Novak Djokovic was extra motivated to deliver his A-game against Alex de Minaur at Rod Laver Arena on Monday. A nine-time Australian Open champion scored a dominant 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 triumph and left the Aussie miles behind. After the match, Novak spoke about his relationship with Alex, saying there’s barely any after what the Aussie said about him a year ago!
De Minaur was not pleased with Djokovic’s visa saga from Melbourne a year ago, saying it took the spotlight from the players who were actually competing. Novak remembered that and wanted to win as dominantly as possible against Alex in front of his fans.
Playing without left leg issues, Djokovic was the only player on the court, doing everything right and keeping constant pressure on the other side. De Minaur is far from that pace, struggling to impose his strokes and move the rival away from his comfort zone.
Novak took half of the return points and turned them into six breaks from 12 opportunities. The Serb fired 26 winners and 27 unforced errors, taming his strokes nicely and building the advantage in the shortest and more extended rallies.
Djokovic made a strong start and dropped five points in his games in the opener. He grabbed his first break at 3-2, stealing Alex’s serve at love and delivering another return game at 5-2 to close the opener in 35 minutes. Novak pushed even harder on the return in the second set, breaking the rival twice to move 5-0 up and closer to a bagel.
The Serb rattled off nine straight games before the Aussie held in game six to end his downfall at least for a moment.
Novak Djokovic scored a dominant victory over Alex de Minaur at Rod Laver Arena.
Novak fired a backhand crosscourt winner in the next one for 6-2, 6-1 in swift 75 minutes!
Eager to seal the deal as soon as possible, Djokovic raced into a 4-0 lead in the third set against the powerless opponent. Alex avoided a bagel with a hold after deuce in game five and wished for at least some chances on the return.
Instead, Djokovic produced another comfortable hold to open a 5-1 gap and force the rival to serve to stay in the match. Novak created a match point in game seven with a volley winner, and Alex saved it with a powerful serve.
The Aussie fired another to bring the game home and reduce the deficit. Djokovic served for the victory at 5-2 and held to sail into the last eight and send a clear message to de Minaur. “I do not have any relationship with Alex.
I respect him as a rival and colleague, as I respect everyone. I have no problem contacting him and congratulating him. But I do not have any other relationship or communication with him. He showed what he thinks about me a year ago,” Novak Djokovic said.
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Novak Djokovic’s father won’t attend Australian Open semi-final after Russia flag controversy
Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan said on Friday he would not attend his son’s Australian Open semi-final and would instead “watch from home,” after a video emerged showing him posing at Melbourne Park with fans holding Russian flags.
The video caused controversy in Australia, leading to the country’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday reiterating Australian support for Ukraine and criticizing supporters of Russia’s invasion.
“I am here to support my son only. I had no intention of causing such headlines or disruption,” Srdjan Djokovic said in an e-mailed statement.
“So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home.”
Novak Djokovic declined to comment.
“I will make this point, that Australia stands with the people of Ukraine,” Albanese told a news conference after a reporter asked if Srdjan Djokovic should be deported after he was seen posing for pictures with fans holding Russian flags.
“That is Australia’s position and Australia is unequivocal in our support for the rule of international law.
“We do not want to see any support given to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that is having a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine.”
Albanese did not respond directly to the question about whether Srdjan Djokovic should be deported.
Police questioned four fans seen with “inappropriate flags and symbols” after a quarter-final match on Wednesday between Russia’s Andrey Rublev and favourite Djokovic, organizers Tennis Australia said.
The Serbian player, who was at the centre of a storm of controversy over his COVID-19 vaccination status at last year’s Australian Open, has not commented on the incident and his spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A video emerged on social media showed a fan on the steps of Rod Laver Arena holding up a Russian flag with the image of President Vladimir Putin on it.
Photos also showed one fan with a large “Z” on his shirt. Russian forces have used the letter as an identifying symbol on their vehicles in Ukraine following their invasion. Some supporters of the invasion have also used the sign.
Srdjan Djokovic was seen in some posts posing with the Russian supporters.
Australian Open organizers on Thursday issued a reminder to players and their entourages about their policy on flags after the video of Djokovic’s father emerged.
On Friday, Tennis Australia said they “continue to strive for the safety of fans at the event and reiterate our position banning flags from Belarus and Russia.”
Russian and Belarusian athletes are able to compete as individual athletes without national affiliation at the Australian Open, though their flags are banned from the tournament grounds after a complaint by Ukraine’s ambassador last week.
Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament last year for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 and received a three-year Australian travel ban.
That ban was rescinded in November, allowing him to compete this year.
Djokovic will continue his bid for a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and 22nd Grand Slam crown to match Rafa Nadal when he takes on unseeded American Tommy Paul in their semi-final later on Friday.
Falcons hire defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen from Saints
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons found their new defensive coordinator from an NFC South rival’s coaching staff on Friday by hiring Ryan Nielsen, the former New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator.
Nielsen replaces Dean Pees, 73, who retired on Jan. 9 following two seasons in charge of the defense on coach Arthur Smith’s staff.
The Falcons also announced three defensive assistants will not return next season: defensive line coach Gary Emanuel, outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino and secondary coach Jon Hoke.
Nielsen will be reunited with Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot, who worked 18 years with the Saints before he was hired by Atlanta in 2021.
Nielsen, 43, interviewed with the Falcons on Tuesday. He had worked on the Saints’ staff since 2017 and was the defensive line coach this season.
Nielsen’s success with the Saints’ pass rush may have impressed Fontenot. The Falcons ranked 31st with only 21 sacks this season after having the league’s fewest sacks in 2021. Atlanta ranked 27th in total defense, allowing 362.1 yards per game while finishing 7-10.
The Saints have recorded 282 sacks since Nielsen joined the staff in 2017, the second-most in the league during that span. New Orleans finished in the top 10 in sacks in five of the six seasons. The Saints finished in the top four in rushing defence in four of the last five years.
In Nielsen’s six seasons working with the Saints’ defensive line, Cameron Jordan became the first New Orleans defensive lineman to be named a first-team All-Pro. Jordan also earned two second-team All-Pro honors and was named to five Pro Bowls.
Nielson was a defensive assistant and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina State from 2013-16. He also coached at Northern Illinois, Tennessee-Martin, Central Connecticut State, Mississippi, Idaho and Southern California.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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