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Australian Open quotes: Rafael Nadal says no plans to retire

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal isn't planning to give up tennis anytime soon. Johanna Konta won't take too seriously her dominating win in the Sydney International last Friday. And Sam Stosur, who has never done well at her home Grand Slam tournament, isn't getting too down on herself after her preparation — or lack of it— for Melbourne Park. Following are some thoughts and impressions from players who spoke on Sunday, the day before the start of the Australian Open: ___ RAFAEL NADAL The takeaway: Rafa is not about to call it quits anytime soon. Nadal, a 14-time major winner, is coming off two lengthy injury layoffs last year, including 2 ½ months off after pulling out of the French Open before the third round with left wrist injury and another rest at the end of the season. Just don't ask him if he's ready to pull out a rod and reel, or a 9-iron. 'If I don't believe that I can be competitive, and when I mean competitive, is fighting for the things that I fought for during the last 10 years, I will be probably playing golf or fishing at home,' Nadal said. 'I am being honest ... I am here because I believe ... I can fight for the things that really motivate me.' Given his history with injuries, Nadal was asked if he was playing pain free. 'What do you mean 'pain-free'?' he said. 'I am not injured, no. Pain-free is a long time ago.' ___ JOHANNA KONTA The Sydney-born British player, a surprise semifinalist at Melbourne Park last year, won the Sydney International final against Agnieszka Radwanska last Friday, a victory so dominating that the Polish player, ranked third in the world, said: 'I can't remember playing someone like this on that level, that consistent for the whole match. I couldn't really say that I did something wrong. She was just playing amazing tennis.' Konta said Sunday she's not reading too much into those plaudits. 'Obviously to have beaten a player like Aga, I'm definitely very pleased with the level I played,' Konta said. 'But we all know that it's not a given. It doesn't decide how you will do in the next event. I'm taking it as a positive from the week itself, but I'm looking to, again, work hard here and really try to do the best that I can here.' ___ SAMANTHA STOSUR Competing in her 15th Australian Open, the highest-ranked Australian woman in the draw has never made it past the fourth round at Melbourne Park. Her preparation for her home major wasn't helped with first-round losses at Brisbane and Sydney 'I can't change it, it is what it is,' Stosur said of her early exits. 'I'm not going into my first round freaking out that I haven't had more than two matches. Like I said, I've done everything else that I can. Obviously it would have been really nice to have played more. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in that situation from the first two weeks of the year.' The 18th-seeded Stosur has a tough first-round match against Heather Watson of Britain. ___ SIMONA HALEP The fourth-seeded Halep lost in the first round last year at Melbourne Park. This year she'll have the distinction of opening play on the main Rod Laver Arena on Monday, against American Shelby Rogers. 'I hope is going to be better this year ... it's special to open the tournament on the biggest stadium. I'm not thinking very much at that thing. I just have to go there. I know the opponent pretty well.' Halep beat Rogers in straight sets in the third round at the 2015 U.S. Open in their only previous meeting. ___ TOMMY HAAS The 38-year-old German veteran has said 2017 will be his last year on tour — he's taking over as tournament director at Indian Wells. Haas, who plays Benoit Paire of France in the first round, wants to go out with some dignity after a career of injuries. He has been ranked as high as No. 2, won 15 ATP Tour titles, reached the semifinals of the Australian Open three times and Wimbledon once, and won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. His career has been stalled by injuries since he had shoulder surgery two years ago and right foot surgery in the middle of last year. 'I think it's important to find that right time, or that moment for you when you feel it's over and it's time to do something else,' Haas said Sunday. 'For me it's very important just to be back on tour and back here at the Australian Open. It's been a while since I've played here and I'm excited to get the opportunity to go out on the court one more time and compete.' And to keep playing, hoping that his best is once again around the corner. 'When you are a dreamer, and a lot of us are, you obviously like to play at your best level again, maybe play against some of the top players somewhere on a big stage and play a great matches,' Haas said. 'Maybe get far in a tournament one more time.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Best day ever: Destanee hits with Serena, her inspiration

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Last week, Destanee Aiava became the first player born this millennium to win a main draw match at a WTA event. Next week, the 16-year-old Australian will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the main draw at a Grand Slam tournament, thanks to a wild-card entry to the Australian Open. This week, the highlight has been hitting with Serena Williams, the 22-time Grand Slam champion and the inspiration for Aiava's career. Aiava was 5 when she watched one of the Williams' matches on TV, and told her parents that tennis was going to be her career. Her parents took her seriously, and her mother became her learn-as-she-goes coach. On Thursday, the 35-year-old Williams did a promotional appearance for her racket sponsor on Margaret Court Arena, including a hit up against the Melbourne schoolgirl. Asked what it was like to hit with the six-time Australian Open winner, Aiava paused for a while before Williams chimed in with an answer for her: 'Great.' Aiava laughed, admitting she was more nervous meeting Williams than she had been playing in an exhibition tournament earlier in the day. 'It's actually one of the best days of my life,' she said. 'I've had a lot of fun today, getting to hit with Serena. Hopefully there'll be more opportunities like this in future.' Williams is seeded No. 2 at Melbourne Park, where she lost the final last year to Angelique Kerber. She lost the French Open final to Garbine Muguruza before winning Wimbledon to equal Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 major titles. Aiava, who was born on May 10, 2000, and was No. 386 at the start of the season, has already met the long-retired Graf, her prize for winning the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament in Paris in 2012. After her first-round win in Brisbane last week, she lost to two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. So she's getting more comfortable in elite tennis company. The arena where she hit with Williams carries the name of the woman who holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles — Margaret Court won 24 from 1960 to 1973 in a career that spanned the amateur and Open eras. Williams is aiming for 23 when the Australian Open starts Monday and, with her competitive spirit, there's little doubt there's another target for her in the future. For now, though, she's not prepared to mention those milestones. 'I'm not talking about that,' Williams said Thursday, despite some extra urging. 'I said I'm not talking about that, move on.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Wawrinka, Nishikori reaches quarterfinals in Brisbane

