Danielle Collins wishes roof stayed open at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The way Danielle Collins looks at it, the end of her surprising run at Melbourne Park was something of an open-and-shut case.

The 25-year-old American was every bit Petra Kvitova’s equal during their Australian Open semifinal during the time Rod Laver Arena’s retractable roof was open – and she never really had a chance once it was shut as the temperature approached 105 degrees (40 Celsius) on Thursday.

The match was even at 4-all after 35 minutes, when the tournament’s extreme heat policy was invoked, and the cover was closed to block out the scorching sun. Collins did not appreciate that switch and wound up losing 7-6 (2), 6-0 to two-time major champion Kvitova.

“They need to start the match the way it’s going to finish, I think,” Collins said. “I think they do that in football, and I think it certainly changed a little bit of the rhythm in the match.”

There’s no doubt that Kvitova’s level of play rose substantially once it became an indoor contest.

She has made clear over the years that she does not love playing in high heat and humidity.

As for Collins?

“Honestly, I like playing in the heat. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly has its challenges,” said the 35th-ranked Collins, who won two NCAA titles at the University of Virginia.

“I grew up in Florida and am used to it being really hot all the time. So I kind of embrace that very well. Indoor tennis is a different game. Certainly had its effect.”

She also had her issues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who called three code violations on Serena Williams and docked her a game during the U.S. Open final last September.

In the tiebreaker, then early in the second set, Collins went back-and-forth with Ramos, complaining about his procedural rulings. The exchanges did not help Collins and seemed to distract her as she let Kvitova seize control of the match.

It was an abrupt ending to quite a debut performance by Collins at the Australian Open.

She arrived at the tournament with an 0-5 record in Grand Slam matches and a losing mark of 17-22 overall on tour. But Collins managed to beat No. 2-seeded Angelique Kerber – who owns three major titles – along with No. 14 Julie Goerges and No. 19 Carolina Garcia.

“There is a lot of great things to build off of, and I think I had a really great learning experience throughout the entire tournament, and especially today,” Collins said. “I’m really excited for my success to be recognized, and to continue playing on the biggest stage and against the biggest and best opponents in the world.”

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.