‘A Lot Of Regrets’ – Tennis Star Osaka Says Shyness Is Holding Her Back

THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP.

 

Former world number one Naomi Osaka has admitted having “a lot of regrets” and said she’s soul-searching during the coronavirus lockdown for ways to become more assertive.

The 22-year-old Japanese, who stormed to prominence by winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open, said she believed her shyness was holding her back.

“I think people know me as being really shy,” she told CNN Sport from her home in Los Angeles.

“I want to also take the quarantine time to just think about everything, and for me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep.

“And most of the regrets is due to (the fact) that I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking.”

The soft-spoken Osaka has spoken candidly about her struggles with success, and said last year that she felt depressed after reaching world number one following her win in Australia.

She said she would feel more comfortable if she spoke up and took more control of what was happening around her.

READ ALSO: World Leaders Demand Free COVID-19 Vaccine For All

“There’s a lot of times where I see myself in situations where I could have put my input in, but instead I’ve held my tongue and things kept moving in a way that I didn’t really enjoy,” she said.

“I feel like if I asserted myself, I would have gotten the opportunity to see what would have happened.”

With return dates for tennis still uncertain, Osaka said she was using the unexpected free time to try new things, like drawing and sketching.

“Part of me is a bit concerned (about not playing tennis), but also I know that other players are in the same position as me, probably,” she said.

“I just think that, it’s not like I’ll forget how to play tennis. I also don’t want to train five hours a day right now because I think that’s how you get burned out and you never know when tournaments will start again.”

AFP

COVID-19: Australian Open Organisers Admit Possibility Of Cancellation

Australian Open

 

Tennis Australia conceded Thursday that January’s Australian Open faces cancellation under a worst-case scenario, but said it was looking at a range of options in hope the COVID-19 crisis eases.

This year’s tennis calendar has been suspended until at least July 13 and, with global borders closed, there is uncertainty about when the international circuit can resume.

The season-opening Grand Slam is scheduled to take place in Melbourne from January 18-31, more than eight months away, and Tennis Australia said it would abide by whatever restrictions were in place at that time.

“We’ve certainly made no secret about the number of scenarios that we’re looking at,” a spokeswoman told AFP.

“We’re hoping for the best but planning for everything.”

Possibilities range from cancellation to imposing quarantine on overseas players and allowing only Australian fans into the event.

“We have to look at all the angles because a lot of the decisions will be beyond our control and related to government guidelines and restrictions,” she said.

“We do need to have all the protocols in place to ensure everyone’s safety.”

This year’s Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since World War II and the French Open postponed until the end of September.

READ ALSO: Thousands Of Migrants Stranded Worldwide By COVID-19 Pandemic – UN

The United States Tennis Association will decide in mid-June whether or not the US Open will be able to begin on schedule in New York in August.

Australia has banned all travel into the island nation for non-residents.

While talks have begun on opening up borders to neighbouring New Zealand, which like Australia has successfully controlled the epidemic, officials have said it could be many months before other international arrivals will be allowed.

AFP

Djokovic Beats Thiem In Five Sets To Win Eighth Australian Open

 

Novak Djokovic battled through intense pressure from Dominic Thiem to reassert his dominance at the Australian Open Sunday, claiming a record eighth title and returning to world number one in the process.

The indomitable Serb stretched his unbeaten streak this season to 13 by rallying from two sets to one down and beating the courageous fifth-seeded Austrian 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a near four-hour ordeal.

It was his 17th Grand Slam title, moving him within two of Rafael Nadal and three of Roger Federer on the all-time list.

The victory put him alongside his fellow legends as only the third man in history to win eight or more titles at the same Slam after Nadal (12 at the French Open) and Federer (eight at Wimbledon).

READ ALSO: ‘Ighalo Has Nothing To Lose’

It also ensured he will once again be world number one when the new rankings are released on Monday, usurping Nadal. Federer remains third with Thiem moving up a place to a career-high fourth.