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — A change of scenery didn't change much about the outcome of Stan Wawrinka's opening match of the season. The U.S. Open champion won his debut match at the Brisbane International tournament on Wednesday, beating Viktor Troicki 7-6 (5), 6-4 to move into the quarterfinals against Kyle Edmund. Wawrinka previously made a habit of winning the title in Chennai to warm up for the Australian Open. From 2014-16, he won the Indian event without dropping a set. At 31, though, he decided it was time for a change. He is seeded second in Brisbane, his main tuneup for the season's first Grand Slam tournament beginning Jan. 16. 'For sure it's a bit different conditions, but I don't think it will change much for the preparation for Australia,' said Wawrinka, who won his first major title at Melbourne Park in 2014. 'When you've been on the tour for so long, to play some new tournaments, it makes you a little bit fresher mentally.' Third-seeded Kei Nishikori was rusty in his season-opening match against Jared Donaldson but found enough to hold off the American qualifier 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Eighth-seeded David Ferrer didn't make it that far, saving four match points on serve late in the third set before losing to Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. Thompson, who won only three of his 13 matches in 2016, is already 2-0 this week and reached his first ATP Tour-level quarterfinal match. Next up is Nishikori. Nishikori, a three-time semifinalist in Brisbane, had a first-round bye and started the second round by racing to a 4-0 lead. But Donaldson responded and won the next six games to take the opening set in less than an hour. After jumping to a 3-0 lead in the second, Nishikori dropped another service game but this time used his experience in pressure situations to calmly regain control. 'I had a great start, and then I had one bad game after 4-0,' Nishikori said. 'I think it's a matter of my concentration ... a mental thing. After that he started playing much better ... and his forehand was on fire. 'It was really close. He had many chance to win a set and win the match, so, I mean, finally, in the last set I started playing like first couple of games and started dominating.' Sixth-seeded Lucas Pouille was trailing Edmund 6-3, 3-1 when he retired from their second-round match because of blisters. A day after becoming the first player born in the 2000s to win a main draw match at an elite WTA event, Destanee Aiava lost to two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3 in the women's second round. 'It's pretty scary (but) I learned a lot out of that match,' said the 16-year-old Aiava, adding that she had gained 'confidence, maybe, in my game and myself, knowing that I do belong here.' Aiava will return to her hometown Melbourne, where she will play an exhibition tournament next week to continue preparations for her first Grand Slam event. She has a wild-card entry for the Australian Open, where she is set to be the first player born this millennium to play a Grand Slam main draw match. Kuznetsova will play French Open champion and fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals. Second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova rallied from a set and a break down to beat Zhang Shuai 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in her first competitive match since beating No. 1 Angelique Kerber to clinch the season-ending WTA Finals title. No. 8-seeded Roberta Vinci beat Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-2 in another second-round match. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Red Bull threatens Ferrari s status as 2nd best team in F1

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Ferrari has a fight on its hands. Just not the one it wants. Red Bull is threatening to replace it as Formula One's next-best team behind a dominant Mercedes after Max Verstappen outperformed Ferrari's drivers at the Spanish Grand Prix. Verstappen took third place on Sunday behind race winner Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. That allowed the Red Bull driver to move past Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel into third place overall with 66 points to Vettel's 64. Hamilton and Bottas are far in front with 112 and 105 points, respectively. "I knew we could take the fight to Ferrari," Verstappen said after being cheered by the large number of Dutch fans who had come to the race decked in orange T-shirts. Verstappen and his supporters have good memories of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit. His win here in 2016 made him F1's youngest race winner at age 18. While another victory was out of the question given Mercedes' pace, Verstappen didn't have too much trouble staying in front of the Ferraris. "We were close to Ferrari in qualifying," he said. "I am happy to be back on the podium and third in the championship. It is good to close the gap." As F1's most successful team, Ferrari entered the season with renewed hopes of challenging Mercedes after rising talent Charles Leclerc joined Vettel in a potentially potent driving lineup. Ferrari was faster on this same track during two weeks of preseason testing this winter and had brought in a new engine for the race. But Mercedes was unfazed and stormed to a fifth one-two finish in as many races to further demoralize its rivals. Vettel tried to get the jump on the Mercedes at the race start from third on the grid. But the move only succeeded in making Bottas flinch and letting Hamilton go clear. After Vettel's tires locked up, Verstappen slipped past into third place. Even though there are 16 races left, it looks like Ferrari will likely have to wait another year to end its constructors title drought that dates back to 2008. "The updates we brought here to Barcelona, both on the aero front and on the engine, worked well and we are more than pleased with them, but they proved to be insufficient," said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. "Now we have to analyze and think about what did not work. And when it comes to that, as of today I don't think we have a precise answer." As for Hamilton, he said he had taken notice of improvements that Red Bull had made after switching to a Honda engine this season. The defending champion also said he missed a better effort from Ferrari. "We welcome a battle and it would be great to fight with Ferrari and Red Bull," said Hamiton. "I prefer it when they are in the mix with us. It is much better when we can compete with another team.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 13th, 2019

Bottas takes pole at Spanish GP ahead of Hamilton

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is poised to become a major threat to teammate and defending Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton after clocking a scorching lap at the Spanish Grand Prix to take his third consecutive pole position on Saturday. Bottas smashed Hamilton's track record at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit in qualifying, finishing the 4.6-kilometer (2.5-mile) track in 1 minute, 15.406 seconds to better Hamilton's mark from 2018. More importantly for Bottas' hopes in Sunday's race was the gap of more than half a second over Hamilton's best effort. With Hamilton second on the grid, Mercedes is in great position to extend its record start after the pair swept the top two spots at the first four races. Bottas, who failed to win a race last season, leads Hamilton by one point in the standings after they have alternated places in their run of one-two finishes. "I really enjoyed that adrenaline rush from those laps," Bottas said. "It started well, this season. Just the way I hoped for. I am feeling better and better in the car." Hamilton praised his teammate, who after two years as a second fiddle has emerged as the No. 1 challenger to stopping him from winning a sixth world title. "Valtteri did a fantastic job. He has been quick all weekend," said Hamilton, who took pole in Spain in the previous three years. "I just didn't do the job on my side." Hamilton was quick to add he hoped to celebrate another Mercedes team victory on Sunday, but with him on top. "I'll be giving it everything. Great for the team to have a one-two. If I can reverse it (in the race) I'll be happy." Hamilton will look to turn the tables on Bottas in a race that he has won three times, including the last two years. But Hamilton is getting accustomed to seeing the back of Bottas' car. Bottas won the last race in Azerbaijan from pole position. He was fastest in practice on Friday, and the Finn showed no jitters in qualifying after spinning into gravel in the final practice. Bottas shouted an emphatic "Yes!" over the car radio when he knew the top spot was his after Hamilton came up short on his last run, with some gravel strewn on the course possibly slowing him down. Bottas and Hamilton both said that the 66-lap race could be decided in the opening meters. "The start and Turn 1 will be particularly important," Bottas said. "Tomorrow, Lewis and I both want to win, so I'm looking forward to a hard and fair fight." Hamilton said: "My starts have been decent so far this year, so hopefully that will continue on Sunday as it's not that easy to overtake on this track." Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari will start from third, just in front of Red Bull's Max Verstappen. Ferrari's other driver, Charles Leclerc, will start from fifth. Vettel has yet to top qualifying, and it is clear Ferrari has made up no ground despite bringing a new engine to Spain. Vettel is 35 points behind Bottas in third place. "The car doesn't feel bad, but the car is not quick enough," Vettel said. "We are struggling a little bit to bring it together." Pierre Gasly had the sixth best time in his Red Bull, ahead of Haas pair Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. Nico Hulkenberg was the only driver to go off the track in an otherwise clean qualifying session. The German ran into the barrier and bent one side of his front wing under his Renault. After hasty repairs, Hulkenberg could not make it out of the first qualifying section, which culls the slowest five drivers. Renault partner Daniel Ricciardo finished qualifying 10th but will have to serve a three-place grid penalty that he carried over for causing an accident with Daniil Kvyat in Azerbaijan. Williams' woes deepened after George Russell lost control during practice before qualifying. Damage from the rear-end impact into the wall required a gearbox change, which incurred a five-place grid penalty. Russell and teammate Robert Kubica were again at the bottom of qualifying with the slowest cars......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Ferrari still slower than Mercedes despite new engine

