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

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.

 


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”