Tagged in: Australia

Devin Haney dethrones George Kambosos to become undisputed lightweight champion

Devin Haney can no longer be called an email champion, a titleholder or anything but the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.

The 23-year-old traveled from Las Vegas to Melbourne, Australia, and delivered a dominant performance to collect all four 135-pound belts in a unanimous-decision triumph Sunday over George Kambosos before 41,129 at Marvel Stadium on ESPN.

Haney (28-0, 15 KOs) used his excellent jab to dictate the pace en route to the lopsided victory via scores of 116-112, 118-110 and 116-112.

“The game plan was to go there and hit and not get hit, and I did that for the majority of the fight,” said Haney, who entered the ring rated No. 4 by ESPN at lightweight. “I took the last round off just because I knew I was comfortably ahead, but I fought a good, smart fight.

“I handicapped him of his best things. He wanted to land the overhand right, and he wanted to land the big left hook. … I was fighting both ways. When I would go to the left, I would fight his right hand. When I would go to the right, I would fight his left hook. And he couldn’t hit me with neither one of them.”

Indeed, it was a virtuoso defensive performance from the rising star. He used the lead weapon to disrupt Kambosos’ rhythm and often changed levels with the jab, shooting it to the body and head.

Anytime Kambosos (20-1, 10 KOs) closed the distance, Haney stepped back and fired a jab. On the rare instance Kambosos connected with a solid shot, Haney tied up the Australian before he could follow up his attack.

Despite the clear gap in skill level, there will likely be a rematch between Haney and Kambosos later this year in Australia.

The 28-year-old, who was rated No. 1 by ESPN at lightweight, is contractually guaranteed another fight with Haney in his home country if he chooses to exercise the rematch clause.

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“Yes, 100 percent … we’ll do it again,” Kambosos said when asked if he would exercise the rematch clause. “Look, I gave him the shot. If I hadn’t given him this shot, he wouldn’t have had his moment right now.

“He grabbed and held a lot and did what he had to do to win. That’s what it’s about. You do what you have to do to win, and today they gave him the decision, but I’m sure it will change when we get it on again. … This is going to make me hungrier.”

Said Haney: “I’m not ducking or dodging nobody. If it makes sense, if the network wants it, I’ll do it again. But it has to make sense.”

As the rounds ticked by, it became increasingly clear Kambosos had no answers for Haney’s ring smarts, jab and educated footwork. He pressed harder during the late stages of the fight, when he needed at least a knockdown to win, but never came close to landing the sort of fight-altering punch that materialized in November when he shocked Teofimo Lopez to collect four lightweight titles.

When Kambosos dethroned Lopez in ESPN’s Upset of the Year, he started fast with a knockdown in the opening round, and survived a knockdown in Round 10 to earn the split-decision victory.

Afterward, Kambosos called for the biggest fights possible in the star-laden lightweight division rather than the usual victory lap many new champions enjoy. He was ringside for not only Haney’s decision win over Joseph Diaz Jr., the following week, but also Gervonta Davis’ victory over Isaac Cruz.

“This is what it’s all about, f— protecting records,” Kambosos said. “I’ve always been about fighting the best.”

Ultimately, Kambosos engaged in negotiations with Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former pound-for-pound king, and there was a deal in place. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Lomachenko decided to remain in the war-torn country with his family and passed on the fight.

Enter Haney, who was embroiled in a dispute with Kambosos and much of the boxing world over the legitimacy of his title. Haney was elevated from interim champion to WBC titleholder in October 2019, while Lomachenko, who held the WBC’s lightweight belt, was designated the franchise champion.

“It’s a title to basically duck your mandatory,” Haney told ESPN in May.

Finally, Haney grabbed his opportunity to “put a stop to the confusion: the email champion or the franchise and all that,” with his fight versus Kambosos, who entered the bout with the WBA, WBO, IBF and WBC franchise title.

However, it initially appeared he would have to do so without his father and trainer, Bill Haney. Due to a 1992 drug conviction, the elder Haney initially wasn’t approved for a travel visa, but on Thursday, he received clearance and arrived in Melbourne approximately 15 hours before the bell rang.

