Australian Open: Nadal's back finally feeling better while Medvedev survives scare

By Sports Desk February 13, 2021

Rafael Nadal was able to offer a positive update on his fitness after easing into the second week at the Australian Open.

The 20-time grand slam champion is playing in his first tournament since November's ATP Finals and faced a battle to make the Melbourne major due to a back problem.

But Nadal has made the fourth round without dropping a set, seeing off Cameron Norrie 7-5 6-2 7-5 on Saturday.

"I did things well, [then there are] things that I need to improve. Something normal," the Spaniard said. "But, yes, happy, of course. Second week, straight sets. Can't complain."
 

PAIN RELIEF AT LAST FOR RAFA

Nadal might have been similarly dominant in his prior matches but revealed after beating Norrie he is only now feeling fitter.

"No, the back was not getting better each day; it was getting better today," he said. "But today is better, yeah, the first day I feel an improvement, and that's the most important thing for me today, more than any other thing.

"Of course, I was not serving my normal serve for the last 15 days. Today is the first day that I started to serve again my normal serve.

"But yesterday I didn't practice, so today was just warming up with the new, normal movement.

"So, of course, I didn't serve bad, but I can do better, I think. And I'm looking forward to doing it better. It has been an important victory for me.

"The biggest victory is the back is better for the first day. That's the most important thing."

Nadal will face Fabio Fognini next after he ended Australia's interest in the home grand slam with a 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory over Alex De Minaur, the host nation's final hope.

"It's one of those matches," an impressed De Minaur said. "You're out there leaving it all out there, but you can just feel that he's playing at another level."
 

MOODY MEDVEDEV MAKES AMENDS

There are three Russian men in the last 16 for the first time in Melbourne in the Open Era, but the country's biggest name survived a major scare.

Daniil Medvedev was cruising after taking the first two sets against Filip Krajinovic, only to drop the next two and engage in an angry back-and-forth with coach Gilles Cervara.

Cervara eventually left Medvedev's box as the fourth seed trailed 4-1 in the fourth set and did not return, but the 25-year-old recovered to get the job done in dominant fashion, a 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 victor.

Medvedev, with Mackenzie McDonald next, said of the incident with Cervara: "He said just before leaving that he's sure I'm going to win the match, but he's going to leave to let me be more calm.

"Sometimes maybe I will disagree but this time for sure it was a good thing to do.

"Today it helped, and definitely we're going to talk about it a little bit, but there is not a big deal."

Andrey Rublev joined Medvedev and compatriot Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round as he improved to 7-0 for the year with a three-set defeat of Feliciano Lopez. He will play Casper Ruud.
 

HISTORY CHANNEL OVER CHAMP

Defending champion Novak Djokovic's struggles with injury on Friday might have intrigued much of the tennis public, but Stefanos Tsitsipas was not overly concerned.

The fifth seed, who breezed past Mikael Ymer, did not watch the match and revealed he has little interest in keeping up with the exploits of his rivals.

"I might watch [Djokovic and Nadal] a little bit on TV if it happens that the TV is on or the right channel is on," he said. "Otherwise I just switch to History Channel.

"Definitely not tennis history. I think I have enough of tennis being in here every single day."

Tsitsipas will next play Matteo Berrettini, who is enjoying his best run at the Australian Open and saw off a side complaint to advance in three sets by edging Karen Khachanov, another Russian, in a trio of tie-breakers.

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  • Australian Open: Barty won't win US Open unless balls are changed, says coach Australian Open: Barty won't win US Open unless balls are changed, says coach

    Ash Barty can still get better but she will not win the US Open unless a change that is out of her hands is made, according to coach Craig Tyzzer.

    Barty became the first local in 44 years to win the Australian Open, beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) in the final on Saturday.

    The 25-year-old dealt with the pressure and expectation in Melbourne to win her third grand slam title.

    But Tyzzer said there was still growth left in Barty, who came from 5-1 down in the second set against Collins.

    "There's still areas we continue to work on still, she's got to get better at. I'm not going to tell what you they are because that's giving away a few too many secrets. But there's still room for improvement," he told a news conference.

    "I think what she's done really well is just she's enjoyed it. She's been really composed and enjoyed playing. Like tonight, we knew what the challenges were going to be, like Danielle can just blow you off the court at times. So she was looking forward to that challenge, 'Okay, how do I figure out how to beat this girl who can just hit you into the corners and hurt you every time you drop it short?'

    "I think for her that's the best part. She's enjoying playing, enjoying the challenges. There's still areas we'll work on with her game. I probably don't have to do too much with her serve now. It seems to be working really well.

    "But, yeah, you're always looking for areas to get better."

    Barty is the second active women's player to have won a grand slam on all three surfaces, joining Serena Williams.

    But Barty's chances of completing a career Grand Slam by winning the US Open rely on something out of her control – changing the balls.

    "The US Open really needs to change the ball for the girls, the fact they still use a different ball for guys and girls. It's a terrible ball for someone like Ash," Tyzzer said.

    "Even in Cincinnati when they use the US Open ball outside she could actually get some loft out of the court, but the ball itself is so light. It was the only tournament last year and really for two years where she uses a gut racquet, but I had to change her to a poly just to get any sort of control of the ball.

