Nadal eyes French Open despite Rome exit as Djokovic laughs off bottle drama

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic takes part in a training session during the Men’s ATP Rome Open tennis tournament at Foro Italico in Rome on May 11, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 May 2024
Follow

Nadal eyes French Open despite Rome exit as Djokovic laughs off bottle drama

  • Nadal: Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say I’m not playing in the most important event of my tennis career. Let’s see what’s going on
  • World No. 1 Djokovic donned a cycling crash helmet on his way to practice to show that he was fit

ROME: Rafael Nadal said Saturday that he is leaning toward playing at the French Open despite his second-round elimination in Rome, as Novak Djokovic laughed off being hit by a bottle which briefly cast doubt on his continued participation.

Clay-court icon Nadal had previously said that he would only play at the French Open, where he has won a record 14 titles, if he feels competitive after a raft of injury problems over the last two years which have left him languishing 305th in the world rankings.

And the manner of his elimination in his first ever encounter with Hubert Hurkacz — winner in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 — seemed a step backwards after reaching the last 16 in Madrid, leaving a question mark hanging over his plans.

“The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today. But if I have to say what’s my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I am going to say to be in Roland Garros and try my best,” Nadal told reporters.

“Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say I’m not playing in the most important event of my tennis career. Let’s see what’s going on, how I feel myself mentally tomorrow, after tomorrow, and in one week.”

Nadal held his own in the first two games in the first set, which took 26 minutes to complete, but then quickly fell away, Hurkacz winning without dropping a service game and seemingly without breaking a sweat.

That level of dominance over Nadal on clay, much less a court where he has won a record 10 titles, would have been unimaginable a few short years ago.

Hurkacz will face Tomas Etcheverry in the third round after likely ending Nadal’s love affair with Rome as the 22-time Grand Slam winner said that he was “98 percent” sure that he would never again grace the Roman clay.

“No-one will ever have a record like him on this surface. He’s just bigger than the sport at the end of the day,” said Hurkacz.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev kicked off his title defense by beating Jack Draper in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 to set up a third-round clash with qualifier Hamad Medjedovic, while Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from a set down to beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7 (1/7), 6-4, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic donned a cycling crash helmet on his way to practice to show that he was fit and ready to face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo on Sunday afternoon.

Djokovic was left crouching in agony after being accidentally hit on the head by a hard water bottle while signing fan autographs on Friday night.

But he suffered only minor injuries, and on Saturday he joked “Today I came prepared” with a video of him arriving while wearing the helmet.

Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff all reached the last 16 as the women’s tournament begins to heat up.

Osaka is ranked at 173 in the world after taking a break from the tour to have her first child but is in good form, yet to drop a set after beating 10th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-3.

“I’m very grateful to be healthy because I know how much hard work it took for me to be here,” said four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, who will next play seventh-seed Zheng Qinwen.

“I feel like I’m just clawing my way back to hopefully where I think I belong.”

World No. 1 Swiatek will next face Angelique Kerber after seeing off Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4 as she bids to become the first woman since Serena Williams to claim a third Rome title.

The 22-year-old came into the event having won the Madrid Open last weekend and will also be gunning for a fourth French Open crown later this month.

Third seed Gauff, meanwhile, has Spain’s Paula Badosa in the last 16 after the US Open champion battled to a 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 victory over Jaqueline Cristian.


Siniakova and Townsend win women’s doubles title at Wimbledon

Updated 14 July 2024
Follow

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.
 

 


Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Updated 13 July 2024
Follow

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

  • Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise
  • “It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova

LONDON: Barbora Krejcikova kept insisting that nobody — not her friends, not her family, not even herself — would believe she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.
Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise. This one, which came via a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Jasmine Paolini in the final at the All England Club on Saturday, was maybe just as unpredictable, sure, but perhaps now it’s time to recognize that these sorts of results from Krejcikova are not only possible but make perfect sense.
“It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova, a 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, who thanked her late mentor, 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, for pushing her into professional tennis.
Even while holding her gold champion’s plate, Krejcikova described herself as “the lucky one” for getting past the seventh-seeded Paolini, who also was the runner-up at the French Open last month.
Krejcikova was only the 31st of 32 seeds at the All England Club after illness and a back injury this season limited her to a 7-9 record entering this tournament. Then came a three-setter in the first round last week, adding to the doubts.
But by the end of the fortnight, there Paolini was during the trophy ceremony, telling Krejcikova: “You play such beautiful tennis.”
Krejcikova is the eighth woman to leave Wimbledon as the champion in the past eight editions of the event. Last year’s champion also is from the Czech Republic: unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who lost in the first round last week.
Paolini is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to get to the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season — and the first since Venus Williams in 2002 to lose both.
Saturday’s finalists took turns being in charge.
Playing coolly and efficiently — seemingly effortlessly — Krejcikova claimed 10 of the first 11 points and quickly owned a double-break lead at 5-1.
As much as the crowd, likely because of a desire to see a more competitive contest, pulled loudly for Paolini, yelling “Forza!” (“Let’s go!”) the way she often does, or “Calma!” (“Be calm!”), Krejcikova never wavered.
She has net skills, to be sure — that’s part of why she has won seven Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, including two at Wimbledon — but Krejcikova mainly was content to stay back at the baseline, simply delivering one smooth groundstroke after another to its appointed spot and getting the better of the lengthiest exchanges.
There really was no need for anything other than Plan A in the early going in front of a Center Court crowd that included actors Tom Cruise, Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman.
Paolini did try to shake things up a bit, with the occasional serve-and-volley rush forward or drop shot, but she couldn’t solve Krejcikova. Not yet, anyway.
After the lopsided first set, Paolini went to the locker room. She emerged a different player, one who no longer looked like someone burdened by residual fatigue from the longest women’s semifinal in Wimbledon history, her 2-hour, 51-minute win over Donna Vekic on Thursday.
Paolini had come back from dropping the first set in that one, so she knew she had it in her. And she began the second set against Krejcikova in style, using deep groundstrokes to grab a 3-0 advantage.
Once the match was tied at a set apiece, it was Krejcikova who left the court to try to recalibrate.
Her shots that suddenly went so awry in the match’s middle — after just four winners in the second set, she accumulated 14 in the third — were back to being crisp and clean.
“I was just telling myself to be brave,” Krejcikova said.
At 3-all in the deciding set, it was Paolini who faltered, double-faulting for the only time all afternoon to get broken.
Krejcikova then held at love for 5-3, but when she served for the championship, things got a little tougher.
She needed to save a pair of break points and required three match points to get across the finish line, winning when Paolini missed a backhand.
“Nobody believes that I got to the final. And I think nobody’s going to believe that I won Wimbledon,” Krejcikova said several minutes later. “I still cannot believe it. It’s unbelievable.”


Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

  • World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
  • He will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti

LONDON: Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz reached his fourth Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Friday when he recovered from a set down to defeat Daniil Medvedev.
World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti for the title on Sunday.
Twice Medvedev led with breaks in the first set only to be pinned back by Alcaraz.
Such was his frustration that he was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by umpire Eva Asderaki for an apparent foul-mouthed reaction to a ball called for bouncing twice as he was broken in the ninth game.
The tournament referee was even summoned to Center Court by Asderaki, but Medvedev shrugged off the incident to sweep through the tie-break and take the opening set in which he committed only eight unforced errors to the Spaniard’s 15.
It was the third time at this year’s Wimbledon that Alcaraz had dropped the first set.
Alcaraz recovered impressively, breaking Medvedev for a 3-1 lead in the second having come out on top in the previous game on the back of a 27-shot rally.
The 21-year-old then hit 14 winners in the third set, pocketing the only break in the third game.
Medvedev, who had knocked out world number one Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, retrieved a break early in the fourth set.
But Alcaraz kept up his assault, edging ahead again for 4-3 on his way to victory.


Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run

Updated 12 July 2024
Follow

Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run

  • Paolini survived the longest women’s singles semifinal in Wimbledon history to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) after two hours and 51 minutes of Center Court drama on Thursday

LONDON: Italy’s Jasmine Paolini has set her sights on capping a “crazy” run to Saturday’s Wimbledon final against Barbora Krejcikova by winning a maiden Grand Slam title.

Paolini survived the longest women’s singles semifinal in Wimbledon history to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) after two hours and 51 minutes of Center Court drama on Thursday.

The 28-year-old is the first Italian woman to reach the final of the grass-court Grand Slam.

She will face Czech 31st seed Krejcikova, who enjoyed a shock 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the other semifinal.

It is an astonishing achievement for Paolini, who had not won a Tour-level match on grass until 15 days ago in Eastbourne, and lost in the first round on her previous three visits to Wimbledon.

She had also failed to go beyond the second round of a Grand Slam until this year.

But 2024 has been a breakthrough campaign for Paolini, who reached her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek.

Even Paolini can’t quite believe her remarkable rise.

“You are crazy, I would say, yes,” she said. “Yeah, I don’t have words. Just, yeah, you are crazy,” said Paolini, who started her unexpected rise by making the Australian Open last 16 in January.

“Two Grand Slam finals in a row was crazy to believe, no?“

Paolini, seeded seventh at Wimbledon, could be forgiven for feeling nervous as she chases the first Grand Slam title of her previously underwhelming career.

She conceded anxiety could be an issue on Center Court this weekend, but she can take heart from the gritty fightback against Vekic, who burst into tears as she let the semifinal slip away after holding a 3-1 lead in the deciding set.

Paolini is the first woman to reach back-to-back Roland Garros and Wimbledon finals since Serena Williams in 2016.

The final is just the second time Krejcikova and Paolini have met and their showdown will be a world away from their first encounter.

The pair squared off in the first round of qualifying for the Australian Open in 2018, with Krejcikova claiming a straight sets victory.

“It was a very long time ago, it’s been a great journey for both of us to reach the Wimbledon final,” Krejcikova said.

Krejcikova will be playing in the second Grand Slam final of her career after winning the French Open in 2021.

The 28-year-old had struggled with a back injury and illness this year, winning just three singles matches in the five months before finding her form in remarkable style at Wimbledon.

