Ons Jabeur eliminated Petra Kvitova from the Sydney Tennis Classic and immediately set her sights on "payback" against next opponent Anett Kontaveit.

World number 10 Jabeur had lost her previous four meetings with Kvitova, but she emerged victorious on Wednesday with a 6-4 6-4 win to reach the quarter-finals.

Jabeur recovered from 3-1 down in both sets at Ken Rosewall Arena and converted half of her six break points on her way to setting up a meeting with Kontaveit.

The two will resume their friendly rivalry after Kontaveit overcame Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3 6-1.

Jabeur lost out to Kontaveit for the last WTA Finals spot in November and is now seeking revenge in the final warm-up event ahead of the Australian Open.

"Anett is a great player. We had our moments last year," Jabeur said. "I told her, 'You're obsessed with me, you always follow me, so stop [smiling]'.

"I know the pressure is on me, not really on her. But maybe I can get some payback for last year."

Garbine Muguruza is also through to the last eight in Sydney thanks to a 6-1 7-6 (7-4) win against Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The two-time major champion will face Daria Kasatkina, who beat Elise Mertens 6-3 6-4, for a place in the semi-finals.

Third seed Barbora Krejcikova survived a brief fightback from Jaqueline Cristian to advance 6-1 7-5, meanwhile, and Paula Badosa beat home hope Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3 6-4.

There was disappointment for in-form Elena Rybakina, who thrashed Emma Raducanu on Tuesday but had to withdraw from her clash with Caroline Garcia with a thigh injury.

At the Adelaide International 2, Coco Gauff prevailed 6-3 5-7 6-3 in her battle of the teenagers showdown with Marta Kostyuk.

Gauff is one of five Americans in the quarter-finals along with Madison Brengle, Alison Riske, Lauren Davis and Madison Keys, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-1 6-3 to advance.

Carmelo Anthony says LeBron James' early-season prediction that the Los Angeles Lakers would emerge victorious like Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers is proving true.

The Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook during the off-season and brought in the likes of Anthony, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan and Trevor Ariza.

After some underwhelming results, the Lakers hit form with four wins in a row to start 2022 before losing 127-119 to in-form Memphis Grizzlies last time out.

It was a similar story for Brady in his first year with the Bucs last time out when 7-5 overall before their season truly took off, culminating in a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Sitting seventh in the Western Conference with a record of 21-20, Anthony agrees with James' comparison that the Lakers could be heading for similar success.

"Just from the standpoint of starting off slow and having new guys on the team, a new system, guys trying to figure it out, guys trying to figure out how to play with LeBron and [Anthony Davis] and now incorporating Russ and just now everybody figuring out what their role is," he said. 

"And what made it beautiful for the Bucs is that once it came together, it came together and you saw what happened with that."

Anthony has averaged 13.2 points across his 41 games for the Lakers this season – the fourth most behind Westbrook (19), Davis (23.3) and James (28.9), and similar to the 13.4 averaged in his final year with the Portland Trail Blazers.

With the Lakers now halfway through their campaign, Anthony admits it was always going to be a long-term process after plenty of close-season changes.

"It was just kind of preparing ourselves for whatever happens, whatever comes along," he said when reflecting on the past three months.

"I think we were, I don't want to say prepared for those [difficult] moments and those times mentally and emotionally, but yeah, those were conversations that were happening."

The Lakers have back-to-back road games coming up against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

The Phoenix Suns were playing in front of an empty arena during Tuesday's win at the Toronto Raptors, but Devin Booker was still frustrated by a distracting figure.

Having already hit the go-ahead shot with a little over a minute remaining at Scotiabank Arena, Booker stepped up for a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining on the clock with the Suns leading 93-92.

Booker drained the first but was visibly frustrated and complained to the referee because he was rattled by the antics of the Raptors' mascot, named aptly "The Raptor", who was waving his arms in his eyeline.

The officials made Toronto's talisman move out of sight and into the corner like a naughty child before Booker nailed the second attempt to put the seal on a 95-92 triumph.

Booker's complaints drew plenty of derision on social media but the man himself explained after the game that all was well.

"We hashed it out, we homies now," he said with a smile.

