Djokovic Sweeps Past Ruud To Win Sixth ATP Finals Crown

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic kisses the winner’s trophy after winning the men’s single final match against Norway’s Casper Ruud on November 20, 2022 at the ATP Finals tennis tournament in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic claimed a sixth ATP Tour Finals title on Sunday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Norway’s Casper Ruud, to match Roger Federer’s record.

The 35-year-old Serb, the oldest player to win the Finals, ended in style after a season in which he missed two majors because of his vaccine status but also claimed his seventh Wimbledon title.

The win, which also brings a cheque for $4.7 million, came seven years after his last ATP Finals victory and will lift him from eighth to fifth in Monday’s new rankings.

“I made him run, made him play,” said Djokovic.

“I was really pleased with the way I played. I was looking to be very aggressive and it worked great. I am really pleased with the performance.”

Djokovic started strongly with two break points on his opponent’s first serve.

But the Norwegian held and at 2-1, the Serb began to struggle, raising fears of a repeat of the physical slump he experienced in his two previous matches against Daniil Medvedev and Taylor Fritz.

Djokovic, however, served superbly, not giving Ruud a single break point in the match. He recovered physically and made the all-important break at 5-6 to take the opening set.

The Serb took charge of the second set early on, breaking to open up a 3-1 lead. He served out the match with an ace to claim his sixth Finals crown.

“It is the Finals. Usually these kind of matches are decided by very small margins,” said Djokovic.

“One break of serve was enough in both sets. I knew Casper was playing really well coming into this match.

“We both served really well and I think in some decisive moments, like the 12th game of the first set, I managed to put a few returns back in play.”

It marked the end of an outstanding week for Djokovic who was given clearance to return to Melbourne for the Australian Open in January.

At the start of the year, he was detained and deported from Australia over his non-vaccinated status on Covid.

He was initially barred by the then-conservative government from returning to Australia until 2025 but Australia’s new Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said this week that with a significant easing in pandemic restrictions, the nine-time champion was now welcome to return.

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‘Close points’ 

For the 23-year-old Ruud it was a third near-miss of the year. He also lost the finals of the French and US Opens.

“In the end it’s been disappointing to end up losing these big finals,” he said.

“Overall if you gave me an offer to end the year at No. 3, play the finals that I’ve played, at the first of January this year, I would probably sign the contract right away.”

“I’ve overachieved compared to my own mind, so I’m very happy about that.”

Ruud has never taken a set from either Djokovic or his French Open final conqueror Rafael Nadal.

“They have this sort of ability in them to step up when they really have to that I don’t have,” Ruud said. “They always seem to win the close points, the close sets.”

The American Rajeev Ram and Britain’s Joe Salisbury took the doubles title with a 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 win over the Croatian pair of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.

Ram and Salisbury lost in last year’s final to French pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herber

AFP

Djokovic To Get Visa For 2023 Australian Open

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts during his first round-robin match against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Finals tennis tournament on November 14, 2022 in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

 

Former world number one Novak Djokovic will be granted a visa to play in the 2023 Australian Open, local media reports said Tuesday, despite his deportation from the country ahead of this year’s tournament in January.

The Australian government had decided to grant the unvaccinated Serb a visa for the Grand Slam contest, overturning a three-year ban after his ejection from the country, said national broadcaster ABC and other domestic media.

Australia’s immigration ministry and Tennis Australia were asked by AFP to comment on the reports.

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This year’s championship was overshadowed by nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic being put on a plane on the eve of the contest after a high-stakes legal battle over his visa status.

Djokovic’s three-year ban can be overturned at the discretion of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left government, which is different to the conservative coalition in power when he was kicked out.

Over the past month there have been hints that the Australian government might have a change of heart.

“Nothing official yet,” Djokovic told reporters after winning his opening match at the ATP Finals in Turin on Monday night.

“We are waiting. They are communicating with the government of Australia. That’s all I can tell you for now.”

‘Love to come back’

 

Last month, Australian Open chief Craig Tiley said he had spent time with Djokovic recently and the Serbian wanted to return for the first major of the year in January in Melbourne.

