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    2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Saturday Night

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Australian OpenWhat to Watch TodayHow to WatchThe Players to KnowFans in Virus LockdownAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Saturday NightIga Swiatek, Dominic Thiem, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are in the Australian Open’s round of 16.Iga Swiatek in her third-round win.Credit…David Gray/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesFeb. 13, 2021, 7:30 a.m. ETHow to watch: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on the Tennis Channel and 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on ESPN2 in the United States; streaming on the ESPN+ and ESPN3 apps.When four reigning Grand Slam champions appear in an order of play, you expect at least one of them to be a clear favorite to advance. In the Australian Open’s round of 16 on Saturday, that is not the case. Naomi Osaka, Dominic Thiem, Iga Swiatek and especially Novak Djokovic all face significant challenges.Djokovic struggled with an injured side muscle during his third-round victory over Taylor Fritz and will need to recover quickly if he is to challenge the in-form Milos Raonic. But for the others, the threat of elimination is less about their own issues and more about their opponents’ potential to play at a high level.Here are some matches to keep an eye on.Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are at best estimates and are certain to fluctuate based on when earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.Rod Laver Arena | 7 p.m. SaturdayNaomi Osaka vs. Garbiñe MuguruzaOsaka’s control of her third-round match against the creative and entertaining Ons Jabeur was exemplary. Although Osaka struggled to win points on her second serve, her first serve was enough to earn eight aces during a two-set win.Naomi Osaka attracted a new fan in her third-round win.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesGarbiñe Muguruza, a finalist at last year’s Australian Open, has dropped only 10 games on her path to the round of 16. Muguruza grabbed the initiative early in each match, using her powerful groundstrokes to dictate points and set up relatively easy winners.This matchup between two hardcourt specialists could have easily been a Grand Slam final, and speaks to the quality of tennis being played on the WTA tour. Tonight’s match should be an excellent wrap up to the first week of action.Margaret Court Arena | 9 p.m. FridayFelix Auger-Aliassime vs. Aslan KaratsevAslan Karatsev, a qualifier, is playing in the main draw at a major for the first time and has not lost a set, even as he upset the eighth seed, Diego Schwartzman. Karatsev’s powerful, well-placed serves have been a distinct advantage, forcing his opponents onto the back foot on the fast courts at Melbourne Park.Karatsev was a promising young player in 2017, before a knee injury sidelined him. He did not play an ATP-level event for three years. After his performance in Australia, Karatsev is guaranteed to be ranked in the top 100, and we will get to see more of the Russian without his needing to struggle through qualifying rounds.In the third round, Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 20th seed, was finally able to defeat his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov. Auger-Aliassime reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Open before losing to Thiem and is now aiming to advance to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.Rod laver Arena | 11 p.m. SaturdayDominic Thiem vs. Grigor DimitrovThiem, the third seed, came from two sets down against Nick Kyrgios in the third round on Friday night. Thiem won the United States Open in September and reached the final of the ATP Finals, capping his best season on tour.Dominic Thiem in his win over Nick Kyrgios.Credit…Hamish Blair/Associated PressGrigor Dimitrov, the 18th seed and the 2017 ATP Finals winner, has never reached the final of a Grand Slam tournament. He has had a relatively easy run to the round of 16, beating the 2014 U.S. Open champion, Marin Cilic, in three sets and playing only seven games in the third round before his opponent, Pablo Carreño Busta, retired with an illness.Dimitrov has won the majority of his matches against Thiem, but the two last faced each other at the 2019 Paris Masters. Though Thiem is in better form now, Dimitrov is well rested and could wear Thiem down with aggressive baseline play.Rod Laver Arena | 3 a.m. SundayIga Swiatek vs. Simona HalepSwiatek, the 15th seed, won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in October. The 19-year-old will again meet Simona Halep, the second seed, in the round of 16. In Paris, Swiatek dismantled Halep, losing only three games as she used a variety of powerful rally balls and cleverly disguised drop shots to unsettle her opponent. It was a reversal of their meeting at the French Open in 2019, when Swiatek won just one game.Simona Halep in a socially distanced postmatch meeting at the net with Veronika Kudermetova.Credit…William West/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesHalep, a two-time major champion, was a semifinalist at last year’s Australian Open. Her aggressive baseline play is favored on hardcourts, but not by much. Swiatek’s mental toughness and consistency can allow her to stay in points much longer, even when on the back foot. Here are a few more matches to keep an eye on.Hsieh Su-wei vs. Marketa Vondrousova — 7 p.m.Aryna Sabalenka vs. Serena Williams — 9 p.m.Alexander Zverev vs. Dusan Lajovic — 2:30 a.m.Novak Djokovic vs. Milos Raonic — 5 a.m.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Goodbye to Fans at the Australian Open

