All so difficult for Djokovic, easy for Nadal at French Open

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PARIS — From a tiff with the chair umpire to the big deficit he created and then needed to overcome in a steady rain, Novak Djokovic had an all-around difficult day at the French Open.

Rafael Nadal’s journey to the fourth round, in contrast, could hardly have been easier. Indeed, his 100th best-of-five-set match on clay was also the most lopsided.

The stark numbers on the scoreboards at Court Philippe Chatrier revealed plenty about how differently things went in the back-to-back contests Friday for defending champion Djokovic and nine-time champion Nadal. First up in the main stadium at Roland Garros was Nadal, who won 82 points and conceded merely 36 in a 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 victory over 63rd-ranked Nikoloz Basilashvili.

“The score is quite embarrassing, you know,” Basilashvili acknowledged, “but I have to accept it.”

Djokovic followed in the main stadium and found himself in quite a bit of trouble right away against 41st-ranked Diego Schwartzman before emerging to win 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

While it took Basilashvili 12 minutes and 49 minutes just to claim a single game – which spectators greeted with a roar as he stood motionless and straight-faced – Schwartzman not only took the second game of his match against Djokovic, he grabbed the opening set, too. And then the third, to go up by two sets to one.

Schwartzman played well during that stretch, to be sure, but the No. 2-seeded Djokovic’s biggest problem was himself. He wound up with 55 unforced errors to 43 winners, and all sorts of issues on his backhand wing, which produced 33 of those miscues, all under the watchful eye of new coach Andre Agassi.

Djokovic, who completed a career Grand Slam a year ago in Paris, eventually managed to figure out how to steady his game, if not his demeanor.

As Schwartzman became less proficient and complained about issues in his right hip area – a trainer came out and gave him a massage during a changeover late in the final set – Djokovic became more assertive and more accurate.

Still, there were distractions.

In the fourth set, with Djokovic leading 4-0 and serving at 30-all, he was given a fault by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for multiple time violations. After the ensuing point, Djokovic stared in Ramos’ direction. Moments later, just about to face a break point, Djokovic yelled at himself, mostly in Serbian. Then, facing Ramos, Djokovic briefly lifted his racket overhead, before using it to flip a ball backward toward a ball boy.

That’s when Ramos interrupted, announcing a code violation warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. Djokovic walked over and barked: “What’s wrong with you? What did I say? What did I say? What did I say? Why did you give me warning? What, do you understand Serbian?”

Ramos had trouble getting a word in edgewise, but responded: “Because of what you did. The gesture you made with the racket. This is not acceptable.”

Djokovic: “Did I hit the ball in your direction?”

Ramos: “No, you did not.”

Djokovic: “Did I hit it? Why did you give me a warning?”

Ramos: “Because of your attitude.”

Djokovic: “What attitude, man?”

When play resumed, Djokovic missed a forehand to drop that game. He would win 8 of 9 games the rest of the way.

Elsewhere on Day 6 at Roland Garros, 10th-seeded David Goffin stopped playing after turning his ankle when he tripped on a tarp at the back of the court in the first set against Horacio Zeballos; No. 5 Milos Raonic advanced when his opponent, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, quit because of a left thigh injury; No. 20 Pablo Carreno Busta eliminated No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4; and No. 6 Dominic Thiem was a 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-3 winner against No. 25 Steve Johnson, an American who generated sympathy from fans and foes as he displayed raw emotion while competing just weeks after the death of his father.

In women’s play, defending champion Garbine Muguruza beat No. 27 Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 6-2, and a couple of unseeded Americans lost to seeded opponents: No. 13 Kristina Mladenovic edged Shelby Rogers 7-5, 4-6, 8-6, while No. 23 Sam Stosur eliminated qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-2, 6-2.


6-time champ Djokovic loses at Miami Open to Benoit Paire

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Novak Djokovic’s 16-match Key Biscayne winning streak ended, and his struggle to overcome a bothersome right elbow continued.

Djokovic lasted barely an hour at a tournament he has won six times, losing his opening match Friday in the Miami Open to Benoit Paire, 6-3, 6-4.

The defeat was Djokovic’s third in a row. He returned from a six-month injury absence at the Australian Open and lost in the fourth round, and was upset two weeks ago at Indian Wells by Taro Daniel, a 109th-ranked qualifier.

Against the 47th-ranked Paire, Djokovic dropped serve four times, returned poorly and had difficulty anticipating his crafty opponent’s drop shots.

In women’s play, Naomi Osaka’s breakthrough winning streak ended with a loss to No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-2. Osaka said began feeling ill before the match but didn’t want to retire after upsetting eight-time champion Serena Williams in the first round.

The 20-year-old Osaka is ranked a career-high 22nd and won her first career title last week at Indian Wells.

Djokovic sat out the last half of 2017 because of problems with his racket-swinging arm, saying it had been bothering him for more than a year. He was sidelined again after this year’s Australian Open and said he had a “small medical intervention” on his elbow.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion didn’t seem to favor it against Paire, but his shots lacked their usually snap and sometimes were awkwardly struck, including the last two on match point.

In the first set Djokovic served with a chance to reach 5-all, but from 40-0 he lost five consecutive points and the set. Another dismal stretch came when he was broken at love in the final game of the match.

The loss was Djokovic’s first at Key Biscayne since 2013. He missed last year’s Miami Open but won the title three consecutive years in 2014-16.

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Top-ranked Halep wins tough 3-setter in Miami

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania struggled to post a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 second-round win over French lucky loser Oceane Dodin at the Miami Open on Thursday.

In the first career meeting between the players, Halep allowed the 98th-ranked Dodin to break her serve on six of seven opportunities she presented in the match, which lasted more than two hours.

Halep broke Dodin’s serve for the seventh time at 4-4 in the third set before closing it out.

Halep played in her third career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but has yet to secure a Grand Slam trophy.

Halep’s best Miami Open was reaching the 2015 semifinals.

Also Thursday, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber of Germany advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Kerber is 19-4 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments she’s played.

Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open champion, won her first tournament since that U.S. Open at Sydney in January. She also reached the Australian Open semifinals.