Swiatek roars into French Open semis as Alcaraz battles Tsitsipas

Poland’s Iga Swiatek celebrates after winning her women’s singles quarter final match against Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova on Court Philippe-Chatrier on day ten of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on Jun. 4, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 04 June 2024
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Swiatek roars into French Open semis as Alcaraz battles Tsitsipas

  • Swiatek is on course to become the first woman to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen three years in a row
  • “Honestly I think everything worked,” said the 23-year-old Swiatek

PARIS: Reigning women’s champion Iga Swiatek continued her ruthless demolition of French Open opponents Tuesday as she stormed into the semifinals, while Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas square off in a repeat of last year’s quarter-final.
Swiatek thrashed Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2 to set up a last-four showdown with American third seed Coco Gauff, the player she beat in the 2022 Roland Garros final.
World number one Swiatek improved her career record in Paris to 33-2 and is on course to become the first woman to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen three years in a row since Justine Henin in 2005-07.
After Swiatek’s 40-minute rout of Anastasia Potapova in the last 16, the only consolation for Vondrousova was her snapping the Pole’s incredible run of 20 consecutive games won early in the second set.
“Honestly I think everything worked,” said the 23-year-old Swiatek. “I felt like I was in the zone today.”
Since saving a match point against Naomi Osaka in round two, Swiatek has looked every bit the tournament favorite and goes into her semifinal with Gauff having won 10 of their 11 meetings, all in straight sets.
Gauff has come up short against Swiatek in four attempts on clay and was beaten by the top seed on her way to the title in Rome last month.
“You don’t want to change your routines. Not to put too much baggage on your shoulders, just treat it like any other match and not something huge,” said Swiatek.
“Against Coco it’s not easy, she really likes playing on clay especially here, I think so I’ll just focus on myself.”
Gauff passed her toughest test of the fortnight as she fought back from a set down to beat three-time Grand Slam finalist Ons Jabeur 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The 20-year-old Gauff is set for a third straight Grand Slam semifinal, after also making the last four at the Australian Open.
Tunisian eighth seed Jabeur is still waiting for a maiden major title, having lost three finals and four quarter-finals.
Alcaraz appears to be moving through the gears in Paris after an injury-hit preparation, taking care of 21st seed Felix Auger-Aliassime with minimal fuss Sunday to make the last eight here for the third year on the trot.
Next up is an opponent he has dominated in his young career, winning all five previous encounters with Tsitsipas. Three of those have come on clay, including Alcaraz’s straight-sets win in the 2023 French Open quarter-finals.
“I’m really looking forward to playing this match. I love this challenge and these kind of matches,” said the 21-year-old Spaniard, attempting to add to his Wimbledon title from a year ago and the 2022 US Open.
“I have seen a lot of matches from Stefanos lately. He has a lot of confidence right now and is playing great tennis. I think I have the key against him so I will try to make him in trouble.”
Tsitsipas found himself in danger of falling two sets behind against Italy’s Matteo Arnaldi in the last 16, saving four set points before swinging the match in his favor.
The Greek ninth seed, who lost the 2021 French Open final in five sets to Novak Djokovic, hopes to put a stop to Alcaraz’s dominance.
“He has said in the past he likes playing against me, so I hope he gets to like it a little bit less this time,” said Tsitsipas.
Jannik Sinner dropped his first set of the tournament against Corentin Moutet, but the second seed quickly righted the ship to ease into a seventh Grand Slam quarter-final.
It is the first time he has made the last eight at Roland Garros since the pandemic-delayed 2020 edition, when he was beaten by Rafael Nadal in a match that finished at 1:26am.
That had stood as the record for the latest ending at the French Open prior to Djokovic’s 3:07am conclusion against Lorenzo Musetti in the early hours of Sunday.
Sinner next plays Grigor Dimitrov, the 10th seed from Bulgaria who is set for his first Roland Garros quarter-final on his 14th visit.


Djokovic says don’t write me off for Olympic gold

Updated 25 July 2024
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Djokovic says don’t write me off for Olympic gold

  • The 24-time Grand Slam champion has not won a single title this season
  • “When it comes to bookmakers, people will always talk,” Djokovic said

