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

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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.”

Top-seeded Halep survives marathon match

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Top-seeded Simona Halep served for the match four times before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 over American Lauren Davis in a marathon match at Rod Laver Arena.

Halep saved three match points in the 22nd game of the third set at 0-40 and Davis saved five break points in the 23rd game in the 3 hour, 45-minute match. The final set took 2 hour, 22 minutes and Halep won on her first match point when Davis hit a forehand wide along the sideline.

Davis twice had medical timeouts in the final set to have blisters on both feet treated.

Halep will play the winner of Saturday’s later match between local hope Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

In other women’s third-round matches, sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 and No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Garcia will play Madison Keys in the fourth round.

 

More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen

Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.