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Novak Djokovic '50-50' on whether to play at Tokyo Olympics

Novak Djokovic '50-50' on whether to play at Tokyo Olympics

Novak Djokovic says he’s still undecided on whether he will play at the Tokyo OlympicsBy MATTIAS KARÉN Associated PressJuly 11, 2021, 8:42 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWIMBLEDON, England — Even with a chance to complete a so-called “Golden Slam,” Novak Djokovic isn’t sure he’ll be playing at the Tokyo Olympics.The lack of fans and the tight coronavirus restrictions in Tokyo means Djokovic remains on the fence about traveling to Japan.“I’ll have to think about it,” Djokovic said after winning Wimbledon on Sunday. “My plan was always to go to Olympic Games. But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50-50 because of what I heard in the last couple days.”That includes the news that there won’t be fans in the stands. And that the tight restrictions will mean he can only bring a limited number of people as part of his personal team.“That was really disappointing to hear,” Djokovic said.Rafael Nadal has already said he will not be playing in Tokyo, while Roger Federer has not yet made a decision.The top-ranked Djokovic beat Matteo Berrettini in four sets to earn his third straight Grand Slam title after the Australian Open and French Open — and record-equaling 20th in total.If he wins in Tokyo and at the U.S. Open, he’d be the first male tennis player to complete a “Golden Slam” — all four Grand Slam tournaments and the Olympics in the same calendar year.Steffi Graf is the only woman to have done it, in 1988.Rod Laver was the last man to win all four Grand Slams in the same calendar year, in 1969.Goran Ivanisevic, who is on Djokovic’s coaching team, would like to see the Serb add his name to the list.“If somebody can win a Golden Slam, that’s him,” Ivanisevic said. “First time in his career, winning three in a row in the same year, having chance to win four. I mean, that would be unbelievable.”———More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Hurkacz faces idol Federer in 1st Grand Slam quarterfinal

