Alcaraz, Fritz, Andreescu advance to Miami Open 3rd round

Alcaraz, Fritz, Andreescu advance to Miami Open 3rd round
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays a backhand against Facundo Bagnis of Argentina in their second round match at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2023

Alcaraz, Fritz, Andreescu advance to Miami Open 3rd round

Alcaraz, Fritz, Andreescu advance to Miami Open 3rd round
  • No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka beat Shelby Rogers 6-4, 6-3 and extended her record to 4-0 versus Rogers

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Carlos Alcaraz picked up a straight-set win at the Miami Open on Friday to keep his world No. 1 ranking over idle Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic is not participating in the Miami Open because he still cannot travel to the US as a foreign citizen who is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Alcaraz, who beat Casper Ruud in the 2022 US Open final for his first No. 1 ranking, defeated Facundo Bagnis 6-0, 6-2 to advance to the third round in Miami.

Rafael Nadal dropped out of the top 10 on Monday for the first time in 18 years. Alcaraz, a 19-year-old from Spain, rose into that spot a day after ending Daniil Medvedev’s 19-match winning streak by beating him in straight sets in the final at Indian Wells, California.

Ruud, who’s ranked No. 4, won his match against Ilya Ivashka 6-2, 6-3. He’ll face No. 26 Botic van de Zandschulp on Sunday in the third round.

No. 1 American and No. 9 seed Taylor Fritz began his tournament campaign with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Emilio Nava. Fritz is 17-1 in his opening rounds of hard court tournaments since the start of 2022, with his only loss coming at the 2022 US Open to No. 303 Brandon Holt.

Fritz will next face No. 24 Denis Shapovalov, who defeated Guido Pella on Friday.

On the women’s side, Bianca Andreescu — the 2019 US Open champion — came from a set down to oust No. 7 seed Maria Sakkari 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Andreescu improved to 2-1 over Sakkari, with both wins coming in Miami.

Andreescu will face Sofia Kenin in the third round.

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka beat Shelby Rogers 6-4, 6-3 and extended her record to 4-0 versus Rogers. Sabalenka will face No. 31 Marie Bouzkova in the third round.

No. 5 Caroline Garcia lost to Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3. Cirstea beat Garcia 10 days ago in the fourth round at Indian Wells, and will face Karolína Muchova next.

In other action, Varvara Gracheva defeated No. 4 Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-2; and Jannik Sinner beat Laslo Đere 6-4, 6-2.


Coco Gauff comes back to beat Mirra Andreeva in all-teen clash at French Open

Coco Gauff comes back to beat Mirra Andreeva in all-teen clash at French Open
Updated 1 min 22 sec ago

Coco Gauff comes back to beat Mirra Andreeva in all-teen clash at French Open

Coco Gauff comes back to beat Mirra Andreeva in all-teen clash at French Open
  • After a tight first set, Gauff pulled away to reach the fourth round in Paris with a 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 victory over Andreeva
  • In men’s action, No. 22 Alexander Zverev eliminated No. 12 Frances Tiafoe 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (5)

PARIS: Not all that long ago, Coco Gauff was always the kid on the court, the unknown underdog, younger and less experienced than every opponent she faced on a big stage.

Now, still just 19, Gauff is well-versed in the professional tennis tour, already a Grand Slam runner-up in singles and doubles, and seeded No. 6 at this French Open. On Saturday at Roland Garros, the American was the veteran in Court Suzanne Lenglen under the cloudless sky, the one with the steady hand and steady head, in an all-teen showdown against Mirra Andreeva, a 16-year-old qualifier from Russia who is ranked 143rd and was making her debut appearance at a major tournament.

After a tight-as-can-be first set, one Gauff was two points from winning but eventually ceded, she grew her game and proved to be the better player. She pulled away to reach the fourth round in Paris with a 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 victory over Andreeva, who was warned by the chair umpire for unsportsmanlike conduct after smacking a ball into the stands.

Gauff, who lost to Iga Swiatek in last year’s French Open final, might see a bit of herself in Andreeva. Knows what it’s like to be the newcomer no one has scouting reports on. What it’s like to hear plenty of discussion about her youth. To feel the freedom of performing without the burden of expectations. Gauff was just 14, after all, when she became the youngest qualifier in Wimbledon history, then beat Venus Williams along the way to the fourth round there in 2019.

