Sharapova storms into round three

Maria Sharapova stormed into the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday morning with a straight sets win over Anastasija Sevastova.

It was sweet revenge for the Russian after the Latvian number 14 seed knocked her out of last year’s US Open.

The unseeded former champion Sharapova was on top early, holding to love and then pressuring the Latvian on her first service game although she ultimately managed to hold.

That was her only hold though as Sharapova won the next five games to take the first set 6-1.

The second set was more competitive, with the duo regularly trading breaks of serve on the way to a tie-break.

But it was the 2008 champion who found an extra gear in the tie-breaker as she pulled away to clinch it 7-4 and claim the match.

Sharapova will now face the winner of the match between 2016 champion Angelique Kerber (21) and Dona Vekic.

Another seed to make an early exit was ninth seed Johanna Konta, who was shocked by lucky loser Bernarda Pera of the US. Last year’s semi-finalist going out after losing 6-4, 7-5 to the 127th ranked American, who will play Barbara Strycova (20) of the Czech Republic in the third round.

Eighth seed Caroline Garcia had to fight to secure her place in round three, coming back from a set down to beat Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-8.

Former world number 2 Agnieszka Radwanska also made it through after losing the first set to Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

The Polish 26th seed pulled it round to win 6-2, 5-7, 3-6 and set up a tie against the winner of the Garbine Muguruza, Hsieh Su-wei tie.

More reports to come…

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Nadal, Kyrgios through at Australian Open

World number one Rafa Nadal is through to the second round of the Australian Open with a comfortable victory over Víctor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic on Monday.

The 31-year-old Spaniard was never under any threat wrapping up the match 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 against his 37-year-old opponent in one hour and 37 minutes.

Nadal will next be up against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, who beat Chilean Nicolás Jarry 6-2, 7-6(1), 6-2, earlier in the day.

In the match, the top seed coasted through the sets and was always in control. He started the first set by holding serve and then immediately claimed his opponents to lead 2-0. A further break two games later saw Nadal 4-0 up before winning the set 6-1.

Things did not get any easier for Burgos as he dropped serve in the opening game of the next set and despite breaking Nadal’s serve in the fifth game the Spaniard broke for the fourth time to claim the second 6-1.

Two service breaks in the third set were all that was needed by Nadal to wrap up the match 6-1.

In another result, Australian 17th seed Nick Kyrgios hammered Brazil’s Rogério Dutra Silva 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 29 minutes to set up a second-round meeting with Serbian Viktor Troicki, after he defeated Australian qualifier Alex Bolt coming from two sets down to win 6-7(2), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

In the opening set, the 22-year-old Australian looked very sharp and pounced in the fourth game to break serve and did so again in the sixth to lead 5-1. He then served out the set 6-1.

Kyrgios kicked off set two in perfect fashion with a break in the opening game and did so again in the seventh game to hold serve and take the set 6-3.

It took one service break, in the seventh game, for the Kyrgios to win the set and match 6-4.

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Dimitrov cruises past Novak in Melbourne

Bulgarian third seed Grigor Dimitrov reached the second round of the Australian Open with a straight-sets victory over Austrian qualifier Dennis Novak in Melbourne on Monday.

Dimitrov, who was a semi-finalist last year, needed one hour and 39 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to beat Novak 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 and will next be up against another qualifier in either American Mackenzie McDonald or Swede Elias Ymer.

The third seed looked sharp and in good form hitting 21 winners and never looked challenged.

In the opening set, Dimitrov claimed his opponents serve in the fourth game and never looked back thereafter to claim the opener 6-3.

The second set began in perfect fashion for the Bulgarian when he broke Novak’s serve in the opening game and then again in the fifth to lead 4-1, going on to win the set 6-2.

It was all Dimitrov in the third as he claimed his opponents serve in the third, fifth and seventh games to win the set and match 6-1.

While in an upset, Britain’s Kyle Edmund beat South African 11th seed Kevin Anderson 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

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Konta tipped to win Australian Open

Jo Konta has been tipped as a contender for the Australian Open title after linking up with Maria Sharapova’s former coach.

British player Konta is the ninth seed in Melbourne for next week’s tournament, despite concerns over a hip injury which forced her to retire at last week’s Brisbane International.

For the last two months, Konta has teamed up with American coach Michael Joyce, who steered Sharapova to the Australian Open crown in 2008.

And Joyce believes Konta can achieve likewise after seeing the parallels between the two players.

“She has a lot of characteristics like Maria,” says Joyce.

“They both want it really bad. They both aren’t going to cut corners to get there, or leave any stone unturned.

