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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

Worth a mention: Williams aiming for record 23rd major title

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams definitely doesn't want to talk about the No. 23. She doesn't really want to think about planning a wedding, either, while she's pursuing a Grand Slam record. Newly engaged Williams brushed off concerns about the 88 unforced errors she had in a loss in New Zealand last week in her only warmup tournament ahead of the Australian Open, which starts Monday and where she's aiming for Open-era record 23rd major title. 'I've moved on,' she said. 'I'm feeling relaxed, calm, ready and poised.' Williams responded to questions about milestone achievements last year when she had 21 Grand Slam titles, and it didn't help — she lost the final here to Angelique Kerber and to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open before winning Wimbledon to equal Steffi Graf's Open era mark of 22. She's being more superstitious this time. 'I'm not talking about that,' Williams, a six-time Australian Open winner, said as she shut down questions during a promotional activity this week. 'I said I'm not talking about that. Move on.' Another Australian title is also high on the agenda for Novak Djokovic, who already has won six. But he isn't thinking much beyond his opening match after drawing Fernando Verdasco. A first is the priority for Andy Murray, recently knighted in Britain after finishing 2016 at No. 1. He is looking at the draw from the top for the first time at a major and is hoping it comes with a change in fortunes at Melbourne Park. He has lost five Australian Open finals — the first to Roger Federer in 2010, the other four to Djokovic. Federer could again stand in his way, only at the quarterfinal stage this time. The 17-time major winner slipped down the rankings during six months off last year recovering from an injured left knee and was seeded No. 17. Williams took time off after the U.S. Open, where she lost in the semifinals for the second year running and lost the top ranking to Kerber. The big news during her break was her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian last month, when she posted a poem on the news website to confirm she'd accepted his proposal. After hitting this week with 16-year-old Destanee Aiava, who will be the first person born in the 2000s to play in the main draw of a major when she meets a qualifier in the first round, Williams said her mind was back entirely on business. 'I told (Ohanian) my main goal was to win this title,' she said. 'Yeah, it really doesn't feel like anything different.' No date has been set for the wedding, with Williams' mind on one major thing, so she's not thinking about a dress or a cake, and she's not wearing a ring to practice. 'Oh my God. I don't think about it really,' she said, responding to questions about her marriage plans. 'I'm just ... I don't know I'll have to ask him that. I have a job — I mean, he does too. I kinda gotta focus.' Kerber won the Australian and U.S. Open titles last year, so will be attempting to defend a major for the first time in Melbourne. She may be feeling pressure as the No. 1 seed, having won only one match in two warmup tournaments in Brisbane and Sydney. That doesn't take any pressure off Williams. 'I am No. 2, I guess. I definitely don't feel like anyone's saying that, 'Oh, there's no pressure on Serena,'' she said. 'It's always there, I'm used to it. 'I feel like I've been No. 1 for so long, so many times. I've done things that are amazing. Sometimes that ranking really means a lot, but also I feel like sometimes just winning events ... means just as much.' That's something Djokovic understands. His 122-week streak at No. 1 ended amid Murray's incredible finish to last season, when he won Wimbledon and defended the Olympic gold medal among eight titles he won after reuniting with Ivan Lendl as coach. Before then, Djokovic had beaten Murray in the Australian and French Open finals, his 11th and 12th major titles. Half of those have come in Melbourne, where his victory last year equaled the record six Australian titles Roy Emerson won (1961 and 1963-67). 'I'm feeling phenomenal,' Djokovic said after arriving in Australia following a win over Murray in his season-opening event at Doha. 'Maybe this is the year — 2017 for seven. I'm not a numerologist, but it sounds good.' Murray jumped on a flight almost immediately after last year's final to be with his wife, who was expecting their first child. There have been plenty of changes for him since, becoming a father for the first time, No. 1 in the world for the first time, and reuniting with Lendl. 'Each time I come, I think I've got a chance of winning but it's just never happened,' he said. 'Hopefully, this year will be different. 'I do think the last few months of last year can help me with giving me confidence — other players look at that and see you're playing well and (I) feel physically and mentally strong.' Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, who ended the run of wins by Djokovic and Murray when he won the U.S. Open last September, said the next generation of players such as Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori would be among the contenders for the Australian title. But he thinks it will be difficult for any new champion to emerge against the likes of the in-form Murray and Djokovic, and the returning Federer and Rafael Nadal. 'So far, last 10 years, the 'Big Four' was really strong,' Wawrinka said, 'so it's going to be interesting to see this year how Novak, Andy, Rafa, and Roger will play.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Istomin credits coach (and mother) for upset over Djokovic

