Nadal insists beating Federer’s 20 Slams not important

 

World number one Rafael Nadal insisted Tuesday that matching or beating Roger Federer’s record 20 Grand Slam titles is not important and he was “super happy” with his tennis career regardless.

The Spaniard launched his campaign to equal the Swiss great’s mark by dropping just five games in a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 annihilation of Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the Australian Open first round.

The Mallorcan, the first man to be world number one in three different decades, can not only match his great rival’s achievement but also become the first man in the Open era to win all four Majors at least twice if he lifts the trophy again at Melbourne Park.

It is a big ask for the 33-year-old Nadal, who has only won the title once before in Australia, against a tearful Federer in 2009, with four runner-up finishes to his name.

“I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16. I just care about trying to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career,” said Nadal.

“It’s not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career.

“I am very satisfied with my tennis career because I give it all most of the time,” he added. “That’s the only thing that matters.”

The Australian Open is the only Major Nadal has failed to win more than once, having claimed 12 titles at Roland Garros, four at the US Open and two at Wimbledon.

He has been a finalist in Melbourne four times since winning but has struggled to get over the line, something that baffles him.

“I have been a break up twice in the fifth set and I lost. Another time I have been injured in a final, of course, against a great opponent,” he said on why he had not been able to convert in Australia.

Main goal 

Nadal, in a pink sleeveless shirt and matching shoes, was in total charge against the world number 73 Dellien, storming to a 5-0 lead in the opening set before the Bolivian held serve, then against the odds broke, before the Spaniard served out the set.

Underdog Dellien was broken in the sixth game of the second set but hit back again to break Nadal for the second time in the match before the top seed again rallied to restore control with some sizzling forehands down the line.

Nadal raced 3-0 up in the third set as his physicality and power shone through.

The Spaniard next plays either Argentine Federico Delbonis or Portugal’s Joao Sousa and said he never looked further ahead than the next match.

“I think about Sousa or Delbonis, that’s all. I think about my practice tomorrow, try to follow up the level of tennis that I played in the third set,” he said.

“That should be my main goal. I need to play at my highest level if I want to keep going in the tournament.

“If I am able to reach my highest level, that’s the thing that I have to worry about.

“If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances.

“If not, impossible.”

(AFP)

Australian Open: Thiem cruises through first round

Australian Open: Thiem cruises through first round

Dominic Thiem opened his Australian Open campaign with a 6-3 7-5 6-2 win over France’s Adrian Mannarino on Tuesday.

The fifth seed wobbled midway through the second set when he was broken and allowed Mannarino to level at 4-4.

However, the 26-year-old Austrian recovered quickly, proving strong in the longer rallies, including a 28-shot stunner, to break Mannarino’s serve towards the end of the set.

Thiem sealed the victory with his seventh ace after two hours and 21 minutes to set up a meeting with either Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas or Australian wildcard Alex Bolt.

If McGregor wants to fight, I’m ready, says UFC champion Usman

McGregor challenges Usman after comeback win

 

Nigerian fighter and UFC Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, has challenged other fighters including popular Irish MMA star, Conor McGregor, to a fight.

In an interview with UFC on BT Sport, Usman, who has won 16 of his 17 professional MMA fights, including an 11-0 record in the UFC, said he had never turned down a fight as he was the one who begged for a fight.

Usman said, “I am the champion. Plain and simple. That’s it. They have to come to me. There is a reason they talk about me. And that is because I have the gold. Anybody can get it. I have never said ‘No’.

“I have never turned down a fight in my career. I have never. I’ve been the one begging for a fight. I’m in a situation where I don’t have to beg for a fight anymore. They have to come to me.

“If Conor wants it, Conor can get it too. I don’t discriminate, anybody can get it,” Usman said.

Earlier, McGregor, acclaimed the first fighter in the UFC to secure KO victories at featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight had dared Usman to a fight.

This was shortly after McGregor’s win over Donald Cerrone on his Ultimate Fighting Championship return on Saturday.

In what was his first UFC fight after 15 months out of the octagon, McGregor knocked out Cerrone in just 40 seconds.

In a post-fight press conference, McGregor had called out Usman, who is the division’s champion and Jorge Masvidal who were both present at the fight.

McGregor had said a fight with Jorge Masvidal would be a “more exciting bout” than one with Usman, one which Usman had said McGregor “must want to die” by teasing a fight with him.

Tennis: Halep knocked out in Adelaide quarter-finals

Tennis: Halep knocked out in Adelaide quarter-finals

Two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep will head into the Australian Open with room for improvement after being upset 6-4, 6-2 by Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday at the ATP-WTA Adelaide International.

The reigning Wimbledon champion and former world number one dropped serve five times and was flattened in the second set by her opponent from Belarus.

The 71-minute route leaves Halep standing 1-1 for the season with the first Grand Slam of the year starting on Monday in Melbourne.

Sabalenka will battle Dayana Yastremska on Friday for a place in the final after the Ukrainian 19-year-old beat a second top 20 opponent this week when she put out Croat Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-3.

Sabalenka ranked 12th to Halep’s fourth, won her first match after two losses to the Romanian, coached by Australian Darren Cahill.

“It feels great, we had a tough match and she played well,” Sabalenka said. “I tried to stay focused on each point. I don’t care about the Grand Slam, I’m just playing each match.”

“I didn’t care about the past, I stayed in the moment, that helped me to win.”

In the first set, Halep twice lost break advantages, with Sabalenka coming through with a third break of serve in the final game on a double-fault from the seed.

In the second, the Belarussian ran away with it — Halep drew applause and raised her arms in mock triumph as she finally won a game while trailing 5-0, but the youngster fired a winning return to seal match point.

Yastremska, ranked 24th, was thrilled to get past Vekic.

“It’s nice to be in the semi-finals just in the beginning of the year,” she said. “I’m not playing my best game, but it’s still nice.”

“I’m just getting my form. I have a big goal for Australia, but I’m going to try to stay really realistic and play match by match. That’s all I can think about.”

Last year’s 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist Danielle Collins crushed fourth seed Belinda Bencic, sending the Swiss out in barely an hour with four breaks of serve.

The 27th-ranked American will play either Australian top seed Ashleigh Barty or Marketa Vondrousova next.

In men’s play, South African Lloyd Harris beat Spanish fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 to book a semi-final berth.

He will play a fellow qualifier after Tommy Paul advanced over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4.

Russian third seed Andrey Rublev won his sixth match of the season, with last weekend’s Doha champion defeating Britain’s Dan Evans 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Arsenal celebrate 21 years of signing Kanu

Arsenal celebrate 21 years of signing Kanu

Two-time CAF African Player of the Year, Nwankwo Kanu, was on Wednesday celebrated by English Premier League club, Arsenal, following a glamorous career with the London club.

Wednesday made it 21 years when Arsenal signed Kanu from Serie A giants, Inter Milan.

To mark the signing, the Gunners accompanied a tweet with a video of Kanu’s best five goals scored at the club on their Twitter handle.

A statement on the club’s official Twitter handle read, “On this day 21 years ago… we signed the one and only Kanu!”

The former Super Eagles captain was signed by former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, on January 15, 1999 for £4m after struggling for first team action at Inter.

Kanu made 119 appearances for the North London club and scored 44 goals, before departing for West Bromwich Albion in 2004.

During his time at the Gunners, the 43-year-old won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one FA Community Shield.

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