AP

Djokovic loses temper, match in Shanghai Masters semis

1 Comment

SHANGHAI — Novak Djokovic lost his temper then his semifinal at the Shanghai Masters to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday.

The top-ranked Serb struggled to control his errors for the second straight match, spraying groundstrokes and missing routine drop shots. He finished with 29 unforced errors and was a miserable 2-of-9 on break-point chances.

Djokovic couldn’t control his emotions, either: He smashed his racket into bits after losing the first set – later grabbing a towel from a ballgirl to sweep up the pieces himself – and ripped his shirt open in anger during another point.

He also argued repeatedly with the chair umpire Carlos Bernardes over line calls and a time violation he received for changing his ripped shirt. He continued the exchange even after the match, and complained in his post-match news conference.

“(Bernardes) was the star of the show,” he said. “That’s what he wanted to be today.”

Djokovic has talked repeatedly this week about trying to find calm on the court and rediscover his inner joy for the game after a grueling couple of years that has left him mentally exhausted. During his quarterfinal, he even started humming to keep his anger from boiling over.

There were no songs on Saturday. Just frustrations.

“This is one of those days,” Djokovic said. “Things go in an opposite direction than you want them, but again, it’s a lesson. Every day is a lesson.”

It’s been a season full of them for a player not accustomed to struggling: A stunning loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, an early exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to Juan Martin del Potro, a demoralizing defeat in the U.S. Open final to Stan Wawrinka.

There’s also been injuries, yet another unfamiliar issue for the normally healthy Djokovic.

But the Serb doesn’t believe these challenges are insurmountable. Or that they’ll lead to a deeper slide.

“I had to experience sooner or later this,” he said. “I knew I could not go on playing the highest level for so many years all the time, but it’s good to experience this so I can hopefully get better in the period to come.”

Bautista Agut won his first match against Djokovic in six chances, and improved to 6-30 against top-10 opponents.

He’ll face the winner of the second semifinal between second-seeded Andy Murray and Gilles Simon.

Federer survives scare to advance in Halle

AP Images
Leave a comment

HALLE, Germany (AP) Defending champion Roger Federer survived two match points against Benoit Paire to reach the quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) win on Thursday.

Paire rallied after losing the first set to take the second, and the Frenchman defended two match points at 6-5 in the decider to force a tiebreaker. Eight minutes later, it was a match point for the 48th-ranked Paire, and again when a mistake from Federer left it 7-6 in Paire’s favor.

But the top-ranked Swiss took the next three points to close the match in just under two hours at the grass-court tournament.

Federer extended his grass-court winning streak to 18 matches, including his titles in Stuttgart last week and at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row and is now just four wins away from matching Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 174 victories on grass.

Federer next faces Matthew Ebden of Australia, who upset former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Also Thursday, Borna Coric defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2.

The Croat next faces either Florian Mayer or Andreas Seppi.

Magdalena shows form on grass in Birmingham

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BIRMINGHAM, England — Magdalena Rybarikova, who climbed almost 90 places last year to reach a career-high No. 17 in March, showed she might rise even further after rallying against Kristina Mladenovic 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals in Birmingham.

The Slovak accelerated toward victory against the former top 10 player from France with an array of slice ground strokes, clever approaches and sharp volleys. The range of shots worked excellently on the lush surface at the grass-court Nature Valley Classic and helped her take control midway through the second set.

Rybarikova last year reached the Wimbledon semifinals. She is a former champion here, winning the title in 2009.

In the first round she beat third-seeded Karolina Pliskova for the loss of only five games but found it tougher against Mladenovic.

“I started to play very well,” Rybarikova said of her improvement from the fourth game of the second set against Mladenovic. “She served great to begin with and I struggled with my returns, but I kept fighting and my game improved a lot.

“I think I’d been a bit passive. The key was when I played more cross-court slices and drops and made an early break in the second set.

“That’s the way I am trying to play on grass. I am thankful that I have the game to do that. This court here really suits my game.”

At the changeover in the fifth game of the second set, Mladenovic’s morale appeared to plunge, and afterward her error ratio rose sharply with her standard dropping significantly.

The third set of a match which lasted nearly two hours took only 22 minutes, and long before the end the outcome had ceased to be in doubt.

Rybarikova next faces Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic, who on Tuesday overcame a difference in rankings of almost 100 places and saved four match points while beating seventh-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Jakupovic followed up Wednesday by getting past 18th-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan, who recently beat four former top-ranked opponents. Osaka was forced to retired injured after losing the first set 6-3.