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Sofia Kenin Emerges as a Fierce Counterpuncher Against Coco Gauff



Gauff is remarkable even if the perils are clear. She and her family have said that she intends to be the greatest, and that they do not want to limit her horizons or ability to dream big.

The keys will be to avoid getting ahead of themselves, to take delight in the process instead of fixating on distant goals and to keep drawing lines between family life and professional life even with Gauff’s father, Corey, as a coach.

It will not be easy, particularly as the money rolls in, but Gauff and her team appear to be off to a fine start, limiting her interviews and putting the accent on the positive.

“I’m definitely going to savor this and continue to kind of build and get better to work for moments like this, moments like that last match,” she said, referring to her upset of Osaka. “Even today, even though I lost, I still had a lot of fun.”

Gauff has played in three Grand Slam tournaments in singles, reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon, the third round of the United States Open and the fourth round in Melbourne.

She will be ranked just outside the Top 50 next week, but will be allowed to play only one more tour event before turning 16, on March 13. She said that would be at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. But she is also permitted to play Fed Cup, the women’s team event, and could be selected to play for the United States when it faces Latvia in a World Group qualifying match in Everett, Wash., near Seattle on Feb. 7 and 8.

Kenin would like to be part of that team as well, and said that making the Olympic team was high on her list of goals for 2020. She is fast approaching the Top 10, and if she can defeat Ons Jabeur, 25, a flashy and unseeded shotmaker from Tunisia, in the quarterfinals, she will become the second-ranked American, behind only Serena Williams.

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Madison Bumgarner uses a fake name to regularly participate in rodeos; Diamondbacks say they were unaware



Madison Bumgarner has a unique hobby outside of baseball, The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan have discovered. The three-time World Series champ and new Arizona Diamondbacks ace competes in rodeo shows under the secret alias “Mason Saunders.”

After coming across a congratulatory photo posted on a rodeo show’s Facebook page, Baggarly and Buchanan recognized one of the winners as Bumgarner. The 2014 World Series MVP was photographed with roping professional Jaxson Tucker, and both ultimately ended up walking away with a total of $26,550 in prize money. Here’s more from The Athletic:

The photo was one of several posted on Rancho Rio’s Facebook Page this past December, and the accompanying congratulatory caption identifies the pair as Jaxson Tucker and Mason Saunders. Tucker is a rodeo pro out of North Carolina. Saunders is also a North Carolinian, although you probably know him by a different name. The grinning man in that photo, despite the image’s fuzziness, is instantly recognizable to many who don’t know a thing about roping.

“Oh boy,” Bumgarner said Sunday when shown the photo. “This is ruining my alias.”

Yes, that was him in the photo and another one showing him competing on horseback, Bumgarner confirmed after throwing a live bullpen session Sunday at Salt River Fields. It was taken Dec. 3, a little less than two weeks before he signed his five-year, $85-million contract with the Diamondbacks. “They don’t always take pictures,” he added. “That was a bigger one.” A few days later, “Mason Saunders” earned a second-place finish in another event alongside a different partner, Ranger Hill.

Bumgarner, 30, told The Athletic that he’s been roping since he learned the sport at about age 15 or 16, and interestingly enough, the pitcher uses his right-hand when he’s participating in roping competitions. And, Bumgarner’s reasoning for using a secret alias to compete? Here’s what he told The Athletic:

If he competed as Madison Bumgarner, every phone camera in the arena would be trained on him, he said. So, he devised “Mason Saunders.” The surname is the maiden name of his wife, Ali. “Mason” is a shortened version of Madison, “something for my wife to call me when we were out in public to keep people from recognizing me,” Bumgarner said. “But you’re going to ruin that for me.”

CBS Sports ranked Bumgarner as the sixth best free agent available this winter. After spending 11 years with the San Francisco Giants, the club that drafted him in 2007, Bumgarner signed with the D-Backs this winter, to a five-year, $85 million contract.

Listen to Monday’s Nothing Personal with David Samson for more on Bumgarner’s off-field alias. 

Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen told reporters the team was unaware of Bumgarner’s rodeo activities when he signed. Via 

“Madison is a grown man and we know he’s committed to helping us achieve our goals as a team,” Hazen said. “Those have been the conversations that we’ve had, from the time we first talked to him until very recently.”

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Sabrina Ionescu Comes Up Big in Moments On and Off the Court



Monday was an eventful day for Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, as the star point guard spoke at the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Los Angeles before traveling north to record a triple-double in a win at Stanford.

The presumed No. 1 over all pick in this year’s W.N.B.A. draft, Ionescu is looking increasingly like the future face of women’s basketball.

A star basketball player for the University of Oregon for the last four seasons, Ionescu became even more well known when she spoke at Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s memorial service in Los Angeles on Monday.

Kobe and Gianna went to an Oregon game and met Ionescu afterward. They remained in touch, and Ionescu worked out with Gianna and texted with Kobe, who offered basketball advice.

“I grew up watching Kobe Bryant, game after game, ring after ring. Living his greatness without apology. I wanted to be just like him.”

“His vision for others is always bigger than they imagine for themselves. His vision for me was way bigger than my own.”

“I wanted to be part of the generation that changed basketball with Gigi and her teammates. Where being born female didn’t mean being born behind. Where greatness isn’t divided by gender.”

“I still text him even though he’s not here: ‘Thank you for everything. The rest is for you. Rest easy my guy.’ The last one I sent him said: ‘I miss you. May you rest in peace my dear friend.’ The texts go through, but no response. It still feels like he’s there on the other end. That the next time I pick up my phone he would have hit me back.”

