MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic wore tape above his right hip, and winced when he stretched for some shots in a three-hour match against Milos Raonic that will go into the records as his 300th win at a major.
For anyone curious about the severity of his injury, he put it into context after qualifying for the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 12th time.
“If it’s any other tournament than a Grand Slam then I would retire, withdraw from the event, that’s for sure,” Djokovic said in an on-court TV interview Sunday following his 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 fourth-round victory. “When it warmed up it was fine. During the match it was kind of on and off.”
The eight-time Australian Open champion planned to spend most of the next two days recovering ahead of his quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev.
That’s pretty much how he spent his time after injuring an abdominal muscle in his five-set, third-round win over Taylor Fritz.
A lot of recovery, a lot of time getting physiotherapy and, he said, “different treatments with different devices. You know, just pills, painkillers and stuff like this with the medical team … that definitely helped a lot.”
He didn’t practice on Saturday — he said he didn’t hit a ball — and didn’t know until he was warming up three hours before his match against Raonic whether or not he’d be fit enough to play Sunday’s late match on Rod Laver Arena.
In the end, he looked OK as he extended his career streak to 12-0 against the big-serving Canadian. He dropped his racket and hurdled an advertising hoarding in the first set, and later watched on as 14th-seeded Raonic had his right ankle re-taped during a medical time out in the second.
His movement wasn’t peak Djokovic, but it was good enough to produce 41 winners and drop only one of his 20 service games. His career win-loss record in the four tennis majors is now 300-45, making him the only man other than Roger Federer (362-59) to compile 300 wins.
“I won the match against a great player,” Djokovic said, “and hopefully it’s going to be even better in two days.”
U.S. Open finalist Zverev beat No. 23-seeded Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to move into the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park in back-to-back years.
The projected quarterfinal in that top section of the draw panned out according to the seedings.
This other quarterfinal match in that half of the draw is one that nobody saw coming.
With a straight-sets win over third-seeded Dominic Thiem, the U.S. Open champion and Australian Open runner-up in 2020, Grigor Dimitrov advanced to a showdown with Aslan Karatsev.
Yes, that Karatsev — the Russian ranked No. 114 who is playing in his first Grand Slam tournament. Dimitrov beating Thiem isn’t exactly an upset.
The 29-year-old Bulgarian has been ranked as high as No. 3, won the ATP Finals, and already led his friend, Thiem, 3-2 in career head-to-heads, although this was their first meeting at a major.
Despite his lengthy tennis pedigree, Dimitrov has never been past the semifinals at a Grand Slam. So he’s wary of somebody like Karatsev.
“If you’re here, it’s for a reason – there’s no doubt about it,” Dimitrov said after his 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 win. “Whether it’s a fairytale or not, it’s a match — you’ve got to be ready.”
Karatsev earlier added a win over No. 20 Felix Auger-Aliassime, coming back for a 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory, to an earlier upset over No. 8 Diego Schwartzman.
He’d failed in nine previous bids to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, but finally succeeded in Doha last month, when qualifying for the Australian Open was held offshore for the first time because of restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’s now just the third qualifier to get this far in Australia in the professional era, the first since Goran Ivanisevic in 1989. The last man to get to the round of eight in his first Grand Slam appearance was Alex Radulescu at Wimbledon in 1996.
And not since Patrick McEnroe — John’s brother — in 1991 has a man ranked as low as 114th made it to the Australian Open quarterfinals.
“I was working a lot, and it just happened right now,” the 27-year-old Karatsev said of his recent streak.
“It’s like you never know when it happens. It just happened here.”
Thiem said he had a few issues on Sunday, but didn’t want to elaborate or use them as excuses.
It was clear that he was still fatigued after having to come from two sets down to beat Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in five sets on Friday night.
“Some little physical issues, plus a real bad day, plus the fact that, well, he’s a great player,” Thiem said. “So a combination of those three things, and a result like that can happen.”
“The thing also is that I’m also not a machine,” he added. “I mean, sometimes I would like to be, but there are really, really bad days.”
Soccer-Man City take top spot after comfortable win at Watford
Raheem Sterling’s early header paved the way to a comfortable win for Pep Guardiola’s side who made the most of morning leaders Chelsea’s earlier 3-2 defeat at West Ham United.
Silva fired in from a tight angle in the 31st minute and put City in cruise control just past the hour mark when he curled a delightful effort into the top corner.