“What we’re saying at this point is that Novak and the federal government need to work out the situation. And then we’ll follow any instruction after that,” Tiley told The Age newspaper at the tournament’s official launch.

“I did spend some time with Novak at the Laver Cup. We spoke generally. He said that he’d obviously love to come back to Australia but he knows it’s going to be an ultimate decision for the federal government.

“He’s accepted that position. It’s a private matter between them.”

Opposition politician Karen Andrews, who was home affairs minister when Djokovic was deported, argued that he should not be given special treatment.

“It would be a slap in the face for those people in Australia who did the right thing, got vaccinated, did everything they needed to do, if all of a sudden Novak Djokovic is allowed back into the country simply because he is a high-ranking tennis player with many millions of dollars,” she told ABC radio last month.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne in January for the first Grand Slam of the year claiming he had obtained a medical exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated as he had recently recovered from Covid-19.

But Australian border officials said he did not meet requirements to be exempted from strict vaccination rules, his visa was cancelled and a protracted legal appeal failed.

Australia has since lifted its requirement for visitors to show proof of vaccination against Covid.

Djokovic Slips To Third As Medvedev Tops ATP Rankings

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attends an open air press conference in Belgrade. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

Daniil Medvedev returned to the top of the ATP rankings on Monday, ahead of Alexander Zverev, with Novak Djokovic slipping out of the top two for the first time in nearly four years.

The 26-year-old Russian, who was surprisingly beaten by Tim van Rijthoven in the final at ‘s-Hertogenbosch on Sunday, briefly occupied the number one spot for two weeks at the end of February and the beginning of March.

But with Djokovic losing in the quarter-finals at the French Open, where he was defending champion, the door opened for Medvedev to rise again to top spot.

Medvedev is unable to compete at Wimbledon as Russian and Belarusian players have been barred following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Rankings points, however, will not be awarded.

Zverev climbs to number two for the first time having spent a total of 56 weeks since November 2017 at number three. The German, however, is facing a spell on the sidelines after tearing ligaments in his right ankle during his French Open semi-final with Nadal.

Djokovic’s grip on the number one ranking had already been weakened by his exclusion earlier in the year, because of Covid regulations, from the Australian Open where he was also the defending champion.

It is the first time since October 2018 that Djokovic is not in the top two.

Rafael Nadal, who beat the Serb at Roland Garros and went on to take the title for the 14th time, stays at number four, now only 245 points behind his great rival.

Casper Ruud, who was overwhelmed by Nadal in the Paris final, reached his best career ranking of fifth in the world, up one place ahead of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Former world number one Andy Murray climbed 21 places to 48 following his journey to the final in Stuttgart at the weekend while Medvedev’s conqueror Van Rijthoven jumped 99 places from 205 to 106.

ATP rankings as of June 13, 2022 (players representing Russia and Belarus are banned from competing under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice):

1. Daniil Medvedev 7950 pts (+1)

2. Alexander Zverev (GER) 7075 (+1)

3. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6770 (-2)

4. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6525

5. Casper Ruud (NOR) 5050 (+1)

6. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 4945 (-1)

7. Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 4893

8. Andrey Rublev 4125

9. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 3895

10. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 3570

11. Cameron Norrie (GBR) 3455

12. Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3258 (+1)

13. Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3185 (-1)

14. Taylor Fritz (USA) 2920

15. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 2473 (+1)

16. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2325 (-1)

17. Marin Cilic (CRO) 2130

18. Reilly Opelka (USA) 2100

19. Pablo Carreno (ESP) 1965

20. Roberto Bautista (ESP) 1858.

Djokovic, Nadal Clash For 59th Time In French Open Blockbuster

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

 

Novak Djokovic renews his 16-year rivalry with Rafael Nadal at the French Open on Tuesday with a semi-final spot at stake and where victory for the world number one could end the 13-time champion’s Roland Garros career.

Nadal, who turns 36 on Friday, puts his record of 109 wins and just three losses in Paris since his title-winning debut in 2005 on the line against the defending champion.