Hurkacz faces idol Federer in 1st Grand Slam quarterfinal

WIMBLEDON, England — Hubert Hurkacz was 6 years old when Roger Federer won his first Wimbledon title.On Wednesday, at the age of 24, Hurkacz will try to foil Federer’s latest attempt at winning a ninth.As if playing in a first Grand Slam quarterfinal wasn’t special enough, Hurkacz will be on Centre Court going up against the player that he — and a generation of tennis players like him — grew up idolizing.“Roger, what he does, the way he plays, the titles he has won — he has inspired so many people,” Hurkacz said. “Being out there playing quarterfinals against him, it’s really amazing.”The Polish player earned that matchup by coming from behind to beat No. 2-seeded Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. That match resumed Tuesday under the roof on Centre Court after being suspended overnight in the fourth set because of rain; it had started at No. 2 Court, which does not have a retractable cover.It was the only fourth-round match that wasn’t completed Monday, which means Hurkacz is the only man who won’t get a full day’s rest before the quarterfinals.What he did get, though, was a chance to play on Centre Court for the first time. That may be even more important when it comes to preparing for the 39-year-old Federer — who has been a regular on that particular court for the last two decades.“I think actually playing today might have helped me because I got used to the indoor conditions, the conditions on the big court, how the ball bounces there, all the crowd,” Hurkacz said.That crowd, which was at full capacity for the first time this year after COVID-19 restrictions were eased, certainly appreciated his old-school style of attacking the net often against the big-hitting Medvedev. Hurkacz won 50 points at the net, including 10 when playing serve-and-volley.That may not be enough to win over the crowd against Federer, the perennial fan favorite.“I’ll be hoping to get a little bit of support,” Hurkacz said with a laugh.Hurkacz has played Federer once before, losing in straight sets in the Indian Wells quarterfinals in 2019.They’ll play after two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic faces Marton Fucsovics of Hungary on Centre Court.In the other quarterfinals, No. 10 Denis Shapovalov plays No. 25 Karen Khachanov and No. 7 Matteo Berrettini takes on No. 16 Felix Auger-Aliassime. Those matches will be played on No. 1 Court, which also has a retractable roof. That could come in handy: More rain is in the forecast.LEARNING EXPERIENCEA day after retiring from her fourth-round match with breathing problems, British teenager Emma Raducanu wanted people to know she’s doing just fine.And that she’ll be coming back stronger.The 18-year-old Raducanu went from ranked 338th and relatively unknown to Wimbledon’s latest crowd favorite after an unexpected run to the fourth round. But she had to stop when trailing Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 3-0 on Monday in a match placed on No. 1 Court in prime time.“I think the whole experience caught up with me,” Raducanu said in a statement she posted on social media. “Last night will go a long way to helping me learn what it takes to perform at the top.”In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Raducanu said she was given medical advice to stop playing.“I found it very difficult to regulate my breath. I think it was emphasized by some very long rallies we had towards the end of the first set which made it tough for me to keep my composure and the breathing in check,” she said. “I don’t know what caused it. I think that it was a combination of everything that has gone on behind the scenes in the last week. And accumulation of the excitement, the buzz.”Raducanu was playing in just her second tour-level event. She said the biggest crowd she had played in front of before Wimbledon was “maybe 100 people or something.”Her retirement caused quite a stir in Britain, with many questioning whether organizers had done the inexperienced teenager a disservice by placing her on such a prominent stage.But Raducanu was already looking forward to playing in front of a packed Wimbledon crowd again.“I’ve had the best time of my life,” she said. “This whole week has just been absolutely incredible. I’ve never felt support like it.”A GAME AT LOVEAjla Tomljanovic is going to have to navigate a bit of a family conflict when it comes to the men’s quarterfinals.Her boyfriend is Matteo Berrettini, the No. 7 seed from Italy. Her cousin is dating Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 16 seed from Canada.Guess who play each other at the All England Club on Wednesday? Yep, it’ll be Berrettini vs. Auger-Aliassime with a berth in the semifinals at stake.Neither has been to the Wimbledon quarterfinals before.“I’m happy one of them will be through on Wednesday,” said Tomljanovic, who lost to No. 1 Ash Barty in an all-Australian women’s quarterfinal.“Of course, I’d rather see them in the final,” she added, “but I think it’s unbelievable that one of them will be in the semis.”Berrettini was in Tomljanonvic’s box to cheer her on during her quarterfinal Tuesday. She said she will be returning the favor.“I don’t have anything else to do,” she said. “I’m out. I think it’s my turn now.”———AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.———More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Morata scores as Spain beats Croatia 5-3 in extra time

