MELBOURNE, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) — Novak Djokovic brushed aside fitness concerns with a vintage performance to thrash Alex de Minaur in the fourth round, but women’s fourth seed Caroline Garcia on Monday became the latest high-profile casualty at the Australian Open.
Nine-time champion Djokovic has battled a hamstring injury throughout the tournament, but moved freely to overwhelm the Australian 22nd seed 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 and silence the home fans at Rod Laver Arena.
In their first match-up, the fleet-footed de Minaur hoped to exploit Djokovic’s ailment but he was blown off the court by the spectacular Serb, who rediscovered his best form in his march towards a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title.
“I really wanted to win in straight sets. I kept my focus all the way through and it was my best result of the year,” Djokovic said.
“I didn’t feel any (hamstring injury) today. I know things can change quickly, so I don’t take anything for granted.”
Djokovic booked a blockbuster quarterfinal with fifth seed Andrey Rublev, who survived a fierce examination from rising Danish star Holger Rune to prevail 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (9).
The Russian survived two match points in the 12th game of the fifth set and then found himself on the brink of defeat trailing 0-5 in the match deciding tiebreak.
But he dug himself out of a hole to storm into the quarterfinals for the seventh time in his Grand Slam career, but he has never progressed further.
“I think I was never able to win matches like this and this was the first time ever that I won something like this to be in the quarterfinal,” said Rublev, who was down 5-2 in the fifth set before storming back.
American Ben Shelton continued his dream Australian Open debut after overcoming compatriot J.J. Wolf with a tense 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory.
The 20-year-old will play Tommy Paul in an all-American quarterfinal in what has been a resurgence for men’s players from the U.S..
Paul defeated Spain’s 24th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
The upsets at an unpredictable tournament continued when Garcia of France fell to 45th ranked Magda Linette 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the women’s singles.
It was a bitter disappointment for Garcia, who has had a career revival in the last 12 months and eyed a first Grand Slam triumph.
But she’ll have to wait after 30-year-old Linette reached her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final.
Linette of Poland will face former world number one Karolina Pliskova, who ended a strong run from China’s Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4.
Zhang, the last remaining Chinese player in either the men’s or women’s singles draw, fell to Pliskova for the eighth straight match.
The 23rd seed Zhang was unable to match her fairytale quarterfinal runs at the 2016 Australian Open and 2019 Wimbledon.
But she did reach the last 16 for the second straight Grand Slam after making the fourth round at last year’s US Open.
In-form Aryna Sabalenka has ascended to title favouritism alongside third seed Jessica Pegula after comfortably defeating Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2.
The fifth seed set up a last-eight clash against unseeded Donna Vekic, who overcame a mid-match stutter to beat 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
Notably playing with a steelier edge, Sabalenka has been in irresistable form as she strives for a maiden Grand Slam trophy.
“My whole life, it took me a little while to understand that negative emotion is not gonna help you on court,” she said.
“You have to just stay strong and believe no matter what and then do everything you can.”
Title favourite Pegula and men’s third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas highlight quarterfinal action on Tuesday.
Analysis: Bayern remains in unrest, Nagelsmann’s future depends on success against Paris
by Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) — Seven days ahead of the last-16 duel against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, Bayern Munich remains in a state of deep unrest.
The delicate statements of keeper Manuel Neuer create a decisive rift in the Bavarian side and in the club’s surroundings.
The 2014 world champion accused the club’s leaders of “brutal” actions when firing his favorite goalkeeper coach Toni Tapalovic.
Everything between the noisy departure of the currently injured 36-year-old German international and the dismissal of coach Julian Nagelsmann seems possible.
The outcome of the showdown against the French giant seems to play a vital role when it comes to predictions.
Not only that former Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is mentioned as a possible Nagelsmann successor. Further involved parties such as chairman Oliver Kahn and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic seem exposed to great pressure.
An opinion battle of pundits and former Bayern players endangers the team’s efforts to concentrate on sportive issues.
Nagelsmann is mentioned as the initial point for the Tapalovic sacking while Neuer is sidelined due to a skiing injury.
