18-Year-Old Raducanu Wins Women’s 2021 US Open

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada during their Women’s Singles final match on Day Thirteen of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

British teenager Emma Raducanu completed the greatest underdog title run in tennis history on Saturday, becoming the first qualifier to capture a Grand Slam crown by defeating Canada’s Leylah Fernandez in the US Open women’s final.

The 18-year-old was the first British woman in 44 years to win a Slam crown after beating 19-year-old left-hander Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to take the $2.5 million (2.1 million euro) top prize.

“I knew I would have to dig deep,” Raducanu said. “It was an incredibly difficult match but I thought the level was really high. I had to play some of my best tennis.”

It was a stunning achievement for the unheralded 150th-ranked teen, who didn’t drop a set in three qualifying matches and seven main-draw matches over two weeks in producing a stunner for the ages.

Raducanu is the youngest Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at 17 in 2004 at Wimbledon.

Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 at Wimbledon had a British woman taken a Slam singles title, with Raducanu the first Briton to claim the US Open crown since Wade in 1968.

‘Testament To Hard Work’


Winner Britain’s Emma Raducanu (L) receives her trophy from Billie Jean King after the 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 11, 2021. Kena Betancur / AFP

 

Queen Elizabeth II was among the first to pay tribute to Raducanu’s incredible triumph.

“It is a remarkable achievement at such a young age, and is testament to your hard work and dedication,” the British monarch said in a statement.

Wade and British men’s tennis legend Tim Henman were among a sellout crowd of 23,700 that created an electric atmosphere at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first-ever women’s Slam final between unseeded players.

“It means so much to have Virginia here and also Tim and to have such British legends and icons, to follow in their footsteps and it gave me the belief I could actually do it.”

Raducanu has had the fewest Slam starts of any women’s Slam winner, reaching the fourth round in July at Wimbledon in her only prior Slam appearance.

Fernandez, ranked 73rd, had ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka, second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka and fifth seed Elina Svitolina in her epic run to the final.

“I’m very proud of myself the way I played the last two weeks,” Fernandez said.

“I hope to be back here in the finals and having the right trophy,” added a tearful Fernandez, who paid tribute to New York as the city marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“I know it’s especially hard on this day for New York,” she said. “I just want to say I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the past 20 years.”

Raducanu is the youngest US Open champion since 17-year-old Serena Williams in 1999 and the first US Open women’s champion not to drop a set since Williams in 2014.

The prodigy showdown was the first all-teen Slam final since Williams beat 18-year-old Martina Hingis for the 1999 US Open title.

“Both of us were playing fearless tennis for two weeks,” Raducanu said. “I hope we play each other in many more tournaments and hopefully finals.”

 Blood, Sweat and Tears

Britain’s Emma Raducanu celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s final match against Canada’s Leylah Fernandez at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 11, 2021. Kena Betancur / AFP

 

After an early exchange of hard-fought breaks, Raducanu broke in the 10th game to take the first set, blasting a forehand winner after 58 minutes.

In the second set, Fernandez broke to 2-1 but Raducanu blasted a backhand cross-court service return winner to equalize 2-2 and later whipped a forehand passing winner by the Canadian to break for 4-2.

Fernandez saved two match points in the eighth game and held to 5-3, then earned a break chance at 30-40 in the ninth.

But on the point, Raducanu skidded on her left knee and opened a bleeding cut. The match was halted while a trainer bandaged the wound as Fernandez spoke with the referee.

“I didn’t know how serious her fall was, so that’s why I went to see the official,” Fernandez said. “It was just too bad it happened in that specific moment with me, with the momentum. But it’s sports, it’s tennis. Just got to move on.”

When play resumed, Fernandez sent a forehand long to squander the break chance and Raducanu won after an hour and 51 minutes on her third ace, leaving Fernandez in tears.

“I was going for that serve the whole match. I can’t believe I finally hit it,” Raducanu said. “I was just praying not to double fault.”

