Australian Open: Two-time champion Azarenka's Melbourne woes continue in first round

By Sports Desk February 08, 2021

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  • Australian Open: Kyrgios embracing 'role model' tag after overshadowing Nadal Australian Open: Kyrgios embracing 'role model' tag after overshadowing Nadal

    Nick Kyrgios is hoping to inspire the next generation of tennis stars after taking centre stage at the Australian Open with his run to the men's doubles semi-finals.

    The 26-year-old fan favourite and partner Thanasi Kokkinakis downed sixth seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus 7-5 3-6 6-3 in Tuesday's quarter-final clash.

    The contest was watched by a lively crowd on Kia Arena and overshadowed Rafael Nadal's five-set win over Denis Shapovalov on Rod Laver Arena at the same time.

    Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, who were given a wildcard into the draw after being knocked out of the singles early on, will now face Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

    "I'm not finished – I want to win this f****** thing," Kyrgios declared in his on-court interview. "We know what we do well and it's world-class. 

    "That's what we'll do again. I just want to play and give the people of Australia a show and genuinely grow the sport of tennis."

    Kyrgios showed his caring side early in the match when handing a racket to a fan in the crowd after accidentally hitting the youngster with one of Kokkinakis' faulted balls.

    The Australian public have embraced the pair's deep run in the competition and Kyrgios, often a controversial character, is glad to see so many younger spectators watching on.

    "There is no way around it; me and Thanasi are definitely role models to the youth in Australia. We obviously attract that crowd," he said at his post-match news conference.

    "I know that over the years I haven't been the best role model, but I was just learning how to deal with everything. 

    "I think now at 26 I have matured, and I've definitely realised that a lot of young kids and people, even people that are low on confidence, they do look towards us.

    "We are not special people. We're normal humans that you might see walking in Australia, and we are now in the semi-finals of a grand slam.

    "I feel like I think we are just relatable. I think that's what's the best thing about it. They go out and get behind their mates. Most of the guys in the crowd are our mates.

    "You've got Roger Federer and these guys that are just once-a-generation athletes. I can't be like that. We're not like that. I feel it has to be people that are a bit more relatable."

    The Aussie pair's next opponents Granollers and Zeballos have won six tour-level titles as a team, but have never gone all the way at a grand slam.

    Kokkinakis is hoping to have similar backing from the expectant home fans on Thursday.

    Asked about the support he and his doubles partner have received so far, Kokkinakis said: "The rowdier the better. Sink p*** and come here.

    "The next guys are experienced veterans, but we're going to keep playing how we play, have fun and enjoy the crowd."

  • Australian Open: Barty dominates Pegula to book semi-final berth Australian Open: Barty dominates Pegula to book semi-final berth

    Ash Barty was in clinical form to swat aside Jessica Pegula 6-2 6-0 in just 63 minutes and book her spot in the Australian Open semi-finals.

    The world number one is still to drop a set at her home slam in Melbourne and made easy work of her opponent as Barty continued her bid to become the first female Australian singles champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978.

    Barty won nine games in a row from 3-2 up in the first set to take complete command and she can now prepare for a semi-final showdown with another American in the form of Madison Keys.

    A nervy-looking Pegula was rushing her shots in the early exchanges and Barty broke in the first game when a forehand cross set up a break point chance that her opponent put into the net.

    Barty had chalked up 12 unforced errors by game four, but it was her aggressive tactics that had Pegula completely on the ropes and when a thumping forehand set up another break point in game seven, it was little surprise when it was converted.

    By this point Barty was in complete command and Pegula had no answer to the variety of shots her opponent rained down on her.

    The second set raced by in just 28 minutes, with Barty putting the finishing touch on a mightily impressive performance when Pegula put a return long on the second match point.

    "Jess is an incredible person and a brilliant girl. I love to test myself against her. She's had sensational couple of years, she's definitely a top-20 player, there's plenty more to come for sure," Barty said after the match.

    On reaching the semis in Melbourne for the second time after doing so in 2020, she added: "I've grown as a person, as a player, I'm a more complete tennis player.

