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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

Federer's 17 majors stack up nicely against everyone else

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The 64 players contesting second-round matches at the Australian Open on Wednesday have won a total of 36 Grand Slam singles titles. One guy, however, has nearly half of them. Of the 17 titles captured by Roger Federer, who plays American qualifier Noah Rubin at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday, four have been at Melbourne Park. Although he hasn't lifted the trophy here since 2010. Venus Williams, who will play Stefanie Voegele to open play on Rod Laver — has seven major titles. Others in action Wednesday are top-ranked Andy Murray and No. 4 Stan Wawrinka (3 majors each), defending champion Angelique Kerber and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2 each) and Marin Cilic and Garbine Muguruza, who have each won one major. Novak Djokovic, who has 12 Grand Slam titles of his own and is on the other side of the Australian Open draw, was quick to praise Federer as the Swiss star prepared to return from a six-month injury layoff. 'With Roger, you can always see a top level and quality of tennis ... that's what he brings,' Djokovic said last weekend. 'He brings this aura of a champion on and off the court. The sport definitely missed him. He's one of the most important people that ever held the racket.' ____ Here's a closer look at some of the second-round matches Wednesday: BIRTHDAY GIRL: Kerber, who plays fellow German Carina Witthoeft, will celebrate her 29th birthday on Wednesday. She is aiming to become the first player to defend the Australian Open women's title since Victoria Azarenka won in 2012 and 2013. ___ GOOD LUCK ANDREY: Murray plays Russian qualifier and 156th-ranked Andrey Rublev in a night match at Rod Laver Arena. The lowest-ranked player to beat Murray at a Grand Slam tournament is No. 91 Arnaud Clement at the 2005 U.S. Open. Overall, Murray has a 10-1 record against qualifiers at Grand Slam events. Still, Murray will be wary of Rublev. 'I know a little bit about him,' Murray said after his first-round win over Illya Marchenko. 'I never hit with him or played against him, but I've seen him play before and he goes for it. He doesn't hold back. He hits a big ball.' Murray has lost the Australian Open final five times in seven years, and never won the title. He hopes to have another chance this year to atone for his past defeats. 'I have had a lot of tough losses here, for sure,' he said. 'I have played some of my best tennis on hard courts here. But I keep coming back to try. I'll keep doing that until I'm done.' ___ AND GOOD LUCK NOAH: Federer has not lost to a player ranked as low as No. 200 Noah since losing to 249th-ranked Sergio Bruguera at Barcelona in 2000. In terms of Grand Slam events, the lowest-ranked player Federer has lost to was No. 154 Mario Ancic at 2002 Wimbledon. ___ LONGEVITY IN MELBOURNE: Venus Williams' match against Voegele comes in her 17th appearance at the Australian Open. She has never won the title in Melbourne, but was runner-up in 2003, losing to her younger sister, Serena. And for the record, her seven Grand Slam singles titles came five times at Wimbledon and twice at the U.S. Open. ___ ONCE A YEAR: Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori plays France's Jeremy Chardy to open play on Hisense Arena, and their meeting has become an annual thing. Nishikori has a 4-2 edge in matches which they've contested once a year for the past six years. Nishikori is attempting to reach the third round at Melbourne Park for the seventh consecutive year. He lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the Brisbane International final two weeks ago. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 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

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

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

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

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 continues comeback with a 1st win in Brisbane