Morata scores as Spain beats Croatia 5-3 in extra time

Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored in extra time to give Spain a 5-3 win over Croatia and a place in the European Championship quarterfinalsBy MATTIAS KARÉN Associated PressJune 28, 2021, 10:12 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCOPENHAGEN, Denmark — Spain first gifted Croatia a bizarre own-goal, then threw away a late 3-1 lead. Alvaro Morata made sure it didn’t matter in the end.Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal scored in extra time Monday to give Spain a 5-3 win over Croatia and a place in the European Championship quarterfinals after a wildly entertaining see-saw match at Parken Stadium.”I’ve lived through really intense matches as a player and manager but this one genuinely had a bit of everything,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said.It was the second-highest scoring game in the history of the European Championship, trailing only Yugoslavia’s 5-4 win over France in the opening game of the inaugural tournament in 1960.And it had nearly as many momentum shifts as goals.After Croatia midfielder Mario Pasalic equalized in injury time to cap an improbable late comeback, the much-maligned Morata scored what proved the winner in the 100th minute.The Spain striker controlled a cross with one deft touch and then sent a rising shot past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic for his second goal of the tournament.Oyarzabal doubled the lead three minutes later, receiving a pass in the middle of the area and holding off a defender before scoring.Morata had received a torrent of online abuse — including death threats — after a string of misses during the group stage. But his fierce finish from a tight angle proved decisive on Monday.“I don’t think there’s any coach in the world who wouldn’t admire a player like Morata,” Luis Enrique said. “He dominates in the air, he scores goals, he is physically powerful. He is a striker we should really value.”Spain had been knocked out in the round of 16 in its previous two tournaments but netted five goals for a second straight game after a slow start with two draws. The Spanish will play Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Friday in St. Petersburg. The Swiss beat World Cup champion France on penalties after also coming from 3-1 down in the final minutes.Croatia netted three goals for a second straight game but fell well short of replicating its feat of reaching the World Cup final in 2018.“At the start of extra time we had them on the ropes but we failed to score from two good chances,” Croatia captain Luka Modric said. “Then the game turned around and we didn’t have the strength to come back.”Not for a second time, anyway.Spain had led 3-1 in the 85th minute but Mislav Orsic pulled one back after a goalmouth scramble and Pasalic equalized with a header in injury time.Spain had dominated the first 20 minutes but goalkeeper Unai Simon was at fault for his team’s early deficit after a massive blunder when he failed to control a long back pass. The ball bounced over Simon’s foot and trickled into the net behind him.“We know that’s football and that those things happen,” Spain captain Sergio Busquets said. “The most important thing is to pick yourself up and show a strong mentality. And I think both Unai and the whole team did that today.”Spain quickly recovered and Pablo Sarabia equalized in the 38th. Right back Cesar Azpilicueta then made it 2-1 with a header in the 57th and Ferran Torres doubled the lead when he finished off a quick counterattack with a low shot past Livakovic in the 77th.It looked like Spain was heading for an easy win before Croatia fought back.“Boy, we had to suffer there,” Azpilicueta said. “It wasn’t great to be scored against twice late in normal time, but we were the better team in extra time and we deserve to go through.”Croatia’s late surge allowed both Morata and Simon to redeem themselves.The goalkeeper made a crucial save to deny Andrej Kramaric at the start of extra time, then got up and punched the air in celebration.“I think that when we missed that chance at 3-3 in extra time, that was the determining factor,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. “I think if we had scored a goal it would have been completely different.”Simon also made a big stop at 3-2 when he got down quickly to make a one-handed save on Josko Gvardiol’s shot from just outside the box.“We have complete confidence in (Simon),” Busquets said. “He was unlucky with that own-goal but Unai has a very laid-back mentality. He’s very ambitious at the same time and I think he showed that with his reaction, and with the saves he made.”———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

'Euphoria' for Denmark after difficult start at Euro 2020

'Euphoria' for Denmark after difficult start at Euro 2020

Kasper Schmeichel described his feelings after Denmark’s win over Russia at the European Championship as “euphoria.”By MATTIAS KARÉN Associated PressJune 22, 2021, 7:32 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCOPENHAGEN — Kasper Schmeichel described his feelings after Denmark’s win over Russia at the European Championship with one word.”Euphoria,” the goalkeeper said.That sense of unbridled joy is a nice feeling for a team that’s been through, as Schmeichel put it, ”a turbulent emotional roller coaster” at Euro 2020 but now has every reason to look forward with optimism.The 4-1 win over Russia secured a spot in the round of 16 for Denmark, where it will play Wales on Saturday in Amsterdam.”After the last 10-12 days that we’ve been through, it feels great to advance,” Schmeichel said. ”So much has happened, but now the Euros start in earnest for us. We have a chance to make this a really good tournament after a very, very difficult start.”That start, with Christian Eriksen suffering cardiac arrest during the opening game against Finland, has made Denmark a sentimental favorite for many fans even outside the country.In Denmark, it has made the entire nation unite even more than it usually would during a major soccer tournament. The crowd of 25,000 at Parken Stadium has carried the team forward in its last two games against Belgium and Russia, and the players took time to thank them in every section of the arena after Monday’s game.”I don’t think we could have done this without the support,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. ”It lifts the players, it lifts everything, and it just means so much to us.”Now, though, they have to find a way to win in a neutral venue, and against a team that reached the semifinals at Euro 2016.”They have great players,” Hjulmand said of Wales. ”It will be a very exciting and a very equal match.”Eriksen is widely considered Denmark’s best player and by far its most creative playmaker. But Hjulmand has adjusted to his absence by switching to a more defensively solid formation and it was 20-year-old Mikkel Damsgaard, who has replaced Eriksen in the starting lineup, who scored the opening goal against Russia.”It’s insane that we’re advancing,” Damsgaard said. ”It’s the greatest feeling ever.”Eriksen was released from the hospital on Friday and then went to visit his teammates before going home to continue his recovery with his family. Just like after the Belgium game, the Inter Milan midfielder sent a message to the team’s WhatsApp group right after the Russia win, defender Jens Stryger Larsen said.And it’s clear that Eriksen’s ordeal is still a massive source of motivation for this Denmark team.”We’ve been through so much in the time we’ve been together. We all agreed that this was not the last chapter in this story,” Denmark midfielder Christian Norgaard said. ”We must be allowed to enjoy the victory tonight and the feeling of moving on, after everything we have been through as a team. There was no doubt that this victory was also for Christian.”———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Denmark beats Russia 4-1 to advance at Euro 2020

