TIME tennis

Madison Keys Beats Venus Williams to Advance to Her First Slam Semifinal

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN
Manan Vatsyayana—AFP/Getty Images Madison Keys celebrates winning her women's singles match against Venus Williams at the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 28, 2015

MELBOURNE — Nineteen-year-old Madison Keys booked her spot in the Australian Open semifinals with a hard-fought 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Venus Williams in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The teenager from Rock Island, Ill., overcame a mid-match leg injury to rally from a break down in the final set and break Venus three times and win the last three games of the match. With the win, Keys could make her top 20 debut when the new rankings come out on Monday.

In the first All-American Slam quarterfinal since Sloane Stephens defeated Serena Williams in Melbourne in 2013, the big-hitting teenager took advantage of a poor serving day for Venus. She broke Venus’ serve seven times in the match and looked in full control in building a set lead. But a lapse in concentration early in the second set found her down a double break at 1-4 and she appeared to injure her left thigh. After taking an off-court medical timeout to get the leg evaluated and taped, Keys came out to level the set at 4-4 before getting broken in the ninth game. Venus stepped up to pocket the set in style, firing down an ace to finish off the set.

Venus, who won their only prior match last year on clay, continued to take advantage of the Keys’ flat form in the third set, building a 3-1 lead and looking like the stronger player. But on a day when Venus served at just 51 percent first serves in, her second serve took a pounding from the Keys forehand return. As time went on, Keys lifted her level and aggression in the final set, winning five of the last six games to win the match. She finished with 34 winners to 45 unforced errors, while Venus hit 10 winners to 38 unforced errors.

“I definitely didn’t serve as consistently as I wanted to,” Venus said. “I felt like just not as aggressive off the ground as I would have liked. So I think in this kind of match you have to be aggressive. I give a lot of credit to her because she really set her points up. She was swinging freely.”

Venus admitted to losing her concentration and momentum after Keys’ lengthy medical timeout, but refuted any attempt to imply the timeout played a part in the outcome of the match. “You have to give credit where credit is due,” Venus said. “She played really well. This is her moment today. I think it was pretty rare that I was able to string together three or four points without an error. That was unfortunate for me today.”

This is the third straight year a teenager has made the women’s semifinals in Melbourne (Stephens in 2013, Bouchard last year). Keys will play either No. 1 Serena Williams or No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova in the semifinals.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

Tomas Berdych Stuns Rafael Nadal in Australian Open Quarterfinals

2015 Australian Open - Day 9
Clive Brunskill—Getty Images Rafael Nadal reacts to a point in his quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych during the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 27, 2015

MELBOURNE — No. 7 Tomas Berdych ended his 17-match losing streak to Rafael Nadal, stunning the Spaniard 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (5) to advance to the Australian Open semifinals. The big-hitting Czech came into the match without a win over Nadal in eight years, but behind pummeling ground strokes and, admittedly, an off-form Nadal, Berdych held off a third set charge from Nadal to win. The victory put Berdych into his second consecutive Australian Open semifinal, where he’ll face either No. 6 Andy Murray or Nick Kyrgios.

Berdych played an impossibly clean match to upend Nadal, who was seeking to advance to his fifth Australian Open semifinal. The Czech hit 46 winners to 21 unforced errors, firing 10 aces and no double-faults. Nadal appeared sluggish to start the match, hitting just one winner off his vaunted forehand side in the first set. Nadal saved two match points late in the fourth set on his serve to force a tiebreak, but Berdych was able to secure the minibreak early. Nadal finished with 24 winners to 26 unforced errors, with three aces and six double-faults.

“I was definitely ready for it,” Berdych said. “I set up my plan pretty well and I stuck with it all the way through the three sets. I think that was the biggest difference from our last matches.”

Berdych’s win sets up a possible clash against Murray in the semifinals. Murray fired his long-time coach and hitting partner Dani Vallverdu after the 2014 season over tension with Amelie Mauresmo, and Berdych hired Vallverdu onto his team. The results have been nothing but positive for Berdych. He goes into the semifinals without having lost a set.

“So far the work that we’ve done, I’m really happy how we’ve worked together so far. The good thing is that we haven’t spent so much time together and I’m already able to get things done on the court,” he said.

Here are three quick thoughts off Berdych’s big win:

1. This was long overdue

There’s a strong argument to be made that Berdych is the best active player not to win a Slam. He’s been a top 10 stalwart since 2010 but has made just one Slam final, at Wimbledon in 2010. Powerful and athletic for his height, Berdych has a history of rolling through the early rounds of tournaments only to get picked apart by the game’s best. It happened last year at the China Open, where he sailed into the final only to get demolished 6-0, 6-2 at the hands of No. 1 Novak Djokovic. He started the season similarly, losing just 15 games to make the Qatar Open final before losing 6-4, 7-5 to No. 10 David Ferrer.

