🎾Australian Open Has Begun
The set-up: The Aussie Open is the first of four Grand Slams (aka majors). All Grand Slams follow the same format: 128 singles players and 64 doubles pairs compete in single-elimination rounds in both the women’s and men’s events.
- The tournament runs from today to February 21st with daily matches (check out the schedule ), and as one of the few sports that values equality, the women’s and men’s singles champions will each receive about $2.1 million US.
The off-court action: Due to Australia’s strict rules for international travellers, there were a lot of around the tournament. But all that COVID-19 concern has seemed to overshadow another significant issue: the second-largest arena at , home of the Aussie Open, is still named after 24-time Grand Slam winner Margaret Court.
- For years, Court has publicly renounced LGBTQ+ rights and has advocated for conversion therapy, and there have been to remove her name.
- Instead, Tennis Australia of Court’s tennis achievements ahead of last year’s Open (though they to this year’s event) and the Australian government awarded her with the just last month. To that we say, WTF?
The women’s on-court action: Fortunately, Serena Williams is aiming to erase Court from the record books. Williams is fighting for her 24th major win, which would tie Court’s all-time record, though a may hold her back.
- Well, that and the fact that reigning U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka is the heavy favorite to win, while fellow American Sofia Kenin is looking for her .
The men’s on court action: A back injury may also prevent Rafael Nadal from becoming to win each major singles championship twice. But something tells us reigning champ and tournament favorite, Novak Djokovic (pronounced JOKE-OH-VITCH), isn’t going to let that happen.
- And on the men’s side, Denis Shapovalov (11), Milos Raonic (14) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (20) are all seeded in the top 20 to start the show. Bring it home!
The Americans: The U.S. field is stacked. Along with both Williams sisters and Kenin, we have Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Jennifer Brady on the women’s side, and Taylor Fritz and Sam Querrey on the men’s side. And though Osaka plays for Japan, she grew up in New York, so we consider her one of ours, too.
🏈Bucs Win Super Bowl LV Over Chiefs 31-9
The first half: The game got off to a slow start, going almost a full quarter without scoring a touchdown (TD). But in the most Tom Brady of ways, he jump-started the Bucs’ dominating offensive performance with a pair of TDs caught by tight end Rob Gronkowski.
- Gronk came out of retirement to reunite with his bestie Tom in Tampa. And after spending eight seasons together in New England, their first TD of the game set a record for most playoff TDs by a QB-receiver combo. A match made in football heaven.
- While the Bucs ran up the score, Kansas City wracked up penalties. Eight flags for 95 yards (and not all of them warranted, if we’re being honest) helped the Bucs end the first half with a 21–6 lead.
The second half: Then the , and it went from bad to worse for Kansas City. QB Patrick Mahomes, who last year was named Super Bowl MVP, was picked off twice in the second half and didn’t throw a single TD. While Brady continued to lead, Mahomes (and his offensive line) floundered. It actually .
- All in all, this game did not live up to the hype, but it was a masterclass from not only Brady, but the entire Bucs team, who became the first squad in NFL history to win the Super Bowl on home turf. They say defense wins championships, and they’re not wrong.
The GIST's Bits & Bites: Canada
🎾Tennis: Australia, rightfully so, is very serious about COVID-19. After one staff member at the Melbourne Park tennis facility , all Australian Open warm-up tournament matches were cancelled for today.
- Organizers will release an updated schedule , which is great because even though Bianca Andreescu and Team Canada was from the ATP Cup, we’re still excited to see Canadian phenom Felix Auger-Aliassime in the Murray River Open’s round of 16.
🏀Basketball: If you haven’t seen of Toronto Raptor Fred VanVleet celebrating his 54-point game with his team on Tuesday night, then watch it right now. And if you have seen it, watch it again. It’s adorable.
- And get this: Freddie set a league record, too. That 54-point performance was the highest-ever single-game points total for an undrafted player.
- Next on Freddie’s list — — is to become the 30th NBA player to score 60 points in a game, or just the 7th player to score 70. Bet on yourself.
🏒Hockey: The NWHL isn’t the only league having COVID-19 troubles; the American NHL divisions have been having a rough go, too. The and are the latest teams to postpone games and close their training facilities due to COVID-19 protocol, and the ’ next few games are in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, things are rolling along nicely *knock on wood* in the North Division. The Ottawa Senators are in Montreal tonight to face Canada’s , the Canadiens, while the Vancouver Canucks are visiting Canada’s wannabe best team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Check out the schedule .
🏈Super Bowl Preview: Chiefs and Buccaneers
The game: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing host to the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET. There are a ton of storylines to follow in this game, like quarterback (QB) Tom Brady looking for his record-extending seventh Super Bowl win, and Kansas City looking to be the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Brady (of course) and the New England Patriots in 2004.
- For all of the dirt on what should be the most exciting championship game in a long while (and we’re talking all major sports, TBH), look out for a super special email in your inbox Sunday morning.
The outcome: The big question everyone wants an answer to is: who the heck is going to win? If we’re going by history, KC won the pair’s most recent regular-season matchup in November, 27–24.
- The often-accurate (which simulates the game via the Madden 21 video game) has KC with the win, and are in agreement, with the Bucs going into this game as the underdog despite having a home-field advantage.
- As for our official prediction, we’d love to go along with the experts, but...can we really bet against Tom freakin’ Brady?
- You have $60,000 to choose just five players. Each player has a dollar amount associated with him, and the better the player, the higher the dollar figure — so budget accordingly!
🏒NWHL Postseason Suspended
The GIST: Just a day before the NWHL postseason was set to begin (and just hours after we sent you a playoff preview!), the league suspended the remainder of the 2021 season. *cries a single tear*
The bad: The super-condensed two-week season was being played in a bubble in Lake Placid, New York. Needless to say, it was too-close quarters for players and staff who had no pre-season quarantine requirements.
- Unfortunately, after the Metropolitan Riveters withdrew from competition due to multiple COVID-19 cases, the Connecticut Whale followed suit, and with a third team on the verge of withdrawing, the league decided to suspend play.
The good: Aside from some off-ice messes, the NWHL was on a path to success. They hit viewership highs on streaming platform Twitch and were set to become the first women’s pro hockey league to ever air on a national broadcast.
- The league also successfully introduced a new team, the Toronto Six, and signed a sponsorship deal with Discover, their biggest contract yet.
The future: We’re not totally sure what the NWHL’s next steps are, but our hearts break for the players and staff who put so much of themselves into this season. And still, the state of women’s hockey remains splintered.
- So in the meantime, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) continues to make big moves: their new partnership with the New York Rangers will bring the Dream Gap Tour to Madison Square Garden on February 28th. Mark your calendar.