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How Djokovic 'Turns Into A Student' Around Stars Like Kobe Bryant & Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2020

How Djokovic ‘Turns Into A Student’ Around Stars Like Kobe Bryant & Cristiano Ronaldo

World No. 2 reflects on relationship with star athletes outside of tennis

Tennis players often speak about the other players — current and former — they learn from and how those lessons impact their own games and careers. But it’s not every day that a superstar from another sport enters the conversation.

Seven-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic revealed on Saturday during an off-day interview with ESPN that he has learned a lot from retired basketball legend Kobe Bryant, especially when the Serbian fell outside the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings two years ago while he was dealing with an elbow injury.

“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.

“I’m very grateful to him for being there for me, for being very supportive. I love Kobe, who doesn’t? He’s an amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all-time.”

Bryant visited the US Open last year, and at the time, in his own interview with ESPN, he reflected on one specific conversation he had with Djokovic about overcoming hurdles such as an injury and adjusting to the games of rising stars while getting older.

“He was going through a process of, ‘Physically, I’m not where I used to be. How did you adjust and change your game?’” Bryant recalled. “We talked about it for a while and having the acceptance of an athlete to say, ‘I’m not what I used to be.’

“Novak’s my guy. We have a relationship. We’ve had a relationship for a long time.”

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Djokovic posted a video in December of himself training in a gym with football star Cristiano Ronaldo. Both men were leaping up in an attempt to touch their head to a piece of string as if they were going up for a header.

“He was basically teaching me how to jump. He is considered as one of the greatest football, soccer players of all-time, obviously. What I love about that guy is his work ethic and his constant need to improve. He’s such a professional,” Djokovic said. “He’s got at home all these recovery devices and things. He’s always trying to find a way how to be best in the world and make a huge mark not just in his sport, but all sports. He’s a beast, he’s an unbelievable athlete. We trained together that day, and it was a great experience.”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Djokovic takes all of these interactions very seriously, seeing an opportunity to not just spend time with some of the best athletes in the world, but to also learn from them as he tries to improve his game.

“To be surrounded with the people like Kobe and Cristiano is obviously a huge pleasure and honour for me. When I’m next to them, I turn into a student. I try to have my ears wide open and listen to what they have to say and ask questions,” Djokovic said. “I’m not afraid to ask questions and they are not as well. I think that’s a great way of exchanging some experiences and things that maybe you could use in your sport, in your life, in your career. It’s just amazing to share those life stories with them.”

Djokovic faces No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

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Gauff & Federer bid for quarter-finals – Sunday's Australian Open preview

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Teenage phenomenon Coco Gauff says she will go into her Australian Open last-16 match against Sofia Kenin with a “huge” confidence boost after beating 2019 champion Naomi Osaka.

The 15-year-old American will reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final if she beats 14th seed Kenin on Sunday.

Roger Federer takes on Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics, while defending champion Novak Djokovic meets Diego Schwartzman.

Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty plays American Alison Riske.

Sunday’s order of play on Rod Laver Arena
Day session starts at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT)
Maria Sakkari (Gre) [22] v Petra Kvitova (Cze) [7]
Diego Schwartzman (Arg) [24] v Novak Djokovic (Ser) [2]
Night session starts at 19:00 local time (08:00 GMT)
Ashleigh Barty (Aus) [1] v Alison Riske (US) [18]
Martin Fucsovics (Hun) v Roger Federer (Swi) [3]

Relaxed Gauff enjoying having ‘more fun’

Gauff has become a global star since announcing her arrival with a victory over seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams at Wimbledon, where ‘Cocomania’ ensued as she went on to reach the last 16.

The Florida teenager’s first appearance at her home Grand Slam two months later fell flat, however, as she struggled to cope with the intense scrutiny at the US Open.

That culminated in an error-strewn performance in the third round against Osaka, who warmed hearts by consoling her young rival when Gauff broke into tears after a one-sided defeat.

