NHL

MONTREAL (AP)The Montreal Canadiens selected Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the first pick in the NHL draft on Thursday.

He’s the first player from Slovakia to be taken No. 1. The previous best was Marian Gaborik going third in 2000.

This was the first year in nearly a decade there was suspense about who was going to be the No. 1 pick right up until the player’s name was called. The Canadiens said they were considering Slafkovsky, Canadian center Shane Wright and American forward Logan Cooley.

The New Jersey Devils surprisingly selected Slovak defenseman and Slafkovsky Olympic teammate Simon Nemec with the second pick.

The Arizona Coyotes made forward Logan Cooley the highest-drafted player from Pittsburgh when they took him third. Wright’s fall, reminiscent of Seth Jones in 2013 – the last draft with this level of uncertainty about the top pick – ended when the Seattle Kraken took him fourth.

TENNIS

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Rafael Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon because of a torn abdominal muscle on Thursday, a day before he was supposed to play Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals.

It is the first time since 1931 that a man pulled out of the oldest Grand Slam tournament before a semifinal or final.

”I made my decision because I believe that I can’t win two matches under these circumstances,” Nadal said at a news conference at the All England Club. ”I can’t serve. It’s not only that I can’t serve at the right speed, it’s that I can’t do the normal movement to serve.”

The 22-time major champion sighed occasionally while answering questions in English, then Spanish, for more than 20 minutes total. He twice described himself as ”very sad.”

Nadal said trying to continue to compete could make the injury worse.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Elena Rybakina defeated 2019 champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court on Thursday to set up a Wimbledon final against Ons Jabeur.

Both the 17th-seeded Rybakina and third-seeded Jabeur are first-time Grand Slam finalists.

Rybakina is the first Kazakhstan player to reach a major final. Jabeur is the first Arab woman to reach a major final and the first African woman to do so in the Open era.

Jabeur advanced by beating Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. In the deciding set, Jabeur twice broke her 34-year-old German opponent – who was a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist – en route to 5-0 lead.

WNBA

MOSCOW (AP) – American basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday to drug possession charges on the second day of her trial in a Russian court in a case that could see her sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The abrupt guilty plea by the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist came amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her freedom nearly five months after her arrest in February amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine.

A senior Russian diplomat said earlier that no action could be taken by Moscow on Griner’s case until the trial was over, and her guilty plea could be an effort by her and her advisers to expedite the court proceedings.

Griner, 31, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while returning to play basketball in Russia, and police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Speaking through an interpreter, Griner told the court she had no intention of committing a crime and had acted unintentionally because she had packed for Moscow in a hurry. The trial was then adjourned until July 14.

SOCCER

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) – Sophia Smith scored twice in the opening minutes and the U.S. women’s national team edged closer to a spot in the 2023 World Cup with a 5-0 victory over Jamaica on Thursday in the CONCACAF W Championship.

With two victories at the W Championship, the United States leads its group and is in position to qualify for next summer’s World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The Americans could wrap it up later Thursday with a win or draw for Haiti against Mexico.

The United States has played in every World Cup, winning the last two tournaments and four overall.

NFL

LAS VEGAS (AP) – The Las Vegas Raiders introduced a former Nevada gambling regulator Thursday as the franchise’s new president, the first Black woman to hold the title with an NFL team.

Team owner Mark Davis said Sandra Douglass Morgan topped his list every time after he spoke to candidates.

Morgan, the former chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, is the third woman and third African-American to become president of an NFL team.

She is also the latest Raiders hire to break barriers. Former Raiders coach Tom Flores was the first Hispanic head coach to win a Super Bowl title and former coach Art Shell was the first Black head coach of the NFL’s Super Bowl era.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Dan Snyder’s attorney told the Committee on Oversight and Reform the Washington Commanders’ owner is willing to testify by video conference regarding the investigation into the team’s workplace culture following accusations of pervasive sexual harassment by club executives of women employees.

In a letter sent to the committee and obtained by The Associated Press, attorney Karen Patton Seymour said Snyder is traveling outside the country and available for video testimony July 28 and 29.

Seymour expressed concern because the committee countered with dates that conflict with her travel schedule and Snyder’s.

”Although I explained that the Snyder family’s commitments were spread out over various dates in July and reiterated that July 28 or 29 were the earliest possible dates on which Mr. Snyder could appear, the Committee’s staff declined even to acknowledge the proposed dates, stating only that the Committee would have to `determine how to proceed,”’ the letter states.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified remotely from New York at the committee’s hearing last month.

OBITUARY

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mike Brito, the top scout in Mexico for the Los Angeles Dodgers for nearly 45 years who discovered such talents as Fernando Valenzuela, current Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias and Yasiel Puig, died Thursday. He was 87.

The team announced his death to the crowd before hosting the Chicago Cubs and held a moment of silence. Photos of Brito and his discoveries were shown on the stadium’s videoboards. He died at a Los Angeles hospital. No cause of death was provided.

For years, Brito was instantly recognizable behind home plate dressed in a stylish suit and a Panama hat with a cigar clenched in his teeth holding a radar gun.

Before becoming one of baseball’s best-known scouts, Brito played in the Washington Senators’ minor league system from 1955-61. He reached the Triple-A level and played professionally in Mexico from 1961-66.

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