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Protesters halt US Open semi-finals



Open - Flushing Meadows, New York, United States - September 7, 2023 Coco Gauff of the U.S. during her semi final match against Czech Republic's Karolina Muchova while the match is momentarily stopped due to protests in the stands. REUTERS/Mike SegarAcquire Licensing Rights  

Climate protesters halted the U.S. Open women’s semi-final between American Coco Gauff and Czech Karolina Muchova for nearly an hour on Thursday.

With Gauff up a set and holding serve to open the second, a disturbance erupted in the upper bowl of Arthur Ashe Stadium, the sport’s largest venue with a seating capacity of over 23,000.

Stacey Allaster, United States Tennis Association (USTA) Chief Executive Professional Tennis, told ESPN the disturbance involved three climate protesters.

The USTA later issued a statement confirming four were taken into NYPD custody.

“Three of the four protesters were escorted out of the stadium without further incident,” said the USTA statement. “The fourth protester affixed their bare feet to the floor of the seating bowl.


“Due to the nature of this action, NYPD and medical personnel were needed in order to safely remove this individual from the stadium.”

Photographs of the scene showed protesters wearing shirts with the slogan, ‘End Fossil Fuels’.

As players looked into the stands, security flooded into the section around where protesters were shouting. Television pictures showed more than a dozen law enforcement officers in the section.

Players were escorted off the court by a USTA official and returned for a warm-up 45 minutes later before play resumed.

Several major sporting events have been targeted by climate groups this year. ‘Just Stop Oil’ protesters interrupted play at Wimbledon in July, releasing orange ticker-tape mixed with jigsaw puzzle pieces during matches.








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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Djokovic wins US Open for record equalling 24th Grand Slam



Tennis - U.S. Open - Flushing Meadows, New York, United States - September 10, 2023 Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open REUTERS/Mike Segar Acquire Licensing Rights

Novak Djokovic would not let Daniil Medvedev spoil his date with history a second time as he battled past the Russian 6-3 7-6(5) 6-3 to win the U.S. Open on Sunday and equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slams.

Djokovic’s victory, his fourth in 10 Flushing Meadows finals, capped another remarkable season after his wins at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, and he will return to the top of the world rankings when they are updated later on Monday.

No man has won a calendar Grand Slam in 54 years, though Djokovic came close once again, losing in five sets to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.

But for the moment he is savouring his 24th Slam.

“It obviously means the world to me,” he said. “I’m really living my childhood dream.


“To make the history of this sport is something truly remarkable, it’s hard to describe the words.

“I had the childhood dream when I was seven, eight, I wanted to become the best player in the world.”

As he continues to live his dream Djokovic is also staking his claim to the mantle of greatest tennis player of all time.

At 36 Djokovic also becomes the oldest U.S. Open men’s winner in the Open Era but the Serb’s Grand Slam hunger has not dimmed and he had some bad news for his younger rivals.

“Eventually one day I will leave tennis in about 23, 24 years,” he joked. “Until then, I guess you’ll see me a bit more.


“I don’t put any number right now in my mind on how many Slams I want to win.

“I’ll continue to prioritize them as my most important tournaments and where I want to play the best tennis.”


After clinching his historic title on Sunday Djokovic threw his racquet into the air and dropped to his knees as the crowd roared.

He picked himself up and found his young daughter court-side for an emotional hug before going back to the bench and pulling out a T-shirt with ‘Mamba Forever’ on the front and the number 24 on the back.

The shirt was a tribute to both his achievement and to his late friend Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who wore the number throughout much of his all-star career before dying in a helicopter crash.


“I thought of doing this T-shirt, eventually, if I get the chance to win the tournament,” said Djokovic. “Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality.

“When I was struggling with injury he was one of the people I relied on the most.”

Neither Djokovic nor Medvedev have been fully embraced by the New York crowds and until the end of the match there was little of the electricity that crackled through Arthur Ashe during the women’s final on Saturday.

As the match started Djokovic walked out onto court and stared across the net at Medvedev, the man once again standing between him and history just as he had two years ago.

The last time the two clashed at the U.S. Open was in the 2021 final, when the Russian captured his only major and denied the Serb that elusive calendar Grand Slam.


Djokovic did not speak of revenge on the road to the final and only referenced that loss as a learning experience.

“I haven’t played any tournament on American soil for two years,” said Djokovic, who missed last year’s Slam due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I really did my best in the last 48 hours not to allow the importance of the moment and what’s on the line get to my head.

“Two years ago that’s what happened and I wasn’t able to be at my best and I was outplayed.