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal was in need of some sleep, so he didn't waste much time against Alexandr Dolgopolov on Tuesday. The 14-time major champion, playing his opening match at the Brisbane International a day after arriving in Australia following a win in an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, beat the Ukrainian 6-3, 6-3 after getting on court at almost 10:30 p.m. local time. Returning from a wrist injury which curtailed the end of his 2016 season, Nadal said he's determined to use every match as preparation for a shot at the title in the season-opening Grand Slam event in Melbourne. The 30-year-old Spaniard dropped serve in the third game but recovered to win the last five games of the first set against the 2012 finalist. In all, he converted all four of his break points and fended off three of the four he faced. 'A little bit of jet lag. It's tough, these kinds of things at the beginning,' said Nadal, who added that he was still sleeping in the early afternoon and felt 'destroyed' after the travel. 'There wasn't a lot of time to adapt.' He only made nine unforced errors, and his most glaring miss of the night was when whiffed at a ball as he tried to hit it into the crowd to celebrate his win. In a post-match news conference, he apologized after stifling a yawn, but said he still preferred the late start to help him overcome the jetlag. Nadal has changed his preparation for the Australian Open, arriving two weeks ahead of time to fine tune his game in a bid to make amends for a shocking first-round exit last year. He will next play Mischa Zverev, who opened with a 6-3, 6-3 win over teenage Australian qualifier Alex De Minaur, and has a potential quarterfinal match against defending champion and top-seeded Milos Raonic. Also, sixth-seeded Lucas Pouille lost the first five games before rebounding for a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) win over Gilles Simon, while Viktor Troicki beat Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka 6-4, 7-5 and Diego Schwartzman had a 6-2, 6-4 win over Sam Querrey. In the women's draw, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina, who all had career-highlight victories over Serena Williams last season, are already through to the quarterfinals. Destanee Aiava, a 16-year-old high school senior who was inspired to take up tennis when she was 5 after watching Williams on TV, also made a mark. Aiava became the first player born in the 2000s to win a main draw match in an elite WTA event when she beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a first-round match that spanned two days. She already has a wild-card entry to the Australian Open but, before then, will face two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round in Brisbane. The third-seeded Pliskova, who beat Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals last year before losing the final to Angelique Kerber, defeated American qualifier Asia Muhammad 6-1, 6-4 to secure the first spot in the quarterfinals. Svitolina, seeded sixth and the only woman to beat both Williams and Kerber when in 2016, advanced with a 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 win over Shelby Rogers. The fourth-seeded Muguruza wasted a match point and saved one before clinching a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7) win over Daria Kasatkina in a three-hour night match. Both players had eight service breaks and Muguruza, who beat Williams in the French Open final last year to claim her first Grand Slam title, dropped her opening serve in all three sets. Her next match will be against either Kuznetsova or Aiava, who was born on May 10, 2000, was No. 386 in the latest rankings and is very new to the tour. 'Pretty crazy,' Aiava said of her first trip to the locker rooms in the main draw. 'I walk in, and there is people I have watched on TV before and it's, like, 'Oh!'' Her mother, Rosie, has been her coach since she showed interest in the game. She keeps the teenager grounded. After her milestone win, Aiava said her mother just said 'good job' and took her back onto the practice courts for 20 minutes to work on her serve. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2017

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

Serena Williams reaches 4th round without dropping a set

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams is still on track in her bid to win a record 23rd Grand Slam title. The six-time Australian Open winner beat fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 in the third round on Saturday, when she 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. That made it one minute and one game longer than her only other match against Gibbs. Williams started the tournament with difficult assignments in the first two rounds, but also got through those — against Belinda Bencic, with a career-high ranking of 7, and Lucie Safarova, a French Open finalist in 2015 — without dropping a set. She has set the tone for the tournament. Williams will next play No. 16 Barbora Strycova, who beat No. 21 Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-5. Ekaterina Makarova led by a set and 4-0 but needed 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. I love this Grand Slam.' In a momentum-swing match featuring some long streaks of games and 11 service breaks, Makarova got the decisive break in the eighth game of the deciding set and closed it next. Makarova will play either 2016 semifinalist Johanna Konta, who beat her in the fourth round here last year, or former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. 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 at the Australian Open in 1998. The 19-year gap in between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament broke the record set by Kimiko Date-Krumm, who went 17 years between match wins at Wimbledon. Lucic-Baroni reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1999 as a 17-year-old and captured the Australian Open doubles title a year before that with Martina Hingis. She next plays Brady, ranked No. 116, who had never played in the main draw of a major before she qualified for this week. The 21-year-old American had a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Show Court 2, and is making the most of the occasion. By saving five match points before rallying to beat Heather Watson in the second round, Brady effectively doubled her number of career wins. On the men's side, 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. The 37-year-old Karlovic's win in the first round set an endurance record — the 84 games in the win over Horacio Zeballos, which ended 22-20 in the fifth, was an Open-era mark for the tournament. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Lucic-Baroni's career revival continues with Melbourne upset

JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The last time Mirjana Lucic-Baroni won a match at the Australian Open, Bill Clinton was in the White House. That was 1998. This week, in a span of three days, she's won two matches here, including a dominant 6-3, 6-2 win over third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska on Thursday. Nineteen years was a long wait in between victories. But the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni is getting used to moments like these since she returned to tennis full-time in 2008 following a long hiatus. And she wouldn't mind extending her stay in Melbourne just a little longer. 'I know I have some good tennis in me still, that's the reason I'm still out here at 34,' she said. 'I'm not a spring chicken for sure. I'm playing because I'm enjoying it and I know that I can still get some really big wins and really great results.' Comebacks are common these days in women's tennis, but few players have worked harder — and longer — to get back to an elite level than Lucic-Baroni. She made a memorable debut at the 1998 Australian Open at the age of 15. She won only one match in singles, but she and partner Martina Hingis captured the doubles title, an achievement she still finds amazing looking back now. 'Just kind of a little kid having fun,' she said. 'Everything was normal, winning big matches, playing on big court, winning the title, like it's nothing. It's crazy when you look at it now.' After a remarkable run to the Wimbledon singles semifinals in 1999, however, Lucic-Baroni's career suddenly fell apart. She stopped playing for several years and struggled financially. She returned to the lower-tier women's tour in the late 2000s to try to resume her career, but it would take another couple years before she'd make it back to a Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2010. And four more years before a major win at a slam — an upset over second-seeded Simona Halep at the 2014 U.S. Open. When her power game is clicking, though, Lucic-Baroni can compete with anyone, as she proved against Radwanska. She smacked 33 winners to just eight for Radwanska and wrapped up the match in 63 minutes by breaking the Pole for the sixth time. 'I went in there with a game plan today to win the match,' she said. 'I didn't go to see, enjoy the court. I'm way too old and I've been around way too long to just gain experience.' Now, she'll try to back up her big win with another over 21-year-old Maria Sakkari of Greece in the third round. 'I missed quite a few years on tour. I missed a lot,' she said. 'I feel like this time around, I don't really have anything left to prove to anybody. I'm just enjoying myself, playing for myself.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 19th, 2017

Pliskova, Konta continues winning runs in Australia

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has carried her title-winning form in the warmup tournament into the season's first major, dropping just four games en route to the third round at the Australian Open. Pliskova was leading 6-0, 4-0 against Anna Blinkova in the second round on Thursday before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Pliskova finished off the 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour — she won her first-round match 6-2, 6-0. 'I've improved a little bit since the first round,' said fifth-seeded Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International title earlier this month. 'It's always good to be in the zone — it can always be a bit better.' Pliskova has reached the third round for three straight years at Melbourne Park, which equaled her best previous run at a Grand Slam until she reached the final in New York last September. She beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open before losing to Angelique Kerber. She will next play Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1. Johanna Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year before losing to eventual champion Kerber, advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Naomi Osaka. Konta, voted the WTA Tour's most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, opened the season by winning the Sydney International title last week. In other early results, No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired from their match with an injured leg. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 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

Federer reaches 3rd round in return at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — 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,.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  philstarRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Venus Williams through to third round at Australian Open

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer   MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — It was inevitable after such an energetic performance in her second-round win over Stefanie Voegele at the Australian Open that Venus Williams would get asked about transcending the generations in tennis. The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. Back then, she got to play against the likes of Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. Against the 26-year-old Voegele at the Australian Open on Wednesday, Williams mixed up her game, clearly not intent on relying only on the kind of power game that helped her make a mark on the sport. She won 6-3, 6-2, hitting 24 winners and getting five service breaks. 'I have to talk about this every interview,' Williams said in reply to what has become a regular post-match question to the oldest player in the women's draw here. 'I've played some of the greats. 'It's an honor and privilege to start that young,' she added, laughing, 'and play this old.' In the second set, serving and with a game point, she chased the ball like a teenager from one side of the court to the other, and back, trying to finish off. Her forehand landed too long, but her intention was clear. Get through the round ASAP. She won the subsequent two points to hold. At 15-15 and 5-2 in the second, she was still remonstrating with herself after missing a point. She finished off the match later in the same game, another break, to reach the third round. Williams lost to eventual semifinalist Johanna Konta in the opening round last year. If a pattern continues, she's a decent chance of reaching the quarterfinals — she's gone that far three times previously in the year she returned after a first- or second-round exit at Melbourne Park. She is playing her 17th Australian Open, but has never won the title. Her best run was to the final in 2003, when she lost to her younger sister, Serena. The siblings were pairing up for a first-round doubles match later Wednesday, and second-seeded Serena is on the other half of the singles draw. In other early matches, No. 11 Elina Svitolina had a 6-4, 6-1 win over U.S. qualifier Julia Boserup and No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat fellow Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-2, 6-2. Top-ranked Angelique Kerber, on her 29th birthday, was playing the second match on Rod Laver Arena against fellow German Carina Witthoeft. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Chile amateur goes from no big victories to Masters