AFP

Medvedev, Fernandez Advance To US Open Semi-Finals

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 07: Daniil Medvedev of Russia serves against Botic van de Zandschulp of Netherlands during his Men’s Singles quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 07, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by ELSA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

 

 

Daniil Medvedev advanced to his third straight US Open semi-final on Tuesday while Canadian 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez delivered another stunner to reach the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Russian second seed Medvedev, chasing his first Slam title, eliminated 117th-ranked Dutch qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I just want to do a little bit better than the last two times and get this extra step, which is the toughest one, actually,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev moved one victory from a possible championship match against history-chasing Novak Djokovic.

The 25-year-old from Moscow was a 2019 US Open runner-up and lost this year’s Australian Open final to top-ranked Djokovic, who seeks his fourth US Open title to complete the first men’s singles calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.

“I don’t think about him, because as we saw, anybody can beat anybody,” Medvedev said. “If he’s in the final, and if I’m there, I’m happy. He’s also happy, I guess.”

Fernandez, who had already ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka and three-time Slam winner Angelique Kerber, defeated Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5).

“I told myself to trust my shots,” Fernandez said. “Even if I lose, I’ve got to go for it. And I’m glad I did.”

Fernandez, ranked 73rd, was inspired by pre-match strategy from her father/coach Jorge, a former Ecuadoran football player.

“He told me to go out and have fun, fight for every point,” she said. “It’s your first Grand Slam quarter-final. Don’t make it your last. Don’t make it your last match over here. Fight for your dream.”

Medvedev will next face Canadian 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, 21, who reached his first Slam semi-final when 55th-ranked Spanish 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz retired trailing 6-3, 3-1 with a leg injury.

“It’s an amazing milestone,” said Auger-Aliassime. “It’s a weird way to end but I’ll have a chance to play one of the best players in the world.

“I’m happy I’m through and I’ll try to win the next one.”

Medvedev won his only meeting with Auger-Aliassime in Canada in 2018.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 07: Daniil Medvedev of Russia serves against Botic van de Zandschulp of Netherlands during his Men’s Singles quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 07, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by ELSA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, guides Auger-Aliassime.

“The communication has been great, the work is good and the results are coming,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Van de Zandschulp hoped to become the first qualifier to reach the US Open semi-finals and only the sixth to do so at any Grand Slam event.

But the Russian dominated the first two sets before the Dutchman fought back to take the third, Medvedev’s first lost set of the Open.

“First two sets he was missing. I was controling the game,” Medvedev said. “Third set he started missing less.”

Medvedev took the only break of the final set on match point when the Dutchman netted a forehand drop volley to end matters after two hours and 23 minutes.

“In the fourth, he served amazing,” Van de Zandschulp said. “He’s the guy who deserved to win.”

– Fernandez shocks again –
Left-hander Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, snapped the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist’s nine-match win streak with clutch shotmaking, firing 42 winners, as spectators roared their delight.

“Throughout the whole match, I was so nervous,” Fernandez told the crowd. “Thanks to you, I was able to push through.”

Fernandez broke for a 4-2 lead and captured the first set in 38 minutes, the first Svitolina surrendered at the Open.

In the second set, Svitolina broke twice to lead 5-1 but Fernandez broke in the seventh game and forced three break points in the last game before a Svitolina ace mandated a third set.

Fernandez and Svitolina exchanged four breaks on the way to the tie-breaker, in which the teenager never trailed, advancing after two hours and 24 minutes with a service winner.

Fernandez booked a semi-final matchup against second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who defeated Czech eighth seed and reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-1, 6-4.

“She’s playing well,” Sabalenka said of Fernandez. “She’s moving well and the crowd cheers for her. I’d say nothing to lose for this one.”

Sabalenka matched her deepest Slam run from July at Wimbledon with a WTA-best 43rd match win of 2021.

