TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – Andy Murray fought back from a set down to Tomas Berdych in four sets with 6-7 (6-8) 6-0 6-3 7-5 to get through to his fourth Australian Open final after finishing runner-up in 2010,2011 and 2013 and to his eighth Grand Slam final. Murray is bidding to clinch his third Grand Slam title after the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon. On both occasions he beat Novak Djokovic, his possible rival in next Sunday’s final if the Serb beats defending champion Stan Wawrinka in this Friday’s semifinal. Diego Sampaolo
 Andy Murray b. Tomas Berdych 6-7(6) 6-0 6-3 7-5
Berdych led 6-4 in the previous 10 head-to-head matches and and won their previous two clashes, but this time Murray prevailed in four sets after losing the first set at the tie-break. It was the first time since the 2012 ATP Finals that Murray beat Berdych. That year the Dunblane star beat his Czech rival in the semifinals of the US Open.
Murray dropped just two sets so far in the tournament winning in four sets against Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round before beating Nick Kyrgios in the quarter final. Berdych, who also reached the semifinals last year, broke a 17-match losing streak against Rafa Nadal in the quarter finals beating the Spanish star for the first time since 2006 and reached the semifinal without dropping a set so far in the tournament. Berdych was looking to become the first Czech player to reach the Australian Open final since 1998 when Petr Korda won the final.
Berdych broke in the eighth game of the opening set for 5-3 with backhand winners and served for the first set but Murray broke straight back at 30-40 when Berdych hit a backhand into the net. Berdych saved a break point in a service hold for a 6-5 lead before the first set came down to the tie-break. Murray raced to a 3-0 lead in the breaker but Berdych reeled off fived of the next six points to go up 5-4. Murray earned his first set point but Berdych saved it at 5-6 with a forehand and a volley winner.The Czech hit his fourth ace to earn his first set point chance before taking a tight first set with 8-6 after a 76-minute battle when Murray hit a forehand into the net. Berdych won his 16th consecutive set in this tournament. Murray converted on just one of his four break point chances in the first set.
Murray reeled off seven consecutive games to turn around the match. Murray broke serve in the second game of the second set with a lob en route to clinching the second set with a bagel win in a thirty-minute second set. At 0-5 Berdych rallied from 0-30 but Murray broke serve converting on his first serve point when Berdych hit his forehand long.
Murray won the seventh game in a row at the start of the third set. At 3-2 for Murray in the sixth game Berdych went up 40-0 but missed a game point after two double faults allowing the Scotsman to convert on his second break point. Murray hit a forehand down the line on break point before clinching the third set with 6-3 with an ace after 44 minutes
Murray fended off two break points in the sixth game with a cross-court forehand and with a serve to draw level to 3-3. Murray earned two break point opportunities at 5-5 15-30 when Berdych made two errors and a double fault. Murray converted the break point as Berdych hit a groundstroke long. Murray earned the chance to serve for the match as Berdych hit a backhand long. The 2012 Olympic champion held serve to love clinching his 140th Grand Slam win win with his 15th ace.
Murray has reached his four Australian Open final and his eighth in a Grand Slam tournament and his first since he started working with Amelie Mauresmo
“I played very well tonight. I am very happy with the way that I played the match. I am happy to be in the final four times here because I am surrounded by guys like Roger, Novak and Rafa. It doesn’t happen that often. I am very proud of that. Making four finals is a very difficult thing to do. It’s not easy to do. I am proud of my record here. I will try my best on Sunday. I will go in with best tactics possible, prepare well. Have a couple of days rest and recoverd as best as I can. If it is enough, it is great. I could not have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday”.
“At the beginning of the match Tomas started out well. I was a little bit tentative at the beginning and I was getting used to his ball. He hits the ball extremely hard and flat. At the start I felt like I was on the back foot a little bit. Towards the end of end of the first set I started to come into it more, be more aggressive. Then in the second set I just picked up from how I was playing at the end of the first. I felt like I could have won the first set. Obviously I had some chances there. I was extremely aggressive in the second set and I managed to run away with it.“
Today’s match has marked the first time that Murray faced Berdych since the Czech played began working with Murray’s friend Dani Vallverdu, who worked for five years with the Scotman until they split last November.
“Guys wanted there to be tension related to Dani. You wanted there to be tension. It’s completely normal for that to happen. I sat in here the other day and got asked more questions about Dani than I did about the match I just played. Because of everything that’s gone on it’s kind of a natural thing to happen. If you learn how the brain works, it’s completely natural for that. It was kind of expected and had planned for that to be the case as well.”
