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
Lorenzo Musetti of Italy celebrates after defeating Taylor Fritz of the US in their quarterfinal match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London Wednesday. (AP)
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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.”


Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics
Updated 23 July 2024
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Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics

Andy Murray confirms retirement after Paris Olympics
  • Former world number one has twice won an Olympic gold medal in singles

PARIS: Former world number one and three-time Grand Slam title winner Andy Murray confirmed on Tuesday that he will retire after the Paris Olympics.
“Arrived in Paris for my last ever tennis tournament @Olympics. Competing for Great Britain have been by far the most memorable weeks of my career and I’m extremely proud to get do it one final time,” the 37-year-old wrote on social media.
Murray has twice won an Olympic gold medal in singles — at the 2012 Games in London and successfully defending the title four years later at Rio.


Nadal ‘not comfortable’ ahead of Olympics bid

Nadal ‘not comfortable’ ahead of Olympics bid
Updated 22 July 2024
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Nadal ‘not comfortable’ ahead of Olympics bid

Nadal ‘not comfortable’ ahead of Olympics bid

BASTED, Sweden: Rafael Nadal will head to the Paris Olympics chasing a third gold medal but admitted his “level was so far from what it should be” after losing in the Bastad clay-court final on Sunday.

The 38-year-old Spanish great went down to a straight-sets defeat to Portuguese journeyman Nuno Borges in his first final since capturing a 14th French Open in 2022.

“The level was so far from what it should be. Probably the energy too,” said Nadal.

“It has been a long week with long matches. Even if my body, I don’t have damage, that’s important — but mentally and physically, I am not used to playing four days in a row and playing long matches.”

Nadal was playing his first tournament since an opening round exit at the French Open in May.

He skipped Wimbledon to focus on his clay-court bag of tricks ahead of the Olympics which are being played at Roland Garros, the site of 14 of his 22 Grand Slam triumphs.

At the Games, Nadal will be looking to add to his singles gold from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and doubles victory at Rio in 2016.

As well as singles, in Paris he will team up with French Open and Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz.

“I played the final, that’s positive. I was able to play long matches without having an injury, that’s good,” added Nadal of his week in Sweden.

The former world number one has played just six tournaments in 2024 due to injury while his ranking has slumped to 261.

“In some way I felt that I arrived here practicing much better than what I played on the tournament during the whole week. That’s something that I am not satisfied with,” he explained.

“I arrived here with the feeling that I was playing a good level and I was not able to show that during the whole week. That is something that I am not happy with.

“Anyway it’s a final, so I can’t say it’s a bad result because it’s the first final since a long time ago. But I was not able to feel myself comfortable enough during the whole week to be satisfied with the week of tennis that I played.”


Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years
Updated 21 July 2024
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Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years
  • Borges dominates Spanish star as the latter struggled to find fluency

BASTAD, Sweden: Rafael Nadal lost his first final in two years on Sunday as the Spaniard went down 6-3, 6-2 to Portugal’s Nuno Borges at the clay-court Bastad Open.

The Spanish tennis great had shown signs of a return to form in Scandinavia as he made an impressive run to the final, just one week before tennis at the Olympic Games gets underway on the clay in Paris.

But Nadal, rather than celebrating his 64th title on the surface and first since Roland Garros 2022, was dominated by Borges as he struggled to find fluency with his serve and ground strokes.

“I don’t know what to say. I think I was wishing for this moment for a while already,” said Borges in his post-match interview.

“It’s crazy; in tennis, it doesn’t happen when you expect it sometimes. I know we all wanted Rafa to win; a part of me wished that too, but something even bigger inside of me really pushed through today ... I’m just really happy overall. I really don’t know what to say, I’m very emotional.”

Elsewhere, Matteo Berrettini breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 win against France’s Quentin Halys in the Gstaad final, earning the Italian his second clay-court title of the year. 

The sixth seed Berrettini capped off a fine week in Switzerland by needing just 59 minutes to dispatch the world No. 192 Halys.

“It feels unbelievable. It feels like it was yesterday that I won my first title here six years ago, but a lot of matches and a lot of things happened,” said Berrettini.

“I’m just so glad that I can keep playing and enjoying, and I think I found the energy of six years ago during this week. This place is special for me. I’m just so happy,” added the 28-year-old who has struggled with injuries since reaching a career-high world number six in May 2022.

Berrettini’s second title on clay this season, after winning in Marrakech in April, will ensure he breaks back into the ATP top 50 on Monday.

Currently ranked 82, Berrettini was outside of the top 150 in March but a return to fitness and a fine 16-6 record for the current season has seen the 2021 Wimbledon finalist begin to refind his best level.

Sunday’s final was briefly interrupted for rain just after Berrettini secured a crucial first break in the opening set.

When the players returned 30 minutes later, the Italian won six of the next seven games to claim his second Gstaad title.


India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame
Updated 21 July 2024
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India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame
  • The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies
  • Vijay Amritraj : I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport
  • Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist

NEW YORK: Former doubles world No. 1 Leander Paes and tennis broadcaster, actor and player Vijay Amritraj became the first Asian men inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist.

