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Novak Djokovic suggests change to Olympic tennis format

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LONDON (AP) — Novak Djokovic is a fan of the round-robin format in tennis, and he would even like to see it used at the Olympics and the Davis Cup.

Djokovic, who is chasing the year-end No. 1 ranking this week at the season-ending tournament, praised the system at the ATP finals, where players can lose a match in the first round and still advance to the semifinals.

“I think this format is exciting,” Djokovic said Thursday after winning his third straight match at the ATP finals. “I mean, look, it’s the only tournament in the year that we have this kind of format. I like playing in the round-robin system.”

Djokovic, who lost to eventual silver medalist Juan Martin del Potro in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Games, then said he thinks the format could be used at the Olympics.

“I guess you play more matches,” said Djokovic, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games. “The people like to see the top players being at least for a couple matches, two, three matches, in the tournament. It gives more value to the event.”

Djokovic also criticized the Davis Cup, a team tournament spread out through the year. He proposed condensing it to make it easier on the top players.

“Once a year … two weeks, have a round-robin format,” Djokovic said. “Have teams play in different locations, then come together in one location and play a knock-out stage, quarterfinals, semifinals, final four, whatever.

“It’s a no-brainer. I’m not the only one to have this kind of opinion about it. Many of the players have been talking about this format and the schedule, top players especially.”

Djokovic also said the three-day, best-of-five set system could be cut to two days and best-of-three matches. But he said the International Tennis Federation hasn’t been receptive to change.

“The only thing that they wanted to change is the neutral final, I think for next year or the year after that … nobody agrees with that,” Djokovic said. “Again, you’re taking away from the players the one thing that players love about Davis Cup, which is the home tie, the home crowd.

“I don’t know how the future of Davis Cup will look like,” Djokovic added. “But there is definitely something radically that has to change.”

MORE: Venus Williams targets 2020 Olympics at age 40

Kelly Slater has an Olympic decision to make

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Surfing icon Kelly Slater is in great position to qualify for his sport’s Olympic debut in 2020, but he’s undecided about making a required event appearance this summer to stay eligible.

The top two U.S. male surfers in this season’s World Surf League final standings are in line to qualify for the Olympics.

Slater, a 47-year-old, 11-time world champion, is ranked third among Americans through six of 11 events, but the No. 2, two-time world champion John John Florence, is likely out for the rest of the season after an ACL tear.

If Slater keeps up his current pace of results, he will pass Florence’s point total by the end of the season in December.

“It appears as though I have to make a decision [on the Olympics] sooner than that,” Slater said after being eliminated from South Africa’s J-Bay Open in ninth place on Wednesday. “I’ve really got to figure out all the factors around that and make a decision in the next few weeks.”

Slater’s concern is the ISA World Surfing Games in Miyazaki, Japan, in September, an event that top Olympic hopefuls on the WSL tour are required to attend, barring illness or injury.

“I think I have to surf that event, and if I don’t, it may disqualify me,” he said (the International Surfing Association, the sport’s governing body, later confirmed it would disqualify him). “But I’m not sure if I want to go to Japan and compete right now.”

The ISA Games take place in the week between the next two WSL events, the latter hosted by Slater’s Surf Ranch wave pool in California.

“I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the Olympics right now, anyways,” said Slater, who last year said he was “50-50” on the Olympics when noting his differing thoughts on the qualification process and venue. “The point is, I’m not really focusing on it at this point. I’m trying to get myself back in the flow of the tour.”

Slater missed 13 tour stops between the 2017 and 2018 seasons after breaking a foot and having multiple surgeries.

He finished fifth, third, ninth, ninth and ninth in his five most recent events to get into Olympic qualifying position. He expected more after placing third in the two contests he entered healthy last season. Slater said he competed at J-Bay after straining his back “really bad” on Sunday, keeping him from surfing the three days before the contest.

“Ninth place, to me, used to be a pretty awful result. I’m used to at least a quarterfinal on for most of my career,” he said. “I’m not horrified by my results, but I’m also not surprised. Maybe other people are because everyone focuses on my age and that kind of thing. It’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden forget how to do this thing, you know?”

Slater, at 48, would be the oldest U.S. Summer Olympic rookie competitor in a sport other than equestrian, sailing or shooting (or art competitions!) in the last 100 years, supplanting Martina Navratilova, via the OlyMADMen.

“Right now in my head the focus is more on this tour than it is on the Olympics, but we’ll see,” he said. “I was starting this year with a lot of pressure on myself to try and make the Olympic team and think, maybe I’ll retire there next year and that will be the end for me. It put so much pressure on the start of the year for me that I didn’t feel like I could freely compete. It was putting too many things in my head. I needed to let that take a backseat and not worry about it. I’m just not really thinking about it a lot.”

MORE: Top U.S. surfer has links to Egg McMuffin, Guinness World Record holder

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China on brink of sweeping every gold medal at diving worlds

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Shi Tingmao joined Guo Jingjing as the only women to win three straight world titles in an individual diving event, giving China 11 gold medals in 11 events with two finals left in Gwangju, South Korea.

Shi, who swept the individual and synchronized springboard titles in Rio, claimed the 3m world title on Friday by 18.25 points with 391 total. Countrywoman Wang Han took silver, 5.8 points ahead of Australian Maddison Keeney.

Americans Sarah Bacon and Brooke Schultz missed the 12-woman final, placing 14th and 29th.

China, which has dominated the sport for two decades, is looking to sweep the golds at an Olympics or worlds for the second time after winning all 10 events in 2011. This year’s feat could be more impressive, should China win the last two events Saturday — a mixed-gender springboard and the men’s platform.

That’s because three mixed-gender events were added to the world program (but not the Olympic program) since 2011. And this year, China has not only won every gold but also taken every silver in the three individual Olympic program events thus far.

China is in strong position to go one-two in the men’s platform. Yang Jian and Yang Hao were nearly 70 points clear of the field in Friday’s semifinals.

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