Category Archives: Tennis

Taylor Fritz ends Rafael Nadal’s 20-match win streak with win at Indian Wells

Hours from playing in the biggest final of his young career, Taylor Fritz was in severe pain. The prospect of having to withdraw versus Rafael Nadal nearly had him in tears.

His coach urged him not to risk potentially damaging his sore ankle further. Fritz stubbornly refused to bow out.

His faith in himself paid off. Fritz upset Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (5) Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open and snap the 21-time major champion’s 20-match winning streak this year.

“It was a complete nonissue, didn’t feel it at all, didn’t hinder me at all,” said Fritz, who tweaked his ankle late in his semifinal victory over No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev.

Blue medical tape could be seen above his high sock and he had it numbed before the final. Nadal had his own health issue. He came into the match bothered by painful breathing that he first experienced in a three-set semifinal win.

He took two medical timeouts during the final. The first one came after he lost the first set. Nadal went inside with a trainer after tapping his upper left chest. He received treatment on court after falling behind 5-4 in the second set.

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“When I try to breathe, it’s painful and it’s very uncomfortable. It’s like a needle all the time inside. I get dizzy a little bit because it’s painful. It’s a kind of pain that limit me a lot,” said Nadal, who turns 36 in June.

“The thing that worries me now, it’s about what’s going on there, what I have to do now to recover and how long it’s going to take.”

Nadal’s 20-0 start to the year included the Australian Open, his 21st major championship that broke a tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. He also won titles in Melbourne and Acapulco.

“Of course, the last two months have been amazing, unforgettable, very emotional,” Nadal said. “I enjoy things that I never thought I could live again a few months ago.”

Fritz didn’t waste any time in attacking Nadal, racing to a 5-1 lead in the first set with two breaks. Nadal got a break back in closing to 5-3, but his backhand error gave Fritz another break and the set.

“It’s an honor to even be on the same court as this guy,” Fritz told the crowd. “I grew up watching this guy win everything.”

Nadal fought off a match point on his serve with a forehand winner to tie the second set 5-all. He had two break points on Fritz’s serve in the next game, but the American held for a 6-5 lead. Nadal held to force the tiebreaker.

Nadal sent two straight forehands well wide to set up Fritz’s second match point.

Another Nadal error sent Fritz to the biggest victory of his career not far from where he grew up near San Diego. Fritz’s parents, Guy Fritz and Kathy May, are former tour players.

“He told me that I was going to win this tournament one day when I was a little kid,” Fritz said. “It was pretty tough not being emotional with my parents, especially my dad. He was just really, really proud of me. It’s really tough to get a compliment out of him.”

Fritz dropped his racket and collapsed on his back after clinching the title on his second match point. He got up smiling with a look of disbelief on his face. He became the first American man to win Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001.

“I just kept telling myself there’s no reason why I can’t win this,” Fritz said.

Fritz is projected to rise from No. 20 to a career-high 13th in Monday’s ATP Tour rankings and will become the top-ranked American player. Nadal moves up to No. 3.

Nadal had already decided to skip next week’s tournament in Miami and head home to Spain to prepare for the French Open, which starts May 22.

Fritz is scheduled for a MRI on his ankle Monday and isn’t sure whether he’ll be able to play in Miami.

The Miami Open started on Monday. Daniil Medvedev is among the notables who are playing on the men’s side, as well as Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini. Hubert Hurkacz won the event last year.

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Daniil Medvedev rolls to win at Indian Wells in his first match since reaching No. 1 in men’s tennis rankings; Rafael Nadal survives

Daniil Medvedev defeated Tomas Machac 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, the Russian’s first tournament since ascending to No. 1 in the world.

Medvedev made quick work of his Czech adversary, finishing Machac off in just over an hour. The Russian won 80% of his first-serve points and saved the lone break point he faced.

Rafael Nadal didn’t have it as easy in opening his pursuit of a fourth title at Indian Wells. He got pushed to the limit by practice partner Sebastian Korda before winning 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (3), giving Nadal a 16-0 record this year.

“I started to play a little bit more crosscourt with my forehand and with having a little bit more of calm,” Nadal said. “He made a couple mistakes and I was able to save myself.”

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Nadal won the Australian Open in January for his record 21st major championship, breaking a tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. He gained other titles in Melbourne and in Mexico.

Nadal trailed 5-2 in the third set before winning four straight games with two breaks of Korda to take a 6-5 lead. Korda held at 6-all to force the tiebreaker. The 38th-ranked Korda led 3-2 and then Nadal reeled off five straight points to close out the 2 1/2-hour match.

“He’s one of the greatest players of all time. He’s super hot. Hasn’t lost a match this year,” Korda said. “To kind of push him to the edge was awesome. Shows a lot of my game, how dangerous it can be against tough opponents.”

