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Super-impressive Rafael Nadal
did not feel like the world No 9.
He did not play like it either. Fully
fit again, firing on ser ve and feeling
the love of the crowd at Rod Laver
Arena, the 14-time major winner
made a mockery of his unusually
low seeding as he powered into
the second round of the Australian
The Spaniard was never troubled
on ser ve as he trounced German
veteran Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4,
It came almost a year to the day
since Nadal was sent packing at the
same stage of the 2016 Open by
countryman Fernando Verdasco.
That was the start of a troubled
campaign that ended prematurely
in mid-October due to a painful
left wrist injury, leaving Nadal with
his lowest year-end ranking since
“It was great to be back on the big
stadium and I felt the support of
the people, the love of the people,”
“That is something that is very
special for me. I am happy with the
way I am playing. I had good weeks
of practice and it ’s never easy in
the first round. It’s always little bit
more ner ves at the beginning.”
Nadal was particularly imperious
on ser ve and did not give Mayer a
single break- point opportunity.
“ When I win my serve, there is
two things,” the 2009 champion
“O bviously, you need to ser ve
well, but the most important thing
is I’m not a player who win the
ser ves because I ser ve aces or free
points. When I’m winning a lot of
ser ves it’s because I am playing well
from the baseline. ”
Nadal admitted it felt odd to enter
a major seeded as low as ninth,
which means he could face sixth
seed Gael Monfils in the round of
16. “ It makes a difference,” he said.
“It’s much better to be No 1 than
No 9, there’s no question about
that. But I am No 9 today — that’s
the real thing. I’m going to fight to
not be worst, and I’m going to fight
to again be better. I feel that if I am
playing well and I am healthy, I can
be much better. ”
It was the seventh straight time
that the 33-year-old Mayer had
been beaten in the opening round
of a grand slam event.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic
feels his tough first-round win over
Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco
could be the ideal springboard
to launch an assault on an
unprecedented seventh Australian
The reigning champion overcame
a mid-match hiccup to press his
claims with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2
victory last night.
The world No 2 said that taking
on the former top-10 player, who
shocked Rafael Nadal in five sets in
the opening round of the Australian
Open last year, could be a blessing.
“ From one perspective it was
good that I got to have the very
tough first-round match because it
made me prepare better and kind
of approach this match and the
tournament with the right intensity
right from the blocks, right from
the first point,” Djokovic said.
“ I’m very pleased, considering I
had one of the toughest first-round
draws and definitely considering
his form. Just overall I’m feeling
good about my performance.”
Djokovic was almost unstoppable
in the opening set with 33-year-old
Verdasco only managing to hold
ser ve at 0-5. But there were shades
of their most recent meeting at
the Doha tournament earlier this
month, when world No 40 Verdasco
had five match points. Unforced
errors crept into Djokovic ’s play as
he was broken early.
Verdasco led 4-3 in the tiebreak
only for the Serb to reel off the next
four points to take a two set lead.
With the win in sight, Djokovic
put his foot down and wrapped up
the match in comfortable fashion.
“I started really well and had a
great first set and great third set, as
well,” the 29-year-old said.
“The second set was a long set
with a lot of unforced errors from
both sides. But at the end of the
day, I knew that winning second set
would be crucial because I definitely
didn’t want to give him wings.”
Djokovic next faces wildcard
Denis Istomin from Uzbekistan.
It was business as usual for
Wellington Phoenix co-coach Des
Buckingham after last night’s 3-0
A-League upset of Melbourne
Victory at Westpac Stadium.
The Phoenix’s fifth win of
the season was set up by Roly
Bonevacia’s 33rd-minute strike,
and capped off by late goals from
Jacob Tratt and Kosta Barbarouses.
It moved fifth-placed Wellington
into the top six for the first
time this season, and gave them
their fourth clean sheet in seven
While quietly satisfied with the
result, Buckingham says no-one at
the Phoenix is getting too carried
away with it.
“ We know the points we require,”
“ We set our target at the start of
the season, and we’re nowhere near
it. We still need 25 points from the
remaining games to get to fourth
and stay in fourth for the play-offs.”
Buckingham and co-coach Chris
Greenacre have had only one loss
in seven games at the helm for the
Phoenix since taking over after
Ernie Merrick resigned early last
Wellington have created more
chances on goal than any other
team in the league and produced the
most shots on target, Buckingham
Converting those chances is
still a work in progress, but in
the meantime the 31 -year-old
Englishman is happy with the way
the team is improving.
Rodriguez and Vince Lia are
working well with a steady back
four anchored by Italian Marco
Rossi and skipper Andrew D urante
in the middle.
