February 7, 2016

Angelique Kerber Upsets Serena Williams to Win Australian Open Title

Kerber

(January 30, 2016) A point away from being knocked out in the first round 13 days ago, No. 7 seed Angelique Kerber came back to win her match against  Misaki Doi and on Saturday surprised No. 1 seed and six-time champion Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to claim her first major title, the 2016 Australian Open.

The last Australian Open Champion to save a match point on the way to the title was 2014 champion Li Na.

Williams came into the final as an overwhelming favorite to win her 22nd major and equal Steffi Graf for the most in the Open Era. Williams had not lost an Australian final before Saturday.

Conversely, with the victory, Kerber became the first German to win a major since Graf. Coming into Melbourne, Kerber was the only member of the Top Ten yet to reach a major final. The win gave Kerber her first win over a No. 1 player. She was 0-8 previously.

Kerber is the first lefthander to win the Australina Open since Monica Seles in 1996.

“I had goosebumps. My whole life I’ve worked hard. To say ‘I am a Grand Slam champion’ is crazy,” Kerber said during the trophy ceremony. “My dream has come true tonight”

A gracious Williams crossed over the net to congratulate Kerber at the end of the match, giving her a big hug. “Congratulations Angie,” Williams said. “You were the best player this tournament. I really hope you enjoy this moment. You truly deserve it.”

Kerber was consistent through the match hitting 25 winners to 13 errors. She made Williams run from corner to corner. Williams had 46 errors and 47 winners but her powerful serve was broken five times by the 28-year-old. This was only Kerber’s second victory over Williams, with the first one coming in Cincinnati in 2012. Williams leads the head-to-head record at 5-2.

“I was actually really happy for her,” Williams said in her post-match news conference. “She’s been around a really long time. We’ve had a number of matches. I’ve beaten her a lot.

“She played so well today. She had an attitude that I think a lot of people can learn from: just to always stay positive and to never give up.

“I was really inspired by that. So, honestly, she’s a really good girl. If I couldn’t win, I’m happy she did.”

“I was missing a lot off the ground, coming to the net,” said the 34-year-old. “She kept hitting some great shots actually every time I came in. I think I kept picking the wrong shots coming into it.

“But, honestly, it’s something to learn from, just to try to get better.”

“I had really crazy two weeks,” kerber said to media. “I mean, with the first round where I was match point down, and then with the win over (Victoria) Azarenka in the quarters. I never beat her.

“And now to play against Serena, what was a really honor to play against her in a Grand Slam final. It was my first final. You know, I was really looking forward. I was really excited.

“I knew before that I beat her once in Cincinnati, that I really must go out there to try to beat her again because she will not give it to me. It was a really great match from both of us.

“Yeah, really it’s a special moment for me.”

 

“I was trying to stay relaxed until the last point,” Kerber said. “The first set I played very well. The second set she was serving much better. The third set every game was really close.

“I mean, the game to 3-2, it was like 10 minutes, I think. You know, I was trying really to focusing on myself because when I was up 5-2, I was sure the match is not over yet, you know.

“Then like 5-3, 5-4, and she was serving, so I was just telling myself, Okay, you breaked her before few times, so you can do it again. Just play point by point.

“When I hit the match point, I was just try to hoping to return the ball over the net. Just hoping, yeah, that I can make the ball and just going for it if I have the chance.

“Yeah, when the ball was out from her, I was just, yeah, so happy. I mean, it’s amazing.”

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Serena Williams Reaches Seventh Australian Open Final

Serena Williams after winning (1 of 3)

(January 28, 2016) Serena Williams has reached her seventh Australian Open final with a decisive 6-0, 6-4 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska.

Under a closed roof in Rod Laver Arena, due to rain in Melbourne, No. 1 Williams needed only 21 minutes to win the first set over the fourth seed. Williams dominated with 18 winners in the first set. The 21-time major winner broke the Pole’s serve to start the match and was never tested in the set.

The second set was much closer. The American took a break lead at 2-1, but Radwanska broke to get back on serve in the fifth game for 3-3.

Williams seized the moment in the ninth game breaking to serve for the match at 5-4. The six-time Australian Open champion closed out the match with three aces and a volley winner in 64 minutes. Radwanska is still winless against Williams at 0-9.

“I’m really excited to be in another final, it really blows my mind,” Williams said on-court after the match.

“I think she started unbelievable, with such a power and speed,” Radwanska said. “I was just standing there kind of watching her playing.

“Well, I had my little chance in second set, especially when it was 4-All. But otherwise just too good.” “I think I played well in the beginning, especially in the first set,” Williams said. “I was able to do everything that I needed to do. I was really hitting just all the right shots, making little to no errors, which is kind of hard to play like that. But it was good.

“She started playing better. It was good for me mentally as well because I was able to recover and do well again.” “I’ve always said that when I’m playing at my best, it’s difficult to beat me. Have I played at my best my whole career? I don’t know. But I’ve been definitely trying to put in a lot of work and trying to get there.”

The 34-year-old Williams will face Angelique Kerber in her seventh Australian Open final. Kerber defeated Great Britain’s Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-2 in 82 minutes.

Kerber fistpump-001

The 28-year-old German Kerber, the seventh seed, survived a match point in the first round to reach her first major final.

Kerber began her match 3-0, with a two-break lead, then Konta won the next four straight games. Kerber held steady and broke Konta’s serve in the eleventh game and held for the set.

The second set saw Kerber take another two-break lead at 5-1, but the German held her nerve to close the match.

