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Coronavirus: Here’s what’s happening in the sports world on Wednesday

The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:

  • Tennis break may help Serena in Grand Slam quest, her coach says
  • Major League Soccer resumes July 8 with 26-team tourney
  • U.S. Ryder Cup captain to get 6 picks, up from 4
  • Badminton federation cancels European Championships
  • Soccer to resume in Spain Thursday with virtual fans, daily matches

Shutdown may help Serena’s Grand Slam quest, coach says

Serena Williams is as motivated as ever to add to her 23 Grand Slam singles titles and the COVID-19 shutdown could end up helping her in that quest, the American’s long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou has told Reuters.

Williams, who turns 39 in September, has reached four Grand Slam finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017 but failed to win any of them and remains one major title short of Margaret Court’s record of 24.

The tennis season came to a halt in March when world sport went into lockdown due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and the hiatus will continue at least until the end of July.

Mouratoglou, who has been working with the American since 2012, said experienced players like Williams, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were best equipped to hit the ground running when tennis restarts.

“For someone like her, and probably the same for Roger or Rafa or Novak, they have so much experience that being out of competition for a few months doesn’t affect their game so much,” said Mouratoglou.

MLS resumes July 8 with 26-team tourney

Major League Soccer will return to action July 8 in Florida with a World Cup-style tournament that will run through Aug. 11 in the Orlando area.

All 26 teams will take part in the “MLS is Back Tournament” at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

The NBA is also looking to resume play at the Disney complex.

The 54-match MLS tournament, which will be played before empty stands, marks resumption to the league’s 25th season, which was halted March 12 after two rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hope is the league, once the Florida tournament is completed, can continue the regular season with a revised schedule in home markets. The league says details of the new schedule will come later, as will whether teams will play clubs from the other conference.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain to get 6 picks instead of 4

United States captain Steve Stricker would pick half of his 12-man Ryder Cup team under a revised points system that accounts for golf not being played for three months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying for the top six Americans also was extended by one week through the BMW Championship, the second of three FedEx Cup playoff events.

That leaves 12 events for Americans to earn Ryder Cup points for the Sept. 25-27 matches at Whistling Straits, assuming the Ryder Cup is held this year. A decision is expected by the end of the month on whether the most vocal golf event will proceed with or without fans, or be postponed until next year.

Under the previous system, Stricker had four captain’s picks. The change bumps Justin Thomas (No. 7) and Tiger Woods (No. 8) out of the last two qualifying spots, though only 19 of the 31 events to earn points have been played.

Badminton federation cancels Euro Championships

This year’s European Badminton Championships have been canceled due to the unavailability of dates in a revamped calendar following disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Badminton World Federation said on Wednesday.

The tournament, which was originally scheduled for April 21-26 in Kiev, Ukraine, was postponed after the badminton season was suspended in March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Badminton Europe and the Ukrainian Badminton Federation will retain the right to host the continental championship next year from April 27-May 2.

The World Tour is set to restart with the Taipei Open from Sept. 1-6, while the season-ending World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, China has been pushed back a week and will now finish on Dec. 20.

Soccer resumes in Spain with virtual fans, daily matches

With virtual crowds, daily matches and lots of testing for the coronavirus, soccer is coming back to Spain.

The Spanish league resumes this week more than three months after it was suspended because of the pandemic, becoming the second top league to restart in Europe. The Bundesliga was first. The Premier League and the Italian league should be next in the coming weeks.

The Spanish league will begin in empty stadiums on Thursday with the popular Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis, though the season will officially resume on Wednesday with the second half of a second-division game between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete, which was interrupted in December after Rayo fans called a Ukrainian player from Albacete a Nazi.

The title race will resume over the weekend with leader Barcelona visiting Mallorca on Saturday and second-place Real Madrid hosting Eibar on Sunday at its training centre because the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium is undergoing renovations for the rest of the season.

Defending champion Barcelona has a two-point lead over Madrid with 11 rounds remaining.

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