Katie Ledecky, Sun Yang open quests for history with golds at World Championships

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky and Sun Yang earned their first gold medals en route to what could be unprecedented sweeps on the first day of the World Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia, on Sunday.

Ledecky, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, took the 400m freestyle in 3:59.13 with a 3.89-second margin of victory. She was around one second under her 2014 world-record pace halfway through the race, finished .76 off her mark and showed little celebration in the pool.

“I can’t complain about that,” Ledecky said on Eurosport. “You always want to improve and go best times and things like that, but it gives me things to work on in the future. … It gives me some momentum moving forward for the rest of the week.”

Sun, a 23-year-old Chinese, captured the men’s 400m free in 3:42.58, taking the lead in the final 100 meters and winning by a comfortable 1.17 seconds. He flexed his biceps and screamed in celebration, as is his custom. The U.S.’ Connor Jaeger and Michael McBroom were fourth and eighth, respectively.

Ledecky and Sun could become the first swimmers to sweep the 200m through 1500m freestyles at a World Championships. They also could join Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte as the only swimmers to earn four individual gold medals at a single Worlds.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage of Sunday’s events from 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET.

Swimming World Championships: Men’s preview | Women’s preview | TV schedule | Sunday results

Missy Franklin debuted with a bronze medal leading off the U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay, which was attempting to repeat as World champion for the first time. The Americans were no match for Australia, which broke the world record in 2014 and won by 2.19 seconds over the Netherlands and 3.13 over the U.S. on Sunday.

The shocker of the earlier morning preliminaries session was the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay. The U.S. and Australia both finished tied for 11th and 13th, respectively, missing the eight-nation final. Olympic champion France ended up winning the final over Russia and Italy.

The U.S. held out of the preliminary heat its fastest 100m freestyler — Olympic champion Nathan Adrian — to save him for the final, as is custom for swimming powers. It burned them. The U.S.’ heat time included a 49.69 split from 34-year-old Anthony Ervin, the slowest 4x100m free relay split by an American at a Worlds or Olympics since 2007.

“I died real bad at the end of my leg, which is not uncommon,” Ervin, a 2000 Olympic co-champion in the 50m freestyle and the oldest member of the U.S. team at Worlds, said, according to media in Kazan. “I didn’t really see the rest of the relay. I was still kind of rolling around in a bit of a lactic acid blackout.”

The first World Championships were in 1973, and the U.S. had won a medal in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay at every Olympics and Worlds where it competed save the 2001 Worlds when it was disqualified for using a swimmer who wasn’t on the event entry list.

In the women’s 100m butterfly semifinals Sunday, defending World champion Swede Sarah Sjostrom broke U.S. Olympic champion Dana Vollmer‘s world record from the London Games.

Sjostrom clocked 55.74 to join Vollmer as the only women to ever break 56 seconds. Vollmer, who is not competing at Worlds following childbirth, swam 55.98 at the London Olympics. The Kazan final, which will include zero Americans, is Monday night.

In the women’s 200m individual medley semifinals, Hungarian defending World champion Katinka Hosszu broke her European record with a 2:06.84, which was .69 off American Ariana Kukors‘ world record from 2009.

Chinese Olympic champion Ye Shiwen snuck into Monday’s final by .07 in the eighth and final qualifying spot. Ye has dealt with reported ankle problems leading into Worlds.

In the men’s 100m breaststroke, British world-record holder Adam Peaty was the top qualifier into Monday’s final. Peaty was followed by South African Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh. No Americans made the final.

First two U.S. triathletes qualify for 2016 Olympics

Men’s 400m freestyle final
Gold: Sun Yang (CHN) — 3:42.58
Silver: James Guy (GBR) — 3:43.75
Bronze: Ryan Cochrane (CAN) — 3:44.59
4. Connor Jaeger (USA) — 3:44.81
5. Peter Bernek (HUN) — 3:46.29
6. Wojciech Jacek Wojdak (POL) — 3:46.81
7. Clemens Rapp (GER) — 3:48.52
8. Michael McBroom (USA) — 3:51.94

Women’s 400m freestyle final
Gold: Katie Ledecky (USA) — 3:59.13
Silver: Sharon van Rouwendaal (NED) — 4:03.02
Bronze: Jessica Ashwood (AUS) — 4:03.34
4. Jaz Carlin (GBR) — 4:03.75
5. Lauren Boyle (NZL) — 4:04.38
6. Melanie Costa (ESP) — 4:06.50
7. Diletta Carli (ITA) — 4:07.30
8. Boglarka Kapas (HUN) — 4:08.22

Women’s 4x100m freestyle final
Gold: Australia — 3:31.48
Silver: Netherlands — 3:33.67
Bronze: U.S. — 3:34.61
4. Sweden — 3:35.71
5. Canada — 3:36.44
6. Italy — 3:37.16
7. China — 3:37.64
8. France — 3:38.46

Men’s 4x100m freestyle final
Gold: France — 3:10.74
Silver: Russia — 3:11.19
Bronze: Italy — 3:12.53
4. Brazil — 3:13.22
5. Poland — 3:14.12
6. Japan — 3:15.04
7. China — 3:15.41
8. Canada — 3:15.94

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz set French Open semifinal showdown


Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will play in the French Open semifinals on Friday in the most anticipated match of the tournament.

Each man advanced with a quarterfinal win on Tuesday.

Djokovic, eyeing a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title, rallied past 11th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4. The Serb reached his 45th career major semifinal, one shy of Roger Federer‘s men’s record.

Later Tuesday, top seed Alcaraz crushed fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) to consolidate his status as the favorite in Friday’s showdown.

“This match, everyone wants to watch,” Alcaraz said. “I really wanted to play this match as well. I always say that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Alcaraz, who at last year’s U.S. Open became the first male teen to win a major since Rafael Nadal in 2005, is at this event the youngest man to be the top seed at a major since Boris Becker at 1987 Wimbledon.

The Djokovic-Alcaraz semifinal will produce the clear favorite for Sunday’s final given left-handed 14-time French Open champion Nadal is out this year with a hip injury and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev lost in the first round. Djokovic and Nadal share the record 22 men’s major titles.

Djokovic and Alcaraz met once, with Alcaraz winning last year on clay in Madrid 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5).

“[Alcaraz] brings a lot of intensity on the court,” Djokovic said, before breaking into a smile. “Reminds me of someone from his country that plays with a left hand.”

Alcaraz and Djokovic were set to be on opposite halves of the draw — and thus not able to meet until the final — until Medvedev won the last top-level clay event before the French Open to move ahead of Djokovic in the rankings. That meant Djokovic had a 50 percent chance to wind up in Alcaraz’s half, and that’s what the random draw spit out two weeks ago.

Earlier Tuesday in the first two women’s quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova advanced to face off in Thursday’s semifinals.

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, swept Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 to complete her set of semifinals in all four Grand Slams. Sabalenka will take the No. 1 ranking from Iga Swiatek if Swiatek loses before the final, or if Sabalenka makes the final and Swiatek does not win the title.

Svitolina, a former world No. 3, returned to competition in April from childbirth.

Muchova took out 2021 French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5, 6-2, to make her second major semifinal after the 2021 Australian Open.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw