Roger Federer into 3rd round to extend Aussie streak

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Roger Federer, who had reached the third round at the Australian Open every year since his tournament debut in 2000, extended his streak by beating Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 in the second round.

The 20-time major champion has won the title in Australia six times and showed why against the 41st-ranked Krajinovic, winning in 1 hour, 32 minutes.

“I’m feeling really relaxed on court,” the 38-year-old Federer said. “I’m happy. I’m still going, and looking forward to the next one, of course.”

Krajinovic’s first-round match was delayed because of heavy rain on Day 1 of the tournament, and he had to get through a tough five-setter against Quentin Halys. Federer finished off a straight-set first-round win over Steve Johnson in 1:21 on Monday.

“It wasn’t 100% fair he played 3 1/2 hours yesterday and I played zero,” Federer said. “Yeah, I do feel a little sorry … but you’ve got to take advantage of it, I guess.”

Federer will next play John Millman, the Australian who produced an upset win over him at the 2018 U.S. Open.

9:55 p.m.

Police say up to 20 people were ejected from the Australian Open for disruptive behavior. The group of men were supporting Greek player Maria Sakkari in a late afternoon match on Court 8 against Nao Hibino of Japan.

“About 6.05 p.m. this evening a group of 15-20 males were evicted from the tennis for disruptive behavior,” Victoria state police said in a statement. “The group had received numerous warnings during a match on Court 8 from a match referee, security and police. After the match the group were asked to leave and did so peacefully.”

The 22nd-seeded Sakkari won the match 7-6 (4), 6-4 and will next play either 10th-seeded Madison Keys or Arantxa Rus.

8:40 p.m.

Serena Williams moved a step closer in her bid for a record 24th major title with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Tamara Zidansek to reach the third round at the Australian Open.

Williams won the last of her seven Australian Open titles in 2017, but hasn’t added a major championship since then. She took time off the tour to have her daughter, Olympia, and has lost four Grand Slam finals in the last two seasons. Her title in Auckland, New Zealand recently was her first at tour-level in almost three years.

The 38-year-old Williams dominated in the first set but was slowed down slightly in the second, when the roof was closed because of rain, and the 70th-ranked Zidansek saved the first seven break-point chances she faced.

“I knew I had to step up, otherwise it was going to be a really long evening for me,” Williams said.

8 p.m.

Bob and Mike Bryan have started their farewell to Grand Slam doubles with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 first-round win over Rohan Bopanna and Yasutaka Uchiyama at the Australian Open.

The 41-year-old American twins have won six Australian Open doubles championships among their record 16 major titles together. The most accomplished men’s doubles team in history, the Bryans announced late last year that they planned to retire after the 2020 U.S. Open.

They won their last Australian title in 2013.

7:40 p.m.

Three-time major semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov has been eliminated at the Australian Open by 22-year-old American Tommy Paul in a second-round match that went to a fifth-set tiebreaker.

Paul had never won a Grand Slam match until this week.

He is ranked 80th.

But he built a two-sets-to-none lead against the 18th-seeded Dimitrov, gave that lead away, was two points from defeat and then pulled out the victory.

Dimitrov’s semifinals at major tournaments include a run to that stage in Australia three years ago and at the U.S. Open in 2019.

7 p.m.

Milos Raonic has set up a third-round match against 2019 semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas by beating Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 at Melbourne Arena.

Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up, had 11 of his 19 aces in the third set.

Tsitsipas took advantage of a walkover in his second-round match, advancing without hitting a ball when Philipp Kohlschreiber pulled out of their match because of a muscle strain.

6:20 p.m.

Tennys Sandgren has upset eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini of Italy in five sets to reach the third round.

Sandgren is ranked only 100th.

He wasted a two-sets-to-none lead against 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist Berrettini but managed to pull out the victory by a score of 7-6 (7), 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5.

Sandgren improved to 4-0 in five-setters. It was also the fourth top-10 win of his career; two of the others also came at Melbourne Park, back in 2018, when Sandgren reached the quarterfinals.

Up next for Sandgren is an all-American matchup against Sam Querrey.

4:30 p.m.

Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic avoided the same mistake he made three years go when he met a wild-card entry in the second round in Melbourne.

Djokovic beat Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in a swirling breeze on Rod Laver Arena to advance to a third-round match against another Japanese player, Yoshihito Nishioka, who is coming off a win over 30th-seeded Dan Evans.

In 2017, Djokovic was upset in the second round by Denis Istomin who, like Ito, had earned his spot in the main draw by winning the Asia-Pacific wild-card playoff. That was Djokovic’s worst performance in Australia since a first-round exit in 2006.

His experience at Melbourne Park counted as the wind picked up in the afternoon.

“Credit to (Ito) for fighting to the end. Tough conditions out here,” Djokovic said. “”The wind can get you out of your comfort zone very quickly.”

3:40 p.m.

Coco Gauff has beaten Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to set up a third-round match against defending champion Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open.

The 15-year-old Gauff rallied after losing the first set and got the pivotal service break in the next-to-last game before serving out against 29-year-old Cirstea, who is playing at the Australian Open for a 12th time.

