Fan favorite Ons Jabeur withdraws from Dubai Tennis Championships with knee injury

 Fan favorite Ons Jabeur withdraws from Dubai Tennis Championships with knee injury
A knee complaint has forced Ons Jabeur to withdraw from the WTA 1000 tournament. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 February 2024
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Fan favorite Ons Jabeur withdraws from Dubai Tennis Championships with knee injury

 Fan favorite Ons Jabeur withdraws from Dubai Tennis Championships with knee injury
  • Tunisian No. 1 is hoping to return for tournaments in the US

DUBAI: Arab superstar Ons Jabeur has been forced to withdraw from this year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships because of a persistent knee injury, the tournament organizers have announced.

Jabeur, who was due to make her ninth appearance at the WTA 1000 tournament this week, has been struggling with fitness issues since the start of the calendar year.

The tournament’s organizing committee said in a statement on Sunday: “Regrettably Ons Jabeur has had to pull out of this year’s tournament. We know how much this event means to her, playing in front of a strong Arab support. We wish her all the best in her recovery from injury and look forward to seeing her back in Dubai very soon.”

In a statement, the world No. 6 said: “Dear friends and family, I wanted to share with you all that my knee is not holding, it’s been unbearable to play with the pain and not being able to give my best on the court is frustrating.

“After consultation of my doctors and team we have decided that I will have to withdraw from Dubai this week and go for more medical treatments. Looking forward to reconnect with all on the courts for the US swing. Thank you for your continuous support. Love you, Ons.”


Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title

Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title
Updated 18 May 2024
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Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title

Swiatek demolishes Sabalenka to win third Rome title
  • She became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2013 to win at Madrid and Rome in the same season
  • She will next defend her French Open crown later this month

ROME: Iga Swiatek won the Rome Open on Saturday after sweeping aside Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-3 in the final to claim her third Foro Italico title.

World number one Swiatek comfortably prevailed against second-ranked Sabalenka in the last major tournament before she defends her French Open crown.
In front of a packed center court crowd Swiatek won her 12th successive match on clay and became the first woman since Serena Williams in 2013 to win at Madrid and Rome in the same season.
Swiatek will be red-hot favorite to win her fourth title, and third in a row, at Roland Garros which starts later this month after besting Belarusian Sabalenka as she did at the recent Madrid final.
“Another final, another great battle. After Madrid I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, it can always go both ways,” said Swiatek on court.
“We’ll see about that Roland Garros final!“
The Pole took her winning record over Sabalenka to 8-3 in another hugely impressive display from what has been an almost flawless tournament from the four-time Grand Slam champion, who didn’t drop a single set on her way to another championship victory.
Saturday’s match was less dramatic than Madrid’s three-set thriller as Sabalenka, who has won the two most recent Australian Opens, gave herself too much to do.
Swiatek took the opening set in just 36 minutes in a clinical display of tennis against Sabalenka, who has said repeatedly that Rome is her dream tournament to win.
Going into Saturday’s final Swiatek had won 97 percent of her matches in which she went one set ahead since the start of 2022 and Sabalenka didn’t help her cause by wasting seven break points over two games in the second set.
After Swiatek broke Sabalenka’s serve in game seven it was only a matter of time before she closed out the match and championship.
“I would say the first set I didn’t play well at all. I wasn’t, I don’t know, feeling my game well,” Sabalenka told reporters.
“In the second set I just tried to stay a little bit more aggressive... I just tried to put her a little bit under pressure.
“I had couple of opportunities to break her serve. Probably if I would take that opportunity, the match would go differently. I didn’t use it, so it is how it is.”
On Sunday Alexander Zverev bids to win his second Rome title when he faces Nicolas Jarry in the men’s final.
Zverev is in his 11th Masters final, equalling Boris Becker’s record for the most by a German since the series began in 1990.
 


Zverev equals Becker record to reach Rome Open final

Zverev equals Becker record to reach Rome Open final
Updated 17 May 2024
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Zverev equals Becker record to reach Rome Open final

Zverev equals Becker record to reach Rome Open final
  • World number five Zverev battled back to see off the Chilean 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in their semifinal
  • By making Sunday’s championship match, the 27-year-old Zverev has tied Becker’s record for the most Masters finals by a German since the series began in 1990

ROME: Germany’s Alexander Zverev equalled compatriot Boris Becker’s record by reaching an 11th Masters final on Friday when he ended the Rome Open giant-killing run of Alejandro Tabilo.
World number five Zverev, who lifted the Rome trophy in 2017, battled back to see off the Chilean 1-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 in their semifinal.
The 26-year-old Tabilo had shocked Novak Djokovic in the third round and the 32nd-ranked player showed little fear of Zverev until he began to play more passively in the second set tie-break.
Third seed Zverev then raced through the decider to make the Rome final for the third time.
“I was just hanging on in the second set. I brought my energy up. I was really just hanging on and waiting and the patience was kind of good today,” Zverev said on court.
“He hit me off the court in the first set and I did not play well at all, but he was a big reason why. He gave me no rhythm and I am happy I turned it around in the tie-break and ran away in the third set.”
In Sunday’s final, he will take on either another Chilean in Nicolas Jarry or Tommy Paul of the United States.
By making Sunday’s championship match, the 27-year-old Zverev has tied Becker’s record for the most Masters finals by a German since the series began in 1990.


