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The Sports Report: There will be no fans in the stands at the Olympics

A man rides a bicycle near the Olympic rings floating in the water in the Odaiba section in Tokyo.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

David Wharton on the Olympics: The Tokyo Olympics made history last year when they were postponed until this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now comes another unfortunate first.

Facing a surge in coronavirus cases in the Japanese capital, the government has declared a new state of emergency beginning next week and officials confirmed Thursday what had been suspected for months — the Summer Games will proceed for the first time with no spectators allowed in the stands.

The sound of silence in empty stadiums and arenas will unarguably diminish the massive sports competition, said the International Olympic Committee, organizers and government officials in a joint statement that offered “regret for the athletes and for the spectators that this measure had to be put in place.”

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“I’m a little bit heartbroken,” U.S. diver Krysta Palmer said. “I also feel heartbroken for Tokyo and the country of Japan. It’s tough for them not being able to hold a normal Olympics.”

Tokyo officials previously had suggested they would not move forward without fans but changed their minds on the same day IOC President Thomas Bach arrived in the city. Bach was expected to self-isolate in his hotel for three days and then attend meetings to discuss the issue.

Those plans were accelerated after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared that a state of emergency would go into effect Monday and continue through late August, a timeline that envelopes the Games, which are scheduled for July 23 through Aug. 8.

“Taking into consideration the impact of the Delta strain,” Suga told reporters, “and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures.”

Athletes seemed to understand Japan’s predicament but expressed frustration at the numerous restrictions heading into what hammer thrower Gwen Berry dubbed the “Pandemic Games.” Organizers have asked competitors to limit their stay in the country, which rules out hanging around the village and could mean skipping the opening or closing ceremony.

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DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: Julio Urías dropped his left arm down, almost to a sidearm delivery, to fire a perfectly placed 95-mph strike to Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday afternoon.

His momentum pushed him to his left, toward the Dodgers’ dugout, and he didn’t stop. He swaggered off the mound at LoanDepot Park. His 101st and last pitch may have been his best one, and Chisholm could only watch.

The sinker completed a three-pitch strikeout — his ninth punch-out of the day. It marked the first time Urías, protected from injury by the Dodgers in recent years, topped 100 pitches in his major league career. It was exactly what the Dodgers, down to three healthy and available starting pitchers, needed to avoid a four-game sweep and rest an exhausted relief corps.

The Dodgers (54-34) had already been without Dustin May since May 1 when Major League Baseball placed Trevor Bauer on a seven-day paid administrative leave July 2 after a woman accused him of sexual assault. The leave, with approval from the players union, was extended Thursday for another seven days, effective Friday.

On Wednesday, Clayton Kershaw was put on the 10-day injured list with left forearm inflammation. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw would undergo an MRI exam when the team returned to Los Angeles, probably on Friday.

“Not a whole lot,” Roberts said when asked about his level of concern Thursday morning. “I think it’s just more of to skip a start, to leverage the break. I’m not too concerned about it.”

The absences will force the Dodgers, without a readily available rotation replacement, to roll out a bullpen game Friday for the third time in six days. David Price will open Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Roberts said Price could cover up to three innings.

————

Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave is extended another seven days

ANGELS

Jack Harris on the Angels: Jared Walsh loaded his hands, planted his front foot and lashed the barrel of his bat at a pitch over the plate.

His swing was quick, powerful, mechanically sound. It was also rhythmically smooth, with a leg kick and hip turn and one-handed follow-through that looked like poetry in motion, crescendoing to Walsh’s skyward stare at a ball flying deep into the night.

Sometimes, there’s no telling when a moment of affirmation will arrive. When the realization of belonging sets in. When years of work and lessons forged through struggle will suddenly crystallize.

For Walsh, it happened on Sept. 12 of last season, when he hammered a game-winning three-run home run on the road against the Colorado Rockies.

“That,” Walsh said before the Angels’ 5-4 win over Boston on Thursday, “was a huge moment for me. We ended up winning the game and I had a lot of texts from people. It was just one of those things where I started to feel a little bit more like a big leaguer, a little more comfortable.”

Ever since that ball dropped into the vacant right-field section at Coors Field, Walsh has ridden that confidence in himself and his swing to a breakout performance over the past 10 months.

TENNIS

Chuck Schilken on tennis: Naomi Osaka says she felt “a great amount of pressure” to reveal her struggle with mental health issues earlier this year during an ordeal that led to her withdrawing from the French Open and taking a temporary break from the sport.

The 23-year-old tennis star wrote in a first-person account for Time magazine about the series of events that started in May when she announced she would not take part in the required post-match news conferences at the French Open, citing a “disregard for athletes’ mental health.”

She followed through after her first French Open match and was fined $15,000. A statement from the heads of tennis’ four major tournaments warned that “repeat violations” could result in “tougher sanctions,” including suspension from future Grand Slam events.

