Djokovic beats Cilic to reach Paris Masters semifinals

AP Images
0 Comments

PARIS — Novak Djokovic remains on course for a fifth Paris Masters title after beating Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semifinals on Friday.

Djokovic, who is guaranteed to take the No. 1 ranking on Monday, struggled on his serve for much of the first set.

Cilic had chances to break him in the fifth and seventh games and finally did so in the ninth when Djokovic hit a backhand long.

An ace gave Cilic set point and he took it when Djokovic sent a backhand wide.

Djokovic broke for 3-1 in the second set and did not look back.

In the third set, a Cilic cross-court forehand winner saw him break the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion for 2-1.

Djokovic broke his racket in frustration and then broke Cilic straight back, after which the momentum shifted back in his favor as Cilic lost to him for the 16th time in 18 meetings.

Roger Federer, who is seeking a 100th career title, was playing the last quarterfinal later Friday against Kei Nishikori.

Earlier, Dominic Thiem beat defending champion Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The Austrian served out the match and clinched victory on his first match point when Sock hit a big forehand long.

“I’m in the semifinals of a Masters 1000 only for the fourth time,” Thiem said. “It means a lot for me because I didn’t do too well in the previous years in this part of the season. So it’s something really special to reach the semifinals.”

Thiem broke the American in the fifth game of the third set, and then showed good composure to save two break points of his own at 15-40 in the eighth game.

“We always have to be aware of getting broken here. Somehow a lot of breaks are happening,” Thiem said. “It’s a little bit comfortable to return here.”

The sixth-seeded Thiem, meanwhile, next faces unseeded Karen Khachanov of Russia in their first career meeting.

Khachanov, who won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last month, broke fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev’s serve six times in a 6-1, 6-2 win.

Zverev had treatment on his right shoulder late in the first set and made a string of unforced errors. He took exception to some comments made in Khachanov’s box and spoke to his opponent at the end of the first set.

“I told him my shoulder is hurting and that his uncle, or something, that he’s going a bit crazy,” Zverev said. “I told him to tell him to keep it down a little bit because he was going a little bit too much over the edge.”

Zverev said he was struggling all week with his troublesome right shoulder.

French players get life bans for fixing

Getty Images
0 Comments

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

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

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.