Tennis: Djokovic, Gauff edge their way to tight victories while Raducanu retires with ankle injury

Novak Djokovic of Serbia competes against Quentin Halys of France during day five of the 2023 Adelaide International at Memorial Drive on January 05,...

Novak Djokovic recovered from 5-2 down in set one and emerged without enduring a three-set battle against another determined Frenchman, setting up another intriguing clash with Denis Shapovalov. Coco Gauff avenged a defeat three years in the making, before Emma Raducanu tearfully withdrew after sustaining a freak ankle injury midway through her R2 match…

ADELAIDE, ATP250

Denis Shapovalov of Canada reacts on a point during the Adelaide International tennis match between Roman Safiullin and Denis Shapovalov of Canada at...

Shapovalov celebrates a point in his straight-sets win over Russia’s Roman Safiullin earlier today

Nothing spells pressure like facing three break points in your opening service game, and Russia’s Roman Safiullin certainly felt the intensity crank up against Denis Shapovalov.

The Canadian hotshot, unpredictable at the best of times, broke him on the fifth attempt to lead 2-1 and despite exchanging breaks shortly afterwards, the 2021 Wimbledon semifinalist went through the gears as his confidence grew.

6-4, 6-3 the final score for a 23-year-old who’ll fancy his chances – as always – against a top player tomorrow. That just so happens to be top seed and a familiar face in Novak Djokovic, who beat him that day at SW19 two years ago and holds a 7-1 H2H record too. That won’t matter.

The 35-year-old Serbian was pushed to the brink by France’s Quentin Halys but emerged on top after a pair of tiebreaks: 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5), after Constant Lestienne pushed him on Tuesday.

Thanasi Kokkinakis pushed him all the way, but Jannik Sinner held his nerve and eventually got the job done: 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 in just over two hours against the home hopeful.

He’ll face Sebastian Korda next, after the 22-year-old American built on his Andy Murray scalp by producing an even more polished display against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut: 6-4, 6-4.

Danka Kovinic recovered from a set down to oust America’s Lauren Davis, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 – kicking off a day of unorthodox indoor action due to adverse weather conditions in Auckland.

The Montenegrin, seeded seventh, saved all five break points faced in set two and that proved the catalyst to her revival.

She’ll play Slovakian qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova next, after 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu retired with an ankle injury at the start of set three in a topsy-turvy clash.


AUCKLAND open, WTA250 – What happened to Raducanu?

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain withdraws injured during her singles match against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia on day four of the 2023 ASB Classic...

Raducanu was forced to withdraw with an injured ankle after falling awkwardly mid-rally

Danka Kovinic recovered from a set down to oust America’s Lauren Davis, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 – kicking off a day of unorthodox indoor action due to adverse weather conditions in Auckland.

The Montenegrin, seeded seventh, saved all five break points faced in set two and that proved the catalyst to her revival.

She’ll play Slovakian qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova next, after 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu retired with an ankle injury at the start of set three (0-6, 7-5 ret.) in a topsy-turvy clash.

For about half-an-hour, Raducanu was firing on all cylinders and made Kuzmova look like she didn’t belong on the same court with her.

Aggressive and with an impactful first set, the 20-year-old Brit defended well from the baseline and forced an increasingly frustrated opponent into errors or poor decision-making, allowing her to dictate their rallies with regularity.

Then, after easing to a 6-0 set, things began to turn. They often do – just ask Andreescu – but as Kuzmova’s level increased with pressure off her shoulders, Raducanu couldn’t say she didn’t have openings to put the match to bed.

Kuzmova couldn’t really play any worse than she managed in the opening set, so it wasn’t surprising to see her hitting so freely and with renewed power shortly afterwards.

As long as you’re able to hold serve, easier said than done, the scoreboard pressure shifts onto your opponent. That’s what happened here, and there was a brief moment where Raducanu looked towards her coaches, as if to say where was this level earlier?

The mood changed considerably for both as Kuzmova saved a succession of break points – five in three consecutive service games – and was now making shots the Slovakian qualifier wouldn’t have dared 30 minutes prior.

There was one in particular, a backhand return mid-rally on the stretch and with her back turned, which landed perfectly on the tramline.

Raducanu won the eventual point, but that didn’t matter. Prolonging their rally exchanges only increased the chance she’d scoop a shot narrowly wide or make a mistake to be duly punished by the 24-year-old, and so it proved.

They exchanged breaks at 5-5 with Raducanu falling awkwardly and turning her ankle mid-rally. Kuzmova wasted no time serving out the set afterwards, clinching it 7-5.

After a medical assessment and treatment, the British no. 1 attempted to play on but within seconds you could see it was futile. She retired tearfully, unable to continue. Understandably frustrated afterwards, the 20-year-old told NZ website Stuff:

“It’s difficult to take. I’ve put a lot of physical work in the last few months, been feeling good and optimistic. So to be stopped by a freak injury, rolling an ankle is pretty disappointing, in the first week as well.

