Tagged in: tennis

Daniil Medvedev struggles with extreme heat in advancing to Olympic men’s tennis quarterfinals

Bent over in exhaustion before serving. Resting on his racket between points. Grasping for a rubber tube blowing cool air next to his seat on changeovers. Two medical timeouts and one visit from a trainer.

Daniil Medvedev was struggling so much with the suffocating heat and humidity at the Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday during the Olympic men’s tennis tournament that at one point the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked him if he could continue playing.

“I can finish the match, but I can die,” Medvedev replied. “If I die, are you going to be responsible?”

Afterward, Medvedev said he felt “darkness” in his eyes. “I didn’t know what to do to feel better,” the Russian Olympic Committee player added. “I was ready to just fall down on the court.”

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Somehow, the second-seeded Medvedev produced a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Spanish player Paula Badosa was less fortunate.

She left the court in a wheelchair after retiring from her quarterfinal match versus Marketa Vondrousova because of heatstroke.

Badosa also had to withdraw from a mixed doubles match later with partner Pablo Carreno Busta.

Vondrousova, the Czech player who eliminated Naomi Osaka a day earlier, had won the first set 6-3. She’s now in the semifinals and into the medal rounds and will next face fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland will play 15th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the other semifinal match.

After some rain a day earlier, the temperature rose to 88 degrees, but the heat index made it feel like a sizzling 99 degrees.

The difficulties the players faced raised questions over why organizers did not grant requests earlier in the tournament from Medvedev and other players — including top-ranked Novak Djokovic — to move all of the tennis matches at the Games to the evening.

As Wednesday’s play neared its conclusion, organizers revealed that matches would start at 3 p.m. starting Thursday to make it easier on the players. Matches had been starting at 11 a.m.

Djokovic was fortunate to play later in the day after Center Court was covered by shadows. The Serbian great served nine aces and defeated Spanish training partner Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 6-1 to keep his Golden Slam bid going.

“The conditions are brutal,” Djokovic said. “I’ve played tennis professionally now 20 years and I’ve never faced this kind of conditions in my entire life on a consecutive daily basis.”

Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent will be Kei Nishikori of Japan, who reached his third consecutive Olympic quarterfinal by defeating Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6 (7), 6-0.

Djokovic then won again with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic in the opening round of the mixed doubles competition. They beat Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3, 6-4. In singles, Djokovic is attempting to become the first man to achieve a Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

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Naomi Osaka ousted from Olympic tennis tournament in 3rd round by Marketa Vondrousova

It wasn’t the ending that tennis superstar Naomi Osaka — nor her fans across Japan and worldwide — had expected for the Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka lost to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 in the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament on Tuesday.

“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said Osaka, who called lighting the Olympic cauldron during last week’s opening ceremony in Tokyo “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life.”

As the highest-paid female athlete in the world and the host country’s face of the Games, the huge expectations were hard to handle. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” Osaka said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”

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The second-ranked Osaka, who was born in Japan and grew up in the United States, struggled with her usually reliable groundstrokes, while the left-handed Vondrousova produced a series of drop-shot winners and other crafty shots that drew her opponent out of her comfort zone.

“It’s tough for her also playing in Japan and in the Olympics,” the 42nd-ranked Vondrousova said. “It’s so much pressure, I cannot imagine.”

Osaka won her opening two matches in consecutive sets following a two-month mental health break. But conditions were different Tuesday with the roof closed because it was raining outside.

Osaka had talked earlier this week about how “happy” she was to be playing again. That came after she announced in May going into the French Open that she wouldn’t speak to reporters at that tournament, saying those interactions create doubts for her.

“I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well,” said Osaka, who initially did not comment after her loss, then came back out and met with a small group of reporters. “I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure, so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

Playing Osaka for the first time, Vondrousova came out with her entire game clicking from the start and quickly ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first set as Osaka hardly had time to gather herself.

Osaka then broke Vondrousova’s serve in the opening game of the second set but almost immediately handed the break back when she double-faulted to make it 2-2.