‘This One Sucks’ – Tennis Star Osaka Suffers Home Olympic Shock

Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves the court after being beaten by Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

 

 

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dreams of home Olympic gold were crushed by a 6-1, 6-4 defeat to Marketa Vondrousova Tuesday as her return to action came to an abrupt end.

Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron and was one of the faces of the Games, struggled in an error-strewn display that blew the draw wide open after the earlier exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.

Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”

The third-round defeat follows a turbulent few months for Osaka, who abandoned her French Open campaign in May after refusing to attend press conferences, citing the need to preserve her mental health.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova leaves the court after beating Japan’s Naomi Osaka in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Osaka also skipped Wimbledon, saying she had been battling depression and anxiety, before returning in Tokyo for her first Olympics including her starring role at the opening ceremony.

“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year (it) was a bit much,” said Osaka.

After looking assured in the first two rounds after her eight-week hiatus, Osaka made a dreadful start under the centre court roof at a rain-hit Ariake Tennis Park and never recovered.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well. I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher,” she said.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

 

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka competes against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

– Slow start spells the end –
Osaka dropped serve in the opening game and was broken twice more as the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova raced away with the first set.

The second seed broke in the second set but relinquished the early advantage with a double fault that allowed Vondrousova to level at two games apiece.

The 23-year-old grappled with inconsistency, and even when given a sniff of regaining the initiative she had no response to Vondrousova’s array of crafty drop shots.

Osaka saved two match points as she served to stay alive at 4-5 but Vondrousova converted at the third time of asking as the Japanese superstar smacked a backhand wide.

Vondrousova will go on to face Spain’s Paula Badosa or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the quarter-finals.

“Of course it’s one of the biggest wins of my career,” said Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up.

“Naomi is a great player, she has so many Grand Slams, so I knew it would be a tough match. I’m very happy with my play.

“I played amazingly in the first set, and then the second set was really tough. I’m just happy to be through.”

Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina is the highest-ranked women’s player remaining in Tokyo.

 

Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Naomi Osaka after winning their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

 

Earlier Stefanos Tsitsipas advanced to the men’s third round as he avenged last month’s Wimbledon loss to Frances Tiafoe.

The Greek third seed downed American Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4 in the opening match of the day as all play on outside courts was delayed an hour by morning drizzle.

Tsitsipas, who is also entered in mixed doubles with Maria Sakkari, will play France’s Ugo Humbert or Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Having lost to Tiafoe in the opening round at Wimbledon, Tsitsipas ensured there was no repeat as a single break in each set enabled him to wrap up victory in 77 minutes.

Djokovic Wins Record-Equalling 20th Grand Slam And Sixth Wimbledon Title

Serbia's Novak Djokovic speaks as he holds the winner's trophy after beating Italy's Matteo Berrettini during their men's singles final match on the thirteenth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic speaks as he holds the winner’s trophy after beating Italy’s Matteo Berrettini during their men’s singles final match on the thirteenth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2021.
Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title and sixth Wimbledon on Sunday with a four-set victory over Italian slugger Matteo Berrettini with rival superstar Roger Federer hailing the achievement as a “wonderful performance”.

The world number one triumphed 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to move level on 20 majors with Federer and Rafael Nadal.

His win also put him three-quarters of the way to the first calendar Grand Slam of all four majors since 1969.

“I could definitely envisage that happening and I hope I will give it a shot. I’m in great form and played well and having my best form at Grand Slams is my number one priority,” said Djokovic.

A sixth victory at the All England Club for Djokovic, who was playing in his 30th final at the Slams, added to his nine Australian Opens, two Roland Garros titles as well as three at the US Open.

Should he win a fourth title in New York in September, he will become just the third man in history after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to complete the calendar Grand Slam.

“It was more than a battle. He is a true Italian hammer I felt it on my skin,” said Djokovic of Berrettini.

