Serena Williams produced an emphatic fightback in the second set to eliminate Danielle Collins 6-4 6-4 and secure a spot in the last 16 of the French Open.

While the first set provided few difficulties for the 23-time grand slam winner, she found herself trailing 4-1 in the second as Collins threatened to force a decider.

But Williams channelled her frustrations impressively, and far better than her opponent, with the 39-year-old setting up a fourth-round clash with Elena Rybakina.

Williams might have had an early advantage as some brutal returns gave her three break points in just the second game of the match, but Collins came back to hold.

The first break eventually came in the seventh game of the contest, Williams squeezing a shot over after a drop shot, then guiding a return to the back of the court with Collins in no position to respond.

Although a second break in the first set eluded Williams, she sealed the set on her serve soon after.

The second set saw Collins' serve broken in the first game, but her response was emphatic, producing back-to-back breaks of her own.

That had Collins in control of the set at 3-1 up, with Williams' frustration evident at the end of almost every point and not helped by her five double faults, one of which gifted away a second break.

Williams began to use that anger for good as she played even more aggressively.

Initially Collins rode the punches well, playing Williams impressively as she forced the seventh seed out wide and then read her cross-court return to seal the fifth game to love and a 4-1 lead.

But Collins quickly fell apart, Williams winning five games on the trot as she came back from a precarious position to seal her progression, showing commendable mental fortitude along the way.


DATA SLAM: GO BIG OR GO HOME

It is fair to say Williams' serving was a little wild at times – she was looking to be aggressive to put Collins on the back foot as early as possible. However, it left her with as many double faults as aces, five apiece. Nevertheless, the three-time French Open champion got the job done, with a huge serve ultimately sealing the victory.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Williams – 22/20

Collins – 18/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Williams – 5/5

Collins – 1/3

BREAK POINTS WON

Williams – 4/8

Collins – 2/4

LeBron James has ruled himself out of competing for the United States at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

The 36-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star has represented his country at three Olympics, but he did not feature at Rio 2016. 

Earlier this year James had suggested he was considering playing for the USA in Tokyo.

However, following the Lakers' first-round playoff series defeat to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, he said he would instead spend the next few months promoting his new movie 'Space Jam: A New Legacy', which is scheduled to open in July. 

Asked if the Olympics were a possibility for him, James said: "Nah, I think I'm gonna play for the Tune Squad [the name of the team in the film] this summer instead of the Olympics.

"I think that's what my focus is on, on trying to beat the Monstars – or the Goon Squad we call them now.

"I didn't have much success versus the Suns, so now I am gearing my attention to the Goon Squad here in July, in mid-July.

"So I'm going to let the ankle rest for about a month and then I'm going to gear up with Lola, Taz, Granny, Bugs and the rest of the crew. So, hopefully I'll see you all at the match."

Asked how the Lakers' early exit – the first time James has been on a losing side in a first-round playoff series in his NBA career – would benefit his body, he said: "It's going to work wonders for me. Obviously during the season I don't talk about rest, I don't even like to put my mind in that frame, it makes me weak.

"But in the off-season I've got an opportunity to rest. I've got like three months to recalibrate, get my ankle back to 100 per cent, where it was before that Atlanta game.

"That's the most important thing for me. Everything else feels extremely well. My ankle was the only thing that was bothering me in the latter stages of the season.

"It never fully got back to before the injury. But I'm happy I was able to go out there and at least try to help our team win."

The Blues beat the Reds 31-24 in Brisbane on Friday to stay top of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman table.

Leon MacDonald's side have now won four out of four in the competition, though they were denied a precious bonus point at Suncorp Stadium against the injury-plagued Reds.

Harry Wilson found a gap to score the opening try of the match for the home team, but Brandon Paenga-Amosa's yellow card for collapsing a maul proved to be a turning point.

Dalton Papalii and winger Mark Telea crossed over for the Blues in the space of seven minutes as MacDonald's charges took full advantage of the one-man advantage.

Patrick Tuipulotu and Finlay Christie were next to dot down for the leaders, either side of Paenga-Amosa's try, to give their side a 17-point advantage.

The Reds made a fight of it late on when a crosskick sent Filipo Daugunu over, soon followed by a successful penalty from the Fiji-born winger, but the comeback fell just short.

The Blues are one point better off than Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders, who also made it four wins from four by defeating the Western Force 29-21 in Christchurch.

Scott Robertson's side were made to work hard for the victory after falling behind to Toni Pulu's well-taken try inside the opening four minutes.

Manasa Mataele finished soon after and Will Jordan slid over to complete a quickfire turnaround for the Crusaders, who went further ahead thanks to Whetu Douglas.

Ollie Callan's score from close range looked to have given the Force some hope, only for Sione Havili to cross the whitewash after the half-time hooter had sounded.

Jordan got his second of the game to give the Crusaders a 15-point lead and they stayed strong at the back until the final seconds.

Jordan Olowofela chased down Kyle Godwin's kick and went over, denying the Crusaders a bonus point in the process.

Aryna Sabalenka has been eliminated at the French Open, meaning all three of the top seeds in the women's singles are now out.

After Ash Barty was beaten and Naomi Osaka withdrew this week, third seed Sabalenka joined them in exiting the tournament on Friday.

Number 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova triumphed 6-4 2-6 6-0 in a battle lasting 100 minutes.

Sabalenka came into the French Open with form behind her having beaten Barty to win the Madrid Open a month after losing to the Australian in another final appearance in Stuttgart.

But depsite having 10 WTA titles to her name, Sabalenka's wait to make a big grand slam impact as a singles player goes on - she he is still yet to reach the quarter-finals at any of the four majors.

