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.


Nadal ‘not comfortable’ ahead of Olympics bid

Updated 22 July 2024
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Nadal ‘not comfortable’ ahead of Olympics bid

BASTED, Sweden: Rafael Nadal will head to the Paris Olympics chasing a third gold medal but admitted his “level was so far from what it should be” after losing in the Bastad clay-court final on Sunday.

The 38-year-old Spanish great went down to a straight-sets defeat to Portuguese journeyman Nuno Borges in his first final since capturing a 14th French Open in 2022.

“The level was so far from what it should be. Probably the energy too,” said Nadal.

“It has been a long week with long matches. Even if my body, I don’t have damage, that’s important — but mentally and physically, I am not used to playing four days in a row and playing long matches.”

Nadal was playing his first tournament since an opening round exit at the French Open in May.

He skipped Wimbledon to focus on his clay-court bag of tricks ahead of the Olympics which are being played at Roland Garros, the site of 14 of his 22 Grand Slam triumphs.

At the Games, Nadal will be looking to add to his singles gold from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and doubles victory at Rio in 2016.

As well as singles, in Paris he will team up with French Open and Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz.

“I played the final, that’s positive. I was able to play long matches without having an injury, that’s good,” added Nadal of his week in Sweden.

The former world number one has played just six tournaments in 2024 due to injury while his ranking has slumped to 261.

“In some way I felt that I arrived here practicing much better than what I played on the tournament during the whole week. That’s something that I am not satisfied with,” he explained.

“I arrived here with the feeling that I was playing a good level and I was not able to show that during the whole week. That is something that I am not happy with.

“Anyway it’s a final, so I can’t say it’s a bad result because it’s the first final since a long time ago. But I was not able to feel myself comfortable enough during the whole week to be satisfied with the week of tennis that I played.”


Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Updated 21 July 2024
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Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

  • Borges dominates Spanish star as the latter struggled to find fluency

BASTAD, Sweden: Rafael Nadal lost his first final in two years on Sunday as the Spaniard went down 6-3, 6-2 to Portugal’s Nuno Borges at the clay-court Bastad Open.

The Spanish tennis great had shown signs of a return to form in Scandinavia as he made an impressive run to the final, just one week before tennis at the Olympic Games gets underway on the clay in Paris.

But Nadal, rather than celebrating his 64th title on the surface and first since Roland Garros 2022, was dominated by Borges as he struggled to find fluency with his serve and ground strokes.

“I don’t know what to say. I think I was wishing for this moment for a while already,” said Borges in his post-match interview.

“It’s crazy; in tennis, it doesn’t happen when you expect it sometimes. I know we all wanted Rafa to win; a part of me wished that too, but something even bigger inside of me really pushed through today ... I’m just really happy overall. I really don’t know what to say, I’m very emotional.”

Elsewhere, Matteo Berrettini breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 win against France’s Quentin Halys in the Gstaad final, earning the Italian his second clay-court title of the year. 

The sixth seed Berrettini capped off a fine week in Switzerland by needing just 59 minutes to dispatch the world No. 192 Halys.

“It feels unbelievable. It feels like it was yesterday that I won my first title here six years ago, but a lot of matches and a lot of things happened,” said Berrettini.

“I’m just so glad that I can keep playing and enjoying, and I think I found the energy of six years ago during this week. This place is special for me. I’m just so happy,” added the 28-year-old who has struggled with injuries since reaching a career-high world number six in May 2022.

Berrettini’s second title on clay this season, after winning in Marrakech in April, will ensure he breaks back into the ATP top 50 on Monday.

Currently ranked 82, Berrettini was outside of the top 150 in March but a return to fitness and a fine 16-6 record for the current season has seen the 2021 Wimbledon finalist begin to refind his best level.

Sunday’s final was briefly interrupted for rain just after Berrettini secured a crucial first break in the opening set.

When the players returned 30 minutes later, the Italian won six of the next seven games to claim his second Gstaad title.


India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

Updated 21 July 2024
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India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

  • The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies
  • Vijay Amritraj : I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport
  • Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist

NEW YORK: Former doubles world No. 1 Leander Paes and tennis broadcaster, actor and player Vijay Amritraj became the first Asian men inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist.

“It’s my greatest honor to be on this stage with not only these legends of the game, people who have inspired me every single day of my life — not because you’ve only won Grand Slams, not because you’ve shaped our sport but every single one of these people have shaped the world we live in,” Paes said.

“I would like to thank you so much for giving this Indian boy hope.”

Amritraj, 70, played from 1970 until retiring in 1993, winning 15 ATP singles titles and 399 matches and being ranked as high as 18th in the world and helped India to the Davis Cup finals in 1974 and 1987.

“I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport,” Amritraj said.

After his playing days, Amritraj has helped humanitarian causes, backed ATP and WTA events in India and has acted in the James Bond and Star Trek movie series.

“A feeling came over me that I had never experienced,” Amritraj said of learning about his election to the Hall. “This was an honor not just for me, for my family, for my parents, but for all of my fellow Indians and my country who live around the world.”

Like Amritraj, Evans was inducted in the contributor category for his life impact on the sport.

Paes, 51, was an 18-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles who was selected in the player category after honing his trade in an Amritraj youth academy.

Paes and Amritraj made India the 28th nation represented in the Hall of Fame.

“Playing for 1.4 billion people could either be pressure or it could be wind within your wings,” Paes said.

