Tagged in: french open

Iga Swiatek routs Daria Kasatkina to reach French Open final

Iga Swiatek continued her march toward a second French Open title in three years when she wrecked Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 to reach the final and tie Serena Williams for the second-longest winning streak of this century.

Swiatek’s 34th win in a row puts her one victory from winning her second Roland Garros title and matching Venus Williams for the longest streak on the tour since 2000.

Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, has not lost since February and has dropped only two sets in her past four tournaments.

“I’m just trying to treat these matches as any other matches,” Swiatek said, “because it is stressful, and I accept that. But I want to keep doing the same work.”

The world No. 1 conceded an early break Thursday, but from 2-2 in the opener, Swiatek dropped only three points the rest of the first set, using her heavy forehand, quick-strike ability and all-court excellence to seize control with a five-game run.

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She then won the last nine points and clinched the triumph with her only ace of the 64-minute match.

The 20th-seeded Kasatkina, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, has two career wins over reigning No. 1 players but hit 24 unforced errors to Swiatek’s 13. Swiatek concluded with 22 winners, more than twice as many as Kasatkina’s 10.

She will meet American teenager Coco Gauff, the 18th seed, who defeated Italy’s Martina Trevisan 6-3, 6-1, in Saturday’s final.

“From what I see on court, she’s developing every year, basically,” said Swiatek of Gauff. “And when I see her, I tend to forget that she’s 18.”

With a win, Swiatek, who turned 21 on Tuesday, would become only the fourth woman in the Open era (since 1968) to win multiple French Open titles at age 21 or younger, joining Monica Seles (who won three), Steffi Graf and Chris Evert.

Swiatek again played with a ribbon in the colors of the Ukrainian flag pinned to her hat while facing her Russian adversary. Swiatek improved to 41-3 this season, with four of the wins coming against Kasatkina.

She has now won her past 13 contests against foes in the top 20 in the WTA rankings, conceding one set along the way.

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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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Daniil Medvedev returns after six-week injury layoff, but loses to Richard Gasquet in Geneva Open

Second-ranked Daniil Medvedev lost his comeback match Tuesday after a six-week injury layoff, defeated 6-2, 7-6 (5) by Richard Gasquet in the second round at the Geneva Open.

Medvedev, who underwent hernia surgery last month, cautioned Sunday he was often a slow starter on clay courts. So it proved in his first match on the surface this season, in the last tournament before the French Open.

Medvedev double-faulted for the seventh time on Gasquet’s first match point, as the Frenchman ended a 36-match losing streak against adversaries ranked No. 1 or 2 after beating Roger Federer 17 years ago at Monte Carlo.

“It’s tough. I don’t play my best tennis on clay courts,” Medvedev said. “I kind of need to be in the zone, which I was not today.”

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Unlike Medvedev, Gasquet has won titles on clay in his career, and the 35-year-old Frenchman frustrated his top-seeded opponent in an assured first set.

Medvedev had three double faults when his serve was broken to open the second set, and he broke a racket on the court in the next game. He leveled at 3-3 and clinched the next game at love with a second-service ace.

In the tiebreaker, Medvedev twice recovered from being a mini-break down before his serve faltered again.

“I think more days of practice and (I) should be ready for Roland Garros because physically, even right now, my body feels good,” he said.

Gasquet will face Kamil Majchrzak in the quarterfinals after the Polish player beat qualifier Marco Cecchinato 6-2, 6-3. Cecchinato had defeated Dominic Thiem, the two-time French Open runner-up, on Monday.

In a first-round match, fifth-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili advanced when Facundo Bagnis retired after losing the first set.

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Novak Djokovic into Italian Open quarterfinals; Rafael Nadal ousted by Denis Shapovalov

Rafael Nadal struggled with a foot injury toward the end of a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 third-round loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Italian Open on Thursday, while rival and top-ranked Novak Djokovic eased his way into the quarterfinals.

At one point, the 35-year-old Nadal walked over and leaned on his towel box and grimaced in apparent pain. He also limped between points.

Nadal missed a large portion of last year with a left foot injury.

“I hurt my foot again with a lot of pain,” Nadal said. “I’m a player living with an injury. It’s nothing new. It’s something that is there, unfortunately. Day by day is difficult.”

It was a worrisome scene for Nadal — especially with the French Open starting in 10 days.

“What can happen in the next couple of days, I don’t know,” said Nadal, who has won Roland Garros a record 13 times. “What can happen in one week, I really don’t know now.”

Nadal returned to the tour last week following a rib stress fracture that kept him out for six weeks after a blistering start to the year that involved his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

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“It’s difficult for me to accept the situation sometimes,” Nadal said. “Can be frustrating that a lot of days I can’t practice the proper way.”

Nadal was also defeated by 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of last week’s Madrid Open.

Nadal double-faulted twice, then missed a backhand long to hand Shapovalov a break of his serve and the second set. Shapovalov then took complete control when he won 14 consecutive points late in the third.

