‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk makes a forehand return to Australia's Olivia Rogowska during their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP)
Updated 17 January 2018

‘Future of tennis’ Marta Kostyuk to face fourth seed next

MELBOURNE: Teenage sensation Marta Kostyuk was hailed as the “future of tennis” Wednesday after she became the youngest Australian Open second-round winner since “Swiss Miss” Martina Hingis in 1996.
The 15-year-old was rewarded with an all-Ukrainian clash against fourth seed Elina Svitolina as her fairytale run at the year’s first Grand Slam continued with a win over local wildcard Olivia Rogowska 6-3, 7-5.
It had commentators gushing that Kostyuk was “the future of tennis” as she extended her win streak at Melbourne Park to an incredible 11 matches after lifting the Australian Open girls’ title in 2017 and coming through qualifying this year.
“This is the future, ladies and gentlemen. Fifteen years of age,” said former British number one Sam Smith on Australia’s Channel 7. “This is an incredible story. This is the future of tennis on your screen.”
Before the start of this week Kostyuk’s total career prize money was $6,733, but she already has plans for the bumper $142,500 pay day she will earn even if she loses to Svitolina in the third round.
“Maybe I will get presents for my family, first of all, of course, because I have big family,” she said. “And then for myself a bit. Yeah.”
Playing since the age of five and watched by tennis-playing mum and coach Talina Beyko, who once reached 391st in the world, in her player’s box on Margaret Court Arena, Kostyuk said she had been used to setting new standards.
“I think I broke some records every year so I feel OK about it,” she said.
In the first round she had dismantled Chinese number one and 25th seed Peng Shuai in straight sets in just 57 minutes.
The talented Kostyuk continued in the same vein against Rogowska, taking the first set in 39 minutes.
“I didn’t feel like she was 15 at all,” said Rogowska. “I feel she’s going to be a dangerous player when she grows up. Obviously she had some silly errors, I think with experience she’ll clean that up.”
Svitolina clearly knows what to expect when she faces her young compatriot on Friday.
“I little bit watched her first round,” said the world number four after coming through a three-set battle against Katerina Siniakova.
“You know, she has nothing to lose, she goes just for everything. You know, a little bit like a headless chicken.”
The youngster is managed by former player Ivan Ljubicic, Roger Federer’s coach, and said she was pleased to have such experience in her corner.
“He is always helping me, telling me what was wrong, even when I win,” she said laughing. “I am lucky to have his experience.”
And long hours of practice, she said, was the key to her success.
“Well, I heard a lot of times that I’m talented, and I know that,” she told reporters with all the swagger of confident youth.
“But I know that only talent will not help me to play good. So I can say that I’m working pretty hard.”


Nadal dazzles as Sharapova hits all-time low at Australian Open

Updated 21 January 2020

Nadal dazzles as Sharapova hits all-time low at Australian Open

  • Nadal, the first player to be world No. 1 in three different decades, is still thriving at 33

MELBOURNE: Top seed Rafael Nadal turned on the style as he launched his bid for a record-equaling 20th Major title at the Australian Open on Tuesday, but falling star Maria Sharapova hit a career low.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also cantered into the second round, but fourth seed Daniil Medvedev had to fight his way past American Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

Nadal, one shy of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam mark, dropped only five games as he swatted aside Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in just over two hours at a sunny Rod Laver Arena.

“It was a positive start,” said the reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion, wearing a bright pink singlet and matching trainers.

“What you want in the first round is just to win, and it’s better if it’s in straight sets.”

He joins Federer and defending champion Novak Djokovic in round two as the Big Three look to tighten a stranglehold that has brought them all but one of the last 14 Australian Open titles.

Nadal, the first player to be world No. 1 in three different decades, is still thriving at 33 but it’s a different story for five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova.

The 32-year-old, playing on a wildcard as she wrestles with a shoulder injury, lost 3-6, 4-6 to Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic, making her an opening-round loser at three straight Grand Slams for the first time.

The future looks uncertain for the former world No. 1, who won Wimbledon when she was just 17 but has not reached a Grand Slam final since she lifted the 2014 French Open trophy.

“I can speak about my struggles and the things that I’ve gone through with my shoulder, but it’s not really in my character to,” Sharapova said.

“I was there, I put myself out there (playing). As tough as it was, I finished the match — it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”

Britain’s Johanna Konta, a two-time Slam semifinalist, also fell at the first hurdle as she battles to overcome a knee problem, losing 4-6, 2-6 to unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur. On a bumper day of 88 first-round matches, after rain wiped out half of Monday’s schedule, former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic both moved safely through.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, two sets down against America’s Reilly Opelka when their match was suspended on Monday, returned to win it in five after a stormy encounter when both players argued furiously with the umpire.