Krejcikova shocked 11th seed Danielle Collins in the fourth round, former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals and Rybakina in the last four.

The two-time Wimbledon doubles champion is inspired by 1998 All England Club winner Jana Novotna, who worked as her coach for a period before dying of cancer in 2017.

“She was telling me a lot of stories about her journeys here and how she was trying to win Wimbledon. I was so far when we had this talk and now I’m in the final,” said Krejcikova, who can become the sixth Czech woman to win Wimbledon.

“I have had many difficult periods. I never really imagined I could reach a Wimbledon final, that I can be a different player.

“I’m super happy I was able to fight through everything.”


Lorenzo Musetti reaches his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will face Novak Djokovic

Updated 11 July 2024
Follow

Lorenzo Musetti reaches his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will face Novak Djokovic

  • As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be an eighth at the All England Club
  • The other semifinal Friday is defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev

LONDON: Lorenzo Musetti threw his head back and spread his arms wide to celebrate reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, then covered his face with both hands.

His 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Taylor Fritz on Wednesday was a big deal, to be sure. After all, the 25th-seeded Musetti, a 22-year-old from Italy, never had made it past the third round at the All England Club — or past the fourth round at any major tournament — until this fortnight.

Now, though, comes a far tougher test: Taking on Novak Djokovic.

“He probably knows, better than me, the surface and the stadium, for sure,” Musetti said with a chuckle, aware he’ll be making his Center Court debut on Friday. “Jokes apart, he’s a legend everywhere, but especially here in Wimbledon.”

This will be Djokovic’s record-tying 13th semifinal at Wimbledon alone — equaling Roger Federer — and 49th Slam semifinal overall, extending a mark he already held. As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be an eighth at the All England Club.

Djokovic’s smooth trip through this year’s bracket was made even easier when the man he was supposed to play in the quarterfinals Wednesday, Alex de Minaur, pulled out with a hip injury hours before their match was scheduled to begin.

Musetti was forced to work for his spot in the final four: His 3 1/2-hour victory over the 13th-seeded Fritz was the 37th five-setter at the All England Club this year, the most at any Grand Slam tournament.

Musetti acknowledged he didn’t get off to an ideal start, in part because of nerves. But an early break in the second set helped alter the course of the evening.

“Immediately, I changed my mind. I changed my attitude,” he said. “And that probably made the difference.”

Musetti’s son, Ludovico, was born in March, and he said Wednesday that helped him rededicate himself to his sport and strive to no longer “throw away matches.”

“Instead of me teaching him, he’s teaching me. … Having a child makes you reflect a lot,” Musetti said. “I feel more mature on the court, more mature off the court, and more mature as a player, as a father, as a person.”

Playing at a sun-swathed No. 1 Court against Fritz, an American who is one of the sport’s biggest servers but fell to 0-4 in major quarterfinals, Musetti managed to accumulate 13 break points and convert six.

With Queen Camilla, the wife of King Charles III, in the stands and joining fans in doing the wave, Musetti did far more to vary his strokes — a drop shot here, a lob there, plenty of slices — than Fritz did.

“I just felt like it took a lot to finish the point,” Fritz said.

Djokovic had knee surgery less than a month before the start of play at the All England Club. But despite limitations on his movement, the 37-year-old Djokovic has dropped only two sets so far — facing a qualifier in the first round, a wild-card entrant in the second and only one seeded player, No. 15 Holger Rune.

Instead of going up against No. 9 de Minaur on Wednesday, Djokovic will get three full days off before meeting Musetti. The other semifinal Friday is defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic and Musetti have played each other six times previously. Djokovic has won five of those, including a five-setter at this year’s French Open that concluded after 3 a.m. It was in Djokovic’s following match in Paris that he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

“We know each other pretty well. They’ve always been a huge fight so I expect a big, big fight. It’s going to be one of the toughest challenges on tour,” Musetti said, “but I am an ambitious guy and I like to be challenged.”

In the women’s quarterfinals Wednesday, 2022 champion Elena Rybakina grabbed nine of the last 11 games to defeat No. 21 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2, and No. 31 Barbora Krejcikova eliminated No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a matchup between two past champions at the French Open.

The other women’s semifinal on Thursday is No. 7 Jasmine Paolini of Italy against unseeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina ended her win with her seventh ace and improved to 19-2 at Wimbledon in four appearances.

“Definitely, I have an aggressive style of game,” Rybakina said. “I have a huge serve, so it’s a big advantage.”

Krejcikova won her first Grand Slam title on the red clay at Roland Garros in 2021, but the 28-year-old from the Czech Republic never put together a five-match winning streak on grass until now.

De Minaur’s exit is the latest due to injury in Week 2. His hip issue arose right at the end of his win against Arthur Fils on Monday.

De Minaur said he heard a crack and knew something was wrong.

He underwent medical tests Tuesday that revealed the extent of the problem but tried to practice on Wednesday morning, hoping to participate in what would have been his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.

“This was the biggest match of my career,” de Minaur said, “so wanted to do anything I could to play.”