“I like the way Jo plays. I like the offensive-style player, and I think hers is a simple game if she’s executing.

“The hard part is to get them to do it day in and day out and to have confidence, to know they belong and that they can win a lot of matches on their terms.

“I have no doubt that with her game and where she is, she can win a Grand Slam.”

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Australian Open 2018: Men’s Preview

Roger Federer Australian Open

The men’s singles draw at this year’s Australian Open is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating battles in a long, long time.

Take one determined old guard, throw in a mix of exciting youngsters and add in a couple of returning heroes, and you have a recipe for a thrilling contest.

ROGER FEDERER

Roger Federer

World Ranking: 2
Current form: WWWWW
2017 titles: 7
Best AO result: Wins in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2017

No known injury problems and seemingly still as deadly as ever, defending champion Roger Federer must be considered the favourite to defend his title.

He may not be the top seed (that honour goes to Rafael Nadal) but he has beaten the top seed in their last five meetings dating back all the way to 2015.

The evergreen Federer has turned last year’s incredible comeback in Melbourne into a full-blown career renaissance, with seven titles won in 2017 – two of them Grand Slams – and he’s not done yet.

RAFAEL NADAL

Rafael Nadal

World Ranking: 1
Current form: LLLWW
2017 titles: 6
Best AO result: Win in 2009

Rafael Nadal may have well have started as the favourite were it not for his recent injury troubles.

The Spaniard has dominated the last 12 months along with Federer and added two more Grand Slam crowns to his own tally – even finishing the year as the world number one.

But in recent contests he’s come off second best to Federer, and question marks remain over his form and fitness.

He was forced to withdraw from last year’s season-ending ATP World Tour Finals with another injury to his troublesome knee, and has yet to set the world on fire since making his return.

Still, Nadal remains a potent force, even when he’s not performing at 100 per cent, and there’s no telling what he’s kept up his sleeve for Melbourne.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Novak Djokovic

World Ranking: 14
Current form: WLWWW
2017 titles: 2
Best AO result: Wins in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016

If Nadal is a bit of an unknown factor, what then to make of Novak Djokovic?

The Serb’s comeback from an injury lay-off dating back to July 2017 has been more than a little bumpy. He planned to return in an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, followed by an official comeback in the Qatar Open, but was forced to withdraw from both events after his troublesome elbow played up once again.

However, Djokovic insists he’s fit and ready now, and he certainly looked the part as he dispatched top 10 player Dominic Thiem 6-1, 6-4 at the Kooyong Classic earlier this week.

Consider the six-time champion the Joker in this year’s deck – unpredictable, and more than capable of having the last laugh.

ALEXANDER ZVEREV

Alexander Zverev

World Ranking: 4
Current form: LLWLW
2017 titles: 5
Best AO result: Third round in 2017

Alexander Zverev is considered to be the most exciting young talent in the sport and the player most likely to end the dominance of the old guard.

Zverev can be brilliant, but the 20-year-old is by no means the finished article, and still lacks the consistency of some of his more experienced rivals.

It’s only a matter of time before that first Grand Slam title arrives though and that time could be sooner than you think.

GRIGOR DIMITROV

Grigor Dimitrov

World Ranking: 3
Current form: LLWWW
2017 titles: 4
Best AO result: Semi-finals in 2017

Grigor Dimitrov has been knocking on the door for quite some time, but so far a Grand Slam title has eluded him.

He made it all the way to the semi-finals in Melbourne last year, and then ended the season just as strongly by winning the ATP World Tour Finals and rising to a career-high third in the world.

If he’s going to kick on and become a Grand Slam champion, the time for 26-year-old Dimitrov is probably right now.

BUBBLING UNDER…

Nick Kyrgios

Australian Nick Kyrgios is blessed with huge talent, and if he can control his temperament he is more than capable of pulling off a big win in front of his home fans.

Like Dimitrov and Zverev, David Goffin and Dominic Thiem form part of a highly talented new guard threatening to break into the big time.

In Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic you have proven Grand Slam champions who know what it takes to win a big one.

Stan Wawrinka is in the field for Melbourne, but is doubtful to play after suffering a fresh injury setback. He had only just returned after a lengthy lay-off, so he must be considered an outside bet at best considering his current condition.

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10 tennis-related movies to set the mood for 2018 Australian Open

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

FOX Sports Asia picks out a selection of ten tennis-related movies to get you in the mood for the 2018 Australian Open.

So close yet so far; that statement has never been more true now that we are mere days away to the first Grand Slam of the year.