So by now, Gauff is a bit tired of that whole subject — which she explained in a good-natured manner Saturday.

“People love to say, ‘You’re only this, you’re only that.’ When I’m on the court, we’re not thinking about our age. I don’t think she was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m only 16 and she’s 19, she’s older.’ If she was thinking that, she wouldn’t win a match, because she beat people older than me. And at my age, I wasn’t thinking about that,” Gauff said. “I was just thinking about playing the ball. Age is important to mention, sometimes, but as a player, and going through it, yes, it gets a little bit annoying. ... I don’t need to be praised because of my age or anything. I prefer just to be praised because of my game.”

Her talent is undeniable, especially when it comes to her serve and backhand, as is her maturity. Against Andreeva, she never let the rough way the first set ended carry over. Indeed, it was Andreeva who sent a ball into the crowd late in the tiebreaker — she was contrite afterward, acknowledging it was a “stupid move” and “really bad” — then bounced her racket off the court early in the second set.

Most of all, Gauff remained patient. After 19 unforced errors in the first set, she made just seven the rest of the way.

“I didn’t feel like she was lacking experience,” Gauff said about Andreeva. “She plays beyond her years.”

They practiced together in Paris and could have many more encounters that count down the road.

Some day, perhaps soon, Andreeva will earn kudos because of her game, not just her age, but forgive us for mentioning this: She is the youngest player since 2005 to win a match in the women’s main draw at the French Open.

Asked what might be to come, Andreeva replied: “I’m just Mirra, who loves to play. ... I hope I will stay the same person in the future. But the future is the future, so I cannot know what will happen.”

For Gauff, a possible quarterfinal looms next week against No. 1 Swiatek, who beat Wang Xinyu 6-0, 6-0 in 51 minutes on Saturday. Swiatek has won all six sets she’s played so far, four via 6-0.

“I always try to kind of be careful, because you don’t want to get lazy after winning these matches,” said Swiatek, bidding for a third French Open title and fourth major overall. “But on the other hand, sometimes all your head can remember is the score, and I always want to kind of be ready for every situation.”

She now faces Lesia Tsurenko, who overwhelmed 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu 6-1, 6-1. Gauff gets Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, a 6-1, 6-3 winner against American qualifier Kayla Day. Other fourth-rounders: No. 14 Beatriz Haddad Maria against Sara Sorribes Tormo, who moved on when Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina withdrew because of an illness; and Bernarda Pera against No. 7 Ons Jabeur.

In men’s action, No. 22 Alexander Zverev eliminated No. 12 Frances Tiafoe 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1, 7-6 (5) at night and next meets No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov. Tiafoe was the last American man remaining in the bracket after losses earlier Saturday by No. 9 Taylor Fritz and Marcos Giron.

Other men’s fourth-rounders: No. 4 Casper Ruud, last year’s runner-up to Rafael Nadal, against Nicolas Jarry, No. 6 Holger Rune against No. 23 Francisco Cerundolo, and No. 27 Yoshihito Nishioka against Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

“Last year, I could sort of just do my work in the shadow,” said Ruud, who had never made it to a Slam quarterfinal until his run at the 2022 French Open, which was followed by a run to the US Open final, too. “This year, it’s a little more eyes on me. ... I feel the pressure a bit different.”


Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip
Updated 03 June 2023

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip

Nadal faces ‘five months recovery’ after keyhole surgery on hip
  • The 22-time Grand Slam title winner, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, could in theory be back in time for the Davis Cup finals in November
  • Nadal said last month that the hip injury had not healed as well as he had hoped and therefore he was taking more time out of the sport

