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2019 Miami Open suffers setback

By News desk

The 2019 Miami Open suffered severe setbacks after rain wiped out the opening day play, delaying the start of the tournament at its new Hard Rock Stadium home.

Having outgrown the cramped quarters of Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, and unable to secure the necessary approvals to renovate and expand, the Miami Open has moved to the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins but the day-long rain spoilt the moment yesterday.

With a 25 percent jump in ticket sales, tournament director James Blake, the former world number four, had been expecting a record crowd but instead the 14,000 seat temporary show court inside the stadium stood empty and the luxury boxes were silent.

Germany’s Andrea Petkovic and 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova were scheduled to christen the action on the main show court with Mari Osaka, the sister of Japanese world number one Naomi Osaka, taking on Whitney Osuigwe in the nightcap.

Tuesday’s first round play was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s official opening, which will see Serena Williams, who is a part-owner in the Dolphins, Roger Federer and world number ones Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“When we get through the first day or two and see what we are in store for I have a feeling we will be announcing a lot of (attendance) records broken this year,” American Blake told Reuters in a pre-tournament interview.

“I don’t want to be too pie-in-the-sky but I do think we are going to break a records.”

Once the rain disappears fans can expect a wide open tournament if the season follows the current trend.

There have been 19 ATP Tour events this season and 13 WTA events each producing a different winner.

Bianca Andreescu, the 18-year-old Canadian who stunned the field in Indian Wells last week to claim her first career win, is on that list and comes to Miami looking to complete what would be an even more unlikely Sunshine Double.

Sloane Stephens, the reigning Miami champion, and Serena Williams, an eight-time winner of what she considers her home event, can count on having the American crowd in their corner as will John Isner, who is back to defend his crown.

Serena, whose name is not among the 13 women’s winners this season, has sister Venus in her quarter of the draw along with the always dangerous second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep.

The men’s draw is also thick with former champions led by six times winner and world number one Djokovic and three-time winner Federer.

The Swiss comes to Florida in superb form after collecting his 100th career win in Dubai and coming off a finals appearance in Indian Wells but will be on alert after crashing out in the first round here a year ago.

World number one Osaka will also be wary with in-form German player, Angelique Kerber, a losing finalist in Indian Wells, lurking in her quarter.

Japanese tennis player, Osaka, becomes No. 1 after lifting 2019 Australian open

By News desk

Japan tennis player, Naomi Osaka, will on Monday become the 26th Women Tennis Association (WTA) World No.1 following her Australian Open victory.

The victory over his Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova, has made her first Japanese tennis player to attain such height in the history of the game.

Osaka, 21 year-old, who turned professional in 2014, battled Kvitova in a three sets encounter, 7-6 (7/2), 5-7, 6-4, to win her first Australian Open crown on Saturday.

The fourth seed and US Open champion made it two Grand Slam titles in a row after a see-sawing 2hr 27min match.

Her hard-fought victory has further earn her first Asian, male or female, to hold the world’s top ranking, taking over from Romania’s Simona Halep.

A rattled Osaka almost blew her title hopes with one hand on the trophy when she failed to convert three championship points when up 5-3 in the second set.

The never-say-die Kvitova won four straight games to force a deciding set before Osaka finally edged ahead with a decisive break early in the third.

The Japanese youngster fell to one knee in celebration, head bowed, after her epic win as Melbourne Park erupted in thunderous cheers.

It was a marked contrast to her maiden Slam win last year, when Osaka cried as boos rang around Flushing Meadows following losing finalist Serena Williams’ tirade at the umpire.

This time, Osaka wept tears of joy and smiled as she became the youngest woman to win back-to-back majors since Martina Hingis in 1998 and the youngest number one since Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.

Her performance confirms her status as the leading light of tennis’ new generation.

Predictions of a slugfest between two of the game’s biggest hitters proved accurate as Kvitova hit 16 winners to Osaka’s 14 in the first set.

The pair had never met before and Osaka initially struggled to unlock the lanky left-hander’s serve, while Kvitova at times could not handle her opponent’s powerful returns.

The Czech mixed up her game with drop shots and changes of pace but blew three break chances in a crunch sixth game.

Serving to stay in the set, Kvitova saved two set points to force a tie-break, which Osaka ran away with 7-2 after finally appearing to get a read on Kvitova’s serve.