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — When Denis Istomin walked off court after upsetting Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open — without a doubt the biggest win of his career — his mother had just two words for him: 'Good job.' There's a reason she's probably more measured than most mothers would be: She doubles as his coach. It's an unusual arrangement on the men's tennis tour, to be sure, but one that works well for the Uzbek player with the neon green eyeglasses and droll sense of humor. He said he wouldn't have it any other way. 'When your family is part of your team, it's great. I was lucky that my mother is coaching me,' he said, before adding with a smile, 'The (other) good thing that I don't need to pay the coach extra, you know. Everything to my mother.' Klaudiya Istomina might be due a raise after her son's stunning 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over Djokovic in the second round on Thursday. Not only was Istomin just 1-33 in his previous matches against top-10 players (the only win coming against David Ferrer at Indian Wells in 2012), he was also ranked a lowly No. 117 after a demoralizing year punctuated by frequent losses. His ranking was so low, in fact, the 30-year-old Istomin had to win a special Asian wild card tournament just to gain entry to the tournament. He was realistic when asked what he would have thought if someone told him before the tournament that he would upset Djokovic, a six-time Australian Open champion. 'I would say, 'Are you crazy or what?'' he said, laughing. 'For me, (it) was impossible to think about that I can hold it five sets with Novak, physically and mentally.' But Istomin still had the belief he could at least compete with Djokovic. The 12-time major winner's loss to Sam Querrey in the third round at Wimbledon last year showed that even the top players are sometimes vulnerable. 'I mean, maybe today (Djokovic) wasn't best,' Istomin said. 'But the level of all players is growing. So if you can see everybody's fighting, even for Roger (Federer) or other players, it's not easy to win against, like, the top 20, top 30. And more young players are coming, as well.' Istomin was nearly forced to give up tennis after a serious car accident in Uzbekistan when he was 14. He was in the hospital for three months and the doctors doubted he would be able to play at the elite level. But two and a half years later, Istomin picked up his racket — thanks to the encouragement of his coach (and mother), Klaudiya. 'I mean, it was all (these) years together. We have a good relationship. We understand each other very well,' he said. 'She was always believing in me.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Federer returns with a win, joins Murray in 2nd round

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer shanked a few shots and was unsettled by how nervous he felt after six months on the sidelines, despite the familiar surroundings at the Australian Open. No other man on tour knows the way around a Grand Slam tournament better than Federer, who is playing in his 69th major and has won a record 17. He served 19 aces and had only one double-fault in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win Monday over fellow 35-year-old Jurgen Melzer, but dropped serve three times and experienced frustrating moments. 'I was feeling nervous once the match actually started,' said Federer, who hadn't played at tour level since Wimbledon after taking time off to let his injured left knee heal. 'In the warmup ... I felt fine. Then I hit four frames in a row. It was like, 'Whew, it's not as easy as I thought it was going to be.' 'I struggled for a while to find that groove, that rhythm.' Federer had surgery on the knee after a semifinal exit at the last Australian Open and missed the French Open, ending his streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. He returned for Wimbledon, reached the semifinals, then didn't play again in 2016. In November, he fell out of the top 10 for the first time in 734 weeks. The 17th-seeded Federer wasn't the only highly-ranked player to find the going tough Monday. Stan Wawrinka, the U.S. Open champion, was pushed to five sets. So was No. 5-seeded Kei Nishikori. Angelique Kerber, defending champion and ranked No. 1 at a major for the first time, had some nervous moments in her 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win over Lesia Tsurenko. Kerber won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, beating Serena Williams in the final after saving a match point in the first round. After wasting a match point before her serve was broken as Tsurenko rallied to win the second set, Kerber said her mind raced back 12 months. 'When I lost the second set, and I had match point, I was thinking about my match last year in the first round,' she said. 'First rounds are always tough.' In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during a 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed. The five-time finalist comfortably navigated what he hoped was the first step to a drought-breaking Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals in Melbourne to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. Gaining the top ranking and receiving the civic honors doesn't change anything for Murray, who said he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations. I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year.' Wawrinka, who made his Grand Slam breakthrough in Australia in 2014, narrowly scraped past 35th-ranked Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. In the ninth game of the fifth set, Wawrinka smashed a soft half-volley from Klizan straight back into the Slovakian's body, clipping the frame and just missing his midsection. He stepped over the net and ensured Klizan was OK, then held serve in that game and broke in the next game to finish it off. Nishikori beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2. Joining him in the second round are 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 19 John Isner, No. 23 Jack Sock, No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey. Also, No. 14 Nick Kyrgios returned from his suspension for underperforming in Shanghai last year and raced through a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over Gastao Elias. No. 16 Lucas Pouille was the highest-ranked of the three men's seeded players to lose. Five of the women's seeded players went out, including No. 4 Simona Halep, who lost 6-3, 6-1 to Shelby Rogers in the first match on Rod Laver Arena, and No. 15 Roberta Vinci, who lost to CoCo Vandeweghe. Seven-time major winner Venus Williams beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard continued her recent resurgence by routing Louisa Chirico 6-0, 6-4. Joining them in the next round will be French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 10 Carla Suarez, No. 11 Elina Svitolina and No. 20 Zhang Shuai. Sixteen-year-old Destanee Aiava became the first player born in this millennium to play in the main draw of a major, but the milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to Mona Barthel. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Murray wins in straight sets in 1st major match as No. 1