MADRID: Rafael Nadal’s keyhole surgery on his injured hip was “positive” but he will require a five-month recovery period before playing again, his spokesman said Saturday.
The 22-time Grand Slam title winner, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, could in theory be back in time for the Davis Cup finals in November.
However, it is likely he will sit out the rest of the season before resuming in 2024 which he has already said will be the last year of his career.
“The surgery was positive,” said his spokesman of the procedure which was carried out in Barcelona.
“The normal recovery process is estimated at five months.”
Nadal said last month that the hip injury had not healed as well as he had hoped and therefore he was taking more time out of the sport.
The Spaniard missed the ongoing French Open, which he has won 14 times, for the first time since 2004.
He will also sit out Wimbledon, where he is a two-time champion, next month.
Nadal had hoped the injury he suffered in a second round loss to Mackenzie McDonald at the Australian Open in January would heal in six weeks.
While he recovers, old rival Novak Djokovic has the chance to break out of the tie for 22 majors by winning a third French Open.
On Friday, Djokovic reached the last 16 in Paris for the 14th successive year and will face Juan Pablo Virallas, the 94th-ranked Peruvian, on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals.


Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win
Updated 03 June 2023

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win
  • Other seeded men advancing included No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 11 Karen Khachanov and No. 17 Lorenzo Musetti
  • No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 9 Daria Kasatkina moved into the women's fourth round

PARIS: Novak Djokovic makes no secret of the way he loves to feed off negativity during a tennis match. Doesn’t really matter whether he’s ahead or behind on the scoreboard. The guy simply finds motivation and inspiration from all manner of slights, real and perceived.

Maybe it’s how a chair umpire is officiating that particular day ... or the way Djokovic’s entourage is sitting in place in the stands instead of rising to encourage him ... or the criticism he receives for wading into a political issue — all of which already have happened during this French Open.

Or maybe it’s how he’s treated by the spectators who, as they did on Friday during Djokovic’s 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over 29th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round at Roland Garros, get on his case and jeer him for seemingly no good reason at all.

Which is what happened at Court Philippe Chatrier during the longest three-set Grand Slam match of the 22-time major champion Djokovic’s long and distinguished career, clocking in at 3 hours, 36 minutes. He wasn’t thrilled at how difficult things had been in the match, didn’t love double-faulting three times in a single game, and really didn’t like the feedback coming from a portion of the fans.

“A majority of the people comes to enjoy tennis or support one or the other player. But they are individuals. There are people — there are groups or whatever — that love to boo every single thing you do. That’s something that I find disrespectful and I frankly don’t understand that,” Djokovic said later at his news conference. “But it’s their right. They paid the ticket. They can do whatever they want.”

After being two points from dropping the second set, trailing 5-4 in that tiebreaker, Djokovic grabbed control. He took the next three points, each of which ended with an error by Davidovich Fokina, then, the set his, Djokovic took a couple of steps toward the sideline, before reacting by punching the air, spinning around, throwing an uppercut, holding his right fist aloft and roaring.

That drew some unfriendly noise from some in the crowd. More displeasure with him was expressed a moment later, when the chair umpire announced that Djokovic was taking a medical timeout while a trainer massaged his upper left leg.

Sitting in his chair with his shirt off and a white towel around his shoulders, Djokovic heard the negativity and responded with gestures. He waved a hand, as if to say, “Give me more!” He gave a sarcastic thumbs-up and nodded. He applauded. He shook his head and chuckled.

“At times, you know, I will stay quiet. Not ‘at times’ — actually, 99 percent of the time, I will stay quiet,” said Djokovic, who won the French Open in 2016 and 2021 and, in addition to seeking a 23rd major championship to break his tie with Rafael Nadal, can become the first man with at least three trophies at each Slam site. “Sometimes I will oppose that, because I feel when somebody is disrespectful, he or she deserves to have an answer to that. That’s what it is all about.”

In addition to the No. 3 Djokovic, other seeded men advancing included No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, the runner-up to Djokovic in Paris two years ago and at the Australian Open this year, No. 11 Karen Khachanov and No. 17 Lorenzo Musetti, who eliminated No. 14 Cam Norrie. Lorenzo Sonego defeated No. 7 Andrey Rublev, while Juan Pablo Varillas took out No. 13 Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2 in Friday night's last contest.

Alcaraz was a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 26 Denis Shapovalov in the night session. After trailing 4-1 in the second set — “I was in trouble,” Alcaraz said — the reigning US Open champion grabbed seven consecutive games to take control for good.

He'll next play Musetti, who won their only previous matchup, while Djokovic meets Varillas, a 27-year-old from Peru who is ranked 94th and had never won a Grand Slam match until this week.