It was the first set the Czech had conceded in the entire tournament.

Kvitova regrouped and kept her hopes alive with the first break of the match to go up 2-0 in the second after going after Osaka’s second serve.

Osaka was frustrated but did not panic, earning three break-back points in the next game, the decisive one off a Kvitova double fault, which she conceded with a poorly hit drop shot to put the set back on level terms.

Osaka, who went into the match with a record of winning 59 straight matches after taking the first set, broke again to take control as Kvitova’s error rate climbed.

Osaka then brought up three championship points off Kvitova’s serve but the Czech saved all of them, forcing Osaka to serve for the title.

Nerves took hold as Osaka conceded a break to make it 5-5, smashing a ball into the ground and putting her hands over her ears.

She was rattled further after losing a challenge in the next, bringing up break point with a cross-court backhand but was unable to stop Kvitova holding.

The Czech then broke again to seize momentum with her fourth straight game, claiming the set as Osaka left the court with a towel draped over her head.

She regained her cool and came out firing in the third, backing herself and clipping a clean backhand winner after another Kvitova double fault brought up break point in the third game.

She still had to see off a Kvitova break opportunity in the next but held comfortably, her mental demons put to bed.

Kvitova would not surrender, saving three break points before again forcing Osaka to serve it out. Osaka managed it on the second attempt for a famous victory.

Serena Williams Defeats World Number One Halep

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fired-up Serena Williams slugged past world number one Simona Halep Monday as she not only avenged her sister Venus defeat but also inched closer to a 24th Grand Slam title.

In a towering performance, the American great scored her biggest win since giving birth to break down the Romanian top seed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and move into a quarter-final against seventh seed Karolina Pliskova.

Czech Pliskova is another form player, winning the warm-up Brisbane International and easing past two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 to set up the Williams clash.

“I’m such a fighter, I never give up,” declared Williams after the epic encounter.

“It was an intense match and there were some incredible points but I love playing tennis and being out here and I love this court, it’s really cool to be back.”

Women’s fourth seed Naomi Osaka was also well composed as she beat crafty Latvian Anastasija in three sets to set up a meeting with ambitious Ukrainian Elina Svitolina for a place in the semi-finals.

But it was the dominant Williams who overshadowed them all and is overwhelming favourite to win an eighth Australian title, with defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Angelique Kerber already out.

She has been in ominous form at Melbourne Park as she seeks one more major title to put her alongside Margaret Court’s record 24, and it looked like French Open champion Halep would be another easy scalp after a first set rout.

But the nuggety Romanian isn’t world number one for nothing and she bounced back to set up a huge power struggle that Williams finally won with a break in the seventh game of the third set.

“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s a great player,” said Williams.

Halep had beaten Venus Williams in the third round to set up the meeting with Serena.

Fourth seed Osaka emerged from an error-strewn first set against Sevastova to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“I think the biggest thing for me is the belief. I think I believe in myself more this year than I have last year,” said the bubbly 21-year-old, who beat Williams in the US Open final last year.

She next faces sixth seed Svitolina, who battled past American Madison Keys 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.

It will be a new experience for whoever wins that showdown, with neither going beyond the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park before.

Svitolina needed to dig deep to overcome 17th seeded Keys, a US Open finalist in 2017.

“I had to put my level up, I’m glad I handled the pressure,” said Svitolina, who scored her biggest career win at the WTA Finals in Singapore last October.

Svitolina was a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park last year and has set her sights high after her breakthrough in Singapore, targeting a Grand Slam win and world number one.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams battles tomorrow

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, two of the greatest players in history, will face off across the net for the first time on Tuesday in the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia.

The battle of the sexes will happen as the United States go up against defending champions Switzerland in the mixed doubles of the unique two-player, mixed teams event.

This year’s tournament is expected to be Perth’s final Hopman Cup and Tuesday’s group tie is an early sellout on the back of the prospect of seeing two of the all-time greats, with 43 Grand Slam singles titles between them, on the same court.

“It is very exciting for both of us and I hope a lot of tennis fans tune in and watch it,” said Federer after opening his Hopman Cup campaign with an easy singles win on Sunday.

“I admire everything she’s done on and off the court, we are both fierce competitors and we always want to win,” added the 20-time Grand Slam champion of the once-in-a-lifetime match.

