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TENNIS

The top men’s tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, spent Orthodox Christmas in an immigration detention hotel in Australia on Friday as he sought to fend off deportation over the country’s COVID-19 rules and compete in the Australian Open.

Djokovic received calls from his native Serbia, including from his parents and the president, who hoped to boost his spirits on the holiday.

The 34-year-old athlete and vaccine skeptic was barred from entering the country late Wednesday when federal border authorities at the Melbourne airport rejected his medical exemption to Australia’s strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

He has been confined to the detention hotel in Melbourne pending a court hearing on Monday, a week before the start of the tournament, where he is seeking to win his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title.

GOLF

Long considered the biggest event in women’s golf, the U.S. Women’s Open now has prize money and future sites to match.

The U.S. Golf Association announced Friday the purse will nearly double this year to $10 million, by far the richest in women’s golf and challenging top prizes in women’s sports. The purse was $5.5 million when Yuka Saso won at Olympic Club last year.

Helping to make it possible was the USGA bringing on a presenting sponsor – Ohio-based PreMedica, a not-for-profit integrated health organization serving 28 states.

Along with a massive jump in money, the USGA is sending the women to some of the classic U.S. Open designs that for decades have hosted the men. That list includes a return to Oakmont and Pinehurst No. 2, along with Riviera, Oakland Hills, Merion, Inverness and Interlachen.

FIGURE SKATING

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Two-time champion Alysa Liu withdrew from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday, less than a day after a third-place finish in the short program put her in position to make the Olympic team.

The 16-year-old Liu is at least the fifth competitor to test positive for the virus in the run-up and during nationals, and the third that was expected to make the team for the Beijing Games. The pairs tandem of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier dropped out the day before the start of competition when he returned a positive test.

Just like Knierim and Frazier, who plan to petition for one of the two pairs spots on the Olympic team, Liu has informed U.S. Figure Skating she will petition for one of the three women’s spots based on her body of recent work.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Former Texas quarterback Casey Thompson, who started 10 games and passed for 24 touchdowns in 2021, announced Friday that he will transfer to Nebraska.

Thompson was a backup to Hudson Card for the first two games at Texas before taking over the starting role. He went 4-6 as the starter and passed for 2,113 yards. Texas finished 5-7 in a season that included the program’s first five-game losing streak since 1956.

The Oklahoma City native will be a graduate transfer. He announced the move on social media.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

MURRAY, Ky. (AP) – Murray State will become the 11th member of the Missouri Valley Conference on July 1.

University officials announced Friday the Board of Regents accepted an invitation from the Missouri Valley Conference and will be leaving the Ohio Valley Conference.

The MVC does not include football or rifle, so Murray State is working to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference in that sport. Murray State’s rifle program, which is sixth in the nation, will continue competing in the Ohio Valley Conference.

WNBA

NEW YORK (AP) – The New York Liberty hired Sandy Brondello as their new coach on Friday.

Brondello led the Mercury to the WNBA Finals this year, and then parted ways with the team in the offseason. She had a 150-108 record in eight seasons with Phoenix, making the playoffs every year.

She replaces Walt Hopkins, who left the Liberty last month after helping the team reach the playoffs.

New York lost to Brondello’s Mercury in the first round on a last-second shot.

SAILING

The American Magic sailing team rejoined forces with the New York Yacht Club on Friday to announce a challenge for the America’s Cup, although it will be without auto racing titan Roger Penske as one of its principals.

Penske, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well as Team Penske, had been one of three principals for American Magic during the 2021 America’s Cup. The U.S. team suffered a catastrophic capsize and was eliminated from the challenger trials without winning a race.

Principals Doug DeVos – co-chairman of Amway – and Hap Fauth will continue to back American Magic.

HOCKEY

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) – The Western Hockey League suspended activities for 15 teams Friday and postponed eight games because of COVID-19 concerns.

The major junior league said Friday that the affected teams – the Calgary Hitmen, Edmonton Oil Kings, Everett Silvertips, Kamloops Blazers, Medicine Hat Tigers, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders, Prince George Cougars, Red Deer Rebels, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Spokane Chiefs, Tri-City Americans, Victoria Royals and Winnipeg Ice – have had players and staff added to the COVID-19 protocols list because of symptoms or positive tests.

The WHL cleared the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Swift Current Broncos to resume all team activities.

SOCCER

BORDEAUX, France (AP) – Marseille ended a 44-year wait and finally defeated Bordeaux away in the French league on Friday.

Cengiz Under’s first-half strike was enough for the visitors’ 1-0 win, Marseille’s first in Bordeaux since October 1977.

The home team was without a host of players due to coronavirus infections and injuries, while Marseille was without Steve Mandanda, Alvaro Gonzalez, Valentin Rongier and Arkadiusz Milik. Midfielder Pape Gueye and forward Bamba Dieng are at the African Cup.

ST. LOUIS (AP) – Florida State senior midfielder Jaelin Howell won the Hermann Trophy for the second straight year Friday night as the top women’s college soccer player and Georgetown junior midfielder Dante Polvara took the men’s award.

Howell, from Lone Tree, Colorado, had three goals and four assists in 23 games last season for the national champion Seminoles. She’s the sixth repeat female winner of the award conducted by the Missouri Athletic Club, following Mia Hamm, Cindy Parlow, Christine Sinclair, Morgan Brian, and Catarina Macario.

Howell edged Brigham Young senior midfielder Mikayla Colohan and Santa Clara senior forward Kelsey Turnbow in voting by coaches.

Polvara, from Pleasantville, New York, had seven goals and six assists in 22 games.

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