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Australian OpenWhat to Watch TodayHow to WatchThe Players to KnowTesting Australians’ VIrus AnxietiesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyGoodbye to Fans at the Australian OpenA new coronavirus lockdown for the state of Victoria means five days of no fans at the Grand Slam tournament.Spectators exited Rod Laver Arena mid-match to meet a lockdown deadline on Friday night in Melbourne, Australia.Credit…Dave Hunt/EPA, via ShutterstockFeb. 12, 2021Updated 5:17 p.m. ETMELBOURNE, Australia — The reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic was on the ropes on Friday when Melburnians were made to leave Rod Laver Arena. It was 30 minutes before the clock struck midnight, a Cinderella-like moment when their freedom turned to confinement and their lives reverted to what they experienced during a 111-day lockdown last year.As the Australian Open spilled into Saturday, it ended at 1:20 a.m. with Djokovic, the world No. 1, eking out a 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2 third-round victory over Taylor Fritz, an American ranked 31st. The stadium lights remained on overnight, but the electricity left the building as the state of Victoria entered a five-day quarantine at 11:59 p.m. that spared the tournament but not the spectators.The retreat of the fans did not sit well with Fritz. “I understand the fact that Victoria is going back into lockdown and people have to go,” he said. “If that’s the case, then we shouldn’t have played tonight if we weren’t going to finish the match on time.”A surreal fifth day of play provided a tableau of the times, with the best-laid plans redirected midstream by a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that was first found in Britain. By Friday, it had infected 13 people linked to a quarantine hotel near the Melbourne airport that was being used to sequester returning travelers.In the early afternoon, as Serena Williams, a seven-time champion, stepped onto Rod Laver Arena’s court for her third-round match, Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria stepped to a microphone a few miles away to announce a “circuit-breaker” five-day lockdown aimed at preventing a third wave of infection from inundating the state.Victorians, he announced, would be allowed to leave home only for essential shopping, work, caregiving and exercise. Sports and entertainment venues were shutting down, but professional athletes like tennis players were considered in the category of “essential workers” and would be permitted to continue their matches, albeit behind closed doors.It was bittersweet news for the players, who for the first time since last year’s Australian Open were contesting a Grand Slam in front of crowds, with the number of fans allowed on the Melbourne Park grounds each day capped at 30,000.The players had arrived in the country early and completed a 14-day quarantine aimed at protecting Australians from them, so eager were they to play in front of crowds in what promised to be a significant step toward their old normal. Instead, the players found themselves in the new normal established when they traveled last year to New York for the United States Open and to Paris for the French Open: sequestered to protect them from their hosts.“It’s going to be a rough few days for I think everyone,” Williams said after her 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory against the 19-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova.Serena Williams after beating Anastasia Potapova in the third round.Credit…Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesAll morning, rumors swirled around the tournament grounds, whipped into a tempest by spectators half-watching matches while they scrolled through their news feeds and studied texts from friends and family members.After Andrews confirmed the worst of the rumors, a bottleneck formed in the aisles, with spectators exiting the stadium to call airlines to rebook flights hurrying past those still filing inside. Two fans, Lauren Grundeman and Belinda Brown, waited until after Williams closed out her match to call Qantas Airways. Anticipating that flight schedules would be slashed in the coming days because of the lockdown, they wanted to move up their return travel to Sydney and leave in a few hours’ time.“We were too late,” Grundeman said. “All the flights today sold out a half-hour ago.”Grundeman and Brown considered themselves fortunate to secure seats for a Saturday afternoon return. They weren’t sorry that they came. It was worth the inconvenience, they said, to see Williams inch closer to a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.“Definitely,” Brown said. “Serena is amazing.”Williams is a charismatic headliner, but the atmosphere was lacking its usual fizz, said Grundeman, who regularly attends the Australian Open. The lines to get inside, which are usually long, were nonexistent on Friday. There were no Swedes with national colors painted on their faces. No Dutch decked head to toe in orange. Grundeman described the energy as “flat.”Friday’s announced attendance, on a day tailor-made for soaking up the sun and world-class groundstrokes, was 22,299. Many Melburnians had said in interviews and letters to newspapers that they were forgoing this year’s event out of an abundance of caution. Brown said she couldn’t blame them.