Sabalenka won only 10 of her 30 second-serve points as Pavlyuchenkova broke her on five occasions in the match, storming to victory in the decider.

Pavlyuchenkova will face Victoria Azarenka - who defeated Madison Keys - in round four.

Sixteen seeds have now been beaten or withdrawn in the opening days of action at Roland Garros up until the middle of Friday's play.

One of the premier pass-catching weapons in the NFL over the last decade is available for trade, and Julio Jones should have no shortage of suitors, with several contending teams likely to see him as the final piece of the puzzle on offense.

A seven-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL in receiving yards in 2015 and 2018, Jones has the resume of an all-time great.

Since he entered the league in 2011 as the sixth overall pick of the Atlanta Falcons, no player has more receiving yards than Jones, with his 12,896 putting him well clear of Antonio Brown (11,579) in second.

Jones also has 119 receptions of 25 yards or more in that time, again the best mark in the league ahead of T.Y. Hilton (104).

He has topped 1,300 yards in six of the last seven seasons, but a 2020 campaign in which he missed seven games and posted his lowest yards per game average (85.7) since 2012 raises the question about whether Jones can truly be considered among the best of the best at his position.

With a parting with the Falcons seemingly imminent, Stats Perform analysed the data to examine whether Jones is still a receiver who can put a contending team over the top.

Big-play beast

As his career tally of plays of 25 yards or more illustrates, Jones has long since been one of the premier big-play threats in the NFL.

His comparative lack of time on the field in 2020 meant he produced only seven such plays last season. However, even though he played just over half of the games, Jones still proved himself an efficient downfield threat.

Jones produced a 'big play', a burn for 20 yards or a burn for a touchdown, on 27 of his 67 targets, giving him a big-play percentage of 40.2 that was eighth among wide receivers with at least 50 snaps and 50 targets.

It was also a marked improvement on his performance in that metric in 2019.

Over the larger sample size of 157 targets, Jones registered 53 big plays, a percentage of 33.9 that put him 22nd among receivers with a minimum of 50 snaps and targets.

Jones may be getting older, but last season's numbers indicated he is getting better at finding ways to make impact plays down the field.

And he has remained consistent when it comes to regularly winning his matchup with opposing defenders.

Burn notice

At 6ft 3in and 220 pounds, Jones' athleticism and route-running ability has continually made him a nightmare for cornerbacks to defend.

The 4.3 speed with which he entered the league may have declined somewhat, but any drop-off in his physical gifts has not hindered his success in getting the better of those tasked with guarding him.

Jones recorded a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted regardless of whether the pass is considered catchable, on 63.7 per cent of his targets in 2019.

That was comfortably above the average of 60.9 for receivers with at least 50 snaps and 50 targets, and he improved on that in 2020, recording a burn percentage of 73.1 ranking sixth among wideouts to meet those thresholds.

Only seven receivers had a higher burn yards per route average than Jones' 3.2 in 2019, and he marginally bettered that last season as he finished with 3.3, level with Justin Jefferson, who set the rookie record for receiving yards with 1,400.

Jones was also seventh in burn yards per target (13.69) among receivers with 50 snaps and targets last year, demonstrating he can still regularly leave defenders trailing in his wake, providing his health allows him to deliver the kind of influential displays that have defined his career.

Situation critical

A lingering hamstring injury restricted Jones' availability in 2020 as the Falcons endured a 4-12 season, and his failure to shake off a soft tissue problem may raise concerns over whether teams can rely on him to stay on the field and contribute.

But franchises interested in investing in Jones' services need not look far for an example of a comparable player performing at a Pro Bowl level at this stage of their career.

Jones turned 32 in February, and can draw inspiration from Larry Fitzgerald, who racked up 1,215 yards during his age 32 season in 2015, helping the Arizona Cardinals to the NFC Championship Game.

Fitzgerald was invigorated by the coaching of Bruce Arians and the opportunity to play with a quarterback of Carson Palmer's talents, and his 2015 campaign was the first of three successive 1,000-yard seasons. Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions in 2016.

The success of Fitzgerald during that span is instructive is it was partially a product of Arians' abilities as a play-caller and the undoubted upside offered by Palmer, a former number one overall pick who led the NFL in passing touchdowns for the second time in his career in 2015.

Situation plays a substantial role in the performance of any player and Jones could land in one of several excellent spots. A reunion with Kyle Shanahan, who oversaw Jones' most productive season (1,871 yards) in 2015, with the San Francisco 49ers has been mooted.

The New England Patriots and their talented offensive play-caller Josh McDaniels are also credited with an interest in Jones, as are the Baltimore Ravens, who boast a former MVP at quarterback in Lamar Jackson, and the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson, whose superb accuracy saw him throw an interceptable pass on just 2.64 per cent of throws in 2020.

Jones compares extremely well with Fitzgerald as a physically imposing and dependable receiver who dropped only one pass last season after registering two drops in 2019.

While conventional wisdom would point to him declining as he gets up there in age, the numbers suggest he may in fact be getting better. For the contending team lands him, Jones still has what it takes to be a pivotal element of a potential Super Bowl-winning picture.

LeBron James paid tribute to the improvement and maturity shown by Devin Booker after he was beaten in a first-round playoff series for the first time in his NBA career.

The Los Angeles Lakers saw their hopes of repeating as NBA champions ended as they lost 113-100 in Game 6 to the Phoenix Suns, who progress with a 4-2 triumph.

