Coco Gauff, 15, Stuns Title-Holder Osaka At Australian Open

 

 

Unseeded 15-year-old Coco Gauff beat reigning champion Naomi Osaka in straight sets in a major upset at the Australian Open on Friday.

The American prodigy, making her Melbourne debut this year, beat the third seed 6-3, 6-4 in the third round to avenge her heavy defeat at last year’s US Open.

The youngest player in the draw will play 14th seed Sofia Kenin of the United States or China’s Zhang Shuai.

“Oh my gosh. Two years ago I lost the first round in the juniors and now I’m here — this is crazy,” said Gauff.

“I was just telling myself one point at a time and just keep fighting because you never know what happens on this court.”

This was the second installment of a budding rivalry that could light up tennis for the next decade or more, having met at the US Open, where Osaka won easily.

READ ALSO: Serena Williams Stunned At Australian Open, Ending Record Bid

The teenager Gauff, who spent time training with Serena Williams in the off-season, had said she would be less nervous and more aggressive this time round.

And so it proved as they rattled through the first five games in barely 15 minutes at the 15,000-capacity Rod Laver Arena.

Osaka, a relative veteran at age 22, fired into the net to drop serve in game eight and then racked up more unforced errors in gifting Gauff the first set in 32 minutes.

“Come on!” shouted Gauff, ranked 67 but fast making a name for herself as the most exciting prospect in women’s tennis.

The young American carried the momentum into the first game of the second set, breaking a subdued and rattled Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam champion.

The Japanese broke back for 1-1 when Gauff volleyed into the net, but it was a rare mistake by the American and she broke once more, before serving for the match at 5-4.

The nerveless teenager clinched victory on the first match point when Osaka fired into the net.

Gauff announced herself to the sporting world at Wimbledon last year when, as a qualifier, she stunned Venus Williams in the first round.

She did the same thing to the seven-time Grand Slam champion on her Melbourne debut this week, then came back from a set and 3-0 down to defeat Sorana Cirstea on Wednesday.

When Gauff and Osaka met five months ago in New York, also in round three, then-world number one Osaka crushed the tearful and overawed teenager 6-3, 6-0 in a little over an hour.

That first clash was memorable also for what happened afterward when the teenager cried and Osaka consoled her before Osaka herself began welling up.

Serena Williams Stunned At Australian Open, Ending Record Bid

 

Serena Williams was sensationally knocked out of the Australian Open third round by China’s Wang Qiang on Friday, torpedoing her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown.

Williams, 38, was the bookies’ favourite to win an eighth title at Melbourne Park but she came unstuck against a determined Wang, who took only one game off the American last time they met.

The 6-4, 6/7 (2/7), 7-5 upset means Williams, whose last Major win was at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant, has fallen short at eight Grand Slams since returning from having a baby in 2018.

READ ALSO: Victor Moses Signs For Inter Milan On Loan

“I think my team always believed I can do it,” said 27th seed Wang, who lost 6-1, 6-0 to Williams in last year’s US Open quarter-finals.

“After last time I did really hard work on and off-court, I believed I could do it.”

Her reward is a clash with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who upset Williams’ close friend Caroline Wozniacki, sending the Dane into retirement.

Williams, seeded eight, started slowly against the fast, positive Wang, and she was three break points down in the ninth game when Wang punched away a forehand to grab the break.

Serving for the set, Wang won a full-blooded rally to bring up set point and then sealed it to go one set up — a far cry from their last meeting in New York.

Williams came out firing for the second set but her chances plunged when she was broken to go 3-2 down, and it looked all over when she let Wang off the hook on breakpoint in the eighth.

However, Wang wobbled when she was serving for the match and Williams won a titanic 24-shot rally to break the Chinese player for the first time, raising her arms in triumph.

Williams staved off more break points before dominating the tie-breaker, where she benefited from another net cord and a Hawk-Eye review before levelling the match with a service winner.

In the tense final set, both players held firm but Wang pounced when Williams was serving to stay in it, converting her third match point as the American netted.

