Novak Djokovic into French Open quarterfinals after brief linesperson scare

Novak Djokovic
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In a briefly, frighteningly reminiscent scene, Novak Djokovic stretched out his right arm to return a serve in his French Open fourth-round match against Russian Karen Khachanov. Djokovic got his racket on the ball, but it careened directly into a service linesperson’s mask-covered face.

Fortunately, the linesperson appeared to be fine. Djokovic checked on the official sitting across from the service line, and play continued.

“My gosh, it was very awkward déjà vu,” Djokovic said in obvious reference to his U.S. Open fourth-round default last month. “I’m actually trying to find the linesperson and see if he’s OK because I saw he had a little bit of a bruise, like redness, in that place in the head where the ball hit him. I hope he’s fine. I mean, he definitely dealt with it in a very strong and brave way.”

The top seed Djokovic went on to sweep the 15th seed Khachanov 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, advancing to the quarterfinals without dropping a set in four matches. He next gets 17th seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, the man on the other side of the net for that lamentable U.S. Open incident.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

The only foe to defeat Djokovic in 2020 was his own temper.

In this same fourth round at the U.S. Open last month, Djokovic struck a ball in at least frustration, arguably anger, after having his serve broken. The ball struck a linesperson in the throat, though it was not his intention. He was defaulted from the tournament for what happened, given he struck a ball outside of in-match play that hit an official.

Djokovic was at no fault for what happened Monday, when a well-placed serve gave him little control over his return shot. These things happen.

“Obviously because of what happened in New York, people I guess are going to make the story out of this,” he said. “It has happened to me and to many other players in the last 15 years that I’ve been on the tour. I’ve seen it a lot when the ball ricochets from the racket and the frame, hits someone in the stands, or someone that is close to you or line umpire. Yeah, it was a very awkward situation obviously.”

Djokovic continued a march to what could be a showdown with Rafael Nadal in a Sunday final. The Serbian is going for his 18th Grand Slam singles title, which would move him one behind Nadal and two behind male record holder Roger Federer.

Nadal eyes a 13th French Open crown, which would tie him with Federer in the total major titles count for the first time since they both had zero.

Also Monday, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and No. 13 Andrey Rublev advanced to play each other for the second time since the French Open began. They meet in a Wednesday quarterfinal, 10 days after they played in a clay-court final in Hamburg, Germany, on the same day that play started at Roland Garros.

The Tsitsipas-Rublev winner could play Djokovic in the semifinals.

In the women’s draw, No. 4 Sofia Kenin rallied past 49th-ranked Frenchwoman Fiona Ferro 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, with 17 winners and four unforced errors in the last set. Kenin, the Australian Open champion, gets No. 30 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or 57th-ranked American Danielle Collins in the quarterfinals.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova made her first French Open quarterfinal in eight years. She gets 66th-ranked German Laura Siegemund.

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Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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