The Spaniard was taken to five sets for only the third time at the tournament by 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round.

In the immediate aftermath of that victory, Nadal admitted that not only was this year’s French Open at stake but possibly his entire playing future.

“I know my situation, and I accept it,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris unsure if he would be able to take part after suffering a recurrence of a chronic foot injury which has plagued him for most of his career.

“I am just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last at Roland Garros.”

Overall, Djokovic leads Nadal 30-28 since their first career meeting at the 2006 French Open.

Nadal has a 19-8 edge on clay and has won seven of the pair’s nine meetings in Paris.

Djokovic, however, came out on top in the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2021 on his way to a second title.

– Night fears –

That defeat took a physical toll on Nadal who then skipped Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.

With Djokovic deported from Melbourne on the eve of the Australian Open, Nadal seized the opportunity to claim a record-setting 21st Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Djokovic has reached the last eight with ease. He has won 22 sets in a row, a run stretching back to his Italian Open triumph in Rome.

“Playing Nadal in Roland Garros is always a physical battle,” said Djokovic.

Adding an extra twist was a battle of wills over scheduling which Nadal lost Monday when organisers selected the quarter-final for the night session under the Court Philippe Chatrier lights.

“I don’t like to play on clay during the night, because the humidity is higher, the ball is slower, and there can be very heavy conditions especially when it’s cold,” said Nadal.

Djokovic hinted he would prefer to face Nadal as late as possible.

“All I will say is Rafa and I would make different requests,” he said.

“But requests are not always accepted. The tournament director, along with TV, broadcasters, I think in the end of the day that that’s who decides.”

Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya said that the Spaniard’s opinion should have carried weight.

“I wouldn’t say disrespect, but here at Roland Garros, Rafa has credit,” Moya told RMC Sport.

“He has won the tournament 13 times, and if he has a request, you should listen to him.”

Iga Swiatek came out on the side of Nadal when she was asked to describe the benefits of being world number one.

“Well, I really enjoy when I have a request about what hour I want to play and they are actually listening. That’s nice,” said the Pole.

Carlos Alcaraz, who faces Alexander Zverev later Tuesday, said it would have been “unfair” if he was ordered to play after 9pm for the third time.

– Alcaraz show –

Alcaraz, 19, is the youngest man to make the last eight in Paris since Djokovic in 2006.

He boasts a 2022 clay-court record of 20 wins against just one loss. For the year, he is 32-3.

The sixth seed had to save a match point to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round but has otherwise been unburdened by expectations.

Alcaraz tackles third-seeded Zverev having defeated the German in the final of the Madrid Masters where he also knocked out both Nadal and Djokovic.

While Djokovic, Nadal, Zverev and Alcaraz battle in the top of the draw, the bottom section has been blown wide open by the fourth-round exits of second-ranked Daniil Medvedev and number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2021 runner-up.

As a result, one of Holger Rune, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev or 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic will make Sunday’s final.

Djokovic Braced To Deliver Nadal Hammer Blow At French Open

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after winning against Diego Schwartzman during their men’s singles match on day eight of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on May 29, 2022. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic renews his epic 16-year rivalry with Rafael Nadal at the French Open on Tuesday with a semi-final spot at stake and where victory could end the 13-time champion’s Roland Garros career.

Nadal, who will turn 36 on Friday, puts his record of 109 wins and just three losses in Paris, since his title-winning debut in 2005, on the line against the defending champion.

The Spaniard was taken to five sets for only the third time in his tournament history by 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round.

In the immediate aftermath of that victory, Nadal admitted that not only was this year’s French Open at stake for him but possibly his entire playing future.

“I know my situation, and I accept it. I can’t complain much,” said Nadal, who arrived in Paris unsure if he would be able to take part after suffering a recurrence in Rome of a chronic foot injury which has plagued him for large parts of his career.

“I am just enjoying the fact that I am here for one more year. And being honest, every match that I play here, I don’t know if it’s going to be my last at Roland Garros.