Of sharing the record with Federer and Nadal, he said: “It means none of us three will stop. Roger and Rafa are legends, they are the reason I am where I am today.

“They showed me what I needed to do to get stronger, physically, tactically and mentally. Over the last 10 years it has been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here.”

Federer — who bowed out in the quarter-finals while Nadal did not play — tweeted his congratulations.

“Congrats Novak on your 20th major,” said Federer, an eight-time champion at Wimbledon.

Federer praise

“I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done.”

Djokovic also now has 85 career titles while he has become the first man to break the $150 million prize money barrier.

A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics could give him the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.

“Novak is a great champion, he is writing history on this court,” said Berrettini.

Djokovic overcame a nervy start to break for 3-1, which he stretched to 5-2.

He even had a set point in a marathon eighth game which the Italian saved after eight deuces.

Reinvigorated, he broke Djokovic when he served for the set and then dominated the tiebreaker which he sealed with his fourth ace of the contest.

The top seed stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second set on the back of a double break.

Berrettini, bidding to be Italy’s first men’s Grand Slam winner since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open, clawed his way back to 4-5, saving three set points, but Djokovic this time served it out for a set apiece.

Djokovic struck first again for a 2-1 lead in the third set and fought off three break points in the sixth game, a show of defiance which brought watching Hollywood star Tom Cruise to his feet.

That was Berrettini’s last chance of the set as Djokovic served it out in the 10th game.

A weary Berrettini then served up a double fault on break point to hand Djokovic a 4-3 lead in the fourth set.

Djokovic kept coming, sprinting from the back of the court to pull off a wondrous pick-up and he held on for 5-3.

Berrettini, hoping to be Italy’s first singles champion at Wimbledon, saved two championship points in the eighth game.

But he was powerless on the third as Djokovic swept to his place in history.

“It is not the end, it is the beginning for me,” said Berrettini.

“Without my family, friends, and team all this would not have been possible so I just say Grazie Grazie.”

AFP

Federer Set For French Open Pullout And End Four-Decade Paris Stretch

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
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 could end his French Open career which has stretched over four decades with an injury-enforced withdrawal on Sunday as the 39-year-old rests his weary bones for an assault on his primary objective, a ninth Wimbledon title.

The 20-time Grand Slam title winner, who will be 40 in two months’ time, battled over three and a half hours until 12:45 Sunday morning to reach the last 16 in Paris.

He is due back on court on Monday to tackle Matteo Berrettini for a place in the quarter-finals.

However, having undergone two knee surgeries in 2020, the Swiss star admitted there are doubts he’ll make it.

“I don’t know if I am going to play,” said Federer who is likely to be playing his last French Open.

“I have to decide whether or not to continue. Is it too risky to keep putting pressure on the knee? Is it a good time to rest?

“Every match I have to reassess the situation and see the next morning in what state I wake up and how my knee is doing.

“It may be even more true after a match as long as the one tonight.”

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

Wimbledon target

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

Federer is 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.

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.

“I might have been more nervous if the stadium had been full,” added Federer.

“All the matches I’ve played since the injury are information for the rest of the season.

“It gives me real pleasure to be able to play 3hr 30min at a high level against a very good player. It shows that I’m on the right track.”

As Federer weighs up leaving a tournament 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.

Serena eyes history

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.

Tamara Zidansek on Sunday became the first Slovenian woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam 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 face either 2019 Roland Garros runner-up Marketa Vondrousova or Paula Badosa for a place in the semi-finals.

The 23-year-old had never previously got beyond the second round of a major.

Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas is seen as a favourite to reach his first Grand Slam final, with Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all in the other half of the men’s draw.

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

On Sunday, he faces 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta.

