Tokyo Olympics Recap: Biles put 'mental health first' with withdrawal, Osaka suffers shock defeat

By Sports Desk July 27, 2021

Simone Biles said she had put her "mental health first" after missing out on adding a fifth Olympic gold medal to her collection following an early withdrawal from the women’s team final.

The 24-year-old gymnastics icon revealed she was “dealing with things internally” after a disappointing performance on the vault.

Biles posted the lowest score of the first rotation on Tuesday as she landed awkwardly after failing to execute an Amanar, while only completing a Yurchenko 1.5 twist.

After she subsequently withdrew, Team USA had to settle for a silver medal behind the Russian Olympic Committee while Great Britain completed the podium.

Biles admitted that she was "fighting demons", explaining: "I just don't trust myself as much as I used to. I don't know if it's age. I'm a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I'm also not having as much fun."

She added: "I say, 'put mental health first'. Because if you don't, you won't enjoy sport and won't succeed as much as you want to.

"So it's okay sometimes to sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong a competitor and person that you really are, rather than just battling through it."


OSAKA STUNNED

The big names continue to tumble in the women’s singles tennis event, with second seed Naomi Osaka defeated in straight sets.

The home favourite, who lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday, was denied a place in the quarter-finals after being ousted 6-1 6-4 by world number 42 Marketa Vondrousova.

This event marked Osaka’s first competitive tennis in two months since her early withdrawal from the French Open at the end of May, citing mental health issues.

The world number two is the latest of the big names to fall at the Tokyo Games, with top seed Ash Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka also suffering early exits.

"Of course, it's one of the biggest wins of my career," Vondrousova said. "Naomi is a great player, so I knew it would be a tough match. 

“I'm very happy with my play. I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I'm just happy to be through."

 


ARGENTINA RECOVER TO SEE OFF SPRINGBOKS

Argentina recovered from a dreadful start to beat South Africa and book their place in the rugby seven semi-finals.

Trailing 7-0 after just under two minutes, the Pumas were then reduced to six men when Gaston Revol - who was reduced to tears - was shown a straight red card.

Nevertheless, they demonstrated tremendous resilience and character before eventually running out 19-14 winners.

Argentina will play Fiji in the last four after the reigning Olympic champions swept Australia aside 19-0.

Great Britain stormed back from 21-0 down to beat the USA, scoring four tries to secure a dramatic 26-21 victory.

Team GB will play New Zealand, who eased to a 21-10 success over Canada.

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    Simona Halep believes she is playing her best tennis since winning Wimbledon in 2019 after returning to the All England Club semi-finals.

    The former world number one is enjoying her first SW19 campaign since that triumph three years ago, with the coronavirus pandemic and a calf injury delaying her return.

    The final in 2019 was Halep's fifth at a major, but she has not been back to that stage since.

    Now, having swatted aside Amanda Anisimova 6-2 6-4 in the last eight for a 12th consecutive victory at Wimbledon – the longest sequence since 20 straight Serena Williams successes between 2015 and 2018 – she is just one win away.

    Halep explained after the Anisimova match that confidence was key, having proven her game was back at a high level in reaching six semi-finals in 2022 – second only to Iga Swiatek (eight) on the WTA Tour.

    Three of those last-four appearances have now been on grass, with Johanna Konta in 2017 the last player to achieve that feat in a calendar year.

    "Definitely I've played the best tennis [since 2019]," Halep said in her on-court interview. "I struggled a lot last year; now, I'm just trying to build my confidence back.

    "The tennis is here, so I just have to believe. I've started to do that, and it feels good."

    Asked how high her confidence was now, she replied with a smile: "It's good."

    Halep has reached the last four without dropping a set, although that spotless record was briefly threatened by Anisimova, who was a double break down in the second set before breaking back and then leading 40-0 on the Romanian's serve.

    Yet Halep dug in to serve out the match and avoid a decider against an opponent with a Tour-leading 12 three-set wins this season.

    "I'm very emotional right now, because it means a lot to be back in the semis," Halep said.

    "I played a tough opponent today; she could crash the ball in the end, and I didn't know actually what to do.