Wang received a torrent of criticism from Chinese fans after her capitulation to Williams in the last eight at Flushing Meadows.

The 28-year-old from Tianjin has now achieved her deepest Australian Open run, after reaching the third round last year — a prelude to her best Major performance, at the US Open.

AFP

How Motherhood Helped Serena Reach Brink Of History

Serena Williams of the US serves against Qiang Wang of China during their Women’s Singles Quarter-finals tennis match during the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 3, 2019. DOMINICK REUTER / AFP

 

 

Serena Williams finds chasing after her two-year-old daughter Olympia has helped her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open as her 38th birthday approaches.

Williams would match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Slam singles titles and claim an unprecedented seventh US Open title with a victory in Saturday’s final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Being on the court is almost a little bit more relaxing than hanging out with a two-year-old that’s dragging you everywhere. I think that has kind of been a little helpful,” Williams said after her 6-3, 6-1 semi-final victory Thursday over Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Just two years ago, Williams was fighting for her life with a blood clot in her lung after giving birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Now she could become only the fourth mother in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam title after Aussies Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters.

“I think it’s amazing to come back with a baby and win because it’s hard,” Williams said. “My day off isn’t a day off.

“I’m literally hanging out with baby. I’m doing activities with her. I don’t want her to forget me. I try to spend as much time (as I can) with her. I’m a full-time mom first, foremost. That means the most to me. So I train and then I rush home.

“Being in a Grand Slam is difficult because it takes away a lot of time that we normally have together.”

Three weeks shy of her 38th birthday, Williams would become the oldest women’s champion in Grand Slam history, surpassing the age mark she set in winning the 2017 Australian Open at 35 while pregnant.

Williams seeks a record seventh US Open title to surpass the mark she now shares with Chris Evert. If she wins the finale it would give her 102 US Open match wins, one more than the record 101 she shares with Evert.

Williams says she definitely would still be playing at an age when most rivals have put down the racquet even if she had already passed Court’s once-thought unassailable mark.

“I definitely would still be playing if I had already passed it. I’ve had so many chances to pass it and (hope) to have a lot more, but it’s cool because I’m playing in an era… five eras with so many amazing players.

“If you look at the span of the career, the players I’ve played, it’s amazing that I was able to get this many.”

‘A sick joke’

Williams, who won her first Slam title 20 years ago at the US Open, said if someone had told her at 17 she would still be playing two decades later, “I would definitely not have believed them.

“At 17 I thought for sure I’d be retired at 28, 29, living my life. So I would have thought it was a sick joke.”

Williams has missed three prior Grand Slam finals chances to match Court and collect her first Slam as a mom, falling in last year’s US Open and the past two Wimbledons.

“I think it’s great. To be this far in my career, to be playing at this level with these amazing new players, is cool,” Williams said.

“It’s cool that I’ve been in more finals than I think anyone on tour after being pregnant. I think that’s kind of awesome.

“It’s not easy to go through what I did and come back, and so fast. To keep playing, to also not be 20 years old, yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself.”

Svitolina marvels at Williams as well.

“What she does is unbelievable effort on a daily basis. You have to work every day. You have to be always ready, always prepared for any match,” Svitolina said.

“What she does and what she achieved, it’s something unbelievable. For sure, everyone dream about it. For now, only her who can do it.”

Serena powers into 10th US Open final

Serena Williams cruised into a 10th US Open final Thursday as she brushed aside fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 to claim a record-equaling 101st win at Flushing Meadows.

Williams is seeking a 24th Grand Slam singles title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record and will face either Belinda Bencic or Bianca Andreescu on Saturday in her bid for a seventh US Open triumph.

The 37-year-old American, who made her US Open debut in 1998, also drew level with Chris Evert for the most wins in tournament history after advancing to a 33rd major final.

“It’s impressive. To be in any club with Chrissie is awesome,” said Williams, who lifted her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open.

