Djokovic offers a healthy choice ahead of Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic doesn’t really need to offer sweeteners to attract a crowd at the Australian Open.

Still, in what has become something of a tradition, he handed out some delicacies at his news conference on Sunday. He doled out chocolates at his first meeting with media at previous Australian Open tournaments and it’s worked – no man has won more titles here than Djokovic in the Open era.

Ahead of his title defense, and a bid for a record-equaling sixth Australian title (Roy Emerson won six in the 1960s before the Open era started), the No. 1-ranked Djokovic only slightly tweaked his recipe for success. The treats this time where “healthy, energy balls,” he told the assembled crowd. “They’re nice, still sweet – you’ll like them.”

It goes with his strict diet, one of the factors in his improved ability to handle the weather conditions in Melbourne which can range from extreme heat to cold and windy on the same day.

“It’s what I have on a daily basis,” he explained of the chocolate-looking balls, explaining the contents as “different super foods – and nuts and plant-based milk with cocoa and so forth. Pretty healthy stuff.”

Whatever the ingredients, it must be working.

Djokovic struggled earlier in his career with the heat at Melbourne Park, where he won his first major in 2008. He can handle all kinds of weather and court surfaces now, evidenced by his 2015 season when he lost only one match at Grand Slams – the French Open final.

That “was the best season and best year of my life undoubtedly. I enjoyed every moment spent on the court,” Djokovic said. “I’ll try to obviously carry that confidence and high level of performance that I’ve had, especially toward the end of the year, into the new season.

“The opening week of the year in Doha went extremely well for me. I haven’t dropped a set. I’ve been preparing well, taking some time to really work on certain things, get a good foundation.”

After losing a lopsided final to Djokovic in Doha, 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal described the Serbian player’s level as close to perfection. Roger Federer, who has won 17 majors but hasn’t added to his tally since 2012, agreed Djokovic was the clear favorite at Melbourne Park after winning four of the last five titles.

The defending champions will feature in back-to-back matches on Rod Laver Arena on Monday afternoon, with Serena Williams opening her title defense against Camila Giorgi of Italy and Djokovic on next against Chung Hyeon of South Korea.

Federer, who is on the top half of the draw with Djokovic, will feature in the first night match on the center court against Nikoloz Basilashvili. Maria Sharapova, the 2015 finalist, Genie Bouchard, Sloane Stephens and former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki are in action in the women’s draw, which starts on Rod Laver Arena with sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova against qualifer Kumkhum Luksika of Thailand.

The bottom half of both singles draws will start Tuesday, when No. 2-ranked Andy Murray will launch another bid for a drought-breaking title in Australia and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka will play. Murray has ended long streaks for British men by winning titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon before capturing the Davis Cup. He has played in four finals at Melbourne Park, and lost them all. And even if he gets there again, he may not play if his wife, Kim Sears, goes into labor in London with their first child. The baby is due in February. The men’s final is scheduled for Jan. 31.

Djokovic, who beat his long-time friend in the finals here in 2011, ’13 and ’15, said while it was too early to be speculating about the final, he respected Murray’s position.

“Considering his situation … of course I support and I agree with his decision. I would do the same,” he said. “I just became a father almost 15 months ago. I understand the position that he’s in.

“He’s one of the favorites to win this trophy … but yet again, he understands that there are some other priorities in life. I’m glad he’s thinking that way.”

Dodig, Krajicek win French Open men’s doubles title, a year after squandering match points in final

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A year after squandering three match points in the final, fourth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States won the men’s doubles title at the French Open on Saturday by beating unseeded Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen 6-4, 6-1.

Unlike last year’s tension-filled final, this one was never in doubt as the Croat-American duo broke the Belgians four times, saved all three break points they faced and wrapped up the win in 1 hour, 20 minutes.

It was the 38-year-old Dodig’s third major title in men’s doubles, after winning here in 2015 and at the Australian Open in 2021 – with different partners. But it was a first Grand Slam trophy for the 32-year-old Krajicek, a former top-100 ranked singles player.

Gille and Vliegen were playing together in their first major final.

Last year, Dodig and Krajicek lost to Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer after having three championship points in the second set.

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

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PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”