January 15, 2008 in Sports

Djokovic all business in win

John Pye Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Novak Djokovic celebrates his 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Benjamin Becker in the first round of the Australian Open.Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

Players approached to throw matches

» Five or six players on the WTA Tour have been approached to throw tennis matches, tour chairman Larry Scott said Tuesday.

» ”I’ve said several initially, and I think five or six would be in the ballpark,” Scott said. “I don’t want to go into any more details because it’s part of an investigation.

» ”But we were surprised by the amount of gambling on tennis in general, and the number of players approached.”

» Scott said that the WTA has determined that no matches have been affected by gambling. He also has threatened any player involved with gambling on matches with a life ban.

MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic gives a different kind of impression on the court.

Most players have been asked for their impression of the new, blue Plexicushion courts at Melbourne Park.

After Djokovic beat Benjamin Becker 6-0, 6-2, 7-6 (5) Tuesday in his first-round match at the Australian Open, the television commentator implored Djokovic to do one of his impressions of another player – specifically Maria Sharapova – that have generated huge attention on YouTube.

At first, he resisted.

“I don’t want to offend anybody,” he said.

But he soon gave in and did a reasonable imitation, right down to the Russian player’s tendency to brush strands of her long blonde hair back over her ears as she prepares to serve.

The crowd gave him a standing ovation, and Djokovic later assured a news conference that Sharapova “doesn’t mind” the impersonations.

“She’s OK with it,” he said.

There was proof at the U.S. Open, when Sharapova showed up to root for Djokovic in the final a few days after he imitated her at that tournament.

Third-ranked Djokovic raced through the first set in just 22 minutes, generating sympathy for underdog Becker, who couldn’t seem to find anything that worked and won only three points on his serve.

Becker, looking increasingly disconsolate and frustrated, got a loud ovation when he held to win his first game. But Djokovic ran off the last four games of the second set.

The third set turned into a struggle.

“I lost my momentum,” Djokovic said. “I almost lost that third set, then who knows what would happen?”

Becker broke for the first and only time in the first game at love on a rash of Djokovic errors. Djokovic leveled the set at 2-all when Becker double-faulted on break point.

Becker won the first three points of the tiebreaker. He got an ace on a challenge of a line call to make it 5-5, but sent two forehands wide to finish the match.

The loss continued a stretch of five consecutive first-round exits at Grand Slams for Becker since his upset over Andre Agassi in the fourth round at the 2006 U.S. Open – the last match of Agassi’s career.

No. 10-seeded David Nalbandian recovered from back spasms that forced him out of the Kooyong exhibition last week to beat Australian Robert Smeets 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (3).

Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 runner-up, beat 2002 champion Thomas Johansson 7-6 (0), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and Amer Delic beat fellow American Robert Kendrick 6-4, 7-5, 6-2.

Other men advancing included No. 21 Juan Monaco of Argentina and No. 25 Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

Second-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia beat Nathalie Dechy of France 6-3, 6-1 to move into the second round in the women’s draw.

Another Russian, No. 6-seeded Anna Chakvetadze, only played six points before advancing to the second round when Germany’s Andrea Petkovic retired with a leg injury.

Also progressing were No. 9 Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3, 7-5 over Vania King of the United States; No. 21 Alona Bondarenko; No. 27 Maria Kirilenko, who beat American Meilen Tu 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; No. 31 Sania Mirza of India; and Japan’s Akiko Morigami, who beat Michaella Krajicek 6-2, 6-2.

Top-ranked Roger Federer, aiming for a third consecutive Australian title and claiming to be 100 percent recovered from a stomach virus that interrupted his preparation, had a night match scheduled against Diego Hartfield of Argentina.

Venus Williams was to play China’s Yan Zi on Rod Laver Arena in the first night match.

Her sister Serena, the defending champion, started off the season’s first major with a 6-3, 6-3 win Monday over wild-card entry Jarmila Gajdosova.

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