Giant killer, Giorgi, eliminates Radwanska, sets up Kerber clash

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Italian lowly ranked tennis player, Camila Giorgi, continued her impressive run at the Sydney International by beating Polish tennis player, Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-1 6-2 on Thursday, January 11, to set up a semi-final clash with Angelique Kerber.

The world’s 100th ranked tennis player, shook off her rating to beat U.S. Open champion, Sloane Stephens, in the first round and then ousted two-time Wimbledon and former Sydney champion, Petra Kvitova.

She is yet to drop a set over six matches in qualifying or the main draw, and will next meet world number 22, Kerber, who staged a 6-3 6-1 victory over Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter final.

Former world number one, Kerber, fell out of the top 20 in 2017, but has made a strong start to 2018 ahead of the Australian Open, with victories over Lucie Safarova and Venus Williams recently.

Kerber, who won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open titles in 2016, said: “I‘m not looking back 2017 any more.

”I’ve had a great off-season and I‘m working hard. I‘m trying to do my best on court and win as many matches before going to Melbourne.

“It’s just the beginning of the year. I‘m trying to play my game again, enjoy every minute on court. I‘m trying to be aggressive and play like I did the year before last.”

Meanwhile, the other semi-final, in Sydney, will be an all-Australian affair as Ashleigh Barty and Daria Gavrilova face each other for a place in the final.

Barty completed a 6-3 6-2 victory over Czech’s Barbora Strycova, while Gavrilova advanced after her quarter-final opponent, Garbine Muguruza, withdrew due to a leg injury.

Federer to begin Australia Open against Bedene

here By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Following the just concluded Australian Open draws, Swiss tennis player, Roger Federer, will begin his title defense against Slovenian, Aljaz Bedene, when the Grand Slam event serves off on January 15.

Top seed, Rafa Nadal, who lost to Federer in the final of the 2017 edition, was paired with Dominican, Victor Estrella Burgos, at the draw on Thursday, January 11.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams will not defend the women’s title having had her first child in 2017, but 2008 champion, Maria Sharapova, who failed a drugs test at the tournament in 2016, is back unseeded after a ban, and will face Germany’s Tatjana Maria.

Men’s third seed, Grigor Dimitrov, will face a qualifier, as Alexander Zverev plays Italian, Thomas Fabbiano, with 2014 champion, Stan Wawrinka, returning after surgery, in his section of the draw.

Youngster, Zverev, had little luck in his first Australian Open as a top five seed with either Wawrinka, who plays Ricardas Berankis, or Novak Djokovic would stand in his path in the quarter-finals.

14th seed, six-times Melbourne Park champion, Djokovic, after missing the end of the 2017 with an elbow injury, will take on America’s Donald Young in his first match with Frenchman, Gael Monfils, billed to be his second round opposition.

Federer also has Milos Raonic, Juan Martin del Potro, David Goffin and Tomas Berdych in the quarter of the draw, while Nadal would appear to have the easier section, although former U.S Open champion, Marin Cilic, would appear as a last-eight opponent.

Serena fires warning shot at rivals ahead return

By Emmanuel Onminyi with agency report,

Following her withdrawal from the Australian Open due to fitness issues, 23-time Grand Slam winner, Serena Williams, has sent a warning to her rivals in the tennis world that she expects to be even better on her comeback to the WTA Tour as she targets a record 25 Grand Slam titles.

The 36-year-old believes the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, will allow her to feel more free on court, although she remains hungry to overtake Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

Williams who will not defend her Australian Open crown after delaying her comeback, remains confident of adding to her collection upon her return.

She told Vogue: “To be honest, there’s something really attractive about the idea of moving to San Francisco and just being a mom.

“But not yet. Maybe this goes without saying, but it needs to be said in a powerful way: I absolutely want more Grand Slams.

“I’m well aware of the record books, unfortunately. It’s not a secret that I have my sights on 25. And actually, I think having a baby might help. When I’m too anxious I lose matches, and I feel like a lot of that anxiety disappeared when Olympia was born. Knowing I’ve got this beautiful baby to go home to makes me feel like I don’t have to play another match.

After Serena’s absence from the tour due to pregnancy, there has been a battle for supremacy at the top of the women’s game.

Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova and current world number one, Simona Halep, have all sat at the top of the rankings, but Serena has warned her rivals that she will be back at the top soon enough.

“I don’t play to be the second best or the third best. If there’s no clear number one, it’s like, yeah, I can get my spot back. But if there is a clear number one, that’s cool, too, because it’s like, yeah, I’m gonna come for you.”





