Category Archives: Tennis

Sebastian Korda back in Delray Beach Open quarterfinals; Tommy Paul cruises

Sebastian Korda is back in the quarterfinals of the Delray Beach Open after fighting past Andreas Seppi on Wednesday night.

Korda, a Delray finalist last year and the No. 5 seed this year, needed nearly two hours to defeat Seppi 7-5, 6-3 and earn his quarterfinal spot. He’ll next face either top-seeded Cameron Norrie or Oscar Otte, who were listed to play later Wednesday.

Korda downed Norrie in last year’s Delray semifinals. Fourth-seeded Tommy Paul and unseeded Stefan Kozlov will meet in another quarterfinal after they combined to lose a total of six games in easy wins Wednesday. Paul needed only an hour in very windy conditions to defeat Denis Istomin 6-2, 6-0, and Kozlov ousted Steve Johnson 6-1, 6-3.

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“I’ve trained here for a very long time so I’m kind of used to it,” Paul said about playing in the wind. “I’d say it gave me a slight advantage over him. I don’t know how much he’s training in outdoor, windy conditions.”

Paul and Kozlov have been practice partners in recent years, especially when both were spending time in South Florida earlier in the pandemic.

“We know each other’s game really well,” Paul said. “He’s a very, very tricky player. It should be a good one.”

The bottom half of the draw will play its round-of-16 matches on Thursday, counting an all-U.S. matchup pitting No. 2 seed Reilly Opelka versus Jack Sock.

Opelka is 8-2 all time at Delray Beach, including a run to the 2020 championship there and a three-set victory over then-No. 1 seeded Sock in the second round of the 2018 event.

Other matches Thursday will feature John Millman facing Marcus Giron, No. 7 seed Adrian Mannarino against Brandon Nakashima and No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov meeting Mitchell Krueger.

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Novak Djokovic on entry list for BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is on the entry list for the BNP Paribas Open in California, where the Serb would face a vaccine mandate.

Djokovic, who was unvaccinated against COVID-19 as of last month, was detained and eventually deported from Australia for failing to meet that country’s strict vaccination requirements. It prevented him from defending his Australian Open title last month.

To enter Australia, Djokovic submitted a positive test issued in Serbia on Dec. 16 for a visa exemption on the grounds that he had recently recovered from the virus. But the Australian government canceled his visa and deported him.

Neither the ATP nor WTA tours require players to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, non-U.S. citizens must be fully vaccinated to travel to the U.S. by plane, according to the CDC. U.S. citizens, permanent residents and those traveling on an immigration visa, if not fully vaccinated, are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the U.S. by air. Limited exceptions apply.

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Djokovic is a five-time champion at Indian Wells, where he hasn’t played since 2019. He hasn’t played a game since November at the Davis Cup in Madrid.

Djokovic is calendared to play a tournament in Dubai later this month.

Fans attending Indian Wells from March 7-20 are required to show valid proof of full vaccination.

Australian Open winners Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty head the list of entries released Wednesday.

Three-time winner Nadal returns to the desert for the first time since 2019. He missed last year’s event that was moved to October because of a foot injury. He won his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Australia.

Joining Nadal in the men’s draw are Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev, No. 3 Alexander Zverev, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and defending champion Cameron Norrie.

Top-ranked Barty already has two titles this year.

She’s joined in the women’s draw by defending champion Paula Badosa, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 2021 French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova, No. 4 Karolina Pliskova and Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins. Teenagers Leylah Fernandez, Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff return for their second appearances in the desert.

The remaining spots in the draw will be filled by winners of the qualifying and wild-card recipients.

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Jurij Rodionov drops Maxime Cressy at Dallas Open

Qualifier Jurij Rodionov of Austria beat sixth-seeded American Maxime Cressy of 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 on Tuesday to advance to the round of 16 at the inaugural Dallas Open.

Paris-born Cressy was the first of the eight seeded players to lose his match. A former UCLA player, Cressy now lives in Hermosa Beach, California.

The only other seeded player on the courts was No. 7 Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, California. Giron, another former UCLA Bruin, defeated countryman Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-4. The former collegiate player at Tennessee has been ranked as high as 41st in the world.

“I knew I would have to play well. I did a good job playing well on the important points,” Giron said.

