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Beyond the ‘big three’, King Djokovic sets sights on Williams, Court

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Not content with challenging Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the men’s Grand Slams record, Novak Djokovic has Serena Williams and Margaret Court in his sights after claiming an astonishing ninth Australian Open title.

The world number one’s bold statement followed Sunday’s final, when he ended a turbulent tournament marked by a muscle injury and media attacks by humbling an in-form Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic’s 18th major crown placed him within striking distance of the men’s record of 20, jointly held by Nadal, who lost in the quarter-finals, and Federer, who was absent through injury.

But the Serb also raised the prospect of a bigger goal: reaching the 23 held by Williams, and even the 24 won by Court straddling the amateur and Open era.

“Getting closer to maybe Roger’s, Rafa’s record, Serena, Margaret,” said Djokovic, when asked about his goals and schedule for this year.

“Everyone has their own journey and their own way of making history. They’ve made history already. They made a tremendous mark in our sport.

“I think about winning more Slams and breaking records, of course. And most of my attention and my energy from this day forward, until I retire from tennis, is going to be directed in majors, trying to win more major trophies.”

Djokovic, 33, said he would play a slimmed-down schedule focusing on the majors, rather than the rankings, now he’s guaranteed to surpass Federer’s record of 310 weeks as world number one on March 8.

His triumph follows a difficult tournament, after he suffered a muscle tear in the third round and was criticised for requesting better conditions for players during quarantine.

“It hurts,” he said of the criticism. “I’m a human being. I have emotions.”

The Serb’s 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over the 25-year-old Medvedev, who was on a 20-match winning streak, was also a sobering moment for the younger players hoping to dislodge the ‘Big Three’.

“The three knights of tennis,” Djokovic smiled.

“Roger and Rafa inspire me,” he added. “I think as long as they go, I’ll go. In a way it’s like a race who plays tennis more and who wins more.

“It’s a competition between us in all areas. But I think that’s the very reason why we are who we are, because we do drive each other, we motivate each other, we push each other to the limit.”

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic said the Big Three were producing “better and better tennis” and also noted that Court’s record was on the horizon.

“I don’t know where is the end. Maybe they’re going to overtake Margaret Court and Serena, maybe not,” he said.

“But it’s amazing what they doing on the court. It’s amazing how they perform in the big matches.”

And Djokovic, dubbed the “king of Melbourne” by Medvedev, had a warning for the generation coming up behind the Big Three.

“Roger, Rafa, myself are still there for a reason,” he said. “We don’t want to hand it to them and we don’t want to allow them to win Slams.

“I think that’s something that is very clear. Whether you communicate that message or not, we are definitely sending that vibe out there.”

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Tiger Woods lucky to be alive after rollover car crash

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Famous American golfer, Tiger Woods, is recovering after undergoing surgery following a single-vehicle car accident in a Genesis GV80 in Palos Verdes, California, on Tuesday.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says Woods is “lucky to be alive” after what he calls a single vehicle rollover traffic collision.

The surgery was to repair “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle, which included the insertion of a rod into his tibia and the use of “a combination of screws and pins” to stabilise his foot and ankle.

Chief Medical Officer at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center,  Anish Mahajan, said in a statement released on the golfer’s Twitter account late Tuesday.

“He is currently awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room,” the Twitter statement added.

An earlier statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff confirmed that the 45-year-old golfer neither struck nor was struck by another vehicle.

The LA County Sheriff noted that Woods had to be pulled out of the GV80 by the fire department, as the LA Times reports.

Woods was the sole occupant of a Genesis GV80 SUV that was travelling north on Hawthorne Boulevard at Blackhorse Road when he crashed, the authorities said.

The vehicle sustained major damage, and Woods had to be extricated from the wreckage by personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, sheriff’s officials said.

Sources said he had to be removed through the car’s windshield.

“Because of the situation and the way that you found the vehicle, he wasn’t able to open the door and come out,” L.A. County Fire Department spokesman Henry Narvaez said.

He added, “We extricated him; we helped him out of the vehicle.”

The LA Times further notes that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva claimed Woods is “lucky to be alive.”

His car was 30 yards off the road where it landed. The LA Times also reports that he is in serious condition at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and cites an unnamed source that Woods’ injuries include a shattered ankle.

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Super Falcons thrash Equatorial Guinea 9-0, win Antalya tourney

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Super Falcons on Tuesday beat Equatorial Guinea 9-0 to emerge champions of the Festival Women’s Cup 2021 Antalya.

