Tagged in: grand slam

Naomi Osaka, ‘just happy to be here,’ posts first-round victory at Australian Open; Coco Gauff upset by Wang Qiang

Defending champion Naomi Osaka posted a relatively trouble-free 6-3, 6-3 triumph on Monday over Camila Osorio in the first round of the Australian Open.

Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam singles champion, won at Rod Laver Arena and did so by taking the first five games of the match, before Osorio finally scratched one out herself.

Osaka will take on Madison Brengle — the American player defeated Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 6-1, 0-6, 5-0, ret. — in the second round as she looks to build some momentum for what could be a lengthy tournament run.

The former No. 1 player in the world, Osaka slid down the rankings last year after taking time off following her withdrawal at the French Open.

She is seeded 13th at the Australian Open, where she won in 2019 and 2021.

“It always feels special to come back here,” she said after Sunday’s victory.

The early success seems promising for Osaka, as Osorio is ranked 50th in the world but was making her main draw debut at Melbourne Park.

“I thought she played amazing,” Osaka said of her opponent. “Overall, I’m just happy to be here, I’m happy to see everybody in the audience, and I hope we gave you a great performance.”

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After winning here last year, capturing her second Australian Open title in three years, Osaka pulled out of the 2021 French Open before the second round then sat out Wimbledon. She played at the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron, but ended her 2021 season early after a third-round loss and a teary news conference at the US Open.

Two of her goals for 2022, she stated last week, were to stay completely composed on the court and off, and to enjoy the game.

The first test of Osaka’s new approach to tennis might have been when she completely whiffed on an overhead to give her opponent a break point. Osaka didn’t chuck her racket. She didn’t roll her eyes. She smiled.

“There are situations where I previously would get upset. But at this point in my life, like, I’m here because I want to be here and because I find that it’s fun for me,” Osaka said. “Might as well enjoy it while I still can.”

Elsewhere on the women’s side, China’s Wang Qiang secured her first victory over a top-20 player since defeating Serena Williams at Melbourne Park in 2020 after upsetting 18th-seeded Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-2.

It was Wang’s first victory on tour since last year’s French Open, where she beat Su-Wei Hsieh in the first round before losing to Gauff in the second.

Gauff saved four match points from 5-0 down on Monday, but that was the only good news in a match in which the American made 38 unforced errors.

“You know I lost two times against her last year, so I just tried my best to focus on court,” Wang said.

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Novak Djokovic to defend Australian Open tennis title after exemption from COVID-19 vaccination

Novak Djokovic ended speculation over his Australian Open title defense by revealing on Tuesday that he would compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The world No. 1, who had declined to reveal his vaccination status, said previously that he was unsure whether he would compete at the Jan. 17-30 tournament in Melbourne due to concerns over Australia’s quarantine rules.

“I’ve spent fantastic quality time with my loved ones over the break and today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022,” the Serbian said on Instagram. Organizers of the Australian Open had stipulated that all participants must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or have a medical exemption granted by an independent panel of experts.

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The organizers issued a statement later on Tuesday to confirm Djokovic will be permitted to compete at the Australian Open and is on his way to Australia.

“Djokovic applied for a medical exemption which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts,” the statement said.

“One of those was the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health. They assessed all applications to see if they met the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization guidelines.”

Tennis Australia stated last month the panel would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice and that the move was agreed in conjunction with the Victoria Department of Health.

Applicants who pass an initial stage are subject to a second review conducted by a government-appointed panel before the application is submitted to the Australian Immunization Register.

Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, had told a Serbian television channel that his son would probably pull out of the major, saying Tennis Australia’s stance on mandatory jabs was tantamount to “blackmail.”

Djokovic pulled out of the Serbia team for the ATP Cup in Sydney to raise further doubts over his participation in the year’s first Grand Slam.

“I’m ready to live and breathe tennis in the next few weeks of competition. Thanks everyone for the support,” Djokovic added in his post, which was accompanied by a picture of him in an airport.

He heads to Australia having trained in Marbella, Spain, over the past few days.