Swiatek into Rome Open final as trophy record beckons, Paul battles through

Swiatek into Rome Open final as trophy record beckons, Paul battles through
Updated 17 May 2024
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Swiatek into Rome Open final as trophy record beckons, Paul battles through

Swiatek into Rome Open final as trophy record beckons, Paul battles through
  • World No. 1 Swiatek now stands one victory away from duplicating the Madrid-Rome clay trophy double achieved by Serena Williams 11 years ago
  • American Paul reached a clay court semifinal for the first time in his career with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 upset of Hurkacz

ROME: Iga Swiatek won her 11th straight clay-court match on Thursday as the top seed moved closer to another record with a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal defeat of Coco Gauff at the Rome Open, after Tommy Paul earlier survived a chaotic ending to emerge victorious from his quarterfinal encounter with Hubert Hurkacz.

World No. 1 Swiatek now stands one victory away from duplicating the Madrid-Rome clay trophy double achieved by Serena Williams 11 years ago.

The 22-year-old Pole defeated third-seed Gauff for the 10th time in their 11 encounters, with her only loss in the series coming last summer in a Cincinnati semifinal.

Swiatek, a four-time Grand Slam winner due to defend her Roland Garros title starting a week from Sunday, will play the Saturday Rome final against either second-seed Aryna Sabalenka or American Danielle Collins.

The top seed spent one and three-quarter hours in dispatching Gauff, the reigning US Open champion.

Swiatek ended with 26 winners and broke four times.

“I’m not thinking about statistics or history,” she said after the victory. “I’m just playing day by day.

“It’s easier that way, it lets you play more freely.

“I’ll just try to play as good as possible in the final, no matter who it is.

“I won’t be thinking of any records, there is still work to do.”

On the men’s side, American Paul reached a clay court semifinal for the first time in his career with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 upset of Hurkacz.

The 14th seed is the first American to reach the final four at the Foro Italico since Reilly Opelka in 2021.

The momentum-shifting quarterfinal came down to the wire, with a 15-minute final game capping off nearly two and three-quarter hours on court.

Paul finally came through on his fourth match point as Poland’s Hurkacz sent a return long.

The match featured 13 breaks of serve, with Paul advancing with 29 winners and 41 unforced errors; and Hurkacz having 22 and 44 respectively.

“I started well but it got away from me in the second and start of the third,” Paul said. “I had to stick around in the match.

“I found the energy to get it going again. I was hitting my forehand bigger and with more intensity because Hubii can really crush the ball.”

Paul will play Nicolas Jarry in the semifinals after the 28-year-old Chilean stunned sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to reach his first Masters semifinal in Rome on Thursday.

Hurkacz, who knocked Rafa Nadal out in the Rome second round, was unable to get his massive serve up to speed as he faced Paul, winner over defending champion Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round.

Hurkacz won the clay title in Estoril last month and suffered only his third loss on clay this spring.
 


Daniil Medvedev latest to crash out of Italian Open after loss to Tommy Paul

Daniil Medvedev latest to crash out of Italian Open after loss to Tommy Paul
Updated 15 May 2024
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Daniil Medvedev latest to crash out of Italian Open after loss to Tommy Paul

Daniil Medvedev latest to crash out of Italian Open after loss to Tommy Paul
  • The second-seeded Medvedev has never successfully defended a title and he failed again as he lost to American Tommy Paul
  • In the women’s tournament, top-ranked Iga Swiatek reached the final four when she swept aside former finalist Madison

ROME: The curse of the defending champion struck again for Daniil Medvedev.

The second-seeded Medvedev has never successfully defended a title and he failed again on Tuesday as he lost 6-1, 6-4 to American Tommy Paul to become the latest top player to crash out of the Italian Open.

“It’s disappointing, to be honest,” said Medvedev, who has won 20 tour-level titles. “I wanted to do better here. I was not even close. What can I say? The more titles I win, the more chances I have to defend.

“So the more tournaments in a year I’m going to play where I already won, maybe not defend, but at least win twice the same tournament, that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

The opener lasted just 28 minutes as the 14th-seeded Paul broke Medvedev on all three of his service games and then served out the set to love.

“Was a tough one. Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said. “I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.”

Medvedev improved slightly in the second set when he broke immediately but Paul broke straight back and never looked back, securing his spot in the quarterfinals when Medvedev sent a backhand long.

The second-seeded Medvedev followed 10-time champion Rafael Nadal and top-ranked Novak Djokovic with early exits in Rome.

The only other players to have won the men’s tournament at the Foro Italico in the past 19 years are Andy Murray and Alexander Zverev.

