Djokovic bottle strike overshadows his Rome Open cruise past Moutet

Djokovic bottle strike overshadows his Rome Open cruise past Moutet
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after being hit on the head by a bottle after winning his Rome Open round of 64 match against France's Corentin Moutet on Friday. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 May 2024
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Djokovic bottle strike overshadows his Rome Open cruise past Moutet

Djokovic bottle strike overshadows his Rome Open cruise past Moutet
  • Should Djokovic be OK as the FITP said, he will face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo in the third round with a great chance to add to his array of titles at the Foro Italico
  • One of Djokovic’s potential threats, third seed Alexander Zverev, breezed into the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic

ROME: Novak Djokovic’s fast start at the Rome Open was overshadowed on Friday after the tennis icon was struck with a hard plastic water bottle while greeting fans following his 6-3, 6-1 win over France’s Corentin Moutet.

World No. 1 Djokovic was left crouched on the ground in agony as the bottle hit him on the back of the head as he was signing autographs while he exited the center court at the Foro Italico.

Djokovic was then led from the arena on foot by security staff who covered the 24-time Grand Slam winner while he made his way into the bowels of the stands.

The ATP did not respond to AFP’s request for an update on Djokovic’s condition, only announcing that he would not speak to the media on Friday evening.

However, a spokesman for the Italian Tennis Federation (FITP) said that Djokovic had been taken back to his hotel with a lightly bleeding head and that there is no risk that he will withdraw from the tournament.

The spokesman said that Djokovic did not need stitches and that the bottle likely fell while a fan tried to get the player’s attention, adding that security camera footage is being consulted to help identify the culprit.

“His condition is not a cause for concern,” said organizers in a short statement before then sending media a video in which it appears that the bottle accidentally slipped from a spectator’s grasp before landing on Djokovic’s head.

Djokovic retiring would be a disaster for organizers of the last major tournament before the French Open as it is already missing two of its biggest stars with Italian world No. 2 Jannik Sinner and third-ranked Carlos Alcaraz both withdrawing from the men’s draw before the start.

Home fans have also been deprived of cheering on Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Musetti who both pulled out, Musetti while losing to France’s Terence Atmane on Friday morning.

Should Djokovic be OK as the FITP said, he will face Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo in the third round with a great chance to add to his array of titles at the Foro Italico, where only Rafael Nadal has won more with 10.

The Serbian has made no secret in the past that he loves playing in Italy and with a clutch of big names either out injured or struggling he will fancy his chances of a record-extending 41st Masters 1000 crown.

One of Djokovic’s potential threats, third seed Alexander Zverev, breezed into the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic.

Both Casper Ruud and Zverev were put on Djokovic’s side of the draw and German Zverev could face the tournament favorite in the last four.

“I know I’m the sort of player who can lose to anyone, I’ve unfortunately done that in the past but I also know that I’m a player that once I do find my rhythm I can beat anyone and I hope this can be the week where I find it,” said Zverev after his win.

Ons Jabeur’s tough 2024 continued after being dumped out of the women’s tournament in the second round by Sofia Kenin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

World No. 9 Jabeur was beaten by unseeded American Kenin in a gruelling match which lasted two hours and 17 minutes in the hot Rome sunshine.

Tunisia’s Jabeur, who in 2022 became the first Arab player to win a WTA 1000 title, looked to be on the right track after reaching the quarterfinals in Madrid.

But she slumped to a poor defeat on Friday, continuing a dreadful season so far in which the 29-year-old has had to deal with a chronic knee injury resurfacing.

Jabeur has a losing record for the year, a far cry from the woman who looked like she had the world at her feet ahead of last year’s Wimbledon final, which she lost in straight sets to unfancied Marketa Vondrousova after blasting through a series of Grand Slam champions.


Ex-champion Murray out of Wimbledon after back surgery

Ex-champion Murray out of Wimbledon after back surgery
Updated 23 June 2024
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Ex-champion Murray out of Wimbledon after back surgery