    "Credit to my team, they do so much work behind the scenes to make me the best version of myself, I love playing out here. Hopefully I've got a little bit more left."

    DATA SLAM: Barty serves up a treat again

    Barty defeated both Pegula and Keys en route to winning her maiden slam title at the 2019 French Open and history could be repeating itself here with the world number one playing arguably the best tennis of her career.

    Behind her dominance is phenomenal success on serve. Barty is still yet to drop a set in Melbourne, and went 63 games without being broken before Amanda Anisimova did so in the previous round. Here, she lost just five points on first serve (22 of 27, 81 per cent) and gave up just a solitary break-point opportunity in the match.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Barty – 17/22
    Pegula – 7/26

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Barty – 6/2
    Pegula – 1/3

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Barty – 5/9
    Pegula – 0/1

  • Australian Open: Nadal survives Shapovalov scare in epic quarter-final Australian Open: Nadal survives Shapovalov scare in epic quarter-final

    Rafael Nadal survived a huge scare to reach the Australian Open semi-finals with an enthralling five-set win over Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday.

    Nadal is two wins away from a record-breaking 21st grand slam title after enduring a four-hour epic to beat Shapovalov 6-3 6-4 4-6 3-6 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

    A year after losing from two-sets-to-love up at the same stage to Stefanos Tsitsipas, there was almost a repeat for Nadal.

    But, seemingly battling a stomach issue, the Spaniard remained alive in his bid to set the outright record for most grand slams won by a man, following a thrilling battle that lasted four hours, eight minutes.

    The success saw Nadal – who will face either Matteo Berrettini or Gael Monfils in the last four – reach his 36th career grand slam semi-final and seventh at Melbourne Park, where he claimed the title in 2009.

    Nadal landed the first blow with a break to love in the fourth game.

    A superb forehand winner down the line got Nadal going before three wild forehands in a row from Shapovalov saw him fall 3-1 behind.

    Shapovalov was unable to make any inroads against the Nadal serve, winning just five return points in a 39-minute opening set.

    The Canadian was angry with chair umpire Carlos Bernardes' decision not to give Nadal a time violation between sets and the players unusually met at the net before the second game of the second set.

    Nadal needed a tough hold during a 12-point sixth game and he capitalised in the next, an overhead securing the break after Shapovalov had sent a forehand well long at 30-30 to end a point he had been in complete control of.

    Nadal closed out the set, but found trouble in the sixth game of the third as he faced break points for the first time after a double fault.

    After saving both and holding serve, Nadal was broken at the key time – when serving to stay in the set – as Shapovalov delivered a backhand cross-court winner to extend the contest.

    The momentum had well and truly swung and a double fault from Nadal saw Shapovalov break for 3-1 in the fourth set.

    Approaching the three-hour mark, Nadal required a medical timeout, seemingly suggesting an issue with his stomach.

    Shapovalov found himself in some trouble trying to level the match, but recovered from 15-40 to force a fifth set.

    Nadal – who had been beaten from two-sets-to-love up just twice previously in his grand slam career – had to save a break point in the opening game of the decider, a volley winner to hold drawing huge cheers from the Rod Laver Arena crowd.

    Instead, Shapovalov played a loose game, two wayward forehands, a double fault and a framed backhand giving Nadal a break and 2-0 lead.

    Nadal, looking far more energetic, saved two break points in the third game before becoming more comfortable on serve on his way to the last four, Shapovalov smashing his racquet after match point.

     

    DATA SLAM: Nadal overcomes major Melbourne hurdle … just

    Nadal improved his record in grand slam quarter-finals to 36-9, but the last eight has often been a problem in Melbourne during his incredible career.

    He is now 7-7 in Australian Open quarter-finals after surviving the Shapovalov battle, far worse than his record at the French Open (14-1), Wimbledon (7-0) and US Open (8-1).

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 41/28
    Shapovalov – 53/51

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 8/11
    Shapovalov – 20/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 3/7
    Shapovalov – 2/8

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