Australian Open: Rafael Nadal rolls, Coco Gauff to play Emma Raducanu

Rafael Nadal Australian Open
Getty
0 Comments

Rafael Nadal outlasted a man 15 years his junior on the Australian Open’s first day, while Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu set up a second-round showdown.

The defending champion Nadal, who was 1-6 in his last seven matches, beat 38th-ranked Brit Jack Draper 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1. Draper, 21, cramped considerably in the fourth set as Nadal advanced to play 65th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald.

“I need a victory, so that’s the main thing,” said Nadal, who had more unforced errors (46) than winners (41). “Doesn’t matter the way.

“I am not playing bad, you know? Just need to hold the positive level for longer time. I am in a moment that I am more up and down.”

Jessica Pegula and Gauff breezed through their first-round matches, beginning what each hopes is a run to end the longest Grand Slam singles title drought for the U.S. in more than 50 years.

Pegula, the third seed, ousted 161st-ranked Romanian Jaqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1 in 59 minutes on the first day of play in Melbourne. She next plays 38th-ranked Belarusian veteran Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Gauff, the seventh seed, dumped 46th-ranked Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-1, 6-4 on her seventh match point. She gets 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu of Great Britain in a blockbuster second-round match.

The 77th-ranked Raducanu didn’t make it past the second round of a major in 2022 after her breakthrough run through qualifying to win the U.S. Open without dropping a set at age 18. She withdrew from her first tournament this year with an ankle injury 10 days ago but rebounded to sweep 76th-ranked German Tamara Korpatsch 6-3, 6-2 in the first round in Melbourne.

The first day’s other headline: Australia’s biggest star, Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios, withdrew on the eve of his opening match.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men

It’s been three years and 10 Slams since an American man or woman won a major singles title (Sofia Kenin, 2020 Australian Open), the longest drought for the most successful nation in tennis history since Billie Jean King won her first Slam at Wimbledon in 1966.

Pegula and Gauff are the highest-ranked American singles players in either draw.

Pegula, the 28-year-old daughter of the Buffalo Bills owners, is at a career-high ranking after reaching the quarterfinals of three majors last year. She began the Australian Open as one of the top challengers to top-ranked Iga Świątek, having beaten the dominant Pole 6-2, 6-2 earlier this month.

“I don’t think I really am putting pressure on myself to duplicate [2022] because I think it was very special and something that probably won’t be duplicated,” Pegula said last week.

Gauff, who at 18 is the youngest player in the WTA top 50, won her Australian Open lead-in tournament last week without dropping a set. Like Pegula, she had her best season in 2022, taking runner-up to Świątek at the French Open and reaching No. 4 in the world.

“I’m ready to leave behind the tag of ‘teenage phenomenon,'” Gauff wrote for the BBC before the tournament. “My main ambition for 2023 is winning a Grand Slam title.”

No. 28 Amanda Anisimova, one of five American women seeds, was the first seed to fall. The 61st-ranked Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk took her out 6-3, 6-4.

Świątek began her bid for her fourth Grand Slam singles title by sweeping 69th-ranked German Jule Niemeier 6-4, 7-5. Niemeier was dangerous, having made the Wimbledon quarterfinals and taken a set off Świątek in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Novak Djokovic, the record nine-time Australian Open champion looking to tie Nadal’s men’s record 22 major titles, plays his first-round match Tuesday against 75th-ranked Spanish veteran Roberto Carballés Baena.

This is the first major since the retirements of Serena Williams and Roger Federer last September. The tournament is also missing top-ranked 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain (injury), four-time major champion Naomi Osaka (pregnancy) and seven-time major champion Venus Williams (injury).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

0 Comments

One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record; David Wise wins first title in 5 years

Mark McMorris
Getty
0 Comments

Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, American David Wise earned his first major ski halfpipe title since repeating as Olympic champion in 2018. Wise landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to end his winning run, according to commentators.

“I wouldn’t still be out here if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Wise, 32 and now a five-time X Games Aspen champ, said on the broadcast. “I’m not going to be the guy who just keeps playing the game until everybody just begs me to stop.”

U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!