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Djokovic able to play at US Open as vaccine mandate set to end

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World number one Novak Djokovic will be able to compete at the U.S. Open this year after the U.S. government said on Monday it will end its COVID-19 vaccination requirements for international travellers on May 11.

Djokovic, one of the most high-profile athletes unvaccinated against COVID-19, missed the U.S. Open in 2022 due to his vaccine status.

The 35-year-old Serb was unable to enter the country this year after unsuccessfully applying to the U.S. government for special permission to play at Indian Wells and Miami.

Djokovic missed last year’s Australian Open and was deported from the country due to his vaccine status and has said he would skip Grand Slams rather than have a COVID shot.  

Djokovic has won three of his 22 major titles at the U.S. Open. The hardcourt Grand Slam will be held from Aug. 28-Sept. 10 this year.

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Five US women in top 15 in the world for first time in two decades

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 Coco Gauff of the United States returns a shot during her match against Emma Navarro of the United States (not shown) on day seven of The Championships at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo 

Five players from the United States are ranked in the Women’s Tennis Association’s top 15 for the first time in two decades, the USTA said on Monday.

World number two Coco Gauff led the American charge followed by sixth-ranked Jessica Pegula and Danielle Collins, who climbed two spots to ninth on the list amid a remarkable farewell season.

Madison Keys was ranked 14th while Emma Navarro hopped two spots to a career-high 15th after reaching her first major quarter-final at Wimbledon.

The last time five American women featured in the top 15 was May 24, 2004, when Lindsay Davenport was fourth in the world

-Reuters

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Venus Williams among sporting figures to get own Barbie doll

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 Venus Williams poses with a Barbie doll, in Puerto Rico in this undated handout image. Mattel/WME Sports Studio/Handout via REUTERS

Seven-times Grand Slam champion Venus Williams and Australian soccer player Mary Fowler are among nine athletes to get a Barbie doll in their likeness as toy maker Mattel seeks to shine a light on women sports role models ahead of the Paris Olympics.

Mattel unveiled the dolls on Wednesday, each with their bespoke accessories. Fowler’s wears gloves and holds a football while Williams’ doll, dressed in an all white tennis dress and visor as well as wearing earrings, comes with a miniature racket.

The former world number one said she hoped to motivate young girls into sports with the doll.

“I literally can’t imagine my life without sports and without the game,” Williams said in a video, in which she held the doll.

“I want other young girls to have that invaluable experience of playing a sport and what it teaches you and what you learn and what you take from it, not just that moment (but) for the rest of your life… I think it’s so important for girls to be in sports.”

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Other sports figures to have a doll in their likeness include French boxer Estelle Mossely, Polish sprinter Ewa Swoboda, Spanish doctor and paratriathlon athlete Susana Rodriguez, Italian former swimmer Federica Pellegrini, Canadian soccer player Christine Sinclair as well as Mexican and Brazilian gymnasts, Alexa Moreno and Rebeca Andrade.

The dolls, unveiled as Barbie turns 65 this year, “(recognise) the impact of sport in fostering self-confidence and ambition among the next generation”, Krista Berger, senior vice president of Barbie and Mattel’s Global Head of Dolls, said.

“By shining a light on these inspirational athletes and their stories, we hope to champion the belief that every young girl deserves the opportunity to pursue her passions and turn her dreams into reality,” she said in a statement.

-Reuters

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Serena Williams to host 2024 ESPYs in July

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Serena Williams poses at the Met Gala, an annual fundraising gala held for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute with this year's theme 'Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion' in New York City, New York, U.S., May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Tennis great Serena Williams will host the 2024 ESPYs in July, ESPN announced on Tuesday.

The 23-times Grand Slam champion, who retired after the 2022 U.S. Open and is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, will take the stage July 11 at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

“This is a dream come true for me, and something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember,” Williams, 42, said in an ESPN news release.

“It has been a sensational year for sports and an unprecedented one for female athletes. I can’t wait to celebrate everyone on-stage in July.”

The ESPYs, which are co-produced by ESPN and Full Day Productions, commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major athletic achievements, reliving unforgettable moments, and saluting the leading performers and performances.

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-Reuters

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