Djokovic Conquers ‘Everest’, Eyes 52-Year Landmark At French Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the end of their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic can become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam titles twice in the French Open final on Sunday after conquering Rafael Nadal, the ‘Mount Everest’ of Roland Garros.

World number one Djokovic takes on Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title with tennis history on the line.

Victory for the Serb will take him alongside Roy Emerson and Rod Laver as the only men to capture the four majors more than once.

It’s an achievement that has proved even beyond the capabilities of Nadal and Roger Federer.

It is so rare an accomplishment that it hasn’t happened since 1969 when Laver completed his second calendar Grand Slam.

Djokovic can pocket a 19th Slam with victory and move just one behind the record of 20 jointly held by Nadal and Federer.

Djokovic insists there will be no letdown physically or emotionally after reaching the final in Paris for a sixth time with an epic triumph over 13-time champion Nadal.

“It’s not the first time that I play an epic semi-final in a Grand Slam and then I have to come back in less than 48 hours and play finals,” said the 34-year-old.

“My recovery abilities have been pretty good throughout my career.”

His four-hour, four-set battle with Nadal is already jostling for a prime spot in the list of “greatest ever matches” at the Slams.

– ‘Never believed’ –

It featured a lung-busting 92-minute third set and required government intervention to allow the 5,000 fans inside Court Philippe Chatrier to watch the match’s conclusion despite it extending beyond the 11pm Covid-19 curfew.

The 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 triumph gave Djokovic the honour of being the only man to have beaten Nadal in Paris more than once, having first achieved it in the 2015 quarter-finals.

Nadal has only lost three times in 108 matches since his title-winning debut in 2005.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion, said it was his best win in Paris and ranked it among his “three greatest” ever performances.

“It’s hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa’s achievements at Roland Garros,” said Djokovic who now leads their series 30-28 and had lost three finals in the French capital to Nadal.

“Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you have to kind of climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here.”

Djokovic has already admitted he’s a fan of Tsitsipas, proclaiming him as a Grand Slam champion in the making.

“He is a hard worker, dedicated, nice guy,” said Djokovic.

“He’s very smart and wise. I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from experience and to understand something new about himself.

“That’s the trait of a champion.”

Djokovic will be playing in his 29th Slam final on Sunday.

He holds a 5-2 record over Tsitsipas, a run which includes all three meetings on clay.

At last year’s Roland Garros, Djokovic won their semi-final over five sets.

“We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it’s going to be another tough one,” added Djokovic who also defeated Tsitsipas in Rome on the eve of the French Open.

“I’m hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I’m going to need some power and energy for that one.”

Tsitsipas, 22, and 12 years younger than the Serb, is in his first Slam final having ended a run of three semi-final losses by defeating Alexander Zverev over five sets on Friday.

Victory on Sunday would make him the first Greek player to win a Slam title.

He would also become the youngest champion in Paris since Nadal in 2008 and overall at the Slams since Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open.

“I’ve never believed, have never really thought at what age this achievement might come,” said Tsitsipas.

“But I’m really happy with myself. I think I’ve shown good discipline so far. I’ve been progressive.”

Tsitsipas is the hottest player on tour in 2021 with a season-leading 39 wins.

Twenty-two of those have come on clay and have reaped a Masters title in Monte Carlo as well as Lyon.

Tsitsipas also had a match point in the Barcelona final against eventual champion Nadal.

“There is the final on Sunday, which is exciting. I’m looking forward to leaving my entire body on the court,” said the Greek who knocked out second seed Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals.

Djokovic Defeats 13-Time Champion Nadal In Epic French Open Semi-Final

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the end of their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic handed 13-time champion Rafael Nadal only his third defeat in 16 years and 108 matches at the French Open on Friday to reach his sixth Roland Garros final in an epic showdown which even beat the country’s Covid-19 curfew.

In their 58th career clash, Djokovic triumphed 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and stays on course to capture a 19th major and become the first man in over 50 years to win all four Slams twice.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion in Paris who had also beaten Nadal at the 2015 tournament, will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final in what will be his 29th championship match at the Slams.

Tsitsipas had earlier become the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam final with a 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

Nadal, 35, who would have been the oldest finalist at the French Open in the modern era, remains tied on 20 majors with Roger Federer.

