Djokovic slides to victory as Wimbledon makes soggy return

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns against Britain’s Jack Draper during their men’s singles first round match on 2021 Wimbledon Championships’ 1st day at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon. (AFP)
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Updated 28 June 2021

Djokovic slides to victory as Wimbledon makes soggy return

  • The 34-year-old Serb struggled on the slippery Centre Court surface with the roof closed above it due to the rain
  • He finished with an impressive 25 aces and 47 winners

LONDON: Novak Djokovic overcame an early scare before getting his bid for a sixth Wimbledon and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title off to a winning start on Monday.
Meanwhile, rain brought havoc to the schedule, one year after the tournament was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Defending champion and world number one Djokovic, looking to become just the third man in history to complete a calendar Grand Slam, claimed a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Britain’s 253rd-ranked Jack Draper.
However, the 34-year-old Serb struggled on the slippery Center Court surface with the roof closed above it due to the rain.
Left-handed Draper, playing just his fifth match on the main tour, saved seven of seven break points in the opener to stun the top seed.
But Djokovic soon snuffed out any danger of him becoming only the third defending champion to lose in the first round, by sweeping through the remainder of the tie.
He finished with an impressive 25 aces and 47 winners as his 19-year-old opponent, who grew up just six miles (9.5km) from the All England Club, wilted.
“He’s a youngster and I hadn’t seen him play too much prior to Queen’s and he played pretty well, won matches against high-ranked players,” said Djokovic.
“Walking onto Wimbledon Center Court for the first time, he’s done extremely well.”
Next up for Djokovic will be either former runner-up Kevin Anderson or Chilean qualifier Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera.
It was the 34-year-old Djokovic’s first match on the court since his epic five-set win over Roger Federer in the 2019 final, the longest title match in tournament history and where he saved two championship points.
His match on Monday was preceded by a standing ovation for Professor Sarah Gilbert, one of the key scientists behind the Oxford Asra-Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine who was a special guest in the Royal Box.
Wimbledon looks very different with Covid-19 protocols in place and a 50 percent capacity until finals day, but one familiar feature was the summer rain.
Play on the outside courts started five hours late with 16 of the day’s scheduled 64 matches canceled until Tuesday.
Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka had the honor of being the first winner at the tournament in two years when she downed Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4 under the roof of Court One.
Sabalenka fired 48 winners past Niculescu.
Elsewhere on Monday, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, promoted to third seed in the absence of Rafael Nadal, has a tough opener against 57th-ranked Frances Tiafoe of the United States.
Tiafoe won a second-tier grass court Challenger event in Nottingham this month before making the quarter-finals at Queen’s Club.
Tsitsipas, who lost a five-set final to Djokovic at the French Open two weeks ago, made the last 16 at Wimbledon in 2018.
However, he was a first-round loser two years ago and comes into Wimbledon with just 15 matches on grass in his career.
Two-time champion Andy Murray is on Center Court against Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, a semifinalist in Halle.
Murray, now ranked at 118, is playing his first singles match at Wimbledon since 2017 after a lengthy battle with hip and groin injuries.
Petra Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 champion, starts against former US Open winner Sloane Stephens.
Players are confined to a hotel ‘bubble’ in central London this year.
However, there have already been two virus-related withdrawals.
Britain’s Johanna Konta was identified as a close contact of a positive coronavirus case and will have to self-isolate.
The world number 31, a semifinalist at the tournament in 2017, had been drawn to face Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.
The 30-year-old’s place will be taken by 123rd-ranked lucky loser Wang Yafan of China.
On Saturday, former men’s doubles champion Frederik Nielsen was forced to withdraw after also being identified as a close contact.
“This is not unexpected,” said All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton.
“It’s terribly sad for the players but it’s something we plan for. We have protocols in place.”


Chelsea boss Tuchel given one-game ban after Spurs red card

Updated 27 sec ago

Chelsea boss Tuchel given one-game ban after Spurs red card

LONDON: Thomas Tuchel has been given a one-match suspension and fined £35,000 ($41,000) after the Chelsea manager was sent off following his furious clash with Tottenham boss Antonio Conte, the Football Association (FA) said on Friday.
Tuchel’s touchline ban has been suspended temporarily, pending the full written reasons for the decision, allowing the German to take his place in the dugout for Sunday’s Premier League clash at Leeds.
Conte has been fined £15,000 after both managers admitted improper conduct following a pair of angry exchanges during last Sunday’s stormy 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel and Conte were booked after they first squared up to each other when the Italian celebrated Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s equalizer close to the Chelsea technical area.
Then, after Harry Kane headed Tottenham’s second equalizer deep into stoppage-time, Tuchel shook hands with Conte at the final whistle in such an aggressive way that it drew a fiery response from his counterpart.
The feuding bosses had to be separated by players and coaching staff, but were both sent off by referee Anthony Taylor.
“An independent regulatory commission has today ordered that Thomas Tuchel be fined £35,000 and banned from the touchline for one match, and Antonio Conte be fined £15,000 after they respectively breached FA Rule E3,” the FA said.
“Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte admitted that their behavior after the final whistle of the Premier League game between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC on Sunday, August 14 2022 was improper, and both managers requested a paper hearing.
“These sanctions are subject to appeal, and Thomas Tuchel’s one-match touchline ban has been suspended temporarily pending the independent regulatory commission’s written reasons for its decision that will be made available in due course.”

