LeBron James' double-double fired the Los Angeles Lakers back to winning ways, while James Harden stepped up to rally the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets past the high-flying Phoenix Suns.

James put up 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists as the reigning NBA champions leaned on their defense in the 112-104 victory over the last-placed Minnesota Timberwolves.

Without the injured Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder played the supporting role for James, posting 24 points, while the Lakers battled to claim eight steals and seven blocks in a closely fought contest.

After taking a two-point lead into the fourth quarter at Target Center, the road side pulled away in the closing stages to improve to 22-7 in second place in the Western Conference.

Harden pulled out the stops with a double-double to lead the Nets to a sensational 128-124 comeback win against the Suns, despite playing without Irving after the star guard felt tightness in his lower back.

Nets coach Steve Nash revealed Irving received treatment at half-time of Brooklyn's win against the Sacramento Kings on Monday but expects the six-time All-Star to only be sidelined in the short term.

The Nets surged, scoring 40 fourth-quarter points to turn around a 24-point deficit, with Harden (38 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds) backed up by Joe Harris (22 points) as they halted the Suns' six-game winning streak.

Jokic burns Celtics but Nuggets fall short, Zion on target for Pelicans

Nikola Jokic lit up the Boston Celtics, scoring 43 points, but the Denver Nuggets could still not make triple-digits as their three-game winning stretch was ended in a 112-99 loss.

Zion Williamson shot an efficient 31 points, sinking 13 of his 16 field-goal efforts and going four-of-four from the free-throw line, as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a three-match losing run with a 144-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Meanwhile, Damian Lillard’s 31-point, 10-assist double-double led the Portland Trail Blazers past the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 115-104 win, while centre Enes Kanter pulled down 21 rebounds.

 

Bazley struggles to take his chances

The Thunder never recovered against the Blazers after falling 34-21 behind in the first quarter and forward Darius Bazley was one player that could not find his range.

Bazley shot four from 16 from the field for 14 points during his 36 minutes on court, only dropping one his seven efforts from three-point range.

 

Giannis powers up but the Raps edge the Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo proved unplayable at times, scoring 34 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' 124-113 loss against the Toronto Raptors, as he ghosted past three defenders for one of his buckets.

Tuesday's results

Boston Celtics 112-99 Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers 115-104 Oklahoma City Thunder 
Los Angeles Lakers 112-104 Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans 144-113 Memphis Grizzlies 
Toronto Raptors 124-113 Milwaukee Bucks 
Brooklyn Nets 128-124 Phoenix Suns

 

Jazz at Clippers

There has been no stopping the Utah Jazz, who have won eight straight and 19 of their past 20 games to establish a lead in the Western Conference, but a tough challenge awaits when they go on the road to face the third-placed Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James hailed the depth within the NBA champions covering the absence of injured star Anthony Davis in Tuesday's 112-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Davis suffered an Achilles strain during Sunday's loss to the Denver Nuggets, though he avoided a rupture as he sat out the Timberwolves clash.

In his absence, James posted 30 points, had 13 rebounds and seven assists, but also had support from German guard Dennis Schroder (24 points), who arrived from Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason.

James is averaging 25.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.9 assists per game this season, with a .759 win percentage. According to Stats Perform, this is the fourth time in his illustrious career he is averaging 25/seven/seven while winning at least 75 per cent of his games played in a season. No other player in NBA history has had such a season.

Fellow recruits Marc Gasol (11 points and five rebounds), Montrezl Harrell (17 points off the bench) and Wesley Matthews also all earned praise also from the four-time NBA MVP.

"To have the production that we had tonight from our group, Dennis, Trez, Wes and Marc they were huge for us," James told Spectrum Sportsnet post-game.

'We went out in the offseason and got some really good pieces. Tonight was an example of that.

"We had one of our biggest pieces out and everyone came in and chipped in a bit more."

Sofia Kenin revealed she had her appendix removed after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis following her shock Australian Open exit.

Australian Open champion in 2020, Kenin was dethroned in the opening week of the grand slam at Melbourne Park, where she was stunned by Kaia Kanepi in the second round last Thursday.

American star Kenin – who suffered her earliest major exit since Wimbledon in 2019 – revealed via social media on Wednesday that she had an operation in Melbourne.

"Hey guys! I want to share with you what happened to me a few days ago," Kenin said via Twitter.

"I went to the tournament physician office on Monday, February 15th with acute abdominal pain. I was evaluated by the tournament physician and referred to the hospital for further evaluation.

"Acute appendicitis was diagnosed following the completion of my CT scan. I had to have surgery and had my appendix removed on Monday, February 15, at Epworth Hospital Richmond. 

"I want to thank everyone at Epworth Hospital Richmond for taking good care of me!"

