Serbian world no.1 Novak Djokovic on Thursday got closer to winning his ninth and third consecutive Australian Open title by crushing Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the semi-finals at the Rod Laver Arena.
Djokovic was utterly dominant throughout the match and ended Karatsev’s dream run. The Russian is the first man to reach the semi-finals on his debut in a Grand Slam.
Djokovic, meanwhile, has won the title every time he has reached the final at the Australian Open. The 33-year-old 17-time Grand Slam champion has struggled with an abdominal injury during the tournament but showed no signs of the problem against Karatsev.
“This is the best I have felt in the entire tournament. It felt great, I could swing through the ball and no pain,” he said after the match.
“It was my best match so far and came at the right time. I’m thrilled.”
Earlier, American 22nd seed Jennifer Brady reached her first Grand Slam final after beating 25th seed Czech Karolina Muchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. She faces Naomi Osaka in the final as the Japanese beat 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams earlier on Thursday.
Muchova saved as many as five match points off Brady’s serve in the final game. Brady raced to a 30-0 lead and then got to her first match point at 40-15. However, Muchova then won the next three points consecutively before Brady held to make it deuce for the first time in the game.
The pair then exchanged advantages over the next nine points before Muchova hit a return long, giving Brady the victory.
“I can’t feel my legs right now. They’re shaking, my heart is racing. After the first set, I thought to myself, ‘let’s focus Jenny.’ I actually felt strange when I came out, I was excited but also a bit flat-footed. I don’t think I had that much intensity in the beginning of the match, but that improved over time,” said Brady on court after the match.
“I think it will be a really tough match against Naomi Osaka. She’s won a few Grand Slams, and we had a really great battle at the US Open, in the semi-final. I’m just going to hang with my team now, spend some quality time, do some recovery work and have a good gym session. I’m going to be a bit nervous tomorrow, but also very excited,” she added.
World No.3 Osaka will be playing in her second Australian Open final after winning the title in 2019. In the one hour and 15 minute-match, Osaka rebounded from a poor start to beat ‘her idol’ Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to book her place in the Australian Open final.
This will be the 23-year-old Japanese’s second consecutive Grand Slam final and fourth overall.
After the match, Osaka accepted she was “nervous and scared in the beginning”.
“Then I sort of eased my way into it. For me, I think the biggest thing is just having fun and it’s the first day having the crowd in a while … it’s always an honour to play her. I just didn’t want to go out like really bad, so I just wanted to try my best.”
She added: “I don’t know if there’s any little kids out here today, but I was a little kid watching her play and just to be on the court playing against her for me is a dream.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned over the years is just like, you know, you’re competitive, you’re playing against another competitor. That itself is the funnest part because tennis is a game.”
Williams’s bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title will now have to wait until the French Open which is scheduled to start on May 24.
Osaka faces either Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova or USA’s Jennifer Brady, both of whom are yet to appear in the final of a Grand Slam. She has extended her winning streak to 20 matches.
Williams raced a 2-0 lead in the first set before Osaka took control. Osaka then broke Williams at the start of the second set before running off to claim her third win against the 39-year-old American in five matches.
Williams’s forehand was off the mark throughout the match as she made 24 unforced errors against Osaka’s 21. Notably, Williams made six unforced errors on return whereas her opponent made just one throughout the match.
England beat Germany after extra time to win UEFA women’s Euro
England beat Germany 2-1 after extra time in a packed Wembley Stadium in London, bringing home the trophy of the UEFA women’s Euro for the first time.
Germany suffered a heavy blow minutes ahead of the final on Sunday evening as their captain Alex Popp had to pull out after picking up an injury during the warm-up.
The 31-year-old forward had scored in all five previous matches in this tournament and scored twice in Germany’s 2-1 win against France in Wednesday’s semifinal, reports Xinhua. England, reaching the Euro’s final for the third time, couldn’t break the deadlock until Ella Toone came off the bench to score the opener in the 62nd minute.
But midfielder Lina Magull helped Germany equalise in the 79th minute.
The 1-1 scoreline was held until the 110th minute while substitute Chloe Kelly prodded in her first goal for the England team.
“What we’ve done is incredible. I knew we had England behind us- we saw that coming to the stadium,” said England head coach Sarina Wiegman in front of 87,192 fans in Wembley.