    "If they keep that ball the same, no one like Ash will win that tournament. So I think you see the result at the US Open, it was two players who, you go, 'Wow, that was, two different players won that?' There's no surprise when the ball is like it is. And I don't know the reason why. It's the only tournament that has separate balls for the guys and girls. So if they don't change the balls, she won't win the US Open."

  • Australian Open: Doubles delight for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as Special Ks take title Australian Open: Doubles delight for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as Special Ks take title

    Nick Kyrgios and Thanaki Kokkinakis completed their Melbourne mission as they were crowned Australian Open doubles champions on Rod Laver Arena.

    The Special Ks partnership, who have drawn huge crowds and fresh interest to doubles, sealed the title with a 7-5 6-4 win over fellow Australians Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden.

    It was approaching midnight on a special day for Australian tennis when Kyrgios and Kokkinakis got over the line, following women's singles queen Ash Barty onto the roll call of this year's champions.

    With one break of serve in each set, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis held firm behind their own games as the singles specialists showcased their precocious skills on the doubles court.

    Kyrgios served for the win in style, firing two aces in a row before Kokkinakis put away a volley on match point.

    The new champions forced the only break of the first set in the 11th game when Ebden volleyed into the net off the return of serve from Kokkinakis, who was then the chief aggressor as he and Kyrgios secured a break in the seventh game of the second set.

    Kyrgios has never been beyond the quarter-finals of a singles slam, reaching that stage at Wimbledon as a teenager in 2014 before doing likewise at the 2015 Australian Open.

    His redoubtable talent has not been backed up by the trophies many expected him to win, and he will have turned 27 by the time the next major, the French Open, begins in late May.

    Together with Kokkinakis, whose own promising career has been blighted by injuries, Kyrgios has thrived this fortnight. And although the prize money in doubles pales against the singles rewards on offer, a first taste of grand slam glory could be a major career spark for this pair.

    They were the wildest of wildcards, with Kyrgios criticised by Michael Venus, a New Zealander left in his wake in the quarter-finals, for his showboating style and geeing up of the crowd.

    "It felt like a circus out there and not really a tennis match," complained Venus, speaking to New Zealand channel 1News. Any doubles partnership featuring the combustible Kyrgios is likely to be an acquired taste.

    This time, though, it felt like a party, with Ebden saying he was "really, really impressed" by Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, and Purcell said it was "hell of fun to watch you guys play".

    Australia Day was on Wednesday, but Saturday felt like an extended celebration.

  • Australian Open: How champion Barty turned second set around Australian Open: How champion Barty turned second set around

    Ash Barty was staring at a nervy deciding set in the Australian Open final before she turned the second on its head to end the locals' drought.

    Barty became the first local Australian Open singles champion in 44 years by beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday.

    Such a scoreline looked unlikely when Barty fell 5-1 behind in the second set in front of an electric Rod Laver Arena crowd.

    But, as she had all tournament despite the pressure and expectations, Barty stayed calm. She turned it around, riding a wave of momentum to seal victory in straight sets.

    From Collins' 5-1 lead, Barty hit 13 winners and just four unforced errors. Collins was three and nine respectively. But what really hurt the American was making just three of 12 first serves in the two games she was broken in.

    Stats Perform takes a closer look at what happened, with Collins two points away from forcing a third set on three separate occasions.

    Collins serving at 6-3 1-5
    Barty had served two double faults in the previous game to open the door widely to Collins. After the American missed a first serve, a loud cheer from the crowd was met by a disapproving finger wag from Barty, who followed that up with a forehand winner. Still, Collins found herself two points from the set at 30-30. But she sent a backhand well long before Barty forced another error with a powerful return. Collins made one of six first serves in the game.

    Barty serving at 6-3 2-5
    Barty raced into a 40-0 lead and, while Collins won the next two points, a long forehand helped her hold, putting pressure on the American.

    Collins serving at 6-3 3-5
    Collins again found herself two points from the set, leading 30-0. The response from Barty was phenomenal. Barty crushed a forehand return winner down the line before another forehand winner caught the back of the line to draw the game level at 30-30. Another big forehand return set up break point before Collins netted a backhand.

    Barty serving at 6-3 4-5
    Barty recovered from 0-15 to hold, with two big serves doing the damage, and Collins' momentum was well and truly gone.

    Collins serving at 6-3 5-5
    On the back of making four of five first serves, Collins steadied to end Barty's run of four straight games.

    Barty serving at 6-3 5-6
    For the third time, Collins found herself two points away from winning the set, with Barty in a 15-30 hole. But Barty came up big, delivering three consecutive unreturnable serves to force a tie-break.

    Tie-break
    Collins started the tie-break with a forehand that flew well long then returned a serve well long to fall 2-0 behind. That freed Barty up, the Australian crushing back-to-back winners, including a great smash, to open up a 4-0 lead she would not relinquish. Collins put a backhand return off a Barty second serve halfway up the net to fall 5-1 behind. A forehand cross-court passing shot winner sealed Barty's victory.

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