World number one Ash Barty refused to criticise Karolina Muchova's reasoning for a medical timeout after she was surprisingly beaten in the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Barty's bid to become the first Australian woman to win the Melbourne grand slam since 1978 came to a shock end on Wednesday, upstaged by 25th seed Muchova 1-6 6-3 6-2.

Winner of the 2019 French Open, Barty raced through the opening set in 24 minutes and led 2-1 in the second before Muchova requested an off-court medical timeout on Rod Laver Arena.

It was a turning point, Muchova returning reinvigorated as the unheralded Czech reached her maiden major semi-final in remarkable fashion, with the 24-year-old revealing during her on-court interview, "I was a bit lost [gestures at head] on the court and my head was spinning so I took a break. It helped me.

"It was more they just checked my pressure because I was a bit lost. I was spinning. So they cooled me down a bit with ice and it helped me."

Asked about Muchova's actions, Barty told reporters: "It's within the rules. She's within her rights to take that time. If she wasn't within the rules, the physios and the doctors would have said so. That's the laws of our game, is that we have those medical timeouts for cases that are needed. Obviously she needed that today. Completely within the rules for her to take that.

"From my point of view, I've played a lot of matches where there have been medical timeouts. I've taken medical timeouts myself before, so that shouldn't be a massive turning point in the match. I was disappointed that I let that become a turning point. I'm experienced enough now to be able to deal with that. It's a disappointment today without a doubt. But we learn and we move on."

Barty added: "I would have liked to have just been a little bit sharper the next game. Started well with the first point, just made a couple loose errors in that game. I think for the rest of the set, that was the story, it was just over and over-made. Probably pressed a little bit trying to be overly aggressive.

"Had some break points, I think it was that three-all, that was probably a bit of a critical game in the momentum there for the second set. Just disappointed with the fact that I wasn't able to bring the match back on my terms after she took that break."

"I didn't hear what she said when she called for the trainer," Barty continued. "That's not my decision. When you call for the trainer, you obviously tell the umpire what the reason is. And then the doctor and physios come out and assess it. That's within the rules. For me, that's not really my decision and not my concern what she took the medical for.

"Obviously there are rules when we go off the court for whatever areas you're getting treated because that's quite normal. But, yeah, that's not really my decision to make on whether or what her medical condition was or what the timeout was for."

Brady, who tallied 31 unforced errors in the final two sets having only managed six in the first, said: "It's heartbreaking, of course. But will it deter me, will it ruin the fact we've had a really successful start to our season? Absolutely not.

"The sun will come up tomorrow. We go about our work again. You're either winning or you're learning. I think today is a massive learning curve for me, for Tyz [coach Craig Tyzzer], my team as well. We take the positives out of it, without doubt and don't let this particular match, this particular hour of tennis deter us from what we're trying to do."

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum admitted he is still battling with the after-effects of coronavirus despite returning to NBA action three weeks ago.

Speaking ahead of Boston's 112-99 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, where Tatum contributed 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists, the All-Star revealed he was still experiencing respiratory issues during games.

Tatum tested positive for COVID-19 in early January, alongside some team-mates, forcing three Boston games to be postponed.

"I think it messes with your breathing a little bit," Tatum told reporters.

"I have experienced some games where, I don't want to say struggling to breathe, but you get fatigued a lot quicker than normal. Just running up and down the court a few times, it's easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster; I've noticed that since I've had COVID.

"It's just something I'm working on. It's gotten better since the first game I played, but I still deal with it from time to time."

The Celtics have a 7-10 record since then, slipping to third in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.

After a period of quarantine, Tatum returned to the court with 24 points against the Chicago Bulls on January 25.

Tatum has not missed any of Boston's 12 matches since returning, top scoring for the Celtics on seven occasions, insisting the issues have not affected his performances or output.

"It's gotten better obviously from the first game I came back and played, but I guess it's just a long process," he said.

"I've talked to other guys that have had it and they say they experienced the same thing and it kind of just gets better over time. But as much as we play, I guess it takes a little bit longer.

"You've got to take it on the chin when things aren't going great and you're not playing how you should be."

Karolina Muchova completed a stunning comeback to upset world number one Ash Barty 1-6 6-3 6-2 in the Australian Open quarter-finals. 

Leading by a set and 2-0 in the second, Barty looked on track to reach back-to-back semi-finals at Melbourne Park, where she was bidding to become the first Australian woman to advance to the final since 1980 and first to lift the trophy since 1978.

But Czech 25th seed Muchova spoiled the 'Barty party' on Rod Laver Arena as her star opponent – unable to stop the rot – sensationally crashed out on Wednesday.