"I was just trying to get him out the way. It worked. I'd rather be shooting them without him down there.

"We play shooting games all the time every day. These two (Chris Paul and Jae Crowder) do the same thing and I complain then. That's just me."

Booker had 16 points on the back of four-for-13 shooting, making two of seven from beyond the arc.

But it was far from a vintage Suns performance. Phoenix had 20 turnovers that resulted in 18 points for the Raptors, while they allowed Toronto 15 more field goal attempts and let their opponents record a season-high 22 offensive rebounds.

"It was a fight all night," Booker said. "They beat us up a little bit, but down the stretch we picked it up a little bit and did what we had to do."

The Suns' win sees them move to 31-9 on the season, the best record in the NBA.

Draymond Green is unlikely to play in the Golden State Warriors' upcoming road games against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls according to head coach Steve Kerr.

The Warriors are 28-6 this season with Green in the side but also 2-4 in games he has missed, highlighting his importance.

Klay Thompson's long-awaited return from injury on Sunday coincided with Green's calf tightness meaning the Warriors are yet to have that pair and two-time MVP Stephen Curry together.

Kerr said after Tuesday's 116-108 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that Green would not be returning during their four-game road trip despite some reports.

"I think it's doubtful right now that he would join us," Kerr told reporters. "He's doing well.

"With the back-to-back, it seems far-fetched to think that we'll just fly him out and play him. He's not ready to do that. We'll see how it goes the next couple of days."

The return of Thompson, with the Warriors second in the west with a 30-10 record, marks a new beginning according to Kerr who said they will "shuffle the deck".

Thompson, who had not played for 941 days prior to Sunday's return, has spent 20 minutes on court in both appearances.

"That'll be a process as he continues to ramp up his minutes and we get Draymond back," Kerr said. "You'll see the team start to form in terms of how we're going to close games, not only offensively bur defensively.

"In a strange way, these three to four weeks are going to be about re-establishing our identity as a team. We did a great job in the first 40 games in becoming a great defensive team.

"A lot of guys have played important minutes and established roles but now that's going to be shaping up a bit because Klay is going to play a huge role.

"We've learned a lot about our young guys. Over this next month we're going to shuffle the deck and try some different combinations and try get everything in order for the stretch run and playoffs."

He added: "It's no secret that down the stretch we're going to want Steph [Curry] and Klay shooting big shots. Wigs [Andrew Wiggins] can also attack and get to the rim. We're going to call a lot of plays for Klay and try to get the ball in his hands."

Stephen Curry recorded his first triple-double since the opening game of the season but the Golden State Warriors went down to the streaking Memphis Grizzlies 116-108.

Ja Morant starred for the Grizzlies with 29 points including five in the final minutes as Memphis extended its winning run to 10 games and improved to 29-14.

Morant, who also had five rebounds and eight assists, spearheaded the Grizzlies' final-quarter 29-18 rally where Tyus Jones hit back-to-back triples to give them a lead they would not surrender.

Curry had 27 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Warriors although he only shot at 38 percent from the field.

Klay Thompson contributed 14 points with three rebounds and three assists in his second game back from long-term injury as the Warriors moved to 30-10.

 

Bulls pile on the points

The Chicago Bulls had eight players reach double-digit scoring as they hammered the struggling Detroit Pistons 133-87 with DeMar DeRozan starring with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

The Los Angeles Clippers overcame a 25-point third-quarter deficit to defeat the Denver Nuggets 87-85. MVP Nikola Jokic (21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) had a double-double but missed a game-winning three-point attempt on the buzzer.

Chris Paul provided 12 assists to go with his 15 points and five steals as the table-topping Phoenix Suns defeated the Toronto Raptors 99-95.

 

OKC slump in five-game skid

The Oklahoma City Thunder slumped to their fifth straight loss, going down 122-118 to the Washington Wizards. The result leaves OKC with a 13-27 record in second last in the west.

Novak Djokovic has moved to "address the continued misinformation" about his attendance at events in December after he had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his arrival in Australia.

