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Wimbledon

Wimbledon 2023: Azarenka booed off court for failing to offer Ukraine’s Svitolina obligatory handshake

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Win or lose, Victoria Azarenka knew there would be no handshake offered by Ukrainian rival Elina Svitolina at the end of Sunday’s Wimbledon contest that had been billed as the ‘battle of the mums’.

What the Belarusian did not expect was to be booed off court after she had played her part in entertaining the Court One crowd for close to three hours in an exhilarating contest that needed a third-set match tiebreak to decide the winner.

A puzzled Azarenka was left bemused and shaking her head as she struggled to understand why the crowd had suddenly turned hostile on her.

After stopping in her tracks to face the jeering fans, she banged both fists together above her head and departed the arena with the boos still ringing around her ears.

Calling the reaction “unfair”, Azarenka did not want to make a big deal of it, realising that perhaps the crowd were not aware as to why she did not offer to shake hands with Svitolina at the end of the fourth round match

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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow using Belarus as a staging ground for what it calls a “special military operation”, Svitolina has stuck to her stance of not shaking hands with players from both countries.

Asked in a press conference if she felt that she was being victimised by the crowd, Azarenka snapped: “Victim? Victim that somebody didn’t shake my hand? Please. I think we’ve got bigger…

“I can’t control the crowd. I’m not sure that a lot of people were understanding what’s happening, so… It’s probably been a lot of Pimm’s throughout the day.”

No matter how harshly she felt done by the crowd, she refused to blame Svitolina for her predicament.

“I know Elina for a very long time. I’ve always had a good relationship with her. And the circumstances, it is what it is, and that’s it,” said Azarenka, who turned up for her press conference hiding her eyes behind a pair of dark sunglasses.

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“I haven’t done anything wrong, but keep getting different treatment sometimes.

“She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited?

“There’s no thing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision. But this conversation about shaking hands is not a life-changing conversation.”

While it seemed everyone was only focussing on the events that unfolded after Svitolina had sealed her place in the last eight with an ace, Azarenka felt the on-court duel deserved more plaudits.

“I thought it was a great tennis match. If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or crowd, quite drunk crowd, booing in the end, that’s a shame,” she said.

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Svitolina thought such situations could be avoided if tournament organisers issued a statement to fans to make clear that “there will be no handshake between Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian players.”

“Some people do not really know what is happening. So I think this is the right way to do,” the Ukrainian said.

-Reuters

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Wimbledon

I’ve never faced a player like Alcaraz, says beaten Djokovic

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Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 16, 2023 Serbia's Novak Djokovic with Spain's Carlos Alcaraz after losing the final REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Novak Djokovic has experienced everything possible on a tennis court during his trophy-laden 23-year career but said he has never faced a player quite like Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz de-throned the 36-year-old Serb on Centre Court on Sunday, winning a riveting Wimbledon final with a game-style Djokovic later described as like facing a blend of the big three — himself, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.

Subduing it proved beyond even his powers as his quest for a record-equalling eighth Wimbledon title and fifth in a row was thwarted, as was his bid to match Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles.

In winning his first Wimbledon, to go with his 2022 U.S. Open triumph against Casper Ruud, Alcaraz erased any doubts about his world number one status and avenged his cramp-affected loss to Djokovic in the French Open semi-final.

Djokovic, who had suffered only two Wimbledon defeats since losing to Andy Murray in the 2013 final, said he was surprised at how quickly the 20-year-old Alcaraz had mastered playing on all the sport’s surfaces.

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“I didn’t expect him to play so well this year on grass, but he’s proven he’s the best player in the world,” Djokovic said after his 1-6 7-6(6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 defeat.

“I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa, and myself. I would agree with that.

“He’s got basically the best of all three worlds. He’s got this Spanish bull mentality, fighting spirit and incredible defence that we’ve seen with Rafa. I think he’s got some nice sliding backhands, some similarities with my backhands.

Djokovic, who looked irritated at times with the pro-Alcaraz crowd, was magnanimous in defeat. But he admitted there were some regrets after lacking his usual clinical ability to take chances when they came his way at crucial moments.

After outplaying Alcaraz in a one-sided first set, Djokovic then slugged out an 85-minute second and had a point for a two-set lead in the tiebreak but dumped a backhand into the net.

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After battling back into the match and taking the fourth set, Djokovic then looked odds on to break serve for a 2-0 lead in the decider but made a hash of a high forehand volley.

Minutes later he dropped his own serve and disintegrated his racket into the net post in frustration.

“In the tiebreak in the second, the backhands kind of let me down,” he said. “Set point, I missed the backhand. A little bit of a bad bounce, but I should not have missed that shot.

“Then 6-6, another backhand from middle of the court in the net. That’s it. The match shifted to his side and I wasn’t myself for quite some time.

“I managed to regroup and regain the momentum midway in the fourth. I felt that the momentum shifted to my side. That break point (in the fifth), I think I played a really good point, but it was very windy and the wind took it to an awkward place where I couldn’t hit the smash.”

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Djokovic received a warning for his racket-smashing antics, having had one for taking too long to serve at the heart of the second-set tiebreak. He was fortunate that the flying chunks of his racket did not make contact with an official or a fan.

“There’s not much to talk about that. It was frustration,” said Djokovic, who left a sizeable dent in the net post.

