World record holder Usain Bolt has gotten the best of Justin Gatlin in all three head-to-head races of their careers, including at the London Olympics last summer when Gatlin took bronze. But the two are set to square off again Thursday night in Rome, and this time Gatlin thinks he can win.
“My season has been going really good,” Gatlin told the AP. “From Beijing to Shanghai to Doha and hopefully I can keep that streak going.”
And why not? The 31-year-old Athens gold medalist had the best race of his life at last summer’s London Games, and has already run under 10-seconds twice already this season, while Bolt’s 2013 season best is 10.09 to barely win at the Cayman Invitational.
“I have a different feel going into the season than I did last year,” Gatlin told the BBC. “It was a little more highly strung last year because it was the Olympic Games and I wanted to make sure it was the best season I ever had. I want to go into this season with that same attitude but more calm, more collected. I want to be able to know who my opponents are and what they do and what they bring to the table.”
Gatlin said he’s been working hard on his finish, and has been training to match the “extraordinary” speed of Bolt and his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake in the last 20 meters of the 100m. But Bolt, who’s won in Rome the last two seasons – including a blazing 9.76 after a similarly slow start to 2012 – said he’s back to 100 percent and isn’t worried about anyone but himself.
The two Olympic champions will face American Mike Rodgers, who’s finished second to Gatlin twice this season, and Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, who at 37-years-old was still able to show his 10-second speed last month. Actually, Bolt is tied for the second worst 2013 time in Thursday’s field. Go figure.
If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.
Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.
Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.
If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.
Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.
The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.
The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.
Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.
Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.
The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.