Konta was the first British woman to reach a major singles semifinal since Jo Durie in 1983. Konta, making her Australian Open main draw debut will see her ranking move from 47 to the Top 30.

Williams talked about the match-up against Kerber:

“She took out a really tough opponent in Victoria (Azarenka). You can’t underestimate Kerber. She’s beaten me before, too, and pretty good. I know that she brings a lot, you know, to the game.

“Her being lefty definitely helps out as well. I haven’t played any lefties yet. But we’ll see. I think if I do play her, it will be a really good match. It definitely won’t be easy.

“She’s been very consistent this year already. She’s proven that she wants to take her game to the next level. I know she was talking about she wants to do better in the slams this year. To start out with a potential final already tells you that if she puts her mind to something, she’s going to do it.”

“I must play my best tennis to have a chance against her, but I will try to give everything, I have nothing to lose,” Kerber said.

Should Williams win the final, she would tie Steffi Graf at 22, for the most number of majors in the Open Era.

Williams  who is 5-1 against Kerber, is 6-0 in Melbourne finals.

 

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Venus Williams Returns to BNP Paribas Open

VENUS Williams 700 TPN Wuhan Open

(January 27, 2016) Indian Wells, Calif., Jan. 27, 2016 – The BNP Paribas Open to be held March 7-20, 2016 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, has released its entry lists, which are highlighted by 10 former BNP Paribas Open and 14 Grand Slam Singles Champions, it was announced today by Chief Executive Officer Raymond Moore.

On the women’s side, the entry list is led by World No. 1, 21-time Grand Slam Champion and two-time BNP Paribas Open winner Serena Williams (1999, 2001). This year she is joined by her sister, World No. 10 and nine-time Grand Slam Champion Venus Williams, in the field.

“We are thrilled that Venus Williams, one of the greatest women’s players in the history of the game, is returning to play in the BNP Paribas Open,” said Moore. “Our fans embraced Serena last year, and we expect nothing less for Venus when she returns to compete at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.”

They are accompanied by a number of former BNP Paribas Open Champions including Defending Champion and World No. 2 Simona Halep, five-time Grand Slam Champion and World No. 5 Maria Sharapova (2006, 2013), and a quartet of former World No. 1 ranked players including two-time Grand Slam Champion Victoria Azarenka (2012), 2008 French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic (2008), Jelena Jankovic (2010), and Caroline Wozniacki (2011). Top 10 ranked tennis players and Grand Slam Singles Champions also on the entry list include Garbine Muguruza (3), 2014 BNP Paribas Open finalist Agnieszka Radwanska (4), Angelique Kerber (6), two-time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova (7), Lucie Safarova (9), two-time Grand Slam Champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and 2011 US Open Champion Sam Stosur.

The men’s entry list is led by World No. 1, 10-time Grand Slam Champion, and four-time and Defending BNP Paribas Open Champion Novak Djokovic (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015); World No. 3, 17-time Grand Slam Champion, and four-time BNP Paribas Open Champion Roger Federer (2004-2006, 2012); and World No. 5, 14-time Grand Slam Champion and three-time BNP Paribas Open Champion Rafael Nadal (2007, 2009, 2013). In addition, all of the remaining top 10 ranked men’s players are entered, including two-time Grand Slam Champion Andy Murray (2), 2015 French Open Champion Stan Wawrinka (4), Tomas Berdych (6), Kei Nishikori (7), David Ferrer (8), Richard Gasquet (9), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10). The 2014 US Open Champion, Marin Cilic (13), is also entered in the field.

“Looking at this list of incredible players – Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Murray, the Williams sisters, Halep, Sharapova, Kvitova and so many other talented players – will provide two weeks of great tennis,” said Moore. “Our fans will once again be treated to watching players in Indian Wells, a location that truly makes the event one of the most unique and best venues to watch professional tennis – this is tennis paradise.”

The remaining spots in the draws will be filled by winners of the Qualifying tournament (WTA – March 7 & 8, ATP – March 8 & 9) and Wildcards, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

View the full player entry list.

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Serena Williams Beats Maria Sharapova to Reach Australian Open Semifinals

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(January 26, 2016) Serena Williams won her 18th straight match against Maria Sharapova on Tuesday 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals of the Australian Open.

The beginning of the contest looked promising for the world No. 5 Sharapova when she opened the match with a 2-0 lead. The defending and six-time Australian Open champion Williams won 12 of the next 15 games to seal the win.

“I just started slow,” Williams said. “I missed three or four easy shots. I felt like, All right, I didn’t make those shots, but if I had made those shots I probably would have won that game.

“I just clung onto that and knew I could play better.”

“It was super intense,” Williams said after the match. “You have to come out with a lot of fire and intensity.”

In between sets, the defending champion had a visit from the doctor on-court. “I was just dealing with some food poisoning issues from a few days ago. That was it.”

Each of the six times Williams has reached the semifinal stage of the Australian Open, she has gone on to become the champion.

The 34-year-old Williams hit 31 winners to Sharapova’s 11, winning a total of 70 points during the match to the five-time major winner’s 52.

“She played quite explosive,” Sharapova said. “Thought at times, you know, when I got in the rally I wasn’t moving forward, wasn’t cutting the angles off enough.

“She got herself back in the points.”

Asked about how she can reverse her record against Williams, Sharapova said: “Keep setting opportunities. Keep getting to the point where I have an opportunity to play against her. Keep finding a way to turn that around. If I don’t have that chance then I don’t have the opportunity to try something different.”