In truth City’s winning margin should have been bigger against a struggling Watford side who were given some late hope when Cucho Hernandez pulled a goal back.
City’s fifth successive league win lifted them to 35 points from 15 games, one point ahead of Liverpool and two in front of Chelsea in what is shaping up to be a three-way title tussle.
The sight of Guardiola’s City hitting the top in the run-up to Christmas will send shivers through their rivals.
Once they climbed to the summit last season in January they marched off into the distance, although this time the form of Liverpool suggests they will not have things all their own way.
“It’s still the beginning, we are not even halfway through and there is a lot of hard work to do,” Silva, who is City’s surprise leading league scorer with seven goals, said.
“It’s always better to be top of the league than second, third or fourth, but it’s so close — Liverpool are just one point behind us, Chelsea are two points behind us.
“But we are in good form and we want to keep it that way.”
It was only a fortnight ago that Claudio Ranieri’s side put Manchester United to the sword at Vicarage Road.
But they barely got a kick in the first half against City.
Once Sterling was given the freedom of the penalty area to head in Phil Foden’s cross after four minutes it always looked like being a long night for the hosts.
Jack Grealish could have had a hat-trick before halftime as he wasted several glorious chances but Silva soon showed him how to find the back of the net.
The Portuguese playmaker’s astute pass set up a chance for Ilkay Gundogan whose shot was saved by Daniel Bachmann but as the ball came out Silva was alert to drill a low shot into the net from an acute angle.
His second was a thing of beauty. Taking a pass from Kyle Walker on the right, Silva cut inside Danny Rose and curled a shot into the top corner with almost nonchalant ease.
City switched off slightly to allow Hernandez to score after his shot came back off the post, but it was a minor hiccup on a thoroughly satisfying day.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)
Why Aaron Rodgers got away with a fine and three Buccaneers got banned – The Globe and Mail
Aaron Rodgers flaunts the NFL/NFLPA coronavirus protocols and gets a fine that barely shows up in his paycheque.
Antonio Brown and two others do the same and get three-game suspensions.
It’s complicated, but in some ways it’s also pretty simple why the Packers quarterback was fined US$14,650, a sum negotiated between the league and the players’ union while developing the COVID-19 protocols. And why Brown, teammate Mike Edwards and former Buccaneers player John Franklin III took a much bigger hit for falsifying vaccination documents.
Rodgers was fined for not wearing a mask in some instances, at a Halloween party and during press conferences. A joint investigation by the NFL and union revealed that he was wearing a mask at other points and complied with the protocols.
Rodgers did mislead the public and the media, but he informed the club – which told the NFL – and his teammates of his status. Indeed, everyone in his ecosystem was aware he was not vaccinated, and he was testing for COVID-19 daily, and social distancing at the team facility. It was those exceptions when he did not do so that led to the fine.
The Packers were nailed for US$300,000 for their lack of oversight in the Rodgers case. Whether that indicates complicity by the organization is a matter of debate.
Tampa Bay was not fined, though it loses an important defensive back in Edwards for part of the stretch run, and doesn’t have Brown, who has missed the past five games with an ankle injury. He also sat out the Bucs’ Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after testing positive for COVID-19.
The actions of Brown, Edwards and Franklin began during the summer and, according to a person familiar with the case, “were acting like they were vaccinated when they were not.” The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the players’ specific violations have not been announced.
“The league wanted to make an example of these three,” the person said, “and wanted to suspend them six to eight games and they settled on three.”
The agreement was the players would take the three-game suspensions for repeated protocol violations, not appeal, and there would be no public statements about the fake vaccination cards.
Another person with direct knowledge of the case told The Associated Press that all three players now are vaccinated.
“These players put all of their people at risk, and themselves and family members, their teammates and team personnel,” the person said, also speaking on condition of anonymity. “They were not wearing masks when they [needed to] and were not tested every day, acting as if they were vaccinated.”
All 32 NFL teams were visited during training camp last summer and advised of the updated COVID-19 protocols. As early as July 22 the league made a presentation to the clubs to be on the lookout for fake vaccination cards, and noted to the teams the potential for that to happen based on media reports of people buying fake cards. The NFL even placed within the slide presentation the logo of the FBI, stressing that acquiring and using a fake vaccination card is a law enforcement issue that could lead to jail time.
And the players’ association made sure all of its members were aware that they actually falsified a federal document if they had a bogus vaccination document.
However, the protocols do not outline discipline for such a violation. Thus, the negotiations between the league and union that led to the three-game dockings.
