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Naomi Osaka
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Naomi Osaka to miss French Open

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Naomi Osaka will miss the French Open that starts on Sept. 27, citing a sore hamstring and the tight turnaround from winning the U.S. Open last Saturday.

“My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have enough time to prepare for the clay — these 2 tournaments came too close to each other for me this time,” was posted on Osaka’s social media.

Osaka played U.S. Open matches with her left hamstring wrapped after withdrawing before the Western & Southern Open final last month due to a hamstring injury.

Osaka, who also won the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Australian Open, lost in the third round at Roland Garros the last two years.

Reigning French Open champion Ash Barty of Australia previously announced she will not play in Paris, citing health risks of traveling during the coronavirus pandemic and an inability to train with her coach, who is in a different Australian state.

The top women’s seeds at the French Open are expected to be Romanian Simona Halep and Czech Karolina Pliskova.

MORE: Slovenia is dominating the Tour de France

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Dominic Thiem wins U.S. Open epic, buries ghosts of past Slam finals

Dominic Thiem
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Seven months ago, Dominic Thiem said it would count more if he won his first Grand Slam with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic still around.

What’s the value of this one?

Thiem, the second-seeded Austrian, rallied past German Alexander Zverev 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the U.S. Open final to become a major champion without having to go through any of the men who have combined for 56 major titles.

“It doesn’t matter at the end who did I beat or which tournament it is,” Thiem said late Sunday night. “We both didn’t face one of the Big Three, so I guess that was in the back of the head for both of us. That’s why we were on nerves.”

If the final wasn’t always beautiful tennis, the title was still hard-earned.

Zverev, the 23-year-old face of the next generation, bullied a nervous Thiem in the first set. But he began hiccuping late in the second. Still, he broke Thiem to go up 2-1 in the third. But he allowed Thiem to break right back and work his way into a match that lasted four hours, one minute.

“I’m playing bad, I’m way too tight, legs are heavy, arms are heavy,” Thiem said. “But I always had hope and the expectation that at one point I free up. Luckily it was not too late.”

In the fifth, each man was broken while serving for the match, forcing the tiebreak.

For years, Thiem, Zverev and others battled unsuccessfully to unseat the legends. The fight extended as both men cramped. Zverev hit a 68 mile-per-hour serve, and won the point. He also double-faulted twice.

Thiem finally ended it on his third championship point, becoming the first man to win the U.S. Open final from two sets down since Pancho Gonzales in 1949. The last man to do it in any major final was Argentine Gaston Gaudio at the 2004 French Open (the last major without a Big Three member in the semifinals).

“The match was really tough, like a drama, like a movie until the end,” said Nicolas Massu, Thiem’s Chilean coach who swept singles and doubles gold medals at the 2004 Olympics.

Thiem became the first man to win his first Slam in six years and the first major champion other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic in four years. He’s the first player born in the 1990s to win a Slam and the second Austrian, after Thomas Muster, who took the 1995 French Open.

(Coincidentally, Austria failed to win an individual Alpine skiing World Cup season title this year. The last time that happened? 1995.)

Federer (knee injury) and Nadal (travel concerns) missed the Open. Djokovic was defaulted in the fourth round last Sunday for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Thiem became a co-favorite with Russian Daniil Medvedev, whom he throttled in a semifinal sweep Friday night. All week, Thiem downplayed any difference in not having the Big Three in the bubble.

“It doesn’t matter if I play one of the Big Three members or if I play somebody else,” he said before the final. “From the moment Novak was out of the tournament, it was clear that there’s going to be a new Grand Slam champion. From that moment on, that was also out of my mind.”

No doubt Thiem paid his dues.

He played three previous Grand Slam finals, losing to Nadal twice at the French Open and to Djokovic at the Australian Open in February. Nadal is a record 12-time French Open champion (going for 13 starting in two weeks). Djokovic is a record eight-time Australian Open champion.

“I really hope, also, that I win my maiden slam when they’re still around,” Thiem said after falling to Djokovic in five sets in Melbourne, “because it just counts more.”

This one counts plenty.

Thiem entered a Slam final as the favorite for the first time after dropping one set over his first six matches. He admitted afterward that the thought of losing — and dropping to 0-4 in Slam finals — was in his head.

“It’s always in your head,” he said. “Is this chance ever coming back again? This, that, all these thoughts, which are not great to play your best tennis, to play free.”

As time goes on, the details will fade. Who was there, who wasn’t. How Thiem played.

But this fact will endure: Thiem is a major champion.

“I expect that it’s going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments,” he said. “I had a great career so far, way better career than I could ever dreamt of, but until today there was still a big part, a big goal missing.

“I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it.”

MORE: How Jay-Z, Beyonce helped Naomi Osaka come out of her shell

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Novak Djokovic admits outbursts, will never forget U.S. Open default

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ROME — Novak Djokovic learned “a big lesson” after being disqualified from the U.S. Open for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.

The incident eight days ago marked a stunning end to Djokovic’s 29-match winning streak and his bid for an 18th Grand Slam title.

“I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I am working physically,” Djokovic said Monday at the Italian Open. “I’m trying to be the best version of myself on the court and off the court and I understand that I have outbursts and this is kind of the personality and the player that I have always been.

“I’m going to take this in as profound as possible for me as a big lesson. I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been comprehending. I’ve been talking to my team. It’s just one of these things that is just unfortunate and happens. You have to move on.”

The disqualification came during Djokovic’s fourth-round match against Pablo Carreño Busta.

As he walked to the Arthur Ashe Stadium sideline for a changeover, trailing Carreño Busta 6-5 in the first set, Djokovic — who was seeded and ranked No. 1 and an overwhelming favorite for the championship — angrily smacked a ball behind him. The ball flew right at the line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court and reached for her neck.

“It was totally unexpected and very unintended as well,” Djokovic said. “When you hit a ball like that you have a chance to hit somebody that is on the court. The rules are clear. So I accepted it. I had to move on and that’s what I did.

“Of course I did not forget about it,” Djokovic added. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget about it, because it’s one of those things that stays in your memory for the rest of your life. But I don’t think I’ll have any major issues coming back to the tour and being able to perform well and hit the tennis ball.”

Djokovic has an opening-round bye in Rome. His first match this week will come against either Italian wild-card entry Salvatore Caruso or a qualifier.

The tournament at the Foro Italico was rescheduled from May because of the coronavirus pandemic and will be played without fans in attendance.

Nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal is on the opposite side of the draw from Djokovic, marking the Spaniard’s return to tennis after a seven-month break.

Like at the U.S. Open, players are being kept in a protective “bubble” and being tested frequently for the coronavirus. But as opposed to the situation in New York, players are not required to wear masks when they enter and leave the court.

“All of the players have been tested, so that makes total sense,” sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas said. “And they don’t have people running around telling you what do and what protocol you have to follow every single minute that you’re in the bubble.

“Plus,” Tsitsipas added, “the accommodation is another level.”

Men’s players are staying at the five-star Rome Cavalieri, which overlooks the city center from a hilltop.

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