“So I learned my lesson.”



As expected of a contest featuring the sport’s two premier hardcourt players, almost every point was contested with long rallies as both men pounded away from the baseline.

Djokovic came out playing with purpose and applied pressure right away, breaking the third seed at the first opportunity on his way to a 3-0 lead.

That would be the only break Djokovic would need against a surprisingly flat Medvedev, who could not raise his play to the “12 out of 10” level he said he reached in beating defending champion Alcaraz in the semi-finals.

During a marathon one hour and 44 minute, lung-bursting second set Medvedev came to life, forcing a faltering Djokovic into long grinding point after long grinding point.

But the tireless Russian’s hard work failed to pay dividends and he was unable to convert a break chance at 6-5 that would have given him the set.


Medvedev charged in front 3-1 in the tie-break but again could not land the knockout blow as Djokovic came off the ropes to take it 7-5 for a 2-0 lead.

If there is one thing Djokovic possesses it is a killer instinct and the Serb wasted no time in pressing home his advantage, breaking Medvedev to go up 3-1 in the third.

A defiant Medvedev answered with his first and only break of the match but it was not enough with Djokovic hitting right back with another break then holding serve the rest of way to clinch the title.







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Djokovic-Medvedev U.S. Open final could be spellbinding affair



Novak Djokovic against Daniil Medvedev in the U.S. Open men’s final may not have been the showdown fans were dreaming of but it could still bring the Grand Slam season to a spellbinding conclusion on Sunday.

For weeks the tennis world was buzzing about seeing the red hot rivalry between Djokovic and holder Carlos Alcaraz in the Flushing Meadows final until Medvedev played the spoiler with a brilliant 7-6(3) 6-1 3-6 6-3 semi-final win over the Spaniard.

But what a final between former U.S. Open champion Medvedev and three-time winner Djokovic may lack in pizzazz it more than makes up for in pure quality with the world’s two best hard court players going toe-to-toe at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The contest also comes with some spicy sub plots as Djokovic hunts a fourth U.S. Open that would see him equal Margaret Court’s record haul of 24 Grand Slams and, along with it, a good measure of revenge against Medvedev.

On Sunday the Serb will look across the net at the same man standing between him and history as he did two years ago.


The last time Djokovic and Medvedev clashed at the U.S. Open was in the 2021 final, when the Russian captured his only major so far and denied the Serb a rare calendar Grand Slam.

It is a loss Djokovic has not forgotten and has learned from.

“Every time in a Grand Slam final it’s another shot for history and I’m aware of it,” said Djokovic, who will reclaim top spot in the world rankings on Monday.

“I don’t have much time nor do I allow myself to reflect on these things or think about the history too much.

“When I did that in the past, like, ’21 finals (against Medvedev) here I was maybe overwhelmed with the occasion and the opportunity and I underperformed.


“I don’t want this to happen again.”


Medvedev and Djokovic have both been tested en route to the final.

Second seed Djokovic, 36, fought back from two sets down to beat fellow Serb Laslo Djere in the third round but did not drop another set on the way to his 10th U.S. Open final.

Medvedev has spent much of time working the graveyard shift at Flushing Meadows with several of his matches starting late in the evening one day and finishing in the next.

The third seed’s toughest physical test came in the quarter-finals when he beat his daughter’s godfather Andrey Rublev in straight sets in brutal heat and humidity.


Medvedev said he had to raise his level to 12 out of 10 in the semi-finals to dethrone Alcaraz and would need to do the same or better against Djokovic.

“He (Djokovic) is always better than the previous time he plays,” said 27-year-old Medvedev, who will be appearing in his third U.S. Open final, having also lost to Rafa Nadal in 2019.

“Novak is going to be his best version on Sunday and I have to be the best-ever version of myself if I want to try to beat him.

“Novak, when he loses, he’s never the same after. He’s different. So I have to use it knowing that he’s going to be 10 times better than he was that day.

“And I have to be, if I want to still beat him, 10 times better than I was that day.”


While Djokovic and Medvedev are compelling figures, neither has been fully embraced by the New York crowds they have so desperately courted.

Not long ago Medvedev was Flushing Meadows’ public enemy number one for his on court antics that included giving the crowd the finger during a 2019 match.

Over the years Djokovic has had a love/hate relationship with New Yorkers that reached a low point during a 2020 match when he in a fit of frustration he inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat with a ball and was disqualified.

“At the end of the day, they buy tickets to come watch you play,” said Djokovic. “So we try to put on a show and perform for them so they go back home satisfied.”