Muchova, whose only previous win against a top-five player came against Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon two years ago, will contest her maiden major semi-final as either Jennifer Brady or Jessica Pegula await.

Played behind closed doors on the final day of a five-day state-wide lockdown in Victoria, Barty initially showed no mercy in warm and sunny conditions midweek.

Barty, who had lost the second-fewest games (20) en route to the last eight, raced out to a 5-0 lead in just 16 minutes – Muchova managing to avoid a first-set bagel in the only positive in an otherwise forgettable start.

Winner of the 2019 French Open, Barty only dropped three points on first serve, while she won 90 her cent of her second serves – finishing a lopsided first set with six winners and just as many unforced errors.

Progression to the semis appeared to be a foregone conclusion as Barty led and Muchova required a medical timeout away from the court at the end of the third game of the second set.

But Muchova emerged a new player, with Barty fading dramatically after everything she touched had turned to gold in the opening set.

Barty's unforced error count ballooned out to 19 as Muchova enjoyed great success on second serve, winning 12 of 15 points, while the former – who did not face a break point in the first set – only managed four of 15 and served three double faults.

Muchova continued her red-hot form in the deciding set - breaking in the opening game before saving a pair of break points to consolidate and she did not look back as she caused a boilover, which was sealed with an ace.

 

Data Slam: ​Barty loses her way
Unstoppable in a 24-minute first set, Barty crashed back down to earth thereafter. She missed routine shots consistently, with 31 unforced errors in the remaining two sets contributing to her demise.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Barty – 21/37
Muchova – 17/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Barty – 3/3
Muchova – 2/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Barty – 3/13
Muchova – 4/11

Australian Open fans are set to return to Melbourne Park from Thursday after the Victorian government confirmed the lifting of restrictions following a five-day lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the number of supporters set to attend remains unknown, fans will be back in their seats for the beginning of the Australian Open semi-finals, with record-chasing Serena Williams set to face three-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka in Melbourne.

Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic will play the tournament’s surprise package, Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev - who is the first player to reach a semi-final on their grand slam debut.

Djokovic was on court when the lockdown came into effect last Friday, with the five-day "circuit-breaker" designed to control an outbreak of the UK coronavirus strain.

Part of the third round, the fourth round and quarter-finals of singles action were played behind closed doors after a series of outbreaks in Victoria.

The state has recorded 12 more active cases since the lockdown was implemented but, with none discovered in the past 24 hours, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced restrictions will be eased.

"I'm very, very pleased to announce that the restrictions will come off, almost all of them, at midnight tonight," Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.

"From 11:59pm [Wednesday local time], the restrictions will be dropped [but] masks will be required indoors and outdoors when you can't socially distance."

The stage-four restrictions meant residents could not leave their homes for any other reason than work, shopping for groceries, exercise or the giving or receiving of medial care.

This year's delayed Australian Open has had crowds capped at 30,000 per day with original COVID-19 restrictions, but new limits are yet to be determined for the rest of the tournament.

"There will be meetings this afternoon [to determine] what is a safe number," Andrews said.

"They already were reduced, they may have to be reduced further, but that matter will be resolved in the next few hours."

Novak Djokovic has claimed the "majority" of tennis players are opposed to playing on tour this season if quarantining before tournaments becomes the norm.

The world number one made his stunning claim after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals with a four-set win over Alexander Zverev, moving a step closer to a ninth title at the event.

Djokovic is battling an abdominal injury and he pointed to problems that have affected the likes of Rafael Nadal, Matteo Berrettini and Grigor Dimitrov during their time in Australia.

He stressed that being locked down in hotel rooms as they were in Australia - in some cases being strictly confined for 14 days - was "definitely not good" for the physical health of players.

He is proposing, casually for now, that tennis considers a bubble system whereby one venue stages a string of tournaments, meaning players would not have to travel from country to country and each time need to abide by different COVID-19 rules.

"I don't want to sit here and complain about what we have been through, but we have to be honest and realistic that it has an effect on the physical well-being of players. Of course also mental, emotional, but physically this is not normal," Djokovic said.

"We are hoping that it's temporary. But talking to a lot of players, the majority of the players just don't want to go ahead with the season if we are going to have to quarantine most of the tournaments.

"So this is something that should be discussed, as of now."

Djokovic is a former president of the ATP player council, resigning before last year's US Open to lead the breakaway Professional Tennis Players Association.

The 17-time major winner may be a divisive figure to some, but he is determined to be involved in the big decisions.

He said he had held conversations with members of the player council, who in turn had spoken to ATP management.

"I'm waiting for some answers. I want to understand how our continuation of the season post-Australia is going to look like, because this definitely is not good for players in terms of their well-being," the 33-year-old Serbian said.