“I couldn’t have done it without this crowd. You guys have literally been here for 20 years and I’m still here.”

Williams fought off six breaks points across her opening three service games before finding her rhythm to dispatch Wimbledon semi-finalist Svitolina in 70 minutes, hitting 34 winners against just 20 unforced errors.

“I know how (Svitolina) can play, she’s such a good player. Obviously two semis in a row is really hard to do and I just wanted to not get off to a slow start and I wanted to hang on in there.”

Williams, who was beaten by Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final in July, returns to the championship match in New York a year on from her infamous meltdown in a loss to Naomi Osaka overshadowed by controversy.

She is chasing a first Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open and hasn’t won the US Open since 2014.

Svitolina was attempting to become just the second Ukrainian to play in a Grand Slam singles final after Andrei Medvedev, who lost in five sets to Andre Agassi at the 1999 French Open.

Benic Ousts Osaka While Vekic Rallies For US Open Win

 

Belinda Bencic stunned top-ranked defending champion Naomi Osaka to reach the US Open quarter-finals, where she will face Donna Vekic, who rallied from match point down on Monday to advance.

Bencic’s 7-5, 6-4 triumph, her WTA-best sixth over a top-five foe this year, ensured 21-year-old Japanese star Osaka will fall from the world number one spot next week.

“The challenge cannot be bigger against Naomi,” Bencic said. “I had to be at the top of my game and I’m really pleased how well I handled my nerves at the end.”

The 22-year-old Swiss 13th seed matched her deepest career Grand Slam run from the 2014 US Open with her third victory of the year over Osaka, having also won at Indian Wells and Madrid.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, the reigning French Open champion who was beaten Sunday, will move into the world number one position next Monday.

Vekic, the 23rd seed from Croatia, saved a match point in the second set and made her first Slam quarter-final by rallying past German 26th seed Julia Goerges 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 6-3.

“I don’t even know how I won this match,” Vekic said. “She was serving for the match. She had match point. I just kept fighting and believing I could win. It feels pretty amazing.”

Bencic owns a 2-1 career edge over Vekic from two 2014 wins but Vekic won the most recent meeting with her friend and frequent practice partner in the third round of this year’s French Open.

“It’s going to be a tough match for sure,” Vekic said. “She’s one of the best players this year.”

Osaka’s exit means there will be four different women’s Grand Slam winners in a season for the third consecutive year, a first in the Open era.

Reigning Australian Open champion Osaka struggled from the start on the same Arthur Ashe Stadium court where she consoled tearful US teen Coco Gauff just two days earlier.

“It was just an unbelievable moment for tennis,” Bencic said of Osaka helping Gauff cope with her sadness. “Coco’s story is unbelievable but what Naomi did is what a true champion would do.”

Osaka double faulted to surrender a break in the opening game of the match, but leveled at 2-2 when Bencic netted a backhand.

Bencic swatted a backhand down-the-line winner for a break to seize a 6-5 lead then held on a service winner to capture the first set.

Osaka double faulted away a break to hand Vekic a 3-2 lead and the Swiss never faced a break point in the second set, finishing off the victory with a forehand winner to end matters after 87 minutes.

“I was taking the serve early, trying to anticipate, because she has so much power,” Bencic said. “I’m trying to play like chess and make it tactical on the court.”

Bencic hit 29 winners with only 12 unforced errors to Osaka’s 26 winners and 21 unforced errors.

Confident in rallies

Goerges won the tie-breaker with consecutive forehand winners, then broke Vekic to open the second set and fired four consecutive aces for a 2-0 lead.

But the German was broken serving for the match, squandering a match point in the 10th game, and Vekic broke again when Goerges hit a forehand wide to force a third set.

“I was just trying to get a return in the court,” Vekic said. “She was serving amazing. I was feeling confident in the rallies and I knew if I could get that return in I would have an advantage.”

US upstarts play seeds in later matches as 116th-ranked qualifier Taylor Townsend faces Canadian teen 15th seed Bianca Andreescu and Belgian 25th seed Elise Mertens meets 141st-ranked wildcard Kristie Ahn.

