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

Leave a comment

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Geraint Thomas cuts Julian Alaphilippe’s Tour de France lead

1 Comment

FOIX, France (AP) — When one French rider starts to fade, another comes to the fore. One way or the other, France may still be on course for its first Tour de France winner since 1985.

Dancing over his saddle, his mouth wide open and gasping for air, Thibaut Pinot launched a ferocious attack Sunday and profited from the first signs of weakness in the high mountains from French race leader Julian Alaphilippe to edge closer to the yellow jersey in the overall standings.

Ascending the last uphill finish in the Pyrenees with a display of power and fluidity that signaled that he’ll also be a major contender to win the Tour, Pinot gained time on all his rivals for the second consecutive day following his triumph at the famed Tourmalet mountain in the previous stage.

Heading to the second and final rest day Monday ahead of what promises to be a climactic final week in the Alps, the race is exquisitely poised. Six riders are all within 2 minutes, 14 seconds of each other at the top of the standings.

The six terrible ascents above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) in the Alps, peppered over three mountain stages, will likely decide who will stand on top of the podium on the Champs-Elysees next Sunday.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

“The high mountains have only just begun,” said Alaphilippe. “The Alps are going to be a big mouthful.”

Surging from the mist and rain, Pinot crossed the finish line of Sunday’s Stage 15 in second place, 33 seconds behind Simon Yates, who posted a second stage win after a long solo raid, three days after his first stage victory in the southwestern mountain range.

The 29-year-old Pinot was irresistible when he made his move seven kilometers from the summit. Only Emanuel Buchmann and defending champion Geraint Thomas’ teammate Egan Bernal could follow. But Pinot accelerated again about 2 kilometers later to drop them for good.

Pinot moved to fourth place overall, 1 minute, 50 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

“The weather conditions and the stage were good for me, I had good sensations, I needed to make the most of it,” said Pinot. “I need to keep going up in the general classification, the most difficult stages are looming.”

While Pinot was escorted by his faithful Groupama-FDJ teammate David Gaudu in the final ascent toward Prat d’Albis, Alaphilippe was isolated without a single teammate to help him in the 12-kilometer climb and cracked, yet managed to salvage his yellow jersey.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Thomas, who had already conceded time to Pinot at the Tourmalet, remained second in the general classification. He got dropped when Pinot took the lead from a reduced group of contenders but did not panic. He rode at his pace until he accelerated with 1.5 kilometers left to cut the overall gap on Alaphilippe from 2 minutes, 2 seconds to 1:35. Steven Kruijswijk of the Netherlands stood third overall, 1:47 off the pace.

Thomas said after the stage he could have tried to follow Pinot earlier but instead opted for a conservative approach because he did not want to bring back Alaphilippe to the front. Bernal was with Pinot and the Welshman would not take the risk of chasing down their common rival. Bernal, a Colombian with excellent climbing skills, remains involved in the fight for the yellow jersey, 2:02 behind Alaphilippe.

“I felt better than yesterday but I needed to try to pace it when it all kicked off,” Thomas said. “It’s a difficult one, tactics wise. I wanted to go, I had the legs to go but I wasn’t going to chase down Egan Bernal with Alaphilippe on my wheel.”

Coming right after the ascent of the Tourmalet, Stage 15 ran close to the ancient Cathar castles and was a punishing ride totaling more than 39 kilometers of climbing.

Alaphilippe was so exhausted after his effort up the hill, where he grimaced and dribbled through the rain, that he had to grip a roadside barrier afterward while he caught his breath.

“If I crack I hope he’ll carry the torch for the French,” Alaphilippe said about Pinot.

Yates, the Vuelta defending champion, was given a free reign by the peloton when he took part in an early breakaway as he was not a threat overall. He made his decisive move about 9 kilometers from the line.

“I’m very proud of that,” Yates said of his second victory at this Tour.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce turns back the clock, wins another Diamond League

Leave a comment

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce continues to show she’s just as fast as before childbirth, winning a Diamond League 100m in 10.78 seconds in London on Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old, two-time Olympic champion, beat a field that included the two fastest women of 2018, Brit Dina Asher-Smith (10.92) and Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou (10.98).

It lacked the only woman ranked higher than Fraser-Pryce this season, Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who edged her countrywoman at the Jamaican Championships on June 21.

But Fraser-Pryce has now broken 10.79 three times this season, her first time doing so since 2013. She could become the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title in Doha in two months.

“10.78 is a fabulous time,” she said. “My aim for Doha is definitely to be on the podium. For me, it’s a long season from here, so I am hoping my experience will come into play.”

Full London results are here. The meet lacked U.S. stars who are preparing for this week’s USATF Outdoor Championships, where world champs spots are at stake. The Diamond League resumes Aug. 18 in Birmingham, Great Britain.

Also Sunday, Kenyan Hellen Obiri won an anticipated head-to-head with Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in the 5000m. Obiri, the world champion, clocked 14:20.36, the world’s fastest time in two years. Hassan, who nine days ago broke the mile world record, took third in a European record 14:22.12.

Swede Daniel Ståhl won a discus that included the world’s top three this year and the reigning Olympic and world gold and silver medalists. Stahl launched a 68.56-meter throw to overtake Jamaican Fedrick Dacres.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic champions, world-record holder to miss USATF Outdoor Champs