But it wasn’t easy with the Serb looking lethargic and out for the count in sets two and three before regaining his mojo after a medical timeout to grind down the talented Thiem.

Djokovic had never before won a Slam final in seven previous attempts when finding himself two sets to one down.

The Serb, 32, was the overwhelming favourite, but the supremely fit and fast Thiem, 26, always had the weapons to trouble him, which he deployed successfully for much of the match, taming his serve and unleashing some explosive groundstrokes.

It was a nerveless start from Djokovic, who comfortably held then put big pressure on the Thiem serve, with a forehand into the net giving him an immediate break and a psychological edge after some monster rallies.

Thiem, though, is as strong mentally as he is physically and he finally got on the scoreboard after another tough service game.

And against the run of play, with Djokovic seemingly in control, he broke back, unleashing pinpoint groundstrokes to make the most of some loose Djokovic shots.

But the world number two was unrelenting, breaking again as Thiem served to stay in the set, with the Austrian sending down his first double fault of the match at the crucial moment.

Remarkably, a rare Djokovic double fault handed Thiem a break to go 2-1 up in set two with the courageous Austrian refusing to go away.

The Serb was getting frustrated, looking at his coaching box and pointing at his head.

He refocused and once again began attacking the Thiem serve, breaking back for 4-4, pumping his fists when the fifth seed sent a backhand wide.

But two-time warnings on his serve in the next game rattled Djokovic and he was broken again, with the Serb losing his cool by patting the umpire’s foot at the changeover.

He had words with the official before Thiem served out the set — the first the Serb had dropped in an Australian Open final since 2015.

Djokovic looked dejected and was immediately broken twice in set three as Thiem raced to a 4-0 lead, having won six games in a row with Djokovic imploding.

The Serb was heard telling a trainer he was tired and after losing the set, he went for a medical timeout.

He came back and the fourth set went with serve until a Thiem double fault handed the Serb two break points and he converted to regain control, serving out the set with an ace.

Djokovic drew on all his experience to force another break in the deciding fifth set to take a 2-1 lead and kept his foot on the gas to claim an eighth crown from the last 13 Australian Opens.

AFP

Kenin Beats Muguruza To Win Australian Open Final

Sofia Kenin of the US kisses the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in their women’s singles final match on day thirteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 1, 2020. AFP

 

America’s Sofia Kenin stunned two-time Major champion Garbine Muguruza to win the Australian Open on Saturday, completing a surprise run where she came from nowhere to lift her first Grand Slam title.

Despite making her debut in a Major final Kenin, 21, showed all her trademark aggression as she fought back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in 2hrs 3mins against the shellshocked Spaniard.

The 14th seed, who will now jump to seventh in the world and usurp Serena Williams as America’s number one, was in tears at the end and headed straight for her father Alexander, who is her coach.

It was the final twist in a tournament of upsets after Williams crashed out in the third round and Kenin beat Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty in the semi-finals.

“It’s just such an honour to have my name on that beautiful trophy, it’s something I’ve dreamed about,” said Moscow-born Kenin.

“Of course it’s an exciting moment for me and for my family, I get to share this.

“Obviously things are going to change for me, but we’re just going to move forward, get ready for next tournaments.

“Right now we got to figure out how to celebrate.”

Former world number one Muguruza was unseeded for the first time at a Slam since 2014, having suffered a marked loss of form in the last 18 months.

The 26-year-old was resurgent in Melbourne over the past fortnight, but after grabbing the first-set lead her serve failed her spectacularly.

She totted up eight double-faults in all, three of them in the final game — including one on the second championship point, handing the title to her younger opponent.

 Kenin fights back 

Muguruza drew first blood at Rod Laver Arena, where the roof was closed for rain in Melbourne, getting the first break of serve.

Kenin, who ended the fairytale run of 15-year-old Coco Gauff on her way to the final, bounced her American stars-and-stripes racquet on the hardcourt in anger.

The 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon winner Muguruza took the first set in 52 minutes when the young American planted her forehand out.

