Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross confident after defeat in Brazil showdown

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The record says Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross won twice and lost three times against Brazil’s top competition in an exhibition in Rio de Janeiro last week.

But Walsh Jennings and Ross did not think defeat when reflecting on the U.S. vs. Brazil event — Melhores do Mundo — on Copacabana Beach, site of the 2016 Olympic tournament.

“Everything has been confirmed as far as the fact that we have the potential to be the best in the world, without a doubt,” Walsh Jennings said in a phone interview Sunday.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion, and Ross, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, were arguably the best in the world last season. They won four FIVB World Tour events in 10 starts in their first full year together.

Walsh Jennings’ three-time Olympic teammate, Misty May-Treanor, retired after the 2012 Olympics. Ross’ London Olympic teammate, Jennifer Kessy, missed last season to have a child and is back with new partner Emily Day.

The most anticipated matchup on Copacabana last week was between Walsh Jennings and Ross and the Brazilians Larissa and Talita on Friday.

Larissa and Talita also won four FIVB World Tour titles last season. Theirs came in just six starts, after they partnered midway through the year.

But Larissa and Talita and Walsh Jennings and Ross never faced off last season. Their first meeting was Friday in Walsh Jennings and Ross’ first tournament in more than five months. The score matched the hype.

In a one-set exhibition to 21 points, both pairs had match points before the Brazilians prevailed 26-24.

“It wasn’t a match; it was a game,” Ross said. “It’s hard to put very much stock in it. … I would love to have two more games [in a traditional best-of-three] to adjust a little bit.”

Ross said she and Walsh Jennings learned plenty about Larissa and Talita in the 50 points, but she would not divulge details.

“I was very surprised at how calm I felt,” said Walsh Jennings, who said firmly in January that she and Ross were the best team in the world. “I thought the nerves would be a lot bigger than they were. But I feel at home here.”

Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor were clear favorites for gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and perhaps only trailed Larissa and Juliana going into 2012.

Walsh Jennings believes that, at 17 months out from Rio 2016, this path to a potential fourth gold will be the toughest of all.

“Every quadrennial the teams have gotten deeper and deeper,” said Walsh Jennings, a mother of three who will turn 38 years old during the Rio Games. “The great teams are not necessarily better [this Olympic cycle], but the amount of great teams.”

Multiple Czech and German teams won FIVB World Tour events last season. The reigning World champions are Chinese.

Walsh Jennings and Ross will next play the season-opening FIVB World Tour event in China in April. The every-other-year World Championships are in June and July in the Netherlands.

One more experience in Rio that Walsh Jennings will take with her was a breakfast with Brazilian legend Shelda.

Shelda and her longtime partner Adriana were the world’s best team before Walsh Jennings and May-Treanor took over leading into the 2004 Olympics. (In 2016, Walsh Jennings will look to break Adriana’s record as oldest Olympic women’s beach volleyball medalist, by 2 1/2 years)

You’ll notice a key difference for Walsh Jennings in matches with Ross, contrasted to ones with May-Treanor, such as their 2004 Olympic gold-medal match against Shelda and Adriana.

Walsh Jennings has switched from the left side to the right side of the sand playing with Ross. That was Shelda’s side.

So Walsh Jennings used her coach, Marcio Sicoli, as a translator at breakfast, as she picked Shelda’s brain about playing on the right.

“Very simple and profound things to think about,” Walsh Jennings said. “Best conversation I ever had with Shelda.”

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Fred Kerley wins 100m at Rabat Diamond League in early showdown

Fred Kerley

World champion Fred Kerley won the 100m in an early season showdown at a Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, on Sunday.

Kerley clocked 9.94 seconds, beating a field that included Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who remains the world’s fastest man this year (9.84 from May 13) and world bronze medalist Trayvon Bromell. Omanyala was third in 10.05 on Sunday, while Bromell was fifth in 10.10.

Kerley has run three 100m races this year and broke 9.95 in all of them, a promising start as he bids to repeat as world champion in Budapest in August.

Full meet results are here.

The Diamond League season continues with a meet in Florence, Italy, on Friday, live on Peacock. The headline event is the men’s 100m including Kerley and Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy. Kerley and Jacobs were due to go head to head in Rabat, but Jacobs withdrew last Thursday due to nerve pain.

Earlier, Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway comfortably took the 1500m in 3:32.59. American Yared Nuguse surged to place second in a personal best 3:33.02 in his Diamond League debut after running the world’s second-fastest indoor mile in history in February.

Jamaican Rasheed Broadbell ran down world champion Grant Holloway in the 110m hurdles, prevailing 13.08 to 13.12 into a headwind. Holloway remains fastest in the world this year at 13.03.

Kenyan Emmanuel Korir, the Olympic and world champion, finished eighth in the 800m won by countryman Emmanuel Wanyonyi. Wanyonyi, 18, is the world’s fastest in 2023.

American Shamier Little won the 400m hurdles in 53.95, becoming second-fastest in the world this year behind countrywoman Britton Wilson. Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world champion and world record holder, has yet to compete this outdoor season and so far has strictly committed to flat 400m races in future meets. McLaughlin-Levrone has a bye into the world championships 400m hurdles but may run the flat 400m there instead.

In the 400m, Olympic champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas won in 44.70, while world bronze medalist Matthew Hudson-Smith of Great Britain pulled up about 50 meters into the race.

Also Sunday, world bronze medalist Anna Hall improved from No. 3 to No. 2 on the U.S. all-time heptathlon list with 6,988 points to win the Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria. Only Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the world record holder at 7,291, has scored higher among Americans.

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

Main draw play began Sunday, live on Peacock.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Turning 22 during the tournament, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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