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

Djokovic ‘feeling great’ in Monte Carlo as Alcaraz withdraws injured
Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a backhand return to Russia's Roman Safiullin during their Monte Carlo ATP Masters Series Tournament round of 32 tennis match on the Rainier III court at the Monte Carlo Country Club on April 9, 2024. (AFP)
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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.
 


PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis

PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis
Updated 20 May 2024
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PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis

PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis
  • PIF will become first naming partner of the WTA rankings
  • PIF to continue to be a catalyst for growth of women’s sport

NEW YORK: The Public Investment Fund and the Women’s Tennis Association on Monday signed a multiyear partnership to support the growth of women’s professional tennis and inspire more females around the world to take up the sport.
The partnership also aims at enhancing and developing initiatives that support players at all levels.
As a global partner of the WTA, the PIF will become the first naming partner of the organization’s rankings, the highest official rankings for professional women tennis players.
And through the partnership with the WTA, the PIF will continue to be a catalyst for the growth of women’s sport, according to Mohamed Al-Sayyad, the fund’s head of corporate brand.
Al-Sayyad said: “We look forward to working with the WTA to increase participation and inspire the next generation of talent. Underpinned by PIF’s four strategic sponsorship pillars, this partnership aligns with our ambition to elevate the game and bring positive growth to the sport around the world.”
The PIF WTA rankings will track players’ journeys, and the PIF will work with the WTA to celebrate and support players’ progress.
WTA’s CEO Marina Storti said: “We are delighted to welcome PIF as a global partner of the WTA and our first-ever official naming partner of the WTA rankings.
“Together, we look forward to sharing the journey of our talented players across the season, as we continue to grow the sport, creating more fans of tennis and inspiring more young people to take up the game.”
As part of its commitment to inspire youngsters, the PIF will work with the WTA to expand existing initiatives and develop new opportunities for young players, providing a significant boost to the game’s next generation of stars.
The PIF announced its partnership with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) in February and became the official naming partner of the PIF ATP rankings. The PIF has now become the only global partner across both the WTA and ATP tours.
The new partnership between the WTA and the PIF follows the recent announcement that the season-ending WTA Finals will be hosted in Riyadh for the next three years, starting in 2024.


Zverev serves his way to Italian Open title and sets himself up as a contender in Paris

Zverev serves his way to Italian Open title and sets himself up as a contender in Paris
Updated 20 May 2024
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Zverev serves his way to Italian Open title and sets himself up as a contender in Paris

Zverev serves his way to Italian Open title and sets himself up as a contender in Paris
  • It’s been a long road of recovery for the fifth-ranked Zverev after tearing three ligaments in his right ankle during the 2022 French Open semifinals against Rafael Nadal
  • This year’s French Open starts next Sunday and now Zverev has established himself among the favorites again

ROME: Alexander Zverev put on a serving clinic in a 6-4, 7-5 win over 24th-ranked Nicolas Jarry to claim his second Italian Open title Sunday and earn his biggest trophy since tearing his ankle apart two years ago.

Zverev opened the match with three straight aces and won 20 of his 21 service points in the first set. The German didn’t drop a point on his first serve until late in the second set when the 6-foot-7 (2.01 meter) Jarry ran down a well-placed drop shot and replied with a cross-court winner.

In all, Zverev won 44 of his 49 service points — helped by getting in 95 percent of his first serves.

It’s been a long road of recovery for the fifth-ranked Zverev after tearing three ligaments in his right ankle during the 2022 French Open semifinals against Rafael Nadal.

When Zverev broke Jarry to convert his fourth match point, he dropped to his knees on the red clay court, leaned back and let out a scream.

“The last two years have been extremely difficult,” Zverev said during the trophy ceremony. “I didn’t know whether I was ever going to be on this stage — regardless of winning or losing — so this moment is extremely special.”

This year’s French Open starts next Sunday and now Zverev has established himself among the favorites again — especially with top-ranked Novak Djokovic and 14-time Roland Garros champion Nadal both struggling lately. Djokovic and Nadal were eliminated in the second and third rounds, respectively, in Rome.

There are also injury concerns for second-ranked Jannik Sinner (hip) and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz (right forearm) — who both withdrew from Rome.

“The focus is on Paris,” Zverev said. “But let me enjoy this one for a day or so, and then I’ll have my full focus on Paris.”

Zverev, who has disputed a penalty order from a German court over allegations that he caused bodily harm to a woman, faces a trial starting during Roland Garros. He said recently that he won’t attend the start of the legal proceedings.

And Zverev isn’t 100 percent healthy either. He had the pinky on his left hand bandaged due to a fall in his quarterfinal win over Taylor Fritz, after which he said he “tore a capsule” and that his finger was “crooked.” The German plays right-handed but uses a two-handed backhand.

Zverev will also be defending his gold medal when the Paris Olympics tennis tournament is held at Roland Garros starting in late July.

Jarry, a Chilean playing in his first Masters Series final, upset Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

“This has been an incredible week,” Jarry said.

Jarry was cheered on by his grandfather, Jaime Fillol, who was a top-20 player and who gave Jarry his first racket as a kid. Fillol was on Chile’s Davis Cup team that lost the 1976 final to Italy.

Jarry’s wife and two sons were also courtside and he grew emotional during the trophy ceremony and had to look away from his family to regain his composure.

“This is a fantastic example of what a family life on tour can look like,” Zverev said.

“I’m not so emotional,” Zverev added. “My dad cries, I don’t cry. It’s a good mix.”

It was Zverev’s third final in Rome. He won in 2017 by beating Djokovic in straight sets for his first Masters Series title then lost to Nadal in the title match a year later.

It was also Zverev’s first Masters final since getting beat by Alcaraz at the 2022 Madrid Open. The only previous titles he won since his ankle injury came in Hamburg, Germany, and Chengdu, China, last year.

Zverev earned a winner’s check of €963,225 (more than $1 million).

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek beat No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka in the women’s final on Saturday.

In the women’s doubles final, Coco Gauff double faulted on match point to hand Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini of Italy the title with a 6-3, 4-6, (10-8) victory. Gauff teamed with Erin Routliffe.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos beat Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic 6-2, 6-2 for the men’s doubles title.


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.