Denmark beats Russia 4-1 to advance at Euro 2020

Denmark finally has a reason to celebrate at the European ChampionshipBy MATTIAS KARÉN Associated PressJune 21, 2021, 10:27 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCOPENHAGEN — After scoring a goal to help Denmark advance at the European Championship, Joakim Maehle walked straight to a TV camera and formed a “10” with his fingers.That was for Christian Eriksen.Maehle’s 82nd-minute goal put some extra gloss on a 4-1 win over Russia on Monday that gave Denmark second place in Group B and an automatic spot in the round of 16.After Eriksen’s collapse in the first game and two subsequent losses at home, Denmark finally was able to celebrate in front of their raucous and jubilant supporters at Parken Stadium.“If anyone deserves this, it’s our players,” Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand said. “I can’t imagine how they managed to come back from what they went through. So big credit to the boys.”Eriksen — who wears No. 10 for the national team — suffered cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator. He was released from the hospital on Friday.Denmark, Russia and Finland all finished with three points but the Danes had the better goal difference. Belgium won the group with nine points after beating Finland 2-0.Now a meeting with Wales awaits for Denmark in Amsterdam on Saturday. And a tournament that so nearly began with a tragedy could still turn into a triumph.Given all the team’s earlier misfortune, perhaps it was fitting that they were helped by a massive gift this time. After Mikkel Damsgaard put Denmark ahead in the 38th minute with a looping shot from outside the area, Yussuf Poulsen made it 2-0 in the 59th by pouncing on a massive defensive error. Roman Zobnin tried to play a back pass to his goalkeeper but instead gave the ball straight to the Denmark forward, who could put it into an empty net.“Every now and then you get lucky and the ball just lands right where you’re standing,” Poulsen said. “I think it’s the first time in my life I didn’t track back, and then I’m handed a gift.”Russia only needed a draw to advance and Artem Dzyuba got the visitors back in the match when he made it 2-1 from the penalty spot in the 70th.However, Andreas Christensen netted from outside the area in the 79th and Maehle finished off a quick counter to put the game beyond doubt.Russia had frustrated Denmark for much of the first half with its defensive tactics. But Damsgaard — who came into the starting lineup in Eriksen’s absence — produced the opener when he collected a pass from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, took one touch to create some space and unleashed a shot that sailed into the top corner.The 20-year-old Damsgaard became Denmark’s youngest scorer at a European Championship.The game then opened up considerably after the break as Russia had no choice but to push forward.“The second goal basically came out of nowhere and it did not give us much cause for optimism,” Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said. “Then we allowed two counterattacks and we paid for those with two goals.”Russia’s penalty came when Jannik Vestergaard tripped Alexander Sobolev in the area and Dzyuba slotted the spot kick straight down the middle.Christensen had only scored one international goal before — in 2017 — but ended Russia’s hopes of a comeback by firing in a rebound shortly after goalkeeper Matvei Safonov had made a double save.The Chelsea defender celebrated his goal by putting his hands to his ears.“It’s an internal joke we have,” Christensen said. “They call me the guy with the big ears.”After the final whistle, the whole Danish team formed a circle at the center of the field to follow the last minutes of the Belgium game before doing a lap of honor in front of their serenading supporters.“It’s a relief,” Maehle said, “and a redemption.”———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Eriksen's surprise visit gave 'good energy' to Denmark team

