Djokovic Aims For First Calendar Slam For 52 Years In US Open Final

File photo: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning his 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s semifinal match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 10, 2021. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic will attempt to win the first calendar-year men’s singles Grand Slam since 1969 in Sunday’s US Open final and make his case to be considered the greatest player in tennis history.

The 34-year-old Serbian world number one faces Russia’s second-ranked Daniil Medvedev at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the biggest match of a career that has brought him 20 Slam trophies.

“I’m going to treat this match as it’s my last one because it’s arguably the most important one of my career,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic will try to complete the first sweep of US, Australian and French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same year since Australian legend Rod Laver managed the feat 52 years ago.

“Excitement is there,” Djokovic said. “Motivation is there, without a doubt. Probably more than ever. But I have one more to go.”

Laver, 83, will be in the stands to see if Djokovic can finish the fourth Slam in men’s history after American Don Budge in 1938 and Laver in 1962 and 1969.

“For sure he’s going to feel the pressure a little bit about it,” said Medvedev. “From the other side, that’s what going to make him be even better in tough moments.”

The last singles Slam overall was by Steffi Graf in 1988.

Djokovic also will be chasing his fourth US Open title after 2011, 2015 and 2018.

A victory would give him 21 major titles and for the first time put him atop the all-time Slams chase, moving one ahead of the record mark he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic, 20-10 in Slam finals, leads Medvedev 5-3 in their career rivalry. Medvedev, 25, seeks his first Slam title.

“I’m sure he’s going to give it all to win his first Slam,” Djokovic said. “On the other side, I’ll be giving it all I possibly got in the tank to win this match.”

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‘Turn up the Heat’ 

File photo: Russia’s Daniil Medvedev hits a return to Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime during their 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s semifinal match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 10, 2021. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

 

Medvedev, the 2019 US Open runner-up, lost his only other Slam final to Djokovic at the Australian Open in February.

“I always give my best, but I feel like I didn’t leave my heart on the court in Melbourne.

“That’s what I’m going to try to do on Arthur Ashe. No matter the score, I’m just going to turn up the heat and try to do my best.”

Djokovic, the oldest US Open finalist since Andre Agassi at 35 in 2005, would also be the oldest US Open champion since Ken Rosewall at 35 in 1970.

Djokovic has won 27 consecutive Slam matches, three shy of his all-time record streak from 2015 and 2016, when he won all four major titles in a row.

“Probably all these big matches I won, big titles over the years, have built that aura around me that players know there’s a never-die spirit with me, especially when I play Grand Slams,” Djokovic said. “They know that until the last shot, things can turn around.”

Olympic champion Alexander Zverev, who beat Djokovic in the Tokyo semi-finals but lost to him in the US Open semis, sees Djokovic completing the Slam.

“It’s great for the sport,” Zverev said. “Nobody thought anybody will do it again, what Rod Laver did. To see him have the chance on Sunday — I do believe that he will do it — is great.”

‘Greatest of all time’ 

The German fourth seed sides with Djokovic in the greatest of all time question.

“If you look at the stats, if you look the pure game of tennis action, he’s the greatest of all time. Nobody is there with him,” Zverev said.

And Zverev sees Djokovic doing whatever it takes to add to that history on Sunday.

“He plays the best tennis when he needs to, which a lot of players don’t,” he said.

“Mentally he’s the best player to ever play the game. Mentally, in the most important moments, I would rather play against anybody else but him.”

AFP

US Open: Djokovic Faces Zverev Test In Slam Bid

Germany’s Alexander Zverev hits a return to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris during their 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s quarter-finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 8, 2021. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic’s quest for the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years reaches its penultimate hurdle Friday in a US Open semi-final showdown with Tokyo Olympic champion Alexander Zverev.

It was German fourth seed Zverev who ended top-ranked Djokovic’s bid for Olympic gold with a fightback July semi-final triumph in Japan and both men are girding for an epic rematch at Arthur Ashe Stadium as history looms.

“You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win,” Zverev said. “Most of the time you can’t be perfect. That’s why most of the time people lose to him.”

Djokovic is expecting Zverev’s best.

“I know it’s going to be battle,” Djokovic said. “But I’m ready for it. These are the hurdles I need to overcome in order to get to the desired destination.”

Djokovic is trying to be the first man to sweep the major crowns in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969.

The 34-year-old Serbian seeks his fourth US Open title and 21st career Slam trophy, which would give him the men’s record total he currently shares with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, both absent due to injuries, outright.

“I’m aware of the history. Of course it gives me motivation,” Djokovic said.

“If I start to think about it too much, it burdens me mentally. I want to really go back to the basics and what really works for me mentally.

