2018 Wimbledon men’s, women’s draws

AP
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LONDON (AP) — Serena Williams avoided any early matchups against opponents with success to speak of at Wimbledon in a draw on Friday that could put her against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the third round.

Williams is returning to the grass-court tournament for the first time since 2016 after missing it last year while pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter in September.

She is ranked outside the top 150, but the All England Club decided to seed her 25th based on past success, which includes collecting seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles trophies at Wimbledon. Williams’ first-round opponent when play begins on Monday will be 107th-ranked Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who has one career tour title.

WIMBLEDON: Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

Williams is competing for the first time since she pulled out of the French Open ahead of a fourth-round showdown against five-time major champion Maria Sharapova in early June, citing an injured chest muscle. That was Williams’ return to Grand Slam action after a 16-month absence.

Rus has only once been as far as Wimbledon’s third round, back in 2012. That was the last time she won a match at the All England Club. She was beaten in the first round of qualifying a year ago, as were both of the women Williams could meet in the second round, 136th-ranked qualifier Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria and 167th-ranked wild-card recipient Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic.

Svitolina has only once been as far as the fourth round.

Williams’ possible fourth-round opponent, 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys, made one quarterfinal appearance, while the 36-year-old American’s potential quarterfinal foe, reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, has never been beyond the fourth round.

Williams could face her older sister, five-time champion and 2017 runner-up Venus Williams, in the semifinals. The ninth-seeded Venus Williams opens against 62nd-ranked Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who is 0-7 at Wimbledon.

The Williams sisters are not in the doubles draw. They have won 14 Grand Slam titles as a pair, including six at Wimbledon.

In the top half of the women’s singles bracket, the quarterfinals could be French Open champion Simona Halep vs. two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, and defending champ Garbine Muguruza vs. No. 6 Caroline Garcia. In the bottom half, No. 2 Wozniacki was drawn to face Svitolina, while 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens could play No. 7 Karolina Pliskova.

The potential men’s quarterfinals in the top half are eight-time champion Roger Federer vs. 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson, and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic vs. No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov. In the bottom half of the bracket, it could be two-time Wimbledon winner Rafael Nadal vs. 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, and No. 4 Alexander Zverev vs. No. 7 Dominic Thiem.

Two-time champion Andy Murray will face 48th-ranked Benoit Paire in the first round. It’s a rematch of Murray’s fourth-round victory over the Frenchman at the All England Club in 2017.

That was Murray’s last win before he sat out nearly a year because of an injured hip that was surgically repaired in January.

He returned to action last week and so is ranked only 156th and unseeded at Wimbledon, which he won in 2013 and 2016.

Murray could face 26th-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the second round.

The top-seeded Federer’s opening opponent on Monday will be 57th-ranked Dusan Lajovic of Serbia. Their only previous meeting anywhere came in Wimbledon’s second round last year, when Federer won in straight sets en route to the title.

No. 2 seed Nadal, whose 17 Grand Slam titles trail only Federer’s 20 among men, faces 129th-ranked Dudi Sela of Israel on Tuesday. Nadal has won both of their previous matchups.

Men’s first-rounders to keep an eye on include Dimitrov against three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka, who is still working his way back into form after knee surgery; 12-time major champ Novak Djokovic against Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren of the U.S.; and No. 23 Richard Gasquet against Gael Monfils in a matchup of Frenchmen.

Two women who lost a Wimbledon final against Serena Williams will meet in the first round when former No. 1 and two-time major champion Angelique Kerber plays qualifier Vera Zvonareva. Kerber was the runner-up in 2016, Zvonereva in 2010.

Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion who is seeded 24th, could face 2017 French Open champion and 12th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko in the third round, and Kvitova in the fourth.

MORE: Serena calls parts of Sharapova’s book ‘hearsay’

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
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Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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