Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open

Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open

Djokovic shrugs off troubles in winning start at French Open
  • Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes
  • Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves

PARIS: Defending champion Novak Djokovic shrugged off his recent troubles to sweep to his 93rd career win at the French Open on Tuesday, extending his run of first round Roland Garros victories to a perfect 20.

Djokovic, chasing a fourth title in Paris and record 25th Grand Slam triumph, came through against 142nd-ranked French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

The 37-year-old, who saw career-long rival and 14-time champion Rafael Nadal exit the tournament on Monday, had arrived under a cloud.

For the first time since 2018, he is without a title and has yet to reach a final this season.

He has also endured recent misfortunes being accidentally hit on the head by a metal water bottle in Rome and then suffering stomach problems in Geneva.

“It was a solid performance,” said Djokovic. “I could have done better, especially on the return, but bravo to him for serving well.

“It’s a victory in three sets, that’s what matters at this moment. I felt better compared to the last few weeks. I was focused. I encouraged myself, I am satisfied with my state of mind.”

Djokovic, who has advanced to the French Open quarterfinals or better every year since 2010, will face Spain’s 63rd-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena for a place in the last 32.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, a semifinalist in 2023, overpowered Russian teenager Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in just 68 minutes under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier as heavy rain caused a five-hour delay to action around the grounds.

World No. 2 Sabalenka fired 27 winners past the 100th-ranked Andreeva and broke serve five times in a dominant display.

“I’m trying to do well on clay, it is tough conditions here but I enjoy playing here and I’m just trying to bring my best tennis every time — whatever the surface,” said Sabalenka.

The Belarusian has made at least the last-four at her past six Grand Slams and is expected to be Iga Swiatek’s toughest rival in the Pole’s bid for a fourth French Open title.

There was better luck for Andreeva’s younger sister Mirra, who went to the fourth round as a 16-year-old in 2023.

She swept past Emina Bektas of the US in straights sets.

Two-time runner-up Casper Ruud, who won clay-court titles in Barcelona and Geneva in the build-up to Roland Garros, cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Brazilian qualifier Felipe Meligeni Alves.

“It’s great to be back here at Roland Garros,” he said. “Hopefully I can make it another good year here.”

Ruud was beaten in straight sets by Djokovic in last year’s final following a one-sided loss to Nadal in the 2022 showpiece.

Frenchwoman Alize Cornet’s career ended with a straight-sets defeat by Zheng Qinwen in her record-extending 69th consecutive Grand Slam appearance.

Cornet was no match for China’s Australian Open runner-up Zheng, losing 6-2, 6-1.

She made her debut at Roland Garros as a 15-year-old in 2005 and had not missed a Grand Slam tournament since the 2006 US Open.

Cornet reached a career-high ranking of 11th in 2009 and enjoyed a surprise run to the 2022 Australian Open quarter-finals.

“I already cried yesterday watching Rafa,” said a tearful Cornet after seeing Nadal lose what was likely his last match at the French Open.

Over on Court Suzanne Lenglen, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina powered into the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Belgian Greet Minnen.

Kazakh world No. 4 Rybakina is the only player to defeat Swiatek on clay this season, in the Stuttgart semifinals in April.

There was no celebration for Argentine qualifier Roman Andres Burruchaga who has sporting success in the blood.

His father Jorge famously scored the winning goal for Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final against West Germany.

Ranked at 144, the 22-year-old came up short in a three-set loss to experienced Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.


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.


Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles

Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles
Updated 09 June 2024
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Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles

Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles
  • Coco Gauff, the reigning US Open singles champion, wins her first Grand Slam doubles title

PARIS: French Open singles runner-up Jasmine Paolini suffered another defeat in Sunday’s women’s doubles final as she and partner Sara Errani lost 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova.
Gauff, the reigning US Open singles champion, won her first Grand Slam doubles title. The 20-year-old American was a losing finalist at the 2021 US Open and 2022 French Open in doubles.
Siniakova, 28, captured her eighth Grand Slam doubles crown and third at Roland Garros. She claimed the other seven titles with fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova.


Swiatek dismantles Paolini to win third straight French Open title

Swiatek dismantles Paolini to win third straight French Open title
Updated 08 June 2024
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Swiatek dismantles Paolini to win third straight French Open title

Swiatek dismantles Paolini to win third straight French Open title
  • Swiatek’s 21st straight victory at her happiest hunting ground put her in fourth place in the list of longest winning streaks at Roland Garros
  • The diminutive Paolini went toe to toe with Swiatek from there but cracked in the sixth game