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 9 Daria Kasatkina moved into the women's fourth round, along with Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina and 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but No. 3 Jessica Pegula was sent packing.

Pegula quickly gathered her belongings and marched out of the main stadium after a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Elise Mertens, a far earlier exit than the American has been used to at Grand Slam tournaments lately.

Pegula was a quarterfinalist at four of the five most recent majors, including a year ago at Roland Garros.

She's never gone further than that stage at a Slam and never really got into this match against the 28th-seeded Mertens on a day with a breeze at about 10 mph (15 kph) and a chill in the low 60s Fahrenheit (low teens Celsius).

"I feel like I was still playing good points. Elise was just being really tough, not making a lot of errors and making me play every single ball," said Pegula, whose parents own the NFL's Buffalo Bills and NHL's Buffalo Sabres. "And with the windy conditions, I felt like it definitely played into her game."

With Pegula joining No. 5 Caroline Garcia, No. 8 Maria Sakkari and No. 10 Petra Kvitova on the sideline, four of the top 10 women's seeds already are gone. That's part of a pattern this year at Roland Garros: Only 12 seeds made it through two rounds, the fewest in Paris since the field expanded to 32 seeds in 2002.

 


French Open lets Belarus’ Sabalenka skip standard news conference after questions about Ukraine war

French Open lets Belarus’ Sabalenka skip standard news conference after questions about Ukraine war
Updated 02 June 2023

French Open lets Belarus’ Sabalenka skip standard news conference after questions about Ukraine war

French Open lets Belarus’ Sabalenka skip standard news conference after questions about Ukraine war
  • Sabalenka, who is from Belarus, didn't appear at a news conference Friday after reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time
  • Sabalenka said she “did not feel safe” at her news conference Wednesday and wanted to protect her “mental health and well-being”

PARIS: Two years after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open when she was fined, then threatened with disqualification, for skipping news conferences, another top tennis player — No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion — was allowed to avoid the traditional postmatch session open to all accredited journalists and instead speak Friday with what was described as a “pool” of selected questioners.
Sabalenka, who is from Belarus, didn’t appear at a news conference Friday after reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kamilla Rakhimova.
After each of her previous two wins this week, Sabalenka was asked about her stance on the war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, when Russia invaded that country with help from Belarus.
Sabalenka said she “did not feel safe” at her news conference Wednesday and wanted to protect her “mental health and well-being.” Sabalenka’s desire to bypass the standard Q-and-A was supported by the tournament and the WTA. She will not be fined.
The topic of the war was raised at both earlier news conferences by Daria Meshcheriakova, a part-time journalist from the Ukraine for a sports outlet she said gets 7 million views per month. Meshcheriakova, who said she used to be an employee of the German embassy in Kyiv, left Ukraine 10 days after the war began and moved to the Netherlands.
Sabalenka’s first match at this French Open was against a player from Ukraine, Marta Kostyuk, who refused to shake hands at the net afterward — as she’s done against all opponents from Russia or Belarus since the attacks began. Kostyuk was booed by fans apparently unaware of why she declined the usual gesture.
Two spokespeople for the French Tennis Federation wouldn’t say who was allowed to talk with Sabalenka on Friday, but a transcript was distributed to the media. The first “question” was: “Before we start, I know there was a tense situation in your second-round press conference, and if you wanted to address it at all.”
The response, according to the transcript: “After my match, I spoke with the media like I normally do. I know they still expect some questions that are more about the politics and not so much about my tennis. For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts. These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in (the) press conference. I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches. For my own mental health and well-being, I have decided to take myself out of this situation today, and the tournament has supported me in this decision. It hasn’t been an easy few days, and now my focus is (to) continue to play well here in Paris.”
What followed were topics such as how Sabalenka played Friday, her previous track record at Roland Garros, her fitness training and what types of movies she has been watching.
At the 2021 French Open, Osaka — a four-time major champion and former No. 1 — shined a light on the issue of athletes’ mental health by saying she did not want to speak to the media during the tournament. She was docked $15,000 for skipping the news conference after her first-round victory in Paris, then was threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments with possible additional punishment, including disqualification or suspension, if she continued to sit out those availabilities.
Osaka then pulled out of the competition, saying she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and revealed she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”


