Cathy Freeman

9/25/00: Magic Monday at Sydney Olympics

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At the London Olympics, Seb Coe called “Super Saturday” on Aug. 4, 2012, “the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed.”

Coe, the London Olympic Organizing Committee boss, oversaw a day where Great Britain won six gold medals, including three in track and field in less than an hour.

“I dreamt that we would have a night like that, but not in my wildest dreams did I think that it would actually unfold in the way that it did,” Coe said two years ago. “Up until last night I would never have questioned that the greatest night was ‘Magic Monday’ in Sydney, the Cathy Freeman night. … That was an extraordinary night, and this did edge ahead of it.”

The 14-year anniversary of “Magic Monday” was Thursday.

It was the fourth day of track and field at the Sydney Games, an Olympics that would go on to be called the “best ever” by then-International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The night’s proceedings were recounted well in Bud Greenspan‘s Olympic film from Sydney, which reported more than 110,000 spectators packed Stadium Australia that night, the largest crowd to ever watch Olympic track and field.

“When the evening is over, many in the press will call September 25th the greatest night in track and field history,” film narrator Will Lyman said.

Some highlights in chronological order:

  • Australian Cathy Freeman, who lit the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, wins the 400m. Freeman, of Aboriginal descent, was the biggest star of the Sydney Games. Shortly after crossing the finish line, she dropped to the track, overcome with exhaustion and relief. She took her victory lap with Australian and Aboriginal flags.
  • Michael Johnson becomes the first man to win consecutive Olympic 400m titles, the start of his final held by several minutes for Freeman’s victory lap. It marked the final individual Olympic race for the world record holder who swept the 200m and 400m in golden shoes in Atlanta four years earlier. Johnson ran in his trademark, up-and-down, work-of-art, upright motion from lane 6, the same as Freeman.
  • American Stacy Dragila wins the first Olympic women’s pole vault competition. The crowd pulled for Tatiana Grigorieva, a Russian-born Australian, who won silver. Vala Flosadottir took bronze, becoming the first woman from Iceland to win an Olympic medal.
  • Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards earns a long-awaited gold medal in the triple jump, in his fourth Olympics. Edwards broke the world record five years earlier with a jump more than a foot longer than anybody had triple jumped before that day, but was beaten by American Kenny Harrison in Atlanta.
  • Ethiopian Haile Gebreselassie wins the 10,000m, which is 25 laps of the track, by .09 of a second over Kenyan Paul Tergat. Gebreselassie and Tergat’s final head-to-head sprint over the last 100 was historic. Gebreselassie continued a seven-year winning streak in the event.

Photos: What London’s Olympic Stadium will look like as West Ham’s home

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. No nation will have more. 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.

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 Monday, 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.

An American man is already guaranteed to reach the third round — Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second-ranked female golfer Nelly Korda, next faces Isner.

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Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

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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.

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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