PARIS — Novak Djokovic‘s backhand clipped the net and landed wide, so he shook his head. That was it.
Later, a too-soft drop shot found the white tape and bounced back on his own side, finally ceding a game in a dominant debut performance at the 2020 French Open. Djokovic simply bowed and walked to the sideline.
And when he flubbed yet another drop shot — he kept using them on the slow red clay during a 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 win over 80th-ranked Mikael Ymer — and got broken Wednesday, Djokovic pulled an extra tennis ball out of his pocket and merely gave it a gentle tap with his racket strings.
The ball landed right behind him, safely in the middle of the court.
Playing his first Grand Slam match since his US Open disqualification for smacking a ball after dropping a game and accidentally striking a line judge in throat, Djokovic never really gave himself reason for histrionics or shouts of dismay or displays of anger. Sure, there was some eye-rolling and one sarcastic kiss directed at one of the few fans on hand under the roof at Court Philippe Chatrier.
But otherwise, what was there for Djokovic to be disturbed about?
“I just felt very suffocated out there,” Ymer said of Djokovic’s dominance. ” It’s just corner, corner; very, very rarely miss. His position is unreal in the court.
“You know how the snake kills its prey?” Ymer said, pantomiming a boa constrictor’s attack by bringing his arms around and putting his hands together. “That’s a little bit how I felt being out there.”
Ymer said he didn’t pay any attention to Djokovic’s mood or energy.
And Djokovic, for his part, said that what happened in Flushing Meadows was of no concern to him, either, as he began his pursuit of a second title at Roland Garros and 18th Grand Slam trophy overall.
“I have not had any traces of New York in my mind. I’m over it. Honestly forgot about it. I’m not thinking about it,” the No. 1 seed said after improving to 32-1 in 2020, the only blemish being that fourth-round default this month.
“Winning a 6-love first set is the best possible way to start a Grand Slam,” Djokovic said. “This is exactly what my intentions will be — trying to get off the blocks very strong, with a good intensity, obviously, because players in the early rounds have nothing to lose.”
Tsitsipas trailed Jaume Munar before advancing 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, while Rublev knelt on court and covered his face with his hands after turning things around to beat Sam Querrey 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3.
Querrey led the third set 5-2 and served for the victory at 5-3 but let things get away from him.
“I went 0-4 in serving out sets,” Querrey said. ” I would like to think that will never happen to me again. It’s probably never happened. Someone with my serve, I can’t let that happen.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Video: UFC 254 preview show – MMA Fighting
With UFC 254 just hours away, MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck, Jose Youngs, Alexander K. Lee and E. Casey Leydon break down the top storylines from Saturday’s event on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, including the main event for the undisputed UFC lightweight title between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
For Tiger Woods, Friday's progress at Zozo outweighed the score – Golf Channel
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – It wasn’t the 26 putts.
It wasn’t the 10-for-13 performance off the tee.
It really wasn’t even the score: a second-round, 6-under 66 that was 10 shots better than his sloppy start to the week at the Zozo Championship.
If Tiger Woods is being honest at this juncture in his unparalleled career, success isn’t measured on the scorecard so much as it is with the unquantifiable minutia.
This week, for example, was a chance for Woods to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time since 2014 on a course that he has owned. In a decade of Hero World Challenges played at Sherwood Country Club, Woods never finished outside the top 2, and after matching Sam Snead’s mark of 82 Tour titles at least year’s Zozo Championship, this would, on paper, check all the boxes for potential success.
But this is a different Tiger.
He wants to win and, yes, second still sucks. But in the grand scheme of life imitating art, he’ll take progress.
Like the rest of us, 2020 hasn’t been kind to Woods. He has just a single top-10 finish this year, and that came way back in January at Torrey Pines. Woods has played just five events since the pandemic restart in June. So, while Thursday’s 4-over card wasn’t where he’d hoped to be, understand that the number was only a part of the equation.