On Tuesday he ran the risk of being on the losing side of the worst losing streak in the ATP Open Era. He stepped up and played a controlled match and never wavered as the finish line approached. Is he this year’s Stan Wawrinka?

2. Nadal’s rollercoaster tournament is over

A finalist last year, the Spaniard tempered the expectations before tournament, citing his limited match play after a long injury layoff in 2014. He came within a game of losing in the second round to No. 112 Tim Smyczek, but rebounded by not losing a set in his next two wins. But he wasn’t his best against Berdych. His movement was sluggish and his shots landed too short in the court, letting Berdych take big cuts at the ball. Television commentators suspected he was dealing with a minor leg injury that was playing with his mind and affecting his focus. But in the end this wasn’t a bad tournament for Nadal. Asking him to win a hard court title after playing just eight matches since Wimbledon was too much of an ask even for the great Rafa Nadal.

3. Andy Murray has to be salivating

He was the man with the toughest draw. At the start of the tournament it looked like he might have to go through Grigor Dimitrov, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and then Novak Djokovic to win this title. He took care of Dimitrov in four sets and Federer and Nadal are now out. Berdych has always been a tough opponent for him. The Czech leads the head-to-head 6-4. But if Murray can get a clean win over Nick Kyrgios later Tuesday, he has a great shot at making his first Slam final since he won Wimbledon two years ago.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

Andreas Seppi Upsets Roger Federer in Australian Open Third Round

XXX of ZZZZ plays a forehand in his/her third round match against XXXX of ZZZZZ during day five of the 2015 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
Quinn Rooney—Getty Images Roger Federer looks on during his match against Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 23, 2015

MELBOURNE — Three quick thoughts on Andreas Seppi’s upset over Roger Federer on Friday on Rod Laver Arena.

1) The ball wafted in the air, like a balloon caught in a breeze. It was break point in the second set and Andreas Seppi, a 30-year-old Italian journeyman was improbably leading the great Roger Federer. Though Federer could have hit an fairly easy overhead, the balls was veering toward the alley and Federer casually let it bounce. The shot landed gently and kissed the line. And suddenly Seppi was up a set and a break of serve. In those few seconds, Roger Federer’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day here at the Australian Open was duly summarized. He doomed by unfortunate luck, unfortunate decision making and, ultimately an unfortunate result.

In tournament’s biggest upset, Federer was dispatched in round three, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6. Call this the first major plot point of this event.

2) Let’s unload due credit on Seppi, ranked No. 46. Here is a longtime ATP rank-and-file who scored the signature win of his career. He had never beaten Federer in their 10 career meetings and taken only one set. He was steady and brave today, recovering after losing the third set. There were few flashes of brilliance, but he served steadily, endured a partisan crowd and met the moment in the fourth set tiebreaker—including a brilliant shot on match point—and won the match. But, truly, this result was more about Federer losing than Seppi winning. By any measure, it was a rotten day at the office. His backhand lacked punch. His movement was sluggish. The shanks that were so prevalent in 2013 made an unwelcome reappearance. Leading in the second-set tiebreaker, Federer played a few loose points and quickly lost the set. After a valiant fightback to win the third set, Federer played another lousy tiebreaker—double-faulting away a lead–and it was arrivederci…

3) This result will trigger a round of hand-wringing about the state of Federer universam. Is his body waging war with itself? Is time finally starting to wage war? What the hell happened today? It’s a fair line of inquiry— especially given the caliber of opponent and the dismal stat sheet. But here’s a plea for reason. Less than two weeks ago on the same surface, Federer beat both Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic. Federer has now lost one match this year. Same as Djokovic and Nadal and Nishikori. Federer is unlikely to provide much insight: in 2013, he suffered a string of similar losses and, gamely, didn’t mention a back injury. This isn’t how Federer wanted to start his grand Slam campaign. That’s an understatement. But there’s a lot more tennis to play this year. His season will continue. So will this tournament. Albeit without the biggest star.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

The Women’s World Tennis No. 7 Got Asked to do a ‘Twirl’ By a Male Presenter

What was he thinking?

A reporter at the Australian Open is drawing a lot of flak for asking women’s world tennis no. 7 Eugenie Bouchard to “twirl” in a post-match interview on Wednesday, a request that embarrassed the young star and sparked a backlash on social media.

Channel 7 presenter Ian Cohen asked the 20-year-year Canadian to do a “twirl, like a pirouette,” and show off her pink outfit to the Melbourne crowd. Bouchard complied, albeit a little awkwardly.