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Toto Gana hit what he described as the 'best shot I've hit in my whole life,' a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie to win the Latin America Amateur Championship and earn a trip to the Masters in April. His best shot produced his biggest trophy. Asked what his greatest achievement in golf was before his victory in Panama, the 19-year-old from Chile said: 'I didn't have any achievements, to be honest. I had won a couple of tournaments at home when I was really, really young.' The Latin America Amateur completed its third year, a stroke-play tournament created by Augusta National, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient to spur growth in that part of the world. It follows the successful launch of the Asia Pacific Amateur. The Asia Pacific Amateur is producing a higher pedigree of champions — Hideki Matsuyama won twice, and the winner last year was Curtis Luck, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The last two Latin America winners were surprises — Gana and 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica last year. The other winner was Matias Dominguez of Chile, who was a junior at Texas Tech. Gana said the only hard part about his victory was beating Joaquin Niemann of Chile, one of his best friends who won the Junior World in 2015 at Torrey Pines. 'I really never thought I could win this tournament because all the other players have won many other tournaments, very big tournaments,' Gana said in a conference call after his victory Sunday. 'What I did was keep a cool head. When I saw that I had a chance to win, I believed in myself that I could do. And I gave it my all.' Chile will have a player represented at Augusta National for the second time in three years. The only other Chilean player at the Masters was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964. Gana has flair, and he showed how much passion he has for golf when explaining how he got started. 'When I was a little boy, 8 years old, my stepfather taught me to play golf on the practice range,' he said. 'When I shot a really nice shot, I never quit.' Gana will be enrolling at Lynn University in Florida. ___ BLOOMING START: Justin Rose played the Sony Open as part of the new 'strength of field' regulation on the PGA Tour that requires players who played fewer than 25 events last year to add a tournament they had not played in four years. Rose was so excited about this year that he might have started earlier if he would have been eligible. He failed to win a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2009. But in a year slowed by injury, Rose geared himself for golf's return to the Olympics and won the gold medal in Rio. That was worth an exemption into the four majors (Rose already is eligible for them), but the PGA Tour did not offer a spot in SBS Tournament of Champions. 'I didn't inquire,' Rose said about Kapalua. 'But in my mind, I was surprised that it didn't count in a way, just because, why wouldn't it? It's a one-off thing.' He thought maybe the tour would only give a spot to Kapalua if the gold medalist was already a PGA Tour member, much like it treated the HSBC Champions early on in its World Golf Championships history. Rose chuckled, however, when he realized his history in Hawaii. 'It's funny enough, I don't have the right to say I should have been at Kapalua,' he said. 'Because I've won six years in a row and I've only been once.' A birdie on the final hole at the Sony Open gave him second place alone, which was worth $648,000. ___ PLAYING TO HIS STRENGTH: Jason Dufner is the defending champion at the CareerBuilder Challenger, where he won last year for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. What changed? Very little. He attributed the drought to a neck and shoulder injury that he suffered at the 2014 Masters. Dufner tried to play through it all year until he was forced to pull out of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which kept him off the Ryder Cup team. Playing with the injury led to bad habits with his swing, which led to bad shots, too many memories of bad shots and eventually shattered confidence. 'People don't realize, once you start playing, you have to redo everything,' Dufner said. 'You see it with a lot of guys coming back. It takes them 6, 8, 12 months. I spent 2015 trying to get back to where I was.' Where he wants to be is one of the top ball-strikers in the game. As for putting? He manages. Dufner has finished no higher than No. 143 in the key putting statistic over the last four years, and while he has to pay attention to his setup, it's not as though he's going to abandon what got him here (his swing) to pour everything into becoming Jordan Spieth. 'I've been putting bad for 17 years,' he said. 'It's tough to change. I can hit it good enough to make up for it. I'll wait for my weeks where I putt good and try to win.' ___ THE RACE TO MEXICO: Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, and his first thought was going to the Masters. Now that it's beginning to sink, the Canadian rookie has reason to consider other tournaments that were not on his schedule at the start of the season. First up is the World Golf Championship in Mexico. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings through the Honda Classic are eligible for the Mexico Championship, and there are only six tournaments between now and then. That's also true for Pat Perez, who tied for third at Kapalua and is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. Rod Pampling is at No. 6. The other World Golf Championships event in March is based off the world ranking, so those three players have much more to do for them to get into the top 64. One player who might have secured his spot was Kevin Kisner, who shot 60 in the third round of the Sony Open and wound up in a tie for fourth. That took Kisner from No. 51 to No. 41, making it difficult to fall that far in two months. ___ DIVOTS: Justin Thomas moving to No. 8 in the world means that six of the top 10 players are under 30. ... The Golf Writers Association of America has voted former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf. For the GWAA's award for press cooperation, it was a tie between Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink. They will be honored at the GWAA annual awards dinner on April 5 in Augusta. ... The three courses used for the CareerBuilder Challenge — PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus and La Quinta — ranked among the top 10 in easiest courses on the PGA Tour last year. ... The fourth Latin America Amateur Championship will be played at Prince of Wales Country Club next year in Santiago, Chile. ... The European Tour now has eight events in its Rolex Series with China-based HNA Group signing a five-year deal to be title sponsor of the French Open. That will raise the purse to $7 million in line with other Rolex Series events. ___ STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Thomas hit 34 drives that went at least 330 yards during his two weeks in Hawaii — 20 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, 14 at Waialae Country Club. ___ FINAL WORD: 'If there's no defense, then you ought to be able to make birdies. If there's wind, you ought to be struggling.' — Kevin Kisner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Fowler returns to Abu Dhabi seeking upturn in form

