Australian Open: Alexander Zverev upset as Rafael Nadal makes quarterfinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Denis Shapovalov upset third-seeded Alexander Zverev to move into an Australian Open quarterfinal match against Rafael Nadal.

The No. 14-seeded Shapovalov is into the quarterfinals in Australia for the first time.

The 22-year-old Canadian finished off a 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Olympic gold medalist Zverev on Margaret Court Arena less than an hour after Nadal secured his spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 14th time.

Shapovalov spent almost 11 hours on court through the first three rounds, winning twice in four sets and once in five, and was surprised by the relative speed of his 2-hour, 21-minute win over Zverev.

“Probably the one I least expected to finish in three,” he said. “Definitely happy with where the game is at. I played pretty smart today.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

Nadal got the better of an almost 29-minute tiebreaker in the first set on his way to beating Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (14), 6-2, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena.

After fending off four set points and being unable to convert the first six of his own, Nadal finally clinched a 28-minute and 40-second tiebreaker in the opening set to get himself on course to secure a spot in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the 14th time.

Now, Nadal is potentially just three wins away from a men’s record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

“First set (was) very, very emotional,” Nadal said. “Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end. I had chances, he had a lot of chances too.”

Nadal is now tied with John Newcombe in the second spot on the all-time list for most quarterfinals in Australia, one behind Roger Federer’s 15.

It’s also the Spaniard’s 45th time into the last eight at a Grand Slam tournament, which is third on the all-time behind Federer (58) and Novak Djokovic (51).

He shares the men’s record of 20 major titles with Federer and Djokovic. But he’s the only one of the trio playing in this tournament.

Mannarino, who didn’t finish his third-round win until after 2 a.m. on Saturday and appeared to be hampered at times by an abdominal or upper leg injury, threw everything at Nadal in the opening set on Rod Laver Arena, where temperatures approached 91 degrees.

The first set lasted 85 minutes, including the ’breaker, but after getting early breaks in the second and third sets the match was over in 2 hours, 40 minutes.

“I’m very happy I survived that first set, without a doubt,” Nadal said. “That crazy first set was so important.”

Shapovalov reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open in 2020 and was a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year, his career-best run to date at a major. He’ll have to step it up against one of the greatest in the game to again reach the final four.

“It’s always an honor to go up against a guy like Rafa,” Shapovalov said. “It’s always fun. Always going to be a battle against him.”

In the women’s draw, top-ranked Ash Barty reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over 20-year-old Amanda Anisimova.

Barty is aiming to be the first Australian woman to win her home Grand Slam title since 1978 and has gone through the first four rounds without dropping a set. She’s into the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park for the fourth straight year.

Anisimova was coming off a third-round upset over defending champion Naomi Osaka, when she saved two match points.

She broke Barty’s opening service game of the second set — a first for the tournament — but the two-time major winner responded by breaking back and taking six of the last seven games.

Barty beat Anisimova in the semifinals of the French Open in 2019 on the way to winning her first Grand Slam title.

Asked if it’s a good omen, Barty said “Let’s wait and see.”

Barty will next play No. 21-seeded Jessica Pegula, who beat fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari 7-6 (0), 6-3.

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova breezed to a 6-2, 6-2 win over two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka to reach the quarterfinals for the third time in four Grand Slam events.

The fourth-seeded Krejcikova will next play Madison Keys, who reached the semifinals in Australia in 2015 and was runner-up at the 2017 U.S. Open.

Keys overpowered eighth-seeded Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-1 in the first of the fourth-round matches on Day 7 at Rod Laver Arena.

The 26-year-old American, who beat 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the first round, hit 26 winners and made only 18 unforced errors against Badosa to continue her unbeaten start to 2022. She claimed her sixth career title at a tune-up tournament in Adelaide last week.

Krejcikova went into her match against Azarenka believing the former 32-year-old, former No. 1-ranked player from Belarus was the favorite to win.

But the 2012 and 2013 champion made 28 unforced errors and dropped five service games, and it was all over in 85 minutes.

“She’s a champion here. She likes this court. She’s very experienced on this court. I have a lot of respect for her,” Krejcikova said. But, “I was doing everything to get this one, really preparing for a dream like this.

