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Djokovic cruises, teenager Gauff’s dream run continues at Wimbledon

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Novak Djokovic beat Hubert Hurkacz 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4.

London: Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon with a tougher-than-expected 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4 victory over Hubert Hurkacz.

On Friday, the 48th-ranked Polish underdog got the defending champion’s attention with an outstanding performance in the second set, although Djokovic’s ability to play at a consistently high level throughout proved to be the difference in a No. 1 Court match that lasted exactly three hours.

After taking the opening set thanks a late service break, in the second set Djokovic suffered an awkward fall after one rally and struggled to deal with the all-around game of the 1.96-meter (6-foot-5) Hurkacz, a player with a potent forehand and solid two-handed backhand who also moves well despite his height.

The Pole more than held his own in the baseline rallies and won a pair of points with spectacular diving volley winners en route to tying the match at a set apiece.

But a lapse at the start of the third set proved costly for Hurkacz, as the top seed handily took a two-set-to-one lead and then won the fourth set on the strength of a service break in the third game.

With the win, the Serbian four-time champion booked a spot in the round of 16 of Wimbledon, tennis’ grass-court Grand Slam event, for the 12th time in his illustrious career.

That ties the 32-year-old Djokovic with former German great Boris Becker, one of his former coaches.

Next up for the Serbian in the round of 16 will be France’s Ugo Humbert, who upset Canadian 18-year-old rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 19 seed, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

In other men’s singles third-round results, Argentina’s Guido Pella upset 2018 men’s singles runner-up Kevin Anderson of South Africa, the No. 4 seed, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), while 21st-seeded Belgian David Goffin eliminated Russian No. 11 seed Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 and 23rd-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut surprised 10th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.

In women’s singles, American 15-year-old sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff staved off two match points in the second set before pulling out a narrow 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 third-round victory over Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.

The 60th-ranked Hercog appeared to have the match under control after winning the first set and taking a 5-2 lead in the second set, but Gauff, who upset American five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round, showed tremendous fight in saving one match point on her own serve in the eighth game and another on Hercog’s serve in the following game.

She eventually broke serve and then went on to take the second set in a thrilling 16-point tiebreaker.

The drama was far from over though, as Hercog rallied from 4-1 down in the third set to make the score 4-4.

But in a match filled with long baseline rallies in which both players used lots of slice on both the forehand and backhand sides, the 313th-ranked Gauff showed maturity and toughness that belie her years to pull out the win in two hours and 47 minutes.

Next up for the tennis phenom will be Romanian No. 7 seed Simona Halep, who cruised into the third round with an emphatic 6-3, 6-1 victory over Belarusian Victoria Azarenka.

Also advancing to the fourth round with three-set victories were eight-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina and third-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova.

Svitolina topped Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-2 and Pliskova edged Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

China’s Zhang Shuai also moved into the round of 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 upset of Danish No. 14 seed Caroline Wozniacki.

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Owe my long career to Navratilova, says Leander Paes

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Leander Paes

Mumbai: Veteran Leander Paes says if he is still able to withstand the rigours of the physically demanding ATP tour, the credit goes to legendary Martina Navratilova, who transformed him into a fitness freak.

Navratilova, winner of an incredible 59 Grand Slam titles including 18 singles, teamed up with Paes in the latter part of her astonishing career.

The two of her 10 mixed doubles Grand Slam trophies — Wimbledon and Australian Open in 2003 — came with Paes. She was the oldest player on Tour and was active when she was nearing 50.

“Navratilova taught us on how physical fitness was a pre-requisite. Navaratilova taught me importance of physical fitness and that is the reason I had such a long career,” said Paes, who is 46.

“She epitomises perseverance and the re-invention that an athlete can go through. Navratilova took fitness and gym work to a new level. To have played with Navratilova over three years and to being that close to her over time has helped me in my career, that at 46 I keep re-inventing myself, my training methods, my diets and my fitness.”

Paes also had a successful pairing with Swiss great Martina Hingis and he had words of praise for her also.

“Hingis taught me a lot about technique. Because I don’t consider myself a very talented tennis player, I am more of an athlete. I felt that playing with Hingis — her ground strokes, technique, volley or just technique itself was phenomenal. Playing with her I used to practice hours and hours and the matches were just extension of practice sessions,” he said.

Talking about global tennis icon Roger Federer, Paes said it is amazing to see how the Swiss has re-invented himself to keep winning grand-slams.

“This year Australian Open is going to be unique. Roger Federer just announced that he will play the Olympics in 2020. I think for tennis fans around the world it is fantastic because there is always a question whether he is going to continue or not (playing),” Paes said here.

