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Andy's ankle, Federer's biggest test highlight Friday action

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — One big question ahead of the start of the third round Friday at the Australian Open is the state of Andy Murray's injured right ankle. And nearly as important, how Roger Federer will perform in his first major test — against Tomas Berdych — since returning from a six-month injury layoff. The top-seeded Murray tumbled to the court at Rod Laver Arena, clutching his ankle and cringing in pain during the third set of his second-round match against No. 156-ranked Andrey Rublev on Wednesday. 'It just a little bit stiff just now,' he said after the match. 'I don't think I've done too much damage.' Murray held a practice session on Court 17 on Thursday afternoon and appeared to be moving freely. He is scheduled to play No. 31-seeded Sam Querrey in a Hisense Arena afternoon match. Something that may have made Murray's ankle feel better later in the day was news that Novak Djokovic was upset in the second round by Denis Istomin. On opposite sides of the draw, they couldn't have met until the final, but Murray has lost five finals at Melbourne Park — four of them to Djokovic. Here is a look at some of the other featured matches Friday: ___ FEDERER'S BIG TEST: Undoubtedly No. 10 Tomas Berdych will be 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer's biggest challenge since returning from his left knee layoff. Federer, a four-time Australian champion, was tested from time to time in wins over qualifiers in his opening two matches. The good news is that he holds a 16-6 career edge over Berdych, including all three times they've met previously at Melbourne Park. Federer is 5-0 in their most recent meetings. 'I did feel like I actually played him quite well in recent times, thanks for reminding me,' Federer said. 'I just got to play on my terms and really be focused on my own service games to make sure I don't have any lapses there. I know I've got to lift my game a little bit.' The pair will play the final night match on Rod Laver Arena. ___ BEATING THE TWINS?: Top-ranked Angelique Kerber beat Karolina Pliskova in the U.S. Open final, and will have a chance to beat the Czech player's twin sister, Kristyna, in the next major when the pair meet in an afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena. Kerber has never played the 58th-ranked Kristyna. Asked if it was 'weird' to play twins, Kerber seemed perplexed by the question. 'I don't know if it's weird. I mean, the one is right and the other one is left-handed.' For the record, Kerber and Kristyna are both left handed. ___ And briefly: No. 4 Stan Wawrinka vs. No. 29 Viktor Troicki: U.S. Open champion and 2014 Australian winner Wawrinka beat Troicki in the second round at the Brisbane International two weeks ago, his seventh consecutive win over the Serbian player. Advantage Stan. _ No. 7 Garbine Muguruza vs. No. 32 Anastasija Sevastova: 2016 French Open champion Muguruza lost to Sevastova in the second round at the U.S. Open last year in straight sets, but returned the favor at Tokyo a few weeks later. _ No. 13 Venus Williams vs. Duan Yingying: Duan beat former top 20 player Vavara Lepchenko in the second round. She and Williams have never played, and both players said they know little about the other. Duan said she had never even seen Williams play. 'I don't really watch that much tennis, so I think my coach will do the job to try to tell me what I need to do on the court,' Duan said through a translator. _ No. 5 Kei Nishikori vs. Lukas Lacko: Nishikori is looking to advance to the fourth round for the sixth year in a row. He's made it to the quarterfinals the past two years. Lacko, a qualifier, has played nine sets in two rounds, including a five-setter in his first-round win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas. _ Eugenie Bouchard vs. CoCo Vandeweghe: After a poor second half of 2015 and most of 2016, Bouchard is playing with more confidence. The 22-year-old Canadian, who made the semifinals here and the French Open in 2014 before reaching the final at Wimbledon, beat Vandeweghe the only time they've met at Indian Wells in 2015. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Murray, Federer advance to 3rd round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — When Andy Murray tumbled to the court, clutching his right ankle, the top of the men's draw at the Australian Open momentarily took on a new complexion. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, was leading his second-round match comfortably Wednesday night when his right shoe caught on the surface in the third game of the third set, and he rolled awkwardly on the ground. He continued and won that game, talking to himself, saying 'It's not good news.' He saw a trainer during the next change of ends, but decided he didn't need any extra treatment on his already heavily strapped foot. Murray went on to win 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 against No. 156-ranked Andrey Rublev, later saying 'It's a little bit sore — not too serious.' ''I was moving OK toward the end, so that's positive,' he said. It was Murray's 178th win in a Grand Slam match, joining Stefan Edberg at equal eighth on the list of match winners in the Open era. The 19-year-old Rublev's first-round win here was his first in a major tournament. Murray next faces No. 31 Sam Querrey, who had 7-6 (5), 6-0, 6-1 win over 17-year-old wild card Alex De Minaur. Roger Federer's progress was more straight forward, beating 20-year-old qualifier Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to maintain his record of never failing to reach the third round at the 18 Australian Opens he's contested. After back-to-back wins over qualifiers, the degree of difficulty in the 17-time Grand Slam winner's comeback from a six-month injury layoff will increase exponentially. Next up, Federer faces 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who had a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Also looming, potentially, is No. 5 Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, who set up a third-round match against Lukas Lacko with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy. They're all in the same quarter of the draw as Murray. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 over Steve Johnson and will next play No. 29 Viktor Troicki in the lower quarter of the top half of the draw. No. 19 John Isner, the highest-seeded U.S. player in the men's draw, lost to Mischa Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7 and followed Johnson, Rubin and Harrison out. Wins by No. 23 Jack Sock and Querrey ended the day on a more positive note for the American men. No. 7 Marin Cilic and No. 14 Nick Kyrgios were beaten in night matches. Cilic lost in four sets to Daniel Evans, and No. 89-ranked Andreas Seppi rallied from two sets down and saved a match point to beat Kyrgios 1-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 in a seesawing match that featured a high-risk, between-the-legs shot from the enigmatic Australian. Defending champion Angelique Kerber celebrated her 29th birthday with a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 second-round win over Carina Witthoeft. The crowd sang her 'Happy Birthday,' although she wasn't entirely on song. The No. 1-ranked Kerber angrily swiped her racket in the second set in a burst of frustration that momentarily threw her off her game. She had two double-faults in the tiebreaker, as Witthoeft leveled the match, but regained control in the third. Kerber planned to celebrate over dinner, then get back to work before Friday's third-round match against Kristyna Pliskova, who beat No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 7-6 (8). Pliskova's twin sister, Karolina, lost the U.S. Open final to Kerber. Speaking of age, Venus Williams had to field questions about getting older after an energetic performance in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele. The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. 'It's an honor and privilege to start that young,' she added, laughing, 'and play this old.' Venus and Serena Williams, who have won 14 major doubles titles together, withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus' right elbow. In her next singles match, Venus will play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8. In other third-round matches, two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova will meet former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic, No. 11 Elina Svitolina will take on No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the Wimbledon final in 2014, will play CoCo Vandeweghe. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Federer extends run of reaching 3rd round to 18 Aussie Opens

