Federer, Kvitova advance at Australian Open

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

3:55 p.m.

Roger Federer took another step toward a 21st Grand Slam singles title with a routine 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Steve Johnson at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer, playing his first tournament of the season, wasn’t troubled in his match with the American as he seeks his seventh Australian title. He won his first in Melbourne in 2004.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova is also through to the second round after beating Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-0.

Kvitova lost the final here last year to Naomi Osaka. Afternoon rain suspended play on outside courts but matches continued on the three stadiums with roofs.

3:10 p.m.

Former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki beat Kristie Ahn 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of the Australian Open, the last tournament of her professional career.

Wozniacki has announced she will retire after the Australian Open, where she won her first major title in 2018. There were several rain delays in the mid-afternoon, prompting organizers to close the roof on each of the three man show courts. Play was suspended on outside courts when heavy rain fell shortly after the first delay.

Rain is on the forecast for the first two days of the Australian Open.

2:30 p.m.

No. 13-seeded Denis Shapovalov is out of the Australian Open after losing in four sets to Marton Fucsovics. The 20-year-old Canadian lost 6-3, 7-6 (7), 6-1, 7-6 (3). Shapovalov berated the umpire and received a code violation during his ill-tempered match on Margaret Court Arena. The blowup came after the third set.

After throwing his racket, Shapovalov was given the code violation that triggered his outburst.

“I didn’t break it. If I break it, 100% code me,” Shapovalov yelled at umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. “You’re not doing your job. You’re just finding reasons to code me.”

Fucsovics also beat the 13th seed last year at Melbourne Park, that time Sam Querrey in the second round.

“Usually this is not a lucky number, but for me, my favorite number,” he said. “I played some of my best tennis today. Everything was working well.”

Not long after Shapovalov’s exit, rain caused the suspension of matches around the grounds.

2 p.m.

Serena Williams won the first set in 19 minutes and had a momentary lapse at the start of the second but completed a 6-0, 6-3 win over Anastasia Potapova. The eighth-seeded Williams is attempting to win her record 24th Grand Slam singles title. Williams had her service broken in the second game of the second set after cruising through the first. But she broke Potapova’s serve two games later, her fifth successful break in six attempts.

Williams won last week’s Auckland tournament.

“I hadn’t been able to win as a mom, so it was nice to finally be able to win a tournament with a 2-year-old now,” Williams said. “”I’ve been pretty close but it was special for me and for her. I hope for her.”

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12:40 p.m.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka has won the opening match in Rod Laver Arena, reeling off the last four games after dropping serve for the only time to beat Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4.

Osaka is aiming to be only the ninth woman to successfully defend the Australian Open title. She wasn’t able to do that at the U.S. Open last year, when she lost in the fourth round a year after winning her first major title in New York, but says she learned some valuable lessons there. “Definitely, it was really tough for me trying to control my nerves. I’m really glad I was able to finish it in two,” Osaka said.

She was given the first match on the main court at Melbourne Park on a day when former champions Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will also feature on Rod Laver.

“Thanks everyone. You probably didn’t come for me, but thanks for filling up the stadium,” she said.

Osaka hit 29 winners and 28 unforced errors, pushing No. 59-ranked Bouzkova around with some heavy ground strokes.

Other seeded players advancing included No. 13 Petra Martic and No. 14 Sofia Kenin.

Martic had a 6-3, 6-0 win over Christina McHale and Kenin beat Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-4.

11:55 a.m.

Radu Albot has withdrawn from the Australian Open before his scheduled first-round match against No. 32-seeded Milos Raonic and will be replaced by lucky loser Lorenzo Giustino, an Italian who is ranked 150th. Albot, who finished 2019 ranked 46th, played for Moldova at the season-opening ATP Cup and lost his three singles matches to Daniel Evans, Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin in the group stage. Organizers did not immediately release details of Albot’s injury.

11 a.m.

Cloudy skies and the threat of rain greeted players and spectators on Day 1 at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the decade.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka was playing the opening match at Rod Laver Arena against Marie Bouzkova. Following that, Serena Williams begins her quest for a record 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic begins his chase for an eighth Australian Open title and third-seeded Roger Federer starts his campaign for a men’s-leading 21st Grand Slam singles title, both in later matches at Rod Laver.

