Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row

Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row
Bolivia's Hugo Dellien plays a backhand return during his men's singles match against Austria's Dominic Thiem at the Court Simonne-Mathieu on Day 1 of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 22, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2022

Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row

Dominic Thiem out of sync, out of French Open with 10th loss in row
  • Thiem's quick departure was not the only noteworthy development on a cloudy, occasionally drizzly Day 1 at the year’s second major tennis tournament, which welcomed back pre-pandemic sights and sounds of full attendance and no masks in the stands

PARIS: It all used to come so easily for Dominic Thiem on a tennis court — his powerful forehand, his elegant backhand, his hit-which-shot-when calculations, all fine-tuned to the point of a title at the US Open and three other Grand Slam final appearances, including two at Roland Garros.

Nowadays, even though the pain from last year’s torn tendon in his right wrist is no longer there, the strokes and, most disconcertingly, the wherewithal, are not what they once were, to the extent that his first-round exit at the French Open on Sunday was his 10th consecutive loss.

The situation has become dire enough that Thiem, a 28-year-old Austrian once ranked No. 3 but now No. 194, acknowledged after being beaten 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 by Hugo Dellien that perhaps it’s time for him to head to the lower-level Challenger Tour to get a win and gain some confidence.

After lamenting his forehand, his backhand and a too-low first-serve percentage, Thiem got to the bigger issue: “Sometimes, I do really stupid decisions during the rally, drop shots or down-the-line (groundstrokes) at the wrong moment. (In) match match situations, I’m not playing well. ... Then, for example, there was one game today where I did four or five forehand return mistakes in a row, where I’m thinking, ‘What the heck is happening?’”

His quick departure was not the only noteworthy development on a cloudy, occasionally drizzly Day 1 at the year’s second major tennis tournament, which welcomed back pre-pandemic sights and sounds of full attendance and no masks in the stands.

Carlos Alcaraz, the 19-year-old from Spain who is seeded No. 6 and a popular pick to win his first Grand Slam trophy, advanced just as cleanly and quickly as expected against “lucky loser” Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in the day’s last match at Court Philippe Chatrier. Another teen, 18-year-old American Coco Gauff, also moved on, beating Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino 7-5, 6-0.

Given Thiem’s troubles — sure, he was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Paris in 2018 and 2019, and to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2020, but his last victory came in May 2021 — there were other results that probably were more surprising.

Chiefly in that category would be No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur’s 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5 loss to 56th-ranked Magda Linette of Poland.

Jabeur, a Tunisian who is the first Arab woman to win a WTA title and first to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal, acknowledged: “I was expecting myself to go far in this tournament.”

As were others. That’s because Jabeur began the day with a tour-leading 17 wins on clay this season, including taking the title at the Madrid Open and reaching the final of the Italian Open.

Another top-10 women’s seed — and the 2016 champion at the place — was sent home when Garbiñe Muguruza was defeated 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 by 46th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia. Muguruza beat Serena Williams in the final at Roland Garros six years ago and Venus Williams in the final at Wimbledon in 2017, but she now has lost her opening match in Paris two straight years.

Avoiding that sort of result was the men’s No. 9 seed, Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took care of two missing items on his resume in one afternoon: He picked up a French Open victory for the first time in three tries and he won a match after dropping the opening two sets.

The 20-year-old Canadian came back to eliminate Juan Pablo Varillas, a qualifier from Peru making his Grand Slam debut, by a score of 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.

Other winners included 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens, No. 23 Jil Teichmann and No. 26 Sorana Cirstea among the women; No. 3 Alexander Zverev, No. 18 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 23 John Isner and No. 26 Botic Van de Zandschulp among the men.

Dellien, a Bolivian ranked 87th, entered his contest against Thiem with a 2-7 career record in Grand Slam matches. But from the get-go, he was able to hold his own in lengthy baseline exchanges.

On the very first point, which lasted 24 strokes, Thiem landed a backhand passing shot in the net and shook his head. On the next, he tried a drop shot that floated wide. Not really close at all. Again, a head shake. On the sixth point, a forehand return sailed well long. That initial set ended with Thiem putting a forehand into the net, followed by a backhand into the net.

“Today, he wasn’t at his top level of the past, but I still needed to beat him,” Dellien said. “It’s an important step in my career.”


Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational
Carlos Ortiz watches his tee shot on 15th hole during the first round of the LIV Golf Portland Invitational tournament. (AP)
Updated 40 min 18 sec ago

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz leads LIV Golf Portland Invitational
  • Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, one of the series’ most prized catches, was a stroke back on 68, capping his round with an unlikely par save with a shot through the trees on his final hole, where he was well right off the tee

LOS ANGELES: The first US event in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series teed off in Oregon on Thursday.

Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, making his LIV Golf debut, took the lead in the 54-hole event, firing seven birdies with two bogeys in a 5-under par 67 at Pumpkin Ridge near Portland, Oregon.

Two-time major winner Dustin Johnson, one of the series’ most prized catches, was a stroke back on 68, capping his round with an unlikely par save with a shot through the trees on his final hole, where he was well right off the tee.

South Africa’s Branden Grace and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara could have joined Johnson at 4-under par, but late bogeys dropped them to tied third place alongside another LIV Golf debutant, Pat Perez.

Bannered by Johnson and Perez, the Four Aces led the team championship in the LIV Golf Portland Invitational by two shots at seven-under par. The champion team in London, the all-South African squad of Stinger, were second at -5.

Aussie Wade Ormsby was the best placed Asian Tour member, tied sixth at two-under par alongside four-time major champion Brooks Koepka and South African Hennie du Plessis.

“I hit a few of them close on my first nine, but that is the difficult half of the golf course. I just played steady and made a few birdies coming in,” said Ormsby, captain of the all-Australian Punches team this week and winner of three titles on the Asian Tour, including two Hong Kong Opens.


5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang

5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang
Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets agreed Thursday to a $264 supermax extension. (AP)
Updated 01 July 2022

5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang

5 players, $1.1 billion: NBA free agency starts with a bang
  • Five players — Jokic, Beal, Towns, Booker and Morant — had more than $1.1 billion in money committed to them in their new deals, highlighting the moves made Thursday when the NBA’s annual free-agent negotiating window opened

NEW YORK: The NBA generated more basketball-related income than ever this past season, the total number coming up just short of $9 billion.

Business is good. The first night of free agency underscored how good.

Nikola Jokic agreed to the biggest contract in NBA history, Bradley Beal agreed to a deal worth a quarter-billion dollars, and the money just kept flowing. 

Shortly after midnight Friday in the Eastern time zone, three more players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Ja Morant — also agreed to huge-money extensions.

Towns and Booker agreed to four-year deals that will commence in 2024 and are worth at least $224 million, their agent, Jessica Holtz of CAA, said. Morant will sign his first rookie extension, one that’ll be worth at least $193 million and could reach the $230 million range, according to Tandem Sports, which represents him.

Those five players — Jokic, Beal, Towns, Booker and Morant — had more than $1.1 billion in money committed to them in their new deals, highlighting the moves made Thursday when the NBA’s annual free-agent negotiating window opened.

Jokic agreed to a supermax extension to remain with the Denver Nuggets, the two-time reigning MVP guaranteeing himself at least $264 million over five seasons starting with the 2023-24 campaign. The final number may go up slightly depending on what the league’s salary cap is going into the ‘23-24 season and if it exceeds current projections.

Beal will make $251 million over the next five seasons after re-signing with Washington, one day after turning down $37 million for this coming season from the team with whom he’s spent the entirety of his 10-year career.

Towns and Booker got their deals not long afterward, as did Morant. More big-money extensions are coming at some point, particularly rookie extensions — Miami’s Tyler Herro and New Orleans’ Zion Williamson among the names on that list.

All those moves, even the biggest-money ones, were overshadowed by a piece of non-free-agent news that came earlier Thursday when Kevin Durant, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, told the Brooklyn Nets that he wanted a trade. That undoubtedly had some sort of an impact on the decisions some teams were making, or were considering, with the surprise development that one of the world’s elite players is looking for a new place to play.

Jokic and Beal have signed lucrative contracts before. For some, the ones they get this summer will be their first.

Jalen Brunson, as had been widely speculated given his deep ties to the Knicks — his father played there, for starters — agreed to sign with New York, on a deal that ESPN reported would be worth $104 million over four years. He had earned about $6 million, total, in his four seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and saw his value soar by averaging 21.6 points in 18 playoff games this past season.