Anthony Davis had to leave the court after only five minutes of his return from a groin injury as Booker produced a stunning performance to finish with 47 points for the Suns.

By the end of the first quarter, Booker had 22 points and had converted all six of his three-pointers, eventually finishing 8-of-10 from behind the arc.

His 47 points, recorded in 46 minutes, were the most to eliminate a defending champion team on their home court in NBA postseason history. 

The surging Suns also won Game 5 by 30 points and led this one by 29 in the first half before James - who had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists - helped to make the score more respectable.

But his amazing 14-0 steak in the first round of the playoffs was brought to an emphatic halt and all the plaudits went to Booker.

"I love everything about D-Book," said James. "I've had numerous conversations with him in the past. He continues to make the jump.

"When you want to be great in this league, and as Kobe told him, if you want to be legendary in this game you've got to continue to improve, not only your game but you as a man.

"You have to improve everything, both on and off the floor. And all the conversations we have had over the years, I can tell he's soaked them up and is using them to his advantage.

"Everyone sees what he's able to do on the floor right now, but I think his maturity, him as a young man, is what I'm most impressed about. So I love everything about Book."

Getting himself and the rest of the Lakers team back to full fitness was a bigger concern to James than the end of his playoff streak.

Reflecting on the Lakers' exit, he added: "The season started so fast after leaving the bubble, obviously. 

"I was talking to [Wes Matthews] in the locker room just a few minutes ago, and I said the one thing that bothers me more than anything - we never really got an opportunity to see our full team at full strength, either because of injury or COVID.

"We could never fully get into a rhythm and never really kinda see the full potential of what we're capable of. Listen, as I tell you all throughout the season, every season is different, every challenge is different.

"But they [the Suns] were excellent throughout the series, all of them. Much respect.

"To be able to put myself where I can even have accomplishments – to either be broken or to be able to continue it – it's all though the grace of the man above and me just putting a lot of hard work in, having great team-mates, having great coaching staff, things of that nature.

"So records – if that's a record – they’re always meant to be broken.

"So in that fashion it doesn’t matter to me in so far as not making it out of the first round, what matters to me is getting this team back healthy.

"Me not being able to be at my full strength throughout this series, that’s my main focus. But time to readjust and think about what the off-season has in store."

Past discussions between Booker and late Lakers great Kobe Bryant - also referenced by James - were firmly on the mind of the Suns' star guard after his impressive display.

"Honestly, I was thinking about Kobe and the conversations we had," Booker said.

"About what we went through, and the postseason, and being legendary and taking the steps to get there.

"Seeing that 8 and 24 up there, with the lighting Staples has, it's like it was shining down on you. I know he was here and I know he was proud."

Damian Lillard believes Nikola Jokic can lead the Denver Nuggets to NBA glory after they eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.

Jokic scored 36 points, provided six assists and grabbed eight rebounds as the Nuggets secured a 126-115 victory in Game 6 to win the series 4-2.

Trail Blazers star Lillard thinks the Nuggets can go all the way with Jokic at his brilliant best.

Lillard said of the Serbia center: "He's everything for them. I think if it was any year a guy like him, what he does for that team, could lead his team to a championship, it would be this year because of how open it is.

"There's no favourite. In my eyes at least, I feel like anybody can get beat and anybody can go get it done.

"That's why it's even more disappointing for me because I felt like if there's any year you can shoulder the load and go get one, it was this one. I definitely think he's capable of it."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone also lavished praise on Jokic.

He said: "That's why he's the clear-cut MVP, because you can take anybody away from our team, if we have Nikola, you could put me, Wes Unseld, Ryan Bowen, Charles Klask, whoever you want out there, we're going to find a way to compete because that's how great he is."

Malone says the Nuggets are aiming high after advancing from the first round of the playoffs.

"I just told our team this, hell of a win to come in here and win a Game 6 on the road is great. But we're not satisfied," said Malone. 

"Our goal coming into the season was not to get out of the first round. We have much bigger goals."

Fernando Tatis Jr moved into the joint lead for the most home runs this season as he led the San Diego Padres to a 4-3 win over the New York Mets in MLB on Thursday.

Tatis returned from a minor injury, described as "tightness around his midsection", to hit his 17th home run of the 2021 season when his long shot to center field was spilled over the fence by Mason Williams to make it 2-0 in the third inning.

Jurickson Profar drove in another in the fourth inning, before Tatis added their fourth run in the fifth inning, fearlessly racing home from third to home base after catcher James McCann's fumble.

Tatis touched the plate in the nick of time as McCann threw to pitcher Taijuan Walker to leave the Padres 4-0 up and despite a late Mets rally, they held on for another win.

The Padres improve to 35-23, while the Mets are 27-22 as they continue their seven-game road trip.

 

Table toppers face off, Meadows empties the bases

Joc Pederson homered into the bay as the National Central leaders, the Chicago Cubs, went down 7-2 to the frontrunners in the National West, the San Francisco Giants.

Leading off for the Cubs, Pederson was spectacularly caught on the fence by Giants center fielder Steven Duggar.

Pederson had more success later when he hit a moon shot out of Oracle Park and into the neighbouring bay for the kayakers to collect.

Brandon Crawford turned the game around for the Giants, finishing with two runs, two hits and four runs batted in (RBI).

Gerrit Cole had a tough day at the office as Austin Meadows starred for the Tampa Bay Rays in a 9-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Meadows emptied the bases at the top of the seventh inning, to finish with two runs, two hits and five RBI. Meadows has now hit 14 home runs this season.