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Extra pit stop felt like a gamble I didn’t want to take at Miami Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton stated the late pit stop Mercedes offered him and he declined to take felt like an unnecessary risk as he once again bemoaned the timing of a safety car at the Miami Grand Prix.

Hamilton was relegated behind Mercedes teammate George Russell late on, with Russell able to make a stop for fresh tyres under the safety car after a long stint on the hard tyre propelled him up the order.

With the safety car still out Hamilton was asked by Mercedes if he wanted to make another stop, to which he replied: “You tell me, man! I don’t want to lose a place to George.”

Hamilton has had a string of bad luck thanks to poorly timed safety cars recently, most famously at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when it cost him the championship, but also at races this year in Saudi Arabia and Australia.

On this occasion, Hamilton opted against pitting and Russell later passed him for fifth position thanks to the performance advantage from his fresher tires. “When you’re out there you don’t have all the information,” Hamilton told media on Sunday evening.

“You don’t know where everyone is, where you’ll come out, you don’t have the picture they have on the screen.

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“When you’re given the responsibility to make the decision it feels like your gambling and I don’t like that. I was like, ‘you guys make the decision’. Either way, we’ve just been unfortunate with the timing of the safety car today.”

Russell first passed Hamilton through the final sector, but ran wide and gave the position back.

Russell’s tire advantage was clear to see and he eased past the seven-time world champion on the following lap.

After Russell got past, Hamilton stated “strategy has not been kind to me” in another radio message.

Hamilton was complimentary of Russell’s move and said the race was proof he should have started on the hard tire, not the medium.

“George obviously did a great job in that stint. He was on the better tyre to start with, the hard tire was the better tyre, so in hindsight maybe we could have started on the hard tire.

“He did a great job to recover from that position and get the points, fifth and sixth is good points today for the team.”

When questioned if he just needed a change in luck, Hamilton said: “Yeah, I’m waiting for it! “Until then I’ll keep working as hard as I can, working with the team. We got good points as a team today.”

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Naomi Osaka cruises past Astra Sharma in first round of Miami Open

Naomi Osaka was greeted by some cheers when she walked onto the court, then got significantly louder ones when her work for the day was done.

Maybe the comforts of home helped.

Flashing the level of play that vaulted her to No. 1 in the world not too long ago, Osaka had little trouble in defeating Astra Sharma of Australia 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday — the first full day of play at the Miami Open.

Osaka is Japanese-born, calls California home now, but spent much of her youth in South Florida, basically just a few miles north of where the Miami Open is now held.

“I kind of consider this like my home tournament,” Osaka said, before her words got drowned out by more cheers and applause from fans. “This is the tournament that I loved coming to once a year. I’m just really happy to be back out here.”

It was Osaka’s first match since a March 12 loss at Indian Wells, when she was rattled by a derogatory shout from a spectator. If any similar thoughts were expressed by the fans who were watching Wednesday in a largely empty stadium court built over the field where the NFL’s Miami Dolphins play football, they either were ignored or unnoticed.

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“Honestly, for me, I just didn’t want to let anything bother me today no matter what happened,” Osaka said. “The last match that I played was not the greatest memory for me.”

That’s when someone decided to yell from the stands: “We love you.”

Osaka surely appreciated that sentiment.

She revealed Wednesday that she started seeing a therapist after Indian Wells

“it only took like a year after French Open,” she quipped, referring to how she missed the clay-court Grand Slam event to focus on her mental health last year — and that she was bracing to hear heckling.

“I’m glad that I have people around me that told me to go in that direction,” Osaka said. “I was basically just remembering all the things that she told me to do, just to take deep breaths and reset myself when I need to.”

Osaka will face No. 13 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany — like Osaka, another former world No. 1 — in the second round Thursday. Kerber, like all 32 seeds in the 96-player singles field, had a bye out of the first round. Kerber is 4-1 head-to-head versus Osaka.

Osaka improved to 7-2 this year, not counting a walkover loss at Melbourne in early January when she withdrew from an Australian Open warmup event with an abdominal injury.