Before the match, Nadal withdrew from the Miami Open, which starts March 21. He is managing a chronic condition in his left foot.

Earlier this week, Medvedev received a trophy commemorating his status atop the ATP Tour rankings.

He displaced Djokovic, who wasn’t allowed to enter the U.S. to play because he’s not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Medvedev has to reach the quarterfinals in the desert to stay in the top spot.

“If I’m going to lose it because I’m either going to play a bad match or my opponent is going to play an amazing one, there is the next tournament in Miami,” he said. “That’s how tennis is, every week is a new story. Right now it’s Indian Wells week and I want to make it a good story.”

Medvedev is among players from Russia and Belarus competing at Indian Wells without flags, symbols or anthems as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to eliminate their national identity was made by the International Tennis Federation and both tours. “It’s definitely not for me to decide,” Medvedev said. “I follow the rules. I want to play my favorite sport.”

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Naomi Osaka rallies past Sloane Stephens in return at Indian Wells

Naomi Osaka made a winning return to the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday, rallying to defeat Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a first-round meeting of former major champions.

Trailing 2-0 in the third set, Osaka fought off three break points to hold and begin a run of six consecutive games to close out the match in just under two hours. She broke Stephens three times in the set, including at love in the sixth game.

“That was a really good test for me,” Osaka said.

Cold winds blowing from 20 to 30 mph sent debris swirling around the court.

“I felt like I was fighting for my life. I was fighting against her, I was fighting against the wind. It was crazy,” Osaka said.

“I’m really proud with how I handled it.” Osaka, the 2018 winner at Indian Wells, is back in the desert for the first time since 2019. The Japanese star hadn’t played a tournament since January when she lost in the round of 32 at the Australian Open.

Having played only a handful of events last year, her ranking has dropped to 78th in the world.

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“I keep taking these long breaks,” she said. “I do need to play a lot more matches and I do need to give myself the opportunity to get more into the swing of things.”

Osaka has stated she has faced bouts of depression since winning the US Open in 2018.

The four-time major champion withdrew from the French Open last year to preserve her mental health.

Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, lost for the first time in three career meetings with Osaka. The American’s ranking has dropped to 38th, although she was coming off a win in the tournament at Guadalajara, Mexico, last month.

Other first-round winners were Yulia Putintseva, Daria Saville and Tereza Martincova. Shelby Rogers, an Indian Wells quarterfinalist last year, needed nearly three hours to get by Nuria Parrizas Diaz 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (3).

In men’s first-round matches, Americans Mackenzie McDonald, Jenson Brooksby, Jack Sock and J.J. Wolf all won.

Christopher Eubanks saved three match points in outlasting Maxime Cressy 5-7, 7-6 (8), 6-4 in an all-American matchup. Nick Kyrgios, who received a wild card, beat Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-0.

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Novak Djokovic in BNP Paribas Open draw, but ‘it has not been determined if he will participate’

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic was announced in the draw for the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday, despite his status to enter the United States still unclear due to being unvaccinated.

“Novak Djokovic is on the tournament entry list, and therefore is placed into the draw today,” the California tournament said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are currently in communication with his team; however, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC approval to enter the country.”

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It’s the latest setback for Djokovic, the 20-time major champion, in what has become a tumultuous 2022.

He was deported from Australia in January after initially receiving a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open and then having his visa revoked by the Australian government.

He has since played in just one tournament — a quarterfinal appearance in Dubai — and it stays unclear how many events he will be able to play as a result of his unvaccinated status. He was recently ousted from the No. 1 ranking by Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic told the BBC he would be willing to skip majors in the future if a vaccine was required.

“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said in February.

Djokovic publicly stated his desire to play at the Masters 1000-level event in Indian Wells, California but said in Dubai last month he wasn’t sure if he would be able to enter the country. He has yet to provide a further update.

The men’s main draw gets underway on Thursday and seeded players receive a first-round bye. Djokovic is currently scheduled to play the winner of the opening-round match between Jordan Thompson and David Goffin in a second-round match on Saturday or Sunday.

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Top-ranked Ash Barty pulls out of Indian Wells, Miami Open tennis tournaments

Ashleigh Barty, the world’s top-ranked women’s tennis player, pulled out of Indian Wells and the Miami Open on Thursday, citing a need for ongoing recovery after winning the Australian Open.

Indian Wells starts next week, and had she played it would have been Barty’s first appearance there since 2019. The Miami Open, where Barty is the two-time defending champion, begins March 21.

“Unfortunately, my body has not recovered the way I’d hoped after the Australian Open and I have not been able to adequately prepare for Indian Wells and Miami,” Barty said. “I don’t believe I am at the level necessary to win these events and as a result I have decided to withdraw from both tournaments.

