Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saville through to Open junior semis

Updated January 26, 2012 15:22:49

Australia's top-ranked junior Luke Saville has scraped through to the semi-finals of the Australian Open boys' championship.

Saville, who turns 18 next week, defeated number seven seed Kyle Edmund of England 7-5, 7-5.

The reigning junior Wimbledon champion meets Czech Adam Pavlasek for a spot in the final.

"It's good to back up what I did last year," Saville said.

"It wasn't the most clean match. It was a little bit breezy and I think we were both suffering from a few nerves.

"Sometimes it's nicer to win a bit scrappy and you can draw confidence from that.

"I could have made it a lot easier today. I served quite poorly throughout the match and definitely didn't play my best tennis."

Saville said he was aware he was a bigger target following his Wimbledon win.

"At Wimbledon, I was around 20 in the world and I'm now number one in the world," he said.

"Obviously, everyone's shooting for me now and trying to take me down but, from a young age, I've been top in Australia for my age group so I've experienced that feeling of being top dog.

"But I guess there are a few more expectations and pressure but I love the challenge and usually I thrive on that pretty well."


Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 26, 2012 13:37:45

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No let-up for marathon man Djokovic

Updated January 28, 2012 13:51:54

Having waited for years to shake up the tennis establishment, Novak Djokovic clung jealously to his throne as he marshalled his forces to put down an attempted coup by Andy Murray at the Australian Open.

The Serbian's 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 7-5 semi-final win at the Rod Laver Arena ensured at least another few months of grand slam exile for the fourth-seeded Briton Murray, but also showed the price of power for world number one Djokovic.

Having just won a nearly five-hour war of attrition against the Scot, ironman Djokovic must recover for another brutal test against world number two Rafa Nadal in Sunday's final.

The Spaniard was pushed hard by great rival Roger Federer in their four-set semi-final on Thursday, but finished the match brimful of confidence and full of running.

He also has an extra day's rest and if he watched Djokovic's match on television, he would have delighted in every slogging minute the Briton put him through.

"There is no secret, it is going to be physical again," said Djokovic, who advanced to his third straight grand slam final.

"I will do my best to recover. I have a day-and-a-half.

"I will try to get as much sleep and recovery program underway and hope for the best.

"I think that's going to be crucial, for me to recover and to be able to perform my best, because Rafa is fit.

"He's been playing well. He had an extra day. He definitely wants to win this title."

As in his quarter-final match against Spaniard David Ferrer, Djokovic was reduced to a panting, squatting mess a number of times during the Murray clash.

The Serb said he had seen a doctor about his stuffy nose and put it down to an allergy, but said there was little that could be done.

"I've been trying to do everything possible to clear that out. But we are all surrounded with the flowers," he said.

"It's really difficult to take that away. But still no excuses."

After Murray's last act of resistance - a scrambling forehand that failed to clear the net - the relief on Djokovic's face was palpable as he fell to his knees on centre court, leaned back and roared at the stars.

The Murray he had played was a far different beast to the petulant opponent he destroyed in three sets in the final last year on the way to a 41-match winning streak and three grand slam titles.

In the lead-up to this year's tournament, the long-time friends and hit-up partners were kept apart on the orders of Murray's new coach Ivan Lendl, who saw no value in the matey games of soccer held between the rival camps in years past.

Djokovic said the Murray that emerged from lockdown was a more assured breed and willing to take his chances.

"He was more confident on the court. He was taking his chances. He was being more aggressive. I think he was playing better," the 24-year-old said.

"He's already a complete player. Even last year he was. It's a matter of, you know, having a little bit of luck combined with a choice of the right shots at the right moments, and that's it.

"I mean, he's so close to winning a grand slam. He's one of the best players in the world, that's for sure."

Murray is convinced he is now a better player than last year and on an upward curve.

"Everybody matures at different ages and different rates. I feel now like I'm ready mentally (to challenge the top three)," Murray said.

"Physically I can still get better, for sure. But in comparison to how I played last year, it was much, much better.

"Tonight's match was important for many reasons. Obviously I wanted to win first and foremost, but after last year, the year that Novak had, I think there's a very fine line between being number one in the world and being three or four.

"I think that gap, I feel tonight I closed it," added Murray, who has credited Lendl with boosting his confidence.

"My job over the next two or three months is to surpass him and the guys in front of me."


Tags: sport, tennis, australia, vic, melbourne-3000

First posted January 28, 2012 13:48:29

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New Azarenka ready for Open glory

Updated January 27, 2012 18:54:23

No longer too "young and emotional" for major singles glory, Victoria Azarenka believes she is finally ready to deliver on her rich potential in Saturday night's Australian Open final.

Azarenka and Maria Sharapova will square off for Open honours and the world number one ranking in a double-edged title showdown dubbed the battle of the tennis scream queens at Melbourne Park.

Azarenka is well aware of the dubious billing, but says disgruntled fans - and Sharapova - can make all the noise they like.

She will be at Rod Laver Arena to win, plain and simple.

"I really want it bad," the 22-year-old said ahead of her maiden major final.

Azarenka played her first tour match at 13 and has long been earmarked for greatness.

But an inability to control her emotions prevented the Belarusian from really making her mark until reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals last year.

After backing up that breakthrough to make the final of the season-ending championships and opening 2012 with a ninth career title in Sydney, Azarenka delivered perhaps the quote of the Australian Open upon scoring her 11th straight win of the year in the semi-finals.

"Before, you all thought I was a mental case. I was just young and emotional," the third seed said after ousting defending champion Kim Clijsters.

"For sure I had - how do you call that - meltdowns? There you go," the new and improved Azarenka added on Friday.

"Yeah, I had some. For sure you can see some on YouTube.

"But I grow as a player, I grow as a person and I try to learn from my mistakes and make it better.

"So I'm proud of what I'm doing. I just want to keep going and keep raising that level."

A winner of the 2005 Australian Open junior girls' championship, Azarenka has played Sharapova six times for three wins each.

They have two wins apiece on hardcourts and split their two meetings last year.

Azarenka, though, leads 2-0 in finals against her more experienced opponent.

"Of course I know Maria's game. She knows my game," Azarenka said.

"In finals, anything can happen. It's different stage of a tournament. It's a battle for giving really your all and how well you can manage it."

Sharapova, shooting her for fourth major and second Open trophy after triumphing in 2008, is not banking on any edge against the first-time finalist.

"Well, I played Petra in her first grand slam final (at Wimbledon last year). She played really high-quality tennis out there on the grass and she went out there and it didn't really affect her," the Russian said.

"So even though Victoria hasn't really been in that stage of a grand slam before, she's certainly won big titles and she has the experience.

"This is a stage she's wanted to be at for a long time, so I do expect her to play really good tennis.

"She makes you hit a lot of balls and she's aggressive as well.

"I mean, she's a really, really good player and I haven't had great success against her in the last couple of events that we've played against each other.

"I'd really like to change that. It will be important to tactically play right."

Even Azarenka concedes the final will be a high-decibel affair.

She's heard about the grunt-o-meter machine - "money well spent, huh?" - and knows Sharapova will be loud.

"Well, I'm not deaf. Of course I hear her," Azarenka said.

"I'm sure she hears me. And about another 15,000 people hear us maybe even further away.

"It doesn't bother me. I respect every opponent. Whatever they do, they try to do their best job. I think that's fair enough."


Tags: tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 27, 2012 18:51:38

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Nadal shoots down Federer

Updated January 27, 2012 10:52:58

Rafael Nadal once again proved Roger Federer's nemesis, withstanding a withering opening from the Swiss great to reach the final of the Australian Open.

The Spaniard won 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 to prolong the agony for his greatest rival, who has now lost eight times to the Spaniard in 10 meetings at a major.

Federer was left a weeping wreck when Nadal remorselessly ground him down in 2009's nail-biting five-set final in Melbourne but failed in his bid for revenge under the lights on Rod Laver Arena.

"For me it's a dream to be back in the final," said a smiling Nadal.

"It's a real honour to play against Roger, it was a fantastic match. It's fantastic to have one player in front of you who doesn't make mistakes, having a totally complete game."

The Swiss maestro holds a record 16 grand slam titles but the Spanish world number two has a hold over him on the biggest stage, winning eight of their 10 clashes in majors.

Federer, 30, denied his record against Nadal played on his mind when he went out on court, saying he felt the Spaniard raised his game in their meetings.

"It is what it is, you know. At the end I care about my titles, if I'm happy or not as a person," he said.

Nadal, who has won 10 majors, now goes on to meet either defending champion Novak Djokovic or Britain's Andy Murray in Sunday night's final.

Federer produced flawless tennis at the start of the match but his game unravelled when put under pressure by Nadal and he finished with 63 unforced errors.

Unleashing his full arsenal, four-time Australian Open champion Federer held serve to love and broke the Spaniard at his first opportunity with a devastating cross-court backhand with Nadal struggling to gain a foothold.

Nadal broke back but third-seed Federer raised his game again after his mid-set wobble and he took the tie-break when Nadal went long.

The players swapped service breaks at the start of the second set but the turning point came when Nadal held off a Federer break point in the fifth game and then broke the Swiss in the very next game to move ahead 4-2.