The pair met again at Melbourne Park on Friday, Gauff responding with an assured performance to beat an out-of-sorts Osaka 6-4 6-3 in just 67 minutes.

“I learned a lot from that US Open. Not even just playing against Naomi, but the whole tournament,” said Gauff, who meets Kenin at about 03:30 GMT on Melbourne Arena.

“I think I was on edge. I had the three-setters in the first two rounds of the US Open and I think that was just dealing with all of the media.

“I feel like now I’m more playing, just having fun. Winning is a cherry on top, but I’m honestly having a lot of fun on the court, even in those tight situations.”

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  • Where does Williams go after latest Grand Slam defeat?
  • How to follow Australian Open on BBC

Will Federer have recovered from Millman epic?

Federer, 38, plays last on Rod Laver Arena against world number 67 Fucsovics, giving the Swiss third seed additional time to recover from his late-night epic against Australian John Millman.

The six-time champion, who last won the title in 2018, fought back from 8-4 down in the final set tie-break to see off Millman after more than four hours on court.

Federer trailed by a set and then led two sets to one, eventually sealing a five-set win at 00:50 local time in Melbourne.

“It’s very gruelling and, at times, very disappointing, that you are in situations where you get broken in the fifth or you’re down in the super breaker,” Federer said.

“That’s when you really start wondering: ‘Why couldn’t I close this match earlier?'”

Second seed Djokovic, 32, has so far looked as comfortable as ever at a venue where he has lost just three matches in the past 10 years.

After dropping a set in his opening match against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, the record seven-time champion has breezed past Japanese opponents Tatsuma Ito and Yoshihito Nishioka.

The Serb dropped just six points on serve in a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win against Nishioka.

“That’s probably as best as my serve can actually be in the moment, which I’m very pleased with,” Djokovic said.

“It allows me to go quicker through my games and win more dominantly my service games and put additional pressure on the service games of my opponents.

“That’s definitely something that’s useful going towards the second week of the Grand Slam.”

Barty out to avenge Wimbledon loss

Barty, 23, continues her quest to become the first home player to win an Australian Open singles title in 42 years.

The Queenslander faces 29-year-old Riske, who knocked her out of Wimbledon last year, on Laver.

Barty has won all six sets at Melbourne Park, dropping just 12 games, since losing the first of her opening match against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

“That Wimbledon defeat is a match that I didn’t want to think about really,” said Barty, who had won her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros a month earlier.

“For me, it was the end of a long trip. I felt like I was pretty tired. It had been a massive few months away from home.”

Elsewhere, Chinese 27th seed Wang Qiang tries to back up her stunning win over American great Serena Williams when she meets Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur on Margaret Court Arena at about 05:00 GMT.

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Kyrgios wins five-set epic to set up Nadal match

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Nick Kyrgios will face top seed Rafael Nadal in the last 16 at the Australian Open after a five-set win over Karen Khachanov.

Kyrgios, who missed match points in the third and fourth sets, won 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (6-8) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8).

The Australian, 24, needed nearly four-and-a-half hours to win a tense third-round match against the Russian – having led by two sets and a break.

But he came through in a final-set tie-break at a boisterous Melbourne Arena.

“It was definitely one of the craziest matches I’ve ever been a part of,” Kyrgios said.

Kyrgios leads 2-1 in his head-to-head record on hard courts against Nadal, with whom he has rarely seen eye-to-eye, although the 19-time Grand Slam champion leads 4-3 on all surfaces.

The pair, who will meet at Melbourne Park on Monday, last faced each other on grass at Wimbledon in July when Nadal won in four sets.

  • Second seed Pliskova knocked out
  • Monfils beats Gulbis to reach last 16
  • Where does Melbourne exit leave Williams’ chase for another Grand Slam?

The Spanish top seed, 33, cruised past compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1 6-2 6-4 in his third-round match earlier on Saturday.

The world number one wrapped up a straightforward win almost seven hours earlier than Kyrgios, whose brutal contest against Khachanov lasted for four hours and 26 minutes.

