Liberty chase title with new superteam


A superteam grows in Brooklyn — again.

Four years ago, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the Nets, bringing a true title contender to Barclays Center for the first time.

Now, the New York Liberty will do the same, entering Friday night’s season opener in Washington as the WNBA title co-favorite — along with the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces — following the offseason additions of two former MVPs (Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones) and the third all-time leader in assists in league history (Courtney Vandersloot).

The Liberty, the only original WNBA franchise without a title, haven’t had a winning season since 2017. That much is now likely a lock. But that would mean little after signing Stewart and Vandersloot, who have won three WNBA championships combined, and just won a title together in Turkey. Jones previously played with her new teammates in Russia.

The Liberty's Breanna Stewart drives to the basket guarded by the Aces' A'ja Wilson.
There are two massive co-favorites in the WNBA: The defending champion Las Vegas Aces, led by A’ja Wilson (left), and the New York Liberty, now featuring Breanna Stewart (right).
Getty Images

Title hopes are warranted. The Liberty boast one of the most talented rosters in league history — including former No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu — and few teams can match their depth. Washington is widely considered the league’s No. 3 title contender and holds +1800 title odds (via DraftKings). The Liberty (+135) and Aces (+125) stand above all, but also stand apart.

Las Vegas has a core with proven chemistry, featuring two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, fellow First-Team member Kelsey Plum and Finals MVP Chelsea Gray. The Aces, who went 26-10 last season and lost only two games during their postseason run, also added two-time MVP Candace Parker as a free agent this winter.

Stewart’s signing was an even greater coup for the Liberty, giving New York the best free agent in league history and a chance to finally seize the throne.

But expectations — and limited experience together — won’t make it any easier. Just ask Durant, Irving and Harden.

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on May 19, 2023
New York Post

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A real, live Mets winning streak

Lou Brown would be inspired.

With a 3-2 win over the major league-leading Rays on Thursday at Citi Field, the Mets secured consecutive victories — and a series win — for the first time in nearly a month (April 19-21).

Tylor Megill (5-2) lasted six innings. The bullpen threw three scoreless. Jeff McNeil and Tommy Pham each had two hits. And Pete Alonso went deep for the third straight game.

Pete Alonso watches his home run for the Mets against the Rays on May 18, 2023.
Pete Alonso admires his 16th home run of the season, which helped the Mets to a rubber-game victory over the Rays.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Alonso, who followed Wednesday night’s walk-off blast with his major league-best 16th home run, led the Mets (22-23) to their first series win since they took two of three from the Dodgers in mid-April. The Mets have won 10 of the past 13 games in which Alonso has homered.

Alonso’s 16 homers through 45 games has him on pace to hit more than 57 home runs this season. Last year, Aaron Judge — whose rookie home run record lasted just two seasons before Alonso hit 53 in 2019 — had 17 home runs through 45 games en route to a 62-homer season.

The Mets go for three in a row Friday night in Cleveland, and they will be joined by former Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who is getting called up from Triple-A Syracuse.

No vamos

Rafael Nadal can see the end of the road.

Due to a hip injury that has sidelined him since January, Nadal announced Thursday that he will not appear in the French Open for the first time since 2004 and has no plans to play for at least another few months.

The soon-to-be 37-year-old and 22-time grand slam champion expects 2024 to be his final year on the tour.

Rafael Nadal speaks during a press conference discussing his tennis future.
Rafael Nadal was emotional as he discussed his plan to wind down his tennis career in 2024.

“That’s my idea,” Nadal said. “I can’t say that 100 percent it’s going to be like this because you never know what is going to happen, but my idea and motivation is to try to enjoy and to try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important to me in my tennis career.”

No site has been more important to him than Roland Garros, where Nadal has won a record 14 titles — which alone surpasses the number of major titles won by every men’s player in history besides rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer — and boasts a 112-3 record all-time. Nadal has won five of the past six French Opens, including last year, when he became the oldest champion in tournament history.

Nadal has missed every other grand slam event on multiple occasions during his incredible, but injury-filled career, but he had played at every French Open since debuting as a teenager in 2005. However, the Spaniard hasn’t seen any action since getting injured during the Australian Open, and he appears unlikely to appear in another major this year.

Rafael Nadal follows through on a forehand during the 2022 French Open final.
Rafael Nadal will be unable to defend the French Open title he won in 2022.

“You can’t keep demanding more and more from your body because there comes a moment when your body raises a white flag,” said Nadal, a little more than a week before the French Open begins on May 28. “Even though your head wants to keep going, your body says this is as far as it goes.”

Nadal’s absence gives Novak Djokovic — a two-time French Open champion, who handed Nadal two of his three career losses in Paris — a chance to break their tie atop the sport and claim a 23rd career grand slam title. Djokovic, 35, has won the past two majors he’s competed in and hasn’t lost to anyone other than Nadal at the French Open since 2019.

The world’s second-ranked player, Carlos Alcaraz, 20, will be the co-favorite, searching for his second major after winning the U.S. Open last summer. Of his 13 career ATP titles, 10 have come on clay.

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