“I’m in a position that’s very unique. I’m very grateful for that. I’m inspired to play my best tennis.

“I know a lot of people want to hear me talking about it. But let’s talk about it hopefully on Sunday.”

That is when Djokovic hopes to be playing for the Grand Slam against the winner of Friday’s other semi-final between Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev and Canadian 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Djokovic is 6-3 against Zverev, but the Olympic defeat stings.

“Tough ending for me emotionally,” he said.

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Zverev is on a 16-match win streak while Djokovic has won 26 straight Slam matches.

“I know his game very well,” Djokovic said. “He has been playing very well. When we face each other, there’s nerves, a lot of things on the line. It could go both ways. I think very few points will really determine the winner.”

Zverev, last year’s US Open runner-up, needs to get past Djokovic to have a chance at his first Grand Slam title.

“Against him, you have to win the match yourself,” Zverev said. “You have to be the one that’s dominating the points. You have to do it with very little unforced errors. He’s the best player in the world. He’s very difficult to beat.”

Djokovic played what he called his best three sets at the Open to rally past Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the quarter-finals.

“I just went to a different level and I stayed there ’til the last point,” Djokovic said. “That’s something that definitely encourages me and gives me a lot of confidence prior to semi-finals.”

Berrettini, who also lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, marvels at that.

“He has this ability — and probably that’s why he’s the best ever — just to step up his game, his level, all the time,” Berrettini said. “He starts to return better, to serve better. Doesn’t matter how well I play, he just plays better.”

– ‘Whatever it takes’ –

Djokovic is ready for a marathon fight with Zverev.

“He’s in a fantastic form. Next to Medvedev best form,” Djokovic said. “Physically I feel as fit as anybody out there. So I can go the distance.

“I’m going to be ready to go five sets, five hours, whatever it takes. That’s why I’m here.”

Auger-Aliassime will play in his first Slam semi-final when he meets Medvedev.

“I need to step up and be confident,” the Canadian said. “I need to try to put pressure on him. But it’s going to be tough. I need to be ready for his best.”

Medvedev, who lost to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open final, seeks his first Slam crown.

“I have this experience. I’m not going to be tight,” he said. “If I play good, it’s going to be not easy for my opponent.”

AFP

Djokovic Moves On At US Open As Top-Ranked Barty Ousted

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic prepares to throw tennis balls to fans after winning his 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s singles first round match against Denmark’s Holger Rune during their at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 31, 2021. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic moved within four matches of completing the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam in 52 years on Saturday while top-ranked Ashleigh Barty was eliminated from the US Open by a stunning fightback from American Shelby Rogers.

World number one Djokovic defeated Kei Nishikori 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-2, taking his 17th consecutive victory over the Japanese star and improving to 18-2 in their overall rivalry.

“I was very pleased with the focus,” Djokovic said. “Maybe at some points I wasn’t my best, but I was determined and focused and that made the difference.”

With a fourth career US Open trophy, Djokovic would complete the first men’s singles sweep of major titles in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Barty won 11 of 14 games after dropping the first set, only for Rogers to capture five of the last six games for a shocking 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (7/5) triumph.

“I didn’t want to leave,” Rogers said. “I just said make balls, try to stay in this match, it can’t get any worse, you’ve lost to her every time.”

Rogers had dropped all five prior meetings with Barty but would not be denied, breaking the Aussie as she served for the match in the eighth and 10th games as the crowd went wild at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I was just trying to stay in the point longer than Ash,” Rogers said. “I was happy with myself for sort of problem solving. I’m just so excited to be moving on to the next round.”

Rogers will next face 150th-ranked British qualifier Emma Raducanu, an 18-year-old who routed Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0, 6-1 in 70 minutes.

Djokovic, meanwhile, marched toward a 21st career Grand Slam title, which would break the deadlock for the men’s record he shares with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, both absent with injuries.

The 34-year-old Serbian star advanced to a fourth-round matchup on Monday against 99th-ranked US wildcard Jenson Brooksby.

“He was playing pretty solid,” Nishikori said. “I couldn’t break the wall. Very unfortunate I lost.”

Djokovic, who had 52 unforced errors and 45 winners, dropped the last three points of the first-set tie-breaker, the last on a Nishikori service winner.

“I don’t think I started off very well,” Djokovic said. “I was too passive. He was dictating the play. I was still trying to find the tempo. It took me a little bit of time to adjust to his game.”

But Djokovic broke early in each set from there to seize command. In the fourth he grabbed a 3-2 lead and never dropped another game.

“Big credit to Kei, who played on a very high level,” Djokovic said. “He was quick. It was tough. Great fight from him.”

Tokyo Olympic champion Alexander Zverev defeated 184th-ranked Jack Sock 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 2-1 when the American retired with a right thigh injury.

