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.


Waqar urges Afridi and Gambhir to end social media war

Updated 01 June 2020

Waqar urges Afridi and Gambhir to end social media war

  • Both involved in heated social media exchanges over the troubled Kashmir region
  • Gambhir is now a lawmaker in the Indian parliament, while Afridi has his own foundation and is a vocal activist

New Delhi: Former Pakistan star Waqar Younis has called on Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir to end their social media war, and for India and Pakistan to resume playing cricket.
After being fierce on-field rivals, Pakistan’s Afridi and former Indian opener Gambhir have become involved in heated social media exchanges over the troubled Kashmir region, which is claimed by both countries.
Gambhir is now a lawmaker in the Indian parliament, while Afridi has his own foundation and is a vocal activist.
Waqar advised the pair to “calm down” in an online chat show.
“The banter between Gautam Gambhir and Shahid Afridi has been going on for a while now. I think they both got to be smart, sensible, and calm down,” said Waqar.
“It has been going on for way too long. My advice to them is to maybe catch up somewhere around the world and talk it out if you cannot really calm it down.”
India and Pakistan have not played a series since 2012-2013 and have hit a new peak in tensions over Kashmir, which they have fought over since their independence in 1947.
India frequently accuses Pakistan of organizing militant attacks in the sector of the Himalayan region that it administers.
Waqar, 48, said a cricket series would boost relations between the arch-rival neighbors.
“I think that it would be the biggest hit of the world,” said Waqar.
“I think Pakistan (and) India should play, and should play on a regular basis to avoid depriving cricket lovers.”