“I went through a tough process again with my foot, so I don’t know what can happen in the near future.”

Overall, Djokovic leads Nadal 30-28 since their first career meeting at the 2006 French Open.

Nadal has a 19-8 edge on clay and has won seven of the pair’s nine meetings in Paris.

Djokovic, however, came out on top in the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2021 on his way to a second title.

– Night fears –

That defeat took a physical toll on Nadal who then skipped Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.

With Djokovic deported from Melbourne on the eve of the Australian Open, Nadal seized the opportunity to claim a record-setting 21st Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Both men are playing in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the 16th time.

Djokovic has reached the last-eight with ease. He has won 22 sets in a row, a run stretching back to his Italian Open triumph in Rome.

Adding an extra twist to the clash is a battle of wills over scheduling.

Nadal insists he does not want to play in the night match.

His compatriot, 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who faces Alexander Zverev also on Tuesday, said it would be “unfair” if he was ordered to play after 9pm for the third time.

Nadal and Djokovic have played one match each after dark.

“I don’t like to play on clay during the night, because the humidity is higher, the ball is slower, and there can be very heavy conditions especially when it’s cold,” said Nadal.

Djokovic hinted he would prefer to face Nadal as late as possible.

“All I will say is Rafa and I would make different requests,” he said.

“I’m glad that I didn’t spend too much time on the court up to the quarter-finals, knowing that playing him in Roland Garros is always a physical battle. It’s a huge challenge and probably the biggest one that you can have here.”

– Alcaraz show –

Alcaraz is the youngest man to make the last-eight in Paris since Djokovic in 2006.

He boasts a 2022 claycourt record of 20 wins against just one loss. For the year, he is 32-3.

The sixth seed had to save a match point to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round but has otherwise been unburdened by the expectations on him.

Alcaraz tackles third seeded Zverev having defeated the German in the final of the Madrid Masters where he also knocked out both Nadal and Djokovic.

Zverev, bidding to reach the semi-finals for a second successive year, is also dismissive of night-time conditions.

“I don’t mind the evening sessions when it’s 30 degrees during the day,” said the 25-year-old.

“When it’s 14 degrees, then in the night it’s going to be what, 8, 9, something like that, it gets difficult.

“My serve is going to be even slower, my forehand is going to be even slower. It’s not going to be an easy thing for me to play at 9:30 at night with no sunlight, with no heat, and 8 degrees.”

Djokovic Makes Easy Winning Return To Grand Slams

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after winning against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka at the end of their their men’s singles match on day two of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

 

Defending champion Novak Djokovic cruised into the second of the French Open on Monday as the world number one returned to Grand Slam tennis for the first time this year.

Djokovic thumped 99th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.

The top-seeded Serb, who turned 35 on Sunday, is playing his first major since losing the US Open final last September.

His attempt to defend his Australian Open title in January ended in chaos and controversy when he was deported from Melbourne for refusing to get vaccinated.

On Monday, in a chilly and damp Paris, Djokovic took his record in first round matches at Roland Garros to 18-0 with his win over the 27-year-old Nishioka after converting eight of 18 break points.

Djokovic will next meet either Slovakia’s Alex Molcan or Federico Coria of Argentina.

Molcan, the runner-up in Lyon at the weekend, is coached by Marian Vajda — Djokovic’s former long-time coach.

Djokovic’s Coach Ivanisevic Lends Hand To Cirstea At French Open

File photo: A handout picture made available by the press office of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on February 20, 2022. (Photo by jorge ferrari / Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship / AFP)

 

Sorana Cirstea made the French Open second round on Sunday with a little help from 2001 Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic, the coach of world number one and reigning Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic.

The 32-year-old Romanian, who reached the quarter-finals in Paris in 2009, eased past Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with former US Open champion Sloane Stephens for a place in the last 32.

Cirstea said she had enjoyed taking on board tips from Ivanisevic whose main job is to steer Djokovic to a 21st Grand Slam title.

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“I just asked for his help and I was lucky enough to get an hour of his time at practice two days ago. I talked with him a little bit about what’s going through my head and just tennis talk,” said 26th seed Cirstea.

