Novak Djokovic wins 35th Masters; hurt Osaka withdraws

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Novak Djokovic reacts after winning his match with Milos Raonic in the the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament. -Photo: AP

New York: For all that’s been on Novak Djokovic’s plate of late — including a painful neck and his efforts to start a new players’ association in men’s tennis — he just keeps winning.
He’s perfect in 2020, an ideal way to head into the US Open.

Djokovic tied Rafael Nadal’s record by earning his 35th title at a Masters 1000 tournament, overcoming a sluggish start to beat Milos Raonic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open final Saturday and improve to 23-0 this season. “Has been challenging mentally and emotionally for me to stay sane and be able to compete on the highest level and win this title,” Djokovic said.

“Going on an unbeaten run so far this year obviously brings even more confidence each match.” Djokovic, 11-0 head-to-head against 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Raonic, goes into the US Open as the No. 1 seed and a big favorite. The Grand Slam tournament begins Monday.

Earlier Saturday, Victoria Azarenka won her first tour title since 2016 when Naomi Osaka pulled out of the women’s final because of a left hamstring injury. “I just hope I’m giving myself, you know, the opportunity and the chance to have enough time” to recover ahead of the US Open, Osaka said.

Federer, Nadal object to Djokovic’s proposed union

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and other members of the ATP Player Council spoke out against a plan put forth by Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil to start a men’s-only union of sorts for tennis – bringing the sport’s politics into the spotlight just before the US Open.

Also against the proposal: the ATP men’s tour and the sport’s other governing bodies, including the WTA women’s tour and the four Grand Slam tournaments. They issued a joint statement Saturday saying: “It is a time for even greater collaboration, not division.”

After a meeting Saturday night, Pospisil tweeted out a picture showing a group of male players standing on a US Open court and wrote that “we are excited to announce the beginning of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA).”

Federer and Nadal joined player council representatives Kevin Anderson, Jurgen Melzer, Sam Querrey and Bruno Soares in sending a note to players raising questions about the proposal and saying they’re against it.

“The world is living a difficult and complicated situation. I personally believe these are times to be calm and work all of us together in the same direction. It is time for unity, not for separation,” Nadal tweeted.

“These are moments where big things can be achieved as long as the world of tennis is united. We all, players, tournaments and governing bodies have to work together. We have a bigger problem and separation and disunion is definitely not the solution.”

Federer quote-tweeted his on-court rival to say he agrees and added: “These are uncertain and challenging times, but I believe it’s critical for us to stand united as players, and as a sport, to pave the best way forward.”