“If I was local, I’d be a bit like, we don’t need people coming and bring extra cases,” she said.Julie Dunlop rose before the sun and phoned her daughter. They held tickets to the day session Friday but Dunlop was discomfited by television reports that a lockdown — or “the dreaded L-word,” as she called it — was imminent. Should they soak up the sunshine before holing up in their houses? Or was the prudent play to stay away?“I was ready to pull the plug on it, but my daughter was keen to come,” said Dunlop, who warmed to the outing as she sat in the stands on an intimate outside court and watched the Australian doubles team of James Duckworth and Marc Polmans defeat Ricardas Berankis and Mikhail Kukushkin.Roughly 100 fans, most of them cheering enthusiastically for Duckworth and Polmans, filled the air with the sounds of solidarity. The Victorian premier hadn’t spoken yet, but Dunlop had a pretty good idea what he was going to say. “We’re lucky in one way to be here before it’s too late,” she said.Spectators cheered during the last match of the day on Court 3.Credit…Alana Holmberg for The New York TimesIn the stands, fans were checking their phones constantly. But on Court 13, Polmans tuned out everything but his harmony with Duckworth. Afterward, his coach filled him in on the lockdown rumors.“My first question to my coach was, ‘Do you think they’re going to cancel the tournament?’” Polmans said.Craig Tiley, the Tennis Australia chief executive, stood outside Rod Laver Arena on Friday afternoon and wearily assured everybody that the show would go on. “The players will compete in a bubble,” he said, adding that their movements would be restricted to traveling from wherever they were staying to Melbourne Park and back. He told the athletes to be alert, not alarmed.Tiley kept this year’s tournament slogan, “No Place for Impossible,” in his jacket pocket. It was part of a speech best saved for another day. Friday’s news made a line uttered before the tournament by Williams’s sister, Venus, a better motto for the moment: “Stay positive and test negative.”The tournament bubble could burst any day, and then what?“It’s definitely a worry,” Polmans said, adding, “If one of the players tests positive, then I think the tournament’s going to be done.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Australians at Home Open Find Success After Year Without Much Tennis

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Australian OpenWhat to Watch TodayHow to WatchThe Players to KnowTesting Australians’ VIrus AnxietiesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyAustralians at Home Open Find Success After Year Without Much TennisFacing Australia’s strict quarantine rules, Ashleigh Barty, the No. 1 women’s player in the world, skipped tennis last summer and fall. So did some other Australians. They are doing just fine.Ashleigh Barty said she had “absolutely no regrets” about skipping some tennis events this year because of the pandemic.Credit…Alana Holmberg for The New York TimesFeb. 12, 2021Updated 9:41 a.m. ETMELBOURNE, Australia — Ashleigh Barty plowed through the first two rounds of the Australian Open. No surprise there, as Barty, 24, is the top-ranked woman in the world. Except that Barty had a layoff of nearly a year before the run-up to the Australian Open because she opted not to leave Australia, her home country, for much of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.Nick Kyrgios, a folk hero of Australian tennis, similarly spent the past 11 months at home in Canberra, skipping two Grand Slam events and several other playing opportunities. He still captivated the tournament Wednesday night when he came back from two match points in the fourth set against Ugo Humbert, the No. 29 seed, and won it in the fifth in front of an electrified crowd. On Friday, he almost upset third-seeded Dominic Thiem, the reigning United States Open champion, but lost in five sets.The success of Barty and Kyrgios, and that of some of their Aussie brethren, has lifted the spirits of Australian tennis fans who know too well the ongoing disruption caused by the virus, even in a country that has managed the pandemic arguably as effectively as any major economy in the world. Australian players passed up millions in potential prize money and several chances to play on the biggest stages in the sport, but have somehow come through in form.“Absolutely no regrets for me,” Barty said this week as she prepared to play with the weight on her shoulders of her country and its 42-year Australian Open singles championship drought.The difficult decision Barty and her fellow Australians faced is hardly settled, and players from other countries may feel similar pressures as travel restrictions change.Australia’s government has said it plans to continue to require all passengers arriving from outside the country through the end of the year to quarantine in a monitored hotel room for two weeks.For months, Canada has required people coming into the country to quarantine for two weeks, with the possibility of daily checks from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In January, Canada stepped up those restrictions and is requiring a three-night stay in a hotel room for all incoming air travelers while they await the results of a virus test.The policies have forced a difficult choice on players from those countries: If they decide to play and endure all the international travel that professional tennis requires, they basically can’t go home until the end of the season in November — unless they choose to take a significant break.No one has any good answers. Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 20-year-old Canadian who lists his residence in Monaco but still has deep ties to Montreal, said he is trying to figure out when he might be able to see his sister and his parents during the year. He did a two-week quarantine when he returned to Canada last year but isn’t sure when he might be able to manage one again.Milos Raonic said he will probably play less this year so he can spend time with his family.Credit…Dean Lewins/EPA, via ShutterstockMilos Raonic, another Canadian with a residence in Monte Carlo, said he is unlikely to play a full season. He said he saw his parents for just five days last year, rather than for months at a time as he would in a usual year.“My family and those people that are close to me, they’re too important to neglect that aspect of my life,” Raonic said Wednesday after his second-round win over Bernard Tomic of Australia, whose tennis plans for the future are also somewhat up in the air.“It’s not easy,” Tomic said after the loss. “If I leave Australia now, won’t be coming back anytime soon, for sure.”Ajla Tomljanovic, one of the Australians who did play abroad last summer and fall, said the uncertainty of the schedule and the challenge of being away for so long had wreaked havoc with her game.“I’m not looking further than tomorrow,” Tomljanovic said after a brutal loss to Simona Halep, the No. 2 seed. Tomljanovich won the first set and led 5-2 in the third, then lost five straight games. “Everything is such an unknown. Anything can change any second.”That was partly what Barty, Kyrgios, Tomic, the former U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur and several other Australians figured last year when they passed on the revived tennis tours rather than deal with the uncertainty of the virus and the strict policies in Australia, which for months even limited travel between states.Kyrgios notoriously has a love-hate relationship with the game. Tomic is trying to rebuild his once promising career at 28. Stosur, at 36, won her first match at the Australian Open since 2015. All said they did not touch a tennis racket for months, using the time away from the game as a reset. Stosur’s partner gave birth to a girl in June.Barty gave up the most — the unique opportunity to play as the top player in the world and the chance to defend her French Open championship.She spent little time keeping up with or following tennis.“It was more enjoying my time at home and being grateful and appreciative for what I have,” she said.She played a lot of golf. She attended Australian Football League matches and was famously photographed, beer in hand, at the A.F.L. final between Brisbane and Richmond. She got another dog, a Border collie.Barty watched Australian Football League matches during her time away from tennis over the past year. “It was more enjoying my time at home and being grateful and appreciative for what I have,” she said.Credit…Michael Willson/AFL Photos, via Getty ImagesThen, with Australia’s tennis season on the horizon, she got to work.At first glance it is not obvious what makes Barty so effective. At 5-foot-5, she is built like a soccer midfielder and shorter than many of her elite competitors. She lacks the intimidating, blasting serve that several of the taller players in the top 20 have. She has powerful — though not overpowering — strokes.There are few players who are more fit, though. She can defend every corner of the court on a point and rarely appears to be breathing heavily. On her shoulders and upper arms, her muscles appear to have muscles. She also mixes an unrelenting style with a complex, slicing backhand. She gives away little for free, even when she is aiming for the sidelines, which she does often, and she has a knack for finding an opponent’s weakness and picking it apart.“Her tennis smarts are incredible,” said Daria Gavrilova, who lost to Barty on Thursday and has represented Australia with her on the national team. “Before a tie we always play team analysis, like the opposition analysis, and she’s always spot on. She’s just spot on every time.”After the time away, Barty appears no worse for the lack of wear. She won her tuneup event last week, beating the two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza in straight sets in the final, then began the Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-0 win.While playing against Gavrilova, Barty wore a wrap around her upper left leg to support a muscle (ever the tactician, she refused to say which one). She insisted that the muscle soreness and the troublesome second set were not concerning or symptoms of rust.“Lost my way a bit,” she said of a rocky portion of the match.She appears to have found it, by following a surprising route, at least for now. She and the other Australians remain caught up in the nation’s remarkable Covid-19 success, which the country will not trifle with.“You have to do what’s best for you and where you’re based and situated throughout the year,” said Lleyton Hewitt, the last Australian to reach No. 1 in the world rankings. “There’s a lot of outside-the-box thinking that has to go on to be an Australian tennis player right now.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Novak Djokovic Beats Taylor Fritz but Is Hurt at Australian Open

