Novak Djokovic survives scare, tops Gilles Muller in Toronto

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TORONTO (AP) Top-ranked Novak Djokovic survived a scare to beat Gilles Muller 7-5, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday in the Rogers Cup, his final event before the Rio Olympics.

“I actually think that Toronto is a great way for me to prepare for the Olympic Games and what’s coming up after that,” Djokovic said. “But also, you know, I enjoy my time in this tournament that I always love playing.”

The Serbian star noted that he had extra time off after falling in the third round at Wimbledon. The Rogers Cup rotates between Toronto and Montreal, with the women playing in Montreal this week.

“I enjoy Canada, both cities, Toronto and Montreal, and the past results in history show that I have a good time on Canadian soil, so I try to get the best out of it,” said Djokovic, the tournament winner in 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Djokovic struggled against Muller in his first hard-court match since March, both with his serves and his short game. Ultimately, unforced errors were Muller’s undoing, with both sets easily in reach of the unseeded player from Luxembourg.

“Gilles Muller is a very difficult player to play against in quick conditions,” Djokovic said. “He takes away the time of the opponent. He serves and volleys second serve a lot, as well, which he’s one of the rare guys that does that. He likes to play quick, and I think the warm day like today played a lot in his favor.”

Djokovic will face qualifier Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the third round.

Third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan downed American Dennis Novikov 6-4, 7-5; and fourth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-3.

American qualifier Ryan Harrison outlasted ninth-seeded countryman John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 6-4, and 10th-seeded Gael Monfils of France topped Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, Canada, 7-6 (6), 6-0. Monfils won the Citi Open on Sunday in Washington.

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.