Tennis Australia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Djokovic has won a record nine Australian Open titles, including the past three, and is in a three-way tie on 20 majors with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray handed Australian Open main draw wildcard with Brit hailed by tournament chief

Andy Murray has been awarded a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open. A five-time finalist in Melbourne, the former world No 1 has not played the event since 2019, when he announced that he would likely be playing his last tournament and retiring over his hip injury.

The three-time Grand Slam champion has since made a comeback from a hip resurfacing surgery he underwent shortly after, and now goes into 2022 full of confidence following a successful end to the season.

Murray has been granted a wildcard into the main draw of the Australian Open, which kicks off on January 17.

It will be his first showing at the season-opening Major since 2019, when he broke down in a press conference and admitted it could be his last tournament, following two years of struggle with a hip injury.

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After losing a thrilling five-setter to Roberto Bautista Agut in the first round – a match that sounded like it was the last of his career – Murray underwent a hip resurfacing surgery just weeks later, having a metal joint put into his hip.

The former world No 1 then came back in doubles at Queens Club in June of that year and won the title alongside Feliciano Lopez, later captivating his first post-op singles title at the European Open in October 2019.

Murray was then unable to compete in the 2020 edition of the event known as the ‘Happy Slam’ due to a pelvic injury, and missed the tournament again in 2021 after testing positive for Covid and being unable to find a “workable” quarantine.

He will finally make his long-awaited return to the site of his premature retirement next month, after being given a wildcard into the main draw.

Currently ranked at world No 134, the Brit would have needed multiple players ranked above him to withdraw before gaining entry himself. Following the news of his wildcard, the five-time runner-up thanked tournament director Craig Tiley and the organizers.

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Novak Djokovic downs Daniil Medvedev to claim record sixth Paris Masters title

Novak Djokovic won a record 37th Masters title by avenging his US Open final defeat versus Russian Daniil Medvedev with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory at the Paris Masters on Sunday.

Djokovic moved one clear of fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal for Masters trophies, and nine ahead of Roger Federer, the other tennis great with 20 majors.

The victory also marked a record-extending sixth Paris Masters title.

The Serbian, who is guaranteed to secure the year-end world No. 1 spot for a record seventh time, needed time to adjust to break the world No. 2’s sturdy defense but was unstoppable once he found his opening.

Djokovic was looking to avoid ending a season without a Masters title for the first time since 2017 and kept his cool throughout to accomplish his mission against the holder.

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Medvedev was overwhelmed in the third set and bowed out of the contest on the first match point when Djokovic unleashed a superb forehand winner down the line.

Two months after Medvedev denied Djokovic a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title when he beat him at Flushing Meadows, the Russian was hoping to lock his opponent into a backhand-to-backhand battle again.

Medvedev broke in the opening game as Djokovic made a flurry of unforced errors with the lanky Russian keeping him on the back foot.

The world No. 1 leveled for 2-2, but Medvedev stole his serve again to move 4-3 up with a splendid sliced backhand at the net.

The Russian then held serve twice to pocket the first set when Djokovic returned long.

The Serbian, however, turned the tables in the second set, going 3-1 up as Medvedev buried a backhand into the net.

Djokovic served and volleyed to save a break point at 5-3 and saw off a second with a big serve. Medvedev set up a third with a spectacular block at the net but the top seed’s first serve again came to the rescue.

Djokovic eventually took the match into a decider with an ace on his third set point.

He broke for 3-2 courtesy of three unforced errors by Medvedev and stole his opponent’s serve again to move 5-2 up.

Serving for the match, Djokovic gave Medvedev too much space and the Russian pulled a break back, but his tank was empty and he surrendered on his serve in the next game.

Medvedev complained he had been bothered by a spectator making too much noise in the crowd.

“I got mad because crucial, crucial moment, 5-2 for him, double break, even if I manage to get the break back, we all know that against Novak it’s tough to actually come back from this score,” he told a news conference.

“I got mad because it was not nice, and it was done on purpose. Some of the spectators, they were just into the match and you could feel it. You’re getting ready for serve, they were like, Allez, Novak or Allez, Daniil. But you could feel it was like they are just trying not to be in the game, and you wait.

“This one was done, when I did the toss already, it was done by a Serbian spectator … I hope he doesn’t watch tennis anymore.”

