Serena, Federer into third round as Osaka sets up Coco crunch

Switzerland’s Roger Federer makes a backhand return to Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 22 January 2020

Serena, Federer into third round as Osaka sets up Coco crunch

  • Former world No. 1 Wozniacki, playing her final tournament before retiring

MELBOURNE: Fifteen-year-old prodigy Coco Gauff set up an Australian Open blockbuster with defending champion Naomi Osaka on Wednesday, as a pumped-up Serena Williams took another step toward a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam title.

On a day when men’s seeds tumbled, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic strode into the third round to be joined by Roger Federer, who dismissed Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-4, 6-1.

American teenager Gauff, showing a tenacity which is becoming her trademark, clawed her way back from a set down to beat the experienced Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Gauff, who screamed and pumped her fists as she completed her victory, said her “will to win” had got her through the tough second-round match at a windswept Melbourne Park.

“My parents always told me you can always come back — no matter what the score is,” said Gauff, who beat seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams in round one.

Gauff also beat Williams on her Grand Slam debut last year at Wimbledon, and in another quirk, she faced Osaka in the US Open third round, going down meekly in straight sets.

Japan’s Osaka, 22, beat China’s Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 but briefly lost her cool mid-match, hurling and kicking her racquet when she gave up a break in the second set.

“I was thinking that I really don’t want to play a third set this time,” explained Osaka, who is defending a Grand Slam title for the second time.

Former world No. 1 Wozniacki, playing her final tournament before retiring, came from behind in both sets for a 7-5, 7-5 win over Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.

Serena Williams shouted at the top of her voice during a testing second set against 70th-ranked Tamara Zidansek, before seeing off break points to win 6-2, 6-3.

“She was a really good fighter —  she did not just let me win,” said Williams, who can equal Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Grand Slams if she lifts the trophy.

Earlier, Australia’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty raced through 6-1, 6-4 against Polona Hercog, buoying hopes of a first home winner since 1978.

“It was very different end to end, I think the wind was a massive factor particularly with the new ball,” she said.

Djokovic also weathered the breeze — which followed heavy rain on Monday, and smog from bushfires last week — to beat Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in 95 minutes.

Federer was barely detained by Krajinovic, the world No. 41, as he moved smoothly through in 92 minutes in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.

In other results, Petra Kvitova, last year’s runner-up, came through 7-5, 7-5 against Paula Badosa of Spain, and China’s Zhang Shuai ousted American Caty McNally 6-2, 6-4.

Former US Open champion Marin Cilic won a five-setter against French seed Benoit Paire, and one-time semifinalist Milos Raonic beat Chile’s Christian Garin in straights.

Tennys Sandgren, engulfed in controversy over his political views and right-wing links during his run to the 2018 quarter-finals, took the biggest scalp so far when he ousted eighth seed Matteo Berrettini in five sets.

Sandgren’s fellow American Tommy Paul also pulled off a five-set upset when he beat Bulgarian 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 7-6 (8/6), 3-6, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6.


Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

Updated 20 October 2020

Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

  • Barca have not won since 2015, but since then have never embarked on a new campaign amid so much disarray

MADRID: Despite managing to hang onto Lionel Messi, Barcelona begin its Champions League campaign with reduced expectations after one of their worst seasons in years.
The Catalan club appears to lack its confidence from previous seasons following an embarrassing elimination to Bayern Munich and a troubled off-season in which it nearly lost its talisman.

“Knowing what happened recently, we are not the top favorite,” coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday ahead of the team's debut in this season's competition against Hungarian club Ferencvaros. “But we are a team that can go far.”

Koeman arrived to put Barcelona back on track shortly after the 8-2 collapse against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which capped their first season without a title since 2007-08.

“Barcelona always plays to win titles, in the league and in Europe, but there are other strong teams,” Koeman said.

Barcelona have not  won the Champions League since 2015, but since then they had never embarked on a new campaign in the competition amid so much disarray.

The club avoided losing Messi after he said he wanted to leave, but it continued to endure political turmoil and even financial difficulties. President Josep Bartomeu is facing a censure motion that could force him to leave his post before the end of the year.

Koeman was given the task of revamping the first team, and he quickly got rid of veterans such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, but the club failed to bring in any of the players he wanted in the transfer window.

Koeman said Messi is fine despite scoring just once so far this season.

“Maybe his performance could be better, but I see him happy,” Koeman said. “I see him training well and focused. I have nothing to complain about him in that sense.”

He said “a bit of bad luck” has played a role in keeping the Argentina star from scoring more goals so far. Koeman also downplayed criticism of Antoine Griezmann for his recent poor performances, though he admitted that “everyone in the attack” can improve.

Barcelona opened the Spanish league with two convincing wins under Koeman, but then it drew 1-1 with Sevilla at home and lost 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Hungarian champions Ferencvaros return to the Champions League for the first time since 1995. They needed to get through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

The other Group G teams are Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We want to start with the right foot,” Koeman said. “We want to win the match and gain tranquility.”