“I know I’m playing OK but a lot of other guys are playing well, too,” Zverev said. “I’m hoping to keep my form and give myself my best chance.”

Fourth seed Zverev, the 2020 US Open runner-up, joined qualifiers Oscar Otte and Peter Gojowczyk as the first German trio in the US Open fourth round since 1994 and any Slam last 16 since Wimbledon in 1997.

Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Barrettini, the Italian sixth seed, eliminated Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. Next up is 144th-ranked Otte, who beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.

– Sakkari beats Kvitova –

Greek 17th seed Maria Sakkari, a French Open semi-finalist, ousted two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-4, 6-3, booking a fourth-round match against 2019 US Open winner Bianca Andreescu.

Czech 10th seed Kvitova double faulted on the final point to hand Sakkari the victory after 81 minutes.

Canadian sixth seed Andreescu improved to 10-0 at the US Open, advancing over 104th-ranked Belgian lucky loser Greet Minnen 6-1, 6-2.

Tokyo Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, a 2019 US Open semi-finalist, defeated US 23rd seed Jessica Pegula 6-2, 6-4.

The Swiss 11th seed will next face Polish seventh seed Iga Swiatek, last year’s French Open champion, who beat Estonian Anett Kontveit 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova, this year’s Wimbledon runner-up and a 2016 US Open finalist, beat Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 6-2.

AFP

Djokovic Continues Slam Hunt As New York Recovers From Flash flooding

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic prepares to throw tennis balls to fans after winning his 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s singles first round match against Denmark’s Holger Rune during their at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 31, 2021. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

 

Australia’s top-ranked Ashleigh Barty rolled into the third round of the US Open on Thursday while New York struggled to recover from a deadly storm and flash flooding.

Remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least eight people and triggered a rare state of emergency for the city, flooding subways and turning roads into rivers.

With abandoned cars scattered across streets near the National Tennis Center and many highways shut down, only a smattering of spectators watched in a cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium as Barty dispatched Danish 18-year-old Clara Tauson 6-1, 7-5.

Barty send a backhand long to surrender a break in the 10th game of the second set while serving for the match but held her nerve, broke back and held again to win in 90 minutes.

“I’ve always been quite a calm person,” Barty said. “That’s certainly part of my game.”

Barty, who next plays American Shelby Rogers or Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, seeks her third career Grand Slam title, her second in a row after Wimbledon, and her sixth trophy of the year as well as her first US Open quarter-finals appearance.

World number one Novak Djokovic was set to continue his quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam in the night feature on Ashe against Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.

Djokovic is eyeing the first men’s singles calendar Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 if he captures a fourth career US Open crown.

The 34-year-old Serbian is also six wins away from his 21st career Grand Slam crown, which would give him the men’s all-time record, one more than the mark he now shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent with injuries.

Swiss 11th seed Belinda Bencic, the Tokyo Olympic champion, beat Italy’s Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1 in windy conditions.

“That was a little bit tricky but after yesterday’s bad weather I’m not complaining,” Bencic said. “Thanks to everyone for coming. I know it was not easy.”

Above the US Open grounds, there were sunny blue cloudless skies. Outdoor furniture scattered by high winds had been restored or replaced. High water that flooded plazas the night before had drained away.

Wind-blown rain went under and through the closed roof at Louis Armstrong Stadium, forcing a match to be finished at Ashe, but the swamped venue had players practicing Thursday morning.

“Thank you for your patience with last night’s events and we hope that you are safe,” the tournament tweeted.

“The safety of our fans, players and staff is of the utmost importance,” said a statement from the US Tennis Association, which delayed outer court starts by an hour to allow extra time for cleanup.

– Pizza stop for Sloane –

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, tweeted a warning on Wednesday night as she departed, saying, “This weather is scary. Please be careful.”

Later she shared a photo of a huge pizza, tweeting, “We’ve been stuck in flooding and stand-still traffic for more then 2 hours so we decided to stop and make the most of it.”

Massive traffic jams in the region, emergency conditions and calls by authorities for people to stay at home appeared set to limit attendance on the fourth day of the year’s final Grand Slam.

Germany’s fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev, the Tokyo Olympic champion and last year’s US Open runner-up, has the second match on Ashe against 33rd-ranked Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Czech fourth seed Karolina Pliskova faces American Amanda Anisimova after Djokovic is finished.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, faces Mackenzie McDonald, seeking revenge for a Washington semi-final loss to the American last month. The winner books a potential third-round matchup against Djokovic.

Either American Maxime Cressy or German Oscar Otte could become the fifth qualifier into the men’s third round. There haven’t been so many so deep at any Slam since six at the 2011 French Open and not at the US Open since five made it in 1984.