Tennis fans will have already been eagerly rubbing their hands in anticipation since the conclusion of the US Open last September, but there is still the matter of the weekend to get over.

via GIPHY

So while you tennis fans Netflix and chill this weekend, let us recommend ten movies that you should be watching to build up to Monday’s First Round matches.

Battle of the Sexes (2017)

If you are looking for a digestible tennis history lesson, but don’t want to fall asleep watching the History Channel, look no further than the biographical sports movie Battle of the Sexes.

Centred around the 1973 tennis match between American tennis legends Billie Jean King and Robert (aka Bobby) Rigg, the film stars Academy Award winner Emma Stone and Golden Globe winner Steve Carrell.

The two stars were nominated for the 2018 Golden Globes Awards for their performances.

Love Means Zero (2017)

If the above Hollywood dramedy is too light for your liking, then get your dose of reality with Love Means Zero – an intriguing documentary about infamous tennis coach Nick Bollettieri.

Infamous tennis coach, Nick Bollettieri

The Machiavellian New Yorker’s tennis academy is famous for producing a host of champions – Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Venus and Serena Williams, Boris Becker and many more!

The film focuses heavily on Bollettieri’s relationship with ex-student Agassi.

7 Days in Hell (2015)

Inspired by the 2010 Wimbledon First Round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut which went on for eleven hours, five minutes over three days, 7 Days in Hell is a mockumentary in which two professional tennis players face off in the longest match in history.

Featuring Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg and Game of Thrones heartthrob Kit Harington, this hilarious movie will leave you in stitches as you learn more about the players in question – Aaron “The Bad Boy of Tennis” Williams and the child tennis prodigy Charles Poole.

By the way, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for Serena Williams’ cameo!

Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

Another biographical sports drama; Borg vs McEnroe looks at the famous tennis rivalry between Sweden’s Bjorn Borg and USA’s John McEnroe.

After picking fights with robots from outer space, Emmy Award-winning actor Shia LaBeouf channels his rage as McEnroe while Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason plays the unmistakable Bjorn Borg.

The film follows the pair during the 1980 Wimbledon Championship and their much-anticipated clash in the finals.

Break Point (2014)

A feel-good comedy; Break Point is the story of two estranged brothers, and ex-tennis doubles partners, who decide to reunite for one last shot at Grand Slam glory.

Essentially an underdog tale, brash man-child Jimmy Price must convince his brother Darren to join him back on the courts.

In order to do so, Jimmy must enlist the help of an unusual 11-year-old called Barry.

Wimbledon (2004)

One for the girlfriends; Wimbledon is a romantic comedy that sees a jaded British pro-tennis player win the heart of a rising American tennis starlet.

Hollywood actors Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst star in the two main leading roles, with Jon Favreau and James McAvoy in supporting roles.

Real-life tennis legends Chris Evert and John McEnroe also feature in the film.

Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach (2009)

Early 2000s’ star, and American Pie alumni, Seann William Scott (aka STIFLER!) delivers the laughs in this side-splitting comedy.

Playing a failed tennis pro turned high school janitor, Scott is the lovable Gary Houseman who is reluctantly forced into coaching a group of teenage misfits.

Along the way, there will be laughs and tears as you follow their journey from tennis amateurs to the Nebraska State Championship.

Venus and Serena (2012)

If you are still reeling from the absence of Serena Williams, then you will love this Maiken Baird and Michelle Major directed documentary which features never-before-seen footage of the Williams sisters.

By doing so, we are given a backstage pass to the life and career of Serena and Venus.

Besides speaking directly with the sisters, the film also interviews those close to them so as to gain exclusive insights into their relationship. The film also features iconic American tennis great Billie Jean King.

Nobody’s Perfect (1990)

A cross between Mrs Doubtfire and Mulan; Nobody’s Perfect is an American comedy that stars Chad Lowe and Gail O’Grady.

Lowe plays Stephen, a college jock who decides to join the girls’tennis squad after he is kicked off his own team. The only problem is that he has to dress up as one!

In the process, Stephen gradually becomes closer his crush Shelly.

Tennis Anyone? (2005)

Television stars Donal Logue and Kirk Fox star and direct this indie sports film about two Hollywood B-listers who crash celebrity tennis tournaments in order to find meaning in their lives.

The charming picture also co-stars Jason Isaacs, Danny Trejo and Paul Rudd.

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All you need to know about the Aus Open draw

The draw for the 2018 Australian Open has taken place and we put together the most important outcomes right here.

In the men’s draw, top seed and last year’s runner-up Rafael Nadal is in Marin Cilic’s section of the draw and if all hold seed, they will face off in the quarter-finals.