“I’m not thinking about that [playing Nadal] – I’m just thinking about my legs and getting them into an ice bath,” Kyrgios said.

Kyrgios fights way into last 16

The prospect of another meeting between Kyrgios and Nadal has been a tantalising one since the Australian Open draw was made nine days ago.

Kyrgios has previously described Nadal as “super salty”, while Nadal has been visibly irritated by the Australian’s erratic on-court behaviour in the past.

To add further spice to a highly-anticipated blockbuster, Kyrgios cheekily mocked Nadal’s superstitious service routine in his second-round win over France’s Gilles Simon.

And, after Nadal thrashed Carreno Busta in his “best match of the tournament”, Kyrgios ensured it would happen by seeing off 16th seed Khachanov.

“Whatever happens between us, he [Nadal] is an amazing player. Arguably the greatest of all time,” Kyrgios said.

“At the end of the day, we’re two different tennis players. We go about it completely different.”

After clinching victory over Khachanov, Kyrgios fell to the court in celebration and laid out on the baseline before rising to wearily take the acclaim of the crowd.

Few would have predicted the drama which followed after Kyrgios, with his generally more relaxed demeanour, bettered Khachanov in all the key areas during the first two sets.

Kyrgios had a higher first-serve percentage, won more first-serve points, hit more aces and cracked more winners, while throwing in several drop-shots to unsettle the Russian.

Khachanov’s frustration at being outplayed – and some calling out from the crowd during play – was laid bare when he whacked a loose ball into the court’s roof during the third set.

That anger seemed to spur him into finding a different level, clawing a set back when Kyrgios hit a wild forehand wide and then levelling after a fourth set where he made just two unforced errors.

Kyrgios led 3-0 in the deciding first-to-10 tie-break, used to settle matches that reach 6-6 in the fifth set at the Australian Open.

Roars greeted every winning point for the Australian number two, with anguished cries heard as Khachanov fought back in a gripping battle.

The pair were deadlocked at 6-6, then 7-7, before a Kyrgios forehand into the net post gave Khachanov an opportunity to serve out the match.

However, a pinpoint backhand down the line finished a tense rally, leaving Kyrgios grinning and the crowd on their feet as Khachanov missed his chance.

Khachanov then hit a backhand into the net for Kyrgios’ third match point – one hour and 54 minutes after his first – and pushed another wide to cause pandemonium in the Melbourne Arena.

Kyrgios described the match as “insane” as he struggled to speak on court afterwards.

“At 8-7 down, I had all the thoughts. I thought I was going to lose. I was thinking about everything. I was thinking about the media if I lost, everything,” he added.

Up next, the world number one

Nadal, 33, was sharp on serve as he raced into a two-set lead in his match, allowing 27th seed Carreno Busta just five return points.

Carreno Busta fared little better in the third as 2009 champion Nadal wrapped up a one-sided win over his friend, with whom he helped Spain win the Davis Cup in November in one hour and 38 minutes.

Nadal set the tone by breaking in the second game of the match, pinching Carreno Busta’s serve another four times on a sun-soaked Rod Laver Arena.

“It was my best match of the tournament without a doubt,” said Nadal, who hit 42 winners and made just seven unforced errors.

“When the conditions are warmer, the ball bounces higher and flies through the air. That helps my game.

“I did very well with my serves and started to hit some forehands down the line. That is key for me.”

Victory also continued Nadal’s dominance over his compatriots. The Majorcan left-hander has now won his past 18 matches against Spanish opposition, stretching back to a 2016 Australian Open first-round defeat by Fernando Verdasco.

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Sunday Preview: Federer Tries To Bounce Back; Djokovic Faces Schwartzman

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2020

Sunday Preview: Federer Tries To Bounce Back; Djokovic Faces Schwartzman

Cilic and Raonic to clash in battle of former World No. 3s

Roger Federer was just two points from defeat in his third-round match at the Australian Open against John Millman in the early hours of Saturday morning. But the 20-time Grand Slam champion survived in a fifth-set tie-break, and now he’ll have a chance to continue his pursuit of a third title in Melbourne in four years.