Otte, ranked 144th, plays 92nd-ranked American Denis Kudla while Cressy, ranked 151st, meets 39th-ranked Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

AFP

Djokovic Launches Slam Quest With US Open Win

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic prepares to throw tennis balls to fans after winning his 2021 US Open Tennis tournament men’s singles first round match against Denmark’s Holger Rune during their at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on August 31, 2021. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

 

World number one Novak Djokovic won without playing his best to reach the second round of the US Open on Tuesday in his quest for a calendar-year Grand Slam and record 21st major title.

The 34-year-old Serbian star dominated much of the way in beating 18-year-old Danish qualifier Holger Rune 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-1 after two hours and 15 minutes in the night feature at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It wasn’t the best of my performances,” Djokovic said. “At the same time, he played well in the second set when it mattered and I didn’t serve well in the second set.”

History-chasing Djokovic, who has won eight of the past 12 Grand Slam events, will next face 121st-ranked Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, a rival the top seed admitted he didn’t know much about.

“I know this court well,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully that’s going to help.”

Djokovic would complete the first men’s singles calendar-year Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 by winning the crown on the New York hardcourts.

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He would also break the deadlock for all-time men’s Slam titles at 20 which he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent due to injuries, as is defending champion Dominic Thiem.

Rune, ranked 145th, began cramping in the third set and struggled to finish.

“From the third or fourth game in the third set, he couldn’t move much,” Djokovic said. “You could see he struggled a lot. I feel for him.”

Djokovic won the first set in 26 minutes without facing a break point, fell behind 3-0 to start the second before battling into the tie-breaker, where Rune grabbed leads of 4-0 and 6-3. After two Djokovic service winners, he sent a backhand service return long to drop the set.

In the third set, Djokovic broke to lead 3-1 and Rune began getting treatments between games, grimacing at times and struggling to run for shots to the end.

– Zverev stretches streak –

Earlier Tuesday, Tokyo Olympic champion Alexander Zverev stretched his win streak to 12 matches and warned he has his eyes on denying Djokovic the Slam.

Fourth seed Zverev, who beat Djokovic in an Olympic semi-final, dispatched American Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

“I hope in two weeks’ time I’ll be on an 18-match winning streak,” said Zverev, who would claim his first Grand Slam title if he creates such a run.

The 24-year-old German, last year’s US Open runner-up, hit 18 aces and 40 winners while never facing a break point in advancing after an hour and 40 minutes.

“Novak is chasing history,” Zverev said. “But the young guys are going to try and get in the way of that. I’m going to try to give him a challenge as well.”

Zverev, who next faces Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas, could face Djokovic in the semi-finals.

“I hope I can keep the level up,” Zverev said. “To beat Novak here is going to be an extremely difficult task.”

– Qualifier pulls shocker –

French-born US qualifier Maxime Cressy fired 44 aces and saved four match points to upset Spanish ninth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (9/7).

After beating Djokovic for a Tokyo Olympic bronze medal, the Spaniard’s US Open ended slamming down his racquet in frustration.

“I’m really happy things are starting to pay off,” Cressy said.

World number one Ashleigh Barty, coming off wins at Wimbledon and Cincinnati, began her chase for back-to-back Slam titles by defeating Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 7-6 (9/7).

“When my back was against the wall late in that buster, I came up with some really good stuff,” Barty said.

The 25-year-old Australian next faces Denmark’s Clara Tauson as she goes for her sixth title of the year.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, eliminated Italy’s 113th-ranked Salvatore Caruso 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-3. He next plays American Mackenzie McDonald with Djokovic a possible third-round opponent.

Italian sixth seed and Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, a 2019 US Open semi-finalist, defeated France’s Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (9/7), 6-3.

Canadian sixth seed Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open winner who skipped last year’s event, struggled but outlasted Swiss Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 4-6, 7-5.

AFP

Djokovic, Osaka Cruise At Olympics As Women’s Seeds Tumble

 

Novak Djokovic strolled into the third round of the Tokyo Olympics tennis tournament on Monday as Japanese star Naomi Osaka’s path to gold opened up further after a host of leading women’s seeds exited.

Djokovic smacked 14 aces in a 6-4, 6-3 win over Germany’s 48th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff and will play Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for a place in the quarter-finals.

The world number one had led calls for organisers to push back start times to avoid the worst of the punishing heat after blazing sunshine brought the extreme weather policy into play in round one.

But a gentle breeze and slightly overcast skies at Ariake Tennis Park made for less brutal conditions on the third day of the Games.

“I was struggling with certain things in the first round, but today was far more pleasant to play, just a higher level of tennis on my side,” said Djokovic.

