Federer, Djokovic advance as Serena pulls out in Cincinnati

Novak Djokovic returns a shot against Sam Querrey during the WTA-ATP Cincinnatti Masters. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019
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Federer, Djokovic advance as Serena pulls out in Cincinnati

  • Williams had hoped to rebound from the back spasms that forced her out of the WTA final in Toronto

CINCINNATI: Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic overwhelmed opponents at the WTA-ATP Cincinnati Masters on Tuesday, where Serena Williams withdrew because of back trouble.

Williams had hoped to rebound from the back spasms that forced her out of the WTA final in Toronto on Sunday, where she lasted only four games before retiring.

But the 23-time Grand Slam champion said her back was “still not right” casting a further shadow on her chances at the US Open starting in Flushing Meadows on August 26.

For Djokovic and Federer, back in action for the first time since the Serb’s victory over the Swiss in the Wimbledon final, it was a smooth start to their US Open buildup.

Federer, seeded third, remained unruffled by a one-hour rain interruption at 2-2 in the second set, eventually defeating Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round at the event he has won seven times.

“I’m very happy, even if it was a bit tricky with the rain delay,” Federer said. “I’m happy to be back on court.

“This is the start of a long, long hardcourt swing. It’s good to begin with a win.

“I didn’t know that much about my opponent — he’s new to the tour — but at the end you have to concentrate on your own game.”

Defending champion Djokovic double faulted three times as he dropped serve in the opening game against Sam Querrey but quickly put things right and pulled away for a 7-5, 6-1 victory over the American.

“I ended the match well even if the start was nervy,” said Djokovic, who would break Querrey twice to take the first set then roll to victory.

“Sam was feeling comfortable on the court at the start and dictating. It was tough facing his big serve,” Djokovic said.

He added that he was “hoping for a better performance in the next round,” when he’ll take on Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta— who withstood 32 aces from John Isner and a match point before beating the American 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (8/6).

Williams, meanwhile, was left just trying to get healthy after pulling out of her scheduled first-round match against qualifier Zarina Diyas.

“I came to Mason (Ohio) on Sunday and have tried everything to be ready to play tonight, and was still hopeful after my practice this morning,” Williams said in a statement released by tournament officials.

“But unfortunately my back is still not right.”

It’s another injury blow for the 37-year-old American, who was hampered by knee trouble earlier this season and remains in search of her first title since the 2017 Australian Open.

In early action, Stan Wawrinka won a first-round battle as he eliminated 2017 Cincinnati champion Grigor Dimitrov 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Under leaden skies after an overnight thunderstorm, Dimitrov broke in the 12th game of the first set to take the lead. The 33-year-old Swiss fought back with the only break in the second set.

Wawrinka then raced into a 5-1 lead in the final set but wasted two match points in the eighth game and was broken twice while serving for victory.

Wawrinka had to hold off his Bulgarian opponent in the final-set tiebreaker before squeezing through in more than two and a half hours with his 10th ace.

Venus Williams kept the family flag flying, the 39-year-old American putting her decades of experience to good use in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory over defending champion Kiki Bertens.

“Before the match I felt quite good. Stepping on court, I’d say first few games was pretty bad,” Bertens said. “I didn’t start the match in a loose way. I knew that I had to defend the title.”


Di Maria scores 2 as PSG beats Madrid in Champions League

Updated 19 September 2019

Di Maria scores 2 as PSG beats Madrid in Champions League

  • Di Maria doubled the advantage when he struck again in the 33rd minute, found this time by Gueye

PARIS: No Neymar. No Kylian Mbappe. No problem.
With two first-half goals from Angel Di Maria and a rare late strike from right-back Thomas Meunier, a new-look Paris Saint-Germain missing its headline stars brushed aside a flat Real Madrid 3-0 in the Champions League to go top of Group A in an impressive start to its European campaign on Wednesday. 
Di Maria, a Champions League winner with Madrid in 2014, was rampant against his former club, using phenomenal speed and clever placing to torment a Madrid defense sorely missing the suspended Sergio Ramos.
The Argentine's first goal poked past Thibaut Courtois' near post in the 14th minute was his 25th in 100 European matches.
Some of PSG's new recruits were instrumental in the victory. Idrissa Gueye, bought from Everton, bossed the midfield.
Di Maria's opener originated with Mauro Icardi, a late loan-signing from Inter Milan. He linked up smartly with left-back Juan Bernat, who then found Di Maria in space in the box with a swift cut-back pass.
Di Maria doubled the advantage when he struck again in the 33rd minute, found this time by Gueye.
Di Maria caressed a pinpoint shot with his left foot from long range past the outstretched Courtois and celebrated enthusiastically as Paris fans lit red flares.
Gareth Bale thought he'd got a goal back moments later with a sweet volley over former Madrid teammate Keylor Navas, bought by Paris to provide added assurance behind the suffocating PSG defense that snuffed out Madrid at the Parc des Princes.
But referee Anthony Taylor spotted on video replay that the Wales winger had touched the ball with his right arm as he juggled it from his left foot to his right one before shooting.
Meunier's goal in second-half injury time was only his sixth in 48 European matches. Bernat's pass set up the strike. Up in the posh seats, the suspended Neymar and Mbappe, recovering from injury, chuckled together at the sight of the full-backs combining to score. Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane scowled.
Zidane lamented the lack of urgency from his side that had zero shots on target other than Bale's disallowed goal and another disallowed for offside in the second half.
"It was a weird sensation," he said, speaking through a translator. "We hardly ever got into the match."
Zidane refrained from singling out any player, saying "it's everybody's fault when we lose."
But James Rodriguez, back from Bayern Munich, was particularly ineffective. And Eden Hazard, bought from Chelsea, looked ring-rusty as he makes his way back from injury. A trademark dribble in the PSG area in the second half ended with Hazard tripping over himself and landing on his backside.
Zidane replaced them both with 20 minutes to play.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel, on the other hand, had no problem singling out Gueye for praise. He clicked with Marco Verratti and the deeper-lying Marquinhos in the PSG midfield that purred as if they'd played together for years.
"He's a machine. He never stops, never stops running," Tuchel said. "Against a team like Madrid, that is super-important."
Tuchel suggested the absence of Neymar, Mbappe and PSG's record scorer Edinson Cavani, also recovering from injury, may have been a help rather than a hindrance.
Without them, outside observers figured PSG was unlikely to win, and that eased pressure on Tuchel's other players, the coach said.
When Neymar has served out the rest of his two-match ban, and Mbappe and Cavani are fit again, expectations will quickly rise in the wake of this humbling of Madrid that showed the strength in depth of PSG's expensively assembled team.
But PSG knows from bitter experience how hard the road will become in the Champions League, having failed to get beyond the quarterfinals since the club's wealthy Qatari owners took over in 2011.
Tuchel was eager to tamp down any buzz.
"If someone asks me if we are going to win the Champions League, I'm leaving," he said.