“Well, it’s obviously always frustrating,” Sharapova commented on her poor record against Williams, now 2-19. “I mean, it’s motivating. It’s tough to sit here 30 minutes after the match and talk about the match, but that’s part of my job.

“It’s motivating because she’s at a different level. She makes you go back to the drawing board, not just for me, but for many other players. She makes you work. That’s inspiring.”

“Something about her game, ” Williams said of the 18-match streak against Sharapova. “I like the way she hits the ball. Plus, when I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game. I think that makes me play better. When I play better, when I’m forced to play better, I don’t know, I do well.”

So what’s the Russian’s schedule before the U. S. hardcourt season in March? “I’m going to go and take care of my forearm first. I think that’s really important. I’m going to go to Moscow (for Fed Cup), be part of the team. I don’t think I’ll be playing. Then I’m not sure.

“But I think this will be a time to just get myself ready for a long year. I don’t see myself playing anything before Indian Wells.”

The world No. 1 and 21-time major champion will match up against Agnieszka Radwanska in her semifinal.

Radwanska beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals for her second appearance in the Melbourne final four.

Radwanska who is 0-8 against Williams commented about her next match: “Right now I have nothing to lose. Hopefully (I’ll) play my best tennis, otherwise I’ll be in big trouble.”

“She got the better of me at Hopman Cup,” Williams said. “It will be a good match. She’s been playing really well towards the end of the year, and already this year she’s been very consistent.

“She presents a completely different game, an extremely exciting game. So I think it will be a long match and it will be a good match to see where I am.”

“I didn’t think I’d be playing at this age,” said the 34-year-old. “But I’m still here and I’m doing well. I think that’s the reason I am still playing, because I know that I’m capable, you know, if I play well, of being on top.”

 

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Serena Williams to Face Maria Sharapova in Australian Open Quarterfinals

(January 24, 2016) Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will battle it out for a spot in the Australian Open semifinals as both women won fourth round matches on Sunday in Melbourne. The quarterfinals match-up will be a rematch of last year’s final, which Williams won in three sets.

2008 champion and No. 5 seed Sharapova hit 21 aces in holding off No. 12 Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5 in the first match of the day in Rod Laver Arena.

Defending champion Serena Williams had no problems defeating Russian Margarita Gasparya 6-2, 6-1 in 55 minutes.

Williams has an 18-2 record against Sharapova, having won the last 17 in a row.

“I got myself into the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam,” Sharapova said. “There is no reason I shouldn’t be looking to improve and to getting my game in a better position than any other previous round. It’s only going to be tougher, especially against Serena.”

“Serena’s obviously a big favorite coming into that match, and what a year she’s had. I expect to play her in the next match, but we’ll see the result.

“It was a great final last year. I came quite close in the second set but not close enough. I look forward to playing the best in the world, and that’s what she has proven to be for the last many years, and it’d be a great match.”

The last time Williams lost a match to Sharapova was in the fall of 2004 at the WTA Finals.
“For my whole career I have been motivated by losses. So that’s just been my thing,” the 21-time major champion said to media. “So each time I take a loss, I feel like I get better.”

The world No. 1, who has a 17-match win streak against Sharapova, was asked about her confidence against the five-time major champion coming into the quarterfinal contest.

“I just feel like I’m really confident in my game right now, not against her or against any other opponent.” Williams said. “I’m just really looking at me right now, and I feel like if I can just continue to play well, then it could be good.”

“I think the person who’s winning could definitely feel the pressure because there is a lot of expectations. The person who is losing, well, I have lost X amount in a row; I don’t have anything to lose.

“But in this situation, I don’t have anything to lose because I’m just here — every tournament for me is just a bonus at this point in my career.

“So it’s an interesting place to be at.”

“I look forward to playing the best in the world and that’s what she’s proven in the last year,” Sharapova said.

Every match is new,” Williams said. “You know, she always brings in something new and something special. She’s very consistent, as well. Yeah, she knows how to be — one player that’s always consistently winning and training and working hard and winning matches.”

The other quarterfinal in the women’s top half of the draw was set. It will be No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska versus 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

 

Suarez rebounded from losing the first set 6-0 to beat Australian Daria Gavrilova 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. The Spaniard closed out the match by winning the last six games.
“Well, I start obviously not really good,” said Suarez Navarro. “I think I start too much relaxed. Was tough. Even she was playing good, the first set, no mistake.

“But, you know, you have to believe. I try. I fight. I was there. You have to be there for a comeback like this. That’s it.

“I just try. I just believe that I can do it. Until the last point, I fight.”

Agnieszka Radwanska earned a place in the quarterfinals with a 6-7 (6), 6-1, 7-5 win over Anna-Lena Friedsam. A tearful Friedsam was up 5-2 in the final set, suffered from cramps in her legs.

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Top Seeds and Defending Champions Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic Reach Fourth Round of Australian Open

(January 22, 2016) Six-time champion Serena Williams moved into the round of 16 at the Australian Open with a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win in 45 minutes defeating Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina on Friday.

“I definitely think I played better today,” said the defending champion. “Everything I’ve been trying to work on was kind of clicking today. I thought I played pretty well in the other matches. My first match I thought I gave a great effort. My second match I thought, under the circumstances, I thought I played well. Hopefully with each match I can just do better.”

Williams next faces another Russian, Margarita Gasparyan for a place in the quarterfinals. Gasparyan defeated Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-4.

