Swiatek downs Gauff to reach French Open final, Djokovic has surgery

Swiatek downs Gauff to reach French Open final, Djokovic has surgery
Poland’s Iga Swiatek celebrates winning her semi final match against Coco Gauff of the US at the French Open — Roland Garros, Paris, on Jun. 6, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 June 2024
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Swiatek downs Gauff to reach French Open final, Djokovic has surgery

Swiatek downs Gauff to reach French Open final, Djokovic has surgery
  • World number one Swiatek extended her winning run in Paris to 20 matches and advanced to a fourth Roland Garros final in five years
  • The Pole withstood break points in her first two service games, before striking again to move up a double break at 4-1

PARIS: Iga Swiatek closed in on a third successive French Open title Thursday as she defeated Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals, while Novak Djokovic said surgery on his injured knee “went well.”
World number one Swiatek extended her winning run in Paris to 20 matches and advanced to a fourth Roland Garros final in five years, with 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva or Italy’s Jasmine Paolini standing between her and another title.
Swiatek, who had won 10 of her previous 11 meetings with Gauff in straight sets, wasted no time in grabbing the initiative as she broke the US Open champion in the opening game of the match.
The Pole withstood break points in her first two service games, before striking again to move up a double break at 4-1.
She closed out the first set without trouble, but third seed Gauff threatened a fightback when she nosed 3-1 ahead in the second set after wiping away tears following an argument with the chair umpire over the timing of a line call.
Swiatek though responded the very next game and won four in a row to surge to the cusp of victory.
Gauff saved two match points to make Swiatek serve it out, which the top seed eventually did at the fourth time of asking.
“It was intense. In the second set it was tight because we were breaking each other,” said Swiatek.
“I was consistent with my tactics, didn’t overthink stuff and just went for it in the end.”
Swiatek improved to 34-2 at the French Open after beating Gauff at Roland Garros for the third tournament in a row.
She has won all four of her previous Grand Slam finals and could become only the fourth woman to win four Roland Garros titles in the Open era — after Justine Henin, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf.
Swiatek is also on track to join Serena Williams as the only women to complete the treble of French, Madrid and Rome Open titles in the same year.
Russian Andreeva, the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist since Martina Hingis in 1997, takes on the unheralded Paolini in the other last-four encounter.
Andreeva stole the headlines in the quarter-finals with a shock victory over world number two Aryna Sabalenka, who was hit by a stomach bug, becoming the youngest woman to reach a Slam semifinal since Hingis at the US Open 27 years ago.
She will now bid to back up that statement performance against 12th seed Paolini, who also got through with a surprise win against former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
Both Andreeva and Paolini had never reached the quarters at a major tournament before this week, but are now just one match from the final.
With another win, Andreeva will also be the youngest Slam finalist since Hingis, who won the 1997 US Open aged 16.
The pair met for the only previous time earlier this year in the Madrid Open last 16, when Andreeva came out on top in two tight sets.
“I remember our match in Madrid. I remember that it was tough,” said Andreeva. “She played really good tennis, and after I was able to catch up a little bit.
“I’m sure that it will a great match.”
Paolini had never got past the second round at a Grand Slam before this year, but the 28-year-old has been much improved in 2024, also reaching the Australian Open last 16.
“She’s so young but she’s so, so good mentally, and she can defend very well,” Paolini said of her upcoming opponent.
“It’s going to be a tough match, but we are in the semifinal, so there is no chance to get easy matches.”
Djokovic confirmed Thursday he had undergone an operation on his right knee he injured during his last-16 win.
The 24-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic was forced to withdraw ahead of his Roland Garros quarter-final against Casper Ruud after a scan revealed a torn medial meniscus in his right knee.
“In the past day, I had to make some tough decisions after sustaining a meniscus tear during my last match,” he posted on social media.
“I’m still processing it all but I am happy to update you that the surgery went well.”
The 37-year-old made no mention of whether he would be fit to take part at Wimbledon which begins on July 1 but added that he was going to “do my best to be healthy and fit to return to the court as soon as possible.”


Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final
Updated 4 min 54 sec ago
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Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final

Defending champion Alcaraz into Wimbledon final
  • World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
  • He will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti

LONDON: Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz reached his fourth Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Friday when he recovered from a set down to defeat Daniil Medvedev.
World number three Alcaraz beat his fifth-ranked opponent 6-7 (1/7), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and will face either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Musetti for the title on Sunday.
Twice Medvedev led with breaks in the first set only to be pinned back by Alcaraz.
Such was his frustration that he was handed a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct by umpire Eva Asderaki for an apparent foul-mouthed reaction to a ball called for bouncing twice as he was broken in the ninth game.
The tournament referee was even summoned to Center Court by Asderaki, but Medvedev shrugged off the incident to sweep through the tie-break and take the opening set in which he committed only eight unforced errors to the Spaniard’s 15.
It was the third time at this year’s Wimbledon that Alcaraz had dropped the first set.
Alcaraz recovered impressively, breaking Medvedev for a 3-1 lead in the second having come out on top in the previous game on the back of a 27-shot rally.
The 21-year-old then hit 14 winners in the third set, pocketing the only break in the third game.
Medvedev, who had knocked out world number one Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, retrieved a break early in the fourth set.
But Alcaraz kept up his assault, edging ahead again for 4-3 on his way to victory.


Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run

Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run
Updated 12 July 2024
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Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run

Paolini eyes Wimbledon title against Krejcikova after ‘crazy’ run
  • Paolini survived the longest women’s singles semifinal in Wimbledon history to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) after two hours and 51 minutes of Center Court drama on Thursday

LONDON: Italy’s Jasmine Paolini has set her sights on capping a “crazy” run to Saturday’s Wimbledon final against Barbora Krejcikova by winning a maiden Grand Slam title.

Paolini survived the longest women’s singles semifinal in Wimbledon history to beat Donna Vekic 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) after two hours and 51 minutes of Center Court drama on Thursday.

The 28-year-old is the first Italian woman to reach the final of the grass-court Grand Slam.

She will face Czech 31st seed Krejcikova, who enjoyed a shock 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over 2022 champion Elena Rybakina in the other semifinal.

It is an astonishing achievement for Paolini, who had not won a Tour-level match on grass until 15 days ago in Eastbourne, and lost in the first round on her previous three visits to Wimbledon.

She had also failed to go beyond the second round of a Grand Slam until this year.

But 2024 has been a breakthrough campaign for Paolini, who reached her maiden Grand Slam final at the French Open before losing to world number one Iga Swiatek.

Even Paolini can’t quite believe her remarkable rise.

“You are crazy, I would say, yes,” she said. “Yeah, I don’t have words. Just, yeah, you are crazy,” said Paolini, who started her unexpected rise by making the Australian Open last 16 in January.

“Two Grand Slam finals in a row was crazy to believe, no?“

Paolini, seeded seventh at Wimbledon, could be forgiven for feeling nervous as she chases the first Grand Slam title of her previously underwhelming career.

She conceded anxiety could be an issue on Center Court this weekend, but she can take heart from the gritty fightback against Vekic, who burst into tears as she let the semifinal slip away after holding a 3-1 lead in the deciding set.

Paolini is the first woman to reach back-to-back Roland Garros and Wimbledon finals since Serena Williams in 2016.

The final is just the second time Krejcikova and Paolini have met and their showdown will be a world away from their first encounter.

The pair squared off in the first round of qualifying for the Australian Open in 2018, with Krejcikova claiming a straight sets victory.

“It was a very long time ago, it’s been a great journey for both of us to reach the Wimbledon final,” Krejcikova said.

Krejcikova will be playing in the second Grand Slam final of her career after winning the French Open in 2021.

The 28-year-old had struggled with a back injury and illness this year, winning just three singles matches in the five months before finding her form in remarkable style at Wimbledon.

Krejcikova shocked 11th seed Danielle Collins in the fourth round, former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals and Rybakina in the last four.