Anfernee Simons, who had a breakout season for the injury-plagued Portland Trail Blazers last year — taking advantage of his opportunity, and then some — agreed to a four-year, $100 million contract to remain with that club. And Lu Dort, undrafted three years ago and someone who made about $4 million combined in his three seasons with Oklahoma City, will stay with the Thunder for the next five years on a deal worth nearly $88 million.

 

NBA NUMBERS

The NBA set the new salary cap, luxury tax and other numbers that will be used this coming season and go into effect Friday.

The cap is $123.655 million, the tax level is $150.267 million. The minimum team salary level is $111.29 million and the exceptions were set as wel. The non-taxpayer mid-level is $10.49 million, taxpayer mid-level is $6.479 million, and the mid-level for a team with room under the cap is $5.401 million.

TUCKER TO PHILADELPHIA

P.J. Tucker is reuniting with Philadelphia general manager Daryl Morey and — assuming he re-signs, as planned — James Harden as well. Tucker agreed Thursday to a three-year deal with the 76ers for $33 million. Morey, Tucker and Harden were together with the Houston Rockets; Harden declared free agency Wednesday with the intention of coming back to Philadelphia. Tucker won a title with Milwaukee in 2021 and helped Miami to the Eastern Conference finals in 2022.

MCGEE CHOOSES MAVERICKS

Dallas and JaVale McGee — a three-time NBA champion and an Olympic gold medalist as well — agreed on a contract for two seasons and a third at McGee’s option worth about $20 million. McGee has played for eight NBA teams and is heading to Dallas for a second time; he played 34 games there in 2015-16.

PORTIS, INGLES TO BUCKS

Bobby Portis (four years, $49 million) is returning to Milwaukee, and the Bucks are adding veteran guard Joe Ingles as well. Ingles is signing a one-year deal, according to his wife, Renae Ingles, who tweeted that “CEO of the house, Renae Ingles, is thrilled for Joe and their family.”

HEAT DECISIONS

Miami will retain Victor Oladipo on a one-year, $11 million deal and Dewayne Dedmon on a two-year deal for about $9 million, though the second year has conditional protections.

MAGIC KEEPING HARRIS

Gary Harris signed with the Orlando Magic, the team said, with the sides agreeing on two years for $26 million for the guard. The Magic are also keeping center Mo Bamba on a two-year deal.

RAPTORS MOVES

Toronto is keeping forward Chris Boucher (three years, $36 million) and Thaddeus Young (two years, $16 million).

BAGLEY STAYING

Detroit moved quickly to lock up restricted free agent Marvin Bagley III, agreeing to keep him with a three-year, $37 million deal.

WRIGHT TO WIZARDS

In addition to keeping Beal, the Wizards also agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with guard Delon Wright.


Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener

Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener
Updated 01 July 2022

Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener

Pogacar, Copenhagen buzzing ahead of Tour de France opener
  • The sport’s greatest race attracts up to 15 million roadside fans per year and the opening three days in cycling-obsessed Denmark on the 109th edition will provide the same festive atmosphere so beloved to the French
  • The first of the 21 stages is a short, fast, technically and psychologically challenging 13.2km individual time trial around downtown Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN: Fans and riders were buzzing with excitement as the Tour de France’s Grand Depart arrived on Friday while globally over a billion television spectators are also expected to tune in over the 21 days.

When the fresh-faced 23-year-old champion Tadej Pogacar said he was thrilled with the Danish public and could not wait to get started, the sentiment was widely shared.

The sport’s greatest race attracts up to 15 million roadside fans per year and the opening three days in cycling-obsessed Denmark on the 109th edition will provide the same festive atmosphere so beloved to the French.

“I’m ready personally and my team is ready too, and you can only be happy with the kind of reception we have had here,” said UAE Team Emirates leader Pogacar.

Belgian powerhouse Wout Van Aert, winner of a time-trial, a sprint and a mountain stage at the 2021 Tour, was also buzzing after two editions impacted by COVID-19.

“I was surprised by the amount of people on the road sides. After two years, we can finally have a Grand Depart with huge crowds,” he said.

The first of the 21 stages is a short, fast, technically and psychologically challenging 13.2km individual time trial around downtown Copenhagen.

Contestants compete on specialized bikes for the time-trial that would be too dangerous for any casual cyclist to ride.

They also wear tailored aerodynamic outfits that cost up to and above €4,000 ($4,161).

Frenchman Jeremy Lecroq will be the first rider down the starters ramp at 1600 (1400GMT) outside the Tivoli theme park and next to Copenhagen’s eye-catching central train station with its gothic wooden balustrades and tiled interior.