“I’m very pleased with the way I felt on the court.”

As Djokovic edges closer towards a Golden Grand Slam, after already snapping up the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles this year, he appears unfazed by the rising pressure.

“I think that once you reach the top spots in the rankings and start winning Slams, you’re going to experience different kinds of expectations and pressure from yourself and people around,” said Djokovic.

“Being a Grand Slam champion and being number one in the world carries a lot of weight.”

Osaka raced into the last 16 as she powered past Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic 6-3, 6-2 in just over an hour, playing her second match in as many days after lighting the Olympic cauldron on Friday.

“Honestly, I feel like I was a bit more nervous before the match,” said Osaka.

“I felt a lot of butterflies, but I think as I started playing and feeling more comfortable, I knew that no matter what it would be a great match.”

Before arriving at the Games, Osaka had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health.

Sabalenka, Swiatek and Kvitova lose

Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot to Croatia’s Donna Vekic during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles second round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 26, 2021.
Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

 

 

The second seed is the highest-ranked player left in the women’s draw following the shock first-round exit of world number one and Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty.

Third seed Aryna Sabalenka was beaten by Donna Vekic in the second round Monday.

“It definitely would mean a lot for me to win gold here, but I know it’s a process,” said Osaka, who next plays 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova.

“I know that these are the best players in the world and I honestly haven’t played in a while so I’m trying to take it one match at a time. But all in all I’m just really happy to be here.”

Sabalenka lost 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3) to Vekic, while 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek was left in tears after going down in straight sets to Spain’s Paula Badosa.

Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck knocked out Czech 10th seed Petra Kvitova in three sets as Sara Sorribes Tormo backed up her defeat of Barty with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Fiona Ferro.

Elina Svitolina was in danger of joining the exodus of top players, but the Ukrainian scrapped her way past Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova beat Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-4 and two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza swatted China’s Wang Qiang aside for the loss of just three games.

Alexander Zverev is a potential semi-final opponent for Djokovic. The German strolled past Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan 6-2, 6-2 and second seed Daniil Medvedev thrashed Sumit Nagal 6-2, 6-1.

Medvedev will play the volatile Fabio Fognini in round three, with Spanish sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta getting the better of Marin Cilic 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

-AFP

Djokovic Wins 2021 French Open, Claims 19th Grand Slam Title


Serbia’s Novak Djokovic poses with The Mousquetaires Cup (The Musketeers) after winning against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas at the end of their men’s final tennis match on Day 15 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 13, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic claimed a 19th Grand Slam title and became the first man in 52 years to win all four majors twice when he came from two sets down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a gripping French Open final on Sunday.

The world number one triumphed 6-7 (6/8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 over the Greek 22-year-old who was playing in his first Slam final.

Djokovic is now just one major away from equalling the all-time record of 20, jointly held by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

It was a second French Open crown for Djokovic after his 2016 victory and adds to his nine Australian Opens, five Wimbledon titles and three at the US Open.

The 34-year-old is the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Slams on multiple occasions and just the third in history.

He is also the first man ever to win a Slam title by twice coming back from two sets down in same the tournament.

Djokovic now has 84 career titles in total while Sunday’s win pushed him to the brink of $150 million in prize money.

“It was an electric atmosphere,” said Djokovic after the four-hour 11-minute final.

“It’s a dream. It’s difficult to win the title against a great player. It was a difficult three days physically and mentally.”

Djokovic had also spent more than four hours on court on Friday to knock out defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas at the end of their men’s final tennis match on Day 15 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 13, 2021. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

Tsitsipas survived a nervy opening service game, having to save two break points.

Djokovic, by contrast, didn’t concede a point in his first three service games.

But suddenly he faced a set point in the 10th game courtesy of an ugly shank but saved it after a 26-shot rally.

Fired up by a time violation, Djokovic broke for the first time for a 6-5 lead but was unable to serve out the opener as a series of razor-sharp returns put Tsitsipas back on level terms.

In a dramatic tiebreaker, Tsitsipas saw a 4/0 and 5/2 lead disappear.

He had to save a set point before claiming the opener after 70 minutes when Djokovic fired a forehand wide.

Dropping the opening set at this year’s Roland Garros was familiar territory for Djokovic.

He had to recover from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the last 16 and lost the opener against Nadal on Friday.

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Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas (L) returns the ball to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their men’s final tennis match on Day 15 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 13, 2021. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

Tsitsipas, 12 years the world number one’s junior, broke again in the first game of the second set as the 2016 champion looked increasingly weary in the 30-degree afternoon heat.

The Greek edged ahead 5-2 and pocketed the second set with his eighth ace of the contest.

But the top seed wasn’t finished, breaking in the fourth game of the third set to cut the deficit.