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — In his first Grand Slam match with the elevated status of having a knighthood and the No. 1 ranking, Andy Murray berated himself when he made mistakes and frequently yelled during his 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Illya Marchenko. In other words, nothing much has changed in his approach. The five-time finalist, back in Melbourne trying to end his drought, started on Rod Laver Arena on Monday and took the first step in his bid for a first Australian Open title. Murray has lost four of the last six finals here — including the last two — to six-time champion Novak Djokovic. But he did take something off his long-time friend at the end of last year when he replaced Djokovic in the top ranking during a stunning finish to the season. In Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's honors list, Murray received a knighthood from the British monarch for reaching the pinnacle of the sport. Murray said the ranking and the civic honors won't change anything, and he faces 'the same pressure, same expectations.' He admits there's one thing he desperately wants to change. 'I've never won here — I'm going to try to change that this year,' he said. Two players who could potentially stand in his way — No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 10 Tomas Berdych — had first-round wins earlier in the day. Another, Roger Federer, was set to play his first tour-level match in more than six months when he played Jurgen Melzer in a night match on Rod Laver. There are 18 American women in the draw, and two recorded wins in the first two matches on Rod Laver. Venus Williams went onto main court right after Shelby Rogers' upset win over fourth-seeded Simona Halep, a result which sent the former French Open finalist out in the first round again. Williams also lost in the first round last year, and didn't plan to replicate Halep's early exit again. The seven-time major winner beat Kateryna Kozlova 7-6 (5), 7-5, twice recovering breaks in the first set and despite her 48 unforced errors. 'It's never easy playing the first round — you're just trying to find the rhythm,' Williams said. 'She played amazing. It's very satisfying to get through a match against an opponent who is on fire.' Rogers caused the first upset of the tournament with her 6-3, 6-1 win over Halep. Rogers made a surprising run to the French Open quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Garbine Muguruza last year, when she was ranked No. 108, but only advanced to the second round at one other tournament in 2016. But the run at Roland Garros gave her confidence. 'The biggest thing I took away from that was just that I can compete with the top players in the world and I'm good enough,' said Rogers, who was playing just her second main draw match at the Australian Open. 'So I have definitely carried that away from the French Open and just been enjoying it a little bit.' Halep, a two-time quarterfinalist in Australia, said she'd been hampered by left knee pain that was compounded by the pressure of the match. Seventh-seeded Muguruza saved a set point in the first set, needed a medical timeout and had to fend off three break-point chances at 1-4 in the second set before advancing with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Marina Erakovic. Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig raced through her opening match, beating Patricia Tig 6-0, 6-1, and No. 20 Zhang Shuai, No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu also advanced. Australian teenager Destanee Aiava's milestone match ended in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) loss to German qualifier Mona Barthel. The 16-year-old Melbourne high school student became the first player born in this millennium to play a main draw match at a major. In two all-U.S. matches, Samantha Crawford defeated Lauren Davis 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and Alison Riske beat Madison Brengle 7-5, 6-3. Fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe recovered from a break down, and an illness, in the second set to beat No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci 6-1, 7-6 (3). Two other seeded players lost early women's matches, with Varvara Lepchenko beating No. 19 Kiki Bertens 7-5, 7-6 (5) and former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic beating No. 26 Laura Siegemund 6-1, 1-6, 6-4. On the men's side, Nishikori needed 3 hours, 34 minutes to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2, but Berdych only played a set — which he won 6-1 — before Luca Vanni retired from their match. No. 19 John Isner beat Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 and advanced along with No. 27 Bernard Tomic, No. 29 Viktor Troicki and No. 31 Sam Querrey, who beat Quentin Halys 6-7 (10), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 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