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Ferrari had hoped that a new engine would help the team finally get ahead of Mercedes. Instead, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton put themselves in an excellent position to extend their record start to the Formula One season after Mercedes took the top two spots in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel will start Sunday's race from third on the grid for the fourth time this season. But the gap seems to have grown— not diminished— in the performance level between the Italian cars and their rivals during the two-week break since Bottas and Hamilton combined for Mercedes' fourth one-two finish in Azerbaijan. And this was after Ferrari had fast-tracked a new power unit for the first European race of the calendar to try to stop Mercedes from getting any further ahead. Vettel already trails Bottas by 35 points and Hamilton by 34 after four races and call ill afford another race without a victory. Seeing his best lap still 0.8 seconds slower than pole-winner Bottas, Vettel said that some "daring" was called for if Ferrari wanted to turn it around. "We are certainly not satisfied, but I am very happy with the approach, with the chance that we took in terms of trying something daring, something that ultimately will pay off," Vettel said. "It will help us in terms of pace for tomorrow, and hopefully it sets us off in the right direction for the next couple of weeks." Vettel said that while his and Charles Leclerc's Ferraris seem fast enough to match the Mercedes in flat-out speed on the straightaway, they are losing ground in the final stretch of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit that features several turns. "(That) seems to be more than an Achilles' heel at the moment," Vettel said. Leclerc, the only non-Mercedes driver to claim a pole position this season, had a tougher time in qualifying after he clipped a curb and did some slight damage to his car. "I don't understand how I managed to lose that much of the car," Leclerc said. "We broke quite a lot and in (the third qualifying session) the balance was strange so we need to check the car again." The 21-year-old Leclerc will start the race fifth behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 12th, 2019

Federer loses to Thiem in Madrid Open quarterfinals

By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press MADRID (AP) — Roger Federer's return to clay lasted only three matches. A day after saving two match points at the Madrid Open, Federer squandered two match points himself in the quarterfinals against Dominic Thiem on Friday, losing 3-6, 7-6 (11), 6-4. It may have ended his first appearance at a clay-court tournament in three years, but Federer wasn't leaving the Spanish capital too disappointed with the outcome of his return. "I feel very good about my game. I thought I had some good matches here," Federer said. "I feel good on the clay right now. It's been a good week. Frustrating, clearly. Losing with match points is the worst, so that's how I feel. But nevertheless, if I take a step back, it's all good." Federer skipped the clay swing the past two years to remain fit for the rest of the season. He decided to return this year in preparation for his first French Open appearance since 2015. The fifth-seeded Thiem, runner-up in Madrid the last two seasons, will next face top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who didn't have to play his quarterfinal after Marin Cilic withdrew because of food poisoning. Thiem has a chance to win his third title of the year after victories in Barcelona and Indian Wells, where he defeated Federer in a three-set final. "Facing him, it always requires my absolute best game and also a little bit luck, which I both had in Indian Wells and also here, and that's why I won these two matches," Thiem said. The other semifinal will be between Stefanos Tsitsipas and five-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal. Tsitsipas defeated defending champion Alexander Zverev 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, while Nadal cruised past Stan Wawrinka 6-1, 6-2. Nadal lost only seven points on his service games, conceding no break opportunities against the 34th-ranked Wawrinka. The Swiss lost the 2013 Madrid final to Nadal. "It was one of my best matches in a long time, my best match on clay this year," the second-ranked Spaniard said. "It means a lot to have this feeling in this crucial moment of the clay season." On the women's side, Simona Halep made it back to the Madrid final for the first time since 2017 with a 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-0 win over unseeded Belinda Bencic. The French Open champion can surpass Naomi Osaka for the No. 1 ranking if she wins Saturday's final. "I don't want to think about that. For me, it is more important to win the trophy here than being No. 1," the third-ranked Halep said. "I prefer titles than numbers and rankings. So this is my goal, to play finals and to win trophies." She will face last year's runner-up Kiki Bertens, who defeated Sloane Stephens 6-2, 7-5. The 37-year-old Federer was trying to win his third Madrid title, and first since 2012. He has already won hard-court titles this season in Dubai and Miami. Federer got off to a great start against Thiem at the Magic Box center court, breaking the Austrian's serve early and cruising to a first-set win. He squandered five break points in the second, and then had match points at 8-7 and 10-9 in the tiebreaker before Thiem forced the deciding set by converting his sixth set point. Federer had saved two match points in his difficult three-set win over Gael Monfils on Thursday. Thiem broke Federer for the first time in the third game of the third set, converting his ninth break opportunity of the match. Federer got back on serve at 4-4, but started his next game 0-40 and couldn't recover. Thiem then served out for the victory, converting on his second match point. Thiem has won the last two matches he played against Djokovic, who got the day off because of Cilic's withdrawal. "It was supposed to be definitely a good match," said Djokovic, who has played only four sets this week. "I went back on the court, trained for another hour and got a good sweat in. Happy that I'm going to be fresh for my semifinal." The top-seeded Serb is seeking a third Madrid Open title, and his second of the season after winning the Australian Open. Thiem lost the Madrid final to Nadal in 2017 and to Alexander Zverev in 2018. "I was playing Novak last year and two years ago and he was not at his best I guess, and now he is again," Thiem said. "He's won the last three Slams and he is at the top of the ranking again. So the challenge couldn't be bigger.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 11th, 2019

UAAP Season 81: Sobra sa ini-expect – Miguel on NU’s campaign

National University head coach Norman Miguel gave a good assessment of his team as the Lady Bulldogs overachieved in a very challenging season for the rookie-laden squad. The mentor lauded his squad’s resiliency and gallant stand in UAAP Season 81 women’ volleyball tournament despite the adversities NU faced throughout the tournament. “Para sa amin malaking achievement na ang four wins,” said Miguel after NU finished the season with a 4-10 win-loss record.  “Para sa akin sobra ito sa ini-expect,” added Miguel, whose squad closed their campaign with a 25-27, 17-25, 25-20, 16-25, loss to semifinals-bound University of Sto. Tomas. Coming into the season, the Lady Bulldogs, who saw the exit of Jaja Santiago and Aiko Urdas, made a coaching change just two months before the start of the tournament as NU parted ways with Babes Castillo last December and was replaced by Miguel. The Lady Bulldogs also lost their veteran core with Jasmine Nabor, Jorelle Singh and Roma Doromal skipping the season for personal reasons while middle Risa Sato was deemed ineligible to play because of academic deficiencies.       It left Miguel with only a handful of players led by veterans Joni Chavez, Audrey Paran and graduating Roselyn Doria and rookies Princess Robles, Ivy Lacsina, libero Jennifer Nierva and setter Joyme Cagande. Fate played a cruel joke on the Lady Bulldogs as Cagande sustained a season-ending knee injury in NU’s debut game against Far Eastern University.      “Bago pa lang mag-start ‘yung season alam naman namin composition ng team na puro rookies and then Risa Sato wasn’t able to play then Joyme got injured,” said Miguel. “Maski di pa nangyayari injury ni Joyme, nag-uusap kami ng coaching staff na di kami nagi-expect na we will be in the Final Four,” he added. “Actually, to be honest, iniisip namin nina coach Reg (Diego), wag lang kaming winless in two rounds. Yun lang ang para sa amin basta ito muna ang mangyari, basta di mangyari na 0-0 sa two rounds because of the composition of the team compared sa other teams na competitive sila sa lineup nila.” After losing their opening game and Cagande out for the season, NU converted Chavez from libero to setter and tasted victory at the expense of University of the East.    “And it happened. Nu’ng nagkaron na kami ng first win sobrang tumaas yung momentum na kaya pala ma-increase namin yung ano nu’ng game namin and baka madagdagan ang wins namin,” said Miguel. The Lady Bulldogs then tripped University of the Philippines for a two-win first round run. NU had a string of misfortunes to open the second round before scoring a win over its first round tormentor Adamson. Then came the biggest win of the Lady Bulldogs when NU showed UP the exit door in the race for the Final Four that completed the young team’s domination of the Lady Maroons, who coming into the season were one of the title contenders following their pair of offseason championships. “Alam mo sa totoo lang itong team namin, we all have the reasons para gumive up. Unang una panglimang coach na nila ako, panglima o pang-apat? O whatever. Tapos may na-injure, ineligible to play, merong mga injuries during training pa, during the game. Ang dami tapos from 11 naging 10 naging 9. Di ba ang daming reason para gumive up? Pero hindi,” he said. “Eto kami nagsama-sama, nag-stay put.” “Those are the things that we have to be thankful for na marami kaming natutunan sa journey na ito,” Miguel said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 27th, 2019