Tsitsipas then called the trainer to treat a back problem which also gave him the opportunity to change the clay-covered shirt he’d worn since a first set tumble.

Thirty minutes later, it was two sets apiece after Djokovic secured a double break.

As the shadows swept across Court Philippe Chatrier, Tsitsipas’ mood also darkened as he slipped 3-1 down in the decider.

As the clock ticked past four hours, he fought off two more breakpoints in the seventh game but Djokovic was not to be denied his latest slice of history taking the glory on his second championship point.

AFP

 

Djokovic, Nadal To Meet For 58th Time In French Open Semi-Finals

Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic set up a 58th meeting with Rafael Nadal on Wednesday when he reached his 40th Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open despite being held up by 5,000 fans needing to be evacuated to conform with a Covid-19 curfew.

World number one Djokovic defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-5 to book his place in the last four in Paris for the 11th time.

Earlier, Nadal, the 13-time champion, beat Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 to make the semi-finals for the 14th time.

With Djokovic’s match extending beyond the national 11pm curfew, play was halted for around 20 minutes at 3-2 in the fourth set so that 5,000 fans could be funnelled out of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Djokovic eventually claimed the match on a third match point in the 12th game of the fourth set but only after the Serb had kicked out at an advertising board in frustration at missing the first two.

“It was a release of all the emotions I had kept inside me,” said Djokovic who hit 44 winners and saved all three break points he faced.

“After all the fans left and the little break it wasn’t easy to find rhythm.

“It was really a very difficult match for me.”

He added: “It was a great battle against a player who serves well and is powerful. Maybe I could have finished on the tie break, but I’m happy to have won.”

Friday’s semi-final will be the eighth between Djokovic and Nadal at Roland Garros where the Spaniard has a commanding 7-1 advantage.

That includes last year’s final but Djokovic remains just one of two men to have defeated Nadal at the tournament.

Both players have history on their minds in Paris.

Djokovic, an 18-time major winner and 2016 French Open champion, is looking to become the first man in more than half a century to win all four Slams twice.

Nadal, meanwhile, can win a record-setting 21st major with victory in Sunday’s final, edging ahead of Roger Federer in the all-time race.

For the first time, fans were allowed to attend an evening session at this year’s tournament thanks to an easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

The 5,000-strong crowd watched as Djokovic took command against Berrettini who had made the quarter-finals when Federer withdrew from the tournament.

However, play was halted just before 11 pm to allow spectators to leave.

Some fans chanted: “We are going to stay, we are going to stay” before they relented and filed out of Court Philippe Chatrier.

“We paid 500 euros for two and a half sets of a match. It’s unacceptable,” said one man watching the quarter-final with his wife and two children.

“They should have started at 7pm and not 8pm.”

Wednesday was the 10th and final evening session of the tournament.

However, it was the first which welcomed spectators after Covid-19 restrictions were eased and a 9pm curfew pushed back to 11pm.

Both Djokovic and Berrettini left the court while the stadium was cleared with the match resuming around 20 minutes later.

-AFP

Djokovic Withdraws From Madrid Open

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts during his ATP 250 Serbia Open semi-final singles tennis match against Russia’s Aslan Karatsev at The Novak Tennis Centre in Belgrade on April 24, 2021.
PEDJA MILOSAVLJEVIC / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Madrid Open, the tournament announced on Wednesday.

A message from the tournament’s official Twitter account read: “Novak Djokovic will not be playing in the Mutua Madrid Open. ‘Sorry that I won’t be able to travel to Madrid this year and meet all my fans”, said Djokovic. ‘It’s been two years already, quite a long time. Hope to see you all next year!'”.

Djokovic has only played four tournaments this year, having decided to take a break following his 18th grand slam success at the Australian Open in February.

The world number one suffered a surprise defeat to world number 28 Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals of the Serbia Open on Saturday, after also losing to Dan Evans, ranked 33rd, earlier this month in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic is expected to play in Rome and Belgrade as he prepares for next month’s French Open, where he will be hoping to deny Rafael Nadal a 13th title while looking to add to his own single success in Paris in 2016.

The Madrid Open starts this week, with the women’s main draw beginning on Thursday and the men’s tournament on Sunday.

Djokovic is the reigning men’s champion after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final in 2019. Last year’s event was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

-AFP

Djokovic Eyes Ninth Australian Open Crown

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts as he beats Germany's Alexander Zverev in straight sets in their men's singles round-robin match on day six of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 20, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts as he beats Germany’s Alexander Zverev in straight sets in their men’s singles round-robin match on day six of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 20, 2020. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic has not endeared himself to fans over the past year, but the Australian Open’s undisputed king will take some stopping as he targets a record-extending ninth title at Melbourne Park.