“I love these events and am sad not to be there competing but getting my body right must be my focus.”

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Barty’s withdrawal means that Indian Wells will be without both finalists from January’s Australian Open. 

Danielle Collins, the top-ranked American in the women’s rankings at No. 11, cited ongoing injuries in her decision to not play there.

Miami Open tournament director James Blake stated he hopes Barty can make a quick return.

“I know this was an extremely difficult decision for Ashleigh and understand the importance for players to prioritize their health,” Blake said.

Barty ended a 44-year drought for Australian women at the Australian Open when she won the singles title at Melbourne Park in late January. It was her third Grand Slam singles title and her first on hard courts after her victories on grass at Wimbledon and on clay at the French Open.

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Daniil Medvedev, Rafael Nadal advance at Mexican Open to remain on track for rematch

Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal had comfortable victories on Wednesday at the Mexican Open, and a rematch of their epic five-set final at the Australian Open appears to be on the horizon.

Medvedev took another step toward the top spot in the ATP rankings with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 second-round triumph over Pablo Andujar, while Nadal cruised past Stefan Kozlov 6-0, 6-3.

If Medvedev beats Yoshihito Nishioka in the quarterfinals and Nadal does the same versus Tommy Paul, the two players will meet again in the semifinals less than a month after the Spaniard rallied to win the final at Melbourne for his record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

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Paul advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-5 win over Dusan Lajovic, and Nishioka progressed after rallying to beat Taylor Fritz 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Medvedev, 26, is trying to replace Novak Djokovic atop the rankings and could achieve that goal if he wins the title in Acapulco.

He needed just over an hour to beat Andujar the morning after defending champion Alexander Zverev was kicked out of the Mexican Open for violently smashing his racket on the umpire’s chair moments after losing a doubles match.

“If I do (reach No. 1), it is going to mean a lot, there would be a lot of statistics mentioned, since when this or since when that. … It’s going to be fun, but first I have to achieve it, it’s my main goal to win as many matches as possible in the next few weeks,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev beat Djokovic in the US Open final last September to win his first major title and, at his next Grand Slam event, reached the final at the Australian Open on Jan. 30 before losing to Nadal.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who has won three times in Acapulco — 2005, 2013 and 2020 — has a 12-0 record in 2022 and needed 1 hour, 16 minutes to beat Kozlov, who entered the draw as a lucky loser.

The Mexican Open is played on the hard courts of the Arena GNP in Acapulco.

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Novak Djokovic beats Karen Khachanov in Dubai for second win of year

Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal had comfortable victories on Wednesday at the Mexican Open, and a rematch of their epic five-set final at the Australian Open appears to be on the horizon.

Medvedev took another step toward the top spot in the ATP rankings with a dominant 6-1, 6-2 second-round triumph over Pablo Andujar, while Nadal cruised past Stefan Kozlov 6-0, 6-3.

If Medvedev defeats either Taylor Fritz or Yoshihito Nishioka in the quarterfinals and Nadal does the same versus Tommy Paul, the two players will meet again in the semifinals less than a month after the Spaniard rallied to win the final at Melbourne for his record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

Paul advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-5 win over Dusan Lajovic.

Medvedev, 26, is trying to replace Novak Djokovic atop the rankings and could achieve that goal if he wins the title in Acapulco.

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He needed just over an hour to beat Andujar the morning after defending champion Alexander Zverev was kicked out of the Mexican Open for violently smashing his racket on the umpire’s chair moments after losing a doubles match.

“If I do (reach No. 1), it is going to mean a lot, there would be a lot of statistics mentioned, since when this or since when that. … It’s going to be fun, but first I have to achieve it, it’s my main goal to win as many matches as possible in the next few weeks,” Medvedev said.

Medvedev beat Djokovic in the US Open final last September to win his first major title and, at his next Grand Slam event, reached the final at the Australian Open on Jan. 30 before losing to Nadal.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, who has acquired three times in Acapulco — 2005, 2013 and 2020 — has a 12-0 record in 2022 and needed 1 hour, 16 minutes to beat Kozlov, who entered the draw as a lucky loser.

Also on Wednesday, Marcos Giron beat Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4) and is waiting for the outcome of the late match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and J.J. Wolf.

Also, Cameron Norrie beast John Isner 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 and will next play Peter Gojowczyk, who entered the draw as a lucky loser and qualified for the quarterfinals without playing after Zverev was thrown out of the tournament. The Mexican Open is played on the hard courts of the Arena GNP in Acapulco.

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Andrey Rublev ‘cannot imagine a better start’ after topping Daniel Evans at Dubai Championships

Second-seeded Andrey Rublev defeated Daniel Evans 6-4, 7-5 in the first round of the Dubai Championships on Tuesday, just two days after winning his ninth tour title.

