Tagged in: ATP

Casper Ruud first man from Norway to reach Grand Slam semifinal; will face Marin Cilic for berth in French Open final

Casper Ruud has become the first man from Norway to reach the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament, getting that far at the French Open by defeating 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

The eighth-seeded Ruud’s 3-hour, 15-minute triumph at Court Philippe Chatrier began Wednesday night and ended after midnight.

Ruud, 23, leads the ATP with 65 wins in clay-court matches since the start of the 2020 season. That includes defeating 2019 French Open junior champion Rune four times.

Ruud ended up with just one more winner than the big-hitting Rune, 55-54, and that edge arrived on the very last point with a forehand that originally was called out before the chair umpire overruled and said the ball touched the line.

The big difference: Ruud made only 24 unforced errors, while Rune had 46.

Their match got a bit testy, with Ruud telling Rune he didn’t appreciate him questioning an obvious officiating call.

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“I told him, ‘What, do you need to check every mark?’ and he told me to be quiet. I asked him, ‘Maybe that’s not the greatest thing to tell your opponent to be quiet when I’m talking to you?’ And he said it once more. So that was all that happened. And I didn’t exchange any more words with him after this,” Ruud said. “So that’s what he wants to say and behave? That’s up to him.”

Rune confirmed Ruud’s account of their interaction.

Rune had never attained a Grand Slam match until last week.

“Obviously disappointed that I couldn’t do better today. But still I have to look at the two weeks — it was great,” Rune said. “I mean, I played some good matches. A lot of positives to take.”

Ruud will meet 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic on Friday for a berth in the final. The other men’s semifinal features 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, who eliminated Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, versus No. 3 Alexander Zverev.

Cilic is 33, nearly eight seasons past his one Grand Slam title at the 2014 US Open — and, until Wednesday, more than four full years removed from his most recent trip to the semifinals of a major tournament.

If he keeps serving like this, there’s no reason to think about quitting tennis anytime soon.

Cilic delivered 33 aces to get to the final four at the French Open for the first time, edging No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (10-2) in a 4-hour, 10-minute test of strength and will.

“Andrey played incredibly well. One had to go down,” the 20th-seeded Cilic said, “and today was my day.”

The Croatian is the fifth active man to complete a full set of at least one semifinal run at all four Slam events, joining Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, each of whom has been ranked No. 1 and won multiple majors.

Cilic was the runner-up to Federer at Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open in 2018; the latter had been Cilic’s most recent trip to a Slam semifinal.

He might be a decade older than his next opponent, but Cilic feels good these days.

When he had a physical exam at the end of 2021, he said, his doctor told him: “Your body’s like 25.”

Continued Cilic: “Don’t tell my wife I’m saying this, (but) I might be playing another 10 years.”

All kidding aside, he said: “How long? We’ll see. But definitely three, four years, if I can be competitive like this.”

He dropped Rublev’s career mark in major quarterfinals to 0-5. That was thanks in part to Cilic’s overwhelming ability to strike serves and groundstrokes for winners — 88 in all, more than twice as many as Rublev’s total of 35.

“It was hard emotionally, because he played some games very well,” Cilic said. “When you play this long, there’s always be some ups and down, so I had to keep my focus.”

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Carlos Alcaraz, 18, becomes youngest Miami Open champion, third-youngest winner of any ATP Masters 1000 event

Spanish fans brought plenty of their nation’s flags to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, thrusting them into the air whenever things were going well for Carlos Alcaraz.

He kept them busy, all the way to the end.

Spain finally has a Miami Open men’s champion: an 18-year-old who wasn’t even in the top 100 of the world rankings at this time a year ago and now heads into the clay-court season arguably playing as well as anyone.

Alcaraz, the No. 14 seed, shook off a slow start to defeat sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway 7-5, 6-4 in Sunday’s final.

The melting pot city of Miami — with its massive Spanish-speaking community — loved him back, and Alcaraz said that made a big difference throughout his two-week stay.

“I felt like I was home from the first minute I began playing,” Alcaraz said.

He became the youngest champion in Miami Open history — Novak Djokovic was 19 when he obtained the tournament, then the NASDAQ-100 Open, for the first time — and picked up $1,231,245 for the victory, nearly doubling his career earnings with one check.

The shot-making ability from the Spanish teen was on full display: daring drop shots in tense situations, deft touch at the net when needed, raw power from the baseline when warranted.

Alcaraz often would look to his team in the stands and give a joyous yell or a knowing fist-pump, clearly feeling more comfortable as the afternoon went along.

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Among those there with him: his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. He had been away while mourning the death of his father, but made it back to Miami in time for the final. And when the match was over, Alcaraz hopped into the stands to give Ferrero his first hug as a Miami champion, as his coach wiped away tears.

“It’s pretty amazing to share this with you,” Alcaraz told Ferrero.