The world number one, who won an appeal on Monday over his visa cancellation after being detained on arrival in Melbourne last week, wrote a six-panel post on Instagram on Wednesday amid ongoing discussion on his participation at the upcoming Australian Open due to commence on January 17.

Djokovic has come under fire for allegedly incorrectly filling out his Australian Travel Declaration form, with Immigration Minister Alex Hawked stating he would "thoroughly consider" the false declaration.

The 20-time major winner said in the post that this was a "human error" and that he had since provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify the matter.

The Serbian has also been criticised for appearing on social media to mingle with the public in a series of appearances after returning a positive test for COVID-19 on December 16.

Fellow Grand Slam winner Andy Murray had said on Tuesday that Djokovic needed to explain why he was out in public when positive with COVID-19, with Djokovic explaining his version of events.

"I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on 14 December after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with COVID-19," Djokovic wrote.

"Despite having no COVID symptoms, I took a rapid antigen test on 16 December which was negative, and out of an abundance of caution, also took an official and approved PCR test on that same day.

"The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative. I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.

"The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a L'Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L'Equipe interview.

"I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L'Equipe interview as I didn't want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.

"While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment."

Djokovic said the false declaration, where it was written he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, was a "human error" and "not deliberate".

"On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf - as I told immigration officials on my arrival - and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia," Djokovic said.

"This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter."

Novak Djokovic has moved to "address the continued misinformation" about his attendance at events in December after he had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his arrival in Australia.

The world number one, who won an appeal on Monday over his visa cancellation after being detained on arrival in Melbourne last week, wrote a six-panel post on Instagram on Wednesday amid ongoing discussion on his participation at the upcoming Australian Open.

Djokovic has come under fire for allegedly incorrectly filling out his Australian Travel Declaration form, with Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawked stating he would "thoroughly consider" the false declaration.

The 20-time major winner said in the post that this was a "human error" and that he had since provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify the matter.

The Serbian has also been criticized for appearing on social media to mingle with the public in a series of appearances after returning a positive test for COVID-19 on December 16 but he moved to clarify that situation too.

Fellow Grand Slam winner Andy Murray had said on Tuesday that Djokovic needed to explain why he was out in public when positive with COVID-19.

"I attended a basketball game in Belgrade on 14 December after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with COVID-19," Djokovic wrote.

"Despite having no COVID symptoms, I took a rapid antigen test on 16 December which was negative, and out of an abundance of caution, also took an official and approved PCR test on that same day.

"The next day I attended a tennis event in Belgrade to present awards to children and took a rapid antigen test before going to the event, and it was negative. I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test result until after that event.

"The next day, on 18 December I was at my tennis centre in Belgrade to fulfil a long-standing commitment for a L'Equipe interview and photoshoot. I cancelled all other events except for the L'Equipe interview.

"I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L'Equipe interview as I didn't want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.

"While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment."

Djokovic said the false declaration, where it was written he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, was a "human error" and "not deliberate".

"On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf - as I told immigration officials on my arrival - and my agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia," Djokovic said.

"This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur. Today, my team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter."

The Cleveland Browns "fully expect" Baker Mayfield to be their starting quarterback in 2022 despite a difficult 2021 season as the side missed the playoffs.

The Browns finished their 8-9 season with a 21-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals after a three-game losing skid which saw them fall out of postseason contention.

Mayfield started 14 games, completing 253 of 418 passes for 3,010 yards and 17 touchdowns with 13 interceptions and 43 sackings.

The 2018 NFL Draft first pick, however, played through a torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder, with Case Keenum finishing the season as the Browns starting QB.

"It's easy to forget at this point of the year what we've seen with Baker over the past several years," Browns general manager Andrew Berry said.

"We've been with Baker for a long period - we know his work ethic, we know his drive, we've seen him [be] a talented passer in this league, and we're looking forward to him getting healthy and continue to make improvements."

Berry added: "We fully expect Baker to be our starter and bounce back."

Mayfield's completion rate of 60.5 percent was well down on the NFL's quarterbacks list, with teammate Keenum throwing at 65.3 percent in his two starts and seven games overall.

