Thiem apologizes for playing in Djokovic’s event

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VIENNA, Austria — Third-ranked tennis player Dominic Thiem apologized Thursday for taking part in an exhibition series hosted by Novak Djokovic in which four players tested positive for the coronavirus.

Thiem wrote on Instagram: “Our behaviour was a mistake, we acted too euphorically. I am extremely sorry.”

The top-ranked Djokovic tested positive on Tuesday. Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki have also said they tested positive after taking part in the Adria Tour exhibition series in Serbia and Croatia.

Thousands of spectators attended the matches in Belgrade and the Adriatic resort of Zadar, and no social distancing was observed.

Thiem won the opening event in Belgrade on June 14.

“We played without an audience for weeks, so we have been more than happy about the fans at the event,” the Austrian wrote. “We trusted the Serbian government’s corona rules, but we have been too optimistic.”

Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist who lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open final this year, said he has been tested five times in the last 10 days but is negative for the virus.

The final for the event in Croatia was canceled and subsequent matches in other countries were also called off.

Djokovic said on Tuesday that he and his wife tested positive and admitted it was “too soon” to host such an event.

The coronavirus outbreak led to the suspension of the ATP and WTA professional tennis tours in March. Plans were announced last week for the sport’s sanctioned events to return in August.

But the infections have raised questions about the full-fledged return of competitive tennis, including the U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 31 without spectators. Djokovic has called the rules to keep everyone safe at the U.S. Open “extreme.”

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.