He said players had turned out for the Australian Open because of the large prize money on offer, tolerating the fortnight in quarantine because of the subsequent rewards, but said prize money cuts at other tournaments would make many think twice.

There have been "a lot of complaints" from lower-ranked players, Djokovic said.

"We have to find a way, whether it's something like an NBA bubble, because I heard some players talk about that, and I don't mind to discuss about that kind of idea," Djokovic said, referring to last season's NBA bubble at Walt Disney World, Florida, where the basketball season was able to be completed.

"Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place. Three, four weeks in, three, four, two, three weeks' rest, then back again. Something like that."

Djokovic offered no suggestion players would consider skipping the grand slams that remain in 2021 - the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

But he said: "We also have to be realistic that what we are experiencing here in Australia is far better than what most of Europe is going through in terms of restrictions and rules and regulations and quarantines, et cetera.

"And most of the season will continue on in Europe, actually."

He says players can cope with being away from family, if rules are implemented to mean player entourages must be small, but hotel room quarantines are another matter.

"I have been hearing that there are some countries that don't want to accept people coming in from some specific countries because of the virus strains, different virus strains, so forth, and transmission, and God knows what," Djokovic said.

"I don't know how we're gonna handle with that, honestly. But we have to address this very quickly, I mean, because the season already started."

Djokovic, meanwhile, moves on to a clash with qualifier Aslan Karatsev, the 27-year-old Russian revelation of the tournament.

It took an explosion of anger from Djokovic, when trailing 3-1 in the third set against Zverev, to give him the spur to see off the German.

He smashed a racket so hard it left debris on the court that a ball girl was summoned to sweep up.

Djokovic said: "Of course I'm not proud of these kind of moments. To me it happens and then today it actually helped, even though I don't intentionally do it in order for it to help me. I just kind of let it go. Poor racket."

Serena Williams admitted it felt like stepping back in time as her movement and power came together to overwhelm Simona Halep at the Australian Open.

It had been just over 18 months since Halep destroyed Williams in the Wimbledon final, and with the American great approaching her 40th birthday, prospects of a 24th grand slam title have appeared to fade.

Into the conversation on Tuesday strolled a revitalised Williams, a woman who has been proving a point and defying expectation for coming up to a quarter of a century.

Williams is simply not having it that her days as a winner might be over, which is why she and coach Patrick Mouratoglou are always seeking marginal gains.

Dogged by an Achilles injury since the US Open last September, Williams feels over that, and a 6-3 6-3 quarter-final win over Halep attested to that being the case.

More than that, though, Williams noticed the years fall away as she dashed around the court, thumping groundstrokes with abundant power and often plenty of precision.

Speaking of the movement returning, Williams said: "It was something that Patrick and I did discuss. I just wasn't able to incorporate it as much as I would have liked to.

"But once I was able to get on the court, I was able to incorporate it as much as I could. Movement has always been one of my strengths, and so it's actually more natural for me to move than for me not. So it was just kind of, like, 'Oh, that's how I used to move', so it's pretty good.

"I'm happy that I'm doing that again and that I put it back into my game. I think I was more focused on other things and not focused on something that is actually a strength of mine, has always been a strength of mine, and I had to refocus on that."

She faces Naomi Osaka next for a place in the final. It reads like a match-up of an all-time great against a player who could over time join her in that pantheon.

Osaka is pursuing a fourth grand slam title, while Williams wants the 24th as much as she craved the first, given it would move her alongside Margaret Court at the top of the all-time list.

The veteran American's most recent slam title came while pregnant in Australia four years ago, with Williams dealt four final defeats since, including a notable one to Osaka at the 2018 US Open.

If Osaka was watching Williams on Tuesday, as she surely was, the Japanese player could have only been impressed.

When asked about how she was matching and often out-matching Halep even in the longest rallies, Williams paused to consider when she was last able to boss such exchanges.

"It's definitely been a minute. It's been a long minute," she said with a smile. "I think 19... 1926, the summer of 1926 I think was the last time I felt that.

"But I'm good at rallying and I have to embrace the things I'm good at. I'm good at playing power, I'm good at hitting a hundred balls.

"That's one thing that's unique about me that I just need to kind of accept and embrace and just be good at both."

Williams and Osaka may have a crowd on Thursday for the semi-final, or they may not. Melbourne remains in lockdown but spectators could be back on Rod Laver Arena for the clash of two of the sport's biggest personalities.

Addressing that prospect, Williams indicated she would have mixed emotions.

"I love having the people there, obviously. But at the same time, it's kind of nice to not have, like ... more pressure when there is people in the stands," Williams said.

"So I think either way it's really a win-win situation. That's kind of how I look at it."

