Australian Open: Serena battles through ankle and business worries in Melbourne

By Sports Desk February 14, 2021

Serena Williams calmed injured fears after coming through a thrilling back-and-forth against Arnya Sabalenka to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Williams, who is pursuing a record-equalling 24th career grand slam and her first major victory in four years, prevailed 6-4 2-6 6-4 after more than two hours on court against seventh seed Sabalenka.

Her struggles during the second set appeared partly attributable to a fall but Williams recovered her poise and the 39-year-old does not expect any ill-effects in a last-eight showdown against either Simona Halep or Iga Swiatek.

"I don't think so. It didn't hurt at all. I didn't roll my ankle, so that was good," she told reporters.

"Yeah, I think it was just dramatic, me being dramatic.

"My first thought was, 'Not another ankle sprain in Australia'. But I knew immediately that it wasn't.

"Then I was more embarrassed than anything. I was like, 'Oh, my goodness'."

Williams moved well throughout the contest, assuaging any lingering concerns over Achilles problems that have dogged her of late - even manging to rally when Sabalenka reeled off three consecutive games from 1-4 down in the decider.

"I've worked really hard on my movement. Yeah, I like retrieving balls. I mean, obviously I like to be on the offense, but I can play defence really well, as well.

"I do get a lot of balls back when I need to. I didn't think about my Achilles. It's so good to not think about it. Oh, my goodness. It's been a problem actually since 2018.

"I just never want that problem again. It feels really good to just play and to run, to not feel that. It's a great relief."

Arguably Williams' greatest inconvenience around the match was not a physical one, after she had to participate in a Saturday conference call to avert an "emergency" at her clothing business.

"Tennis is a lot less stressful. I don't have to manage a team. I do manage a team actually, but it's different," she chuckled. "Even though I am the CEO of my tennis team, it's definitely different.

"I think a part of me loves being on the court because it's free-flowing. It's not like I have to kind of just manage and make sure everyone is able to perform.

"I have a second career and it's fun. One of our main players, our employees, had an emergency. You got to step it up when you got to step it up.

"I was smart about that. I scheduled a call directly after my practice. I was like, 'Okay, I can do it early and still have the rest of the day to relax'.

"And it was during [Williams' daughter] Olympia's nap, so it was perfect."

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    Emma Raducanu revealed members of her support team proposed she should abandon her Australian Open campaign before Thursday's defeat to Danka Kovinic.

    The 19-year-old US Open champion was badly affected by a blister on her right hand as she slid to a 6-4 4-6 6-3 defeat on Margaret Court Arena.

    Raducanu made a strong start in the opening set before the pain began to kick in, and she said she won the second set "with basically one shot" after being unable to consistently club heavy ground strokes.

    But Raducanu could not maintain that level into the decider, suffering her first grand slam defeat in a completed match, having previously pulled out injured during a Wimbledon fourth-round clash with Ajla Tomljanovic before streaking to a sensational first major in New York.

    Raducanu did not specify who exactly had suggested she ought not take to the court, but said: "There were some people in my team that maybe didn't want me to play."

    A recent case of COVID-19 interrupted Raducanu's preparation for her first major since teaming up with new coach Torben Beltz.

    "Because of 21 days, no tennis, my hands got pretty soft," Raducanu said.

    She explained blisters had begun to form on her hand in training soon after arriving in Australia, with the current problem – "right in the crease" – having been affecting her since just prior to the Australian Open beginning.

    The problem has been getting worse rather than better and Raducanu said the blister had become "pretty deep".

    "It's a bit annoying," she said, "because I know it's something that will heal in a few days. It's just unfortunate timing. I have had blisters before but never this bad. It's quite deep, and it's just in a very awkward position that is so difficult to tape."

    She said every shot was taking a toll on the blister, with the friction meaning each impact was "very painful".

    The forehand slice became a big shot for Raducanu, and it was to her credit that she almost eked a win out of such difficult circumstances.

    In the end, world number 98 Kovinic found ways to overcome a hampered opponent, setting up a daunting third-round clash with Simona Halep.

    Raducanu said: "I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn't know I had before. That slice forehand is not so bad, and I have some sort of hand skills. That was a positive surprise.

    "To get that second set with basically one shot, I can't believe it really.

    "Because I'm still young, I feel like I can learn a backhand, I can learn some sort of tactics, but it's quite hard to learn or teach someone that fight and grittiness to hang in there when things are pretty much all against you. So, I'm quite proud of that."

