IMAGE: Russian Andrey Rublev won his 11th ATP title with Serbian Open crown. Photograph: ATP Tour/Twitter
World No 1 Novak Djokovic’s barren title spell in 2022 continued as he went down 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-0 to Russian Andrey Rublev in the Serbia Open final in Belgrade on Sunday.
Playing his second tournament on clay this season after being knocked out by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Monte Carlo earlier this month, Djokovic was off to a slow start as second seed Rublev broke him twice to clinch the opening set 6-2.
Djokovic had prevailed from a set down in his last three matches and the 20-times major winner, cheered on by a capacity home crowd, raised his game in the second set to take the tie-breaker despite earlier squandering five set points on the Rublev serve.
The Serbian missed a chunk of the early season, including the Australian Open as well as ATP Masters 1000 events in Miami and Indian Wells, due to his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – and his lack of match practice showed in the deciding set on Sunday.
Rublev galloped to an early lead and barely gave his opponent a chance as he closed out the match with a powerful forehand winner for his 11th career title.
Swiatek overpowers Sabalenka to win Stuttgart title
World No 1 Iga Swiatek captured her fourth straight title of the 2022 season by beating Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 6-2, 6-2 in the Stuttgart Open final on Sunday, extending her winning streak to 23 matches.
Swiatek, a former French Open champion, had breezed through the opening rounds of the WTA 500 claycourt tournament before facing her biggest test in the semi-finals, where she battled back from a set down to overcome Ludmilla Samsonova on Saturday.
The Polish 20-year-old showed little signs of fatigue from that marathon clash as she saved an early breakpoint and raced ahead 3-0 before holding firm and taking the opening set when third-seeded Sabalenka, last year’s runner-up, double-faulted.
The pair had split their previous contests – in last year’s WTA Finals and the Qatar Open in February – but it was the in-form Swiatek who excelled in their first claycourt meeting, dealing effortlessly with her opponent’s big hitting.
The error-prone Sabalenka looked to mount a comeback after a crucial hold of serve at the start of the second set but Swiatek switched gears to break for a 4-2 lead and completed the victory when the Belarusian sent a shot long.
“It’s always super tough playing against Aryna. We fought for every game and hopefully there are more matches to come,” Swiatek, who was given the keys to a red Porsche Taycan car following her seventh career title, said.
“The last couple of days have been tough… I want to thank my dad who finally decided he will come with me for tournaments. The atmosphere in this arena was amazing tdoay.”
Tournament debutant Swiatek’s success in Stuttgart follows her triumphs in Doha, Indian Wells and Miami, and makes her a firm favourite for Roland Garros starting on May 22.
WTA chief promises ‘strong reactions’ to ban on Russian, Belarusian players
Women’s Tennis Association chief Steve Simon has warned Wimbledon organisers and Britain’s tennis body of “strong reactions” to their decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from competing in tournaments.
The All England Club (AELTC), which organises the grasscourt major, and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) have said they will not allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete in events in the United Kingdom due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The ATP, which runs the men’s tour, and the WTA denounced the move as “discriminatory”, with the two world governing bodies saying they were evaluating sanctions in response.
Simon told The Tennis Podcast that the Wimbledon decision was against Grand Slam rules and the agreement they have with the tournament while the LTA, which has WTA sanctioned events, violated the regulations regarding athlete entry.
“We don’t have the same jurisdiction over the Grand Slams as we do (over) our own sanctioned events. We have precedents … where these situations may have occurred where fines and tournament sanctions have been imposed,” Simon said.
“We need to sit down with our tournament, our player councils and I suppose our board and see where everything’s at. I do think that you’ll see some strong reactions that will come from us, but what those are and how far they’ll go is still to be determined.”
Tennis governing bodies have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, but individual players from the two countries are allowed to compete on their respective tours as neutrals.
Simon said both the ATP and the WTA are in discussions over the issue but their decisions will be independent.
The AELTC, in its statement announcing the decision, said it had to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible”.
“People take the position that sports and politics shouldn’t match and shouldn’t be intertwined, but that’s not the reality,” Simon said.
“At times sports does cross into politics and here is a situation where politics is crossing into sports.
“It is real life. The announcement that came out was extremely disappointing, to say the least.
“The one thing that this sport has always agreed upon – we don’t agree on a lot of things but the one thing we have always been united on – was that entry into our events … has always been based up on merit and without discrimination.”
NBA roundup: Jazz edge Mavericks to tie playoff series
Rudy Gobert made a key rebound and an even bigger dunk with 11 seconds remaining to boost the Utah Jazz to a series-tying 100-99 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday afternoon in Salt Lake City.
Jordan Clarkson led Utah in scoring with 25 points, Donovan Mitchell added 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Gobert finished with 17 points and 15 boards in a game that nearly slipped away.
Luka Doncic, in his first action of the postseason, scored a game-high 30 points with 10 rebounds and gave Dallas a four-point lead with 39 seconds left. Mitchell cut the lead to one with a putback layup and a free throw with 31.2 seconds left after being fouled by Doncic.
The Jazz fouled Dwight Powell with 19.8 seconds remaining, and he missed both shots. Gobert then grabbed the rebound and put Utah up 100-99 with an alley-oop dunk off of a pass from Mitchell. Game 5 will be Monday in Dallas.
Raptors 110, 76ers 102
Pascal Siakam scored a playoff-career-best 34 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Toronto defeated visiting Philadelphia in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.
Philadelphia leads the best-of-seven series 3-1. Gary Trent Jr. added 24 points for the Raptors, who extended the series to a fifth game, which will be Monday in Philadelphia. Thaddeus Young had 13 points and OG Anunoby 11 for the Raptors.
Joel Embiid, playing with a thumb injury, had 21 points and eight rebounds for Philadelphia, James Harden had 22 points and nine assists, Tobias Harris had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyrese Maxey scored 11 points.
Celtics 109, Nets 103
Jayson Tatum scored 39 points as Boston led most of the way and beat Brooklyn in New York to open a commanding three-games-to-none lead in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Tatum made 13 of 29 shots for his second 30-plus-point game of the series, putting the second-seeded Celtics on the verge of sweeping the seventh-seeded Nets in Game 4 on Monday.
Bruce Brown led the Nets with 26 points, but superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were held to a combined 32 points as the Nets shot 50.6 percent but also allowed 37 points off 21 turnovers.
Timberwolves 119, Grizzlies 118
Karl-Anthony Towns responded to one of the worst performances of his postseason career with 33 points and Minnesota evened its playoff series against visiting Memphis with a Game 4 victory in Minneapolis.
Towns, whose eight-point effort in a home loss in Game 3 equaled the second-fewest of his playoff career, rebounded with a postseason career-high in helping the seventh-seeded Timberwolves square the series at 2-2. Game 5 will be Tuesday in Memphis.
Anthony Edwards added 24 points and Patrick Beverley 17 for the Wolves. Desmond Bane scored 34 points to lead Memphis, Dillon Brooks netted 24, and Ja Morant collected 11 points and 15 assists.