Djokovic labors into Monte Carlo third round

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MONACO — Two-time champion Novak Djokovic struggled with his serve at times but reached the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters with a scrappy 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Tuesday.

Djokovic double-faulted eight times and needed five match points to beat Kohlschreiber, who lost eight of their previous 10 matches but secured a rare win in the third round at Indian Wells last month.

He caused problems again for the top-ranked Djokovic in an error-strewn match which featured eight straight breaks of serve from when Kohlschreiber led 2-1 in the second set. Midway through that, Djokovic needed treatment for a couple of minutes on his right thumb. He appeared to hurt it while sliding at the baseline during the fifth game.

“We both made a lot of unforced errors, it was not the prettiest match,” Djokovic said. “It was pretty rusty, but a win is a win.”

After Kohlschreiber dropped serve at the start of the deciding set – the eighth straight service break – Djokovic saved break points before holding for 2-0.

The 15-time Grand Slam champion, who will aim to win a fourth straight major when the French Open starts next month, then upped his level. He held to love for 4-2 and saved a break point to go 5-3 up, forcing his 35-year-old German opponent to serve to stay in the match.

Kohlschreiber saved a first match point at 30-40 with a sublime drop shot and held.

Serving for the match, Djokovic fluffed another three match points. After finally sealing the victory when Kohlschreiber’s return landed long, he whacked the ball away in frustration and then whipped another one up into the crowd.

Djokovic, who lost in the fourth round of the Miami Open last month, seemed irritable at times and smashed his racket into the ground at 4-2 down in the second set. Later in the second, he lobbed his racket at the ball when retrieving a shot at the baseline and inadvertently sent it into the crowd.

He next faces the winner of a second-round match between American Taylor Fritz and Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman.

In other second-round play, Argentine Guido Pella downed seventh-seeded Marin Cilic 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, breaking the imposing Croatian’s serve eight times.

There was another upset as Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego won 7-6 (4), 6-4 against eighth-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov.

Later Tuesday, three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka faced No. 11 Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

In remaining first-round matches, 18-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime won 7-5, 7,6 (5) against Juan Ignacio Londero and next faces No. 3 Alexander Zverev on Wednesday.

Fritz was 6-4, 2-0 ahead against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga when his opponent retired with a lower back injury.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, who is seeking a record-extending 12th title here, is in second-round action Wednesday against Spanish countryman Roberto Bautista Agut. Nadal has not played since pulling out with a right knee injury ahead of his Indian Wells semifinal against Roger Federer.

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight charge on mental health grounds

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CANBERRA, Australia – Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that 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 last December.

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, 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 last month 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 the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”

Wimbledon champ Rybakova beats Keys in Ostrava opener

Agel Open Ostrava - Day One
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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakova came from a set down to defeat Madison Keys 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Agel Open on Monday.

Rybakova had lost to Keys this year at the French Open and Cincinnati.

In other first-round matches in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-3, 6-3, and local hope Petra Kvitova overcame American Bernanda Pera 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

Fresh from her second title of the year in Seoul last month, Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia knocked out former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.