Maria Sharapova ignores critics to show she is serious Melbourne contender

Maria Sharapova swatted aside 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 7-6 at the Australian Open in Melbourne. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2018

Maria Sharapova ignores critics to show she is serious Melbourne contender

LONDON: Maria Sharapova may not be seeded and may have turned up in Melbourne with a cloud hanging over her, but the Russian has showed she is s serious contender for the title.
The 30-year-old swatted aside 14th seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-1, 7-6 in a display which will have had the rest of the locker room sitting up and taking notice.
Sharapova faces Angelique Kerber next in a mouth-watering clash of former Australian Open champions, warned she was still improving less than a year after her comeback from a drugs ban last April.
“She’s had success here,” she said of Kerber, the 2016 title winner. “She’s had success playing out here in these conditions on these courts. I want to see where I am on that level.”
Sevastova had thwarted the Russian’s Grand Slam comeback in the last 16 of the US Open last year.
In their next encounter in Beijing the Latvian was only denied after more than three gruelling hours in a titanic three-setter.
In the Melbourne match it was a different story as Sharapova sped through a sizzling first set in just 23 minutes for the loss of only nine points.
“I played really well at the net, finished the balls off with a swing volley or good volley,” she said.
“Something I’ve been working on, and definitely improved in the match today.”
Sevastova characteristically fought back in the second but the only time the 2008 Australian Open champion and crowd-favorite wobbled was when serving for the match.
“She never really lets up,” Sharapova said.
“But I got through it. I did the job in two, and that’s not something I did, you know, toward the end of last year.
“I think that’s an improvement.”
The Latvian, who reached back-to-back quarter-finals at the US Open in 2016 and 2017, briefly woke up to break the Sharapova serve for the first time early in the second set.
The jolt to the Sharapova juggernaut was evident and she began to make unforced errors as service holds and breaks were exchanged.
At 4-4 a backhand winner got Sharapova to break point and when a second screamer followed it was greeted by a double-fist pump from the Russian.
But still Sevastova was not done and broke back again to force a tiebreak.
Sharapova regathered and was not to be denied as she hit a scarcely believable forehand crosscourt winner on the run to get to 5-2 before closing out the match with a scream of joy, a fist pump and a huge smile.
“I did my job in two sets against someone that’s been troubling in the past for me. I think I deserve to smile out there after that victory,” said Sharapova.


NBA star Durant rules himself out for rest of season

Updated 06 June 2020

NBA star Durant rules himself out for rest of season

  • NBA star ruptured his right Achilles tendon in last June’s NBA Finals
  • Kevin Durant among a dozen NBA players who tested positive for coronavirus in the spring

LOS ANGELES: NBA superstar Kevin Durant, who has not played since he tore his Achilles tendon a year ago, said he would not make his debut with the Brooklyn Nets when the season resumes late July in Orlando.
“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all,” in the 2019-2020 season, Durant said in an interview Friday with The Undefeated.
“We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 as the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, leaving professional sport in North America at a standstill.
The league’s board of governors on Thursday gave the green light to a plan to restart the season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida on July 31, without spectators.
The news was followed by speculation over whether Durant would appear.
Durant, who was the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the Golden State Warriors in their 2017 and 2018 championship runs, ruptured his right Achilles tendon in last June’s NBA Finals.
He then left California to join Brooklyn, where fans were hoping he would form a formidable duet with Kyrie Irving, who also arrived last summer.
“It’s just best for me to wait. I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month,” said Durant.
He said however that his rehab was going well.
“I’m doing well. Working out every day. I’m moving. I’m feeling like a normal player again,” he told The Undefeated.
Plans to restart the league received the approval of the players’ union on Friday, although some details remain to be ironed out.
Durant, who is among a dozen NBA players who tested positive for coronavirus in the spring, has not said whether he will accompany his teammates to Florida.