Djokovic sails into last eight, Nishikori to face Nadal

Djokovic became the first man to reach the French Open quarterfinals for 10 successive seasons. (AFP)
Updated 04 June 2019

Djokovic sails into last eight, Nishikori to face Nadal

  • Top seed and world No. 1 Djokovic continued his bid to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time

PARIS: Novak Djokovic on Monday became the first man to reach the French Open quarterfinals for 10 successive seasons while Kei Nishikori set up the toughest challenge on a clay court — facing Rafael Nadal.

Top seed and world No. 1 Djokovic continued his bid to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously for the second time by thrashing Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

The 32-year-old will now face German fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who outlasted ninth-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), in what will be his 13th appearance overall in the quarterfinals in Paris.

“It was tricky with the rain, but that’s Paris,” said the 2016 champion after playing in drizzly conditions.

“I’m really confident with my serve. I hope it continues like that.”

Only Australian great Rod Laver has held all four majors at the same time twice before, after his calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969.

Japanese seventh seed Nishikori came back from 1-4 and 3-5 down in the final set to beat Benoit Paire of France and set up a Roland Garros quarterfinal clash against Nadal.

Nishikori won 6-2, 6-7 (8/10), 6-2, 6-7 (8/10), 7-5 in a shade under four hours to reach his third last-eight match at the French Open.

“He almost had it today,” said Nishikori who had led two sets to one when the last-16 tie was suspended on Sunday.

“He served for the match at 5-3 but I just tried to fight and play one point at a time.”

The 29-year-old Japanese could have wrapped it up in the fourth set when he had two match points but squandered both, the second on a double fault.

Paire, the world No. 38 who was trying to make the quarter-final of a Slam for the first time, was eventually undone by 15 double faults and 79 unforced errors.

Nishikori has only defeated 11-time French Open champion Nadal twice in 12 meetings with both of those wins coming on hard court.

The Spaniard, celebrating his 33rd birthday on Monday, has won all four of their meetings on clay.

“It’s going to be a tough match, he’s the greatest ever clay court player,” said Nishikori.

In the women’s event, the players who stunned top seed Naomi Osaka and 23-time major winner Serena Williams got a taste of their own medicine.

American 14th seed Madison Keys reached the quarterfinals for the second successive year with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Katerina Siniakova, the conqueror of US and Australian Open winner Osaka.

Keys, who went on to reach the semifinals in 2018, next faces Australian eighth seed Ashleigh Barty.

Barty beat Sofia Kenin, who stunned Williams in the third round, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“It’s my first time this week playing on this beautiful court and I just wanted to come out here and enjoy it,” said the 23-year-old former cricketer.

“It (playing cricket) was incredible, it made me more hungry to come back and have success in tennis.”


Europe mulls finishing football season at end of year

Updated 28 March 2020

Europe mulls finishing football season at end of year

  • The novel coronavirus has created an existential challenge to the world’s most widely played and watched sport
  • Most European leagues are supposed to start their 2019-20 seasons at the end of August

ROME: Europe’s football bosses have not given up hope of finishing this pandemic-hit season — even if it might have to be done at the start of the next one.
The novel coronavirus has created an existential challenge to the world’s most widely played and watched sport.
Europe’s football leagues are the planet’s richest and can afford to pay the most money to the biggest stars.
But that system could come crumbling down quickly if there is nothing to show on TV.
Cristian Ronaldo has not had a chance to celebrate goals for Juventus for nearly three weeks because Italy’s Serie A had to shut down.
He and other Italian league stars are thinking of giving up millions of euros in salary to help their teams stay solvent.
UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin told Italy’s La Repubblica daily that he was holding urgent talks with the continent’s biggest leagues to figure out what can be done.
The Slovenian said all options were under consideration in an effort to salvage the season and preserve the sanctity of the beautiful game.
“We could start again in mid-May, in June or even late June,” Ceferin said.
Any time after that and “the season will probably be lost.”
The idea of the entire season simply being canceled stirs panic in fans of clubs such as Liverpool — on the cusp of lifting their first title in 30 years.
Ronaldo’s Juventus would probably not be terribly happy either. The men in the famous black-and-white stripes are edging Lazio by a point in their race for a ninth successive title and are still in the Champions League, which they have not won since 1996.
Ceferin said he opposed the idea of playing games in empty stadiums and would prefer to wait out the pandemic.
He also hinted that some big teams appeared ready to delay the start of next season in ordered to finish out this one.
“There is also a proposal to end this season at the beginning of the next one and then start the next one a little later,” Ceferin said.
Serie A and most other European leagues were originally supposed to have finished in May.
Belarus remain the only European nation still playing football in the face of a pandemic that by Saturday had officially claimed nearly 30,000 lives.
Italy’s world-leading death toll from Friday was 9,134.
But the scheduling is growing tricky and time appears to be running out.
Most European leagues are supposed to start their 2019-20 seasons at the end of August.
Italy still has more than two regular months of matches of the 2018-19 season to play out.
A resumption of the current season at the end of June would probably require a delay to the start of the next one until at least September or October.
It would also mean that players get very little rest and would also create problems for those whose contracts are expiring in June.
Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina sounded fine with that.
“We would all be happy to finish the season on the pitch,” said Gravina told Sky television.
“We are in contact with FIFA for contract extensions if we need to go beyond June 30.”
Gravina did not explain why he was talking to the world football governing body and not the European one headed by Ceferin.
But he did conceded that his earlier hope of restarting Italian matches in early May was now almost certainly dashed.
“I am aware that it is still too early,” said Gravina. “But we must think positively.”