The Russian, who defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime in the final at the Open 13 tennis tournament in Marseille, France, on Sunday, next faces Soonwoo Kwan after the South Korean beat Ilya Ivashka 6-3, 6-2.

The seventh-ranked Rublev also obtained the doubles title in Marseille with Ukrainian partner Denys Molchanov.

“I arrived at the hotel maybe at 2 a.m. today,” Rublev said in his on-court interview Tuesday. “I slept maybe six or seven hours. I was thinking that probably no chance for me to win, and here I am, I won my first round so I’m really happy. I cannot imagine a better start.”

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Karen Khachanov will face top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the second round after the Russian defeated Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-7 (1), 7-5.

On Monday, Djokovic won his first match of the year when he beat Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3.

The top-ranked Serb couldn’t defend his Australian Open title last month because he was deported from the country for being unvaccinated, but seemed at ease on the court after walking out to a raucous standing ovation.

“I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two and a half, three months,” Djokovic said.

“Of course, there were moments when I played great, there were moments when I made a couple of unforced errors in a row uncharacteristically. But it’s normal to expect that [in my] first match after a while.”

Fourth-seeded Jannik Sinner outlasted Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 and will next face Andy Murray.

American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald topped seventh-seeded Aslan Karatsev of Russia 7-5, 6-3 to set up a second-round match versus Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.

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Novak Djokovic, ‘satisfied with my tennis,’ wins first match of his year as Dubai Championships begin

Novak Djokovic won his first match of the year when he defeated Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-3 to open the Dubai Championships on Monday.

Djokovic couldn’t defend his Australian Open title last month because he was deported from the country for being unvaccinated.

The United Arab Emirates permitted him entry, and Djokovic cashed in at a tournament he’s won five times. The Monday crowd was glad to see him, as he was met with a standing ovation, complete with phone cameras flashing when he was introduced.

Djokovic responded with an emphatic wave before making his way to his position by the judge’s chair.

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Musetti took two sets off Djokovic at the French Open last year, but on a breezy Dubai evening, the Italian wild card couldn’t convert bags of break chances while trailing 3-1 in the first set and 4-2 in the second.

“I have to be satisfied with my tennis, especially after not playing for two and a half, three months,” Djokovic said on court.

“Of course, there were moments when I played great, there were moments when I made a couple of unforced errors in a row uncharacteristically. But it’s normal to expect that [in my] first match after a while.”

He next faces Karen Khachanov or Alex de Minaur.

Andy Murray won his first match in Dubai since his title run in 2017. He defeated Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-5 after nearly three hours.

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Novak Djokovic gets warm welcome in Dubai before tennis tournament

Novak Djokovic on Thursday received a warm welcome in Dubai, where he visited the world’s fair following the global discussion around his decision to stay unvaccinated.

After being twice detained and deported from Australia ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam Tournament last month, Djokovic was in the United Arab Emirates for the Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m excited to go out on the tennis court next Monday,” the Serbian tennis star said when asked by The Associated Press how he feels after the recent twists and turns of the legal dispute over his travel visa. “I miss tennis honestly after everything that has happened.”

Djokovic this week doubled down on his decision to stay unvaccinated. The No. 1-ranked tennis player stated he would skip the French Open, Wimbledon and other tournaments if he was required to get a coronavirus vaccine to compete.

Djokovic reiterated in an interview with Serbia’s state RTS television on Thursday that he keeps “an open mind” about the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future but remains willing to miss upcoming majors because of his refusal to do so.

“I am not exclusive, anything is possible in life,” Djokovic said. “I decided at this moment not to do it and I am ready to bear consequences.”

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The government of Dubai does not require visitors to be vaccinated to enter.

The men’s tennis tour event starts next week.

As he ambled into the pavilion Thursday surrounded by a sea of journalists, fans clapped and chanted “Nole,” his nickname.

Djokovic posed for selfies with adoring fans and set off on a guided tour of Serbia’s national pavilion at Expo 2020 days before he was due to hit the courts. The pavilion was hosting an event for his foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which promotes early childhood education in Serbia.

“I’m proud to be on this stage,” Djokovic said after his wife, Jelena, gave a presentation about the foundation’s work with children.

He said it was often hard to be involved as much as he wanted to be with the foundation given his whirlwind tournament calendar.

But he quickly acknowledged: “It’s not as busy as it used to be.”

The audience burst into applause. Wearing a crisp white shirt and black mask emblazoned with his foundation’s logo, Djokovic gave high fives to toddlers and nodded encouragingly as he heard about Serbia’s startup scene at the pavilion’s multimedia exhibit.

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