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Australian OpenWhat to Watch TodayHow to WatchThe Players to KnowTesting Australians’ VIrus AnxietiesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyNovak Djokovic Escapes but Is Hurt at the Australian OpenThe defending champion and eight-time winner battled a sore muscle on his right side in a five-set win over American Taylor Fritz.Novak Djokovic appeared to slip during his third-round match against Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open. He was bothered by an injury but still won.Credit…Andy Brownbill/Associated PressFeb. 12, 2021, 9:38 a.m. ETMELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic, the reigning champion at the Australian Open and the top-ranked player in the world, escaped an upset on Friday night to Taylor Fritz of the United States after hurting the right side of his midsection.Djokovic, who has not lost at this tournament when seeded No. 1, was injured in a bizarre match during which thousands of spectators were sent out of Rod Laver Arena as midnight approached because of a government-imposed coronavirus lockdown in the state of Victoria.Djokovic appeared in control of the match when he won the first two sets. Then he faltered badly as he battled what he described as a torn muscle in the right side of his abdomen but somehow sneaked past Fritz, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2.“I was just trying to focus on what is going on with an injury,” Djokovic said after it was over. “It’s a tear of the muscle. I don’t know if I am going to recover. I don’t know if I am even going to step onto the court.”Djokovic is scheduled to face Milos Raonic of Canada in the fourth round on Sunday. Raonic will bring one of the biggest serves in tennis to a match that could present Djokovic, if he plays, with one of his biggest challenges since he started dominating on the hardcourts in Australia.For Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam champion, a loss would have brought a third straight major tournament that ended in disappointment. He was defaulted out of the United States Open in September when he swatted a ball that accidentally hit a line judge. In October, he lost badly to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.He came to Australia in search of his championship form, though he pulled out of an exhibition in Adelaide with bad blister on his hand. Still, he breezed through his first-round match against Jeremy Chardy of France in 91 minutes.In the second round though, he was pushed to the limit against Frances Tiafoe of the United States, who stretched him to four sets over three-and-half-hours on a steamy afternoon, even though Djokovic served 26 aces. Like a prize fighter jabbing at a cut, Tiafoe saw Djokovic struggling to reach wide forehands and continually forced him to stretch to his right.Still, he gave no hint that he was in any kind of significant distress after the match and entered the night against Fritz, who is from San Diego, as a heavy favorite.Djokovic predicted he might be in for a long night, however, especially on a court he described as the fastest he has ever played on at the Australian Open against a young player with a big serve and a powerful forehand.Djokovic received medical attention and frequently massaged his right side throughout the match after his injury.Credit…Kelly Defina/ReutersEarly in the third set, he appeared to slip, irritating the muscle on his right side. He said he felt a tear.He took a medical timeout and took the maximum allowable amount of anti-inflammatory medication.As the match continued, it was clear he was still having trouble changing direction or stretching for balls that were far away. Djokovic began massaging his side during every game and changeover. He said near the end of the fourth set, the medication began to work and somehow he became comfortable enough for a final push in the fifth set. He stayed aggressive on his second serve and began whipping his signature angled forehands.When Fritz’s last ball sailed long, Djokovic hollered in exultation, his voice echoing through the empty arena.“I honestly don’t know how I won this match,” he said. “I am very proud and at the same time sad and worried because there is definitely something serious happening with my injury and I don’t have much time to recover.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Friday Night

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Friday NightRafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty are in the spotlight after easing through the first two rounds of the Australian Open.Rafael Nadal will face Cameron Norrie, a 25-year-old British player, in the fourth round.Credit…Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesFeb. 