Djokovic Reaches 50th Grand Slam Quarter-final

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning against Chile’s Cristian Garin during their men’s singles fourth round match on the seventh day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 5, 2021. PHOTO: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic reached his 50th Grand Slam quarter-final on Monday with a straight-set victory over Chile’s Cristian Garin at Wimbledon.

World number one Djokovic eased into the last-eight at the All England Club for the 12th time, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, and will face Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics for a place in the semi-finals.

“Confidence levels are very high after winning the French Open,” said Djokovic.

“It was one of my biggest wins in the circumstances — two five-setters, two four-setters in the second week.

“They took a lot out of me but they also gave me wings.

READ ALSO: England Ready To End Semi-Final Jinx At Euro 2020, Says Southgate

“The further I go in the tournament, the more comfortable I feel and I look forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic, chasing a sixth Wimbledon crown and a record-equalling 20th major title, is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam.

Only two men have swept all four majors in the same year with Rod Laver the most recent back in 1969.

Djokovic broke serve five times on Monday and hit 28 winners, twice as many as his 17th-seeded Chilean opponent.

Fucsovics became just the third Hungarian man and first in 73 years to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

The 29-year-old, ranked at 48 in the world, defeated Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Fucsovics blasted 41 winners past Rublev as he reached his first quarter-final at the Slams.

He is only the third Hungarian man in history to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after Bela von Kehrling (1929) and Jozsef Asboth (1948).

AFP

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

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

Federer Pulls Out Of Miami Open

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 10, 2019, Roger Federer of Switzerland gestures at the Shanghai Masters tennis tournament in Shanghai. (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)

 

Defending champion Roger Federer has withdrawn from this month’s Miami Open as he works his way back to full fitness following surgeries to repair his right knee, US media reported on Monday.

The 39-year-old Swiss star, who has not played since losing in the semi-finals of last year’s Australian Open, is due to make his return from a year-long layoff at the Qatar Open in Doha next week.

However, the Miami Herald cited Federer’s agent Tony Godsick as saying on Monday that the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion had opted to skip the Miami tournament for scheduling reasons.

READ ALSO: Twitter To Block Users Who Persist With COVID-19 Lies

The Herald said Federer could play in Dubai after Doha but would then take a training break.

Federer’s withdrawal is a blow to organizers of the Miami tournament, who were forced to cancel last year’s event as Covid-19 chaos left sport in North America at a standstill.

The pandemic has already impacted the 2021 calendar, delaying the Australian Open and forcing the Indian Wells tournament in California — the traditional lead-in to the Miami Open — out of its usual slot in March.

Miami is still expected to feature a strong field despite Federer’s withdrawal, with world number one Novak Djokovic and 20-time Grand Slam-winner Rafael Nadal confirmed for the men’s draw.

Serena Williams and newly minted Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka are also slated to appear in the women’s draw.

AFP

Osaka’s Rise: From Shy Youngster To Four-Time Grand Slam Champion

Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a return against Jennifer Brady of the US during their women’s singles final match on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 20, 2021. William WEST / AFP

 

Naomi Osaka, who swept to her fourth Grand Slam title in as many major finals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Jennifer Brady on Saturday, has made a rapid and at times uncomfortable climb to the top.

The 23-year-old’s zen-like mentality and increased gravitas on and off the court have elevated her alongside Serena Williams to being one of the most recognisable female athletes on the planet.

But it is her unceasing politeness away from the battlefield, coupled with the on-court steel that runs through all champions, that makes her stand apart.

“Do you like to be called Jenny or Jennifer?” she almost timidly asked Brady before embarking on her winner’s speech on Saturday.

It was typical of Osaka, who also gave a deferential bow to Williams after knocking out her idol and 23-time Grand Slam champion in the semi-final.

New Queen

Osaka will rise to number two in the world when the new rankings are released next week after a polished campaign which will reinforce the belief that she has taken over as the new queen of tennis.

