Djokovic and Nadal on course to meet in Paris Masters final

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Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas returns the ball to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their men's singles quarter-final tennis match at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 - Rolex Paris Masters - indoor tennis tournament at The AccorHotels Arena in Paris on November 1, 2019. (AFP / MARTIN BUREAU)
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Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to France's Jo Wilfried Tsonga in a quarterfinal match of the Paris Masters tennis tournament on Nov. 1, 2019 in Paris. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Updated 02 November 2019

Djokovic and Nadal on course to meet in Paris Masters final

  • Djokovic demolished seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-2
  • Nadal dispatched 2008 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6, 6-1

PARIS: Top-ranked Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal remain on course to face off in the Paris Masters final, a 55th match in their intense rivalry, after winning their quarterfinals in straight sets on Friday.
Djokovic demolished seventh-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-1, 6-2 after losing to the Greek three weeks ago in the Shanghai quarterfinals. It could have been even quicker since he led the first set 5-0, 40-0, but Tsitsipas saved three set points and held serve.
Nadal had a more demanding contest against 2008 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, with the first set tiebreak reaching 3-3 after Nadal double faulted. But when the veteran Spaniard broke the unseeded Frenchman at the start of the second he took control in a 7-6 (4), 6-1 win.
“It was a tough first set where I had to play at a very high level,” Nadal said after beating Tsonga for the 10th time in 14 meetings.
Nadal and Djokovic are vying for the year-end No. 1 ranking. Nadal will guarantee it for the fifth time if he wins the Paris Masters for the first time, while Djokovic is chasing a fifth title at Bercy Arena and a sixth year-end finish as No. 1.
Iin Saturday’s semifinals, he takes on Grigor Dimitrov while Nadal plays Denis Shapovalov.
Nadal is 1-1 in career meetings with the Canadian, while Djokovic has an 8-1 lead over the US Open semifinalist Dimitrov.
Djokovic, chasing a 77th career title, even impressed himself with the level of his performance.
“I played one of the best matches of the season. I prepared myself very well for this match. I lost to Stefanos in Shanghai and obviously I went through the videos, understanding what I did well, what I didn’t do so well,” Djokovic said. “I served well. I read his serve very well, as well. Put him under pressure constantly.”
He broke Tsitsipas in the third game of the second set, then held and broke to love for 4-1. Tsitsipas, who dropped his serve four times, appeared to hurt his left ankle when retrieving a shot near the baseline in the second set.
Serving for the match, Djokovic clinched it on his first match point when Tsitsipas whipped a forehand long following a short rally.
Djokovic, last year’s runner-up, is wary of Dimitrov, who beat Roger Federer in the US Open quarterfinals. Although Dimitrov has won only eight career titles — and none since the ATP Finals in 2017 for his biggest prize — Djokovic talked him up.
“He has been one of the best talents we had in the sport in the last decade for sure. There’s been a lot of comparison with his game and Federer’s game,” Djokovic said. “Since the US Open he’s playing at a different level, a high level. He always had the game; it’s just sometimes it’s a matter of things coming together, really, mentally and at the right time.”
Djokovic also noted that Dimitrov, who is set to break back into the top 20 rankings next week after plummeting to No. 78 in August, has found a way to overcome a weakness on backhand.
“The backhand was always his kind of weaker shot ... so most of the players (tried) to attack that vulnerable side of his game,” Djokovic said. “But he mixes it up really well with the slice. He blocks a lot of returns and gets back into play and he moves extremely well. He’s one of the fittest guys on the tour. So that helps him, always being in the right position.”
Dimitrov reached his second semifinal this season by beating Cristian Garin 6-2, 7-5.
Shapovalov crushed Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-2, ending the Frenchman’s hopes of reaching the season-ending ATP Finals in London and sending US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini there instead.


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.”