Allyson Felix
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Allyson Felix: I stand with Caster Semenya

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Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, spoke out in support of Caster Semenya on Wednesday.

Felix reacted to the IAAF rule change capping testosterone levels for athletes in women’s events between the 400m and mile, conversing with Julie Foudy on the Olympic soccer champion’s podcast, Laughter Permitted.

Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion on a three-year win streak, has said she is being specifically targeted by the rule change.

The South African challenged it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but lost a decision last week, nearly a decade since word leaked that track officials mandated she undergo gender-verification testing after she won the world 800m title by 2.45 seconds at age 18.

“I’ve been disappointed from the beginning, of just how everything has been handled,” Felix said of her fellow Nike-sponsored runner. “I just think that it’s not OK. I stand with Caster. She’s a friend of mine. I just think that no one should have to go through what she’s had to go through. Not just in this moment. From the beginning of when she started competing. So I think it’s a very, very complex issue. … But I just think that it has been mishandled from the start.”

Barring another appeal, and one that is successful, it’s unknown if or when Semenya will be able to compete in her best races again. She and Felix have never raced against each other, though Semenya started becoming competitive in Felix’s best event, the 400m, in recent years.

Felix is glad that she’s not making the decision in a case that has been fiercely debated for years and especially since the CAS ruling.

“There has to be something, or there should have already been something in place when you’re dealing with athletes with differences or intersex athletes. I don’t know. It’s challenging,” she said. “We’re talking about human beings. This is a person. To have all of this play out the way that it has, it makes me cringe to think of her dealing with this. This has been for 10 years now. I just feel like there is a better way.”

Felix also reiterated Wednesday that she’s going for what would be her fifth Olympics in 2020 — “this last one and enjoy the whole ride.” Her daughter, Camryn, is now five months old after being born eight weeks premature and spending her first month in the NICU.

“She’s great. She’s growing. She’s catching up. She’s so much fun,” Felix said.

The nine-time Olympic medalist is still figuring out the mother-athlete balance as she returns to training.

“I’m looking at the workouts and I’m thinking man, I can’t believe there was a time that literally I had to just wake up, train, take a nap, take care of my body and do it all again,” Felix said. “Now, I’m like, how can I get four hours of sleep?”

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MORE: ‘Hell No’: Caster Semenya refuses to take medication for rule change

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.

An American man is already guaranteed to reach the third round — Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second-ranked female golfer Nelly Korda, next faces Isner.

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

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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.

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

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