‘Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

‘Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai
Poland’s Iga Swiatek in action during her semi final match against Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya during the WTA 1000 Dubai Tennis Championships, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Center, on Feb. 23, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 February 2024
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‘Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai

‘Out of power’ Swiatek stunned by Kalinskaya in Dubai
  • Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek’s seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one’s bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double
  • “I didn’t have power anymore to give even more, which doesn’t happen often,” admitted 22-year-old Swiatek

DUBAI: Iga Swiatek blamed fatigue for her semifinal defeat to Anna Kalinskaya in the Dubai semifinals on Friday, admitting: “I didn’t have power anymore” to up her level during the match.
Kalinskaya snapped Swiatek’s seven-match winning streak and ended the world number one’s bid for a rare Doha-Dubai title double with a commanding 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“I didn’t have power anymore to give even more, which doesn’t happen often,” admitted 22-year-old Swiatek.
“I just felt out of control a little bit because of that. Usually when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game. Today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t.”
The 40th-ranked Kalinskaya was contesting her first WTA 1000 semifinal, and is into the first tour-level final of her career, where she faces Italian Jasmine Paolini.
Kalinskaya defeated Paolini last month at the Australian Open to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final. They will square off once again on Saturday in another career-defining showdown.
Top seed Swiatek came into the semifinals having won 25 of her last 26 matches and looking to follow up her title run in Doha last week with a first-time triumph in Dubai.
Kalinskaya had to battle through the qualifying rounds and has won seven matches in total this week in the emirate, including three top-10 victories over Jelena Ostapenko, Coco Gauff and now Swiatek.
“She’s a great player. I knew if I didn’t stay calm and I didn’t stay aggressive she is going to destroy me. So that was my plan, to stay aggressive, to move her a lot,” said the 25-year-old Kalinskaya.
From 2-4 down, Kalinskaya won four games in a row to snatch in 53 minutes.
The Russian saved six of seven break points during that set, drawing 11 unforced errors off Swiatek’s racquet.
Swiatek took a toilet break between sets but it didn’t change the momentum as Kalinskaya clinched a fifth consecutive game on a loose forehand from her opponent.
Swiatek threw her racquet in frustration as she lost a sixth game in a row, falling behind 0-2 early in the second set.
Kalinskaya claimed a second break of serve in game seven and served for the match at 5-2 but Swiatek wasn’t ready to fold just yet and put pressure on the Russian by narrowing her deficit.
But even when she was staring down two break points while serving for the match for a second time, Kalinskaya didn’t flinch, saving both and completing a milestone victory on the one-hour 41-minute mark.
Earlier on Center Court, Paolini overcame Romanian big-hitter Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) to reach her first WTA 1000 final and become just the fourth Italian to make it that far at a tournament of this calibre on the women’s tour.
The 28-year-old has pulled off some impressive wins this week in Dubai, knocking out 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez, eight seed Maria Sakkari before Friday.
Paolini’s reward is a place in the world’s top-20 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“I’m really happy. It’s something that if somebody would have told me before this week, I wouldn’t believe maybe. But yeah, now I’m in the final, so let’s enjoy,” said Paolini.
On Friday, two breaks of serve were enough for Paolini to take a one-set lead in 41 minutes.
But things got more complicated in the second set as Cirstea kept striking back each time Paolini inched ahead.
Cirstea had come back from 2-6, 1-5 down in her previous round against Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, saving six match points along the way.
When she wiped a 2-4 deficit against Paolini, saved a match point in the 10th game, and served for the second set at 6-5, it looked like Cirstea was on her way to another come-from-behind victory.
Paolini held her nerve though, saving five set points to force a tiebreak, and she closed out the win on her second opportunity in just under two hours.


Ruud finally beats Djokovic and Tsitsipas downs Sinner to set up Monte Carlo Masters final

Ruud finally beats Djokovic and Tsitsipas downs Sinner to set up Monte Carlo Masters final
Updated 13 April 2024
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Ruud finally beats Djokovic and Tsitsipas downs Sinner to set up Monte Carlo Masters final

Ruud finally beats Djokovic and Tsitsipas downs Sinner to set up Monte Carlo Masters final
  • Djokovic double-faulted on match point in his first career defeat in six matches against Ruud
  • Ruud and the 12th-seeded Tsitsipas are chasing their first titles of the year and 11th overall

