Federer sets up Djokovic showdown

Switzerland's Roger Federer reacts during his quarterfinal against Tennys Sandgren of the US at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Federer sets up Djokovic showdown

  • Federer, 38, now goes into an unmissable semifinal with Djokovic

MELBOURNE: Swiss great Roger Federer said “I believe in miracles” after he saved seven match points in a five-set nail-biter against 100th-ranked Tennys Sandgren to go into an Australian Open semifinal with Novak Djokovic on Tuesday.

The six-time champion, struggling physically, saved three match points at 4-5 in the fourth set and four more in the tie breaker to scrape through 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.

Federer, 38, now goes into an unmissable semifinal with Djokovic, who blunted Milos Raonic’s razor serve to win 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/1) and move two wins from an eighth Melbourne title.

Djokovic, despite trouble with his contact lenses, ended Raonic’s run of 63 straight games in the tournament without a break of serve and moves smoothly into the semis for the loss of just one set so far.

He paid tribute to the great escape by Federer, ahead of a semifinal that reprises his epic win over the Swiss in last year’s Wimbledon decider.

“What he did today was really amazing, to come back and save seven match points at his age,” Djokovic said.

“He’s still playing such a great tennis and proving that he deserves to be up there. He’s a great fighter. Obviously I have lots of respect for him.” Federer’s match was incident-packed and he received a rare warning for an audible obscenity before going off-court for treatment on a groin injury.

Still hampered by the injury, he somehow forced a fifth set and began to regain control against the big-serving American.

“I believe in miracles,” Federer said, revealing that he thought his groin strain had ended his chances. “There could be rain, there could be all kinds of stuff.

“(I thought) just let him finish me off in style, and he didn’t do that. I’m incredibly lucky tonight, today — I don’t even know what time it is.”

Sandgren, achingly close to becoming the lowest-ranked player to beat Federer at the Australian Open, can count himself unlucky especially after a ball girl accidentally collided with him during the pivotal tie-breaker, which he lost.

Federer has made heavy weather of reaching his 46th Major semifinal. He was two points from defeat by John Millman in a fifth-set tie-breaker in round three, and dropped a set against 67th-ranked Marton Fucsovics in round four.

In the women’s draw Australia’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty dismissed two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in impressive style to reach the semis for the first time.

The unflappable Barty beat the Czech 7-6 (8/6), 6-2 and will be favorite in her semifinal against America’s Sofia Kenin — sending hopes soaring of a first home winner in 42 years.

Young stars light up PSL opener

Updated 21 February 2020

Young stars light up PSL opener

  • Over 10 years after cricket was exiled from Pakistan, Thursday marked its grandest return
  • United collapsed in slow-motion, losing their final eight wickets for just 73 runs and failing to play out their 20 overs

KARACHI: Defending champions Quetta Gladiators kicked off the fifth edition of the PSL in style as they cruised to a win over Islamabad United in the tournament opener on Thursday. Chasing 169 on a balmy Karachi night, the Gladiators reached their target with nine balls and three wickets to spare.
On a historic day when the PSL finally arrived for a full season in Pakistan, another unsavory aspect of Pakistani cricket history cropped up at the start. Former international batsman and Quetta Gladiators’ player Umer Akmal was suspended as the day began, with an investigation pending into alleged fixing. But despite that bombshell, Quetta sounded confident after they won the toss and chose to field.
The official start was delayed after a spectacular, if rather long, opening ceremony came to a circuitous end. But the cricket was off to a cracker, as Quetta took a wicket first ball with Mohammad Nawaz dismissing Colin Munro off his own bowling. Islamabad United however, the league’s most successful side with two trophies, took that loss in their stride. With Dawid Malan cracking big shots, the team from the capital threatened a massive score as they reached the halfway point at 95/2.
Enter Mohammad Hasnain. One of several irresistible young pacers that the league has thrown up over the years, the Karachi native was ferociously fast as he ripped out four wickets in a superb spell. The chalk to his cheese was Ben Cutting, the overseas bowler, who kept taking pace off the ball as he added three crucial wickets to his account. It meant that United collapsed in slow-motion, losing their final eight wickets for just 73 runs and failing to play out their 20 overs.
In reply, Islamabad United initially threatened to have their own young pacer, Musa Khan, take the game away. On a night where the pacers outbowled the spinners, Musa led the way as Quetta lost three quick wickets for next to nothing. But then, yet another youngster decided it was going to be his day.
Azam Khan, son of former captain and Quetta coach Moin Khan, had walked out to bat with jeers and shouts of “parchi,” a reference to his father being among those who selected the side. But the portly batter played, a spectacular innings, hitting sixes for fun. Batting first with his captain Sarfaraz Ahmed and then with Mohammad Nawaz in two crucial partnerships, Azam’s effortless innings meant the match quickly ended as a contest. A flurry of late wickets briefly threatened some drama, but it never came to be.
For Islamabad United, this won’t be a time to panic. The team are notoriously slow starters and have often begun the PSL with weak performances. However, the team’s strength had always been their bowling yet the lack of experience in today’s lineup would be a concern. Captain Shadab Khan would be counting on veteran overseas star Dale Steyn to make his impact count when he joins the side midway through the tournament.
Ultimately though, the occasion was about far more than cricket. Over 10 years after cricket was exiled from Pakistan, Thursday marked its grandest return. Regardless of the outcome, the very holding of this tournament is a huge win for the country.