Cole conceded five hits from his five innings before being withdrawn, while Ryan Yarbrough snapped the Rays streak of 731 games without a pitcher throwing a complete game, sending down nine innings with six strikeouts.

There were no Shohei Ohtani heroics as the Los Angeles Angels lost 6-2 to the Seattle Mariners, while the Milwaukee Brewers made it six wins from their past seven with a 7-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Rangers' horror road stretch

The Texas Rangers allowed 11 runs as their losing streak extended to nine games with an 11-6 defeat to the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers have conceded 55 runs across those nine games, all on the road.

 

White Sox whacking homers

Jake Lamb, Yasmani Grandal and Tim Anderson all homered for the Chicago White Sox in a fine display of hitting in their 4-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

 

Thursday's results

Atlanta Braves 5-1 Washington Nationals
Tampa Bay Rays 9-2 New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox 5-1 Houston Astros
Colorado Rockies 11-6 Texas Rangers
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers - Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals - Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox 3-1 Detroit Tigers
Cincinnati Reds 4-2 St Louis Cardinals
Seattle Mariners 6-2 Los Angeles Angels
San Francisco Giants 7-2 Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres 4-3 New York Mets

 

Cubs at Giants

The San Francisco Giants (35-21) and the Chicago Cubs (32-24) meet again the second game of their compelling six-game series.

Devin Booker put on a show as the Phoenix Suns eliminated LeBron James and NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers from the playoffs en route to the Western Conference semi-finals.

The sun set on the Lakers' season and their title defence in the opening round after Booker's playoff career-high 47 points and 11 rebounds guided Phoenix to a 113-100 win in Game 6 on Thursday.

Booker's monster double-double – which included eight three-pointers – sealed a 4-2 series victory for the second-seeded Suns in the Western Conference as they moved through to the semi-finals.

Suns All-Star Booker became the first Phoenix player with a 40/10 playoff game since Amar'e Stoudemire in 2010, though he is the first to do it with five-plus threes.

The Lakers welcomed the Suns to Staples Center for the must-win showdown in Los Angeles, where star Anthony Davis had been cleared to return from a groin injury.

According to Stats Perform, the Lakers were 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000 but their hopes were dealt a blow when Davis' comeback lasted just five minutes.

The Suns – who were 8-1 in potential series-clinching games since 2000, with their only loss coming against the Clippers in Game 6 in 2006 – blew away the Lakers with a 36-14 opening quarter on the road.

Phoenix carried a 60-41 advantage into half-time and while James tried to spark a Lakers rally with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, it was not enough.

A four-time NBA champion and MVP, it is the first time James has been eliminated in the opening round of the postseason in his illustrious 15-year playoff career.

Next up for the Suns are the Denver Nuggets, who claimed their series 4-2 following a 126-115 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.

MVP favourite Nikola Jokic fuelled the third-seeded Nuggets with 36 points in Portland, where Michael Porter Jr. had 22 of his 26 points in the opening quarter.

The Nuggets reached the Western Conference semis for the third consecutive season, while Damian Lillard put up 28 points and 13 assists for the Trail Blazers – who led by 14 points in the third quarter but could not hold on.

 

Clippers at Mavericks

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks can secure a semi-final date with the top-ranked Utah Jazz in the Western Conference by beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. The Mavericks lead the series 3-2.

Amateur Megha Ganne enjoyed a remarkable first round to hold a share of the lead alongside Mel Reid at the U.S. Women's Open on Thursday.

Ganne carded a four-under-par 67, including six birdies, as the 17-year-old earn a share of the lead at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

With her performance, Ganne became the first amateur to lead the U.S. Women's Open since Jane Park in 2006.

"I think the first time is nerve-racking for anybody and meeting your idols and being on the stage for the first time," Ganne said after her second U.S. Women's Open appearance. "But the second time around, even the practice rounds, I wasn't as nervous. I felt like I could come here and just play my game instead of soaking that all in."

Experienced 33-year-old Englishwoman Reid – who won October's LPGA Classic – had a steady round with five birdies and one bogey.

World number five Brooke Henderson was one of the last to finish her round, holding a share of the lead until a bogey on the 18th to card a three-under 68.

Megan Khang, who finished in fifth at this event last year, is equal second with Henderson and fellow American Angel Yin.

World number one Ko Jin-young is not far off the pace after an opening round one-under, with second-ranked Inbee Park finishing even through 18 holes.

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis has returned from a groin injury for Game 6 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Phoenix Suns.

Davis was hoping to be available for Thursday's must-win showdown, with reigning NBA champions the Lakers trailing the Suns 3-2 and facing elimination.

A groin injury had sidelined Davis since half-time of Game 4 as the Lakers were routed 115-85 at the hands of the second-seeded Suns in Game 5.

But Davis has been cleared to make his way back into the starting five at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Davis had back-to-back 34-point double-doubles in Games 2 and 3.

The Lakers are 26-15 (63.4) when Davis has played this season and 19-18 (51.4) in the games he has missed (including the play-in and playoff games), according to Stats Perform.

According to Stats Perform, the Suns are 8-1 in potential series-clinching games since 2000, with their only loss coming against the Clippers in Game 6 in 2006, and Phoenix won the next game. Meanwhile, the Lakers are 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000.

Utah Jazz All-Star Mike Conley will be a day-to-day proposition ahead of the NBA Western Conference semi-finals after scans confirmed a hamstring strain.

Conley left the court in the second quarter of the Jazz's 126-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of their NBA first-round playoffs series due right hamstring soreness on Wednesday.

Utah sealed the series 4-1 midweek and the top seeds will face either the Los Angeles Clippers or the Dallas Mavericks in the second round.

