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Coronavirus-hit Berrettini pulls out of Wimbledon as Swiatek extends streak

LONDON: Title contender Matteo Berrettini was forced to pull out of Wimbledon on Tuesday after testing positive for coronavirus as women’s top seed Iga Swiatek extended her winning streak to 36 matches. Elsewhere on day two of the Championships, Serena Williams prepared to return to singles tennis after a year away and Rafael Nadal was due to begin his quest to win the third leg of a potential calendar Grand Slam. The early action at the All England Club on Tuesday was overshadowed by the announcement from Berrettini – last year’s runner-up – that he was out of the event.

“I am heartbroken to announce that I need to withdraw from @wimbledon due to a positive COVID-19 test result,” the 26-year-old Italian wrote on Instagram. Berrettini was widely regarded as one of the biggest threats to defending champion Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, having captured back-to-back grass-court titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s. He is the second man to withdraw from Wimbledon with COVID in two days after 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic of Croatia also tested positive.

“I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel,” Berrettini, seeded eighth, said in his statement. “The dream is over for this year, but I will be back stronger.” The Italian was a potential semi-final opponent for two-time champion Nadal. His place in the Wimbledon first round will be taken by Sweden’s Elias Ymer, a lucky loser from qualifying. Wimbledon has returned to normal this year after the tournament was cancelled due to COVID in 2020 and last year was played in front of reduced crowds.

The All England Club said in a statement that protocols remained in place to minimize the risk of infection. “We are following UK guidance around assessment and isolation of any potential infectious disease,” the statement said. “Our player medical team also continue to wear face masks for any consultation.” Poland’s world number one Swiatek coasted into the second round with a routine 6-0, 6-3 against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett.

The French Open champion, who has won her past six tournaments, said she was relishing the atmosphere at the grass-court tournament. “I feel I have only played 12 weeks of my life on grass but the whole atmosphere and tradition is pumping me up and just looking forward to the next matches,” she said. Also in the women’s draw, fourth seed Paula Badosa of Spain beat American Louisa Chirico for the loss of just three games.

In this file photo, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini returns against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their men’s singles final match in Wimbledon.- AFP

Alcaraz fights back

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic became the first player to win 80 matches at all four Grand Slams as he made a successful start to his Wimbledon title defence on Monday while teenage star Carlos Alcaraz battled over five sets to make the second round. Six-time champion and top seed Djokovic saw off South Korea’s Kwon Soo-woo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. But 20-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic was made to work after falling a break down in the opening two sets against his 81st-ranked opponent. “Now we have got to 80 wins, let’s get to 100,” said Djokovic. Djokovic, 35, is attempting to win a fourth successive Wimbledon title and join a select group.

In the Open era, only Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have managed such a streak at the All England Club. Next up for Djokovic is Thanasi Kokkanikis. “Novak is kind of a brick wall,” said the Australian. Alcaraz, a potential quarter-final opponent for Djokovic, came back from two sets to one down to defeat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. The 19-year-old fired 30 aces and 73 winners in a dazzling display of shot-making to win 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4. “Last year, I played five sets in the first round here as well so this shows how much I like grass,” joked Alcaraz.

‘Lunch or siesta’

Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina knocked out 2021 semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz courtesy of the tournament’s first final-set 10-point tiebreak. World number 37 Davidovich Fokina triumphed over the seventh-seeded Pole 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (10/8) in a match interrupted twice by rain. “When the rain came at 5-5 in the third set, I didn’t know whether to have lunch or take a siesta,” admitted 2017 junior champion Davidovich Fokina, who needed five match points to seal the win.

Two-time Andy Murray also made it through, coming from a set down to see off Australia’s James Duckworth, who hasn’t registered a single win in 2022. Murray won 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. “I’m getting on a bit now so don’t know how many more chances I’ll get to play on Centre Court,” said the 35-year-old. Around two hours of play was lost on Monday due to rain-and 10 matches cancelled-but that did not faze new women’s world number two Ons Jabeur. – AFP

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