There had been four other Spanish men to make the final at what now is called the Miami Open — the tournament has changed names a few times over the years — over the last quarter-century. Sergi Bruguera was the first, in 1997. Carlos Moya was next, in 2003. David Ferrer got there in 2013 and the best player of them all, Rafael Nadal, made it to the Miami final in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.

They all lost. Every time.

Alcaraz ended the drought and did so with authority.

He ripped a crosscourt forehand for a double-break lead of 3-0 in the second set. Ruud broke back for 3-1, and had a chance at setting up another breaker late in the set.

With Alcaraz hitting a second serve at 4-3, 30-30, Ruud guessed the incoming ball’s path correctly and ran around his backhand to try what would have been a down-the-line winner. He put it just wide, and a point later Alcaraz was up 5-3. Before long, it was over.

“You’re such a good player already,” Ruud told Alcaraz during the trophy ceremony. “You’re so young and if you continue like this you will stand there many more times. I’m sure of it.”

Rankings-wise, both players leave Miami better than ever. Ruud is expected to climb one spot to a career-best No. 7 in the world when the computer numbers are updated Monday; Alcaraz will be a career-best No. 11.

For Ruud, the rise has been steady. He was No. 26 in the world after Miami last year.

For Alcaraz, the rise has been meteoric. He was ranked No. 133 at this time a year ago.

But he made big jumps — getting to the third round of last year’s French Open as a qualifier pushed him into the top 75, making the US Open quarterfinals got him into the top 50, winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February got him into the top 20, and he leaves Miami flirting with the top 10.

In any language, Alcaraz was the best in Miami.

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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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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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Sam Querrey defends decision to breach COVID-19 protocols in Russia to protect family

American Sam Querrey, who was sanctioned by the ATP for breaching COVID-19 protocols at the St Petersburg Open in October, has defended his actions and said he did what he felt was right as a father and a husband.

Querrey left Russia in a private jet with his wife and baby son after all three tested positive for the virus before the beginning of the tournament, sneaking out of their hotel early in the morning without informing reception.

The ATP, the men’s governing body, handed the 33-year-old a suspended $20,000 fine which will be lifted if Querrey does not commit further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a probationary six-month period.

“Again, we were very happy at the hotel,” Querrey told Sports Illustrated in an interview. “We were distancing ourselves. We weren’t around anyone, we were staying in the room, and never had a complaint, or a problem.

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“So I said, ‘Please try to have the doctors come the next morning at 10 a.m., not Sunday night at 10 p.m.’ The tour finally agreed to that, and because we were still going to get help from the tour, the embassy.

“But I kinda had to make a decision between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. the next day. I had my wife there, and I had my baby there, and as a human decision, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortable with this.’ So we made the decision to charter a plane and leave.”

Querrey said he was ready to quarantine in the tournament hotel for two weeks after testing positive but after two days he was told he was no longer welcome at the hotel and doctors would determine if they had to quarantine in a hospital instead.

The American said lack of clarity made it necessary for him, his wife, and their seven-month-old son to fly to London and quarantine at an Airbnb.

“I felt as a father and a husband there’s a human element to this, and I had to do what I feel like is right,” he said, adding that the flight cost him about $40,000 plus and he had to also pay for the stay in London for two weeks.

“I wasn’t willing to let our family go to a hospital for a minimum of two weeks where we were at.” Querrey stated he was “frustrated” with the media coverage of the incident and added: “It made it seem like I just got COVID and bounced. I didn’t feel how it was portrayed after that was fair.”

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Rafael Nadal outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to make ATP Finals semifinals

Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals at the ATP Finals for the first time in five years and knocked out the defending champion in the process, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 Thursday at the O2 Arena.

It is the sixth time in 10 appearances that Nadal has reached the semifinals of the season-ending tournament, which is the biggest title he has yet to win in his illustrious career.

Tsitsipas won it on his first try last year but exited after a second loss of the group stage, done in by a shaky serve in the third set, during which he was broken three times.

Earlier, the already eliminated Andrey Rublev beat US Open champion Dominic Thiem 6-2, 7-5 in a contest that had little real consequence for either player. Thiem was assured of winning the group after defeating Tsitsipas and Nadal in the first two rounds.

Nadal never looked threatened on his serve versus Tsitsipas until the final game of the second set, when he double-faulted to hand the Greek player a way back into the match. “I think I was winning my serves quite comfortably until that moment,” Nadal said. “After that, everything changed.”

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Suddenly, neither player could hold serve as the third set started with three consecutive breaks, with Nadal taking a 2-1 lead. The Spaniard finally held and broke again for a 5-2 lead before clinching the victory on his second match point.

Nadal, who improved to 6-1 versus Tsitsipas, will play Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday. Thiem will face the winner between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The early match between Thiem and Rublev was delayed after the lights went out unexpectedly at the O2 Arena.

Thiem was short of energy, too, when play eventually began.

“It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity like I had in the first two matches,” Thiem said. “I wanted to win the match, 100 percent, but the first two matches were pretty tough, pretty long.

