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Victoria Azarenka prevails over Sofia Kenin in battle of former champions | Tennis News

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Victoria Azarenka confessed to some nerves before coming through a tough first-round battle against Sofia Kenin 6-4 7-6(3) on Monday to ensure she would be the only former Australian Open champion remaining in the women’s draw.

The 33-year-old Belarusian, champion in 2012 and 2013, said she had been concerned at playing Kenin even if the American had suffered an appalling run of injuries since she won her first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park in 2020.

“She’s an amazing champion, I know she’s had some injuries but she has the experience and I knew it was going to be a tough match,” the 24th seed said after the two-hour struggle.

“I also thought she was coming in with nothing to lose so I knew she was going to play well, play freely. First matches, especially in the first Grand Slam of the year, are never easy and I was very nervous before my match today.

“I couldn’t find my best tennis today so I was just trying to fight step-by-step so I was able to find a way. Today was about that.”

Kenin will perhaps have been encouraged by her fighting display on Margaret Court Arena after three years blighted by injuries, illness and off-court issues.

The 24-year-old took a 3-0 lead in the opening set after an early break only for Azarenka to notch up the power and rattle off five successive games. Kenin fought gamely to hold serve for 5-4 but Azarenka made no mistake when serving for the set.

The second set was much tighter with the key moment coming in the tiebreak when Azarenka boomed down her fifth ace and Kenin responded lamely with a double fault.

Azarenka, who will next meet lucky loser Leolia Jeanjean or Nadia Podoroska at her 15th Australian Open, said her pre-match nerves were a testament to how much it meant to her to be playing at Grand Slams.

“We work hard every day,” she said. “The off season is full of blood, sweat and tears so we can go out there and do our best. It’s high pressure so I still feel nervous.”

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Leading Mexico players snub Davis Cup tie over differences with federation | Tennis News

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Mexico’s leading tennis players have decided not to play in next week’s Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against Taiwan due to differences with the Mexican Tennis Federation (FMT).

Led by Santiago Gonzalez, Alejandro Hernandez and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela, the players said they will not take part in the Feb. 4-5 Group I playoff tie in Metepec, State of Mexico.

“After a difficult deliberation, we have not reached a positive conclusion, so we have decided not to participate in the upcoming series against the Chinese Taipei team,” said the players’ statement, published on social media on Monday.

“The lack of communication, lack of planning and lack of interest show that the situation has not been handled in the right way and that personal interests have taken precedence over sporting ones.

“It is sad that the FMT does not have the minimum standards in dealing and planning with the best national representatives.”

The players said they had already informed the federation of their reasons for not participating in the Davis Cup tie.

The statement was also signed by players Ernesto Escobedo, Lucas Gomez, Hans Hach, Gerardo Lopez, and Manuel Sanchez.

The FMT was not immediately available to comment.

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West Ham set up Man United tie by beating Derby | Football News

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West Ham United eased into the FA Cup fifth round with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to third-tier Derby County on Monday to set up a meeting with Manchester United.

Derby, fourth in League One, went into the match on the back of 14 matches unbeaten in all competitions but were quickly overrun by the Premier League side, who took the lead in the 10th minute with a close-range volley from Jarrod Bowen.

Bowen went 12 matches without a goal before netting twice against Everton last week and now has three in his last two games.

The forward then crossed for striker Michail Antonio to head in a second goal five minutes after the interval to break his own goal drought stretching back to November.

David Moyes’ side saw out the victory without conceding many chances, recording back-to-back wins for the first time since October, and Bowen said he hoped the win would boost his side, who are 16th in the table, one point above the relegation zone.

“Two wins on the bounce is good for us it’s all about results and momentum and we can use this as a real springboard,” he said.

Midfielder Pablo Fornals added: “Everyone knows it hasn’t been an easy season so every game we can win gives us massive confidence.

“We work hard every day in training to get a chance and then you have to take it. That’s what the players tried to do tonight.”

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Valencia sacks coach Gennaro Gattuso for poor results | Football News

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Spanish club Valencia sacked coach Gennaro Gattuso on Monday following the team’s poor results.

Valencia said in a statement it reached a mutual agreement with Gattuso to end their contract.

The announcement came after a 1-0 loss at Valladolid in the Spanish league on Sunday. The club has won only one of its last 10 league games, before the World Cup.

The latest defeat dropped Valencia to 14th place, one point above the relegation zone.

Its only two wins this year came in the Copa del Rey, though it was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Athletic Bilbao at home last week. In the Spanish Super Cup, Valencia lost to Real Madrid in a penalty shootout in the semifinals.

The 45-year-old Gattuso arrived last June on a two-year contract.

The former defensive midfielder helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup and AC Milan win two Champions League titles, both as a player. He coached Milan and Napoli in Italy.

Valencia did not announce a replacement for Gattuso.

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