“And yeah, I’m in the quarterfinals.”

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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How did U.S. women’s basketball replace its legends? It starts with Alyssa Thomas.

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If this FIBA World Cup marks the beginning of a new era of U.S. women’s basketball, it is notable, if not remarkable, that no player has been more visible than Alyssa Thomas.

Thomas is making her global championship debut in Sydney. She is the only woman on the team in her 30s. Rarely, if ever, has a player who waited this long to put on a U.S. uniform made such an impact out of the gate. Certainly not since the last major tournament in Australia, when 30-year-old Yolanda Griffith starred at the 2000 Olympics.

Over the last week, Thomas leads the U.S. in minutes played and is one of two players to start all seven games along with Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP. She ranks fourth on the team in scoring (10.6 points per game), is tied for second in rebounding (6.7), second in assists (4.6) and first in steals (2.7).

The Americans, with their new breakthrough power forward, face China in Saturday’s final, seeking a fourth consecutive world title and 60th consecutive victory between Olympic and world championship play dating to 2006.

“She takes a lot of pressure off of us,” two-time WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson said after Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a quarterfinal win over Serbia. “I think she’s the glue of this team, the X-factor of this team, because that’s her game and that’s her style.”

Thomas earned the nickname “Baby Bron Bron” at the University of Maryland for her LeBron James-like play. USA Basketball took notice in 2013, when she was one of six collegians named to a 33-player national team training camp.

But that participation was the last of Thomas’ bullet points on her USA Basketball bio for another nine years, until she was named to the FIBA World Cup qualifying team last February.

Thomas had to wait her turn.

The U.S. was loaded in the frontcourt in the 2010s with more established players — Candace ParkerTina CharlesSylvia FowlesBrittney GrinerElena Delle Donne — and then Stewart and Wilson came along, becoming arguably the two most valuable Americans in the last Olympic cycle.

Thomas produced, to that point, the best WNBA season of her career in 2020, but tore an Achilles playing overseas in January 2021, ruling out any chance of making the Tokyo Olympic team. (Thomas was not in the 36-player national team pool at the time of her injury.)

The combination of players’ absences this year — Charles, after three Olympic golds, ceded to younger players, Fowles retired and Griner is being detained in Russia — and Cheryl Reeve becoming head coach created an opportunity.

Thomas seized it, leading the Connecticut Sun to the WNBA Finals, where she recorded triple-doubles in the last two games of a series loss to the Las Vegas Aces. Then she boarded a plane to Sydney for her first major international experience and has similarly flourished.

Jennifer Rizzotti, part of the USA Basketball selection committee, said the 6-foot-2 Thomas combines the movement of Lindsay Whalen, the passing of Parker and the physicality of Rebekkah Brunson. She plays with labrum tears in each shoulder. There’s no single player like her.

“There’s definitely some post players that have that point forward mentality, but not quite with the guard skills that Alyssa has,” Rizzotti said. “I don’t see anybody, including guards, that can do what she does in the open court. Then you talk about how disruptive she is defensively and her ability to guard one through five. A’ja can guard one through five, Stewie can guard one through five, but nobody’s as disruptive as Alyssa is. On the perimeter and off the ball.”

Thomas also fit what Reeve, who succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, was looking for in retooling the roster following the retirement of Sue Bird and possible end of Diana Taurasi‘s national team career at age 40.

“[Reeve] made it clear that she was hoping with the guard turnover that we would be able to play faster, more athletically, more possessions in the game,” Rizzotti said. “And therefore, she wanted to have post players that could push tempo, that could facilitate and kind of fit in with a ball-handling, passing mentality from the trail spot.”

Still, Thomas did not expect to be putting on a USA jersey this year. “Shocked” is the word USA Basketball chose to describe her reaction to making this team.

“It was kind of a surprise,” she said, according to USA Basketball. “I had just really taken my name out of it.”

Rizzotti said Thomas is an example — a very successful one, it turns out — of an asset in the eyes of the selection committee: patience.

“I think a lot of players feel like if they don’t make the USA national team right away, it’s never going to happen,” she said. “You get the comments like, oh, it’s political, or they keep inviting the same guys back. And it’s not true.”

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