Australian Open day 13: Novak Djokovic’s Melbourne reign ended by Jannik Sinner

By Sports Desk January 26, 2024

Jannik Sinner stunned Melbourne Park by ending Novak Djokovic’s long unbeaten run in their semi-final clash.

The young Italian held his nerve after an erratic Djokovic threatened a fightback to clinch a 6-1 6-2 6-7 (6) 6-3 victory and a place in his first grand slam final.

There he will take on two-time Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev, who recovered from two sets down to beat Alexander Zverev 5-7 3-6 7-6 (4) 7-6 (5) 6-3.

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Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka faces first-time grand slam finalist Zheng Qinwen in the women’s trophy decider on Saturday evening.

Sabalenka is bidding to lift major silverware for the second time while Zheng is the first Chinese player through to a slam singles final since Li Na won the title here a decade ago.

In the men’s wheelchair singles, Alfie Hewett will attempt to retain his title against young Japanese rival Tokito Oda.

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    Rafael Nadal refused to rule out returning to Roland-Garros in the future, suggesting this French Open may not be his last after all.

    Nadal is widely anticipated to retire after the 2024 season, meaning this year's French Open would be his final appearance at a major he has won a record 14 times.

    The Spaniard has been handed a tough draw, with Nadal going up against Alexander Zverev in the first round.

    However, ahead of that tie, Nadal told reporters this may not in fact be his last showing at Roland-Garros.

    "If I have to tell you it's 100 per cent my last Roland Garros, sorry but I will not, because I cannot predict what's going on. I hope you understand," Nadal said.

    "I don't want to close 100 per cent the door, because it's a very simple thing.

    "First, I'm enjoying playing tennis, more or less healthy and playing without limitation.

    "Maybe in one month and a half I'll say 'OK, it's enough, I can't keep going'. But today I cannot guarantee that it's going to be the last one."

    Nadal has endured an injury-hit few seasons, but after playing in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, feels he is getting closer to true fitness.

    "I'm feeling better. That's the truth," Nadal added, appearing more cheerful than he has in recent months.

    "Probably because we did things to try to feel better and we have been working without a stop to keep going with the process, to try to arrive here in a proper way."

    Nadal's tally of 112 matches won at the French Open is more than any other player has managed when it comes to match wins at a single major, seven ahead of Roger Federer's tally of 105 at Wimbledon.

    He expects a tough test against Zverev, though a potentially good omen is that he is the only player with over 10 wins against top-five opponents at Roland-Garros since the ATP Rankings were published in 1974, with 20 such victories.

    "It's a super-tough first round. Maybe I go there and I repeat the disaster of Rome. It's a possibility. I don't want to hide that," Nadal said.

    "But in my mind is something different, play much better and give myself a chance to be competitive. I didn't play against this level of opponent in a super-long time.

    "The rest of the things are just talking and talking, and in the end don't matter. It's about my feelings and my feelings are better. I want to enjoy that match."

  • Alcaraz 'a little bit scared' by ongoing arm problem ahead of French Open bow Alcaraz 'a little bit scared' by ongoing arm problem ahead of French Open bow

    Carlos Alcaraz says he is feeling better ahead of the French Open, but still has concerns about ongoing issues with his right forearm.

    The world number three reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros 12 months ago, losing out to eventual champion Novak Djokovic, but his preparations have been far from ideal this time around.

    Alcaraz has been dogged by an injury to his right forearm during the clay-court season, which forced him to withdraw from Barcelona and Rome, while his fitness struggles were evident in his Madrid Open quarter-final defeat by Andrey Rublev.

    The Spaniard admits he may have to adapt his game plan against J.J. Wolf in the opening round, but he was optimistic on media day in the French capital.

    "I'm feeling better," he smiled. "At least I can practise and hit balls without pain. That's a really good point for me. I came here to this tournament with not as many matches as I wanted, but I'm focusing on practice.

    "I'm not feeling any pain when I step on the court in practice, but I'm still thinking about it when I am hitting forehands. I'm a little bit scared about hitting every forehand 100 per cent, so I have to change it in my first match.

    "It's Roland Garros, and it's a really special tournament. Everybody wants to have good results here. This tournament is one of the main reasons that I'm practising every day. I want to be a better player, to be able to win these kinds of tournaments.

    "I'm practising well. I'm getting in rhythm. I'm getting confidence [from] the practice and that is really important, and I think I don't need too many matches to get to my 100 per cent level."

  • Zverev gearing up to face 'peak Nadal' in Roland Garros opener Zverev gearing up to face 'peak Nadal' in Roland Garros opener

    Alexander Zverev is preparing to face a Rafael Nadal at the peak of his powers when they collide in the first round at the French Open.

    The fourth seed takes on the 14-time winner in the most eye-catching tie of the opening round at Roland Garros, where they memorably locked horns in the 2022 semi-finals.

    It looked set to be a classic encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier until Zverev suffered a horrifying ankle ligament injury at the back end of the second set, following which he was forced to retire.

    The German admits that will be in the back of his mind two years on, and the three-time semi-finalist is fresh from claiming his first ATP Masters title in three years at the Italian Open last time out.

    Nadal, meanwhile, has suffered an almost endless battle with injuries since that last-four clash, but stepped up preparations for his Roland Garros swansong with successive appearances in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome.

    Nevertheless, Zverev is ready to face an inspired Spaniard, who boasts an incredible 112-3 record at this event.

    "In my mind, I'm going to play peak Rafa Nadal," the 27-year-old said. "That's what I expect him to be. I expect him to be at his absolute best. I expect him to play the best tennis he's played in a long time on this court.

    "I wanted to play Rafa again in my career, in his career, because I didn't want my last memory of me playing against Rafa to be me leaving the court in a wheelchair.

    "Ideally, I would have liked to play him in the later stage of the tournament, but it is how it is now. He is unseeded this year. I am seeded. It's a tough draw, but it's a tough draw for both of us. We'll see how it goes on Monday."

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