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Roger Federer relied on his Grand Slam experience during the most important points to beat Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday, maintaining his record of never failing to reach the third round at the 18 Australian Opens he's contested. After back-to-back wins over qualifiers, the degree of difficulty in his comeback from a six-month injury layoff will increase exponentially. Next up he faces 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, who had a 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Also looming, potentially, is No. 5 Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, who set up a third-round match against Lukas Lacko with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy. Federer didn't play after his semifinal exit at Wimbledon last year, resting his injured left knee. He returned at the Hopman Cup exhibition in Perth this month, and opened at Melbourne Park with a win over another 35-year-old veteran, Jurgen Melzer. Against Rubin, a 20-year-old qualifier and 2014 Wimbledon junior champion, the 17-time Grand Slam winner played the big points like the old pro that he is. Rubin had his chances in the third set, breaking Federer in the second game and having two set points on the Swiss star's serve when he led 5-2. But Federer upped the tempo, winning four of the last five games to force a tiebreaker, which he dominated. Rubin moved well from the baseline, and hit 11 forehand winners, but was only able to convert one of his six break-point chances. 'I definitely got lucky winning that third set. He had a couple of set points on my serve,' Federer said. There were, 'a lot of difficult points, which is what I need.' Federer has a 16-6 record against Berdych, winning the last five, but has had losses to the Czech player at the 2004 Olympics, at Wimbledon in 2010 and at the 2012 U.S. Open. 'He's caused difficulties for me in the past on faster courts,' Federer said. 'Then again, I've played him here, as well, when it went my way. I just got to play on my terms.' U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka advanced 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 over Steve Johnson and will next play No. 29 Viktor Troicki. No. 19 John Isner, the highest-seeded U.S. player in the men's draw, lost to Mischa Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7 and followed Johnson, Rubin and Harrison out in the second round. No. 23 Jack Sock and No. 31 Sam Querrey won in straight sets, ensuring the U.S. men finished day three on a brighter note. Defending champion Angelique Kerber celebrated her 29th birthday with a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 second-round win over Carina Witthoeft. The crowd sang her 'Happy Birthday,' although she wasn't entirely on song. The No. 1-ranked Kerber angrily swiped her racket in the second set in a burst of frustration that momentarily threw her off her game. She had two double-faults in the tiebreaker, as Witthoeft leveled the match, but regained control in the third. Kerber planned to celebrate over dinner, then get back to work before Friday's third-round match against Kristyna Pliskova, who beat No. 27 Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 7-6 (8). Pliskova's twin sister, Karolina, lost the U.S. Open final to Kerber. 'I'm always playing on my birthday — always in Australia,' said Kerber, who had her major breakthrough here last year. 'I feel like at home here.' Speaking of age, Venus Williams had to field questions about getting older after an energetic performance in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Stefanie Voegele. The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. 'It's an honor and privilege to start that young,' she added, laughing, 'and play this old.' Venus and Serena Williams, who have won 14 major doubles titles together, withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus' right elbow. In her next singles match, Venus will play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8. In other third-round matches, two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova will meet former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic, No. 11 Elina Svitolina will take on No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the Wimbledon final in 2014, will play CoCo Vandeweghe. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza beat Samantha Crawford 7-5, 6-4 in a night match, and Mona Barthel beat Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Williams, Safarova in French Open final rematch at Melbourne