“It was a privilege to face Rafa in such an incredible match,” said Djokovic after four hours and 11 minutes of intense action.

“Tonight it was my greatest ever match in Paris.”

It was his second win in eight meetings in Paris with Nadal, a sequence which also included three losses in finals.

It was Nadal’s first defeat in 14 semi-finals in the French capital.

“Probably it was not my best day today, even if I fought,” said Nadal.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I had a big chance. There were some crazy points but there was fatigue there.”

Djokovic finished with 50 winners; Nadal committed 55 unforced errors under the relentless assault.

Djokovic had two break points in the opening game of the first set which stretched to 10 minutes but was unable to convert.

Curfew-buster

Nadal made him pay, sprinting away for a 5-0 lead before the top seed got on the board.

Djokovic clung on, retrieving one break to get to 2-5 but Nadal eventually prevailed after one hour on court even if he required seven set points to edge ahead.

As a sign of the tension of the occasion, Nadal complained to chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore that he needed more time to collect his towel.

Djokovic aired his bemusement at the amount of clay on the baselines.

Spain's Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Spain’s Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

The old rivals exchanged breaks in the second and third games of a big-hitting second set but it was Djokovic who repeated the feat for a 4-2 lead before levelling the tie.

Twice in the third set Djokovic edged ahead, only to be reeled back in by Nadal who broke back in the 10th game as the world number one served for the set.

Djokovic then had to save a set point with an ice-cool drop shot in the 12th game.

“You cannot play better clay court tennis than this. It’s perfect,” tweeted Andy Murray.

A 92-minute third set ended with Djokovic taking the tiebreak.

In a further twist on a dramatic evening, the 5,000 spectators inside Court Philippe Chatrier were allowed to watch the conclusion of the match despite it passing the 11pm Covid-19 curfew.

“In agreement with the national authorities, the match will come to an end in your presence,” said a stadium announcer told delighted fans.

Nadal then broke in the first game of the fourth set but Djokovic levelled for 2-2 and broke again for 4-2.

He finished it off on a second match point when Nadal hit wide and long.

Tsitsipas Becomes First Greek To Reach Grand Slam Final At French Open

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after winning against Germany's Alexander Zverev during their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after winning against Germany’s Alexander Zverev during their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to reach a Grand Slam final on Friday when he defeated Germany’s Alexander Zverev in a bruising five-setter at the French Open.

Fifth-seeded Tsitsipas won 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 and will face either 13-time champion Rafael Nadal or world number one Novak Djokovic in the championship match.

However, the 22-year-old will have his work cut out on Sunday — he is 2-7 against Nadal and 2-5 playing Djokovic.

“All I can think of is my roots, a small place outside Athens where I dreamed to play on the big stage at the French Open,” said a tearful Tsitsipas on making his first final at the majors, secured on a fifth match point.

“It was nerve-wracking, so intense, I stayed alive. I went out there and fought. This win means a lot, it’s the most important one of my career so far.”

Tsitsipas took a 5-2 career lead over Zverev into the semi-final and he was the first to pounce with the only break of the opening set in the second game.

The rock-solid Greek didn’t give up a single break point although in an indication of the fine margins, Tsitsipas only hit one winner.

Zverev, bidding to become the first German man since Michael Stich in 1996 to reach the final in Paris, raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set.

However, Tsitsipas’ greater composure saw him rack up six consecutive games to move two sets ahead.

The Greek had come into the semi-final certainly sharper having seen off three seeded players to get this far.

Zverev had needed five sets to beat his 152nd-ranked compatriot Oscar Otte in the first round and hadn’t faced a player inside the top 45 before Friday.

But Zverev carved a break in the third game of the third set and this time backed it up despite a lengthy, foul-mouthed rant at the umpire over a disputed line call.

The 24-year-old German, now fired up, broke in the opening game of the fourth set and levelled the semi-final in the 10th game on the back of a brutal 27-shot rally.

Tsitsipas, playing in his third consecutive semi-final at the majors, crucially saved three break points in the first game of the decider.

He made the most of the escape, breaking the German for 3-1 and quickly securing the advantage for 4-1.

In a 10-minute eighth game, Zverev saved four match points, the second of which with a drop shot, the third with an ace.

However, Tsitsipas held his nerve and claimed victory after over three and a half hours on court with his eighth ace of the match.