  • Australian Open: 'They probably have a low IQ' – Medvedev hits out at spectators who jeered during Kyrgios clash Australian Open: 'They probably have a low IQ' – Medvedev hits out at spectators who jeered during Kyrgios clash

    Daniil Medvedev did not hold back following his victory over Nick Kyrgios as he labelled spectators who jeered him during the second-round match of having "a low IQ".

    The world number two continued his quest for a second grand slam crown, and a first at the Australian Open, with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 4-6 6-2 win over Kyrgios on Thursday.

    Medvedev, who is the highest-seeded player at Melbourne Park following Novak Djokovic's withdrawal, prevailed against the home favourite in just under three hours.

    He played the role of pantomime villain in front of a partisan crowd fully behind Kyrgios, which the Russian took exception to after sealing a place in the third round.

    Medvedev, who will take on Botic van de Zandschulp for a place in the last 16, was particularly unhappy with those who made noise between his serves at Rod Laver Arena.

    "It's a little bit disappointing," he told Eurosport. "I guess it's normal, everyone experiences it, especially when you play a home favourite and not just any home favourite, but Nick.

    "A few moments on my serve, where he managed to make some good returns, and then break point on second serve and people are cheering like you've made a double-fault.

    "That's just disappointing. It's not everybody who's doing it, but those who are doing it probably have a low IQ.

    "When you get booed between first and second serves you have to stay calm."

    The crowd interrupted the interview, at which point on-court reporter and two-time Australian Open winner Jim Courier attempted to play peacemaker.

    Courier pointed out that the noisy crowd were shouting 'siuu' in homage to Cristiano Ronaldo's now-trademark celebration.

    "Guys I can't hear him, please show some respect for Jim Courier, he won here guys," Medvedev said.

    "Let him speak guys. If you respect somebody, at least respect Jim Courier. I cannot hear him guys."

    Kyrgios described the 'siuu' chants as like "being in a zoo" after his first-round match, while Andy Murray admitted to being "irritated" by the persistent chanting.

    "What I'm saying is that between first and second serves is not easy," Medvedev added. "I remember the games I lost on the break points it was the case and it's tough to play."

    Further embracing his role as public enemy number one after eliminating Kyrgios, Medvedev signed the letters "SIUUUU" in the camera lens before exiting the court.

    After winning the US Open, Medvedev is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden grand slam title with another in his next major appearance.

    Last-year's beaten finalist saw off Henri Laaksonen in straight sets in round one and is now the strong favourite to advance past world number 57 Van de Zandschulp.

    Medvedev hit 31 aces against Kyrgios – the highest tally in a single grand slam main draw match – en route to reaching the third round in Melbourne for a fourth straight time.

    Reflecting on his impressive win, Medvedev said: "Five years ago I probably would break two racquets, just get angry, start shouting at my box for nothing.

    "And it probably would not help me win the match. I could win some [matches] like this, but you cannot win grand slams like this.

    "So it makes me really happy because I can still have some tantrums, we all know it, but I've been working on myself. 

    "I've been working pretty hard last couple of years and I’m trying to mature as a tennis player and a person.

    "The match like tonight, and a few last year, show that I'm capable of being really strong mentally no matter what happens on the court and I'm really happy about that."

  • Australian Open: Kovinic upsets hampered Raducanu to break new ground Australian Open: Kovinic upsets hampered Raducanu to break new ground

    A hampered Emma Raducanu crashed out of the Australian Open with a defeat to Danka Kovinic in the second round on Thursday.

    World number 98 Kovinic beat the US Open champion 6-4 4-6 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena to become the first player representing Montenegro to reach the third round of a grand slam.

    Raducanu was troubled by a blister on her right hand and although the 17th seed showed her fighting spirit to take a topsy-turvy match the distance, she was unable to avoid an early exit.

    It had all started so well for the 19-year-old Raducanu, but Kovinic won five games in a row from 3-0 down in the first set and although the Brit got back on serve at 5-4, she was fell behind after being broken for a fourth time.

    Clearly restricted by her damaged hand, the favourite mixed up her approach intelligently with a measured sliced forehand and levelled the match courtesy of two breaks, an overcooked forehand from Kovinic ending the set.

    Kovinic saved four break points early in the decider and broke when her opponent sent a backhand long, but the battling world number 18 hit straight back to get back on serve at 3-2.

    However, a stroke of good fortune via the net cord gave Kovinic another break point, which she won with a brilliant lob and went on to serve out the match.

    Kovinic will face two-time major winner Simona Halep or Beatriz Haddad Maia for a place in the fourth round at Melbourne Park, having struck 40 winners to Raducanu's 27 in the biggest win of her career.

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