The match was suspended for 10 minutes for Australia Day fireworks with Nadal leading 5-2 and when play resumed Federer badly lost his focus, losing 11 consecutive points on top of straight three points he lost before the break.

Nadal, 25, levelled the match at one set apiece, took the first game of set three to love and held three break points after two consecutive Federer double faults, only for the misfiring Swiss to claw himself out of the hole.

Federer, 30, battled hard to break Nadal in game seven of the third set but the Spaniard broke back immediately to level things up and Nadal went on to take the tie-break on his sixth set point.

A tense fourth set went with serve with Nadal looking mentally the stronger, continuing to chase down balls from seemingly impossible situations.

He saved a break point from Federer in the eighth game and broke the Swiss in the following game.

But the Spaniard still had to fight hard to serve out for victory, saving two Federer break points, including an astonishing retrieval onto the baseline which the Swiss then wafted wide.

Federer, seeking his first major in two years, had not dropped a set until Thursday's semi-final but Nadal, who now leads their overall series 18-9, once again proved he has the edge over Federer on the biggest stage.


Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 26, 2012 23:29:14

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Djokovic prevails in five-set epic

Updated January 28, 2012 08:40:22

Novak Djokovic has survived a brutal battle of wills with grand slam nearly man Andy Murray to reach the final of the Australian Open against fellow fighter Rafael Nadal.

Defending champion Djokovic fought the Briton to a standstill in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 7-5 victory after almost five hours of heart-stopping, hand-wringing tennis at Rod Laver Arena.

After finally swatting away Murray's semi-final challenge, the world number one crumpled to the court in exhausted relief, barely able to flick off the moths fluttering around his arms.

Murray could easily have walked away as the winner, Djokovic acknowledged.

"Both of us believed that we can win, and that's how we played," he said.

"It could have easily gone the other way. He was a couple of points away from winning the match, so I was lucky to go as a winner."

A shattered Murray exited with his head held high after proving without doubt he belongs in the elite company of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer - beaten by the Spaniard in Thursday's first semi-final.

"Tonight's match was important for many reasons," a drained Murray said.

"Obviously I wanted to win first and foremost. But after the year that Novak's had, I think there's a very fine line between being number one in the world and being three or four.

"I think that gap, I feel tonight I closed it."

The runner-up at Melbourne Park for the last two years, Murray had been in top form coming into the last four.

The addition of eight-times grand slam champion Ivan Lendl as coach has brought a more focused approach to his preparations and with confidence coursing through his veins, the Scot has added a more aggressive edge to his game.

Surprisingly it was the defensive-minded Murray of old that stumbled through the first set, as Djokovic dictated the pace of play, earning easy points off the 24-year-old's sloppy forehand and pouncing on a tame second serve.

Shoulders drooping and feet dragging, a muttering Murray looked a lost cause at 2-0 down in the second set.

But then the tide turned.

With Lendl concocting energy drinks in the players box to fuel the Murray machine, the Briton sprang to life, stepping in on the Djokovic serve and finding his range from the baseline.

Even the stoic Lendl was caught up in the moment, pumping his fist at a marvelous Murray winner before settling back in his chair in stony-faced silence.

With the match tied at 1-1, Murray came through a thrilling third set tiebreak to move within a set of victory.

However, the momentum swung once again in the world number one's favour as Murray came out flat for the fourth set.

The final set was another fought tooth and nail as Murray battled back from three games down but Djokovic had enough in the tank to secure the win.

The defeat left Murray still searching for his maiden grand slam title but Djokovic thought the Scot was not far away.

"He's so close to winning a grand slam. He's one of the best players in the world, that's for sure," he said.


Tags: sport, tennis, australian-open, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 28, 2012 00:40:17

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Saville into Open boys' final

Updated January 27, 2012 18:48:26

Luke Saville is one win away from becoming the third local Australian Open boys' singles champion in six years.

Saville, who turns 18 next week, beat Czech 17-year-old Adam Pavlasek 6-3, 6-4 on Friday in their semi-final at Melbourne Park.

The 10th-seeded Pavlasek is the boyfriend of Czech women's world number two Petra Kvitova, who also fell in the semi-finals of her event, to Russian Maria Sharapova on Thursday.

Saville, the world's number one junior and top seed, will play an unseeded opponent in Saturday's final.

American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald and Canadian Filip Peliwo were to meet in the second semi-final later on Friday.

Saville, who won junior Wimbledon last year, is the only Australian left with a chance of taking a trophy home from Melbourne Park.

If he wins on Saturday, he will join fellow Australians Brydan Klein (2007) and Bernard Tomic (2008) on the list of recent Australian champions in the boys' event.


Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, australia

First posted January 27, 2012 18:48:26

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Tomic, Hewitt to play Davis Cup

Updated January 26, 2012 19:24:18

Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt were both named in Australia's Davis Cup team to play China in February.

Captain Pat Rafter also included Australia's second-ranked men's player, Matthew Ebden, and Chris Guccione to play in the Asia-Oceania zone first-round tie in Geelong from February 10-12.

Tomic, Australia's top-ranked player, and Davis Cup regular Hewitt both declared themselves available, despite Hewitt having carried a toe injury into the Australian Open.

Hewitt's physical condition will be monitored in the lead-up.

Both Hewitt and Tomic reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

Australia must win the tie against China, then another tie in April against Asia-Oceania opposition, to qualify for a World Group play-off tie in September.


Tags: tennis, sport, geelong-3220

First posted January 26, 2012 19:24:18

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Nadal calm and confident for Open final

Updated January 27, 2012 16:40:52

He has confidence, calmness and a better game plan than the one that has already won him 10 grand slam tennis titles.

And when he goes into Sunday night's Australian Open final, Rafael Nadal will also carry the satisfaction of having scored a miraculous semi-final victory over the player he believes is the best there's been.

Ominously, he also believes he can play even better.

Nadal earned his place in the final with a four-set defeat of Roger Federer that made him happier than he thought possible.

"I did much better than what I thought, what I dreamed for three weeks ago," Nadal said.

"I'm very happy for everything. It's a fantastic victory for me against the greatest (player) in history.

"That give me a lot of confidence ... a lot of calm."

Not a bad effort considering he was in tears and in agony the night before he played his first-round match.

The cause of his anguish still isn't entirely clear, but he'll continue wearing a heavy bandage around his right knee at least until he knows.

"Twenty four hours before I played my first match, I was in my hotel room crying because I believe I didn't have the chance to play in Melbourne," he said.

"Two weeks later, I am here in the final. So it's a dream for me."

Part of the reason he is living that dream is the plan he and his coach, his uncle Tony, devised.

It is a feat in itself that after more than a decade during which Nadal has won 46 tournaments, more than $US45 million ($A42.49 million) and been under immense scrutiny that something new about his game can be discovered.

But against Federer, he proved there was.

"I didn't play as I played hundreds of times against him ... against his backhand," he said.

"For moments, I had few mistakes with the backhand. But I am trying with the backhand to not go behind the baseline, to stay in the baseline, to hit the ball earlier than before.

"That's something that I am working on and something that we believe that I have to keep improving, to don't lose court, to play more inside.

"It's working well. But always you can do a little bit more, no."

This will be Nadal's 15th grand slam final, something he is entitled to be proud of, and which he is.

The Spaniard is someone who can almost snarl as he glares at his opponent a moment before serving.

He is a player who can get away with patting himself on the back - not that he does - largely because he has plenty of good reasons to do so, and still be totally charming.

After his warning to Federer on Thursday night that the former world No.1 one will probably never beat him again in a grand slam, he was typically frank about how well he plays tennis and how well he respects his opponents.

"The last four grand slams I have been in the finals, so it is a great effort, I think," he said.

"But I don't know if it's going to be enough against Novak or against Andy.

"But what can I say? I'm very happy about my tournament.

I will try my best to play a fantastic final and hopefully I will have my chances.

"But if the opponent plays better than me, and he beats me, I am going to go home very happy about my tournament.

"I am going to go home knowing the way that I am working is working very well."

Tags: tennis, sport, australian-open, australia, melbourne-3000

First posted January 27, 2012 16:34:20

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Azarenka knocks over Clijsters

Updated January 26, 2012 16:57:30

Belarus' Victoria Azarenka upset defending champion Kim Clijsters in three tense sets to reach her first grand slam final at the Australian Open Thursday.

Third-seeded Azarenka, 22, saw off a powerful second-set fight-back by the Belgian mother-of-one to win 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. In Saturday's final, she will play either Maria Sharapova or Petra Kvitova, who are in action currently.

"I felt like my hand is about 200 kilograms and my body is about 1,000 kilograms," Azarenka said, wiping away tears.

"Everything is shaking but that feeling when you finally win is such a relief. I can't believe it's over -- I just want to cry."

Azarenka has now gone one step better than her previous grand slam best of reaching the semi-finals at last year's Wimbledon, and is one win away from becoming her country's first ever major-winner.

She has often faltered on the big stage, most noticeably at the 2010 Australian Open when she led eventual champion Serena Williams in the quarter-finals by a set and 4-0 before imploding.

