New No. 1 Medvedev: Watching Russia-Ukraine news ‘not easy’

Daniil Medvedev
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ACAPULCO, Mexico — As much as Daniil Medvedev cared about taking over the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis, he knew there were more serious matters happening involving his home nation of Russia.

A loss by Novak Djokovic at the Dubai Championships meant that the Serbian player would move down to No. 2 and Medvedev was assured of becoming the 27th man to hold the top spot in the ATP – even before Medvedev reached the semifinals by winning his match at the Mexico Open.

It all happened on the same day that Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine that began with air and missile strikes on military facilities before troops and tanks rolled across borders from the north, east and south.

“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, was not easy,” Medvedev said after beating Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-3. “By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. … I’m all for peace.”

Medvedev noted that the pair that won the doubles title at the Marseille Open last week included one Russian (Andrey Rublev) and one Ukrainian (Denys Molchanov), saying: “This was amazing, because people need to stay together.”

Reflecting on the day, Medvedev added: “In these moments, you understand that tennis sometimes is not that important. … It was not easy to play and I’m happy that I managed to win the match, but it was bit of a roller-coaster day for me.”

The 26-year-old Medvedev, who won last year’s U.S. Open for his first Grand Slam title, said he received congratulations from other players about his new ranking, which will become official on Monday.

“Of course, I’m happy to reach No. 1,” Medvedev said. “It was my goal since I was young.”

He will face Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the hard-court tournament. Medvedev lost to Nadal in the Australian Open final in January after blowing a two-set lead, a year after losing the final there against Djokovic.

“Always playing against the Big Three or Big Four, it’s an honor, and a great challenge. In Australia (against Nadal), I could have won, but the result in the end was that I lost,” Medvedev said. “It was a tough loss, but that’s how sport is.”

Nadal beat Tommy Paul 6-0, 7-6 (5) to improve his record to 13-0 on the season. Nadal is a three-time Acapulco champion where he has a 23-2 record.

“(Medvedev) is a tough opponent, the No. 1 in the world and we all saw in Australia how hard is to beat him”, Nadal said. “I’m aware that I need to be at 100% to have a chance, but I’m looking forward to it, it will be demanding, but I hope to be ready”.

Nadal also expressed his thoughts on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I can give an opinion as a citizen,” Nadal said. “I don’t want to talk about who is to blame, but for me it’s unbelievable that there are wars at this moment. I can’t comprehend it and I wish for it to end now, because at the end of the day I think it’s devastating and incomprehensible news.”

In other results, Stefanos Tsitsipas also moved on to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Marcos Giron. The third-seeded Tsitsipas will play Cameron Norrie, who advanced by beating Peter Gojowczyk 6-1, 6-0.

Defending champion Alexander Zverev was kicked out of the tournament after violently hitting the chair umpire’s stand with his racket following a loss in doubles.

Zverev was fined $40,000 and will forfeit more than $30,000 in prize money and all rankings points from the Mexican Open. In addition to those penalties, the ATP announced Thursday it would undertake “a further review of the incident.”

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.