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

AFP

Thiem Suffers ‘Very Tough’ First-Round Defeat By Andujar At French Open

Austria's Dominic Thiem reacts as he leaves after lossing against Spain's Pablo Andujar during their men's singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 30, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Austria’s Dominic Thiem reacts as he leaves after lossing against Spain’s Pablo Andujar during their men’s singles first round tennis match on Day 1 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 30, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

 

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem blew a two-set lead and slipped to a “very tough” first-round loss at the French Open against Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Andujar staged a remarkable comeback to defeat the two-time Roland Garros runner-up 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 after almost four-and-a-half hours on Court Philippe Chatrier.

It is Thiem’s first opening-round exit at Roland Garros and the first time he has failed to reach at least the quarter-finals of the tournament since 2015.

“It does feel very tough, as I was used since 2016 to play very deep in this tournament,” said the 27-year-old.

“But at the same time, the last first-round exit in a Grand Slam, US Open 2019, is not that long ago.

“So (I) was not like the big three who are never losing before the quarters. I mean, I had early losses before, but especially here where since 2015 I didn’t have them, it feels weird and it feels very difficult.”

It is the first time in his 17-year career that Andujar has come from two sets behind to win.

“It’s a very special moment because I’m 35 and I don’t know how long I’m going to play,” said Andujar. “I had to believe to be able to get this result.”

Austrian Thiem lost both the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals to 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, but did win his maiden Grand Slam title last year at the US Open.

His form had been patchy this season, though, having lost to Lorenzo Sonego in Rome and Cameron Norrie in Lyon over the past two weeks.

“Lyon and here, the shots and all how I moved and everything was just not the real me, I would say, or my version who is able to play for big titles,” admitted Thiem. “It’s just not good enough at the moment.”

‘Strange’ situation for Thiem

He seemed to be in total control when clinching the second set, before also missing a breakpoint in the third game of the third set.

Thiem also wasted an opportunity to take a 3-1 lead in the decider and ended the match having taken just six of 19 breakpoints.

“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it’s very strange to me, and, I mean, I have to analyse it and think about what’s wrong at the moment,” he added.

“And then of course try to hit back as soon as possible.”

Andujar, the world number 68, had not beaten a top-10 player since 2015 until a win over Roger Federer in Geneva last week.

“Probably that win helped today,” he said. “I didn’t think I was in my best shape, but the belief was the key to the win today.”

Andujar will face either Argentina’s Federico Delbonis or Moldovan Radu Albot in the second round.

It will be an especially bitter blow for Thiem, though, after he had been placed in the opposite half of the draw to Nadal, world number one Novak Djokovic and Federer.

AFP

Osaka Says She’s Done Chasing World Number One

This hand out photo released by the Tennis Australia on February 5, 2021 shows Japan’s Naomi Osaka speaking at a press conference at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. (Photo by VINCE CALIGIURI / TENNIS AUSTRALIA / AFP) 

 

Naomi Osaka insisted Saturday she wasn’t consumed by returning to world number one, revealing her top priority was greater consistency as she eyes a second Australian Open title.

The world number three is widely seen as a frontrunner at Melbourne Park, having gone 14 matches unbeaten — including the US Open final — before withdrawing from her Gippsland Trophy semi-final against Elise Mertens with a shoulder injury.

Three-time Grand Slam winner Osaka reached the rankings summit two years ago when she defeated Petra Kvitova to win the Australian Open and become the first Asian player to take the top spot.

Despite her heady rise, the 23-year-old said becoming world number one felt slightly underwhelming, and brought extra pressure.

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves after winning against Romania’s Irina Begu during their Gippsland Trophy women’s singles quarter-final match in Melbourne on February 5, 2021. (Photo by David Gray / AFP) 

 

“I think nobody really acknowledged me as number one,” said the Japanese star, who was wearing glasses, an orange beanie and Los Angeles Lakers attire in her press conference.

“It just made me think people don’t really see me as number one.  I just kept trying to prove myself. I felt like that wasn’t really a good mindset to have.

“If it comes to the point where I’m able to be number one again, I’ll embrace it, but I’m not really chasing it like that anymore.”