It’s a far cry from a year ago when a rattled Osaka felt the strain of expectations as her Australian Open title defense fell apart with a shock loss to a 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round.

“She looked very nervous to me, she was under pressure, and she only looked like that because she was not expressing her feelings,” her coach Wim Fissette said.

Weeks later, Osaka was embarrassed as she won just three games against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in a Fed Cup tie.

“There’s just a lot of stuff that happened there, surrounding that time, that it really made me think a lot about my life,” she said.

“What is the reason, I am playing tennis to prove stuff to other people or am I playing to have fun because I enjoy it.”

But things turned during the pandemic when Osaka gained a new perspective and became a vocal leader in the fight against racial injustice in the United States.

Her increased presence as a campaigner for social justice has fuelled Osaka on court and she now possesses a 21-match unbeaten streak after Saturday’s final, a run that included winning last year’s US Open title for the second time.

 

This handout photo released by Tennis Australia on February 20, 2021, shows Japan’s Naomi Osaka (L) holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup trophy beside runner-up Jennifer Brady of the US after their women’s singles final match on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. FIONA HAMILTON / TENNIS AUSTRALIA / AFP

 

‘A lot of doubts’

“I think the thing that I’m most proud of is now mentally strong I’ve become,” she said.

“I used to be really up and down. For me, I had a lot of doubts in myself.

“I think, the quarantine process and seeing everything that’s going on in the world, for me it put a lot into perspective.”

Once painfully shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight, Osaka used her growing stature to weigh in on controversial topics at Melbourne Park, even condemning ex-Tokyo Olympics boss Yoshiro Mori for sexist comments.

Osaka has become the world’s richest female athlete, overtaking Williams, but she’s maintained a humble and respectful attitude amid her rise to stardom.

Born on October 16, 1997, in, Osaka, Japan, a year later her family moved to the United States.

Her Haitian father Leonard met and married her mother Tamaki when he decamped to Japan from New York to study.

Now based in Florida, Osaka has dual Japanese-American citizenship.

Osaka developed into a big-stage player after making her Grand Slam debut at the 2016 Australian Open.

It took a few years to find her feet before she stunned Williams with a straight-sets victory in a controversial 2018 US Open final and backed that up with a triumph at Melbourne Park just a few months later.

Osaka, at just 21, powered to world number one but she felt unfulfilled.

“I think that also put a lot of pressure on me because I just felt in a way it was me against the world,” she said.

It led to a difficult period where she felt burdened by expectations until heeding a more relaxed demeanour.

And she now has the tennis world at her feet.

“I used to weigh my entire existence on if I won or lost a tennis match,” she said.

“That’s just not how I feel anymore.”

Australian Open To Allow 7,500 Centre Court Fans

A general view of the Rod Laver Arena as Spain’s Rafael Nadal hits a return against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas during their men’s singles quarter-final match on day ten of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 17, 2021. PHOTO: Brandon MALONE / AFP

 

The Australian Open will allow 50 percent capacity at Rod Laver Arena, the centre court, from Thursday after state authorities eased a five-day coronavirus lockdown, organisers of the Grand Slam tennis tournament said.

“We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high,” tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement.

A maximum of 7,477 fans will be allowed at each of the day and night sessions from Thursday, Tiley said.

READ ALSO: Tsitsipas Upset Ends Nadal’s Record Title Bid At Australian Open

The announcement comes ahead of the five-day state-wide lockdown ending at midnight on Wednesday with state health authorities expressing confidence the snap restrictions had been enough to contain a Coronavirus outbreak.

“Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric,” said Tiley.

The restrictions were ordered last Friday after a small cluster of the UK coronavirus variant emerged.

The Australian Open’s Melbourne Park complex had been operating on the capacity of a restricted ground of 30,000 spectators per day in the first week of the tournament before the snap lockdown.

The five-day stay-at-home order now appears to have contained the outbreak, which centred on a hotel near Melbourne airport, to 19 people.

No new cases were reported Wednesday.

