Tennis: Ana Ivanovic unsettles Serena Williams at Australian Open
The No. 14-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia downed world number one Serena Williams of USA, ending the long winning streak of the best woman player a stunning fourth-round defeat to the Australian Open on 19th January.
The date is important for Williams in a negative way as she hadn’t lost a match since August, one of only four defeats in 2013, and came into the fourth round with 25 straight wins. She had a phenomenal record of 78-4 in 2013. She came into the fourth round on the second-longest winning streak of her career and was playing her 70th match at Melbourne Park, a record in the Open era. Williams set the mark for most match wins (61) ever at the Australian Open with her third-round victory.
Williams has been almost perfect after winning the first set in Australian Open matches, losing only once in 52 previous matches after winning the opening set. That single previous defeat was against fellow American Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals last year.
Ivanovic, a fast upcoming tennis ace with a smile on her lips and concentrating on single tournaments, however, hadn’t won a set in her four previous matches against Williams, who had been a hot favourite to win a sixth Australian Open crown for her 18th Grand Slam title.
The powerful serve that carried Serena Williams to 25 consecutive wins suddenly became the target of Ana Ivanovic’s attack in a stunning fourth-round upset at the Australian Open. And Ana won it.
Serena won the first set but Ivanovic got the upper hand in the next two sets, the the No. 14-seeded Serb came back from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 6-3 – her first ever victory over Williams in five attempts. Ana Ivanovic setting up the win by attacking the best serves in women’s tennis. Ivanovic got on top early in the second set with some powerful forehand winners and never really let Williams back into the contest. She frequently stood well inside the baseline to receive, she took big swipes on her forehand and generally put Williams off her rhythm. “It’s not easy playing such a champion, but she is also just a human,” said Ivanovic.
Williams hit 22 winners but made 31 unforced errors, mostly on her backhand. Ivanovic had 33 winners, including 20 on her forehand. She also had some luck, when she drove a backhand off the top of the net and it looped onto the line.
The 2008 French Open champion had 33 winners, including 20 on her forehand side. Williams hit 22 winners but made 31 unforced errors, with most coming uncharacteristically on her backhand side. “I made a tremendous amount of errors, shots … I haven’t missed since the ‘80s,” Williams said. It was her 70th match at Melbourne Park, a record in the Open era, and she’d already set the mark for most match wins ever at the Australian Open with her third-round victory.
The reigning French and US Open champion had been tipped by some to complete the Grand Slam of all four major titles in 2014.”I have given up on that a long time ago,” said the 32-year-old. “I feel like I don’t even think about winning four in a row.
Williams said after being told her coach had released news of her back problem. “Again, I don’t want to blame anything. I feel like Ana deserves all the credit,” Williams added. “I feel she played unbelievable today. I think she went for her shots. It’s not like I gave her the match.” Williams later admitted she’d been bothered by a back problem in practice in recent days and considered pulling out of the tournament.
Serena Williams sat before a bank of television cameras, below a gaggle of reporters, in both an unfamiliar and impossible position. There were no right answers, only question
Ivanovic is a former world number one and 2008 French Open champion, but since then she has reached just one major quarter-final at the 2012 US Open. A 0-4 record against Williams gave little cause for optimism either, but from the outset Ivanovic was able to threaten the American’s usually impregnable serve.
Ivanovic had never taken a set off Williams in four previous matches, and Williams had only ever lost once after winning the first set at the Australian Open. The crowd was evenly divided at first but, sensing an upset, started backing Ivanovic, the former girlfriend of Australian golfer Adam Scott.
Earlier, Ivanovic defeated Serena’s sister Venus Williams in the final of the WTA event at Auckland, New Zealand earlier this month. “I just went out there swinging at the ball.”
Ivanovic advanced to a quarterfinal against the winner of match between Australian wild-card entry Casey Dellacqua and No. 30-seeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada , who reached the last eight at a major for the first time after beating Australian wild-card entry Casey Dellacqua 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-0..
Another Serb and top player Novak Djokovic watched the second and third sets of fellow Serbian Ivanovic’s win on TV, then continued his bid for a fourth straight Australian title with a 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini.
Ana Ivanovic would also enter the semifinals and hopefully would clinch the title as the Serena is already out and she can now easily handle others. The No. 14-seeded Ivanovic ended Williams’ bid for a sixth Australian and 18th Grand Slam title with this prestigious win that took the hottest of favourites out of contention at Melbourne Park and opened up one side of the women’s draw.
Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020
Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.
Theo Bair (MLS)
This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)
Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.
“Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone
Connor McDavid (NHL)
McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.
Chuba Hubbard (College Football)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.
2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo
Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.
Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.
Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.
“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”
Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.
Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.
“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”
Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.
“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”
Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.
Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.
“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”
After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.
“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”
None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.
“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.
Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.
“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”
That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.
Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month
NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.
The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.
Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.
“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.
“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”
It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.
For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.
Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.
A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.
It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.
Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.
“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.
“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.
“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.
“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”
And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.
“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”