Gauff Becomes Youngest Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist In 15 Years

File photo of Coco Gauff during a match. PHOTO: MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Coco Gauff became the youngest Grand Slam quarter-finalist in 15 years on Monday when she defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at the French Open.

Gauff, seeded 24, swept to a 53-minute 6-3, 6-1 win and takes on Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic for a place in the semi-finals.

At the age of 17 years and 86 days, Gauff is the youngest woman to reach the last eight of a Slam since Nicole Vaidisova who made the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in 2006 aged 17 years and 44 days.

READ ALSO: Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Berlin Tournament

She is also the youngest American woman to book a place in the last eight in Paris since Jennifer Capriati in 1993.

In a composed performance on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday, the American teenager broke her fellow former junior champion three times without facing a break point herself.

“I am super happy to reach my first Grand Slam quarter-final. I played really well today,” said Gauff who has yet to drop a set at the tournament.

Gauff came into the French Open on the back of a clay-court title in Parma.

“Parma taught me how to close out matches and how to deal with pressure,” added the American who also discovered Monday that she had claimed a place on the American team for the Tokyo Olympics.

AFP

Roger Federer Withdraws From 2021 French Open

Switzerland's Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany's Dominik Koepfer during their men's singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
File photo: Switzerland’s Roger Federer serves the ball to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer during their men’s singles third round tennis match on Day 7 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 5, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Roger Federer pulled out of what was possibly his last French Open on Sunday as a precautionary measure to rest up before Wimbledon, unwilling to risk his troublesome knee after an injury-plagued past 18 months.

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, had battled over three and a half hours until 12.45am Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

“After discussions with my team, I’ve decided I will need to pull out of Roland Garros today,” Federer said.

“After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery.

“I am thrilled to have gotten three matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”

The Swiss star was due to play Italy’s Matteo Berrettini on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals, but Federer had cast doubt over whether he would continue following his win over Dominik Koepfer.

Federer was playing only his third tournament since last year’s Australian Open and has always said Wimbledon is his main goal.

He is chasing a ninth title at Wimbledon which starts on June 28.

He is also scheduled to play the warm-up grass court tournament in Halle beginning on June 14, the day after the French Open ends.

“The Roland Garros tournament is sorry about the withdrawal of Roger Federer, who put up an incredible fight last night,” said tournament director Guy Forget.

“We were all delighted to see Roger back in Paris, where he played three high-level matches. We wish him all the best for the rest of the season,”

If his knife-edge 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 win over 59th-ranked Koepfer was his last match in Paris, it will be remembered as a gripping affair on the court, but soulless off it.

Due to a government-imposed Covid-19 curfew, Court Philippe Chatrier was devoid of fans and atmosphere.

Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time.

However, the almost empty 15,000-capacity court was eerily silent.

Federer’s return this year was only his second French Open participation since 2015.

Serena eyes history 

Serena Williams of the US serves the ball to Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu during their women’s singles second round tennis match on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP)

 

While he leaves an event where Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were always the title favourites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw.

After Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal, Simona Halep missing the event through injury and early losses for Bianca Andreescu and Angelique Kerber, none of the players who have beaten Williams in Grand Slam finals since her last title at the 2017 Australian Open are still in the competition.

The former world number one, still just one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of major trophies, takes on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Williams has not gone beyond the fourth round in Paris since losing the 2016 final to Garbine Muguruza.

She arrived at this year’s French Open with just one win on clay this term.

“I’ve had a rough clay court season thus far, so I’m happy to get some wins on the clay,” Williams said after beating fellow American Danielle Collins in round three.

Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, fancied to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal and Djokovic in the other half of the draw, sealed his return to the quarter-finals with a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.

A semi-finalist at the past two majors, Tsitsipas was beaten in a thrilling five-setter by Djokovic in Paris eight months ago.

He could next face twice Grand Slam finalist and second seed Daniil Medvedev, the Russian who plays Chile’s Cristian Garin in the last 16.

Earlier, Tamara Zidansek became the first Slovenian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final when she defeated Romania’s Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7/4), 6-1.

