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Monday, January 24, 2022

Barty advances, no court action needed for Nadal Down Under

In other men’s play Friday, Marin Cilic and top-seeded Gael Monfils won their quarterfinals at the Adelaide International. Cilic beat Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-2 and Monfils defeated Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-1.

By: AP |
January 7, 2022 4:50:01 pm
(Left) Ash Barty & Rafael Nadal (right). (AP)

Top-ranked Ash Barty has advanced to the Adelaide International semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin while Rafael Nadal advanced via a walkover in tune-up tournaments ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam event.

Barty used her usual backhand slice and powerful forehand drive but also set down 17 aces and won 31 of 32 points on her first serve to advance Friday. Barty lost to Kenin in the Australian Open semifinals at Melbourne Park two years ago.

“I was able to look after my service games pretty well and it was a lot of fun playing out here again and to get a little bit more court time and to start to play a little bit better,” Barty said.

On Wednesday, Barty beat Coco Gauff in three sets in her season opener after almost four months since her last competitive outing.

“That’s what you want. It’s nice to come out here right from the start and know that you have to bring your very best level,” the 2021 Wimbledon champion said. “Obviously looking at these last two matches, there’s still work to do.”

Barty next plays either two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka or Iga Swiatek on Saturday.

In earlier results at Adelaide, seventh-seeded Elena Rybakina beat Shelby Rogers 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals.

Nadal, the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, advanced without taking the court when his Dutch opponent Tallon Griekspoor withdrew. Officials didn’t initially confirm why Griekspoor couldn’t play.

It was only one day after Nadal played and won his first competitive match in five months, beating Ricardas Berankis in straight sets.

Nadal will play unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori on Saturday for a place in the final. Ruusuvuori earlier beat Alex Molcan 6-2, 6-1.

In other men’s play Friday, Marin Cilic and top-seeded Gael Monfils won their quarterfinals at the Adelaide International. Cilic beat Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-2 and Monfils defeated sixth-seeded Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-1.

Second-seeded Simona Halep advanced to the semifinals of the Summer Set 1 tune-up event in Melbourne with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 win over Viktorija Golubic. Zheng Qinwen also advanced after beating Ana Konjuh 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6).

Despite the win, Halep was her usual critical self.

“Nothing was working today,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I fought with myself a lot and found it difficult to control my emotions but she put me in this situation and put pressure on me. But if you want to win, you don’t give up.”

Top-seeded Naomi Osaka was scheduled to play her quarterfinal match on Friday night in the same tournament.

In quarterfinal play of the WTA’s Summer Set 2 in Melbourne, Amanda Anisimova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 and Daria Kasatkina had a 7-5, 6-1 win over Nuria Parrizas Diaz.

The Adelaide and Melbourne tournaments are two of six tune-up events being staged in Australia this week ahead of the season-opening major at Melbourne Park, which starts on Jan. 17.

Kyrgios slams Djokovic treatment, Australia must ‘do better’

Kyrgios, who labelled Djokovic a “tool” after the Serb sought to improve quarantine conditions for players ahead of last year’s Grand Slam, said the situation had been handled poorly. (File)

Novak Djokovic has received support from one of his fiercest critics with Nick Kyrgios criticizing the way the world number one has been treated in Australia and saying authorities must do better for “one of our great champions”.

Djokovic, who has won a record nine Australian Open titles, was detained at the Melbourne airport on Wednesday evening and his entry visa, supported by an medical exemption from the country’s vaccination requirements, was revoked.

Federal Border Force officials at the airport said Djokovic was unable to justify the grounds for his exemption.

Chasing a men’s record 21st Grand Slam, Djokovic is holed up in immigration detention as his lawyers battle to secure his release to play in the Australian Open and be exempt from strict COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

Kyrgios, who labelled Djokovic a “tool” after the Serb sought to improve quarantine conditions for players ahead of last year’s Grand Slam, said the situation had been handled poorly.

“Look I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum’s health, but how we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad,” tweeted Kyrgios.

“Like these memes, headlines, this is one of our great champions but at the end of the day, he is human. Do better.”

American player John Isner said Djokovic had followed all rules and did not deserve to be treated this way.

“What Novak is going through right now is not right,” Isner said on Twitter. “There’s no justification for the treatment he’s receiving … This is such a shame.”

Former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic hoped the situation would be quickly resolved and that the whole episode was not good for the sport.

“Definitely it’s not a great picture for tennis,” Cilic told reporters in Adelaide on Friday.

The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), the breakaway players’ body launched by Djokovic in 2020, said in a statement that they were in close contact with him.

“Djokovic has verified his well-being to us,” the PTPA said in a statement. “He has also requested that we allow him to personally share the facts of his detainment in his own words, and in his own time.”

Djokovic has consistently refused to disclose his vaccination status while publicly criticising mandatory vaccines.

Rafa Nadal, who is also in the hunt for a 21st Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park, was among those who pointed out the Serb knew for months he could potentially face problems if he arrived without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

German tennis great Boris Becker, who coached Djokovic to six majors, urged him to get vaccinated.

“As his former coach I am so close to Novak Djokovic that I would almost regard him as family — but like in all families you sometimes have disagreements,” Becker wrote in a Daily Mail column.

“And on this occasion I think he is making a big mistake in not getting vaccinated. It is one that threatens what remains of his career and his chance to cement himself as the greatest player of all time.”

Becker was, however, unsure if Djokovic would change his mind.

“The same incredible determination which I saw win so many close matches can be a vulnerability with his stubbornness,” Becker added. “Will Novak take that step? I am not sure that he will.

“He is incredibly strong-willed, with very firm beliefs. If he does not, then in 10 years he will look back on it and realise he made a mistake.”

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