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Rome Diamond League preview, broadcast schedule

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Canadian Andre De Grasse, who won a medal of every color in Rio, headlines a Diamond League meet in Rome, live on Thursday starting at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and 2 p.m. on NBCSN.

Rome, the site of Usain Bolt‘s last individual defeat in 2013, is the first of three Diamond League meets in an 11-day span.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold will also air live coverage of Oslo (June 15) and Stockholm (June 18), the last two meets before the U.S. Championships. Nationals serve as the qualifying meet for the world championships in London in August.

Rio Olympic medalists prepping for nationals in Rome include shot putter Michelle Carter and pole vaulter Sandi Morris.

The meet is deeper with international stars like 1500m world-record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, world 200m champion Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands and of course De Grasse.

Rome start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

12:15 p.m. — Women’s shot put
1 — Women’s triple jump
1:20 — Women’s pole vault
2:03 — Women’s 400m hurdles
2:10 — Women’s high jump
2:15 — Men’s 3000m steeplechase
2:30 — Men’s 100m
2:35 — Men’s javelin
2:40 — Men’s 800m
2:50 — Women’s 400m
3:05 — Men’s 110m hurdles
3:13 — Women’s 1500m
3:23 — Women’s 100m
3:30 — Men’s 200m
3:40 — Women’s 5000m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s pole vault — 1:20 p.m. ET

Every Rio Olympic medalist is here — gold medalist Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, Morris and bronze medalist Eliza McCartney of New Zealand.

Little separates the trio this year. Stefanidi cleared 4.85 meters indoors, best in the world this year. Morris has cleared 4.84 meters outdoors, best in the world this year. McCartney has cleared 4.82 meters outdoors. The only woman to rival the trio in top clearances this year is 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr, who is not in Rome.

Men’s javelin — 2:35 p.m. ET

Perhaps the deepest field of the meet. It includes the top four from the Rio Olympics, plus two more men who have earned world championships medals.

The headliner is German Olympic champion Thomas Rohler, who on May 5 moved up to No. 2 on the all-time list behind Czech legend Jan Zelezny. Rohler threw 93.90 meters, but he’s still 15 feet shy of Zelezny’s world record from 1996.

Men’s 110m hurdles — 3:05 p.m. ET

Aries Merritt and David Oliver, the top two U.S. hurdlers over the last decade, go head-to-head here in a teaser for the U.S. Championships in two weeks. With Rio Olympic champion Omar McLeod not in the field, it’s wide open.

Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder, has the fastest time this season of those in Rome. The recipient of a 2015 kidney transplant eyes his first Diamond League victory in four years.

Rio silver medalist Orlando Ortega of Spain and 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia are also entered.

Men’s 200m — 3:30 p.m. ET

The 200m is in a transition year now that both Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin have said they don’t plan to race the half-lap event anymore.

While new names have popped up in the 200m this season — Wayde van NiekerkNoah Lyles and Christian Coleman — the Rome entries represent the old guard in the event.

There are Rio Olympic silver and bronze medalists Andre De Grasse and Christophe Lemaitre. There is Panamanian Alonso Edward, the Diamond League season champion the last three years. And U.S. Olympian Ameer Webb.

De Grasse has struggled in the 100m this season, but this is a prime opportunity to notch his first Diamond League win of 2017.

Women’s 5000m — 3:40 p.m. ET

Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba and Kenyan Hellen Obiri, two of the six fastest women all-time in this event, go head-to-head for the first time.

Dibaba, best known for her 1500m prowess (world record, 2015 World title), is also the indoor 5000m world-record holder. She won the Pre Classic 5000m in 14:25.22 on May 26.

Obiri is the only woman to run faster this year, winning in 14:22.47 in Shanghai on May 13. Obiri, raised a 1500m runner, took 5000m silver in Rio in a personal-best time after a year off to have a baby. Obiri was added to the Rome field as Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana withdrew last month due to a physical problem.

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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. 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.

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), next faces Isner.

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats have been winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11.

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

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

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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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