"This morning an MRI revealed a mild right hamstring strain," the Jazz said in a statement via Twitter on Thursday. "He will be re-evaluated prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-finals."

Conley, 33, has enjoyed a strong season, becoming an All-Star for the first time in his career.

Conley has averaged 17.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game during the 2020-21 season.

He played a key role for the Jazz as a starter in both their Game 2 and Game 3 wins over the Grizzlies with 20 and 27 points respectively.

Kansas City Chiefs star and quarterback Patrick Mahomes believes he is ready to play following toe surgery.

Mahomes underwent surgery after Kansas City's Super LV loss to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February.

The Chiefs will open their 2021 NFL campaign against the Cleveland Browns on September 12 and the 2018 MVP feels he is ready to go.

"If there was a game [today], I'd be able to play in it, I think,'' said Mahomes.

"There's still stuff I'm going to have to work through. I have to continue to rehab, continue to keep strengthening that stuff.

"But it's good to be able to get out there earlier than the schedule had me and be able to get some work in.''

Mahomes led the NFL in passing yards per game with 316.0 in 2020, well clear of Deshaun Watson (301.4) in second.

Watson's Houston Texans were the only team in the league to produce more passing plays of 20 yards or more (70 to 69) and more touchdown throws of at least 20 yards (16 to 15).

The Chiefs ranked 12th in rushing yards per attempt (4.46), but were in the top 10 for rushes of 10 yards or more with 57.

Mahomes has previously said he wants the Chiefs to become the first team in history to finish a season 20-0 following the NFL's expanded regular-season schedule.

"I believe the question I was asked is, what record did I want to break?'' Mahomes said. "To me, records don't mean anything if you're not winning that last game at the end of the season.

"It's about going in every single week with the mindset that we're trying to win, we're going to win. And at the end of the day whatever the record is, if it's 20-0 or wherever it is, you win that last game of the season and you're going to be happy with whatever happened earlier in the season.

"People get all hyped up about saying 20-0 because you have to take it one week at a time, but at the end of the day you want to continue to win every single week. I'm not going into the season hoping I lose any games."

Collin Morikawa carded a six-under-par 66 to claim a one-stroke lead before bad weather halted the opening round of the Memorial Tournament.

Thunderstorms forced a weather-hit day one to be suspended at Muirfield Village, where Morikawa managed to set the early pace before play was stopped on Thursday.

Morikawa – last year's US PGA Championship winner – was almost flawless in Dublin, Ohio after holing seven birdies and just one bogey.

A run of three consecutive birdies and four in five to start his back nine sent Morikawa to the top of the leaderboard, just ahead of fellow American Adam Long.

"It was definitely the rain," Morikawa said. "The greens were soft enough and they're receptive. But you have to hit the fairway. Out here, wet rough, it's not going to help when the rough is pretty long.

Bo Hoag, Nick Taylor, Xander Schauffele and Rafa Cabrera Bello also completed their rounds and ended the day two strokes off the pace, while defending champion Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are among a group a shot further back at three under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion and 2018 Memorial Tournament winner Bryson DeChambeau – gearing up for his upcoming title defence at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego this month – was two under through three holes at the time of the suspension.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth also completed three holes – one under – when play was called off, while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who won the PGA Tour event in 2014, did complete his round following a one-over-par 73.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy will return to finish his round early on Friday after going one over through two holes in wet conditions.

Few teams have ever entered the NBA playoffs with more uncertainty and intrigue than the 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets.

On the surface, it's almost unfathomable to consider a team that finished just one game back of the conference's best record could have so many questions marks, but when their three star players appeared in just eight games together in the regular season – and only one (ONE!) contest since the middle of February – it's not difficult to see why there were so many unknowns.

During the regular season, the Nets' power trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving appeared on the court together for just over three and a half hours. By comparison, the last 'Big three' Durant was a part of – the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors – he, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson played over 23 hours together during the regular season. The Warriors' threesome reached the 200-minute mark before the calendar flipped to November, so the Durant-Harden-Irving trio are essentially in early season mode – and again, they only appeared in one game together over the season's final two months.

So with all eyes on Brooklyn in their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, it took all of one game for the trio to find their chemistry.

The Nets got past a Celtics team playing without their second-leading scorer in Jaylen Brown in the playoff opener, though it wasn't exactly an offensive showcase. Brooklyn led by just three points five minutes into the fourth quarter before Durant, Harden and Irving scored 19 of the team's final 22 points to lead the Nets to a 104-93 win.

After passing their first test, the offense aced their last four in dispatching the Celtics in five games, with Boston needing an exceptional 50-point performance from Jayson Tatum in Game 3 to avoid being swept.

In the final four games of the series, the Nets averaged 143.3 points per 100 possessions when Durant, Irving and Harden were together on the court – a total of 105 minutes, 56 seconds. As a team, Brooklyn shot 56.8 per cent from the field and 52.1 from three-point range to go with an eFG percentage of 67.2 and a 28.7 assist rate when the three played together.

This came after their Game 1 tuneup as Brooklyn had an offensive rating of 113.4 in the 23 minutes 48 seconds the three were together on the court, shot 48.7 per cent from the floor, made five of 20 three-point attempts, had a 55.1 eFG percentage and 19.6 assist rate.

The offense has been playing on another level since then, averaging 128.3 points and a coveted 50-40-90 shooting percentage slash line – 51.6 per cent from the field, 47.4 from three-point range and 91.7 on free throws.

