Getty Images

The Latest: Rafael Nadal has little trouble advancing to third round of Australian Open

Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Latest from the Australian Open on Thursday (all times local):

12:10 a.m.

Rafael Nadal swept aside 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 on Thursday to advance to the third round of the tournament the Spaniard won in 2009.

The 14-time major champion won on his third match point in 2 hours, 13 minutes.

Nadal, who lost in the first round here last year to Fernando Verdasco, is looking to win his first major since the 2014 French Open. He had two lengthy stints on the sidelines last year and played only four matches after a fourth-round exit at the U.S. Open.

He will play Alexander Zverev in the third round. The 24th-seeded Zverev beat Frances Tiafoe in straight sets earlier Thursday.

11:25 p.m.

Eighth-seeded Dominic Thiem is through to the Australian Open’s third round after beating Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-1, 6-7 (6), 6-4 in the last match at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday.

Thompson was attempting to come back from two sets down for the second match in a row. He lost the first two sets to Joao Sousa on Tuesday in the first round, but came back for a five-set victory.

Thiem will next face Benoit Paire, who beat Fabio Fognini 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 earlier Thursday.

9:35 p.m.

Serena Williams has managed to do what another six-time Australian Open champion couldn’t achieve on Thursday – advance to the third round. Williams, playing on the same court that saw six-time winner Novak Djokovic lose in five sets to wild-card entry Denis Istomin, beat Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4.

It was their first meeting since Williams won their French Open final in 2015.

Safarova had saved nine match points in her first-round match, but there were no such theatrics in this one.

The Czech player double-faulted on break point in the seventh game of the second set, and Williams clinched the match three games later.

Williams will now play Nicole Gibbs, who beat another American, Irina Falconi, 6-4, 6-1.

The second-seeded Williams is bidding to become the first player in the Open era to win 23 Grand Slam singles titles. She lost in the final here last year to Angelique Kerber, but clinched her 22nd major, tying Steffi Graf, at Wimbledon.

8:25 p.m.

Croatian veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni has beaten third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round of the Australian Open, her best performance at the tournament in 19 years.

‘”‘t’s amazing. Oh my God, it’s been so long since I won a match or two. Well, this is the first time ever in Australia,” she said. “As I’m getting older, it seems I’m getting better.”

The 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni tends to play well against the top players at the Slams – she’s also beaten Simona Halep at the French Open and U.S. Open in recent years.

Lucic-Baroni won the 1998 Australian Open doubles title with Martina Hingis at the age of 15. She also made the 1999 Wimbledon singles semifinals before quitting the sport for several years.

“I was a little baby back then,” she says of her early success. “Now, I can be maybe more relaxed. I said to myself today on the court, don’t worry, be happy.”

7:15 p.m.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic is out of the Australian Open, beaten 7-6 (8), 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 by wild-card entry Denis Istomin in a second-round match on Thursday.

Istomin made the vital break in the fifth game of the deciding set, then held service the rest of the way in the marathon 4 hour, 48-minute match on Rod Laver Arena.

The match featured a little bit of everything.

In a 15-minute opening game, the six-time champion Djokovic saved six break points. In the second set, he appeared to hyperextend his left leg in the third game, and spent much of the following break stretching it over a chair.

In the 10th game of that set, Djokovic saved two sets points after serving a double-fault.

But Djokovic broke in the following game to lead 6-5, then held his service with four consecutive points to take the set.

Djokovic clinched the third set when he successfully challenged a line call.

Istomin had a set point in the 10th game of the fourth set, then went ahead 5-1 in the tiebreaker before slamming down an ace to send it to a fifth-set decider.

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.

Former No. 1 Kerber tops Ostapenko; into second Wimbledon final

AP Images
Leave a comment

LONDON – It was clear right from the opening game of Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon semifinal how things were going to go. She was not going to dictate or control much.

She was, instead, going to employ spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting her opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, be the one to determine the outcomes of nearly every point.

It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded Ostapenko on Thursday.

“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”

Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. That was also the year the German was the runner-up at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in the title match.

She could find herself up against Williams yet again: The 36-year-old American was scheduled to face No. 13 Julia Goerges of Germany in Thursday’s second semifinal on Centre Court.

Williams took a 19-match Wimbledon winning streak into the day. She won the grass-court tournament the last two times she played it, in 2015 and 2016, before missing it last year while pregnant. Williams gave birth to a daughter in September.

The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.

Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and – this was key – zero unforced errors.

There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.

Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.

Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.

It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending – fittingly enough – on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.

The final tally told the story: Ostapenko had far more winners, 30-10, but also far more unforced errors, 36-7.