The world number 85, who knocked out former US Open champion Andreescu in round one, will meet Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals after the Spaniard beat 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova returned to the Roland Garros quarter-finals for the first time since 2011, defeating former world number one Victoria Azarenka 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

AFP

Serena Looks To Take Advantage Of Open Draw At Roland Garros

Serena Williams of the US serves the ball to Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu during their women’s singles second round tennis match on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP)

 

 

Serena Williams will continue her latest bid for an elusive 24th Grand Slam singles crown later on Wednesday at a French Open now without two of the world’s top three-ranked women’s players, while Alexander Zverev reached the men’s third round.

The 39-year-old Williams has already seen two of her likeliest title challengers, who have both beaten her in major finals in recent years, either fail to start the tournament or pull out in unprecedented circumstances.

World number three Simona Halep, the 2018 Roland Garros champion who defeated Williams a year later in the Wimbledon final, withdrew before the event with injury.

The biggest story of the French Open so far has undoubtedly been world number two Naomi Osaka’s shock withdrawal after a press boycott, saying she has been suffering with “bouts of depression” since her breakthrough victory over Williams in the controversial 2018 US Open showpiece match.

Serena, who has been one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Slams since winning the Australian Open four years ago, faces Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu in the second round.

 

Serena Williams of the US returns the ball to Romania’s Irina Begu during their women’s singles first round tennis match at the court Philippe Chatrier on Day 2 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 31, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

The American, seeded eighth, saved two set points in the first set of her opening win over Irina-Camelia Begu — the first ever Roland Garros night match.

“I have to say it was pretty cool to be able to play the first night session ever here at Roland Garros. That was something I thoroughly enjoyed,” said Williams, who is back on Chatrier but during the day session against Buzarnescu.

That means she will play in front of a crowd for the first time this week, as the night sessions are currently being played behind closed doors due to the French government-imposed 9pm curfew.

Zverev battles through

Men’s sixth seed Zverev was in scratchy form but did enough to see off Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin in straight sets.

 

Germany’s Alexander Zverev returns the ball to Russia’s Roman Safiullin during their men’s singles second round tennis match on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

The German, last year’s US Open runner-up, will take on Serbia’s Laslo Djere in the third round after a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) victory.

Zverev had needed to fight back from two sets down in his opening match against qualifier Oscar Otte.

“I’m happy to be through in three sets,” he said. “I’m happy not to have played another five-setter. I think it’s going to be important for me during the course of this tournament.”

Norwegian youngster Casper Ruud continued his excellent year by easing past Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

The 15th seed, who won the title in Geneva last month and has reached three other semi-finals on clay this season, next faces Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Three-time quarter-finalist Kei Nishikori of Japan edged out Russian 23rd seed Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 after three hours and 59 minutes on Chatrier, setting up a last-32 encounter with Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen.

 

Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic returns the ball to Russia’s Daria Kasatkina during their women’s singles second round tennis match on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

In the women’s draw, Swiss 10th seed Belinda Bencic failed to improve her poor French Open record as she lost 6-2, 6-2 to Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

Bencic has still never made the second week in five appearances.

Later on Wednesday, second seed Daniil Medvedev will be hoping to back up his first-ever French Open win by going deep into the tournament.

The two-time Grand Slam runner-up is in the half of the draw without any major champions — with Dominic Thiem dumped out at the first hurdle and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all in the opposite side.

The Russian, who had lost in the opening round on all four of his previous appearances, will face Tommy Paul of the United States for a place in round three in the evening match.

 

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas returns the ball to Spain’s Pedro Martinez during their men’s singles second round tennis match on Day 4 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

Despite Medvedev’s loftier ranking, Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is probably the favourite to reach the final from the bottom half.

The 22-year-old lost an epic five-set semi-final in Paris last October to Djokovic and also made the last four of the Australian Open in February.

He will take on 103rd-ranked Spaniard Pedro Martinez in round two.

Grand Slams Pledge To ‘Create Meaningful Improvements’ After Osaka Row

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on February 20, 2021, Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts after a point against Jennifer Brady of the US during their women’s singles final match on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. Paul CROCK / AFP

 

The four Grand Slams on Tuesday pledged to “create meaningful improvements” to their tournaments in an effort to avoid a repeat of the Naomi Osaka crisis which hit the French Open.

Japan’s world number two Osaka withdrew from Roland Garros after she was fined and threatened with expulsion for refusing to carry out press conferences which she claims are detrimental to her mental health.

“We intend to work alongside the players, the tours, the media and the broader tennis community to create meaningful improvements,” a statement by the French, US and Australian Opens and Wimbledon said.

