NEW YORK — For all that’s been on Novak Djokovic’s plate of late — including a painful neck and his efforts to start a new players’ association in men’s tennis — he just keeps winning.
He’s perfect in 2020, an ideal way to head into the U.S. Open.
Djokovic tied Rafael Nadal’s record by earning his 35th title at a Masters 1000 tournament, overcoming a sluggish start to beat Canada’s Milos Raonic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open final Saturday and improve to 23-0 this season.
“Has been challenging mentally and emotionally for me to stay sane and be able to compete on the highest level and win this title,” Djokovic said. “Going on an unbeaten run so far this year obviously brings even more confidence each match.”
Djokovic, 11-0 head-to-head against 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Raonic, goes into the U.S. Open as the No. 1 seed and a big favourite. The Grand Slam tournament begins Monday.
“What is that, 23-0?” Raonic said playfully during the trophy ceremony. “Honestly, if I start the year off 3-0, I’m pretty happy.”
Raonic, who entered the tournament ranked No. 30, will break into the top 20 when next week’s rankings come out. Despite the loss to Djokovic, the hard-serving veteran from Thornhill, Ont., could be a force to be reckoned with next week at the U.S. Open.
Raonic, who has battled his share of injuries throughout his career, is not worried about the tight turnaround from whe Western & Southern to the U.S. Open, which begins Monday.
“It’s not something I’m worried about,” he said. “I’m going to make in every instance the best decision for me, and there is going to be a lot of factors that come into that.
“I hope that I have a lot of matches coming up in the US Open. It’s something that it is an issue I have where I’m asking myself, Is it the right thing to be rushing to Rome to be playing right now? It would be a pretty good problem to have.”
During his runner-up speech Saturday, Raonic said: “I’m a strong believer that we’re very lucky up in Canada that every single person walking on a street can feel safe and I hope that there is some serious change that goes on through the U.S., and that every Black man, woman, child can feel safe in their own communities, on the streets.”
“I’m not looking to become a voice for tennis. I have my opinions. I have my beliefs. I think that’s all, I’m really stepping out when I do share these things,” he said when asked about his comments.
“There are certain things that disturb me, that bother me. If I feel like there is something I can add to a situation, I will participate as a representative of just Milos Raonic, nobody else.
“You know, I had an opportunity. I was asked about it after my match with Filip, and I think today, you know, there was no other way, no other place to look. You know, it’s a final at the end of the day, and I wanted to share my two cents on it.”
Earlier Saturday, Victoria Azarenka won her first tour title since 2016 when Naomi Osaka pulled out of the women’s final because of a left hamstring injury.
“I just hope I’m giving myself, you know, the opportunity and the chance to have enough time” to recover ahead of the U.S. Open, Osaka said.
The Western & Southern Open normally is held in Ohio but was moved to Flushing Meadows this year because of the coronavirus pandemic as part of a two-tournament “controlled environment.”
Djokovic will be seeking his 18th Grand Slam title, which would move him one behind Nadal and two behind Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20. Neither of those rivals is entered in the U.S. Open — although both spoke out via Twitter on Saturday against Djokovic’s bid to start a new group to represent men’s tennis players.
“We want to have our own organization and association that is 100% ours,” Djokovic said.
On court, Djokovic was listless in the first set, looking exactly the way one might have expected given that he laboured through a three-hour semifinal a day earlier, when he repeatedly grabbed his stomach and twice had his neck massaged by a trainer.
It took all of 30 minutes for Raonic to take that set. But Djokovic asserted himself in the second set, breaking to lead 3-2 with a backhand passing shot and raising his right fist.
In the third, Djokovic broke twice more, and eventually the 33-year-old from Serbia was raising his arms to mark his 80th career title and 61st on hard courts. Jimmy Connors holds the men’s record of 109 titles; the only others ahead of Djokovic are Federer, Ivan Lendl and Nadal.
