Australian Open: Rafael Nadal Powers Into Third Round

Rafael Nadal shrugged off any lingering back soreness to storm past qualifier Michael Mmoh on Thursday for the loss of just seven games, brushing off a bizarre incident that saw fan thrown out. The world number two has been struggling with tightness in his lower back since arriving in Australia last month, but showed few signs of it with the roof closed on Rod Laver Arena. He crushed the American 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in a match interrupted in the second set when a woman was ejected after heckling him and directing rude gestures in his direction. The Spanish great took it in his stride, grinning and playing football with the ball while he waited, seemingly enjoying having spectators back.

Asked afterwards whether he knew her, he replied: “No, and honestly I don’t want to know.”

He will next play Britain’s Cameron Norrie in his quest for a 21st Grand Slam title.

“I always try to be better, sometimes it happens and sometimes not. Tonight has been a positive evening for me, winning in straight sets.

“For me, I am now just focusing on what is coming because that is going to be more difficult,” he added.

The writing was on the wall, with Nadal enjoying a perfect record against qualifiers at the Australian Open, where he has reached the round of 32 every time he has played, barring his shock first round exit in 2016.

Nadal sent Serb Laslo Djere packing with little drama in the opening round and it was a similar story with Mmoh, whose father Tony twice played at the Australian Open.

After getting his measure in the first few games, Nadal pounced to break in the fourth and never looked back, racing through the set in 27 minutes.

While serving big, the American lacked accuracy and was mercilessly punished by a player ranked 175 places above him.

Nadal was cruising at 5-4 and about to serve for the set when the strange scene with the woman unfolded, delaying play for a brief period.

They played on but stopped again at 30-0 as security moved in to escort her out. Nadal, who seemed to enjoy the distraction, refocused to serve out the set with two aces.

With the clock rapidly ticking towards midnight, he put his foot down in the third set to wrap up the match emphatically.

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The 2009 champion, who has a history of back problems, is bidding to win his 21st major title and claim sole ownership of the men’s record, which he currently shares with Roger Federer.

But the king of clay has often laboured in vain on Melbourne’s hardcourts, reaching five finals but only having the one title, falling in the quarter-finals last year to Dominic Thiem.

Sports Ministry Approaches UK Government To Allow Sania Mirza’s Son On Tour

The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on Wednesday approached the UK Government, through the Ministry of External Affairs of Government of India, to grant a visa to the two-year-old son of tennis player Sania Mirza, so that she can take the toddler with her while she participates in a series of competitions in the United Kingdom, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Sania will be participating in the Nottingham Open, beginning June 6 followed by the Birmingham Open on June 14, the Eastbourne Open on June 20, followed by the Wimbledon Grand Slam, beginning June 28.

“Though Sania has been granted a visa to travel to Nottingham, her son and his caretaker have not received UK visas owing to the travel restrictions on Indian travellers,” said the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in an official statement.

Sania, who is a part of the Sports Ministry’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), approached the Ministry requesting help with the visa of her son and his caretaker. Sania stated that she cannot leave a two-year-old child behind as she travels for a month.

The request was immediately taken up by the Sports Ministry and a letter has already been sent to the MEA requesting them to take up the matter in the UK through the Indian Embassy in London.

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Speaking about the endeavour of the Ministry, Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju said, “We received this request for Sania a few days back, and I felt that it is important that as a mother Sania be allowed to take her two-year-old son along so that she can participate with a free mind without worrying for her child back home.”

“I have approved the request and Sports Ministry officials have initiated the process with the MEA. The Sports Ministry’s effort has always been to provide every support to our athletes. We are hopeful that the UK Government will see merit in this case and allow the child to travel with Sania,” he added.

French Open: World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty Doesn’t Share Naomi Osaka Media Fear

World number one Ashleigh Barty said Friday that she will not be following closest rival Naomi Osaka in boycotting French Open press conferences, insisting talking to media is “kind of part of the job”. Japanese star Osaka caused a stir at Roland Garrosby announcing that she will refuse to carry out any press activity at the tournament, claiming she fears the effect of them on her mental health.