Silence, mourning since fatal crash turn to hope at Chapeco

MAURICIO SAVARESE, AP Sports Writer   CHAPECO, Brazil (AP) — Silence and mourning are slowly being replaced by boisterous fans and hope. As the Chapecoense club rebuilds after the air crash that killed 19 players and nearly all members of the staff and board of directors, so is the town of 200,000. Like many in Brazil, football is the oxygen for everything: gossip, community pride and heated debate. On Saturday, Chapecoense's 20,000-capacity Arena Conda will host the team's first match since the tragedy almost two months ago. Lines outside are filled with fans excited about the club's and the city's restart. Fifty coffins lined the same field in November, where this time Chape's reconstructed team will play Brazilian champion Palmeiras in a friendly match. 'I bet I won't be able to sleep Friday night,' 19-year-old fan Marcelo Ribeiro said as he walked to the stadium. 'Since the accident the city is dead. The festivities were mostly canceled at the end of the year, and all most people are thinking about is the rebirth. I want to see what the rebirth looks like.' At the Hotel Bertaso, where most of Chape's players and coaching staff have traditionally lodged, the first signs of that rebirth are obvious. The second floor, which was home to many of the victims, including coach Caio Junior, is once again full. 'I can't help feeling a lot of hope for the future now,' said receptionist Gelson Mangone, who lost several friends in that crash on an Andean mountain side near Medellin, Colombia, on Nov.28. 'It has been a lot of work to settle all these new signings here, they are also learning their way here,' the receptionist said. 'But it does feel like a brand new start.' New coach Vagner Mancini is one of the hotel's new residents. He said the job makes him 'a better human being, but it's the most challenging to face.' 'We have to build a team, a coaching staff and a club infrastructure in a season in which Chape will be in demand,' Mancini told The Associated Press. 'I understand now that the city was so affected because the club and the city are run like a family,' he added. 'The players we brought are cut from that cloth, but we have to reach a higher level now.' After the crash, Colombian club Atletico Nacional, which was to face Chape in the Copa Sudamericana final in Medellin, awarded the victory to the small Brazilian team. That means that Chape qualified for South America's No. 1 tournament for the first time, the competitive Copa Libertadores. The team will also try to defend its title in the Santa Catarina state championship, try to stay up in Brazil's top-flight competition, and play in a pile of fundraisers, including one against Barcelona. 'We have to assemble a competitive team at the same time we need to hire someone to handle passports, contracts,' Mancini said. 'The club used to handle this well, but like a family run business. Now we are at a different moment.' Chapecoense had almost nothing left after the crash: six players that did not travel on the ill-fated flight, two physiotherapists, one goalkeeping coach, one doctor, one data analyst, one nurse and a few club officials. New chairman and club co-founder Plinio David de Nes Filho, a wealthy local businessman known as Maninho, is leading the charge to bolster club finances. Former players like Nivaldo Constante, who played as a goalkeeper until the tragedy struck, are approaching players that can help. And Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon is working as a kind of ambassador for the club and the city. 'Our weekends were about three things: family, church and Chapecoense,' Buligon said. 'It has been hard to get the city back on track because the wounds are still very open. But we are slowly moving on. On Saturday we will start getting a part of our weekends back.' Not everyone is happy. Rosangela Loureiro, widow of crash victim Cleber Santana, said she is upset because his belongings still have not been returned to the family. 'I feel sadness and rage. No one is doing anything to bring their belongings back. I plead with them to soften our pain and make us get the memories that we will hold dear for the rest of our lives,' she said on Instagram last week. Other widows have complained about damages not yet being paid by the club. Chapecoense directors say they are doing the best they can as they try to rebuild. There are even complaints at the joyous Hotel Bertaso. 'These new players love to make a mess in their rooms,' said a cleaner, who declined to offer her name. 'The other ones were older, more mature and the new ones seem to be more infantile. I hope they are up for the task. The city really needs that now.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