“So with the fact I was already qualified, in the back on my mind it was difficult to keep the intensity alive.”

Rublev played like someone with nothing to lose, overwhelming Thiem with his serve and fierce groundstrokes to take the Austrian’s first two service games and clinch the first set in less than 26 minutes. He dropped only three points on serve and had no unforced errors in that set.

The second set was much closer, though Rublev was on top and serving at 4-3 when he lost eight consecutive points to get back on serve.

Rublev regrouped, broke Thiem after a long next game featuring some intense rallies, then served out the match for his first victory in his debut at the season-ending tournament.

“It was not easy for Dommy,” said Rublev, who has won five events on the tour this year in a breakthrough season. “I think he [was] focused on the semis. I wish him good luck — he deserves to be where he is and he deserves to win the title.”

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Alexander Zverev defeats Diego Schwartzman in straight sets for back-to-back Cologne titles

COLOGNE, GERMANY – OCTOBER 25: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Alexander Zverev of Germany celebrates during day seven of the Bett1Hulks Championship tennis tournament at Lanxess Arena on October 25, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Alexander Zverev’s nickname is ’Sascha’, but for now you can call him ‘The King Of Cologne’.

The World No. 7 acquired his second title in as many weeks in the German city on Sunday, defeating second seed Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 for the bett1HULKS Championship crown.

“I know in finals you have to play your best tennis to have a chance, so obviously [I am] extremely happy with my performance. Probably the best match of the past two weeks here. Diego is someone that you can really struggle with. He is somebody who doesn’t miss from the baseline,” Zverev said. “You really have to win the match against him and I felt like that’s what I did.” 

When Zverev arrived at the bett1HULKS Indoors last week, he was fresh off a disappointing fourth-round loss at Roland Garros versus Jannik Sinner. But the German made himself at home in more ways than one in Cologne, winning all eight of his matches to double his ATP Tour title count in Germany to four.

The 23-year-old is now a 13-time tour-level champion. “Being back in Germany is obviously amazing,” Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

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In both Cologne ATP 250s, Zverev saved his best tennis for the championship match.

Last Sunday, he cruised by Felix Auger-Aliassime. But his best performance from his two tournament victories came versus the red-hot Schwartzman.

Zverev played scintillating tennis, aggressively going after the ball to hit through the speedy Argentine. The German sometimes relies on his defensive skills to win matches, but he took it to the World No. 9 without hesitation, winning all seven of his service games en route to an impressive one-hour, 11-minute triumph.

“Today was a day when I felt like I could try things out on the court and a lot of things were working,” Zverev said. “I’m obviously very happy with how I played.”

Zverev fittingly ended the match with a forehand winner, earning 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points and €13,320 in prize money.

“It’s getting better,” Zverev said of his form during the trophy ceremony. “I think we’re going to be on top of the game very soon.” This is the third time Zverev has captured an ATP Tour title in back-to-back weeks. He also did so in August 2017 (Washington, Montreal) and May 2016 (Munich, Madrid).

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Djokovic avoids upset bug in New York

Bothered by a bad neck that a trainer massaged twice, Novak Djokovic double-faulted seven times and trailed by a break in each set before avoiding the rash of upsets at the Western & Southern Open by taking the last four games for a 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Ricardas Berankis on Monday.

The No. 1-ranked Djokovic was playing his first ATP match in six months because of the coronavirus pandemic. He withdrew from the doubles event on Sunday because of his neck.

“I’m trying to deal with it on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s been like that for the past three or four days.”

Djokovic improved to 19-0 in 2020 as he prepares to seek a sixth title in the past eight Grand Slam tournaments when the US Open begins in a week. That major championship’s site in Flushing Meadows is hosting the Ohio-based Western & Southern Open as part of an unusual doubleheader with no spectators.

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Djokovic got by, even though he was wincing and stretching his neck between points.

He wound up lying on his back — with a medical mask and protective glasses on his face — while having his neck manipulated after the first set.

While the tours were shut down, Djokovic tested positive for COVID-19 in June after a series of no-social-distancing exhibition matches that he organized in Serbia and Croatia.

As tennis ramps up — this is the first tournament of the resumption for the men; the women returned earlier this month — there has been a host of surprises, including defending women’s champion Madison Keys’ 6-4, 6-1 departure versus Ons Jabeur in an hour Monday night.

No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem, a three-time major finalist, wasn’t competitive in a 6-2, 6-1 defeat to Filip Krajinovic, and No. 5 Alexander Zverev hit 11 double faults — five in his last two service games — while being defeated by Andy Murray 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Like Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka emerged with difficult victories, and two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, the No. 6 seed, lost Monday. Each of the top two women’s seeds, Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin, were defeated Sunday.

Djokovic next meets American Tennys Sandgren, a 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (5) winner over No. 15 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who accumulated 15 double faults. Another American, Reilly Opelka, eliminated No. 9 seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 7-6 (4).

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