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — On paper, Serena Williams' second-round match on Thursday against Lucie Safarova should be no contest. The six-time Australian Open champion in search of her record 23rd Grand Slam singles title has beaten the Czech player all nine times they've met, including the 2015 French Open final. But Safarova, ranked 61st, saved nine match points in the second set of her first-round match here against Yanina Wickmayer before advancing 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. So Williams may need to be patient, or ruthless, in the match which opens night play at Rod Laver Arena. After her win Tuesday, Safarova wasn't aware of the extent of her feat. 'I stopped counting after a few (match points), I was like, just another one,' she said. 'But I was like, 'I'm just going to go for it and if she closes the match, well OK, but I'm just going to play my game.' It was exciting.' Safarova is expecting a fast start from Williams. 'Serena's always a tough opponent,' Safarova said. 'She hasn't played many matches so that could be maybe a little bit to my advantage, but she always comes out strong. I have nothing to lose so I'll be ready.' ___ Here is a look at some other matches in the bottom half of the draw on Thursday, the fourth day of the Australian Open: CONCERN FROM RAONIC: Milos Raonic takes on Gilles Muller, who is coming off his first career tournament victory at the Sydney International last week. Muller broke down at the trophy presentations in Sydney, relieved that he finally achieved a win. Raonic lost to Muller in Valencia, Spain in 2012, although that was before Raonic developed into the third-ranked player in the world. Raonic also had to retire from a second-round match at Wimbledon in 2011 while leading 3-2 in the first set due to a right hip injury. 'I have struggled with him,' Raonic said. 'He had a great, phenomenal week last week. For him it was something very special, and obviously it was pretty special to see, as well, that final and his reaction to it.' They play an afternoon match on Margaret Court Arena. ___ MUTUAL RESPECT: Johanna Konta beat Naomi Osaka in straight sets in their only previous meeting in the semifinals of qualifying at the U.S. Open in 2015. The pair, who meet again Thursday — the opening match of the day at Rod Laver — made positive impressions on each other during that match in New York. 'I remember playing her, and she had a real good serve and a really good return,' Osaka said of last year's semifinalist. 'I think it's really awesome like how she rose so high and quickly. She's a really good player.' Konta returned the favor: 'She's improved a lot. I know she plays a big game. She has big shots. I'm definitely prepared to go in for a battle.' ___ DOMINATING DJOKOVIC: Six-time champion Novak Djokovic has beaten his second-round opponent, Dennis Istoman, all five times they have met. Two of those matches have come at the Australian Open, although it wasn't until the third round. Istoman has won only one set in those five career matches. Among other matches Thursday, 2009 champion Rafael Nadal plays 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska takes on Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Pursuing a record 23rd major title, Williams opens with win

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — For the first five games in the second set, Serena Williams played almost flawless tennis in her first-round match at the Australian Open. Then came the rustiness that tends to follow a lengthy layoff, giving Belinda Bencic a glimmer of hope, before Williams regained her composure to win 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday. The six-time Australian Open champion improved her impressive record in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments to 65-1. The No. 2-ranked Williams' priority here is an Open era record 23rd major title. She's one win down — beating a player who was seeded 12th here last year and reached a career-high No. 7 ranking last February — and is targeting six more at Melbourne Park. 'She was just recently in the top 10. I knew it would be one of the toughest first-round matches I've ever played,' the newly engaged Williams said. In round two she'll meet Lucie Safarova, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1. Bencic got one service break in the first set, but only took two points in the first three games on Williams' serve in the second. Serving for the match at 6-4, 5-1, things changed. Williams finished her 2016 after the U.S. Open, resting injuries. And started 2017 with an error-prone loss in Auckland, New Zealand. Williams served only her second double-fault of the match to give Bencic a break-point chance, and Bencic converted it with a crosscourt winning forehand. The Swiss teenager held at love and then faced a match point, when Williams double-faulted again. The 35-year-old Williams made no mistake on her second match point and pumped her first in celebration. She finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors, eight errors and four double-faults. Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta both had their Grand Slam breakthroughs last year, both prepared for the season's first major with title runs in Australia and both advanced with straight sets wins. U.S. Open finalist Pliskova following her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo. The fifth-seeded Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing the final to Angelique Kerber, has never advanced past the third round at Melbourne Park — losing at that stage in the last two years to Ekaterina Makarova. Pliskova is feeling more confident this time. 'I feel good on the court, especially when I win my first title in the first week of the year,' Pliskova said. 'So I'm ready for the tournament.' Konta, who won the Sydney International title last week, had a tougher time in beating Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2 on Margaret Court Arena. 'I definitely love playing here. It's a dream. A lot has happened in the last year, but I'm just enjoying playing and getting better each day.' Ninth-seeded Konta was a surprise semifinalist in her debut at the Australian Open last year, starting with a first-round win over Venus Williams and sparking a strong 2016 season which ended with her in the top 10. In other early results, No. 21 Caroline Garcia beat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (4), 6-4 and No. 30 Makarova had a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova. On the men's side, No. 25 Gilles Simon beat U.S. wild-card entry Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-3, 6-3. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Coaches association announces Michael H. Goldberg Award

