Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 20 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”


Australia's Usman Khawaja not thinking about World Cup spot with series against Pakistan to be won in UAE

Updated 26 March 2019
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Australia's Usman Khawaja not thinking about World Cup spot with series against Pakistan to be won in UAE

  • Batsman's place under threat thanks to return of disgraced duo Steve Smith and David Warner.
  • Aussie s 2-0 up against Pakistan with third ODI taking place in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

LONDON: Usman Khawaja is trying not to think about playing for a World Cup place ahead of today’s third ODI against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
Australia are 2-0 up in the five-match series but with the World Cup only two months away players are playing for their places in the tournament.
Despite scoring two 100s and four 50s in his past 10 innings since he was recalled to the Australia squad Khawaja’s place is under threat by the imminent return of David Warner and Steve Smith.
The disgraced duo are set to return after their year-long ban for ball tampering and currently playing in the Indian Premier League.
But that does not bother Khawaja who already has scored 24 and 88 in the first two ODI’s in the UAE.
“It’s (World Cup) a long way away. For me, it’s (about) the next three games, (Warner’s return) is not something I have thought about at all. I am just enjoying playing one-day cricket,” the 32-year-old said.
Australia and Khawaja have suddenly come into form at just the right time. They won 3-2 in India and are already 2-0 up against Pakistan. But all too aware that complacency can set in and keen to keep up the winning habit as they prepare for the World Cup, Khawaja has told his teammates to take nothing for granted.
“We saw in India they were 2-0 up and we came back to win that series. It is never quite over. We cannot take it easy now, we have got to finish it off that next game, we cannot relax, we can’t think that we have done all the hard work and that we are fine now,” the batsman said.
“There are still three games left and three games is a long time in cricket. We want to be really clinical and we have got to keep doing it over and over again. Winning’s a habit, so hopefully, we can make it a habit.”
Pakistan go into the clash under fire for comments made by their skipper Shoaib Malik after the defeat in Sharjah on Sunday. Having seen his side trounced by eight wickets Shoaib said Pakistan were simply using the series to “test their bench strength (ahead of the World Cup” and that “winning or losing doesn’t make a difference.”
The pressure is on the hosts and they will be looking for their attack to show some fire. The quicker bowlers in particular have struggled to put Australia under pressure with the new ball, having taken just four wickets all series, conceding a mammoth 566 runs.