The two-time Wimbledon doubles champion is inspired by 1998 All England Club winner Jana Novotna, who worked as her coach for a period before dying of cancer in 2017.

“She was telling me a lot of stories about her journeys here and how she was trying to win Wimbledon. I was so far when we had this talk and now I’m in the final,” said Krejcikova, who can become the sixth Czech woman to win Wimbledon.

“I have had many difficult periods. I never really imagined I could reach a Wimbledon final, that I can be a different player.

“I’m super happy I was able to fight through everything.”


Lorenzo Musetti reaches his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will face Novak Djokovic

Lorenzo Musetti reaches his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will face Novak Djokovic
Updated 11 July 2024
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Lorenzo Musetti reaches his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will face Novak Djokovic

Lorenzo Musetti reaches his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will face Novak Djokovic
  • As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be an eighth at the All England Club
  • The other semifinal Friday is defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev

LONDON: Lorenzo Musetti threw his head back and spread his arms wide to celebrate reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, then covered his face with both hands.

His 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Taylor Fritz on Wednesday was a big deal, to be sure. After all, the 25th-seeded Musetti, a 22-year-old from Italy, never had made it past the third round at the All England Club — or past the fourth round at any major tournament — until this fortnight.

Now, though, comes a far tougher test: Taking on Novak Djokovic.

“He probably knows, better than me, the surface and the stadium, for sure,” Musetti said with a chuckle, aware he’ll be making his Center Court debut on Friday. “Jokes apart, he’s a legend everywhere, but especially here in Wimbledon.”

This will be Djokovic’s record-tying 13th semifinal at Wimbledon alone — equaling Roger Federer — and 49th Slam semifinal overall, extending a mark he already held. As Musetti pursues his first major championship, Djokovic seeks a 25th, including what would be an eighth at the All England Club.

Djokovic’s smooth trip through this year’s bracket was made even easier when the man he was supposed to play in the quarterfinals Wednesday, Alex de Minaur, pulled out with a hip injury hours before their match was scheduled to begin.

Musetti was forced to work for his spot in the final four: His 3 1/2-hour victory over the 13th-seeded Fritz was the 37th five-setter at the All England Club this year, the most at any Grand Slam tournament.

Musetti acknowledged he didn’t get off to an ideal start, in part because of nerves. But an early break in the second set helped alter the course of the evening.

“Immediately, I changed my mind. I changed my attitude,” he said. “And that probably made the difference.”

Musetti’s son, Ludovico, was born in March, and he said Wednesday that helped him rededicate himself to his sport and strive to no longer “throw away matches.”

“Instead of me teaching him, he’s teaching me. … Having a child makes you reflect a lot,” Musetti said. “I feel more mature on the court, more mature off the court, and more mature as a player, as a father, as a person.”

Playing at a sun-swathed No. 1 Court against Fritz, an American who is one of the sport’s biggest servers but fell to 0-4 in major quarterfinals, Musetti managed to accumulate 13 break points and convert six.

With Queen Camilla, the wife of King Charles III, in the stands and joining fans in doing the wave, Musetti did far more to vary his strokes — a drop shot here, a lob there, plenty of slices — than Fritz did.

“I just felt like it took a lot to finish the point,” Fritz said.

Djokovic had knee surgery less than a month before the start of play at the All England Club. But despite limitations on his movement, the 37-year-old Djokovic has dropped only two sets so far — facing a qualifier in the first round, a wild-card entrant in the second and only one seeded player, No. 15 Holger Rune.

Instead of going up against No. 9 de Minaur on Wednesday, Djokovic will get three full days off before meeting Musetti. The other semifinal Friday is defending champion Carlos Alcaraz against Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic and Musetti have played each other six times previously. Djokovic has won five of those, including a five-setter at this year’s French Open that concluded after 3 a.m. It was in Djokovic’s following match in Paris that he tore the meniscus in his right knee.