When Osaka was fined $15,000 on Sunday for not appearing at a news conference following her first round win, Grand Slam chiefs warned her of future consequences.

“Repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions,” they said.

On Tuesday, the four Slams said they “empathise with the unique pressures players face”.

However, they added: “Change should come through the lens of maintaining a fair playing field, regardless of ranking or status.”

 

AFP

Sympathy For Osaka In Japan Over French Open Withdrawal

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on May 30, 2021, Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning against Romania’s Patricia Maria Tig during their women’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. 
MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Japanese fans and public figures rallied in support of tennis star Naomi Osaka on Tuesday, offering sympathy after she withdrew from the French Open and opened up about her battles with depression.

The four-time Grand Slam winner’s career is followed closely in Japan and the controversy in Paris, which followed her refusal to attend press conferences, led news bulletins on Tuesday.

Reaction in Japan was largely sympathetic, with one Twitter user urging Osaka to “take a good, long break”.

“I hope she gets to eat what she wants, watch what she wants and listen to what she wants. I hope she wraps herself up in a fluffy blanket and takes it easy until she feels content.”

Osaka revealed that she has “suffered long bouts of depression” after pulling out of the French Open on Monday, and will “take some time away from the court”.

Her withdrawal follows the fall-out from her decision to boycott press conferences at the tournament, which she said were like “kicking people when they are down”.

Osaka is expected to represent Japan at the July-August Tokyo Olympics, and will be one of the host country’s highest-profile athletes at the Games if she takes part.

But Japanese fans urged her to take care of herself first and foremost.

“I will be happy as a fan if she can restore her energy after this and make a comeback,” a 45-year-old who gave his name as Hoshino told AFP in Tokyo.

“I dare say she might withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics,” wrote one Twitter user.

“It’s disappointing, but I hope she takes her time and gets well.”

 

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on February 20, 2021, Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts after a point against Jennifer Brady of the US during their women’s singles final match on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. 
Paul CROCK / AFP

‘Can’t imagine the pressure’

Others welcomed Osaka’s openness about her mental health, a subject rarely discussed by public figures in Japan.

Former tennis player Ai Sugiyama told a morning show she hoped Osaka’s actions could “make a splash and create an opportunity to talk about athlete’s mental health”, the Sports Hochi reported.

“There’s a big difference between people’s personalities, and I think we need to consider things on a case-by-case basis,” said Sugiyama, who reached a career-high number eight world ranking.

“I think the system where you absolutely have to turn up and you’re fined if you don’t is a little outdated.”

Tokyo passer-by Ishikawa Nobuyuki, 74, told AFP Osaka’s withdrawal was “unavoidable”, adding that “media also has some responsibility” for her wellbeing.

“She has the obligation to do the interviews, regardless of whether she wins or loses. Ignoring that makes her slightly selfish. But then again, she has an illness,” he said.

Some Twitter users questioned whether Osaka was feeling the strain of competing for titles and speaking out against racial injustice.

“Naomi Osaka is fighting — against herself, against pressure, against fixed ideas, against discrimination,” tweeted TV presenter Ruriko Kojima.

“All these things surely cause her anguish. I just can’t imagine the pressure she carries on her shoulders. It’s such a different perspective. I hope she gets some time where she can laugh and relax.”

-AFP

2021 French Open Postponed By One Week 

The French Open was delayed by one week due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: [email protected] Garros.

 

 

The French Open was on Thursday delayed by a week to May 30-June 13 in the hope that heightened Covid-19 restrictions in France will have eased by then to allow the maximum number of fans to attend the event.

The French tennis federation (FFT) said the decision had been made in the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement last month that the government wanted some cultural venues to be back up and running from mid-May onwards, “subject to the improvement of the health situation”.

FFT president Gilles Moretton said the week’s delay “will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros”.

“For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event,” Moretton added.

READ ALSO: Merkel Approves ‘Short National Lockdown’ To Curb Virus

The qualifying rounds of the clay-court Grand Slam event will now be held on May 24-28, followed by the main draw from May 30 to June 13.

In this file photo taken on May 26, 2019 shows a general view of the Philippe Chatrier court, on day 1 of The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Wimbledon, the next Grand Slam tournament after the French Open, said in a statement that the decision had no impact on its planned start date of June 28.

