Mixed finishes for Allyson Felix, Justin Gatlin in Shanghai (video)

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Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin produced differing results in their Diamond League season debuts in Shanghai on Sunday.

Felix finished fifth in a 400m race, her first competition since tearing her hamstring in the 200m final at the 2013 World Championships on Aug. 16.

Felix, the most decorated U.S. female track and field athlete with six Olympic medals and 10 World Championships medals, ran one lap in 50.81 seconds, a half-second behind winner Novlene Williams-Mills.

Felix has said she is focusing more on the 400m this year as a complementary event to her 200m specialty. Last May, she ran a 400m in 50.19. In 2011, when she also put emphasis on the 400m, Felix recorded her personal best of 49.59 in winning a world silver.

In the 100m, Gatlin posted a world-leading 9.92 seconds, dominating after 30 meters and dusting the field by two tenths with zero wind.

“I have much more left in the tank,” Gatlin said, according to The Associated Press. “I cruised at 9.92 with no wind. I felt I made it look easy.”

World bronze medalist Nesta Carter was second in 10.12, followed by American Mike Rodgers in 10.18.

Jamaican stars Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake have yet to debut at 100m this season but will chase Gatlin’s mark in races over the next month.

The Diamond League next moves to Eugene, Ore., for the Prefontaine Classic on May 31.

In other results Sunday, Nigerian Blessing Okagbare won the long jump and the 200m, two events she earned medals in last year’s World Championships.

In the 200m, Okagbare crossed first in 22.36 seconds. Jamaican world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce pulled out of the meet with a reported shin injury, and two-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown faded to fifth in 23.08.

Olympic champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie won the pole vault with a top clearance of 5.92 meters.

China’s Xie Wenjun shocked the 110m hurdles field to win in a personal best 13.23. Xie defeated all three 2013 World Championships medalists and the 2008 Olympic champion, with 2004 Olympic champion and Chinese superstar Liu Xiang smiling in the stands.

World champion David Oliver was third in 13.28. Beijing Olympic champion Dayron Robles was sixth in 13.48.

Beijing Olympic silver medalist Christian Cantwell continued his spectacular early season shot put form with a winning 21.73m throw. Cantwell, who missed much of last season due to injury, has four of the top six throws this year.

Olympic and world silver medalist Michael Tinsley emerged after the final hurdle to win the 400m hurdles in 48.77. World champion Jehue Gordon was sixth in 49.56.

Abeba Aregawi pulled away to beat American Jenny Simpson in a battle of the last two world 1500m champions. The Swede Aregawi clocked 3:58.72 and became the first woman under four minutes this year.

Emma Coburn notched a rare American 3000m steeplechase victory in 9:19.80, beating a field that included all three 2013 World Championships medalists by 5.96 seconds.

Miracle on Ice gold medal sells at auction

Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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