Filip Polasek wins 1st major doubles title at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Filip Polasek has had a weekend he’ll never forget, winning his first Grand Slam title a day after his second daughter was born.

Little wonder the 35-year-old Slovakian let out a triumphant roar and fell into Croatian partner Ivan Dodig’s arms after the pair beat defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday in the Australian Open men’s doubles final.

Back and left leg injuries forced Polasek to retire in 2013 and he was sidelined from the men’s tour for five years, confined to coaching junior players, until he was convinced to make a comeback in the middle of 2018.

“I never really tried to come back. It was an accident, a nice one. It’s just happened somehow. A friend of mine convinced me to play club matches in Germany,” he said. “Then I realized I don’t have the problems that I had before.”

He said he was hitting with American doubles star Mike Bryan around the same time and “he was kind of making fun I should come back.”

“I was like, `no way.’ Then a few things put together, I felt healthy,” he added. “I said I’ll try to come back.”

He took a month off coaching, without pay. It has finally paid off.

In his first Grand Slam final, Polasek was the best player on the court with brilliant returns complementing a steady serve to help set up the victory.

He’s the second Slovakian player to win a major title after four-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion Daniela Hantuchova.

Polasek had little sleep on Saturday night before his partner delivered their second daughter at a hospital near Bratislava about midnight Friday in Melbourne time.

“It’s quite sad,” to miss the birth, he said, “but to end it up this way here, it’s very nice.

“I have the pictures and videos. That night I didn’t have much sleep, I have to say. The good thing was we had another day extra and I can sleep well before the final.”

For Dodig it was a second major title, after the French Open doubles with Marcelo Melo in 2015.

Polasek and Dodig had 15 breakpoint opportunities and, significantly, took the two that counted on Salisbury’s serve in the eighth game of the first set and seventh game of the second.

The Croatia-Slovak pair were taken to deuce only once, so never felt the pressure that constantly built when Salisbury and Ram stepped up to serve.

Polasek served out the opening set to love and, fittingly, had that honor to finish off the victory, sealing it with the second match point when a Salisbury lob landed over the baseline.

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.