But she stood firm Thursday to hold off Clijsters' revival and record the biggest win of her career.

"Before, I think you all thought I was a mental case but I was just young and emotional," she said. "But I'm really glad the way I fought. That's the thing I'm most proud of, I fought for every ball."

Azarenka came out with an obvious game plan to attack Clijsters' second serve and it paid dividends as early as the third game, when she broke with a clean forehand winner wide to the Belgian's backhand.

She kept on attacking Clijsters throughout the first set and was able to dictate the pace with her aggressive shot-making.

Azarenka won her service games easily while Clijsters struggled with hers, only winning 33 percent of her second serves in the first set.

The Belarusian won the opener in 49 minutes but Clijsters rallied in the second set as she cut down her error-rate and forced Azarenka into a series of long rallies.

She held her own serve and then broke Azarenka to love thanks to a string of unforced errors from the third seed, running away with the set and seeming to be on track to defend her title.

But the momentum swung again at the start of the third as Azarenka won her serve, then broke Clijsters to love, only to serve two double-faults on her way to giving the break straight back.

It was now Clijsters' turn to look nervous and although she was able to save three break points, a double fault on the fourth gave Azarenka a 3-1 lead.

She moved to 4-2 and had seven game points to open a 5-2 lead, but Clijsters refused to lie down and she got the set back on serve thanks to yet another unforced error from Azarenka.

But in a thrilling match Azarenka came again, breaking Clijsters to go to 5-3 and holding her nerve for a memorable victory, collapsing to the deck in tears as the Belgian put a backhand wide on match point.

Azarenka said earlier this week that she was in the best shape of her life after concentrating on her physical conditioning in the off-season.

She has also been able to shut out strong criticism of the screaming she makes when she hits the ball, which included large sections of the crowd mimicking her during her win over Australia's Casey Dellacqua.

Azarenka is the first Belarusian woman to reach a grand slam final since Natasha Zvereva finished runner-up at the French Open in 1988, representing the USSR.

She also has the chance to become only the ninth woman to win both the junior girls and women's singles titles in Melbourne, and the first since Australia's Chris O'Neil achieved the feat in 1978.


Tags: sport, australian-open, tennis, australia, vic, melbourne-3000

First posted January 26, 2012 16:08:33

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Tennis authorities move to end shriek-fests

By Lexi Metherell and staff

Updated January 27, 2012 11:20:11

The grunts and shrieks emanating from the tennis courts at Melbourne Park are a perennial topic of discussion at this time of the year.

The Women's Tennis Association is now bowing to pressure from spectators and players, releasing a statement acknowledging that some fans find the noise bothersome.

It says it is exploring how to address the problem by focusing on eradicating excessive grunting from the next generation of players.

Fans are bracing for a shriek-fest this weekend, with the Australian Open women's final featuring two of the game's loudest offenders, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Some of Sharapova's shrieks are said to have reached above 100 decibels, that is louder than a chainsaw and some of her opponents have had enough.

Speaking after her Australian Open quarter-final loss to Azarenka, eighth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska agreed the WTA needed to limit noisy play.

"Of course everybody can make some noise. This is tennis, it's really hard work out there, but I think it's just too loud," Radwanska said.

"I don't think it's very necessary to scream that loud, so if they (WTA) want to do something, why not?

"I don't think this is very nice to watch those kind of players that scream so much all the time. So that's why I think the WTA wants to change something."

Radwanska was reluctant to criticise childhood friend Azarenka but she said Sharapova was simply too loud.

"To be honest, I'm kind of used to it, you know, especially with Vika (Azarenka). We know each other for many years," she said.

"About Maria, I mean, what can I say? For sure that is pretty annoying and it's just too loud."

But Sharapova does not appear prepared to lower the volume.

"No-one important enough has certainly told me to change or do something different," she said.

Azarenka also dismissed controversy, saying she had been loud since she was a child.

"It's the way I am, the way I play, the way I used to play when I was a kid," the Belarusian said.

"And if you want to a little bit more on insight, I think it's the way that made me breathe, made me move. It's part of my movement.

"As a child I was really weak, so I had to give that little extra power there. It kind of stuck with me."

University of Southern Queensland psychology professor Peter Terry says in his view the grunting is gamesmanship that could be labelled cheating.

"From the perspective of the grunter, as it were, they would claim it is a habit they have always been into," he said.

"It is a natural response to the exhalation as they hit the ball hard and that it is not doing anyone any harm, but from the perspective of the person on the other end, they see it differently generally.

"That it is something of a distraction, it also masks the sound of the ball on the racquet and that is important information.

"It is somewhat of an intimidation and it doesn't sit easily within the framework of the rules where you are not allowed to distract your opponent with noise and so at the very least it is a tactic in my view.

"I don't accept that it is a natural consequence of them hitting the ball hard because many players hits the ball hard and don't make any noise."

Rafael Nadal plays a loud game of tennis but does not generate the same level of irritation.

"The men don't shriek the way that Sharapova does for example. The decibels aren't so high," Professor Terry explains.

"I think that it is interesting that the crowd tend not to warm to players who grunt very loudly, certainly not the Australian crowds."

Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 27, 2012 09:38:37

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Sharapova through to Open final

Updated January 26, 2012 19:41:11

Former champion Maria Sharapova beat second seed Petra Kvitova in three sets to reach the final of the Australian Open and set up a shoot-out for the number one spot with Victoria Azarenka.

The Russian, seeded fourth, overcame some poor serving to outlast Kvitova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 and move into Saturday night's final, where she will play Belarusian Azarenka, the third seed.

In a rematch of last year's Wimbledon final, Kvitova and Sharapova threw everything they had at each other for almost two and a quarter hours on Rod Laver Arena.

Sharapova, who won in Melbourne in 2008, dominated the first set and Kvitova the second, with the pair evenly matched in the third until Kvitova faltered at 4-5 to lose her serve and send Sharapova through to the final.

The Russian struggled with her serve all afternoon but somehow managed to stay in the contest despite sending down 10 double faults, many at key moments.

"I felt like in the third she always had the advantage because I was always down on my serve," Sharapova said.

"And I just thought you have got to go for it."

Kvitova had 14 break point opportunities but only managed to convert three of them as the tenacious Sharapova somehow managed to hold on.

By contrast Sharapova had only five break point chances on Kvitova's serve, but won them all.

"I just hung in there and got a few returns in in the last game," she said. "She was serving so well in the third. Maybe that was the key."

The left-handed Kvitova, 21, looked nervous in the early stages with Sharapova appearing far more settled than her younger opponent.

The 24-year-old Russian dominated the baseline rallies and tended to come out on top the longer they went on, wrapping up the first set in 36 minutes.

But Kvitova lifted her game at the start of the second and raced into a commanding 3-0 lead when she held serve after Sharapova served two double faults to surrender an early break.

The world number two was growing in confidence and she was untroubled as she took the second set with a booming ace to level the match.

Kvitova gained the early advantage in the third, breaking Sharapova to take a 2-1 lead as the Russian's serving woes continued, but the Czech's nerves got the better of her and some poor serving saw her drop the next game.

Games then went with serve in the third set, with Sharapova struggling to hold and Kvitova cruising, but at 4-5 the Czech cracked and Sharapova erupted with delight as she reached her third Australian Open final

Sharapova, who burst onto the tennis scene in 2004 when she won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, took the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008.

She will be aiming for her fourth major singles title but her first since she underwent major shoulder surgery in 2008, which kept her out of action for almost a year.

She will also be eyeing the top ranking, with the winner of Saturday's final guaranteed to be named number one when the new rankings list is released on Monday.


Tags: tennis, sport, australian-open, melbourne-3000

First posted January 26, 2012 18:32:06

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Tomic considering complaint against police

Updated January 27, 2012 06:05:50

Rising tennis star Bernard Tomic says he is considering whether to lay a complaint against Gold Coast police after being issued with two traffic infringement notices on Australia Day.

There was a brief stand-off with police at the Tomic family home in Southport, with the 19-year-old refusing to come out and speak to officers.

Police radio transmissions, broadcast on Channel Nine, alerted patrols to watch for a bright orange BMW M3, being driven by Tomic, who was allegedly revving his engine at pedestrians in the restaurant strip of Broadbeach.

After being given one ticket Tomic was ordered to drive straight home, but was stopped and given a second ticket when he allegedly disobeyed the directive.

He was followed home by a police vehicle with lights flashing and parked his car in the driveway behind locked security gates.

Police later entered the house and spoke to Tomic in the presence of his lawyer.

Tomic, who spoke briefly to reporters, said he did nothing wrong and claimed he was being persecuted by police.

"They've given me three tickets and one officer feels like he wants to get me and it's not a good feeling," he said.

"It's all happened on Australia Day when I am trying to have fun with my mates."

Tomic insisted he was allowed to drive on the roads even though he had a restricted licence.

"Absolutely. I was on a visit doing my stuff and enjoying my day and I had my things all planned and someone doesn't like that and wants to stop that," he said.

Inspector Glenn Allen, who spoke to Tomic and his lawyer, former Gold Coast mayor Lex Bell, said the tickets related to the conditions of Tomic's licence, but it was too early for him to say whether police had made a mistake in issuing the infringement notices.

