Federer set for French Open pullout and end four-decade Paris stretch

Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates after defeating Germany’s Dominik Koepfer in their third round match on day 7 of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France. (File/AP)
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Updated 06 June 2021

Federer set for French Open pullout and end four-decade Paris stretch

  • The 20-time Grand Slam title winner will be 40 in two months’ time
  • Federer, who made his Roland Garros debut in 1999 and was champion in 2009, was playing a night session for the first time

Paris: 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 was always 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.

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 favorites, fellow veteran Serena Williams resumes her bid for a historic 24th Grand Slam title.

Seeded seventh, the 39-year-old Williams is the second-highest ranked player left in the women’s draw as Elina Svitolina, a three-time quarter-finalist, became the latest casualty in the third round Saturday.

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 Russian-born Kazakh 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.

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

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

He has excelled on clay this season, winning the Monte Carlo Masters, the ATP event in Lyon and reaching the Barcelona Open final, where he lost to Nadal despite holding a match point.

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 has won his first French Open matches over the past seven days.

Medvedev faces Cristian Garin, the Chilean who beat him in Madrid.


Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy

Updated 19 August 2022

Medvedev advances to quarterfinals, Swiatek sinks in Cincy

  • Top seed Medvedvev kept Denis Shapovalov winless against world No. 1s with a 7-5, 7-5 victory
  • Unseeded Keys was thrilled with her defeat of Swiatek, against whom she had lost two prior matches

CINCINNATI, US: Top-ranked Daniil Medvedev advanced to the ATP and WTA Cincinnati Masters quarterfinals on Thursday while women’s world No. 1 Iga Swiatek was upset by American Madison Keys.

Top seed Medvedvev kept Denis Shapovalov winless against world No. 1s with a 7-5, 7-5 victory while Poland’s Swiatek lost 6-3, 6-4 to 2019 Cincinnati champion Keys, who needed five match points to finish off the shock triumph.

Shapovalov, who lost in an hour and three-quarters, has dropped all eight career matches he has played against the elite echelon.

Medvedev moved into a quarterfinal against 11th seed Taylor Fritz after the American stopped No. 6 seed Andrey Rublev 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 7-5.

“It was a fight today, definitely not easy,” said Medvedev, who clinched the top US Open seeding when Rafael Nadal lost here in the second round.

“The match was pretty tight, played at a great level. My goal was to stay in every point possible and try to put pressure on him if I had the chance.”

Medvedev secured late breaks in both sets as he matched his volatile Canadian opponent.

Medvedev and Fritz have never played.

“We trained together at the start of the season before the ATP Cup,” Medvedev said. “He won Indian Wells, he’s a Masters champion. I need to be at my best to try and beat him.”

Unseeded Keys was thrilled with her defeat of Swiatek, against whom she had lost two prior matches.

“I had a couple of games with a couple of match points,” Keys said. “She beat me pretty badly last time so I’m happy to get the win.”

Swiatek never found an ace and was broken five times as she fought back in vain after standing one game from defeat.

It was the second week in a row that the Pole, who put together a 37-match win streak this season, lost in a Masters third round. She suffered the same fate in Toronto seven days earlier.

Keys plays on Friday against Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who advanced to the last eight 6-2, 6-4 over Alison Riske-Amritraj.

Also ousted was Estonian second seed Anett Kontaveit, who fell to China’s Zhang Shuai 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Top-ranked American Jessica Pegula ended the run of US Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4, sending the Briton onto the practice courts before the Aug. 29 start of her Grand Slam title defense.

Raducanu will head to New York with a 15-18 record since her 2021 title triumph and will drop from the top-10 after failing to reach the quarterfinals.

The teenager put a backhand into the net to give her opponent a match point, with Pegula sending over a service winner to wrap up the victory in an hour and three-quarters on her opponent’s 21st unforced error.

“I didn’t feel amazing out there,” Pegula said after reaching her seventh career quarter-final at a Masters 1000. “I’ve never hit with Emma, there was a lot to get used to.

“I’m happy with how I competed and stayed in it. I’m glad I handled things really well. I’ve been playing very consistently, no dramas, get out there and do what you’ve got to do. I try to do that every single week.”

Czech Petra Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion, defeated Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur 6-1, 4-6, 6-0. Kvitova broke six times as her fifth-ranked Tunisian opponent committed six double-faults.

Borna Coric, who upset second seed Rafael Nadal, continued his injury comeback progress by beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-3.

No. 152 Coric is the lowest-ranked ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist since 239th-ranked Ivo Karlovic at 2011 Indian Wells.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, semifinalist at the last two editions, defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3.

John Isner sent down 20 aces in a 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 7-6 (7/4) defeat of US compatriot Sebastian Korda. At 37, Isner is the oldest Cincinnati men’s quarterfinalist in the post-1968 Open era.

Isner passed Roger Federer, who was a younger 37 when he reached his most recent Cincinnati quarterfinal in 2018.


Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

Updated 19 August 2022

Ingebrigtsen seals Euro double-double as Thiam dominates

  • Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018
  • Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory

MUNICH: Norwegian prodigy Jakob Ingebrigtsen sealed a memorable European distance double-double in Munich on Thursday as Belgium’s Nafi Thiam retained her heptathlon title in style.

In a mixed night for defending champions at a rain-hit Olympic Stadium, a third, Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki, left it late to also retain his hammer throw title.

But there was no such luck for two-time world long jump champion and Olympic gold medallist Malaika Mihambo and her German teammate Mateusz Przybylko in the men’s high jump.

After heavy rain had seen the evening session delayed by 20 minutes, Ingebrigtsen made up for the disappointment of finishing second to Britain’s Jake Wightman in the 1,500m in last month’s world championships in Oregon.

The 21-year-old Norwegian, who dominated the 5,000m here on Tuesday, was also in total control of the 1,500m, clocking a championship record of 3min 32.76sec for his second gold of the continental track and field showpiece event.

Ingebrigtsen’s victory sealed a remarkable triumph, having won the same 1,500-5,000 European double as a precocious 17-year-old in Berlin in 2018.

Britain’s Jake Heyward claimed silver in 3:34.44, with Spain’s Mario Garcia taking bronze in 3:34.88.

Thiam went into the final 800m in total control of the multi-discipline event and duly completed the two laps to seal a comprehensive victory.

It meant the Belgian became a two-time champion on the Olympic, world and European stage.

She had registered 13.34sec in the 100m hurdles, 1.98m in the high jump, 14.95m in the shot put and 24.64sec in the 200m on the first day of action on Wednesday.

Thursday saw her go out to a disappointing 6.08m in the long jump before 48.89m in the javelin and 2:17.95 in the 800m for a total of 6,628 points.

Poland’s Adrianna Sulek won silver with 6,532pts and Switzerland’s Annik Kalin bronze (6,515).

Kenyan-born Yasemin Can came close to a second distance double for Turkey, but Germany’s 2019 world bronze medallist Konstanze Klosterhalfen bolted with 600m to run for victory in the women’s 5,000m in 14:50.47.

Can and Britain’s Eilish McColgan rounded out the podium to add to the gold and silver medals they respectively won in the 10,000m earlier in the week.

There was a battle royale in the men’s hammer throw, Olympic gold medallist and defending champion Nowicki retaining his title with a best of 82.00m on the fifth of his six attempts.

Hungary’s Bence Halasz won silver in a personal best of 80.92m, while Norwegian Eivind Henriksen took bronze (79.45) to push five-time world champion Pawel Fajdek of Poland into fourth (79.15).

Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who famously shared Olympic gold at last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo with Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim but who has been suffering with the after-effects of Covid-19, wrapped up the men’s high jump with a best of 2.30m.

It was Tamberi’s second European title after having previously won in Amsterdam in 2016.

Tobias Potye of Germany took silver with 2.27m on countback from Ukraine’s Andriy Protsenko.

Defending champion Przybylko could only finish sixth in the high jump, but Mihambo was beaten by just 3cm in her bid to retain long jump gold.

That title went to Serbia’s Ivana Vuleta, with a best of 7.06m.

Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis and Karsten Warholm had earlier lent more world-class stardust to the fourth day of action in Munich.

Olympic pole vault champion Duplantis, fresh from breaking his own world record in Eugene as he clinched world gold with 6.21 meters last month, qualified with ease for Saturday’s final.

And there was also no drama for defending 400m hurdles champion Warholm, who sailed into Friday’s final.


’Love and friendship’: Pakistan commiserates with All India Football Federation over FIFA suspension

Updated 18 August 2022

’Love and friendship’: Pakistan commiserates with All India Football Federation over FIFA suspension

  • FIFA suspended the AIFF with immediate effect due to “undue influence from third parties” earlier this week
  • Suspension means Under-17 women’s World Cup, scheduled for October, cannot be held in India as planned

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on Thursday expressed solidarity with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after FIFA suspended it with immediate effect due to “undue influence from third parties” earlier this week.

The suspension means that the Under-17 women’s World Cup, scheduled to take place in India from October 11-30, cannot be held in the country as planned.

FIFA had also suspended PFF due to third-party interference last year but lifted the ban this June.

“Commiseration to the Indian Football Federation and all Indian fans, it hurts to not be able to watch your team play,” the PFF said in a statement quoted widely by Pakistani media. “Indian Football has always been defiant and resilient. Here’s hoping that Indian football comes out of suspension and continues to excite us in the coming years.”

“Sharing in your hard moments with love and friendship,” the PFF statement added.

On Wednesday, India's Supreme Court asked the federal government to take "proactive steps" to ensure that the suspension was lifted and the women’s World Cup went ahead according to plan.