Williams talked about her next opponent to media:

“She has a great forehand up the line. She has a good serve. She mixes up the ball well. I thought she played really well at Wimbledon. She was fearless.

“So, you know, I think she qualified at Wimbledon. She’s obviously made leaps and bounds since then, gained a lot of confidence. She’s here to play well and win. So am I, so we’ll see what happens.”

Defending champion Novak Djokovic put in a straight sets performance advancing to the fourth round with a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (6) over No. 28 seed Andreas Seppi. Djokovic playing his first match in Margaret Court Arena, breezed by Seppi in the first set but had to save set points in the third set.

“So I think that I started very well,” Djokovic said. “A set and then a couple of breakpoints early in the second. Didn’t use that. He started serving well. I backed up half a step back. He started playing more aggressive tennis. Not as many unforced errors.

“I think I served my way out of trouble several times. But, you know, certainly I must be pleased with a straight-set win because both sets, especially the third, could have gone a different way.

“But I’m still not very satisfied, you know, with certain parts of the second and third set. I think I could have done better. But, again, I played a quality player who took out Federer last year here and who has been on the tour for many years. He is not afraid to play big tennis on a big stage. He likes it, I think.

“We practiced a lot, so we know each other’s game well. It was a great test. It was a physical match, a lot of exchanges from the baseline. I’m just glad to go through.”

The world No. 1 has now reached the final 16 in Melbourne for the 10th straight year.

Djokovic plays 14th seed Gilles Simon next.

The biggest upset on the day on the men’s side came when U.S. Open champion 12th seed Marin Cilic lost 6-4, 7-6 (5), 7-5 to Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.

Bautista Agut has now equaled his best performance at a major. The Spaniard, seeded 24th will take on sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the fourth round.

Tomas Berdych won 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 over Australian No. 29 Nick Kyrgios.

 

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Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova Advance to Third Round of Australian Open

(January 20, 2016) Both Day and Night sessions in Rod Laver Arena produced no drama for the top seeds as Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova had easy straight set victories on Wednesday at the Australian Open.

No. 5 seed and 2008 champion Sharapova lead off the day session with an easy win 6-2, 6-1 over Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Rain delayed the start of matches on the outer courts.

 

Six-time champion Serena Williams followed with a 6-1, 6-2 dismantling of 90th ranked Hsieh Su-wei. The victory set an all-time record for Williams – her 79th main draw match at the Australian Open. She 70-9 at the first major of the year where she first played in 1998.

 

The world No. 1 dominated her opponent with 26 winners, closing the match in just one hour. One of her winners was a shot around the post, a first for her she admitted to media. “It’s cool,” she said. “You know, it’s always cool to do something fresh and new. I don’t know if I have done that. I could be wrong, but I definitely don’t remember ever hitting a shot like around the net. So it was good.”

Williams was pleased with her consistency on court: “I don’t think I made that many errors today. Something I was hopefully trying to get back into. And I moved much better today, I think, so slowly but surely feeling a little bit better.”

 

Williams will be taking on Russian Daria Kasatkina in the third round. The Russian defeater her sister Venus in the Auckland tournament earlier this month.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be easy,” Serena said of the match-up. “Any time someone is beating Venus they are more than likely playing really good.

“So I definitely will be ready for that. I obviously will ask Venus what she thought of the match, and I’m sure Patrick will know everything about her match and stuff. He’s really good at studying.

“I’ll be ready for that.”

Roger Federer hit 25 aces in his 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov to advance to the third round.

“I thought today I did serve very well,” Federer said. Maybe just matched up well with maybe Dolgopolov maybe wasn’t seeing it as well. But also conditions are fast during the daytime, so that helps to be able to serve through opponents.”

This was his 299th match victory at a major tournament a record setting 65th straight major. This is Federer’s 17th straight Australian Open.

“It’s been going very well for me, and I hope to keep it up as long as I choose to play tennis. You know, I mean, it’s the least I expect to be in the third round of a slam, obviously, so I’m pumped up, playing well, feeling good.”

Federer will play 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov next. Last year Federer lost in the third round of the Australian Open.

“I think it’s a tough draw, to be honest,” Federer said of his next opponent. “He’s got the game to be really dangerous.

“He’s fit enough for a five-setter, so, yeah, I mean, gotta definitely bring my best game to the court.”

Evening session began with fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-4, 6-2. Bouchard, a semifinalist in Melbourne in 2014, had been off the tour after the U.S. Open after falling in the dressing room and sustaining a concussion. Bouchard has filed a lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association.

“I was prepared for that match 100%,” Radwanska said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She had good start of the year, as well, playing couple good matches. I knew I would have to play good tennis today.

“She start very well. She was hitting the ball very good. I think I was just more consistent today. That’s why I could really come back in that first set especially. I was really serving good. I was focusing on that. That helped, as well.”

Novak Djokovic ending the night session in Rod Laver Arena with a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(3) victory over Frenchman wild card Quentin Halys.

“I think I played a good match,” Djokovic said. “Third set was a close set. Was a battle. Credit to him for fighting, for serving well.”

Djokovic in his post-match news conference denied a report in an Italian newspaper that he tanked a match in the 2007 Bercy event.

 

Djokovic answered:“My response is that there’s always going to be, especially these days when there is a lot of speculations, this is now the main story in tennis, in sports world, there’s going to be a lot of allegations, so…

“I have nothing more to say. I said everything I needed to say two days ago. You know, until somebody comes out with the real proof and evidence, it’s only a speculation for me.”

