Mirza and Hingis win Aus Open to continue impressive record

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Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have won 12 titles together in nine months.

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis captured their third consecutive grand slam doubles title yesterday and extended their winning streak to 36 consecutive matches, leaving their opponents to call their run “insane”.

Mirza and Hingis, who have now won 12 titles together in nine months, beat Czech pair Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6(1), 6-3 in the final in the Australian Open final yesterday.

The co-world No1s own the longest win streak since 1990, when Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova won 44 matches in a row.

“Our fairytale continues. It’s amazing since winning Wimbledon. After that we only lost two more matches. It keeps going,” said Hingis after the win.

Mirza echoed her partner’s sentiments and says she is wowed by how they’ve been able to sustain such a high level.

“It’s very exciting, it’s what dreams are made of,” Mirza told Sport360. “We’re obviously very happy, but we were kind of surprising ourselves as well with the level that we’re playing. We feel like we’re working hard, we’re trying to keep that level up. To have three slams in a row is really a dream.”

And is she already thinking of four in a row?

“We’re going to try to focus on the 10 other tournaments we have to play before. And when we get there to Paris, sure we would love to win four in a row,” said the Indian star.

Hlavackova paid tribute to Hingis and Mirza, who have nicknamed their team “Santina”, saying they are forcing all the other teams to raise their level.

Asked about their winning streak, the Czech ex-world No3 in doubles, said: “That’s insane. I think it’s just going to give them more confidence, but also more pressure to keep that streak going…

“I think they’re just playing so solid, so strong in every aspect of the game and that’s why you have to bring your best level. We did that today. A couple of points here and there we would maybe get the first set and then the story is open.

“But it’s very good to have them. I think it’s helping women’s doubles, and it’s helping us as a team to get better and keep improving and working on our game.”

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Rod Laver believes Federer has another Grand Slam in him

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Roger Federer has lost to Novak Djokovic in their last four major showdowns.

Aussie legend Rod Laver believes Roger Federer still has another major victory in him despite the Swiss suffering yet another grand slam defeat to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals on Thursday.

Federer has been in search of a record-extending 18th grand slam trophy ever since he won his 17th at Wimbledon in 2012. But the world No3 has been stopped in his tracks – losing to Djokovic in their last four major showdowns – and many wonder whether Federer, at 34, can add to his tally.

But Laver, who is the only player to complete the Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and 1969, believes Federer can still win another major.

“I tend to think so,” said Laver. “I thought even this time he looked like he was playing great tennis those two matches prior. So when you see that, you think ‘well, yeah, Roger’s got a chance’.

“So, yeah, somewhere around the line maybe Wimbledon is an opportunity for him to do that.

“He certainly knows the territory. He knows the competition. If he gets a good draw, and I think that’s always very big, there’s probably two, three, four guys that you would really rather not have to play. If they’re in the other half, you’ve got an opportunity.

“I think it’s possible. But maybe it’s a big stretch.”

Federer was destroyed in the first two sets against Djokovic in their semi-final on Thursday before he stopped the bleeding and took the third, eventually losing in four to the world No1.

Laver paid tribute to Djokovic’s form and says there wasn’t much Federer could have done differently.

“Looking at the mistakes, I think Novak had maybe five mistakes in those two sets. It was just quite incredible the speed he was getting around the court and being able to hit great shots down the line, just an inch inside the line,” said the 77-year-old.

“I don’t think Roger was negative in hitting any groundstrokes. It looked like he was doing pretty well with the groundstrokes when he came to the net, but Novak had all the answers and he played beautifully.”

On his part, Federer, who beat Djokovic three times last season but only in best-of-three encounters, rejected the suggestion that he is unable to keep up with the Serb in best-of-five play.

“I have self-confidence. That doesn’t fade away very quickly. I know it’s not easy. I never thought it was easy,” said Federer after his loss.

“But, you know… Best-of-three, best-of-five, I can run for four or five hours. It’s not a problem.

“I know you guys make it a different case. I get that, because you think I’m old and all that. But it’s no problem for me. But it doesn’t scare me when I go into a big match against any player who’s in their prime right now.”

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Williams determined not to underestimate Kerber in final

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Serena Williams will be trying to win her seventh Australian Open final.

In Serena Williams’ own words, you can’t underestimate Angelique Kerber.