Djokovic claimed his 17th Grand Slam crown in last year’s gripping final, when he came back from 2-1 down to edge Austria’s Dominic Thiem in five sets.

The Serbian’s eighth victory in 16 visits reinforced his dominance in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena, where he claimed his first Grand Slam title in 2008 and has won seven of the last 10 editions.

Rafael Nadal and Thiem look to be his biggest rivals at this year’s tournament, with six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer sidelined as he recovers from double knee surgery.

The Australian Open was the highlight of a mesmerising early 2020 season for Djokovic, who won his first four tournaments of the year.

READ ALSO: Telemedicine Takes Off In Germany During Pandemic

However, off-court, things soon unravelled for the elastic-limbed world number one.

After tennis went into lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, Djokovic launched the ill-fated Adria Tour in June, with no social distancing and players pictured dancing shirtless at a packed nightclub.

Djokovic and his wife Jelena were among a number of people to subsequently test positive for the virus, with Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki also falling ill.

– Line judge row –

Worse was to come when tennis resumed and Djokovic defaulted out of the US Open in sensational fashion, when he angrily swiped away a ball that accidentally hit a female line judge in the throat.

His hopes of becoming the first man in half a century to win all four Slams twice then ended in a straight-sets defeat to Nadal in the French Open final.

Djokovic also drew negative comment in August for launching the Professional Tennis Players Association, a breakaway group outside the men’s tour, as tennis attempted to get back on its feet.

And he found himself labelled a “tool” by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios after requesting better conditions for players during Australia’s mandatory quarantine, including private houses with tennis courts.

Despite the off-court turbulence, Djokovic enjoys strong support in Melbourne — which has a sizeable Serbian population — and said Rod Laver Arena brings back “beautiful memories”.

“It does feel like a home for me in Australia, in Melbourne, particularly in Rod Laver,” he said.

“That is by far my most successful tennis court in my career. Had some profound memories in the last 15 years, and you know, won my first Grand Slam back in 2008.

“Had probably the most exciting matches played on this court, and definitely the longest match ever that I played was in the finals, almost six hours with Rafa (Nadal) in 2012.”

Nadal will undoubtedly figure prominently in the tournament but it is now 12 years since he won his lone title in Melbourne, despite four more trips to the final.

The Spaniard also has fitness concerns after he pulled out of the ATP Cup during warm-up week with a sore back.

Thiem came agonisingly close to victory last year and, buoyed by his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, will be confident against anyone in the draw — including Djokovic, against whom he has won five of their last seven meetings.

Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are also among the top contenders at a tournament where form is difficult to judge, with playing opportunities hard to come by during the pandemic.

‘So Sorry’ Djokovic Disqualified From US Open For Hitting Judge

Novak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his Men's Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
Novak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his Men’s Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

Novak Djokovic was dramatically disqualified from the US Open on Sunday after accidentally striking a female lines judge with a ball in frustration during his last-16 match, sending shock waves through the tournament.

The world number one apologized for hitting the ball in disgust after losing his serve to go 6-5 down in the first set to Spain’s 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic appeared to be looking the other way when he pulled the ball from his pocket and smacked it in the direction of the official, it hitting her full toss in the throat.

The official cried out and began gasping for air as she collapsed to the ground.

Djokovic rushed over to check on her, placing his hand on her back as she struggled to breathe. After a few minutes she got up and walked off the court looking dazed.

Around ten minutes of discussions then ensued between Djokovic and the tournament referee Soeren Friemel, during which the world number one pleaded his case.

The umpire then declared that Carreno Busta had won by default. Djokovic shook hands with his opponent before leaving the court without appearing to shake the umpire’s hand.

‘So wrong’

He went then directly to his car and left the Flushing Meadows site in New York without speaking to reporters.

Djokovic, 33, later posted an apology on Instagram saying he was “so sorry.”

“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” he wrote, adding that “thank God” the woman was okay.

“I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong,” Djokovic said.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman with a ball hit in frustration during his Men's Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
Novak Djokovic of Serbia walks off the court after being defaulted due to inadvertently striking a lineswoman with a ball hit in frustration during his Men’s Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

He also apologized to tournament organizers for “my behavior” but did not say whether he thought they were right to default him.

The United States Tennis Association said Djokovic had been defaulted under the Grand Slam rules for “intentionally hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with negligent disregard of the consequences.”

The body added that he would lose all ranking points and prize money from the tournament.

Referee Friemel said Djokovic told him he should not be defaulted because it was unintentional.

Friemel said he agreed there was no intent but that it was a clear-cut case of Djokovic hitting the ball “angrily and recklessly.”

“She was clearly hurt and in pain. There was no other option,” he told reporters.