Nadal stated his foot started hurting midway through the second set, adding: “Then [it] wasn’t playable for me.”

Djokovic was untroubled in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Stan Wawrinka, who was playing only his second tournament after undergoing two surgeries on his left foot.

Djokovic, a five-time champion in Rome, will next play Felix Auger-Aliassime, who ended the run of American qualifier Marcos Giron with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph. It will be the first meeting between Djokovic and Auger-Aliassime.

The loudest cheers of the day were for Jannik Sinner, the 20-year-old Italian who beat Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (6) to reach the quarterfinals for the first time at his home tournament.

Sinner will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who rallied past Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 for a tour-leading 29th victory of the year.

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Novak Djokovic opens clay-court season with upset loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at Monte Carlo Masters

Novak Djokovic opened his clay-court season with a surprising loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Davidovich Fokina stunned the top-ranked Serb 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 in the second round to hand Djokovic another setback as he tries to move on from the controversy surrounding his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It makes for rare back-to-back losses for Djokovic, who had not played since being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Tennis Championships in February — his only previous tournament this year after he was barred from playing at the Australian Open.

Djokovic struggled from the start as the 46th-ranked Spaniard broke him early to pull ahead 4-1 before another break handed him the first set.

Davidovich Fokina kept up the pressure and led 3-0 in the second before Djokovic clawed back. But the Serb continued to struggle on his serve and was broken three times in the decider. “He was the better player,” Djokovic said. “I was hanging on the ropes the entire match.”

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The Serb stated he was too exhausted to put up a fight in the third set.

“I collapsed,” Djokovic said. “I just ran out of gas completely … If you can’t stay in the rally, not feeling your legs on the clay, it’s mission impossible.”

Djokovic had defeated Davidovich Fokina, 22, in consecutive sets twice last year, in Rome and at the Tokyo Olympics.

Djokovic could not defend his Australian Open title in January after he was deported from the country for not being vaccinated. He had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States for the same reason.

The authorities in France and Monaco lifted most COVID-19 restrictions last month, allowing people who aren’t vaccinated into the country and back into restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.

That means Djokovic will be able to play at the French Open, which remains his “big goal of the clay season.”

“I knew that it’s going to take some time for me to really feel my best on the clay,” Djokovic said. “I have to accept defeat and keep working … and hopefully build my form for Roland Garros.”

The French Open starts on May 22 in Paris.

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Naomi Osaka cruises past Astra Sharma in first round of Miami Open

Naomi Osaka was greeted by some cheers when she walked onto the court, then got significantly louder ones when her work for the day was done.

Maybe the comforts of home helped.

Flashing the level of play that vaulted her to No. 1 in the world not too long ago, Osaka had little trouble in defeating Astra Sharma of Australia 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday — the first full day of play at the Miami Open.

Osaka is Japanese-born, calls California home now, but spent much of her youth in South Florida, basically just a few miles north of where the Miami Open is now held.

“I kind of consider this like my home tournament,” Osaka said, before her words got drowned out by more cheers and applause from fans. “This is the tournament that I loved coming to once a year. I’m just really happy to be back out here.”

It was Osaka’s first match since a March 12 loss at Indian Wells, when she was rattled by a derogatory shout from a spectator. If any similar thoughts were expressed by the fans who were watching Wednesday in a largely empty stadium court built over the field where the NFL’s Miami Dolphins play football, they either were ignored or unnoticed.

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“Honestly, for me, I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today no matter what happened,” Osaka said. “The last match that I played was not the greatest memory for me.”

That’s when someone decided to yell from the stands: “We love you.”

Osaka surely appreciated that sentiment.

She revealed Wednesday that she started seeing a therapist after Indian Wells

“it only took like a year after French Open,” she quipped, referring to how she missed the clay-court Grand Slam event to focus on her mental health last year — and that she was bracing to hear heckling.

“I’m glad that I have people around me that told me to go in that direction,” Osaka said. “I was basically just remembering all the things that she told me to do, just to take deep breaths and reset myself when I need to.”

Osaka will face No. 13 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany — like Osaka, another former world No. 1 — in the second round Thursday. Kerber, like all 32 seeds in the 96-player singles field, had a bye out of the first round. Kerber is 4-1 head-to-head versus Osaka.

Osaka improved to 7-2 this year, not counting a walkover loss at Melbourne in early January when she withdrew from an Australian Open warmup event with an abdominal injury.

She’s ranked No. 77 in the world largely because she hasn’t entered many events in the last year, though among active players — if Ashleigh Barty is no longer considered one after her surprising retirement announcement — Osaka is the most recent to hold the No. 1 ranking. Barty supplanted her in the top spot on Sept. 9, 2019, and has held that ranking since.

