Australian Open overnight: Sofia Kenin and Heather Watson out, Ashleigh Barty wobble
Australian Open: Five things to watch
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Reigning champion Sofia Kenin is out on the fourth day of the Australian Open – along with the last British woman. And world No.1 and local favourite Ash Barty suffered a wobble before limping through to the third round with her bandaged thigh. But veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez won a five-set classic in his 75th consecutive Grand Slam. Rafa Nadal is in action in the final match of the evening session in Rod Laver Arena against American qualifier Michael Mmoh.
No defence for Kenin
The American, 22, admitted she could not handle the pressure of her title defence as she went down
6-3 6-2 to world No. 65 Kaia Kanepi on Margaret Court Arena.
Kenin, who has been reduced to tears on court on several occasions since she came out of quarantine in Melbourne, said: “I felt really nervous. I haven’t felt my game for I don’t know how long, but I haven’t really felt my game so well, even in my first round.
“I know I couldn’t really handle the pressure. I’m not obviously used to this, so right now I just got to figure out how to play at that level that I played at. Because like today and those matches, it just hasn’t been there. I obviously felt like I’m not there 100% physically, mentally, my game. Everything just feels real off obviously. It’s not good. It’s weird.”
Barty blames her layoff for her dip
The Aussie lost to Kenin in the semi-final last year and had been scheduled to meet the American in the last four again. But Barty, who wore a strapping on her left thigh, nearly suffered a wobble before seeing off fellow Aussie Daria Gavrilova 6-1 7-6. The world No.1 served for the match at 5-2 but was broken twice in a hail of unforced errors, and needed a tiebreak to see off wildcard Gavrilova.
Barty, who did not play on the WTA Tour after February last year, claimed: “I think it’s natural.
“I mean, I haven’t played a lot of tennis over the last 12 months. Obviously (I’m) going to have ebbs and flows, not only in your concentration but your level of play as well.”
The last Australian to win the singles title was Chris O’Neil in 1978.
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Not elementary for Watson
The British No.2, who spent 16 days in hard lockdown, could not get away from No.21 seed Anett Kontaveit and went out 6-7 6-4 6-2. The Estonian, who reached the quarter-final last year, had won all four of her matches at the Grampians Trophy last week after her quarantine. She hit 46 winners and broke Watson five times
Kontaveit said: “I hung in there in such a tough match. I am playing really great. It was extremely close. The momentum was switching. I managed to just fight for everything and stay in it as much as I could. I am really happy with that.”
Cam Norrie, who faces Russian Roman Safiullin, is the last Brit left in singles.
Lopez loves five-setters
The veteran Spanish left-hander, 39, showed he still has got petrol in the tank by beating Italy’s No.31 seed 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 in three hours and 18 minutes on Court 7.
Lopez’s first Grand Slam was the 2001 French Open – and he has now extended his all-time record to 75 consecutive Majors.
“I’m exhausted, obviously,” he said. “I became a father just lately, I didn’t practice much with the quarantine here. So to be in the third round now it’s something very special for me.
I love the five-setters, honestly. I think the five-set matches bring something different to tennis. I wouldn’t change the five-set matches in the slams, honestly.”
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