Djokovic also won the Western & Southern Open in 2018 and is now the first man to win each Masters 1000 event — one level below the Grand Slams — at least twice.
Osaka initially felt a problem with her leg in her first match of the Western & Southern Open and said she pulled the hamstring in the second-set tiebreaker of her semifinal Friday.
She called this an “emotional week.” The 22-year-old Osaka brought the push for racial justice to the tennis tour by saying she was not going to play in her semifinal, joining athletes in other sports sitting out in reaction to the shooting by a Wisconsin police officer of a Black man, Jacob Blake.
Osaka’s stance prompted the tournament to say it was taking a “pause” to back the cause and scrapping all scheduled matches for Thursday. When play resumed Friday, Osaka competed, saying she was glad the matter got attention.
— With files from The Canadian Press.
Eugenie Bouchard books spot in 3rd round at French Open – CBC.ca
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is heading to the third round of the French Open.
Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., beat Australia’s Daria Gavrilova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday.
It will mark Bouchard’s first appearance in the third round of a Grand Slam since the world’s 168th-ranked player won two matches at the 2017 Australian Open.
A former world No. 5 after reaching the Wimbledon final in 2014, Bouchard’s ranking has tumbled in recent years. But she’s made some strides in recent months, reaching the final of an event in Istanbul before being awarded a wild-card into the French Open.
WATCH | Bouchard wins in 2nd round of French Open:
Bouchard will face world No. 54 Iga Swiatek of Poland in the third round.
Meanwhile, in women’s doubles first-round play, the fifth-seeded team of Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan and Arina Rodionova of Australia 7-5, 6-3.
Leylah Annie Fernandez of Laval, Que., and partner Diane Parry of France lost 6-2, 6-4 to Nina Stojanovic of Serbia and Jill Teichmann of Switzerland.
Fernandez also has advanced to the second round in women’s singles, along with No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., on the men’s side.
U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is out of the French Open in the second round.
The 10th-seeded Azarenka lost to 161st-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-2.
Azarenka’s exit means all four women who reached the semifinals in New York earlier this month already are gone in Paris. Serena Williams withdrew from the French Open because of an injured Achilles tendon, Jennifer Brady lost in the first round at Roland Garros and U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka did not make the trip to France.
Schmiedlova had lost 13 consecutive Grand Slam matches in a streak dating to 2015 until beating Venus Williams in the first round this week.
Azarenka is a former No. 1 and a two-time champion at the Australian Open.
Defending champ Nadal advances
Defending champion Rafael Nadal reached the third round by beating American player Mackenzie McDonald 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.
The No. 2-seeded Spaniard is looking to win his record-extending 13th French Open title and equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of 20 major titles overall.
WATCH | Nadal aiming for 13th French Open title:
Nadal improved his record at Roland Garros to 95-2 when he sealed victory on his first match point.
He next faces either Kei Nishikori of Japan or Stefano Travaglia of Italy.
Eugenie Bouchard advances at French Open after three-set win over Daria Gavrilova – TSN
Canadian Eugenie Bouchard has advanced to the third round of the French Open after defeating Australian Daria Gavrilova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
The win moves Bouchard into the third round of Grand Slam for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open.
Bouchard, who defeated Anna Kalinskaya, entered the tournament ranked 168th in the world. In her most recent tournament appearance, she reached the finals in Istanbul, receiving a berth into the French Open a short time later. She was ranked 330th in the WTA in August.
The 26-year-old reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2014.
More details to follow.
Blue Jays face more tough decisions ahead of win-or-go-home Game 2 – Sportsnet.ca
TORONTO – The Blue Jays had the better part of five days to prepare for their first playoff game since 2016. They’ll have less than 24 hours to prepare for their next playoff game – and this time the stakes are even higher.
Game 2 against the Rays is now a must-win for the Blue Jays, who lost the wild card series opener at Tropicana Field, 3-1, on Tuesday despite some strong pitching. There’s a reasonable debate to be had about whether Matt Shoemaker should have stayed in the game beyond the third inning, but wherever that discussion takes you, it doesn’t lessen the challenge now facing the Blue Jays. Unless they win Wednesday, their season ends.