“I’d like to thank every single one of my countrymen who supported me, who stood by through all the ups and downs, and we’ve been through a few, but you all were the inspiration, the support, you were even the strength to guide me through when even I didn’t believe.”

Paes won career Grand Slams in both men’s and mixed doubles, completing one in men’s by winning the 2012 Australian Open and another in mixed by capturing the 2016 French Open.

He won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medal by defeating Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

His only ATP singles title came in 1998 on Newport grass in the same venue where he was inducted.

“As my father always said to me, if you believe in yourself, you work hard, you’ll be passionate not only to win prize money and trophies, but you do that to inspire the world,” Paes said.

“It has been my greatest honor to play for my countrymen in seven Olympics, to stand where the national anthem is playing in all those Davis Cups, and to prove that we Asians can win Grand Slams and also be No. 1 in our field, be it tennis or anything.”


Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Updated 14 July 2024
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Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

  • Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz overpowered seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to retain his Wimbledon title on Sunday in a brutal statement that the new era of men’s tennis has arrived.
The Spanish third seed produced a performance combining awesome power with delicate touch to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), collecting the fourth Grand Slam of his young career.
Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under, joining Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.
And he is just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back.
Djokovic, 37, who had knee surgery just weeks ago, was aiming to win a 25th Grand Slam — which would have been a record in the men’s and women’s game.
But he had no answers in the Center Court sunshine as the electric Alcaraz pounded him from the back of the court and treated the crowd to an array of his trademark drop shots.
“Honestly, it is a dream for me winning this trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did an interview when I was 11 and I said my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“For me this is the most beautiful tournament, the most beautiful court and the most beautiful trophy.”
Alcaraz paid tribute to his beaten opponent, who only found his range in the third set.
“Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he was going to have his chances,” said Alcaraz who had needed five sets to defeat the Serb in the 2023 final.
“It was difficult but I tried to stay calm going into the tie-break and tried to play my best tennis. I was glad at the end I could find the solutions.”
Alcaraz seized the initiative in a first game of breathtaking quality lasting 14 minutes, taking advantage of his fifth break point.
The Spaniard settled quickly into his routine on serve and went up a double break when Djokovic double-faulted in the fifth game.
The shell-shocked Serbian, playing in his 10th Wimbledon final, held serve to love to close the gap to 5-2 but dumped the ball into the net to hand the Spaniard the first set.
Alcaraz was immediately on the front foot in the second set, forcing a break in the first game and fending off pressure on his own serve to take a 2-0 lead.
A Djokovic backhand into the net in the seventh game handed Alcaraz another break point and a double fault put the defending champion 5-2 up and on the cusp of a two-set lead.
The Center Court crowd, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked on in disbelief as their hopes for a titanic tussle evaporated.
The under-par Djokovic fended off another of clutch of break points early in the third set to stay alive and showed signs that he was finding his rhythm.
But Alcaraz broke for a 5-4 lead and moved to 40-0 on his own serve, only to suffer a wobble as Djokovic saved all three championship points, breaking for the first time in the match.
He recovered his composure quickly and the set went to a tie-break.
Djokovic went wide with a forehand to give Alcaraz a 5-3 lead and the Spaniard won the title with his fourth championship point, clambering up to the players’ box to celebrate with his family and coaching team.
The champion struck 42 winners to Djokovic’s 26 over the course of the match.
Princess Catherine, patron of the All England Club, handed over the trophy.
Last month she tentatively returned to British public life for the first time since her diagnosis, attending a military parade in London to mark King Charles III’s official birthday.
Djokovic, still without a title this year, will now turn his attention to the Paris Olympics as he seeks to win gold for the first time.
“It obviously was not the result I wanted but of course in the first couple of sets the level of tennis wasn’t up to par from my side,” he said.
“But credit to Carlos for playing elite tennis, especially from the back of the court, he had it all today.”


Siniakova and Townsend win women’s doubles title at Wimbledon

Updated 14 July 2024
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Siniakova and Townsend win women’s doubles title at Wimbledon

LONDON: After seeing longtime doubles partner Barbora Krejcikova win the Wimbledon singles title, Katerina Siniakova went out on Center Court and added another Grand Slam trophy to her own collection.
Siniakova won her third women’s doubles title at Wimbledon after teaming up with Taylor Townsend to beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1) on Saturday in a match that finished after 10:20 p.m. local time under floodlights.
“Amazing. I’m so proud of Barbora,” Siniakova said of her Czech countrywoman. “I’m just so happy that we could do it as well.”
Siniakova has won seven major doubles titles with Krejcikova and one with Coco Gauff at this year’s French Open. This was her first with Townsend, an American whose previous best Grand Slam result in doubles was two runner-up finishes at the 2022 US Open — in a loss to Siniakova and Krejcikova — and 2023 French Open.
Townsend said it was Siniakova’s idea for the two of them to play together at Wimbledon.
“I’m so glad Katerina slid into my DMs,” Townsend said.
A bit more than six hours after Krejcikova beat Jasmine Paolini in the women’s singles final, the fourth-seeded Siniakova and Townsend converted their first match point when Routliffe double-faulted.
Siniakova and Townsend failed to convert any of their seven break points in the second set but raced to 5-0 in the tiebreaker.
It was the third match of the day on Center Court after the men’s doubles final.
Siniakova and Krejcikova won the Wimbledon doubles in 2022 and 2018.