Top seed Iga Swiatek was bundled out of the Australian Open fourth round on Sunday, with title threat Coco Gauff also exiting in tears, as a pair of underestimated Grand Slam champions tore open the women’s draw.
Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas avoided a similar fate on the men’s side later in the day, raising his level when needed to claim a thrilling 6-4 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 win over Italian Jannik Sinner and keep his dreams of a maiden Grand Slam title alive.
“It was a long match. I feel like I’ve spent a century on this court,” Tsitsipas said of the match, which lasted just over four hours. “It was a ripper, as they say here. I can feel my face burning from the effort today.”
World number one Swiatek was sent packing by Elena Rybakina in the early match at Rod Laver Arena, the Pole falling 6-4 6-4 to the Kazak Wimbledon winner who started her tournament in the Melbourne Park wilderness of Court 13.
Rybakina shrugged off the scheduling snub before the fourth round showdown but used it as fuel in her first appearance on centre court as a tightly wound Swiatek slowly unravelled.
“I felt the pressure, and I felt that I don’t want to lose instead of I want to win,” said Swiatek, who dominated last season with two Grand Slam wins.
“I felt like I took a step back in terms of how I approach these tournaments, and I maybe wanted it a little bit too hard.”
The result means this year’s Australian Open will be the first Grand Slam tournament in the open era where the top two seeds in both the men’s and women’s singles draws have lost prior to the quarter-finals.
Rybakina, the 22nd seed, might have expected to face Gauff in the quarter-finals but the much-hyped American teenager was upset 7-5 6-3 by Jelena Ostapenko, the forgotten Grand Slam winner of women’s tennis.
The 2017 French Open champion thrashed 30 winners past Gauff on Margaret Court Arena, her last two sealing the match in style to leave the 18-year-old in tears at her post-match media conference.
“I feel like it was rough,” Gauff told reporters, before breaking down with emotion. “When you play a player like her and she plays really well, it’s like, you know, there’s nothing you can do.”
The win secured a first Australian Open quarter-final for hard-hitting Ostapenko, as well as the first at a Grand Slam since her run to the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2018.
Latvia’s first – and only – Grand Slam champion stunned the world when she hoisted the trophy at Roland Garros as an unseeded 20-year-old.
She has had mostly lean years since but never doubted she would return to the spotlight again.
“My life changed a lot (after the 2017 French Open), so I needed a few years to really get used to what happened because I was really young,” she said.
“I always knew and believed in my game. If I play well, I can beat almost anyone.”
At a tournament fast running out of star power, unheralded Czech Jiri Lehecka landed another blow for the lesser lights as he toppled Canadian sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6 6-3 7-6(2) 7-6(3) in the men’s tournament.
The 21-year-old next plays Tsitsipas, seeking revenge for a loss to the Greek in the Rotterdam semi-finals last year.
“He’ll know what my strengths are. He’ll feel I can get him under pressure,” Lehecka said.
While Lehecka was a bolt from the blue, big things have been expected of Sebastian Korda for some time and the young American is finally delivering on expectations at Melbourne Park.
He took another step towards emulating his Australian Open-winning father Petr by booking his first Grand Slam quarter-final with a see-sawing 3-6 6-3 6-2 1-6 7-6 (10-7) win over Hubert Hurkacz at Rod Laver Arena.
Korda, whose father won the 1998 title under the Czech flag, showed impressive composure as Polish 10th seed Hurkacz roared back to level the fifth set tiebreak at 7-7 by winning four consecutive points.
Korda held firm, closing it out with a backhand winner to set up a clash with Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov.
“It feels awesome. I was not feeling too much energy towards the fourth and fifth sets but you guys picked me up,” the 29th seed told the crowd.
Khachanov had a much easier passage, hammering Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0 6-0 7-6(4) at John Cain Arena.
The Russian has now reached the quarter-finals at all four Grand Slams.
“Obviously, yeah, that gives me some kind of compliments on what I achieve so far, and I’m just happy to do it. Hopefully I can continue even further on even bigger things,” he said.
While the high seeds have tumbled, American Jessica Pegula has been rock solid, and she reached her third consecutive quarter-final at Melbourne Park by beating Czech 20th seed Barbora Krejcikova 7-5 6-2.
Third seed Pegula will face Victoria Azarenka or China’s Zhu Lin for a place in the semi-finals.
A ₹724 crore boost in union sports budget
In the year of the Asian Games and qualifications for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the union sports budget saw a significant jump in allocation on Wednesday. The sports ministry has been allocated ₹3397.32 crore for 2023-24 – an increase of 723.97 crore from the previous fiscal. The budget for the previous financial year was ₹3062.60 crore (revised: ₹2673.35cr).
The Asian Games, postponed last year due to Covid, are due to be held in Hangzhou, China from September 23-October 8. India’s elite athletes have also started preparing for various Olympic qualification events.
Also Read | Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open
The allocation for National Sports Federations (NSFs) and Sports Authority of India (SAI) have gone up. Assistance to NSFs has been increased to ₹325 crore from ₹280 crore in 2022-23.
SAI has been allocated ₹785.5 crore, an increase from last year’s revised budget of ₹749.43 crore. It was originally allocated ₹653 crore in the last financial year. SAI oversees the preparation of national teams, manages national camps, provides infrastructure and other facilities to athletes besides appointing coaches, including foreign experts.
A big chunk of the sports budget will go for government’s flagship programme, Khelo India. It gets ₹1,000 crore, an increase of ₹400 crore from the revised allocation of ₹600 crore set aside for it in the previous budget. Under the scheme, Khelo India Youth Games and Khelo India University Games are organised. It has become the platform for talent identification and nurturing through its various schemes. The budget for Khelo India has steadily risen since its inception in 2018.
A major allocation of ₹107.84 crore has been made for the National Sports University in Imphal. Set up in 2018, NSU is a first-of-its-kind institution which imparts studies in sports science and medicine, coaching, sports management and technology.
The National Centre of Sports Science and Research, under which financial assistance is given to medical colleges and Universities to develop centres of sports science and research, has been allocated ₹13 crore.
There has been a ₹10 crore dip in incentives to athletes, from ₹55 crore last year. To fight the doping menace, the National Anti Doping Agency has been allocated ₹21.73 crore. The National Dope Testing Laboratory in Delhi, whose accreditation was restored by the World Anti-Doping Agency in December, 2021, gets ₹19.50 crore. A National Anti-Doping Bill was passed last year to create a statutory body for regulating anti-doping activities in sports.
Sai Praneeth, Kiran George in men’s singles second round in Thailand Open
Indian shuttlers B Sai Praneeth and Kiran George advanced to the second round of the Thailand Open Super 300 badminton tournament with contrasting wins over their respective opponents on Wednesday.
Praneeth beat Mads Christophersen of Denmark 21-13 21-14 in a battle lasting 31 minutes. He faces Hyeok Jin Jeon of South Korea in second round.
George, on the other hand, staved off a tough challenge from Lee Chia Hao of Chinese Taipei before emerging 21-17 19-21 23-21 victorious. He is up against third seed Cheuk Yiu Lee of Hong Kong in the second round.
However, Sameer Verma, Priyanshu Rajawat and Mithun Manjunath lost their first round matches. While Verma suffered 14-21 16-21 defeat against sixth seeded Chinese Shi Feng Li, Rajawat lost to Kwang Hee Heo of South Korea 21-14 19-21 25-27 and Manjunath was beaten 18-21 12-21 by fifth seeded Kenta Nishimoto of Japan.
In women’s singles, Ashmita Chaliha beat compatriot Anupama Upadhyaya 21-16 21-19 to reach the second round where she will face sixth seed Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.
The pair of Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker lost to sixth seeded Sheng Shu and Shu Xian Zhang of China 8-21 10-21 in the women’s doubles.
In mixed doubles, Rohan Kapoor and Sikki Reddy beat Canadian pair of Ty Alexander Lindeman and Josephine Wu 21-11 21-16 to enter the second round. But the pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa lost to fourth seeded Indonesian pair of Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawati 11-21 17-21.
Djokovic played Australian Open with 3cm tear in hamstring, says Tiley | Tennis News
Novak Djokovic played with a three-centimetre (1.2 inches) tear in his hamstring during his run to a record-extending 10th Australian Open title, tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.
The Serbian, who suffered the hamstring injury en route to winning the warm-up title in Adelaide, won the season-opening major after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Sunday’s final for a men’s record 22nd Grand Slam title, matching Rafa Nadal’s haul.
“This guy I did see, he had a three-centimetre tear in his hammy,” Tiley told SEN Sportsday. “Absolutely (I saw the scans), the doctors are going to tell you the truth.
“There was a lot of speculation about whether it was true or not, it’s hard to believe that they can do what they do with those kinds of injuries.
“He’s remarkable, to deal with it extremely professionally.”
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said after the final that the world number one battled the injury, which would have forced most players to quit.
“He’s so focused on everything he does, with every single minute of the day,” Tiley added. “That’s what he eats, what he drinks, when he does it, how he does it.
“There’s no breakdown or mental breakdown in anything that he does. He’s been through a lot and to win 10 Australian Opens, I don’t think that’s ever going to be repeated… He’ll hold a significant place in the history of the Australian Open.”
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