12, 2021, 9:31 a.m. ETHow to watch: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on the Tennis Channel and 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on ESPN2 in the United States; streaming on the ESPN+ and ESPN3 apps.Rafael Nadal cruised past Michael Mmoh, a 23-year-old American, in his second-round match, dropping only seven games across three sets. Although there was plenty of flash on the court, an aggrieved fan had the most memorable moment, heckling Nadal and making an obscene gesture at him before being removed by security. During a post-match news conference, Nadal laughed away the stunt and was visibly puzzled, but not angered, by the fan’s outburst.Tonight’s matches won’t have any hecklers as fans won’t be allowed at the tournament for the next several days because of a coronavirus lockdown in the Australian state of Victoria, but they are sure to provide plenty of entertainment as the third round of the Australian Open concludes.Here are some matches to keep an eye on.Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are at best estimates and certain to fluctuate based on when earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.Rod Laver Arena | 7 p.m. FridayKarolina Muchova vs. Karolina PliskovaKarolina Pliskova, the sixth seed from the Czech Republic, is one of the best players on the women’s tour without a Grand Slam title. Her only appearance in a final was at the 2016 U.S. Open, and although she has reached two semifinals since, she has not been able to push past more nimble opposition.Karolina Muchova during her second-round match. Muchova and Karolina Pliskova have split their two matches.Credit…Andy Brownbill/Associated PressPliskova and Karolina Muchova, her countrywoman, have played each other only in Grand Slams, with Pliskova winning in the first round of the 2019 Australian Open and Muchova prevailing in a three-set match in the round of 16 at Wimbledon later that year.Muchova can adapt her game and tends to push her opponents around the court with a variety of shots that rely more on finesse than power. Pliskova will need to grab control of points early with her powerful baseline shots if she’s going to avert an upset.Margaret Court Arena | 11 p.m. FridayAndrey Rublev vs. Feliciano LopezFeliciano Lopez upset the 31st seed, Lorenzo Sonego, in a tight five-set match in the second round. Lopez, a 39 year-old Spaniard, is playing in his 75th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, continuing a streak that started at the 2002 French Open. Having exited in the first round in the last four Australian Opens, Lopez is enjoying being deeper into the tournament.Feliciano Lopez, 39, has played in 75 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. He has never reached a final.Credit…Andy Brownbill/Associated PressAndrey Rublev, the seventh seed, has been bulldozing his opposition over the last couple of weeks. Rublev, 23, dropped only one set in singles as he helped Russia win the ATP Cup, and he has won his first two rounds at the Australian Open in straight sets. His explosive forehand shots are thriving on the fast courts of Melbourne Park, helping him move opponents around the court even when he is under pressure. While Lopez certainly has more experience than Rublev, it will be hard for him to keep up with the pure ferocity of Rublev’s game.Rod Laver Arena | Midnight SATURDAYBelinda Bencic vs. Elise MertensIn her return to a Grand Slam after skipping the United States and French Opens in 2020, Belinda Bencic has not been particularly satisfied with her play going into the third round. Bencic, the 11th seed from Switzerland, needed three sets to beat each of her unseeded opponents in the first two rounds. She is an incredibly intelligent player, but sometimes struggles to keep pace with some of her peers, who can overpower her. Bencic, 23, will need to improve if she’s to reach the round of 16.Elise Mertens has not lost before the third round in a major tournament since the 2018 Australian Open.Credit…Paul Crock/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesElise Mertens, the 18th seed from Belgium, is on a good run: She won the Gippsland Trophy last week while beating the fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina in the process. Mertens, 25, has a particularly consistent game, which is reflected in her Grand Slam results. She was a semifinalist at the 2018 Australian Open, and has not lost before the third round in a Grand Slam since. Considering Bencic’s middling play going into the match, Mertens should be a clear favorite.John Cain Arena | 3 a.m. SaturdayMatteo Berrettini vs. Karen KhachanovKaren Khachanov, the 19th seed, and Matteo Berrettini, the ninth seed, have styles so similar that one might think they were coached together from a young age. Both are 24 years old, and they are built in the same vein, models of strength sticking out among a generation of players who aimed to be lithe and flexible.Matteo Berrettini lost only one set in his first two matches.Credit…Rick Rycroft/Associated PressBerrettini had a breakout year in 2019, when he reached the U.S. Open semifinal, but he struggled last year, not making the final of any ATP event. Now, he’s looking to return to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since that U.S. Open run. Khachanov hasn’t made a quarterfinal at a major since the 2019 French Open.When these two bruisers meet, especially on a faster court, expect plenty of points to end with either a stunning winner, or an unforced error when a player chooses the wrong moment to strike.Here are a few more matches to keep an eye on.Elina Svitolina vs. Yulia Putintseva — 7 p.m.Mackenzie McDonald vs. Lloyd Harris — 9 p.m.Ashleigh Barty vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova — 3 a.m.Rafael Nadal vs. Cameron Norrie — 5 a.m.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    As the Australian Open plays on, Victoria officials order a ‘circuit breaker’ Covid lockdown.