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The top four seeds, all Americans — No. 1 Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, John Isner and Jenson Brooksby — had byes to the round of 16. On Wednesday, fifth-seed Adrian Mannarino of France will play a round of 32 match and No. 8 Brandon Nakashima of the U.S. will play in the round of 16.

Just two of the seven singles matches went to a third set.

Qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany outlasted American Denis Kudla 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3 and will face Opelka on Thursday.

Wild card Jack Sock, a Nebraska native, defeated German Oscar Otte 6-4, 6-4. Sock next will play on Thursday versus Fritz, who reached No. 20 in the world last month.

Qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain defeated another German, Peter Gojowczyk, 6-1, 6-4, to advance to the round of 16 versus Giron on Wednesday.

Australian Jordan Thompson defeated Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-3, and will meet Nakashima on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s final match went to Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-4, 6-4 over American Mitchell Krueger. Nishioka will advance to meet the winner of Mannarino’s match versus American Steve Johnson.

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Naomi Osaka, ‘just happy to be here,’ posts first-round victory at Australian Open; Coco Gauff upset by Wang Qiang

Defending champion Naomi Osaka posted a relatively trouble-free 6-3, 6-3 triumph on Monday over Camila Osorio in the first round of the Australian Open.

Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam singles champion, won at Rod Laver Arena and did so by taking the first five games of the match, before Osorio finally scratched one out herself.

Osaka will take on Madison Brengle — the American player defeated Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-1, 0-6, 5-0, ret. — in the second round as she looks to build some momentum for what could be a lengthy tournament run.

The former No. 1 player in the world, Osaka slid down the rankings last year after taking time off following her withdrawal at the French Open.

She is seeded 13th at the Australian Open, where she won in 2019 and 2021.

“It always feels special to come back here,” she said after Sunday’s victory.

The early success seems promising for Osaka, as Osorio is ranked 50th in the world but was making her main draw debut at Melbourne Park.

“I thought she played amazing,” Osaka said of her opponent. “Overall, I’m just happy to be here, I’m happy to see everybody in the audience, and I hope we gave you a great performance.”

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After winning here last year, capturing her second Australian Open title in three years, Osaka pulled out of the 2021 French Open before the second round then sat out Wimbledon. She played at the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron, but ended her 2021 season early after a third-round loss and a teary news conference at the US Open.

Two of her goals for 2022, she stated last week, were to stay completely composed on the court and off, and to enjoy the game.

The first test of Osaka’s new approach to tennis might have been when she completely whiffed on an overhead to give her opponent a break point. Osaka didn’t chuck her racket. She didn’t roll her eyes. She smiled.

“There are situations where I previously would get upset. But at this point in my life, like, I’m here because I want to be here and because I find that it’s fun for me,” Osaka said. “Might as well enjoy it while I still can.”

Elsewhere on the women’s side, China’s Wang Qiang secured her first victory over a top-20 player since defeating Serena Williams at Melbourne Park in 2020 after upsetting 18th-seeded Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2.

It was Wang’s first victory on tour since last year’s French Open, where she beat Su-Wei Hsieh in the first round before losing to Gauff in the second.

Gauff saved four match points from 5-0 down on Monday, but that was the only good news in a match in which the American made 38 unforced errors.

“You know I lost two times against her last year, so I just tried my best to focus on court,” Wang said.

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Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by revealing on Tuesday that he would compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No. 1, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram. Organizers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

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The organizers issued a statement later on Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be permitted to compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”

Tennis Australia stated last month the panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

Applicants who pass an initial stage are subject to a second review conducted by a government-appointed panel before the application is submitted to the Australian Immunization Register.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, had told a Serbian television channel that his son would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory jabs was tantamount to “blackmail.”

Djokovic pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts over his participation in the year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition. Thanks everyone for the support,” Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a picture of him in an airport.

He heads to Australia having trained in Marbella, Spain, over the past few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the past three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time list.

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Spain, Poland win second consecutive matches at ATP Cup to remain perfect

Spain and Poland remained perfect at the ATP Cup, securing winning 2-0 leads in their games Monday for their second consecutive triumphs in the team event.

Roberto Bautista Agut clinched the match for Spain by beating Casper Ruud of Norway 6-4, 7-6 (4) after Pablo Carreno Busta defeated Viktor Durasovic 6-3, 6-3.