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American teenager Coco Gauff fights back to beat Aryna Sabalenka and win U.S. Open



US Open - Flushing Meadows, New York, United States - September 9, 2023 Coco Gauff of the U.S. reacts during her final match against Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka REUTERS/Mike SegarAcquire Licensing Rights

Teenager Coco Gauff mounted a fierce comeback to beat Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka 2-6 6-3 6-2 in the U.S. Open women’s final on Saturday, claiming her first Grand Slam title and cementing her place in American tennis royalty.

With the win, sixth seed Gauff became the first American to win a U.S. Open singles title since Sloane Stephens in 2017.

Gauff, 19, fed off noisy local support as she fought back in the second set and kept the momentum going until the end of the battle, before falling to the court on Arthur Ashe Stadium as she clinched the title with a backhand winner.

Sabalenka had a superb start but could not keep the momentum going as unforced errors piled up and she closed her 2023 Grand Slam run, which included an Australian Open title and semi-finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, on a disappointing note.

“It doesn’t get more dramatic than that, to be honest,” said Gauff, who lost in her only previous major final appearance last year at Roland Garros.


“I knew today was going to be one of those problem-solving tough matches because she’s a tough opponent, so I’m obviously happy with the result.”

There were early signs of nervousness from both players, as Gauff made a pair of unforced errors to help Sabalenka to a break in the opening game, and the Belarusian dropped serve in the fourth game with two double faults and an unforced error.

The crowd urged on Gauff, the first American teenager to reach the U.S. Open singles final since Serena Williams in 2001.

But Sabalenka blocked out the noise and used her mighty forehand to convert on a break point chance in the fifth game. The Belarusian was helped to another break in the seventh as Gauff double faulted and made two more costly forehand mistakes.

The 25-year-old Sabalenka, who will take over as world number one in the new rankings, had ended Gauff’s run at Indian Wells earlier this year but told reporters this week she expected a “different player” in Saturday’s final.


She ended up facing just that in the second set, as the American showed new resolve when she fended off a pair of break points in the first game and flipped the script.

What was once a lopsided affair turned into a battle as Gauff increased her intensity, sending Sabalenka scrambling around the court in the fourth game before the Belarusian dropped her serve with a double fault.

Gauff produced an overhead smash to break in the opening game of the third set and converted another in the third game.

Sabalenka took a medical timeout after the fifth game, consulting a physio for an apparent issue with her left thigh, but did not appear worse off as she broke in the next game.

If Gauff was rattled, however, she did not show it, winning a 20-shot rally before breaking back in the seventh game and soaking up the adoration of the crowd at the major she grew up watching as she clinched the title.


After offering her opponent a hug, Gauff burst into tears and embraced her parents in the stands.

“The whole time I was saying to myself, ‘Oh, my goodness, how is this real?’” she told reporters.

“When I sat down after hugging them back before the ceremony, it felt real in that moment, but when I was going to hug them it didn’t. I almost forgot to shake the ref’s hand. It was a crazy moment.”

The tournament was celebrating 50 years of equal prize money at this year’s edition, and pioneer Billie Jean King was on hand to offer Gauff the trophy.

Sabalenka had only dropped a single set en route to Saturday’s finale and had tears in her eyes as she offered her opponent credit, chuckling as she said she wanted more finals against the American – but with “different results, hopefully.”


She told reporters the tide had turned during the match as she began “overthinking” in the second set.

“Because of that I start kind of like losing my power,” said Sabalenka “Then she start moving better. I start missing a lot of easy shots.”


The win delivered on years of enormous expectations hoisted upon the young American Gauff’s shoulders after she became the youngest ever to qualify for the Wimbledon main draw at 15 years old.

The breakthrough at such an early age came with its pitfalls.

“People were putting a lot of pressure on me to win. I felt that at 15 I had to win a slam at 15,” said Gauff.


“I felt like I had a time limit on when I should win one, and if I won one after a certain age it wouldn’t be an achievement.

“Yeah, it’s just crazy the amount of things that I have heard or seen about myself, but I’m really happy of how I’ve been able to manage it all.”

She found a new gear this summer, producing the best tennis of her career as she picked up a win in Washington and secured her first WTA 1000 title in Cincinnati, before embarking on a tremendous run through Flushing Meadows.

“A month ago I won a 500 title and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago I won a 1000 title and people were saying that was the biggest it was gonna get,” said Gauff.

“So three weeks later I am here with this trophy right now… To those who thought they were putting water on my fire you were really adding gas to it and now I am burning so bright.”





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