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

Nadal, Federer: Keepers of faith

Rafael Nadal says the emergence of a new generation is just what tennis needs, while welcoming back old foe Roger Federer to help him keep them at bay......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated 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

Wild-card entry Bouchard wins 1st-round match at Sydney

SYDNEY (AP) — Eugenie Bouchard made the most of her wild-card entry to the Sydney International, beating Zhang Shuai of China 7-6 (1), 6-2 on Sunday in a first-round match. Bouchard, a 22-year-old former Wimbledon finalist, was beaten in the first round of the Brisbane International last week in her first warmup tournament for the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 16 and where she was a surprise semifinalist in 2014. The Canadian went on to make the semis at the French Open that year before losing to Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon final. Bouchard finished that year ranked seventh, but injuries and poor form since have seen her ranking slide to 46. Earlier at Sydney, two-time Grand Slam singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania 6-1, 6-4. Defending champion Kuznetsova broke the Romanian's serve in the ninth game of the second set, then held serve to advance to the second round of the ATP-WTA tournament. Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan advanced when Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who partnered Roger Federer in last week's Hopman Cup, retired with a toe injury when Putinseva was up 6-4, 2-3. In a first-round men's match at Sydney, France's Nicolas Mahut beat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-2, 7-6 (2). Earlier, Brisbane International finalists Karolina Pliskova and Alize Cornet withdrew from their next scheduled tournaments due to injuries. Pliskova, who beat Cornet 6-0, 6-3 at Brisbane on Saturday evening, withdrew from the Sydney International with a left inner thigh injury. Pliskova, who would have been seeded fourth in Sydney, was replaced by lucky loser Roberta Vinci of Italy. Sydney officials also announced seventh-seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine withdrew due to a viral illness. 'I've had constant headaches for the last two days and unfortunately in today's hot weather it got even worse when I was warming up and my body wasn't ready to compete,' Svitolina said. Svitolina was scheduled to play Olympic champion Monica Puig on Sunday, but Puig will now play a lucky loser from qualifying on Monday. No. 1 Angelique Kerber and third-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska remain in the Sydney draw. At Hobart, defending champion Cornet withdrew from the tournament with a back injury, a Tennis Australia official said. American Shelby Rogers posted the first upset of that tournament in the opening match, beating second-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. Lizette Cabrera of Australia continued the Hobart trend, beating fifth-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan 6-4, 5-7, 7-5. Third-seeded Monica Niculescu defeated former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-3. In a men's tournament at Auckland, New Zealand, top-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut and second-seeded John Isner headline the entries. Bautista Agut, Isner, third-seeded David Ferrer and No. 4-seeded Jack Sock have first-round byes in the tournament which begins Monday. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 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

Dimitrov upsets Raonic, sets up Brisbane final vs Nishikori

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Milos Raonic's title defense ended in a semifinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov at the Brisbane International on Saturday, a day after his come-from-behind win over Rafael Nadal. Top-seeded Raonic beat Roger Federer for the title here last year, avenging a loss to the Swiss star in the 2015 final, and appeared to be on course for a third straight Brisbane final when he had set point in the first-set tiebreaker against Dimitrov. But the 25-year-old Bulgarian held firm, saving that set point, converting his own moments later and then breaking Raonic's serve twice in the second set on the way to a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win. The No. 17-ranked Dimitrov improved his record to 3-1 in career meetings against Raonic and set up a final against Kei Nishikori, who beat U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3 to reach the final for the first time at the season-opening tournament. Nishikori has a 3-0 record against Dimitrov, who lost the 2013 Brisbane final to Andy Murray and was ousted by Federer in his previous two trips to Brisbane. Wawrinka, who won the Chennai tournament in India in the first week of the season for the three previous years, 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, which begins Jan. 16 in Melbourne. Third-seeded 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 semifinals of the U.S. Open last year; his only win in their past four matches. With the result in Brisbane, Nishikori has leveled up his career head-to-head record against the three-time major winner at 4-4. Nishikori was making his seventh trip to Brisbane, and playing a semifinal for the fourth time. The Japanese star is still chasing his first Grand Slam title, with his best run at a major remaining his appearance in the 2014 U.S. Open final. U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova was playing unseeded Alize Cornet in the women's final on Saturday night. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Americans finish round-robin play at Hopman Cup unbeaten

