Tearful Del Potro nears retirement, exits Argentina Open

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BUENOS AIRES — Juan Martin del Potro lost in what appeared to be a farewell match in front of his home fans at the Argentina Open tournament.

The 33-year-old, who had not played since 2019 due to injuries, was eliminated by compatriot and friend Federico Delbonis 6-1, 6-3 in an emotional match in Buenos Aires. Del Potro was already in tears as the final game unraveled.

The Argentinian said in a press conference he will decide whether he will play at the Rio Open tournament in Brazil next week.

“I will speak to doctors again. I have to take care of my knee and then we will see,” said Del Potro, who did not rule out a full return to the circuit. “I will always leave the window open,” he said.

“(But) if today was the last time I will leave happy,” the Argentinian said.

Once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world, Del Potro told fans after the match his decision was motivated by his health problems.

“This is the moment I hoped would never come,” he said. “I don’t have the strength to go ahead. I gave it all.” Minutes later, Del Potro placed his headband on the net as emotional fans chanted.

Del Potro, who has also won the 2016 Davis Cup and a silver medalist at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in the same year, has had multiple wrist and knee surgeries in the past decade.

About 5,000 fans showed up to watch Del Potro, one of Argentina’s best tennis players in history, alongside Guillermo Villas and Gabriela Sabatini.

Delbonis, the 6th seed of the tournament, will face Spain’s Pablo Andujar in the round-of-16 of the Argentina Open on Thursday.

Top seed Casper Ruud of Norway will play on Wednesday against Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.