Lithuania, one of the best Olympic men’s basketball nations of the last 25 years, lost five straight Olympic semifinals from 1992 through 2008. It was beaten by Russia in the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals.
Lithuania qualified for Rio by beating 2014 World silver medalist Serbia in the EuroBasket semifinals Sept. 18 before it lost to Spain in the final.
Valanciunas, then 20, was the youngest player on the 2012 Lithuanian Olympic team that included NBA veterans Sarunas Jasikevicius, Linas Kleiza and Darius Songalia, all of whom are not on the Rio Olympic team.
Valanciunas averaged 11.2 minutes per game in London but grew into his nation’s most valuable player at EuroBasket, averaging 16 points per game in last year’s tournament.
Sabonis, the 20-year-old son of longtime Lithuanian star Arvydas Sabonis, is the youngest player on this year’s Olympic team. He was the No. 11 overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 23. He appeared in four of nine games at 2015 EuroBasket.
Lithuania was one of three nations to beat the U.S. at the 2004 Athens Olympics (Puerto Rico, Argentina) and played the U.S. the closest of any nation at Sydney 2000 (two-point loss) and London 2012 (five-point loss).
The U.S. routed Lithuania by 28 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup semifinals.
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 last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury 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, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.
No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope 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 Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
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 could meet in the 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).
No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.