Falconets declare readiness to face South Africa

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Nigeria’s Under 20 female team, Falconets, will on Saturday, January 13, take on their South African counterparts in the first leg of the final round of African qualifying series for the 2018 FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup finals in France.

To reach this stage, the Falconets overwhelmed their oppositions from Tanzania 9-0 on aggregate, before sending their Moroccan counterparts packing with a 6-2 scoreline after two legs.

The South African girls shot past Namibia and Burundi to secure a doubleheader with rivals, Nigeria, with the opening leg at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday, 3pm South African time (2pm Nigeria time).

Falconets’ coach, Chris Danjuma, told that his team, which departed Nigeria on January 3, are prepared to take the game to the South Africans in Polokwane.

“We have been working very hard at training for some weeks now, and we are very focused on earning the World Cup ticket. Of course, we understand that the South Africans would be tougher opposition than our previous opponents.

“We are ready for them. Our eyes are on the ticket to France.”

Nigeria reached the final of the tournament in 2014 in Canada but lost 1-0 to a resilient German side after regulation time.


Radwanska knocks out Konta in Sydney International

By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Ahead of the season opening Grand Slam event, British tennis player, Johanna Konta’s Sydney International title defence swiftly ended in a defeat to Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round.

A surprising slide in the rankings to 28th meant the former world number two, Radwanska, entered this week as an unseeded player, but she showed her quality in a 6-3, 7-5 victory over the British number one.

In a repeat of 2017’s final, this time the fourth seed, Konta, could not take control of the contest against the Polish former Wimbledon runner-up.

Consolation for Konta came with the fact that she completed the match without obvious physical problems, five days after being forced to retire from her Brisbane International quarter-final with Elina Svitolina, due to injury.

She now heads for Melbourne and the Australian Open, where, 12 months ago, she reached the quarter-finals, while Radwanska stays in Sydney and faces the American teenager, Cici Bellis next.

Radwanska told “I’m just so happy to play such a great match before the Australian Open. It was a top-10 level match with some ups and downs, breaks along the way. The conditions weren’t easy, but I’m happy to win in two sets.”

Meanwhile, Slovakian, Dominika Cibulkova, won a second-round contest against Russia’s Elena Vesnina to reach the quarter-finals, coming through with a 6-4, 6-4 victory, as Czech Republic’s Barbora Strycova and Australian, Samantha Stosur, also recording wins in their respective games.

U.S. Open champion, Stephens, crashes out in Sydney

click By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

U.S Open champion Sloane Stephens’ preparations for the Australian Open hit the rocks on Monday, January 8, when she was bundled out of the first round of Sydney International by Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Stephens, who has not played since the Fed Cup final in November, looked rusty against the hard-hitting Giorgi and made 35 unforced errors as she lost 6-3 6-0 to the 26-year-old in an hour.

The world number 13 has not won a match since beating Madison Keys in the final of the Flushing Meadows in September 2017.

She lost both singles encounters in the Fed Cup against Belarus, lost twice in the WTA Elite Trophy event in Wuhai and suffered first-round losses in two tournaments in China.

“I trained in Italy, my home, and felt so very good. I did six weeks of preparation. It was great. Very good,” said Giorgi, who missed the end last season with an elbow injury.

“I made a few errors at the start but then I played my game and it was good after that.”

Giorgi will next meet two-time Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, who secured her passage after 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, retired following a first set 6-1 loss.

Meanwhile, Germany’s 2016 Melbourne Park title winner, Angelique Kerber, also progressed to the next round, saving two match points to beat Lucie Safarova 6-7(3) 7-6 (8) 6-2.

Kerber’s victory sends her into a second round clash with multiple grand slam champion, Venus Williams.

However, Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, also reached the last 16 with a swift 6-3 6-1 demolition of eighth seeded Latvian, Anastasija Sevastova.

In the mean time, Sydney’s weather continued to wreak havoc as extreme heat was replaced by storms with hail, lightning and rain all halting the Kerber-Safarova clash.

The Australian Open, the opening grand slam of the year, runs from January 15 to 28, 2018.

Nadal, Djokovic eye return from injury ahead Australian Open

follow url By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Ahead of the January 15 Australian Open date, Spanish tennis player, Rafael Nadal, and Serbian, Novak Djokovic, will use the Kooyong Classic starting on Tuesday, January 9, as a convenient emergency stop to gain much-needed match practice as the pair return from injury in time for the first Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The upcoming edition will feature five of the world’s top 10, including ATP Finals runner-up and two-time Kooyong champion, David Goffin, Austrian, Dominic Thiem, Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. Under the ad-hoc rules, late additions, Nadal and Djokovic will be playing practice matches.