Kenin, not one to hide her feelings on the court, said that she had struggled to rein in her emotions at that point.

“I was obviously devastated, I knew I didn’t take my chances,” she said. “I knew I needed to somehow forget what happened, just move forward and just keep believing in myself.”

The aggressive Kenin upped the ante in the second set, breaking her more experienced opponent in the fourth game and easily holding to sprint into a 4-1 lead.

Kenin, who won their only previous encounter in three sets, grabbed the second set in an emphatic 32 minutes. A rattled Muguruza was seen briefly by a physio for what appeared to be a lower-back problem.

Into the deciding set and the gutsy Kenin saved three game points in a pivotal fifth game, tossing the ball back over her head by way of a defiant celebration.

Kenin adds by far the biggest title of her fast-burgeoning career to the three WTA crowns she won last year.

“The past two weeks have been the best of my life,” she told Rod Laver Arena, as her father — who left the Soviet Union in 1987 to give the family a better life — filmed her victory speech on his phone.

“I love you guys from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much,” she told the crowd.

At 21 years and 80 days, Kenin is 22 days younger than Japan’s Naomi Osaka when she won the title last year.

Kenin is the youngest Australian Open champion since Maria Sharapova — her idol — won aged 20 in 2008.

Thiem Outclasses Zverev For Final Showdown Against Djokovic

Germany’s Alexander Zverev reacts after a point against Austria’s Dominic Thiem during their men’s singles semi-final match on day twelve of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 31, 2020.
William WEST / AFP

 

Tireless Dominic Thiem came from a set down to outlast German Alexander Zverev and make his first Australian Open final Friday, booking a showdown with seven-time champion Novak Djokovic.

The 26-year-old fifth seed, the first player from Austria ever to reach the Melbourne decider, battled past seventh-ranked Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4) on a sweltering evening.

Defending champion Djokovic awaits him after the second seed ended Roger Federer’s dreams in straight sets Thursday to make his eighth Melbourne Park final.

Thiem has his work cut out against the Serb who is on a 12-match unbeaten streak this season and has won all seven of the Australian Open deciders he has contested.

And if Djokovic needs extra motivation, winning on Sunday will see him reclaim the world number one ranking after Rafael Nadal crashed to Thiem in the last eight.

“It was an unreal match, two tie-breakers, so tough and so close. It was almost impossible to break him,” said Thiem.

“Being in the Australian Open final is unreal. What a start to the season for me.”

Thiem had dealt with semi-final pressure before, although always on the slower red clay at Roland Garros, where he reached the past two finals only to be beaten by Nadal.

That experience paid dividends as he coolly closed out the match after 3hrs 42 mins to give himself another chance to break the stranglehold of the Big Three and win his first Grand Slam.

“I was playing four hours 10 against Rafa (in the quarter-finals), who is the most intense guy on tour, almost always so intense and long,” Thiem said.

“So it was not easy to recover. But once all the adrenalin came, already when I walked into the full stadium was fine, actually, but still I had some troubles in the first set.”

 

– Light failure –

A jittery Thiem was broken in the opening game, saving two break points before sending a backhand wide to immediately be on the back foot.

Both players were nervous and the German failed to consolidate, broken straight back.

Their momentum was interrupted when the rain began falling and the roof needed closing, but it was only a brief intermission and Zverev resumed to hold for 2-2.

Thiem was still struggling with his first serve and a double fault handed the German a chance to go 4-3 in front and he grabbed it.

Zverev took command, putting 90 percent of his booming first serves in, and broke again to seal the set as the Austrian error-count mounted.

But the 22-year-old lost focus and two double faults in game three of the second set handed Thiem a 2-1 lead.

Zverev managed to break back but he was too erratic as Thiem broke again and clung on, firing an ace to take set two.

Bizarrely, play was halted for nine minutes one game into the third set when a light went out above the baseline and it bothered Zverev.

When they resumed, Thiem held serve and then broke with an epic backhand winner as Zverev again lost concentration and the momentum appeared to shift.