Police recover Lewandowski’s watch, stolen while signing autographs

Updated 15 min 15 sec ago

Police recover Lewandowski’s watch, stolen while signing autographs

  • A young man approached and snatched the watch from the player's wrist
  • Spanish media reported the watch was a Patek Phillippe worth 70,000 euros

BARCELONA: Police said they had recovered Robert Lewandowski’s watch, stolen as the star striker signed autographs before a Barcelona training session.
The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon when the 33-year-old striker, who joined from German club Bayern Munich in July, arrived at training and stopped in front of fans for autographs, Catalan police told AFP Friday.
A young man approached and snatched the watch from the player’s wrist.
Spanish media reported the watch was a Patek Phillippe worth 70,000 euros ($70,300) and that Lewandowski climbed back in his car and gave chase but lost the thief.
The police were alerted at 4:30 p.m. local time (1430 GMT) and within an hour they had caught the 19-year-old, who was hiding in the bushes around the stadium. They recovered the watch which was nearby.
He was arrested for “robbery with violence,” the police said. They explained that even though Lewandowski was not hurt, taking the watch off his body was considered violent.


PSG coach denies bad blood between Neymar and Mbappe

Updated 19 August 2022

PSG coach denies bad blood between Neymar and Mbappe

  • Neymar insisted on taking the team's second penalty against Montpellier last Saturday after Mbappe had missed the first
  • Mbappe did not celebrate after Neymar converted the spot-kick

SAINT-GERMAIN-EN-LAYE, France: Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier said on Friday there is no bad blood between star forward Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.
Neymar insisted on taking the team’s second penalty against Montpellier last Saturday after Mbappe had missed the first.
Mbappe did not celebrate after Neymar converted the spot-kick.
Galtier called the apparent differences between the two an “epiphenomenon,” suggesting the spat was not a symptom of any deeper problem.
“We saw each other quickly the next day to iron out all that, to say what we had to say to each other,” said Galtier told a press conference ahead of Sunday’s Ligue 1 visit to Lille.
“We had a very pleasant week at work. Everyone worked well. I enjoyed all the sessions this week and this epiphenomenon disappeared very quickly, that is to say the day after our meeting.”
Galtier said after the game that instructions “had been respected” regarding penalty takers.
“There was a precise order in this game, Kylian as number one and ‘Ney’ as number two.”
Other potential penalty takers include Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, said Galtier, adding that it was “important for our strikers to score goals, to keep the confidence.”
Against Montpellier, in his first competitive game since opting to stay in Paris rather than join Real Madrid, the 23-year-old Mbappe scored in a 5-2 win but cut a frustrated, unhappy and even isolated figure.
Last season, Mbappe was PSG’s outstanding performer, scoring 39 goals in all competitions, while Neymar struggled.
Yet the 30-year-old Brazilian has seemed rejuvenated this season, scoring five goals in three games.


Casemiro wants to leave Real Madrid as Man Utd close in

Updated 19 August 2022

Casemiro wants to leave Real Madrid as Man Utd close in

  • United are set to pay an initial 60 million euros plus a further 10 million euros in add-ons for the 30-year-old
  • "He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity and I and the club understand that," said Ancelotti

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed on Friday Casemiro is keen to leave the European champions as Manchester United close in on the Brazilian international.
According to the BBC and The Athletic, United are set to pay an initial 60 million euros (£51 million, $61 million) plus a further 10 million euros in add-ons for the 30-year-old.
“I spoke with him this morning. He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity and I and the club understand that,” said Ancelotti
“For what Casemiro has done for this club and the person that he is, we have to respect his wishes. Now there are negotiations, nothing is official and he remains a Real Madrid player, but his desire is to leave.
“If that happens and there is an agreement, we have the resources to replace him.”
Casemiro has won three La Liga titles and five Champions Leagues during nine years at Madrid as he formed a formidable midfield trio with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
However, his place in Ancelotti’s preferred starting line-up has come under threat by the signing of Aurelien Tchouameni this summer for a fee that could rise to 100 million euros.
United are badly in need of new recruits after a miserable start to Erik ten Hag’s reign has left them bottom of the Premier League for the first time in 30 years.
The Red Devils will reportedly make Casemiro one of the top earners in the Premier League with a four-year deal at Old Trafford along with a club option to extend that contract by an extra season.
A lack of new signings has been one of the issues blamed for embarrassing defeats to Brighton and Brentford with Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Tyrell Malacia the only additions to Ten Hag’s squad so far.
Worse could still be to come for United with Liverpool up next at Old Trafford on Monday.
Even if talks progress smoothly in the coming hours, Casemiro will not be registered in time to feature in that match.


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.