Kirani James

Kirani James breaks Michael Johnson record at Drake Relays

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Olympic champion Kirani James broke Michael Johnson‘s Drake Relays 400m record on Friday night, beating rival World champion LaShawn Merritt handily in their first head-to-head race this season.

James, of Grenada, clocked 44.22 seconds in Des Moines, Iowa, topping Johnson’s mark of 44.41 from 1996. Only two men — Johnson and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner — have ever run faster this early in a year, according to the IAAF.

“It just shows that I am in great shape,” James told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “Good things can happen this season, but nothing is guaranteed. It’s still early.”

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Merritt, who succeeded James as World champion in 2013, was a disappointing fifth in 45.27.

Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400m champion, has not placed lower than second in any top-level international 400m race that he has finished since 2006.

“Today wasn’t about the time,” Merritt told Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports. “Coach said go out and work on some things. … I didn’t do so well as far as place-wise, but I feel good.”

In 2014, James clocked a world-leading 43.74 with Merritt ranking second at 43.92. They’re the only two men to run sub-44 seconds since 2008.

In the 110m hurdles, U.S. indoor 60m hurdles champion Aleec Harris clocked 13.16 to beat a field that included World champion David Oliver (second, 13.19), Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt (fourth, 13.37) and Olympic decathlon champion and world record holder Ashton Eaton (seventh, 13.43).

Harris’ time marked the fastest in the world this year, according to the IAAF, but it’s early and will likely take sub-13 to win the World Championship in Beijing in August.

In the men’s 400m hurdles, Bershawn Jackson topped Olympic and World silver medalist Michael Tinsley, 48.87 to 49.39.

Jackson, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, failed to make the 2012 Olympic team. He was the third-fastest American last year, behind Tinsley and Eaton. Eaton is no longer running the 400m hurdles, switching back to the decathlon.

In the women’s 800m, Ajee’ Wilson, 20, prevailed in 2:00:03 over World bronze medalist Brenda Martinez. Wilson, the 2012 World junior champion, had the fastest time in the world last year (1:57.67).

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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, results

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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.

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, results

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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.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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