Gauff started the tournament with her second first-round win over Venus Williams in three majors, following her upset over the seven-time Grand Slam champion at last year’s Wimbledon.

Osaka had to overcame swirling winds on Margaret Court Arena to beat Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 in one of the first matches on Day 3.

Gauff reached the fourth round on her Wimbledon debut and the third round at the U.S. Open.

3 p.m.

Caroline Wozniacki has continued her farewell tournament by overcoming a 5-1 first-set deficit and beating Dayana Yastremska 7-5, 7-5 on her sixth match point in the second round.

Wozniacki has said she plans to retire after this Australian Open. The 2018 champion had three match points in the 10th game of the second set but Yastremska held in a game after she’d taken a medical timeout to treat her left leg.

Wozniacki eventually clinched it two games later with a service break, and wiped tears from her eyes.

Former No. 1-ranked Wozniacki will next play Ons Jabeur, who beat Caroline Garcia 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Aryna Sabalenka wins 1st Grand Slam title at Australian Open

2023 Australian Open - Day 13
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MELBOURNE, Australia – One point away from her first Grand Slam title, Aryna Sabalenka faulted. And then she faulted again. She grimaced. She yelled and turned her back to the court. She wiggled her shoulders and exhaled.

Clearly, this business of winning the Australian Open was not bound to happen without a bit of a struggle Saturday night. Sabalenka knew deep inside that would be the case. She also knew that all of the effort she put in, to overcome self-doubt and those dreaded double-faults, had to pay off eventually. Just had to.

And so, as she wasted a second match point by flubbing a forehand, and a third by again missing another, Sabalenka did her best to stay calm, something she used to find quite difficult. She hung in there until a fourth chance to close out Elena Rybakina presented itself – and this time, Sabalenka saw a forehand from her similarly powerful foe sail long. That was that. The championship belonged to Sabalenka via a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback victory over Wimbledon winner Rybakina.

“The last game, yeah, of course, I was a little bit nervous. I (kept) telling myself, like, ‘Nobody tells you that it’s going to be easy.’ You just have to work for it, work for it, ’til the last point,” said Sabalenka, a 24-year-old from Belarus who is now 11-0 with two titles in 2023 and will rise to No. 2 in the WTA rankings on Monday.

“I’m super happy that I was able to handle all those emotions,” she said, “and win this one.”

The only set she has dropped all season was the opener on Saturday against Rybakina, who eliminated No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round.

It was telling that Sabalenka’s remarks during the post-match ceremony were directed at her coach, Anton Dubrov, and her fitness trainer, Jason Stacy – she referred to them as “the craziest team on tour.”

“We’ve been through a lot of, I would say, downs last year,” said Sabalenka, who was appearing in her first major final and had been 0-3 in Slam semifinals until this week. “We worked so hard and you guys deserve this trophy. It’s more about you than it’s about me.”

Well, she had a lot to do with it, of course. Those serves that produced 17 aces, helping erase the sting of seven double-faults. Those hammered groundstrokes and relentlessly aggressive style that produced 51 winners, 20 more than Rybakina’s total. And, despite her go-for-broke shotmaking, somehow Sabalenka limited her unforced error count to 28. One more key statistic: Sabalenka managed to accrue 13 break points, converting three, including the one at 4-3 in the last set that put her ahead for good.

“She played really well today,” said Rybakina, who has lost all four matches she’s played against Sabalenka, all in three sets. “She was strong mentally, physically.”

While the latter has long been a hallmark of her game, even Sabalenka acknowledges that the first has been an issue.

Her most glowing strength was also her most glaring shortfall: her serve. Capable of delivering aces, she also had a well-known problem with double-faulting, leading the tour in that category last year with nearly 400, including matches with more than 20.

After much prodding from her group, she agreed to undergo an overhaul of her mechanics last August. That, along with a commitment to trying to keep her emotions in check – she used to work with a sports psychologist but no longer, saying she relies on herself now – is really paying off.

“She didn’t have great serve last year, but now she was super strong and she served well,” said Rybakina, a 23-year-old who represents Kazakhstan. “For sure, I respect that. I know how much work it takes.”

With seagulls squawking loudly while flying overhead at Rod Laver Arena, Rybakina and Sabalenka traded serious racket swings for nearly 2 1/2 hours.

The serves were big. So big. Rybakina’s fastest arrived at 121 mph (195 kph), Sabalenka’s at 119 mph (192 kph).

The points were over quickly. So quickly: Seven of the first 13 were aces.

Sabalenka had been broken just six times in 55 service games through the course of these two weeks, but Rybakina did it twice in the opening set.

And never again. Sabalenka resolved to take the initiative even more, and the payoff for her high-risk, high-reward attitude was too much for Rybakina to withstand over the last two sets.

Sabalenka said ahead of time that she expected to feel some jitters. Which makes perfect sense for anyone: This was the most important match of her career.

At the end, when it mattered more than ever, Sabalenka was able to steady herself. After the final point, she dropped to her back on the court and stayed down for a bit, covering her face as her eyes welled with tears.