PARIS: Novak Djokovic says he has “high expectations” as he chases an elusive Olympic gold medal, with his confidence unshaken despite a poor year by his stellar standards.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion has not won a single title this season, losing in straight sets to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final earlier this month.
He returns to Roland Garros for a fifth Olympics, attempting to improve on the bronze he earned on his debut at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The Serbian world number two faces a mouthwatering clash with Rafael Nadal if both players win their opening matches.
Djokovic has missed out on the podium at the past three Olympics, twice finishing fourth, including in Tokyo three years ago when his bid for a rare golden calendar Grand Slam came up short.
Carlos Alcaraz is the favorite for the title in Paris after landing his first French Open title and defending his Wimbledon crown, but Djokovic has made a habit of proving doubters wrong.
“When it comes to bookmakers, people will always talk,” Djokovic said at a Serbian team press conference on Thursday.
“I haven’t yet won a title in this calendar year so people tend to count me out, but it has happened before and it can always change. So it can be a motivator.”
The 37-year-old pulled out before his French Open quarter-final with a knee injury at the start of June but made a swift return following an operation in time to play at Wimbledon.
“I feel more ready now than I was for Wimbledon,” said Djokovic, who begins his Olympic campaign against Australia’s Matthew Ebden.
Djokovic has made no secret of the fact that winning Olympic gold remains one of his “biggest dreams,” as the only major honor missing from his list.
“The expectations are always high, which is something that I cannot change and don’t want to,” he said.
“Approaching Olympic Games is always a huge challenge for me because I put extra expectations and pressure on myself, and of course, the nation as well.”
“The objective is always the highest one,” he added. “I’m hoping I can perform by best and get to the medal match.”
The tournament will officially mark the end of Andy Murray’s career, with Nadal also nearing retirement, but Djokovic said he had no plans to hang up his racquet.
“I don’t have retirement close in my mind, to be honest even though I know a lot of people would love me to retire so this era is done,” he said.
A match between Djokovic and Nadal would be the 60th instalment of one the sport’s greatest rivalries.
Djokovic holds a 30-29 edge over the Spaniard, but the pair have not faced off since Nadal won their French Open quarter-final two years ago.
“I am excited for this duel in the second round, and I will give it my all,” he said.


Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber will retire from tennis after the Paris Olympics

Updated 25 July 2024
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Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber will retire from tennis after the Paris Olympics

  • The 36-year-old German player has won majors at every tournament except for the French Open at Roland Garros

PARIS: Three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber announced Thursday that she will retire after the Paris Olympics.
The 36-year-old German player won majors at every tournament except for the French Open at Roland Garros — on the same clay courts where she will bid farewell to tennis after the Paris Games. She faces four-time major winner Naomi Osaka of Japan in the first round.
“Before the Olympics begin, l can already say that I will never forget Paris 2024, because it will be my last professional tournament as a tennis player,” Kerber posted on Instagram. “And whereas this might actually be the right decision, it will never feel that way. Simply because I love the sport with all my heart and l’m thankful for the memories and opportunities it has given me.”
Kerber later confirmed her retirement when speaking briefly on stage after the Olympic tennis draw. Men’s and women’s first-round play begins Saturday.
Kerber won the Australian Open and the US Open in 2016 — the year she reached No. 1 in the rankings — and won Wimbledon two years later.
“Paris 2024 will mark the finish line of the most incredible journey I could have ever dreamed of growing up with a racket in my hand,” Kerber added. “There are many more things I want to say and people to thank, which I will do once I completed my last match. But for now, I will take the time and soak up every second of this final episode on court.”


Andy Murray will only play doubles at the Paris Olympic Games, withdraws from singles

Updated 25 July 2024
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Andy Murray will only play doubles at the Paris Olympic Games, withdraws from singles

  • Murray pulled out of singles at Wimbledon this month and played one match in doubles alongside his older brother, Jamie

PARIS: Two-time Olympic tennis gold medalist Andy Murray pulled out of singles at the Paris Games on Thursday and only will compete in doubles with Dan Evans.
Murray, a 37-year-old from Britain, has said these Olympics will be the final event of his career.
He’s dealt with a series of injuries, including a hip replacement in 2019, and most recently needed surgery last month to remove a cyst from his spine.
Murray pulled out of singles at Wimbledon this month and played one match in doubles alongside his older brother, Jamie.
“I’ve take the decision to withdraw from the singles to concentrate on the doubles with Dan. Our practice has been great and we’re playing well together,” Murray said Thursday. “Really looking forward to getting started and representing GB one more time.”
His withdrawal announcement came shortly before the draw for the Olympics tennis tournament. Play begins Saturday.
Murray won singles gold medals at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, making him the only tennis player with two.


Iga Swiatek: Clay queen targets Olympic gold

Updated 25 July 2024
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Iga Swiatek: Clay queen targets Olympic gold

  • The Polish world No. 1 has been dominant on the red clay of Paris, winning four of the past five tournaments
  • Swiatek has sporting pedigree — her father Tomasz represented Poland in rowing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul

PARIS: Iga Swiatek is returning to a happy hunting ground as she seeks a first Olympic crown to add to her four French Open titles at Roland Garros.

The Polish world No. 1 has been dominant on the red clay of Paris, winning four of the past five tournaments and is unbeaten there since a quarterfinal loss to Greece’s Maria Sakkari in 2021.

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who won the US Open in 2022, is seeking to go much further than she did at the Tokyo Games in 2021, where she lost to Paula Badosa in the second round.

Swiatek, 23, has had plenty of time to prepare for the Paris Olympics after her early exit from Wimbledon, where she lost in the third round to Yulia Putintseva.

The painful defeat on the grass at the All England Club brought Swiatek’s 21-match winning streak to a shuddering halt.

She was asked afterwards how she would prepare for the Olympics in Paris.

“For sure I’m going to take a lesson and rest a bit more,” she said. “I don’t know, I feel like even though I didn’t perform well at this tournament, because of how the whole season is looking, I deserve it.