The third-seeded Zverev, who won in 2017, eased past Nuno Borges 6-2, 7-5 and will face Taylor Fritz.

Fritz reached the men’s quarterfinals for the first time after recovering from losing a lengthy second-set tiebreaker — during which he let slip match point — to see off Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-7 (11), 6-1.

Alejandro Tabilo backed up his stunning third-round win against Djokovic by edging Karen Khachanov 7-6 (5), 7-6 (10) to reach a Masters quarterfinal for the first time. He will face Zhang Zhizhen, who ousted Thiago Monteiro 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Paul will play Hubert Hurkacz after the seventh seed — who eliminated Nadal in the second round — beat Sebastian Baez 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-4. The other quarterfinal pits Stefanos Tsitsipas against Nicolas Jarry.

In the women’s tournament, top-ranked Iga Swiatek reached the final four when she swept aside former finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-3 with the same score she achieved against the American in the Madrid semifinals two weeks ago.

The 16th-ranked Keys grew more frustrated at her inability to convert break points — racking up 10 without converting a single one — and at one point hit her racket against the clay.

Swiatek won the Madrid Open and is attempting to become the first player to win the “dirt double” since Serena Williams and Nadal both did so in 2013.

The two-time champion will next face third-seeded Coco Gauff after the American beat Qinwen Zheng 7-6 (4), 6-1.


Nadal eyes French Open despite Rome exit as Djokovic laughs off bottle drama

Nadal eyes French Open despite Rome exit as Djokovic laughs off bottle drama
Updated 12 May 2024
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Nadal eyes French Open despite Rome exit as Djokovic laughs off bottle drama

Nadal eyes French Open despite Rome exit as Djokovic laughs off bottle drama
  • Nadal: Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say I’m not playing in the most important event of my tennis career. Let’s see what’s going on
  • World No. 1 Djokovic donned a cycling crash helmet on his way to practice to show that he was fit

ROME: Rafael Nadal said Saturday that he is leaning toward playing at the French Open despite his second-round elimination in Rome, as Novak Djokovic laughed off being hit by a bottle which briefly cast doubt on his continued participation.

Clay-court icon Nadal had previously said that he would only play at the French Open, where he has won a record 14 titles, if he feels competitive after a raft of injury problems over the last two years which have left him languishing 305th in the world rankings.

And the manner of his elimination in his first ever encounter with Hubert Hurkacz — winner in straight sets 6-1, 6-3 — seemed a step backwards after reaching the last 16 in Madrid, leaving a question mark hanging over his plans.

“The decision, as you can imagine, is not clear in my mind today. But if I have to say what’s my feeling and if my mind is closer one way or the other way, I am going to say to be in Roland Garros and try my best,” Nadal told reporters.

“Physically I have some issues, but not probably yet enough to say I’m not playing in the most important event of my tennis career. Let’s see what’s going on, how I feel myself mentally tomorrow, after tomorrow, and in one week.”

Nadal held his own in the first two games in the first set, which took 26 minutes to complete, but then quickly fell away, Hurkacz winning without dropping a service game and seemingly without breaking a sweat.

That level of dominance over Nadal on clay, much less a court where he has won a record 10 titles, would have been unimaginable a few short years ago.

Hurkacz will face Tomas Etcheverry in the third round after likely ending Nadal’s love affair with Rome as the 22-time Grand Slam winner said that he was “98 percent” sure that he would never again grace the Roman clay.

“No-one will ever have a record like him on this surface. He’s just bigger than the sport at the end of the day,” said Hurkacz.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev kicked off his title defense by beating Jack Draper in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 to set up a third-round clash with qualifier Hamad Medjedovic, while Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from a set down to beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7 (1/7), 6-4, 6-4.

World No. 1 Djokovic donned a cycling crash helmet on his way to practice to show that he was fit and ready to face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo on Sunday afternoon.

Djokovic was left crouching in agony after being accidentally hit on the head by a hard water bottle while signing fan autographs on Friday night.

But he suffered only minor injuries, and on Saturday he joked “Today I came prepared” with a video of him arriving while wearing the helmet.

Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff all reached the last 16 as the women’s tournament begins to heat up.

Osaka is ranked at 173 in the world after taking a break from the tour to have her first child but is in good form, yet to drop a set after beating 10th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-3.

“I’m very grateful to be healthy because I know how much hard work it took for me to be here,” said four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, who will next play seventh-seed Zheng Qinwen.

“I feel like I’m just clawing my way back to hopefully where I think I belong.”

World No. 1 Swiatek will next face Angelique Kerber after seeing off Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4 as she bids to become the first woman since Serena Williams to claim a third Rome title.

The 22-year-old came into the event having won the Madrid Open last weekend and will also be gunning for a fourth French Open crown later this month.

Third seed Gauff, meanwhile, has Spain’s Paula Badosa in the last 16 after the US Open champion battled to a 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 victory over Jaqueline Cristian.