After Osaka lost her serve again to end the match by hitting a cross-court backhand wide, she shook hands with Vondrousova at the net, walked to her chair, zipped her racket up in her bag and followed Vondrousova off the court.

But it wasn’t simply an off day for Osaka; it was also an outstanding performance from Vondrousova.

“I also [beat] Simona [Halep] twice, but I think now she [Osaka] is the greatest,” Vondrousova said. “The greatest in the game, and she was also the face of the Olympics, so it was tough for her, I think, to play like this.”

During one point midway through the second set, Vondrousova hit an underspin, scooped forehand approach shot that landed right on the line — prompting Osaka to stare at the line for a few seconds in apparent disbelief.

Osaka had break points to take a 4-3 lead in the second, but Vondrousova hit consecutive drop-shot winners to get back in the game. And then held.

About 10 minutes later, the match was over.

“I just really believed the second I stepped on the court,” Vondrousova said. “I think that that’s the main thing.” Vondrousova’s quarterfinal opponent will be either Paula Badosa of Spain or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.

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Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic cruise into third round of Olympic tennis tournament

Naomi Osaka has the hopes of the entire host nation resting on her.

Novak Djokovic is trying to accomplish something that no man has done before in tennis.

Both players are after something special at the Tokyo Olympics, and both produced convincing triumphs Monday to reach the last 16 at Ariake Tennis Park.

Osaka crushed winners off both wings — forehand and backhand — seemingly at will in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 49th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. Then Djokovic dispatched 48th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-4, 6-3.

“There’s a lot of attention towards tennis as a sport in this Olympic Games,” Djokovic said. “We are grateful, because we are representing our country, ourselves, but also our sport in the Olympic Village.”

Despite this being her first tournament back from a two-month mental health break, Osaka’s strong start is hardly a surprise considering that the Olympic tournament is being played on hard courts — the surface on which she has won all four of her Grand Slam titles.

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It was similar to the way Osaka overwhelmed Saisai Zheng of China a day earlier, and it extended her momentum after carrying out the ultimate honor at the Games’ opening ceremony by lighting the Olympic cauldron.

The Japanese superstar, who grew up in the United States, was asked in March to handle the flame honors but said she “didn’t feel pressure” about the assignment.

“I felt more excitement,” Osaka said. “It was like a sense of duty, like something I wanted to accomplish.

“It’s something that you see as a kid on TV. You gather around the TV with your family at the Olympics and you watch the whole ceremony,” Osaka added. “I know my grandparents were probably crying, and my mom, of course.”

If Djokovic can win four more matches, he’ll not only have won his first Olympic title, he’ll also be four-fifths of the way to a Golden Slam — victories in all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

The Serb already collected the Australian and French Opens as well as Wimbledon this year.

Now he needs the Tokyo title and the US Open trophy to complete the unique collection.

Steffi Graf was the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam in 1988.

“I’m obviously very pumped and inspired to make history,” Djokovic said. “I have that guiding star that is there and I see it and it gives me light and it gives me energy, but at the same time I better stick to the stuff that I know works well on a daily basis for me.”

Djokovic’s next opponent will be 16th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who defeated John Millman of Australia 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

This is Osaka’s first event since she withdrew from the French Open in May, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out Wimbledon.

Two more victories and Osaka will be in line for more honors in her Olympic debut — a medal.

“Definitely it would mean a lot for me but I know it’s a process,” Osaka said. “The flag is next to my name no matter what tournament I play, but I feel like the scale of this is much bigger. It’s something I’ve been waiting for for eight years [since she turned pro in 2013].”

The second-ranked Osaka will next face 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who beat Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-1, 6-2.

In windier, cooler and more overcast conditions than the sweltering opening two days of the competition, Osaka compiled 29 winners to Golubic’s 14 and had only 11 unforced errors to her opponent’s 21.

Perhaps more telling was that Osaka required only 65 minutes to dispatch a player coming off a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon.