em>NBCA press release /em> The National Basketball Coaches Association (“NBCA”) is proud to announce the inception of the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award. The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award will be an annual award given to honor the most successful Head Coach in the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) as voted upon by his or her peers. It will be the only award chosen entirely by NBA Coaches. Every season, Head Coaches representing all 30 NBA Teams will select the winner. The winner of the 2017 Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award will be announced at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 NBA regular season. This award will recognize the dedication and hard work of NBA Head Coaches. The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award will be presented to a Coach who helped guide his or her players to a higher level of performance on-the-court and showed outstanding service and dedication to the community off-the-court. The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award is named after the esteemed Michael H. Goldberg, the long-time Executive Director of the National Basketball Coaches Association (a group that encompasses all Head and Assistant Coaches in the NBA and its alumni group). In 1980, six years after the NBCA was founded, Michael H. Goldberg became its first Executive Director. Building upon the existing foundation of the NBCA, he guided it during the years of the greatest growth in professional basketball. He helped gain significant benefits for NBA Coaches, including billions of dollars in increased retirement funds, and disability insurance. And so, the Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award honors the substantial contributions of Mr. Goldberg, who set the standard for loyalty, integrity, passionate representation, and tireless promotion of NBA Coaching. “This award honors the life work of a great leader, tireless foot soldier for the best interests of Coaches and the NBA, and most importantly, a trusted friend,” said NBCA President Coach Rick Carlisle. “The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award will have special meaning because of its namesake and the fact that it is voted on by all Head Coaches.” Mr. Goldberg graduated from New York University in 1963 and later attended St. John's University School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1966. After law school, he joined the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) where he was a Branch Chief. He left the SEC in 1972 and became General Counsel for the American Basketball Association (“ABA”). Mr. Goldberg guided the ABA along with its late Commissioner, Dave DeBusschere, until the league merged with the NBA in 1976. Through the agency he founded, National Media Group, Inc., Mr. Goldberg has been a fixture in the business of sports marketing working over the years with a wide variety of prominent corporate sponsors and licensees wishing to promote their products and services through sports/entertainment tie-ins. Among a long list of clients are IBM, American Express, Schick, Fleer Trading Cards, Gatorade, Nike, Self Magazine, Sports Illustrated, the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB. The agency also played a key role in the growth of the sport of basketball in the US and abroad, organizing the Gatorade World Coaches Clinic program, and launching the highly successful NBA/FIBA McDonalds Basketball Championship. He now devotes himself primarily to his work on behalf of the NBCA. “Michael Goldberg is a legend in basketball circles and has distinguished himself by his relentless advocacy on behalf of NBA coaches and his deep caring for everyone involved with our game,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “This new award reflects his vital and everlasting contributions to the NBA.” The Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award will be presented to a Head Coach who exemplifies the same high quality of integrity and excellence that Michael H. Goldberg exhibited during his highly respected career. “It is truly an honor and a privilege to be recognized by this award,” said Michael H. Goldberg, NBCA Executive Director. “I have been very fortunate to work with the National Basketball Coaches Association for over thirty-five years. During this time, I have found the Coaches to be passionate, wise, and caring leaders. This award, determined by peer vote, is tremendously meaningful to our NBA Coaches, the League, as well as for my family and me.” .....»»