Eriksen's surprise visit gave 'good energy' to Denmark team

Christian Eriksen’s Denmark teammates say his visit came as a big surprise and that he gave them all a hug before having lunch with the teamBy MATTIAS KARÉN Associated PressJune 19, 2021, 10:06 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCOPENHAGEN — Christian Eriksen surprised the Denmark team with a visit in the middle of a training session and then gave them all a hug, his teammates said Saturday.Eriksen was discharged from a Copenhagen hospital on Friday and immediately went to see his teammates at their European Championship base camp outside the capital.Midfielder Christian Norgaard and defender Joakim Maehle said it came as a big surprise.“I didn’t know he was coming, so we stopped the training session when he arrived,” Norgaard said. “He seemed to be in good spirits, and it gave a good energy to the team. We were allowed to give him a hug, and it was great to see him walk around with his son. It was a good day in many ways. It was what we needed.”The 29-year-old Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest during Denmark’s first Euro 2020 game against Finland last Saturday and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator. His teammates formed a protective wall around him as he was getting treatment to shield him from public view.He was discharged from the hospital after being fitted with an implantable heart monitoring device that is meant to prevent similar incidents in the future.Maehle said Eriksen was accompanied by his partner and two young children during his visit. The Inter Milan midfielder had lunch with the team before going home to spend time with his family.“It was emotional because the last time we saw him he was lying there on the field being saved,” Maehle said. “We knew that Christian was OK but it’s completely different to see him in real life.”Denmark lost to Finland and Belgium in its first two games at Euro 2020 but still has a chance to advance from Group B with a win over Russia on Monday at Parken Stadium.Forward Andreas Skov Olsen said Eriksen’s visit will help the team focus fully on the Russia game.“It was so nice to see him standing right in front of you,” Skov Olsen said. “It’s important for us to know Christian is OK so we can concentrate on the rest of the tournament.”———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Eriksen released from hospital after 'successful' operation

Eriksen released from hospital after 'successful' operation

Christian Eriksen has been discharged from the hospital nearly a week after collapsing on the field during a European Championship matchBy MATTIAS KARÉN Associated PressJune 18, 2021, 4:43 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCOPENHAGEN — Christian Eriksen was discharged from the hospital on Friday and immediately went to visit his Denmark teammates nearly a week after suffering cardiac arrest during a European Championship match.The Danish soccer federation wrote on Twitter that Eriksen was released from the Rigshospitalet in central Copenhagen after a successful operation. The federation previously said Eriksen would be fitted with an ICD, an implantable device that can function as both a pacemaker and defibrillator.“The operation went well, and I am doing well under the circumstances,” Eriksen was quoted as saying in the tweet.The 29-year-old Eriksen has been in the hospital since collapsing on the field during his team’s opening Euro 2020 match against Finland on Saturday. His heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator.A tribute was held for him during Denmark’s second game against Belgium on Thursday, when play stopped after 10 minutes for a minute’s applause in the stadium.The Danish federation said Eriksen went to see the team Friday at its training base in Helsingor, outside Copenhagen, and would then go home to spend time with his family.”It was really great to see the guys again after the fantastic game they played last night,” Eriksen said in the tweet. “No need to say that I will be cheering on them on Monday against Russia.”Denmark lost its first two games but still has a chance to advance to the round of 16 with a win over Russia in its final Group B game.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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