Roger Federer claims he is ready for Grand Slam No. 20

Roger Federer is once again in fine form in Melbourne
Updated 20 January 2018

Roger Federer claims he is ready for Grand Slam No. 20

LONDON: Roger Federer has warned his rivals he is feeling fitter and more confident than this time last year when he shocked everyone to win his 18th Grand Slam title.
The Swiss sensation issued the warning after easily beating Richard Gasquet 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in just under two hours to reach the last 16 in Melbourne.
Federer won 12 months ago on his return after six months out from injury, with many assuming the 36-year-old was no longer a Grand Slam threat. But having seen off the Frenchman he claimed he was in much better shape than a year ago and ready to win Grand Slam No. 20.
“I had a good season last year,” Federer said.
“The off-season was fantastic too and my last match was not that long ago.
“I’m coming in this year very fit, very well equipped knowing that five sets are not an issue, where as last year that was always the question mark.
“And with that question mark in mind there was always a tension there and I was carrying a groin injury for the last four or five matches because it was so intense.”
The Swiss has only lost twice to the stylish Frenchman in their 19 meetings, winning all their four Grand Slam encounters.
Significantly, Gasquet has not won a set against Federer since 2011, a run of 22 sets to the Swiss.
"I was able to stay more on the offensive than he was and maybe I was protecting my own serve better than him," Federer said.
"I was hoping I could play at that level. I'm very happy that I was able to rise to a level that I needed to beat Richard.
"It was tough. The score shows it, as well. I could have done it maybe a bit faster.
"At the same time I'm happy to have done it the way it happened. I was pleased. I think I had some good shots. I was happy the way I played. I also thought we both played a good level again, so it was fun."
Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic played down injury concerns after he sought a medical timeout for a lower back injury during his 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over Spanish 21st seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
The former world No. 1 sought a medical timeout early in the second set for treatment to his lower back.
Djokovic later played down the extent of the problem, saying: “It’s okay. Nothing major. I knew I wanted to use the medical timeout because I needed it,” he said.
“But at the same time I knew it was nothing major that can potentially raise a question mark on whether I can continue playing or not. It was fine.”

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

Updated 23 January 2019

Underdogs with bite and sloppy South Korea: What we learned from the Asian Cup second round

  • Can the mighty minnows continue impressive run in the UAE?
  • Or will the big guns start to fire in quarterfinals?

LONDON: Asia’s biggest sporting spectacle has reached its quarterfinal stage — and it’s time for teams to find their A-game. While there are few surprises in the last-eight lineup, the form of some of the big-name sides has been less than impressive. Here we deliver our verdict on the second round.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT — Saudi Arabia’s attack

The Green Falcons started the tournament at top speed. They came in as one of the cup favorites and in their opening two matches illustrated why. A 4-0 thrashing of North Korea was backed up with a relatively simple 2-0 victory over Lebanon. Understandably, that raised hopes that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men could go all the way in the UAE. Alas, it was not to be as a 2-0 defeat to Qatar in their last group clash left them with a tricky tie against Japan. For all their efforts Saudi Arabia were unable to find the back of the net, the lack of firepower upfront costing Pizzi’s team yet again.

BIGGEST SHOCK — South Korean sloppiness

Boosted by the arrival of Tottenham star Son Heung-Min, South Korea were rightly declared the pre-tournament favorites. They had firepower up front, intelligence and creativity in midfield, and experience at the back. In the four matches in the UAE so far, however, they have looked anything but potential champions. They labored to beat Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and China in the group stage before almost being shocked by part-timers Bahrain in the second round. South Korea now face Qatar in the last eight and, as Son said after their extra-time win over Bahrain, they need to significantly improve if they are to avoid a shock exit before the semis.

UNDER PRESSURE — Alberto Zaccheroni and the UAE

The Whites owe their place in the last eight to luck more than skill. In some ways that is not a surprise — the hosts came into the tournament without their talisman, the injured Omar Abdulrahman, and on the back of a patchy run of form. But, still, the performances on home soil have been underwhelming to say the least. That was summed up with their extra-time win over Kyrgyzstan, who were playing in their first Asian Cup. It was a far-from-convincing performance and Central Asians were unlucky not to beat Zaccheroni’s side. The UAE will have to deliver their best performance for some time if they are to progress further. Their opponents, Australia, have also performed poorly, which may offer them some encouragement.

BEST HIGHLIGHT — The mighty minnows

The big guns have not had it all their own way. That may annoy their fans, but it does show that Asian football is improving. Only a few years ago the idea that Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain and Jordan would look the equals of Australia and Co. would have seemed fanciful. But in the past two weeks the standard shown by the so-called lesser lights has been impressive — and great to watch. Last summer five Asian teams appeared at the World Cup for the first time and it was hoped that showing would act as a springboard for further progress across the continent. On the evidence of the action in the UAE that wish could be coming true.