They are the first team since the advent of the three-pointer in the 1979-80 season to score at least 115 points, hit at least 15 3-point shots and make at least 20 free throws in four straight games. That's including the regular season, not just four straight games in a single playoff series or four games in a row in a single postseason – all games.

The Nets held an offensive clinic in a 141-126 Game 4 win on Sunday, shooting 57.8 per cent while making 17 of 27 shots from beyond the arc (59.3 per cent) and 29 of 30 foul shots (96.7). In the process, Durant scored 42 and made all 11 of his free throw attempts while Irving added 39 and converted all 11 of his foul shots, making them the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to score 35 or more points while going 10 of 10 or better from the free-throw line in a game – regular or postseason.

All Harden did in that one was dish out 18 assists – his most for any game, regular or postseason – and score 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

In the five games against Boston, Durant averaged 32.6 points, Harden 27.8 and Irving 24.8. Their combined average of 85.2 points is the most by any trio in any playoff series all-time – one more than Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso averaged for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962 Western Division Finals.

With Durant, Harden and Irving together, Brooklyn is able to create scoring opportunities by spacing the floor, which is paying dividends for Harden.

In the last four playoff games, Harden made 51.5 per cent of the jump shots (17 of 33) he took from 15 feet or more from the hoop – the fifth highest rate in the league among the 35 players with a minimum of 25 such shots since May 25. He made just 37.1 per cent of such shots during the regular season to rank 125th out of 192 players with a minimum of 200 attempts..

The jump shot, meanwhile, has long been a friend of Durant, and he has been knocking down his jumpers at an astounding clip since Game 1.

Among those with a minimum of 25 jump shots attempted from 15 feet or more from the hoop since May 25, Durant leads all shooters by connecting on 61.4 per cent of his shots (27 of 44). His 6.8 made jump shots from 15 or more feet out are only just behind the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic at 7.0 for tops in the league since May 25. This came after Durant shot 46.9 per cent on these same jumpers and averaged 4.1 makes per game during the regular season.

With Harden proving to be a more efficient scorer away from the basket, defences now must respect his jump shot. The problem is, he's still as dangerous as ever to drive and either dish it out – his 17 assists to Durant are the second most by any one player to a team-mate this postseason behind Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo's 18 assists to Nickola Jokic – or finish at the rim.

Harden is connecting on 73.7 per cent of his 19 layup attempts this postseason after converting 58.4 per cent of them in the regular season. Like Harden, Irving is also successfully finishing at the hoop, making 60.9 per cent of his 23 layup attempts.

Brooklyn's Big three has quickly established a cohesiveness on the court and looks every bit of the offensive juggernaut many envisioned was possible when the team acquired Harden back in January.

One criticism against the Nets all season has been their defense – or lack thereof. The counterpoint to that is that it doesn't matter how many points you give up as long as you score more. And with Durant, Harden, Irving and the Brooklyn offense firing on all cylinders, the Nets certainly have the capability to pile up more points than anyone.

This theory will be put to the test Saturday when Brooklyn open their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Milwaukee Bucks – the only team to outscore the Nets in the regular season with a 120.1 scoring average.

Roger Federer took "a lot of confidence" from his four-set win over Marin Cilic as he produced his best display of the year at the French Open.

The 39-year-old beat the 2014 US Open champion 6-2 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Thursday, building on his first-round defeat of Denis Istomin with an impressive performance.

Federer looked in command in the first set but lost rhythm in the second amid sharpened play from Cilic and a strange confrontation with the umpire after a time violation warning while receiving serve.

The match was on a knife-edge heading into the third-set tie-break, but Federer was clinical when it mattered, serving out the set with an ace before assuming control again in the fourth.

"[It was a] very good match for me, I thought," said Federer, who will face Dominik Koepfer in round three. "A bit of up-and-downs in the second and third sets.

"The good thing, I feel like I come out of a match like this and I know why it was up and down, and then that I was able to attain a solid level once he did break back in the third set and things were looking dangerous for me.

"That I was able to step up a gear, stay with him, and then pull away from him, I think that gives me a lot of confidence."

DJOKOVIC AND NADAL IN CRUISE CONTROL

World number one Novak Djokovic is another who is finding his feet on the Paris dirt, the 2016 champion beating clay specialist Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2 6-4.

Djokovic, who will face Ricardas Berankis next after his win over James Duckworth, struck 31 winners as he moved to 22-3 for the year with his 350th grand slam match win.

"I'm playing well, feeling great. I'm ready to go deep in this tournament," he said. "Hopefully, that's going to be the case."

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was in imperious form in the late match, dispatching Richard Gasquet 6-0 7-5 6-2.

Nadal, who turned 35 on Thursday, won the opening seven games in under half an hour in a largely one-sided contest as he improved to 17-0 against the Frenchman, the most one-sided head-to-head of his career.

The Spaniard, who has not even dropped a set to Gasquet since 2008, said of winning once again in three: "I honestly don't complain at all! The main thing for me is to feel myself play well.

"In theory, it's better to save some energy, but at the same time, sometimes when you are pushed at the beginning of a tournament, you went through some tough moments, that helps a lot for the next rounds.

"It happened for me in Rome like this. I had some tough challenges at the beginning of the tournament, and then you get to the quarters, semis and final and you know you're going to suffer and you're more ready for the situation."

MONFLIS OUT, KWON EYEING SLICE OF HISTORY

Cameron Norrie continued the British interest in the French capital, recovering from a set down to defeat Lloyd Harris and reach round three for the first time, and will face Nadal next.

In a mixed day for the seeded players, Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini advanced in straight sets while Jannik Sinner beat compatriot Gianluca Mager 6-1 7-5 3-6 6-3.

However, Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev was beaten in four sets by veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber, while 21st seed Alex De Minaur lost in four sets to Marco Cecchinato.

There was also disappointment for home favourite Gael Monfils. The 14th seed was beaten 6-0 2-6 6-4 6-3 by Mikael Ymer, the world number 105.

However, Thursday saw a moment to remember for Kwon Soon-woo, who reached round three of a major for the first time with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Seppi. He is bidding to become the first South Korean player to get to round four at Roland Garros.

There were impressive wins as well for teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz Garfica, who beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in straight sets to secure a meeting with Jan-Lennard Struff.

Rafael Nadal stormed into the third round of the French Open with a straight-sets defeat of Richard Gasquet under the floodlights in Paris.

Gasquet, the final French player in either the men's or women's draws, offered some resistance after a terrible start but succumbed 6-0 7-5 6-2 in two hours and 14 minutes.

Nadal has now beaten Gasquet in all 17 of their meetings on Tour, with the Frenchman falling to a Spaniard for the second tournament running, having lost 6-1 6-1 to Jaume Munar in Parma last month.

The 20-time major singles champion turned 35 on Thursday and seemed eager to go and enjoy what remained of his birthday as he reeled off the first seven games in a row inside half an hour.

Gasquet at last got on the board after a couple of strangely errant forehands from the defending champion, who broke Gasquet again at the third time of asking as he moved 4-1 ahead in the second set.

Gasquet might have dropped to 53 in the rankings, but he offered glimpses of the form that saw him climb as high as seven in the world back in 2008, the one-handed backhand and drop-shot game causing Nadal some problems.

There was a shock when he broke back at 4-5 behind in the second set as Nadal looped another forehand long, but Nadal piled on the pressure at 6-5 and took a 2-0 lead when Gasquet slapped a forehand into the bottom of the net.

A sublime volley and a rasping passing shot saw Gasquet fend off two more break points at 1-2 in the third, but his resistance was finally broken in a mammoth sixth game.

Gasquet's serve deserted him at the wrong moment as he handed Nadal two match points, the second of which was taken via another forehand into the net.

Data Slam: Nadal keeps Gasquet at arm's length

Nadal dropped just seven of 45 points behind his first serve, which averaged speeds of 180km/h, leaving Gasquet with few opportunities to knock the Spaniard off his game.

Such authority meant Gasquet had little chance of snapping his losing streak against Nadal, whose 17 wins from 17 meetings is a career record.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 36/23
Gasquet – 20/37

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 3/3
Gasquet – 2/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 7/16
Gasquet – 1/4

Few teams have ever entered the NBA playoffs with more uncertainty and intrigue than the 2020-21 Brooklyn Nets.

On the surface, it's almost unfathomable to consider a team that finished just one game back of the conference's best record could have so many questions marks, but when its three star players appeared in just eight games together in the regular season – and only one (ONE!) contest since the middle of February – it's not difficult to see why there were so many unknowns.

During the regular season, the Nets' power trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving appeared on the court together for just over three and a half hours. By comparison, the last 'Big 3' Durant was a part of – the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors – he, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson played over 23 hours together during the regular season. The Warriors' threesome reached the 200-minute mark before the calendar flipped to November, so the Durant-Harden-Irving trio are essentially in early season mode – and again, they only appeared in one game together over the season's final two months.

So with all eyes on Brooklyn in its first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, it took all of one game for the trio to find their chemistry.

The Nets got past a Celtics team playing without its second-leading scorer in Jaylen Brown in the playoff opener, though it wasn't exactly an offensive showcase. Brooklyn led by just three points five minutes into the fourth quarter before Durant, Harden and Irving scored 19 of the team's final 22 points to lead the Nets to a 104-93 win.

After passing their first test, the offense aced its last four in dispatching the Celtics in five games, with Boston needing an exceptional 50-point performance from Jayson Tatum in Game 3 to avoid being swept.

In the final four games of the series, the Nets averaged 143.3 points per 100 possessions when Durant, Irving and Harden were together on the court – a total of 105 minutes, 56 seconds. As a team, Brooklyn shot 56.8 per cent from the field and 52.1 from 3-point range to go with an eFG percentage of 67.2 and a 28.7 assist rate when the three played together.

This came after their Game 1 tuneup as Brooklyn had an offensive rating of 113.4 in the 23 minutes 48 seconds the three were together on the court, shot 48.7 per cent from the floor, made five of 20 3-point attempts, had a 55.1 eFG percentage and 19.6 assist rate.

The offense has been playing on another level since then, averaging 128.3 points and a coveted 50-40-90 shooting percentage slash line – 51.6 per cent from the field, 47.4 from 3-point range and 91.7 on free throws.

They are the first team since the advent of the 3-pointer in the 1979-80 season to score at least 115 points, hit at least 15 3-point shots and make at least 20 free throws in four straight games. That's including the regular season, not just four straight games in a single playoff series or four games in a row in a single postseason – all games.

The Nets held an offensive clinic in a 141-126 Game 4 win on Sunday, shooting 57.8 per cent while making 17 of 27 shots from beyond the arc (59.3 per cent) and 29 of 30 foul shots (96.7). In the process, Durant scored 42 and made all 11 of his free throw attempts while Irving added 39 and converted all 11 of his foul shots, making them the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to score 35 or more points while going 10 of 10 or better from the free-throw line in a game – regular or postseason.