“ We’re starting to get some
consistency — it’s only the fourth
time this season we’ve been
able to put that back four out,”
He is hoping that consistency will
earn Wellington their third win
from as many games in eight days
when they host Brisbane Roar on
Brisbane sit one place and three
points ahead of the Phoenix and are
coming off a 3-2 defeat at Victory’s
feet last week.
“Brisbane had a really good start
to the season. They ’ve stuttered
in the last couple of weeks, but
there’s threats all over the pitch,”
continue to focus on our game —
we need to back up with a defensive
display like we’ve shown tonight. ”
Ivo Karlovic has set a new Australian
Open record, crashing down 75 aces
in a five-set slog against Horacio
After five hours and 15 minutes, the
beanpole Croatian eventually claimed
a marathon five-set victory 6-7 (6-8),
3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 22-20.
By number of games played —
84 — it was the longest Australian
Open match since the introduction of
tiebreaks in 1971.
By time, that record still belongs to
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal for
their titanic 2012 final which lasted
five hours and 53 minutes.
Yesterday at Melbourne Park, there
was no doubt who was working
Karlovic and Zeballos’ fifth set alone
lasted longer than either Djokovic or
Nadal’s first-round wins.
Making their court 19 tussle even
more impressive, the match began in
oppressive heat — kicking off at 37
Such was the serving dominance in
the final set, the pair eked out just one
break point each in the first 41 games.
They both lost it.
In the 42nd game, Karlovic won
another two break points, claiming
the second before celebrating wildly.
Karlovic is no stranger to marathon
The big-ser ving Croatian edged
a classic 12-10 in the fifth over
Australian Jordan Thompson at last
year’s French Open.
Among 22 five-setters, he also lost a
four-hour classic at the 2009 French
Open to long-distance specialist
He plays another Australian,
Andrew Whittington, in the second
Karlovic serves 75 aces in epic win
All Blacks first five-
eighth Aaron Cruden
has confirmed he has
signed a three-year
deal with Top 14 side
The 28-year-old, who
has played 47 tests
for the All Blacks, has
posted a video on the
Chiefs’ Facebook page
confirming is departure
at the end of the Super
“It’s with great sadness
and real excitement
that I’ll be playing my
last year here in New
three teams —
Manawatu, the Chiefs
and the All Blacks --
three teams that I love
dearly,” Cruden said in
“In saying that the
excitement comes from
the fact I’ve signed a three-year
deal with Montpellier in France,
a beautiful part of the world. A
fantastic rugby club and a real
opportunity to go out there and
experience something different,
something fresh and that really
excites me. It’s going to be a fantastic
challenge that I have ahead,” he said.
Montpellier owner and president
Mohed Altrad confirmed that his
club had signed Cruden earlier this
French newspaper Midi Olympique
claims the deal is worth nearly $1.2
million a year. Montpellier, coached
by former Springboks coach Jake
White, currently sit third on the Top
Due to form and injury, Cruden has
fallen behind Beauden Barrett in the
All Blacks first five pecking order.
The Chiefs and Manawatu No 10
has played 47 tests for the All Blacks
since his debut in 2010. He currently
sits fourth on the list of most points
scored by an All Black with 322.
Cruden would be expected to leave
for France after the Super Rugby
season. He will join fellow All Black
first-fives in France with Dan Carter
(Racing), Luke McAlister (Toulouse)
and Tom Taylor (Pau) all currently
playing in the Top 14.
All Blacks team-mates Israel
Dagg and Ben Smith have also
been linked with moves to France as
they also head into the final year of
their current New Zealand Rugby
According to French media, the
revitalised Dagg is being pursued by
Toulon and Smith has been linked to
Pau as well as Irish side Munster.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
will have a number of options as
replacements for Cruden, who started
three of the 10 test he played last
season. Highlanders first five-eighth
Lima Sopoaga and Chiefs utility
Damian McKenzie were on the end
of year tour with the All Blacks last
year while Crusaders No 10 Richie
Mo’unga last week signed with New
Zealand Rugby through to 2019.
NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew said last
month that off-contract stalwarts
such as Cruden, Ben Smith and
Israel Dagg were still needed within
the test set-up. But he acknowledged
that the union could not compete
with the megabucks on offer in
European rugby, particularly France
“They all know we love them to
death and we’d love them to stay, but
they ’ve got to make their decision,”
“ We continue to work really hard
to create great environments for our
If the reports are accurate, Cruden
will likely make his All Blacks swan
song in June and July’s British and
Irish Lions tour.
He will go with plenty of accolades
to his name, including the 2011
World Cup, two Super Rugby titles
and five Rugby Championships.
Yet despite the trophy haul, coach
Steve Hansen said at the end of
November’s northern tour that
Cruden’s story in the black jumper
was not yet complete.