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Italy’s Matteo Berrettini pulls out of Tokyo Olympics due to thigh injury

Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini of Italy has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics due to a thigh injury, he revealed Sunday.

The world No. 8 had his left thigh bandaged during his loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final of the grass-court Grand Slam earlier this month.

“I am extremely disappointed to announce my withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympic Games,” the 25-year-old said on Instagram.

“I had an MRI scan yesterday on the thigh injury I sustained during Wimbledon and was informed I will not be able to compete for a couple of weeks.”

The Italian National Olympic Committee stated it would not be able to get a replacement player for Berrettini, as the International Tennis Federation’s deadline to name new athletes had passed on Friday.

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“Representing Italy is the biggest honour for me so it is devastating to miss the Olympics,” Berrettini added.

The tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics has been hit by a series of high-profile withdrawals.

Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka and Simona Halep, have already declared their decision to skip the Games, which have been delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Serbian legend Novak Djokovic, who defeated Berrettini in the Wimbledon 2021 final, is also pondering over his options of competing at the Olympics this year, which has already been plagued by Covid-19 after 2 confirmed cases in the South African football team emerged inside the Games Village.

Djokovic, who will miss out on the chance to complete a Golden Slam if he misses the Summer Games, has said that he isn’t sure of his participation in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic reaches 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal

Two-time defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic reached his 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating Christian Garin of Chile 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday.

Djokovic earned his 12th quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon, which ties him with Arthur Gore for third place on the men’s all-time list, behind Roger Federer’s 18 and Jimmy Connors’ 14.

The top-ranked Serb lost just three points on his first serve in the match and saved the only two break points he faced.

Djokovic is looking for his sixth title at the All England Club and a record-tying 20th Grand Slam trophy.

“Confidence levels are very high after winning the French Open,” said Djokovic.

“It was one of my biggest wins in the circumstances — two five-setters, two four-setters in the second week.

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“They took a lot out of me but they also gave me wings.

“The further I go in the tournament, the more comfortable I feel and I look forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic, the six-time Wimbledon champion and chasing a record-equalling 20th major title, is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam.

Only two men have swept all four majors in the same year with Rod Laver the most recent back in 1969.

Garin was playing on Centre Court for the first time and was broken five times.

American Sebastian Korda, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, lost a marathon fifth set that featured 13 breaks of serve. Karen Khachanov of Russia won the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 to reach the quarterfinals.

Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian man in 23 years to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals by easing past unseeded Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

The seventh-seeded Berrettini landed only 53% of his first serves but was broken only once in the match. He concluded with 37 winners to 16 for Ivashka, and broke his opponent six times.

Berrettini won the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament last month and has dropped only one set so far at Wimbledon. He is the first Italian to reach the quarters at the All England Club since Davide Sanguinetti in 1998.

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Rafael Nadal cruises past teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid Open

In a much-anticipated clash of generations, Rafael Nadal showed he is still clearly the man to beat in Spanish tennis, cruising to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal, seeking his sixth title in Madrid and looking to regain top form ahead of the French Open, was never threatened by Alcaraz, who turned 18 on Wednesday.

In the women’s draw, Paula Badosa defeated Belinda Bencic 6-4, 7-5 to become the first Spanish woman to reach the semifinals in Madrid. She will face top-ranked Ashleigh Barty, who got past Petra Kvitova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

The 120th-ranked Alcaraz was coming off his first victory at a Masters 1000 event and had called the match versus his idol a “dream come true.” He has been touted by many as the successor to the 34-year-old Nadal.

After the crowd at the “Magic Box” center court sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Alcaraz squandered a break point in the first game and then struggled to keep up with the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The wild-card entry was hampered by unforced errors, earning his lone break toward the end of the second set.

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Alcaraz needed medical attention in the third game after losing a long rally, apparently hurting his arm or shoulder while going for an overhead smash.

The two Spaniards had never played a match against each other but practiced together at the Australian Open, where Alcaraz reached the second round.