The 176 riders embark at one-minute intervals with UAE Emirates’ Marc Soler the last to go at 1855 (1655GMT).

Ineos’ world champion time-triallist Filippo Ganna accepted his favorite tag to win the opener and thereby don the overall race leader’s jersey.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try and put that in my museum,” the Italian said.

Saturday’s second stage runs 202.5km from Roskilde to Nyborg along verdant roads adjacent to fjords and it culminates with a 20km crossing of the Great Belt Bridge.

Sunday’s final day in Denmark is a 182km run from Vejl to Sonderborg.

The Tour de France caravan transfers to France next Monday for a treacherous week featuring old, cobbled mining roads.

The race then heads across the Alps, including an epic climb up the legendary Alpe d’Huez, and into the Pyrenees where the equally fearsome Hautacam summit awaits.

If those mountains have not been enough to produce a winner, the 40.7km individual time-trial ending in Rocamadour on the penultimate stage should do the trick.

While Pogacar is the best rider, Dutch outfit Jumbo-Visma appear to be the strongest team, and the once mighty Ineos have promised to race aggressively to wrestle back the title.


Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon

Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon
Updated 01 July 2022

Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon

Nadal, Swiatek survive wobbles to progress at Wimbledon
  • The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has not played at Wimbledon since reaching the 2019 semifinals, admitted he needed to step up his game as he prepares to face Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego
  • Swiatek surpasses Monica Seles’ 36-match winning streak from 1990 and matches Martina Hingis’s 37-match winning run from the beginning of the 1997 season

LONDON: Rafael Nadal was again forced to dig deep to reach the Wimbledon third round on Thursday as women’s top seed Iga Swiatek survived a stumble to win her 37th match on the spin.

The Spanish second seed, chasing a calendar Grand Slam, recovered from losing the third set for the second straight match to beat Lithuanian journeyman Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Earlier, Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut became the third potential dangerman in Nadal’s half of the draw to pull out with coronavirus, following the withdrawals of 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini and 2017 finalist Marin Cilic.

Nadal has also benefited from a shock first-round exit for Canada’s sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took him to five sets at the French Open.

Nadal looked comfortable in the first two sets against Berankis but was broken in his first service game of the third set and could not claw his way back.

But the Spaniard regrouped and raced into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set, sealing the match with an ace after it resumed under the roof following a sharp rain shower.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion, who has not played at Wimbledon since reaching the 2019 semifinals, admitted he needed to step up his game as he prepares to face Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego.

“I didn’t play much on grass in three years,” he said. “It gives me the chance to keep going, so very happy for that.

“I need to improve. The fourth set was much better.... I have to keep working, be humble, even when things are not going well.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios remain two of Nadal’s biggest challenges and they will meet in a mouthwatering contest on Saturday.

Kyrgios was on his best behavior on court as he steamrollered Serbian 26th seed Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in just 85 minutes.

The 27-year-old, who made the quarter-finals on debut at the All England Club in 2014, did not face a single break point.

“I just wanted to remind everyone that I am pretty good,” he said. “I was nowhere near my best in the first round but today I was in my zone.”

Kyrgios’s five-set opening win over Paul Jubb of Britain was marred by his admission that he spat in the direction of fans, accusing them of being disrespectful.

“There was just nothing the media possibly could tell me I did wrong today,” he said. “I just know that you can’t possibly ask me anything and stir anything up.”

Late Thursday, Kyrgios was fined $10,000 for Tuesday’s incidents.

Fourth seed Tsitsipas had few problems in defeating Australia’s Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.

“I feel like everyone here knows who Nick is,” said the Greek player.

“We have had many great matches against each other. I respect him for his game and the way he fights when he wants to.”

Poland’s Swiatek needed just over two hours to see off Dutch lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Swiatek was in early trouble before winning four games in a row to take the first set but went down a break in the second and could not recover.

In the end, though, Swiatek took charge in the decider, breaking for a 3-1 lead and closing out the match.

She surpasses Monica Seles’ 36-match winning streak from 1990 and matches Martina Hingis’s 37-match winning run from the beginning of the 1997 season.

“I would say the grass is pretty tricky for me, I’m not going to lie,” said Swiatek, who faces France’s Alize Cornet next.

“I guess you can see that I’m not playing maybe as efficiently as on other surfaces.