Bautista Agut improved to 9-2 in singles at the team event.

“Casper is playing unbelievable tennis, (he did) an unbelievable performance last year, and today I played very good,” Bautista Agut said in his on-court interview. “I returned very well, I made very few unforced errors and I played aggressively. “

Kamil Majchrzak gave Poland the early lead over Georgia with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Aleksandre Bakshi before Hubert Hurkacz clinched it ahead of the doubles with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1 win over Aleksandre Metreveli.

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“He [Metreveli] played well in the first set and things were not going my way. But I got better with each set and am happy to get the win,” Hurkacz said.

Spain and Poland later both won their doubles matches to make it 3-0 scorelines.

Poland can book a place in the semifinals if it defeats Argentina on Wednesday in its next group match.

Majchrzak needed only 53 minutes to beat Bakshi.

“I was trying to move [Bakshi] around and I think that was the key to the match,” said Majchrzak, who is coached by former world seventh-ranked Joakim Nystrom.

“He brings me a lot of confidence and a lot of calm in my tennis so I can feel that I am improving,” Majchrzak said of Nystrom on the ATP Tour’s website. “We are working on (developing an all-court game) but in a way that doesn’t interrupt my baseline game. We will take it from the practice to the matches but it takes time.”

Greece plays Argentina and Serbia takes on Chile in night matches Monday.

The four group winners in the 16-team tournament advance to the semifinals on Friday and Saturday, with the winners meeting in the final on Sunday.

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Djokovic pulls out of ATP Cup in Sydney

Novak Djokovic has pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, event organizers said on Wednesday, raising further doubts over whether the world number one will defend his Australian Open title next month.

There has been intense speculation over Djokovic’s participation in both events, with the 34-year-old, who is opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations, repeatedly declining to say if he has been inoculated against the virus.

Organizers of the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 17, have stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

“Novak Djokovic has officially withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney, we have no update as yet on his plans for the Australian Open,” a Tennis Australia spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

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“Regarding the medical exemption process, which pertains to all players, there is a rigorous and independent process in place. As with all medical information it is subject to confidentiality.”

The global men’s tennis governing body ATP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ATP Cup organizers said Serbia’s team would now be led by world number 33 Dusan Lajovic.

Owing to Djokovic’s current world ranking, Serbia received top billing for the 16-team event, which runs from Jan. 1-9, and have been drawn in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, counting the last three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 major titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in the all-time list.

His father Srdjan told a Serbian television channel last month that Djokovic would probably pull out nL4N2SK0VQ of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory vaccination was tantamount to “blackmail”.

The season-opening ATP Cup also saw Austria, which failed the eligibility criteria following the withdrawal of Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak, replaced by France.

Russia, which won the 2021 title, will be missing Andrey Rublev and Aslan Karatsev from that team.

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Recovering Dominic Thiem to skip Australian Open with wrist injury

Dominic Thiem has pulled out of next month’s Australian Open to work towards regaining full fitness after a long-standing wrist injury, the former world No. 3 stated on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old Austrian, who has not played since suffering the injury at the Mallorca Open in June, was unable to defend his U.S. Open title this year.

He had earlier withdrawn from the team-based ATP Cup, which starts on Saturday in Sydney, and other warmup events ahead of the hardcourt major at Melbourne Park.

“I am now feeling well again, my wrist is in optimal condition and I am practicing normally with a very good intensity,” Thiem said on Twitter.

“After the short holidays, my team and I have assessed all matters and we have decided to make some changes to my initial tournament schedule.”

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Thiem, who has slipped to 15th in the rankings, reached the final at Melbourne Park last year before winning his maiden major title at Flushing Meadows.

He opted against playing five-set matches on his return to competition at the Australian Open, deciding to start his 2022 season in South America at the Cordoba Open in Argentina at the end of January.

“I will miss the Australian fans, but I will be back in 2023,” Thiem added.

“We believe this is the right decision in order to have a good return to competition. For the moment I will remain in Austria for a few more days and then head to practice outdoors and get ready for my first event of the season.”

Thiem became the latest top player to pull out of the Grand Slam due to injury after Roger Federer, Milos Raonic, Jennifer Brady, Karolina Pliskova, Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu. The first major of 2022 is due to start on Jan. 17.

