Djokovic: Pressure to stay No. 1 ‘a privilege’

Novak Djokovic hits a return shot against Denis Shapovalov of Canada. (AP )
Updated 10 October 2019

Djokovic: Pressure to stay No. 1 ‘a privilege’

  • The 32-year-old from Serbia made a fast start to his title defense

SHANGHAI: Novak Djokovic said on Wednesday that he was “embracing” the pressure of being world No. 1 and reigning champion at the Shanghai Masters this week.

The 32-year-old from Serbia made a fast start to his title defense, easing past young Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-3 with minimum fuss.

Fresh from winning career title 76 in Tokyo, Djokovic will play big-serving American John Isner in the last 16 in China.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion said he had no pain from the shoulder injury that forced him out of the US Open last 16 and is “confident that I can perform at my best.” 

Djokovic said that sky-high expectations are “part of what we do.” 

“But it’s also a privilege and a sign or kind of an indicator that you’re doing something that is important and that you’re doing well,” he said.

“I think when you feel pressure you’re doing well.

“It’s something that is inevitable so you might as well embrace it and accept it.”

Two rising stars of men’s tennis went toe-to-toe when Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Felix Auger-Aliassime clashed.

Tsitsipas defeated the 19-year-old 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/3) for his first victory over the Canadian stretching all the way back to their junior days.

The 21-year-old Tsitsipas, who plays Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the last 16, said that he had always been behind Auger-Aliassime in his physical development — until now.

Standing 6-foot-4 (193cm), the seventh-ranked Greek insists he is still not as strong as some on the ATP Tour.

“I think something that probably I’m trying to cover that deficiency that I have is not concentrate too much on my power and my strength and how hard I can hit,” he said.

“Maybe play smarter and play more with my mind and not with my physical power.”

Another of the new generation hoping to usurp the likes of Djokovic and Federer is the 22-year-old Alexander Zverev.

The young German had a bout of dizziness during an incident-packed victory over French underdog Jeremy Chardy, 7-6 (15/13), 7-6 (7/3).

Zverev apologized to a television cameraman after he accidentally hit a ball square into his jaw in winning a point.

Zverev was also seen by a doctor in the first set and in another colorful moment he smashed his racquet on the floor during the mammoth first-set tie break.

The second-set tie break had a lighter moment — Zverev losing his grip while hitting a shot, his racquet flying into the crowd.

“It was definitely interesting,” smiled Zverev, who plays Russia’s Andrey Rublev.


Neymar limps off as Brazil draw with Nigeria

Updated 14 October 2019

Neymar limps off as Brazil draw with Nigeria

  • The 27-year-old’s return to Champions League action may now be delayed

SINGAPORE: Neymar limped off injured early on as Brazil played out a 1-1 friendly draw against a spirited Nigeria at the Singapore National Stadium on Sunday.

The five-time world champions fell behind in the first half, but Casemiro's equalizer early in the second period prevented a loss but then  Brazil were unable to leave Southeast Asia with a victory by wasting chances, after also being held by Senegal on Thursday.

Brazil started well, with Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino firing just wide in the third minute after a smart turn near the penalty spot.

However, Brazil were dealt a major blow when Neymar limped off in the 12th minute with what appeared to be a left thigh problem — the Paris Saint-Germain striker replaced by Bayern Munich’s Philippe Coutinho to bring a premature end to his 101st international appearance.

Neymar's return to Champions League action may now be delayed, with PSG facing Club Brugge on Oct. 22 after the world’s most expensive player missed the first two games through suspension.

“During the match he felt a muscle injury, so I took him off as a precaution,” Brazil coach Tite said.

“Neymar did not have a muscle issue before the match. I would never start a player if they had a hint of a problem like this, I would never pay that price,” Tite added of the 27-year-old, who has suffered a string of injuries since his move from Barcelona to PSG in 2017.

“My career has taught me that I would never use a player if he was not in condition to play. It would be irresponsible of me to risk a player carrying an injury.”

Neymar will be disappointed he was unable to draw level with Brazil legend Ronaldo, who sits second in the country’s all-time scoring list behind Pele, on 62 international goals this week. But Nigeria provided resolute opposition by working hard to prevent the South Americans from forging many clear openings.

Gabriel Jesus, Firmino and Coutinho all went close for Brazil, but it was Nigeria who took the lead in the 35th minute when Joe Aribo burst through a gap in the South Americans' defence and skipped around Marquinhos before firing low past goalkeeper Ederson from close range.

The smart strike was the English-born player's second goal in two appearance for Nigeria after the Rangers midfielder scored on his debut against Ukraine last month.

A more determined Brazil needed just three minutes after the interval to draw level, however, as Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro slotted home after a Marquinhos header had rattled the crossbar following a well-worked corner.

Brazil ramped up the pressure as the match progressed, stretching the Nigeria defence with sharp passing and clever movement as Casemiro, Jesus and half-time substitute Richarlison all came close to giving their side the lead.

Tite's men poured forward in search of a winner with Coutinho guilty of wasting a glorious opportunity with five minutes remaining when the unmarked midfielder's weak effort was cleared off the line by Semi Ajayi.

"I thought it was a good match for us and we created plenty of chances but just could not get that second goal," Tite added. "We definitely missed Neymar's creativity after he went off."