“But the whole tournament we’ve had so much support from our fans. I’m so proud of the team.”
The 52-year-old Dutchwoman, who also guided the Netherlands to win the women’s Euro trophy in 2017, is the first coach to lead two different teams to the title.
Pakistan Cricket Board wants ICC to form strategy on growth of franchise T20 leagues
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Saturday that it has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) to form a strategy on controlling the growth of lucrative franchise T20 leagues with rising concerns about its impact on the international cricket calendar.
Earlier this week, South Africa pulled out of a three-match bilateral ODI against Australia in January as it clashes with their new domestic T20 competition, the third time they will be attempting to have a successful franchise T20 League.
The next cycle of the Future Tours Programme (FTP), for 2024-31, which shows the schedule of teams playing bilateral series against each other and at what venues, is set to be confirmed in the upcoming week during the annual conference of the ICC at Birmingham.
“Growth of franchise cricket is impacting the already crammed international cricket calendar. The PCB is concerned about this development and wants the ICC to formulate a strategy on this issue,” said PCB Chief Executive Faisal Hasnain in a statement.
“We have sent a proposal to the ICC, which they have added to their meeting agenda. Two other boards have also conveyed their apprehensions to the ICC on this matter and urged the ICC to create a working group to debate on the expansion of franchise-based T20 leagues,” added Hasnain.
Talking about the confirmation of the FTP, in the context of Pakistan recently starting to host international cricket at home, Hasnain remarked, “Finalising the Future Tours Programme (FTP) is very important for us.
“This will give us certainty about which teams will be visiting us and which countries we will be touring. 80 per cent of the FTP has already been agreed upon and the remaining 20 per cent will be completed in the upcoming meeting.”
The upcoming ICC Annual Conference in Birmingham also marks the first time the meeting will happen after a Covid-19 pandemic caused a stoppage. “The annual conference presents a unique opportunity for networking with representatives of the world cricket.
“We are planning several initiatives that involve fellow members and meetings have already been set up on the sidelines with other boards to collectively enhance our common interest,” concluded Hasnain.
T20 World Cup could be a swansong for several Australian cricketers, indicates Finch
Australia white-ball skipper Aaron Finch has no doubt in his mind that he will be leading an “ageing side” in the ICC T20 World Cup at home later this year, and indicated that the tournament could be a swansong for several cricketers, especially batters.
As Australia prepare to defend the title they won in the UAE in 2021, Finch added that lifting the trophy in front of a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground in November would be a dream come true for him.
“It might be a full stop on everything (several players retiring from T20Is, including him) if it goes to plan like that. Fairy tales can happen in sport,” Finch, 35, was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au during the 100-day countdown celebration to the mega event on Friday.
While Finch has indicated that this could be the last T20 World Cup for him, it could also be opener David Warner and wicketkeeper-batter Matthew Wade’s last mega T20 event, given that both are in their mid-30s.
Wade has already said the 2022 T20 World Cup will be his international swansong, while Warner has also indicated that he might retire from T20Is to prolong his Test and ODI career. Finch will also probably turn his attention to the 50-over World Cup in India in 2023 to finally call it a day from international cricket.
Asked about his white-ball future post the T20 World Cup, Finch said, “Good question… It obviously shifts to a 50-over World Cup focus… after the (T20) World Cup, so I don’t think there’s too many T20 games in the next 12 months (after the World Cup) anyway. So I don’t know.
“I think just naturally when guys get to their mid-30s, it’s going to be that way. Davey (Warner) just keeps going; he could play for another 10 years, I think, with how fit he is and how much he loves the competition and continuing to challenge himself.
“(Matthew) Wadey has gone through a few phases (and) he’s now become so important to the structure of our team, batting at seven there and being so dynamic. But it’s an ageing side, isn’t it? Especially in that batting group,” said Finch.
Finch added that the World Cup in Australia would be “incredibly tough” after what he saw in the UAE last year where South Africa, in spite of winning four out of their five games, missed out on net run rate.
“Iit’s going to be an incredibly tough competition. We saw how brutal the format is with South Africa winning four out of their five games at the last World Cup and still not qualifying on net run rate. It’s just so brutal that you do need a bit of luck along the way. So let’s see.”
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