I thought I was playing some pretty decent tennis. The courts are incredibly slick, like very slippery, so to be honest it’s not a surprise that this happened to someone. It’s out of my control and after a very long day of waiting around. But we’ll assess over the next few days, see what the next steps are.”


Coco Gauff of the USA plays a forehand against Sofia Kenin of the USA in their singles match during day four of the 2023 ASB Classic Women's at the...

Gauff-Kenin was competitive as advertised, but the teenager defended well to avenge her 2020 defeat

In a matchup of predictably fine margins, it was 2022 French Open runner-up Coco Gauff who edged past 2020 Australian Open titlist Sofia Kenin: 6-4, 6-4 – aided by some brilliant serving and counterpunching from the baseline during a competitive affair that could’ve gone either way.

Afterwards, the teenager praised her compatriot’s performance levels and said it boded well for the months to come, given her well-documented struggles in the three years since that triumph.

A round three first-time meeting with Venus Williams’ conqueror in China’s Lin Zhu awaits overnight, after the 28-year-old earned another three-set victory – this time not getting tight with scoreboard pressure (5-3 down in the decider) firmly on her, en route to a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 win.

Rebeka Masarova backed up her Sloane Stephens scalp with another straight-sets victory, this time against Russia’s Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-4.

The Spanish qualifier, who rises to a new career-high world no. 118, will be on the cusp of the world’s top 100 if she beats another resurgent competitor in Czech’s Karolina Muchova tomorrow. The 26-year-old was a 6-4, 6-1 winner vs. Romanian qualifier Elena Gabriela Ruse.

2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez needed just 46 minutes to blast Austria’s Julia Grabher off the court – 6-0, 6-1 – losing just seven points behind her serve despite an iffy total percentage (59%), a number which doesn’t do her storming start much justice.

Grabher was not given a chance to settle, much like Kuzmova in the early going against Raducanu, and while set two was a tad longer, it wasn’t particularly competitive either.

“I knew the tournament was going to be super hard, there are a lot of high-level women, have been on tour for a very long time and have experience.

I’m just happy the hard work I’ve put in the last couple of months has been paying off up to now and I just hope I can keep this level up for the remainder of the tournament, keep working and improving.”

There will be no all-Canadian third-round matchup, as Fernandez will instead face Belgian qualifier Yasline Bonaventure next tomorrow morning (BST). The 28-year-old secured a turnaround three-set win over Leylah’s compatriot Rebecca Marino, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 the final score.


ADELAIDE, WTA500

Victoria Azarenka celebrates defeating Qinwen Zheng of China during day five of the 2023 Adelaide International at Memorial Drive on January 05, 2023...

Linda Noskova’s rise continues, after she was a 6-2, 6-2 victor vs. 22-year-old American Claire Liu.

The 18-year-old qualifier, who ousted Daria Kasatkina in three sets on Monday morning, next faces two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka after the Belarusian evaded unscathed against another rising star in China’s 20-year-old Qinwen Zheng (6-2, 7-5).

The tournament’s seventh seed, Jelena Ostapenko, was dealt a shock as she lost 6-3, 6-0 against Romania’s Irina-Camila Begu.

The Latvian’s serving was poor (61% first serve, 4 double faults) and she led 3-1 – only to capitulate rather drastically, including a game down 5-3 lasting almost 30 points.

She didn’t win another one. Begu will next play Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova, who inflicted a similar-style defeat upon another former Slam champion in Bianca Andreescu yesterday.

However, there were to be no surprises for world no. 2 Ons Jabeur, who emerged stronger from a first set tiebreak to beat Begu’s compatriot Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.

The Tunisian won 31/35 points behind her first serve, and didn’t look back after going up an early break in set two. She’ll next play Elena Rybakina’s conqueror Marta Kostyuk in the quarters.


PUNE, ATP250

Aslan Karatsev of Russia celebrates after winning a game during the quarterfinals of the 2021 Australian Open on February 16 2021, at Melbourne Park...

Karatsev, pictured here at Melbourne Park in 2021, is efficiently building up to the year’s first Slam

After a hard-fought win yesterday, 2021 Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev would’ve been relieved to get the job done rather ruthlessly against Spain’s Pedro Martinez 6-1, 6-2

Tallon Griekspoor gets an extra day’s rest and a semi-final berth, after Marin Cilic withdrew shortly before their quarter-final matchup after confirming he sustained a knee injury during the warm-up. He’ll play Karatsev tomorrow, with the H2H split 2-2 over their four previous meetings.

Botic van de Zandschulp wasted no time in earning his place in the last-four, a 6-4, 6-2 winner against Germany’s Maximilian Marterer in 68 minutes. The Dutchman will play France’s Benjamin Bonzi next, after he won 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 at the expense of Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic.

Picture source: Getty Images, player quotes via stuff.co.nz

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