Federer, Djokovic advance as Serena pulls out in Cincinnati

Novak Djokovic returns a shot against Sam Querrey during the WTA-ATP Cincinnatti Masters. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019
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Federer, Djokovic advance as Serena pulls out in Cincinnati

  • Williams had hoped to rebound from the back spasms that forced her out of the WTA final in Toronto

CINCINNATI: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic overwhelmed opponents at the WTA-ATP Cincinnati Masters on Tuesday, where Serena Williams withdrew because of back trouble.

Williams had hoped to rebound from the back spasms that forced her out of the WTA final in Toronto on Sunday, where she lasted only four games before retiring.

But the 23-time Grand Slam champion said her back was “still not right” casting a further shadow on her chances at the US Open starting in Flushing Meadows on August 26.

For Djokovic and Federer, back in action for the first time since the Serb’s victory over the Swiss in the Wimbledon final, it was a smooth start to their US Open buildup.

Federer, seeded third, remained unruffled by a one-hour rain interruption at 2-2 in the second set, eventually defeating Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round at the event he has won seven times.

“I’m very happy, even if it was a bit tricky with the rain delay,” Federer said. “I’m happy to be back on court.

“This is the start of a long, long hardcourt swing. It’s good to begin with a win.

“I didn’t know that much about my opponent — he’s new to the tour — but at the end you have to concentrate on your own game.”

Defending champion Djokovic double faulted three times as he dropped serve in the opening game against Sam Querrey but quickly put things right and pulled away for a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the American.

“I ended the match well even if the start was nervy,” said Djokovic, who would break Querrey twice to take the first set then roll to victory.

“Sam was feeling comfortable on the court at the start and dictating. It was tough facing his big serve,” Djokovic said.

He added that he was “hoping for a better performance in the next round,” when he’ll take on Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta— who withstood 32 aces from John Isner and a match point before beating the American 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (8/6).

Williams, meanwhile, was left just trying to get healthy after pulling out of her scheduled first-round match against qualifier Zarina Diyas.

“I came to Mason (Ohio) on Sunday and have tried everything to be ready to play tonight, and was still hopeful after my practice this morning,” Williams said in a statement released by tournament officials.

“But unfortunately my back is still not right.”

It’s another injury blow for the 37-year-old American, who was hampered by knee trouble earlier this season and remains in search of her first title since the 2017 Australian Open.

In early action, Stan Wawrinka won a first-round battle as he eliminated 2017 Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Under leaden skies after an overnight thunderstorm, Dimitrov broke in the 12th game of the first set to take the lead. The 33-year-old Swiss fought back with the only break in the second set.

Wawrinka then raced into a 5-1 lead in the final set but wasted two match points in the eighth game and was broken twice while serving for victory.

Wawrinka had to hold off his Bulgarian opponent in the final-set tiebreaker before squeezing through in more than two and a half hours with his 10th ace.

Venus Williams kept the family flag flying, the 39-year-old American putting her decades of experience to good use in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over defending champion Kiki Bertens.

“Before the match I felt quite good. Stepping on court, I’d say first few games was pretty bad,” Bertens said. “I didn’t start the match in a loose way. I knew that I had to defend the title.”


Neymar future remains up in the air as PSG reject Madrid offer

Updated 23 August 2019
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Neymar future remains up in the air as PSG reject Madrid offer

  • Paris club said to turn down an offer from Barcelona of €40 million plus Coutinho and Rakitic

PARIS: Neymar remains no closer to getting his desired move away from Paris Saint-Germain amid reports Thursday the French club have rejected an offer from Real Madrid of €100 million($111 million) plus players.

French sports daily L’Equipe said Real had offered cash plus Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, but PSG turned it down because “the overall value of the offer did not match their expectations.” 

Paris paid €222 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona two years ago and their sporting director Leonardo is understood to be determined to only sell the forward for a deal considered to be of the same value.

Real have spent the summer trying to offload Bale, while James is unwanted after returning from a loan at Bayern Munich and Navas is no longer the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Meanwhile, Barcelona remain hopeful of bringing Neymar back to the Camp Nou, but Catalan daily Sport claims an attempt to sign the player on loan with an obligation to buy for €160 million at the end of the season has been firmly rejected in Paris.

Sport claims Barcelona feel “it is very clear that PSG are trying to prevent the Brazilian from returning to the Camp Nou in any scenario.” 

PSG had previously reportedly turned down an offer from Barcelona of €40 million  plus Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic. Coutinho has since joined Bayern on loan.

Juventus are also believed to have stated an interest in signing the 27-year-old, who has not featured in any of PSG’s matches so far this season having been frozen out amid the uncertainty over his future. The transfer window closes in France, Spain and Italy on Sept. 2, meaning time is fast running out for a deal to be done.

Watford loan Sweden winger Sema to Udinese

Watford winger Ken Sema has completed a season-long loan move to Udinese, the Serie A side confirmed on Thursday.

The six-times capped Sweden international only moved to Vicarage Road last summer from Ostersunds FK and made 22 appearances for the English club.

The 25-year-old's departure follows the arrival of Senegal international Ismaila Sarr to the Premier League outfit on a club record transfer of €35 million   ($38 million) from Rennes. The northeastern Italian club and Watford are both owned by the Pozzo family.

Udinese host AC Milan in their opening match of the Serie A season on Saturday.