"There is a determination to be made about conditions in relation to his driving that will be decided at a later time," Inspector Allen said.

"That will be determined by an inquiry, if one is required."

Inspector Allen said the Tomic family was considering whether or not to lay a complaint against police.

"Their options are to make a complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission or the Ethical Standards Command," he said, adding that the tennis star had been "understanding and reasonable".

Mr Bell refused to discuss Tomic's claims that he was being persecuted.

"He feels he is guiltless in the whole matter, I think you would have to work out how you would feel if you were in Bernard's situation," he said.

"It's not for me to say ... Bernard is my client and I'm doing the best I can to ensure a happy outcome for him."

Tomic, who was named in Australia's Davis Cup squad on Thursday, has a special exemption to drive the $150,000 BMW to and from training and other activities directly related to his tennis.

The car's speed is electronically limited, although its top speed still exceeds 250 kilometres per hour.

Tomic was investigated over complaints of hooning last month but denied the claims, arguing he was the victim of a vendetta by a Gold Coast police officer.

He said at the time the officer who accused him of hooning had told him he wanted to put him in the newspapers.


Tags: tennis, sport, southport-4215, qld, australia

First posted January 26, 2012 18:02:02

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kvitova to meet Sharapova in semis

Updated January 25, 2012 15:55:11

Czech Petra Kvitova will meet Russian Maria Sharapova in a semi-final of the Australian Open on Thursday.

Kvitova beat unseeded Italian Sara Errani 6-4, 6-4 while Sharapova overpowered compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

Their clash will be a repeat of last year's Wimbledon final, which Kvitova won in straight sets.

Kvitova reached her first Australian semi-final after snuffing out a brief fight-back from Errani in the second set.

The clear favourite, the number two seed broke serve in the opening game of the match but found herself staring down a service break in the next as the pair fought for an edge.

The Czech took the crucial break to win the first set in 53 minutes before Errani battled her way to a 4-1 edge in the second set.

That was where her challenge ended though as Kvitova won the next five games straight, amassing three match points and sealing the clash after Errani netted a return.

"I expected a tough match because she has been playing well and also today played well," Kvitova said.

"Backhand or forehand, I never knew where the ball would come to so I had to concentrate on every point and always think about tactics."

Sharapova won the Australian title in 2008 but that August she underwent shoulder surgery and was sidelined for 10 months.

But on Wednesday the fourth seed displayed a pinpoint serve and power-packed returns to overwhelm Makarova.

She cruised through the first set in 42 minutes but had to fight to seal the match as Makarova saved three match points.

Sharapova eventually clinched a berth in the semis in one hour and 27 minutes.

"It's been a long road back but after all those winning points it's been worth it," said Sharapova, who anticipated a tough battle against Kvitova.

"She is playing the best tennis," she said.

Both Sharapova and Kvitova have a chance of becoming the world number one at the end of the Open.


Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 25, 2012 13:27:21

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Slick Murray through to semis

Updated January 25, 2012 18:55:01

A ruthless Andy Murray ended Kei Nishikori's brilliant run at the Australian Open, carving up the Japanese with a dominant 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory to stroll into his third successive semi-final at Melbourne Park.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man through to the last eight in Melbourne for 80 years, won support from kimono-clad fans as the underdog at sun-bathed Rod Laver Arena, but left with his tail between his legs after a two-hour and 12-minute spanking.

While serving appallingly and rarely setting the court alight, Murray assumed control from the outset, exploiting the flashy Japanese's comparative lack of height with lobs and running him around the court to distraction.

The fourth-seeded Briton stepped up a gear in the third as fatigue took its toll on the 22-year-old Japanese, who had played two epic five-set matches and a long four-setter in his previous three matches.

Irked after handing back a break early in the third set, Murray stomped back to his chair at the change of ends and flung a bottle of water in anger.

He emerged belligerent after a brief sulk, and whipped through the final set in 29 minutes, sealing it on the second match point when Nishikori belted a forehand return into the net.

Murray will likely face world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals and said he hoped to get his serve back on track after landing a woeful 44 per cent of his first serves.

Djokovic plays Spaniard David Ferrer in the late quarter-final at Rod Laver Arena.

"I thought it was a good match. There were a lot of good points. Most of the fun points he was winning. So I was trying to keep them as short as possible," Murray said in a courtside interview.

"I think I needed to serve better ... but the returning was good."

Nishikori entered the blue centre court to face-painted Japanese fans chanting his name, but was soon on the back foot against Murray who broke him immediately on the way to a 3-1 lead.

Toying with the Japanese, Murray lured Nishikori to the net with drop-shots and then sent lobs looping over his head time and time again.

The tactic worked invariably, but the scrambling Nishikori chased one lob down and made a play for the highlight reels at 3-1 in the first set that had the stands roaring their approval.

Charging back from the net to retrieve a shot, Nishikori lobbed Murray from between his legs, then smacked a forehand down the line after the world number four could only tap a volley harmlessly over the net.

Murray's attempt at a 'tweener' in the following game fell flat, however, when his swiping racket connected with only fresh air as he galloped across the baseline.

Although losing the "fun" points and most of the crowd to the plucky Nishikori, Murray knuckled down for the points that mattered, launching a booming serve to seal the first set and taking another early break in the second.

The 24th-seeded Nishikori had played five more sets in his previous three matches than Murray and it appeared to show as he surrendered the second set with a pair of unforced errors.

He broke back to 1-1 but his serves became cannon fodder for the fourth-seeded Scot who motored home to set up his fifth consecutive major semi-final.


Tags: sport, tennis, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 25, 2012 17:34:29

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Djokovic into Open semis

Updated January 25, 2012 23:06:51

The Australian Open has a dream men's semi-final line-up, but reigning champion Novak Djokovic will carry some physical queries into the tournament's final stages.

The world number one's 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 quarter-final victory over dogged Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer on Wednesday night ensured the 'Big Four' became the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time.

The Serbian star set up a semi-final rematch of last year's final against Scot Andy Murray.

But Djokovic will enter that clash with some concerns, after clutching at his left hamstring at one point against Ferrer and appearing to struggle with his breathing for long stages.

Earlier, Murray blitzed Japan's Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 to book his own berth in Friday night's semi-final.

Second seed Rafael Nadal and third seed Roger Federer were already set to renew their long-time rivalry in the other semi-final, on Thursday night.

While Djokovic did not call for a medical time-out or a trainer against Ferrer, the match changed complexion early in the second set.

Djokovic was up a set and a break and in control.

But he limped to the change of ends after the third game of the set, then pulled up sharply stretching for a shot as he gave up his serve in the fourth game, clutching at his hamstring, then grimacing and squatting in pain.

At other stages, he appeared to complain about breathing problems.

Djokovic played down his physical problems, but says winning the second set had been vital.

"It was a big mental advantage," he said.

"The momentum was on my side. I managed to step it up and was very aggressive and it paid off."

Even in the first set, it had been a tough fight against short-statured running machine Ferrer, whose willingness and ability to chase down ball after ball made for some long rallies.

But once Djokovic's physical condition dipped in the second set, the 29-year-old Spaniard's hopes of making his second consecutive Australian Open semi-final grew.

Despite going down a second break of serve, he broke back when Djokovic was serving for the second set, then led early in the tie-breaker.

But Ferrer made some crucial errors late in the tiebreaker to hand Djokovic the set.

Djokovic charged to a straight sets win.

Murray will take a 10-match winning streak into their semi-final, having won the Brisbane International before his Melbourne Park run.

But Djokovic can call on the memory of blitzing fellow 24-year-old Murray on the same court in last year's final.

Still, Djokovic says Murray is an improved player from the one he beat in last year's final.

"I'm going to try to repeat the same game like last year, I guess, but I'm going to need more than that," he said.

"Andy is in great shape, he has (new coach) Ivan Lendl on his side.

"You can feel that he's physically fit and eager to win his first grand slam."


Tags: tennis, sport, melbourne-3000

First posted January 25, 2012 22:32:55

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Sharapova digs deep to down Lisicki

Updated January 23, 2012 23:39:39

Maria Sharapova needed all of her experience to overcome a determined Sabine Lisicki 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

The fourth-seeded Russian won the opening three games but suddenly lost her mojo as the German reeled off the next six games to seize the first set and seemingly all the momentum.

But Sharapova fought back in the second set and then scrapped tooth and nail in the third game of the third to hold serve before she broke 14th seed Lisicki in the sixth, which ultimately set up her victory.

Sharapova will next meet countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova after the world number 56 caused the upset of the tournament by thrashing five-times champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3.

"I had lots of ups and downs today so I was fortunate to finish on a high note," Sharapova said afterwards.

"I got it together in the second set, but the third was a battle.

"She was a good opponent and playing with confidence. I'm happy that although I didn't play my best tennis I hung in there.

"It's a step further than last year."

Lisicki felt the difference in the match was Sharapova pulling out big serves when she needed them.

"Unfortunately she made some great serves in the third set when I had some break points and there's not much I can do when she does that," Lisicki said.

"I'm taking lots of positive things out of here and I'll keep building on it."


Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 23, 2012 22:29:03

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Gutsy Hewitt goes down swinging to Djokovic

Updated January 24, 2012 09:11:19

Lleyton Hewitt produced arguably his most memorable, and possibly last, centre court vigil at the Australian Open before finally succumbing 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to world number one Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.

After losing the first two sets in convincing fashion and slumping to 0-3 down in the third set, the 30-year-old Australian, battling a niggling foot injury, conjured a remarkable comeback to take the match to a fourth set.

The lacklustre Djokovic finally awoke from his slumber to find some rhythm, breaking Hewitt's serve in the sixth game of the fourth set, before closing out the match in two hours and 56 minutes with a crisp forehand winner.

For Hewitt it brought to an end to another courageous Melbourne Park run after entering his 16th consecutive Australian Open as a wildcard with a lowly world ranking of 181.

He said he was pleased he was able to push the best player in the game to four sets.

"It was obviously satisfying because he was playing exceptional tennis and I was still able to find a way to get back in the match in some regards and at least put some pressure on him," he said.

"His moving, his ball striking, his serving was fantastic for two-and-a -half sets."

Hewitt appeared close to tears as he salvaged victory in the third set, but was not letting on whether this was his Melbourne Park swan song.

"The last few months I have been trying to focus on getting as much out of myself as possible - I haven't even thought about it," Hewitt said when asked about his future and expectations for the year.

"Considering where I was three or four weeks ago, it's been a pretty fair effort (at the Open).

"It's obviously disappointing anytime you lose. But I left it all on the court; that's all I could ask."

Hewitt was the last remaining Australian in the singles draw.

Djokovic paid tribute to Hewitt's fighting spirit but was less glowing about his own game, saying he had simply stopped moving during a fourth-set slump.

"I have to give credit to Lleyton, he never gives up. He is a great competitor and I have a lot of respect for him and wish him luck," Djokovic said after the match.

"He obviously made me play an extra shot and I made a couple of unforced errors and it got him back in the match.

"For two sets and 3-0 I was playing really well and then suddenly I stopped moving.

"Again I give credit to Lleyton. He was making me earn my points and I wasn't able to."

Djokovic grimaced in pain during a couple of points after rolling an ankle, but played down any fitness concerns.

"No. Actually, I don't (have any problems). It's just that I wasn't happy with my movement and my legs were not working," he said.

"I'm not looking for excuses... it's obviously the first match that I've been tested. It was against the player that I expected to be tested.

"Lleyton was playing in front of his crowd. Obviously he loves competing against the top guys on the big stage and he proved it again."

The win extended Djokovic's Australian Open record to 29-5 and it was his fifth win in six encounters with Hewitt.

Djokovic dominated last year, winning three of the four majors and up to Monday's fourth-round match had not dropped a set until he was pushed for the first time in the tournament by Hewitt.

Last year's Australian Open triumph over Andy Murray was the first of seven straight tournament wins for Djokovic, in a 41-match winning streak that was finally ended by Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open.

Djokovic leads his quarter-final opponent Ferrer 6-5 with the Spaniard winning two of their last four encounters.


Tags: australian-open, tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 24, 2012 01:21:00

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Azarenka fights back to reach semis

Updated January 24, 2012 15:21:53

Belarus's Victoria Azarenka has recovered from an error-strewn first set to became the first woman into the Australian Open semi-finals with victory over Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.

Both players were broken four times in a low-quality opener, and Azarenka capitulated 0-7 in the tiebreak.

But she bounced back to win convincingly 6-7 (0-7), 6-0, 6-2 in two hours in soaring heat on centre court.

Azarenka is into her second grand slam semi-final, after reaching the same stage at Wimbledon last year, and will now play either defending champion Kim Clijsters or world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

"We can't play each other without it going to three sets, we have to push each other to the limit," said Azarenka, who has now played six three-setters with Radwanska in their 10 meetings.

In a bewildering first set, neither player appeared comfortable on serve and breaks came thick and fast despite both landing a high percentage of first serves, 73 per cent for Azarenka and 76 per cent for Radwanska.

But after sharing eight service breaks, Radwanska was able to lift when it counted and she raced through the tiebreak without dropping a point.

However, Azarenka responded well and at last began to hold serve with authority while Radwanska continued to struggle.

The Pole handed over three more breaks of serve in the 26-minute second set as Azarenka drew level.

The Belarusian now began to find her range with her powerful ground strokes and she won the opening game of the third set, before Radwanska at last stopped the rot by holding her serve for just the third time in the match.

But Azarenka's superior firepower was telling and she turned the screws by holding her next serve to love and then breaking Radwanska to open a 3-1 lead, only to immediately surrender the break with a nervous service game.

Azarenka broke straight back and then held, and then broke Radwanska for the 10th time to seal victory.

"We both fought really hard and I'm glad I could stay tough and finish the match," Azarenka said.

The Belarusian stays in contention to finish the tournament as the world number one, along with Wozniacki, Czech Petra Kvitova and Russia's Maria Sharapova, both of whom play on Wednesday.


Tags: tennis, other-sports, sport, australian-open, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 24, 2012 14:29:20

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Federer destroys Del Potro to reach semis

Updated January 24, 2012 22:49:48

Unruffled Roger Federer brushed aside the challenge of Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets Tuesday to become the first man through to the Australian Open semi-finals.

Federer, who always looked in control, won 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena and will next face either long-time rival Rafael Nadal or Czech Tomas Berdych.

In a rematch of the 2009 US Open final won by the Argentine, the third seed started in ominous fashion, unveiling his full repertoire of strokes and breaking del Potro at his first opportunity.

The tall Argentine, seeded 11th, settled and forced a break of his own in the seventh game, but a double-fault cost him the opener.

An exquisite backhand down the line gave Federer another break and a 3-1 lead in the second set, and he moved two sets clear after a tough ninth game in which he was forced to save four break points.

But that game proved a key missed opportunity for del Potro as he was again broken early in the third set, and an untroubled Federer broke again on his way to taking it 6-2.

"I'm very happy," Federer said.

"I thought it was a great match. It was tough with the sun and shade creeping across the court but I thought we did well. I thought it was a high-quality match."

Federer said he was aware of the dangers posed by the 198 cm del Potro but said he was "able to manoeuvre him around" the court.

He said he would probably tune in to watch the later semi-final between Nadal and Berdych, even though he knew the games of both well.

"There are no secrets out there but I will still enjoy it. I love good tennis," he said.

Victory for 16-time grand slam winner Federer, who has not yet dropped a set - although he had a walkover in the second round - means he advances to his 30th grand slam semi-final, just one behind Jimmy Connors on the all-time list.

The Swiss is chasing his first major since his Australian Open triumph in 2010 after failing to win a grand slam last year for the first time since he captured his first, at Wimbledon in 2003.

Del Potro last year made a rapid comeback from a wrist injury that kept him out for most of 2010, improving from a low of 485 in the rankings in January 2011 to a year-end ranking of 11.


Tags: sport, australian-open, tennis, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted January 24, 2012 18:44:48

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Hewitt locked in for full 2012 schedule

Updated January 24, 2012 20:31:30

Retirement remains a dirty word as the resurgent Lleyton Hewitt eyes a full playing schedule in 2012 after exceeding "all expectations" at the Australian Open.

Hewitt is hunting down wildcards for the lucrative Indian Wells and Miami Masters after his vintage run to the Open's last 16 on the back of just one competitive outing in four months.

The little marvel even stole the first set of the tournament off world number one Novak Djokovic to briefly raise hopes of another famous Hewitt triumph at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.

"He exceeded all expectations," Hewitt's manager David Drysdale said on Tuesday before predicting the dual major winner to return for a 17th successive crack at the Open in 2013.

"The body's going to determine what happens but, if you ask me now, I expect to see him back next year.

"The body's going to determine everything but he's striking the ball well, he's mentally as tough as anyone and there's absolutely no talk of retirement."

Turning 31 next month, Hewitt's immediate focus is on teaming with Bernard Tomic for Australia's Davis Cup World Group II play-off with China in Geelong from February 10-12.

"Then he's got wildcards for Memphis and San Jose and we're looking for wildcards into Miami and Indian Wells," Drysdale said.

Hewitt's charge to the second week - which will lift his ranking from 181st to around 130 - even pleased Roger Federer.

"I was really happy for him because he hasn't gotten a fair chance to prove still how good he is," Federer said after staying up late to watch his career-long rival's thrilling journey to the fourth round.

"Some judge him on his ranking, which is obviously not telling the truth."

I think he's been playing really well still the last two years - just didn't get enough matches and never really got on a roll because he was always interrupted the whole time.

"So I was really happy because he's had a really difficult draw. The first guy, (Cedrik-Marcel) Stebe, played amazing as well and I thought Lleyton did so well to come through.

"I was just really happy from then on that he's won another two matches in a great way."

Despite bowing out, Hewitt once again revelled in his beloved Rod Laver Arena as he fought back doggedly to force Djokovic to pull out all stops to reach the quarter-finals for the sixth straight year.

"Considering where I was a few months ago, three or four months ago, it's a pretty good effort," Hewitt said.

