Federer, Djokovic lose doubles match at Laver Cup

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CHICAGO — Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic looked quite comfortable while playing together for the first time Friday night.

Except for one particular point.

Djokovic drilled Federer in the lower back with a forehand in the third game of their doubles match against Kevin Anderson and Jack Sock in the Laver Cup. Djokovic covered his mouth with his left hand and leaned over after the ball went off his partner.

“I apologized right away,” Djokovic said. “It didn’t look that great.”

Federer didn’t seem to mind that much.

“To team up with somebody of his caliber is just a treat you know,” he said.

Federer and Djokovic took the first set 7-6 in a tiebreaker, but Sock and Anderson won the second set 6-3 and then captured the deciding tiebreaker 10-6 to give Team World its lone win on the first day of the exhibition.

Federer and Djokovic last played against each other in the Cincinnati final on Aug. 19, when Djokovic won 6-4, 6-4 to become the player to claim all nine ATP Masters 1000 events since the series started in 1990. Djokovic leads the all-time series with 24 victories.

But the stars had never played on the same side of the net before Friday night at the United Center.

Federer, playing with a red racket, took the forehand side and Djokovic the backhand against the hard-serving Anderson and doubles standout Sock.

“It was a lot of fun. I want to thank Roger for playing with me,” Djokovic said. “I loved it. Obviously I wanted to win as much as Roger. But those guys came up with some big shots.”

Team Europe won the first three matches of the day. David Goffin edged Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 4-6, 11-9; Kyle Edmund beat Sock 6-4, 5-7, 10-6; and Grigor Dimitrov downed Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-4.

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.