“It is going to be one time, probably never again. She is one of the biggest champions in our sport ever, men and women combined, so it is great to be playing against her.”

The original “Battle of the Sexes” saw Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in an exhibition singles match in 1973.

Federer said he had plenty of experience playing against women, going back to his days as a teenage tour hopeful in Switzerland.

Despite their long concurrent careers and having attended a few Wimbledon champion dinners together, Federer said the pair barely knew each other.

“I don’t know her that well,” he said.

“In the corridors and cafes, walking by each other, sometimes in the past she has asked me how are the kiddies and how is everyone doing, but if I said I know her it would be a bit of an exaggeration.”

Williams has said in a television interview that she was looking forward to getting a picture with Federer for her Instagram page.

“It is the age of social media,” said Federer, with a grin.

Djokovic the new champion in Shanghai

By News Desk,

Novak Djokovic is the new champion of Shanghai Masters, beating 21 year-old Croatian Borna Coric in two straight sets 6-3 6-4.

By the victory, he has won a record fourth Rolex Shanghai Masters title and his 32nd Masters title overall.

The victory has also galloped him close to finish 2018 as the year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

He is now just 35 points behind 33-time Masters 1000 titles leader Rafael Nadal (7,480) in the year-to-date ATP Race To London with three weeks left in the regular ATP World Tour season, ATPWorldTour.com reported.

Djokovic, who has already booked his place alongside Nadal, Juan Martin, Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev at the prestigious Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in the English capital from 11-18 November, finished as the year-end No. 1 in 2011-12, 2014-15.

Djokovic did not drop his serve in Shanghai all week — 47 service games — and after another confident display in Sunday’s final he improved to a 27-1 match record since capturing the Wimbledon title on 15 July.

On Monday, he will return to the world’s Top 2 — replacing Federer at No. 2 — for the first time since 11 June 2017.

Djokovic had previously captured the Shanghai title in 2012 (d. Murray), 2013 (d. Del Potro), and 2015 (d. Tsonga).

He is now 20-6 at Masters 1000 tournaments this year — second only to Zverev (22-7) for most match wins — and also won Western & Southern Open silverware in August with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Federer to become the first player to capture all nine Masters 1000 titles since the tournament series was established in 1990.

Djokovic leaves China with 1,000 ATP Rankings points and $1,360,560 in prize money after he lifted his 72nd tour-level crown. He has a 45-10 record this season (23-4 on hard courts), which includes three other trophies at Wimbledon (d. Anderson), Cincinnati and the US Open (d. Federer).

Coric earned 600 points and $667,115 after contesting his fifth ATP World Tour final (2-3 record).

Second seed Djokovic was relentless in defence and quick to capitalise on the short ball, in a physical opening to the final that saw six shots as the average rally length through the first six games. The Serbian took a 4-2 lead after 25 minutes when Coric over-hit a forehand long of the baseline. Djokovic kept his opponent on the move, mixing up his service placement and making forays to the net in order to extend his advantage. He clinched the 38-minute first set with a hold to love, having lost four service points overall.

A forehand volley error from Coric gifted Djokovic the opening game of the second set, but the Croatian did well to save four break points in the third game that lasted 11 minutes. With victory in sight, Djokovic raised his return game to hold three championship points at 5-3, but Coric showed great character to work his way back.

The 21-year-old Coric, who beat Federer in the Gerry Weber Open final in June and also on Saturday in the Shanghai semi-finals, was attempting to become the youngest champion at the Masters 1000 tournament, held at the Qi Zhong Stadium. He is now 8-15 lifetime against Top 5 opponent and is 36-18 on the year (22-11 on hard courts).

Coric sends Federer packing from Shanghai, books Djokovic in final

By News Desk,

Borna Coric has recorded another big win of his career, defeating defending champion and top seed, Roger Federer in Shanghai Masters in two straight sets 6-4 6-4 on Saturday.

It was the second time in four months the 21-year-old Croatian will upset Federer. He beat Federer in Halle last June, denying the Swiss veteran from ascension to the tennis top.

The 21 year-old Croatian will now face Novak Djokovic in the finals on Sunday. Djokovic earlier easily trounced another young player, German Alexander Zverev 6-2 6-1 in the semi-final.

Victory over Federer makes Coric qualify for the first time in a Masters 1000 final event.