Defending champion Roger Federer starts his tournament against Aljaz Bedene and is on track to face Belgium’s David Goffin in the last eight. However, 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro also lurks in Federer’s quarter of the draw.

Six-time champion Novak Djokovic is seeded 14th and faces a few potential banana skins on his way through the draw. The Serb faces Donald Young in his opener and will likely meet the dangerous Gael Monfils in the second round. It doesn’t get much easier, as he could face fourth seed Alexander Zverev as early as the fourth round.

Third seed Grigor Dimitrov is on track to face Australian hopeful Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round.

In the women’s draw, top seed Simona Halep faces 17-year-old Australian qualifier Destanee Aiava in the opening round and is likely to face 16th seed Elena Vesnina in the fourth round.

Seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams has a tough opener against Belinda Bencic and will face 12th seed Julia Goerges in the fourth round if the seeds hold.

Second seed and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki has a potential fourth round clash against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, after which she could be up against power-hitter Jelena Ostapenko,
who is seeded seventh.

Five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova is seeded 47th and will face former champion Angelique Kerber in third round if she starts with a couple victories in Melbourne.

Djokovic back with a bang at Kooyong

Novak Djokovic made a stunning return to competitive tennis on Wednesday with a superb 6-1, 6-4 triumph over Dominic Thiem at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Djokovic had been out for six months with an elbow injury, but showed no signs of discomfort as he put the world number five to the sword in his first competitive game since Wimbledon last year.

The six-time Australian Open champion had pulled out of a scheduled tournament in Abu Dhabi last week, but gave his hopes of a seventh title a big boost with an emphatic victory over the Austrian.

Djokovic broke Thiem’s serve three times as he won the opening set in just 21 minutes.

The second set was not so straightforward though, as Thiem fought back, but Djokovic, now ranked at 14 in the world stayed strong and managed to break his opponent at 5-4 to seal the win in just over 40 minutes.

“It was a great start, it feels really good to be back on the court,” Djokovic said afterwards.

“I wasn’t that nervous, although I had that matchplay attitude … I wanted to be back on court, unfortunately the elbow wouldn’t let me last week.”

Referring to the sleeve he wore as protection, he joked that it made him “feel like (Nick) Kyrgios serving … now I know his secret”.

“This has been a tough period for me, obviously injury is the greatest enemy a professional athlete can have,” he added.

“You can’t do anything about it except try to recover as quickly as you can.

“The Australian Open is the big one, it’s the one I wanted to be ready for. It’s a great start.”

In other action at Kooyong, former US Open champion Marin Cilic did not fare so well, the Croatian world number six losing 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 to Australia’s Matthew Ebden.

Nadal still upbeat after preparation loss

Rafael Nadal was defeated in an exhibition match, but revealed that it is all part of the preparation for the Australian Open.

The world number one featured in an exhibition match against Richard Gasquet, with the Frenchman defeating him 6-4, 7-5 at the Kooyong Classic on Tuesday.

It was Nadal’s first match since withdrawing from the year-end ATP World Tour finals in November due to knee issues. While he went down in straight sets to the fit Gasquet, Nadal considered the outing a success.

“It was a good test for me and good practice,” the 16-time grand slam winner told The Guardian.

“I’m good and I am here so that’s good news and my idea is just to keep practising the next couple of days to be ready for the beginning of the Australian Open.

“It was a long year last year so I started my preparation a little bit later than usual. It’s good to start having the feelings of playing a match even if it’s not official.”

Nadal will also feature in the upcoming Tie Break Tens as preparation for the Melbourne showcase.

The draw for the 2018 Australian Open takes place on Thursday, with the action officially kicking off on Monday.

Kyrgios brushes off injury concerns for Australian Open

Nick Kyrgios is confident that he will avoid any injury troubles at the Australian Open after his Brisbane International triumph.

Kyrgios beat Ryan Harrison in straight sets in Brisbane on Sunday to win the final warm-up tournament for next week’s first Grand Slam of 2018, in Melbourne.

Despite his success in Brisbane, Kyrgios had his left knee taped up in the final after being plagued by ongoing injury issues last season.

But the 22-year-old believes the rigours of a Grand Slam may actually benefit him, as he bids to advance beyond the third round in Melbourne for only the second time.

Kyrgios said: “The front of my knee gets better the warmer it gets. That’s kind of the gist with tendons, as I’ve been told.

“The more load and the more movement you give it, the better it gets.

“Right now, I feel pretty good. How many sets did I play this week? 11. So, I feel pretty good. I feel good.”

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