 

This hand out photo released by the Tennis Australia on February 6, 2021 shows Japan’s Naomi Osaka speaking at a press conference at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. (Photo by SCOTT BARBOUR / TENNIS AUSTRALIA / AFP) 

 

Osaka, instead, hoped to be a more consistent performer on the tour and gained inspiration from world number two Simona Halep, who has been ranked in the top 10 for 346 consecutive weeks.

“I think that’s incredible,” she said of Halep’s streak, which is the eighth longest in WTA history. “I feel like I want to have that sort of consistency.

“My career, it’s been kind of up and down a lot, and people don’t really know when I’m going to do well in a tournament or when I’m not.

“I think my ultimate goal is just to at least reach the quarter-finals or better at every tournament I play, and hopefully win most of them.”

 

This hand out photo released by the Tennis Australia on February 5, 2021 shows Japan’s Naomi Osaka speaking at a press conference at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. (Photo by VINCE CALIGIURI / TENNIS AUSTRALIA / AFP) 

 

Even though she will enter the Australian Open as a favourite, Osaka admitted to nerves ahead of her first round clash against Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“I’m going to feel very nervous because that’s what’s always going to happen to me,” she said.

“But I think the way that I’m playing now, the way that I was able to play my matches that I had the past couple days, it gives me a lot of confidence.”

 

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a return against Romania’s Irina Begu during their Gippsland Trophy women’s singles quarter-final match in Melbourne on February 5, 2021. (Photo by David Gray / AFP) 

‘Blew Me Off Court’: Djokovic Suffers Heaviest Loss To Lucky Loser Sonego In Vienna

Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego (R) is congratulated by Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after the quarter-final match at the ATP tennis tournament in Vienna, Austria, on October 30, 2020. (Photo by GEORG HOCHMUTH / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT

 

Novak Djokovic suffered his heaviest ever defeat in a three-set match on Friday when he was knocked out of the Vienna ATP tournament by lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego, stalling his bid to wrap up the year-end world number one ranking for a sixth time.

Italian Sonego, ranked 42 and who had intially lost in qualifying last weekend, is the first lucky loser ever to beat Djokovic.

His 6-2, 6-1 quarter-final stunner was 33-year-old Djokovic’s heaviest ever defeat.

The only other time the Serb had won just three games was at the 2005 Australian Open at the hands of Marat Safin in a best-of-five set encounter.

“He just blew me off the court, that’s all,” Djokovic told atptour.com.

“He was better in every segment of the game. It was a pretty bad match from my side, but amazing from his side.

“He definitely deserved this result,” added the Serb star who was playing his first tournament since his Roland Garros final defeat to Rafal Nadal three weeks ago.

Friday’s defeat means Djokovic will have to wait a little longer before he completes the formality of equalling Pete Sampras’s all-time record of ending the season top of the rankings for a sixth time.

“For sure it’s the best victory of my life. Novak is the best in the world. Today I played so, so good,” Sonego said.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing. I played the best match in my life. I’m so happy for this.”

Sonego fired 26 winners past the Serb who lost for only the third time in 2020.

Djokovic, a 17-time major champion, managed just seven winners against 25 unforced errors.

Sonego goes on to face either Britain’s Dan Evans or Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria for a place in the final.

Second seed and defending champion Dominic Thiem also lost Friday, going down 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 to Russian world number eight Andrey Rublev.

Rublev hit 30 winners past the US Open champion and goes on to face South Africa’s Kevin Anderson for a place in the final.

“I came here with the mood that I have nothing to lose,” said Rublev who is chasing a fifth title of the year.

“I had already a really great season. I came here with zero expectations, just wanting to do my best. To try to fight every match. At the end, I am here in the semi-finals.”

Anderson made the semi-finals by accounting for Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

It was 2018 champion Anderson’s first top 10 win in two years.

French Open To Allow 1,000 Fans Daily At Roland Garros

 

France has seen a second wave of COVID-19 cases recently. Photo: [email protected] Garros.

