Andy Murray hints at return to competitive tennis in time for Wimbledon open

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Andy Murray is confident he can return to competitive tennis and has hinted at a doubles spot at Wimbledon.

The two-time Wimbledon champion announced plans to retire after this year’s championship due to injury in January, expressing doubt as to whether he would even make it to the All England Club.

Murray has all but ruled out an appearance in the singles draw, nearly four months after surgery on a career-threatening hip problem, but he could return to SW19 by playing doubles.

He told The Times: “I would say there is very little chance I would play singles during the grass (season).

“Potentially doubles, but I’m not trying to get ready for singles just now.

“The thing I said before was that, if I wasn’t feeling good, there was more chance that I would play and then stop after Wimbledon.

“Whereas if it’s feeling good, it makes a bit more sense to give it time to make sure that it’s as good as possible before I try to play singles on it.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

“Because I’ve only just started moving now, to get ready for the grass singles-wise I would have to be doing that for two and a half to three weeks before Queen’s, and that would only give me five or six days of building up to start running properly. It’s not enough time.”

Murray has upped his recovery and has been practising with Australian Nick Kyrgios on a clay court at Wimbledon.

He was also encouraged by the recovery of Bob Bryan, the American doubles player who had the same surgery in August aged 40.

“I don’t have pain,” Murray said. “I just need to see how good the hip can get really. I know from seeing what Bob Bryan has done that for doubles it will be absolutely fine.

“I will need to see from there how it would work singles-wise. It has been really good so far.

“I’m playing lots of golf. I don’t have any pain walking round the course and swinging clubs. When I’m on the court hitting, it has been perfect.

“If I continue to feel good, then I will obviously give it a shot in singles and see what happens. Whereas in doubles I am pretty certain I will be able to play, just based on having an example to look at.”

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Naomi Osaka rebounds from second-set collapse to lift Australian Open

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Naomi Osaka recovered from a dramatic second-set collapse to defeat Petra Kvitova and be crowned Australian Open champion and the new world number one.

The 21-year-old from Japan, the first Asian man or woman to top the singles rankings, built on her maiden title at the US Open with a 7-6 (2) 5-7 6-4 victory to make it back-to-back slam successes.

Judging by what will surely be the first two of many slam finals, Osaka does not do routine. But, while her victory over Serena Williams in New York was all about controversy and meltdowns, this time the drama was all on the scoreboard.

At a set and 5-3 with Kvitova facing three match points, Osaka looked poised to stroll over the finish line only to lose four games in a row and the second set.

She had lost her head, too, but one of the most impressive things about her this fortnight has been the way she has overcome every mental hurdle placed in front of her and so it proved again.

Kvitova, who would also have become number one with victory, was playing in her first grand slam final since winning her second Wimbledon title in 2014 and only two years after the knife attack at her home that put her career in the balance.

The Czech had won her last eight finals and more than played her part in a generally high-quality encounter but in the end had no answer.

Osaka and Kvitova are two of the biggest hitters on the women’s tour and long rallies were scarce as both looked to unleash at the first opportunity.

Osaka came under pressure at 2-2 and 3-3 but saved a combined five break points, while also seeing a break point on the Kvitova serve well saved by the Czech.

Somewhat strangely, the pair had never faced each other before, and Osaka’s lack of experience against top-class left-handers was one of the match-up’s unknown factors.

Osaka struggled to read Kvitova’s serve initially but picked up the pace in the 12th game, forcing two set points. She could not take either, though, Kvitova producing a tremendously gutsy forehand to save the first and then a big serve on the second.

However, the Czech was simply outplayed in the tie-break, Osaka powering a return onto the line for a winner on the second point and not looking back.

Given Osaka had won her last 59 matches when taking the first set, the size of Kvitova’s task was clear, but the 28-year-old responded well and secured the first break of the match on her seventh chance.

However, a missed opportunity to make it 3-0 looked very costly as Osaka won five of the next six games. When she won the next three points to bring up three match points, it appeared the trophy was hers.

But Karolina Pliskova’s win over Serena Williams from 1-5 and match points down showed that a tennis match is never over until the final ball is hit, and this time it was her fellow Czech mounting the unlikely comeback.

Osaka was struggling to hold back tears as she left the court for a bathroom break but not for no reason has she now won 60 straight matches when claiming the first set.

Ending Kvitova’s run of five straight games was crucial and, when Osaka powered a backhand full of anger and frustration past Kvitova to break for 2-1, the power had shifted once more.

Stepping up to serve for the match for a second time, Osaka’s demons were nowhere to be seen and she clinched her fifth match point to ascend to the throne as the new queen of tennis.

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Serena Williams sees off Eugenie Bouchard to reach Australian Open third round

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Serena Williams

Serena Williams eased to victory over Eugenie Bouchard to reach the third round of the Australian Open while Simona Halep survived another scare to join her.

Williams is the 16th seed but very much the title favourite, and this performance only reinforced that status as she eased to a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

There were perhaps a few more errors than Williams would have liked but also 20 winners and some devastating play, particularly in taking apart the Bouchard serve.

Standing next in the 23-time grand slam champion’s way is 18-year-old Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska, who upset 23rd seed Carla Suarez Navarro to reach the third round of a slam for the first time.

Having survived a first-round test against her US Open conqueror Kaia Kanepi, Halep looked to be finding things more comfortable against young American Sofia Kenin as she moved a set and 3-0 ahead.

But 20-year-old Kenin, who won her maiden WTA Tour title in Hobart last weekend, fought back to take the second set and led 4-2 in the third only for Halep to win the final four games and the match 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

Speaking on court, the world number one said: “I have no idea how I won tonight.”

It does not get any easier for Halep, who is nursing a leg muscle problem and next faces Venus Williams. The American also came through a three-setter, defeating France’s Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

Halep said: “She’s a great player, a champion. It’s always a big challenge for me to face the sisters. So we will see how I will play, how I’m going to be on court. But I will be confident because I played against her, I know how she plays. I have to be strong.”

US Open champion Naomi Osaka was coy about a slight injury scare after calling the trainer during her 6-2, 6-4 victory over Tamara Zidansek.

The fourth seed, who next faces the tricky Hsieh Su-wei, said: “I was able to finish and win the match, so it’s not that big of a deal. It’s something that I have to keep an eye on. I’m not telling you, though.”

Elina Svitolina was in her comfort zone in moving through to the third round – but less so when her relationship with fellow player Gael Monfils was made public.

Monfils was spotted in Svitolina’s player box during her 6-4, 6-1 victory over Viktoria Kuzmova in the second round, leading to an awkward moment when she was asked about it during her on-court interview.

“I didn’t really expect to be asked that because I just finished my match,” said the sixth-seeded Ukrainian. “We are here for tennis so that’s why it was a bit strange.”

Svitolina, who previously dated England cricketer Reece Topley, added of the relationship: “He’s there for me, he’s supporting me, and I’m there for him as well. He understands, I understand, what we’re going through. It’s great.”

For all the talk of the unpredictability of the women’s game, the story of the tournament so far has been the top players dominating, and it was the same on Thursday.

Suarez Navarro was the only seed to fall, with the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Elise Mertens all moving through to the last 32.

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