6-time champs Djokovic, Williams post Australian Open wins

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The record will show that six-time Australian Open champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic each had straight-set wins. It may seem straight-forward, but it was not routine. Newly-engaged Williams, aiming for an Open-era record 23rd major title, and Djokovic, bidding to become the first man to win seven Australian titles, confronted former top-10 players in the first round at Melbourne Park. And so there was no chance for the No. 2-ranked players, in the recently unaccustomed position at the foot of the draw, to feel their way into the season's first major. Djokovic faced Fernando Verdasco, who beat Rafael Nadal in the first round last year and who had five match points in their last head-to-head encounter — only 10 days earlier. Djokovic held off the Spanish lefthander in a 71-minute, momentum-swinging second set before winning 6-1, 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Tuesday. The first and third sets were great, he said, but the second was 'a gamble.' 'I'm very pleased with the first round, considering I had one of the toughest first-round draws, definitely considering his form,' Djokovic said. 'He's a quality player. He's a big match, big-time player.' The 33-year-old Verdasco peaked at No. 7 in the rankings in 2009, not long after he pushed eventual champion Nadal in five sets in one of the best and latest-finishing semifinals ever at the Australian Open. 'From one perspective it was good that I got to have the very tough first-round match, because it made me prepare better and kind of approach the tournament with the right intensity, right from the first point,' Djokovic said. Williams, on the comeback after a stint on the sidelines following a U.S. Open semifinal loss, took a 5-0 lead in the second set against Belinda Bencic. But Bencic has been ranked in the top 10, and was seeded 12th in Melbourne last year. She applied pressure on Williams, who made mistakes on key points — including a double-fault to give Bencic a break point, and another on her first match point — before recovering to win 6-4, 6-3. Williams became engaged to Alexis Ohanian during the holiday break, and the Reddit co-founder was in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena. She has been asked repeatedly about her wedding plans since arriving in Australia, but only gave a time frame for that discussion after her opening match. 'February I'll start looking at the bigger picture of my life,' she said. 'Right now, I'm just so focused that this is kind of all I can think about.' Williams made a big statement, though, by walking into her news conference wearing a shirt with the word 'Equality' emblazoned across the front. It was still before midnight Monday in the United States, where the holiday in honor of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was nearly ending. 'It's important to spread the message,' she said. Asked if she was concerned about the future of equality in the United States, Williams declined to comment apart from saying it was 'a concern for just everyone in general.' After improving her record in the first round of majors to 65-1, Williams will play Lucie Safarova, who saved nine match points before beating Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. Nadal, also returning from a couple of months on the sidelines following the U.S. Open with an injured left wrist, has already improved on 2016. 'I'm happy to do an interview with you — last year, I didn't have the chance!' Nadal said in his on-court interview after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Florian Mayer. As usual at Melbourne Park, the heat was a factor. The thermostat reached almost 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) on a day when Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic beat Dustin Brown and No. 11 David Goffin beat 19-year-old qualifier Reilly Opelka 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Ivo Karlovic was thankful that it was cooler at night, when the 37-year-old Croat fired 75 aces and held off Horacio Zeballos 6-7 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20 in a match that set a record for most number of games (84) at the Australian Open in the tiebreak era. No. 6 Gael Monfils, No. 8 Dominic Thiem, No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 15 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 18 Richard Gasquet were among the other seeded players to advance. Heather Watson beat No. 18 Sam Stosur, extending the 2011 U.S. Open champion's drought on home soil. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Johanna Konta, No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova, former top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Elena Vesnina, No. 21 Caroline Garcia and No. 28 Alize Cornet all advanced before third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska finished off her 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win over Tsvetana Pironkova just before midnight. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

New look: Murray, Kerber start Australian Open as top seeds

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It's new and exciting for Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber, entering a Grand Slam tournament with the No. 1 in front of their names. Both reached the top of the rankings for the first time near the end of 2016, ending long reigns by Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. And so they'll open their Australian Open campaigns on Rod Laver Arena on day one — both against Ukrainians. Murray, a five-time runner-up, opens his pursuit of a first Australian title against Illya Marchenko in the last day match on the main show court. Kerber opens the night session against Lesia Tsurenko. She'll be followed on court by Roger Federer, who is returning from six months on the sidelines. The 'one-round-at-a-time' cliche is well worn in tennis. For Kerber, though, it's pertinent. Seeded seventh last year, the left-handed German had to save a match point in the first round against Misaki Doi. Spurred on by that, she went on to beat Serena Williams in the final and claim her first Grand Slam title. She added a second major at the U.S. Open and ascended to the No 1 ranking. 'I think this point where I was match point down, that was the important point for my career,' Kerber said Sunday, speaking of her first-round escape against Doi. 'You never know (if) I lost the match, what would have happened.' It gave her the freedom to play without pressure, and that made all the difference. 'When I'm looking back, I was feeling that I got a second chance to stay in the tournament,' she said. 'I was playing since then without expectation ... just enjoying everything.' Kerber can hang on to the top ranking by reaching to the final here, but she's already feeling there's more to defend than her title. 'It's a new challenge for me, for sure,' she said. But, 'We are starting from zero here. I have to be ready from the first round again. 'I will try to not put too much expectation and pressure on myself. I mean, I will try to do it like last year — that was the way I had my success.' Record-chasing, six-time champions Djokovic and Williams, seeded No. 2 and anchoring the bottom half of the men's and women's draws, won't be in action until day two. Djokovic is aiming to be the first man to win seven Australian titles. Serena Williams is chasing an Open-era record 23rd major title. Newly-engaged Williams hasn't wanted to talk about the record, being a little bit superstitious. Williams is concentrating on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, who was seeded 12th here last year and who beat her in Toronto in 2015. While Serena has to wait, the Williams family will be represented on Rod Laver Arena on Monday by her older sister, Venus. The 13th-seeded Venus Williams will play against Kateryna Kozlova following fourth-seeded Simona Halep's opener against Shelby Rogers. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza starts play on Margaret Court Arena against Marina Erakovic, and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka opens the night session on the second show court. Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori gets things underway against Andrey Kuznetsov on Hisense Arena, where Nick Kyrgios will make his return to the tour against Gastao Elias. The 21-year-old Kyrgios finished 2016 under a ban in a season overshadowed by clashes with officials and fans and by the tanking at the Shanghai Masters which led to an eight-week suspension. The ban was reduced to three weeks when Kyrgios agreed to consult a sports psychologist, allowing to warmup for the Australian Open at the Hopman Cup. That's where Federer made his return from six months out to give his injured left knee time to heal. The 17-time major winner didn't play after Wimbledon and his ranking slid to No. 17 by this week. That resulted in him getting a tougher draw than usual at the tournament he has won four times, and where he has reached the semifinals in 12 of the last 13 years. If results go with rankings, he'll play two qualifiers before a potential third-round match against No. 10 Tomas Berdych. Nishikori and Murray are also in his quarter. Federer will open against another 35-year-old veteran, former No. 8-ranked Jurgen Melzer. 'That's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing,' Federer said. Wild-card entry Destanee Aiava, a 16-year-old Melbourne high school student, is set to become the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a Grand Slam when she meets German qualifier Mona Barthel on Show Court 2. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

UAAP volleyball, softball start Feb. 4

MANILA, Philippines - The widely-anticipated volleyball tournament and the competitive softball action usher in the UAAP Season 79’s second semester hostilit.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Federer to meet qualifier Melzer in 1st round at Aussie Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — While Roger Federer spent his time at Melbourne Park on Saturday talking about his comeback at a news conference, dozens of lower-ranked players were still at work trying to earn a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open. Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer was among them, along with Americans Noah Rubin and Bjorn Fratangelo. Melzer's reward for his 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Rajeev Ram out on Court 13 was a first-round match on Monday night against 17-time major winner Federer on Rod Laver Arena. Federer has won the Australian title four times, and reached the semifinals or better in 12 of the last 13 years, but hasn't played a match for rankings points since Wimbledon. When the draw was conducted Friday, the 17th-seeded Federer landed on position 24 and had three blank slots above him, reserved for players who advanced through qualifying. Melzer ended up in position 23, while Fratangelo's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Hiroki Moriya and Rubin's 6-2, 6-4 win over Evgeny Donskoy resulted in them finishing up in positions 21 and 22. They'll meet in the first round, with the winner advancing to the second round to play the winner of the Federer-Melzer match. Melzer and Federer are both 35 and both had significant time off in 2016 with injuries. Melzer, who reached a career-high No. 8 ranking in 2011, missed the first part of last season recovering from surgery on his left shoulder and slipped as low as No. 550. Federer missed the last six months to let his left knee recover and ended the season ranked 16th. Federer didn't know who he'd be playing when he sat down for his pre-tournament news conference. 'Yeah, it would be good to know who I play. I guess I could tell you what I think,' he said. 'Once it's out, it's actually a good thing because then you can start actually mentally preparing for the Aussie Open. Is it a lefty, a righty? It's a big deal. Is he a big server, a grinder? 'A bit of an unknown here the first round because that's the part of the draw I care most about because of having not been playing.' He won't have to do too much research. Federer has a 3-1 record against the left-handed Melzer, winning three times in 2010 but losing their last head-to-head in straight sets on clay in Monte Carlo in 2011. Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, seeded top in the qualifying tournament, had a 6-2, 6-4 win over John-Patrick Smith to reach the Australian Open main draw for the 14th time. He has a 14-13 win-loss record to date, never advancing beyond the third round. His best run at a major was reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2006. Among the other qualifiers was Alexander Bublik, who recovered from a break down in the third set to beat deaf South Korean teenager Lee Duck-hee 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Bublik will play No. 16 Lucas Pouille in the first round. Two Americans were among the women's qualifiers, with Julia Boserup winning through to a first-round match against 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and Jennifer Brady advancing to her debut in the main draw at a major, where she'll play Johanna Larsson. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Yes Sir: Andy Murray confident he can break Aussie drought