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Andy Murray handed Australian Open main draw wildcard with Brit hailed by tournament chief

Andy Murray has been awarded a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open. A five-time finalist in Melbourne, the former world No 1 has not played the event since 2019, when he announced that he would likely be playing his last tournament and retiring over his hip injury.

The three-time Grand Slam champion has since made a comeback from a hip resurfacing surgery he underwent shortly after, and now goes into 2022 full of confidence following a successful end to the season.

Murray has been granted a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open, which kicks off on January 17.

It will be his first showing at the season-opening Major since 2019, when he broke down in a press conference and admitted it could be his last tournament, following two years of struggle with a hip injury.

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After losing a thrilling five-setter to Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round – a match that sounded like it was the last of his career – Murray underwent a hip resurfacing surgery just weeks later, having a metal joint put into his hip.

The former world No 1 then came back in doubles at Queens Club in June of that year and won the title alongside Feliciano Lopez, later captivating his first post-op singles title at the European Open in October 2019.

Murray was then unable to compete in the 2020 edition of the event known as the ‘Happy Slam’ due to a pelvic injury, and missed the tournament again in 2021 after testing positive for Covid and being unable to find a “workable” quarantine.

He will finally make his long-awaited return to the site of his premature retirement next month, after being given a wildcard into the main draw.

Currently ranked at world No 134, the Brit would have needed multiple players ranked above him to withdraw before gaining entry himself. Following the news of his wildcard, the five-time runner-up thanked tournament director Craig Tiley and the organizers.

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Emma Raducanu caps debut season with exhibition win

US Open champion Emma Raducanu capped her remarkable debut season with a 6-3, 7-6(3) triumph over Romania’s Elena-Gabriela Ruse in a light-hearted exhibition match at the Champions Tennis event at the famed Royal Albert Hall on Sunday.

Britain’s Raducanu, who turned 19 years old earlier this month, was playing at the season-ending event after some stunning debut months on the Tour.

It started with a first-round defeat in Nottingham in June 2021, but was followed by a remarkable run at Wimbledon that saw he win her first three matches before retiring versus Ajla Tomljanovic and peaked with a spell-bounding win at the US Open, where she did not drop a set on her way to becoming the first British woman to win the tournament in 53 years.

She has since competed in three events, the most recent in Linz, Austria, where she was beaten in the first round against China’s Xinyu Wang.

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The world No. 19, playing on Sunday against her friend Ruse, held her serve in the opening game and then forced Ruse into a long service game, saving two game points before hitting a winner into the corner and then driving her opponent into an error to take a 2-0 lead. The pair held their serves in the following two games before Radacanu broke again to ease into a 5-1 lead.

Ruse briefly broke back, but the Brit followed up by holding her serve two games later to claim the first set.

The Romanian often resorted to drop shots as Raducanu repeatedly fired from behind the baseline as both players held serve to start the second set. But Raducanu broke the deadlock in the fifth game, this time pouncing on a poorly weighted drop shot from Ruse to force an error. Ruse soon recovered though and forced a tiebreak for the set, which Raducanu eased 7-3.

“It was amazing to play at home in front of everyone here. I felt it straight from the minute I walked out — it was an incredible atmosphere — and I really enjoyed playing here,” Raducanu said in her on-court interview.

The Champions Tennis exhibition event, which has taken place since 1997, invites players who have once held the world No. 1 ranking, reached a Grand Slam final or been achieved success in the Davis Cup. This year’s edition will be the last at the Royal Albert Hall as it searches for a new venue next year.

Raducanu will next play at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi in December as she begins preseason heading into her first full season on the WTA Tour. She will also compete at the Australian Open in January, her first Grand Slam since claiming the US Open title and the third major of her career.

She recently went on a vacaction, which she said in an Instagram post was her first in seven years, as she prepares for the 2022 season.

“For six days I just completely switched off and I started my preseason this week on Tuesday,” Raducanu added. “I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, not so much tennis, so I was a bit nervous coming out to play in front of everyone here.

“Right now, I’m doing preseason and working hard on my fitness, as you can tell I need to work on my sprints to the net when I was getting dropshotted. Then I’m heading out to the Middle East to finish my preseason, and then Christmas out there then flying to Australia on Dec. 26.”

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