“I should literally do it better because I’m not going to be able to go through the whole season playing good tennis.”

In 2020, Swiatek announced herself to the tennis world when she won the French Open without dropping a set.

She was the first Polish player, male or female, to win a Grand Slam singles title and has dominated the event since, with her one blip coming three years ago.

Last month she beat Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in a one-sided final, becoming the fourth woman in the modern era to lift the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen four times after Justine Henin, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.

The world No. 1 also completed a Madrid-Rome-Roland Garros clay treble. The only other woman in history to do it in the same season is Serena Williams.

Swiatek has sporting pedigree — her father Tomasz represented Poland in rowing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

“Normally a small child has trouble hitting even one or two balls but she could keep it going for dozens of shots,” recalls Artur Szostaczko, her first coach.

“She was a fighter.... I knew that if it went to a super tie-break, there was no need to worry — Iga wouldn’t crack under the pressure.”

Szostaczko taught Swiatek until she was 10 years old.

She was then coached by Michal Kaznowski, who remembers that Swiatek always wanted to be treated on an equal footing with her hard-working big sister Agata.

“Iga got really mad at me because I proposed some basic drill where I would feed Agata eight balls but only six to Iga because she was younger,” he said

“That made her angry. She went to her dad and said she wants just as many as Agata.”

Swiatek will hope that determination carries her all the way to the gold medal on her favorite courts in Paris.
 


No flags but plenty of fire for Medvedev at Paris Olympics

Updated 24 July 2024
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No flags but plenty of fire for Medvedev at Paris Olympics

  • The tennis star, along with other Russian and Belarusians at the Games, has to compete as a neutral following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Despite his fiery personality the chess-playing and fluent French-speaking Medvedev has reached the peaks of the sport

PARIS: There will be no flags or fanfare for Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Olympics but Russia’s highest-profile athlete in the French capital is unlikely to be far from the headlines.

The tennis star, along with other Russian and Belarusians at the Games, has to compete as a neutral following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Having demonstrated that they have not supported the war and have no links to the military, they have been allowed to compete but cannot fly their national flags.

The two countries’ national anthems are also banned and should Medvedev win an Olympic medal for the first time, the achievement will not be recognized in the medals table.

“When I’m 40, if I can say I played in the Tokyo Olympics, Paris Olympics and Los Angeles Olympics, I had a lot of fun in my life, my career, I’m going to be happy,” said Medvedev.

The 28-year-old world No. 5 is one of the most controversial players in tennis.

The 1.98m (6ft 6ins) giant came close to being disqualified from his Wimbledon semifinal against Carlos Alcaraz this month for a foul-mouthed rant at the chair umpire, before escaping with a warning.

Medvedev explained that he had called the official “a small cat.”

His explosive temperament has seen him feud with rivals Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.

In Miami in 2018, after Tsitsipas made a foul-mouthed remark about Medvedev, the Russian dismissed the Greek as a “small kid who doesn’t know how to play.”

His rivalry with Zverev peaked at Monte Carlo last year when Medvedev saved two match points in a tense last-16 victory.

Germany’s Zverev lashed out at Medvedev for taking a bathroom break at a key moment in the tie, blasting the Russian as “one of the most unfair players in the world.”

Medvedev hit back, telling the current world No. 4 to “take a look at yourself in the mirror.”

In the Netflix series “Break Point,” Zverev accused Medvedev of playing “dirty games” and added: “He’s somebody that knows how to play with the head of the opponent.”

Crowds around the world have not escaped the wrath of Medvedev.

At the Paris Masters last year, he branded fans “stupid” for jeering during one of his matches.

Despite suggesting that he would halt his match, he agreed to continue, but warned his tormentors “shut your mouths, okay!“

Despite his fiery personality the chess-playing and fluent French-speaking Medvedev has reached the peaks of the sport.

At the 2021 US Open he claimed his only major title, easily defeating Novak Djokovic in the final and denying the Serb a rare calendar Grand Slam.

True to his unorthodox nature, Medvedev celebrated his New York victory by falling to the floor of the Arthur Ashe Stadium and imitating the “dead fish” celebration from a FIFA video game.

Medvedev has come agonizingly close to adding to his majors collection.

In this year’s Australian Open final he surrendered a two-set lead to lose to Jannik Sinner.

Two years ago in Melbourne he had opened a two-sets lead over Rafael Nadal only again to lose in five.

Nadal also got the better of him at the 2019 US Open final over another five-setter.

Away from the Slams, Medvedev is one of just six men to have captured six or more Masters titles, joining Djokovic, Roger Federer, Nadal, Andre Agassi and Andy Murray.

When he spent 16 weeks as world No. 1 in 2022, he was the first man other than Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal in 18 years to attain top spot.

At the Paris Olympics, which open on Friday, Medvedev believes his best chance of a medal will be in doubles rather than singles, on a clay-court surface which has often been alien to his game.

“I’m going to prepare a lot for doubles and mixed doubles because I do believe I have more chances there than in Roland Garros singles,” he said.