She’s ranked No. 77 in the world largely because she hasn’t entered many events in the last year, though among active players — if Ashleigh Barty is no longer considered one after her surprising retirement announcement — Osaka is the most recent to hold the No. 1 ranking. Barty supplanted her in the top spot on Sept. 9, 2019, and has held that ranking since.

Osaka has openly talked about struggling with depression and working on her mental health since winning the 2018 US Open over Serena Williams. She withdrew from last year’s French Open, left last year’s US Open in tears and was brought to tears again by the comment from a spectator at Indian Wells earlier this month.

“I just wanted to prove that I could come back out here and compete,” Osaka said.

Also Wednesday, 2018 Miami champion Sloane Stephens earned a second-round matchup versus fellow American Jessica Pegula by topping Hungary’s Panna Udvardy 6-4, 6-3. And Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania topped Hailey Baptiste of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-1 to move into a second-round matchup versus women’s No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

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Novak Djokovic in BNP Paribas Open draw, but ‘it has not been determined if he will participate’

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic was announced in the draw for the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday, despite his status to enter the United States still unclear due to being unvaccinated.

“Novak Djokovic is on the tournament entry list, and therefore is placed into the draw today,” the California tournament said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are currently in communication with his team; however, it has not been determined if he will participate in the event by getting CDC approval to enter the country.”

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It’s the latest setback for Djokovic, the 20-time major champion, in what has become a tumultuous 2022.

He was deported from Australia in January after initially receiving a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open and then having his visa revoked by the Australian government.

He has since played in just one tournament — a quarterfinal appearance in Dubai — and it stays unclear how many events he will be able to play as a result of his unvaccinated status. He was recently ousted from the No. 1 ranking by Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic told the BBC he would be willing to skip majors in the future if a vaccine was required.

“Yes, that is the price that I’m willing to pay,” he said in February.

Djokovic publicly stated his desire to play at the Masters 1000-level event in Indian Wells, California but said in Dubai last month he wasn’t sure if he would be able to enter the country. He has yet to provide a further update.

The men’s main draw gets underway on Thursday and seeded players receive a first-round bye. Djokovic is currently scheduled to play the winner of the opening-round match between Jordan Thompson and David Goffin in a second-round match on Saturday or Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic gets warm welcome in Dubai before tennis tournament

Novak Djokovic on Thursday received a warm welcome in Dubai, where he visited the world’s fair following the global discussion around his decision to stay unvaccinated.

After being twice detained and deported from Australia ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam Tournament last month, Djokovic was in the United Arab Emirates for the Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m excited to go out on the tennis court next Monday,” the Serbian tennis star said when asked by The Associated Press how he feels after the recent twists and turns of the legal dispute over his travel visa. “I miss tennis honestly after everything that has happened.”

Djokovic this week doubled down on his decision to stay unvaccinated. The No. 1-ranked tennis player stated he would skip the French Open, Wimbledon and other tournaments if he was required to get a coronavirus vaccine to compete.

Djokovic reiterated in an interview with Serbia’s state RTS television on Thursday that he keeps “an open mind” about the possibility of getting vaccinated in the future but remains willing to miss upcoming majors because of his refusal to do so.

“I am not exclusive, anything is possible in life,” Djokovic said. “I decided at this moment not to do it and I am ready to bear consequences.”

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The government of Dubai does not require visitors to be vaccinated to enter.

The men’s tennis tour event starts next week.

As he ambled into the pavilion Thursday surrounded by a sea of journalists, fans clapped and chanted “Nole,” his nickname.

Djokovic posed for selfies with adoring fans and set off on a guided tour of Serbia’s national pavilion at Expo 2020 days before he was due to hit the courts. The pavilion was hosting an event for his foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which promotes early childhood education in Serbia.

“I’m proud to be on this stage,” Djokovic said after his wife, Jelena, gave a presentation about the foundation’s work with children.

He said it was often hard to be involved as much as he wanted to be with the foundation given his whirlwind tournament calendar.

But he quickly acknowledged: “It’s not as busy as it used to be.”