AFP

Djokovic Plays Through Pain To Win 300th Grand Slam Match

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his match point against Canada’s Milos Raonic during their men’s singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 14, 2021.
William WEST / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic clocked his 300th Grand Slam win Sunday, playing through pain from an abdominal injury that nearly forced him to pull out of the Australian Open to oust Milos Raonic and make the quarter-finals.

The world number one took to the court despite suggesting his title defence might be over on Friday after sustaining the injury in a thrilling five-setter against Taylor Fritz.

He battled on against giant Canadian Raonic on a fan-less Rod Laver Arena, grinding through 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 to set up a clash with sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

READ ALSO: [‘This Is My Cage’] Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman Beat Gilbert, Extends UFC Reign

But Djokovic said if it wasn’t a Grand Slam, he would have pulled out.

“No preparations, basically, for this match. I used every single hour I had since the last match against Taylor to recover and put myself in a position where I have a possibility to compete,” he said.

“If it was any other tournament than a Grand Slam I would retire and withdraw,” he added.

“I didn’t know before I finished my warm up today, three hours before, whether I would play or not.”

– Thundering aces –
Djokovic’s win was his 300th at a Slam, only the second player in history to reach the mark after Roger Federer, on 362.

It kept him on track for an 18th Grand Slam title in his bid to close in on the 20 held by the Swiss great and Rafael Nadal, who plays on Monday.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (L) fist bumps with Canada’s Milos Raonic after their men’s singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 14, 2021.
William WEST / AFP

 

He has already won a record eight times in Melbourne, the scene of his maiden Slam triumph in 2008, where he remains unbeaten since his shock loss to South Korea’s Hyeon Chung in the 2018 round of 16.

Despite his injury struggles, Djokovic was always the favourite, having won all 11 of his previous encounters with the big-serving Canadian, dropping just three sets in the process.

But 14th seed Raonic is also extremely experienced at this level, having reached five quarter-finals or better at Melbourne Park over the past six year.

And he proved a tough opponent, sending down two thundering aces in the opening game to highlight his serving power, with some rockets clocking in at 223 kph.

Djokovic’s movement seemed unhindered and he finally worked his first break point in game six, but squandered it with a forehand into the net as Raonic held on.

He earned another in the eighth game but again failed to capitalise and it went to a tiebreaker where a wayward Raonic volley gave the Serb an early advantage and he didn’t look back.

Raonic’s right ankle was taped in a medical timeout at 1-2 in the second set, but he still broke Djokovic to go 4-2 ahead with a sizzling crosscourt forehand and took the set.

The Serb, though, was returning serve at a high percentage and he finally converted a break point when Raonic sent a forehand wide to take a 3-1 lead, and broke again to seal the third set.

It went with serve in the fourth set until Djokovic worked break points in the ninth game, finally converting on the third to move 5-4 ahead and serving out for the match.

AFP

Osaka Using US Open As Platform For Activism

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 28: Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates a point against Elise Mertens of Belgium during the Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 28, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

 

Naomi Osaka arrived the court for her opening US Open game on Monday wearing a face mask bearing the name of Breonna Taylor, the African-American nurse shot dead by police who raided her apartment in Kentucky in March.

By the time the US Open fortnight is over, Osaka says she hopes to have honored the memory of six other victims of racial injustice.

“For me, I just want to spread awareness,” Osaka said after her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Japanese compatriot Misaki Doi.

“I’m aware that tennis is watched all over the world, and maybe there is someone that doesn’t know Breonna Taylor’s story.

“Maybe they’ll Google it or something. For me, just spreading awareness. I feel like the more people know the story, then the more interesting or interested they’ll become in it.”

Osaka, of Haitian and Japanese heritage, said she has six other masks bearing the names of black people killed by police that she hoped to wear throughout the Grand Slam.

“I have seven and it’s quite sad that seven is not enough for the amount of names,” Osaka said.

“Hopefully I’ll get to the finals and you’ll see all of them.”