“Basically my confidence is getting better overall. But this tournament is tricky and I’m still feeling out how to play the best game here.”

British wildcard Katie Boulter shocked 2021 finalist Karolina Pliskova 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 before dedicating her win to her late grandmother, who died this week.

Fourth seed Paula Badosa set up a clash against two-time champion Petra Kvitova after both had straightforward wins.

Coco Gauff eased past Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 6-3 — hammering the fastest serve of the women’s tournament, a screamer clocked at 122 miles (192 kilometers) per hour — and will next meet fellow American Amanda Anisimova.


Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal
Updated 01 July 2022

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal

Duplantis soars to outdoor pole vault record, Olympic champion Jacobs in late withdrawal
  • In yet another dominant pole vaulting display in the final major meet before the July 15-24 worlds in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis had the competition wrapped up after his third effort at 5.83m

STOCKHOLM: Armand Duplantis warmed up for next month’s world championships in perfect style at Stockholm’s Diamond League meet on Thursday, delighting home fans by setting an outdoor pole vault record.

While Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs was a late withdrawal from track’s blue riband event, the men’s 100m, Duplantis ensured there was drama guaranteed to the end in the field.

In yet another dominant pole vaulting display in the final major meet before the July 15-24 worlds in Eugene, Oregon, Duplantis had the competition wrapped up after his third effort at 5.83m.

The US-born vaulter then nailed 5.93 and 6.03m before clearing 6.16 on his second attempt, the best-ever performance outdoors that bettered by 1cm his previous outdoor best set in Rome in September 2020.

“I feel like I am definitely in shape to win my title and maybe to do something special in Eugene,” said the 22-year-old Olympic champion who holds the overall world record of 6.20m, set at the world indoor championships in Belgrade in March.

The outdoor record, Stockholm-based Duplantis said, felt “quite amazing... but really wasn’t that much of a surprise for me.”

“There’s better things that I can do. I felt really good jumping today but it wasn’t like I did everything so perfect that I don’t think I can do any better.

“It’s extra special when you’re jumping on the track where you train. I live about 10 minutes away so you want to defend your home territory first and foremost!“

With little time to fine-tune preparations ahead of the Eugene worlds, Jacobs— a shock gold winner at the Tokyo Olympics last year — pulled out of the 100m in another blow to his injury-hit season.

His coach Paolo Camossi, however, played down the latest setback for his sprinter, who kicked off the season with world 60m indoor gold in Belgrade before a thigh injury in mid-May disrupted track plans.

“The situation is under control,” Camossi said. “He has a little pain in his glute muscle.

“It would have been too risky to run today, that’s why we decided to withdraw him from the 100m. The risk is just too high with the eye on the world championships in Eugene next month.”

In the absence of Jacobs, South African Akani Simbine clocked a season’s best of 10.02sec to win the 100m ahead of the fastest European this year, Britain’s Reece Prescod (10.15).

World champion Dina Asher-Smith of Britain edged Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, the world indoor 60m champion, in a photo-finish in the women’s 200m, both sprinters credited with 22.37sec.

Femke Bol ensured that, come Eugene, there will be anything but a smooth ride for American Sydney McLaughlin, who set a new world record of 51.41sec in winning the women’s 400m hurdles at the US trials last weekend.

The Dutch hurdler won in Stockholm in a Diamond League record of 52.27sec and her clash with Olympic champion McLaughlin and US teammate and reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad will undoubtedly be one of the track highlights of the world champs.

“I am still hoping to do something very special also in Eugene,” Bol said. “It was a good race today but not perfect. In the end, I am very glad for this time.

“I am so excited for Eugene. When you see the results from the Hayward Field stadium, I am so excited to go there and I have some great competitors out there.”

India’s Olympic javelin champion Neeraj Chopra threw a national record of 89.94m, but that was only good enough for second place behind Anderson Peters of Grenada (90.31).

“I thought I could throw even over 90m today,” said Chopra, whose gold in Tokyo was India’s first ever Olympic track and field triumph.

“I am close to 90m now and I can throw it this year. Despite the fact that I did not win tonight, I feel very good because I did my best.”

Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos bested Karsten Warholm’s meet record as he set a world lead of 46.80sec in the men’s 400m hurdles.

“I am so proud about this performance. My preparations went well and this result shows it,” said the Brazilian who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I think about the world record every day, every night, the Japanese capital.