"We're looking forward to Baker getting healthy in the offseason," Berry said, "Then putting in good work through the spring and with his coaches for having the type of season that we know he can have."

Mayfield will undergo surgery on the torn labrum next week with a view to fully participating in preseason team activities in late May.

"Baker, he's team-oriented, he's a competitor, he's super tough," Berry said. "He truly wants what's best for the team and really to take the steps he needs to improve to become the quarterback that we know that he can become."

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded for Rob Gronkowski back in April 2020, it was tough to picture the future Hall of Fame tight end having a substantial impact.

After all, Gronkowski had appeared to have spent his last reserves in Super Bowl LIII when he hauled his clearly ailing body downfield and made a diving grab for a 29-yard fourth-quarter reception that set up the New England Patriots' only touchdown of their 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

It was a catch that at the time served as a spectacular last ember of an incredible career, but the Bucs put stock in Tom Brady's belief that Gronkowski's fire to deliver at the highest level still burned brightly, and they have been emphatically vindicated.

He caught seven touchdowns in the 2020 regular season, but he once again saved his best for the grandest stage with a dominant two-touchdown performance in the Bucs' Super Bowl LV rout of the Chiefs.

And, with Tampa Bay shorn of most of their depth at the wide receiver position, there will be an even greater emphasis on Gronkowski to rise to the occasion as the Bucs attempt to defend their title.

His numbers from a surprisingly efficient 2021 suggest he is more than up to the task.

Running out of receiving weapons

Last year, opposing defenses weren't able to consistently dedicate special attention to Gronkowski, such was the wealth of options at Brady's disposal.

They went into the previous campaign's postseason with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown at receiver as well as having Gronkowski at tight end.

Evans remains and remains an extremely gifted number one receiver who perhaps does not get the credit he deserves for his hugely impressive consistency.

In Week 18, Evans surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the eighth successive year, an NFL record for the longest streak to start a career.

He leads all wideouts (min. 100 targets) in burn percentage, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted. Evans has won 75.2 per cent of those matchups this season, while he is also first among receivers who meet that threshold with a big play rate of 43.1 per cent.

However, Brown's departure from the team leaves the Bucs without a receiver tied third for burn yards per route (4.0) among receivers with at least 50 targets.

Godwin is on the shelf with torn ligaments in his knee, robbing Tampa of another top pass-catcher who on the list of wideouts with triple-digit targets trails only Evans, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs with his burn rate of 70.4.

Their absences place Gronkowski's ability to produce elite play at tight end into sharper focus and his efforts at the age of 32 should give great encouragement to Tampa.

Gatecrashing the elite

Gronkowski was long since seen as the gold standard at the tight end position. A mismatch as a receiver and a tremendous blocker, peak Gronk is the blueprint for modern-day NFL tight ends.

But when he re-entered the league after a retirement that lasted only one season, a new order of top tight ends had been established.

George Kittle and Travis Kelce are regarded as the best of the best at tight end, with Darren Waller a tick below that duo. This season, Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert have taken leaps to threaten to join the elite.

Yet in several metrics, it is Gronkowski who stands above that group at the top of the pile.

Gronkowski's burn rate of 72.1 per cent trails only Goedert and Kelce among tight ends with at least 25 targets. However, he is first in burn yards per target (13.00), burn yards per route (3.5) and big play rate (45.7 per cent).

Simply put, no tight end in the NFL has done a better job at creating separation and turning his targets into explosive plays than Gronkowski, whose rapport with Brady shows no sign of dissipating.

Indeed, when he targeted Gronkowski in the regular season, Brady had a passer rating of 113.6. To put that into context, the best overall passer rating this season was Aaron Rodgers' 111.9.

When Brady needed a big play in his final Super Bowl with the Patriots, he turned to Gronkowski, and it was their combination that was arguably the most crucial offensive aspect of the defeat of the Chiefs last year.

With Brown gone and Godwin out, the cupboard is not as well-stocked for the Bucs heading into this postseason, meaning if Brady is to claim ring number eight, he will again need to turn to the man whose renaissance in Tampa is arguably as impressive as his own ceaseless brilliance.

The New York Giants have fired Joe Judge as head coach after two seasons in charge.