"It was a great atmosphere. Towards the end of the third set and the whole fourth set, the crowd got involved in it. It's great.

"They're the moments you play tennis for, to be out there in those situations.

"It's obviously disappointing anytime you lose, but I left it all on the court. That's all I could ask."


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First posted January 24, 2012 20:21:24

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Women players must quieten down: Radwanska

Updated January 24, 2012 22:19:51

Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska on Tuesday backed a push to tone down undignified screaming by women's players - and said the high-decibel grunts made the game unappealing to watch.

Speaking after her Australian Open quarter-final loss to notorious screamer Victoria Azarenka, Radwanska agreed the WTA needed to limit noisy play.

The issue of screaming reared its head at the Australian Open after large sections of the crowd mimicked Azarenka during her second-round match against Casey Dellacqua.

It surfaced again following Maria Sharapova's tense three-set win over Sabine Lisicki on Monday, when the Russian's screams became louder as tensions built in the match.

"Well, you know, I mean, of course everybody can make some noise. This is tennis, it's really hard work out there. But I think, you know, it's just too loud," Radwanska said.

"I don't think it's very necessary to scream that loud, so if they (WTA) want to do something, why not?

"I don't think this is very nice to watch, you know, those kind of players that scream so much all the time. So that's why I think the WTA wants to change something."

Radwanska has been friends with Azarenka since they met as juniors 10 years ago and she was reluctant to criticise the Belarusian. But she said Sharapova was simply too loud.

"To be honest, I'm kind of used to it, you know, especially with Vika (Azarenka). We know each other for many years," she said.

"About Maria, I mean, what can I say? For sure that is pretty annoying and it's just too loud."

The WTA has written to coaches and academies asking them to discourage screaming, in a bid to cut noise levels on court.

But Azarenka laughed off the controversy and said she had been loud since she was a child.

"It's the way I am, the way I play, the way I used to play when I was a kid," said the Belarusian.

"And if you want to a little bit more on insight, I think it's the way that made me breathe, made me move. It's part of my movement.

"As a child I was really weak, so I had to give that little extra power there. It kind of stuck with me."


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First posted January 24, 2012 22:04:51

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Nadal outlasts Berdych in duel of stamina

Updated January 25, 2012 00:35:47

Rafael Nadal battled back to oust Tomas Berdych in four sets on Tuesday and set up a mouth-watering Australian Open semi-final with long-time rival Roger Federer.

In a repeat of the 2010 Wimbledon final won by Nadal, the Spanish second seed struggled to impose himself early against Berdych, losing the first set, but recovered to win 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-3 in four hours and 16 minutes.

"I tried my best in every moment," said Nadal.

"He played very well during almost the whole match."

The semi-final will be a repeat of the epic Nadal-Federer title match at the 2009 Australian Open, won by Nadal, which the Spaniard described as "one of those memories that will always be in my mind".

The Czech seventh seed, unsettling Nadal with the power of his shot-making, missed a golden opportunity to take the first set when he squandered four set points in the 12th game.

But in a dramatic tie-break he made no mistake, thundering down an ace after the courtside umpire refused a late challenge from a furious Nadal.

Nadal missed out on a set point in the 12th game of the second set but he then saved a Berdych set point in the tie-break, and the pumped-up Spaniard levelled the match when the Czech went long.

Second seed Nadal began to seize the initiative as Berdych faded, taking the third set 6-4 and breaking in the first game of the fourth set with a searing forehand winner down the line.

And Berdych, whose previous match ended in bitterness after he accused Nicolas Almagro of deliberately targeting him with a forehand, could find no way back as Nadal sealed the win.


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First posted January 25, 2012 00:00:42

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Clijsters downs Wozniacki to reach semis

Updated January 24, 2012 22:48:38

Defending champion Kim Clijsters reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open after beating Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets on Tuesday, ending the Dane's stay at world number one.

Clijsters held off a determined fight-back from the 21-year-old top seed to win 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in just under two hours and set up a semi-final date against Victoria Azarenka.

By failing to reach the semi-finals, Wozniacki is guaranteed to lose her number one ranking to either Azarenka, Petra Kvitova or Maria Sharapova when the new standings are released next Monday.

And the top seed will face inevitable questions over how she managed to hold onto the number one spot for 67 of the past 68 weeks without winning a grand slam.

Wozniacki played her usual counter-punching game on Tuesday with plenty of retrieving from the baseline, but she did not have a weapon to damage Clijsters.

The Belgian played much better than in her fourth round win over China's Li Na, and showed no ill-effects from the ankle injury she suffered during that match.

Clijsters broke Wozniacki four times in the first set as she dominated her younger rival on both her forehand and backhand sides.

And although Wozniacki broke twice herself, she was always playing catch-up and never looked like taking the set.

The second set followed a similar pattern, but Clijsters faltered while serving for the match at 5-3.

The tie-break went with serve until 4-4, when Clijsters stepped up to win the next three points and seal victory with a simple put-away into the open court.

"It didn't feel like being up a set and 5-2," the Belgian said.

"I really had to work at it. Caroline changed her tactics (in the second set) and became a bit more aggressive."

In the new rankings to be published next Monday, French Open champion Li Na, who fell to Clijsters in the fourth round, will slip to ninth in the world, WTA projections show.

China's Li will lose the points she earned for finishing as runner-up to Belgium's Clijsters in 2011, resulting in a drop of three places from number six.

US Open champion Samantha Stosur's first-round loss has not done her significant harm, with the Australian set to stay at number five.

And former world number one Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who lost in the fourth round to Czech second seed Kvitova, is projected to return to the top 20. She is currently ranked number 22.

Despite her long reign at the top, Wozniacki has failed to win a grand slam, with critics saying she could not be considered the best player in the world until she takes one of the sport's major prizes.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova weighed into the debate on Monday, saying the women's game was crying out for a new star and the rankings were weighted too much towards quantity of matches, rather than quality of opposition.

"Clearly nobody feels that Wozniacki is a true number one," she said.

"If we still had the same ranking system we were using six years ago when they were giving bonus points for beating players, Kvitova would have ended up number one because she had beaten more top players than Wozniacki."

Azarenka also reached the semi-finals on Tuesday after beating Agnieszka Radwanska, while Sharapova and Kvitova play their last-four matches on Wednesday.


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First posted January 24, 2012 16:33:46

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Kvitova advances with Ivanovic scalp

Updated January 23, 2012 19:16:27

Reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova downed Serbia's Ana Ivanovic in straight sets to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open on Monday.

After cruising through the first set Kvitova held off a late fight-back from the Serb to win 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) in 85 minutes in the first match of the day in the Rod Laver Arena.

The tall left-hander broke Ivanovic twice in the first set and once in the second, but was herself broken when serving for the match at 5-4.

Ivanovic held her next service game to love as Kvitova began to look shaky, but the second seed produced some big serves to take the set into a tie-break.

And Kvitova took charge of in the tie-break, quickly opening a 6-2 lead and sealing a place in the quarter-finals when an Ivanovic backhand hit the bottom of the net.

The Czech world number two hit more than twice as many winners as Ivanovic - 30 to 14 - which proved the difference between the two players.

"It was quite a hard match at the end of the second set," she said, adding that she was happy to be off the court early on a typically hot Melbourne day.

"I think I was quite lucky I played my match at 11:00am. It's hot, but we are in Australia so we are ready for it."

Kvitova has now reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne for the second year in row and will next play Sara Errani after the Italian defeated China's Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-1.


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First posted January 23, 2012 12:42:03

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Murray hits practice courts after 'boring' match

Updated January 23, 2012 20:01:22

Andy Murray said he would need to hit the practice courts to retain his sharpness after his "boring" stroll into the quarter-finals following an injury retirement at the Australian Open.

The British fourth seed was on court for only 49 minutes before his Kazakh opponent Mikhail Kukushkin retired early in the third set with a hip flexor injury.

Murray, who will face Japan's 24th seed Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals, said he was bored by his one-sided match with Kukushkin which he won 6-1, 6-1, 1-0.

"Yeah, it's just boring. There was nothing happening on the court," Murray said of the match against his 92nd-ranked opponent.

"I didn't have to do anything. Just hitting the ball in the court and he wasn't running. He was making mistakes the first or second ball of the rally," Murray added, saying there was no atmosphere.

Murray, a beaten finalist in the past two Australian Opens, said while he was happy to conserve energy in the sapping heat, he needed to put in some work to prepare for tougher matches ahead.

"It's perfect because you conserve energy. You just need to make sure, you know, today and tomorrow you hit enough balls to make sure you don't lose any rhythm.

"Because there were no rallies out there, I need to make sure I move around a little bit so I don't stiffen up in any way.

"But you can't look at it as a negative. At this stage of the tournament to be off the court in 45 minutes or so isn't bad."

Murray, bidding to become Britain's first male grand slam winner since Fred Perry in 1936, said he was improving with each round.

"I'll definitely be fresh for the next few rounds hopefully. Just need to make sure I do the right things the next couple days to get ready for the quarters," he said.

Kukushkin, who lost to Murray in Brisbane earlier this month, said his hip injury had restricted his running and his serve.