He urged the playmaker, who has
scored 322 test points, to stay.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Talented Hokitika cyclist Sharlotte
Lucas, 25, has won a spot in the New
Zealand women’s cycling team to
compete in the Great Ocean Road Race
in Melbourne at the end of the month.
She has also been named in one of
Australia’s top professional cycling
Lucas, relatively new to cycling — she
took it up competitively in 2011 after
taking a break from playing football —
said yesterday that it had been her aim
since she started cycling to make a New
She has not had an easy run in the
sport. In 2013, she was the victim of a
hit and run while out training along the
Mahinapua straight south of Hokitika.
She was left badly injured on the road
verge after the motorist fled the scene
She suffered a broken tailbone and
fractured lower vertebrae.
The driver later appeared in the
Greymouth District Court charged
with careless driving and fleeing the
scene of an accident without stopping.
Following her recovery Lucas has
taken the sport on successfully — she
has won various top races over the past
three years, culminating in her New
Zealand and Roxsolt selections.
Lucas won the Calder Stewart cycling
series last season and the 2015 club
road national and time trial champion.
She has a long-proven record of
success and last year was also won the
Small Business Accounting Methven
Grand Prix and the Armstrong Prestige
Dunedin Classic — that played a
starring role in helping her secure the
Calder Stewart Series for the third
Lucas finished third in the 2016 New
Zealand National Championships in
the individual time trial, and seventh in
the Road Race.
As well she won the prestigious Grape
Ride in Blenheim and finished ninth in
the Australian Mersey Valley race.
The Melbourne race is 130km and
Lucas said she was looking for ward to
wearing the Silver Fern.
Following that she will be riding for
Roxsolt on the Oceania Championships
in March. She has already raced in
Roxsolt colours when she competed
in the New Zealand Elite nationals
earlier this month where she was placed
Nikki Hamblin’s famous
Olympic moment keeps on
The New Zealand middle
distance runner and American
Abbey D’Agostino have
been nominated for a new
international Laureus award
although their acclaimed union
in the Rio Olympics is well
behind the leader in the early
Hamblin and D’Agostino
crashed in the 5000m heats at
the Rio Olympics then helped
each other to the finish line
despite the American suffering a
serious knee injury.
Hamblin said at the time: “ You
come into an Olympic Games
and everyone wants to win,
everyone wants to medal.
“But really as disappointing
as this experience is there is so
much more to this than a
The famous incident is one of
six nominated for the Laureus
Best Sporting Moment of the
Year Award, which is voted on by
The early runaway leaders are
the young Barcelona football
team, who consoled their
Japanese rivals after beating
them in the final of the World
Drama: Brit Alistair Brownlee
helps brother Jonny over the
finish line at the end of the
triathlon World Series in
Remarkable: Barcelona under-
12s comfort Japanese opponents
Fair play: American Jack Sock
advises opponent Lleyton Hewitt
to challenge a call during the
Hopman Cup in Perth.
Magical: The Iceland team,
the darlings of the Euro 2016
football tournament, receive
a great welcome in Reykjavik
complete with Icelandic Viking
Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino
show Olympic spirit.
Heartwarming: Portugal fan
Matisse, aged 10, comforts
sobbing Frenchman after the
Euro football final.
— New Zealand Herald
Nikki Hamblin helps Abbey D’Agostino in the 5000m heat at the Rio Olympics.
Hear twarming Olympic moment has
Hamblin up for another award
Sharlotte Lucas celebrates road race win.
New Zealand league icon Graham
Lowe is back in the big time — as owner
of English club Bradford.
The former New Zealand, Wigan,
Manly and Queensland coach has linked
with ex-New Zealand Rugby League
chairman Andrew Chalmers to take over
the liquidated Bulls, the BBC reports.
The 70-year-old Lowe said: “ We do not
see this as a quick fix and we will work
through the immediate issue of offering
full-time playing contracts to the team.
Following that, we will look at bolstering
the playing squad as necessary to replace
those players who have secured contracts
Lowe turned a star-studded Wigan
side into the powerhouse of British
league in the 1980s.
Chalmers, a wing for Wainuiomata,
played reser ve grade at Manly and St
George. He quit as NZRL chairman in
2009 after a year in the job. The pair were
selected by the Rugby Football League
out of a few bidders.
Their group almost took the Bulls out
of administration late last year when a
bid was rubber-stamped by the RFL,
then rejected by the administrator.
Chalmers registered the name Bradford
Bulls 2017 at Companies House. RFL
director of operations and legal, Karen
Moorhouse, said: “ The RFL is confident
that the consortium selected to run a new
club in Bradford will provide an exciting
and stable future for rugby league in the
city.” — NZME
Lowe takes over Bradford Bulls
Business as usual after
Phoenix upsets Melbourne
Nadal shows no mercy
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