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

US, Mexico could team up and meet FIFA's World Cup need

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   ZURICH (AP) — The United States and Mexico could team up and meet FIFA's need for the biggest-ever World Cup in 2026 being staged by the most host nations. Canada has also joined the North American neighbors for informal talks about a three-way bid in a contest that FIFA will complete during American President-elect Donald Trump's first term, according to persons familiar with the talks. They spoke on grounds of anonymity because the talks are confidential. FIFA's decision Tuesday to expand the 2026 tournament — to 48 teams from 32, playing 80 games instead of 64 — increased the chances of co-hosting to share the load. 'In some regions not only does it make more sense, it's the only sense,' said FIFA vice president Victor Montagliani, who leads the Canadian soccer federation. 'I think when more countries share (hosting) it's an opportunity to grow the game.' Asked specifically about a potential three-way bid with the U.S. and Mexico, Montagliani said: 'It's definitely a possibility because the rules now allow for it. 'I also respect the fact that each country has the possibility to put on the World Cup (alone) and I think the discussions will happen quite soon as to what is our region is going to look like at this World Cup as I think it is an opportunity for CONCACAF.' U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati also took part in a unanimous FIFA Council decision. Though Mexico soccer leader Decio de Maria does not sit on FIFA's strategy-setting panel, he was also in Zurich with a top-level delegation from the regional soccer body, known as CONCACAF. The region was already favored to get its first World Cup since the U.S.-hosted 1994 edition, even before Tuesday's expansion decision. It now demands more high-quality training camps, hotels and transport for 48 teams, plus FIFA officials and hundreds of thousands of visiting fans. 'It means the number of countries that can host it without building major infrastructure and stadiums is limited,' said Gulati, adding his board has a 'fundamental decision' whether to bid. The U.S. could go alone, or bid with one or both neighbors. Uniting the U.S. and Mexico could win support from more than 20 Spanish-speaking federations among 211 FIFA members that now choose the World Cup hosts. It should also appeal to FIFA's sense of soccer having a role in society, amid tense cross-border relations caused by Trump's outspoken comments on Mexico. 'Listen, I'm a football guy, I'm not a politician,' said Montagliani, who like Gulati speaks fluent Spanish. 'The only thing I know from afar about Trump is that he's a big sports guy and he's proven that in the past ... so you would hope that football will trump politics. No pun intended.' FIFA typically looks for strong government support, and has it in the next two World Cup host nations Russia and Qatar. Russian deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko is a FIFA Council member and attended Tuesday's meeting. FIFA has allowed co-costing at just one of 22 World Cups from 1930 through 2022, which included Mexico hosting alone in 1970 and '86. FIFA's former leaders later pledged not to repeat their 'two of everything' experience of 2002 in Japan and South Korea. Still, Infantino campaigned for the presidency last year promising an open mind about pan-regional hosting. FIFA's target is May 2020 to choose the 2026 host, though that could change during meetings being held in Bahrain in May. Asked if bidding could be accelerated if only three candidates emerged, and who all wanted to work together, Infantino said: 'It is premature to discuss about it now.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

FIFA to expand World Cup to 48 teams in 2026

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — FIFA will expand the World Cup to 48 teams, adding 16 extra nations to the 2026 tournament which is likely to be held in North America. President Gianni Infantino's favored plan — for 16 three-team groups with the top two advancing to a round of 32 — was unanimously approved Tuesday by the FIFA Council. It meets Infantino's election pledge of a bigger World Cup, and should help fund promised raises for FIFA's 211 member federations. With 80 matches instead of 64, FIFA forecasts the equivalent of $1 billion extra income at current rates from broadcasting and sponsor deals, plus ticket sales, compared to $5.5 billion revenue forecast for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA projects an increased profit of $640 million despite some extra operating costs and prize money for teams. FIFA's six continents should find out by May how many extra places they will each get. UEFA wants 16 European teams at the tournament, which is strongly favored to be played in North America. The CONCACAF region has not hosted the World Cup since the 1994 tournament in the United States. American, Canadian and Mexican soccer leaders have had informal talks about a co-hosting bid. Africa and Asia could be winners in a bigger World Cup with up to nine places each. They had only five and four teams, respectively, at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Still, FIFA said it expects the standard of soccer to drop compared to the 32-team format locked in for the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar. The 'absolute quality' of play, defined by high-ranked teams facing each other most often, is achieved by 32 teams, FIFA acknowledged in a research document sent to members last month. It made 10,000 tournament simulations to reach that conclusion. Instead, Infantino wants to create fervor and months of anticipation back home in the 16 extra nations which would qualify, some probably making their World Cup debut. FIFA has pointed to Costa Rica, Wales and Iceland as examples of teams which overachieved at recent tournaments. FIFA must break with soccer tradition to make its new format work after an original 48-team plan — with an opening playoff round sending 16 'one-and-done' teams home early — was unpopular. Instead, three-team groups will replace the usual groups of four to create simple progress to a knockout bracket. However, it leaves one team idle for final group games and could risk collusion between the other two teams. FIFA said it could guard against result-rigging by introducing penalty shootouts after group games that end in draws. Despite the 16 extra games, FIFA believes the current maximum of stadiums needed will stay at the 12 used by Brazil and Russia. However, the demand for more training bases and hotels means developed countries would be better equipped to win future hosting contests. North America is the strong favorite for 2026 because European and Asian countries are blocked by a FIFA rule excluding continents which hosted either of the two previous tournaments. Russia will host the World Cup next year and Qatar in 2022. South America has been focused on a centenary tournament including original 1930 host Uruguay, and African nations are seen as lacking existing capacity and unlikely to fund multi-billion dollar infrastructure spending. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Hopefully may way -- Valdez on joining SEA Games national team