“It was a difficult match against a youngster who has been playing very well and who has an enormous potential ahead of him,” Nadal said Wednesday. “All he needs is some time. In addition to being a great tennis player, he also has great values, which is something society needs right now.”

After the match, tournament director Feliciano Lopez, who lost to Alcaraz in the Andalucia Open last month, brought out a birthday cake, and Nadal also joined the celebration.

“It’s amazing to spend my birthday playing against Rafa, learning from him,” Alcaraz said. “It could (be) better if I could win, but I really enjoy (it). I think this match made me grow up as a player.”

Nadal will next face Australian qualifier Alexei Popyrin, who defeated Jannik Sinner 7-6 (5), 6-2. Fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in the Barcelona final, advanced to the third round by beating Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-2.

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Halep starts clay season with dominant win over Vondrousova

Simona Halep returned from injury to begin her clay-court season with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Marketa Vondrousova on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix.

The third-ranked Romanian was back on court for the first time since a shoulder injury forced her out of the Miami Open last month, and it was only her second match since her straight-sets loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February.

“Starting the clay-court season makes me very happy and motivated, extra motivated actually,” Halep said in a post-match news conference.

“I missed playing matches. I had a few weeks without an official match and it was kind of tough when I started the match, but my mind was strong enough just to give focus on what I have to play. So, I did it great and today it was a great match.

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“I was a little bit nervous before the match because I played twice against her and she beat me every time.

There was no sign of rust as Halep wrapped up her victory over Vondrousova in less than an hour without facing a single break point.

Halep will play Ekaterina Alexandrova in the quarterfinals after the Russian upset eighth-seeded Belinda Bencic 6-1, 7-5.

Elina Svitolina came through a tougher test as she defeats three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 7-6 (4), 6-3. Svitolina was 3-1 down in the tiebreaker before winning six of the next seven points, and she didn’t face a break point in the second set. The fourth-seeded Ukrainian will face Petra Kvitova in the quarters.

Karolina Pliskova hit 21 aces as she beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-3 to set up a meeting with top-ranked Ash Barty.

Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka swept past Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-4, 6-2. Sabalenka next faces Anett Kontaveit, who eliminated Sofia Kenin on Wednesday.

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Andrey Rublev knocks off Rafael Nadal to reach Monte Carlo semifinals

Andrey Rublev produced an audacious display of attacking tennis to hand record 11-time champion Rafael Nadal a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 defeat on clay in the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals on Friday.

The sixth-seeded Russian might have won even more convincingly, with Nadal saving break points at 3-1 down in the second set.

Nadal clawed his way back to win that set and seemed to have settled down, but Rublev broke him instantaneously at the start of the decider in which the 34-year-old Nadal looked very tired.

Rublev clinched his first win versus third-seeded Nadal on his first match point with a typically powerful winner on forehand — a weapon Nadal struggled to contain all match.

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“I don’t even know what to say. I cannot imagine being in the situation of Rafa, knowing that you are the best player on clay,” Rublev said. “I think for him it must be incredibly tough.”

Having beaten the 20-time Grand Slam champion on one of his clay strongholds, Rublev’s next opponent is unseeded Norwegian Casper Ruud.

The 22-year-old Ruud, who has just one career title compared to 86 for Nadal, also defeated a former champion by knocking out 2019 winner Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-4, 6-3.

“(Casper) is playing really well. I have known him a long time,” said Rublev, who is 3-0 against him overall. “He finished today much earlier. I will try to recover as best as I can.”

There are no former champions left, with Nadal and 15th-seeded Fognini joining two-time winner Novak Djokovic at the exit before the last four.

Nadal last won the tournament in 2018 and had high hopes after saying he was in good shape for clay. It certainly seemed so when he swept aside Grigor Dimitrov in under an hour Thursday in the third round.

It was a different story versus the 23-year-old Rublev, who drained Nadal after 2½ hours on court. Nadal hit seven double-faults, conceded 15 break points and dropped serve seven times — on his dominant surface and one of his favorite courts.