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Emma Raducanu ‘optimistic’ to find new coach before Australian Open

U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu stated on Sunday she is “optimistic” about finding a new coach before the Australian Open starts in January and will be relying on her own instincts at this week’s Transylvania Open in Romania.

Raducanu, who stunned the sporting world when she won the Flushing Meadows title in September as a qualifier, revealed after the Grand Slam that she would no longer be working with former Davis Cup player Andrew Richardson.

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The 18-year-old confirmed reports she had a trial last week with Johanna Konta’s former coach Esteban Carril among others as she continues her search for a mentor to guide her during the next phase of her career.

Raducanu has travelled to Cluj-Napoca with physiotherapist Will Herbert, agent Chris Helliar and her father Ian, who is Romanian.

“I am feeling optimistic about trying to have something in place for the off-season and the Australian Open. No, I haven’t decided on the coach. But things are moving forward,” Raducanu stated.

“I think having a coach is great, but you are on your own on the court. I don’t think it is great to be dependent. You need to coach yourself. That is something I am learning.

“Part of the experience I am having is being able to learn to coach myself. Sometimes it won’t always work, like in Indian Wells, but in the long-term if I keep doing that then I will be better in the situations in the future.”

The Transylvania Open started on Monday and was held without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Romanian government.

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal — and became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) triumph versus No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her nascent career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists.

Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test versus a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8. Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

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Roger Federer needs a third knee surgery, will be out ‘many months’

Roger Federer is going to miss the US Open and be sidelined for what he said will be “many months” because he needs a third operation on his right knee, a procedure he stated will leave him with “a glimmer of hope” that he can return to competition.

Federer revealed the news Sunday via a video message on Instagram. He said he’ll be “out of the game for many months.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of checks with the doctors, as well, on my knee, getting all the information as I hurt myself further during the grass-court season and Wimbledon,” Federer said.

“Unfortunately they told me for the medium- to long-term, to feel better, I will need surgery, so I decided to do it. I will be on crutches for many weeks and then also out of the game for many months.”

Federer, 40, who has 20 Grand Slam singles titles to share the men’s record with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, acknowledged there was a chance his playing career could be over, but he said he would rehab the knee with the goal of making another comeback.

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“I want to be healthy. I want to be running around later, as well, again, and I want to give myself a glimmer of hope, also, to return to the tour in some shape or form,” Federer said. “I am realistic, don’t get me wrong. I know how difficult it is at this age right now to do another surgery and try it.”

Federer missed more than a year of action after first having his knee repaired shortly after the 2020 Australian Open in February of that year. He had a follow-up procedure that June.

He returned to Grand Slam action at the French Open in late May and then pulled out of the tournament after three wins. His most recent match was a loss at the Wimbledon quarterfinals last month, and he cited the knee injury in withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics.

The US Open is the season’s last Grand Slam tournament, and it starts Aug. 30 in New York.

Nadal is dealing with a foot injury, and Djokovic pulled out of tuneup tournaments, saying he needed to rest and recuperate following the Olympics, where he failed to win a medal.

Federer won 16 of his Grand Slam titles between 2003 and 2010 but remained at or near the top of the sport into his late 30s. He won the Australian Open and Wimbledon during a resurgent 2017 and defended his title at Melbourne Park in 2018, his most recent Grand Slam championship. In 2019 he lost a five-set classic to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.

Federer’s spot in the US Open main draw will go to Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands, the U.S. Tennis Association said. American Mackie McDonald would be the next man to move into the field if there is another withdrawal.

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Italy’s Matteo Berrettini pulls out of Tokyo Olympics due to thigh injury

Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini of Italy has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics due to a thigh injury, he revealed Sunday.

The world No. 8 had his left thigh bandaged during his loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final of the grass-court Grand Slam earlier this month.

“I am extremely disappointed to announce my withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympic Games,” the 25-year-old said on Instagram.

“I had an MRI scan yesterday on the thigh injury I sustained during Wimbledon and was informed I will not be able to compete for a couple of weeks.”

The Italian National Olympic Committee stated it would not be able to get a replacement player for Berrettini, as the International Tennis Federation’s deadline to name new athletes had passed on Friday.

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“Representing Italy is the biggest honour for me so it is devastating to miss the Olympics,” Berrettini added.

The tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics has been hit by a series of high-profile withdrawals.

Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka and Simona Halep, have already declared their decision to skip the Games, which have been delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Serbian legend Novak Djokovic, who defeated Berrettini in the Wimbledon 2021 final, is also pondering over his options of competing at the Olympics this year, which has already been plagued by Covid-19 after 2 confirmed cases in the South African football team emerged inside the Games Village.

Djokovic, who will miss out on the chance to complete a Golden Slam if he misses the Summer Games, has said that he isn’t sure of his participation in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic reaches 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal

Two-time defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic reached his 50th Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating Christian Garin of Chile 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday.

Djokovic earned his 12th quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon, which ties him with Arthur Gore for third place on the men’s all-time list, behind Roger Federer’s 18 and Jimmy Connors’ 14.

The top-ranked Serb lost just three points on his first serve in the match and saved the only two break points he faced.

Djokovic is looking for his sixth title at the All England Club and a record-tying 20th Grand Slam trophy.

“Confidence levels are very high after winning the French Open,” said Djokovic.

“It was one of my biggest wins in the circumstances — two five-setters, two four-setters in the second week.

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“They took a lot out of me but they also gave me wings.

“The further I go in the tournament, the more comfortable I feel and I look forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic, the six-time Wimbledon champion and chasing a record-equalling 20th major title, is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam.

Only two men have swept all four majors in the same year with Rod Laver the most recent back in 1969.

Garin was playing on Centre Court for the first time and was broken five times.

American Sebastian Korda, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, lost a marathon fifth set that featured 13 breaks of serve. Karen Khachanov of Russia won the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 to reach the quarterfinals.

Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian man in 23 years to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals by easing past unseeded Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

The seventh-seeded Berrettini landed only 53% of his first serves but was broken only once in the match. He concluded with 37 winners to 16 for Ivashka, and broke his opponent six times.

Berrettini won the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament last month and has dropped only one set so far at Wimbledon. He is the first Italian to reach the quarters at the All England Club since Davide Sanguinetti in 1998.

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Milwaukee Brewers rally from 7-run deficit in first inning to beat Chicago Cubs 15-7, sweep series

The stage was set for the Chicago Cubs to break a five-game losing streak and gain a game on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, but after taking an early 7-0 lead on Wednesday, the Cubs became just the second team since 1900 to score seven or more runs in the first inning, only to lose by at least that many.

“A bad ending to not our best road trip,” Cubs manager David Ross said after the 15-7 loss.

The Brewers scored a run in the first, five more in the second and then put up eight in the fourth — the final four of those runs coming on a Willy Adames grand slam. Luis Urias then added another home run in the sixth — his second of the game.

“I don’t know what to say,” Adames said. “This one was crazy.” Cubs veteran pitcher Jake Arrieta couldn’t hold on to the lead and was pulled after just 1⅔ innings. The loss dropped the Cubs six games behind the Brewers after the two teams were tied for first in the NL Central just a week ago.

Milwaukee has won eight in a row, while Chicago has dropped its past six games after throwing a combined no-hitter versus the Los Angeles Dodgers last Thursday.

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“I think first place can go up and down before September,” Cubs shortstop Javier Baez said. “I’m not worried about that. Javy Baez is not worried about that. I’m not paying attention to that. We’re playing against pretty good teams.”

The Cubs completed a brutal month in terms of both travel and playing elite opponents.

The result was a 12-16 record and a franchise-worst (since 1900).1875 batting average in a calendar month. They hit .188 in April 1944.

Their current position in the standings might determine the direction of the front office with a month to go before the trade deadline. Ross knows the Cubs have something to prove to team brass. They have more than 10 players set to become free agents after this season.

“The key is for us to represent a winning product and something that can win a division and go into the playoffs and do something special,” Ross said.

The Brewers, meanwhile, have opened up the largest lead of any first-place team in baseball this campaign.

The Cubs find themselves in rare company. On April 26, 1976, the Giants scored seven runs in the first inning and also lost 15-7.

Over the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, there have been 8,691 instances of a team leading by seven runs at any point in a game. Entering Wednesday, only two of those teams had lost by eight-plus runs. Now there are three.

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