The audience burst into applause. Wearing a crisp white shirt and black mask emblazoned with his foundation’s logo, Djokovic gave high fives to toddlers and nodded encouragingly as he heard about Serbia’s startup scene at the pavilion’s multimedia exhibit.

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Novak Djokovic on entry list for BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at Indian Wells

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is on the entry list for the BNP Paribas Open in California, where the Serb would face a vaccine mandate.

Djokovic, who was unvaccinated against COVID-19 as of last month, was detained and eventually deported from Australia for failing to meet that country’s strict vaccination requirements. It prevented him from defending his Australian Open title last month.

To enter Australia, Djokovic submitted a positive test issued in Serbia on Dec. 16 for a visa exemption on the grounds that he had recently recovered from the virus. But the Australian government canceled his visa and deported him.

Neither the ATP nor WTA tours require players to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, non-U.S. citizens must be fully vaccinated to travel to the U.S. by plane, according to the CDC. U.S. citizens, permanent residents and those traveling on an immigration visa, if not fully vaccinated, are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 when traveling to the U.S. by air. Limited exceptions apply.

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Djokovic is a five-time champion at Indian Wells, where he hasn’t played since 2019. He hasn’t played a game since November at the Davis Cup in Madrid.

Djokovic is calendared to play a tournament in Dubai later this month.

Fans attending Indian Wells from March 7-20 are required to show valid proof of full vaccination.

Australian Open winners Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty head the list of entries released Wednesday.

Three-time winner Nadal returns to the desert for the first time since 2019. He missed last year’s event that was moved to October because of a foot injury. He won his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Australia.

Joining Nadal in the men’s draw are Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev, No. 3 Alexander Zverev, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and defending champion Cameron Norrie.

Top-ranked Barty already has two titles this year.

She’s joined in the women’s draw by defending champion Paula Badosa, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 2021 French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova, No. 4 Karolina Pliskova and Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins. Teenagers Leylah Fernandez, Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff return for their second appearances in the desert.

The remaining spots in the draw will be filled by winners of the qualifying and wild-card recipients.

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Team USA falls to 0-2 in Olympic exhibitions after loss to Australia

Team USA might indeed win its fourth successive Olympic gold next month in Tokyo. But if they do, it will be a story of overcoming adversity.

The Americans lost their second consecutive exhibition Monday, this time bested by Australia 91-83 in Las Vegas. Dating to the 2019 World Cup, where they concluded seventh, Team USA has lost four of their past five matches.

It also has lost two in a row now to Australia, a team expected to contend for the gold in Japan.

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It was a better showing than the loss to Nigeria on Saturday but just reading those words is a little mind-boggling considering the pedigree of this roster and coaching staff. Damian Lillard, who had 22 points, and Kevin Durant, who had 17 points, definitely looked more like All-Stars. But in the end, they weren’t able to deliver clutch shots.

The final indignity came with one minute to play and the U.S. down five as Jayson Tatum tossed up an air ball on a corner 3-point try. It was better than the next possession, which resulted in a turnover.

The execution differential between the teams was glaring.

Over and over and over the Aussies were able to throw passes into the middle to players either wide open from great cuts or in an advantageous matchup.

Maybe it’s a little early in this process for heavy game planning but it was clear that Australia felt it could take advantage of a relatively small U.S. roster.

Patty Mills, who has long been a star for his national team, had 22 points. Joe Ingles had 17 and the Aussies concluded shooting 53% for the game.

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Defending champ Ash Barty returns to Miami Open final

In her first match at this year’s Miami Open, Ash Barty was one point from elimination.

Now she’s one win from becoming a repeat champion. The top-ranked Barty returned to the final by defeating No. 5-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Barty has gained momentum after starting the tournament by saving a match point versus qualifier Kristina Kucova. That was Barty’s first match outside her native Australia since February 2020.

“Whenever you come back from a match point, it’s a little bit of a strange feeling,” Barty said. “You have to be more open with what the possibilities the rest of the tournament could be, and keep going out there and keep fighting, knowing you could have just as easily been out of the tournament.”

