Kjetil Jansrud
AP

Kjetil Jansrud wins first ski race on 2018 Olympic course

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JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Kjetil Jansrud confirmed he’s the skier to beat on the downhill course for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, winning the test event by a comfortable margin Saturday.

The first downhill course in South Korea also won mostly praise from skiers and the International Ski Federation.

“If you want to be the best you have to ski anything,” Jansrud said. “This is more than an acceptable Olympic downhill. The way it’s running now it’s almost a little too fast because the jumps are so big. But that makes it exciting.”

Giving Norway its 17th World Cup win of the season, Jansrud was nearly flawless and clocked 1 minute, 41.38 seconds for a 0.20-second advantage over Dominik Paris of Italy.

Steven Nyman of the United States finished third, 0.41 behind, in perfect conditions with clear skies, cool temperatures and hard snow.

It was Jansrud’s third win of the season and first in downhill after taking the season-long title in the discipline last season.

“This is probably the first run I’ve skied this season without mistakes,” he said.

Jansrud also led both training courses on the newly developed Jeongseon course.

Paris and Nyman each posted their first podium results of the season.

“In the summer I was thinking this is a highlight of the season to come here and to really learn about the culture and learn about what we’re going to experience during the Olympics,” Nyman said.

“I want to feel comfortable and come here with the expectations and I want to do well, too, because I know the Olympics are going to be here in two years,” Nyman added. “I did well and I’m happy. I think the course really suits my skills.”

A super-G is scheduled for Sunday in the first of 28 test events for the next Winter Games.

“Today we put Korea on the map of the international sports world,” Pyeongchang organizing committee chief Cho Yang-ho said. “This is just the beginning.”

While the course is not the most challenging of tests for World Cup racers, it features four big jumps, sweeping turns and is designed for small margins.

“It’s a downhill that is really made for the Olympics,” International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper said. “It’s not Kitzbuehel or Wengen — that we don’t need for the Olympics.”

It was only the third World Cup downhill held in Asia, and the first in South Korea.

Todd Brooker of Canada won in Furano, Japan, in 1985 and Peter Mueller of Switzerland won at Furano in 1987.

More than 1,000 fans attended the race, which was preceded by an opening ceremony featuring traditional dancers with skis on their backs.

Most of the spectators had to hike 500 meters (yards) up a steep hill to the finish area, since a planned lift for fans hasn’t been installed yet.

There were also cheerleaders to keep the spectators entertained, and many skiers bowed to the crowd after their runs according to the local custom.

Peter Fill of Italy finished fourth and Beat Feuz of Switzerland was fifth.

Jansrud is fourth in the overall standings, which are led by Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

Aksel Lund Svindal, Jansrud’s teammate who will miss the rest of the season following a crash in Kitzbuehel (video here), Austria, still leads the downhill standings by 71 points ahead of Fill. Jansrud is third, 109 points behind.

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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.

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