“It was very unexpected,” she said in her post-match press conference. “I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny.”

Others didn’t find it so amusing, though.

Bouchard, a Montreal native, is tipped as one of the rising stars of the sport after reaching the Wimbledon final last year, as well as the Australian and French Open semifinals. She defeated Kiki Bertens 6-0, 6-3 in less than an hour in Wednesday’s second-round encounter at Melbourne Park.

TIME tennis

Sharapova Saves Two Match Points to Beat Russian Qualifier Panova

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN
Paul Crock—AFP/Getty Images Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts during her women's singles match against Russia's Alexandra Panova at the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 21, 2015

MELBOURNE — No. 2 Maria Sharapova narrowly avoided the biggest upset of the tournament so far, saving two match points late in the third set to defeat No. 150 Alexandra Panova 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Sharapova cruised through the first set in just 26 minutes before Panova began to find her range. Coming into the tournament, the 25-year-old Russian qualifier never won a match in the main draw of a Slam, but for two sets Wednesday she played at a level more befitting for a Top 20 player. Powerful and rangy, she outserved Sharapova and matched her power from the baseline. Suddenly, Sharapova’s level dropped. She struggled to find her rhythm off the ground and on her serve. She hit just eight unforced errors in the first set but struck 43 in the remaining two sets.

After taking the second set 6-4, Panova raced to a 4-1 double-break lead in the final set. Sharapova was able to get one break back but Panova served for the match at 5-4. She saw her first match point at 40-30 but Sharapova came up with her first gutsy save of the day, gunning a forehand down the line winner that landed just in. Two points later Panova would earn her second match point. Sharapova stepped up to gun another forehand winner that left no margin for error. Demoralized after coming so close to pulling off the biggest win of her career, Panova was broken and didn’t win another game in the match. Sharapova broke for the win two games later after two hours and 32 minutes.

“I’m just happy to get through,” a relieved Sharapova said after the match. “I was two points from being out of the tournament. Just didn’t play my best today … I think she played a pretty inspired match.”

Panova played the best match of her career and finished with 20 winners to 36 unforced errors. Sharapova hit 38 winners to 51 unforced errors. Sharapova will play either No. 31 Zarina Diyas or Anna Schmiedlova in the third round.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME tennis

Roger Federer Aces Milestone With 1,000th Career Win

TENNIS-ATP-WTA-AUS
Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images Roger Federer of Switzerland reacts as he celebrates the 1000th victory of his career after beating Milos Raonic of Canada in the men's single final of the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane on January 11, 2015.

"1,000 means a lot because it's such a huge number. Just alone to count to 1,000 is going to take a while"

Roger Federer couldn’t have asked for a better start to his 2015 season. The No. 2 became the just the third man in the Open Era to win 1,000 career matches after defeating Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-4 to win the Brisbane International. Playing in his 125th career final, Federer joins Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors as the only men to win at least 1,000 matches. Connors holds the record with 1,253 career wins.

With the win, Federer now sits 1, 530 points behind No. 1 Novak Djokovic heading into the Australian Open. In his first match of the season, Federer rallied from a set and a break down to Australian wildcard John Milman, ranked No. 153, to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. He went on to lose just five games in his next two matches, beating James Duckworth 6-0, 6-1 and then dominating No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the final. On Sunday he withstood a barrage of power tennis from Raonic to win his 83rd ATP title.

“It feels very different to any other match I’ve ever won,” Federer said. “1,000 means a lot because it’s such a huge number. Just alone to count to 1,000 is going to take a while. It’s funny emotions right now, but clearly very proud and happy.”

Federer’s milestone overshadowed a fantastic effort from Raonic, who played one of the best matches of his career only to fall just short in the final set. Raonic battled back from a break down in the second set to force a tiebreaker and roll to a 7-2 win to force a tense and nervy decisive set. Five of the first six games of the third set went to deuce, with both men forced to save multiple break points. Raonic had his chances and earned five break points in Federer’s first three service games. The Swiss saved them all behind some clutch serving and couldn’t capitalize on his four break opportunities until the final game of the match.

Serving to stay in the match, Raonic double-faulted at 30-all to give Federer his first match point. That was all Federer needed, as he got a look at a second serve and took control of the rally. The match finally ended after two hours and 14 minutes when Raonic put a cross-court forehand into the tape. Despite a night in which he frustrated Federer with his consistent heavy hitting and some of the best volleying he’s ever displayed, Raonic suffered his fourth straight loss to a top ten player in a final.

“I gave myself a chance after being down a set and a break,” Raonic said. “I think it just shows the development I’ve been able to make over the last little while. You put me in that same situation few months and weeks ago and I think I could be out of that stadium pretty quickly. Give and take few situations, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go into the Australian Open.”

