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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MORE: Carly Patterson speaks out about Larry Nassar

Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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Marie-Philip Poulin is first female hockey player to win Canada Athlete of the Year

Marie-Philip Poulin
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Marie-Philip Poulin became the first female hockey player to win Canada’s Athlete of the Year after captaining the national team at the Winter Olympics and winning her third gold medal.

Poulin, 31, scored twice and assisted once in Canada’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic final on Feb. 17. She has scored seven of Canada’s 10 goals over the last four Olympic finals dating to the 2010 Vancouver Games — all against the U.S.

Nine different male hockey players won Canada Athlete of the Year — now called the Northern Star Award — since its inception in 1936, led by Wayne Gretzky‘s four titles. Sidney Crosby won it in 2007 and 2009, and Carey Price was the most recent in 2015.

Poulin is the fifth consecutive Olympic champion to win the award in an Olympic year after bobsledder Kaillie Humphries in 2014, swimmer Penny Oleksiak in 2016, moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury in 2018 and decathlete Damian Warner in 2021.

Canada’s other gold medalists at February’s Olympics were snowboarder Max Parrot in slopestyle, plus teams in speed skating’s women’s team pursuit and short track’s men’s 5000m relay.

In men’s hockey, Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup and the Norris Trophy as the season’s best defenseman.

The Northern Star Award is annually decided by Canadian sports journalists.

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