The FIFA suspension occurred after India's Supreme Court disbanded the AIFF in May and appointed a three-member committee to govern the sport. But FIFA rules say its member federations must be free from legal and political interference.

While the suspension doesn't apply to domestic tournaments, it will affect India's participation in international matches and tournaments.


Rizwan, Salman guide Pakistan to seven-wicket win over Netherlands

Updated 18 August 2022

Rizwan, Salman guide Pakistan to seven-wicket win over Netherlands

  • Pakistan captain Babar Azam passed fifty for the 38th time in the last 89 ODI innings
  • Final match of the series will be played at the same venue on Sunday

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: Mohammad Rizwan and Agha Salman made unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan eased to a seven-wicket win over the Netherlands in the second one-day international in Rotterdam on Thursday to complete a series victory.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, scored 57 off 65 balls before Rizwan and Salman led the tourists home in their pursuit of 187 with 16.2 overs to spare.

Dutch seamer Vivian Kingma removed openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq cheaply as Pakistan stuttered early, but Azam and Rizwan steadied the innings before Salman finished it off by blasting his first ODI fifty.

Zaman, who made 109 in the first ODI, was caught and bowled by Kingma for three and Imam was lured into a loose drive four balls later to reduce Pakistan to 11-2.

Azam passed fifty for the 38th time in 89 ODI innings but top-edged off-spinner Aryan Dutt to Bas de Leede at midwicket, ending an 88-run stand with wicketkeeper Rizwan.

Rizwan adopted a relatively cautious approach as he compiled 69 off 82 deliveries, in contrast to the fireworks delivered by Salman, who clubbed the final ball of the match for six to finish 50 not out in just his second ODI.

Haris Rauf and Mohammad Nawaz took three wickets apiece to dismiss the Netherlands for 186 in the second of a three-match series.

De Leede (89) and Tom Cooper (66) struck battling half-centuries to lift the Dutch from 8-3 but only one other batsman passed double figures for the hosts.

Naseem Shah removed Vikramjit Singh in the second over as the teenage opener edged behind and Max O’Dowd followed when he drove Rauf straight to Azam at mid-off.

The 38-year-old Wesley Barresi was bowled by Naseem for three, two days after scoring just two in his first international innings since 2019.

De Leede and Cooper set about restoring order and put on 109 for the fourth wicket.

Cooper hit seven fours and two sixes before falling for 66 when he offered left-arm spinner Nawaz a simple return catch.

His dismissal precipitated the loss of three quick wickets, with captain Scott Edwards caught behind off Nawaz for five and Teja Nidamanuru going in the same manner without scoring after glancing Rauf down the legside.

Logan van Beek holed out to Naseem on the long-off boundary for 13 to give Shadab Khan his first wicket.

Tim Pringle went for a second straight duck after Mohammad Wasim pinned him leg before and Nawaz claimed his third scalp by sneaking one past the defense of Dutt.

De Leede was last man out for 89, caught by Zaman trying to clear long-on as Rauf finished with 3-16 after wrapping up the Dutch innings in 44.1 overs.

Pakistan won the first match by 16 runs. The series finale is scheduled for Sunday at the same venue.


India's 'King' Kohli opens up about mental health struggle 

Updated 18 August 2022

India's 'King' Kohli opens up about mental health struggle 

  • Virat Kohli, plagued by a poor run of form, was relieved from captaincy from all formats last year
  • Former Indian captain says pressure of his career had negative impact on his mental health

Indian cricket superstar Virat Kohli, who took his team to unprecedented heights, says he has struggled with his mental health throughout his career, local media reported Thursday.

The 33-year-old ex-captain built a reputation for in-your-face aggression and exemplary batting, leading his team to the top of the five-day rankings.

But the man dubbed "King" Kohli by Indian media has been plagued by a run of poor form and has been relieved of his captaincy of all formats since late last year after a dismal showing at the Twenty20 World Cup.

Kohli told The Indian Express newspaper that the pressure of his career had at times had a negative impact on his mental health.

"I personally have experienced times when even in a room full of people who support and love me, I felt alone, and I am sure that this is a feeling that a lot of people can relate to," he said in an interview published Wednesday.

"It is definitely a serious issue and as much as we try to be strong at all times, it can tear you apart."

Kohli said it was important for athletes to rest and recover from the pressures of sport and reconnect with their "core self".

"If you lose that connection, it wouldn't take very long for other things to crumble around you."

His comments came just months after he revealed he had struggled with depression after failing to score runs during an England tour in 2014.

"It's not a great feeling to wake up knowing that you won't be able to score runs... I felt I was the loneliest guy in the world," he said on a podcast with English commentator Mark Nicholas in February.

Kohli, one of the world's highest-paid athletes, has not scored a century in any format since 2019.

After being rested for the recent West Indies tour, he has now been named in India's T20 squad for the Asia Cup that starts with a match against arch-rivals Pakistan.