"Today, unfortunately, I was not able to show anything, to play, to compete, especially at this level," he said.


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First posted January 23, 2012 13:58:22

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Serena dumped by unheralded Russian

Updated January 23, 2012 19:17:37

Russia's Ekaterina Makarova etched her name into Australian Open folklore by stunning Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3 in their fourth-round match to end the American's aura of invincibility at Melbourne Park.

Williams, who twisted an ankle in the lead-up to the tournament, was slowed by injury in the 82-minute match on Rod Laver Arena but refused to blame it for her sensational loss to the Russian world number 56.

"She played really well, she went for broke on a lot of shots," Williams told reporters.

"I made 37 errors and that pretty much told the story of the match.

"It was definitely hard moving to that (left) side ... I just did not serve well, it was just disastrous really.

"I never blame any injury I have because I feel like she played really well and deserved the win."

The 13-times grand slam champion was a picture of torment throughout, serving up seven double-faults and routinely pushing her ground-strokes wide.

But Makarova, the lowest-ranked player to reach this year's last 16, served it up to the five-time Australian Open champion, absorbing her firepower and returning it with interest.

The 23-year-old fired sweetly struck winners on important points and showed nerves of steel as she closed out the match on her fourth match point when 12th seed Williams, serving to stay in the match, pushed a backhand wide.

"I don't know what to say, it's an amazing feeling," Makarova said in a courtside interview after raising her arms in the air to raucous applause from the stands.

"I'm really happy that I finished in my way ... It's an unbelievable feeling."

Makarova's win snapped a 17-match winning streak at Melbourne Park for Williams, who won the 2009 and 2010 titles but missed last year's tournament due to injury.

The American's last defeat at the Australian Open was by Jelena Jankovic, who beat her in the quarter-finals in 2008.

The win secured the Russian her first grand slam quarter-final, where she will face either compatriot Maria Sharapova or Germany's Sabine Lisicki, who play in the evening match.

Apart from Williams's semi-final loss to unranked wildcard and eventual champion Kim Clijsters at the 2009 US Open, Makarova was the lowest-ranked opponent to knock her out of a grand slam since 85th-ranked American Jill Craybas defeated her in the third round at Wimbledon in 2005.

Williams said she "probably" should not have played in Melbourne due to her injury, but added that she was itching to get back onto the practice courts to find out what went wrong.

"That's usually how I kind of respond," she said.

"I'm thinking already about practising as soon as tomorrow, you know, trying to figure - I can just think of a hundred things I can do."


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First posted January 23, 2012 16:21:31

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'Sorry' not enough for fuming Berdych

Updated January 23, 2012 09:20:23

Fuming Tomas Berdych said sorry was not enough Sunday as he accused Nicolas Almagro of hitting a ball at his face at the Australian Open - and was booed mercilessly for refusing to shake hands.

The Czech seventh seed, who came from a set down to win the fourth-round match 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-2), said Almagro had deliberately targeted him at the net with a shot which hit his arm.

Berdych was described as a "sore winner" by an ESPN commentator and roundly booed by the crowd at Melbourne Park.

But he was unrepentant afterwards, saying Almagro's apology simply was not enough.

"You think it's enough to apologise? You should think first before you do something," said Berdych, who tried to duck the shot and ended up lying on the court.

When asked what Almagro could have done besides saying sorry, he said: "He should play the ball differently. That's it

"Probably whoever has played tennis knows that the court is pretty big, and you always have some space to put the ball in.

"I was just able and lucky to somehow fall down. Just hit me in the arm, and that's it, you know."

Berdych, who said it was the first time he had refused to shake hands with an opponent, was asked whether he had any regrets.

"I think maybe we both did some mistakes. So it's even, and that's it. We don't have any problems at all," he said, adding that he was taken aback by the crowd's reaction.

"I mean, I can say I was a bit surprised (by their reaction), but hopefully it's just as I said, it's past," he said.

Tenth seed Almagro also sought to play down the incident.

"I don't think it was an incident. Everybody can do what they want," he said.

"I played the point the way I had to do it in order to win, and I can leave the court with my head high."

When asked directly whether he had tried to hit Berdych with the ball, he replied: "I tried to win the point."

"After the point, I won the point, I said sorry to him three or four times and after that you can ask him, not me," he added.


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First posted January 23, 2012 08:13:56

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Tomic wishes Hewitt best of luck

Updated January 23, 2012 09:05:28

As Lleyton Hewitt goes into battle as the last local hope at the Australian Open, vanquished countryman Bernard Tomic has wished him well.

Tomic's Open run ended with a fourth-round loss to Roger Federer on Sunday night.

Hewitt's unlikely march through the tournament reaches a juncture most expect will be its end, with world number one Novak Djokovic waiting for him on centre court on Monday night.

The two-time grand slam champion, who has slipped to 181 in the rankings, typified his fighting qualities with a resilient four-set win over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic on Saturday to progress to the round of 16.

Tomic, 19, impressed all in his best Australian Open run and a grand slam performance to rival his Wimbledon quarter-final effort last year.

Now the attention turns to 30-year-old Hewitt, who has defied fitness queries to get this far.

"We have done a good job to get to the fourth round," Tomic said of himself and wildcard Hewitt.

"He's got to step out there giving it a go like I did. And, you know, who knows?

"It's tough for him to win that match against Novak, but he will have the crowd on his side, he will try his heart out."

So did the unseeded Tomic, but without success against a red-hot Federer who stepped up in the latter stages of his 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win.

The Gold Coast teenager had gone toe-to-toe with the third seed in the first set, before the Swiss ratcheted up his game with some sensational play.

Tomic's wondrous week has convinced him as much as Australian tennis fans that he is capable of taking the next step - and sooner rather than later.

"It could be very soon. The next year, year and a half, if I improve my body and get stronger," he said.

"Having played all the top four guys now, and Roger twice, I think there is a lot for me in the future.

"I'm always going to get better and better. Looking back a year, I was not as good as now.

"And now looking to next year, I'll probably be even better. That's a scary part for me because I know I can improve a lot."

Rafael Nadal also took time to lavish praise on Hewitt's never-say-die fighting qualities, saying he is respected and admired throughout the sport.

Nadal said he was emotional watching Hewitt, a former world number one, giving his all to get past Raonic, at 21, nine years his junior.

"I admire him a lot. I think he deserves the respect and admiration of all the people who love this sport" after so many operations, he said.

"I watched the match at my hotel and even though I have a good relationship with Raonic, his coach is from Spain ... I really got emotional when Lleyton finished," Nadal added.

"He fell to the floor, he was really showing his emotions, so it's something fantastic at this stage after having a fantastic career to keep having this motivation.

"I wish him all the best for the rest of the season. I hope his problems will be fine. He's one of the more charismatic players on tour.

"I always have admired him, his spirit of competition. Today he is an example to follow for a lot of people."

Others aiming to win spots in the quarter-finals in Monday's fourth-round matches are Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.


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First posted January 23, 2012 08:57:13

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Nishikori shocks Tsonga to make quarters

Updated January 23, 2012 19:51:21

Kei Nishikori blazed a trail for Asian men's tennis in the modern era on Monday when he became the first Japanese to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in 80 years.

Nishikori stunned French sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to emulate countrymen Ryosuki Nunoi and Jiro Satoh, who made the last eight in 1932, and now faces Andy Murray for a place in the semi-finals.

"Hopefully I can be like Li Na for the men," the 22-year-old said with a grin in reference to China's Li, who became Asia's first grand slam singles winner last year at the French Open.

"Honestly there's a lot of good players in Asia and I am happy to get to the top from Asia," added the 24th seed.

In the other fourth round match, Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet in straight sets.

Ferrer, last year's semi-finalist, defeated 17th seed Gasquet 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 and will play either top seed Novak Djokovic or Lleyton Hewitt in Wednesday's quarters.

Nishikori left home at 13 to train at the Bolletierri Academy in Florida and after winning his first title at Delray Beach in 2008 has moved up the rankings to number 25 in the world and was seeded for the first time at Melbourne Park.

He is a celebrity in Japan, unable to walk around the streets freely in Tokyo without being approached by fans.

After beating Tsonga, he hoped it would provide further impetus to tennis in his country.

"A lot of people congratulate me," he added. "

"They always email me after the matches. Hopefully people, especially kids, (will) start playing tennis.

"But first of all I have to play well and I have to give them good news. If that helps Japan, I'm really happy."

Nishikori was visibly exhausted after his three hour, 25 minute match with France's Julien Benneteau on Saturday, finding it hard to climb the stairs.

But the 22-year-old shrugged off the fatigue and summoned the strength to chase down everything the powerful Tsonga threw at him.

"When you have a guy in front of you who returns everything, even when you serve 215 (kph), it puts a lot of pressure (on you)," Tsonga said.

"It's tough to play against him because he runs a lot and everything's coming back."

Nishikori is also the first Japanese man to reach a grand slam quarter-final since Shuzo Matsuoka, who has emailed him after each match, reached that stage at Wimbledon in 1995.

"This is the first (grand slam) quarter-final for me. (My) best result was the 2008 US Open round of 16 (but) that was a couple years ago," said Nishikori.