“It’s my greatest honor to be on this stage with not only these legends of the game, people who have inspired me every single day of my life — not because you’ve only won Grand Slams, not because you’ve shaped our sport but every single one of these people have shaped the world we live in,” Paes said.

“I would like to thank you so much for giving this Indian boy hope.”

Amritraj, 70, played from 1970 until retiring in 1993, winning 15 ATP singles titles and 399 matches and being ranked as high as 18th in the world and helped India to the Davis Cup finals in 1974 and 1987.

“I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport,” Amritraj said.

After his playing days, Amritraj has helped humanitarian causes, backed ATP and WTA events in India and has acted in the James Bond and Star Trek movie series.

“A feeling came over me that I had never experienced,” Amritraj said of learning about his election to the Hall. “This was an honor not just for me, for my family, for my parents, but for all of my fellow Indians and my country who live around the world.”

Like Amritraj, Evans was inducted in the contributor category for his life impact on the sport.

Paes, 51, was an 18-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles who was selected in the player category after honing his trade in an Amritraj youth academy.

Paes and Amritraj made India the 28th nation represented in the Hall of Fame.

“Playing for 1.4 billion people could either be pressure or it could be wind within your wings,” Paes said.

“I’d like to thank every single one of my countrymen who supported me, who stood by through all the ups and downs, and we’ve been through a few, but you all were the inspiration, the support, you were even the strength to guide me through when even I didn’t believe.”

Paes won career Grand Slams in both men’s and mixed doubles, completing one in men’s by winning the 2012 Australian Open and another in mixed by capturing the 2016 French Open.

He won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medal by defeating Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

His only ATP singles title came in 1998 on Newport grass in the same venue where he was inducted.

“As my father always said to me, if you believe in yourself, you work hard, you’ll be passionate not only to win prize money and trophies, but you do that to inspire the world,” Paes said.

“It has been my greatest honor to play for my countrymen in seven Olympics, to stand where the national anthem is playing in all those Davis Cups, and to prove that we Asians can win Grand Slams and also be No. 1 in our field, be it tennis or anything.”


Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown
Updated 14 July 2024
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Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown
  • Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz overpowered seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to retain his Wimbledon title on Sunday in a brutal statement that the new era of men’s tennis has arrived.
The Spanish third seed produced a performance combining awesome power with delicate touch to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), collecting the fourth Grand Slam of his young career.
Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under, joining Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.
And he is just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back.
Djokovic, 37, who had knee surgery just weeks ago, was aiming to win a 25th Grand Slam — which would have been a record in the men’s and women’s game.
But he had no answers in the Center Court sunshine as the electric Alcaraz pounded him from the back of the court and treated the crowd to an array of his trademark drop shots.
“Honestly, it is a dream for me winning this trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did an interview when I was 11 and I said my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“For me this is the most beautiful tournament, the most beautiful court and the most beautiful trophy.”
Alcaraz paid tribute to his beaten opponent, who only found his range in the third set.
“Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he was going to have his chances,” said Alcaraz who had needed five sets to defeat the Serb in the 2023 final.
“It was difficult but I tried to stay calm going into the tie-break and tried to play my best tennis. I was glad at the end I could find the solutions.”
Alcaraz seized the initiative in a first game of breathtaking quality lasting 14 minutes, taking advantage of his fifth break point.
The Spaniard settled quickly into his routine on serve and went up a double break when Djokovic double-faulted in the fifth game.
The shell-shocked Serbian, playing in his 10th Wimbledon final, held serve to love to close the gap to 5-2 but dumped the ball into the net to hand the Spaniard the first set.
Alcaraz was immediately on the front foot in the second set, forcing a break in the first game and fending off pressure on his own serve to take a 2-0 lead.
A Djokovic backhand into the net in the seventh game handed Alcaraz another break point and a double fault put the defending champion 5-2 up and on the cusp of a two-set lead.
The Center Court crowd, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked on in disbelief as their hopes for a titanic tussle evaporated.
The under-par Djokovic fended off another of clutch of break points early in the third set to stay alive and showed signs that he was finding his rhythm.
But Alcaraz broke for a 5-4 lead and moved to 40-0 on his own serve, only to suffer a wobble as Djokovic saved all three championship points, breaking for the first time in the match.
He recovered his composure quickly and the set went to a tie-break.
Djokovic went wide with a forehand to give Alcaraz a 5-3 lead and the Spaniard won the title with his fourth championship point, clambering up to the players’ box to celebrate with his family and coaching team.
The champion struck 42 winners to Djokovic’s 26 over the course of the match.
Princess Catherine, patron of the All England Club, handed over the trophy.
Last month she tentatively returned to British public life for the first time since her diagnosis, attending a military parade in London to mark King Charles III’s official birthday.
Djokovic, still without a title this year, will now turn his attention to the Paris Olympics as he seeks to win gold for the first time.
“It obviously was not the result I wanted but of course in the first couple of sets the level of tennis wasn’t up to par from my side,” he said.
“But credit to Carlos for playing elite tennis, especially from the back of the court, he had it all today.”