Inside reports speak of a damaged relationship between the coach and the captain. The Bayern manager is said to need success against Paris to secure his future at the club.
While Nagelsmann called Neuer’s statements far from helpful considering the team is ahead of important games, the Bayern coach triggered indignation among rival Paris assuming the news of the injury loss of star striker Kylian Mbappe is a bluff.
The coach is said to have lost support in the locker room while he claims it’s on Neuer to put things back to normal. “My doors are open,” he said.
The leaders face the allegation to disturb the team’s internal harmony and not consider players’ demands.
Both claim Neuer is putting personal issues above the club’s purposes. “We expected other reactions from him,” Salihamidzic said while Kahn announced “straight talking” with Neuer shortly.
Both are under fire after Nagelsmann failed to lead the team to calm waters despite the club having paid 25 million euros to secure his signing from Leipzig 18 months ago.
The goalkeeper’s statements are considered a direct attack on Nagelsmann as the Bayern coach is said to have neglected the relationship with his team captain.
Reports speak of the coach consulting midfielder Joshua Kimmich instead of Neuer when discussing team issues.
Several squad members expressed understanding for Neuer and revealed the team’s inner struggle.
Nagelsmann and the club leaders’ harsh comments on the free day trip of striker Serge Gnabry to a fashion fair in Paris between two league games have been taken by surprise by most players.
Premier League announces charges of breach of financial rules against Manchester City
LONDON, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) — Premier League champions Manchester City have been charged by the Premier League with a series of breaches of the competition’s financial rules.
The Premier League issued a statement on Monday morning confirming it had “referred a number of alleged breaches of the Premier League Rules by Manchester City Football Club to a commission under Premier League Rule W.3.4.”
The Premier League explains the commission is “independent of the Premier League and member clubs” and that the members of the commission will be appointed by the independent chair of the Premier League judicial panel, in accordance with Premier League rules.
“The proceedings before the commission will, in accordance with Premier League rule W.82, be confidential and heard in private. Under Premier League rule W.82.2, the commission’s final award will be published on the Premier League’s website.”
“This confirmation is made in accordance with Premier League rule W.82.1. The Premier League will be making no further comment in respect of this matter until further notice,” reads the statement.
The charges are thought to come from an investigation which opened in March 2019 in relation to the seasons from 2009 to 2018. They relate to financial information, over the club’s income, payments to playing and coaching staff, profitability and financial sustainability.
Manchester City are currently second in the Premier League, five points behind Arsenal and it is so far uncertain what punishment they would face if found guilty, although it is possible they could have points taken away from them and face a heavy fine.
Lautaro’s header decides Milan Derby
ROME, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) — Lautaro Martinez continued his scorching form with his header deciding the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, as Inter Milan beat AC Milan 1-0 in Serie A.
The Nerazzurri lost the Milan Derby back in September but took revenge on their city rivals in the Supercoppa last month, while AC Milan were looking for a resounding response after a dismal run since the start of 2023.
Inter Milan had a relatively full squad to choose from, but AC Milan still had to do without Mike Maignan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Head coach Stefano Pioli made a tactical tweak to opt for a 3-5-2 system, as Rafael Leao was benched again. The Italian manager Roberto Mancini also presented on the stand for the showdown.
Hosts Inter pressed high from the start, trying to use their aggression and tempo to good effect as a couple of attempts from Lautaro threatened goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.
The efforts paid off in the 34th minute as Hakan Calhanoglu’s corner found Lautaro, whose twisting header went beyond Tatarusanu.
Inter Milan kept creating havoc after the break, but AC Milan were poor in their attacking quality, they had the chance to level the scoring, but Olivier Giroud’s awful first touch fumbled a golden opportunity.
Romelu Lukaku came off the bench and found the net in the 83rd minute, but the goal was wiped out while Lautaro’s second was also canceled for offside.
With the win, Inter still rank second with 43 points, 13 points behind Napoli who staged a second-half show to crush Spezia 3-0, while the third consecutive defeat in the league dropped AC Milan to sixth place.
Also on Sunday, Torino edged Udinese 1-0, Fiorentina lost to Bologna 2-1 on home turf.
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