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Novak Djokovic to miss U.S. Open, rest of 2017

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Novak Djokovic will sit out the rest of this season because of an injured right elbow, meaning he will miss the U.S. Open and end his streak of participating in 51 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.

“It is the most important for me to recover, to be able to play injury free for as long as possible, to compete in the sport that has given me so much, the sport I love,” Djokovic said Wednesday. “Of course I want to return to the winning form, to win again, to win the trophies. But now it is not the time to talk about it. At this point, I’m focusing on recovery.”

Until now, Djokovic has never missed a major tournament since he entered his first, the 2005 Australian Open. That is the third-longest active run among men and seventh-longest in history.

In that time, the 30-year-old Serb has won 12 Grand Slam titles, including the U.S. Open in 2011 and 2015.

“The remarkable series has come to an end,” Djokovic said. “My body has its limits, and I have to respect that and be grateful for all that I have achieved so far.”

He said that Andre Agassi, who he recently began working with on a part-time basis, will be his coach when Djokovic returns to the tour next year. He plans to start with a tuneup tournament ahead of the Australian Open in January.

“He supports my decision to take a break, and remains my head coach,” Djokovic said. “He is going to help me get back into shape and bounce back strong after the recovery period.”

Djokovic made his announcement via Facebook, his website and at a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia.

Djokovic’s last match was on July 12, when he stopped playing during his Wimbledon quarterfinal against Tomas Berdych because of the elbow. Djokovic said that day he was in pain when he hit serves and forehands.

At the time, Djokovic said he had been struggling with the elbow on his racket-swinging arm for about 1½ years and so far had opted against having surgery — and he reiterated Wednesday that he does not need an operation.

But he also said then that he would seriously consider taking a prolonged break from the tour.

Since winning the 2016 French Open to complete a career Grand Slam and become the first man in nearly a half-century to win four consecutive major trophies, Djokovic’s form has dipped. He has fallen from No. 1 to No. 4 in the ATP rankings and failed to defend any of those titles. He has made it past the quarterfinals at only one of the past five Grand Slam tournaments: last year’s U.S. Open, where he lost in the final to Stan Wawrinka.

Djokovic, who also mentioned Wednesday that his wife is expecting their second child, reached at least the semifinals at Flushing Meadows each of the past 10 years. That includes seven appearances in the final.

This year’s U.S. Open starts Aug. 28.

Roger Federer demonstrated the benefits of a hiatus from the tour, sitting out the last half of 2016 after Wimbledon to let his surgically repaired left knee to heal fully.

Federer returned at the beginning of this season and won the Australian Open to end a 4½-year Grand Slam drought, plus titles at Indian Wells and Miami. He took another break after that, missing the entire European clay-court circuit, and returned for the grass, winning his eighth Wimbledon championship and 19th major title overall — both records for a man — this month.

“All the doctors I’ve consulted, and all the specialists I have visited, in Serbia and all over the world, have agreed that this injury requires rest. A prolonged break from the sport is inevitable,” Djokovic said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to recover. I will use the upcoming period to strengthen my body and also to improve certain tennis elements that I have not been able to work on over the past years, due to a demanding schedule.”

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

MORE: Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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