MONACO: Casper Ruud finally got the better of Novak Djokovic, beating the top-ranked Serb 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 on Saturday to set up a Monte Carlo Masters final against two-time champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Tsitsipas won the earlier semifinal against a tiring Jannik Sinner 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to hand the Australian Open champion only his second defeat of the season.
Djokovic double-faulted on match point in his first career defeat in six matches against Ruud. He had never even taken a set off Djokovic before, including at last year’s French Open final.
Djokovic trailed 4-1 in the deciding set but held his next serve and broke a nervous-looking Ruud’s serve to love to pull back to 4-3.
At 15-15 in the eighth game, Djokovic turned and shouted an expletive toward someone in the crowd. Chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani urged fans not to call out during a rally, but did not issue a verbal warning to Djokovic despite the loudly audible expletive, which was followed by an angry glare.
A sloppy 10th game in the deciding set saw him trailing love-40 on serve, and the eighth-seeded Ruud received the victory on his third match point.
Ruud and the 12th-seeded Tsitsipas are chasing their first titles of the year and 11th overall.
The record 24-time men’s Grand Slam champion Djokovic still hasn’t won a title this year, and remained on 98 in his glittering career.
Sinner, who has three titles in 2024, looked in control in the deciding set when he led Tsitsipas 4-3 with a service game to follow.
But he called for a medical timeout during the changeover and a trainer massaged his right knee and thigh. Although a smiling Sinner shared a joke with the trainer, things got more serious in the next game when Tsitsipas broke his serve at the fifth attempt to level the score.
Sinner limped a little at the end of the next game and clutched the hamstring area of his left leg, then had both legs massaged. His movement was restricted in the ensuing game, and Tsitsipas clinched victory on his first match point when Sinner’s backhand from the back of the court went long as he struggled for balance.
“He is one of the toughest opponents I have faced so far and to find ways when there weren’t that many, I am proud of that,” Tsitsipas said.
American actress Zendaya, British actor Josh O’Connor and other cast members from the tennis movie “Challengers” were among the crowd enjoying the sunshine at Monte Carlo Country Club. Italian fans crossing the nearby border made Sinner feel at home, but Tsitsipas enjoys strong support here after winning in 2021 and 2022.
Tsitsipas broke Sinner and held for 3-1 in a commanding first set where he used angles well to disrupt Sinner’s more rhythmical play.
The level of intensity from both players increased in the second set. A long ninth game lasting 13 minutes saw the second-seeded Sinner save five break points before holding to level the match.
He broke Tsitsipas in the first game of the deciding set and held easily.
At this point, another final looked increasingly certain.
The Italian was enjoying himself and smiled to his coaching team after winning one point with an audacious sliced dropshot in the fifth game.
But Tsitsipas, who took Djokovic to five sets in the French Open final in 2021, showed trademark endurance and clawed his way back as Sinner started fading.


Rafael Nadal to make ATP return next week in Barcelona

Rafael Nadal to make ATP return next week in Barcelona
Updated 13 April 2024
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Rafael Nadal to make ATP return next week in Barcelona

Rafael Nadal to make ATP return next week in Barcelona
  • THE 22-time Grand Slam champion missed virtually all of the 2023 season through injury

PARIS: Rafael Nadal will make his return to ATP competition for the first time since January when he plays Flavio Cobolli in the Barcelona Open next week.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion has played just once, in an exhibition match, since he felt a hip injury flare-up during his quarter-final defeat by Jordan Thompson in the Brisbane Open.
The tournament has also been boosted by the return of Nadal’s compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, the world No.3, who withdrew from this week’s Monte Carlo Masters due to a right arm injury.
Unlike Nadal the two-time defending Barcelona champion gets a first round bye due to being seeded.
Nadal, 37, missed virtually all of the 2023 season through injury and has only played at the Brisbane International this season.
The injury in Brisbane prompted the record 14-time French Open winner’s withdrawal from the Australian Open as well as Doha and Indian Wells, where he had first intended to make his comeback.
His one appearance since Brisbane came in an exhibition match against Alcaraz in Las Vegas in March where observers noted some discomfort in his back.
With this potentially Nadal’s last year on tour, he will be desperate not to miss any more clay court preparation time as he seeks to win a record 15th French Open title in June.


Djokovic, Sinner into Monte Carlo quarters as Medvedev rages

Djokovic, Sinner into Monte Carlo quarters as Medvedev rages
Updated 12 April 2024
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Djokovic, Sinner into Monte Carlo quarters as Medvedev rages

Djokovic, Sinner into Monte Carlo quarters as Medvedev rages
  • Djokovic: I don’t think I am still at my top level but it was a great test today against a great player, a very talented player
  • De Minaur moved into the last eight with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin

MONTE CARLO: Novak Djokovic avenged last year’s Monte Carlo Masters defeat by Lorenzo Musetti to reach the quarterfinals Thursday along with Jannik Sinner, while Daniil Medvedev launched into a furious tirade during his defeat.

World No. 1 Djokovic made a poor start and endured a second-set wobble before coming through 7-5, 6-3 against the 24th-ranked Musetti, the man who beat him at the same stage 12 months ago.

