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Novak Djokovic tries to remain optimistic despite another setback

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MADRID – Novak Djokovic is trying his best to stay optimistic despite a disappointing start to his season.

Former No. 1-ranked Djokovic has struggled since returning from a layoff for a right elbow injury and is yet to reach the quarterfinals in the six tournaments he has played this year. His latest defeat was against Kyle Edmund in the second round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

“Obviously I’m disappointed from losing this match, but I can be happy with the progress of the level of tennis,” Djokovic said. “There are positives to take out from this. But obviously disappointing to go out early in the tournament.”

Djokovic lost in the third round in Monte Carlo a few weeks ago, following second-round exits at both Miami and Indian Wells. The No. 12-ranked Djokovic also failed to advance past the last 16 at the Australian Open, which was the last tournament he won three consecutive matches.

“It’s a process,” Djokovic said. “It’s something I have to accept, I have to embrace. In general I feel much better about everything that is happening on the court and around tennis in general … than maybe two months ago.”

In a bid to get back on track, Djokovic has reunited with coach Marian Vajda and trainer Gebhard Gritsch after stints working with former players Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek.

“If there is anybody that knows my game well, knows me as a person well, especially in the last decade, it’s these two guys,” Djokovic said following his first-round in Madrid. “I think it’s going to take a little bit of time for us to really get my game together the way we want to. Even though they know my game very well, it’s still a process.”

Djokovic has won 12 major titles but last year failed to reach a final at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2009. Until he withdrew from the 2017 U.S. Open, the Serbian star had played in 51 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments and reached the final 21 times.

Despite his 6-6 win-loss match record since return from the elbow injury, Djokovic tried to put his slump into perspective.

“I’ve played this sport so many years and had a bunch of success. I try to always remind myself and be grateful for that,” he said. “Nobody is forcing me to play this sport. I want to do it. That’s where I draw my strength. As long as I keep going, as long as I love the sport, I’ll keep going.”

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal was confident Djokovic would regain his best form.

“I think he’s going step-by-step to be able to recover and be at the category he deserves. I don’t have any doubt that he’s going to be back up at the highest level,” said Nadal, who himself has returned from lengthy injury layoffs to add to lift his career tally to 16 major titles. “What Novak did on this sport is amazing. He will continue doing a lot of great things in the future. I don’t have any doubt of that.”

The 30-year-old Djokovic admitted he may have tried to return to action too soon after the injury. He was off for six months but the elbow started hurting again when he began training to get ready for the preseason.

“I clenched my teeth and I kind of went through it, played Australia, but wasn’t really ready,” Djokovic said. “Then I had to do surgery. It takes time to overcome that surgery. It has obviously some consequences on your body that I never faced before, I never knew before, because I never had any surgery before.”

He said he doesn’t regret anything and wants to learn from the “new experiences” that he had to go through.

“I just think that’s life,” he said. “That was something that was supposed to happen for me, to teach me some lessons, to make me stronger, to allow me to grow, to evolve as a person, as a player. I’m grateful. That’s all I can say. There are worse things in life.”

 

Andy Roddick returns for exhibition match to start New York Open

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NEW YORK — Andy Roddick is trying to get his shoulder ready, hoping he can still bring the high heat on serve.

The former U.S. Open champion will be back in town and wants to have his game with him.

“Coming back to New York is certainly not a place where I want to not play well,” Roddick said.

He will play fellow tennis Hall of Famer Jim Courier on Feb. 9 in an exhibition match to kick off the New York Open, event organizers announced Wednesday.

Wimbledon finalist and defending champion Kevin Anderson and top American John Isner headline the field in February for the second year of the ATP Tour event, which Roddick won three times when it was based in Memphis, Tennessee.

It has since moved to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale and Roddick says it remains a valuable tournament for players who want to prepare in the U.S. for the big events that soon follow in Indian Wells, California, and Miami.

He found that worked for him and it certainly did last year for Anderson, who used his victory on Long Island as the springboard for his first career finish inside the top 10 at No. 6. Isner, whom he beat in a marathon Wimbledon semifinal, finished 10th.

“You want to kind of find form early in the year. You can train as hard as you want, you can work as hard as you want, you can’t put confidence in a bottle,” Roddick said. “Sometimes I’d play well in Australia and then I’d feel good in Memphis. It kind of does give you a little bit of rhythm to your year and especially a guy like me or Kevin, who might not like the clay as much as some of the other guys, those first three months through March are super important.”

Americans Jack Sock and Sam Querrey, last year’s runner-up, will also be in the field of the Feb. 9-17 event along with Alex de Minaur, the ATP Newcomer of the Year who will turn 20 the day of the final and is also playing doubles with fellow Australian Lleyton Hewitt. Mike and Bob Bryan headline the doubles field after Mike teamed with Sock to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year while his twin brother was recovering from a hip injury.

Roddick rode his fierce serve – he had one timed at 155 mph in a 2004 Davis Cup match – to the 2003 U.S. Open title, the world’s No. 1 ranking and nine straight finishes in the top 10. Only 30 when he retired in 2012, he said he could still play with guys on tour until a couple years ago but estimated he played fewer than 10 times this year.

But the opportunity to come back to New York, where he and Courier will also co-host a “Taste of New York Open” on opening night, renewed his enthusiasm to play.

“Tennis has been a part of my life since I was 6 years old so you don’t want to just completely throw it away,” Roddick said. “So I was pumped, I was excited.”

Tennis broadcaster Justin Gimelstob accused of assault in LA

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LOS ANGELES — Tennis broadcaster and coach Justin Gimelstob faces a felony assault charge following his Halloween night arrest for allegedly attacking a former friend in Los Angeles.

The 41-year-old former pro player is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Gimelstob’s attorney, Shawn Holley, didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to an email and call seeking comment.

Gimelstob was arrested on suspicion of beating Randall Kaplan as they trick-or-treated with their kids. Kaplan says Gimelstob struck him multiple times and threatened to kill him.

Sean Walsh, a spokesman for Kaplan, says a motive is unknown. Kaplan alleges that Gimelstob previously threatened him because he was friends with the tennis commentator’s estranged wife.

Gimelstob won more than a dozen doubles titles as a player. He retired in 2007 and has since worked with the Tennis Channel.