Thiem is one of the best returners in the game and was getting almost every ball back. He looked to be on his way, but Zverev refused to surrender and broke again to even it up.

It went to a tiebreak where Thiem turned on the style to take a stranglehold on the match.

There was little between them in the crucial fourth set as they traded blows. It went to serve and another tie-breaker when Thiem’s experience helped him over the line.

AFP

Djokovic Breezes Past Federer Into Australian Open Final

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory against Switzerland’s Roger Federer (R) during their men’s singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 30, 2020.
DAVID GRAY / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic shattered the hopes of ailing rival Roger Federer Thursday to sweep into a record eighth Australian Open final and move closer to his 17th Grand Slam crown.

The pair boasts one of world sport’s greatest rivalries, and after a tentative start, the Serb quickly reinforced his recent dominance, showing no mercy to the Swiss maestro in a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 6-3 win.

He will play either fifth seed Dominic Thiem or seventh-ranked German Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final.

AFP

Australian Open: Nadal Stunned By Thiem In Epic Quarter Final Clash

Spain’s Rafael Nadal walks off the court after losing against Austria’s Dominic Thiem during their men’s singles quarter-final match on day ten of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 29, 2020.
William WEST / AF

 

Austria’s Dominic Thiem stunned Rafael Nadal in an “epic” four-setter Wednesday to send the world number one tumbling out of the Australian Open and set up a semi-final against Alexander Zverev.

The fifth seed, beaten by Nadal in the last two French Open finals, battled past the Spaniard 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (8/6) to deny him a crack at a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title.

He will now meet German seventh seed Zverev, who shattered the dreams of veteran Stan Wawrinka 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to book his maiden place in a Grand Slam last four.

Awaiting the winner of that clash will be either seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or six-time winner Roger Federer, who meet in the other semi-final.

 

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (L) congratulates Austria’s Dominic Thiem on his victory in their men’s singles quarter-final match on day ten of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 30, 2020. DAVID GRAY / AFP

 

“All the match was on a very good level, I think we are both in great form,” said Thiem, only the second Austrian to make the Melbourne semis after Thomas Muster — the man he sacked this week as an advisor.

“Today I had the feeling I was lucky in the right situation… it is necessary because he is one of the greatest of all time. You need some luck to beat him.”

Thiem added that he was ecstatic at beating “a great champion” and “really proud how I stayed in the match”, which he called “an epic”.

Top seed Nadal had a 9-4 record over Thiem and had beaten him in all their five previous Slam meetings.

But the last time they played on hardcourts — at the 2018 US Open quarter-finals — it was a five-set marathon.

And the signs pointed that way again, with the opening set on serve to 2-2 before Thiem, gunning for a first Grand Slam title, worked a breakpoint but couldn’t convert.

Both baseline-huggers, it became a slugfest before Nadal managed to open some doors on the Thiem serve in game eight and he broke with a perfect lob from the back of the court.

But Thiem came roaring back, breaking back with a ripping crosscourt return. He saved a set point to take it to a tie-breaker where he rocked Nadal to seal a one-set lead.

– Famous victory –

Nadal, dripping in sweat on a steamy Melbourne night, attacked in the second set and Thiem lost his serve to love to go 3-2 behind.

But the Spaniard, the 2009 champion, became riled when issued with a warning for taking too long to serve and it rattled him, sending down a double fault as Thiem squared the set at 4-4.

Nadal saved a set point and it went to another tie-break where Thiem prevailed at the crunch thanks to a lucky net cord.

The third set was similarly tight, with no breaks until Nadal teased some errors from Thiem as he served to stay in the set, pumping his fists in celebration.

But when Nadal shanked a forehand to be broken in the third game of set four, the momentum swung back to the Austrian. He lost his nerve serving for the match at 5-4 before finally getting over the line in a tie-break for a famous victory.

“Of course, I am sad. I lost an opportunity to be in the semi-finals of another Grand Slam. But I lost against a great opponent. And he deserved it, too,” said Nadal.