“I don’t think I am still at my top level but it was a great test today against a great player, a very talented player,” Djokovic said.

“I am really glad to overcome the challenge and look forward to the next one.”

Djokovic goes on to play Alex de Minaur, the 11th seed from Australia, in the last eight.

The Serbian top seed dropped serve in the opening game against Musetti before working his way back to level at 4-4, and then snatched the set on a double fault by his opponent.

Djokovic broke twice early in the second set either side of losing his own serve to surge 4-1 ahead. Musetti clawed back to within a game but Djokovic broke again for 5-3 before closing out the win.

Djokovic has struggled to find his best form in recent times in Monte Carlo. He has not won the tournament since the last of his two titles in 2015, failing to advance beyond the quarter-finals in seven subsequent appearances.

Australian Open champion Sinner improved his record to 24-1 this season with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jan-Lennard Struff.

The world No. 2 broke at 4-4 en route to pocketing the first set and won nine of the final 11 games to sweep to victory.

“I broke him quite early and then he broke me back. I knew it was going to be really tough, but I guess I returned really well, especially on second serves. I can be very happy,” said Sinner.

Sinner next faces Holger Rune who defeated the Italian in the semifinals last year before finishing runner-up to Andrey Rublev.

Rune made the last eight after a three-hour 30-minute 7-6 (11/9), 3-6, 7-6 (7/2) win over Grigor Dimitrov, saving two match points in the 12th game of the deciding set.

“It was a great match,” said Rune. “I thought I played a very good first set, it was very long, one-and-a-half hours. So it was tough physically.”

Like Dimitrov, Rune had earlier completed a rain-delayed third round clash.

“I had a match earlier today which was two sets, so I played five sets today actually, which is pretty brutal,” added the Dane.

Medvedev tore into the officiating for the second day running as he was beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Karen Khachanov.

Medvedev was hit with a point penalty to start the final game after berating chair umpire Carlos Bernardes and then became embroiled in a heated discussion with the tournament supervisor.

The world No. 4 had already been warned after hurling his racquet when he double-faulted to lose his service game and leave Khachanov a game away from victory.

Medvedev, who took issue with two line calls in his second-round win on Wednesday, felt aggrieved when a Khachanov forehand was not called out during a rally that resulted in the latter earning two break points at 5-5.

The arrival of the physio to treat a finger bleed at the ensuing changeover tipped Medvedev over the edge, with the Russian yelling “did I ask for the physio!” at the umpire.

He then demanded of the supervisor “who will take responsibility?” for the decisions.

Television replays appeared to show the shot in question from Khachanov had landed wide of the court.

“It’s second day in a row. Guys, open your eyes. Do something. It’s out,” raged Medvedev.

“The mark is out. They don’t know how to referee anymore. Who will take action?

“Yesterday the ball is out, it’s called in. Who will take action. This ball is out there. Who will take responsibility? It’s not my responsibility to referee the matches.

“It’s this guy in the glasses (the line judge). He doesn’t need glasses because he doesn’t see anything. He should not be a referee.”

Khachanov’s reward is a quarterfinal Friday against Stefanos Tsitsipas, who saw off fifth seed Alexander Zverev 7-5, 7-6 (7/3).

De Minaur moved into the last eight with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin.


Sinner looks smooth on clay at Monte Carlo Masters;  defending champion Rublev is ousted

Sinner looks smooth on clay at Monte Carlo Masters;  defending champion Rublev is ousted
Updated 11 April 2024
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Sinner looks smooth on clay at Monte Carlo Masters;  defending champion Rublev is ousted

Sinner looks smooth on clay at Monte Carlo Masters;  defending champion Rublev is ousted
  • The second-seeded Sinner won 95 percent of points on his first serve and saved all three break points in improving his record to 23-1 this year
  • The sixth-seeded Rublev dropped his serve three times against Popyrin, who next faces No. 11 Alex de Minaur in an all-Australian contest

MONACO: After dominating on aggressive hard courts, Jannik Sinner made a smooth transition to softer clay by beating Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-2 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.

But defending champion Andrey Rublev was eliminated after a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Alexei Popyrin.

The second-seeded Sinner won 95 percent of points on his first serve and saved all three break points in improving his record to 23-1 this year. He has three titles in 2024, including the Australian Open — his first major trophy — and recently the Miami Open.

“I moved quite well in these conditions,” said the 22-year-old Italian, who reached the semifinals at Monte Carlo last year. “Every year it is tough to come here and perform well but I am happy with the performance.”

Sinner faces Jan-Lennard Struff on Thursday in the third round, where he will join two-time champions Novak Djokovic — who won on Tuesday — and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 12th-seeded Tsitsipas routed Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-1, 6-0 and next faces No. 5 Alexander Zverev in a contest between big servers. Djokovic takes on unseeded Italian Lorenzo Musetti.

