Arsenal’s hopes of a first Premier League title in 19 years suffered a blow after the table-toppers were held to a 3-3 draw by Southampton.
In tennis, world No 1 Novak Djokovic was upset in the Banja Luka Open quarterfinal, as he struggles to find his rhythm ahead of the French Open. The 22-time Grand Slam winner withdrew from the Madrid Masters
In women’s singles, Iga Swiatek will face Ons Jabeur in a rematch of last year’s US Open final.
Meanwhile, Carlos Alcaraz is on course to defend his Barcelona title after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina to reach the semi-final.
Here’s a look at the key stories from international sporting events through the day for 22 April, 2023:
Djokovic pulls out of Madrid Masters
World number one Novak Djokovic pulled out of the Madrid Masters on Saturday according to the competition’s organisers.
“Novak Djokovic is unable to compete at the Madrid Open,” the organisers wrote on Instagram ahead of the tournament which starts April 26.
Djokovic’s withdrawal, thought to be related to an elbow problem he has been suffering from, is a blow to his preparations for the French Open, which starts at the end of May.
The Serb, 35, suffered a straight-set defeat by compatriot Dusan Lajovic in the quarter-finals at Banja Luka in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday.
Djokovic was beaten by underdog Lorenzo Musetti at the Monte Carlo Masters earlier in April and said ahead of the Srpska Open that his elbow was “not in an ideal condition”.
Neither Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, joint record 22-time Grand Slam champions, will take part in Madrid, a key part of the preparation for Roland Garros.
Djokovic missed tournaments earlier this year at Indian Wells and Miami, over his refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccination.
“I was many levels below what I want,” said the two-time French Open champion on Friday, after his defeat by world number 70 Lajovic.
“Playing like that, I can’t win against opponents who are so solid on this surface. But what can I do? It’s simply sport. I was trying but it wasn’t working.
“I didn’t feel very good physically on court. My legs were slow, I missed a lot of balls. I played well at times, but generally well below standard.”
Southampton hold Arsenal
Arsenal staged an incredible late fightback to rescue a 3-3 draw against Southampton, but the Premier League leaders were still left frustrated by a damaging result that put their title challenge in jeopardy on Friday.
Mikel Arteta’s side escaped with a point despite trailing 3-1 with just two minutes of normal time left at the Emirates Stadium.
Martin Odegaard’s goal sparked Arsenal’s revival and Bukayo Saka snatched the equaliser in stoppage-time.
But, despite the thrilling escape, Arteta finished with his head in hands because the Gunners will travel to second placed Manchester City on Wednesday knowing it is Pep Guardiola’s team who control the destiny of the title.
Arsenal are five points clear of City, but the champions have two games in hand due to their involvement in the FA Cup semi-finals against Sheffield United on Saturday.
If City win or draw against Arsenal and then win their remaining matches, they will be crowned champions no matter what the north Londoners do.
After blowing successive two-goal leads in damaging 2-2 draws against West Ham and Liverpool in their previous two matches, Arsenal at least showed tremendous spirit to reverse the trend.
“Obviously unhappy with the result. We made it very difficult again for ourselves,” Arteta said.
“If you concede three like we did in a sloppy way it is very difficult to win, but the way we reacted I love my players more than ever.
“This young team reacts in a way that is incredible, when it is against the odds.”
Swiatek to face Jabeur
World No 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek set-up a US Open final rematch with Ons Jabeur when she battled into the Stuttgart last-four on Friday.
Swiatek defeated 2018 Stuttgart champion Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 while Tunisian world No 4 Jabeur eased past Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-3, 6-0.
Poland’s Swiatek had defeated Pliskova without losing a game when they met on clay in the 2021 Rome final.
However, the Czech took control straightaway on Friday, racing to a 4-0 lead in a little over a quarter of an hour.
Swiatek responded by sweeping the first four games of the second set to level the contest and after breaking for 2-1 in the decider, was never troubled again.
Swiatek holds a 3-2 career lead over Jabeur with their most recent clash coming in the US Open final last year when the Pole won in straight sets for her second major of 2022.
“The good thing maybe, Iga is not at the same level as she was last year,” said Jabeur.
“I think maybe the key is to be unpredictable with Iga, not knowing which shots I’m going to do. I think that’s really good to disturb her a lot.”
World number two Aryna Sabalenka came from a set and a break down to see off Spanish wild card Paula Badosa and reach the semi-finals for the third consecutive year.
The Belarusian won through 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours, 30 minutes and next meets Russian Anastasia Potapova who ousted French fourth seed Caroline Garcia 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Stuttgart WTA results (x denotes seeding; players representing Russia and Belarus are banned from competing under the name or flag of their countries):
Iga Swiatek (POL x1) bt Karolína Pliskova (CZE) 4-6, 6-1, 6-2
Ons Jabeur (TUN x3) bt Beatriz Haddad Maia (BRA) 6-3, 6-0
Anastasia Potapova bt Caroline Garcia (FRA x4) 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka (x2) bt Paula Badosa (ESP) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Alcaraz in Barcelona semis
Carlos Alcaraz stayed on course to defend his Barcelona Open title Friday as he defeated Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (5), 6-4 to move into the semi-finals.
Alcaraz’s build-up to the French Open next month has been slowed by hand and back problems which forced him to pull out of Monte Carlo, and the top seed was made to work hard by Davidovich Fokina.
The teenager broke in the first game of the match but Davidovich Fokina hit back for 3-all before Alcaraz soon regained the upper hand.
However, he failed to close out the first set when serving at 5-4 and Davidovich Fokina fought his way to within two points of taking the opener in the tie-break.
Alcaraz though held his nerve as the 38th-ranked Spaniard faltered, with Davidovich Fokina belting a forehand long to eventually surrender the set.
The US Open champion saved six break points in the third game of the second set and then broke immediately after for a 3-1 advantage.
Davidovich Fokina again responded to get back on serve, and it stayed that way until Alcaraz broke in the final game to seal victory.
“It was really tough for me,” said Alcaraz. “I started playing pretty well, serving for the first set. I was not able to win that game. I was going really fast, a lot of things on my mind.
“After the first set I was talking to myself, positive things, trying to play long rallies, trying to be there through the points, trying to feel more comfortable with myself.”
Alcaraz will face Dan Evans for a place in the final after the 26th-ranked Briton defeated Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Stefanos Tsitsipas eased into the semi-finals earlier in the day, beating Alex de Minaur 6-4, 6-2.
With text inputs from AFP
Updated through the day