The Zagreb born player went professional in 2013 and has two ATP titles in his bag.

Naomi Osaka inks brand ambassador deal with Nissan

By News Desk,

Following Osaka’s victory at the U.S. Open last week, beating Serena Williams to become the first Japanese woman to win a women’s singles Grand Slam.

“This week has been a dream come to life, and I’m so honored to represent Japan and Nissan on the world stage,” Osaka said in a statement. “I was drawn to partner with Nissan because of its strong Japanese DNA and global competitive spirit.”

Nissan plans to feature 20-year-old Osaka in ads and “support her activities as a tennis player,” which will include transportation in the company’s cars during her tour, according to a release.

“With a combination of grit and grace, Naomi Osaka is not afraid to take on the best tennis players of our time and win,” said Asako Hoshino, svp at Nissan, in a statement. “This is the same spirit of performance that Nissan has embodied throughout our history.”

Hoshino added that Nissan also defied odds recently with sales of its electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, which has become “the best-selling electric vehicle in the world.”

“Just like Naomi, Nissan is just getting started,” said Hoshino.

Serena Williams qualify for 2018 US Open Quarter-Finals beating Kanepa

By Sports Desk,

Serena Williams started so strong on Sunday that she looked to be in fourth gear. She downshifted from there, but did not stall for long on her way to the United States Open quarterfinals.

After winning the first set by 6-0 in 18 dazzling minutes, hitting 14 winners and only two unforced errors, Williams slipped before ultimately regaining control, prevailing, 6-0, 4-6, 6-3, over Kaia Kanepi.

Kanepi, a powerful Estonian veteran ranked 44th, had knocked out the top-seeded Simona Halep in the first round last Monday in two emphatic sets.

She could do little against Williams at the outset of their fourth-round match, but gained a foothold by breaking Williams in the opening game of the second set.

Serena Williams seeded 17th at U.S. Open, Venus 16th

By Sports Desk,

Serena Williams has been seeded 17th at this year’s U.S. Open, one place below her sister Venus, the event’s organisers said on Tuesday.

Serena, the Wimbledon runner-up this year after losing to Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the final, is ranked 26th in the world, nine places below the seeding she has been awarded.

The current WTA rankings are the usual criteria to decide seeding in the women’s draw.

Williams, who has won the U.S. Open six times and will turn 37 next month, missed last year’s tournament because of pregnancy.

In June, United States Tennis Association president Katrina Adams said the U.S. Open would revise seedings to take into account the effect of pregnancy on the current rankings of players.

Adams’ comments followed widespread criticism of tennis officials after Serena was denied a seeding at this year’s French Open, her first grand slam after returning to the sport.

Romanian Simona Halep is the top seed in the women’s draw with defending champion Sloane Stephens at number three, ahead of Kerber, who won at Flushing Meadows in 2016.

There were no surprises on the men’s side.

World number one and defending champion Rafa Nadal has been named top seed ahead of Roger Federer and Argentine Juan Martin del Porto in third.

Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, who heads to Flushing Meadows in arguably his best form since returning from a troublesome elbow injury, is seeded sixth.

This is a place below big-serving South African Kevin Anderson.

John Isner is the highest-seeded American in the men’s draw at number 11

Nadal withdraws from Cincinnati Masters

By Sports Desk,

Tennis World number one Rafa Nadal has withdrawn from the Cincinnati Masters as he adjusts his schedule to retain fitness ahead of his U.S. Open title defence.

The 32-year-old Spaniard swept aside Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim his 80th career title with victory at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Sunday.

“I am very sorry to announce that I won’t be playing in Cincinnati this year,” Nadal wrote on Twitter late on Sunday.

“No other reason than personally taking care of my body and trying to keep as healthy as I feel now.

“I am very thankful to my friend Andre Silva, Tournament Director of the Cincinnati tournament, who after speaking to him on the phone understood what I said and understands the situation.”

“I am sure the tournament will be a success and I wish him and his team all the best.

“I am also sad for those amazing fans in Cincy and around who always gave me great support. I am sure I’ll see them next year and I am sorry I won’t be with them this year.

“Thanks for all the support as always.”

Nadal’s withdrawal leaves world number two Roger Federer, who skipped the Toronto event, as the highest seed in Cincinnati.

The U.S. Open starts on Aug. 27 in New York.