The initial Wimbledon warm-up events, however, start on June 7, midway through Roland Garros.

There will now only be a two-week break between the French Open final and the start of Wimbledon.

However, the decision to move the French Open was carefully discussed with the other major tournaments, unlike last year when the FFT moved the claycourt showpiece into a September-October slot because of the pandemic in what was criticised in some quarters as a unilateral decision.

Ugo Valensi, executive director of the Grand Slam Board, said: “These remain extremely challenging times for communities around the world, and, while there is optimism for the future, it is clear that this pandemic is very much still with us.

“The Grand Slams represent the most significant spotlights for our sport and so we will do everything possible to ensure they can be staged successfully.

“Further to consultation, the decision by the FFT to postpone Roland-Garros by a week in order to enhance the likelihood of the tournament taking place successfully is therefore fully supported by the Grand Slam Board.”

– ‘Agile approach’ –
The FFT’s decision was also given the green light by the ATP and WTA, the governing bodies of men’s and women’s professional tennis respectively.

“Tennis has required an agile approach to the calendar over the past 12 months in order to manage the challenges of the pandemic, and this continues to be the case,” read a joint ATP/WTA statement.

“Both the WTA and @atptour are supportive of the decision and are working in consultation with all parties impacted by the postponement to optimize the calendar for players, tournaments and fans, in the lead up to and following Roland-Garros.”

Crowds were limited to just 1,000 spectators each day at last year’s rearranged French Open.

The French Open was delayed by one week due to COVID-19 restrictions. Photo: [email protected] Garros.

 

Rafael Nadal will defend his title after winning a record-extending 13th French Open last year, while Iga Swiatek of Poland is the reigning women’s champion.

Roland Garros was one of the many sporting events affected by the fall-out from the global coronavirus pandemic. Last season, the professional tours were suspended from March until August, with Wimbledon cancelled. This year’s Australian Open was also pushed back by three weeks.

Covid restrictions were tightened across France last Wednesday although all professional sport is carrying on, albeit behind closed doors. President Macron has expressed a wish to re-open cinemas, museums and theatres in mid-May.

AFP

Nadal Wins French Open, Matches Federer’s Grand Slam Record

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates with the Mousquetaires Cup (The Musketeers) during the podium ceremony after winning the men’s singles final tennis match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic at the Philippe Chatrier court, on Day 15 of The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on October 11, 2020. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal demolished Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 to win his 13th French Open and equal Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 Grand Slam titles on Sunday.

For world number one Djokovic, the defeat ended his hopes of an 18th Slam and of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors twice.

Nadal, 34, claimed his 100th match win at Roland Garros against just two defeats since his 2005 debut.

The Spaniard, the oldest champion in Paris since Andres Gimeno in 1972, claimed the title without dropping a set.

He finished the one-sided affair with just 14 unforced errors to his opponent’s 52.

“Congrats to Novak for another great tournament. Sorry for today. We’ve played plenty of times together – one day one wins, another the other,” said Nadal.

“After all the things I have been through in my career with injuries, I could not have done it without my family.”

Nadal said he wasn’t even thinking about matching Federer’s record.

“It’s been a very tough year. Winning here means everything to me so it’s not about equalling Roger on 20, for me today it’s just a Roland Garros victory,” said Nadal who had skipped the US Open due to the global health crisis and was playing just his second tournament since February.

“Roland Garros means everything to me. I spent most of the most important moments of my tennis career here.

“Just playing here is a true inspiration. The love story I have with this court and city is unbelievable.”

For Djokovic, it was just his second loss of 2020 following his default at the US Open.

– ‘King of clay’ –

“Today, Rafa showed why you are the king of clay. I was out-played by a better player.”

Nadal also used his victory speech to thank organisers for staging the tournament, pushed back from its traditional May-June slot due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to send a message to everyone around the world. We are facing one of the worst moments that we remember in this world, fighting against this virus. Keep going, stay positive.

“We will get through this and we will beat the virus soon.”

The 56th meeting between the world’s top two started under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier, intensifying the echo of a crowd limited to 1,000 due to the pandemic.

Conventional wisdom suggested that would favour Djokovic but nobody told Nadal who broke three times in the 45-minute opening set.

The Spaniard hit 10 winners and just two unforced errors.

