MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 31:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup after winning the Men's Singles Final over Andy Murray of Great Britain during day 14 of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 31, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Djokovic captures sixth Australian Open title

2 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic was still walking around Melbourne Park with his trophy, celebrating his record sixth Australian title, when five-time runner-up Andy Murray was heading for the airport in a rush to reunite with his pregnant wife.

Top-ranked Djokovic maintained his perfect streak in six Australian Open finals with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory on Sunday night, equaling Roy Emerson’s record for Australian titles. Murray continued his unwanted streak, too, slumping to 0-5 in championship deciders Down Under.

“First of all I need to pay the respect to Andy,” Djokovic said. “Tough match, tough luck tonight.

“You’re a great champion, great friend, very committed to this sport. I’m sure in the future you’re going to have many opportunities.”

The 28-year-old Murray had his share of distractions in Australia. His wife, Kim, is due to have their first child in February and stayed in Britain. Kim’s father, Nigel Sears, traveled to Australia as coach for Ana Ivanovic, and had to be rushed to hospital by ambulance while Murray was on court in his third-round match. Nigel Sears spent a night in a nearby hospital last weekend but was well enough to return home, which meant Murray could stay in Australia and try to refocus on winning the title.

“It’s been a tough few weeks for me away from the court,” Murray said in his on-court speech, thanking his support team before turning his attention to his wife.

“You’ve been a legend the last two weeks. Thank you so much for all your support,” he said, choking back tears and waving as he walked away from the microphone. “I’ll be on the next flight home.”

A little more than a half-hour later, Murray was sitting in a mandatory news conference, saying he was proud of his achievements here but was ready to get home. At 11:15 p.m. local time, Murray said he was aiming for a 1 a.m. flight – “I’ve been held on flights for it feels like five days. The first one out of here, I’m leaving.”

Hundreds of Serbian fans, many waving flags, gathered outside and cheered and screamed as Djokovic did an interview with the host TV broadcaster.

“I never experienced this much crowd and this much love,” Djokovic said, before waving to his fans. “It’s an incredible feeling especially because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight, and equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian Opens, that’s why this trophy is even more.”

Djokovic increased his career haul to 11 Grand Slam titles, including four of the last five, to join Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg at No. 5 on the all-time list.

Two-time major winner Murray, meanwhile, became only the second man to lose five finals at one major – Ivan Lendl lost five and won three U.S. Open finals in the 1980s.

Djokovic had won 10 of his previous 11 matches against Murray and was 21-9 in their career meetings – including four finals at the Australian Open.

Again, he was just too good.

Djokovic broke to take a 2-0 lead and, after he’d hit a perfectly placed drop shot, a fan yelled: “Give him a chance Novak!”

He didn’t, racing to a 5-0 lead and serving out the first set in 30 minutes.

The second set contained long rallies and plenty of tension. Murray was yelling at himself and swiping his racket in anger, and Djokovic waved his racket in frustration as well.

After an exchange of breaks in the seventh and eighth games, Djokovic broke again in the 11th and closed out the set before taking an early break in the third set with a forehand winner around the post. Murray broke back in the sixth game and the set went to tiebreaker.

Djokovic took a 6-1 lead, setting up five championship points, and finished if off in 2 hours, 53 minutes, with an ace on his third match point.

He dropped to his hands and knees and kissed the court, slapping it with his right hand, and went to the stands to hug Boris Becker, his coach since 2014.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

Tennis elite going to Rio, not put off by Zika virus

160625--federer-murray
Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON- While the Zika virus and family concerns have notably deterred some of golf’s best players from going to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the tennis elite isn’t put off.

Defending men’s champion Andy Murray said at Wimbledon on Saturday, “My plan is still to play.”

Roger Federer was also full steam ahead. “I’ll put mosquito spray on my body and take the precautions I have to,” said Federer, the runner-up to Murray in the London Games four years ago and a doubles gold medalist in the 2008 Beijing Games.

“I’m not afraid of Zika,” said Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champ from the Czech Republic. “I will definitely go there.”

Rafael Nadal headlined the Rio Open in February and has said he will go to the Olympics, if fit.

Then there was the blissful ignorance of French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.

“I don’t really know what is Zika,” she said. But the Spaniard was sure the Olympics would not proceed if the virus posed a serious threat.

The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to severe birth defects in infants born to infected women, and possible neurological problems in adults, but to Kvitova the Olympics outweigh the risks.

She said she receives updates from a doctor with the Czech Olympic team, but admits she doesn’t read them all. But there was no way she was missing the games. “For me,” she said, “it’s like another Grand Slam.”

Federer, the father of four kids, respected the choices by the likes of golfers Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel to be unavailable for Rio selection because of the virus. Other absentees, such as Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell, did not cite Zika.

“I have never reconsidered my decision,” Federer said at Wimbledon. “I know I will play. I will try everything I can to be there. For me, it’s always been a big deal, the Olympics, regardless of (tournament) points or not, or where it is.”

Murray, who had his first child in February, has always been positive about going to Rio, but has always sought the latest medical advice.

“The doctor in British tennis, who has been working there for 35-40 years, he thinks (Rio is) pretty safe, and we should be OK,” Murray said. “When I’m done here (at Wimbledon), I’ll have another chat to make sure.”

Wimbledon Odds are Headlined by Favorites Djokovic, Williams

160624 djokovic
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The effect that Novak Djokovic’s seeming invincibility is having on Wimbledon betting odds is twofold.

On the one hand, as the first male tennis player to hold all four Grand Slam men’s singles titles at once since the legendary Rod Laver, Djokovic is an overwhelming -150 favorite to win Wimbledon at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com and continue his quest for the Grand Slam.

With the way the 29-year-old Serbian star has been mowing down opponents, though, there are also higher potential payouts on the odds for other challengers that appear at the All England Club during the upcoming fortnight.

Host-nation favorite Andy Murray is a nominal second favorite at +350 on the tennis betting board at the sportsbooks. Aging great Roger Federer, who could potentially face Djokovic in the semifinal, is listed at +1200.

For Djokovic to lose, it might take a combination of him being below peak form against an aggressive opponent with a big serve and go-for-broke attitude. That explains why sixth seed Milos Raonic (+1400) and No. 15 seed Nick Kyrgios (+2200) are relatively high on the board. Each has the arsenal to win a grass-court tournament and are familiar with Wimbledon.

Stan Wawrinka (+2500) is the most recent player to defeat Djokovic at a Grand Slam match. That was more than a year ago, in the 2015 French Open final.

The Wimbledon women’s champion board is topped, of course, by Serena Williams at +150. Williams has nemesis Roberta Vinci lurking as a quarterfinal matchup.

French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, listed at +550, comes in with a lot of hype. Few deny that Muguruza is on course to be the next big thing in women’s tennis, but it often takes a player time to adapt to the extra attention and heightened expectations that come after a player wins her first Grand Slam singles title.

For instance, Angelique Kerber (+2200) has struggled since winning her first Slam at the Australian Open. The draw, incidentally, is set up so that Muguruza would face Venus Williams (+5000) in the quarterfinal.

Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion who also presents a tough matchup since she is a left-hander, is listed at +600. Kvitova has battled a persistent thigh injury in recent weeks, but always seems to elevate her game at Wimbledon.

Madison Keys (+1400), the 21-year-old American, has garnered valuable All England Club experience by reaching at least the third round for three consecutive years.