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray has become a father, gained the No. 1 ranking and received a knighthood since he left Melbourne Park 50 weeks ago after losing a fifth Australian Open final. Stress weighed him down at the season-opening Grand Slam in 2016, to the point where he thought about quitting the tournament to head back to Britain to be with his heavily pregnant wife. But even that would have presented problems, considering his father-in-law was in a Melbourne hospital after collapsing with an illness while watching a match at the Australian Open. Clearly, he's in a better place this year as he seeks to end his Australian drought. 'I obviously feel pretty confident after the way that last season finished,' he said. 'I do love it here. I love the conditions. I have played really well here over the years, and just haven't managed to get over the final hurdle. 'But, yeah, I think I'm in a decent position, for sure, to do it. I think I have a chance to win here. I'm playing well. Practice has been good. I feel healthy. I'll give it a good shot.' Rumors circulated last year that Murray would go home before facing Djokovic, his Melbourne nemesis, in the final. As it was, he was on the first flight to Heathrow after losing in straight sets — his fourth Australian Open final defeat to Djokovic and fifth overall dating back to 2010. His wife, Kim Sears, gave birth to their first child, Sophia Olivia, the following week. He confirmed Saturday, two days before he opens the 2017 tournament against Illya Marchenko of Ukraine, that he really had thought about leaving early. 'It was a tough tournament, obviously the situation with Kim and the baby coming was tough,' he said. 'Then with what happened with Nigel during the event made it really kind of awkward because there was times ... it was like 'I want to home for the birth,' but then I'm not just going to leave while my father-in-law is also in hospital. 'It was tough, and certainly not a position I would want to put myself in again, or my wife, or any of my family really.' Murray had a stunning end to 2016 after reuniting with Ivan Lendl as coach in June, winning his second Wimbledon title, defending his Olympic gold medal, and adding titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris to end Djokovic's 122-week stint at No. 1. He then clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking by winning the ATP Finals, beating the players seeded second, third, fourth and fifth. He set a record for most time between gaining the No. 2 and No. 1 rankings — seven years, and 82 days. But he has set a lot of timely records for British tennis in the last three seasons and, in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's honors list, he received a knighthood from the British monarch for reaching the pinnacle of the sport. Roger Federer was asked if he could remember what it was like back in 2004 when he first became No. 1, and how he'd explain it to Murray. 'It definitely feels different because everybody comes up to you and says, 'You're the best,'' said Federer, who spent a record 302 weeks at No. 1. 'You start walking around a bit differently. Just feel more confident overall in your shots.' Murray said he hasn't really felt a difference yet, but it has only been eight weeks. Considering how hard it was to achieve the top spot, he's hoping it doesn't take twice the energy to hang on to it. 'It is a mindset thing, because I think it could be quite easy that once you get to No. 1 that you think, 'Well, actually, I just need to keep doing what I've been doing,'' he said. 'The reality is that things obviously keep moving on, the game will get better, I'll obviously get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak and Roger and Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal) and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there. 'I need to continue to improve. I for sure need to keep working hard.' One thing he doesn't really want to change is how people refer to him now that formally he's recognized as Sir Andy Murray, particularly the broadcasters. 'I'm more than happy just being Andy. That's enough for me,' he said. 'Yeah, if they call me Andy, I'd be happy with that.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Tennis stars look forward to start of Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Two days before the Australian Open begins, a stream of top players fronted news conferences Saturday to talk about their chances in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Here are excerpts of what they said: ___ — Novak Djokovic handed out dairy free, gluten free healthy sweets at the end of his opening news conference, something of a tradition of his at the Australian Open. Here's Djokovic on his confidence at the Australian Open, where he's won six of his 12 major titles: 'Nobody is invincible. I never thought of myself as a superior player on the court, even though, of course, at times, I was very confident. I was winning a lot of matches. But knowing how it feels on the court if you get overconfident, that's why I don't want to get into that kind of state of mind. I still want to put myself in a position where I'm quite even to other players, fight for this trophy as anybody else, even though I'm defending champion.' ___ — Serena Williams on her first-round match against Belinda Bencic, a former top-10 player: 'I didn't come here to lose in the first round, or the second round, or at all. If I can play the way I've been practicing, it will be fine. I know she's been playing well, so it will be good for both of us.' — Serena Williams on her recent engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian: 'It's almost a little unreal right now because I haven't taken it in. I'm being rather selfish and focused on my career.' ___ — Belinda Bencic on how she first discovered she'd be opening against Williams, against whom she has a 1-1 record: 'My Twitter was blowing up. I was like, 'What's going on?' That's when I saw it. My first reaction was actually really happy. I think I'm super pumped, excited I get to play on the big court.' ___ — Roger Federer on his physical readiness to play 5-set matches at a slam again after his lengthy injury layoff: 'I guess it's slightly the unknown. I trained as hard as I possibly could, so I will be ready for it. I did numerous sessions where I trained over 2 ½, three hours. I feel I'm ready.' ___ — Andy Murray on how hard he'll have to work to retain the No. 1 ranking he took from Djokovic at the end of 2016: 'I do think it is a mindset thing, because I think it could be quite easy that once you get to No. 1 that you think, 'Well, actually, I just need to keep doing what I'm doing.' The reality is, in sport, that things obviously keep moving on, the game will get better. I'll obviously get older, the young guys will continue to improve, and also Novak (Djokovic) and Roger (Federer) and Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal) and all the guys at the top are still going to be wanting to get there. ... I need to continue to improve. I for sure need to keep working hard.' ___ — Kei Nishikori on whether he can break through and win his first Grand Slam title: 'I hope I can get a Grand Slam title sometime. But I haven't got a big title yet, even the Masters tournaments. That's something I need for my confidence and experience. Yeah, my goal this year is to win a big tournament.' ___ — Milos Raonic on hiring former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek as his coach in the off-season: 'It's really to help me be more efficient going forward. I believe you have these two guys (Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic) that are phenomenal right now at the top of the game covering the baseline. It's really hard to get by them, especially with the way they move. I can't expect to move like they do. I've got to be at least 20, 25 pounds heavier than them. It's going to be about moving forward.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Wozniacki's Sydney run ends again before quarterfinals