Daniel Altmaier wins French Open epic as Andreeva strikes blow for teens

Daniel Altmaier wins French Open epic as Andreeva strikes blow for teens
Updated 02 June 2023

Daniel Altmaier wins French Open epic as Andreeva strikes blow for teens

Daniel Altmaier wins French Open epic as Andreeva strikes blow for teens
  • The longest ever match at Roland Garros remains the six hours and 33 minutes it took Fabrice Santoro to beat fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in 2004
  • Andreeva became just the seventh player under the age of 17 to make the third round in Paris in 30 years

PARIS: Germany’s Daniel Altmaier won the fifth longest ever French Open match on Thursday as 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva made the last 32, providing a tantalizing glimpse into the sport’s future.

Altmaier saved two match points and then held his nerve on a fifth match point of his own to knock out Italian eighth seed Jannik Sinner 6-7 (0/7), 7-6 (9/7), 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 after five hours and 26 minutes of breathless action on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

“I just love the game of tennis,” said Altmaier, ranked 79 in the world and who broke down in tears at the end of the marathon.

“I don’t know if you can call it a historical match, but it was one to remember. Playing every point you can with the best effort, that’s what keeps you in reality.”

The longest ever match at Roland Garros remains the six hours and 33 minutes it took Fabrice Santoro to beat fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in 2004.

The 24-year-old Altmaier, who made the last 16 in 2020, twice faced defeat when Sinner was serving for victory in the fourth set.

He battled back to level the tie and broke in game seven of the decider but then failed to serve it out.

He immediately gave himself another chance, though, and this time crept over the line as he secured a surprise win on his fifth match point after a thrilling final game in which he also saved three break points.

Next up is a clash with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov for a place in the last 16.

“That’s sport,” said Sinner. “I’ll come back but it’s tough to swallow.”

Andreeva became just the seventh player under the age of 17 to make the third round in Paris in 30 years — joining the likes of Serena Williams and Martina Hingis — with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Diane Parry of France.

Andreeva, ranked at 143 and making her Grand Slam debut after coming through the qualifiers, will face Coco Gauff in the next round.

The 19-year-old Gauff, the runner-up to Iga Swiatek last year, defeated Julia Grabher of Austria 6-2, 6-3.

“She’s an experienced player. I am sure it will be a great match. She will do her best, I will do mine. We’ll have to see who does it better,” added Andreeva, the youngest player in the third round since a 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva made the quarter-finals in 2005.

Swiatek maintained her bid to become the first woman to successfully defend the French Open title in 16 years by cruising into the third round with a 6-4, 6-0 win over American Claire Liu.

World No. 1 Swiatek, who turned 22 on Wednesday, will face China’s Wang Xinyu on Saturday for a place in the second week.

The Polish star could lose her world number one ranking for the first time in over a year next week if she fails to lift a fourth Grand Slam singles title.

Justine Henin was the last woman to win back-to-back Roland Garros titles when she lifted her third in a row and fourth in total in 2007.

One year after suffering a season-ending ankle ligament injury in the semifinal against Rafael Nadal, Germany’s Alexander Zverev made a winning return to Court Philippe Chatrier.

Zverev, who was taken off court in a wheelchair in that 2022 tie, buried the misery with a confident 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 win over Alex Molcan.

World No.4 and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina racked up her 30th win of the year by defeating Czech teenager Linda Noskova 6-3, 6-3.

Kazakh fourth seed Rybakina converted three of the 10 break points she carved out and fired 30 winners past 18-year-old Noskova.

Last year’s men’s runner-up Casper Ruud booked his place in the third round with a four-set win over battling Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri.

The Norwegian fourth seed was pushed hard by his 129th-ranked opponent but clinched a 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 success.

Ruud will next face Zhang Zhizhen who became the first Chinese man to make the last 32 since 1937 with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-4 win over Argentine qualifier Thiago Agustin Tirante.

The bottom half of the men’s draw had already opened up after world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev was knocked out in the first round by Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild.

World No.172 Seyboth Wild backed up that win by seeing off Guido Pella of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.