So Osaka pulled out of the French Open, revealing in a statement that she suffers from depression and anxiety, and that skipping the news conferences was an attempt “to exercise self-care.”

The four-time Grand Slam winner now says she wishes it hadn’t come to that.

“In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it’s not habitual,” she wrote. “You wouldn’t have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy.

“In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms — frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me. I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones. I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet.”

NBA PLAYOFFS SCHEDULE/RESULTS

Devin Booker scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 23 and the Suns beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-108 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 series lead.

The Suns surged ahead late in the first half, withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s all-around effort to bring the Bucks back, and walked off winners again as fans swung orange rally towels all around them.

Antetokounmpo had 42 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back after missing two games because of a hyperextended left knee.

All times Pacific

NBA FINALS

Phoenix vs. Milwaukee
Phoenix 118, Milwaukee 105
Phoenix 118, Milwaukee 108
Sunday: at Milwaukee, 5 p.m., ABC
Wednesday, July 14: at Milwaukee, 6 p.m., ABC
*Saturday, July 17: at Phoenix, 6 p.m., ABC
*Tuesday, July 20: at Milwaukee, 6 p.m., ABC
*Thursday, July 22: at Phoenix, 6 p.m., ABC

*-if necessary

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1922 — Johnny Weissmuller is the first to swim the 100-meter freestyle under 1 minute as he breaks Duke Kahanamoku’s world record with a time of 58.6 seconds.

1932 — The NFL awards a franchise to Boston under the ownership of George Preston Marshall, Vincent Bendix, Jay O’Brien, and Dorland Doyle. The Boston Braves will change their nickname to Redskins in 1933 and move to Washington after the 1936 season.

1940 — The National League registers the first shutout, 4-0, in the All-Star game.

1954 — Peter Thomson becomes the first Australian to win the British Open. Thomson shoots a 9-under 283 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, edging Bobby Locke, Dai Rees and Syd Scott by one stroke.

1965 — Peter Thomson wins his fifth British Open title by two strokes over Brian Huggett and Christy O’Connor Sr. Thomson shoots a 7-under 285 at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England. Thomson’s previous Open victory was in 1958. It’s the last to conclude with two rounds on Friday.

1966 — Jack Nicklaus wins the British Open with a 282 at Muirfield to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player as the only men to win the four majors.

1967 — Mark Spitz and Catie Ball, both 17, swim to world records, and 14-year-old Debbie Meyer sets two records in one race in the Santa Clara International Invitational swim meet. Spitz sets a 100-meter butterfly record at 56.3 and Ball becomes the first U.S. swimmer to set a world record for the breaststroke with a 2:40.5 time for 200 meters. Meyer breaks the 800-meter freestyle record in 9 minutes, 35.8 seconds on the way to a record 18:11.1 in the 1,500.

1989 — Boris Becker and Steffi Graf claim a West German sweep of the Wimbledon singles crowns in the first double finals day in 16 years. Becker wins his third Wimbledon title in five years, rolling past defending champion Stefan Edberg 6-0, 7-6 (1), 6-4, while Graf takes her second straight championship over Martina Navratilova 6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-1.

1991 — South Africa is readmitted by the International Olympic Committee to the Olympic movement, ending decades of sports isolation and clearing the way for its participation in the 1992 Games.

1995 — Pete Sampras becomes the first American to win Wimbledon three straight years by beating Boris Becker 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

2000 — Pete Sampras passes Roy Emerson for the most Grand Slam championships and ties Willie Renshaw, a player in the 1880s, for the most Wimbledon titles with a four-set victory over Pat Rafter. Sampras, winner of seven Wimbledon titles, 13 Grand Slam championships, extends his mark at Wimbledon to 53-1 over the past eight years.

2001 — Goran Ivanisevic becomes one of Wimbledon’s most improbable champions, beating Patrick Rafter. Two points away from defeat, Ivanisevic rallies to beat Rafter 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 and becomes the second player to win a Wimbledon singles title without being seeded.

2006 — Roger Federer ends a five-match losing streak to Rafael Nadal, winning 6-0, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (2), 6-3 to earn his fourth straight Wimbledon title and eighth Grand Slam championship. Nadal had beaten Federer in four finals this year.

2006 — Italy wins its fourth World Cup title winning the shootout 5-3 against France, after a 1-1 draw. Outplayed for an hour and into extra time, the Italians win it after French captain Zinedine Zidane is ejected in the 107th for a vicious butt to the chest of Marco Materazzi.

2011 — Derek Jeter homers for his 3,000th hit, making him the first player to reach the mark with the New York Yankees.

2016 — Serena Williams wins her record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title by beating Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final. Williams pulls even with Steffi Graf for the most major championships in the Open era, which began in 1968. This is Williams’ seventh singles trophy at the All England Club.

And finally

Derek Jeter gets his 3,000th hit. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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