 

Serena Survives US Open Challenge From Teen McNally

 

Serena Williams withstood a brave display from 17-year-old American wildcard Caty McNally at the US Open on Wednesday to keep her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title intact.

READ ALSO: Federer Rallies Past Dzumhur To Reach US Open Third Round

Williams, a six-time champion in New York, recovered from dropping the opening set to prevail 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 and set up a third-round showdown with either 29th seed Hsieh Su-Wei or Karolina Muchova.

AFP

Dominant Djokovic Demolishes Pouille To Set Up Nadal Final

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory against France’s Lucas Pouille during their men’s singles semi-final match on day 12 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2019. Jewel SAMAD / AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic on Friday continued his quest for a record seventh Australian Open crown by swatting aside French 28th seed Lucas Pouille 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 to set up a final against Rafael Nadal.

It was a flawless display on Rod Laver Arena by the world number one who moves into a first Melbourne decider since 2016.

“It is definitely one of the best matches I’ve ever had on this court, definitely,” said Djokovic, who hit 24 winners and had just five unforced errors

“You know, everything worked the way I imagined it before the match and even more so.

“Tough one for Lucas, but he had a great tournament, and I wish him all the best for the rest of the season,” he added.

Djokovic lost in the fourth round last year, followed by elbow surgery and poor form until he won Wimbledon and turned his season around.

“It was highly unlikely 12 months ago that I would be where I am today, a year later,” said the Serbian top seed.

“But I’ve said it before, and I always have plenty of belief in myself, and I think the self-belief is something that always prevails.”

READ ALSO: South Korea Probes Sports Sex Assault Allegations

Djokovic will face second seed Nadal in a 53rd career meeting and eighth in the final of a Slam.

In 2012 the pair contested the longest Grand Slam final in terms of time at the Australian Open when Djokovic edged an epic battle 7-5 in the fifth set after 5hr 53min.

Djokovic, in his 34th Grand Slam semi-final, took just 83 minutes to outclass his regular practice partner Pouille, who was appearing in his first.

Total control

The 14-time Grand Slam title winner was fresh because quarter-final opponent Kei Nishikori had quit after 51 minutes and he jumped all over the world number 31 right from the start.

Djokovic was in total control against the Frenchman who had needed more than three hours to see off Milos Raonic in the last eight.

The Serb ran Pouille ragged so effectively that he dished out a dreaded 6-0 “bagel” in a first set that lasted just 21 minutes.

Pouille held his first service game of the second set to a huge ovation from the centre court fans, but it was a brief respite as Djokovic, a picture of precision on serve and return, would not allow him any chance to get back into the match.

Pouille’s coach Amelie Mauresmo, who won the Australian Open women’s singles in 2006, could only look on helplessly as Djokovic broke at the next opportunity and raced to the second set.

On Thursday Nadal had allowed his young Greek opponent Stefanos Tsitsipas to win just six games on the way to the final in an hour and 46 minutes.

Djokovic made that look pedestrian, allowing Pouille only four games and taking 23 minutes less to reach his first Melbourne final since 2016, when he won his sixth title.

Nadal holds a 4-3 win-loss record against Djokovic in Grand Slam finals, including all three meetings since their Melbourne Park marathon seven years ago, and both players are chasing milestones on Sunday.

A win for Nadal will see him become the first player in the Open era to win all four Grand Slam titles twice, while victory for Djokovic will take him clear of six-time Melbourne winners Roger Federer and Roy Emerson.

 

Ruthless Nadal Romps Past De Minaur At Open

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory against Australia’s Alex de Minaur during their men’s singles match on day five of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 18, 2019. DAVID GRAY / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal hailed Alex de Minaur as “one of the best in the world” but still showed the teenager the Australian Open door 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the third round on Friday.

