World swimming championships: 10 races to watch

Caeleb Dressel, Kristof Milak
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Ten races to watch at the world swimming championships in Budapest that start Saturday …

Women’s 400m Freestyle (Final Saturday, June 18)
Katie Ledecky‘s toughest race to win is always her shortest. For the first time since 2013, she goes into a major international meet with the 400m free fitting that bill after dropping the 200m. She will look to regain the crown after taking silver behind Aussie Ariarne Titmus at the Olympics and the most recent world championships (2019). Titmus, who broke Ledecky’s world record at the Australian Championships last month, is skipping worlds to focus on the Commonwealth Games later this summer. So the American’s top challenger should instead be 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh, who was fourth in Tokyo. Ledecky has been 1.07 seconds faster than McIntosh this year.

Men’s 400m Individual Medley (Final Saturday, June 18)
This race could include reigning Olympic champion Chase Kalisz and reigning world champion Daiya Seto of Japan. But a pair of 20-year-olds are also worth watching. American Carson Foster missed the Olympic team by one spot. A month later, he swam a 400m IM time that would have won Tokyo gold by nearly a second. At world championships trials, Foster beat Kalisz by 1.17 seconds. Then there’s Léon Marchand, who come the 2024 Paris Olympics could be France’s best swimmer and going for the nation’s first gold medal of the Games given the 400m IM is traditionally on the first day of competition. Marchand, who trains under Michael Phelps‘ old coach Bob Bowman, was sixth in Tokyo, but his personal-best time would have earned silver.

SWIMMING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay (Final Saturday, June 18)
For so long the most exciting relay, with the U.S. trading gold medals with Australia, South Africa and France. But since Caeleb Dressel entered the picture in 2016, the Americans won all four Olympic and world titles. Dressel will be the lone returnee from the U.S. Olympic final quartet. The absence of Russia (ban) and British star Duncan Scott (COVID-19) means the U.S. should enter the final as a significant favorite. Watch out for Italy, which was just two tenths behind the U.S. in Tokyo going into the anchor, where Zach Apple widened the final margin to 1.14 seconds.

Women’s 100m Butterfly (Final Sunday, June 19)
Last year, this event represented the future of U.S. swimming with high schoolers Torri Huske and Claire Curzan going one-two at Olympic Trials. They did so again at world championships trials (and in the 100m free) and are significantly stronger medal contenders in Budapest than in Tokyo (where Huske was fourth and Curzan 10th). They rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. They will also benefit from the expected absences of the last two Olympic gold medalists, Sarah Sjöström of Sweden (focusing on freestyle) and Maggie Mac Neil of Canada (focusing on relays). China’s Zhang Yufei, the silver medalist in Tokyo, lurks.

Women’s 200m Individual Medley (Final Sunday, June 19)
Field includes Tokyo Olympic champion Yui Ohashi of Japan, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary (who won all five Olympic and world titles from 2013-19) in the likely first event of what could be her last worlds and American Alex Walsh, who is fastest in the world this year. But the favorite may well be Australian Kaylee McKeown, who swept the backstrokes in Tokyo but did not race the 200m IM at the Olympics. However, McKeown won the 200m IM at the Australian Olympic Trials in a time that ended up being best in the world in 2021. This year, she ranks second behind Walsh.

Women’s 100m Backstroke (Final Monday, June 20)
All three Olympic medalists return, and all three held the world record at different times. Current record holder McKeown is the biggest star of the Australian team in Budapest. Canadian Kylie Masse, who took silver in Tokyo, is the defending world champion. American Regan Smith, the Olympic bronze medalist, is fastest in the world this year by a significant .55 of a second over McKeown.

Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay (Final Wednesday, June 22)
The only relay in Tokyo where less than a second separated gold from bronze. It could be close again. China won the Olympics in a surprise (and a world record). The Chinese are again a bit of a mystery given their swimmers’ lack of racing during the season. Ledecky anchored the U.S. to silver in Tokyo, but she will be the lone returning member of the final quartet. Australia’s two stars from its bronze-medal team — Titmus and Emma McKeon — are skipping worlds. Canada, potentially with McIntosh and Tokyo 200m free bronze medalist Penny Oleksiak, could knock the U.S. off the podium altogether.

Men’s 200M Breaststroke (Final Thursday, June 23)
This event had the opportunity to feature the six fastest men in history, but two-time reigning world champion Anton Chupkov is out due to Russia’s ban. Shoma Sato and Ippei Watanabe aren’t on the Japanese roster. That could mean smooth sailing for Olympic gold medalist Zac Stubblety-Cook, who broke Chupkov’s world record at the Australian trials in May. His biggest threat may be Dutchman Arno Kamminga, who took silver in both breaststrokes in Tokyo. No man has swept the 100m and 200m breaststrokes at a single worlds since American Brendan Hansen in 2005.

Men’s 100m Butterfly (Final Friday, June 24)
Dressel is a clear favorite in all four of his individual events, but his longest race (by time) may be his closest. That’s because of Hungarian Kristof Milak, the 200m fly world record holder who in Tokyo took silver in the 100m fly, .23 behind Dressel, to supplant Phelps as the second-fastest performer in history. Milak will be swimming at a home worlds and likely coming off repeating as world champion in the 200m fly three days before the 100m final. The 100m fly could be the second of three finals for Dressel on this night alone, but he managed the same schedule pretty well in 2017 and 2019, winning all three events both times (one a relay).

Men’s 1500m Freestyle (Final Saturday, June 25)
In Tokyo, American Bobby Finke capped his 800m-1500 free double by charging from third place with 150 meters left to win the mile. Finke took 9.05 seconds off his personal best over the course of 2021, culminating in Olympic history. But perhaps forgotten was that the men who finished second, third and fourth all had personal bests more than two seconds faster than Finke’s gold-medal-winning time. None of them happened to deliver when it mattered most like Finke did. Now all of those men — Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk, German Florian Wellbrock and Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri — are expected to face Finke again in Budapest. The world’s fastest this year is somebody else, 20-year-old German Lukas Martens. Romanchuk, Ukraine’s best swimmer, trained for a time with Wellbrock in Spain amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

Fred Kerley

American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His Texas-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from Texas.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw