Novak Djokovic stunned by 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato at French Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after missing a shot against Italy's Marco Cecchinato in the tie break of the fourth set of their quarterfinal match at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Updated 05 June 2018

Novak Djokovic stunned by 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato at French Open

  • Cecchinato came through on his fourth match point, looping in a backhand return winner as Djokovic tried to surprise him with a serve-and-volley attempt
  • Cecchinato has never won a tour-level match on a surface other than red clay

PARIS: Novak Djokovic’s neck was bothering him. Then his right leg was.
The way he faltered at the most crucial of moments in the French Open quarterfinals Tuesday might have hurt him the most against an opponent who never won a Grand Slam match until last week and once was handed a match-fixing suspension later overturned on appeal.
At the site of his 12th and most recent major title, which came two years ago, Djokovic was stunned by 72nd-ranked Marco Cecchinato of Italy 6-3, 7-6 (4), 1-6, 7-6 (11) in a rollicking match filled with long points and plenty of drama.
“He held his nerves amazingly well in important moments,” acknowledged Djokovic, who said he isn’t certain whether he will play at Wimbledon.
Djokovic served for the fourth set at 5-3 but got broken. He then held three set points in the tiebreaker but couldn’t convert any.
“It’s a pity I could not capitalize on the chances I had,” Djokovic said.
Cecchinato came through on his fourth match point, looping in a backhand return winner as Djokovic tried to surprise him with a serve-and-volley attempt. Cecchinato, who dropped onto his back on the clay after winning, is the lowest-ranked man to get to the semifinals in Paris in 19 years — and about as unlikely as anyone to get this far at a big tournament.
Told in an on-court interview that he wasn’t dreaming, Cecchinato responded: “Are you sure?“
The 25-year-old from Sicily was suspended for 18 months and fined €40,000 (about $45,000) by his national federation in July 2016, accused of losing on purpose at a lower-tier Challenger event in Morocco a year earlier. Eventually, the Italian Olympic Committee announced that sanctions were dropped on a technicality.
Cecchinato has never won a tour-level match on a surface other than red clay; as it is, he entered this season with a career record of 4-23.
He arrived at Roland Garros with a 0-4 mark in the majors, and dropped the first two sets in the first round before coming all the way back to win 10-8 in the fifth. Since then, employing a smooth one-handed backhand, he has beaten players seeded No. 8 (David Goffin) and No. 10 (Pablo Carreno Busta), before adding former No. 1 Djokovic to his list.
Next up: No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, who made it to his third consecutive French Open semifinal by beating No. 2 Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 earlier Tuesday.
In the women’s quarterfinals, No. 10 Sloane Stephens beat No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-1, and No. 13 Madison Keys eliminated unseeded Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 7-6 (5), 6-4. Stephens beat Keys in the US Open final last September, and their rematch on Thursday will be the first all-American women’s semifinal at the French Open since Serena Williams defeated Jennifer Capriati in 2002.
Cecchinato and Djokovic know each other well: They have practiced together in Monte Carlo, where Cecchinato trains at a tennis academy and Djokovic has a home.
No one, though, could have seen this one coming. Perhaps the most remarkable part of this result was that Djokovic repeatedly failed to close out the fourth set and force a fifth.
Djokovic, who missed the last half of 2017 with right elbow trouble and had surgery in February, is clearly not at the height of his power. Indeed, his seeding of No. 20 was his lowest at any Grand Slam tournament in a dozen years.
Still, Djokovic did appear to be gathering momentum, taking the third set and moving out to a lead in the fourth. He could not do enough to end Cecchinato’s marvelous run, though.


Spurs stumble again as Chelsea and Leicester win

Newcastle United’s Dutch defender Jetro Willems vies with Chelsea’s Canadian-born English defender Fikayo Tomori during Saturday’s in London. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Spurs stumble again as Chelsea and Leicester win

  • Tottenham narrowly avoid embarrassing home defeat to bottom club Watford

LONDON: Tottenham narrowly avoided an embarrassing home defeat to bottom club Watford on Saturday as Chelsea and Leicester leapfrogged champions Manchester City in the Premier League. With leaders Liverpool not in action until Sunday, it was a chance for the chasing pack to press their credentials for top-four spots.
Chelsea's Marcus Alonso broke the deadlock for Frank Lampard's side at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle for a 1-0 win while Youri Tielemans sealed a 2-1 victory for Leicester at the King Power Stadium.
But Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino saw his side labor to a 1-1 draw at home to Watford, following a 3-0 thrashing at Brighton and a humiliating 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern Munich.
Spurs, who reached the Champions League final in June, have now won just three of their opening 12 games in all competitions and appear unable to halt their slide.
Tottenham got off to an awful start as they fell behind in the sixth minute, Abdoulaye Doucoure finishing superbly from Daryl Janmaat's assist.
Dele Alli grabbed a late leveller for Spurs with his first goal since January. There was major confusion as it appeared as if VAR had ruled out the effort, but it was allowed to stand.
Leicester held a minute’s silence before kick-off to remember their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was killed in a helicopter crash at the stadium last October.
Chris Wood put Burnley in front but Leicester’s in-form forward Jamie Vardy headed an equaliser just before half-time and Tielemans completed the turnaround with just over 15 minutes to go.

BACKGROUND

Spurs, who reached the Champions League final in June, have now won just three of their opening 12 games in all competitions and appear unable to halt their slide.Spurs, who reached the Champions League final in June, have now won just three of their opening 12 games in all competitions and appear unable to halt their slide.

Ahead of City's match at Crystal Palace later on Saturday, Leicester were second in the Premier League table, seven points behind leaders Liverpool, while Chelsea, also on 17 points, were third.
Matt Targett scored a goal deep into injury time as Aston Villa came back from 1-0 down to beat Brighton 2-1.
Southampton took the lead against Wolves at Molineux, courtesy of a Danny Ings goal but Raul Jimenez hit back from the penalty spot just eight minutes later after Matt Doherty was brought down.
Bournemouth drew 0-0 at home to Norwich.
In the early kick-off on Saturday, Everton climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with a well-deserved 2-0 victory against West Ham that eased the pressure on Marco Silva.
A first-half goal from Brazil forward Bernard and a late second from substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson gave Everton the three points in a match in which they had 19 shots.
"It was a fantastic performance," Sigurdsson told BT Sport. "We had a lot of chances, especially in the second half. You never know when it's 1-0 -- you always want to get more.
"They are dangerous going forward and their goalkeeper made some spectacular saves. I was pleased to come on and give us a bit of comfort. There was a real purpose to our game today."
Manchester City head to Crystal Palace in the late match on Saturday. Pep Guardiola left Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez out of his starting line-up but there was a place on the bench for defender John Stones after an injury lay-off.
Liverpool travel to face struggling Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, chasing a record-equalling 18th consecutive Premier League win while Arsenal face Sheffield United on Monday.