The sixth-seeded Rublev dropped his serve three times against Popyrin, who next faces No. 11 Alex de Minaur in an all-Australian contest at the Monte Carlo Country Club, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea.

“I am feeling really comfortable on (clay) and happy to beat a guy who was in form, confident and the defending champ,” Popyrin said. “It was an awesome match.”

De Minaur rallied past unseeded Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev, who is chasing his first title of the year, won 6-2, 6-4 against French veteran Gael Monfils, and two-time French Open runner-up Casper Ruud — seeded eighth — downed Alejandro Tabilo 6-2, 6-4.

Later Wednesday, last year’s runner-up Holger Rune faced qualifier Sumit Nagal of India and No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov played Miomir Kecmanovic.

Also in the second round, there were wins for No. 10 Hubert Hurkacz, No. 14 Ugo Humbert, No. 15 Karen Khachanov and lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego, who replaced the injured Carlos Alcaraz after the Spaniard pulled out on Tuesday with a right forearm injury.

Record 11-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal pulled out with a lingering injury before the tournament.


Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured

Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured
Updated 10 April 2024
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Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured

Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured
  • The Serb needed just one hour and 10 minutes to make a return to winning ways in his first match since a shock early exit at Indian Wells to Italian Luca Nardi
  • German fifth seed Alexander Zverev breezed into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sebastian Ofner

MONTE CARLO, Principality of Monaco: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said his “feeling was great” as he flew past Roman Safiullin in straight sets at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday, after third seed Carlos Alcaraz withdrew from the event due to injury.

After receiving a bye in the first round, Djokovic was imperious on the main Rainier III court as he won 6-1, 6-2 against the unseeded Russian.

“My feeling was great,” said Djokovic. “I think... it’s been one of my best performances I had here in quite a few years.

“Monte Carlo is the first big tournament of the clay court season. You know, I haven’t been really able the last six, seven years to start off strong and start off well. I’ve always kind of struggled in this tournament.”

The Serb needed just one hour and 10 minutes to make a return to winning ways in his first match since a shock early exit at Indian Wells to Italian Luca Nardi.

The 36-year-old became the oldest world no.1 in the history of the ATP rankings when he took to the court in Monte Carlo, surpassing Roger Federer’s record.

“It is nice, it is great,” said the 24-time Grand Slam winner.

“I met (Rohan) Bopanna yesterday, who is the oldest doubles no.1 in history. He said we had a combined age of 80, but he does contribute to the 80 more than I do. But it is fun.”

But there was no sign of Djokovic feeling his age as he broke Safiullin’s serve twice to race into a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Djokovic went on to break his opponent’s serve five times over the course of a routine win and now faces a third-round meeting with Lorenzo Musetti, after the Italian ousted rising French starlet Arthur Fils 6-3, 7-5.

Before Djokovic took to court, Alcaraz announced he was pulling out of Monte Carlo after failing to recover from an injury to his right forearm.

“I have been working in Monte Carlo and trying to recover until the last minute from an injured pronator teres (muscle) in my right arm, but it was not possible and I cannot play,” Alcaraz wrote on social media.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, whose last match came in the straight sets defeat by Grigor Dimitrov in Miami last month, was due to go straight into Wednesday’s second round against Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime.

He will be replaced in the draw by Italian Lorenzo Sonego, who was drafted in as a lucky loser.

The match against Auger-Aliassime was set to be the two-time Grand Slam winner’s second ever appearance at Monte Carlo, following his withdrawal from the tournament last year and a three-set defeat in his only match of the 2022 edition.

Earlier in the day, American Sebastian Korda, the man responsible for that defeat in 2022, stormed past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-2 in the first round.

After a rain-hit morning causing a two-and-a-half-hour delay to the day’s play, world no.11 Alex de Minaur made up for lost time with a 62-minute straight sets win over Stan Wawrinka.

The 39-year-old wild card Wawrinka, formerly ranked no.3 in the world but now down to no.79, was no match in the first round for the Australian who prevailed 6-3, 6-0.

Wawrinka, the 2014 champion in Monte Carlo and a three-time Grand Slam winner, made 28 unforced errors to De Minaur’s 18 and landed just four winners to the 12 made by his opponent.

The 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz overcame Britain’s Jack Draper after nearly two and a half hours on court to reach the second round, winning 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2).

After winning a first title in two injury-hit years in Marrakech on Sunday, Italian Matteo Berrettini’s stay in Monte Carlo was cut short by Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-1.

German fifth seed Alexander Zverev breezed into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sebastian Ofner.

Gael Monfils of France came back from a double break down in the third set to record an impressive 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 7-5 victory against Australian Aleksandar Vukic.