Federer finished with 43 winners to 21 unforced errors, and out-aced Raonic, hitting 21 aces to the Canadian’s 12. Raonic hit 49 winners to 32 unforced errors. The net play from both men was outstanding. Federer went 16 for 17 at the net and Raonic went 18 for 25.

“Looking back it’s almost nicer winning this way, through a tight match with nerves and humid conditions against a great player in a final,” Federer said. “It means so much more than just running away with it with the score maybe 6-4, 6-4, which was looking very likely at one stage. I guess I was much more happy having to go three sets in the end rather than winning in straight.”

This article originally appeared at SI.com

TIME celebrities

Tennis Great Martina Navratilova Marries Longtime Love Julia Lemigova

Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova celebrate their engagement during day 13 of the 2014 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 6, 2014 in New York.
Uri Schanker—GC/Getty Images Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova celebrate their engagement during day 13 of the 2014 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 6, 2014 in New York.

Martina Navratilova and her longtime partner Julia Lemigova were married in New York City on Monday, the couple confirmed to the BBC.

Speaking to the news service shortly after the ceremony, Lemigova admitted she was “overwhelmed,” while Navratilova said her new status felt “just really odd.”

“I’m 58 years old, I got married for the first time – it’s about time, right?” said Navratilova, who began dating Lemigova in 2006. “Growing up as a gay woman you just don’t ever think about that, and then I thought, about 10 years ago, ‘You know, I think within 10 years gay marriage will be legal.’ And here we are, 10 years later, making it legal.”

Navratilova proposed during the U.S. Open last September, in a moment that was telecast on the Jumbotron at New York’s Arthur Ashe stadium.

The tennis legend was being interviewed in the Tennis Channel suite when she turned to Lemigova and said she would be asking the questions this time. Navratilova got down on one knee and offered her a diamond-studded ring.

“Originally it wasn’t the idea to do it at the U.S. Open, on the Jumbotron and all that, but then it was, ‘Why not? I’ve seen it in movies!’ ” Navratilova told PEOPLE afterward. “And it all came off, everything worked out perfectly!”

“I was so overwhelmed and completely surprised,” Lemigova told the BBC.

TIME tennis

Back Injury Forces Roger Federer Out of ATP World Tour Final Match

Roger Federer looks up during his singles ATP World Tour Finals semifinal tennis match against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka at the O2 Arena in London on Nov. 15, 2014.
Tim Ireland—AP Roger Federer looks up during his singles ATP World Tour Finals semifinal tennis match against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka at the O2 Arena in London on Nov. 15, 2014.

Novak Djokovic has now won his third consecutive title, the first player to do so since Ivan Lendl did from 1985-87

Novak Djokovic won his third consecutive ATP World Tour title after Roger Federer dropped out before the finals because of a back injury.

33-year-old Federer, who who has won the tournament six times, confirmed his exit after the doubles presentation ceremony on Sunday, the BBC reports.

“I tried everything I could last night and today — painkillers, rest — until the very end, but I can’t compete at this level with Novak,” he said at the O2 Arena. “In a final like this and at my age, it would be too risky. I hope you understand.”

On Saturday Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka in the semifinal match, though he began showing signs of the injury toward the end. He later did not show up for a scheduled Sunday practice.

[BBC]

TIME tennis

Serena Williams Blasts Official’s ‘Sexist’ and ‘Racist’ Remarks

TENNIS-WTA-SIN
ROSLAN RAHMAN—AFP/Getty Images World number one Serena Williams of the US attends a press conference ahead of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) championships in Singapore on October 19, 2014. World number one Serena Williams lashed out at "sexist" and racist" comments from the head of Russian tennis October 19 after he jokingly called her and her sister Venus the "Williams brothers". AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Tennis Federation head Shamil Tarpischev called the Williams sisters the "Williams brothers" and added "it's scary when you really look at them"

Tennis star Serena Williams commended the Women’s Tennis Association for disciplining the head of the Russian Tennis Federation for his “sexist as well as racist” remarks on a Russian television program.

The WTA suspended Shamil Tarpischev for a year and fined him $25,000 after he referred to Williams and her sister, fellow tennis champion Venus Williams, as the “Williams brothers” and said “it’s scary when you really look at them,” the Washington Post reports.

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments,” Williams said in Singapore on Sunday at the WTA Tour Finals. “I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying. ”

Tarpischev, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, said the comments were a “joke” in a statement.

“I didn’t want to offend any athlete with my words,” he said. “I regret that this joke has garnered so much attention. I don’t think this incident deserves so much fuss.”

[Washington Post]

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