Djokovic learned a ‘big lesson’ from U.S. Open default

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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ROME — Novak Djokovic learned “a big lesson” after being disqualified from the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.

The incident eight days ago marked a stunning end to Djokovic’s 29-match winning streak and his bid for an 18th Grand Slam title.

“I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I am working physically,” Djokovic said Monday at the Italian Open. “I’m trying to be the best version of myself on the court and off the court and I understand that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.

“I’m going to take this in as profound as possible for me as a big lesson. I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been comprehending. I’ve been talking to my team. It’s just one of these things that is just unfortunate and happens. You have to move on.”

The disqualification came during Djokovic’s fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

As he walked to the Arthur Ashe Stadium sideline for a changeover, trailing Carreno Busta 6-5 in the first set, Djokovic – who was seeded and ranked No. 1 and an overwhelming favorite for the championship – angrily smacked a ball behind him. The ball flew right at the line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court and reached for her neck.

“It was totally unexpected and very unintended as well,” Djokovic said. “When you hit a ball like that you have a chance to hit somebody that is on the court. The rules are clear. So I accepted it. I had to move on and that’s what I did.

“Of course I did not forget about it,” Djokovic added. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it, because it’s one of those things that stays in your memory for the rest of your life. But I don’t think I’ll have any major issues coming back to the tour and being able to perform well and hit the tennis ball.”

Djokovic said he checked with the lineswoman after the incident and was told she was not seriously injured.

“I felt really sorry to cause the shock and drama to her, because she didn’t deserve that in any way,” Djokovic said. “She obviously is volunteering and doing her work. She loves tennis, and she’s been there, as I understood, for quite a few years.”

Djokovic had won five of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments to raise his total to 17, closing in on rivals Roger Federer, who has a men’s record 20, and Rafael Nadal, who has 19.

Federer (injury) and Nadal (concerns about travel amid the coronavirus pandemic) both did not play at the U.S. Open.

“Sorry for him. He had an opportunity there,” Nadal said. “But in some way you should not be doing this. … It is important to have the right self-control on the court.”

Djokovic has an opening-round bye in Rome. His first match this week will come against either Italian wild-card entry Salvatore Caruso or a qualifier.

The tournament at the Foro Italico was rescheduled from May because of the pandemic and will be played without fans in attendance.

Nadal, who has a record nine titles in Rome, is on the opposite side of the draw from Djokovic. The Spaniard is returning to tennis for the first time since February.

“I am similar to always – maybe a little bit worse because I didn’t compete for the last six months,” Nadal said. “To feel that you’re 100% you need matches.”

Nadal opens against Carreno Busta.

“He’s playing great,” Nadal said. “Going to be a good test.”

Like at the U.S. Open, players are being kept in a protective “bubble” and being tested frequently for the coronavirus. But as opposed to the situation in New York, players are not required to wear masks when they enter and leave the court.

“All of the players have been tested, so that makes total sense,” sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas said. “And they don’t have people running around telling you what do and what protocol you have to follow every single minute that you’re in the bubble.

“Plus,” Tsitsipas added, “the accommodation is another level.”

Men’s players are staying at the five-star Rome Cavalieri, which overlooks the city center from a hilltop.

Gilbert Klier Junior hit with 12-month doping ban

Landon Bost/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY Network-Florida /USA TODAY NETWORK
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LONDON — Brazilian Gilbert Klier Junior, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, has been banned for 12 months in a doping case, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

The ITIA said it had accepted that Klier Junior had not deliberately doped and that the banned substance SARM S-22 had entered his body through a contaminated supplement. However, it said he bore some responsibility, especially “following other high profile cases involving Brazilian tennis players and other sports people.”

The 22-year-old Klier Junior has a career high ranking of 354th and won bronze in the singles event at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

The ban was backdated to start from last June, when Klier Junior was first suspended from competition while the case was resolved.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images
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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.