I did what I did." 

Del Rio also apologised in a written statement last week despite also saying he stood by what he said. 

Serena Williams has been handed a Wimbledon singles wild card after confirming her return from injury after a year out.

The 40-year-old has not played competitively since losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of last year's tournament at SW19 and is now ranked at 1,208 in the world.

Williams hinted at her imminent comeback in a social media post on Tuesday, however, and it has now been confirmed she will take part in the third grand slam of the year.

Twenty-three time major winner Williams will also compete in the upcoming grass-court event at Eastbourne after receiving a wild card in the doubles draw alongside Ons Jabeur.

That will act as preparation for Wimbledon, a competition she has won seven times, the most recent of those triumphs coming in 2016.

Williams is one major title shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24, which has been the case since her most recent triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

She missed last year's US Open on home soil, as well as this year's Australian Open and French Open.

In her earlier Instagram message, Williams posted an image of her trainers on grass and captioned it: "SW and SW19. It's a date. 2022, see you there."

American Williams joins 10 British players on the initial batch of wild cards for the Wimbledon singles, while three-time grand slam winner Stan Wawrinka will also take part.

Serena's sister Venus, a five-time singles winner at Wimbledon, was not named on the initial batch of wild cards but two spots remain up for grabs.

The tournament in London gets under way on June 27.

Serena Williams has appeared to confirm her intention to take part in this month's Wimbledon after a year out injured.

The 40-year-old has not played competitively since losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of last year's tournament at SW19 and is now ranked at 1,208 in the world.

Twenty-three time major winner Williams' future was called into question in April when long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced he was working with Simona Halep.

However, she hinted around the same time that returning to action at Wimbledon was a possibility, and that news was all but confirmed on social media on Tuesday.

Williams posted an image of her trainers on grass and captioned it: "SW and SW19. It's a date. 2022, see you there."

She also tagged Eastbourne, where a WTA event takes place in the week before Wimbledon, which begins on June 27.

Williams has won seven Wimbledon titles, the most recent of those in 2016, having since lost in the 2018 and 2019 finals.

The American is one major title shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24, which has been the case since her most recent triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

She missed last year's US Open on home soil, as well as this year's Australian Open and French Open.

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