“And today I was very surprised to see him because I know he’s very busy with Novak. He’s just been giving me a few tips and tricks from a Grand Slam champion, and as a coach of No. 1, and someone that has so much experience.”

AFP

Djokovic Turns Spotlight On Alcaraz Ahead Of Roland Garros

A handout picture made available by the press office of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on February 20, 2022 shows Serbian Tennis player Novak Djokovic holding a press conference ahead of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. (Photo by jorge ferrari / Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship / AFP) 

 

Novak Djokovic on Monday hailed Carlos Alcaraz as the “best player” of the season so far and said the Spanish teenager is one of the “main favourites” for Roland Garros.

Djokovic, who opens his Rome campaign against Russia’s Aslan Karatsev, lost to Alcaraz in the semi-finals in Madrid last weekend and paid tribute at a press conference.

After taking out Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, Alcaraz picked up his fourth title of the year on Sunday with victory over world number three Alexander Zverev in the final.

He became the youngest player since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990 to beat three top-five players at the same event.

“So far he’s the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he’s been doing,” Djokovic said at the Italian Open.

“The way he was dealing with the pressure in our match a few days ago, how calm he was all the way until the end, was impressive. He deserved to win the trophy.”

Alcaraz hit a career-high ranking of number six on Monday and leads the tour with 28 wins against three losses in 2022.

The 19-year-old has seven top-10 victories this season, more than any other player. He is skipping the Rome tournament so he can be in peak condition for the French Open later this month.

“Everything about his game is really impressive. He’s a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He’s the talk of the sport,” added Djokovic of Alcaraz.

“Roland Garros, he’s definitely one of the main favourites, no doubt.”

Djokovic has missed multiple tournaments this year after choosing not to get vaccinated and arrives in Rome with just 11 matches under his belt (seven wins and four losses).

While he is still searching for his peak form, Djokovic believes his own “level of tennis is really high now”.
– Old machine’ –

Meanwhile, third seed Rafael Nadal said he still has work to do to improve his game, having just returned from a six-week injury lay-off in Madrid last week.

The 35-year-old has dealt with numerous physical problems over his career, including a chronic foot injury that flared up last season, and ruled him out of Wimbledon and the US Open.

Nadal returned at the start of 2022, having played just two matches in the previous six months, and stormed to a 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, He accumulated a 20-0 win-loss record before falling to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells semi-finals.

Nadal said it’s tougher his game this time because the injury struck mid-season rather than at the end of a campaign.

“My body is like an old machine. To put this machine on again it already takes some time,” explained Nadal, who faces John Isner or Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match in Rome.

“It’s not the same when you have 19 than when you are almost 36, with all the issues that I went through in my tennis career, no?

“It’s more about being confident with my movements, recover the speed, recover the way that I have to play on clay and let’s see.

“I am confident that I can play well honestly. I need some time, but maybe this week can be a positive week, maybe not. Who knows?”

Andy Murray Forced To Miss Djokovic Clash In Madrid

Andy Murray of Britain reacts during his men’s singles second round match against Cameron Norrie of Britain at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on October 2, 2019. LEO RAMIREZ / AFP

 

Former world number one Andy Murray has been forced to pull out of his match against Novak Djokovic at the Madrid Masters on Thursday, the tournament organisers said.

“Unfortunately Andy Murray is ill and is not in a position to play,” the organisers said.

It would have been the 37th meeting between Murray and current world number one Djokovic, but the first since they played each other in the Doha final in January 2017.

Djokovic now moves directly into a quarter-final against either last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz of Poland or Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.

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The Serb, a three-time Madrid champion, is finding his rhythm after competing sparingly this year following his deportation from Australia over his Covid vaccination status, preventing him playing in the Australian Open.

Murray has been beset by injury problems in recent years, especially to his hip, and is now ranked 78th in the world.

The 34-year-old Scotsman had been given an invitation to the Madrid tournament and beat first Dominic Thiem then Canadian 14th seed Denis Shapovalov — who overcame Murray on the way to last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals — to reach the last 16.

