‘He Will Be Stronger Than Ever’ – Serbian Players Rally Around Djokovic At Australian Open
The sentiment among many of the country’s top players in Melbourne is anger over the way Djokovic has been treated.
It is clear that Serbian players at this year’s Australian Open have two things on their mind – to play the best tennis they can and to defend their leader Novak Djokovic from further criticism.
Tennis has been marred with controversy over the past 11 days following a dramatic visa battle between the world No.1 and the Australian authorities. Djokovic saw his visa get cancelled, won a legal battle to overturn that decision, got his visa cancelled once again and ended up being deported from the country following a second unsuccessful court appeal. Authorities argue that the tennis star pose a threat and could incite civil unrest related to the ani-vaxx movement. An allegation his legal team denies. Meanwhile, Serbia feels that their greatest tennis player of all time has been mistreated.
Miomir Kecmanovic is a former world No.1 junior player who was set to play Djokovic in the first round on Monday. Instead, he took on Italian lucky loser Salvatore Caruso who he beat 6-4, 6-2, 6-1.
“Everything that happened to Novak in the last few days certainly affected all of us from Serbia,” world No.77 Miomir Kecmanovic told CODE Sports prior to the match. “It is clear that I am disappointed with the decision of the authorities in Australia. I think that tennis lost a lot with this event in Australia, because not having the best tennis player in the world is a loss for the sport, the spectators, all of us.”
Laslo Djere bowed out of the tournament to Denis Shapovalov in his first round match. He once partnered Djokovic in an ATP doubles tournament back in 2015 and the two are Davis Cup teammates. Speaking to reporters following his loss, the 26-year-old says the atmosphere has changed since the court ruling.
“A different feel here for me. I texted Novak that I’m sorry about what happened. I don’t get it, their rules were that you can enter the country with an exemption, they didn’t follow their own rules… It’s just terrible, a catastrophe,” he said.
Djere says he has heard a ‘few conversations’ among players and admits that not all of them support Djokovic for whatever reason. Unlike the Serbian contingent, most other players on the Tour have been reluctant to weigh in on the debate and some such as Rafael Nadal has expressed frustration that the fiasco is overshadowing the sport.
“Personally, I feel that he will be stronger than ever after this. It’s our mentality – when we fall or we are treated unjustly, it fuels us and motivates us, him especially,” the world No.52 stated.
Dusan Lajovic didn’t hold back when he was asked to express his view on the situation. He was the first man from his country to book a place in the second round after ousting Wimbledon quarter-finalist Marton Fucsovics in five sets.
“I think the way they treated him was terribly wrong, the decision itself was terribly wrong and also the reason why they did it was terribly wrong. Based on an idea.. It’s not the right way,” said Lajovic.
“Many from the top did not support him. Maybe they know Novak is one of favorites of the title, one obstacle less for them, but I don’t know whether that was their point of view. I tried to stay off the media because there was many half-information.” He later added.
According to Australian immigration laws, 34-year-old Djokovic will not be granted another visa to enter the country for another three years. However, prime minister Scott Morrison told radio station 2GB that the 20-time Grand Slam champion could be allowed to return earlier than that provided he meets the ‘right circumstances.’
Note: quotes via twitter.com/ozmo_sasa
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Teen Sensations Meet in the Third Round
Third round singles action concludes on Saturday in Paris.
In what could be the first of many battles between two of tennis’ most promising young stars, 19-year-old Coco Gauff will face 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva. And the top two American men, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, take on considerable opposition in Francisco Cerundolo and Sascha Zverev, respectively.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Mirra Andreeva (Q) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Gauff is 21-8 on the year despite changes to her coaching team and some continued issues with the mechanics of her game, primarily her forehand and serve. She was the runner-up here a year ago, losing 6-1, 6-3 in the final to Iga Swiatek. Coco dropped the first set in her opener, but has easily secured her four sets played since.
Andreeva is ranked 143rd in the world, but she started the year 312th. She is an excellent 22-2 at all levels, including qualifying. Mirra has taken all 10 sets she’s played since the beginning of qualifying last week. The tennis world first took notice of her earlier this clay court season in Madrid, when she upset Leylah Fernandez, Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette to reach the fourth round.
On Saturday, I would not be shocked to witness Andreeva upset Gauff. Coco has not been playing her best tennis of late, going just 3-3 on clay ahead of this fortnight. And she has the pressure of defending finalist points on her young shoulders. But Gauff has a big game, and certainly has a huge edge in experience, both of which should be enough to propel her to victory.
Francisco Cerundolo (23) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
It will be quite interesting to see and hear how the French crowd treats Fritz on Saturday after provoking, trolling, and shushing the audience on Thursday evening. Taylor may live to regret that decision, as the French tennis fans have long memories, and love to involve themselves in matches. Fritz is now a strong 31-11 this season, and looking to advance to the second week of this tournament for the first time.
