Moving On, Novak Djokovic Hopes To Be A Wiser Player

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Novak Djokovic held his first news conference since he was disqualified from the US Open on Monday. The occasion was media day for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Djokovic said he hopes to be a “wiser” player.

According to the World No. 1 from Serbia, he said he saw the incident of his being defaulted from his fourth-round US Open match for accidentally striking a ball that hit a lineswoman in the throat as an opportunity to improve upon the mental side of his game.

“I’m working mentally and emotionally as hard as I am physically, trying to be the best version of myself on the court, off the court,” said Djokovic, who is the No. 1 seed this week in Rome. “I understand that I have outbursts and it’s the personality and kind of player that I have always been.

“Obviously I went through ups and downs in my career, managing to control my emotions more or less. But you’re alone out there, it’s a lot of intensity, a lot of pressure, and. You have to deal with all of that.

“I cannot promise or I cannot guarantee that I will never ever do anything similar to that in my life. I don’t know. I mean, I definitely am going to try my best that something like that never happens again, obviously.”

Djokovic has accepted responsibility for his actions and understands why he was disqualified by the tournament referee. “The rules are clear when it comes to that. I accepted it, and I had to move on,” he said.

Until the moment of his outburst, Djokovic was in the midst of an undefeated season and had been favored to win his 18th major title. Instead, his ouster created an opportunity for No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem, who won a thrilling five-set final over Alexander Zverev to capture  his first Grand Slam title.

Looking ahead, Djokovic said, “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 – of course, during the point.”

Djokovic will face wild card entry Salvatore Caruso in the second round in his first match back since being defaulted at the US Open. The 87th-ranked Italian defeated American qualifier Tennys Sandgren, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), on Tuesday at empty Foro Italico.

Simona Halep can relate to Dominic Thiem

World No. 2 Simona Halep, who is the top seed this week in Rome, was asked during a virtual press conference if she was rooting for Dominic Thiem even more because she could relate to the struggle of winning a first major.

“Yes, exactly. I have been there. I have been three times down in the finals, and then I won it. So, I feel like he’s really deserving it,” she said.

Halep, who faces 99th-ranked Italian wild card Jasmine Paolini in Wednesday’s second round, said she had no regrets about missing the US Open. “Of course, I’m sad that I didn’t play. It’s normal. But I feel like my decision was great for the health issues and to feel like relaxed inside. I always take these decisions just related to myself, how I feel mentally and stuff like this. So, it’s all good.”

As to her playing Rome this week (where she is reunited with her coach Darren Cahill) and the French Open week after next, Halep said she’s closer to her home country of Romania, “so in Europe it’s easier to travel. … Yeah, I’m a little bit scared of what is going on in the world, but here I feel safe. Everything is well-cared really well. We cannot leave the hotel; we cannot leave the bubble. We have a better chance here at the club, because it’s really big and now we can enjoy it. … I feel ready to start the tournament, and also looking forward to the French Open. But for the moment, I’m focusing just on this week.”

Rafael Nadal is ready to play

On Tuesday evening, Rome men’s No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal posted a simple photo of himself masked. Soon, it went viral.

ATP Rome – Tuesday at a glance

Italian teen Lorenzo Musetti stunned three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 6-0, 7-6 (2), in a first-round featured match Tuesday night at Foro Italico. It was the 18-year-old qualifier Musetti’s first tour-level victory. Musetti became the first player born in 2002 to win on the ATP Tour.

“I kept thinking, I’m up a set and a break against Wawrinka, and he’s starting to click now,” said Musetti, ranked 249th, who needed a wild card just to get into the qualifying tournament. “Everything was in place for me to fail. But I’ve been working on the mental aspect of the game the most, and I’ve improved a lot over the last month.

“To win my first match here in Rome – unfortunately without fans – I don’t have words to describe it.”

Also advancing to the second round were No. 9 seed Andrey Rublev, No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 13 seed Milos Raonic.

WTA Rome – Tuesday at a glance

As the first round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia continued at Foro Italico Tuesday, No. 15 seed Angelique Kerber was upset by No. 61 Katerina Siniakova, 6-3, 6-1. Meanwhile, No. 9 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, No. 12 seed Marketa Vondrousova, No. 14 seed Anett Kontaveit and unseeded and 53rd-ranked Coco Gauff were among those who advanced to the second round.

Muguruza hit 22 winners and easily beat No. 33 Sloane Stephens, 6-3, 6-3; Vondrousova defeated No. 80 Misaki Doi, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4; Kontaveit bested No. 45 Caroline Garcia, 6-3, 7-6 (1), and Gauff upset No. 34 Ons Jabeur, 6-4, 6-3.

The props keep coming for Thiem …

… And for Osaka, too

Tears for Sascha

Wimbledon – Serving from 2021

By the numbers

Novak Djokovic on Pete Sampras: “Pete was my childhood idol growing up, so of course surpassing his records is very special to me. I always looked up to him, and I wished to be mentally strong and resilient as he is, especially in the big tournaments, in the big moments. You know, he’s one of the mentally most composed and toughest players ever to hold a racquet. 

“[Pete] being a No. 1 in the world for so many weeks, you know, proves how tough he was.”

What they’re saying

Andrea Petkovic / My hot takes

What they’re sharing on social media

Mihaela Buzarnescu / New week 

Sofia Kenin / So good to be back in Rome

Daniil Medvedev / Lunch between practices

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