Rublev Beats Djokovic To Win Serbia Open

Rublev and Djokovic.

 

World number one Novak Djokovic was denied his first title of the year on Sunday, falling in three sets to Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the final of the Serbia Open.

Second seed Rublev won through 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-0 against the top seed who had been looking to regain winning form before his French Open title defence next month.

The Belgrade event was only Djokovic’s third of 2022 after he was deported from Melbourne – and denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title – after entering the country unvaccinated.

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However, the 20-time Grand Slam winner was let down by his lack of physical form.

The 34-year-old, who lost in the quarter-finals in Dubai and suffered a shock second-round defeat in Monte Carlo, battled past Laslo Djere, Miomir Kecmanovic and Karen Khachanov in three sets before the court time caught up with the top seed against Rublev.

Djokovic got off to a bad start, dropping serve twice, to lose the first set after have an hour.

Bouyed by the support of the 8,000 crowd, Djokovic fought back in a marathon second set which lasted just over an hour, levelling in the tie-break despite wasting six set points, before running out of steam in the third.

Rublev captured his third title of the season, days after blasting Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players as “complete discrimination”.

Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players from this summer’s Grand Slam tournament due to the invasion of Ukraine.

It was a decision condemned by the ATP and WTA as well as a host of players including world number one Novak Djokovic who described the sanction as “crazy”.

Rublev has now equalled Spaniard Rafael Nadal for the most tour-level titles in 2022, having also clinched crowns in Marseille and Dubai in February.

AFP

Djokovic Loses Monte Carlo Opener

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic leaves the court after losing against Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina during their Monte-Carlo ATP Masters Series tournament tennis match in Monaco on April 12, 2022. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic crashed out in his opening match at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday as the world number one played in just his second tournament of the year following his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Djokovic lost 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1 to 46th-ranked Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round after dropping his serve nine times.

The Serb’s only other appearance in 2022 was in Dubai in February where he played just three matches.

Djokovic admitted his absence from most events had been “difficult, mentally and emotionally” but said he was “moving on” ahead of his return at a tournament he won in 2013 and 2015.

Davidovich Fokina had lost both previous meetings to Djokovic in straight sets, in Rome and at the Tokyo Olympics last season, but he raced into a 4-1 lead and took the first set.

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The Spaniard surged 3-0 ahead in the second only for Djokovic to win five of the next six games and serve for the set at 5-4.

He failed to do so at the first attempt but recovered in the tie break to force a decider.

Davidovich Fokina broke to start the third set as Djokovic double faulted, and there was no way back this time for the top seed and 20-time Grand Slam champion.

It marks the first time Djokovic has lost his opening match at a tournament since falling to Martin Klizan at Barcelona four years ago.

AFP

Djokovic Eager For Dubai Comeback After Vaccine Controversy

File Photo of Novak Djokovic 
Mike FREY / AFP

 

World number one Novak Djokovic said he has missed playing tennis on Thursday as he prepares for his comeback in Dubai after the coronavirus vaccine row that kept him from defending his Australian Open title.

The Serb, who was deported from Australia over his vaccination status, toured the Serbian pavilion at Dubai Expo, removing his black mask when requested and writing a long message in the visitors’ book.

“I am excited to go back and play on Monday,” he said, referring to the Dubai ATP tournament during brief remarks to media. “I miss tennis after all that has happened.”

The 20-time Grand Slam-winner has kept a low profile since his deportation last month over his potentially career-changing decision not to take the coronavirus vaccine.

Spanish rival Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open in Melbourne to become the first player to win 21 major titles, one ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

This week, Djokovic told the BBC he was not anti-vaccination but that he was prepared to miss more major tournaments over his refusal to get jabbed.

“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said.

“I was prepared not to go to Australia. I understand not being vaccinated today, I am unable to travel to most of the tournaments at the moment,” Djokovic added.

A coronavirus vaccine is not a requirement to enter the United Arab Emirates, which announced 895 new cases on Thursday.