Tagged in: melbourne

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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Australian Grand Prix organizers unveil track changes

Australian Grand Prix organizers will hope the days of single-lane racing at Albert Park are over as they unveil long-awaited alterations to Melbourne’s lakeside circuit this week.

Albert Park has hosted Formula One’s Australian stop since the state government snatched it from Adelaide some 25 years ago, turning public roads and car parks into a race track for a few weeks every year.

Until this year, the circuit had stuck resolutely to the layout of the first race in 1996 despite the vast evolution of the cars.

Though one of the more visually pleasing tracks on the calendar, it drew criticism for lacking passing opportunities, gripes that only grew in volume as the cars sped up.

Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas won in 2019 for Mercedes — the last edition of the race before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic — having led from the first turn, a fairly typical outcome in Melbourne.

The upgrade may reduce the chances of similar processions.

It has seen the bumpy street circuit resurfaced and shortened by 28 metres, with seven corners modified and two turns taken out altogether, bringing the total down to 14.

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One of the more significant variations is the widening of turn one — the scene of some memorable crashes as cars jostled for position in a narrow funnel after taking off from the grid. The corner is now 2.5m wider, giving drivers more racing lines in the crucial opening moments.

Turn six, once a tight right hander, has been widened by more than 7.5m, which is expected to hike speeds by 70km per hour; and the old chicane between turns nine and 10 has been removed, effectively transforming the section into a 1.3km straight where drivers will put the foot down.

After breakneck speeds from turn six through to turn 10, turn 11, widened by three metres, will be a key attacking zone, with the camber also altered to force harder braking to negotiate the corner.

The changes have paved the way for four DRS zones, where drivers can adjust flaps on their rear wings to reduce drag and improve their chances of overtaking. The pitlane has also been widened by two metres with the intention that its speed limit will be raised from 60kph to 80kph. This could lead to more strategic options for teams due to the reduced time spent pitting.

Organizers hope the circuit’s upgrade will prove a hit with the drivers and a thrill for returning motorsport fans.

McLaren’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo said fans should expect a different kind of race.

“Not taking credit, but I was a little bit involved in the talks about revamping the circuit a few years ago when they had the first idea of what to do to try to make the racing a bit better,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“I think it is going to be a different spectacle this time around. We obviously have to go there now and let our actions to do the talking, but on paper I think there is promise with that.”

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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 ends Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev’s golden run

Novak Djokovic had a perfect record in Australian Open semifinals, and he was playing almost flawless tennis to protect it.

It didn’t matter that across the net was Aslan Karatsev, a 114th-ranked, 27-year-old Russian who had come through qualifying to make his debut in a Grand Slam tournament after nine failed attempts.

Djokovic made only one unforced error in more than 50 minutes.

It was tight for the first seven games — before Djokovic reeled off eight consecutive points to win the first set — and again when Karatsev went on an all-or-nothing roll late in the second set.

Sensing a shift in support for the underdog — there was a vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena after a five-day span when fans were barred during a local COVID-19 outbreak — Djokovic moved up a gear and finished off his opponent 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

He’s now 9-0 in semifinals at the season-opening major, and one victory from a ninth Australian title.

“The more I win, the better I feel coming back,” the top-ranked Djokovic said. “The love affair continues.”

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Djokovic, 33, will have a day off Friday when No. 4 Daniil Medvedev and No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is coming off a five-set victory over Rafael Nadal, meet in the other semifinal. Djokovic said he’d have a rest and get the popcorn ready to watch and see who he gets to face in Sunday’s final.

Given his past success in Melbourne, Djokovic should feel confident going into another championship match.

He already owns a record eight Australian titles, and he’s aiming for an 18th major title, which would reduce the gap to Roger Federer and Nadal, who share the men’s record at 20.

Djokovic also is aiming to be only the second man to attain nine or more titles at one of the four Grand Slams. Nadal has 13 at Roland Garros. Djokovic, in Australia, and Federer, with eight at Wimbledon, currently share second place.

“Recovery is the priority right now,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had enough match play, enough practice.

“Right now it’s just gathering all the necessary energy for the most important match of the Australian Open.”

Djokovic has been bothered by an abdominal muscle problem since the third round. He initially stated it was a tear, but has since refused to talk about the details until after the tournament.

After his victory over Karatsev, he said it’s “the best as I’ve felt the entire tournament.” “I felt great. I could swing through the ball. No pain. Best match so far,” Djokovic said. “It came at the right time. I’m thrilled to feel this way.”

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Daniil Medvedev lifts Russia past Italy for ATP Cup title

After celebrating their ATP Cup triumph as teammates for Russia, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev will go their own ways at the Australian Open next week and might meet at Melbourne Park as rivals in the quarterfinals.

Medvedev improved his winning streak to 14 matches and secured Russia’s 2-0 triumph over Italy in the ATP Cup final on Sunday when he beat Matteo Berrettini 6-4, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena. Rublev had given his team a commanding start with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Fabio Fognini.

The No. 4-ranked Medvedev has certainly been peaking, winning his last 10 matches versus top-10 players, including a sweep of the top three at the ATP Finals last year and a close victory over Alexander Zverev in the semifinals here.

“It’s a confidence boost,” he said.

The Australian Open starts Monday but Medvedev and Rublev, who has won five titles and 45 singles matches since the start of 2020, get a day off before their first-round matches.

As for having such a run of big matches so close to a major, Medvedev said he wouldn’t know for a couple of weeks whether it was ideal preparation for a major or not.

“Get the momentum going, sometimes it helps you – I did last year (when) I won two tournaments in a row,” he said. “At the same time it’s tiring. Played four tough matches, yesterday especially.”

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The Russians didn’t lose a singles match during the group stage or the playoffs this week, and were the second team to win the ATP Cup after Novak Djokovic led Serbia to the inaugural title last year.

The first edition featured 24 countries and was staged in three Australian cities: Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. Because of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a two-week quarantine for all international arrivals, this year it was cut to 12 teams and played entirely at Melbourne Park. Along with five other tuneup tournaments.

Italy veteran Fognini was in the team that lost to Russia in the group stage last year. In the final, he said it was a bit of a blur.

“We played with the two best shape guys in the circuit at the moment,” Fognini said. “Especially in my case, it’s tough to say, but I don’t have these kind of matches, this kind of speed during the point. At the moment was too much.”

It seems that Rublev and Medvedev hadn’t looked too far ahead in the Australian Open draw, until Russia team captain Evgeny Donskoy raised the topic of their projected quarterfinal match at the post-match news conference.

“I’m just actually more happy for the guys that they’re achieving the level that is going to be out of the limit soon because they’re playing unbelievable tennis,” Donskoy said. “Yeah, just wishing them to play the same like they played today in the main draw of Australian Open. If the level going to be the same, these guys going to see each other in the quarterfinals.”

Medvedev, who is seeded fourth and opens versus Vasek Pospisil, said: “Yeah, it’s going to be great. You cannot change the draw. If it happens, it’s perfect.”

Rublev, who is seeded 7th and opens versus Yannick Hanfmann, said, “I wish.”

“It’s too far to say something about it now. We have to go match by match. Daniil [has a] tough first round. Me, I have as well. We’re not going to meet in second round, so we need to win a couple of matches first.”

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