Though general manager Dave Gettleman retired on Monday, Judge was expected to stay on despite a dismal 4-13 campaign in 2021.

That followed a 6-10 season in 2020 that had left some room for hope, the Giants producing a string of impressive displays on the defensive side of the ball.

However, the Giants never threatened to build on the performances of Judge's first year, and the franchise hierarchy opted to hit the reset button after a six-game losing streak and a series of bizarre comments in media conferences from Judge.

"[Co-owner] Steve [Tisch] and I both believe it is in the best interest of our franchise to move in another direction," said team president John Mara.

"We met with Joe yesterday afternoon [Monday] to discuss the state of the team. I met again with Joe this afternoon, and it was during that conversation I informed Joe of our decision. We appreciate Joe's efforts on behalf of the organisation.

"I said before the season started that I wanted to feel good about the direction we were headed when we played our last game of the season.

"Unfortunately, I cannot make that statement, which is why we have made this decision.

"We will hire a general manager and that person will lead the effort to hire a new head coach."

The Giants' final game of the season saw them suffer a 22-7 defeat to the Washington Football Team. They averaged just three yards per play while a decision to call a quarterback sneak from their own four-yard line in a meaningless game was widely ridiculed.

New York finished the season with the second-fewest offensive points (249) in the NFL. They scored more than 10 points just once over the final eight games.

Andy Murray says there are "questions that need to be answered" by Novak Djokovic before the world number one plays in the Australian Open.

Frustrated by the Djokovic saga becoming a distraction, Murray wants the world number one to tie up loose ends at the earliest opportunity, so the tennis world can move on.

There remain grey areas surrounding the Serbian's commitment to isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 on December 16 last year.

A maskless Djokovic was pictured at a Belgrade tennis club's awards event on December 17, and L'Equipe has reported he took part in a photo shoot and interview for the French sports newspaper on the following day. It remains to be established whether Djokovic knew by that stage that he had returned a positive test.

The coronavirus infection allowed Djokovic to qualify for a medical exemption to play at Melbourne Park, and the 20-time grand slam winner confirmed on arrival in Australia that he is unvaccinated, before his visa was initially revoked.

It is not known what his plans would have been for the Australian Open had he not tested positive, as players are required by Tennis Australia to be either vaccinated or have a compelling case for an exemption.

Djokovic was released from a four-day detention in a Melbourne hotel following a court hearing on Monday, and long-time friend and rival Murray said: "It's positive that he's not in detention anymore. He won in court, so that's a positive thing for him, and hopefully we'll be able to concentrate on the tennis now.

"I think there is still a few questions that need to be answered around the isolation and stuff, which I'm sure we'll hear from him in the next few days, but I'm obviously here to try and play and win tournaments."

Australia's immigration minister Alex Hawke could still cancel Djokovic's visa on new grounds, meaning his participation at the year's first grand slam, which begins next Monday, is not yet 100 per cent confirmed. The nine-time Australian Open champion will be seeking a record 21st men's grand slam singles title if cleared to play.

Murray, who won in the first round of the Sydney Classic on Tuesday, is conscious of the Djokovic saga dragging on.

It was clear the Briton believes an important step forward is for Djokovic to answer journalists' questions on the matter.

"It's the first match that I have played here, or won here, in over three years, and this is where the situations like this are frustrating for players," said Murray. "I want to come off and talk about my tennis and what's happening there, not talking about situations like that.

"So I'm hoping that we can move on from it now. He won in court, which is good. It looks like he's going to be able to play and compete in the Australian Open. We do want the best players there.

"But like I said, I think there is still a few questions to be answered. It's up to the press to ask about that and for Novak to clarify, so let's wait to see what he says."

US Open champion Emma Raducanu suffered the heaviest defeat of her professional career at the hands of Elena Rybakina at the Sydney Tennis Classic.

The ninth seed needed just 55 minutes to storm to a 6-0 6-1 victory to set up a meeting with Caroline Garcia in round two.

This was only Raducanu's eighth appearance in a WTA main draw and the 19-year old had not played since November having contracted COVID-19 and then withdrawn from the Melbourne Summer Set last week.

