Gael Monfils

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Thiem withdraws from Qatar Open semifinal due to fever

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DOHA, Qatar — Top-seeded Dominic Thiem withdrew from his Qatar Open semifinal against Gael Monfils on Friday due to a cold and fever.

In Saturday’s final, Monfils of France will play the winner of the semifinal between Andrey Rublev of Russia and Guido Pella of Argentina.

The fifth-ranked Thiem, the only remaining seeded player in the draw, did not drop a set on the way to the semifinals. But there were signs of illness Thursday when the Austrian coughed through his answers after winning his quarterfinal.

“I am in bed with fever and there is almost no chance of a recovery until tonight,” Thiem wrote on Facebook. “Of course I am disappointed, but nevertheless I had a solid start into the new season.”

The Australian Open starts in 10 days.

“Now I am focusing on Melbourne and being fit and prepared for the first Grand Slam of the year,” Thiem said.

Djokovic beats Monfils to claim second title of season

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EASTBOURNE, England (AP) Novak Djokovic won his second title of 2017 on Saturday as he cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gael Monfils in the Eastbourne International final.

The Serb remained unbeaten against Monfils on the ATP tour as he extended his head-to-head advantage over the Frenchman to 14-0 in one hour and 16 minutes.

Having ended a trophy-drought stretching back to the Qatar Open in January, Djokovic will begin his Wimbledon campaign on Tuesday full of confidence.

Earlier Saturday, third-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-4, 6-4 to win the women’s event on England’s south coast.

Monfils’s attempt to end his losing streak against the world No. 4 was quickly blunted as he dropped serve in the opening game, before being broken again in the final game of the first set.

Despite his renowned retrieval skills, Monfils was unable to impose his return game as Djokovic made 87 per cent of his first serves during the opening set.

Monfils emerged with renewed intent for the second set, but Djokovic was able to summon the grit that has so often been lacking this season as he fought off three break points.

Equally familiar was the sight of Djokovic increasing his intensity as Monfils served to stay in the match at 4-5, taking victory at the first opportunity.

Pliskova claimed her third title of 2017 and ninth overall as she broke once in each set to defeat 2009 champion Wozniacki.

The Czech was a beaten finalist in this tournament on England’s south coast last year, losing to Dominika Cibulkova.

“I’m really happy I got the trophy this time,” Pliskova said. “I feel quite okay on grass … The serve is definitely my biggest weapon and, if it’s working, then it’s real trouble for the opponent.”

Sixth-seeded Wozniacki had her only break points of the match in the sixth game of the second set but let four opportunities slip by.

“I thought I played really well, I did what I could today,” Wozniacki said. “I had trouble getting the serves back, but it’s great preparation before Wimbledon.”

Fall in rankings has Federer seeded 17th at Aussie Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — A long injury layoff and a fall in the rankings have created a tough draw for 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

Federer slipped to No. 17 in the rankings this week after Grigor Dimitrov won the Brisbane International and moved up to No. 15.

The Australian Open tends to stick with the rankings when its seeds 32 players in each of the men’s and women’s 128-player singles draws, meaning the 35-year-old Federer gets less protection than usual and could potentially face a top 10 player as soon as the third round.

The seedings were confirmed by Australian Open organizers on Thursday, on the eve of the draw for the season-opening major which begins Monday in Melbourne.

Federer has won the Australian Open four times, his first in 2004, and also reached the final in 2009, but he hasn’t won the title here since 2010.

He spent six months out of action last year following surgery on his left knee and finished 2016 at No. 16, ending a year in which his record run of 65 Grand Slam appearances ended when he couldn’t contest the French Open. He also missed the U.S. Open.

He returned to action at the international mixed teams exhibition at the Hopman Cup in Perth last week.

As expected, No. 1-ranked Andy Murray is the top seed ahead of six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic in the men’s draw and Angelique Kerber, the reigning Australian and U.S. Open champion, is the top seed in the women’s draw ahead of six-time champion Serena Williams, who is seeded No. 2.

Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic is No. 3 in the men’s seedings, and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych round out the top 10.

Nishikori, who lost the Brisbane final in three sets to Dimitrov last Sunday, said having Federer sitting lower in the list of seeds was bad for his rivals but good for the event.

“It’s not the best news for us, for sure. It’s a bit tough,” he said Thursday. “Rafa is also No. 9. We might have to play Rafa and Roger really soon in the draw.

“It’s not the best if you play, but it’s great for the fans.”

Following Kerber and Williams in the list of top 10 women’s seeds are Agnieszka Radwanska, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Dominika Cibulkova, Garbine Muguruza, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Johanna Konta and Carla Suarez Navarro.