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18 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Halep, Raonic battle through Open epics

AFP, Melbourne
Halep, Raonic battle through Open epics
Romania’s Simona Halep celebrates her victory against Sofia Kenin of the US during their women's singles match on day four of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne yesterday. Afp photo

Serena Williams stepped up her drive for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam Thursday by swatting aside Eugenie Bouchard, but top seed Simona Halep had to dig deep to stay in the Australian Open on a day of epic battles.

The American great followed up her first round 49-minute romp by spending just 70 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to dispose of the Canadian 6-2, 6-2. Williams is bidding to match Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam crowns, and win an eighth in Australia, on her first return to Melbourne Park since lifting the trophy in 2017 while pregnant.

Six-time Melbourne Park winner Novak Djokovic is also looking to make history by winning a seventh title and takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who he beat in the 2008 final, in a night match.

In contrast to Williams, world number one Halep staggered through against American Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 -- her second three-set test in a row.

In another titanic battle, Canadian Milos Raonic ousted 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in four tightly-contested sets that all went to tie-breaks, while eighth seed Kei Nishikori was stretched to a draining five sets against Ivo Karlovic.

Seventh seed Dominic Thiem limped out when he retired while losing 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 to young Australian wildcard Alexei Popyrin.

Thiem went through a first round five-setter against Benoit Paire that finished in the early hours of Wednesday morning and he never looked 100 percent. US Open champion and fourth seed Naomi Osaka had it much easier, sweeping past Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-4 with the roof closed on Margaret Court Arena after rain interrupted the opening major of the year.

The 21-year-old's breakthrough at Flushing Meadow over Serena Williams last year made her a new standard bearer for tennis in her homeland, Asia and the next generation of women, and she is working hard on living up to the hype.

In contrast, Asia's top-ranked men's player Nishikori needed an energy-sapping 3hr 48min to get past big-serving Croat Karlovic 6-3, 7-6 (8/6), 5-7, 5-7, 7-6 (10/7) in humid conditions.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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