Novak Djokovic dedicates his Australian Open title to Kobe Bryant and to bushfire victims in Australia - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic dedicates his Australian Open title to Kobe Bryant and to bushfire victims in Australia

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Novak Djokovic has claimed a record eighth Australian Open at Melbourne Park after a five-set battle against Dominic Thiem. The Serbian star has become the first player in the Open Era to win Grand Slam titles across three decades. He will make his return to world number 1 ranking next week after his triumph in his favourite tournament.

During an emotional on court speech Djokovic paid tribute to Los Angeles legend Kobe Bryant, who died with his 13-year-old daughter in a helicopter crash in California, and to the bushfires victims in Australia.

“There were some devastating things that started 2020 with huge bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in some parts of the world, people dying every day. Obviously one person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away as well as his daughter. I would just like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever. We compete and try our best but obviously there are more important things in life and it’s important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you”,said Djokovic.

Djokovic has extended his match record to a perfect 13-0 in the 2020 ATP season. He helped Serbia win the first edition of the ATP Cup. He clinched the 900th match win on the ATP Tour when he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round in Melbourne en route to his eighth title.

“This is definitely my favourite court. My favourite stadium in the world and I am blessed to hold this trophy once again. I would like to congratulate Dominic on an amazing tournament. It wasn’t meant to be tonight. You were very close to winning. You definitely have a lot more time in your career and I am sure you will get more than one Grand Slam trophy in your career”.

 By winning the 17th Grand Slam title of his career, Djokovic comes closer to all-time leaders Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) in the list of the most successful players in the history of the Grand Slam tournaments.

“I am grateful to have an opportunity to win another Australian Open trophy. At this stage of my career, Grand Slam titles are the ones I value the most. They are the ones I prioritize. Before the season starts, I try to set my form, shape for these events where I can be at my prime tennis, mental and physical abilities. There are a lot of stats that obviosly I am proud of, but they can’t dictacte my career. Of course there is a lot of history on the line. I have professional goals. Grand Slams are one of the main reasons why I am still competing and still playing full season, to get the historic number 1. That’s the other big goal. I put myself in this position that is really good at the moment. I am super happy with I started the season. It sets the tone for the rest of the season. There are many things on the tennis court that I can still improve. That excites me and motivates me to go day in, day out with my commitments, with my practice commitments, with my practice sessions, because there is always something to work on. There are always trophies to win”, said Djokovic.

 Thiem: “I really hope that I win my maiden Slam when they are still around”

Thiem, who had beaten Djokovic in four of their five past head-to-head matches coming into the Australian Open final including in the semifinal of 2019 Roland Garros and at the ATP Finals in London, was bidding to become the first new player to win a Grand Slam title since Marin Cilic at the 2014 US Open.

“I definitely gave everything I had. Novak is part of the three guys who are by far the best players ever who played tennis. If you play a Grand Slam finals against him, it’s always going to be a match where very small details are deciding. I could just have converted the breakpoint in the fourth set, where I could have taken the 2-1 lead. I think he had some issues in the second set. He recovered very well. He played really good after in the third and fourth sets. There were some small mistakes here and there, but they are happening. At the end it was a close five-setter”,said Thiem.  

Thiem lost in a Grand Slam final for the third time after finishing runner-up in the past two editions of Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019 to Rafael Nadal.

“Djokovic and Nadal brought tennis to a complete new level. They brought me to a much better level. It was amazing how the matches went this week. It’s great tennis. It’s a great show for everybody. It would be easier for sure in a different era to win big titles, but I am happy that I compete with these guys at the best level. I really hope that I win my maiden Slam when they are still around because the big three are still around”,commented Thiem.

Thiem also paid tribute to the victims of bushfires in Australia after the match.

“It’s very tough what this beautiful country is still going through. I think that the Australian Open was a big distraction, but I still wish that Australia will recover very soon from this tragedy. It’s such a beautiful country, it’s so amazing. I hope that a disaster like this is never happening again”,said Thiem.  

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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