Rybakina lost only 11 points on serve in the match, sending down four aces. Raducanu, by contrast, struggled badly: the Briton gave up six double faults and won just two points behind her second serve.

"My serve is a weapon, so I'm always working on it and trying to find some variety," said Rybakina. "For sure, it's my game to play aggressive and my serve is helping a lot."

Elsewhere in Sydney, Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic beat Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3 6-2 in her first match of the year and will now face France's Oceane Dodin.

Home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in straight sets, while world number 20 Elise Mertens also progressed.

At the Adelaide International 2, Coco Gauff looked in strong form as she dispatched Katerina Siniakova 6-1 6-2, while fellow seed Tamara Zidansek beat Heather Watson in a three-set battle.

There was a shock for top seed Aryna Sabalenka, though, as she fell 5-7 6-1 7-5 to Sweden's Rebecca Peterson, who celebrated her first win over a top-five player, while American Lauren Davis beat seventh seed Jil Teichmann in three sets.

Ninth seed Sorana Cirstea lost in straight sets to Anhelina Kalinina, but eighth seed Liudmila Samsonova beat Mayar Sherif.

Andy Murray swept through his opening test at the Sydney Classic as the wildcard grabbed his first win of the year.

Murray sped to a 6-3 6-1 victory over Norwegian Viktor Durasovic, a player ranked a lowly 345th by the ATP who won through two qualifying rounds to reach the main draw.

The Scot broke four times across the contest and won 25 of 26 points when landing a first serve, an encouraging rate. Realistically, anything other than a comfortable win for the former world number one would have been concerning ahead of the Australian Open.

Murray at least put last week's disappointing first-round loss to Facundo Bagnis at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament behind him, and now a stiff tests await him in the last-16 stage.

Georgian second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili is next for Murray on Wednesday, with the world number 23 a familiar foe after these two met in the first round at Wimbledon last July.

On that occasion, Murray won in four sets following a desperate wobble in the third, which he lost from 5-0 ahead.

Five times an Australian Open finalist, Murray believes limbering up this week in Sydney can set him up well for the season's first grand slam.

"It is perfect conditions here," Murray said. "It feels like you are playing indoors. It is really nice to get your range here, and hopefully I can carry that through to Melbourne.

"I was hoping to get matches in Melbourne last week, but that didn't happen. Thankfully the tournament organisers and Tennis Australia agreed to give me the wildcard and the opportunity to play here, and I am very grateful for that."

Tuesday also saw a win for Maxime Cressy, the American serve-volleyer who caused a stir with his run to last week's final in Melbourne before pushing eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the title match.

Cressy, who was born in Paris, is a throwback in an era dominated by baseliners, and his game again came good as he saw off Adrian Mannarino 6-3 7-5. Dusan Lajovic awaits him in round two after the Serbian beat Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

At the Adelaide International 2 tournament, South African fifth seed Lloyd Harris made a first-round exit, losing 5-7 7-5 6-4 to Soonwoo Kwon.

There was another positive performance from Adelaide's own Thanasi Kokkinakis, who swatted away Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-4 6-0 to tee up a second-round shot at American second seed John Isner.

Kokkinakis, a once-bright young prospect who is finding his way again on tour after injury trouble, reached the semi-finals of last week's Adelaide tournament and is eyeing another run in South Australia before heading to Melbourne.

"After a good run last week, I was pretty knackered – I'm not going to lie," Kokkinakis said, quoted in The Australian. "But I thought another one in my hometown was a perfect situation.

"It was kind of a win-win for me almost. If I won, perfect, I get more matches. If not, I get to Melbourne and get to prepare for Aussie Open, but I'm stoked with the win."

Khris Middleton said he was "definitely concerned" and stand-in head coach Darvin Ham bemoaned another defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks tripped up once more against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Bucks have followed a run of six consecutive wins with four defeats in five games, the latest being a 103-99 setback to the Hornets at Spectrum Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Middleton had 27 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists, yet the Bucks delivered an incomplete performance.

The Hornets improved to 22-19, while the sliding Bucks are now 26-17 for the season, following up their championship campaign in 2021 with something not quite so persuasive.