PERTH, Australia (AP) — American teammates Coco Vandeweghe and Jack Sock remained unbeaten after round-robin play at the Hopman Cup, defeating Daria Gavrilova and reserve Australian player Matt Ebden 4-1, 4-1 Thursday in the deciding mixed doubles match. The United States had already qualified for Saturday's final with wins in its opening two matches at the ITF invitational event, which offers no ranking points but has prize money. Sock earlier beat Nick Kyrgios 6-2, 6-2 and Gavrilova defeated Vandeweghe 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in singles play. Kyrgios, who said he has some left knee soreness but expects to be ready for the Australian Open, was replaced by Ebden in the mixed doubles. 'It's not terrible, but it's not great,' Kyrgios said. 'I just need to rest now and a couple of days without the load and I should be back to normal. A thing like this won't take too long.' Earlier, the Spanish pair of Lara Arruabarrena and Feliciano Lopez beat Lucie Hradecka and Adam Pavlasek of the Czech Republic 4-2, 4-1 in mixed doubles to give Spain a 2-1 win. Lopez had earlier beaten Pavlasek 7-6 (5), 6-4 while Hradecka gave the Czechs the lead with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Arruabarrena. Switzerland, led by Roger Federer, plays France on Friday in its final round-robin match, with the winner to face the United States in the final. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 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 5th, 2017

Nadal in Australia, still aiming to contend for major titles

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal cuddled a koala on the banks of the river, something that has become a customary photo opportunity for celebrity players on debut at the Brisbane International. The 14-time major winner has altered his preparation for the Australian Open, hoping a change of venues for the warmup tournaments will bring a change of luck at the season's first Grand Slam tournament after a shocking first-round exit in 2016. Nadal kicked off his season with a win in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi on New Year's Eve, then headed directly to Australia to fine-tune at the Brisbane International in preference to remaining in the Gulf for the event in Doha. 'I played well in Abu Dhabi ... I played three good matches, and that's important for me,' Nadal said Monday after the brief meet-and-greet with a local politician and a native marsupial. 'I really hope the good matches I played in Abu Dhabi helps me for here.' The 30-year-old Spaniard is playing in Brisbane for the first time, replacing Roger Federer as the tournament's male draw card. He has a tricky opener against Alexandr Dolgopolov and, if he gets through that, a potential quarterfinal against top-seeded Milos Raonic, the defending champion. Nadal is coming off a left wrist injury that curtailed his 2016 season, and thinks the extra time in Australia will help him prepare to win his first major title since the 2014 French Open. Until last year, he had reached the quarterfinals or better at every Australian Open he had contested since 2007, including victory in '09 and runs to the final in 2012 and '14. The wrist injury last year forced Nadal to withdraw from the French Open before the third round and skip Wimbledon. He won the Olympic doubles gold medal for Spain in Rio de Janeiro, but he struggled with the pain and didn't win a title on a surface other than clay in 2016. 'Last year that I was playing great, I get injured in the worst moment possible,' he said. 'I'm happy to be back on the competition again. Abu Dhabi was a good start. I need to continue that way.' Despite his struggles with injury and the recent dominance of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, Nadal thinks he can still contend for the Grand Slam titles. 'Being here in Brisbane is good news for me,' he said, two weeks before the Australian Open starts. 'I don't know if that's going to help me or not — I can tell you after Melbourne, I cannot predict the future. 'The only thing I can say is if I am healthy, I believe that I can do it. If not, I (would) be at home fishing.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 2nd, 2017

So does Wawrinka belong to a Big 5 now?

NEW YORK  — For years, the duo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal dominated men's tennis......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 12th, 2016

Serena Williams overtakes Federer for most Slam match wins

NEW YORK  — Serena Williams now owns more victories in Grand Slam matches than anyone else in tennis' Open era, surpassing Roger Federer with her 308th......»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsSep 6th, 2016

Nadal, Djokovic miss Federer at US Open

Nadal, Djokovic miss Federer at US Open.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsAug 30th, 2016

Federer, Nadal to team up in Laver Cup

NEW YORK — Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have faced each other in eight major finals, plan to team up as doubles partners next year during the inaugura.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsAug 25th, 2016