The 22-year-old fourth seed has spoken out repeatedly in the wake of the protests that swept the United States following the death of George Floyd during a confrontation with police in May.

Osaka said she is increasingly comfortable in her role as athlete activist.

“A lot of people ask me if I feel more stressed out ever since I started speaking out more,” she said Monday.

“To be honest, not really. At this point, like, if you don’t like me, it is what it is. You know what I mean?”

Last week Osaka threatened to withdraw from her semi-final at the Western & Southern Open following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin.

She later reversed that decision and played, but was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s final because of a nagging problem with her left hamstring.

There was little sign of the injury hampering her against Doi on Monday, although Osaka revealed after her win she was not at full fitness.

“Physically I feel like I could be better,” she said. “But I can’t complain because I won the match.

“For me, it’s somewhat interesting. I feel like every Grand Slam I play is a different story. You almost feel completely different at every Grand Slam.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting through it. I’m just going to see what happens.”

AFP

Murray Plans To Play Both US, French Open

Andy Murray of Britain reacts on a point against James Duckworth of Australia during their men’s singles first round match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane on January 1, 2019.
Saeed Khan / AFP

 

 

Andy Murray is hoping of making a return to Grand Slam tennis at both the US and French Open later this year.

The three-time Grand Slam champion has been out of action since November with a pelvic injury, but will return in an all-British tournament hosted by his brother Jamie Murray this week.

Murray will face Liam Broady at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton on Tuesday.

The Battle of the Brits gives Murray the chance to get some competitive action under his belt ahead of the planned August resumption of the ATP tour before two Grand Slams come in quick succession.

The US Open is set to take place behind closed doors from 31 August, with the French Open starting on 27 September.

Some leading players, including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, have questioned whether they will head across the Atlantic to play at Flushing Meadows.

However, Murray is happy to return to New York for his first Grand Slam since the 2019 Australian Open, even if it means limiting the number of his team who can travel with him.

“Playing the Grand Slams would be my priority,” said the Scot. “The schedule is tricky and I understand the reason why it is like that.

“I don’t mind what the situation is, providing it is safe.

“If I was told I could take one person with me, for example, you can make that work. I’d probably go with a physio and some coaching could be done remotely.”

Murray is yet to draw up a schedule of which events he will play in preparation for the Slams, but is hoping an extended layoff will help his body fully recover from a number of serious injuries.

The 33-year-old had career-saving hip surgery in 2019, before his latest long-term injury layoff.

Murray had been planning a return in March before the coronavirus pandemic brought the tour to a halt.

“My hip has been feeling better for probably the past three or four weeks,” he added.

“Right now, I feel a little bit more confident because I’ve had more training under my belt, more practice. In March time, I’d only been practising for four or five weeks since I’d had the issues.”

 

 

-AFP

Beating Federer’s 20 Slams Record Not Important, Says Nadal

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates victory against Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien during their men’s singles match on day two of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 21, 2020.
John DONEGAN / AFP

 

World number one Rafael Nadal insisted Tuesday that matching or beating Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam titles is not important and he was “super happy” with his tennis career regardless.

The Spaniard launched his campaign to equal the Swiss great’s mark by dropping just five games in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 annihilation of Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the Australian Open first round.

The Mallorcan, the first man to be world number one in three different decades, can not only match his great rival’s achievement but also become the first man in the Open era to win all four Majors at least twice if he lifts the trophy again at Melbourne Park.

It is a big ask for the 33-year-old Nadal, who has only won the title once before in Australia, against a tearful Federer in 2009, with four runner-up finishes to his name.

“I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about trying to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career,” said Nadal.

“It’s not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career.

“I am very satisfied with my tennis career because I give it all most of the time,” he added. “That’s the only thing that matters.”

The Australian Open is the only Major Nadal has failed to win more than once, having claimed 12 titles at Roland Garros, four at the US Open and two at Wimbledon.

He has been a finalist in Melbourne four times since winning but has struggled to get over the line, something that baffles him.