He was speaking after Tennis Australia and Sony Pictures India Private Limited announced a three-year extension of their broadcast relationship at the Australian Open 2020 media launch.

Paes said that he has not decided on his goals for 2020.

“I would find out in the next couple of days as to what my goals in 2020 are. For me I play for trophies (and) they are memories. Medals and trophies are memories that never go. For me to rewrite the history books, is what I have lived for. I had a very blessed career, so if I have another year in it… I get to another Olympics (it would be) wonderful, if I don’t still (it would be) wonderful,” he said.

In the over 20 minute conversation, Paes was asked about how does he approach an Olympic year, and he avoided giving a direct reply.

“You know the Olympics is a away. I was born for the Olympics. Everything I dreamt for and wished to play for off-late is to play for our people.

“(If I am approached to play for our country), rest assured I will be there. As far as that goes, I have got the World Record for most number of Olympics played but I think an eighth Olympics would be India’s record to actually make sure that we seal that record to play eight Olympics on the trot,” he said.

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AITA prepare to send team to Pakistan for Davis Cup

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AITA

New Delhi: The national tennis federation on Tuesday decided to begin the process to procure Pakistan visas for its players and support staff, indicating that it may send a team to the neighbouring nation for next month’s Davis Cup tie in case the ITF rejects its request to shift the matches to a neutral venue.

It has been learnt that the All India Tennis Association (AITA) won’t force any player to travel to Pakistan and is willing to send even a second-string team to avoid suspension, relegation and fine by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

If the ITF itself shifts the tie a neutral venue, all top players are expected to make themselves available except Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who is getting married on November 29, the opening day of matches.

The tie was originally scheduled to be held in Islamabad on September 14-15 but was postponed to November 29-30 by the ITF after a security review.

The AITA is consistently writing to the world governing body to shift the tie to a neutral venue, citing security concerns.

AITA’s office bearers assembled on Tuesday at the DLTA for a meeting, also attended by Bhupathi, and decided to at least start the visa process and keep pushing for a neutral venue.

“We are waiting for a final decision from the ITF and accordingly will take a call but as of now we have to start the visa process,” AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee told PTI.

The ITF, in its most recent reply, has conveyed to the AITA that the Davis Cup Committee will make a decision only after the security agencies file a report early next month.

ITF seems convinced, as of now, about the security situation in Pakistan after the Sri Lankan cricket team’s tour of the country.

A decision is expected on November 4 and depending on that the AITA will make a call. A few players and non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi have already expressed apprehensions about travelling to Pakistan.

Bhupathi said the ITF must take responsibility of India’s travelling squad, if it finds Islamabad safe to travel.

“Today’s meeting was to decide what is the stance we are taking. AITA understands players’ apprehensions. They are also with the players. They also believe that somebody has to take responsibility for the security, mainly the ITF. If the ITF wants us to board a flight to Islamabad, they should take the responsibility for security,” said the winner of 12 Grand Slam titles.

Sources privy to the discussions said that the AITA is not in mood to defy ITF if neutral venue is not provided.

“A lot can change in the next 20 days. But AITA has to send team because AITA can’t afford to pay a hefty fine for forfeiting the tie. It could be least Rs 1 crore. And the team will could be suspended and then relegated. So it will take four years to be at the level where we stand today.

“This is not good for future generation of players. And let me tell you that not all players have refused to travel to Pakistan. There are players and people in support staff who may be willing to travel to Pakistan,” the source said.

It has been learnt that AITA had earlier prepared a list of 26 people — including players, support staff members and officials — for whom it would seek visa.

The AITA will have to begin the selection process afresh after November 4.

Prajnesh will surely be excused and it remains to be seen which players make themselves available.

As of now India are at a stage where if it beats Pakistan, which is the most likely result considering the strength of the hosts, the team will advance to the Davis Cup Qualifiers.

From Qualifiers, the Indian team has a chance to make the newly-introduced World Groups.

But if the team forfeits the tie, India could be handed a suspension of one or two years and relegated to Asia/Oceania Group III.

In that scenario, it will take three-four years, depending on the quantum of suspension, to get back to the current position.

“Will that be fair to future players?” asked an AITA official.

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Roger Federer to play at 2020 Tokyo Games in quest for elusive Olympics gold

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Roger Federer

Paris: Roger Federer announced Monday he will compete at next year’s Tokyo Olympics in a bid to win the men’s singles gold medal, the only major prize he has yet to obtain.

“I’ve been debating with my team for a few weeks now, months actually, what I should do in the summer time (of 2020) after Wimbledon and before the US Open,” he said at a promotional event.

“At the end of the day my heart decided to play the Olympic Games again.”

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