Defending champion Djokovic is a going for a sixth Australian Open title.

In the upset of the day, sixth seed Petra Kvitova lost to Russian-born Australian Daria Gavrilova 6-4, 6-4. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 23rd seed lost to Kateryna Bondarenko 6-1, 7-5.

In a 4-6, 7-6(6), 9-7 loss to Monica Puig, Kristyna Pliskova hit a record 31 aces in the match.

Seeded winners in the women’s draw included No. 10 seed Carla Suárez Navarro, No. 12 seed Belinda Bencic, No. 13 seed Roberta Vinci and No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic.

Other seeded winners on the men’s side included No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 7 Kei Nishikori, Marin Cilic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 14 Gilles Simon, No. 15 David Goffin, No. 19 Dominic Thiem and No. 24 Roberto Bautista Agut.

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In Their Own Words – Players Reactions to Allegations of Match Fixing

(January 18, 2016) On Monday at the Australian Open, players were asked to respond about allegations cited in reports by BBC and BuzzFeed News that tennis authorities have suppressed evidence of match fixing and ignored possible cases involving players ranked in the top 50, including winners of majors in singles and doubles.

 

Here are some of the reactions from players in their news conferences which include Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, as well as the specific questions asked.

 

Are you aware of reports today that there is possibly match fixing allegations within professional tennis? Would you be surprised to learn of something like this happening?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I just heard about it today, just as a warning that I might be asked about it. But that’s literally all I have heard about it.

Have you ever seen any hint of that, any indications of that at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not that I’m aware of. When I’m playing, I can only answer for me, I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard.

I think that, you know, we go –you know, as an athlete, I do everything I can to be not only great, but, you know, historic. You know, if that’s going on, I don’t know about it. You know, I’m kind of sometimes in a little bit of a bubble.

 

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

There was a report today which suggested there was a problem with match fixing in tennis. Would you be surprised to learn there was a problem with match fixing on the tour?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, it is. I didn’t know anything. It’s a little bit surprised, but, I mean, obviously I never, you know, involve with this. Actually I have no idea what’s going on.

So it’s — yeah.

 

We all turned up today to see the reports of the allegations of match fixing in tennis. What is your take on it? None of these players have been identified. Do you feel bad that it casts a shadow over everybody?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t think so. Honestly I’ve heard about the story and I read that there were a couple of players mentioned who are not active anymore, talking about the matches that have happened almost 10 years ago.

Of course, there is no room for any match fixing or corruption in our sport. We’re trying to keep it as clean as possible. We have, I think, a sport evolved and upgraded our programs and authorities to deal with these particular cases.

I don’t think the shadow is cast over our sport. In contrary, people are talking about names, guessing who these players are, guessing those names. But there’s no real proof or evidence yet of any active players, for that matter. As long as it’s like that, it’s just speculation. So I think we have to keep it that way.

Q. In 2007 you were quoted as saying you’d been offered $200,000 to throw a first-round match in St. Petersburg. I believe you didn’t actually even play in the tournament. Can you clarify that and tell us what happened.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was not approached directly. I was approached — well, me personally. I was approached through people that were working with me at that time, that were with my team. Of course, we threw it away right away. It didn’t even get to me, the guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn’t even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.

Unfortunately there were some, in those times, those days, rumors, some talks, some people were going around. They were dealt with. In the last six, seven years, I haven’t heard anything similar.

I personally was never approached directly, so I have nothing more to say about that.

Q. As a young player on your way up, how did that make you feel, even be indirectly associated with it?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It made me feel terrible because I don’t want to be anyhow linked to this kind of — you know, somebody may call it an opportunity. For me, that’s an act of unsportsmanship, a crime in sport honestly. I don’t support it. I think there is no room for it in any sport, especially in tennis.

But, you know, I always have been taught and have been surrounded with people that had nurtured and, you know, respected the sport’s values. That’s the way I’ve grown up. Fortunately for me, I didn’t need to, you know, get directly involved in these particular situations.

Q. (Question regarding attending Zupska Berba wine festival with friend Ilija Bozoljac.)
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I’m not so sure. Yeah, Ilija is a good friend of mine. I grew up with him. I drink more water than wine, I must say. So although I like to enjoy every once in a while a glass of wine, not more than that.

I’m sure it’s a great festival. For now I don’t really have time. But I do enjoy my life. I don’t know if you question that. But I assure you that I enjoy my life.

Q. You’re someone who takes your role as an ambassador for the sport really seriously. You care about the message you put out there. Does it make you uncomfortable at all that this Grand Slam has a betting company as one of its big sponsors? There’s so many ads, even on Twitter.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, this is a subject for discussion, I think, today and in the future. It’s a fine line. Honestly it’s on a borderline, I would say. Whether you want to, you know, have betting companies involved in the big tournaments in our sport or not, you know, it’s hard to say what’s right and what’s wrong.

One of the reasons why tennis is a popular and clean sport is because it has always valued its integrity. Protecting that integrity was one of the highest priorities of each and every leadership that was part of the association. I think especially in the Grand Slams that are and always have been the most valued and respected and known tennis tournaments around the world throughout the history of this sport.

You know, I know that there is also many betting companies that on the websites are using the names, the brands, images of tournaments and players and matches in order to profit from that. Tennis hasn’t been really getting the piece of that cake, if you know what I mean.

It’s hard to say. I don’t have yet the stand and clear opinion about that. I think it is a subject of discussion. We’ll see what happens.

