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Halep suffers worrying injury blow as Serena & Osaka bow out on dramatic day in Rome

By Sports Desk May 12, 2021

Simona Halep suffered a worrying leg injury just over two weeks out from the French Open at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, where Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka crashed out.

Halep, the 2018 French Open champion, had dominated the first set against Angelique Kerber, winning 6-1, but came off the court with an apparent calf problem with the scores level at 3-3 in the second.

She received treatment but an emotional Halep was forced to withdraw from the clash, the defending champion handing victory to Kerber.

The Romanian was then helped from the grandstand court, leaving the area with strapping on her leg and a heavy limp, raising doubts about her ability to compete at Roland Garros, where she would likely be one of the favourites.

Earlier Williams made her first appearance on the tour since February, losing the 1,000th match of her glittering career to Nadia Podoroska, who reached the semi-finals in Paris last year.

Podoroska prevailed 7-6 (8-6) 7-5, with 23-time grand slam champion Williams not too downhearted by a defeat to an accomplished clay-court player.

"It's tough to have a first match on clay. It was definitely kind of good to go the distance and to try to be out there, but clearly I can do legions better," Williams said. 

"She has a good game, for sure, obviously. She's very consistent. Overall, it was good for me to play such a clay-court player on clay today, but it's a little frustrating. But it's all right. It is what it is.

"I have been training for months, but it feels definitely different on clay to make that last adjustment. Just filling out the game, finding the rhythm. Even sliding and confidence with that, with movement. That's always like a little struggle in the first two matches, and then I'm raring to go."

Osaka has yet to find her footing on clay and the reigning Australian Open champion came up short in the second round as she suffered a surprise loss to Jessica Pegula.

Pegula said after her 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 win: "I know she doesn't love clay, so I just tried to be the clay court player out there today, and it worked just good enough."

World number one Ashleigh Barty had no such difficulties in her 6-4 6-1 over Yaroslava Shvedova, but fourth seed Sofia Kenin was a shock loser to Barbora Krejcikova.

Petra Kvitova was beaten in three sets by Vera Zvonareva but Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka, last year's French Open champion Iga Swiatek, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza all progressed while teenager Coco Gauff knocked out 17th seed Maria Sakkari.

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  • Australian Open: Defending champion Osaka eases through Australian Open: Defending champion Osaka eases through

    Naomi Osaka moved into the Australian Open second round with a straight-sets victory over Camila Osorio on Monday.

    The defending champion was largely untroubled by 20-year-old Colombian Osorio, easing to a 6-3 6-3 victory in 68 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

    Osaka, a four-time grand slam winner, has now won 23 of her past 24 matches in Melbourne.

    It means a fourth-round showdown between Osaka and world number one Ash Barty remains on the cards.

    Osaka made an imperious start and raced into a 5-0 lead after 16 minutes, on the back of eight winners, plus seven unforced errors from Osorio.

    Incredibly, Osorio – who was growing in belief – had chances to get back on serve when Osaka was trying to close out the set, but the two-time champion in Melbourne managed to seal it 6-3.

    The energetic Osorio was encouraging herself throughout while matching Osaka, who broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set.

    In the end, Osaka proved too good despite a decent first-round test, moving into a meeting with either Dayana Yastremska or Madison Brengle.

     

    DATA SLAM: Osaka's first-round record remains strong

    Osaka is rarely troubled in the opening round of grand slams. The star is now 19-2 in the first round at majors.

    Another challenge awaits. Osaka has never defended any of her major crowns and the last player to defend the women's title at Melbourne Park was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013).

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Osaka – 19/28
    Osorio – 5/15

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Osaka – 4/3
    Osorio – 1/4

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Osaka – 4/6
    Osorio – 1/5

  • Djokovic banned from Australia for three years, federal government confirms Djokovic banned from Australia for three years, federal government confirms

    Novak Djokovic will be banned from Australia for three years after the world number one's visa cancellation was upheld, the federal government has confirmed.

    The 20-time Grand Slam winner failed in his bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday.

    Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, is therefore unable to participate in the Australian Open, where he was due to launch his quest for a record-extending 10th title against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday.

    After departing Australia, he will now be unable to return for the next three years, as is standard for the deportation order under the Migration Act – although this is subject to application and he could be permitted to return before then.

    However, as it stands the 34-year-old would miss the next three editions of the slam. 

    Speaking on the Today Show, minister for home affairs Karen Andrews said: "The outcome of the process that went before the Federal Court and their determinations – the visa was cancelled by [immigration] minister Hawke.

    "That cancellation was upheld by the Federal Court, so as a result of that, he will be banned from entry for three years into the country.

    "Now there are some compelling reasons that may be looked at, but that's all hypothetical at this point. Any application will be reviewed on its merits."

    The long-running saga began after Djokovic was held at an airport in Melbourne when he arrived in the country on January 6.

    The world number one won an appeal to overturn the first bid to deport him from the country, but immigration minister Hawke used his powers to again cancel the visa on Friday and Djokovic left Australia late on Sunday.

  • Djokovic absence from Australian Open 'a loss for the game', says ATP Djokovic absence from Australian Open 'a loss for the game', says ATP

    Novak Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open "is a loss for the game", says men's tennis governing body the ATP.

    The world number one failed in his bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday.

    Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, will therefore be unable to participate in the Australian Open, where he was seeking a record-extending 10th title.

    As the 20-time grand slam winner prepared to fly out of Australia on Sunday, the ATP released a statement reflecting on a "deeply regrettable" saga that lasted 10 days.

    "Today's decision to uphold Novak Djokovic's Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events," the statement read. 

    "Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. 

    "More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation.

    "Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport's greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. 

    "We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. 

    "We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon. ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players."

     

    Sunday's verdict brings an end to a long-running saga that began when Djokovic was held at an airport in Melbourne when he arrived in the country on January 6.

    The 34-year-old won an appeal to overturn the first bid to deport him from the country, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used his powers to again cancel the visa.

    That decision was taken amid much backlash in the country, which has strict coronavirus restrictions, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison backed Sunday's verdict.

    "This cancellation decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," he said.

    "I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.

    "I thank the court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue. 

    "It's now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer."

    But the unanimous verdict did not go down well with everyone, with Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic launching an attack on Australia for their handling of the matter.

    "I talked to Novak and told him I can't wait for him to come to Serbia and return to his country, and to be where he is always welcome," Vucic is quoted as saying by Novosti.

    "They think that they humiliated Djokovic, but they humiliated themselves, and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eye with his head held high."

    Speaking prior to Sunday's verdict, Rafael Nadal insisted the Australian Open will be a great tournament "with or without" Djokovic.

    Other big names have yet to comment on the deportation order, but women's player Alize Cornet feels Djokovic's peers could have offered more support to the Serbian.

    "I know too little to judge the situation. What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players," she posted on Twitter. 

    "But none of us stood for him. Be strong, Novak."

    Djokovic had been due to face Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round on Monday but will now be replaced by lucky loser Salvatore Caruso.

    The ATP has confirmed that there will be no shuffling of the seeds due to Monday's schedule of playing having been released prior to the court's decision.

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