The 45 storylines to watch at 2014 Winter Olympics

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With the first Olympic competitions in action on Thursday and Opening Ceremony on Friday, here is a look at 45 storylines to watch at the 2014 Sochi Olympics:

Alpine Skiing
1. The U.S. could have four different medal winners for a second straight Olympics — Ted Ligety (giant slalom, super combined), Bode Miller (downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom), Julia Mancuso (downhill, super-G, super combined) and Mikaela Shiffrin (giant slalom, slalom).

2. Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal could become the first men’s Alpine skier to win three Olympic gold medals in one Games (downhill, super-G, super combined) since Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.

3. The absence of Lindsey Vonn opens up the women’s speed events for friendly rival German Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather and Swiss Lara Gut.

1. Tim Burke leads the charge trying to win the first U.S. Olympic biathlon medal.

2. Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will be the most recognized name to Americans, though, as he is the Russian Biathlon president.

3. Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen needs two medals to take the solo record for most career Winter Olympic medals, which is held by retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie (who has 12). Two golds will tie the record for most career golds (eight, also held by Daehlie).

MORE: The race to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever

1. Lolo Jones attempts to win her first Olympic medal, as a Winter Olympian. Lauryn Williams attempts to become the fifth person to win medals in Summer and Winter Olympics and the second to win gold medals in both. (Feb. 18-19)

2. Steven Holcomb could win a second straight four-man Olympic gold (Feb. 17) and his first two-man Olympic gold. (Feb. 23)

3. The Jamaican Bobsled Team will compete in the two-man.

Cross-Country Skiing
1. Kikkan Randall could win the first U.S. Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing. (Feb. 11 individual, Feb. 19 team)

2. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen could become the first person to win six medals at a single Winter Olympics. If she does, she’ll surpass Daehlie with 13 career medals.

3. Another Norwegian, Petter Northug, is the men’s star, though Russia is counting on several cross-country medals, too.

1. Norway’s pants.

2. The four oldest members of the 230-athlete U.S. Olympic Team are women’s curlers, including skip Erika Brown, who was on the U.S. team at the 1988 Olympics, when curling was a demonstration sport. She was 15 then.

3. Great Britain, with Scot Eve Muirhead leading the charge, could bring curling gold back to the country that invented the sport.

Figure Skating
1. Russia going for men’s history (Yevgeny Plushenko could tie a record with a fourth individual Olympic medal), trying to restore pairs dominance (Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov could add to a legacy that brought 12 straight golds through 2006) and become the first champion in the new Olympic team event.

2. Meryl Davis and Charlie White take on training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, trying to win the first U.S. Olympic ice dance gold medal. (Feb. 16-17)

MORE: Davis and White, staying calm under pressure

3. In her swan song, Yuna Kim will try to become the third woman (and first since 1988) to win back-to-back Olympic titles. 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada is her biggest competition. (Feb. 19-20)

Freestyle Skiing
1. In her third and final Games, moguls skier Hannah Kearney can become the first freestyle skier to win multiple Olympic gold medals. Her biggest competition could be three Canadian sisters. (Feb. 8)

2. Summer Olympic powerhouse China is favored to win both aerials golds. (Feb. 14, 17)

3. The U.S. could win medals in each of the new Olympic events of ski halfpipe and ski slopestyle with the likes of David Wise, Nick Goepper, Maddie Bowman and Keri Herman.

1. The pressure on Alex Ovechkin & Co. to win the first post-Soviet era men’s hockey gold for Russia. The Russians play the U.S. in group play. (Feb. 15).

2. Sidney Crosby and Canada will look to become the first nation in the post-Soviet era to win back-to-back men’s titles. The U.S. hopes for its first gold since 1980, but neither the U.S. nor Canada has won Olympic gold on European ice since 1952.

3. A likely fourth meeting between the U.S. and Canada in five Olympic women’s hockey finals. (Feb. 20)

1. The speeds at the Sanki Sliding Center are expected to be 10 to 15 mph slower than the 2010 Olympic men’s competition, where the start was moved down after Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training crash.