Q. We’ve known you for a long time. You always tell it like it is. But how can tennis go to some 137th ranked player who has been struggling on the circuit and tell him don’t double-fault, don’t throw a point here or there, when the top officials themselves go to a betting company and take that money and send an obvious mixed message to everyone?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it’s the first time that I hear something like that. Obviously I can’t speak about that from this position where I don’t have the support of the facts and information and evidence, you know. Obviously you hear some stories here and there.

From my knowledge and information about, you know, the match fixing or anything similar, there is nothing happening on the top level, as far as I know. Challenger level, those tournaments, maybe, maybe not. But, you know, I’m not entitled to really talk about it. I can give my opinion. But there is an organization, authorities, people who take care of that on a daily basis and make sure to track it down.

It’s always a choice for a tennis player, an athlete or any person in life. You know, even though it seems that you don’t, but you always have a choice, especially for somebody who is on the tennis court, whether or not you’re going to accept something that is going against everything that the sport stands for.

I would always make the right choice. But I can only speak on my own behalf.

 

 

I’m sure you’ve heard that today there’s been new stories and allegations about match fixing in tennis. As a lot of it happened under your watch when you were head of the Player Council, what is your latest take on it?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know exactly how much new things came out, to be quite honest. I heard old names being dropped. That story was checked out. Clearly you got to take it super serious, you know, like they did back in the day. Since we have the Integrity Unit, it puts more pressure on them that a story like this broke again.

But I don’t know how much new things there is out there. It’s just really important that all the governing bodies and all the people involved take it very seriously, that the players know about it. There’s more pressure on these people now maybe because of this story, which is a good thing.

Under my watch, I mean, we discussed it early on. I actually never heard about it until it was brought up at a player meeting when somebody came and spoke about it. I was like, Okay, came totally from left field. Had no clue what it was about. Didn’t sort of know it existed. I hadn’t been approached.

Doesn’t matter whether I’ve been approached or not, I haven’t. It’s a bit farfetched, all these things. Clearly for a few years now we know this is very serious. Got to do everything about it to keep the sport clean. It’s vital, there’s no doubt about it.

You made your views clear on not being probably spent enough on doping, anti-doping. Do you think there’s enough being done with the TIU, enough resources and men?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know the numbers. Really, you can always do more. It’s like I can always train more. There’s always more you can do. So a story like this is only going to increase the pressure. Hopefully there’s more funding to it. That’s about it. Same as doping. Yes, absolutely, got to be super aggressive in both areas, no doubt about it.

You’ve always called for a level playing field in tennis or other sports. But still perception is so important. How can tennis ask players not to be involved in gambling and yet take one sponsorship deal after another and have big signage promoting betting companies at events?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. It’s a tough one, you know, to talk about one or the other. In some ways they’re connected. In some ways they’re not connected at all. It depends on how you really look at it.

Betting happens all across the world in all the sports. The players just need to know, we need to make sure the integrity of the game is always maintained because without that, I always would say, why do you come and watch this match tonight or any match, because you just don’t know the outcome. As long as we don’t know the outcome, the players, fans, it’s going to be exciting. The moment that gets taken away, there’s no point anymore to be in the stadium.

That’s why it’s super important to keep it clean. In terms of having sponsors around there, I guess there is a lot of money there. Maybe, who knows, could it be helpful maybe? I don’t know. This is a question for more people in suits than a guy in a track suit, I don’t know.

If you got wind of someone you knew was offered or fixing matches, would you tell the authorities straightaway?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, well, I guess so. It’s important that person, how he’s been approached. He needs to feel he’s been supported by the tour, or whatever the governing body is, that there’s a place he can go and speak about it. It’s uncomfortable, not a fun thing. It’s not like, Oh, I’ve just been approached, it’s all cool, and we don’t talk about it.

I think it’s really important that you get supported and get also told how to manage that. So, yes, I guess I would encourage that person to go and say something, otherwise I would say something or I would encourage us to go together or whatever. I would be very helpful in this situation because it’s a very tricky situation to be in.

Is there anything inside the ATP that talks to younger players, older players, that gives advice on how to deal with people who approach them about match fixing?
ROGER FEDERER: You have the ATP University I went to. It was a three-day training thing. I had it in Monaco back in the day. I know they still have it at the end of the year. There was a time they stopped doing it. They were more handing out CDs and explaining everything. It was about everything: how you handle the press, how you handle financially maybe down the road, your fitness, the tour in general. They explain how things are done. Then part of that definitely today is this one as well, the doping issues as well. It’s just like with the whereabouts you, how important, how serious it is. They educate you there.

So I’m sure match fixing is also a priority in those meetings. All the guys that came up, I don’t know exactly the age, like the first to break into the top 100 maybe, or you’re close to that, you get asked to do it. You have to come and show up at the end of the year, which is a great thing. I wasn’t in favor of them handing out CDs because that just ends up being in a drawer at home. They’re taking it serious again like they did with me back in the day.

Honestly, for me it was very helpful to be there. I wasn’t happy to go there in the first place, but I made friends there. I felt supported by the tour. I learned things. For me it was more about the press, how to handle that, to see the press as an intermediary from us to the fans rather than looking at the press as the bad guy.

For me it was very educational. I hope it’s the same thing for the young guys coming up.