Former Ateneo de Manila Queen Eagle Alyssa Valdez hopes to get a compromise when Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. conducts its tryouts for the national women’s team that will see action in the 29th Southeast Asian Games. Valdez, who was a part of the PHI Team that participated in the 2015 edition of the biennial meet in Singapore, will be away for four months to play in Thailand and will not be available if the appointed head coach conducts the tryouts within the first quarter of the year. Valdez will fly to Thailand on January 15 to join 3BB Nakornnont and play in the Thai League and Thai-Denmark Super League. LVPI is set to name the national team mentor this week. The sports association is looking to form a 16-woman pool that will train as early as possible for the August 19 to 31 meet. “Ako I think as an athlete as a Filipino athlete, ‘yun din naman ang ultimate goal mo (to be a part of the national team) aside from your dreams na makapaglaro internationally,” who also played for the Nationals that participated in the Asian U-23 Women’s Volleyball Championship held in Pasig two years ago. LVPI acting president Peter Cayco earlier said that this SEA Games team will be a mix of six veterans, six young bloods and four reserves as the country guns for a medal after its last podium finish back in the 2005 Manila edition when the Pinay volleybelles snatched a bronze medal.     He also added that LVPI wants to pick players that are willing to give their full commitment to the squad. With Valdez set to play in Thailand, the three-time UAAP Most Valuable Player is looking for a way to get a nod for another tour of duty. “But if 'yung mga circumstances hindi ko rin kayang (bigyan ng time) kasi siyempre may responsibilities ka din. Kasi di ba magi-start na sila ng training? And I’m away din so ayun hopefully magawan din ng paraan,” said the two-time UAAP champion. “I think in both parties naman like Thailand wouldn’t hinder me naman (to play for the national team) for sure kung sa country naman maiintindihan nila ‘yun. Hopefully may way din (na makasali ako sa national team).” The 23-year-old hitter showcased her skills and talents during the country’s first participation in the SEA Games since 2005 and was chosen as the country’s flag-bearer marching aplomb ahead of the 600-strong Team Philippines.   Valdez wants to get another crack of representing the country. “Ultimate dream mo is to represent the country,” she said. “I would really love to do that if given a chance.”       --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

A guide to FIFA's options for expanding the 2026 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is preparing to decide Tuesday on adding 16 more teams to the 2026 World Cup for a 48-team tournament. President Gianni Infantino's favored format would break with soccer tradition to play in groups of only three teams. Two would advance from each group to a Round of 32 knockout bracket. If agreed by the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council in Zurich, the 2026 hosting contest could formally open in weeks. A co-hosted North American bid is widely seen as the best option. Here are some things to know about overhauling the greatest competition in the world's most popular sport: ___ WHY EXPAND? A bigger World Cup was an Infantino campaign promise before his election last February, when his plan was 40 teams. It might have been key. Infantino's momentum for victory in a second-round poll was a three-vote lead over Sheik Salman of Bahrain in the first. Sheik Salman had promised only to review if more World Cup teams were wanted. Infantino also pledged to give more of FIFA's money to member federations — all 211 are now entitled to $5 million from each World Cup — and send more to continental and regional soccer bodies. So, more teams also had to mean more games, earning more revenue from broadcasters and sponsors. The '16x3' format arguably works better with only group winners advancing. But that would leave total matches unchanged at 64. Infantino also wants to create fervor in the extra countries which would qualify. In the short-term, competing national teams attract more sponsors. The long-term goal is appealing to more young people who are the future players, fans and officials. Expect to hear much FIFA talk of helping the next Costa Rica or Iceland — feelgood stories at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 — by inviting 16 more teams to the party. ___ 48-TEAM OPTIONS A near-consensus is growing around the '16x3' option revealed just one month ago. All 80 games would be played in exclusive time slots. That's more hours of TV exposure for sponsors and sales time for broadcasters in the same 32-day tournament period. By advancing two teams from each group, a Round of 32 ensures most teams still play at least three matches. FIFA's own analysis predicts this format will raise revenue by 20 percent from the equivalent $5.5 billion forecast from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The flaw for purists is planning for penalty shootouts to settle drawn group matches. If each game has a 'winner' that guards against teams colluding on a mutually favorable result in the last group games. Previously, Infantino suggested an opening playoff round of 16 matches to decide who would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group phase. That was unacceptable to many FIFA members federations who said 'one-and-done' teams were not part of a real World Cup. It also would stretch the tournament to 39 days. ___ 40-TEAM OPTIONS Infantino's plan from one year ago is now almost friendless. Either of two options, 10 groups of four teams or eight five-team groups, gives lopsided or weak match schedules, FIFA judged. In '10x4,' only 76 matches are played and only six group runners-up advance from a muddled tiebreaker process to a Round of 16. In '8x5,' the 88 matches include meaningless ones in a flabby group phase ripe for collusion. Also, the four semifinalists would play eight matches and that workload is unacceptable to European clubs releasing employees to national-team duty. ___ PROVEN 32-TEAM FORMAT Why fix something that is not broken? Germany, the defending champion, has publicly asked this question. The 32-team format and perfect 64-match bracket has worked well since being introduced at the 1998 World Cup in France (where Europe had 15 teams). FIFA acknowledged that it produces the best soccer — 'the highest absolute quality' of games pitting high-ranked teams against each other. Recall that former winners Italy, England and Uruguay were drawn in the same 2014 World Cup group — and yet Costa Rica finished top. Still, enough of FIFA's 211 members want change and their chance to play. ___ WHO WILL PLAY? A big question is likely not being resolved Tuesday. FIFA has yet to announce exactly how many entry slots each of six confederations would get for their own qualifying program. Quotas for a 40-team World Cup were proposed in December 2015 by a FIFA advisory group that included Infantino, then UEFA's general secretary. Some saw a cynical move to sweeten skeptical FIFA voters who were being asked to vote through modernizing and anti-corruption reforms on the same day they picked a new president. Then, assuming a single host nation would get automatic entry, the proposal for sharing 39 qualifying slots was: Europe 14; Africa 7; Asia 6; South America 5; North, Central America and Caribbean 5; Oceania 1; plus a final slot awarded 'based on sporting merits using a method yet to be defined.' Going from 40 to 48 can add at least one more from each continent. Who could those new teams be? On current form, maybe Wales and Panama, Congo and Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan and Oman, will bring something new to the 2026 World Cup. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 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