It was a second loss to the Hornets in three days for the Bucks, who, like so many other teams, are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Jrue Holiday has joined the ranks of Bucks stars sidelined and isolating due to the NBA's health and safety protocols, and inevitably his absence was felt. Holiday averages 18.4 per game this season and leads the team for assists (6.7)

Acting head coach Darvin Ham, leading the Bucks with Mike Budenholzer in health and safety protocols, could not coax out of the team a match-winning display, as James Borrego's Hornets extending their winning streak to three.

"My hat's off to Charlotte," Ham said. "JB has a great young group, it's a hell of an offensive team. And we just didn't make enough plays tonight.

"We just try to get to the game and as a staff, put our brains together and put together the best package possible. It's not going to be perfect, circumstances are what they are.

"I feel we're still in a position to win a game and we came up short."

From 99-99 with under half a minute remaining, LaMelo Ball sank the decisive shot and Miles Bridges made sure with two late free throws.

The Bucks looked to Middleton and Antetokounmpo in those late stages, which Ham said was the sensible play.

"Down the stretch you want the ball in the hands of your two best players and that was definitely deliberate," Ham said.

"Time and time again ... they've won a championship playing that way. There's not a better option in my opinion."

It gets no easier for the Bucks, who must tackle the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors on Thursday, albeit this time with home advantage.

Middleton, who had a fourth consecutive 20-plus point game, wants to see this slide halted as soon as possible.

He said: "I think you're definitely concerned – you never want to lose four out of five, you never want to lose two in a row."

Quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Middleton said: "We understand the circumstances. We're not using that as an excuse. Everybody's going through it.

"So we still have to find a way to… compete and give ourselves a chance to win, which we have these last two nights, we just couldn't pull it out."

Kyrie Irving impressed in only his second game of the season but insisted he still has to get up to speed after the Brooklyn Nets were surprisingly beaten at the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

A dominant third quarter from Portland, in which they bettered the visitors by 13 points, ended up being crucial as they ran out 114-108 winners, despite being short-handed going into the game.

Anfernee Simons starred with 23 points, six rebounds and 11 assists for the Blazers, who were missing Damian Lillard (abdomen) as well as Norman Powell (COVID-19 protocol), Larry Nance Jr (knee) and CJ McCollum, who is expected to return soon after recovering from a collapsed lung.

The Nets were themselves without James Harden (knee) but did have Kevin Durant (28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) on court. The 33-year-old's points return marked 19 straight games with 20 or more points, the second-longest streak of 20-point games in Nets history.

Irving has refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and is therefore barred from playing in New York due to the city's vaccine mandate, but was playing just his second game on the road for the Nets this season and managed 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

"It felt like I made a few good moves, but now it's just getting back in that NBA action of that athleticism and catching up to that speed. That's really what it is at this point, I feel," Irving said after the loss.

Portland first-year coach Chauncey Billups had been effusive in his praise of Irving before the game, stating his belief that 29-year-old was the "most skilled point guard in history".

After the victory for his team, Billups praised his own players, saying that nobody thought this result was possible.

"Certainly nobody in the world thought that we would win this game with the guys that we have missing, even though they're missing some important players too," Billups said. "I'm more happy than anything for our team, to be honest. We've suffered a lot of losses in this building, a lot of bad losses."

The result means the Nets are 25-14 and second in the east while the Blazers improve to 16-24.

Australia's Immigration Minister will "thoroughly consider" Novak Djokovic's visa status after fresh concerns were raised over his whereabouts in the two weeks prior to arriving in the country.

Djokovic is alleged to have falsely declared he had not travelled in the 14 days prior to his flight to Melbourne in the Australian Travel Declaration form which is a "serious offence".

The world number one flew from Spain to Australia via Dubai but was seen on social media in the 14 days prior to his arrival in his native Serbia with handball player Petar Djordjic.

Djokovic, who trained at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, was released from detention on Monday after winning his appeal and having his visa reinstated.

However, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement on Tuesday that he will investigate the claims of Djokovic's false declaration.

“In line with due process, Minister Hawke will thoroughly consider the matter,” a representative said.

