Five-time champion Novak Djokovic renews his long-standing Wimbledon rivalry with Kevin Anderson on Wednesday as serious questions are asked over the quality of the fabled Centre Court where Serena Williams suffered her tournament-ending injury.
World number one Djokovic, looking to move alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as a 20-time Grand Slam winner, has a 9-2 record over the big South African.
That includes three wins at Wimbledon in 2011, 2015 and in the 2018 final.
Anderson was beaten in straight sets in that championship match three years ago, exhausted by back-to-back five-setters in the last-eight and semi-finals.
He defeated Federer 13-11 in the final set of their quarter-final clash and then John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of the semi-final.
Since that time, Anderson, now ranked 102 in the world, has undergone two surgeries on his right knee in 2019 and 2020.
“I never really thought of quitting,” said 35-year-old Anderson.
Djokovic opens play on Centre Court, a day after seven-time champion Serena Williams retired with a right leg injury after twice falling over in the first set of her opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
The 39-year-old American left the arena in tears as her dream of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors was again thwarted.
– ‘Meticulous standard’ –
“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw,” she said.
Her fall came not long after French player Adrian Mannarino had slipped and hurt himself on the same part of Centre Court.
He too had to retire with his match against Roger Federer level at two sets apiece.
“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” said Federer.
Despite the criticism, the All England Club insisted that the courts are up to standard.
“The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years,” the club said in a statement.
“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No.1 Court for long periods.”
Djokovic had also struggled to keep his feet on Centre Court on Monday when he faced Jack Draper in his first round tie.
The tournament has been hit by heavy rain over the the first two days.
As a result 50 first round matches remained unfinished at the start of Wednesday’s schedule.
Fifth seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada was knocked out 6-2, 6-1 by France’s Alize Cornet who famously defeated Serena Williams on her way to the last 16 in 2014.
Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, is still to win a main draw match at Wimbledon having lost in the first round as a qualifier in 2017.
– 100 wins for Nishikori –
Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, the champion at Queen’s and tipped to go deep at Wimbledon, edged Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a two-time quarter-finalist, claimed his 100th Grand Slam match win by seeing off Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Britain’s Andy Murray won his first singles match at the tournament in four years when he saw off 24th seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili two days ago.
The three-time champion and former world number one, now down at 118 in the rankings, tackles qualifier Oscar Otte of Germany for a last-32 place later Wednesday.
Murray, 34, has overcome a career-threatening hip injury to still be playing at the highest level.
Both Djokovic and Murray would have been buoyed by seeing world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas removed from their half of the draw in the first round.
In the women’s tournament, Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka, yet to make the last-eight of a Slam, faces British wild card Katie Boulter, the world 219.
Sabalenka won their only previous meeting at the Australian Open in 2019.
Venus Williams, the 41-year-old five-time champion who made her tournament debut in 1997, takes on Ons Jabeur who is hoping to become the first Tunisian to make the third round.
Frances Tiafoe, who knocked out Tsitsipas, plays Vasek Pospisil of Canada.
Rafael Nadal said Thursday he was withdrawing from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics in a bid “to prolong my career”.
The 35-year-old, who won the second of his two titles at the All England Club in 2010 and landed the Olympic singles title in 2008, revealed his decision on his Twitter feed.
“I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” he tweeted. “It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss(ing) it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was last week beaten in the semi-finals of the French Open by Novak Djokovic.
“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition,” added Nadal.
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.
Rafael Nadal reached a record-extending 14th French Open semi-final on Wednesday with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over Diego Schwartzman, setting up a potential last-four showdown with world number one Novak Djokovic.
Nadal, bidding for a 14th Roland Garros title and record 21st major triumph, dropped his first set at the tournament since 2019 — ending a run of 36 consecutive sets won in Paris by the Spanish third seed.
The 35-year-old Nadal improved his incredible French Open record to 105 wins and two losses as he advanced to his 35th Grand Slam semi-final. He beat Argentine 10th seed Schwartzman in the last four of the 2020 edition.
“It’s always incredible for me to return to the semi-finals for another time,” said Nadal.
“Diego is such an amazing player with so much talent, today was a very difficult challenge.”
Nadal and Schwartzman had both progressed to the last eight without dropping a set.
After Nadal took the opener he faltered while serving to stay in the second set, shanking long to concede his first set at Roland Garros since beating Dominic Thiem in four sets in the 2019 final.
“I started bad the second set and then was able to come back, but then the game at 4-4, returning with the wind helping, I played a bad game and had a tricky situation serving to not lose the set. Well done to him, he played well,” said Nadal.
The Spaniard regrouped and grabbed a decisive break in the ninth game of the third set, winning the final nine games against a weary Schwartzman to close out victory.
“I needed to play a little bit more aggressive and I think I did later, so I am very happy for that,” added Nadal.
He awaits the winner of Wednesday’s nighttime quarter-final between Djokovic and Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will set their sights on more Grand Slam history at Roland Garros as the French Open embraces a new and eerily empty era of nighttime tennis.
A 14th title in Paris for Nadal would take him to a record-setting 21st major, surpassing the mark he shares with Roger Federer who has already written off his hopes of adding to his lone success in the French capital back in 2009.
Djokovic, the champion in 2016, can move to 19 Grand Slam titles with victory.
That would make the world number one the first man in over half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions.
Nadal arrives in Paris buoyed by having defeated Djokovic in the Rome Masters final in what was the pair’s 57th meeting.
It was Nadal’s 10th title in the Italian capital.
Not that he was reading too much into the statistics as far as Roland Garros is concerned.