Fast-footed on the court, quick to sidestep off it, Williams is convinced she can push Osaka hard, perhaps heartened by a narrow win when they met in an exhibition match in Adelaide last month.

"I've got to keep going. Obviously I have an incredible opponent to play, so it would be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game. I'm going to have to," Williams said.

Halep said Williams "was stronger in the important moments", and she too noticed her opponent showing something near vintage form.

"Yeah, she's moving better and she hits strong," Halep added. "I feel like she's in a good shape now. She has a really good game. Always did..."

Ben Simmons believes his potential is "scary" after scoring a career-high 42 points against the Utah Jazz.

Playing at center in the absence of Joel Embiid for the Philadelphia 76ers, Simmons converted 15 of his 26 field goals, adding 12 assists and nine rebounds in a fantastic performance.

Utah still won the game 134-123 to make it 19 wins from 20.

Despite playing in a third straight loss, Simmons believes the record night shows he has made huge strides over recent weeks.

"I feel like I'm figuring it out," Simmons said after the game.

"Obviously, my scoring has been a lot higher the past five, six games.

"As long as I can keep doing that and stay locked in and keep working on my mental [game], I think it's scary.

"You have got to keep your foot down. Keep pushing forward offensively with me. Stay dominant - I know what I'm capable of.

"It felt good that I was able to dominate offensively. Defensively I did okay, not great. Offensively, I definitely had to pick up the slack especially if Joel is out. So yes [it was probably my most aggressive game].

"I loved when I saw Rudy [Gobert] was guarding me. I love being able to go at somebody like that. I felt like it was a little bit disrespectful to put him on me, but it is what it is.

"Honestly, I've just been working on my mentality and mental [game] a lot these past few weeks.

"It's not easy to do that. Your mindset will change the way you play or certain things in the game that come natural for certain people. It is all mental.

"People don't realise your mentality is a huge part of the game. For me I continue to work on that. I'm just trying to get better and progress my game and get to that next level.

"But we wanted to get this win bad. We didn't get it, so we've got to move on."

Getting Simmons matched up with Gobert was exactly what coach Doc Rivers had in mind, while he also praised Tobias Harris for a 36-point display.

Rivers said: "I didn't know we were going to get the 42 points out of him! But he did everything - he guarded, did a good job. Played with pace.

"We anticipated once Joel scratched that the lineup that we put on the floor, we were trying to create a lineup where Gobert would guard Ben and that happened.

"The key for us was getting stops and getting it to Ben and getting up the floor. We just felt like there was no way anybody was going to stay with Ben, especially a center.

"Tobias [Harris] was phenomenal as well. Look at those two guys, man!

"Harris has to be straight line, aggressive and powerful. When he plays like that, he's hard to deal with. He played a very decisive game and had very few indecisive plays.

"He is really keeping the game simple, playing with great force, scoring from the three[-point line], off the dribble and the post. He's doing exactly what we believe he can do.

"[Embiid] was just a late scratch. They came to me and told me his back is still stiff. So I don't think this is a long term issue or anything like that. It's just a game missed."

The Sixers are still top of the Eastern Conference at 18-10 and host the Houston Rockets next on Wednesday.

Jordan Clarkson scored 40 points off the bench for the impressive Jazz, who lead the Western Conference with an NBA-best record of 23-5.

Novak Djokovic lost his temper but refused to let the prospect of Australian Open glory slip away as he edged out Alexander Zverev to reach the semi-finals.

The world number one destroyed a racket when trailing 3-1 in the third set, after he and Zverev split the opening two sets, and it was one of a number of moments when the Serbian showed heightened volatility during a 6-7 (6-8) 6-2 6-4 7-6 (8-6) win.

Still bothered by an abdominal problem that he sustained in the third round, Djokovic nevertheless strides on and will face Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev for a place in the final.

Zverev, who played in a bright yellow headband and vest top, with a gold medallion hanging from his neck, will look back on an opportunity missed.

As well as that third-set lead, Zverev was also up a break at the start of the fourth, but the US Open runner-up lacked the composure to convert those hard-earned positions.

If Djokovic's racket-smashing was a tactical move designed to gee himself up and distract Zverev, then it worked a treat.

A nip-and-tuck opener had gone the way of German world number seven Zverev, who then made a wretched start to the second set and was 4-0 behind in the blink of an eye.

Just as momentum began to swing back Zverev's way in the third, Djokovic went into his rage, with a ball girl summoned to clear up the mess the 33-year-old created.

Back came Djokovic as double faults began to leak from Zverev's racket, and soon they were into a fourth set.

Zverev led 3-0 but Djokovic was not going away, seizing on mistakes from an opponent who by the end of the second tie-break of the match could only wonder what might have been.