Williams is ranked No1 in the world and on Saturday, in Melbourne, will be chasing an Open Era record 22nd major trophy – tying with the legendary Steffi Graf. The American is also gunning for an Open Era record-extending seventh Australian Open title, in what is her 26th grand slam final appearance.

Kerber, the No7 seed, is making her grand slam final debut and is understandably considered the underdog. But the 28-year-old from Germany, who upset two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals, has spent years building towards this moment and says she is finally feeling and acting like a top player.

A perennial top-tenner over the past four seasons, and with two previous grand slam semi-final appearances prior to this fortnight (US Open 2011 and Wimbledon 2012), Kerber has pushed – and beaten – plenty of players at the higher echelons of the sport but has also experienced numerous lows that deprived her from taking that extra step forward.

Last season she tied Williams and Karolina Pliskova for most match wins of the year (53) and won four Premier titles. The year before, she had played four finals and lost all of them.

At the WTA Finals last October, she needed just one set against the already-eliminated Lucie Safarova to advance to the semi-finals, but she lost in straights and saw the opportunity slip away.

Serena Fast Facts

  • 21 Grand Slam singles titles.
  • 13 Grand Slam doubles titles.
  • 4 Olympic gold medals.
  • 87% career win rate.

She credits her ability to learn from her mistakes for the progress she’s making right now as she reaches her second final this month, having placed runner-up in Brisbane to Azarenka.

“The match against Safarova (in Singapore). That was a really down moment for me,” said Kerber, who is trying to be the first German woman to win the Australian Open since Steffi Graf in 1994.

“I was telling myself after this that I will never let the pressure again win against me…

“I think I’m really a quick learner. When I make mistakes, I try to learn from my mistakes, make it just once and not twice. I’m trying to take the experience for the next challenges I get.”

Graf, the woman she is trying to emulate, spent some time with her last year in Las Vegas after Kerber had crashed out early in Indian Wells.

“She was just telling me that I’m on a good way and trying to, yeah, giving me positive comments that I should believe in myself and everything is good,” revealed Kerber.

Graf was the first to send Kerber a congratulatory text message when she booked her place in the final on Thursday.

Kerber’s run in Melbourne will see her rise to at least No4 in the world – No2 if she wins the title. The other day while walking by the Yarra River, she got recognised by several people who wished her luck for the final. A year ago, she had lost in the Australian Open first round and did not turn many heads walking around the city.

“Now it’s getting more and more,” Kerber says about getting noticed on the street.

“I feel it also inside. I think I’m ready for it, to be now in the top five. I think I showed everybody that I deserve it. That’s a good feeling.

“I think the final came at the right moment. I think I’m ready for it because I have a lot of experience on the last few years. I beat top players. I am a top player right now.”

Williams, who owns a 5-1 head-to-head record over Kerber, recalls her only loss to the German, in Cincinnati in 2012. The top seed says she’s been taking Kerber seriously ever since.

Owning a perfect 6-0 record in Australian Open finals, Williams is on her most dominant run to the final in Melbourne to date, having dropped just 26 games this fortnight.

She thrashed world No4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4 in the semis leaving her opponent’s coach, Tomasz Wiktorowski dubbing Williams “unbeatable” in this kind of shape.

Williams claimed she was surprised to be in the final, but her coach Patrick Mouratoglou does not feel the same way.

“I’m not surprised. I would be surprised if she was not,” Mouratoglou told reporters on Thursday as quoted by the podcast No Challenges Remaining.

“If I speak about her level, I think she’s playing better tennis than last year. She won a lot last year but I think she was far from her best, and I think she’s closer this year, for the moment.

“What I want and what she wants is also that her tennis is the tennis of the future, that’s why we’re working on stuff to improve and to look like what tennis is going to be like in the next years.”

Williams believes she’s playing the best slam she’s played in a year and despite bidding for history today, she insists she has nothing to lose. The way she’s been playing, so freely, suggests she isn’t feeling the pressure that dampened her bid for the Grand Slam at the US Open last season.

On gunning for Graf’s Open Era record of 22 majors, Williams said: “I definitely block it out. I was one off last year, too. If I don’t win on Saturday, I’ll still be one off. It took me forever to get to 18. I was so stressed out. I don’t want to relive that at all.”

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