The four-time major winner believes the traditional post-match inquests are akin to “kicking people when they are down”.

However, 2019 French Openwinner Barty says carrying out media duties are part and parcel of the job.

“We know what we sign up for as professional tennis players,” the 25-year-old Australian said.

“I can’t really comment on what Naomi is feeling or her decisions she makes. At times press conference are hard of course but it’s also not something that bothers me.

“I’ve never had problems answering questions. It’s not something that’s ever fazed me too much.

“And it certainly doesn’t keep me up at night what I say and hear or what you guys ask me.”

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Osaka risks fines of up to $20,000 for skipping news conferences at the French Open which starts on Sunday.

She said she will donate the money to mental health charities.

Sania Mirza Wishes Fans On Eid, Shares “Typical Post Pics” With Husband Shoaib Malik

India’s tennis star Sania Mirza took to Instagram to share a series of pictures with her cricketer husband Shoaib Malik, while revealing what happens when the couple makes an “attempt to take typical post pics.” In the photos, the duo can be seen posing awkwardly as they were captured candidly. “Eid Mubarak from us to you Ps- swipe to see what happens when we attempt to take typical post pics,” Sania Mirza captioned the post along with a laughing emoji.

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A post shared by Sania Mirza (@mirzasaniar)

Both Sania and Shoaib Malik often pull each other’s leg on social media. On their wedding anniversary, the Pakistan all-rounder had wished Saniabut he made the same mistake which he said he repeats regularly — extending wishes a day late.

“- Oops ghalti se mistake hogaya…Wishing you a day late as always, love you @MirzaSania to the moon and back begum, Bay-Ghum,” Shoaib Malik had tweeted.

Recently, Sania opened up on her battle with depressionand recalled the time when she once cried for no reason after she had to pull out of a match in 2008 Olympics.

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“One incident was when I had to pull out of my match at the Olympics. It was the 2008 Beijing Olympics and I had a very bad wrist injury. I went into depression for 3-4 months after that, I remember crying for no reason. I would be absolutely fine and then I would burst into tears. I remember not coming out of my room to even eat a meal for over a month,” Sania had said in a YouTube interview for ‘Mind Matters’.

(With ANI inputs)

Stefanos Tsitsipas Hails Novak Djokovic As “One Of The Greatest”

Stefanos Tsitsipas hailed Novak Djokovic as “one of the greatest players tennis has seen” ahead of the Serb’s assault on a sixth Wimbledon title and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam crown. World number four Tsitsipas enjoyed and then endured a close-up view of Djokovic’s powers when he gave up a two sets lead to lose the final of the French Open two weeks ago. Victory in Paris allowed Djokovic to become the first man in over half a century to win all four majors twice. Now, with the 2021 Australian and French Open titles under his belt, he is halfway to becoming only the third man, and first since Rod Laver in 1969, to complete a calendar Grand Slam.

“He’s a complete player. He has the potential to do it,” said Tsitsipas on Sunday.

“Obviously we’re there to try and kind of put a stop to that dream of his. It’s going to be difficult.

“Me personally, I find it very challenging playing against him. I think he’s one of the greatest players tennis has seen.”

Tsitsipas is seen as a Wimbledon champion-in-waiting should Djokovic and eight-time winner Roger Federer falter.

However, his record on grass remains mediocre although that can be attributed to lack of exposure more than any particular weaknesses in his game.

So far the 22-year-old has played just 15 matches on grass with a win-loss record of 8-7.

By comparison, Djokovic is 95-18 and fellow veteran Federer is 188-28.

Tsitsipas, the first Greek player ever to reach a Grand Slam final, made the last 16 at Wimbledon in 2018 but lost to Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano in the first round 12 months later.

Wimbledon was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

“I didn’t really have Plan B or Plan C. I just kind of had my one way of playing. That was also because of lack of experience, not being on the tour for long enough,” he said as he recalled his five-set loss to 89th-ranked Fabbiano.

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“I was disappointed. I was also miserable that time of the year.

“I can tell you that right now I’m feeling happy every single day.”