World number one, Nadal, who missed the warm-up Brisbane International last week with a knee injury, is set for just one appearance on Tuesday when he faces Frenchman, Richard Gasquet.

Djokovic, who has not played competitively since a right elbow problem forced him to quit Wimbledon in the quarter-finals in July 2017, will face Thiem on Wednesday, January 10.

“The addition of both Novak and Rafa changes our schedule and the way we will run the four days but that’s what Kooyong is all about, we are here to help the players get ready for the Open,” said tournament director, Peter Johnston.

Meanwhile, the women’s draw, now into a second season after being introduced in 2017, includes new Hopman Cup champion, Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, Aussie teen, Destanee Aiava and young Chinese star Wang Xinyu.

However, Pat Cash, the 1987 Australian Open winner who coaches American CoCo Vandeweghe, serves as an official ambassador for the event and said it would be good preparation for Djokovic and Nadal.

“Everyone will be watching Rafa’s legs and Novak’s arm,” he said.

“It can make for a very exciting week of tennis. Both guys had good preparation, they just suffered setbacks. But when those come within a couple of weeks from the Australian Open, it’s a bit of a worry.

“They have to be absolutely ready, players can be quite anxious about it all.”

Nick Kyrgios wins Brisbane International, boosts Australian Open chances

source By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Australia tennis player, Nick Kyrgios, beat Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-2 in the Brisbane International final on Sunday, January 7, to clinch his maiden tour title on home soil and gain a confidence boost ahead of the Australian Open.

Carrying a knee injury, the Australian made a slow start and was forced to save five break points before he managed to carve out own his first break in the seventh game.

The 22-year-old claimed the first set before taking control of the match after his American opponent dropped serve at the start of the second set with a double fault.

Kyrgios broke the big-serving Harrison again in a sublime second set display to close out the match and seal his fourth career title.

“I’ve got fond memories of Brisbane, played Davis Cup here and had a massive win over the US,” Kyrgios said. “Coming here all week I felt right at home. I love playing in front of you guys even though sometimes you may not see it that way, but I do.”

Kyrgios became the second Australian to lift the trophy in the tournament’s 10-year history after Lleyton Hewitt in 2014. The triumph lifts him four spots to 17th in the world rankings ahead of this month’s Australian Open.

Serena withdraws from Australia Open

go here By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

United States tennis star, Serena Williams, has withdrawn from the season-opening Grand Slam, Australia Open, in Melbourne, Australia, and will not defend the title she won in 2017.

The 36-year-old was hoping to return to the court after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner defeated her sister, Venus, in the 2017 Australia Open,  6-4 6-4, and had a second consecutive title in her sights when the tournament serves off later in January, 2018.

She has won the tournament seven times, with her first victory coming in 2003. But on Friday morning, January 5, the former world number one said she was withdrawing from the tournament, which starts on January 15.

“After competing in Abu Dhabi I realised that although I am super close, I’m not where I personally want to be. My coach and team always said ‘only go to tournaments when you are prepared to go all the way’.

“I can compete – but I don’t want to just compete, I want to do far better than that and to do so, I will need a little more time.”

Serena returned to the court on December 30 at the World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, where she lost an exhibition match against Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 3-6 10-5.

Federer, Bencic shoot Switzerland into Hopman semi-final

source url By Emmanuel Onminyi with Agency report,

Swiss tennis players, Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic, overcame Jack Sock and CoCo Vandeweghe respectively, to help Switzerland secure a 3-0 victory over the United States and book a place in the final of the Hopman Cup on Thursday, January 4.

Federer stepped up his preparation for the Australian Open with a 7-6(5) 7-5 win in a thrilling encounter to give his side a 1-0 lead in front of a packed Perth Arena, with a record crowd of 14,029.

According to reuters, the 19-times Grand Slam champion opened up a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker of an evenly-matched first set but Sock levelled at 4-4 with a rush of powerful drives. Federer then took control, producing a neat backhand volley to close out the first set.

The second set went with serve up to 4-4 before Sock missed an opportunity to break. The world number eight Sock, then double-faulted at 5-5 as Federer pounced to snatch a decisive break and went on to seal the win.

“I’ve maintained a high level in all three matches, which is a great thing,” Federer said after the match.

“This was another step up in terms of ranking and I thought it was a very entertaining match for both of us… I thought it was a good step forward.”

In the mean time, Bencic secured the victory for Switzerland with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Vandeweghe. Federer and Bencic then won the mixed doubles 4-3(3) 4-2.

Group B winners Switzerland will face the winner of Group A in Saturday’s final, with Germany, Belgium and Australia all capable of sealing top spot.