Ronaldo calls Neymar Olympic situation ‘cowardly’

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Brazil legend Ronaldo reportedly said it’s “cowardly” if Neymar is forced to choose between playing for the national team at Copa América Centenario in June and the Rio Olympics in August.

“This situation is very difficult for the player,” Ronaldo said, according to reports Thursday. “I think it’s cowardly that he has to choose what competition he wants to play in.”

Brazil’s soccer federation has Neymar’s rights for Copa América Centenario, a tournament among North and South American nations, but not the Olympics.

Neymar’s club team, FC Barcelona, controls whether Neymar is allowed to play for Brazil at the Olympics in August.

Neither the federation nor Barcelona has said whether Neymar will play in Copa América Centenario, the Olympics or both.

Spanish reports have said Barcelona will allow Neymar to play in one of Copa América Centenario and the Olympics, but not both, so that he’s better rested ahead of the Spanish league season that starts in late summer.

That would mean that if Brazil’s federation chooses Neymar for Copa América Centenario, Barcelona would block Neymar from being available for the Olympics. If Brazil’s federation declines to use Neymar at Copa América Centenario, Barcelona would allow Neymar to be available for Olympic selection.

The Olympics are important for Brazil and for Neymar, since the nation is hosting the Games for the first time and has never won Olympic soccer gold.

“I would opt to play in the Olympics,” Ronaldo said, according to reports. “It would be something unheard of if they could get a gold medal at the Games in Rio.

“I don’t know what the situation is like, but ideally, how wonderful it would be for Neymar to tell that story.”

Neymar led the 2012 Olympic silver-medal winning squad for Brazil.

Ronaldo also earned an Olympic medal, bronze in 1996 while wearing “Ronaldinho” on his jersey because the team had an older Ronaldo.

Ronaldo was the youngest player on that team at 19 years old, two years before his World Cup playing debut. Brazil was shocked in the 1996 Olympic semifinals by a Nigerian golden goal.

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Novak Djokovic breaks record he shared with Rafael Nadal at French Open

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Novak Djokovic broke a tie with rival Rafael Nadal by reaching the French Open quarterfinals for the record 17th time, never truly in trouble during a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Juan Pablo Varillas on Sunday.

Djokovic is closing on bettering Nadal in a more prestigious category: Grand Slam singles championships. Both currently sit at 22. For Djokovic, that total includes two at Roland Garros, in 2016 and 2021, and he can become the first man to own at least three trophies from each major tournament.

Nadal is a 14-time champion in Paris but is missing this time because of a hip injury; he had arthroscopic surgery Friday night.

Against the 94th-ranked Varillas, who had never won a Slam match until this event and then took three in a row in five sets, Djokovic was, not surprisingly, at his dominant best at Court Philippe Chatrier on a warm, sunny day.

The 36-year-old from Serbia finished with more than twice as many winners, 35-15, and fewer unforced errors. He went 15 for 17 on trips to the net. He put in 80% of his first serves. He converted 6 of 12 break points while dropping his serve only once.

All in all, a no-drama showing in under two hours from Djokovic, who hasn’t ceded a set yet through four matches. He’s had his less-than-amiable back-and-forths with some spectators over the past week in Paris, but when this one ended, Djokovic gestured as though to hug everyone as he heard some chants of his two-syllable nickname, “No-le!”

In his 55th career major quarterfinal — Roger Federer, who retired with 58, is the only man to reach more — and 14th in a row at Roland Garros, the No. 3-seeded Djokovic will face No. 11 Karen Khachanov on Tuesday.

Khachanov, who is 1-8 against Djokovic, made it this far at a Slam for the fifth time by defeating Lorenzo Sonego 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7), 6-1.

The other men’s fourth-round matches Sunday were No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 17 Lorenzo Musetti, and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Sebastian Ofner.

Two unseeded women moved into quarterfinals and will play each other next: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 runner-up at Roland Garros, and Karolina Muchova.

Pavlyuchenkova, who missed last year’s tournament as part of a lengthy absence with a knee injury, got past a third consecutive seeded opponent, No. 28 Elise Mertens, by a 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 score.

Muchova was a 6-4, 6-4 winner against Elina Avanesyan, who lost in qualifying but got into the main draw when another player withdrew.

The other women’s matches scheduled for later: No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka vs. 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, and No. 9 Daria Kasatkina vs. Elina Svitolina.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

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French Open doubles team disqualified after tennis ball hits ball girl

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French Open doubles player Miyu Kato and her partner were forced to forfeit a match when Kato accidentally hit a ball girl in the neck with a ball after a point on Sunday.

In the second set on Court 14 at Roland Garros, Kato took a swing with her racket and the ball flew toward the ball kid, who was not looking in the player’s direction while heading off the court.

At first, chair umpire Alexandre Juge only issued a warning to Kato. But after tournament referee Remy Azemar and Grand Slam supervisor Wayne McEwen went to Court 14 to look into what happened, Kato and her partner, Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia, were disqualified.

That made Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain the winners of the match.

“It’s just a bad situation for everyone,” Bouzkova said. “But it’s kind of something that, I guess, is taken by the rules, as it is, even though it’s very unfortunate for them. … At the end of the day, it was the referee’s decision.”

Bouzkova said she did not see the ball hit the ball girl, but “she was crying for like 15 minutes.”

She said one of the officials said the ball “has to do some kind of harm to the person affected” and that “at first, (Juge) didn’t see that.”

Bouzkova said she and Sorribes Tormo told Juge “to look into it more and ask our opponents what they think happened.”

During Coco Gauff’s 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-1 singles victory over Mirra Andreeva on Saturday, Andreev swatted a ball into the Court Suzanne Lenglen stands after dropping a point in the first set. Andreev was given a warning by the chair umpire for unsportsmanlike conduct but no further penalty.

“I heard about that. Didn’t see it,” Bouzkova said. “I guess it just depends on the circumstances and the given situation as it happens. … It is difficult, for sure.

In the quarterfinals, Bouzkova and Sorribes Tormo will face Ellen Perez of Australia and Nicole Melichar-Martinez of the United States.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

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