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Lindsey Vonn set to race at PyeongChang Olympic venue, live in primetime

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Lindsey Vonn says this weekend’s World Cup races at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea aren’t so much about winning as they are about gaining confidence.

“My goal is just to try and get as much experience on the track as possible, to get a good feeling on it and really analyze it, remember it for next year,” Vonn said Thursday. “The pressure will come next year, not so much this year.”

Nevertheless, Vonn posted the fastest time in training in Jeongseon on Thursday, .17 ahead of the top downhiller this season, Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia.

The women’s field is set for one more training run before a World Cup downhill race on Friday at 9 p.m. ET (live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

They will race again in a super-G on Saturday (also 9 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

The World Cup stop doubles as a 2018 Olympic test event.

It’s a rare chance to watch Vonn live in primetime in the U.S. Most World Cup races are held in Europe in the late morning or early afternoon, making for early wake-ups for American viewers.

South Korea is 14 hours ahead of New York.

Vonn arrived in South Korea on Tuesday and said at the airport that she was 70 percent fit and getting better, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Vonn, who won 2010 Olympic downhill gold but missed the 2014 Olympics due to crash-related injuries, is once again fighting neck whiplash from a race crash last Saturday. And food poisoning from earlier that week.

She returned to racing in January after suffering three knee fractures in a Feb. 27, 2016, race crash and breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash.

Vonn is also fighting age. She turns 33 in October. The oldest female Olympic Alpine skiing medalist ever was 32 years old.

“Most females retire before 33, so, yeah, I’m pretty sure PyeongChang will be my last Olympics,” Vonn said.

Vonn has three goals left in her career. The biggest is to break the record for World Cup wins of 86 held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark. She is at 77 wins.

A year ago, it looked as if Vonn could break Stenmark’s record before the 2018 Olympics. But those crashes and injuries limited her to one victory since Feb. 6, 2016 after averaging 8.5 wins per season the last two years.

“I’m not sure how many World Cups I’ll have won before the Olympics, but hopefully more than 77,” Vonn joked Thursday.

As for the Olympics, Vonn said in previous interviews that she wanted to reclaim the Olympic downhill title in PyeongChang. She was more modest on Thursday.

“I hope to win a medal, hopefully one or two, one would be great,” said Vonn, whose third goal is to race against men at some point after the 2018 Olympics. “My main focus before PyeongChang is to stay healthy.”

In 2008, Vonn finished second in the downhill at the 2010 Olympic test event in Whistler, B.C., missing the victory by one-hundredth of a second.

No matter, Vonn broke out that season by bagging six wins, her first of four World Cup overall titles and the status as biggest American star going into Vancouver Winter Games.

Two years later, Vonn won the Olympic downhill by more than a half-second over Julia Mancuso, who is also in Jeongseon this week and may race for the first time since March 2015.

Vonn has company in this Olympic cycle in the form of Sochi slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, who is poised to win this season’s World Cup overall title as world’s best all-around skier. She would be the first American to claim the crown since Vonn.

Though Shiffrin has victories this season in slalom, giant slalom and super combined, she is not expected to race in the downhill and super-G on Friday and Saturday. Shiffrin planned to fly back to the U.S. early to prep for next weekend’s World Cup giant slalom and slalom in Squaw Valley, Calif.

So the focus is again on Vonn, who on Thursday was once again the fastest on an Olympic track, albeit in training.

“It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good first training run,” she said. “It’s not necessarily whether I win these test events or not, so much as how confident I am on the track.”

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MORE: Shiffrin breaks through with first combined win

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.

“I don’t like usually comparing the years,” he said. “But I think [the conditions are] quite suitable to my style of the game.”

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.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

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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. It could have been nine, had Sam Querrey served out the match in the third set against 13th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Still, the U.S. has more men in the second round than any other nation. 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.

“A pretty horrific two years in a row,” Sock said. “I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the last couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back.”

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 Sunday, 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.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second- and 22nd-ranked female golfers (Nelly and Jessica).

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats: winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11. It was around that age that he gave up ice hockey and focused solely on tennis.

Korda was hooked after watching a Czech whom his dad coached, Radek Stepanek, at the U.S. Open in 2009.

“He played Djokovic on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium] like at 10:30 at night,” Korda, nicknamed Sebi, said on Tennis Channel. “Completely packed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went home, and I was like, this is exactly what I want to do.”

An American man is already guaranteed to make the third round in Paris. Korda faces Isner on Thursday.

“I grew up on the clay,” Korda said, “so I know how to play on it a little bit.”

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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