An ace from Djokovic finished off the contest. After eight titles at Melbourne Park, a hunger for more continues to define his every performance in Australia.

"Emotionally I feel a little bit drained. We pushed each other to the limit," Djokovic said in his on-court interview.

"Other than in the second set I started pretty poorly in all the other three sets. I lost my service very early in the first, third and fourth and allowed him to swing through the ball a bit more, but I regained my focus.

"I broke that racket and things started to shift a little bit for me in a positive direction."

Aslan Karatsev said finding stability off the court has helped him become the revelation of this year's Australian Open after the qualifier marched on to the semi-finals.

The Russian became the first qualifier to reach the last four of a major since Vladimir Voltchkov, famously in borrowed shorts, did so in 2000 at Wimbledon.

It was Pete Sampras who eventually blew away Voltchkov's threat at the All England Club on his way to another title.

And it turns out there is a connection between Karatsev and Voltchkov, with both men now calling Minsk their home.

But whereas Voltchkov is Minsk born and bred, Karatsev has taken a roundabout route to setting down roots in the capital of Belarus.

He explained on Tuesday how he was born in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz before moving as a toddler to Israel with his family and living there until the age of 12, when he and his father returned to Russia, spending time in the city of Taganrog.

Tennis took him to training bases in Moscow, then Halle in Germany, Barcelona, and finally Minsk.

It is in Minsk that Karatsev has linked up with former ATP professional Yahor Yatsyk, a man only one year his senior but already settling into coaching.

As Grigor Dimitrov succumbed to injury and slid to a four-set defeat against Karatsev on Tuesday, the unlikely figure in the final four reflected on his long road to this point.

"Yes, I was moving I would say too much," Karatsev said of his nomadic existence.

"In the end I found a coach, Yahor Yatsyk, and this is the right guy for me. He's helped me a lot, more the mental part, and then of course there is the technical stuff as well.

"I like to work with him. We're living in Minsk. We're practicing there."

Karatsev is the lowest-ranked man to reach a grand slam semi-final since Goran Ivanisevic, who won Wimbledon in 2001 on a wildcard entry while ranked 125th in the world.

His charge through the draw makes him only the second qualifier to advance to the Australian Open last four, after Bob Giltinan in December 1977.

"Of course it's amazing that I passed to the semi-finals from qualifying," Karatsev said. "I'm just trying to enjoy the moment and not thinking about that too much and playing from round to round."

He and Yatsyk set the goal of reaching the top 100, which Karatsev had not managed before getting to Melbourne.

Before this fortnight he stood at 114th in the rankings, but he will hurtle to a double-digit ranking next week.

"I think the key is to find the right team, the right coach that I found. I was really lucky to find him," Karatsev said.

"We just met in one tournament. We were saying, 'Okay, let's try to work together', and it's really a big luck that we started to work together and I have a good team around me."

Before he encountered Yatsyk, who as a player did not crack the top 1,000 in singles, Karatsev had a brief moment when he wondered if he might not make the grade.

"There was a time when I was injured that was a difficult time for me because I recovered after the injury, and then 2017 started, and I started to play again, and again I felt the knee," Karatsev said. "I said, 'Whoa.' I quit again for two and a half months, almost three, and I think this is the most difficult part."

France had their Six Nations plans disrupted by a positive COVID-19 test that sent the squad into self-isolation on Tuesday.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) also said head coach Fabien Galthie would be retested amid concerns he may have coronavirus.

It was another figure from within the France camp, who was not named, that returned a positive result following testing on Monday.

Announcing that news, the FFR said on Tuesday: "Following the PCR tests carried out last night in Marcoussis with the France XV, all the players tested negative, a member of the technical staff tested positive, as well as a suspicious and unproven case concerning Fabien Galthie who will be tested again this morning.

"In accordance with health protocol, all members of the team and management were isolated this morning. Interactions are kept to a minimum.

"An additional test at the National Rugby Centre will be carried out on Wednesday morning for the entire squad."

The squad are due to disperse later this week to be allowed a short time at home between matches, with France, who have won their opening two games, not in action again until they face Scotland on February 28 in Paris.

They scored a fine 15-13 win over Ireland in Dublin on Sunday to follow up the opening 50-10 victory over Italy.

The FFR statement added: "Tests will be carried out at home on Friday, as well as on Sunday evening at the National Rugby Centre when the squad reunites.

"The announcement of the 31 players for the Scotland match will take place this Wednesday evening, February 17."

Draymond Green fumed at how NBA players are being treated by teams and the league after Andre Drummond was pulled out of the Cleveland Cavaliers' game with the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors cruised to a 129-98 win on Monday with Green registering 16 assists, tying his career high, and Steph Curry going off for 36 points.