-Reuters

 

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Wimbledon

All hail Alcaraz as he ends Djokovic’s long Wimbledon reign in thriller

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Spain's Carlos Alcaraz celebrates with the trophy after winning his final match against Serbia's Novak Djokovic. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Carlos Alcaraz heralded the changing of the guard in men’s tennis as he ended Novak Djokovic’s long reign at Wimbledon with a rip-roaring 1-6 7-6(6) 6-1 3-6 6-4 victory to win the All England Club title for the first time on Sunday.

The 36-year-old Serbian had been indestructible on Wimbledon’s Centre Court for a decade but finally met his match as he ran out of ideas to stop young gun Alcaraz from hurtling towards the title.

After the 20-year-old had broken for a 2-1 lead in the fifth set with a stupendous passing shot winner, Djokovic’s racket felt the full force of his anger as he smashed it against the wooden net post to leave it in a mangled mess.

That earned Djokovic a second warning in the contest, with the world number two having also been cautioned earlier for taking too much time to launch into his serves.

All that distraction failed to throw Alcaraz off course as he became the youngest man since 18-year-old Boris Becker in 1986 to win the Challenge Cup after Djokovic scooped a forehand into the net, leaving the Spaniard to collapse on to his back in his moment of triumph.

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“It’s a dream come true for me. It’s great to win … making history in this beautiful tournament,” Alcaraz said as he cradled the trophy during the presentation ceremony.

To sum up what it meant to play a part in a match billed as the “collision of generations” Alcaraz then paid tribute to the man who was denied a fifth Wimbledon title in a row.

“I have to congratulate Novak. It’s amazing to play against him. You inspire me. (When) I was born, you were winning tournaments.”

FAST START

Djokovic, who won his first ATP title when Alcaraz was three years old, looked well on his way to winning a men’s record-equalling eighth Wimbledon crown when he blew away his rival in the opening set.

Playing in front of James Bond actor Daniel Craig, Djokovic must have thought he had left his rival shaken and stirred as he scorched into a 5-0 lead in the blink of an eye.

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But once Alcaraz had managed to loosen his limbs and register his name on the scoreboard after 32 minutes, the contest the world was waiting to see finally came alive.

Showing he was ready and waiting to tame the man he had described as “physically a beast; mentally a beast” in the run up to the final, the Spaniard broke for the first time for a 2-0 lead in the second.

But Djokovic is not known for being a human backboard for nothing and, with so much riding on this result – the Serbian was also looking to draw level with Margaret Court’s all-time record haul of 24 majors – he let out a mighty roar that shook Centre Court when he broke back in the next game.

That got the adrenaline pumping through both players as they were soon caught up exchanging brutal strokes in a breathtaking 29-shot rally that ended with Alcaraz firing a backhand long.

With the fans hollering after every Alcaraz winner, and the Serbian’s errors, a defiant Djokovic cupped his ear urging the crowd to show him a bit of respect.

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HIGH DRAMA

The second set was dripping with drama as Djokovic was left slipping and sliding time and again as he tried to cope with a feast of Alcaraz dropshots that kept coming his way.

At 3-3, Djokovic was left rolling on the turf after he stumbled over while chasing down one such effort.

Although he managed to get the ball over the net, he was still lying flat on his back and could only watch in awe as the ball came back into his half of the court after Alcaraz volleyed a winner with almost his back to the net.

The cheering crowd leapt to their feet to salute the young pretender who was starting to feel more and more at home on the slick surface as he looked to end Djokovic’s incredible 34-match winning streak on the most famous stage tennis has to offer.

With neither player daring to blink, the set rolled into a tiebreak where Djokovic was left quietly fuming on the baseline at 4-5 down after getting a time violation warning from umpire Fergus Murphy for taking more than the allowed 25 seconds.

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Two points later the Serbian stood on the cusp of grabbing a two-sets-to-love lead but it was not meant to be.

Instead, Alcaraz was saluted by the roaring crowd as he produced a blazing down the line service return to win one of the highest quality sets seen at this year’s championships.

The chants of “Carlos, Carlos, Carlos” rose to a crescendo when, at 3-1 up in the third set, Alcaraz stretched Djokovic to 13 deuces before finally breaking on his seventh break point in a mental and physical battle that dragged on for 26 minutes.

That punched a hole through Djokovic’s aura of invincibility and, although the second seed came back to take the fourth set, his mind and body let him down in the fifth, leaving U.S. Open champion Alcaraz to celebrate a second Grand Slam triumph.

“I thought I’d have trouble with you only on clay and hard courts but maybe not on grass but now it’s a different story from this year obviously. Congrats. Amazing way to adapt to the surface,” Djokovic told his conqueror.

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“You played maybe once or twice before this year’s Wimbledon on grass and it’s amazing just what you did.”

-Reuters

 

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Wimbledon

Searle ends Britain’s 61-year wait for Wimbledon boys’ singles success

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Henry Searle ended Britain’s 61-year wait for a boys’ singles title at Wimbledon when he beat Russian fifth seed Yaroslav Demin 6-4 6-4 in the final on Sunday.

Searle, who fired nine aces and 22 winners to wrap up the win in 83 minutes, claimed the title without dropping a set in the tournament.

“It’s amazing to play on Court One,” said the 17-year-old Searle, who beat four seeded players en route to the title.

“It’s a pretty special feeling, it’s not going to come too often. I’m going to enjoy it in front of this crowd. I’ll keep working hard and we’ll see what happens.”

Britain’s last boys’ title at the grasscourt Grand Slam came when Stanley Matthews, son and namesake of the Ballon d’Or-winning footballer, won in 1962.

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-Reuters

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