Nadal dazzles as Sharapova hits all-time low at Australian Open

Spain’s Rafael Nadal makes a forehand return to Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien during their first round singles match on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Nadal dazzles as Sharapova hits all-time low at Australian Open

  • Nadal, the first player to be world No. 1 in three different decades, is still thriving at 33

MELBOURNE: Top seed Rafael Nadal turned on the style as he launched his bid for a record-equaling 20th Major title at the Australian Open on Tuesday, but falling star Maria Sharapova hit a career low.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also cantered into the second round, but fourth seed Daniil Medvedev had to fight his way past American Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

Nadal, one shy of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam mark, dropped only five games as he swatted aside Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in just over two hours at a sunny Rod Laver Arena.

“It was a positive start,” said the reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion, wearing a bright pink singlet and matching trainers.

“What you want in the first round is just to win, and it’s better if it’s in straight sets.”

He joins Federer and defending champion Novak Djokovic in round two as the Big Three look to tighten a stranglehold that has brought them all but one of the last 14 Australian Open titles.

Nadal, the first player to be world No. 1 in three different decades, is still thriving at 33 but it’s a different story for five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova.

The 32-year-old, playing on a wildcard as she wrestles with a shoulder injury, lost 3-6, 4-6 to Croatian 19th seed Donna Vekic, making her an opening-round loser at three straight Grand Slams for the first time.

The future looks uncertain for the former world No. 1, who won Wimbledon when she was just 17 but has not reached a Grand Slam final since she lifted the 2014 French Open trophy.

“I can speak about my struggles and the things that I’ve gone through with my shoulder, but it’s not really in my character to,” Sharapova said.

“I was there, I put myself out there (playing). As tough as it was, I finished the match — it wasn’t the way that I wanted.”

Britain’s Johanna Konta, a two-time Slam semifinalist, also fell at the first hurdle as she battles to overcome a knee problem, losing 4-6, 2-6 to unseeded Tunisian Ons Jabeur. On a bumper day of 88 first-round matches, after rain wiped out half of Monday’s schedule, former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic both moved safely through.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini, two sets down against America’s Reilly Opelka when their match was suspended on Monday, returned to win it in five after a stormy encounter when both players argued furiously with the umpire.


Woods-Michelson rematch to add Brady, Manning in the works

Updated 03 April 2020

Woods-Michelson rematch to add Brady, Manning in the works

TORONTO: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will play a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief golf match next month with Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, CNBC reported on Wednesday.

The report, which sourced an unnamed person familiar with the negotiations, said the charity match would be held at an undisclosed location without fans and is being organized by the PGA Tour and AT&T’s WarnerMedia.

The negotiations are still being finalized but the match pitting 15-times major champion Woods and Manning against five-times major winner Mickelson and Brady could be aired on live TV and is unlikely to be featured on pay-per-view, the report said.

“Discussions along these lines have been ongoing for quite some time, but nothing has been approved by the tour,” the PGA Tour said in a statement.

A matchup featuring two of the most famous golfers of their era and two of the all-time greatest NFL quarterbacks would be a rare sporting event during the coronavirus pandemic which has brought the sporting world to a halt.

The event will feature a small production crew to film it and each individual will obey the social-distancing recommendations to stay six-feet apart, the report said.

Mickelson was asked recently on Twitter about the chances of a round of golf against Woods being live streamed in the near future, and the American replied: “Working on it.” 

When another fan tweeted to Mickelson asking him not to “tease,” the 49-year-old responded: “I don’t tease. I’m kinda a sure thing.” 

Woods, 44, last competed in mid-February and then withdrew from a number of tournaments with a back injury before the PGA Tour decided to cancel a slew of events because of the coronavirus.

Mickelson finished third in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February and missed the cut in his next two starts.

Woods and Mickelson played each other in a winner-take-all $9 million match-play exhibition in November 2018 that was golf’s first venture into pay-per-view.

That event was hyped like a Las Vegas prize fight but proved more of a pillow fight with both golfers in jovial mood, playing for a purse that was put up by sponsors and went to a charity of Mickelson’s choice.

Brady recently joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 years with the New England Patriots during which he won an NFL-record six Super Bowl titles.

Manning, who played for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, retired in 2016 as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns and yards and is the only five-times winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player award.