Tagged in: sets

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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American Amanda Anisimova ousts top seed Aryna Sabalenka in Charleston Open

American Amanda Anisimova rallied after losing the opening set to defeat top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday and reach the quarterfinals of the Charleston Open.

In another surprise, CoCo Vandeweghe also reached the round of eight by defeating U.S. countrywoman and sixth-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Spain’s Paula Badosa, the second seed, dropped her first set before fighting off American Claire Liu for a 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-1 victory to move into the quarters.

No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, the Olympic gold medalist last summer, defeated ninth-seeded Madison Keys of the United States 6-4, 6-4.

Fourth-seeded Ons Jabeur did double duty, winning twice Thursday to make the quarters. Jabeur’s match with Emma Navarro was halted Wednesday because of severe weather with her leading 6-3, 5-2. The two returned Thursday where Jabeur won four consecutive points to close things out.

Later, Jabeur eliminated Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-3, 6-2.

She was frustrated they couldn’t finish yesterday’s match. “But, you know, it is what it is,” she said. “I’m glad that I finished quick in the morning. And tonight was really tricky.”

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Magda Linette of Poland had it worse than Ons.

Linette, whose Wednesday match was also washed out, defeat seventh-seeded Leylah Fernandez of Canada 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the afternoon. Linette returned at night to top Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

In all, Linette played 55 games in four hours, 38 minutes and 16 seconds of winning tennis to advance. Jabeur said Begu found some rhythm in the middle of the match. “But I’m glad that I really won my serve at the end,” Jabeur said.

Sabalenka had won her first match in nearly six weeks here Wednesday and took the opening set without too much of a struggle. But Anisimova, 20, who is ranked 47th in the world found her rhythm after the break as Sabalenka began to make mistakes.

Sabalenka had two straight double faults to trail 5-3 and Anisimova was able to serve out the set.

Anisimova continued her run in the deciding set, breaking Sabalenka’s serve twice for a 4-0 lead. Sabalenka closed to 5-4, but Anisimova closed out the match with her sixth ace and improved to 3-0 versus the world’s fifth-ranked player.

Anisimova was thrilled with her third match victory in as many days. She’ll face Vandeweghe on Friday to reach the semifinals.

“It’s a pretty good result, like in the quarterfinal, and especially against a top seed,” Anisimova said. “It’s a big confidence boost.”

Badosa also got off to a bad start versus the 21-year-old Liu. Badosa was up 5-3 in the second set when Liu won three of the last four games to set up the tie breaker. Liu was two points away from winning the match four times in the tiebreak, yet Badosa turned away each challenge.

Badosa converted her fourth set point off a backhand winner to close the set, which lasted 72 minutes.

Badosa gained control after that in the third set to advance.

In the quarterfinals, she’ll take on Bencic, who overcame a nearly two-hour rain delay after winning the opening set versus Keys. After the rain stopped the court was dried, Bencic held off the American, who was the last remaining past champion in the field.

Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine topped No. 12 seed Alize Cornet of France 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Jabeur, of Tunisia, had hoped to squeeze in more tennis and wrap up the match on Wednesday. She only needed a few minutes – and four points – to finish off Navarro, the American. Jabeur has a third-round match with Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania later Thursday.

The tournament has been affected by bad weather all week and Thursday was no different. Things are forecast to dry out on Friday and through Sunday’s championship match.

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