Australian Open: Emma Raducanu falls as high women’s seeds upset

2022 Australian Open: Day 4
Getty Images
0 Comments

Emma Raducanu, the surprise U.S. Open champion, was among four of the top 17 women’s seeds to fall in the Australian Open second round on Thursday.

Danka Kovinic, a Montenegrin ranked 98th, beat Raducanu 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 after the Brit got treatment for a blister on her right hand in the first set.

“Some people in my team didn’t want me to even go out there. So I fought so hard just to come out to Australia and play here, and I didn’t want to go out like that. So I just left it all out on the court,” said the 19-year-old Raducanu, who had to isolate in December after testing positive for the coronavirus. “I have been struggling with blisters since I started playing in Australia because 21 days, no tennis, my hands got pretty soft.

“I have had blisters before but never this bad. It’s quite deep, and it’s just in a very awkward position that it’s so difficult to tape.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Earlier, No. 3 Garbiñe Muguruza and No. 6 Anett Kontaveit, who met for the WTA Finals title in November, lost the first matches on the two main show courts.

French veteran Alizé Cornet dispatched Muguruza, a two-time major champion who was a set from winning the 2020 Australian Open, 6-3, 6-3. Danish 19-year-old Clara Tauson, a former junior No. 1, took out Kontaveit 6-2, 6-4.

No. 12 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan retired from her second-round match with China’s Zhang Shuai due to a leg injury.

Raducanu, at 19, is admittedly still learning the ropes of professional tennis at the highest level. At this time last year, she was still five months away from her first tour-level, main-draw match. Then she made the fourth round of Wimbledon and became the first qualifier to win a major at the U.S. Open.

Raducanu then changed coaches and went 2-4 in six matches between the U.S. Open and Australian Open.

The Spaniard Muguruza continued her maddening Grand Slam career.

She won the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon, plus made two other major finals and twice beat a top-ranked Serena Williams at Roland Garros. She also lost in the first or second round of a major at least once in all 11 years of her career, including 10 times in 22 starts since her first Slam title.

“It’s been a pretty stressful start of the year also with my team,” Muguruza said. “They all got COVID before coming here. We were, like, for 15 days apart.”

Cornet’s biggest claim to fame was thrice beating a top-ranked Williams in 2014, including at Wimbledon. The 31-year-old has been on the cusp of breaking through — reaching No. 11 in the world in 2009 and making the fourth round of every major, but never a quarterfinal. She is now ranked 61st.

Cornet next gets No. 29 seed Tamara Zidanšek of Slovenia.

“I’m telling myself that I’m playing probably my last year,” said Cornet, noting she wants to break the women’s record for consecutive majors played. She is at 60, two shy of Ai Sugiyama‘s mark.

Kontaveit, the highest-ranked Estonian in history, won three tournaments last fall, and nearly a fourth at the WTA Finals, to break into the top 10 for the first time and finish the year at No. 7. Her form continued this season, reaching the semifinals of an Australian Open lead-up event.

Tauson won the 2019 Australian Open girls’ title a month after turning 16, then won two WTA tournaments last year. American Coco Gauff is the only player in the top 200 who is younger than Tauson.

Tauson next gets 27th-seeded American Danielle Collins.

No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka continued to struggle with her serve, yet eked out another three-set win to reach round three. She double faulted 19 times — six in the first game alone — but beat China’s 100th-ranked Wang Xinyu 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The only other single-digit seed left in the bottom half is No. 7 Iga Swiatek, who has dropped seven games in two matches.

In the men’s draw, No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev took out Australian showman Nick Kyrgios 7-6 (1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Medvedev, the favorite after Novak Djokovic‘s deportation, would not play a seed until the quarterfinals after all the other top players in his section were upset.

Andy Murray fell to 120th-ranked Taro Daniel of Japan 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

No. 20 Taylor Fritz felt a right leg cramp as he celebrated a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over fellow American Frances Tiafoe. Fritz, the highest-ranked American man, gets No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.

Australian Open Day 5 Schedule

On Friday, top-ranked Ash Barty and defending champion Naomi Osaka are in action, each a win away from facing each other in the fourth round.

Barty, who dropped three games between her first two matches, faces her first seed in No. 30 Camila Giorgi of Italy. Osaka gets dangerous American Amanda Anisimova, a 2019 French Open semifinalist at age 17 who is back on the rise after a challenging two years.

Rafael Nadal, the only past champion in the men’s field, faces a top-40 player for the first time since losing last year’s French Open semifinal to Novak Djokovic. It’s No. 28 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia.

The other marquee men’s matches are No. 7 Matteo Berrettini vs. No. 31 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 19 Pablo Carreño Busta vs. American Sebastian Korda.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

0 Comments

Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
Getty
0 Comments

Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!