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Saturday,12-June-2021

International

Australian Open: Novak Djokovic breezes past Karatsev to reach 9th final

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Serbian-tennis-player-Novak-Djokovic

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.

International

Andre Russell hit on helmet in PSL, taken to hospital

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Andre-Russell

West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell was on Friday taken to a hospital here in an ambulance after he was struck on the helmet by a bouncer in a Pakistan Super League (PSL) match.

Russell — who was replaced by fast bowler Naseem Shah under the concussion-sub rule — had smashed two sixes off Muhammad Musa in the 14th over while representing Quetta Gladiators against Islamabad United.

He went for a pull-shot but misjudged the bounce as the ball hit him on his helmet.

Though the West Indian decided to continue batting after being examined by a physio, he was out the very next ball, caught at third man.

Russell was seen being stretchered out of the dressing room to an ambulance during the first over of the second innings.

Chasing a target of 133 all out in 20 overs set by Quetta Gladiators, United’s openers Usman Khawaja and Colin Munro smashed unbeaten 40 and 90 runs, respectively. United won the match by 10 wickets in 10 overs.

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No excuse for the loss, made mistakes: Rafael Nadal

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Rafael-Nadal

World No. 3 Rafael Nadal, whose unbeaten streak at French Open spread over last six years was broken in Friday’s semi-finals, said world No. 1 Novak Djokovic got used to cooler Paris conditions at night better even as he himself could not produce the top level tennis expected of him.

“That’s sport. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I tried to give my best,” Nadal said after the match before adding that he could not convert the chances he got.

“I had a big chance with set point, 6-5, second serve in the third set. That is it. Anything could happen in that moment. Then I made a double fault, missed an easy volley in the tie-break. But it’s true that there were crazy points out there. The fatigue is there, too. These kind of mistakes can happen,” he added.

As the match extended into late evening and night, Nadal’s topspin shots that were bouncing high off the clay court began bouncing lower as conditions got cooler making it easier for Djokovic.

Nadal though refused to term it as an excuse and instead felt that Djokovic had got used to the conditions better.

“It does not matter. That is tennis. The player who gets used to the conditions better is the player who deserves to win. So no doubt he deserved to win,” said the world No. 3.

The Spaniard admitted he was not at his best. He made eight double faults against Djokovic’s three.

“But if you want to win, you can not make these mistakes. So that is it. Well done for him. It was a good fight out there. I tried my best, and today was not my day.

“It probably was not my best day out there. Even if I fought, put a lot of effort, the position on the shots were not that effective tonight,” Nadal said.

“Against a player like him who takes the ball early, you are not able to take him out of his positions, then it is very difficult.”

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International

South Africa have Windies on the mat after Quinton de Kock ton

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Quinton-de-Kock

South Africa wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock hit an unbeaten 141 to hand his team a strong first-innings lead on the second day of the first Test against West Indies who, with just six second-innings wickets remaining, are still 143 runs adrift and look set for an innings defeat.

Pace bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje took two wickets each as they reduced West Indies to 82 for four at stumps on second day after de Kock’s 170-ball knock had taken Proteas to 322 in first innings. West Indies had been dismissed for 97 in first innings on the first day.

The left-handed wicket-keeper batsman hammered seven sixes and 12 fours in his knock after half of the Proteas side was back in the pavilion with just 162 on the scoreboard.

The 28-year-old from Johannesburg had walked in after the fall of third wicket. Although none of his fellow batsmen could script a partnership with him, he found company in all-rounder Wiaam Mulder as the two added 53 runs for the sixth wicket.

After Mulder, Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada were dismissed in quick succession, de Kock added 79 for the ninth wicket with Nortje (7 off 29). He farmed the strike and went for the big hits. Aiden Markram, who made 60 on the first day, and Rassie van der Dussen, with 46, were the next highest scorers.

The 79 runs for the ninth wicket came in just over 12 overs.

Jason Holder, with four for 75, was the most successful bowler for the Caribbean side.

Windies were then reduced to 51 for four before Roston Chase (21 off 71) and Jermaine Blackwood (10 off 27) stemmed the rot with an unbeaten 31-run partnership in 12.2 overs.

Brief scores: West Indies 97 all out and 82/4 vs South Africa 322 all out in 96.5 overs (Q de Kock 141 not out, A Markram 60, R van der Dussen 46, J Holder 4/75, J Seales 3/75)

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