Wawrinka, Nishikori to meet in Brisbane semifinals

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori will renew a growing rivalry when they meet in the semifinals of the Brisbane International. Wawrinka dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker against unseeded Kyle Edmund on Friday but recovered for a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 win, reaching the last four 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. 'Was a tough match, for sure. Long match. Quite humid, also. Also tough physically. But, in general, I think I'm feeling good and ready (for the semifinals),' Wawrinka said. 'For sure, I want to win more matches here and not stop now.' 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. 'We always play a really tough match,' Wawrinka said. 'We played each other few times already last few months, so it's going to be interesting to see. We practiced here this week. I'm sure it's going to be a good match.' 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. Thompson beat former top 10 regular David Ferrer in the second round but against Nishikori, he only managed to hold serve twice. Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, only made 11 unforced errors and didn't face a breakpoint. 'He was, I guess, a little bit tired, for sure. Against David, he was playing great match and maybe he wasn't 100 percent today,' Nishikori said. 'But for me, I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today. Everything was working well.' Seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 4 Dominic Thiem and will meet either defending champion Milos Raonic or 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. In the women's semifinals, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury while trailing Alize Cornet 4-1 in the first set. Cornet advanced to a final against either U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova or sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who ousted No. 1-ranked Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. 'When she decided to stop, I was a little bit surprised, but 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 has had a run of injuries in Brisbane. She retired after one set last year and withdrew entirely in 2015. She didn't think the latest setback would trouble her at the Australian Open. 'It will not stop me. I just felt a little bit exhausted on the court,' Muguruza said. 'Cornet was playing good. I couldn't match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was more smart to take care of my body.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 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

Lesson from 2005 games: PSC to handle 2019 SEAG funds

MANILA, Philippines - When the country hosts the Southeast Asian Games in 2019, the Philippine Sports Commission will make sure that every peso, every centav.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsDec 12th, 2016

Tagum ready for SEAG

Fresh from its rousing holding of the 2016 Batang Pinoy National Championships, Tagum City in Davao del Norte is looking forward to staging a few sports when the country hosts the 2019 Southeast Asian Games......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsDec 9th, 2016

Palace wants Davao 2019 SEAG main hub

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez yesterday stressed that Davao City and Davao del Norte remain as prime candidates a.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsAug 23rd, 2016

Palace wants SEA Games in Davao

Malacañang is urging the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) to push for Davao City as host of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) although it doesn’t look like venues would be in place in three years time......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsAug 23rd, 2016