Mr Hawke has the power to cancel Djokovic's visa, which would force his deportation ahead of the Australian Open which is due to commence on January 17.

On Monday, Djokovic posted to Instagram: “I’m pleased and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite all that has happened, I want to stay and try to compete @AustralianOpen I remain focused on that.

“I flew here to play at one of the most important events we have in front of the amazing fans.”

Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points in his second game back but could not inspire the Brooklyn Nets to victory as they went down to a depleted Portland Trail Blazers 114-108 on Monday.

Anfernee Simons starred with 23 points, six rebounds and 11 assists for the Blazers who were missing Damian Lillard (abdomen).

The Nets were also without James Harden (knee), but had Kevin Durant (28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Irving (22 points, eight rebounds, four assists) on court.

Durant's points return marks 19 straight games with 20 or more points, which is the second-longest streak of 20-point games in franchise history.

The defeat means the Nets are 25-14 and second in the east while the Blazers improve to 16-24.

 

Giannis cannot lift Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 13 rebounds and eight assists but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks lost their second straight game, going down 103-99 to the Charlotte Hornets. Khris Middleton had 27 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists for the Bucks.

First draft pick Cade Cunningham scored a career-high 29 points to lead the Detroit Pistons to an upset 126-116 win over the Utah Jazz, who were without Rudy Gobert again.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points with eight rebounds and six assists for the Philadelphia 76ers who beat the Houston Rockets 111-91.

 

Tatum cool as Celtics win in OT

Jayson Tatum went zero-of-seven from beyond the arc and shot at 33 percent from the field for his 24 points as the Boston Celtics edged the Indiana Pacers 101-98 in over-time. Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double for the Pacers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians says it would be a "travesty" if 44-year-old quarterback Tom Brady does not win the MVP award.

Brady had 485 completions from 719 passing attempts for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdown passes across the regular season, which was the league-best across all categories.

The Bucs QB becomes the third quarterback following Drew Brees (2018) and Peyton Manning (2013) to lead the league in all four major statistical categories since 1991. Brady's 485 completions was an NFL single-season record.

Brady produced a three-touchdown display in the Bucs' 41-17 win over the Caroline Panthers on Sunday to reinforce his credentials with the home crowd chanting "MVP!".

"I think if he doesn't get it, it's a travesty," Arians told reporters on Monday. "Most completions ever, 5,000 yards, touchdowns - the whole nine yards. To me, it's not even a close race."

Brady's 5,316 passing yards was also the third-most in NFL history, beating his own personal record of 5,235 yards from 2011.

Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said: "It just shows what his work ethic is, how dedicated he is to the game of football and just how talented he is.

"Just his determination week in and week out - it's just unbelievable. And it's just surreal how he's pulling it off at age 44 and just coming out here like he's in his 20s still, just winging that ball, zipping it where it needs to be, making fantastic throws week in and week out."

Gronkowski added: "Tom's the MVP every year. Just the way he adjusts on the fly to his personnel, just trying to get the ball into the best players' hands or the best matchup on that current play - he's just always ready to go no matter what the situation is. He's the MVP every year."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash allayed fears of a serious knee injury for 2018 MVP James Harden who was left out of the side to play the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.

Harden, who is averaging 22.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists this season, missed the game due to a left knee hyperextension.

Nash revealed Harden did not require an MRI on the knee and that the Nets were taking precaution.

"I think we're being overly cautious," Nash told reporters prior to Monday's game.

"A heavy stretch of games. Expect him to play Wednesday [against the Chicago Bulls]."

Kyrie Irving, who is only eligible for road games due to his vaccination status, will play in the game away to the Trail Blazers.

"It would be great if we didn't have to get him up to 40 [minutes] tonight," Nash said. "But at the same time, I think he's got the bulk of his preparation and his legs and is ready to play as much as needed ... you don't want to play him 44 minutes tonight, then he's got to turn around and play a big game on Wednesday.

"So we'll play him more minutes, but we would love for it to be gradual and a strategic allocation of minutes, not just like, 'All right great, we got a new Ferrari and we're going to rack up the miles.'"

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