The 38-year-old Swiss will next play Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a spot in the quarter-finals. Fucsovics has never advanced past the fourth round of a major, and Federer leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0.

“The goal for me was really trying to be focussed on my own game and take it to him and play tough,” said Federer after beating Fucsovics 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2 in the fourth round of the 2018 Australian Open. “But he hung with me for a long time. So it was a good match.”

Federer has now made the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park 18 times in his past 19 appearances, advancing to at least the semi-finals 14 times during that span. But the six-time champ certainly got a scare from Millman, who led Federer 8/4 in the fifth-set match tie-break.

“It was crazy, fun, and I couldn’t be more happy, of course,” Federer said. “Big relief.”

Most Grand Slam Round Of 16 Appearances

 1. Roger Federer  67
 2. Novak Djokovic  50
 3. Rafael Nadal  47
 4. Jimmy Connors  43
 T5. Andre Agassi  42
 T5. Ivan Lendl  42

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic did not face such difficulties in his third-round match, ousting the speedy Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka with the loss of only seven games. But he will have to raise his level against No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman, who has not lost a set. The Argentine has won all but one of those sets by a margin of 6-4 or greater.

Djokovic has won all three of his previous battles against Schwartzman, but their two most recent meetings have gone to a deciding set. The Argentine may stand 5’7”, but he will try to be the aggressor and step into the court against the elastic Serbian, who has played some of his best tennis at Melbourne Park.

What’s scary for the field is that Djokovic is serving lights-out at this year’s Australian Open. Through three rounds, he has hit 47 aces and won 86.8 per cent of his first-serve points.

“I ended up this tournament last year with two fantastic performances against Pouille in the semis and Rafa in the finals. Those were some of the best performances I ever had in the Grand Slam semis and finals,” Djokovic said. “I love playing on [this] court. I like the conditions. I’m starting to feel very, very comfortable and compact on the court. I’m going to try to keep that going.”

Djokovic’s Serving In Melbourne Through Three Matches – 2019 vs. 2020

 Category  2019  2020
 Aces  23  47
 Double Faults  7  10
 First-Serve Percentage  67.8% (164/242)  69.7% (152/218)
 First-Serve Points Won  77.4% (127/164)  86.8% (132/152)
 Second-Serve Points Won  64.1% (50/78)  56.1% (37/66)
 Break Points Saved  6/12  2/6

There will also be an intriguing battle between two former World No. 3s. No. 32 seed Milos Raonic will play unseeded Marin Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion.

“[Against] Marin, it’s going to be tough. He’s won two very good matches, past two and even the first one he won comfortably against a guy who played [in the Doha] final, who I lost to in the first tournament of the year,” Raonic said. “So I’m going to have to focus on my things. I think we’re both going to be trying to move the other guy around, be the one dictating. It’s going to be important for me to get ahead early in the points, take care of my serve, and be the aggressor.”

Cilic has won two of the pair’s three clashes, but they have played just once since 2013. Perhaps surprisingly only one of their seven sets has gone to a tie-break.

Although both players will try to be aggressive, it will be interesting to follow the ways in which they do. Raonic likes to work his way into the net, while Cilic prefers to build the point from the baseline. However, the Croat is coming off a grueling five-setter against the always-tough Roberto Bautista Agut, and Raonic will be fresher after upsetting reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets.

“I think I will be okay for the next match, absolutely. Another great thing to it was today was nice weather to play. And then also in the Melbourne Arena it’s not too hot in there,” Cilic said after his victory. “So I’ll be okay. We were lucky with the weather there. We didn’t get too [many] crazy hot days. It was definitely easier to play with that.”

<a href=''>Marin Cilic</a> beats <a href=''>Roberto Bautista Agut</a> in five sets at the <a href=''>Australian Open</a> on Friday.

