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

Spain’s Rafael Nadal makes a forehand return to Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien during their first round singles match on Tuesday. (AP)
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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.


Wimbledon will be canceled, believes Jamie Murray

Updated 31 March 2020

Wimbledon will be canceled, believes Jamie Murray

  • Tennis is at a standstill until June 7, with the entire European clay-court season already wiped out and the only Grand Slam event played on grass is expected to be officially canceled
  • Wimbledon organizers have ruled out playing the two-week tournament behind closed doors

LONDON: Cancelling Wimbledon is the only realistic option open to organizers as they grapple with the chaos caused by the coronavirus, says two-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion Jamie Murray.
Tennis is at a standstill until June 7, with the entire European clay-court season already wiped out and the only Grand Slam event played on grass is expected to be officially canceled on Wednesday.
Wimbledon organizers have ruled out playing the two-week tournament, slated to run from June 29 to July 12, behind closed doors.
The French Open has already been postponed, shoehorned into the schedule in late September, and it will be difficult for Wimbledon to rearrange.
Murray, a Wimbledon men’s doubles finalist in 2015 and a two-time mixed doubles champion, said postponing the tournament presented a series of hurdles, including shorter evenings.
“I think for them, it’s difficult to move the tournament back because you’re running into other tournaments that are for the moment still on the schedule,” the 34-year-old Scotsman told the BBC on Tuesday.
“And also just things like daylight to host the event. Each week that passes, you get less and less light to play the tournament.
“Obviously they play until nine and 10 o’clock each night at Wimbledon.”
Murray, whose younger brother Andy is a two-time Wimbledon singles champion, is kicking his heels in the absence of tennis.
“I’m just at home, taking the necessary precautions, and trying to stay as active as I can,” he said.
“It’s different. We’re used to being on the road all the time, used to being in different cities every week, and you kind of become institutionalized to that.”