When you’re not top 100 or 150, it’s tough to stay alive on the circuit without finding other ways. That’s probably the reason why, even if we wouldn’t accept, it happens. Don’t you think the problem should be to find some more money for those people who are not top 100? Challengers, minor tournaments, it’s there where they try to fix.
ROGER FEDERER: I completely disagree with you. I think you don’t understand. It doesn’t matter how much money you pump into the system, there’s always going to be people approaching players, or people, any sport. It’s all a question of money, you know.

It doesn’t maybe happen at the challengers. It’s going to happen at the futures. It’s going to go away if you offer $1 million for every player to play at every tournament? It’s not going to change a thing.

Still might be approached. That’s why I think you’re wrong there, that more money there is going to solve the issue completely.

I agree we should have more money at futures, challengers, all these levels. But it’s not going to solve the issue. The issue is elsewhere, in the player’s mind.

Among the allegations in the report was some of the suspected match fixers were Grand Slam singles and doubles players. Is it surprising, that element, that they’re saying Grand Slam champions are being involved?
ROGER FEDERER: I mean, it’s like who, what. It’s like thrown around. It’s so easy to do that.

I would like to hear the name. I would love to hear names. Then at least it’s concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which slam? It’s so all over the place. It’s nonsense to answer something that is pure speculation.

Like I said, it’s super serious and it’s super important to maintain the integrity of our sport. So how high up does it go? The higher it goes, the more surprised I would be, no doubt about it. Not about people being approached, but just people doing it in general. I just think there’s no place at all for these kind of behaviors and things in our sport. I have no sympathy for those people.

 

Today there are a lot of discussions and debates about this match fixing story that came out. Of course, people like you who are top 100 or 10 or so were never in the position to survive getting fixed matches. What do you think? Do you think it exists at the minor level, when someone has to stay from 120 to 180 for five, six years, having to pay maybe a coach, transportation?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, honestly, I really hope not. I mean, to me the sport itself has always meant a lot more than money. I know that the more successful you are and the more matches you win, the more prize money, the more money you will receive.

But ultimately that’s never been my personal driving factor in the sport. There’s just so much more on the line. There’s the competitiveness. There’s the challenge of being better. There’s playing in front of thousands of people, playing you against somebody across the net and you trying to win that match.

When you’re out there, it’s not about money.

 

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

What I’m asking is, when you are not a player of your standard, playing in front of thousands of people.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think it really matters what level you are. The sport itself is meaningful. It’s our career. It’s our job. I mean, I guess I can only speak for myself, but we want to succeed at it by improving, by getting better, by beating our own best, and not by anything else.

That’s how I would hope everyone else would think, as well. Make it a better and more competitive sport.

We have the situation where tennis, to its great credit, asks players at all levels not to be involved in gambling. Yet our leading organizations go out and get their own money, so to speak, but getting sponsorships from Betway and other companies. Players aren’t willing to say that’s a bad thing.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I personally don’t understand that. It’s not that I’m for or against it. As you know, I’ve had many great opportunities to work with great brands in my career. That’s just not a direction that I’ve ever followed. I don’t even know if I’ve had the chance, because I know my management would shut that down very fast. It’s so far away from any of my interests, everything I want to be a part of and the people I want to work with. It has to be true and real. That’s just not something I would ever associate myself with.

My question is, with all respect, do you think in terms of the sporting public out there, do you think it’s a problem to have signage and sponsors that say betting?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not in their seat. I’m not in the organization’s seat. It’s tough for me to speak about it.

 

Sam Stosur

Q. The match fixing allegations, Novak said his team historically had been approached to throw a match. Have you ever been?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: Never been asked. Never heard of anyone being asked. Don’t know anything about it.

Related Article:

Media Statement From Tennis’ Governing Bodies in Reaction to BBC and BuzzFeed News’s Report on Match Fixing

 

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Defending Champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams Open Australian Open Defenses with Wins

 

(January 18, 2016) World No. ones and Australian Open defending champions Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams made straight set starts in Melbourne on Monday. Novak Djokvic dominated teenager Chung Hyeon of South Korea 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 while Williams stopped No. 34 ranked Camila Giorgi 6-4, 7-5.

Coming into Melbourne, knee inflammation forced Serena Williams to withdraw from Hopman Cup. The 21-time major champion had not played a competitive match since she lost in the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Open, falling short or claiming a calendar Grand Slam.

Williams responded to media questions about her knee:It’s great. It was an hour and 43 minutes and I didn’t feel it at all.”

I think I served well today,” Williams said. “I think, you know, I got broken once, but other than that, I was able to stay focused on that part. And I was able to serve really well and that really helped me.”

Williams gave herself an “A for effort,” for her win.

“I have played her (Giorgi) a couple of times before, and just wanted to be as consistent as I could.”

Williams has won the Australian Open six times.

 

Djokovic who is trying to win a sixth title at Melbourne had to beat the heat as well his opponent, with temperatures in the 90’s (93 Fahrenheit).

“Having to play somebody for the first time, especially somebody that is as young as him, he’s only 19, you know, it can be tricky,” Djokovic said. “Obviously getting out on the court and playing against a player that has nothing to lose.

“His baseline game is very good, very solid, especially from the backhand side. Very flat, strong backhand, solid shots, both angles. Once he gets into the good rhythm, he can serve well.

“He’s a pretty tall guy. For somebody of his height, he moves very well, as well. He can play equally well from defense to offense. And he’s one of the players that people are talking about as a potential top player in the future.

“He’s got that potential, no question about it. As I said on the court, he needs experience, he needs more time.”

Chung said: “Great honor to play with Novak. He’s No. 1 in the world. He’s my idol. It was good experience to play with him.