But after the game Green talked little about the impressive outing and instead focused on the treatment of players.

The Cavs made a late call to sit center Drummond, who watched the game in street clothes, while they attempt to trade him.

Blake Griffin is in the same situation with the Detroit Pistons, with the team looking at moving him or buying him out.

Green was seen speaking to Drummond before tip-off and was frustrated when he faced the media after the game, also referencing a host of other players including James Harden.

"I would like to talk about something that's really bothering me," Green said. "And it's the treatment of players in this league.

"To watch Andre Drummond, before the game, sit on the sidelines, then go to the back, and to come out in street clothes because a team is going to trade him, it's b*******.

"Because when James Harden asked for a trade, and essentially dogged it, no one's going to fight back that James was dogging it his last days in Houston, but he was castrated for wanting to go to a different team.

"Everybody destroyed that man. Yet a team can come out and say, 'Oh, we want to trade a guy', and then that guy has to go sit, and if he doesn't stay professional, then he's a cancer and he's not good in someone's locker room, and he's the issue.

"We're seeing situations of Harrison Barnes getting pulled off the bench or DeMarcus Cousins finding out he's traded in an interview after the All-Star Game, and we continue to let this happen."

In previous seasons, Green was fined for giving his opinion that Devin Booker should leave the Phoenix Suns while Anthony Davis was punished for publicly requesting a trade.

He added: "I got fined for stating my opinion on what I thought should happen with another player, but teams can come out and continue to say, 'Oh, we're trading guys, we're not playing you.' Yet we're to stay professional.

"We talk all of this stuff about: 'You can't do this, you can't say this publicly.' Anthony Davis got fined I think $100,000 for demanding a trade, but you can say Andre Drummond's getting traded publicly and we're looking to trade him publicly, and he's to stay professional and just deal with it?

"And then when Kyrie Irving says, 'Oh, my mental health is off,' everybody goes crazy about that too. Do you not think that affects someone mentally?

"As much as we put into this game to be great, to come out here and be in shape, to produce for fans every single night, and most importantly, to help your team win, do you think that doesn't affect someone mentally?

"At some point, the players must be respected in these situations, and it's ridiculous, and I'm sick of seeing it."

Green and the 15-13 Warriors are at home against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Serena Williams is in the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time since she last won a grand slam title, beating Simona Halep to set up a mouthwatering clash with Naomi Osaka.

The American great gained revenge for her Wimbledon final defeat to the Romanian two seasons ago as she conjured a 6-3 6-3 win on Rod Laver Arena.

Halep dropped just four games in that stunning grass-court success in 2019, the third of four grand slam finals that Williams has lost since landing her 23rd major in Australia four years ago.

The 24th title has remained frustratingly elusive, with Williams one away from matching Margaret Court's record haul, but perhaps this is the week where that changes.

She must get past Osaka, her heir apparent as the figurehead for the women's game, but Williams showed her prowess in this match, devastatingly proving a point.

Her power won out, with 24 winners to just nine from Halep, although the 33 unforced errors from Williams showed there is room for improvement in precision.

The tone was set from the first point, Williams with a brilliant forehand service return winner on the forehand side on her way to an immediate break of serve.

Halep forced her way level but Williams raised the tempo in the sixth game and a deep forehand into the Romanian's backhand corner secured a 4-2 advantage.

Williams served out the set to love at the first opportunity but then dipped early in the second set, Halep pinching a break when the American volleyed waywardly at the net.

What proved a consistent theme was Halep's struggle to hit through her opponent, and the two-time grand slam winner could not capitalise on a 3-1 lead in that second set, dropping five successive games as the 39-year-old Williams began to turn on some vintage form.

Dismissive of the often weak Halep serve, Williams swept through to the clash with Osaka.

"I definitely think this was the best match I've played this tournament for sure," Williams said. "I had to, going up against the number two in the world. I knew I had to do better and that's what I did, so I'm excited."

Looking forward to facing Osaka, Williams said in her on-court interview: "She's such a strong player on the court and such an inspirational person off the court, which I think is really cool. I've been watching her and I'm sure she's been watching me."

Aslan Karatsev's Cinderella story and historic run continued after sensationally reaching the Australian Open semi-finals as Grigor Dimitrov struggled dramatically with injury on Tuesday.

Former world number three Dimitrov won the opening set and was on track to move through in Melbourne, but he faded alarmingly due to a lower back problem.

Karatsev capitalised to oust his much-more fancied opponent – who was barely able to walk afterwards – 2-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena, the Russian qualifier and world number 114 becoming the first man in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals on his grand slam debut.