Night matches feature No. 1-ranked Ash Barty, who is hoping to become the first Australian woman to win her home major since 1978, and an American veteran playing a rising star – Venus Williams vs. Coco Gauff.

Weather forecasters are saying there’s a 100% chance of showers along with the possibility of thunderstorms. A high temperature of 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit) is expected.

Paul, McDonald give U.S. 2-0 lead over Uzbekistan in Davis Cup

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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LONDON – Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald, who beat Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park, gave the United States a 2-0 lead over host Uzbekistan in Davis Cup qualifying.

Paul beat Khumoyun Sultanov 6-1, 7-6 (6) after McDonald’s Davis Cup debut produced a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sergey Fomin on an indoor hard court in Tashkent.

The best-of-five-match series finishes with one match in doubles followed by two in singles. The Americans can clinch a spot in the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals if Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek defeat Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev in doubles.

“A sweep would be nice,” Paul said. “Bring out the broomsticks.”

Paul moved into the top 20 in the ATP rankings for the first time this week by reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal in Australia, where he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. McDonald eliminated 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal in the second round at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

David Nainkin is serving as interim captain for the United States, replacing Mardy Fish.

There are 12 qualifiers being held this weekend with the winners of each advancing to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

Nick Kyrgios pleads guilty to assault, has no conviction recorded

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios apologized for shoving a former girlfriend to the ground two years ago after he escaped conviction on a charge of common assault.

The 2022 Wimbledon runner-up pleaded guilty in the Australian Capital Territory Magistrates Court to assaulting Chiara Passari during an argument in his hometown of Canberra in January 2021.

Magistrate Beth Campbell did not record a conviction against Kyrgios for reasons including that the offense was at the low end of seriousness for a common assault, was not premeditated and he had no criminal record.

Kyrgios, who was using crutches following recent surgery on his left knee, ignored reporters’ questions as he left court but issued a statement through a management company.

“I respect today’s ruling and am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” Kyrgios said. “I was not in a good place when this took place and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I’m sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.

“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I’ve found that getting help and working on myself has helped me to feel better and to be better,” he added.

The only media question he responded to as he was about to be driven away from the court was: “what’s next for Nick Kyrgios?”

“Just recovery and get back on court,” Kyrgios replied.

Campbell described the shove as an act of “stupidity” and “frustration.”

She assured him his celebrity was not a factor in him avoiding a criminal record.

“You’re a young man who happens to hit the tennis ball particularly well and your name is widely recognised outside this court room,” Campbell told Kyrgrios.

“I deal with you exactly the same way as any young man in this court.”

Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, said in a written report and testimony by phone that Kyrgios had suffered major depressive episodes around the time of the assault and had used alcohol and drugs to cope. Kyrgios’ mental health led to impulsive and reckless behavior.

His recent knee injury had resulted in mild to moderate symptoms of depression, but his mental health was improving, Borenstein said.

“He’s doing very well,” Borenstein said. “His mental health has improved significantly.”

“Given the history, he is still vulnerable to recurrent episodes of depression depending on life circumstances,” Borenstein added.

Lawyers for Kyrgios had sought to have charge dismissed on mental health grounds but the application was unsuccessful.

In arguing against a conviction being recorded, defense lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith cited the opinion of Kyrgios’s manager of a “strong likelihood of sanctions and impact upon sponsorship” from a conviction. Kyrgios had faced a potential maximum 2-year prison sentence if convicted.

The assault occurred when Kyrgios had been attempting to leave Passari during an argument late Jan. 10, 2021, outside her apartment in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston.

He called an Uber but Passari stood in the way of him closing the front passenger door. The driver wouldn’t leave with the door open.

Kyrgios eventually pushed Passari’s shoulders backward with open palms, causing her to fall to the pavement and graze her knee, according to agreed facts read to the court.

Passari signed a police statement alleging the assault 11 months later, after her relationship with Kyrgios had ended.

His current partner, Costeen Hatzi, wrote in a character reference that she had no concerns of such violence in her relationship. Hatzi was among Kyrgios’ supporters who sat behind him in court.

Kyrgios, wearing a dark suit and using the crutches for support, first spoke in court when the magistrate asked him if he could stand to enter a plea.

Kyrgios replied: “Yep, no worries, Your Honor,” as he rose to plead guilty.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs last year to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense last September to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

The 27-year-old Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because the knee injury which later required arthroscopic surgery.