2. Italian Armin Zoeggeler goes for a medal in a record sixth straight Olympics. (Feb. 8-9 individual, Feb. 13 relay)

3. Germany is expected to dominate, potentially sweeping the women’s event (Feb. 11) and an overwhelming favorite in the new team relay. The relay is the best chance for the U.S.’ first luge medal since 2002.

Nordic Combined
1. Todd Lodwick, who will carry the U.S. flag at the Opening Ceremony, eyes an American Winter Olympic record sixth Olympic appearance, if his shoulder holds up. (Feb. 20)

MORE: Lodwick named U.S. Olympic flag bearer

2. The U.S. men’s team with a shot at a relay medal also includes Bill Demong, the first U.S. Olympic Nordic combined gold medalist, and brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, one of seven sets of siblings in the U.S. delegation.

3. German Eric Frenzel has overtaken 2010 Olympic champion Jason Lamy-Chappuis as the favorite in individual events.

Short Track Speed Skating
1. Viktor Ahn, the three-time 2006 Olympic champion for South Korea, could now win medals for Russia.

2. China’s Wang Meng will miss the Olympics, meaning the retired Apolo Ohno will likely keep his title as most decorated Olympic short track skater with eight medals.

3. The U.S. short track team, without Ohno and Katherine Reutter, fights an uphill battle against powerhouses South Korea, China and Canada. J.R. Celski, who has a fan in singer Macklemore, is the best hope for a medal.

1. Noelle Pikus-Pace is a co-favorite with Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold. Pikus-Pace finished fourth in 2010, retired, had her second child, unretired in 2012 and is in her best racing form ever.

2. Latvian Martins Dukurs is the men’s favorite but could be challenged by his brother, Tomass.

3. Neither 2010 Olympic champion is competing. Canadian beer swiller Jon Montgomery wasn’t picked, and Britain’s Amy Williams and her controversial helmet retired.

1. Shaun White could become the first U.S. man to win an Olympic event three times if he wins halfpipe (Feb. 11).

2. Kelly Clark may lead a U.S. medal sweep in women’s halfpipe (Feb. 12) with 2006 Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter, world champion Arielle Gold and Kaitlyn Farrington also in the medal mix. Their biggest threat is reigning Olympic champion Australian Torah Bright, who is slated to also compete in slopestyle and snowboard cross.

3. Lindsey Jacobellis is gold-medal contender in snowboard cross, eight years after her trick move cost her gold and four years after hitting a gate to be disqualified in the semifinals. (Feb. 16)

 Speed Skating
1. Shani Davis could also become the first U.S. man to win a Winter Olympic event three times in the 1000m (Feb. 12). Davis is also a medal threat individually in the 1500m (Feb. 15).

2. Dutchman Sven Kramer could win three gold medals if he repeats in the 5000m (Feb. 8), makes up for his infamous 2010 lane-changing gaffe in the 10,000m (Feb. 18) and finally wins a team pursuit gold after 2006 and 2010 disappointments (Feb. 22)

3. Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson are likely to win the first medals by U.S. female speed skaters since 2002. They’re slated for the 500m (Feb. 11), 1000m (Feb. 13) and 1500m (Feb. 16).

Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

“I don’t like usually comparing the years,” he said. “But I think [the conditions are] quite suitable to my style of the game.”

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

Sebastian Korda
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The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. It could have been nine, had Sam Querrey served out the match in the third set against 13th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Still, the U.S. has more men in the second round than any other nation. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

“A pretty horrific two years in a row,” Sock said. “I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the last couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back.”

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Sunday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second- and 22nd-ranked female golfers (Nelly and Jessica).

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats: winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11. It was around that age that he gave up ice hockey and focused solely on tennis.

Korda was hooked after watching a Czech whom his dad coached, Radek Stepanek, at the U.S. Open in 2009.

“He played Djokovic on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium] like at 10:30 at night,” Korda, nicknamed Sebi, said on Tennis Channel. “Completely packed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went home, and I was like, this is exactly what I want to do.”

An American man is already guaranteed to make the third round in Paris. Korda faces Isner on Thursday.

“I grew up on the clay,” Korda said, “so I know how to play on it a little bit.”

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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