Ex-champion Murray out of Wimbledon after back surgery

LONDON: Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has been ruled out of this year’s tournament after undergoing back surgery, the ATP Tour confirmed on Sunday.
“After an operation on a spinal cyst, Andy Murray is sadly out of Wimbledon. Rest up and recover Andy, we’ll miss seeing you there,” the ATP said on X, formerly Twitter.
The Scot had been aiming to make a farewell appearance at the grass court Grand Slam, which he won in 2013 and 2016.
However, the 37-year-old will need an expected six weeks to recover from surgery with Wimbledon starting on July 1.
He now also faces a race against time to be fit for next month’s Paris Olympics, with Murray twice a gold medallist in the singles.
Murray managed just five games before a back injury forced him to withdraw from his second-round match against Australia’s Jordan Thompson at the Queen’s warm-up event in London on Wednesday.
The former world number one, who plays with a metal hip, struggled from the start of his match against Thompson and said afterwards he had a feeling of weakness in his right leg and had lost coordination.
“I never had that loss of coordination, control and strength in my leg before,” Murray said shortly after retiring from his match with Thompson.
“I’ve been struggling with my back for a while — I had lost the power in my right leg so lost all motor control, I had no coordination and couldn’t really move.”
Asked then about his prospects of playing at Wimbledon, he added: “Like all tennis players, we have degenerative joints and stuff in the back, but it’s all predominantly been left-sided for me my whole career.
“I have never had too many issues with the right side. So maybe there is something that can be done between now and then to help the right side.”
Murray underwent minor back surgery in 2013 and following a first-round loss at the recent French Open he said he would need treatment to address soreness.
The three-time Grand Slam champion only returned to competitive action in May after nearly two months out with an ankle injury.
He had been due to play singles and doubles with his brother Jamie at Wimbledon before potentially ending his career at the Olympics in Paris.


Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
Updated 22 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
  • Injured stars lose their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event

BERLIN: Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur joined the procession of injured stars limping off the Berlin grass as they retired Saturday while losing their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Second-seeded Belarusian Sabalenka retired against unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya trailing 5-1 in the first set, in one of the quarterfinals pushed back to Saturday morning by rain on Friday.
Eighth-seeded Jabeur had gone toe-to-toe with top seed Coco Gauff before losing a one-hour 14 minute first set tiebreak 11/9 before packing her rackets in her bag and walking off.
“It doesn’t feel like a win,” said Gauff on court. “Especially as we had such a great first set.”
“It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”
Gauff said the Tunisian had indicated she was not seriously injured.
“I know she’s going to feel better tomorrow and should be fine for Wimbledon.”
Trailing 4-1, Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck treated. She played on for one game before stopping. It was the first time the Belarusian had retired injured in a WTA tournament, said the women’s tennis body.
“I played really good. I had a good start. I’m happy to be in the semifinals,” Kalinskaya said. “I’m happy to have three matches (here), fourth one on grass. That gives me confidence.”
On Thursday, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova retired with a right hip injury from her second-round match, also against Kalinskaya.
On Friday, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out while trailing Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.
Azarenka will play Kalinskaya in one semifinal later on Saturday.
Gauff will face compatriot Jessica Pegula who beat Czech Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday. The fourth-seeded American had led 4-2 in the third set when rain halted play on Friday.
Gauff said her training regime prepared her to play twice in one day.
“I’ll be ready for later today,” said Gauff.


Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’
Updated 21 June 2024
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Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’
  • World No. 2 Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warmup event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros
  • Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon title at the All England Club, just a few miles across London from Queen’s, on July 1

LONDON: Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz said losing was “part of our lives” following a shock defeat by Britain’s Jack Draper in the last 16 of the Queen’s Club tournament in London on Thursday.

Alcaraz, also the reigning Queen’s champion, lost 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 with the British No. 1 claiming the biggest win of his career.

World No. 2 Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warmup event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros.

But the 21-year-old Spaniard was undone by Draper, 22, who is bidding to become the first British men’s singles champion at Queen’s since Andy Murray won his fifth title at the event in 2016.

Alcaraz, for whom this was a first defeat on grass in nearly two years, insisted he was “hungry to be better” at Wimbledon.

“Of course it’s tough to deal with the losses, but I think it’s part of our lives,” he said.

“We have to (deal with it) as good as you can. After the losses, you have to take the positive things and of course the negative things just to improve to the next tournament.

“I have to give credit to Jack. I think he played really good tennis today.”

Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon title at the All England Club, just a few miles across London from Queen’s, on July 1, with the champion saying he planned to remain in the British capital.

“I think the best way to be better on grass is to stay here, practice with players, physically doing good stuff on grass and the movement, really specific things,” Alcaraz said when asked if he would return to Spain before Wimbledon.

“In Spain or at my home, we don’t have grass courts or really grass places just to practice.

Alcaraz added: “Right now I’m hungry just to be better, to practice, and that’s all I have to do.

“I’m really excited to start Wimbledon. Of course I really want to win every title I (play for), and I think Wimbledon is even more special.”

For the 31st-ranked Draper, this stunning win followed his first ATP title in Stuttgart last week and meant he became the first British man to beat a top-two player on grass since Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final.