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Australian OpenWhat to Watch TodayHow to WatchThe Players to KnowTesting Australians’ VIrus AnxietiesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storyBiden Announces a Big Vaccine Deal, but Warns of HurdlesAs the Australian Open plays on, Victoria officials order a ‘circuit breaker’ Covid lockdown.Feb. 11, 2021, 11:13 p.m. ETFeb. 11, 2021, 11:13 p.m. ETLivia Albeck-Ripka, Christopher F. Schuetze and Spectators watching Serena Williams at the Australian Open on Friday. The remainder of the tournament will be held without spectators.Credit…Darrian Traynor/Getty ImagesMore than six million people in Victoria, Australia, will enter into a snap lockdown for five days in response to a coronavirus outbreak at a quarantine hotel.The order came as the Australian Open was being held in Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, but the tennis tournament will continue — without spectators — the authorities said on Friday.Victorians will be allowed to leave home only for essential shopping, work, exercise and caregiving, and must wear masks whenever they leave home.But while sports and entertainment venues will be shut down, professional athletes like tennis players will be classified as “essential workers” and allowed to continue their matches.“There are no fans; there’s no crowds. These people are essentially at their workplace,” Daniel Andrews, the premier of Victoria, told reporters on Friday. “It’s not like the only people that are at work are supermarket workers.”Tennis Australia said in a statement that it would notify all ticket holders of the changes and continue “to work with the government to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”The lockdown, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, comes after an outbreak at a Holiday Inn near the Melbourne Airport that was being used to house returned travelers.By Friday, 13 people linked to the hotel had tested positive with the new virus variant that first emerged in Britain. In the past 24 hours, five new cases have been identified, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 19.Describing the lockdown as a “circuit breaker,” the authorities said it was critical to stopping the spread of the variant, which is highly infectious and has outwitted contact tracers before they can contain outbreaks. Similar snap lockdowns in Perth and Brisbane in recent months were successful in quashing infections.“The game has changed,” Mr. Andrews said. “This is not the 2020 virus.”He said he hoped Victorians, who endured among the longest lockdowns in the world last year, would work together to prevent the state from entering a third wave of the coronavirus. “We will be able to smother this,” he said.The order had ripple effects in Australia’s other states, which all announced travel restrictions with Victoria. International flights, excluding freight, into Melbourne were also canceled.In other global developments:Germany will close its border to the Czech Republic and the Austrian state of Tyrol starting Sunday as it tries to protect against new variants of the virus. As part of that effort, Germany this week extended its national lockdown for another month.New Zealand will receive the first batch of its 1.5-million-dose order of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and expects to begin vaccinating its border workers on Feb. 20, ahead of schedule, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday. The country, which has all but eliminated local transmission of the virus, has additional purchase agreements with Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novavax and AstraZeneca, and expects to start vaccinating its wider population in the second quarter of this year, Ms. Ardern said.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Australian Open: Sofia Kenin, the Reigning Champ, Is Knocked Out

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The Australian OpenWhat to Watch TodayHow to WatchThe Players to KnowTesting Australians’ VIrus AnxietiesAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyAustralian Open: Sofia Kenin, the Reigning Champ, Is Knocked OutThe 22-year-old American lost in the second round to an unseeded player, Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.Sofia Kenin, who was seeded fourth at this year’s Australian Open, has struggled to find her form this year.Credit…Alana Holmberg for The New York TimesPublished More

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    2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Thursday Night

