Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

Ash Barty is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. (AFP)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Australian Open: Top-ranked Ash Barty a step closer to ending Aussie drought

  • Barty aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open
  • She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major

MELBOURNE, Australia: Top-ranked Ash Barty is a step closer to ending a long drought for Aussies at the national championship.
Barty saved set points in the 11th game and another in the tiebreaker before seizing the momentum against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a 7-6 (6), 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena. She next faces No. 14 Sofia Kenin, who reached the semifinals at a major for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 78-ranked Ons Jabeur.
Barty fended off eight of the nine break-point chances she faced in the first set before finally getting the upper hand when she won a 22-shot rally, defending for much of it just to stay in the point, at 3-2 in the tiebreaker.
After clinching the first set in 69 minutes, she went on a roll to take a 4-0 lead in the second and take all the momentum away from Kvitova, who beat Barty here at the same stage last year before losing the final to Naomi Osaka.
Barty rebounded from that to win her first major title at the French Open, where she beat Kenin in the fourth round. Until she arrived in Australia, Kenin’s run at Roland Garros — which included a third-round upset over Serena Williams — was her best at a Grand Slam.
There’s a lot of local expectation riding on Barty, who is aiming to be the first Australian woman since Chris O’Neill in 1978 to win the Australian Open. The first major of the decade may see the end of the 42-year wait, and an Australian man hasn’t won since 1976. Barty is already the first Australian woman since 1984 to reach the semifinals of the home Open.
Barty doesn’t expect to feel the pressure. She won her first title on home soil in Adelaide in the lead-up to this season’s first major.
“I’m not going to have anything but a smile on my face when I walk out onto this court,” Barty said of her next match.
Kenin and Jabeur were both into the quarterfinals for the first time at a major.
For Kenin, who was born in Moscow but moved to the United States as a baby and grew up in Florida, the degree of difficulty will only increase.
“I’m in the semis,” she said, when asked for her preference of semifinal rival. “Anyone I play, they’re playing really well.”
Kenin is playing her best tennis, too. Her best previous run at Melbourne Park ended in the second round, when she lost to Simona Halep last year.
She finished last year ranked 14th, and could match Barty in one category: they were tied for most hard-court wins on the women’s tour last year with 38 wins each.
Kenin’s run here included a comeback win in the third round against 15-year-old Coco Gauff, when she made only nine unforced errors across the second and third sets.
In the second set against Jabeur, she saved three break points in a long sixth game, then broke serve in the seventh game to set up the win.
“It was a tough moment,” Kenin said. “I didn’t know it was 10 minutes (but) it was pretty long, the game. After that I got my momentum.”
Jabeur, a 25-year-old Tunisian, was the first Arab woman to make it to the last eight at a major.
“Ï think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally,” she said. “But I’m happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things.”
In later men’s quarterfinals, 20-time major winner Roger Federer was playing 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren, and seven-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic had a night match against Milos Raonic of Canada.


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.