The relentless Spanish 17-time Grand Slam champion dragged the 19-year-old Australian 27th seed over every inch of Rod Laver Arena as he romped to victory in 2hr 22min.

Second seed Nadal will face unseeded Czech former world number four Tomas Berdych for a place in the quarter-finals.

AFP

Reluctant Star Osaka Rockets To Aussie Open Third Round

Japan’s Naomi Osaka hits a return against Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek during their women’s singles match on day four of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. Peter PARKS / AFP

 

Japan’s Naomi Osaka said she was still adjusting to her status as a Grand Slam champion Thursday after cruising into the Australian Open third round in search of a second major.

The fourth seed swept past Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-4 to set up an all-Asian clash with Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan in the next round.

Osaka, who won her maiden Grand Slam at the US Open last year, struggled to close out the match after a strong start but always looked in control against the world number 78.

“I thought I served alright, this was my first time playing her and I’m just happy to win to be honest,” the 21-year-old said.

“I know I could have made less unforced errors (23) this match. So that’s the biggest thing I take away.”

The softly-spoken 21-year-old’s profile has soared since her victory at Flushing Meadows, particularly since it was done in the face of Serena William’s infamous rant at the umpire in the decider.

She was bashful when told that fellow 21-year-old Zidansek had felt intimidated before facing her on Margaret Court Arena.

“No way! I feel old,” she said. “Wow, that’s kind of crazy… It’s weird.

“For me, when I play, like, Venus (Williams) or someone, I’m star struck too . It’s a bit weird when you tell me there’s someone I’m playing that feels that way.”

She anticipated a tough test against Hsieh, who she defeated in their only previous meeting.

“She’s been playing really well recently so I just hope that it’s exciting,” she said.

“I feel like playing her is going to be really hard because she slices a lot. That’s something I’m not used to that much, so I’ll have a practice a lot tomorrow.”

Osaka was in no mood to hang around after rain delayed the start of play against Zidansek as the show court roof was closed.

She broke Zidansek in the first game, only to allow the Slovenian to get back on level terms in the fourth with a string of unforced errors.

It proved a minor wobble, with Osaka restoring her advantage with a lob that left Zidansek flat-footed, then claiming another break before serving out the set in 28 minutes.

The second set was tighter as Osaka uncharacteristically struggled on serve, double-faulting as Zidansek went up a break.

But she made amends in the next game and saw off two break points from Zidansek before bringing up two match points on serve.

Osaka netted a forehand return on the first one but Zidansek could not handle the power of her second, hitting it into the crowd to hand the Japanese player victory.

AFP

Consistent Kerber Blasts Into Aussie Open Third Round

Germany’s Angelique Kerber reacts after a point against Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia during their women’s singles match on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 16, 2019. DAVID GRAY / AFP

 

Second seed Angelique Kerber dominated Brazilian qualifier, Beatriz Haddad Maia, to easily reach the Australian Open third round on Wednesday.

The German Wimbledon champion produced a clinical display to advance 6-2, 6-3 in humid conditions.

“It was a tough match, she played really well and I knew that I had to play my best tennis,” the three-time Grand Slam champion said.

Kerber shut fellow left-hander Haddad Maia out of the first set, with the frustrated Brazilian hitting 13 winners to seven but unable to match her opponent’s consistency.

The German committed only six unforced errors to 29 and racked up an 80 percent success rate on the second serve.

Haddad Maia lifted as the second set began and Kerber had to wait until the eighth game to go up a break, then proceeded to serve out the match.

Kerber, a winner at Melbourne Park in 2016, will meet Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell next.

She was wary of the threat posed by the 20-year-old, who will be cheered on by a wildly parochial crowd at Melbourne Park.

“I saw a bit of her match, she played really well, she’s on the third round,” she said.

“She’s playing at home, I’ll have to play at my best again.”

Kerber is on course for a quarter-final clash with fifth-seeded American Sloane Stephens if results go as expected.

She reached the semi-finals at the season-opening Grand Slam last year but lost to Simona Halep in a tight three-setter.

AFP