Osaka has openly talked about struggling with depression and working on her mental health since winning the 2018 US Open over Serena Williams. She withdrew from last year’s French Open, left last year’s US Open in tears and was brought to tears again by the comment from a spectator at Indian Wells earlier this month.

“I just wanted to prove that I could come back out here and compete,” Osaka said.

Also Wednesday, 2018 Miami champion Sloane Stephens earned a second-round matchup versus fellow American Jessica Pegula by topping Hungary’s Panna Udvardy 6-4, 6-3. And Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania topped Hailey Baptiste of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-1 to move into a second-round matchup versus women’s No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

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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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Anett Kontaveit, Karolina Pliskova win opening matches at WTA Finals

Karolina Pliskova overcame a slow start before defeating Garbiñe Muguruza 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) on Wednesday in her opening match at the WTA Finals.

In a contest between two former No. 1-ranked players, the third-seeded Pliskova struggled early adjusting to the nearly 5,000-feet altitude of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city.

Pliskova is playing the WTA Finals for the fifth time, having reached the semifinals in 2018 and ’19. The 2020 tournament was canceled.

She didn’t win any titles in 2021 but kept a high ranking by reaching the finals at Wimbledon and Montreal, and the semifinals at Cincinnati.

Pliskova now has a 9-2 record versus former Wimbledon and French Open champion Muguruza, who won the Chicago and Dubai titles this year and is making her fourth appearance at the season-ending event.

Muguruza dropped her opening service game but then won four consecutive games to take a 4-2 lead and eventually clinched the first set in 38 minutes. Pliskova settled down in the second, breaking Muguruza’s serve in the second and eighth games to level the match.

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The third set lasted more than an hour, with Muguruza saving three match points to force a tiebreaker, and another in the tiebreaker before Pliskova sealed the win.

Earlier, Anett Kontaveit extended her hot streak with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over second-seeded Barbora Krejcikova.

Kontaveit had early breaks in both sets to beat the French Open champion in just 75 minutes for her 11th consecutive victory.

Kontaveit has won 27 of her last 29 matches, which include her title run at Ostrava where she beat Paula Badosa and Maria Sakkari, both of whom are competing here.

“I think throughout my career, I’ve been in sort of top 30 for a lot of years,” Kontaveit said. “During the summer I was on a bit of a losing streak, then I started working with Dmitry (Tursunov) and was really hoping to get a few wins. I managed to win Cleveland, then it just sort of started rolling from there”.

Tursunov a former world No. 20, started working with Kontaveit at the Cincinnati Masters, where the 25-year-old Estonian lost in the first round. Since then, Kontaveit has soared from No. 30 into the top 10.

After top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia opted not to defend the title because of travel restrictions in her country, Kontaveit edged out Ons Jabeur for the last spot in the season-ending championship by beating Simona Halep in the final of the Transylvania Open.

“I’ve been believing in myself a little bit more, and the game definitely has clicked from just getting more wins and playing a lot of tennis and really feeling comfortable,” Kontaveit said.

Krejcikova, the only reigning major winner in the field, started the year ranked 65th but captured three titles to qualify for the WTA Finals.

“It’s just difficult because a couple days ago I was actually playing in Europe, now I’m here,” Krejcikova said. “It’s really, really, really difficult.”

In doubles, the Japanese pair of Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara had a 6-0, 6-4 win over Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac.

The tournament, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is played in a round-robin format.

The event has a total prize pool of $5 million and is being played at the Akron Tennis Stadium in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara.

The WTA Finals are being played in Guadalajara for this year only, with the event scheduled to return to Shenzhen, China in 2022.

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Novak Djokovic pulls out of BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is the latest big-name tennis player to drop out of the BNP Paribas Open set for next month in the Southern California desert.

“I am sorry I won’t get to see my fans in Indian Wells and play in the desert, my favorite place to go,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Djokovic came up one triumph short of claiming all four Grand Slam titles this year, losing in the US Open final earlier this month. He acquired the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

Djokovic joins women’s No. 1 Ash Barty in skipping the tournament featuring the combined men’s and women’s tours. It will be played Oct. 4-17, a switch from its usual March date on the calendar because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Emma Raducanu, the surprise U.S. Open women’s winner, received a wild card into the event.

Also in the women’s field are teenagers Leylah Fernandez, the US Open runner-up, and Coco Gauff.

Also out of the event are former winners Naomi Osaka and Roger Federer, who is recovering from knee surgery in August.

His withdrawal means there will definitely be a first-time winner on the men’s side in this year’s BNP Paribas Open. Along with Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, the only other active players to have won in Indian Wells are Juan Martin del Potro and defending champion Dominic Thiem, both of whom are not in the field due to injuries. 

Without Djokovic, Russian Daniil Medvedev, the second-ranked player in the world, is expected to be the top seed at Indian Wells. Alexander Zverev of Germany, who collected the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will also be among the favorites.

The two of them, along with third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas and fifth-ranked Andrey Rublev round out the likely top four seeds in the men’s draw.

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