That progress came on Friday. He birdied three consecutive holes starting at No. 4, bounced back with another at No. 11 and played his last three holes in 2 under. Although he finished the day right where he started, a dozen shots off the lead, he had something to build on.
“It just snowballed into a high number [on Thursday]. I was never really able to get any kind of momentum going because I played the par 5s so poorly. Today was different,” Woods said. “Got off to a much better start and kept rolling.”
That’s the minutia. After playing Sherwood’s five par-5s in 3 over on Thursday, Woods was a more respectable 4 under on Day 2. It’s always more complicated than it appears, but for Tiger, the two-day turnaround can largely be traced to his play off the tee.
He was more accurate. He was more aggressive. He was more capable of working the ball in both directions.
The latter is worth noting, especially with the Masters looming three weeks away. Unless Woods makes a dramatic schedule change and adds the Houston Open to his dance card – something he’s flirting with at least publicly – this will be his final tune-up before the year’s final major. It was an 11th-hour epiphany that propelled him to victory at last year’s Masters and allowed him to start moving the ball from right to left more consistently.
“I feel like I’m able to draw the ball a little bit better. And I need to get a little bit more sharp with it, start setting up a little bit higher than I am right now,” Woods said. “There are a couple holes that I do like setting it up and hitting high draws and I’ve done that. At Augusta I’m going to have to do that a lot more often than I am here.”
It would be an unspoken party foul for Woods, or any other player, to outright call another Tour event a tune-up for the Masters, but in this case, it is. A dozen strokes back on a course built for speed and birdies, there’s little chance of Woods collecting No. 83 this week.
But with the Grand Slam jewel awaiting, he can ready his game. He can practice that high draw and envision how it would play on, say, the 10th hole at Augusta National.
“No. 6 [at Sherwood] is a lot like No. 10, setting up, trying to hit that high tomahawk draw down there, I was able to do it yesterday and today,” he said. “So yes, there are a couple shots that yeah, I do look at that are similar to what I’m going to face at Augusta. I’ve got a few weeks out, so yes, imaging some of those shots already, and I have been for quite a while, ever since the U.S. Open.”
Forgive Woods for not being overly excited after his bounce-back, 6-under round. It’s the high draw off the sixth tee and a back that looked impressively lithe on Friday that he cares about at this juncture.
“I am moving a lot better. Having four weeks off was good, training sessions have been good, so everything’s kind of turned around,” he said.
Tiger was pleased with his game and his score on Day 2, but it was his progress that made him smile.
Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays for 2-1 series lead – TSN
ARLINGTON, Texas — Walker Buehler pitched in the World Series like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ aces of old.
Think Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, all leaders of title runs.
Now Buehler has the Dodgers two wins from the championship that has eluded them since 1988.
Buehler struck out 10 over six innings in a pulsating performance, and Los Angeles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 on Friday night for a 2-1 World Series lead.
“Being a big-game pitcher and really succeeding on this stage, there’s only a few guys currently and throughout history,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s in some really elite company,”
Justin Turner homered in the first inning against a surprisingly hittable Charlie Morton, who was chased in the fifth.
Austin Barnes, the Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter and catcher, added a sixth-inning homer against John Curtiss. He became just the second player to drive in runs with both a homer and a sacrifice bunt in the same Series game.
He’ll probably remember the home run most.
‘It’s a cool little stat, but it’s not easy to barrel the ball up against all these really good pitchers,” Barnes said.
Los Angeles overwhelmed Tampa Bay in all phases, leaving the Rays’ scuffling offence with a .206 batting average and 11 runs in the Series. The Rays’ .133 average (6 for 45) against Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Buehler is the lowest through three Series games against a team’s starters since the Boston Red Sox held the Philadelphia Phillies to .129 in 1915, according to STATS.
Julio Urías, a hard-throwing Mexican left-hander in a Dodgers lineage dating to Valenzuela, starts Game 4 on Saturday night, while the Rays start Ryan Yarbrough, who relieved in the first game.
Thirty-eight of 59 previous teams that won Game 3 for a 2-1 lead went on to take the title.