 

A maximum of only 1,000 spectators will be allowed each day at Roland Garros after the French government insisted Thursday on tougher restrictions to counter the resurgence of the coronavirus.

Organisers of the French Open, which gets underway four months later than planned in Paris on Sunday, had hoped for a maximum of 5,000.

That figure had already been reduced from 20,000 and then 11,500.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex insisted that the Grand Slam tournament must be subject to the same restrictions imposed Thursday on sports events taking place in designated ‘red zones’ where the coronavirus is showing signs of resurgence.

“We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere,” said Castex. “We go from 5,000 to 1,000.”

Sources told AFP, however, that the figure does not include credential holders such as officials, media, players and staff.

Earlier Thursday, French Open chief Guy Forget said he had hoped to protect the 5,000 limit and that the nature of the Roland Garros complex would work in the tournament’s favour.

“We are able to accommodate 5,000, as small as it is, on a 12-hectare area,” he said.

“We stage the tournament on the equivalent of 15 football fields, outdoors. Everyone wears a mask, even the ball boys and girls and chair umpires.”

The limit of 1,000 fans a day represents less than 3% of last year’s total attendance of almost 520,000.

There will also be financial repercussions.

In 2019, Roland Garros accounted for around 80% of the French Tennis Federation (FFT) budget — 255.4 million euros out of a total 325 million.

Ticket sales generate nearly 20% of tournament revenue.

When the planned limit was 11,500 spectators, Forget estimated that “the tournament’s proceeds (would) be halved”, which corresponded to between 130 and 140 million euros.

The US Open in New York, which ended just under two weeks ago, banned all spectators from its sprawling Flushing Meadows complex.

Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War.

– Murray v Wawrinka blockbuster-

Meanwhile, three years after the match which turned out to be the “end of my hip” Andy Murray on Thursday was handed a Roland Garros rematch against Stan Wawrinka in the pick of first round matches.

In 2017, Murray and 2015 French Open champion Wawrinka fought out a thrilling five-set semi-final which saw the veteran Swiss triumph from two sets to one down.

Murray, 33, has arguably been paying the price ever since with the former world number one battling a long-standing hip injury which at one stage threatened to end his career.

Both Murray and Wawrinka are three-time major winners.

World ranked 111 Murray needed a wild card to play in Paris but will at least be buoyed by a 12-8 winning record over the 35-year-old Wawrinka, the world 17.

World number one Novak Djokovic, bidding to win Roland Garros for the second time after his 2016 victory and collect an 18th major, starts against Sweden’s Mikael Ymer, ranked 80.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, seeded two and looking for a 13th French Open crown, begins his campaign against Egor Gerasimov, the 83rd-ranked Belarusian.

Nadal, who is one Slam shy of equaling Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20, is scheduled to face third seed and US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals.

The 34-year-old Spaniard defeated the Austrian in the last two finals in Paris.

Thiem has an intriguing opener against Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open winner and a former world number three.

With Federer not taking part, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is Djokovic’s scheduled semi-final opponent.

However, Medvedev has never won a match at Roland Garros in three visits.

Defending women’s champion and world number one Ashleigh Barty is skipping this year’s French Open over health fears.

– Serena v Azarenka in last 16? –

Also missing is US Open winner Naomi Osaka through injury.

Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, is top seed and the Romanian starts against Spain’s world number 70 Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Serena Williams, a three-time champion in Paris, continues her bid for a record-equalling 24th major.

Williams, who turns 39 on Saturday, begins against compatriot Kristie Ahn who she defeated in the first round of the US Open.

She could face old rival Victoria Azarenka in the last 16, just weeks after the Belarusian won their US Open semi-final.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty poses with the trophy Suzanne Lenglen after winning against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova at the end of the women’s singles final match on day fourteen of The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 8, 2019. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Belinda Bencic said an arm injury would prevent her from coming to Paris.