SYDNEY (AP) — Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki's streak of not advancing past the quarterfinals in her past seven Sydney Internationals was extended in stifling heat on Wednesday. In temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for much of the match, Wozniacki lost 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-4 to Barbora Strycova in a duel that stretched to 3 hours, 19 minutes. Both players were treated for foot injuries during a grueling second set on Ken Rosewall Arena. Wozniacki came back from 5-2 down in that set, and then 5-0 in the tiebreaker, to win it and force a third set. 'It was brutal out there ... but you just try and think like you're on a beach drinking pina coladas,' Wozniacki said. 'That's basically your train of thought. You know that it's the same for both players, so I was just trying to mentally just try and keep cool.' Strycova will meet the winner of the night match between second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and qualifier Duan Yingying in Friday's semifinals. Former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard continued her strong start to the year with a 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Bouchard had a breakout season in 2014, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open before making the final at Wimbledon. But she has only gone past the fourth round at a major once since then and slipped to No. 46 at the end of last year. 'I feel more and more confident every day,' Bouchard said Wednesday. 'I feel like I'm getting back into the rhythm of things a little bit, but it's a long road ...' The Canadian's semifinal opponent will be Sydney-born Johanna Konta of Britain, who beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 7-5. Konta broke Kasatkina's service in the 11th game, helped by a double-fault to set up break point in that game. Last year at the Australian Open, Konta became the first British women to make a Grand Slam semifinal since 1983 before losing to eventual champion Angelique Kerber. In men's play at Sydney, two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-4. Second-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay defeated Nicolas Mahut of France 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. At Auckland, New Zealand, American John Isner narrowly avoided the fate of two former champions when he beat Tunisia's Malek Jaziri in a third-set tiebreaker to advance 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6) to make the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic. Isner won his last three points with volleys at the net. 'The way I need to finish points is that if I can I have to try and finish them at the net,' Isner said. 'I did that three times in a row and I'm very proud of that.' Four former champions were scheduled to play second-round matches Wednesday but by the time the second-seeded Isner took the court, two had bowed out. Defending champion and No. 1-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut was forced to withdraw before play began because of a stomach virus, handing New Zealander Ruben Statham a place in the second round as a lucky loser from the qualifying rounds. The 2015 champion Jiri Vesely was due to play Bautista Agut and thought he had caught a break when the Spaniard withdrew and the 434th-ranked Statham took his place. But Vesely had a tussle on his hands before winning 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-3. Four-time champion David Ferrer was first up on center court and lost 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (4) to Robin Haase of the Netherlands. At the WTA's Hobart International, former French Open finalist Lucie Safarova was beaten 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 by Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki. Ozaki will next meet Romanian Monica Niculescu. Top-seeded Kiki Bertens advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 11th, 2017

Fun and games, Dimitrov finds a way to break title drought

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Grigor Dimitrov concentrated on fun and games at the season-opening Brisbane International, looking for something a bit different to his regular routine. It turns out, that's what he'd been missing. Dimitrov ended a title drought that dated back to 2014 when he beat third-seeded Kei Nishikori 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in the final on Sunday. The 25-year-old Bulgarian attributed some late-night trips to the game arcades in downtown Brisbane for the change of fortunes. 'I played motor bikes, we played cars, basketball, I mean, I went there with my fitness coach and we were — I think we were the biggest kids out there,' he said. 'You know, it's something so childish, if you want to say it. 'Well, every time I was going to bed, I was, like, 'Wow, that feels so good.' It's just something so small.' Dimitrov, dubbed 'Baby Fed' earlier in his career for his style similarities with Roger Federer, lost the Brisbane International final to Andy Murray in 2013. He won three titles and reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014 as he rose to a career-high ranking of No. 8. But his form faded and he slipped down the rankings to No. 40 by the middle of last year. That's when he had to make some decisions, refocus, set some goals. The first was to win a tournament in 2017 — he's achieved that in the first week of the season. There are other goals, including better runs at the Grand Slams — he hasn't been past the fourth round since a career peak in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2014, when he beat Murray but lost to Novak Djokovic. He entered the season-opening Brisbane event ranked No. 17 and seeded seventh, and could rise to No. 15 for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 16. 'It's been pretty emotional,' Dimitrov said. 'This trophy means a lot.' He didn't elaborate too much on any emotional upheaval, saying it's part and parcel of touring so much as a professional player. But he did say he needed to adjust how he spends his time on the road. 'I'm the kind of guy that I cannot just lock myself in the room and just think tennis for 24 hours. It hasn't helped me,' he said. 'And since I have been here, every night I've been going to the arcades, for example, for an hour and a half, been playing arcades. It's given me tremendous joy. 'That's why I say those, I think, these 10 days that I have been here — I don't remember having so much fun, but in the same time I was very focused, played quite solid all the matches. So I was just — overall, I just felt good.' He beat defending champion Milos Raonic in the semifinals, improving his career record to 3-1 against the big-serving Canadian. He'd never beaten Nishikori in three previous matches, and he had to save break points in the first game and again in the third. After that, he went on a roll. Nishikori, who reached his first Brisbane final after losing three previous semifinals, fended off a breakpoint early in the second set and went on to break Dimitrov's serve twice in an almost reverse of the first set. But the Japanese star lost momentum after a medical timeout for a left hip problem after the second set, and Dimitrov dominated before getting the decisive break in the eighth game and then serving out at love. Nishikori said the hip pain was intense in the second set, and may force him out of a scheduled exhibition match in Sydney on Monday before he heads to Melbourne. 'Well, sort of it was OK, but yeah, a little bit sad to finish (the tournament) like this,' he said. 'But I think it was great week to start of the year. I had good four matches here. Well, I try to stay healthy next week and hope I can be ready for,' for the Australian Open. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