Justin Turner and Austin Barnes homered for the Dodgers, who have outhomered the Rays 7-4 in the Series and opponents 25-16 in the post-season. Barnes also drove in a run with a squeeze, the second player with RBIs on a bunt and home run in a Series game behind Héctor López of New York Yankees in Game 5 of 1961.
Steely-eyed like Hershiser, who won MVP honours of the 1988 Series, Buehler has supplanted Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. He showed no indisposition from the blister on his right index finger that has bothered him.
He has allowed one run in 13 Series innings that include seven scoreless in Game 3 against Boston two years ago. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four post-season starts that include the win over Atlanta in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series last weekend.
“I’ve taken the failures that I’ve had and tried to learn from them a little bit,” Buehler said.
The 26-year-old right-hander started 15 of 21 batters with strikes and threw strikes on 67 of 93 pitches. Buehler didn’t allow a hit until Manuel Margot’s one-out double in the fifth. Willy Adames then drove in Margot with another double.
Tampa Bay’s only other hit off him was Austin Meadows’ leadoff single in the sixth.
“You can see the fastball just pop through the zone,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Other than a few breaking balls here or there, it was very much a there it is, hit it approach. You totally understand and appreciate why he’s so talented.”
Rays batters were kept off balance by his mix of 59 four-seam fastballs, 14 knuckle-curves, 12 sliders and eight cut fastballs. He became the first pitcher in the Series with 10 or more strikeouts in six or fewer innings.
“That might have been the best I’ve ever seen him,” Barnes said.
Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol followed with a perfect inning apiece. Kenley Jansen finished the four-hitter, giving up Randy Arozarena’s record-tying eighth post-season homer.
Morton, a right-hander who turns 37 on Nov. 12, had entered unbeaten in seven straight post-season decisions, one shy of Orlando Hernandez’s record, including wins in five consecutive post-season starts. But he took the loss, allowing five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings — more than the four runs total he gave up in his previous five post-season starts combined.
No Rays starter has finished the fifth inning in their last five Series starts since Matt Garza in Game 3 against Philadelphia in 2008. Tampa Bay repeated its pattern of a dozen years ago, losing the opener, winning the next game and dropping the third.
“I wasn’t particularly sharp,” Morton said. “I felt like I was able to get two strikes pretty quickly with a lot of guys and just not able to put them away.”
Turner put the Dodgers ahead on Morton’s 14th pitch, turning on a high 94.8 mph fastball with a 1-2 count and driving the ball 397 feet over the left-field wall. Turner’s home run was the 11th of his post-season career over 69 games, tying the team record set by Duke Snider over 36 games with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1954-59.
Los Angeles extended the lead to 3-0 in the third when Morton hit Corey Seager on a toe with a pitch, Turner doubled and Max Muncy drove a cutter into centre for a two-run single.
After singles by Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson, Barnes drove in a run with the safety squeeze to first baseman Ji-Man Choi, the first RBI bunt in the Series since the Rays’ Jason Barlett in Game 2 in 2008 and the first since for the Dodgers since Billy Cox in 1953.
Mookie Betts followed with a two-out RBI single that made it 5-0, and Barnes homered off John Curtiss in the sixth. Five of the Dodgers’ first six runs scored with two outs, raising their total to nine of 18 in the Series and 50 of 87 in the post-season.
“Obviously there’s two outs, but you can still build an inning not giving away at-bats,” Betts said. “That’s how you win a World Series.”
Betts stole two bases, giving him three in the Series and six in the post-season.
Arozarena tied Barry Bonds (2002), Carlos Beltrán (2004) and Nelson Cruz (2011) for homers in a post-season and set the rookie record for hits with 23, one more than Derek Jeter in 1996.
Urías pitched three perfect innings for the win in Game 7 NLCS win. He is 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA in one post-season start and three relief appearances, allowing one earned run and seven hits in 16 innings with 16 strikeouts and three walks.
Yarbrough threw 19 pitches in the opener, his only action since pitching five innings against Houston on Oct. 13.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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