The Serbian star is one of only a handful of players to be disqualified from a men’s singles tournament at a Grand Slam since John McEnroe was infamously tossed from the Australian Open in 1990.

Djokovic had been chasing an 18th Grand Slam title at the Billie Jean King US National Tennis Center.

He was hoping to close the gap on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both absent from the tournament, in the race for the all-time men’s Slam singles title record.

Djokovic is on 17, with Nadal on 19 and Federer on 20.

Carreno Busta said he did not see the incident.

“I was celebrating the break with my coach,” he told reporters.

“When I heard that the line judge was on the floor I was in shock. I never expected this moment when playing Novak.

“I think it was bad luck,” he added.

Former players reacted with shock at the disqualification but said officials had made the correct decision.

New winner

“Right call!” former women’s world number one Tracy Austin wrote on Twitter.

Four-time US Open champion Martina Navratilova said officials “had no choice” but to default Djokovic.

Former British number one Greg Rusedski described the disqualification as “unbelievable” but said officials had made the “correct decision.”

Novak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his Men's Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
Novak Djokovic of Serbia tends to a line judge who was hit with the ball during his Men’s Singles fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on Day Seven of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 6, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

A USTA spokesperson said the line judge was “doing okay” after receiving treatment from medical staff.

Djokovic had been the overwhelming favorite to capture a fourth US Open title.

His disqualification blows the men’s draw wide open and means it will crown a first-time Grand Slam winner next Sunday.

“Now it gets interesting,” said fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who described Djokovic as “very unlucky.”

“It’s going to be one of the young guys,” who wins, Zverev added after becoming the first German to reach the US Open last eight since 2007.

Fifth seed Zverev bulldozed Spain’s unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 while 12th seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov beat David Goffin for a maiden Grand Slam last-eight spot.

In the women’s draw, American Jennifer Brady, seeded 28th, stunned three-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber while eighth seed Petra Martic was bundled out by Kazakhstan’s 23rd seed Yulia Putintseva.

And American Shelby Rogers upset sixth seed Petra Kvitova 7-6 (7/5), 3-6, 7-6 (8/6). She will next play two-time Slam winner Naomi Osaka, who defeated Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-4.

 

AFP

Djokovic Describes US Open Health Restrictions As Extreme

 Novak Djokovic 
VALERY HACHE / AFP

 

World number one Novak Djokovic described the strict hygiene restrictions under which the US Open is likely to be played as “extreme” and a cap on support teams as “really impossible” on Friday.

As doubts grow over whether or not the Grand Slam event can go ahead as scheduled in New York, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Djokovic admitted the demands of organisers could create severe strain.

“Just yesterday I had a telephone conversation with the leaders of world tennis, there were talks about the continuation of the season, mostly about the US Open due in late August, but it is not known whether it will be held,” the 33-year-old Serb told Prva TV television and quoted by Blic online daily.

“The rules that they told us that we would have to respect to be there, to play at all, they are extreme.”

Djokovic, champion at the US Open in 2011, 2015 and 2018, described planned limits on player entourages as “really impossible”.

“We would not have access to Manhattan, we would have to sleep in hotels at the airport, to be tested twice or three times per week.

“Also, we could bring one person to the club which is really impossible.

“I mean, you need your coach, then a fitness trainer, then a physiotherapist.

“All their suggestions are really rigorous but I can understand that due to financial reasons, due to already existing contracts, organisers (want the event to be) held. We will see what will happen.”

– Nadal, Barty fears –
Djokovic was speaking a day after world number two Rafael Nadal had expressed similar reservations over the US Open, the main draw for which starts on August 31.

Nadal, who won a fourth US Open in 2019, said that if the New York showpiece was being staged this week, he would not play.

“We cannot resume until the situation is completely safe and fair in terms of health in that all players, wherever they come from, can travel and play tournaments in safe conditions,” Nadal told reporters in a video conference call.

“If you told me to play the US Open today, I would say ‘no’.

“In a few months, I don’t know. I hope so. We have to wait for people to return to normal life. And when it does, wait to see how the virus evolves.”

The tennis tour has been in cold storage since mid-March and will not resume until late July at the earliest.

Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II, while the French Open has been shifted from May-June to September-October.

Earlier Friday, women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty also voiced caution about resuming tennis too soon, saying she needed more information before committing to the US Open.

“It’s exciting that tennis is being talked about again and things are moving in the right direction for us to start competing,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“But I’d need to understand all of the information and advice from the WTA and the USTA before making a decision on the US events.”

It is expected that the ATP and WTA will issue an update on the US Open and the rest of the season on Wednesday.

Even if the US Open goes ahead, it will likely be behind closed doors.