Cerundolo is 22-14 this year, and 15-9 on clay. All three of his career ATP finals have come on this surface, including just last week in Lyon.
So what will prevail on Saturday: Taylor’s serving prowess, or Francisco’s formidable forehand? In another first career meeting on the day, I give the American the slight edge. While the crowd will be against him, he is much more experienced at this stage of a Major. Prior to this year, Cerundolo was 0-4 in the main draw at Slams.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Lesia Tsurenko – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu
Andreescu’s victory over Victoria Azarenka in the first round was quite a surprise. Bianca was just 9-9 on the year, and 0-2 on clay, a surface where she only owns 14 career victories. She has unfortunately suffered setback after setback since her amazing 2019 season, yet continues to try to fight her way back to the top of the sport.
Tsurenko, a Ukrainian, has been open regarding how hard it has been to play on tour for the last year-and-a-half. She even withdrew from Indian Wells in March, after having a panic attack which she blamed on unsettling comments from WTA CEO Steve Simon regarding Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. But Lesia is now a superb 27-8 this season at all levels, and eliminated 2021 champion Barbora Krejcikova in the first round.
Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this year on a hard court in Hua Hin, when Tsurenko was leading 7-5, 4-0 in the semifinals before Andreescu retired from the match. And on Saturday, I lean towards Lesia to prevail again based on both players’ form this season.
Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Frances Tiafoe (12) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Tiafoe is 23-8 in 2023, and while clay is not his strongest surface, he did win a 250-level title at the start of the clay season in Houston. Frances was just 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros before this week, at the only Major where he’s yet to reach the second week.
Of course it was at this event a year ago when Zverev suffered that gruesome, upsetting ankle injury in the semifinals against Rafael Nadal, ending his 2022 season. He is yet to rediscover his top form this year, with a modest record of 18-14. But Sascha did claim his first two matches this week in straight sets.
Zverev has dominated their history, with a 6-1 edge. However, they haven’t played in over 18 months, and Tiafoe and Zverev are both different players than they were in 2021. Yet on this surface, Sascha should be favored to advance after an extended battle on Saturday night.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday:
Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – It’s hard to find two more polar opposite styles: the power of Rybakina, and the grinding defense of Sorribes Tormo. Neither player has dropped a set to this stage, and Sara took their only previous meeting, two years ago on a hard court in Miami.
Zhizhen Zhang vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Ruud has not repeated his great success from 2022 during 2023, with an 18-11 record to date. Zhizhen made his big breakthrough earlier this year in Madrid, where he won three consecutive third-set tiebreaks over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz. He is the first Chinese man to win a match at the French Open in 86 years, as he and Wu Yibing continue to break new ground for Chinese tennis.
Ekaterina Alexandrova (23) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – This is the farthest Haddad Maia has ever advanced at a Major. This is Alexandrova’s sixth time in the third round of a Slam, but she’s yet to go farther. They’ve played twice before in qualifying for events in 2017, with Beatriz winning both matches.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Xinyu Wang – Swiatek won her first two matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-0. And Iga is 4-0 in the third round of Roland Garros. Xinyu is also yet to lose a set, in her best performance at a Major to date.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Djokovic Face Seeded Opposition on Friday
Third round singles action commences on Friday in Paris.
In the top half of the ATP singles draw, which plays on Friday, 11 of 16 seeds have advanced to the third round, making for some blockbuster encounters. But in the bottom half of the WTA singles draw, which also plays on Friday, only six of 16 seeds remain after two rounds, leaving plenty of room for new names to break through to the second week of this Major.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Court Philippe-Chatrier
Djokovic is now 22-4 on the year, despite his vaccination status and an elbow injury forcing him to miss multiple events. And despite whatever this thing is taped to his chest. Novak hasn’t dropped a set through two rounds, and hasn’t failed to advance beyond the third round of this tournament since 2009, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
Davidovich Fokina is 19-13 in 2023, and was a quarterfinalist here two years ago. The 23-year-old is a flashy, emotional, and inconsistent player. But he’s capable of defeating top players, as he did Djokovic last year in Monte Carlo.
Djokovic claimed their other two meetings easily in straight sets, back in 2021. And on Friday, the 22-time Major champion is a considerable favorite to prevail again, especially in the best-of-five format.
Lorenzo Musetti (17) vs. Cameron Norrie (14) – Third in Court Simonne-Mathieu
Like Alejandro, Lorenzo is a flashy, uber-talented young player. But his results are also up-and-down, with a record of 15-12 this season. The 21-year-old advanced to the round of 16 in Paris two years ago, when he was up two sets against Djokovic before succumbing and retiring two games from defeat.
Norrie is the opposite: a consistent, less glitzy performer. The British No.1 is 29-10 on the season, and has been one of the ATP’s winningest players the last two seasons. However, he is 0-2 in the third round of this event, losing to Rafael Nadal and Karen Khachanov the last two years.
