The Australian Open draw was delayed indefinitely on Thursday amid uncertainty over top-ranked Novak Djokovic’s visa status. The draw, to determine men’s and women’s singles brackets at the year’s first tennis major, was scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. local time in Melbourne, but a tournament official told waiting media that the ceremony had been postponed until further notice and declined further comment. The Australian Open begins Monday. The Australian immigration minister was still considering whether to deport the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, on public interest grounds. Djokovic remained in limbo. The 34-year-old Serb had his visa canceled on arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was questioned, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to stay in the country. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been considering the question since a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa on Monday.
Rays say bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez dies unexpectedly at 28
The Tampa Bay Rays say bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez died unexpectedly this week. He was 28. The team made the announcement on Twitter on Tuesday, with baseball operations president Erik Neander describing the former minor league player as a “caring teammate and friend” who “exuded so much joy in all he did.” Tampa Ray didn’t release details of the death, which it said occurred Monday. “As we process this unexpected and difficult loss, we are grateful for the times we shared with Jean,” Neander said. Ramirez, a native of Puerto Rico who attended high school in Fort Worth, Texas, was a 28th-round draft pick out of Illinois State in 2016. He played three years in Tampa Bay’s minor league system before beginning a three-season stint as a bullpen catcher with the major league team in 2019. “He brought so much passion and energy each day to our clubhouse and bullpen, and his love for the Rays and baseball was evident to all who interacted with him,” manager Kevin Cash said in a statement.
Keith Hernandez stunned by Mets jersey retirement news
Keith Hernandez was startled to see Mets owner Steve Cohen calling out of the blue Tuesday, then put at ease when the pair spent 10 minutes talking about New York’s splashy offseason. “Then he said, ‘That’s not the reason I’m calling,’ and then he dropped the bomb on me,” Hernandez said. “Caught me completely by surprise.” A captain and commentator beloved in Queens for nearly four decades, Hernandez will have his No. 17 retired by the Mets prior to a July 9 game against Miami. New York announced the honor Tuesday, shortly after Cohen called to inform the 68-year-old Hernandez. “I had no idea,” Hernandez said. “It’s just kind of soaking in and sinking in now, today, the import of this. It is really, to think of it, I’m so honored. This is the highest honor that an organization can give to a player.” Hernandez will be the fourth Mets player to have his number retired, with his No. 17 standing alongside Tom Seaver’s 41, Mike Piazza’s 31 and Jerry Koosman’s 36 at Citi Field. Koosman’s number was retired in August. Managers Gil Hodges (14) and Casey Stengel (37) have also had their numbers retired. “You know, I grew up as a kid like everybody else, going to baseball games, and going to some of those parks with the names up on the wall,” Hernandez said. “This is unbelievable.”
Orioles moving LF fence back at Camden Yards
The Orioles are moving the wall in left field back as much as 30 feet in an effort to make Oriole Park at Camden Yards a bit easier on pitchers. An Orioles spokesman confirmed the team’s plans, sharing an email sent to fans whose seats will be affected. “For the start of the 2022 season, the distance from home plate to the left field wall will be pushed back as much as 30 feet, in varying increments at different points in the wall, and the height will raise approximately 5 feet,” the email said. “By pushing back the left field wall, we’ve created a playing field that is fair for both pitchers and hitters.” Baltimore hit 122 home runs at home last year and 73 on the road. Orioles pitchers allowed 155 homers at home, compared to just 103 on the road. “While Oriole Park will remain a hitter’s ballpark, it will no longer be an outlier among the parks,” the email to fans said. Last year’s dimensions at Camden Yards were 333 feet to left and 364 to left-center. The fence was 7 feet high.
Freshmen lead No. 8 Duke past Wake Forest without Coach K
Paolo Banchero had 24 points and eighth-ranked Duke hit 13 straight shots to blow it open after halftime and beat Wake Forest 76-64 with Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski sidelined by illness. Fellow freshman A.J. Griffin had a season-high 22 points to help the Blue Devils bounce back from a weekend home loss to Miami. They did it with the retiring longtime Duke coach out with what the school called a “non-COVID-related virus,” while associate head coach Jon Scheyer — designated as Krzyzewski’s successor after this season — worked as acting coach. Banchero and Griffin led the way as the Blue Devils (13-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) suddenly stretched out a two-possession lead in the final minute of the first half — then carried a hot hand into the second that wobbled the Demon Deacons (13-4, 3-3) for good. Duke made its last four shots of the first half, then roared out of the break by hitting its first nine. Alondes Williams scored 25 points for Wake Forest ... The Boston College men’s basketball team lost to Georgia Tech, 81-76. Quinten Post scored 24 points on an efficient 10-of-14 shooting, with Brevin Galloway adding another 18, but four Yellow Jackets scored in double figures — led by Tristan Maxwell’s 22 — to win at Conte Forum.
Madrid beats Barcelona for 100th time, reaches Super Cup final
Barcelona put on a good fight as an underdog, but in the end it was Real Madrid celebrating again after a thrilling “clásico” between the Spanish powerhouses in Saudi Arabia. Federico Valverde scored in extra time to give Real Madrid a 3-2 win over Barcelona for its 100th victory over its storied rival and a spot in the final of the Spanish Super Cup. Barcelona twice equalized in regular time but couldn’t recover after Valverde scored from close range on a breakaway eight minutes into extra time to give Madrid its fifth straight win over the Catalan club in all competitions. Defending Super Cup champion Athletic Bilbao will face Spanish league champion Atlético Madrid in the other semifinal Thursday.