There has been speculation that Brown’s history of misconduct, which includes an eight-game suspension in 2020 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, led to stiffer discipline. Both the league and union have insisted that is not the case.
The Brown/Edwards/Franklin case is the first disciplinary action with suspensions, and was announced through a joint statement by the NFL and NFLPA, reflecting the seriousness both take with the protocols.
Will there be more such scenarios? With about 95 per cent of NFL players vaccinated – and providing valid and verified proof – the numbers say that’s not likely. By handing down relatively major penalties for such violations, both the league and union hope a loud message has been sent.
Still, imagine if that message has not been heard or heeded, and one or more star players receive suspensions when playoff time rolls around in six weeks.
Senators’ Dorion rephrases state of franchise: Core pieces are in place – Sportsnet.ca
When the Ottawa Senators opened training camp, general manager Pierre Dorion made waves with a declarative statement that the team’s rebuild was “done.”
The Senators finished last season 9-2-1 in their final 12 games, and after four straight years as NHL basement dwellers, Ottawa’s bright young core led by Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk and Tim Stützle, among others, looked ready to take a step up. Dorion felt empowered to make that declaration.
Fast-forward to the quarter-mark of the season, and it’s abundantly clear that’s not the case. The Senators are 32nd in the NHL with a 5-15-1 record, headed once again toward draft lottery sweepstakes for what could be another foundational player.
On Saturday, Dorion acknowledged that his pre-season statement needs to be rephrased.
“Sometimes the excitement of a season gets to you,” said Dorion. “What I should’ve said is pretty much all the core pieces of the rebuild are in the organization right now.
“Obviously, (I) didn’t foresee us just winning five games after 21 games, but probably how I should have phrased it, and that’s on me, no one else, is that most of the core pieces, I feel we might be one piece away, are in the organization at this point in time.”
The Senators have faced several obstacles out of the gate. In November, 10 players and associate coach Jack Capuano entered COVID-19 protocol, causing three games to be postponed.
Beyond COVID, they’ve also dealt with a plethora of injuries: Colin White (shoulder), Austin Watson (ankle), Shane Pinto (shoulder), Erik Brannstrom (hand) and Josh Brown (upper-body), to name a few.
Dorion pointed to White and Pinto, two centremen who are still out for the foreseeable future, as “monumental losses.”
“When we projected our team, you know, sometimes you can reject losing one guy for 10 games, but at the same time, when you project losing both guys for a majority of the year, we’re going to suffer,” said Dorion.
Ottawa has made minor moves in an attempt to shore up their lack of depth by trading a seventh rounder for Dylan Gambrell and picking up Adam Gaudette off waivers.
“I know at the same time you can go out and make trades where you sacrifice important pieces of your future for immediate help, but I don’t think that was part of the plan. It’s not something that, you know, we can look at doing,” said Dorion.
“I’m not going to lie to anyone here, I’ve had a few sleepless nights. I’ve not enjoyed this stretch of our team, but it’s not by lack of effort. The players are playing hard, but sometimes players don’t play up to their potential and they know that too, and the buck stops with me and I’m not afraid to say that we didn’t anticipate this. But we’re going to battle through this.”
Dorion also cleared up the situation surrounding goaltender Matt Murray, who was shockingly placed on waivers on Nov. 27.
Since joining the Senators via trade and signing a hefty four-year, $25-million deal, the two-time Stanley Cup champion has struggled. This season, he’s gone 0-5 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.
Now in Belleville with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, Murray addressed being sent down earlier this week.
“They just called me in and said they’re going to put me on waivers with the intention to send me to Belleville,” said Murray in an interview with The Athletic’s Ian Mendes. “They said it was a management decision and that’s about all I got.”
On Saturday, Dorion detailed the steps he took to tell Murray he was being placed on waivers, including a “four-to-five minute conversation with an explanation of why” between himself, the Senators goaltender and head coach D.J. Smith.
“We said if someone picks you up, good luck. If not, you’re going to be assigned to Bellville,” said Dorion.
When Mendes asked Murray if Dorion had reached out to communicate with him since the discussion, he said: “Not Pierre, no.”
With Murray still part of the organization, Dorion says he’s still holding out hope for a resurgence.
“We still have faith in Murray. He’s just got to find his game, not be under the NHL microscope, and at some point in time, you’ll be back with Ottawa,” said Dorion.
The Senators take on the Colorado Avalanche Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet ONE.
Soccer-Man City take top spot after comfortable win at Watford
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