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rickie Fowler flew home from the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with more than just the Falcon Trophy. The win over a stellar field last January boosted Fowler's belief that a first major title was within sight. Lifting him to a career-high No. 4 in the rankings, it also sparked talk about whether he should be included in the conversation with golf's so-called 'Big Three,' which comprised Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy at the time. 'It would have been nice to kind of continue that form,' Fowler said Tuesday on his return to Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Instead, that proved to be the only victory of 2016 for Fowler, the United States' triumph in the Ryder Cup notwithstanding. His best finish at a major was a tie for 33rd at the U.S. PGA Championship and he ended the year ranked outside the top 10. U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and — most recently — Justin Thomas are among those who have accelerated past Fowler, who said his dip in status is pushing him to play better in 2017. 'Golf's so deep right now,' Fowler said, 'and it will be nice if we can get Tiger back for a full season.' Fowler's chances of a successful defense of his Abu Dhabi title improved Monday when McIlroy — at No. 2, the highest-ranked player in the field — withdrew because of a rib injury. Still, the field remains strong, as always in this event which starts Thursday. The third-ranked Johnson is making his debut, while two more current major champions — Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett — are there, too. 'He's obviously one of the best players in the world,' Fowler said about McIlroy. 'It was fun to have him in contention with me last year here. 'Does that make me look at the tournament any differently? No. You know, it's one less top player in the world I'm going to have to beat, but the field here is one of the best fields on the European Tour.' Refreshed after spending time over Christmas and the new year with family and friends, Fowler cannot wait to get back on the course. Particularly after seeing Thomas — one of his best friends — winning back-to-back events in Hawaii. 'It's inspiring and motivating,' said Fowler, currently the world No. 14. Fowler's main focus is tailoring his schedule to give him the best chance at winning a major. He said that will mean playing events in the weeks leading up to the majors, rather than using that time to rest or work on the range. The Masters is already in his sights. He was renowned as a slow starter to seasons until last year, when he won in Abu Dhabi and then lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff to nearly reduce him to tears. That didn't translate to a good performance at Augusta National in April, though, as he opened with an 80 and failed to make the weekend. 'Obviously looking to peak,' Fowler said, 'getting the first few months going, heading the right direction and peak that first week of April.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017