Tagged in: top ranked

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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Top-ranked Ash Barty pulls out of Indian Wells, Miami Open tennis tournaments

Ashleigh Barty, the world’s top-ranked women’s tennis player, pulled out of Indian Wells and the Miami Open on Thursday, citing a need for ongoing recovery after winning the Australian Open.

Indian Wells starts next week, and had she played it would have been Barty’s first appearance there since 2019. The Miami Open, where Barty is the two-time defending champion, begins March 21.

“Unfortunately, my body has not recovered the way I’d hoped after the Australian Open and I have not been able to adequately prepare for Indian Wells and Miami,” Barty said. “I don’t believe I am at the level necessary to win these events and as a result I have decided to withdraw from both tournaments.

“I love these events and am sad not to be there competing but getting my body right must be my focus.”

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Barty’s withdrawal means that Indian Wells will be without both finalists from January’s Australian Open. 

Danielle Collins, the top-ranked American in the women’s rankings at No. 11, cited ongoing injuries in her decision to not play there.

Miami Open tournament director James Blake stated he hopes Barty can make a quick return.

“I know this was an extremely difficult decision for Ashleigh and understand the importance for players to prioritize their health,” Blake said.

Barty ended a 44-year drought for Australian women at the Australian Open when she won the singles title at Melbourne Park in late January. It was her third Grand Slam singles title and her first on hard courts after her victories on grass at Wimbledon and on clay at the French Open.

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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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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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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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