"So I feel I'm stepping up."

Murray, who knocked out the only other Asian left in the men's draw when Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin retired with an injury, said the Japanese would be a dangerous opponent.

"Kei is playing really, really well," said the fourth-seeded Briton.

"I've practiced with him a few times. He's very good. Very deceptive. For somebody that's not the tallest guy, he creates a lot of power from the back of the court.

"He deals with pace well. He can slice. He moves well. He was hitting a lot of winners out there and was dictating all the points from the back of the court which is difficult against someone like Tsonga."


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First posted January 23, 2012 17:03:03

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dominant Williams into fourth round

Updated January 21, 2012 22:24:20

Five-time champion Serena Williams raced into the fourth round of the Australian Open, demolishing Hungary's Greta Arn for the loss of just two games on Saturday evening.

Williams totally dominated the world number 92 to win 6-1, 6-1 and move into a fourth round clash against unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

The 32-year-old Arn started well and had a break point in the opening game, but that was as close as the Hungarian got as Williams stepped up to overpower her opponent and run away with the match in just 59 minutes.

Williams broke Arn twice in the first set and three times in the second as the Hungarian wilted on the big stage of a grand slam centre court.

Williams, playing only her second tournament since the US Open last September, said she still had some way to go before she was fully match fit.

"I'm nowhere near where I want to be, but I'm trying to play through it," she said.

"I'm really rusty - I'm just trying to play through the rust."

The 30-year-old American won the Australian Open in 2009 and 2010 but missed the tournament last year through injury.

She is now unbeaten in her past 17 matches at Melbourne Park.

Earlier, Russian 18th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova went down to German Sabine Lisicki 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.


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First posted January 21, 2012 21:34:09

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Clijsters battles back from the brink

Updated January 23, 2012 00:09:15

Defending Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters said she faced an anxious wait to find out the condition of her injured ankle after her remarkable win over China's Li Na on Sunday.

Clijsters rolled her left ankle midway through the first set of her dramatic fourth-round match, before staging what she described as the best comeback of her career.

The Belgian saved four match points in the second set, coming from 6-2 down in a tie-break to defeat a shell-shocked Li 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.

It was a magnificent turnaround from the Belgian, who looked down and out as she hobbled to her chair at 3-3 in the first set after rolling her ankle during a baseline rally.

Clijsters, who had her leg raised during her post-match press conference, said she did not know the extent of her injury or how it would heal before her quarter-final against Caroline Wozniacki on Tuesday.

The top seed Wozniacki saw off the challenge of former world number one Jelena Jankovic in straight sets.

The day was all about Clijsters though, who added another indelible Australian Open memory to those from her run to the title last year.

"It's only the first hour since I'm done. I'm taped already and I was fully covered in the ice bath for the ankle and everything," she said.

"I have the best people around me to take care of me and to make sure that this is hopefully not going to get any worse than it is now.

"That's why I'm sitting here with my leg up, to try and keep the swelling down as much as possible. We will see."

Clijsters admitted she had briefly considered pulling out when she suffered the injury.

"It definitely crossed my mind at some point (to pull out) but I knew if I could just try to let the medication sink in, or if I could get through the first 20 minutes, half-hour, I think the pain would go away a little bit and then maybe with the adrenaline I could just fly through it," she said.

The much-anticipated rematch of last year's final had threatened to turn into a huge anti-climax as Clijsters struggled to continue after the fall.

Clijsters decided to battle on, but it soon became obvious that she was not moving as well as she normally does and she had trouble chasing down Li's wide balls.

She managed to hold her serve after the injury but Li then broke Clijsters' next service game and held her own to take the first set in 43 minutes.

Clijsters started slowly in the second set but began to move better and forced the set into a tie-break.

Li opened a 6-2 lead, only for Clijsters to win six points in a row to level the match, the last an audacious lob that left the Chinese stranded at the net.

"I didn't want to give her anything for free," Clijsters said of the four match points.

"If she was going to come up with an ace or with a winner, you know, too good, but I didn't want to make the mistake.

"I think she was a little bit lost or maybe a little bit confused at that time and she made two pretty easy mistakes when we changed sides.

"That made me believe in it even more in the beginning of that third set to just stick through it from the beginning and try to get as many breaks as I could in the beginning."

By this point the match had swung firmly back towards Clijsters as Li lost her first two service games and the defending champion raced into a 4-0 lead.

She fought back but it was too late and Clijsters sealed victory when a Li backhand hit the net on her second match point.

"I knew beforehand it was going to be a tough match, physically, mentally, everything," Clijsters said.

"But I didn't expect this - it was amazing to get through."

Wozniacki raced away with the first set and edged the second to win 6-0, 7-5, with the Serbian 13th seed making a huge 50 unforced errors in a match lasting one hour and 43 minutes.

The Dane looked like running away with the contest when leading 4-1 in the second set, but Jankovic staged a late comeback before the Dane sealed the win on her second match point.

"My confidence is high, my fitness is good, I feel like my play is improving so I'm very positive," said Wozniacki. "I thought I played a great set and a half today but then she started to play well."


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First posted January 22, 2012 19:17:49

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Fighting Hewitt sets stage for Djokovic clash

Updated January 22, 2012 09:25:14

Lleyton Hewitt's heart proved big enough to withstand a hail of bullets from big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic as he set up a fourth round Australian Open clash with world number one Novak Djokovic.

The 30-year-old Australian fell to his back with emotion after downing 21-year-old rising star Raonic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night, despite the 196cm Canadian delivering a string of the tournament's fastest serves.

Raonic, who started 2011 ranked number 156, has climbed to his current number 25 on the back of an eye-catching season which earned him the 2011 ATP newcomer's award.

He clearly boasts some characteristics Hewitt does not - youth, height, power and a future much brighter than his present.

It looked as though Raonic was set to add a berth in the Australian Open last 16 to that list, after blasting his way through the first set.

But father-of-three Hewitt, whose number 181 ranking meant he needed a wildcard to compete in his record 16th Open, showed he still holds a big edge in a few less tangible characteristics.

Tenacity is one, plus experience and the mental strength to find his best under pressure.

Those differences were typified when Hewitt won his only break point of the first two sets, deep in the second, with Hewitt scampering and retrieving until the Canadian fluffed an overhead from the baseline.

Those fighting qualities again came to the fore in the third set tie-breaker when, on his third set point, Hewitt brilliantly returned a Raonic thunderbolt to create a rally, then maintained the pressure until his younger opponent volleyed into the net.

They later loomed large when Hewitt produced a stunning backhand passing shot at full pace on his way to a decisive break of the deflated Canadian's serve in the fourth set.

But most of all when he survived two break points and needed three match points to serve out the contest.

"A couple of months ago I would have done anything to be serving to be in the fourth round of the Australian Open," Hewitt said of his relief at clinching the final game.

"You have to block that out, it is just another game, but it's a big bloody game."

While Hewitt has battled his way through, coming opponent Djokovic has conceded just 10 games on his way to the fourth round.

The reigning Open champion also holds a four-match winning streak against Hewitt.

"I'm going to have to go out there and take it up to him and see what happens," he said.

Raonic said Hewitt's competitive instincts remained as sharp as ever.

"It doesn't matter how hurt he's been, how old he is. He's as much a competitor as he ever was," the Canadian said.


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First posted January 22, 2012 00:17:22

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I'll give it a crack, says Hewitt

Updated January 22, 2012 18:49:45

Lleyton Hewitt has vowed to come out swinging when he faces defending champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round at the Australian Open.

The two-time grand slam winner slipped to 181 in the world rankings but has turned back the clock in Melbourne seeing off big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic to reach the round of 16, after earlier beating injured Andy Roddick.

Hewitt concedes his impressive run in the tournament so far would pale in comparison to a victory over Djokovic but gives himself a chance of victory.

"I'll prepare as well as possible again. I'll do all the right things. He's the number one player in the world for a reason at the moment.

"I'm going to enjoy going out there and having a crack."

The former Wimbledon and US Open champion admitted he had to work hard even to play in Melbourne after undergoing foot surgery last year.

"A couple of months ago I didn't know if I'd be able to play. Yeah, obviously I didn't play much tennis last year," he said late on Saturday.

"I think in terms of how much pain and stuff I played with last year, it's really only my team and people close to me and probably the Davis Cup boys sort of know what I've had to deal with," he added.

"So, it's pleasing to come through like I have the last three matches."

The 30-year-old said he had no sense of disbelief after downing Raonic, the 23rd seed.

"I never write myself off," he said.

"I don't think a lot of people would have given me a lot of hope when the draw came out to be in the fourth round going into the second week," added Hewitt, handed a wildcard to play at the Open.

"I've done everything right so far, laid it all out on the line."

Djokovic has beaten Hewitt in four of their five previous meetings, including at the 2008 Australian Open and 2010 Wimbledon. Hewitt's only win came back in the 2006 US Open.

The top seed has breezed through the tournament with ease winning all his matches in straight sets but admits to admiring Hewitt's run.

"Lleyton has been playing some really good tennis," Djokovic said.

"I think the best that we have seen him play in last two years."


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First posted January 22, 2012 18:49:45

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