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Jared Donaldson nearly records biggest U.S. men’s upset at French Open since 2000

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Two of the top four men’s seeds rallied for five-set, second-round wins at the French Open on Wednesday, keeping the draw from being turned upside down like it hasn’t been in more than a decade.

No. 2 Alexander Zverev nearly became the highest men’s seed to lose in the first two rounds since Andy Roddick in 2005. The German Zverev trailed by a set and a break — and was down a broken racket, too — before eventually collecting himself and coming back to beat 60th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 2-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Zverev equaled his best showing at Roland Garros; he also reached the third round two years ago.

If the 21-year-old German is going to get to the round of 16 he’ll need to do something he never has at a Grand Slam tournament: defeat a player ranked in the top 50. Zverev’s next match comes against 26th-seeded Damir Dzumhur.

Lajovic lost his eighth consecutive match that stretched to five sets.

Unseeded Jared Donaldson nearly became the first U.S. man to beat a single-digit seed at the French Open since 2000, leading No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov two sets to one.

But the Bulgarian came back to win 6-7 (2), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8. Donaldson, 21, struggled so much that he resorted to an underhanded serve late in the fifth set (and won a point). The last U.S. man to beat a single-digit seed in Paris was Jan-Michael Gambill, who upset No. 8 Nicolas Kiefer in the first round in 2000.

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“I would never try [the underhand serve] if I was feeling 100 percent and stuff,” said Donaldson, who could barely move by the end because of painful cramps in his legs. “But obviously Grigor was playing so far back on the return that I felt like, ‘You know, maybe it’s just something that I’ll try.’ He obviously wasn’t expecting it, you know what I mean? It’s kind of a cheeky way to get a point.”

Another young American, Michael Chang, used an underhand serve while cramping during a fourth-round win over Ivan Lendl on the way to the 1989 French Open title at age 17; he remains the youngest man to win a major singles championship.

Dimitrov was not angered by the tactic.

Quite the opposite, actually, shrugging his shoulders and conceding it was smart for Donaldson to try it.

“It was beautiful, right?” Dimitrov said. “He wanted to use something different to kind of try to put me off guard.”

Before his first underhand attempt, Donaldson was actually two points from the victory, leading 6-5 in the fifth set and at love-30 on Dimitrov’s serve. But Dimitrov took the next four points.

In the next game, at 6-all, 40-30, Donaldson successfully used the underhand motion. He hit a short serve that two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Dimitrov returned long to allow Donaldson to hold.

After Dimitrov broke to lead 8-7 and serve for the victory, Donaldson broke right back.

In the next game, though, Donaldson could barely stand, let alone run. He double-faulted. Then he tried his second underhand serve, dropping the point. Dimitrov hit a winner to break for a 9-8 lead, Donaldson slowly limped to the sideline for the changeover and, soon enough, it was over.

Also Wednesday, 2016 French Open champion Novak Djokovic posted another straight-set win to reach the third round. Facing Spanish qualifier Jaume Munar, the Serb delivered a solid display to prevail 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-4 and move into the third round for the 13th time.

Djokovic, who underwent right elbow surgery earlier this year, is the 20th-seeded player in Paris, his lowest Grand Slam seeding since the 2006 U.S. Open.

“At the moment, I’m not playing at the level I wish to, but at the same time, I understand that it is the process that obviously takes time,” he said. “And I’m trying to not give up.”

Top-ranked Simona Halep put aside a terrible start and came back to claim 12 of the last 14 games, beating 83rd-ranked Alison Riske of the United States 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round,

It was the last match of the tournament’s opening round.

Halep, the runner-up at Roland Garros in 2014 and a year ago, played poorly in the first set, with only four winners and 16 unforced errors. But she had 16 winners and 12 unforced errors the rest of the way, while Riske made more and more mistakes.

Serena and Venus Williams won their first Grand Slam doubles match in nearly two years.

The sisters moved into the second round by coming back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over the 14th-seeded Japanese pairing of Shuko Aoyama and Miyu Kato in front of a Court 3 crowd that raucously supported the Americans.

The Williams-Williams duo last competed at a major tournament together at Wimbledon in 2016. They won their 14th Grand Slam title in women’s doubles at the All England Club.

This return to doubles came a day after Serena Williams participated in Grand Slam singles for the first time in 16 months, winning her first-round match. Venus Williams lost in the first round of singles on Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Noah Lyles raises black-gloved fist, wins 200m in Monaco

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Noah Lyles said he had plans going forward to make statements, beyond his rapid sprint times. He did that in Monaco on Friday.