All Harden did in that one was dish out 18 assists – his most for any game, regular or postseason – and score 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

In the five games against Boston, Durant averaged 32.6 points, Harden 27.8 and Irving 24.8. Their combined average of 85.2 points is the most by any trio in any playoff series all-time – one more than Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Rudy LaRusso averaged for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962 Western Division Finals.

With Durant, Harden and Irving together, Brooklyn is able to create scoring opportunities by spacing the floor, which is paying dividends for Harden.

In the last four playoff games, Harden made 51.5 per cent of the jump shots (17 of 33) he took from 15 feet or more from the hoop – the fifth highest rate in the league among the 35 players with a minimum of 25 such shots since May 25. He made just 37.1 per cent of such shots during the regular season to rank 125th out of 192 players with a minimum of 200 attempts..

The jump shot, meanwhile, has long been a friend of Durant, and he has been knocking down his jumpers at an astounding clip since Game 1.

Among those with a minimum of 25 jump shots attempted from 15 feet or more from the hoop since May 25, Durant leads all shooters by connecting on 61.4 per cent of his shots (27 of 44). His 6.8 made jump shots from 15 or more feet out are only just behind the Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic at 7.0 for tops in the league since May 25. This came after Durant shot 46.9 per cent on these same jumpers and averaged 4.1 makes per game during the regular season.

With Harden proving to be a more efficient scorer away from the basket, defences now must respect his jump shot. The problem is, he's still as dangerous as ever to drive and either dish it out – his 17 assists to Durant are the second most by any one player to a team-mate this postseason behind Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo's 18 assists to Nickola Jokic – or finish at the rim.

Harden is connecting on 73.7 per cent of his 19 layup attempts this postseason after converting 58.4 per cent of them in the regular season. Like Harden, Irving is also successfully finishing at the hoop, making 60.9 per cent of his 23 layup attempts.

Brooklyn's Big 3 has quickly established a cohesiveness on the court and looks every bit of the offensive juggernaut many envisioned was possible when the team acquired Harden back in January.

One criticism against the Nets all season has been their defense – or lack thereof. The counterpoint to that is that it doesn't matter how many points you give up as long as you score more. And with Durant, Harden, Irving and the Brooklyn offense firing on all cylinders, the Nets certainly have the capability to pile up more points than anyone.

This theory will be put to the test Saturday when Brooklyn opens its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Milwaukee Bucks – the only team to outscore the Nets in the regular season with a 120.1 scoring average.

Ashleigh Barty described her retirement from Thursday's second-round clash against Magda Linette at the French Open as "heartbreaking". 

Top seed Barty required medical attention during her first-round win over Bernarda Pera two days earlier, with a hip injury the cause for concern.

The 25-year-old – back at Roland Garros for the first time since winning her maiden grand slam title in Paris in 2019 – vowed to "play through the pain barrier", yet the injury prevented her from continuing when 1-6 2-2 down against her Polish opponent, who will face Ons Jabeur in the next round. 

The Australian's retirement throws the draw wide open, with both of the top seeds now out after Naomi Osaka decided to withdraw amid her disagreement with tournament organisers.

Barty's clay-court season ended with a title in Stuttgart, a runner-up finish in Madrid and an appearance in the quarter-finals in Rome, and she could scarcely hide her disappointment at the way things ended for her in the French capital. 

"It's heartbreaking," she told a media conference. "I mean, we have had such a brilliant clay-court season, and to get a little bit unlucky with timing and have something acute happen over the weekend and just kind of run out of time against the clock is disappointing. 

"It won't take away the brilliant three months that we have had, as much as it hurts right now.

"We did everything, absolutely everything we could to give myself a chance. It was a small miracle that we were able to get on court for that first round.

"I just tried to give myself a chance and see how it felt. Obviously practicing, we've had our restrictions and essentially tried to stay as fresh as possible and not aggravate it in any way, but in a match that's unavoidable at times.

"It got worse today and it was becoming at the stage where it was unsafe. As hard as it is, it had to be done. Right from the first game, I was battling the pain, and it just became too severe."

SVITOLINA CRUISES THROUGH, PLISKOVA DUMPED OUT

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina booked a third-round meeting with Barbora Krejcikova after seeing off Ann Li 6-0 6-4. 

Svitolina landed 74 per cent of her first serves and struck 10 winners to cruise past the American in the opening set. 

Li bounced back in the second, roaring into a 4-1 lead, but Svitolina clawed her way back to ensure she reached at least the third round in seven of her nine appearances at Roland Garros. 

Svitolina, who overturned a 2-5 deficit in the second set to beat Oceane Babel in the first round, said: "In the end, what I'm really happy with is the way that I was down in both matches in the second set and found a way. 

"I found a good level and didn't give up on the second set. That was a really good point for me, and I was really playing composed in both matches. It was two different players, but I was really happy that I could win in two sets in both matches."

Up next is Krejcikova, who overcame Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2 6-3.

There is no place in the third round for ninth seed Karolina Pliskova, who was soundly beaten 7-5 6-1 by Sloane Stephens, while number 13 seed Jennifer Brady battled past Fiona Ferro 6-1 1-6 6-4. 

KENIN WINS BATTLE OF THE AMERICANS

Fourth seed Sofia Kenin defeated fellow American Hailey Baptiste, a qualifier who won four matches in Paris on her French Open debut, 7-5 6-3. 

Kenin will now face another compatriot in 28th seed Jessica Pegula, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-3 6-3.

Elsewhere, defending champion Iga Swiatek thumped Rebecca Peterson 6-1 6-1, Coco Gauff got the better of Wang Qiang 6-3 7-6 (7-1), and Elise Mertens edged out Zarina Diyas 6-4 2-6 6-4.

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