The final fourth-round match on the top half of the draw pits No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini, the Melbourne marathon man, against 2018 quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren in a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon third round, won by Sandgren in straight sets.

Fognini has followed an adventurous route to the second week of the season’s first Grand Slam, needing five sets to beat big-serving Reilly Opelka and home favourite Jordan Thompson. After a far less dramatic third-round victory against No. 22 seed Guido Pella, the Italian No. 2 will now try to exact revenge against the American, who is trying to make his second major quarter-final.

This matchup promises to be a baseline duel, with the offensive-minded Fognini looking to spray the ball around the court against World No. 100, who enjoys crafting points defensively. Sandgren already earned one big upset this fortnight against No. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini, Fognini’s countryman.

“You gear your schedule to peak in these weeks,” Sandgren said after eliminating Berrettini. “I’m getting better at that as I get older. Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser.”

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Kyrgios Survives Khachanov Thriller, Sets Nadal Showdown

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2020

Kyrgios Survives Khachanov Thriller, Sets Nadal Showdown

Aussie beats Khachanov in four sets

Nick Kyrgios survived a five-set thriller to beat Karen Khachanov 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-7(7), 7-6(10-8) and book a blockbuster Round of 16 clash against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open on Saturday night.

The 24-year-old advanced to the fourth round in Melbourne for the third time, landing 97 winners en route to victory. The six-time ATP Tour titlist failed to convert match points in both the third and fourth-set tie-breaks, but maintained his composure to advance after four hours and 26 minutes. Competing in his 20th match at the opening Grand Slam of the year (14-6), Kyrgios levelled his ATP Head2Head series against Khachanov at 1-1.

Kyrgios will attempt to reach 4-4 in his ATP Head2Head series against Nadal on Monday. The World No. 26 owns two wins from three matches on hard courts against the 19-time Grand Slam champion, including a final-set tie-break victory en route to the Acapulco title last year.

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In front of a packed crowd on Saturday night at Melbourne Arena, Kyrgios mixed topspin forehands and flat backhand strokes to great effect. The highest-ranked Australian in the draw took advantage of groundstroke errors from his opponent to claim the opening set after 34 minutes.

A tie-break was required to decide the outcome of the second set, with both players unable to convert the only break-point chance they created. Kyrgios kept his composure, using great feel to shorten points while picking the right moments to increase the speed of his groundstrokes. The Aussie claimed a two-set lead with a powerful serve up the T.

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Kyrgios was handed the first break of the third set at 2-2, as Khachanov committed two double faults and made groundstroke errors. But the Russian fought back to level the set at 4-4, landing pinpoint returns as Kyrgios attempted to shorten points. After saving match point with a powerful serve at 5/6 in the tie-break, Khachanov forced a fourth set as Kyrgios misfired with a cross court forehand.

Kyrgios entertained the crowd in the fourth set, diving across the court and moving to the net to win rallies with great variety. But Khachanov matched the Aussie to reach a third tie-break, dropping just five points behind his serve. The 6’6” right-hander moved up the court to take time away from his opponent, saving a second match point before taking the match to a decider following success in an extended backhand rally.

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Neither player manufactured a break-point opportunity in the deciding set, with the match requiring a 10-point tie-break to decide the winner. Kyrgios claimed an immediate mini-break, snapping Khachanov’s run of 19 consecutive points on serve to gain a 3/0 lead. But Khachanov soon ended his opponent’s own serving streak of 12 points to get level the score. Trailing a mini-break at 7/8, Kyrgios won three straight points to claim the win.

Khachanov was aiming to reach the Round of 16 at Melbourne Park for the first time. The 23-year-old, who fell at the same stage last year (l. to Bautista Agut), drops to 6-3 this year. Khachanov opened the 2020 ATP Tour season with four wins from five matches, as Team Russia reached the semi-finals at the inaugural ATP Cup.

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