Djokovic’s error count was 13 with the out-of-sorts Serb even squandering three break points of his own in the fourth game.

More worrying for the world number one — Nadal improved to 111-0 when winning the first set of best-of-five matches on clay in his career.

It was the first opening set ‘bagel’ in a Roland Garros final since 2004 when Gaston Gaudio recovered to defeat Argentine compatriot Guillermo Coria in five sets.

Djokovic finally got on the board with a service hold in the first game of the second set but Nadal maintained his relentless push, going to a double break for 4-1 as even the Serb’s usual deft touches on the drop shot deserted him.

Nadal wrapped up a two-set lead with his unforced error count at just six to Djokovic’s 30.

Nadal broke for the sixth time for a 3-2 lead in the third before Djokovic suddenly restored his reputation as the sport’s best returner by carving out his first break of the afternoon for 3-3.

However, there was to be no miracle recovery as a double fault handed Nadal a 6-5 lead and he took the title with an ace.

AFP

Polish Teenager Swiatek Wins 2020 French Open

Swiatek is the first Pole to win the competition. [email protected]

 

Polish teenager Iga Swiatek won her country’s first-ever Grand Slam singles title on Saturday as she defeated American fourth seed Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1 to become the youngest women’s French Open champion since 1992.

The 19-year-old Swiatek, at 54 the second-lowest ranked women’s Roland Garros finalist in the modern era, is the ninth first-time major champion in the past 14 Grand Slams.

“It had to be that another underdog won a Grand Slam in women’s tennis. It is so often right now that it is crazy,” said Swiatek, who captured her first tour title in the process.

“I don’t know what’s going on. It’s overwhelming for me, it’s crazy.

“Two years ago I won a junior Grand Slam (at Wimbledon) and now I’m here. It feels like such a short time.”

Swiatek is the youngest women’s French Open winner since Monica Seles lifted the trophy as an 18-year-old in 1992. She is the first teenage champion since Iva Majoli in 1997.

“It’s crazy for me because I watched Rafael Nadal lift the trophy every year and now I’m in the same place,” added Swiatek, the first woman to secure the title without losing a set since Justine Henin in 2007.

Swiatek also became just the second unseeded women’s Roland Garros champion in the Open era, joining Jelena Ostapenko who claimed a shock title three years ago.

She eclipsed the run of compatriot Jadwiga Jedrzejowska — the most outstanding Polish player of the interwar period — who finished runner-up at Roland Garros in 1939.

Swiatek was only the second Polish woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era after Agnieszka Radwanska at Wimbledon in 2012. She had never previously been beyond the last 16.

Australian Open champion Kenin, 21, fell short in her attempt to become the first woman to capture two Slams in the same year since Angelique Kerber in 2016.

“I just want to congratulate Iga on a great tournament and a great match. You played really well,” said Kenin.

– Swiatek rises to the challenge –
Swiatek, whose only previous tour-level final came at Lugano last year, dispelled any initial fear of nerves as she won 12 of the first 15 points to surge 3-0 ahead.

However, Kenin has made a habit of fighting through tough situations in Paris and broke back when Swiatek served an untimely double fault allowing the American to level at 3-all.

Swiatek, who bludgeoned her way into the championship match, conceding just 23 games in six rounds, secured a precious hold before Kenin lost her serve for the second time.

Serving for the first set at 5-3, Swiatek dumped a tame backhand into the net on set point and Kenin immediately broke back, ripping a blistering backhand return.

Kenin’s resilience has been a staple of her success but she cracked again to present Swiatek with two more set points at 4-5, promptly dragging a backhand wide to hand the Pole the opening set.

The sixth-ranked Kenin, who had never advanced as far as the quarter-finals on clay before this fortnight, broke to begin the second set.

But an undeterred Swiatek responded the following game, smacking a backhand down the line to break once more before holding with ease to go 2-1 up.

Kenin subsequently called for a medical timeout to receive off-court treatment on her taped left thigh, but she could not slow the momentum of her opponent as Swiatek broke for a fifth time.

Swiatek won the next eight points to storm to the cusp of the title at 5-1, securing a historic triumph with a powerful cross-court forehand on her first match point.

“I was just mentally consistent. I just wanted to play aggressive as in previous rounds. It was really stressful for me so kind of hard,” said Swiatek, who will rise to 17th on Monday.