PARIS: Iga Swiatek strengthened her reputation as the queen of clay by capturing a third straight French Open crown with a crushing 6-2 6-1 victory over 12th seed Jasmine Paolini on Saturday to claim her fifth Grand Slam title.
Swiatek’s 21st straight victory at her happiest hunting ground put her in fourth place in the list of longest winning streaks at Roland Garros in the Open era behind only Chris Evert (29), Monica Seles (25) and Justine Henin (24).
The 23-year-old, who arrived in Paris in the form of her life having lifted titles in Madrid and Rome, extended her run of victories on clay this year to a career-best 19 matches and celebrated with her fourth French Open title in five years.
Swiatek came out all guns blazing early in the contest but after narrowly missing the chance to break from 0-40 down in the second game, the top-seeded Pole made heavy weather of the next to surrender her serve, before bouncing right back.
The diminutive Paolini, only the third Italian woman after Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani to reach the Roland Garros final since the sport turned professional in 1968, went toe to toe with Swiatek from there but cracked in the sixth game.
With the momentum shifting, claycourt specialist Swiatek began to dominate the exchanges from the baseline, superbly working the angles and sealing the opening set in 37 minutes after winning 20 out of 24 points since going down a break.
A shell-shocked Paolini smiled and soaked up the support and applause from the crowd on the main showcourt when she won the odd point early in the next set, but her challenge faded in the afternoon sun as Swiatek broke twice to build a 4-0 lead.
Swiatek, who dropped only one set throughout the tournament in a second-round epic with Naomi Osaka, won 10 successive games before Paolini got on the scoreboard, but there was to be no late comeback drama and the knockout blow was not long in coming.
Swiatek closed out the victory when Paolini sent a shot long and rejoiced by dropping to her knees and pumping her fists, letting out a huge roar, before joining her entourage in the stands for another round of celebrations.


Alcaraz outduels Sinner to reach French Open final

Alcaraz outduels Sinner to reach French Open final
Updated 07 June 2024
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Alcaraz outduels Sinner to reach French Open final

Alcaraz outduels Sinner to reach French Open final
  • Alcaraz, 21, will play fourth seed Alexander Zverev or two-time Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud on Sunday
  • “It’s one of the toughest matches I’ve played for sure,” said Alcaraz

PARIS: Carlos Alcaraz beat incoming world number one Jannik Sinner 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Friday to reach the French Open final and continue his bid for a third Grand Slam title.
Alcaraz, 21, will play fourth seed Alexander Zverev or two-time Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud on Sunday after becoming the youngest man to reach Grand Slam finals on all three surfaces.
“It’s one of the toughest matches I’ve played for sure,” said Alcaraz.
“The toughest I’ve played in my short career have been against Jannik. I hope to play many, many more like this.”
“You have to find the joy in suffering,” the Spaniard added.
Alcaraz has won both of his two previous major finals — at Wimbledon last year and the 2022 US Open. Victory on Sunday would see him head to the Australian Open next January seeking a career Grand Slam.
Both Alcaraz and Sinner arrived in Paris under an injury cloud, gradually finding their best level over the course of the tournament to set up a meeting billed as the match “everybody wants to see.”
The ninth chapter of an enthralling rivalry destined to shape the future of the sport was the youngest Grand Slam semifinal pairing since Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal at the 2008 US Open.
It was their first Grand Slam meeting since a spectacular five-set quarter-final two years ago in New York, and while perhaps not as exhilarating this one was no less gripping.
Alcaraz, who was hampered badly by cramp in last year’s semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic, had said that playing Sinner was like running a marathon, and it was the Spaniard doing much of the chasing early.
Sinner pinned Alcaraz on the back foot straight away as he broke in the very first game, blending impenetrable defense with searing groundstrokes as he went on the attack.
After holding with ease the Australian Open champion belted a forehand winner for another break opportunity in the third game, sweeping 3-0 in front following an Alcaraz miscue.
Alcaraz finally got on the board in the fifth game before retrieving a break, but he handed it right back and Sinner bagged the first set when the Spaniard dumped a drop-shot into the net.
Sinner began the second set in identical fashion, earning another break after a loose Alcaraz service game and consolidating for a 2-0 edge on a picture-perfect day in Paris.
Alcaraz belatedly spluttered into life though as Sinner struggled to maintain his sky-high standards from the opening set and presented his rival three break points with a double-fault.
A brilliant cross-court winner hauled Alcaraz back on serve, with the Spaniard soon accelerating 5-2 ahead following another break as Sinner sprayed his forehand wide.
Sinner temporarily slowed the Alcaraz charge, ending his five-game winning stretch, but the third seed levelled up the match the next game.
The early onslaught from Sinner felt a distant memory as Alcaraz pounced to break for a 2-1 lead in the third set, flicking a sublime backhand passing shot beyond a powerless Sinner.
Yet the momentum was quickly back with Sinner.
He ripped a blistering one-two combination of forehands to get back on serve and then resisted four break points in a lengthy fifth game before holding for 3-2.
Sinner received a massage from the physio for apparent cramp in his right forearm, but he brushed off any physical issue as he hammered a backhand return past Alcaraz to break again.
A tame Alcaraz forehand into the net handed Sinner the third set. A sense of calmness enveloped the fourth, with not a single break point on offer until a sizzling Alcaraz backhand brought about a set point.
He didn’t flinch and sent the match to a decider with a winner into the open court.
Alcaraz’s approach to grind Sinner down coupled with timely shotmaking allowed him to strike the critical blow in the second game of the fifth set.
Sinner, while visibly flagging more than his re-energised rival, did not go down without a fight, but Alcaraz finally put him away after four hours of another seismic showdown.