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“You’ve got to let this game go,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after Game 1. “An outstanding game. We didn’t hit today. Let’s get ready for (Tyler) Glasnow tomorrow.”
Already, we’ve seen how impactful tactical decisions can become in a short series, and from this point on the margin for error is even thinner for the Blue Jays. On and off the field, every choice will be amplified whether it works out or not. With that in mind, here are a few areas worth watching in the days ahead…
How do Blue Jays line up vs. Glasnow?
One night after facing former Cy Young winner Blake Snell, the Blue Jays will face a pitcher whose stuff is just as good. Thanks to a fastball that averages 97 m.p.h. and an effective curve, right-hander Tyler Glasnow struck out 14.28 batters per nine innings this year. That presents a tough matchup for any team, especially one that has sometimes struggled against high-velocity arms.
For Montoyo and the Blue Jays, this creates some potentially tough choices in the lineup. While Alejandro Kirk impressed in Game 1 with an opposite-field single, he might not start Wednesday. With Hyun Jin Ryu on the mound, Danny Jansen is certain to catch and the designated hitter spot may go to the left-handed hitting Rowdy Tellez, who collected a pinch-hit single in his first game in three weeks.
Not only did Tellez put together a good at-bat, he stayed in the game as a baserunner and scored, showing that his knee has healed enough to make him more than a pinch-hit option.
“He’s actually not that slow, and he ran the bases pretty good,” Montoyo said.
If Tellez starts at DH, Kirk would be available off the bench to pinch-hit. Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the left-handed hitting Joe Panik start at second base against Glasnow with Cavan Biggio remaining at third.
What’s next for Shoemaker?
In a way, Shoemaker’s efficiency slows his progression back from the lat strain that sidelined him for most of September. After throwing 54 pitches in his tune-up start against the New York Yankees last week, the 35 pitches he threw in Game 1 don’t exactly build him up toward the longer outings he’d be asked to complete should the Blue Jays advance.
On the other hand, that efficiency opens up options for the Blue Jays. For example, if they force a Game 3 and find themselves short-handed, could Shoemaker become an option? From a workload standpoint, he’s recovering from a far shorter outing than usual.
“Anything goes in a Game 3 scenario,” Shoemaker said. “That’s a must-win. Whoever wins moves on, and move on from there. Hopefully we win the next two days and I move into my bullpens accordingly.”
How does the bullpen factor in from here?
If one Blue Jays starter has the leeway to pitch into the sixth or seventh inning, it’s Hyun Jin Ryu, whose start was delayed until Game 2 partly because of the hope that a little extra rest would help.
But even with Ryu on the mound, the bullpen needs to be ready. In five of the left-hander’s 12 starts this year, he went five innings or fewer, and none of those games were must-win. There’s a decent chance the Blue Jays will have to go to their bullpen for four innings, and if they do they’ll have plenty of options, including a fully rested Rafael Dolis — plus Thomas Hatch, Ryan Borucki and A.J. Cole, all of whom threw 14 pitches or fewer Tuesday.
“That’s why we wanted Shoemaker and Ray to give us six innings,” Montoyo said. “That way our bullpen would be fresh for the next two days. And we’ve got our ace tomorrow (so) hopefully we don’t need that many, but they’ll be fine for tomorrow if we need them.”
Considering how impressive Nate Pearson looked in his return from the injured list, the Blue Jays may want to use him at some point in Game 2 as well. Since Pearson was able to loosen up quickly before facing the Orioles on Friday, the Blue Jays could even call on him mid-inning. And if Pearson’s appearance is short enough, the Blue Jays are open to using him again in a potential Game 3, according to general manager Ross Atkins.
Of course they have to get there first, with no shortage of tactical decisions to make along the way.
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