Australian Open: Elise Mertens-Aryna Sabalenka Win Women’s Doubles Title

Second seeded Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka swept past Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova to clinch their maiden Australian Open doubles crown on Friday. The Belgian-Belarusian combination proved too strong for the third-seeded Czech pair, winning 6-2, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena after sealing the match on their fourth championship point.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks so thank you to everyone involved. Glad to have fans back,” said Mertens.

It was their second Grand Slam success as a team after the 2019 US Openand sixth title overall as they both bounced back from fourth-round defeats in singles at Melbourne Park.

They pair made their debut together at the 2019 Australian Open and have since established themselves as one the tour’s top teams, along with two-time Grand Slam winners Krejcikova and Siniakova.

Novak Djokovic Eyes Third Round On Wimbledon’s Courts For Concern

Five-time champion Novak Djokovicrenews his long-standing Wimbledon rivalry with Kevin Anderson on Wednesday as serious questions are asked over the quality of the fabled Centre Court where Serena Williams suffered her tournament-ending injury. World number one Djokovic, looking to move alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as a 20-time Grand Slam winner, has a 9-2 record over the big South African. That includes three wins at Wimbledon in 2011, 2015 and in the 2018 final. Anderson was beaten in straight sets in that championship match three years ago, exhausted by back-to-back five-setters in the last-eight and semi-finals. He defeated Federer 13-11 in the final set of their quarter-final clash and then John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set in the semi-final.

Since that time, Anderson, now ranked 102 in the world, has undergone two surgeries on his right knee in 2019 and 2020.

“I never really thought of quitting,” said 35-year-old Anderson.

Djokovic opens play on Centre Court, a day after seven-time champion Serena Williams retired with an ankle injury midway through the first set of her opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The 39-year-old American left the arena in tears as her dream of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors was again thwarted.

Her heart-stopping fall came not long after French player Adrian Mannarino had slipped and hurt himself on the same part of Centre Court.

He too had to retire with his match against Roger Federer level at two sets apiece.

“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. I don’t know if it’s just a gut feeling,” said Federer.

– ‘Terrible for Serena’ –

“This is obviously terrible that it’s back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well. Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.”

Djokovic had also struggled to keep his feet on Centre Court on Monday when he faced Jack Draper in his first round tie.

Britain’s Andy Murray won his first singles match at the tournament in four years when he saw off 24th seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili two days ago.

The three-time champion and former world number one, now down at 118 in the rankings, tackles qualifier Oscar Otte of Germany for a last-32 place.

Murray, 34, has overcome a career-threatening hip injury to still be playing at the highest level.

“I keep on being asked will it be my last match or my last Wimbledon,” said Murray.

“I don’t know why I keep on being asked. I want to keep on playing. I enjoy it and I can still play at the highest level.”

Both Djokovic and Murray would have been buoyed by seeing world number four Stefanos Tsitsipasremoved from their half of the draw in the first round.

In the women’s tournament, Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka, yet to make the last-eight of a Slam, faces British wild card Katie Boulter, the world 219.

Sabalenka won their only previous meeting at the Australian Open in 2019.

With rain having disrupted the opening two days of the championship, there are still 49 first round ties to complete.

Two singles matches which should have been completed on Monday will now go into a third day.

In an attempt to return to schedule, first and second round men’s doubles matches will be best of three sets rather than five, said organisers.

In all, 80 singles matches are on the schedule for Wednesday.

They will include 41-year-old Venus Williams, a five-time champion who made her tournament debut in 1997, taking on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

Frances Tiafoe, who knocked out Tsitsipas, plays Vasek Pospisil of Canada.

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Seventh seeded Matteo Berrettini, the Queen’s Club champion, aims to complete his first round match against Guido Pella of Argentina.

Nick Kyrgios was level 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 3-3 with Ugo Humbert of France when their match was suspended Tuesday due to the local 11pm (2200GMT) neighbourhood curfew.