Thiem now faces Zverev, who bounced back after being demolished in the first set by 2014 champion Wawrinka to take control and run out a comfortable winner.

Long touted as one of the next generation capable of breaking through to end the Grand Slam dominance of Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic, Zverev credited a more relaxed approach for his success in Melbourne.

“I’m doing many more things outside the court,” he said, adding that after a poor performance at the recent ATP Cup he did not have high expectations.

“Maybe this is a stepping stone. Maybe this is how it should happen.”

AFP

Australian Open: Federer Roars Into Record 15th Quarter-Final

Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates after victory against Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics during their men’s singles match on day seven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 26, 2020. Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

Roger Federer flicked a switch after losing the opening set to crush Marton Fucsovics and book a record 15th Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday, with unheralded American Tennys Sandgren his next hurdle.

The Swiss master took time to work out the Hungarian but when he did it was one-way traffic, romping to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory on Rod Laver Arena to edge closer to a seventh Melbourne title and 21st Grand Slam crown.

Awaiting him in the last eight on Tuesday is the 100th-ranked Sandgren, who upset 12th-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini over four intense sets.

“It was a tough start, Marton played very clean,” said Federer, who is into his 15th Melbourne quarter-final, surpassing John Newcombe’s 14.

It will also be his 57th appearance in the last eight at Grand Slams. No one else is close, with Novak Djokovic next in line on 46.

“It just took me some time, I tried to mix it up a bit and just had to figure it out. From the beginning of the second set it got a little bit easier,” he added.

Sandgren, a devout Christian, achieved his best Grand Slam result at Melbourne Park by reaching the last eight in 2018, but it was overshadowed by a row over his political views and links to right-wing activists.

He has put the controversy behind him and shown battling qualities to make the last eight again and said he was relishing the chance to play an all-time great.

“It will be very special, very special. To play him on a big stage like quarters of a Slam would be a ton of fun really,” he said.

The pair have never met before, as Federer noted: “I’ve played a lot of tennis in my life but never against Tennys.”

 Millman epic 

The ageless Federer was pushed to a gruelling five sets by John Millman in round three but showed no signs of tiredness against Fucsovics despite being 38.

Both players took time to feel each other out and it went with serve to 3-3 before the Hungarian grabbed the first break on the back of some high-quality service returns.

The unheralded 27-year-old ranked 67, looked composed, with his power and aggressive forehand unsettling Federer and he held his nerve to grab the set — the first he had ever taken off the Swiss.

Undaunted, Federer kept has cool, started to find Fucsovic’s weaknesses and dictate the points, earning a break to go 2-0 ahead in the second set.

He didn’t let up as the Hungarian struggled to stay in touch, broken again as the tide turned and normal business resumed for the Swiss great.

Fucsovics, who was attempting to become the first player from his country to make the Melbourne quarters, was shellshocked as Federer turned on the style.

He raced to a double break lead in the third with some brilliant passing shots and there was no way back for a player who came into the match in decent form, winning his three previous matches without dropping a set.

Federer, who could face Djokovic in the semi-finals if he gets past Sandgren, wrapped it up in 2hrs 11mins, almost two hours less than his third-round epic against Millman.

AFP

Australian Open: Nadal’s Bitter Opponent Talks About ‘Respect’ Ahead Of Match

Australia's Nick Kyrgios (L) prepares to shake hands with Russia's Karen Khachanov after victory during their men's singles match on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2020. Greg Wood / AFP
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios (L) prepares to shake hands with Russia’s Karen Khachanov after victory during their men’s singles match on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2020.
Greg Wood / AFP

 

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios said he had “respect” for Rafael Nadal despite their personal differences after he set up a last-16 match with the top seed at the Australian Open on Saturday.

Kyrgios played down disagreements with the world number one — against whom he has a 2-1 record on hard courts — after some barbed exchanges between the two.