Their only prior matchup took place earlier this clay court season in Barcelona, with Musetti coming from a set down to win 6-1 in the third. But this is another case where the best-of-five format favors the higher seed and more fit player in Norrie, while the slight upset by the Italian and his formidable backhand would not be shocking.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen
Tsitsipas is 27-8 this season, yet is 0-5 in his last five tournament finals, dating back nearly a year. That includes a straight-set loss to Djokovic in the championship match of January’s Australian Open.
Schwartzman has seriously struggled this year, with a record of 5-16 at all levels coming into this fortnight, arriving in Paris on a five-match losing streak. However, he has advanced to the fourth round or better at this tournament in four of the last five years, and remains a considerable threat on this surface.
Stefanos leads their head-to-head 4-2 overall, and 2-0 on clay. And based on recent form, the Greek is a significant favorite on Friday.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (26) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier
Alcaraz is 32-3 in 2023, and 22-2 on clay. He’s accumulated four titles, three of which came on this surface. Carlitos was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, losing in four sets to Sascha Zverev.
It’s been a really rough season for Shapovalov. The Canadian was 7-9 on the year coming into the French Open, and 1-2 on clay. And this easily remains his worst Major, with a lifetime record of 4-4, and this third round appearance being his best result to date.
In their first career meeting, the 20-year-old Spaniard is a strong favorite to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Elise Mertens (28) vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – Both players are yet to drop a set, though Pegula received a retirement from Camila Giorgi after one set on Wednesday. Mertens leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches taking place a few years ago on hard courts.
Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Khachanov came back from two sets down in his opening round contest against Constant Lestienne of France, while Kokkinakis survived a grueling five-setter in the last round against Stan Wawrinka. When they played five years ago on clay in Monte Carlo, Karen prevailed in straight sets.
Kamilla Rakhimova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 31-5 on the year, but is vying to reach the round of 16 in Paris for the first time. Rakhimova is a 21-year-old who has never advanced to the round of 16 at any Major. This is a first career meeting between two more players who have not dropped a set.
Lorenzo Sonego vs. Andrey Rublev (7) – Rublev has won consecutive four-setters to reach this stage. Sonego already took out another seed, Ben Shelton. These players have split two prior tour-level meetings, with Lorenzo claiming the one contested on clay.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Excited’ To Break More Records After Sealing 20th Roland Garros Win
Stefanos Tsitsipas is ‘excited’ to break more records after securing his 20th Roland Garros victory.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is ‘excited’ to break more records as he claimed a 20th victory at Roland Garros.
The Greek progressed to the third round of Roland Garros with a straight sets win over Roberto Carballes Baena.
Tsitsipas’ win was the 51st of his Grand Slam career as well as the 20th victory that he secured at Roland Garros.
Speaking after the win Tsitsipas spoke about the satisfaction he gets when he breaks records, “I am very much in when it comes to breaking records. I get excited when I see personal records being kind of set and broken,” Tsitsipas said in his press conference.
“Of course it’s a great satisfaction to be seeing those stats, because there is so much work behind it, and sometimes it’s difficult to grasp the fact that it all happened so quickly.
“I just wish to keep on going. I wish to be healthy and to be fighting for more titles and breaking personal records but also records that haven’t been set before in tennis, like that serve thing that happened in Madrid was quite cool, actually. I never thought about it. It just happened.”
Tsitsipas will look to gain more Grand Slam wins in the future as he aims for a maiden Grand Slam title over the next two weeks.
The world number five also spoke about how tennis is a psychological sport and how important it is to perform well under pressure, “Well, it’s psychological, I believe, a big important part of the game,” Tsitsipas said.
“As I said, in the tiebreaker, my mind shifted. It changed towards something — well, I wasn’t aiming too much for being conservative, and that led me, that for sure I owe to that, that I was able to win a tiebreaker because of that.
“The psychological state that you’re in when you play is “the” most important thing, and this starts from outside of the court. If you’re able to be in peace and balance before you step on the court, that’s already a big
advantage that you have.
“Of course technical, these are minor things that you can always improve on and are much more controllable in a way and have external force too. But I think if you’re a player that can perform big on pressure moments, that is the thing that is going to just give you a good career in tennis.
“There are a few guys that can play good under pressure, especially in big, tight moments, and you have to have the mental strength of a Navy SEAL to pull it through, in a way. You have to have the physique of a marathon runner, the lungs of a marathon runner.
“You have to have the power of a football player, so back to the hard-work part, there is just so many little components that you have to link up in order to make this unbelievable player where you allow yourself to be unstoppable.”
This is a fascinating insight from Tsitsipas on the psychological work it takes to become a successful tennis player.
Now Tsitsipas looks to use these elements to his advantage as he looks to finally make his Grand Slam breakthrough in Paris.
The fifth seed’s Roland Garros charge will now continue on Friday where he plays Nuno Borges or Diego Schwartzman.
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