“I have been a break up twice in the fifth set and I lost. Another time I have been injured in a final, of course, against a great opponent,” he said on why he had not been able to convert in Australia.

Main goal 

Nadal, in a pink sleeveless shirt and matching shoes, was in total charge against the world number 73 Dellien, storming to a 5-0 lead in the opening set before the Bolivian held serve, then against the odds broke, before the Spaniard served out the set.

Underdog Dellien was broken in the sixth game of the second set but hit back again to break Nadal for the second time in the match before the top seed again rallied to restore control with some sizzling forehands down the line.

Nadal raced 3-0 up in the third set as his physicality and power shone through.

The Spaniard next plays either Argentine Federico Delbonis or Portugal’s Joao Sousa and said he never looked further ahead than the next match.

“I think about Sousa or Delbonis, that’s all. I think about my practice tomorrow, try to follow up the level of tennis that I played in the third set,” he said.

“That should be my main goal. I need to play at my highest level if I want to keep going in the tournament.

“If I am able to reach my highest level, that’s the thing that I have to worry about.

“If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances.

“If not, impossible.”

AFP

Osaka Suffers WTA Finals Injury Heartbreak For Second Year Running

 

Two-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka withdrew from the season-ending WTA Finals with a shoulder problem on Tuesday, the second straight year she has been forced out due to injury.

Osaka, who retired during last year’s edition of the lucrative year-ender with a hamstring injury, had been due to play world number one Ashleigh Barty later on Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed to have to withdraw from the Finals,” Osaka said. “It has been a great event in Shenzhen, and it’s the biggest WTA event of the year.”

“This is not how I wanted to end this tournament or my season. I look forward to getting healthy and hope to be back here in Shenzhen next year,” she added.

Osaka had started the $14 million round-robin tournament with a tough three-set victory over Petra Kvitova on Sunday to extend her winning streak to 11 matches after titles in Beijing and Osaka.

She had been determined to make amends for a disappointing WTA Finals debut last year, when her winless campaign ended with her retiring in tears against Kiki Bertens due to a hamstring injury.

World number 10 Bertens will replace Osaka for the remaining matches and plays Barty in Red Group action on Tuesday.

I Fought Like Hell, Says US Open Runner-Up Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev of Russia returns a shot during the fourth set of his Men’s Singles final match against Rafael Nadal of Spain on day fourteen of the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 08, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP

 

Daniil Medvedev said the energy of the New York crowd helped instigate the stunning fightback that saw him fall just short against Rafael Nadal in a five-set classic in Sunday’s US Open final.

The Russian fifth seed dropped the first two sets to Nadal in his first Grand Slam final but charged back to force a decider, almost erasing a double break deficit in the fifth set before going down 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4.

“First of all I just want to congratulate Rafa, 19th Grand Slam title is something unbelievable, outrageous,” Medvedev said.

“What you’ve done for tennis in general, it’s amazing for our sport. Thank you and congrats again.”

Medvedev has experienced a love-hate relationship with fans at Flushing Meadows after an obscene gesture in a third-round match prompted loud boos, to which the Russian later responded with a taunt of his own.

But the 23-year-old won the crowd over during his run to the final, where he was attempting to become the youngest Grand Slam champion since Juan Martin del Potro won the US Open in 2009.

“To be honest in my mind, I was already thinking, ‘What do I say in the speech, it’s going to be in 20 minutes,” Medvedev recalled, having fallen two sets behind to Nadal.

“I was like I have to fight for every ball, and it went further but it didn’t go my way. I know earlier in the tournament I said a bad thing, and now it’s a good thing.

“It’s because of your energy that I’m here in the final. I mean, tonight is going to always be in my mind because I played in the biggest court in the tennis world.

“You guys were pushing me to prolong this match because you want to see more tennis. Because of you guys, I was fighting like hell.

“It’s electric. You were booing me for a reason. I can also change because I am a human being and I can make mistakes. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”

AFP