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main story2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Thursday NightThe third round of the Australian Open gets underway, featuring Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.Naomi Osaka has lost a total of just eight games through her first two matches at the Australian Open.Credit…Paul Crock/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesFeb. 11, 2021, 7:07 a.m. ETHow to watch: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on the Tennis Channel and 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on ESPN2 in the United States; streaming on the ESPN+ and ESPN3 apps.As each singles draw dwindled to 32 players, some former major champions lost their hopes of snagging one more Grand Slam title. The 17th-seeded Stan Wawrinka lost his second-round match to Marton Fucsovics, and the eighth-seeded Bianca Andreescu fell to Hsieh Su-Wei.Although the field has shrunk, plenty of promising youngsters and past major champions remain.Here are some matches to keep an eye on.Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are best estimates and certain to fluctuate based on when earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.Rod Laver Arena | 7 p.m. ThursdayAryna Sabalenka vs. Ann LiAryna Sabalenka, the seventh seed, has equaled her best result at the Australian Open by reaching the third round. She has yet to make it to a Grand Slam quarterfinal, despite how consistently well she plays on tour. Sabalenka won three hardcourt singles titles in 2020, and started 2021 by winning the Abu Dhabi Open. Her aggressive style can help her on faster-paced courts, although on her poorer days it can create plenty of unforced errors.Aryna Sabalenka is the seventh seed.Credit…Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesAnn Li, the world No. 69, has had a fantastic run of results in the past few weeks. Last week, she won the Grampians Trophy in Melbourne with a walkover in the final. Then, in the first round of the Australian Open, she upset the 31st seed, Zhang Shuai, while dropping only two games. Although her second-round match against Alizé Cornet required a bit more from her, Li played well, pushing through a tough second set tiebreaker in which she faced two set points. One more upset would put her in her first round of 16 at a Grand Slam event.John Cain Arena | 10 p.m. ThursdayNaomi Osaka vs. Ons JabeurNaomi Osaka, the third seed, has won a Grand Slam event in each of the past three years, all on hardcourts. The fast pace of play suits her, as she pins opponents into the back corners of the court with her flat shots. Osaka did not play in the French Open in October, citing concerns related to the pandemic. She is back into a groove at the Australian Open, dropping just eight games across her first two matches.Ons Jabeur, the 27th seed, became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal at last year’s Australian Open, losing to the eventual champion, Sofia Kenin. Jabeur’s adaptability can be very difficult for opponents to handle; she can unravel an array of opponents’ weaknesses. To beat Osaka, Jabeur will need to have a strong start and not allow her opponent to get into a rhythm.John Cain Arena | 3 a.m. FridayDominic Thiem vs. Nick KyrgiosDominic Thiem, the third seed, won the United States Open in September, supplanting Marin Cilic (2014) as the most recent first-time male Grand Slam champion.A four-time Grand Slam finalist, Thiem has slowly been chipping away at the hegemony of the so-called Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Though Thiem’s U.S. Open victory came on a hard court, that is not considered his best surface. And with the unusually quick conditions in Australia, he may struggle to return to the final, where he lost to Djokovic last year.Dominic Thiem is the third seed in men’s singles.Credit…Brandon Malone/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesNick Kyrgios, an Australian ranked 47th in the world, was often stereotyped as an uncouth punk for his perceived lack of interest in the sport of tennis. As the coronavirus pandemic shut down the ATP Tour, Kyrgios became a loud advocate for health and safety precautions, openly criticizing both his peers and legends like Boris Becker for choosing to socialize or complaining about safety measures. Now Kyrgios is playing in front of home crowds, and the fast-paced courts in Melbourne will aid his aggressive baseline style. However, after barely squeezing past the 29th seed, Ugo Humbert, in five sets, Kyrgios will be challenged to break down Thiem’s exceptional defensive play.Margaret Court Arena | 3 a.m. FridayDenis Shapovalov vs. Felix Auger-AliassimeDenis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, the two youngest members of the Canadian delegation at the Australian Open, are both aggressive, full-court players who rely on their athleticism to get through tough matches.Shapovalov, the 11th seed, reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the U.S. Open before losing in five sets to Pablo Carreño Busta. Although Shapovalov, 21, lost both of his ATP Cup matches — a singles match against the seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev and a doubles match — they were tightly contested. After an impressive five-set win over the fellow up-and-comer Jannik Sinner, Shapovalov looks prepared to reach the second week of play.Felix Auger-Aliassime is the 20th seed.Credit…Quinn Rooney/Getty ImagesAuger-Aliassime, 20, has skated through his first two rounds, convincingly dismantling his opponents without dropping a set. The last time he faced Shapovalov on tour, he lost in straight sets in the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open. A year and a half later, this match will be a good test of whether he can usurp his close friend as the top Canadian men’s player.Here are a few more matches to keep an eye on:Serena Williams vs. Anastasia Potapova — 9 p.m.Milos Raonic vs. Marton Fucsovics — 1 a.m.Simona Halep vs. Veronika Kudermetova — 3 a.m.Novak Djokovic vs. Taylor Fritz — 5 a.m.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More