The unheralded 27-year-old also became just the second qualifier to advance to the Australian Open last four after Bob Giltinan in December 1977 as defending champion Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev await.

Dimitrov was aiming to reach his second Australian Open semi-final and the final four of a slam for the fourth time in his career, and the Bulgarian star started well.

After being broken in the third game, 18th seed Dimitrov put the set back on serve immediately as he took control of proceedings.

Dimitrov fired down four aces, won 82 per cent of his first serves, hit six winners and made just five unforced errors, while Karatsev's unforced-error count hit 19.

But just as Dimitrov – who had not dropped a set en route to the quarters – looked like the man to beat, he wilted in remarkable scenes as Karatsev won the second set to level the match.

Dimitrov's first-serve winners dipped to 69 per cent – his second serve extremely problematic – while his unforced errors grew to 15 in the second set – and Karatsev took advantage.

The third set was a write-off for Dimitrov, who headed to the locker room for medical treatment after Karatsev cruised to a two-sets-to-love lead.

There were remarkable scenes in the third set, Dimitrov virtually conceding as he was unable to keep up with Karatsev due to the injury.

Dimitrov, who only won 12 points in the third set as he was unable to keep up with Karatsev or generate any power on his serve, emerged for the fourth set but, while he tried to will himself on, it only delayed the inevitable in sad scenes.

 

Data Slam: Karatsev joins Russian club
Karatsev became the fourth Russian man to reach the Australian Open semis in the Open Era, after Aleksandar Metreveli  (1972),  Yevgeny  Kafelnikov  (1999-2000)  and  Marat  Safin  (2002, 2004-05). He is also the lowest-ranked man to reach the semi-finals of a major since Goran Ivanisevic (125) at Wimbledon in 2001.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Dimitrov – 21/34
Karatsev – 34/44

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Dimitrov – 9/7
Karatsev – 9/6

BREAK POINTS WON
Dimitrov – 4/14
Karatsev – 8/11 

Former world number one Naomi Osaka is unfazed about her record at grand slams as she eyes consistency after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals.

Osaka will face either 23-time slam champion Serena Williams or Simona Halep in the semis following Tuesday's emphatic 6-2 6-2 win over Hsieh Su-wei in Melbourne.

Three-time major winner Osaka has gone on to win the title each time she has reached the quarter-finals of a slam – beating Hsieh en route to her 2019 Australian Open triumph.

Asked about the record, Osaka told reporters: "I don't really care about the stat. Just because I've only been to four quarter-finals.

"It feels something like 20. That would be cool. But four, it's not really doing too much for me.

"I would be more impressed if I didn't lose in finals. If it says 10-0 in finals. But the fact is if I don't reach the finals, I lose in the fourth round or the third round.

"For me, I'm happy to be more consistent. I think I'm being more consistent since New York, so that's the ultimate goal for me."

Osaka – in the midst of a 19-match winning streak – overpowered veteran Hsieh on Rod Laver Arena, where the Japanese star hit 24 winners and just 14 unforced errors, while she lost just two of her 25 first-service points.

It does not get any easier for Osaka, with record-chasing Williams or two-time slam champion Halep standing in the way of a trip to Saturday's decider at Melbourne Park.

"I played both of them before I think multiple times," Osaka – confident after saving two match points against Garbine Muguruza in the last 16 – said.

"Halep, I don't really like playing her. She's someone that's really tough, someone that gets the ball back every time. For me it's definitely a mental and physical battle.

"Of course, the same goes for Serena. She's Serena, someone that I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court."

Jordan Clarkson and Ben Simmons were drawn into a high-scoring shoot-out as the NBA-leading Utah Jazz powered past the Philadelphia 76ers 134-123 in a mouth-watering showdown.

In a battle pitting the Western Conference-leading Jazz against Eastern Conference pacesetters, the Jazz came out on top thanks to Clarkson's 40 points.

Utah's Clarkson nailed a stunning eight three-pointers as he became first player to come off the bench and score 40 points in less than 30 minutes since 1991.

In response, 76ers All-Star Simmons fired up for a career-high 42 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, and Tobias Harris put up a 36-point, 10-rebound double-double, but the 76ers could not keep up with the Jazz.

Simmons opened with a career-best quarter of 19 points to give the 76ers a seven-point lead at the first buzzer before Utah took over and claimed an eighth straight win, and a 19th win in 20 games.

Missing Joel Embiid to a back injury, the 76ers' third straight loss opened the door for the Brooklyn Nets to close the gap in the east and they obliged, posting a franchise-record 25 three-pointers in a 132-121 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Kyrie Irving put up 40 points and former MVP James Harden added a triple-double (29 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds) to lead the Nets to a third consecutive victory as the struggling Kings fell to a fourth straight defeat.

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