The aggressive Rublev upset Nadal’s rhythm in a first set where the Spaniard got only 48% of his first serves, made five double-faults, and hit 13 unforced errors.

By the second game of the second set, Nadal was angrily shouting at himself and — in a rare gesture of agitation — wildly swatted a ball away.

When Rublev saved break point in the fourth game of that set, Nadal stood perplexed with hands on hips. Then, he took 11 minutes to hold serve and stop Rublev leading 4-1.

The 13-time French Open champion drew on his immense physical resources to claw back, forcing Rublev into mistakes and breaking him in the 10th game to level matters. But Rublev showed just why he’s such a rising star.

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Ashleigh Barty edges Kristina Kucova after saving match point at Miami Open

Because of canceled flights, it took Ashleigh Barty 45 hours to travel from her native Australia to Florida for a tennis tournament.

Her stay at the Miami Open will be longer than that, thanks to an incredible comeback Thursday.

The top-ranked Barty rallied from a big third-set deficit and overcame a match point to win her opening match versus qualifier Kristina Kucova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

“Matches like that are extremely fulfilling, knowing you’ve done the work over an extended period to get just over the edge,” Barty said. “That was a really tough one today, and I enjoyed every single second of it.”

Barty, who won the most recent Miami Open title in 2019, trailed 5-2 in the final set. In the next game, she faced a match point, which she saved by ripping a weak serve for a winner.

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Barty fell behind 0-40 serving in the final game but again rallied against Kucova, a Slovak ranked 149th.

Barty closed out the triumph with a service winner and then tapped her temple with her index finger, a gesture of tribute to her mental fortitude.

“We never give up,” she said, “no matter what we’re feeling.”

Playing away from Australia for the first time in more than a year, Barty won despite an unreliable forehand. She whacked 40 unforced errors on that side, but she compensated somewhat with 15 aces.

Barty acknowledged that jet lag and the time difference between Miami and Australia made the match a challenge.

“You kind of forget how much it can take out of you,” she said. “But you have to accept that’s the way it is. It worked in my favor this morning — I got to watch some Aussie football back home.”

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Roger Federer out of Miami Open, will train to ‘work his way back’

Roger Federer is withdrawing from this month’s Miami Open so he can spend extra time preparing to “work his way back out on tour,” his agent told The Associated Press on Monday.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has not competed in more than a year after having two operations on his right knee during last campaign.

Federer, who turns 40 in August, is booked to make his return to the tour next week in a hard-court tournament at Doha, Qatar. He posted a photo of himself on Twitter this past Friday with the caption: “The countdown to Doha begins.”

That will be his first event since he reached the semifinals at the Australian Open in February 2020.

As of now, he also is slated to participate in the hard-court tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that starts March 14.

Federer also had been on the entry list for the Masters 1000 stop in Miami, where play begins on March 24.

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But his agent, Tony Godsick, wrote Monday in an email to the AP that Federer will not play there.

“After Doha and maybe Dubai, (Federer) will go back and do a training block to continue to slowly work his way back out on tour,” Godsick wrote.

Miami Open tournament director James Blake said he hopes Federer will return in 2021 to an event he has won four times, including two years ago.

“We certainly would have loved Roger to return to Miami to defend his title. However, as a former player, I understand that you need to tailor your travel and playing schedule to properly work your way back to 100 percent fitness when coming off an injury,” Blake said. “Roger is an incredible ambassador for the sport, so the longer he is able to play on tour, the better it is for all of tennis.”

Federer beat John Isner 6-1, 6-4 in the final to win the Miami Open in 2019, the last time it was held. The tournament was one of dozens that were called off last year when the professional tennis tours went on hiatus for several months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That was Federer’s fourth title at the hard-court event, following trophies he collected there in 2005, 2006 and 2017.

Federer is currently No. 5 in the ATP rankings. He has spent 310 weeks total at No. 1, an ATP record tied by Novak Djokovic on Monday. Federer’s tally of 103 tour-level titles is the second most in the professional era of men’s tennis, trailing only Jimmy Connors, who won 109.

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