“We know each other pretty well. They’ve always been a huge fight so I expect a big, big fight. It’s going to be one of the toughest challenges on tour,” Musetti said, “but I am an ambitious guy and I like to be challenged.”

In the women’s quarterfinals Wednesday, 2022 champion Elena Rybakina grabbed nine of the last 11 games to defeat No. 21 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2, and No. 31 Barbora Krejcikova eliminated No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a matchup between two past champions at the French Open.

The other women’s semifinal on Thursday is No. 7 Jasmine Paolini of Italy against unseeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina ended her win with her seventh ace and improved to 19-2 at Wimbledon in four appearances.

“Definitely, I have an aggressive style of game,” Rybakina said. “I have a huge serve, so it’s a big advantage.”

Krejcikova won her first Grand Slam title on the red clay at Roland Garros in 2021, but the 28-year-old from the Czech Republic never put together a five-match winning streak on grass until now.

De Minaur’s exit is the latest due to injury in Week 2. His hip issue arose right at the end of his win against Arthur Fils on Monday.

De Minaur said he heard a crack and knew something was wrong.

He underwent medical tests Tuesday that revealed the extent of the problem but tried to practice on Wednesday morning, hoping to participate in what would have been his first Wimbledon quarterfinal.

“This was the biggest match of my career,” de Minaur said, “so wanted to do anything I could to play.”


Injuries are adding up at Wimbledon and determining the outcomes of matches

Injuries are adding up at Wimbledon and determining the outcomes of matches
Updated 10 July 2024
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Injuries are adding up at Wimbledon and determining the outcomes of matches

Injuries are adding up at Wimbledon and determining the outcomes of matches
  • Taylor Fritz’s fourth-round opponent, Alexander Zverev, slipped on an unworn patch of green grass in his previous match
  • “It’s unfortunate, obviously,” de Minaur said. “You never want to see this”

