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French Open: Novak Djokovic rolls to start Grand Slam record quest


PARIS — You might assume that the opponents for Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic in the French Open’s first round would come away from their straight-set losses Monday feeling too overwhelmed by the play of the two tournament favorites.

You would be wrong.

Forget the scores and the point-by-point particulars on a windy day at Roland Garros for a moment. Of course it turned out that No. 1-seeded Alcaraz, the reigning U.S. Open champion, beat 159th-ranked qualifier Flavio Cobolli, a 21-year-old from Florence, Italy. And of course it turned out that No. 3 Djokovic, a 22-time major winner, got past 114th-ranked Aleksandar Kovacevic, a 24-year-old who grew up in New York City and is now based in Florida.

And naturally, both Cobolli and Kovacevic acknowledged feeling a bit jittery at the outset of what were their Grand Slam debuts in huge arenas against a couple of elite players.

“I started in a bit of a daze,” Cobolli said after his 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 loss, “because of the emotions.”

“A couple of times there, I did look up and take it all in. I made sure of that, because this is the kind of experience I’ll definitely hold onto forever,” Kovacevic said after his 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1) loss. “It’s not the best thing in the world to get lost in the crowd. You start to really look at everyone that’s there — and that’s when the nerves hit.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

But what both of them wanted to make clear afterward was that, yes, Alcaraz and Djokovic are exceptionally talented, but, no, it did not seem to be impossible to find openings to exploit.

“It’s definitely intimidating. Watching him on TV growing up, it’s hard not to look past that and knowing what he’s accomplished. But from a tennis standpoint, it’s not otherworldly,” said Kovacevic, who was 7 when he first met Djokovic and later practiced with him during the 2021 U.S. Open after playing college tennis at the University of Illinois. “The things he does well, he does unbelievably well, but the ball that he hits — it’s not blowing me completely off the court, which was honestly somewhat surprising.”

Other seeded men advancing on Day 2 in Paris included No. 8 Jannik Sinner, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe, No. 14 Cam Norrie and No. 15 Borna Coric. Among the seeded women moving into the second round: No. 5 Caroline Garcia, No. 14 Beatriz Haddad Maia, No. 20 Madison Keys and No. 22 Donna Vekic. Seeds on the way out included No. 10 Petra Kvitova, No. 12 Belinda Bencic and No. 16 Karolina Pliskova in the women’s bracket, along with No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 25 Botic Van de Zandschulp in the men’s.

With 14-time champion Rafael Nadal sidelined by a hip injury, Alcaraz and Djokovic are considered the favorites for the men’s title and could meet in the semifinals. If Djokovic wins the trophy, he would earn his 23rd at a Slam and break the tie for the men’s record he and Nadal currently share.

Cobolli’s first career match on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour was a loss in qualifying against Alcaraz in Italy in August 2000. Cobolli chuckled Monday while recalling that encounter and pointing out that, while both have grown as players since then, “He’s grown more.”

“It’s impressive how he handles himself on important points. That’s one of his best qualities. His ball speed is faster than most players in this tournament. It’s so difficult to get him in trouble,” Cobolli said. “But like all of us human beings, he does have his weaker aspects.”

Which, perhaps, was why both of these contests were lopsided at the beginning — “At the start of the match,” Alcaraz said, “I felt invincible — and included a bit of intrigue down the stretch.” Alcaraz held three match points to close things at 5-3 in the third set but couldn’t convert, then found himself at 5-all minutes later. Djokovic served to end his match at 5-4 in the third but got broken there to also sit at 5-all.

“Made me work for my victory,” Djokovic said.

In both instances, to the surprise of no one, the higher-rated player steadied himself and sealed the deal.

Before coming to Paris, the last tournament entered by both Cobolli and Kovacevic was an ATP Challenger Tour event in Turin. Cobolli made the case that the talent there was not all that different from what his first foray in a Grand Slam bracket presented.

“I don’t think there’s a ton of distance between us and them. They have something extra, so in the end, they do take home the win,” he said. “But we can play with them.”

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Canada wins men’s hockey world title; Latvia wins first medal

IIHF Hockey World Championship

TAMPERE, Finland — Samuel Blais scored two goals to rally Canada to a 5-2 victory over Germany in the final of the world men’s hockey championship on Sunday.

It’s a record 28th world title for Canada, and its second in three years. Russia has 27 while Germany has never won the trophy.

Blais netted with a backhand 4:51 into the final period for a 3-2 lead for Canada, which was playing in its fourth straight final.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”

Lawson Crouse, Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored for Canada, Peyton Krebs had two assists and goaltender Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots.

Toffoli stretched the lead to 4-2 from the left circle with 8:09 remaining and Laughton made it 5-2 with an empty net goal.

Adam Fantilli became only the second Canadian player after Jonathan Toews to win gold at the world juniors and world championship the same year.

Canada had to come back twice in the final.

John Peterka wristed a shot past Montembeault from the left circle 7:44 into the game. It was the sixth goal for the Buffalo Sabres forward at the tournament.

Blais was fed by Krebs to beat goaltender Mathias Niederberger and tie it 1-1 at 10:47.

Daniel Fischbuch put the Germans ahead again with a one-timer with 6:13 to go in the middle period.

Crouse equalized on a power play with 2:32 remaining in the frame.

It was the first medal for Germany since 1953 when it was second behind Sweden.

The two previously met just once in the final with Canada winning 6-1 in 1930.


Defenseman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to a 4-3 victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at 3 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

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Primoz Roglic wins Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

Primoz Roglic
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Primoz Roglic expanded his Grand Tour portfolio by winning the Giro d’Italia on Sunday to add to his three Spanish Vuelta titles.

The former ski jumper became the first Slovenian rider to win the Giro and he did it in dramatic fashion, claiming the lead in the penultimate stage — taking the pink jersey from Geraint Thomas in Saturday’s mountain time trial.

It was the direct opposite of what happened in the 2020 Tour de France, when fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar took the lead from Roglic in another penultimate-day mountain time trial.

During the podium celebration, Roglic’s son, Lev, joined him on the stage and seemed more excited than his dad.

“I’m trying to enjoy all the emotions, and everything that happened yesterday,” Roglic said. “At the end, it’s always nice to win, in this spectacular city … all these amazing buildings, it’s super beautiful.”

Riding a pink bike and wearing a pink helmet and pink socks, Roglic took it easy during the mostly ceremonious final stage, an 84-mile leg through the cobblestoned streets of Rome that concluded next to the Roman Forum.

Mark Cavendish, who recently announced that he will retire at the end of this season, won the 21st and final stage in a sprint finish.

Roglic, who rides for the Jumbo-Visma team, finished 14 seconds ahead of Thomas and 1 minute, 15 seconds ahead of Joao Almeida in the overall standings.

It’s the smallest finishing gap between the top riders in the Giro since Eddy Merckx won by 12 seconds ahead of Gianbattista Baronchelli in 1974.

Roglic’s time trial victory on Monte Lussari was his only stage win of the race. He was injured after crashing on a wet and slippery descent in Stage 11, one of several falls he had during the three-week race.

It was Cavendish’s 17th career stage win in the Giro, to go with his 34 victories at the Tour de France and three at the Vuelta — for a total of 54 stage wins at Grand Tours. The British rider started his sprint early enough that he was ahead of a crash in the final straight involving several competitors.

Also, at age 38 Cavendish became the oldest rider to win a Giro stage, beating the record held by Paolo Tiralongo, who was 37 when he won a stage in 2015.

“It was a long hard slog to get here to the end of the Giro but we’ve come close a couple of times before and my boys did incredible,” Cavendish said. “I’m pretty emotional, to be fair.

“My first Grand Tour victory was in 2008 in the Giro, down in Reggio Calabria,” Cavendish added. “To win here in Rome it’s beautiful. That’s a bucket-list win to do, outside the Colosseum.”

Alex Kirsch finished second in the stage and Filippo Fiorelli crossed third.

Cavendish will next attempt to break his tie with Merckx for the most career wins at the Tour.

Roglic has now won all three races he’s entered this year after also finishing first in the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya — both week-long races.

Roglic, who excels at climbing, descending and time trialing — won three consecutive Vueltas in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Before he became a professional cyclist, the 33-year-old Roglic was a competitive ski jumper. He won a gold medal in the team jumping event for Slovenia at the 2007 junior Nordic ski world championships. He stopped jumping in 2012 and took up cycling.

The final stage concluded with six loops of an 8.5-mile circuit in the center of Rome, taking the peloton past the Baths of Caracalla, the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Circus Maximus.

The 24-year-old Almeida won the white jersey as the race’s top under-25 rider. Thibaut Pinot won the mountains classification and Jonathan Milan won the points classification.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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