“I think I can work on a couple of things that I can do a little bit better,” he insisted.
‘Work right way’
“I just need to keep going. I know what I need to work on and I’m going to do it. Work, relax mentally, and work the right way.”
At last year’s delayed Roland Garros, Nadal swept past Djokovic in straight sets in the final.
It was Nadal’s 100th win at the tournament against just two losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.
Giving Djokovic hope, however, is the knowledge that he was responsible for one of those losses, in the 2015 quarter-finals.
He is also a four-time runner-up although three of those defeats in the championship match came against the Spaniard.
Only two men have previously managed to win all four of the Slams on more than one occasion — Roy Emerson and Rod Laver of Australia.
Laver’s achievement came back in 1969.
“I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris, but of course it’s a long shot,” said Djokovic who captured the season’s first Grand Slam title in Australia for a ninth time in February.
Federer, with his 40th birthday fast approaching, remains the sentimental favourite but his priority will be an assault on Wimbledon where he has been champion eight times.
“I’m not so sure in the last 50 years of the French Open, somebody just rocks up at nearly 40 years old, being out for a year and a half, and wins everything straight,” said Federer after losing his only clay-court match this year in Geneva last week.
Of the chasing pack, two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is low on form and confidence.
A run to the Madrid semi-finals was followed by a straight sets defeat to Cameron Norrie in his Lyon opener.
World number two Daniil Medvedev has yet to win a match at Roland Garros in four attempts.
In Rome, he fell at the first hurdle and half-jokingly pleaded with the referee to disqualify him such is his dislike for clay.
World number five Stefanos Tsitsipas is the most likely man to upset the odds of Nadal and Djokovic again making the final.
The 22-year-old Greek won the prestigious Monte Carlo clay-court title in April, had match point before losing the Barcelona final to Nadal, and then lifted the Lyon trophy.
He has beaten Nadal on clay in Madrid in 2019 and stretched Djokovic to five sets at the 2020 French Open semi-finals.
This year’s Roland Garros will be the second taking place under the shadow of the coronavirus.
Just over 5,000 fans a day will be allowed on site until June 9 when that figure rises to 13,000.
For the first time this year, there will be nine evening sessions at the tournament.
However, a Covid-19 curfew from 9 pm means that eight of those sessions will be played out inside an empty Court Philippe Chatrier.
Rafael Nadal beat world number one Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title on Sunday and set down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.
Second seed Nadal won through 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2hr 49min against the defending champion in the 57th career showdown between the pair.
“It’s amazing I have this trophy in my hands for a 10th time, something impossible to imagine,” said the world number three who also equalled Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.
“I remember the first final I won here in Rome back in 2005 against (Guillermo) Coria which lasted five hours,” recalled the 34-year-old of his five-set battle past the Argentine.
Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in contrasting styles on Thursday as spectators returned to the stands for the first time in Italy.
Nadal and Djokovic have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them, playing each other in the final five times.
World number one Djokovic needed just 70 minutes to sweep past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-1.
But nine-time champion Nadal had to save two match points against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) battle over nearly 3hr 30min.
“To be able to win these kind of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body,” said 34-year-old Nadal, who has fallen early in two clay-court Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo and Madrid ahead of Roland Garros.
Nadal will next play either Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the sixth seed, or Japan’s Kei Nishikori for a place in the semi-finals.
Nadal lost to Zverev, 24, in the Madrid Masters quarter-finals last week.
Defending champion Djokovic, a five-time Rome winner, next plays Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s French Open semi-final which the Serbian won.
Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.
“It always feels like home coming back to Rome,” said Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the quarter-finals in his 15 appearances in the clay-court event.
“Each year the love affair grows even more because the bond is stronger and stronger.
“Hopefully I can feel a little bit of that love more tomorrow so I can keep on progressing in the tournament.”
– ‘Establish control’ –
After losing his opening service game, Djokovic powered back with five breaks of serve, outclassing his rival, despite a late fightback, to seal the win on his sixth match point.
“He started well, but I managed to break back straight away and establish the control and consistency,” said the 18-time Grand Slam winner.
“I thought I played at least 20-30 percent better than on Monday. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”
Spaniard Nadal will be making his 16th last-eight appearance in Rome. It will also be his 97th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.
Nadal trailed by 0-4 in the opening set, and 0-3 in the second.
Shapovalov also broke for 3-1 in the third set but Nadal broke back immediately and held on despite two match points against him in the 12th game to force a tie-break.
Nadal’s experience in the high-pressure moments paid off against the 22-year-old who had beaten him in their first meeting in Montreal in 2017.
For Shapovalov it was a “tough loss” with only “one or two points” the difference in the clash of left-handers.
“It’s just a tough loss but who’s going to give me crap for losing to Rafa?” said the Canadian who won his only ATP title in Stockholm in 2019.
– ‘Not yet normal’ –
American Reilly Opelka advanced to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory against in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev.
The 23-year-old hit 18 aces and saved two set points at 4/6 in the first-set tie-break to set up a meeting with Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in the last eight.
Meanwhile, fans were happy to return after more than a year without live sport.
“After all this time it’s good to be able to watch live sport,” said Alessandro Cimini, one of the first to arrive at the Foro Italico with his son to watch Djokovic and Nadal.
“We bought tickets in January 2020 and we can finally come! On the one hand I’m happy it feels good after all we’ve been through even if obviously it’s not yet back to normal on centre court,” added another tennis fan, Rosy De Luigi, who travelled from San Marino.
Football’s Italian Cup final in Reggio Emilio next Wednesday will also have a limited crowd, followed by Euro 2020 matches at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.