“I don’t know what made the difference. I won the match point and that is important enough.”

AFP

French Open: Schwartzman Shocks Thiem In Five-Hour Thriller

Argentina's Diego Schwartzman celebrates after winning against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the end of their men's singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 10 of The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on October 6, 2020. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman celebrates after winning against Austria’s Dominic Thiem at the end of their men’s singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 10 of The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on October 6, 2020. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Argentine 12th seed Diego Schwartzman defeated US Open champion and third seed Dominic Thiem in a five-hour epic on Tuesday to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals, his first-ever Grand Slam last-four appearance.

The 28-year-old Schwartzman triumphed 7-6 (7/1), 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 and will face either 12-time champion Rafael Nadal or Italian teenager Jannik Sinner for a place in the final.

It was one marathon too many for Thiem, the runner-up in Paris for the last two years, who had needed five sets and three and a half hours to down world number 239 Hugo Gaston in the fourth round.

The 5ft 7in (1.70m) Schwartzman’s success came on the same day that compatriot Nadia Podoroska, the world 131, reached the last-four of the women’s singles.

“Dominic is one of the great players. He is my best friend and I have a lot of respect for him,” said Schwartzman.

“So this win is very important for me. In the second and third sets, I was going a little crazy and I was screaming at myself because I had so many chances.

“But, come on, I deserved to win tonight,” added Schwartzman who defeated Nadal in the Rome quarter-finals on the eve of the French Open.

Thiem had been attempting to reach a fifth successive semi-final in Paris.

However, despite crunching 65 winners to his opponent’s 47, he committed 81 unforced errors in a match which featured 19 breaks of serve and at five hours and eight minutes was the second longest of the tournament.

“I was over the limit today,” said Thiem.

“At the net I just told him that he deserves it. I think he’s for the first time top 10 with that win.

“That’s also great achievement.”

Schwartzman recovered from a break down in the 65-minute first set to sweep through the tiebreaker.

But Thiem kept hammering away forcing the Argentine to save seven break points in the ninth game of the second.

The Austrian broke through for a 6-5 edge before wrapping up a 71-minute set.

Austria's Dominic Thiem returns the ball to Argentina's Diego Schwartzman during their men's singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 10 of The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on October 6, 2020. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Austria’s Dominic Thiem returns the ball to Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman during their men’s singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 10 of The Roland Garros 2020 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on October 6, 2020. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

In a tie of dramatically fluctuating rallies, eight breaks of serve punctuated the third set.

Schwartzman even had a set point but couldn’t convert and Thiem pounced in the breaker to sneak ahead.

The Argentine blinked again in the 10th game of the fourth as three more set points went begging, but he clung on, snatching the breaker after a 73-minute set.

By this stage, they had been on court for over four and a half hours.

However, a weary Thiem was broken in the sixth and final game of the decider as Schwartzman celebrated becoming the 10th Argentinian man to make the semi-finals of a major.

Late night for Nadal

The epic match meant that Nadal and Sinner were facing a late night as they had to wait for the day’s second women’s quarter-final between Iga Swiatek and Martina Trevisan to finish.

It was 9pm when they got underway.

Nadal is in the quarter-finals for the 14th time, dropping just 23 games in four rounds despite his pre-tournament prediction that he was facing his toughest ever Roland Garros due to the slow autumn conditions and the new, heavier balls.

His form is hard to gauge as his opponents have been ranked 83, 236, 74 and 213.

The 34-year-old Spaniard, playing his 100th match in Paris where he has lost just twice, can equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles with victory in the final.

However, standing in his way of a 13th semi-final in Paris is Sinner, the Italian 19-year-old who has made a mockery of his world ranking of 75 to become the youngest men’s Grand Slam quarter-finalist since Novak Djokovic in Paris in 2006.

On his way, he has knocked out Belgian 11th seed David Goffin in the first round followed by a last-16 defeat of German sixth seed and US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev on the back of 39 winners.

Sinner, a champion skier in his youth before opting for tennis, is also the first player to reach the last eight on his Roland Garros debut since Nadal lifted the trophy in 2005.

“It’s not the easiest thing to play Nadal at  Roland Garros. The record he has here, I think nobody can beat that. He is super confident,” said Sinner who now has two top 10 wins after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Rome.

 

AFP