Quite a difference from a year ago at Melbourne Park, when Sabalenka departed after 15 double-faults in a fourth-round loss.

“I really feel right now that I really needed those tough losses to kind of understand myself a little bit better. It was like a preparation for me,” Sabalenka said at her post-match news conference, her new trophy nearby and a glass of bubbly in her hand. “I actually feel happy that I lost those matches, so right now I can be a different player and just a different Aryna, you know?”

Rybakina, Sabalenka to meet in Australian Open women’s final

australian open
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MELBOURNE, Australia — What all seemed so different, so daunting, even, about trying to win a Grand Slam title to Elena Rybakina a little more than six months ago is now coming rather naturally.

And if she can win one more match, she will add a championship at the Australian Open to the one she collected at Wimbledon.

Rybakina, a 23-year-old who represents Kazakhstan, reached her second final in a span of three major tournaments by beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (4), 6-3 at Melbourne Park, signaling a rapid rise toward the top of tennis.

“Everything was new at Wimbledon,” Rybakina said after hitting nine aces in the semifinals to raise her tournament-leading total to 44. “Now I more or less understand what to expect.”

That could come in handy Saturday, when she will face No. 5 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Sabalenka reached her first Grand Slam title match at age 24 by beating unseeded Magda Linette 7-6 (1), 6-2 in Thursday’s second semifinal.

Sabalenka improved to 10-0 in 2023, winning all 20 sets she has contested this season.

More importantly, the victory over Linette gave Sabalenka her first taste of success in a Slam semi after going 0-3 at that stage until now, losing each previous attempt by a 6-4 score in the third set.

Rybakina and Sabalenka employ a somewhat similar brand of tennis, relying on big serves and big hitting at the baseline. Sabalenka is far less cautious, though, and her penchant for high-risk, high-reward play was evident against Linette, who had never before been past the third round in 29 appearances at majors.

Sabalenka finished with a whopping 33-9 edge in winners, but also compiled more unforced errors – including a trio that led to a break at love by Linette in the opening game.

The key to both semifinals turned out to be a first-set tiebreaker. Azarenka lost the mark on her strokes, for the most part, making things smoother for Rybakina, while Sabalenka raced to a 6-0 lead in hers. It wasn’t the case that each and every shot Sabalenka hit landed right on a line, but it must have seemed that way to Linette.

“In the tiebreaker, I really found my rhythm,” Sabalenka said. “Started trusting myself. Started going for my shots.”

Rybakina’s win over Azarenka, the champion at Melbourne Park in 2012 and 2013, added to what already was an impressive run through a string of top opponents. She also beat No. 1 Iga Swiatek and No. 17 Jelena Ostapenko – both owners of major titles – and 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins.

“For sure, they’re very experienced players,” said Rybakina, whose parents and sister have been in town throughout the Australian Open. “I knew that I have to focus on every point.”

She delivered serves at up to 117 mph (189 kph) and stinging groundstrokes that she used to close points seemingly at will on Thursday. Her performance was particularly noteworthy against a returner and defender as established on hard courts as Azarenka, a former No. 1 and a three-time runner-up at the U.S. Open.

“Kind of hard to digest,” Azarenka said. “Obviously, I had quite a few chances that I gave myself.”

Rybakina is just 23, 10 years younger than Azarenka, and the future sure looks bright at the moment.

Rybakina might be seeded just 22nd in Melbourne, and ranked just 25th, but those numbers are rather misleading and not indicative at all of her talent and form. She did not get the usual bump from her title last July at Wimbledon, where zero rankings points were awarded after the All England Club banned players from Russia and Belarus because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Rybakina was born in Moscow; she switched to Kazakhstan in 2018, when that country offered to fund her tennis career.

It was breezy and chilly at Rod Laver Arena from the start of Rybakina vs. Azarenka, with the temperature dipping below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).

That had a role in the way the first set was as much of a seesaw as can be, with each player seeming to gain the upper hand – and then ceding it just as quickly. Both found the conditions slowed down the tennis balls.

“Kind of misjudged a lot of balls,” Azarenka said.

Rybakina encountered similar issues and her occasional inconsistency was encapsulated by the very first game. She began, inauspiciously enough, with a double-fault, before holding with the help of three aces.

Azarenka nosed ahead by breaking for a 3-2 lead on a leaping, full-extension volley winner with both women at the net. Rybakina, though, broke right back, and then once more to go up 5-3.

Azarenka saved a set point at 5-3 with a terrific down-the-line forehand passing shot, wound up taking the game with a backhand she accented with a shout of “Let’s go!”

A mistake-filled tiebreaker ended with Azarenka pushing a forehand wide to cap an 11-shot exchange, and the set belonged to Rybakina. She broke at love for a 2-1 lead in the second, and while they competed for another 25 minutes, the outcome was never really much in doubt.

Sure, Rybakina again faltered for a bit while trying to serve out the victory at 5-2. No one expected Azarenka to go quietly. But one last break, aided by a double-fault from Azarenka, allowed Rybakina to take another step toward another trophy.

“Ready,” she said, “to give everything I have left.”