Pliskova routs Cornet, wins Brisbane title

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Karolina Pliskova won all but five points in the first six games to set up a 6-0, 6-3 rout of Alize Cornet in the Brisbane International final on Saturday, setting an ominous tone for the first Grand Slam. The U.S. Open finalist will move to a career-high No. 5 ranking for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 16, after winning her first Brisbane title and seventh on the WTA tour. The first set lasted less than 20 minutes, with third-seeded Pliskova not dropping a point on serve until the last game. Cornet, who was unseeded and ranked No. 41, didn't get on the scoreboard until she held to open the second set. 'I didn't miss in almost the whole first set,' Pliskova said. 'Yeah, I was feeling pretty good.' Cornet said she couldn't get a read on Pliskova's serve, rating it as more difficult to handle than 22-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams' serve. Pliskova is 'serving really, really well. I mean, I played Serena a few times, and I could always be able to return a first serve ... somehow,' Cornet said. 'When you have a serve like this, it's such a weapon. It's pretty much nightmare, actually.' On Sunday, Sydney International organizers said Pliskova, who was scheduled to be seeded fourth there, withdrew due to a left inner thigh injury. Pliskova had a breakout season in 2016, reaching her first Grand Slam final — beating both Venus and Serena Williams before losing to Angelique Kerber at the U.S. Open — and helping the Czech Republic win the Fed Cup. On the men's side, Milos Raonic's title defense ended in a 7-6 (7), 6-2 semifinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov, who will play third-seeded Kei Nishikori in Sunday's final. Dimitrov fended off set point in the tiebreaker and converted his own moments later. He broke Raonic's serve twice in the second set. Raonic didn't blame a late finish on Friday in his quarterfinal win over Rafael Nadal, or the toll that playing the 14-time Grand Slam winner took on his body. Dimitrov 'made it obviously very difficult (and) I didn't turn around and bring the performance I needed to bring,' Raonic said. 'I was just a tidbit slow.' Raonic made the semifinals at the Australian Open last year, reached his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, and finished the year ranked No. 3. But he hasn't won a title since his success in Brisbane last year. He thinks his preparation can change that in 2017. 'I'm on that right track,' he said. 'I feel like if I can avoid that hiccup, I can have a very, very good time in Melbourne.' Nishikori beat U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3 to reach the Brisbane final for the first time, ending a run of three semifinal defeats. He has a 3-0 record against Dimitrov, who lost the 2013 Brisbane final to Andy Murray. Wawrinka had treatment on his left ankle in the first and second sets but didn't expect it to cause him any trouble at the Australian Open. Nishikori took full advantage, converting his first break point in the second set to take a 3-1 lead when Wawrinka missed consecutive backhands. The No. 2-seeded Wawrinka broke back immediately, but dropped his serve again in the next game. Wawrinka beat Nishikori in the U.S. Open semifinals; his only win in their past four matches. Now they're 4-4 in career meetings. Nishikori is making his seventh trip to Brisbane. 'This is my first time to get Sunday, so I'm really happy,' the 2014 U.S. Open finalist said. 'And especially beating Stan today, it was a good start of the year.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Raonic beats Nadal, keeps Brisbane title defense on track

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal was up a set and had a break point against defending champion Milos Raonic when he sent a forehand just wide. It was a mistake the 14-time Grand Slam champion wouldn't recover from. Raonic made the most of the reprieve, holding serve in that fifth game of the second set and then attacking Nadal's serve in the eighth to swing the momentum his way in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win Friday at the Brisbane International. The top-seeded Raonic broke Nadal's serve again to start the third set, and calmly held on for only his second win in eight matches against the Spaniard. Raonic served 23 aces and hit 50 winners to just 19 for Nadal, who could only convert one of his seven break-point opportunities. As well as the big, deep service returns, Raonic also repeatedly went to the net, trusting his instincts and putting pressure on Nadal. 'Today the mentality behind the match was what sort of kept me around,' Raonic said. 'Some moments things weren't looking great. I wasn't efficient coming forward. I was missing some shots I shouldn't be. I was rushing. 'But at least I kept myself there, and I was able to always recuperate the next point. That's what I have to be most proud of.' Nadal, coming back from a layoff after an injured left wrist curtailed the end of his 2016 season, beat Raonic in an exhibition tournament last week. But Raonic played with more intensity in Brisbane, and Nadal said a couple of lapses were costly. 'Probably if I put that passing shot forehand cross, I had the break in the second set, big chance that we will be here one hour before with a victory,' Nadal said. 'That passing shot was long, and that's it. Then he had the break and match changes.' Nadal said three wins at the exhibition tournament, two wins and a close result in Brisbane gave him confidence his progress was good ahead of the Australian Open, where he is desperate to make amends for a surprising first-round exit last year. Still in contention to start back-to-back seasons with a Brisbane title, Raonic will play seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov — a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over No. 4 Dominic Thiem — in the semifinals. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka and third-seeded Kei Nishikori will meet in the other semifinal match. The second-seeded Wawrinka beat unseeded Kyle Edmund 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals in his first trip to the Brisbane tournament. In the previous three years, Wawrinka won the title in Chennai in the first week of the season before heading to Australia for the season's first major. Wawrkina has a 4-3 lead over Nishikori in career head-to-heads, including the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year, but Nishikori won two of the three meetings in 2016. Nishikori has now reached the semifinals four times in seven visits to the Brisbane International, needing just an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson. 'I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today,' Nishikori said. 'Everything was working well.' U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova will play Alize Cornet in the women's final on Saturday. Cornet was leading 4-1 when French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury. Pliskova beat sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal match. 'A little bit of luck never killed anybody,' said Cornet, who finished last year ranked No. 46 but now expects to be seeded at the Australian Open. 'I'm just going to take it. I really enjoy the fact that I'm in the final. It's a big day for me, yeah.' Muguruza didn't think the injury setback would trouble her at the Australian Open. 'It will not stop me,' Muguruza said. 'Cornet was playing good. I couldn't match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was smarter to take care of my body.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Top-ranked Kerber loses to Svitolina in quarterfinals

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Angelique Kerber predicted that 2017 was going to have a different feel for her, considering her phenomenal breakout season last year. It certainly started differently, with the top-ranked German losing to sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the Brisbane International quarterfinals on Thursday. Kerber reached the final here last year and fine-tuned to precision for the Australian Open, where she beat Serena Williams to claim her first Grand Slam title. She went on to reach the finals at Wimbledon and the Olympics before collecting a second major title by winning the U.S. Open. She overhauled Williams for the top ranking and finished the year at No. 1. After a first-round bye, Kerber struggled with her serve and had nine double-faults in a three-set win over Australian wild-card entry Ash Barty in the second round. Against the No. 14-ranked Svitolina, the German left-hander cut her double-faults down to five, and had a break in the third set after winning the second. But she quickly surrendered the break and wasn't consistent enough, finishing with 48 unforced errors against 39 winners. 'Of course I'm disappointed that I lost here in the quarters (but) I think I'm happy about my start,' Kerber said. 'I'm not worried about my serve. I know I can improve it, but, I mean, that's the second match of the year, the first tournament. 'It was not a bad match. I think we both play on the really high level tonight ...so, yeah, next.' Svitolina was the only player to beat both No. 1-ranked women last year, beating Kerber in straight sets in Beijing and Williams at the Olympics. The 22-year-old Ukrainian has now closed the gap to 5-4 in career head-to-head meetings with Kerber. In the semifinals, she will meet U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova, who advanced by beating eighth-seeded Roberta Vinci 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-4 to set up a semifinal match against Alize Cornet, who ousted second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 7-5. Defending men's champion Milos Raonic will face 14-time major champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. The top-seeded Raonic, who had a first-round bye, had 12 aces in a 6-3, 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman. Nadal, who is coming back from months off the tour with a left wrist injury, needed only 55 minutes to finish off a 6-1, 6-1 win over Mischa Zverev in a late match. 'After injuries and hard times, it's so special to be back on court,' the 30-year-old Nadal told the appreciative crowd at Pat Rafter Arena. 'It means everything to me. When you fight a lot to be back in action, the support of the people means a lot.' Nadal beat Raonic in an exhibition match last week in Abu Dhabi and has a 6-1 lead in career head-to-head meetings, but the Canadian was still looking forward to facing the Spaniard. 'It's a great task,' Raonic said. 'I feel like I'm doing a lot of things well and, hopefully, I can match up and play some good tennis.' Fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Australian wild-card entry Sam Groth 7-6 (5), 6-3 to move into a quarterfinal match against seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Nicolas Mahut. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017