Novak Djokovic joins Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal in French Open semifinals

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Novak DjokovicRoger Federer and Rafael Nadal are all into the French Open semifinals. They were last in the final four, together, at a Grand Slam at this tournament seven years ago.

“It’s a different time for us now than it was five years ago now, obviously. We’re a bit older,” Djokovic said. “But, you know, we have still been enjoying some of our best tennis in biggest events, talking about Federer, Nadal, and myself. That’s great to see.

“Nadal and Federer, arguably the biggest legends of this sport and best players, successful players ever, so to be in the mix with them and to have myself successful career is quite a great feeling.”

No. 1 Djokovic and No. 4 Dominic Thiem swept quarterfinals Thursday to join No. 3 Federer and No. 2 Nadal in Friday’s semifinals. Federer plays Nadal at 6:50 a.m. ET with NBCSN coverage starting at 7 a.m. Djokovic gets Thiem after that.

Djokovic, trying to hold all four majors at once for the second time in his career, dominated young No. 5 Alexander Zverev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in the quarters. Thiem had it even easier, dusting No. 10 Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Djokovic, Federer and Nadal own a combined 52 Grand Slam singles titles. Thiem, much younger at 25, is the best player on the men’s tour without a major.

It’s the first time the top four men’s seeds at a Grand Slam made the semifinals since the 2013 Australian Open. Since then, tennis’ Big Three traded turns at No. 1 and missed Slams due to injuries.

Federer went four and a half years between major titles from to 2012 to 2017. He’s playing the French for the first time since 2015, on the 10th anniversary of his lone Roland Garros title. It could be, at age 37, his last French Open.

Nadal didn’t make a Grand Slam semifinal in 2015 or 2016, ending the latter season early with a wrist injury. He overcame one of his latest sets of knee problems to make the Australian Open final in January and arrived in Paris favored for his record-extending 12th French Open crown.

Djokovic held all four Slam titles after taking the 2016 French Open. But he, too, declined and then underwent elbow surgery in January 2018, falling out of the top 20 before a comeback Wimbledon title in July. Djokovic then won the U.S. Open and Australian Open, retaking the No. 1 ranking and, with 15 majors, closing in on Nadal (17) and Federer (20).

“The presence I think of history-making is stronger than ever right now in my career,” Djokovic said. “That’s one of the greatest motivations I have, obviously.”

Earlier Thursday, American Amanda Anisimova became the first player born in the 2000s to make a Grand Slam semifinal, ousting defending champ Simona Halep. She plays the highest remaining women’s seed, No. 8 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who denied an all-American semifinal by sweeping Madison Keys.

The other semi pits No. 26 Jo Konta against unseeded, 19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova.

The men’s final four, average age 32, have a combined 80 career Grand Slam finals and 760 weeks at No. 1. The women’s final four, average age 22, have a combined zero career Grand Slam finals and zero weeks at No. 1.

Men’s Quarterfinals
(1) Novak Djokovic def. (5) Alexander Zverev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2
(4) Dominic Thiem def. (10) Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
(3) Roger Federer def. (24) Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4
(2) Rafael Nadal def. (7) Kei Nishikori, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3

Women’s Quarterfinals
(8) Ashleigh Barty def. (14) Madison Keys, 6-3, 7-5
Amanda Anisimova def. (3) Simona Halep 6-2, 6-4
(26) Jo Konta def. (7) Sloane Stephens, 6-1, 6-4
Marketa Vondrousova def. (31) Petra Martic, 7-6 (1), 7-5

FRENCH OPEN: TV Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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