Murray will play against either Djokovic or Wawrinka in Sunday’s final. “I obviously feel good because I thought I played well tonight. The most important thing in tennis matches you need to be able to make adjustments and change when things aren’t going well. That’s one of the things that we didn’t speak about the other day. Everyone can go into a match with game plans and ideas of how they want to play. I felt like tonight I made some big adjustments in the match from how things were going at the start. I will need to do the same thing again on Sunday against Novak or Stan because things that you think will work don’t always work out that way. You need to be able to make adjustments in the middle of the match. That’s where it doesn’t necessarily always come down to the coach. It has to come down to the individual as well because we can’t get coaching during the match. We need to make adjustments ourselves and that’s one of the things I was most pleased about tonight. After that first set I changed the way I was playing and turned the match in my favour.“
Murray credits his coach Amelie Mauresmo on the hard-work during the off-season. “After spending the off-season with Amelie and working on a bunch of things, having a sustained sort of period together, I did a great training block. I worked extremely hard physically in the off-season. I worked well to give myself the opportunity to play like this this. The way that I feel today compared with how I felt after losing in four sets last year, when I could barely move at the end of the match because I was so sore and stiff. Today I felt strong at the end.“
(updates coming soon)
(VIDEO) Novak Djokovic Makes Tearful Tribute To Mentor Kobe Bryant After Australian Open Win
The world No.2 pays his respect to ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’ on the Rod Laver Arena.
World No.2 Novak Djokovic shed tears following his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic after paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
The 16-time grand slam champion took to the Rod Laver Arena wearing a green zip-up top. On the top right of his jacket with Bryant’s initial along with the numbers 8 and 24. The jersey numbers Bryant worn throughout his 20-year NBA career with the LA Lakers. A love heart was also placed under the numbers on Djokovic’s top.
“’I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise.” An emotional Djokovic said during his on-court interview with John McEnroe on Tuesday.
‘He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he inspired myself and many other people around the world. I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.’
‘When I needed some advice and support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.’
Bryant was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. As an athlete, he achieved numerous milestones. Including being named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medallist and played in 18 All Star Games.
Just days before Bryant’s death, Djokovic spoke about their friendship during an interview with ESPN. Praising him for the support he received during his elbow injury and fall in the rankings during 2017 and the start of 2018. Reflecting on the conversations the two have had, he said he received some ‘valuable guidance.’
“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN. “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.”
Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
The tribute can be watched below (from 00:30 to 01:40)
Dominic Thiem reaches his first quarter final at the Australian Open
Dominic Thiem eased past Gael Monfils 6-2 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 50 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open. Thiem has extended his winning streak to 6-0 in his head-to-head matches against Monfils.
He fought back from two sets to one down to beat Australia’s Alex Bolt in the second round, but he won eight of his past nine sets to advance to the quarter finals.
Thiem got two breaks in the first set and never faced a single break point in the entire match. The Austrian player converted his fourth break point after three deuces, as Monfils missed a backhand volley wide. Thiem started the third set with an early break in the first game, as Monfils hit an inside-out forehand wide from the middle of the court wide. Thiem won his next service games and held his final game at love.
Thiem will face Rafael Nadal in a re-match of last year’s Roland Garros final.
“I think that I played my best match so far at this year’s Australian Open. It’s a very good feeling. The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and I was managing to hold my serve well. I am so happy because I am in the quarter final here for the first time”, said Thiem.
Alexander Zverev tops Andrey Rublev to set Australian Open quarter final against Stan Wawrinka
Alexander Zverev beat his friend Andrey Rublev 6-4 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open for the first time in his career and his third at Grand Slam level.
Zverev broke serve once in each set. The German player has not dropped a set at this year’s edition of the Australian Open.
Zverev ended Rublev’s 15-match winning streak. Rublev had not lost a match since October, winning four matches at the Davis Cup last November and back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide.
In the opening set Zverev earned his first break at 3-3, as Rublev hit a forehand into the net. He held his serve to consolidate the break and wrapped up the first set after 29 minutes, when Rublev hit a crosscourt backhand wide.
Zverev started the second set with an immediate break in the first game of the second set and closed it out with a hold at love with an ace after 29 minutes.
Zverev broke serve for the third time in the match in the ninth game of the third set to take a 5-4, when Rublev made a groundstroke error, and sealed the win with a forehand volley.
“It feels amazing. I played some great matches against some great opponents. This is Andrey’s first loss of the season, having won two tournaments and getting through to the fourth round with unbelievable tennis. I have known Andrey since we were ten years old. I think he will be top 15, top 10 very soon. I am just happy and I hope I can continue”,said Zverev.
Zverev will face Stan Wawrinka in the quarter final. The German star beat Wawrinka twice in their previous two head-to-head matches in St. Petersburg 2016 and Miami 2017.
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