French Open: Serena Williams Powers Into Last 16 To Boost Record Hopes

Serena Williams sent out a warning to the rest of the depleted women’s draw on Friday with a dominant straight-sets win over Danielle Collins to reach the French Open last 16 for the first time since 2018. The 39-year-old, still one short of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, saw off fellow American Collins 6-4, 6-4. “Today it was very difficult, but I played well, stayed concentrated. I’m very happy,” said the three-time Roland Garros winner.

Williams is now the highest seed left in her half of the draw, with all of the world’s top four absent from the second week.

She will next face Kazakh 21st seed Elena Rybakina, with a potential quarter-final against old rival Victoria Azarenka up for grabs.

Williams, seeded eighth, had a slight scare in the second set when she fell 1-4 behind against 2020 quarter-finalist Collins, but won the next five games to secure victory.

When Williams last made the fourth round three years ago, she withdrew injured before a scheduled clash with Maria Sharapova.

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The former world number one also pulled out last year following the opening round, but she looks in strong form this time around, despite sporting some strapping on her right thigh.

Williams thundered down five aces and hit 22 winners against Collins, winning in just 85 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Australian Open: Daniil Medvedev Celebrates Birthday With 16th Straight Win

Birthday boy Daniil Medvedev added another win to his red-hot streak on Thursday, as the Russian fourth seed demolished Roberto Carballes Baena to ease into the Australian Open third round. Medvedev, who turned 25 on Thursday, powered past the Spaniard 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 on John Cain Arena for his 16th straight win dating back to November. Along the way, the world number four has won the Paris 1000, the ATP Finals in London and the ATP Cup with Russia in the lead-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year. “Sometimes in tennis, as in other sport, you just have the momentum and feel like you can do a lot of things,” he said of his blistering form.

“Once you lose it it’s tougher, so I’m just trying to keep it as much as possible. So far it has been working and hoping it won’t stop for a long time.”

He will next play Serbian 28th seed Filip Krajinovic, who eased past Spain’s Pablo Andujar in four sets.

Medvedev’s sizzling form makes him a serious contender to claim a maiden Grand Slam title, and he was in fine touch against Carballes Baena, ranked 99.

He quickly took charge, returning well and dominating at the baseline and net to comfortably take the opening set.

The Russian was pressed harder in the second but that was as good as it got for Carballes Baena, who lost focus and was punished by a man at the top of his game.

Medvedev is bidding not only for a maiden Grand Slam title but to become only the third Russian man to win a major, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

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He has been knocking on the door for some time, reaching the 2019 US Open final — where he lost in five sets to Rafael Nadal — and the last four in New York in 2020.

But he has yet to go beyond the round of 16 at Melbourne Park.

Daniil Medvedev Reclaims Second Spot In ATP Rankings From Rafael Nadal

Russian Daniil Medvedev reclaimed the world number two spot from Rafael Nadal in the latest ATP rankings released on Monday, with no Americans in the top 30 for the first time. Nadal was knocked out of the Madrid Open in the quarter-finals last week by eventual champion Alexander Zverev, raising questions about his form ahead of his bid for a record-extending 14th French Open title. That would also see him break Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record with a 21st Grand Slam singles triumph.

German Zverev remains in sixth place despite his first Masters title in three years.

Taylor Fritz is the highest-ranked American at 31st — the first time the US have not had a player in the top 30 since the ATP rankings were created in 1973.

Madrid Open runner-up Matteo Berrettini jumped up one spot to world number nine.

ATP top 20 on Monday (changes in brackets):

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 11,463 pts

2. Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 9,780 (+1)

3. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 9,630 (-1)

4. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 8,365

5. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 7,610

6. Alexander Zverev (GER) 6,945

7. Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6,000

8. Roger Federer (SUI) 5,785

9. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 4,048 (+1)

10. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 3,765 (-1)

11. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 3,170

12. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 3,050

13. David Goffin (BEL) 2,875

14. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 2,855

15. Gael Monfils (FRA) 2,703

16. Casper Ruud (NOR) 2,665 (+6)

17. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 2,586

18. Jannik Sinner (ITA) 2,545

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19. Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 2,543 (-3)

20. Milos Raonic (CAN) 2,540 (-1)