In the encounter, Barcelona forward, Asisat Oshoala, scored four goals.

Apart from the Falcons and Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan and CSKA Moscow Ladies participated in the competition.

Falcons recorded a maximum of nine points from three matches, scoring 11 goals and conceding none to emerge champions.

Glory Ogbonna opened the scoring for the nine-time African champions in the ninth minute, before captain Oshoala scored two goals from the spot in the 12th and 13th minutes, and then added a third in the 26th minute.

Uchenna Kalu made it 5-0 in the 36th minute, while Eibar forward Charity Adule scored the sixth goal with a fine header three minutes later.

Toni Payne’s 43rd-minute thunderous strike after shielding off two of her opponents gave the Falcons a seven-goal advantage into the half-time break.

Falcons coach Randy Waldrum brought on Gift Monday, Ramat Abdulkareem, Esther Sunday, and Maryam Ibrahim for Chiwendu Ihezuo, Chidinma Okeke, Payne and Kalu, which ensured that all the 23 players for the tournament took part in the encounter.

The Falcons scored two goals in the second half of the match, with substitute Gift of Robo FC, scoring the eighth goal in the 69th minute and Oshoala netting in the ninth and her fourth goal of the game in the 85th minute.

Two minutes later, Equatoguinean defender, Gina, was given the marching orders after a harsh tackle on Ramat Abdulkareem on the left flank.

With the result, the Falcons become the first African team to win the tournament, following three straight wins.

Speaking on the encounter, Oshoala said, “As a team, I’m really happy with the attitude the girls put up in the tournament because we came all out to make sure we had fun.

“Also, we worked very hard. We just want to make sure that we give our best and keep getting good results and goals as much as we can.”

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Tennis: Osaka wants to inspire new generation, says Serena remains the queen

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Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka said she felt comfortable being a role model for the next generation after her fourth Grand Slam victory solidified her position at the forefront of a new era for tennis.

But the Japanese star, a four-time major-winner at the age of just 23, insisted America’s Serena Williams, 39 — who has 23 Slam crowns — remains the face of the women’s game.

Osaka beat America’s Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3 in the Australian Open final on Saturday to win her fourth Slam from the last eight in which she has played, and extend her year-plus winning streak to 21 matches.

She joins Monica Seles and Roger Federer in winning her first four major finals, and will move up to second in the world rankings.

Her sweeping triumph was viewed as heralding a shift in women’s tennis with Australia’s Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik declaring it a “changing of the guard”, while the New Yorker said Osaka was the “most thrilling athlete of her generation”.

Osaka brushed aside Williams in the semis, after also beating her in the stormy 2018 US Open final to win her first major.

But when asked if she was now taking over from Williams as the game’s leading light, Osaka replied: “No, not at all,” adding that she simply wanted to remain true to herself.

“I have learned on-and-off the court it’s okay to not be sure about yourself,” she said.

“I’m more at peace with where I am, and I’m honestly just happy to be playing a Grand Slam in a pandemic.”

Growing as a person

After winning her second Australian Open title, Osaka spent a lengthy time signing autographs for fans in a gesture that received widespread applause on social media.

Having once grappled with fame as a shy youngster, a content Osaka said she was still “growing as a person” but hoped to provide inspiration to young players.

“In the past I felt it as a very strong responsibility, and I was also very scared and nervous of it,” she said.

“It’s a really big honour that there are little kids that like me, that come to my matches and cheer for me.

“But at the same time, I don’t weigh it too heavily on myself.”

A more mature Osaka, who says she gained greater perspective during tennis’s coronavirus shutdown, said she now appreciated the difficulty of winning a Grand Slam.

“I feel like I know how much hard work you have to put into this, because the first time that I have won both these trophies I think, in a way, I was just a kid,” she said, referring to her wins at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

Her win prompted celebrations in Japan, where she will play the Tokyo Olympics this year, while Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi tweeted his congratulations from the International Space Station.

“There are many Japanese fans who are very excited now that Naomi has won the Australian Open,” Japan’s 58th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka told AFP ahead of next week’s ATP Singapore Open.

“I’m sure they will be following the progress of Japanese players in more tennis tournaments around the world.”

But Osaka said her biggest goal wasn’t Grand Slam titles, an Olympic medal or returning to world number one.

“I feel like the biggest thing that I want to achieve is… hopefully I play long enough to play a girl that said that I was once her favourite player,” she said.

“For me, I think that’s the coolest thing that could ever happen to me… Unfortunately I didn’t get to play Li Na, but, I just think that that’s how the sport moves forward.”

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