Nadal holds off Zverev to reach 4th round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal held back time, for one match at least, when he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 win over German teenager Alexander Zverev to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open. The 14-time major winner is on a comeback after an extended injury layoff, yet he finished stronger in the 4-hour, 6-minute match on Rod Laver Arena as Zverev tightened up with cramping and nerves. 'I enjoyed a lot this great battle. I was losing the last couple of times in the fifth set and I said to myself, 'today's the day',' said ninth-seeded Nadal, who had lost eight of the previous nine times he'd trailed 2-1 in a best-of-five set match. His 30-year-old legs, conditioned by 236 Grand Slam matches, carried him all the way. 'Well, fighting — and running a lot,' Nadal said, when asked to explain the difference. 'I think you know, everybody knows how good Alexander is — he's the future of our sport and the present, too.' Serena Williams has done it more easily, reaching the fourth round without dropping a set to stay on course in her bid for a record 23rd Grand slam title. Williams beat fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 and didn't face a break point until she was serving for the match. Dropping serve in that game was her only lapse in a match that then extended just beyond the hour — to 63 minutes to be precise. The six-time Australian Open champion next faces No. 16 Barbora Strycova. 'I don't have anything to prove in this tournament here. Just doing the best I can,' Williams said. 'Obviously I'm here for one reason.' Milos Raonic is here pursuing his first major title, aiming to improve on his runs to the semifinals in Australia and the final at Wimbledon last year. He reached the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 25 Gilles Simon and will next play No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (3), 6-4. Nadal, who had two months off with an injured left wrist at the end of 2016, will get another veteran next after U.S. Open semifinalist Gael Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4. In another gripping five-setter, but on an outside court, wild-card entry Denis Istomin followed his upset win over defending champion Novak Djokovic with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. No. 8 Dominic Thiem beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round match against No. 11 David Goffin, who ended Ivo Karlovic's run 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Zverev's creative shot-making gave the 19-year-old German a confident start. He had won his previous three matches against top-10 players, and has been widely touted as a future Grand Slam champion. But Nadal, the champion here in 2009, didn't let him get too far in front. In an exchange of breaks in the fifth set, Nadal broke to open, then dropped his own serve, before breaking Zverev again. Nadal finished with 43 winners and 34 unforced errors, while Zverev — hitting harder and trying more to find the lines — had 58 winners and 74 unforced errors. In early women's matches, Ekaterina Makarova led by a set and 4-0 but had a mid-match fade, needing three sets and almost three hours to finally beat WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3. 'An amazing fight,' Makarova said of her first win over sixth-seeded Cibulkova, the 2014 finalist at Melbourne Park. 'I got, to be honest, a bit tight at 4-0 in the second set. But I'm still here.' She'll now take on last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta, who beat former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1, in a rematch of their fourth-round encounter here last year. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her unlikely run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari, and so did American qualifier Jennifer Brady. Before this week, the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni hadn't won a match at Melbourne Park since her debut here in 1998. The 19-year gap in between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament broke the record set by Kimiko Date-Krumm. The 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist next plays No. 116-ranked Brady, who had never played in the main draw of a major before she qualified for this week. The 21-year-old Brady had a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Show Court 2. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Federer gracious in praise of Sunday opponent at Aussie Open

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — As befitting his status as a 17-time Grand Slam champion and as an astute judge of the sport, Roger Federer's reply to a simple question about his next opponent was handled with the same aplomb as one of his stylish groundstrokes. The player in question was Kei Nishikori, who plays Federer in a fourth-round night match Sunday at Rod Laver Arena. 'I'm a big fan of his game,' Federer said. 'He's got one of the best backhands out there. I love how he can crush it down the line or cross-court. He's got wonderful second serve returns. He's fast on his legs. Strong in his mind. I know how tough he is as the match goes along. He finds his range and his rhythm, he's tough to stop.' Federer said he'll need another strong service game if he's going to give Nishikori some trouble. In Federer's win over Tomas Berdych on Thursday, he didn't face a break point and he won points on 95 percent of the first serves he got into play — 39 of 41, and all 16 in the third and final set. 'This one's going to be completely different to Tomas ... there's going to be more rallies, even though the surface remains fast. I said it at the beginning of the week, it's not easy to control the ball. Today again, when you serve well, it pays dividends. I hope I can keep that up against Kei.' Asked if Nishikori should be considered the favorite because of the No. 5 seeding (Federer is 17th after a six-month left knee injury layoff) Federer replied, smiling: 'Yeah, sure, he's the favorite. Maybe. I don't know.' Nishikori said he watched some of the Federer-Berdych match and was impressed. 'Roger, it's a big challenge for me,' Nishikori said. 'I'm just happy to play him because I think we needed him on the tour. Happy to see him back 100 percent.' Here are some other featured matches Sunday: ___ NO PRESSURE: Top-seeded Andy Murray plays Mischa Zverev in an afternoon match at Margaret Court Arena. Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, is heavily favored. The 50th-ranked Zverev, the older brother of 19-year-old rising star Alexander Zverev — who lost to Rafael Nadal in the third round — says Murray could go either way while pondering his ranking advantage. 'I don't know if it's more pressure on him or maybe it's a relief,' Mischa Zverev said. 'If someone like Novak (Djokovic) is out of the tournament, I feel like the whole rhythm of the tournament changes a little bit, so we'll see what's going to happen.' Zverev hopes to possibly rile the often volatile Murray. 'If he plays his best tennis, obviously I don't think I have a lot of chances, but it'll depend on the day,' he said. 'Let's see if I can annoy him a little bit. If I'm serving well and not missing any volleys, maybe I can do some damage.' ____ KERBER IN CONTROL?: Defending champion Angelique Kerber plays American CoCo Vandeweghe in the match following Federer-Nishikori on Rod Laver. Kerber holds a 2-0 career edge, although the last time the two played — in Wuhan, China in 2015 — Vandeweghe retired from the match with a left ankle injury while trailing 6-1, 3-1. 'CoCo is a tough opponent ... she's serving well,' Kerber said. 'I have to move good ... bring a lot of balls back, but also be aggressive.' ___ IN BRIEF: Venus Williams, who is appearing in her 73rd Grand Slam main draw — a record for the Open era — plays Mona Barthel in an afternoon match. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka continues his quest for titles in consecutive Grand Slams — and his fourth major overall — when he plays Andreas Seppi. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza plays Sorana Cirstea. ___ Associated Press writer Justin Bergman contributed to this story. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017