LONDON: There's no single explanation, of course, for all of the injuries to players in the latter stages at Wimbledon this year. This much is certain: The timing could hardly be worse.
The man Novak Djokovic was supposed to face on Wednesday, Alex de Minaur, withdrew hours before their scheduled quarterfinal because he jarred his hip at the end of a victory two days earlier.
“I'm devastated,” de Minaur said. “The problem with me going out and playing is that one stretch, one slide, one anything, can make this injury (recovery) go from three to six weeks to four months. It’s too much to risk.”
Taylor Fritz’s fourth-round opponent, Alexander Zverev, slipped on an unworn patch of green grass in his previous match. That caused a bone bruise — and maybe worse — that Zverev complained left him on “one leg” in his loss to the American at what the two-time major finalist characterized as a wide open opportunity to grab a first Grand Slam title.
Danielle Collins' last Wimbledon appearance before retirement ended with tape wrapped around her hamstring, the work of a trainer during the American’s fourth-round loss to 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova. Collins chalked it up to failing to “think about every little step that you take.”
“There's been a ton of injuries on the grass. Left and right, it seems like people are going down. I am, I guess, frustrated that I feel like I was focusing on my tactics and kind of what I needed to do to play at a high level. Usually, I feel like, on other surfaces you’re not having to think so critically about your movement,” Collins said. “The one second I take my mind off of it, not think about every little thing I’m doing with my footwork, it ends up happening.”
The falls keep happening. The injuries are adding up.
“It’s unfortunate, obviously,” de Minaur said. “You never want to see this.”
He called his mishap “more of a freak injury,” related to the “excessive amount of force” used to slide on grass.
Madison Keys, the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up, was in tears when she stopped because of a hurt leg at 5-all in the third set of a Week 2 match against Jasmine Paolini, who reached Thursday's semifinals.
Emma Raducanu, who won the U.S. Open three years ago, withdrew from mixed doubles — which was supposed to be Andy Murray's last event at Wimbledon — because of a sore wrist, then needed a medical timeout later that day after falling in the third set of a singles loss.
No. 17 Anna Kalinskaya cited a bad wrist when she quit in her fourth-round match against 2022 champion Elena Rybakina. No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov retired from his fourth-round match against Daniil Medvedev with a leg problem.
“It’s normal for the second week at Wimbledon to be feeling niggling things on your muscles, because it’s tough — the grass, getting down low, coming into the net. It's more on the muscles than the joints on the grass," 2003 Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis said. "So I’m sure lots of people will be feeling it now with little things here and there.”
Count Djokovic among those who think part of the issue is that all of the rain during the tournament — so much that the mixed doubles final was shifted from Thursday to Sunday, and play began a half-hour earlier than usual on most courts Wednesday — has made the grass more slick and the footing less sure.
So has shutting the retractable roofs at Centre Court and No. 1 Court, the only two arenas with that luxury during wet weather.
“Once you close the roof, you know that the grass is going to be more slippery. So there’s more chances that players will fall. Unfortunately, some of the falls have caused some of the players to withdraw,” Djokovic said.
“It's part of this surface. You can’t really change that," added the seven-time champion at the All England Club. "I mean, it’s grass. It’s a live surface, and it reacts to different conditions.”
The pattern began at grass tourneys that preceded Wimbledon.
Marketa Vondrousova retired from a match in Berlin after hurting her right leg there. When she showed up at Wimbledon, she became the first defending champion in 30 years to lose in the first round and acknowledged: "I was a bit scared because of my leg.”
The woman who beat her last week, Jessica Bouzas Maneiro, stopped at Wimbledon because of a back issue in the third round against Krejcikova.
Frances Tiafoe pulled out of the Queen's Club tournament before Wimbledon after spraining a ligament in his right knee when he took a tumble. Tiafoe played at the All England Club with a black sleeve over his knee and made it to the third round before losing to defending champion Carlos Alcaraz.
Djokovic tore the meniscus in his right knee during a match at the French Open, had surgery and returned to competition less than a month later. Ironically, he thinks it's possible that might have helped him stay upright this fortnight.
That's because, years ago, Djokovic was one of the first players to regularly slide on grass the way they do on clay. He has cut down on those movements this time at Wimbledon, being extra careful to avoid risking falls.
“It’s probably part of my, I guess, different kind of movement on the court that I’ve been really experimenting with because of the cautiousness — because of the knee and everything that was happening prior to the tournament,” Djokovic explained. “The first couple rounds, I was still not maybe willing to go (for difficult) balls and slide and make splits.”
Other theories include: More and more baseline play on grass, and less serving-and-volleying, creates longer points and extra running, which translate into a greater likelihood of slips; less comfort on grass because players tend to grow up practicing and competing on clay or hard courts; and a brief grass portion of the schedule that doesn't allow for accumulating a lot of experience on the turf.
Then there's the general wear-and-tear of a season.
“Listen, tennis is a very physical sport at the moment. For sure, the rallies are longer. Matches. Scheduling. Finishing late,” 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis said. “It’s very demanding on the body. ... A lot of things are changing that (contribute) to players getting injured.”


Novak Djokovic moves into Wimbledon semifinals after Alex de Minaur withdraws

Novak Djokovic moves into Wimbledon semifinals after Alex de Minaur withdraws
Updated 10 July 2024
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Novak Djokovic moves into Wimbledon semifinals after Alex de Minaur withdraws

Novak Djokovic moves into Wimbledon semifinals after Alex de Minaur withdraws
  • Novak Djokovic will face Taylor Fritz or Lorenzo Musetti on Friday for a berth in the final

LONDON: Novak Djokovic got a free pass into the Wimbledon semifinals on Wednesday when his quarterfinal opponent, Alex de Minaur, withdrew with a hip injury.
De Minaur, an Australian who was seeded ninth at the All England Club, announced he was pulling out of the tournament hours before he and Djokovic were scheduled to play each other at Center Court.
This match would have been de Minaur’s first quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon. He made it that far at the French Open last month, too.
Djokovic will face Taylor Fritz or Lorenzo Musetti on Friday for a berth in the final.
The second-seeded Djokovic has won seven of his men’s-record 24 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon.