Section: Tennis

Dubai: Venus, Ivanovic and Kvitova out but Wozniacki through

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova and fourth-seeded Ana Ivanovic followed defending champion Venus Williams to an early exit at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

In all, five of the top eight seeded players failed to reach Thursday’s quarter-finals: Kvitova, Ivanovic, No.5 Agnieszka Radwanska, No.7 Angelique Kerber and No.8 Williams.

Kvitova, the reigning Wimbledon champion, went down 6-3 4-6 6-3 to 13th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, while Ivanovic fell to 17th-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-2 4-6 6-4.

Suarez Navarro pulled out of the Antwerp final last Sunday with a neck injury, but appears in fine form this week. Top-seeded Simona Halep and third-seeded Caroline Wozniacki will be in third-round action later.

Williams, with three career titles in Dubai, lost 6-4 6-2 to 11th-seeded Lucie Safarova. The eighth-seeded Williams looked listless in the humid 93 degree temperatures.

“I think she played awesome,” Williams said. “There were a couple of games there that I didn’t even get my racket on the ball. What can I say to that?”

Williams offered Safarova six opportunities to break serve and the Czech player took advantage four times, twice in each set.

“I was firing the ball, serving really well,” Safarova said. “I put the pressure [on] right away from the first point. My lefty serve into her body and mixing the lefty serve with the really flat and fast serves, that seems [to] give her a little trouble.”

Joining Williams on the sidelines was fifth-seeded Radwanska, who lost to unseeded Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-2. Radwanska was broken five times.

“I think when you’re not playing your best tennis then it’s hard to compete with those kind of players,” Radwanska said. “I think I didn’t serve well enough to win that.”

By contrast, top-seed Simona Halep and third-seed Caroline Wozniacki scored straight set victories to advance.

Halep ousted Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4 6-3, while Wozniacki beat 15th-seed Alize Cornet, last year’s finalist, 6-4 6-0. Halep, who lost her serve on double-faults in the first game of both sets, said she was unaware of all the seeded players that lost ahead of her on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t matter sometimes who wins or who loses, because tennis, it’s like you never know what is happening on court,” Halep said. “So, I take every match like a tough one and I expect everything.”

Wozniacki knew of the upsets. Nevertheless, she wasn’t concerned she might suffer the same fate.

“I think the players that won, it’s not like they come out of nowhere,” Wozniacki said. “Most of these girls have had a good year or are very high in the rankings. It happens at big tournaments like this.”

Elsewhere, seventh-seed Angelique Kerber was ousted by 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta 6-2 3-6 6-1 and sixth-seed Ekaterina Makarova defeated Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-4.

Read more at ESPN

Tennis: Andy Murray loses to Gilles Simon in Rotterdam quarter-final

Top seed Andy Murray suffered a shock defeat against Gilles Simon in the quarter-final of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

The British number one and world number four lost 6-4 6-2 to the Frenchman, 15 places below him in the world rankings.

Murray, 27, lost his serve in the opening game and slipped up again in the fifth to concede the first set.

It was the same story in the second set with Murray failing to deliver on his first serve as he made many mistakes.

The Scot, who beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-3 7-5 in the second round, had won 12 of the previous 13 meetings against the Frenchman.

Simon, seeded eighth, will face the Czech world number seven Tomas Berdych, who was a 6-1 6-4 winner against Frenchman Gael Monfils.

Stan Wawrinka also progressed to the last four in Rotterdam, defeating world number 37 Gilles Muller.

Number four seed Wawrinka sealed a 7-6 6-3 straight sets victory to set up a match against either Sergiy Stakhovsky or Milos Raonic.

Read more at BBC Sport

Tennis: Andy Murray beats Vasek Pospisil in Rotterdam second round

Britain’s Andy Murray beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-3 7-5 in the second round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

The top seed was hampered by an ankle knock at the start of the second set but fought back from 5-3 behind to win in straight sets.

Murray, 27, only hit 14 winners to his opponent’s 25, but made 17 unforced errors compared to Pospisil’s 26.

The Scot now faces eighth seed Gilles Simon of France in the quarter-finals.

The first set went with serve until the eighth game when Murray took advantage of some tame Pospisil serves to break and then he held comfortably to take the first set in 36 minutes.

The world number four then landed awkwardly on his left ankle in the first game of the second set but, despite hobbling and in pain, he took control after breaking Pospisil with a great return down the line to move 3-2 up.

However, the Scot, who beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 6-3 6-2 in the first round, then lost his way and was broken back immediately thanks to the Canadian’s best return of the match.

Pospisil went in front on his own serve before the world number 59 claimed the vital break to move 5-3 up as Murray picked up a code violation for smashing his racquet.

The Scot showed his mettle to immediately break back and then levelled at 5-5.

Murray then won a hard-fought 11th game of the set after several deuces before serving out to win the match.

He now faces Gilles Simon, who progressed thanks to a routine 6-4 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.

Read more at BBC Sport

Tennis: Queen’s wildcard for four-time champion Lleyton Hewitt

Former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt has been given a wildcard entry to the Aegon Championships at Queen’s in what will be his last grass-court season.

The Australian former world number one, 33, said last month he would retire  after next year’s Australian Open.

The 2001 US Open champion has won Queen’s four times.

“Lleyton is one of our greatest champions,” tournament director Stephen Farrow said.

“It is a little unconventional to award wildcards before the entry list has been finalised, but it took us roughly two seconds to decide to guarantee Lleyton a wildcard.”

Hewitt will join defending champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and British number one Andy Murray in the draw for the event, which takes place from 15 to 21 June.

Read more at BBC Sport

Fed Cup: Great Britain beat Ukraine to reach play-offs

Great Britain recovered from the brink of elimination to beat Ukraine and top their Fed Cup qualifying group.

Even though Johanna Konta and Heather Watson won their singles matches, Anna Smith and Jocelyn Rae still had to save a match point to win the one set of doubles they required to go through.

Britain will now contest a Group I play-off against Victoria Azarenka’s Belarus on Saturday in Budapest.

The winners will progress to the 16-team World Group II play-offs in April.

Following their defeat by Turkey on Thursday, GB needed to beat Ukraine convincingly to advance.

World number 145 Konta, 23, beat Lesia Tsurenko – a player ranked 53 places above her – 6-3 6-2, before British number one Watson, 22, fought back from a set down to defeat Elina Svitolina 2-6 7-5 6-4.

Smith, 26, and Rae, 23, lost the first set of their doubles contest on a tie-break and saved a match point that would have eliminated Judy Murray’s squad before sealing the tie 6-7 (6-8) 7-5 6-4.

“There were so many epic points,” said Smith. “I just remember running a lot. We just showed guts and determination to pull through.”

Rae added: “This level is a bit new to us so the fact that we pulled through is positive. It was a massive team effort.”

Murray paid tribute to her team for bouncing back from the blow of the Turkey reverse.

“It was an amazing day today,” she said.

“We had such a disappointing day yesterday and everyone was very flat leaving the courts. But we managed to turn it around.

“It really was a fantastic performance form the girls and sets us up nicely for the play-off tomorrow and we will throw the kitchen sink at it.”

Read more at BBC Sport

Fed Cup: Great Britain fall to impressive Turkey in Fed Cup

A shock 2-1 defeat to Turkey in Budapest left Great Britain’s women needing a victory against group favourites Ukraine in order to progress to the next stage of the Fed Cup.

Johanna Konta was beaten 6-3 7-6(6) by Ipek Soylu, who isn’t ranked in the world’s top 300, while Heather Watson lost her high-pressure match against Cagla Buyukakcay, who is ranked 79 places beneath her.

Having strolled through her encounter with Lichtenstein on Wednesday, Konta came into the tie on good form and started well by breaking Soylu but ended up capitulating at the end of the second set as she lost four tie-break points in a row.

Watson, who started as poorly as Konta finished, was 4-0 down to Buyukakcy and couldn’t arrest the momentum until finally breaking back in the second. However, she was immediately broken back and succumbed to the in-form Buyukakcay, who had beaten world No. 26 Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.

A strong performance from doubles pair Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith gave Great Britain a potentially crucial point in the third and final tie against Turkey, but the team still need to beat Ukraine and hope that Turkey defeat Lichtenstein if they are to progress to the third round.

Read more at ESPN

Australian Open: Djokovic gets the better of Murray again

Novak Djokovic defeated Andy Murray for the third time in an Australian Open final as the world No.1 clinched his fifth Melbourne Park crown with a 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 win.

Djokovic got the better of British No.1 Murray in both the 2011 and 2013 finals and once again it was the Serb prevailed after a lengthy, tight encounter on Sunday.

The opening set lasted a marathon 72 minutes on Rod Laver Arena: both players broke serve twice in a remarkable exchange of tennis, before Murray forced the tie-breaker. However, despite taking the braver approach, Murray was eventually undone by his own efforts.

His return to set up a winner and earn a first set point was too long and Djokovic, who appeared frustrated with apparent thumb blisters, claimed first blood when the Scot netted a backhand on the second serve. Previously, Murray had never come back from a set down to beat Djokovic and that was not about to change.

The second set started in opposite fashion as the pace from both players slumped dramatically. With Djokovic struggling with thumb and ankle problems, Murray broke into a two-love lead only to lose four successive games and hand momentum back to his opponent: a trait that would ultimately cost him a maiden Australian Open crown.

A brief stoppage due to protestors invading the court provided a turning point; the standard lifted and Murray broke back. After 80 minutes, some long and fiercely contested points and a second tie-break, the Scot was level.

However, Murray’s failure to kick on when ahead proved detrimental. Flying from his levelling tie-break, he broke immediately at the start of the third and quickly held to move two-love up. Djokovic, though, was soon let off the hook; the same as he had been against Wawrinka in their semi-final and earlier in the match.

Two breaks of serve later and set three was over in less than half the time it took to finish set two. The four-time champion moved within a set of his fifth title.

Momentum had clearly shifted the Serb’s way and Murray looked to have given up the ghost. The Briton was broken immediately and, after Djokovic secured advantage with a comfortable hold, Murray dropped serve again. From that point there was only one outcome as, after over three-and-half gruelling hours on court, Djokovic wrapped up his third Australian Open final triumph against his old friend and rival with a bagel.

Read more at ESPN

Australian Open: Andy Murray’s fiancée Kim Sears responds to critics with brilliant T-shirt

Kim Sears wins the day with a wonderful T-shirt in response to her critics…

Well played, Kim Sears, very well played…

Sears, the fiancée of Andy Murray, responded in quite brilliant fashion to her critics after she swore during her man’s previous match at the Australian Open.

All eyes were always going to be on Sears after her outburst during Murray’s semi-final match against Tomas Berdych, and she found the perfect riposte.

The response on social media was one of delight with many quick to laud Sears for her humour in reacting to the controversy in such fashion.

kim-sears-t-shirt-response-tweet kim-sears-t-shirt-response

On Thursday, the TV cameras had alighted on Sears during a particularly intense moment: Murray was down 5-4 in the first set against Berdych, which he would go on to lose in a tie-break.

And amateur lip readers up and down the country were quickly accusing Sears of turning the air blue with what appeared to be a very rude outburst.

Read more at Yahoo Sport

Australian Open: Williams continues dominance over rival Sharapova

Serena Williams continued her dominance over Maria Sharapova as she collected her 19th grand slam title with a straight sets victory in the Australian Open final.

Sharapova has not beaten her rival for 11 years and her losing streak continued at Melbourne Park on Saturday, as the American enjoyed a 6-3 7-6(5) victory on Rod Laver Arena to claim the championship for a sixth time.

Top seed Williams, who was suffering from a coughing fit, broke Sharapova in the opening game of the match and she rallied to take the first set, amid a short rain delay, in 47 minutes.

Sharapova offered stubborn resistance in the second but, despite saving two championship points and forcing the tie-break, Williams proved too strong and wrapped up victory just shy of two hours.

“Growing up I wasn’t the richest but I had a rich family in spirit and support,” Williams said afterwards. “Standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen.

“I went on the court with just a ball, a racket and a hope and that’s all I had. It’s inspiring for you guys that want to be the best you can be, you never give up because you never know what can happen and who you can inspire and influence.

“I have to congratulate Maria who played a wonderful match. She really pushed me tonight. She played so well.”

She added via Channel 7: “I had a really bad cough and ended up throwing up actually. I think that helped when I got everything out of me and cleared my chest out because I couldn’t breathe a little bit.

“I’ve had a really bad cold and cough. Usually when that happens you stay in bed for a week, you don’t play matches every other day and practice every other day. Now I have a couple of days to take a deep breath and lay down.

“I’m going to go to bed and curl up under some covers and go to sleep. That sounds excellent right now.”

Despite having not beaten her opponent since 2004 – a run of 16 straight losses – Sharapova was again magnanimous in defeat.

She said: “I have to congratulate Serena on creating history and playing some of her best tennis. It’s an honour playing against her. I’ve not beaten her in a really long time but I love stepping on the court every time because she has been the best and you always want to play the best.

“I was almost down and out in the second round so feel I gave myself a second life in this tournament. It was not quite enough today but I am proud of my effort. I had some of my best moments on this court but also some of my toughest losses but that’s the life of a tennis player.”

Victory sees Williams move into outright second in the list of grand slam titles won throughout the Open era; lifting the Daphne Akhurst trophy again saw Williams climb above Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. She is now three titles away from Steffi Graff’s record of 22.

Read more at ESPN

Australian Open: Great Britain’s Swan beaten in girls final

Great Britain’s Katie Swan saw her superb Australian Open campaign come to a disappointing end as she lost to Slovakia’s Tereza Mihalikova in the final of the girls’ singles on Saturday.

Swan beat the top seed in the third round in Melbourne and saved three match points in an epic semi-final victory on Friday, where she struggled badly with cramp in a three-set match lasting more than two and a half hours.

But the 15-year-old from Bristol, who is now based in Kansas, perhaps paid the price for those heroics in the final, losing 6-1 6-4 in an hour and 29 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

After losing the first set in comprehensive fashion in the windy conditions, Swan threatened to make a comeback when she saved two break points in the opening game of the second set and then broke serve on her way to a 3-0 lead.

However, she then left the court for a medical time-out and after returning with strapping on her right thigh, proceeded to lose the next five games in a row.

Swan bravely saved two match points to force Mihalikova to serve for the match, but the unseeded 16-year-old held her nerve from 0-30 down to seal victory.

“I actually started to feel my groin at the middle of the first set and then it got worse and worse throughout,” Swan said. “I decided at 1-0 when I changed ends I was going to have the trainer on no matter what. So we went off and I think it’s a strain in my groin. It’s unfortunate but not much I can do about it.

“I think I didn’t have much time to recover from yesterday, so that’s part of it.”

Swan, who was set to watch one of her favourite players – Maria Sharapova – in Saturday’s women’s final, added: “It was tough the first set. I wasn’t really playing my best. I was pretty nervous so I wasn’t really on my game.

“Then the second set I told myself again I just had to keep fighting. If I didn’t have this [injury] and I could move fully, I think I would have had a better chance of taking that set. But I was still pleased with the way I fought and saved two match points.

“It’s been an amazing experience. Obviously my best tournament I’ve ever played. I’m really pleased with the way I’ve been playing this week. I hope that there are a lot more tournaments like this for me.”

Annabel Croft was the last British winner of the girls’ title in Melbourne in 1984, while Laura Robson reached the final in 2009 and 2010 after winning the junior title at Wimbledon in 2008.

Swan revealed Robson had sent her a good luck message on Twitter, adding: “It’s actually been crazy. There have been so many people that sent me messages, tweeting, Facebook, Instagram. Everybody has been so supportive from my home in England and Wichita, Kansas.

“I got a few new followers on Twitter, which I was really pleased with, and Laura Robson tweeted me, which made me feel real good.”

Read more at ESPN