Nadal gains measure of revenge against Shapovalov

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ROME — Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal methodically wore down Denis Shapovalov in a 6-4, 6-1 win to reach the Italian Open quarterfinals and gain a measure of revenge against the Canadian teenager.

Shapovalov saved eight break points in his opening two service games before finally dropping his serve midway through the first set on Thursday.

Shapovalov, who is ranked a career-high No. 29 this week, stunned Nadal in the third round in Montreal last year to deny the Spaniard a chance at regaining the No. 1 ranking.

Nadal is also attempting to regain the top spot this week. He’ll replace Roger Federer at No. 1 if he wins an eighth Rome title.

Nadal, who hasn’t won the Italian Open since 2013, will next face Fabio Fognini, who beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first quarterfinal in 11 appearances at his home tournament.

The temperamental Fognini slammed his racket midway through the second set and received a warning from the chair umpire but otherwise held his composure to follow up an impressive win over Dominic Thiem a day earlier.

Also, ninth-seeded David Goffin was leading 6-2, 4-5 when Juan Martin del Potro retired because of a groin injury; and 10th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta beat Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.

In the women’s tournament, Simona Halep’s hold on the No. 1 ranking received a boost when American opponent Madison Keys withdrew from their match due to a right rib injury.

Halep needed to reach the quarterfinals and progress further than No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki to hold onto the top spot, and she accomplished the first task.

Wozniacki was facing 15th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova in a late match on the red clay of the Foro Italico. The winner will play Anett Kontaveit.

Kontaveit ousted 1999 Rome champion Venus Williams 6-2, 7-6 (3).

Keys also withdrew from the doubles competition, where she was partnered with Williams.

Last year in Rome, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a lead and the championship to Elina Svitolina.

Halep will next play either U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens or seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Svitolina also reached the quarterfinals, overcoming a poor start to beat 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. She’ll next face former No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who routed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-1.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts in 10 days.

Jelena Ostapenko, who is preparing to defend her title at Roland Garros, rallied past Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will meet either three-time Rome champion Maria Sharapova or Daria Gavrilova.

Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge

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CANBERRA, Australia – Tennis star Nick Kyrgios was due to appear in an Australian court Friday to apply to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds.

His lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared in a court in Kyrgios’ hometown of Canberra in October and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Friday, when lawyers for the 27-year-old Australian are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

Kyrgios, a Wimbledon finalist last year, is set to appear in court in person for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July last year.

His hearing was listed to start at 2:15 p.m. local time (0315 GMT).

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and if dealing with an allegation in such a way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police in December that year.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense in September last year to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for Friday’s hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because of an injured left knee that required arthroscopic surgery.

He was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.

Kyrgios was considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park last month before he had to pull out of the tournament. Djokovic went on to win the Australian Open singles championship for the 10th time.

Australian Open director: Novak Djokovic’s hamstring had 3-cm tear

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Novak Djokovic played at the Grand Slam event with a muscle tear of 3 centimeters – a little more than an inch – in his left hamstring along the way to winning the championship.

“He gets a bad rap, but at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone can question his athleticism. This guy, I did see, he had a 3-centimeter tear in his hammy,” Tiley said in an interview.

“The doctors are … going to tell you the truth,” Tiley said. “I think there was a lot of speculation of whether it was true or not. It’s hard to believe that someone can do what they do with those types of injuries. But he’s remarkable.”

Djokovic won the trophy at Melbourne Park by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets for a record-extending 10th title there and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall. Rafael Nadal is the only other man who has won that many majors.

The triumph also allowed Djokovic to return to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

The 35-year-old from Serbia hurt his hamstring during a tune-up tournament in Adelaide ahead of the Australian Open. He wore a heavy bandage on his left thigh and was visited by trainers during matches in Week 1 in Melbourne.

He said he took “a lot” of painkiller pills and did various treatments to help the leg.

“Let me put it like this: I don’t say 100%, but 97% of the players, when you get results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee’s office and pull out of the tournament,” Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said after the final. “But not him. … His brain is working different.”