Lyles raised a black, fingerless-gloved right fist before getting into the blocks to win a 200m in his first international race of the season, conjuring memories of the famous 1968 Olympic podium gesture.

He clocked 19.76 seconds, leading a one-two with younger brother Josephus. Full results are here.

“As athletes it’s hard to show that you love your country and also say that change is needed,” was posted on Lyles’ Instagram, along with hashtags including #blacklivesmatter. “This is my way of saying this country is great but it can be better.”

Lyles, the world 200m champion, also paid respect to 1968 Olympic 200m gold and bronze medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos three hours before the race.

He tweeted an iconic image of Smith and Carlos raising their single black-gloved fists on the medal stand at the Mexico City Games. Thirteen minutes earlier, Lyles posted an Instagram Story image of his socks for the meet — plain, dark colored.

Smith and Carlos wore black socks without shoes on the podium to signify endemic poverty back in the U.S. at the time.

Lyles is known for his socks, often posting images of colorful pairs he wears before races, themes including Speed Racer, R2-D2 and Sonic the Hedgehog.

“We are at the point where you can’t do nothing anymore,” Lyles said Wednesday. “There aren’t any rules set out. You’re kind of just pushing the boundary as far as you can go. Some people have said, even if there were rules, they’re willing to go farther than that.”

MORE: Noah, Josephus Lyles take 4-year journey to Monaco

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Joshua Cheptegei breaks 5000m world record in Monaco

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Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei broke a 16-year-old world record in the 5000m by nearly two seconds, clocking 12:35.36 in Monaco on Friday.

Cheptegei, the 2019 World 10,000m champion who reportedly needed 80 hours to travel from Uganda for the Diamond League meet, took 1.99 seconds off Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele‘s world record from 2004. Bekele is also the 10,000m world-record holder and the second-fastest marathoner in history.

“It took a lot of mind setting to keep being motivated this year because so many people are staying at home, but you have to stay motivated,” Cheptegei said, according to organizers. “I pushed myself, I had the right staff with me, the right coach.”

Cheptegei, 23, came into Monaco as the 73rd-fastest man in history with a personal best of 12:57.41. But he declared before the meet that the world record was his goal, given he had no Olympics or world championships to peak for this year.

“It is very difficult to run any world record,” was posted on the Instagram of Bekele, who is part of the NN Running Team with Cheptegei. “Congratulations to my teammate [Cheptegei].”

Full Monaco results are here. The Diamond League next moves to Stockholm on Aug. 23.

In other events Friday, Noah Lyles easily won a 200m after raising a black-gloved first before the start. More on Lyles’ gesture and victory here.

Donavan Brazier extended a year-plus 800m win streak, clocking 1:43.15 and holding off countryman Bryce Hoppel by .08. Brazier won his last seven meets, including national, world and Diamond League titles in 2019, when he broke a 34-year-old American record.

Olympic silver medalist Orlando Ortega of Spain won the 110m hurdles in 13.11 seconds, overtaking world champion Grant Holloway. Holloway, who won worlds in 13.10 last autumn, finished fourth in 13.19.

Timothy Cheruiyot followed his 2019 World title by clocking his second-fastest 1500m ever. The Kenyan recorded 3:28.45, holding off Norwegian 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who set a European record of 3:28.68.

Sifan Hassan, the world’s top female distance runner, dropped out of the 5000m with two and a half laps left while in the lead pack. Two-time world champion Hellen Obiri won in 14:22.12, surging past Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey on the final lap.

Karsten Warholm ran the joint eighth-fastest 400m hurdles in history, a 47.10 against a field that lacked rivals Rai Benjamin and Abderrahman Samba. Warholm, the two-time world champion, ranks second in history with a personal best of 46.92, trailing only American Kevin Young‘s 46.78 from the 1992 Olympics.

American Lynna Irby won her Diamond League debut with a 50.50 in the 400m. Irby, the second-fastest American in 2018, failed to make the 2019 World team. On Friday, she beat Wadeline Jonathas, the top American in 2019.

Pole vault world-record holder Mondo Duplantis needed three tries to clear 5.70 meters, then won with a 5.80-meter clearance (and then cleared six meters). Duplantis, whose mom drove his poles 25 hours from Sweden to Monaco, brought the world record to 6.18 meters in February.

American Sam Kendricks, two-time reigning world pole vault champion, did not compete because his poles did not arrive.

MORE: Noah, Josephus Lyles take 4-year journey to Monaco

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