“I’m just trying to fight every point, because too tough to win one games. Great experience. Great test to start season.”

Four-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer had an easy time with Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in the night session. In the process, the world No. 3 is playing his 65 straight major, a record.

“That was a good match,” Federer said. “I’m really pleased how I was able to play. Definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence, you know, because this year I haven’t been able to play properly yet. I mean, I had some decent matches in Brisbane, but it was all under, you know, sort of a cloud knowing that I wasn’t 100%.

“But this was a match where I was able to focus, you know, on my game, on tactics, all that stuff. So it was nice to play that way.”

Federer will play Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round.

“I think it’s going to be very tough, to be honest,” Federer said. “I’ve practiced with Dolgopolov in the off-season in Dubai. Had some great practice sessions together there, this year and last year. I know him very well. This is going to be a different challenge than the first round. This was more of an unexperienced player today, but still dangerous and still a good player.

“But Dolgopolov is a different player, a different level. He’s been there before. He’s got the fitness, the power, the speed, tennis IQ, all that. It’s going to be a big challenge.

“Curious to find out if it’s going to be day or night because that plays a big part in how it plays out. I feel it plays very different day to night, the conditions. Yeah, I’m ready for a very tough match, to be quite honest.”

No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska is into the second round at Melbourne Park with a 6-2, 6-3 win over American Christina McHale as is two-time major champion Petra Kvitova. Kvitova, who had to withdraw from the Shenzhen Open, a warm-up event before the Australian Open, defeated Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum 6-3, 6-1. The Czech lost to her in three sets back in 2014.

Kvitova, who had to withdraw from a warmup tournament in China because of a stomach virus, said her preparation was disrupted and she was nervous ahead of the rematch with Kumkhum.

In the night session, Maria Sharapova had no problems against Nao Hibino 6-1, 6-3. Sharapova did not play a warm-up tournament before the Australian Open due to a left forearm injury.

There were some upsets on the women’s side. No. 16 Caroline Wozniacki lost to 76th-ranked Yulia Putintseva 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, No. 17 Sara Errani fell to Margarita Gasparyan 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, No. 22 Andrea Petkovic lost to Elizaveta Kulichkova 7-5, 6-4,  2013 quarterfinalist 24th seed Sloane Stephens had no answers Chinese qualifier Wang Qiang who won 6-3, 6-3, 25th seed, Australian Sam Stosur was beaten by qualifier Kristyna Pliskova 6-4, 7-6(6), 26th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was eliminated by American Lauren Davis 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 27 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova went down 6-3, 6-3 to Daria Kasatkina in the first round.

 

No. 7 Kei Nishikori beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. He’ll play friend Austin Krajicek in the next round.

Actually, it’s great to see him, especially on Grand Slam,” Nishikori said of the American. “We can play each other it’s great because, you know, because we train together when we are really young, like when we were junior(s).
“It’s going to be not an easy one.”

“It’s always tough to play with friends. Actually tougher than maybe top 10 players.”

Other men’s seeds advancing included No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych and No. 15 David Goffin. No. 22 seed Ivo Karlovic retired from his match with a left knee injury trailing Federico Delbonis 7-6 (4), 6-4, 2-1.

In the upset of the day on the men’s side of the draw, 19-year-old wild card Noah Rubin from Long Island, New York, ranked 328th in the world dismissed 17th seed Benoit Paire 7-6(4), 7-6(6), 7-6(5) for his first main draw win at a major

More to follow….

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Serena Williams: “I’m at 120, 130 percent right now”

(January 16, 2016) Serena Williams comes into the 2016 Australian Open as the defending champion seeking her seventh Melbourne crown. In her pre-tournament news conference, the 21-time major champion tried to set aside doubts about her fitness after photos of her taking a break during her practice seemed to raise concerns about her health.

The 34-year-old Williams has not played a competitive match since the U.S. Open and withdrew from Hopman Cup a couple of weeks ago due to knee inflammation.

“I’m at 120, 130 percent right now,” she told media on Saturday. “This week, the weeks leading up, has been a lot of work. I actually wanted to have an easy day today. But to me in my mind ‘easy’ is just two hours of really intense working out.”

 

“I’ve had a really good preparation. I mean, I didn’t have the match play that I’ve wanted to have. But after playing for so many years on tour, I should be able to, you know, focus on that and the fact that I have played a lot of matches. So that’s what I’m trying to focus on now.”

Asked about her knee, she said: “I don’t have any inflammation anymore. It’s just that I just needed some time to get over that little hump.

Like I said, I’ve been doing a lot of, lot of, lot of training leading up to this. But, yeah, I’m totally — I don’t think I would need surgery at all.”

Williams opens her quest for a 22nd major title against No. 35 Camila Giorgi on Monday. Questioned about her draw, the world No. 1 said: “Yeah, I always seem to have a tough draw, so it’s fine. Doesn’t matter who I play. At some point you have to play everyone. You know, that’s how it always works out. So that’s what it is.”

“I didn’t have the match play that I’ve wanted to have,” she commented. “But after playing for so many years on tour, I should be able to focus on that and the fact that I have played a lot of matches.”

Williams fell short of winning a calendar Grand Slam last year, losing to Roberta Vinci in the semifinal of the U.S. Open.

Asked about her nerves and her injury, since she hasn’t had much match play, Williams explained: “No, I feel fine. Honestly, I don’t have anything to prove. I have nothing to lose. I can only gain. That’s kind of how I look at it right now.”

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