Neither Alcaraz nor Draper managed a break point in a first set where the British left-hander eventually pulled clear in the tie-break.

Alcaraz saved three match points on his own serve at 5-2 down in the second set before Draper, a day after 37-year-old Murray limped out injured of Queen’s after just five games, secured the win.

“It was a really tough match,” said Draper. “Carlos is the defending champion, he won Wimbledon, he’s an incredible talent and amazing for the sport. I had to come out and play well and luckily I did.”

Draper will next play American fifth-seed Tommy Paul, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo, in the quarterfinals.

There was more British success when wildcard Billy Harris joined Draper in the last eight.

The 29-year-old journeyman celebrated his award of a wildcard for Wimbledon — and a guaranteed £60,000 ($76,000) — by beating French qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 6-4, 7-5.

Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Brandon Nakashima of the US.


Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics
Updated 18 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics
  • Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness

PARIS: Three-time Grand Slam runner up Ons Jabeur said on Monday she will sit out this summer’s Paris Olympics to avoid further injury to her knee.
Tunisian Jabeur, 29, will miss the Games, between July 27-August 4. The competition being played Roland-Garros, meaning a switch back to clay immediately after the grass season and before the hard-court run up to the US Open.
Last year Jabeur underwent surgery on her right knee.
“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending to the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur said on her social media accounts.
“Unfortunately I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Olympics,” she added.
Jabeur reached the final at Wimbledon in 2022 and 2023 and at the US Open in 2022. She competed at the Olympics in London in 2012, in Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo five years later.
Wimbledon starts on July 1 with the US Open beginning on August 26.
Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness.


Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title

Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title
Updated 09 June 2024
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Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title

Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title
  • Carlos Alcaraz is a 21-year-old from Spain who grew up watching countryman Rafael Nadal win trophy after trophy at Roland Garros — a record 14 in all

PARIS: Carlos Alcaraz came back to defeat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 on Sunday and win the French Open for his third Grand Slam title.

Alcaraz is a 21-year-old from Spain who grew up watching countryman Rafael Nadal win trophy after trophy at Roland Garros — a record 14 in all — and now has eclipsed Nadal as the youngest man to collect major championships on three surfaces. Nadal was about 1.5 years older when he did it.

Sunday’s victory — in which he trailed two sets to one, just as he had in the semifinals against Jannik Sinner on Friday — allowed Alcaraz to add the clay-court championship at Roland Garros to his triumphs on hard courts at the US Open in 2022 and on grass at Wimbledon in 2023. Alcaraz is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals.

Zverev dropped to 0-2 in major title matches. The 27-year-old from Germany was the runner-up at the 2020 US Open after blowing a two-set lead against Dominic Thiem.

This time, Zverev lost after surging in front by reeling off the last five games of the third set. Alcaraz’s level dipped during that stretch and he seemed distracted by a complaint over the condition of the clay at Court Philippe Chatrier, telling chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein it was “unbelievable.”

But Alcaraz reset himself and surged to the finish, taking 12 of the last 15 games while being treated by a trainer at changeovers for an issue with his left leg.

No. 3 Alcaraz and No. 4 Zverev were making their first appearance in a French Open final. Indeed, this was the first men’s title match at Roland Garros since 2004 without Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.

Nadal lost to Zverev in the first round two weeks ago; Djokovic, a three-time champion, withdrew before the quarterfinals with a knee injury that required surgery; Federer is retired.

There were some jitters at the outset. Zverev started the proceedings with a pair of double-faults — walking to the sideline to change rackets after the second, as though the equipment was the culprit — and eventually got broken. Alcaraz lost serve immediately, too, framing a forehand that sent the ball into the stands — which he would do on a handful of occasions — and double-faulting, trying a so-so drop shot that led to an easy winner for Zverev, then missing a backhand.

Let’s just say they won’t be putting those initial 10 minutes in the Louvre. A lot of the 4-hour, 19-minute match was patchy, littered with unforced errors.

Alcaraz managed to come out strong in the fourth set, grabbing 16 of the first 21 points to move out to a 4-0 edge, including one brilliant, sliding, down-the-line forehand passing winner that he celebrated by thrusting his right index finger overhead in a “No. 1” sign, then throwing an uppercut while screaming, “Vamos!”

No, he is not ranked No. 1 at the moment — Sinner makes his debut at the top spot on Monday — but he has been before and, although a “2” will be beside Alcaraz’s name next week, there is little doubt that he is as good as it gets in men’s tennis right now.