Andreescu continues hot streak, qualifies for Aussie Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Bianca Andreescu has followed up her wins last week over defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and seven-time major winner Venus Williams by qualifying for the season’s first Grand Slam tournament.

The 18-year-old Canadian would like to follow it up with another win over a big-name player – like No. 1 Simona Halep or Serena Williams.

First things first, though. After beating Tereza Smitkova on Friday to earn a spot in the main draw of a major for only the second time – her first was at Wimbledon in 2017 – Andreescu ended up with a first-round match against American wild-card entry Whitney Osuigwe, who finished last year ranked No. 226.

They’re in the same half as Halep and seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams, but in the lower quarter.

“With what happened last week, I think I can get pretty far into next week,” said Andreescu, who was leading 6-0, 4-1 when Smitkova retired with an injury. “And I’m just using momentum from last week. Hopefully I can do that next week as well.

“I think I used it pretty well in the qualifying matches, so I’m really pleased.”

Andreescu reached the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand last week, beating Wozniacki, Venus Williams and third-seeded Hsieh Su-wei before losing to Julia Goerges in three sets.

She raced from Auckland to Melbourne to enter qualifying, something she’s hoping her rise up the rankings will help her avoid at the next major.

“My goal was to, at the beginning of the year, was to get into the French Open main draw right away – not having to go through qualies,” she said. “I think I’m one step closer to that.”

Andreescu moved up 45 places last week to No. 107, and attracted a lot of attention at home.

“Definitely, yeah. I’m getting a lot of messages. I’m getting a lot of followers, especially from politicians, which really amazed me,” she said. “It’s really an honor – I’m really grateful for everyone’s support.

“I got a message from a little girl, just saying that she’s starting to play tennis because of me. That was pretty amazing.”

It was some advice a couple of years ago from Halep, who told her to play more pro events rather than juniors, that helped set Andreescu on her way.

“I think I’m getting more and more experience playing on big stages, and I think that’s going to be help me with everything,” Andreescu said. “It’s amazing. It’s my second time qualifying for a major. I’m really pleased with my game right now. and how my body is holding up, and my mental, too.”

On the men’s side, 22-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis had a 6-4, 6-4 win over Canadian Peter Polanski to earn his spot in the main draw after contentiously missing out on a qualifying spot following a series of injuries.

Kokkinakis, who notched a win over Roger Federer last year, later said missing out on the wild card certainly served as motivation. He will play Taro Daniel of Japan in the first round.

Dan Evans, who hit a spinning-around backhand winner early in the qualifying tournament that is an early contender for shot of the year, qualified for his first major since returning from a 12-month ban for a doping infringement last year when he beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3. He will open against fellow qualifier Tatsuma Ito.

Top-ranked Swiatek, Kvitova reach quarters at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Top-ranked Iga Swiatek advanced to the quarterfinals of the Agel Open after Ajla Tomljanovic retired with an injury during the second set of their second-round match on Wednesday.

The Polish U.S. Open champion was leading 7-5, 2-2 when her Australian opponent retired due to a left knee injury at the indoor hardcourt event in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava.

Swiatek, who also won the French Open in June, will next face American qualifier Catherine McNally or Karolina Muchova.

Home favorite and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova upset second-seeded Paula Badosa of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against this year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who rallied to eliminate Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5.

Czech players also won the last two first-round matches on the schedule.

Muchova knocked out seventh-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4, 6-4 and Barbora Krejcikova ousted American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-2 for her sixth straight victory after she won the Tallinn Open on Sunday for her first WTA title of the year.

Djokovic near flawless to reach second round in Astana

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan – Novak Djokovic delivered a near-flawless performance to ease into the second round of the Astana Open with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Cristian Garin on Wednesday as he goes for a third straight tournament title.

Djokovic dropped just six points on his serve and won the last five games to seal the win in just 62 minutes.

Djokovic is coming off a victory in Tel Aviv last week and – aside from a match at the Laver Cup – the Wimbledon champion hasn’t lost since the French Open quarterfinals.

“From the start to the end, (it was) a great performance,” Djokovic said. “Playing in a new tournament, different conditions, the first match is never easy. Obviously you are looking to see how you are going to adapt, but I did it perfectly, really, played as well as I can.”

Djokovic will next play Botic van de Zandschulp.

Top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz lost in the opening round on Tuesday in his first match since winning the U.S. Open title to capture the No. 1 spot.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the quarterfinals by beating 19-year-old Luca Nardi of Italy 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). Nardi was playing just his fifth tour-level main-draw match and impressed the third-seeded Greek, who didn’t earn a single break point.

“He’s a player that can play very well in the future,” Tsitsipas said. “There weren’t any holes. I believe today he was able to sustain that level from the beginning to end, and that was extremely impressive.”

Roberto Bautista Agut also reached the quarterfinals as he followed up his first-round upset of Felix Auger-Aliassime by beating Pavel Kotov 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Marin Cilic, who lost the Tel Aviv final to Djokovic, had to come from behind to beat Oscar Otte 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round to set up a round-of-16 match against Karen Khachanov.