Sports Djokovic outlasts Tsitsipas in ‘toughest match' of year
Barty and Swiatek set up first-time clash on Madrid clay
MADRID — Ashleigh Barty and Iga Swiatek, the two most recent champions of the French Open, will meet in the last 16 of the Madrid Open. They won their second-round matches on Saturday to set up the first-time meeting. ”(It’s) a match that I look forward to,” Barty said about Monday’s meeting with Swiatek. “I’ve hit with her once in Melbourne a few months ago. She’s got a seriously impressive game. It’s a challenge that we go into with a really clean slate, a little bit of a period of trying to figure each other out, and how our games match up.” Barty won the French Open in 2019, and Swiatek last year in Barty’s absence.
ROME (AP) — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic regained his cool after throwing his racket off the court in a grueling, rain-delayed 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 quarterfinal victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Italian Open on Saturday.
Djokovic fought back from breaks of his serve in each of the final two sets to reach his eighth consecutive semifinal at the Foro Italico — where he has lifted the trophy five times, most recently last September when the tournament was moved to later in the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m just really, really glad to overcome this challenge,” Djokovic said. "It’s probably the toughest match of the year for me so far.”
Nadal to face promising Spanish teenager at Madrid Open
MADRID — It wasn't too long ago that Rafael Nadal was handing Carlos Alcaraz a PlayStation as the boy's prize at a local tennis tournament in Spain. Now the Spanish great is about to play against the promising youngster in the second round of the Madrid Open. The 17-year-old Alcaraz defeated Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-0 on Monday to set up the “dream” matchup against the 20-time grand slam champion. Alcaraz will face his idol on the Magic Box centre court on Wednesday, his birthday. “It will be a dream come through to play against Rafa here,” Alcaraz said. “I’ve wanted to play against him since I was a kid.
Djokovic didn’t have much time to rest before he faceslater Saturday for a spot in the final.
“I haven't played too many matches this year, so I don’t feel too exhausted,” Djokovic said. “I’m pumped to get another win today.”
Sonego was backed by a loud crowd when he rallied past seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach his first Masters semifinal. Their match was washed out Friday.
Fans were allowed to fill 25% of capacity as part of the Italian government’s reopening plan.
It was Sonego’s second consecutive win over a top-10 player, after also eliminating No. 4 Dominic Thiem.
“It's an emotional moment for me,” Sonego said. “I'm playing my best tennis.”
Nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal was facing big-serving American Reilly Opelka in the other semifinal.
Mickelson 11 shots worse, still in the mix at Quail Hollow
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson went from planning to hit a draw away from the water to wondering if he should hit a fade that would bleed away from the bunkers toward the 14th green at Quail Hollow Club. This was all part of the same swing thought. It ended up in the water. Mickelson was 11 shots worse than his best score in nearly a year Friday, limping to the finish for a 4-over 75 in the Wells Fargo Championship. What mattered more was at least being in the mix. “I'm excited to be in contention heading into the weekend, and I know I'm playing well,” Mickelson said. So was Rory McIlroy, a two-time winner at Wells Fargo who has a certain comfort level at Quail Hollow.
In the women’s tournament, French Open champion Iga Swiatek beat two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina 6-2, 7-5 to set up a semifinal later against 17-year-old American Coco Gauff.
Karolina Pliskova was playing Petra Martic in the other semifinal.
The Djokovic-Tsitsipas match began on Friday but was suspended overnight with Tsitsipas leading 2-1 in the second set and up a break — with play having already been interrupted for 3½ hours due to the intermittent rain.
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“It kind of felt like we played two matches,” Djokovic said. “The one yesterday, where he was a better player. He started also better today. I managed somehow to hold my nerves, break his serve in the important moments in the second and also third set.
“Completely different conditions today: ball bouncing a bit more, coming to you," he added. “Yesterday it was really slow and muddy on the court.”
Djokovic loses cool, wins match against Fritz in Rome rain
ROME (AP) — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic shouted at the umpire before regaining his cool to see out his rain-delayed second-round match against Taylor Fritz at the Italian Open on Tuesday. With conditions worsening during the second set and rain getting heavier, the defending champion's temper boiled over and he roared, “How much more do you want to play?” at the umpire. He added: “I asked you three times and you are not checking anything.” Djokovic, who has won the Italian Open five times, went on to beat the American 6-3, 7-6 (5). “I was stressed out in the end obviously, but I think it was the right call to stop the match,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic also went the distance to beat Tsitsipas in five sets in last year’s French Open semifinals.
This year's French Open starts in two weeks and Djokovic, who has had a difficult start to the clay-court season, appeared frustrated at times with his game.
Facing a break point early in the third set, Djokovic attempted a difficult drop shot that landed on top of the net cord and agonizingly bounced back into his side of the court — handing Tsitsipas a 2-1 lead.
Djokovic reacted by throwing his racket angrily into the advertising boards lining the side of the court, which drew a code violation warning for unsportsmanlike conduct from the chair umpire.
Djokovic’s temper was also an issue during his second-round match this week against Taylor Fritz, when he fumed at the umpire for not stopping play soon enough due to rain.
Last year, Djokovic was disqualified from the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.
Djokovic’s behavior once again drew attention away from his exquisite play and court coverage — which was effective even on points he lost.
During one particularly long rally, Tsitsipas ran down a drop shot then retreated to the baseline and eventually unleashed a powerful one-handed backhand down the line, to which Djokovic’s forehand reply sailed long. That gave Tsitsipas a break of Djokovic’s serve for a 5-4 lead in the third.
But Tsitsipas was left bent over, with one hand on his knee and the other leaning on his racket, which was resting on the clay.
Clearly exhausted, Tsitsipas couldn’t then serve out the match.
Djokovic quickly took advantage and won three straight games to close it out after 3 hours, 16 minutes of play over two days.
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Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press
Column: At the age of 50, Phil finds a new way to thrill .
The most trouble Phil Mickelson had all day was working his way through a mob of fans to get to the 18th green, raising his hand in triumph when he finally broke through. Just what he was thinking behind his massive sunglasses was hard to tell, though it was clear by the delirious uproar around him what everyone else thought. They came to Kiawah Island mostly to watch a golf tournament without worrying about putting on a mask. They ended up getting a bonus no one saw coming — a win for the aged that wouldn’t have been any more popular if the champion had been wearing a red shirt on Sunday. A lot of happy people finally got a chance to exhale.