Her parents were born in Romania and emigrated in 1990 after the revolution there. Sabrina was born in California and was one of the most coveted high school recruits in basketball, choosing Oregon.

A 5-foot-11 point guard, she won gold medals with the American under-17 and under-23 teams. At Oregon, she was the college national freshman of the year. As a sophomore, she was named point guard of the year, and as a junior last season she repeated as point guard of the year while also winning both the Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, which are presented annually to the top collegiate player.

She has been racking up the statistical achievements. She has more triple-doubles, 26, than any collegian, male or female. She holds Oregon’s career records in points, assists and 3-pointers. She surpassed Gary Payton as the Pac-12’s career assists leader.

When she arrived at Oregon, the team had not made the N.C.A.A. tournament in 12 years. With Ionescu in the lineup, Oregon made the final eight of the tournament two straight years and the Final Four last season.

Ionescu flew from the memorial service to Stanford for a game. Oregon won, 74-66, and although she missed the shoot-around and warm-ups, she scored 21 points with 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

She also became the first player to reach 2,000 career points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in a collegiate career.

“That one was for him,” she told ESPN. “To do it on 2-24-20 was huge. I can’t put it into words. He’s looking down and proud of me and happy for this moment with my team.”

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Sabrina Ionescu Pulls Off an N.C.A.A. First Hours After Kobe Bryant Memorial



STANFORD, Calif. — Sabrina Ionescu’s strength inspired her Oregon coaches and teammates all day, from the way she courageously spoke at the memorial service for Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles earlier in the day, then flew back to the Bay Area and took the court shortly after vomiting in the locker room, all before leading the Ducks with yet another brilliant performance on both ends.

And doing something never done before in college basketball, by a man or a woman.

Ionescu became the first player in N.C.A.A. history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds and notched her record 26th career triple-double, too, leading No. 3 Oregon past fourth-ranked Stanford, 74-66, on Monday night.

Ionescu wasn’t made available to the news media for a second straight game, speaking to ESPN on Monday.

“That one was for him. To do it on 2-24-20 was huge,” she told the network. “We talked about it in the preseason. I can’t put it into words. He’s looking down and proud of me and happy for this moment with my team.”

Ionescu hit the milestone on a defensive rebound with 1:47 remaining in the third quarter and finished with 21 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds in her first triple-double against a top-10 opponent and eighth overall this season to help Oregon (26-2, 15-1 Pac-12) clinch at least a share of its third straight Pac-12 regular-season title.

“Incredible. I thought she was so poised and so heartfelt today,” said Coach Kelly Graves, whose wife, Mary, accompanied Ionescu. “At her age and relative limited experience and things like that, I just thought she nailed it. It was amazing, and she wrote that, and that was from her. She’s pretty special in more ways that just what you’re seeing on the court.”

Ionescu also had a triple-double Friday night at California while playing near her East Bay hometown of Walnut Creek, then delivered her eighth career road triple-double for the Ducks on an emotional day just hours after attending the service for Bryant and daughter, Gianna, in Southern California.

“I don’t know many people that could have done what she did today,” Graves said. “I knew this was the way it was going to end tonight for her. I’m glad that it ended in a victory but I knew that she was going to get that. It’s so fitting that she did it tonight.”

Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer wasn’t surprised by Ionescu’s toughness despite her difficult day.

“She’s a player. I didn’t expect anything different than what we saw,” VanDerveer said.

She now has 2,467, 1,041 assists and 1,003 rebounds, helping Oregon secure Monday at least 15 conference wins for a third consecutive season. Ionescu shot 9 for 19, missing her three 3-point attempts. She had plenty of help from Satou Sabally, who scored 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting with four 3-pointers.

“When she came back, we were there for her. It wasn’t the easiest day but she always has our backs so it was our turn to have her back,” Sabally said. “We just lifted her up.”

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry sat on the baseline supporting Ionescu and women’s basketball for the second straight game she played in Northern California after he was in Berkeley with his two daughters Friday night. He watched Oregon run its winning streak to 14 in a row and nine straight on the road.

“You kind of try and hide some of those emotions. To speak was such an honor for me,” Ionescu said. “I tried to do everything I could to hold it together tonight and my team helped me do that.”

The Ducks used a big second half to beat the Cardinal, 87-55, on Jan. 16 in Eugene, then held off a late flurry by Stanford (24-4, 13-3) this time on a night Lexie Hull scored 27 points with six 3-pointers.

The Cardinal had their four-game winning streak snapped with just a second defeat at Maples Pavilion this season.

Oregon jumped out to a 25-10 lead then led 32-22 at halftime after four turnovers late in the second quarter allowed Stanford to stay close.

“I think they’re the No. 1 team in the country. They have all the weapons,” VanDerveer said. “They’ve got great experience. Kelly does a fantastic job with them in terms of they know what they’re doing out there. They’re a very well coached team, they’re a very skilled team. I was disappointed that we honestly didn’t give them a better game.”

Ionescu’s left sneaker had “Mamba Mentality” written on it along with “Forever 24” as well as a “24” on the back.

Curry also attended the service for Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

“I can’t imagine how emotional it was for everyone in that arena. To be at her age with all that she’s got going on and her connection to Kobe and Gigi and to give a speech in front of 19,000 people all mourning was unbelievable,” Curry told ESPN. “She spoke so well. Now she’s out here representing them playing her heart out.

“That’s sustained greatness. She came back her senior year for a reason to get the national championship. She’s blazing a trail no one has stepped foot in.”

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