Petra Kvitova rolls back the years as Rafael Nadal makes statement of intent

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Both Kvitova and Nadal are looking in great form in Melbourne. (AFP)
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Updated 22 January 2019
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Petra Kvitova rolls back the years as Rafael Nadal makes statement of intent

  • Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova looking back to her best.
  • Rafa yet to drop a set at year's first Grand Slam.

LONDON: We are now at the business end of the year’s first Grand Slam. Here is how the draw is shaping up in Melbourne.

PETRA KVITOVA

It has understandably been an emotional couple of weeks for the two-time Wimbledon champion as, thanks to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty, she made her way to a first Grand Slam semifinal since being victim of a knife attack.
She beat home hope Barty in an impressive display indicating the Czech was close to being back to her best.
The sixth seed suffered a serious hand injury when attacked in her home in December 2016, and said: “It wasn’t easy to see myself in a semifinal after everything.
“I’m calling it my second career. So it’s the first semifinal of the second career.”
Kvitova overpowered the smaller Barty in a 27-minute first set.
The 22-year-old Aussie provided resistance in the second, Kvitova saving two break points before taking the last three games.
She will play unseeded Danielle Collins in the last four tomorrow after the American beat Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 to reach her first major semifinal.



RAFAEL NADAL

The Spaniard continued his relentless march to what he hopes is an 18th Grand Slam title with another impressive, dominating performance in Melbourne.
The Spaniard defeated unseeded American Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in another ruthless display from a man who has not dropped a set so far.
Tiafoe had announced himself by beating fifth seed Kevin Anderson, but was no match for a player at the peak of his powers as he attempts to become only the third man to win all four Slams twice and the first to do so in the Open era.
“I had some trouble at this event all my career, so I’m very happy with the way I played tonight,” said the Spaniard, who faces another young gun Tsitsipas in the semifinals.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am,” Nadal admitted.


STEFANOS TSITSIPAS

The conqueror of Roger Federer proved that shock was no flash in the pan as the Greek star became the youngest man to reach the last-four in Melbourne since Andy Roddick in 2003.
The 20-year-old also became the first player from Greece — man or woman — to get so far at Grand Slam having beaten Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.
“I’m just living the dream, living what I’ve been working hard for,” said the 14th seed, who lives in Cyprus but trains at the academy of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France.
“I feel a bit emotional but not too much — I know I really worked hard to get here, playing in semis of a Grand Slam.”
Do not be surprised if he pulls another shock and sends Nadal the way of Federer.

 


Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

Updated 17 February 2019
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Real Madrid can still win title, claims Santiago Solari

  • Defeat leaves Real in third, nine points behind arch-rivals Barcelona.
  • Girona had not won in the league since November.

LONDON: Santiago Solari insisted Real Madrid could still win the La Liga title despite a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Girona.
The capital club were coming off a five-match winning streak, but were not able to get past their relegation-threatened rivals at the Bernabeu, conceding twice in the second half after taking a 1-0 half-time lead.
Girona had not won in 13 matches in all competitions and were coming off six straight losses. The Catalan club had not won in the league since November and had entered the weekend one point from the relegation zone. So to say this was a shock would be understating the case, Real were on the up, and this was supposed to be an easy win to aid their slim title hopes and add to the momentum of their good 2019 form.
But Solari — clearly a “glass half full” man — claimed Real’s title charge was far from over. Asked if the title was lost, the Argentine, who took over the asked Julen Lopetegui in October, said: “Not at all, not at all, next week there is another match, our rivals, too. All the matches are difficult, as Girona have shown today, we have to keep winning to try to cut the gap.
“This is football and there is always a rival, in this case Girona, who played well.
“In the second half there was a lot of energy. Girona were forceful when they attacked and we lacked clarity. The fatigue is not only physical, it is mental, concentration. We come from a major bustle, many games with good results, and that may have happened to us at the energy level in the second half. It’s likely.”
The surprise defeat dropped Madrid to third place and left them nine points behind Barcelona, who edged Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday with a penalty kick converted by Lionel Messi. The result at the Nou Camp ended a three-game winless run for the Girona neighbors in all competitions.
Madrid had won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, with the only setback a 1-1 draw at Barca in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals. They had cut Barcelona’s lead from 10 points to six in recent rounds after seeing their arch-rivals go through a slump.
Solari made some changes to the starting lineup, leaving Vinicius Junior and Gareth Bale on the bench after they started midweek in the 2-1 win at Ajax in the Champions League second round clash.
Casemiro opened the scoring with a firm header from near the penalty spot in the 25th minute after a cross by Toni Kroos, and Girona equalized with a penalty kick converted by Cristhian Stuani in the 65th after a handball by Sergio Ramos inside the area.
Girona had a golden chance to equalize about five minutes before the penalty, when Aleix Garcia’s close-range shot went over the crossbar. The visitors moved in front with a 75th-minute header by Portu after Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois initially saved a shot by Anthony Lozano.
Portu had hit the post a few minutes earlier with a booming shot from inside the area.
Solari put on Vinicius Junior and Bale in the second half, but they were unable to save Real. Courtois made it to the area in a last-gasp attempt, but could not get enough on his header, sending the ball just wide of the post.
As if to emphasize the dire day, Ramos was sent off in 90th minute after receiving a second yellow card.