Djokovic bottle strike overshadows his Rome Open cruise past Moutet

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after being hit on the head by a bottle after winning his Rome Open round of 64 match against France's Corentin Moutet on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 May 2024
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Djokovic bottle strike overshadows his Rome Open cruise past Moutet

  • Should Djokovic be OK as the FITP said, he will face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo in the third round with a great chance to add to his array of titles at the Foro Italico
  • One of Djokovic’s potential threats, third seed Alexander Zverev, breezed into the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic

ROME: Novak Djokovic’s fast start at the Rome Open was overshadowed on Friday after the tennis icon was struck with a hard plastic water bottle while greeting fans following his 6-3, 6-1 win over France’s Corentin Moutet.

World No. 1 Djokovic was left crouched on the ground in agony as the bottle hit him on the back of the head as he was signing autographs while he exited the center court at the Foro Italico.

Djokovic was then led from the arena on foot by security staff who covered the 24-time Grand Slam winner while he made his way into the bowels of the stands.

The ATP did not respond to AFP’s request for an update on Djokovic’s condition, only announcing that he would not speak to the media on Friday evening.

However, a spokesman for the Italian Tennis Federation (FITP) said that Djokovic had been taken back to his hotel with a lightly bleeding head and that there is no risk that he will withdraw from the tournament.

The spokesman said that Djokovic did not need stitches and that the bottle likely fell while a fan tried to get the player’s attention, adding that security camera footage is being consulted to help identify the culprit.

“His condition is not a cause for concern,” said organizers in a short statement before then sending media a video in which it appears that the bottle accidentally slipped from a spectator’s grasp before landing on Djokovic’s head.

Djokovic retiring would be a disaster for organizers of the last major tournament before the French Open as it is already missing two of its biggest stars with Italian world No. 2 Jannik Sinner and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz both withdrawing from the men’s draw before the start.

Home fans have also been deprived of cheering on Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Musetti who both pulled out, Musetti while losing to France’s Terence Atmane on Friday morning.

Should Djokovic be OK as the FITP said, he will face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo in the third round with a great chance to add to his array of titles at the Foro Italico, where only Rafael Nadal has won more with 10.

The Serbian has made no secret in the past that he loves playing in Italy and with a clutch of big names either out injured or struggling he will fancy his chances of a record-extending 41st Masters 1000 crown.

One of Djokovic’s potential threats, third seed Alexander Zverev, breezed into the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic.

Both Casper Ruud and Zverev were put on Djokovic’s side of the draw and German Zverev could face the tournament favorite in the last four.

“I know I’m the sort of player who can lose to anyone, I’ve unfortunately done that in the past but I also know that I’m a player that once I do find my rhythm I can beat anyone and I hope this can be the week where I find it,” said Zverev after his win.

Ons Jabeur’s tough 2024 continued after being dumped out of the women’s tournament in the second round by Sofia Kenin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

World No. 9 Jabeur was beaten by unseeded American Kenin in a gruelling match which lasted two hours and 17 minutes in the hot Rome sunshine.

Tunisia’s Jabeur, who in 2022 became the first Arab player to win a WTA 1000 title, looked to be on the right track after reaching the quarterfinals in Madrid.

But she slumped to a poor defeat on Friday, continuing a dreadful season so far in which the 29-year-old has had to deal with a chronic knee injury resurfacing.

Jabeur has a losing record for the year, a far cry from the woman who looked like she had the world at her feet ahead of last year’s Wimbledon final, which she lost in straight sets to unfancied Marketa Vondrousova after blasting through a series of Grand Slam champions.


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.


Swiatek dismantles Paolini to win third straight French Open title

Updated 08 June 2024
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Swiatek dismantles Paolini to win third straight French Open title

  • Swiatek’s 21st straight victory at her happiest hunting ground put her in fourth place in the list of longest winning streaks at Roland Garros
  • The diminutive Paolini went toe to toe with Swiatek from there but cracked in the sixth game

PARIS: Iga Swiatek strengthened her reputation as the queen of clay by capturing a third straight French Open crown with a crushing 6-2 6-1 victory over 12th seed Jasmine Paolini on Saturday to claim her fifth Grand Slam title.
Swiatek’s 21st straight victory at her happiest hunting ground put her in fourth place in the list of longest winning streaks at Roland Garros in the Open era behind only Chris Evert (29), Monica Seles (25) and Justine Henin (24).
The 23-year-old, who arrived in Paris in the form of her life having lifted titles in Madrid and Rome, extended her run of victories on clay this year to a career-best 19 matches and celebrated with her fourth French Open title in five years.
Swiatek came out all guns blazing early in the contest but after narrowly missing the chance to break from 0-40 down in the second game, the top-seeded Pole made heavy weather of the next to surrender her serve, before bouncing right back.
The diminutive Paolini, only the third Italian woman after Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani to reach the Roland Garros final since the sport turned professional in 1968, went toe to toe with Swiatek from there but cracked in the sixth game.
With the momentum shifting, claycourt specialist Swiatek began to dominate the exchanges from the baseline, superbly working the angles and sealing the opening set in 37 minutes after winning 20 out of 24 points since going down a break.
A shell-shocked Paolini smiled and soaked up the support and applause from the crowd on the main showcourt when she won the odd point early in the next set, but her challenge faded in the afternoon sun as Swiatek broke twice to build a 4-0 lead.
Swiatek, who dropped only one set throughout the tournament in a second-round epic with Naomi Osaka, won 10 successive games before Paolini got on the scoreboard, but there was to be no late comeback drama and the knockout blow was not long in coming.
Swiatek closed out the victory when Paolini sent a shot long and rejoiced by dropping to her knees and pumping her fists, letting out a huge roar, before joining her entourage in the stands for another round of celebrations.