“Regardless, if we don’t like each other or whatever, I think there’s a layer of respect,” Kyrgios said after his five-set thriller with Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

“He’s one of the greatest of all time. I also read that he thinks I’m good for the sport.

“There’s a layer of respect that we both have for each other. Doesn’t necessarily mean we like each other, but we’re going to go out there and give contrasting styles and personalities.”

Kyrgios beat Khachanov 6-2, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (6/8), 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (10/8) over 4hr 26min — the longest match of his career — to set up a last-16 meeting with the 19-time Grand Slam winner.

Last year Kyrgios won a bad-tempered match with Nadal in Mexico, hitting underarm serves and complaining about his slow play — prompting the Spaniard to complain that he “lacks respect”.

The 24-year-old later told an interviewer that Nadal was “super salty”, and he mimicked his signature serving routine when warned for slow play during his round-two win over Gilles Simon.

However, Kyrgios, who lost to Nadal in four sets in round two last year at Wimbledon, said both players were aware of each other’s qualities.

“At the end of the day, we’re two different tennis players. We go about it completely different,” he said.

“After Wimbledon, I lost, I got beaten by the better player. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said, ‘Too good’.”

Nadal earlier gave a cool response when asked whether he liked Kyrgios.

“When he does stuff that in my opinion is not good, I don’t like,” said the Spaniard.

“When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour.

“When he’s ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, is one of these guys. When he’s doing the other stuff, of course I don’t like.”

 

AFP

ATP: Medvedev Sets Up Last 16 Clash With Wawrinka

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev hits a return against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin during their men’s singles match on day six of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2020.
William WEST / AFP

 

World number four Daniil Medvedev eased past Alexei Popyrin in straight sets Saturday to set up a last-16 clash with former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

The tall Russian had few problems dispatching the unseeded Australian 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena as he steps up his quest for a maiden Grand Slam crown.

“I knew it was not going to be easy and happy to win in straight sets,” said Medvedev, insisting he had no expectations in Melbourne.

“(But) of course every time no matter what tournament I’m super disappointed (if I lose).

“Hopefully I can win seven matches here, but very tough.”

He now plays experienced 2014 champion Wawrinka after the Swiss got an easy ride through his clash against John Isner, with the American retiring injured while losing 6-4, 6-1.

Wawrinka, a former world number three who has never returned to his best since knee surgery in 2017, said he was happy to be in the second week of a Slam once again.

“I think I was playing well again today,” he said. “I was really happy the way I was moving, the way I was playing.

“That’s very positive. It’s great to be back in the second week, that’s for sure. Feeling way better.”

Popyrin conceded an early break and was never allowed into the match by a man seeded behind only the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

After Medvedev rattled through the first set, Popyrin went off for treatment for a leg problem midway through the second.

When he returned the Russian was ruthless, wrapping up the set then completing a routine victory, using his strength and big serve to good effect.

AFP

Australian Open: Federer Survives Epic Five-Set Thriller

Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates after victory against Australia's John Millman during their men's singles match on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24, 2020. William WEST / AFP
Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates after victory against Australia’s John Millman during their men’s singles match on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24, 2020.
William WEST / AFP

 

Six-time champion Roger Federer said it was a “big relief” to survive an epic five-set marathon and seal his 100th Australian Open win on Friday, fending off a dogged challenge from John Millman.

The Swiss master was rattled by the all-guns-blazing Australian, but scraped through 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (10/8) to stay alive in his quest for a 21st Grand Slam title.

He will take on unseeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who eased past American Tommy Paul in straight sets, for a place in the last eight.

“It was tough tonight, thank God it was a super breaker,” said the third seed, who looked out for the count when he was down 8-4 in the best-of-10 fifth set super tiebreaker.

“He played a great match. It came down to the wire. What a match.

“This one was unique in many ways that I was able to turn a super breaker around like this in an atmosphere, it was crazy, fun, and I couldn’t be more happy. Big relief.”

“Things were extremely difficult, not just in the breaker, (but) throughout the match for me against John,” he added.

