Organizer says Novak Djokovic cleared to play at Italian Open

Getty Images
0 Comments

ROME — Five-time champion Novak Djokovic can come to Rome and play at the Italian Open next month even if he is still not vaccinated against the coronavirus, the president of the Italian Tennis Federation said.

“The rules regarding players’ participation are established by the government and the ATP,” federation president Angelo Binaghi said at the presentation for the May 8-15 tournament.

Binaghi indicated that he had discussed the issue with Valentina Vezzali, the Italian government’s cabinet undersecretary in charge of sports, who was seated next to him.

Current entry rules for Italy require either proof of vaccination against COVID-19, proof of recovery from infection or a negative test. Djokovic says he has tested positive at least twice for COVID-19, with his last case coming in December.

Djokovic couldn’t defend his Australian Open title in January after he was deported from the country for not being vaccinated. He also had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States for the same reason.

Djokovic recently returned to action at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he lost his opening match to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. The 20-time Grand Slam champion is playing at home in the Serbia Open this week.

Djokovic lost last year’s Rome final to Rafael Nadal, who is working his way back from a rib injury.

After two years of reduced capacity amid the pandemic, full crowds will be allowed at the Foro Italico for the combined men’s and women’s event.

Organizers said they will choose a project by July from seven finalists to build a retractable roof over the main court, Campo Centrale. The Italian federation is also awaiting approval from the ATP tour for a tournament upgrade starting in 2023, which would mean stretching the event over more days.

“(ATP president Andrea) Gaudenzi is nearly at the finish line. He’s obtained approval from all of the stakeholders. The only thing missing is a question pertaining to TV rights,” Binaghi said, adding that he hopes an announcement on the upgrade can be made during this year’s tournament.

The upgrade plan could also involve the Madrid Open.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

alycia parks
Robert Prange/Getty Images
2 Comments

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

novak djokovic
Nir Keidar/Getty Images
1 Comment

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.