Stunned Serbia buckled under World Cup expectations: coach

Argentina's Gabriel Deck tries to shoot past Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica at left and Serbia's Nikola Jokic during a quarterfinal match for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Dongguan in southern China's Guangdong province on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019
Updated 10 September 2019

Stunned Serbia buckled under World Cup expectations: coach

  • For the Serbs, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings led all scorers with 21 points
  • Argentina are now undefeated in six games

DONGGUAN, China, Sept 10, 2019 Agence France Presse: Serbia’s coach said that his strongly fancied team collapsed under the weight of expectation as they were stunned by Argentina in the Basketball World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The South Americans’ grand old man Luis Scola knocked down a series of key buckets in a fourth-quarter surge to help crush Serbia 97-87 in the Chinese city of Dongguan.
Argentina are now undefeated in six games and headed for a Friday semifinal against reigning two-time champions the United States or France.
In Tuesday’s other quarter-final, Spain’s Ricky Rubio became the all-time leader for World Cup assists in a 90-78 win over surprise package Poland in Shanghai.
With Gregg Popovich’s US squad unbeaten but still failing to convince, Serbia had emerged as favorites — but their coach Sasha Djordjevic said his players had buckled.
“It was euphoria in our country — everybody followed us, everybody gave us a hand, everybody was eager to see us play in this tournament,” he said.
“We became favorites just like that, everybody was writing — not only in our papers but everywhere around the world — that we are the team, we are the ones, we will win,” he added.
“Sometimes that does not help.”
For the Serbs, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings led all scorers with 21 points, while Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic added 16.
But it was Scola, 39 years old and the last remaining member of Argentina’s “Golden Generation” that won the Olympics in 2004, who remains on course for another milestone.
The World Cup is the only major international trophy that he has yet to win. He finished with a team-high 20 points and Argentina were the more fluid throughout the contest.
Trailing most of the game, Serbia threatened to take control when they grabbed a 70-68 fourth-quarter lead on a three-pointer by the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marko Guduric.
That’s when Scola stepped up, scoring eight rapid-fire points in a 21-6 Argentina run that dropped the curtain on Serbia’s World Cup.
“It just bothers me that people keep talking about a miracle, keep talking about a surprise, keep talking about nobody believes it,” said the veteran.
“This is far from a miracle — we are a good basketball team, we played great basketball all the way along, we deserve to be here.”
Spain’s coach Sergio Scariolo hailed Rubio after what he called a “tough war” with Poland.
Phoenix Suns’ Rubio made an electric start for Olympic bronze medallists Spain, who will play Australia or the Czech Republic in Friday’s semis.
He had nine points in the first half and grabbed a record 107th career World Cup assist, surpassing Pablo Prigioni of Argentina.
Rubio finished the game with 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds against a Poland side who were back in the World Cup after a 52-year absence.
“Tonight is a really great night to congratulate Ricky as the best passer in the history of the World Cup,” said Scariolo.
“It’s huge and I really feel proud of him. This is his night.”
Juan Hernangomez of the Denver Nuggets surged to 14 points before the break as Spain, ranked second in the world behind the United States, threatened to run riot.


Australian Open: Alexander Zverev sweeps past Stan Wawrinka to make first Grand Slam semis

Updated 29 January 2020

Australian Open: Alexander Zverev sweeps past Stan Wawrinka to make first Grand Slam semis

  • The seventh seed was thumped in the first set but recovered to grind down the 2014 champion
  • Zverev fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent

MELBOURNE: German young gun Alexander Zverev stormed into his first Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday, rallying from a set down to shatter the dreams of veteran Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open.
The seventh seed was thumped in the first set but recovered to grind down the 2014 champion 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in hot sun on Rod Laver Arena.
He will face either world number one Rafael Nadal or Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the last four, with a final beckoning against Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.
“It feels awesome,” said Zverev who has been donating $10,000 for each win at Melbourne Park to Australian bushfire relief, and will even hand over the A$4.12 million ($2.78 million) winner’s cheque if he clinches the title.
“I’ve done well at other tournaments and in other matches but could never break that barrier in Grand Slams. You can’t imagine what this means to me.
“I hope it will be the first of many.”
Big things have been tipped for Zverev since he burst into the top 10 in 2017, but until now the 22-year-old has not fully delivered, slipping down the rankings last year to seven from four at the start of the season.
But after a poor build-up to the year’s opening Major at the ATP Cup, where he lost all three matches, he worked hard on the practice court and has been in fine touch to finally make a Grand Slam last four at his 19th attempt.
His serve, a key focus of his extended practices, was a weapon once again against 34-year-old three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka.
He fired 13 aces against just one double fault, with a first-serve percentage of 80 percent.
It was Wawrinka who came out of the blocks firing, putting immediate pressure on the Zverev serve, getting his returns back to break straight away when the German netted a half-volley.
Zverev won just four points in the opening three games as he struggled to get the measure of Wawrinka, and he was broken again when he shanked a forehand high into the crowd.
The German finally held to get himself on the scoreboard but the Swiss was moving and serving well, unleashing some crunching groundstrokes to take the set in just 24 minutes.
Zverev needed to hold his opening serve in the second set to halt the Wawrinka juggernaut and he rose to the occasion, with his court coverage and groundstrokes raising a level.
It went with serve until game eight when Wawrinka drilled a forehand into the net and Zverev screamed ‘C’mon’ after his first break of the match, serving out for the set.
A resurgent Zverev rammed home his advantage with an early break in the third set before the wily Swiss hit back. But a poorly executed drop shot again handed the 22-year-old another break and he raced to a two sets to one lead.
Wawrinka, who beat Rafael Nadal in the 2014 Melbourne final, was out of fight and Zverev had him dancing to his tune as he raced to victory, ending the popular Swiss star’s bid for a first Slam semi since Roland Garros in 2017.