Usain Bolt barely wins last race before world championships

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Usain Bolt held off an unaccomplished field to win his last race before his farewell world championships, clocking 9.95 seconds in a 100m in Monaco on Friday.

Bolt edged American Isiah Young by .03 in his third 100m race this season. It’s Bolt’s first time clocking sub-10 since the Rio Olympics.

“I’m going into right direction, still lot of work to do,” Bolt said, according to the IAAF. “Sub-10 always good.”

Bolt has one meet left before retirement, the world championships in London that start in two weeks. Bolt is slated to race the 100m and 4x100m at the 2012 Olympic Stadium.

None of Bolt’s top rivals raced against him in Monaco — Yohan BlakeChristian ColemanAndre De Grasse and Justin Gatlin.

His time on Friday was not particularly impressive, but it was the fastest by any man outside of his home country this year. Even Bolt has admitted it has been a slow year overall for men’s sprinters.

Full Diamond League results are here.

In other events, Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk was pushed by Botswana’s Isaac Makwala in the 400m, winning in 43.73 seconds. Makwala clocked 43.84, testing the South African more than any runner since 2015. Van Niekerk holds the world record of 43.03 and the fastest time of 2017 of 43.62.

Ajee’ Wilson shattered the U.S. women’s 800m record in finishing third behind Olympic champion Caster Semenya. Wilson clocked 1:55.61, taking .79 off Jearl Miles Clark‘s record from 1999.

Semenya, who hasn’t lost an 800m since September 2015, lowered her national record by .01 to win by two tenths over Rio silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba in 1:55.27.

World-record holder Keni Harrison edged countrywoman Sharika Nelvis, 12.51 to 12.52, in the 100m hurdles. It was well off Harrison’s world record of 12.20 from 2016 and 12.28 from July 4.

Kenyan Elijah Manangoi ran the fastest 1500m in the world in two years, winning in 3:28.80. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was ninth (3:34.43). World champion Asbel Kiprop was 11th (3:34.91).

Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager won the 3000m steeplechase by 6.39 seconds in 8:01.29, the fastest time in the world this year by 3.34 seconds. Rio gold medalist Conseslus Kipruto withdrew before the race with an ankle injury.

Kori Carter led a U.S. one-two in the women’s 400m hurdles. She clocked 53.36 to hold off 2015 World champion Shamier Little, who crossed in 54.02. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, who has the fastest time of 2017 of 52.64, was not in Monaco.

The Diamond League takes a break for worlds before returning in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 20.

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MORE: Bolt: Nobody is running fast this year

Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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