After Barty, Osaka and Bianca Andreescu, Switzerland’s Bencic is the fourth member of the top 10 to skip the tournament.

AFP

Women To Be Part Of New Players’ Association, Says Djokovic

Novak Djokovic of Serbia gestures while playing Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in their semi-final match 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

 

Novak Djokovic said Friday that women will be a part of his proposed new players’ association that is sending shockwaves through world tennis.

The world number one said he had been talking to female players at the US Open this week to try to get them on board.

“There’s been a lot of talk about this being an only men’s association and it’s not true,” Djokovic told reporters following his 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 third-round win over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

He said he hoped women would join the controversial new union “in big numbers.”

The Serbian added that he had spoken to Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens about the project.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal spoke out against the proposal when it was announced at the weekend. They called for “unity, not separation.”

Djokovic says the new association is intended to bring players together to give them a louder voice in decision-making.

He insists it would not form a rival tour to the ATP or WTA, or seek to boycott tournaments.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner added that he was “happy” to have received 150 signatures supporting the union.

He added, though, that he had been “unpleasantly surprised” by the reaction of some players.

AFP

Is This The End Of The Road For Roger Federer?

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 10, 2019 Roger Federer of Switzerland gestures at the Shanghai Masters tennis tournament in Shanghai. – Men’s Grand Slam singles record-holder Roger Federer said on June 10, 2020 he would be sidelined until 2021 after undergoing keyhole surgery on his right knee. HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP.

 

Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his “highest level” after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.

Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”

In some ways, 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule.

Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.

He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.

But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.

Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men’s Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.

Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer’s mark and Djokovic has 17.

Spain’s Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.

The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.

Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.

– ‘Golden’ ambitions –

Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.

Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.

The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.

The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer’s last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.

Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.

Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-earning athletes.

His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.

Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.

He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.

The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.

AFP

Federer Out Of Tennis Until 2021 After Knee Surgery

Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates after victory against Tennys Sandgren of the US during their men’s singles quarter-final match on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 28, 2020. William WEST / AFP

 

Twenty-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer said Wednesday he will be sidelined until 2021 after undergoing his second knee operation in a matter of months.

The 38-year-old Swiss said he underwent follow-up arthroscopic surgery “a few weeks ago” after undergoing a similar keyhole procedure in February.

Federer, whose last Grand Slam win was the 2018 Australian Open, said he “experienced a setback during (his) initial rehabilitation”.

“I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season.”

The announcement is likely to renew speculation about retirement for Federer, who holds the record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles and last month topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest earning athletes.

Federer, who won his first major trophy in 2003, lies just ahead of his longtime rivals Rafael Nadal (19) and Novak Djokovic (17) on the all-time list.

The biggest title he has yet to win is an Olympic singles gold medal.

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The Tokyo Games — seen as Federer’s final opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — have been postponed until next year because of the pandemic, and Federer will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony.

After the initial operation, Federer had originally planned to return for the now cancelled grass-court season this month. His last tournament match was on January 30 in the Australian Open semi-finals, where he lost to eventual champion Djokovic.

His last appearance on court was in front of 51,954 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in early February.

Tennis ground to a halt in March because of the coronavirus, and the globetrotting sport faces an uncertain route to recovery given crippling travel restrictions.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon, where he has won a record eight titles, was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Federer, known for his elegant style of play, has got off lightly with injuries during a career in which he has won 103 singles titles, including all four majors.

He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee — the first operation of his career — in early 2016 after suffering a freak injury while running a bath for his daughters.

But after failing to win a title that year Federer returned strongly in 2017, winning seven tournaments including the Australian Open and Wimbledon — his most prolific season in a decade.

He is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 109.

Tour-level tennis has been suspended until the end of July at the earliest, with the US Open scheduled to start on August 24 and the rescheduled French Open on September 20.

Federer has not won the title at either Flushing Meadows or Roland Garros since his only French Open triumph in 2009.

AFP