Luca Nardi stuns boyhood idol and top-ranked Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win at Indian Wells

Lucky looser Luca Nardi of Italy reacts after defeating Serbia's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round match in the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 12 March 2024
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Luca Nardi stuns boyhood idol and top-ranked Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win at Indian Wells

  • Nardi became the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 level event
  • Coco Gauff gave herself an early birthday present by beating Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the third round

INDIAN WELLS, California: Luca Nardi used a combination of poise and power to stun his boyhood idol and top-seeded Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win on Monday night in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open.

Nardi, who’s ranked No. 123, closed out his huge upset over the No. 1 player in the rankings with an ace. The 20-year-old from Italy dropped his racket and brought his hands to his face almost in disbelief before greeting Djokovic at the net.

“This is a miracle,” Nardi said in an interview after the match on the Tennis Channel. “I’m a 20-years-old guy, 100 in the world, and beating Novak. So, crazy. Crazy.”

Setting the tone early with his hard-hitting shots, Nardi frustrated Djokovic all evening. There was a moment when Nardi was surprised by an “in” call and casually hit the ball back over the net. It resulted in a winner and led to Djokovic complaining to the official about a potential hindrance.

To think, Nardi was nearly on his way home. He got into the field as a “lucky loser,” which is a player who stumbled on the final hurdle in qualifying but made it into the main draw as a replacement for an injured player who pulled out before the first round. In Nardi’s case, he stepped in for No. 30 Tomas Martin Etcheverry and received a bye through the opening round.

He went on to become the lowest-ranked player to beat Djokovic in a Grand Slam or ATP Masters 1000 level event, surpassing No. 122 Kevin Anderson in 2008 in Miami.

Using a combination of aggressiveness and finesse, Nardi had Djokovic, the 24-time Grand Slam singles champion from Serbia he grew up watching, smiling and shaking his head at times in a mixture of surprise and shock.

Nardi was far from intimidated, either, answering Djokovic’s well-placed shots with well-placed returns of his own.

“Before this night, no one knew me,” said Nardi, who will face American Tommy Paul in the round of 16. “I hope now the crowd enjoyed the game. I’m super happy with this one.”

Djokovic certainly didn’t know that much about Nardi, only what he gleaned watching him play. He knew Nardi had a strong baseline game, especially with the forehand, and moved well.

“He got in as a ‘lucky loser’ to (the) main draw, so he really didn’t have anything to lose. So he played great,” Djokovic said. “Deserved to win. I was more surprised with my level. My level was really, really bad.”

No. 4 Daniil Medvedev’s was just good enough, as he edged No. 29 Sebastian Korda 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 and will face No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov.

Earlier in the day, Coco Gauff gave herself an early birthday present by beating Lucia Bronzetti 6-2, 7-6 (5) in the third round. Gauff, who turns 20 on Wednesday, struggled early but found a way to hold her serve by saving 10 of 11 break points. She closed out the match with a serve into the body that Bronzetti couldn’t return. It extended Gauff’s winning streak in the US to 18 matches, a run that includes winning the title at last year’s US Open.

Bronzetti had a chance to force a third set when she took a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. Gauff won the next three points.

These days, Gauff is finding ways to win when she doesn’t necessarily have all her shots tuned in.

“The mentality is the reason why I’m playing and the reason why I’m being successful,” said Gauff, who won a doubles match with partner Jessica Pegula later Monday.

Gauff will face Elize Mertens in the round of 16. Mertens held off Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4. Osaka played in the fifth tournament of her return after her maternity leave in 2023.

Two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka beat 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu 6-3, 7-5 to advance.

On the men’s side, No. 7 Holger Rune played his first match of the tournament and beat Lorenzo Musetti 6-2, 7-6 (5) to advance to the round of 16. Rune had a bye in the first round and advanced through the second when Milos Raonic withdrew with an injury. He will face No. 12 Taylor Fritz, the 2022 champion.

Gael Monfils won a three-set thriller over Cameron Norrie, the tournament’s 2021 winner, in a match that took more than three hours.


Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Updated 22 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

  • Injured stars lose their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event

BERLIN: Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur joined the procession of injured stars limping off the Berlin grass as they retired Saturday while losing their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Second-seeded Belarusian Sabalenka retired against unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya trailing 5-1 in the first set, in one of the quarterfinals pushed back to Saturday morning by rain on Friday.
Eighth-seeded Jabeur had gone toe-to-toe with top seed Coco Gauff before losing a one-hour 14 minute first set tiebreak 11/9 before packing her rackets in her bag and walking off.
“It doesn’t feel like a win,” said Gauff on court. “Especially as we had such a great first set.”
“It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”
Gauff said the Tunisian had indicated she was not seriously injured.
“I know she’s going to feel better tomorrow and should be fine for Wimbledon.”
Trailing 4-1, Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck treated. She played on for one game before stopping. It was the first time the Belarusian had retired injured in a WTA tournament, said the women’s tennis body.
“I played really good. I had a good start. I’m happy to be in the semifinals,” Kalinskaya said. “I’m happy to have three matches (here), fourth one on grass. That gives me confidence.”
On Thursday, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova retired with a right hip injury from her second-round match, also against Kalinskaya.
On Friday, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out while trailing Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.
Azarenka will play Kalinskaya in one semifinal later on Saturday.
Gauff will face compatriot Jessica Pegula who beat Czech Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday. The fourth-seeded American had led 4-2 in the third set when rain halted play on Friday.
Gauff said her training regime prepared her to play twice in one day.
“I’ll be ready for later today,” said Gauff.


Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’

Updated 21 June 2024
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Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’

  • World No. 2 Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warmup event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros
  • Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon title at the All England Club, just a few miles across London from Queen’s, on July 1

LONDON: Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz said losing was “part of our lives” following a shock defeat by Britain’s Jack Draper in the last 16 of the Queen’s Club tournament in London on Thursday.

Alcaraz, also the reigning Queen’s champion, lost 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 with the British No. 1 claiming the biggest win of his career.

World No. 2 Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warmup event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros.

But the 21-year-old Spaniard was undone by Draper, 22, who is bidding to become the first British men’s singles champion at Queen’s since Andy Murray won his fifth title at the event in 2016.

Alcaraz, for whom this was a first defeat on grass in nearly two years, insisted he was “hungry to be better” at Wimbledon.

“Of course it’s tough to deal with the losses, but I think it’s part of our lives,” he said.

“We have to (deal with it) as good as you can. After the losses, you have to take the positive things and of course the negative things just to improve to the next tournament.

“I have to give credit to Jack. I think he played really good tennis today.”

Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon title at the All England Club, just a few miles across London from Queen’s, on July 1, with the champion saying he planned to remain in the British capital.

“I think the best way to be better on grass is to stay here, practice with players, physically doing good stuff on grass and the movement, really specific things,” Alcaraz said when asked if he would return to Spain before Wimbledon.

“In Spain or at my home, we don’t have grass courts or really grass places just to practice.

Alcaraz added: “Right now I’m hungry just to be better, to practice, and that’s all I have to do.

“I’m really excited to start Wimbledon. Of course I really want to win every title I (play for), and I think Wimbledon is even more special.”

For the 31st-ranked Draper, this stunning win followed his first ATP title in Stuttgart last week and meant he became the first British man to beat a top-two player on grass since Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final.

Neither Alcaraz nor Draper managed a break point in a first set where the British left-hander eventually pulled clear in the tie-break.

Alcaraz saved three match points on his own serve at 5-2 down in the second set before Draper, a day after 37-year-old Murray limped out injured of Queen’s after just five games, secured the win.

“It was a really tough match,” said Draper. “Carlos is the defending champion, he won Wimbledon, he’s an incredible talent and amazing for the sport. I had to come out and play well and luckily I did.”

Draper will next play American fifth-seed Tommy Paul, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo, in the quarterfinals.

There was more British success when wildcard Billy Harris joined Draper in the last eight.

The 29-year-old journeyman celebrated his award of a wildcard for Wimbledon — and a guaranteed £60,000 ($76,000) — by beating French qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 6-4, 7-5.

Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Brandon Nakashima of the US.


Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Updated 18 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

  • Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness

PARIS: Three-time Grand Slam runner up Ons Jabeur said on Monday she will sit out this summer’s Paris Olympics to avoid further injury to her knee.
Tunisian Jabeur, 29, will miss the Games, between July 27-August 4. The competition being played Roland-Garros, meaning a switch back to clay immediately after the grass season and before the hard-court run up to the US Open.
Last year Jabeur underwent surgery on her right knee.
“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending to the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur said on her social media accounts.
“Unfortunately I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Olympics,” she added.
Jabeur reached the final at Wimbledon in 2022 and 2023 and at the US Open in 2022. She competed at the Olympics in London in 2012, in Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo five years later.
Wimbledon starts on July 1 with the US Open beginning on August 26.
Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness.


Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title

Updated 09 June 2024
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Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title

  • Carlos Alcaraz is a 21-year-old from Spain who grew up watching countryman Rafael Nadal win trophy after trophy at Roland Garros — a record 14 in all

PARIS: Carlos Alcaraz came back to defeat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 on Sunday and win the French Open for his third Grand Slam title.

Alcaraz is a 21-year-old from Spain who grew up watching countryman Rafael Nadal win trophy after trophy at Roland Garros — a record 14 in all — and now has eclipsed Nadal as the youngest man to collect major championships on three surfaces. Nadal was about 1.5 years older when he did it.

Sunday’s victory — in which he trailed two sets to one, just as he had in the semifinals against Jannik Sinner on Friday — allowed Alcaraz to add the clay-court championship at Roland Garros to his triumphs on hard courts at the US Open in 2022 and on grass at Wimbledon in 2023. Alcaraz is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals.

Zverev dropped to 0-2 in major title matches. The 27-year-old from Germany was the runner-up at the 2020 US Open after blowing a two-set lead against Dominic Thiem.

This time, Zverev lost after surging in front by reeling off the last five games of the third set. Alcaraz’s level dipped during that stretch and he seemed distracted by a complaint over the condition of the clay at Court Philippe Chatrier, telling chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein it was “unbelievable.”

But Alcaraz reset himself and surged to the finish, taking 12 of the last 15 games while being treated by a trainer at changeovers for an issue with his left leg.

No. 3 Alcaraz and No. 4 Zverev were making their first appearance in a French Open final. Indeed, this was the first men’s title match at Roland Garros since 2004 without Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.

Nadal lost to Zverev in the first round two weeks ago; Djokovic, a three-time champion, withdrew before the quarterfinals with a knee injury that required surgery; Federer is retired.

There were some jitters at the outset. Zverev started the proceedings with a pair of double-faults — walking to the sideline to change rackets after the second, as though the equipment was the culprit — and eventually got broken. Alcaraz lost serve immediately, too, framing a forehand that sent the ball into the stands — which he would do on a handful of occasions — and double-faulting, trying a so-so drop shot that led to an easy winner for Zverev, then missing a backhand.

Let’s just say they won’t be putting those initial 10 minutes in the Louvre. A lot of the 4-hour, 19-minute match was patchy, littered with unforced errors.

Alcaraz managed to come out strong in the fourth set, grabbing 16 of the first 21 points to move out to a 4-0 edge, including one brilliant, sliding, down-the-line forehand passing winner that he celebrated by thrusting his right index finger overhead in a “No. 1” sign, then throwing an uppercut while screaming, “Vamos!”

No, he is not ranked No. 1 at the moment — Sinner makes his debut at the top spot on Monday — but he has been before and, although a “2” will be beside Alcaraz’s name next week, there is little doubt that he is as good as it gets in men’s tennis right now.


Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles

Updated 09 June 2024
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Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles

  • Coco Gauff, the reigning US Open singles champion, wins her first Grand Slam doubles title

PARIS: French Open singles runner-up Jasmine Paolini suffered another defeat in Sunday’s women’s doubles final as she and partner Sara Errani lost 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova.
Gauff, the reigning US Open singles champion, won her first Grand Slam doubles title. The 20-year-old American was a losing finalist at the 2021 US Open and 2022 French Open in doubles.
Siniakova, 28, captured her eighth Grand Slam doubles crown and third at Roland Garros. She claimed the other seven titles with fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova.