Cameron Norrie, Grigor Dimitrov advance to semifinals at Indian Wells

Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun
5 Comments

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Cameron Norrie routed 11th-seeded Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open and extend the best season of his career.

Norrie needed just 73 minutes to dismantle Schwartzman, who finally held serve to open the second set, drawing cheers from the small crowd at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where attendance has been capped at well below capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For my biggest match of my career to play like I did and execute like I did was the biggest thing that I’m most happy with,” Norrie said.

No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur advanced to the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Anett Kontaveit that will move the 27-year-old Tunisian into the world’s top 10 for the first time next week. She’s projected to be No. 8, but could rise as high as No. 5 by winning the tournament.

“Feels amazing,” Jabeur said. “We’ve been working hard for years. The end of last season I said I wanted to be in top 10. It means a lot, but we’re not going to stop here and go further hopefully.”

Jabeur, runner-up in Chicago recently, won her WTA Tour-leading 48th match of the year.

“I’m proving more things and now that I’m a top-10 player, I need to be more solid,” she said.

Jabeur beat Kontaveit for the third time in four career meetings. Since losing in three sets to Jabeur at Cincinnati in August, Kontaveit had won 16 of 17 matches, including 14 in straight sets, while claiming two titles.

Angelique Kerber, the 2019 runner-up and highest remaining seed at No. 10, lost to 21st-seeded Paula Badosa 6-4, 7-5.

Badosa beat 15th-seeded Coco Gauff in three sets and No. 3 Barbora Krejcikova in straight sets on her way to playing Jabeur in the semifinals on Friday. The other semi pits Victoria Azarenka against Jelena Ostapenko.

“Why not get the title here?” Jabeur said.

Schwartzman earned his only break of the match to tie it 2-all in the second. Norrie ran off the final four games to move into a semifinal against 23rd-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, who beat No. 8 Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

Schwartzman’s serve deserted him under cloudless skies. He won 13 of 27 points on his first serve, and just 3 of 19 on his second serve to go with four double faults.

Hurkacz dropped a set for the first time in the tournament, losing on a let cord. Dimitrov held up both hands in a gesture of apology.

Hurkacz trailed 5-2 in the third before winning three straight games to tie at 5-all. He held at 6-all to force the tiebreak. But he appeared exhausted at that point, committing unforced errors on the final three points to lose.

“I was clearly not at my strongest, but I felt throughout the whole time I was able to do something with the ball even when I was tired,” Dimitrov said. “That really made a big difference.”

Norrie won his career-best 45th match of the year against 20 losses in reaching his first Masters 1000 semi. He’ll become the No. 1 player in Britain in next week’s rankings.

“It was never really a goal of mine, but it’s definitely a great bonus to be British No. 1,” Norrie said. “I want to keep pushing. I’ve got a lot of things to improve on.”

In quarterfinal matchups Friday, No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Nikoloz Basilashvili and No. 3 Alexander Zverev faces Taylor Fritz. Tsitsipas and Zverev are the highest seeds remaining in the men’s draw after Dmitrov beat Daniil Medvedev, the top seed and U.S. Open champion.

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.