    "But I just believed in myself and said that I had to stay there, strong on my legs – they helped me today – and I believed until the end that I could win."

  • Wimbledon: Rybakina sets up Halep semi-final with Tomljanovic triumph Wimbledon: Rybakina sets up Halep semi-final with Tomljanovic triumph

    Elena Rybakina sealed her first grand slam semi-final appearance in impressive fashion as she recovered from a set down to beat Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 6-2 6-3 in Wimbledon's last eight. 

    Rybakina was on the back foot after going a set and a break down on No. 1 Court, but the big-serving 23-year-old quickly shifted through the gears to claim a routine triumph and tee up a last-four clash with Simona Halep.

    In doing so, she became the first female Kazakh player to reach a grand slam semi-final in the Open Era, with players from the country having lost on each of their previous eight major quarter-final appearances.

    Tomljanovic made a terrific start, moving well and winning 85 per cent of first-serve points as she built on a third-game break to take the opener with an impressive showing.

    But after being put under pressure by another Tomljanovic break, Rybakina came roaring back to level the contest, winning 11 consecutive points to clinch the second set as the momentum swung her way.

    A reinvigorated Rybakina broke again early in the decider as she took seven successive games and, although she had to wait to seal victory after the duo traded breaks, eventually converted her second match point to continue her best Wimbledon run.

    Data Slam: Rybakina serves up a treat

    Rybakina came into this contest having served more aces than any other player on the WTA circuit in 2022 (197), and Tomljanovic was powerless to resist as she hit another 15 on Wednesday.

    The 23-year-old has now made (44) aces at Wimbledon this year, more than any other female player.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Tomljanovic 14/21
    Rybakina 34/28

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Tomljanovic 1/1
    Rybakina 15/1

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Tomljanovic 3/9
    Rybakina 5/9

  • Wimbledon: Halep halts Anisimova to reach semis on grass again Wimbledon: Halep halts Anisimova to reach semis on grass again

    Simona Halep's remarkable return to Wimbledon continued with a 6-2 6-4 win over Amanda Anisimova on Centre Court to reach the semi-finals.

    Former world number one Halep took the title at the All England Club in 2019 but had not been back since, with coronavirus wrecking the 2020 grass-court season before she missed its entirety in 2021 due to injury.

    But it is as if the 30-year-old – backed by new coach Patrick Mouratoglou – had never been away, with Anisimova the victim of a ruthless display on Wednesday.

    Anisimova might have hoped the omens were positive, given her only prior quarter-final win in a major came against Halep at the 2019 French Open, but she could hardly have been surprised by her opponent's dominance on this surface; Halep beat Anisimova in the last eight in Bad Homburg last month.

    The American soon bowed to the pressure generated by Halep's return, losing five games in a row after initially holding to love. Halep seized her first two break point opportunities as Anisimova twice aimed tired shots into the net from the back of the court.

    A cross-court backhand from Halep fended off Anisimova's first opening, ensuring the Romanian eased through the opener before the second set followed a familiar theme.

    Anisimova held comfortably to start but then again found Halep resolute, falling 0-40 down and eventually going a break behind with a wayward forehand. Once more it was a double break when an Anisimova drop shot fell some way short.

    Anisimova belatedly forced Halep back as she served for the match, taking the second of two break points and then remarkably claiming a 40-0 lead against the serve next time out.

    However, Halep, having briefly lost control, recovered her composure and was able to celebrate when Anisimova blasted wide.

    Data slam: Anisimova helpless against Halep on grass

    Anisimova has won 12 matches in three sets this season, the joint-most on the WTA Tour, but a fightback always appeared unlikely against her imperious opponent.

    After almost three years away from competitive grass-court action, Halep has returned in formidable form. In three tournaments on grass in 2022, she has reached three semi-finals. The last player to make a trio of such appearances in a single calendar year was Johanna Konta in 2017.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Halep – 11/6
    Anisimova – 13/28

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Halep – 3/1
    Anisimova – 0/1

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Halep – 4/6
    Anisimova – 1/8 

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