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Barty, who is assured of maintaining her No. 1 ranking next week, will play for the title Saturday versus the winner of the second semifinal between No. 8 Bianca Andreescu and No. 23 Maria Sakkari.

Barty was locked down for a year in Australia because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Miami Open. She won the event in 2019, and said her run to that title was different from this year’s matches in Miami.

“Chalk and cheese,” the Aussie said. “The conditions have been different here this week. It has been a lot warmer and physically very demanding.”

Barty had been 1-5 previously against Svitolina, but took charge with two early breaks and used her strong serve and deep slices to keep the Ukrainian on the defensive.

Midway through the second set, Svitolina made a rare trip to the net, and Barty responded with a perfect lob winner that drew an appreciative pat of the racket strings from her opponent. On match point, Barty closed out the triumph with a forehand winner and a fist pump.

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Ashleigh Barty edges Kristina Kucova after saving match point at Miami Open

Because of canceled flights, it took Ashleigh Barty 45 hours to travel from her native Australia to Florida for a tennis tournament.

Her stay at the Miami Open will be longer than that, thanks to an incredible comeback Thursday.

The top-ranked Barty rallied from a big third-set deficit and overcame a match point to win her opening match versus qualifier Kristina Kucova 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

“Matches like that are extremely fulfilling, knowing you’ve done the work over an extended period to get just over the edge,” Barty said. “That was a really tough one today, and I enjoyed every single second of it.”

Barty, who won the most recent Miami Open title in 2019, trailed 5-2 in the final set. In the next game, she faced a match point, which she saved by ripping a weak serve for a winner.

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Barty fell behind 0-40 serving in the final game but again rallied against Kucova, a Slovak ranked 149th.

Barty closed out the triumph with a service winner and then tapped her temple with her index finger, a gesture of tribute to her mental fortitude.

“We never give up,” she said, “no matter what we’re feeling.”

Playing away from Australia for the first time in more than a year, Barty won despite an unreliable forehand. She whacked 40 unforced errors on that side, but she compensated somewhat with 15 aces.

Barty acknowledged that jet lag and the time difference between Miami and Australia made the match a challenge.

“You kind of forget how much it can take out of you,” she said. “But you have to accept that’s the way it is. It worked in my favor this morning — I got to watch some Aussie football back home.”

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Ashleigh Barty offers no guarantees beyond Melbourne Park

Sports fans should savour Ash Barty’s return to tennis because it could be fleeting.

While Barty hopes Friday night’s [AEDT] comeback match in Adelaide marks the beginning of a “long season” ahead, the world No.1 is offering no real guarantees beyond the Australian summer.

Barty hasn’t played since last February, deciding not to leave Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 24-year-old sat out the US Open in September and even opted against defending her French Open crown three weeks later in Paris.

With coronavirus still rampant around the world, the Queenslander confesses she and coach Craig Tyzzer have yet to commit to a concrete calendar beyond the Australian Open starting on Feb. 8.

“Not a lot’s changed. Obviously it’s still quite a delicate situation and we have a couple of plans,” Barty told AAP ahead of her exhibition match versus world No.2 Simona Halep on Friday night.

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“We have options A, B, C and D to kind of go through and we have to wing it a little bit, honestly, because we can’t know quite what to expect.

“But what ‘Tyzz’ and I have spoken about is that our kind of stance remains the same – the priority for us is the health and wellbeing of not only us two on the road, but also our families back home.

“So, for us, that’s a really important thing, regardless of what tournaments may be on.

“Our decisions will always be prioritized by our health and by the bigger picture for us of more than just hitting tennis balls.”

And with that approach, Barty plans on enjoying the summer – and her second Australian Open bid as top seed – rather than fretting about trying to break the country’s infamous 43-year singles title drought in Melbourne.

“It’s been a trying time for everyone down here in Victoria, in particular. So we have to be extremely grateful and understand just how lucky we are that we have an opportunity to play,” she stated.

“So I’ll go out there to try and do the best that I can to enjoy it but also go out there and try and do everyone proud knowing that we’ve got the tennis back and hopefully it’s going to be a really good month.”

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