Millman said he “left it all out there” and praised Federer, saying: “That’s what the best players I guess do.”

Federer not only gained a 100th victory at Melbourne Park but became the only player, man or woman, to post a century of victories at two different Slams.

The Swiss great reached three figures at Wimbledon last year.

He is one of only four players in the 100 club — Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon, and Chris Evert and Serena Williams at the US Open, are the others.

It nearly didn’t happen against the 47th-ranked Australian Millman, who memorably beat Federer over four gruelling sets in the round of 16 at the US Open in 2018.

One of the fittest players on tour, Millman broke Federer in the fourth game of the opening set.

The 38-year-old Federer, struggling to find his rhythm, fell 5-2 behind. He broke in the ninth game only for Millman to immediately break back to love thanks to poor Federer serving and take the set.

The second went with serve until the Swiss took his game to another level in the tiebreaker.

Federer wrestled control as he won the third set, but Millman came roaring back, excelling in the baselines rallies to break for a 4-3 lead and take the match into a fifth set.

The pair shared breaks in the tense decider and it went to a tiebreak with Federer looking dead and buried at 8-4 down.

But he stayed calm and hauled himself back to win a Grand Slam classic.

 

AFP

Australian Open: Nadal, Kyrgios Progress Despite Weather Challenge

 

Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios reached the Australian Open third round on Thursday after the weather-disrupted tournament faced a new challenge: dirty rain which left courts muddy and unplayable.

After a day of clean-up operations and delays, Australia’s Kyrgios fought his way past Frenchman Gilles Simon in four sets and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep stamped her class with a win over Britain’s Harriet Dart.

Nadal, a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-1 winner over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, miscued a shot that hit a ballgirl in the head, but he melted hearts when he apologised and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“I was so scared for her, honestly,” the 19-time Grand Slam winner said. “The ball was quick and straight on the head. She’s a very brave girl.”

Kyrgios, increasingly popular with home fans after his fundraising efforts for Australia’s bushfire crisis, was cruising at two sets up when he dropped the third set and with it, his composure.

But just when it looked like he would suffer one of his trademark implosions, he rallied for a 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

“I definitely lost my way a little bit… but I decided to refocus,” Kyrgios said of his mini-meltdown in the third set. “I could have gone to a very dark place in the fourth set but I put it away.”

Kyrgios and Nadal stay on course for a fourth-round clash and the next instalment in their grudge match after the Aussie hit back at criticism from the “super salty” Spaniard last year.

Their victories followed a day of upheaval caused by the dirty rain, the latest weather problem at a tournament which has contended with bushfire smoke, heavy downpours and strong wind.

Rain mixed with a dust storm coated the Melbourne Park facilities in a fine layer of mud which took hours to clean and made many outside courts temporarily unusable.

 ‘I was freaking out’ 

As action resumed Alexander Zverev, another man who has a running feud with Kyrgios, showed signs of a return to form as he downed Egor Gerasimov 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5.

The German seventh seed has been practising up to seven hours a day after a winless ATP Cup and the hard work paid off as he safely reached the third round.

“Definitely much better than the ATP Cup. Now in the third round, I’m very happy about that,” said the 22-year-old, who beat Italy’s Marco Cecchinato in round one.

However, fifth seed Dominic Thiem had a scare as he was taken to five sets by Australia’s 140th-ranked Alex Bolt before recovering his composure to win 6-2, 5-7, 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-2.

“It was all of a sudden a really tight third set that shouldn’t happen. That’s why I was freaking out inside and also outside today,” said the two-time French Open finalist.

A nosebleed was one of Daniil Medvedev’s biggest challenges in his win over Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, while Gael Monfils, who injured his racquet hand playing computer games before the tournament, downed Ivo Karlovic.

In the women’s draw, Halep beat Dart 6-2, 6-4, while Belinda Bencic knocked out former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko — she was playing despite the sudden death of her father this month.

Two-time Major winner Garbine Muguruza, who scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in the off-season as she searches for a return to form, dispatched home hope Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

AFP