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Alcantara eyes doubles crown

Francis Casey Alcantara and partner Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia shoot for the men’s doubles crown today in the finals of the ATP Challenger Philippine Open at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center. Their opponents are still being determined at presstime with Austria’s Maximilian Neuchrist and India’s Divij Sharan facing second seed Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and Johan Brunstrom of Sweden in the semifinals. Alcantara, who won the Australian Open juniors doubles crown in 2009, and Rungkat gained a free ride to the finals last Thursday after Thai twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana withdrew following their 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over China's Li Zhe and Taiwan's Peng Hsien-Yin citing personal reasons. The 23-year-old Alcantara is the last Filipino standing in the tournament after compatriots like AJ Lim and Ruben Gonzales were knocked off in the …

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Alcantara, pal gain ATP finals

Francis Casey Alcantara and Indonesian partner Christopher Rungkat gained an easy entry to the men’s doubles finals of the ATP Challenger Philippine Open after Thai twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana withdrew last night at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center. Alcantara and Rungkat were coming off a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli and Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko in the quarterfinals last night when the Thais announced their withdrawal due to personal reasons. The victory shoved Alcantara and Rungkat to a title duel against the winner of the semifinal encounter between Austria’s Maximilian Neuchrist and India’s Divij Sharan against second seed Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and Johan Brunstrom of Sweden. Alcantara, who won the 2009 Australian Open juniors doubles crown, and Rungkat were coming off a stunning 4-6, 7-6 (10), 10-7 victory over top …

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Fancied bets outlast rivals

Lukas Lacko of Slovenia and Igor Sijsling of The Netherlands posted contrasting victories yesterday to arrange a quarterfinal duel in the ATP Challenger Philippine Open at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center. The third-seed Lacko recovered from his second set meltdown to defeat Federico Gaio of Italy, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, while the seventh-ranked Sijsling whipped Israel’s Amir Weintraub, 6-2, 6-2, to continue his impressive form that began with the first round ouster of local bet Ruben Gonzales. Matches pitting Belgian fifth seed Kimmer Copperjans and Italy’s Gianluca Naso, and second seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia competing against Yannick Mertens of Belgium are being played at presstime. Also trying to keep the momentum are wildcard pair Francis Casey Alcantara and Indonesian Christopher Rungkat, who are playing Lacko and Switzerland’s Marco Chuidinelli in the quarterfinals of …

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Nadal gets upset ax

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal lost to Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Australian Open, an unprecedentedly early exit at Melbourne Park for the 14-time Grand Slam winner and a reversal of their epic, 5-hour, 14-minute semifinal here six years ago. Fernando Verdasco rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the last two sets, recovering a break in the fifth as well, and claim a 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2, only his third victory in 17 matches against his fellow Spanish lefthander. Nadal won his only Australian title in 2009 after beating Verdasco in the semifinals. His only other first-round exit in a major was at Wimbledon in 2013. Verdasco went for everything on his ground strokes, ripping 90 winners against only 37 for Nadal as he worked …

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Pinoy bets bomb out

The sad state of Philippine tennis was once again exposed as young guns AJ Lim, Jeson Patrombon and Francis Casey Alcantara fell one after another in the ATP Challenger Philippine Open at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center. One of the four Filipino wildcard bets, Patrombon’s first Challenger appearance ended disastrously as he absorbed a 6-2, 6-2 defeat to fifth seed Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium yesterday, Patrombon thus became the second Filipino bet to lose in the first round after Lim yielded to unseeded David Guez of France, 6-4, 6-0, late Monday night. Alcantara was the third Filipino casualty after losing to No. 207 Amir Weintraub of Israel, 6-1, 6-3. The Filipino players tried hard but their best were not enough against the players toughened by years of playing in several Challenger tournaments. Patrombon admitted that …

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Easy wins for Serena, Novak

Melbourne, Australia — Novak Djokovic opened his Australian Open title defense with a straight-sets win, then had to go to the defense of his sport as reports of match-fixing overshadowed the first day of the season-opening Grand Slam. Djokovic had a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Chung Hyeon of South Korea at Rod Laver Arena on Monday, immediately after women's defending champion and No. 1-ranked Serena Williams started her bid for a seventh Australian title with a 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 34-ranked Camila Giorgi. Williams, who hadn’t completed a competitive match since her bid for a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 ended in semifinal defeat at the U.S. Open, was on court warming up when tennis authorities held a joint news conference at Melbourne Park to refute reports from the BBC …

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Serena: I’m 130 percent fit for Australian Open

Melbourne — World number one Serena Williams ruled out surgery to fix a persistent knee problem Saturday as she declared herself “130 percent fit’’ for the Australian Open. The 21-time Grand Slam champion, gunning for a seventh title at Melbourne Park, retired due to soreness in her left knee during a singles match on January 6 at Hopman in Perth. It was the 34-year-old’s comeback after some three months away from tennis as she battled knee issues which sparked fears that nearly 20 years on tour was finally taking its toll. Williams appeared downbeat as she spoke to journalists, but she insisted all was well and that surgery would not be needed anytime soon. “No, it’s actually really fine. I don’t have any inflammation anymore,’’ she said. “It’s just that I just needed some …

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Novak, Roger likely to face in semifinals

Melbourne — Five-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is projected to face record Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the semifinals of the season's opening Grand Slam following Friday's draw. The 10-time Grand Slam champion from Serbia could face Japan's seventh seed Kei Nishikori in the quarters, while Switzerland's 17-time major winner Federer is set to meet Czech Tomas Berdych in the second quarter-final of the top half of the men's draw. Top seed Djokovic, who wore down Andy Murray to win last year's Australian final, won three Grand Slam titles among 11 tournament victories in a sensational 2015 season, and a win-loss record of 82-6. He will play South Korean Hyeon Chung in the opening round. British second seed Murray is drawn to meet Spanish terrier David Ferrer in a quarter-final in the …

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Finally, an ATP event in Manila

Local players get the chance to play against some of world’s rising stars and tour veterans when the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Challenger is held from Jan. 18 to 24 at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center. The $75,000 event is the biggest in the country’s tennis history that’s why current stars are reveling for the once in a lifetime opportunity although one would not see the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer in the tournament. The biggest name so far is former world No. 8 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia. Also confirming their participation in the event are Belgian Kimmer Coppejans, a junior champion at the 2012 French Open who is now ranked No. 130 in the world, doubles specialist Somdev Devvarman of India, who is at No. …

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Huey, partner get upset ax

Philippine Davis Cup team stalwart Treat Huey suffered another first round exit in his doubles match with a new partner, dampening his preparations for the Australian Open next week. Huey and new partner Max Mirnyi were eliminated in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday. Ranked No. 2 in the tournament, Huey and Mirnyi were outlasted 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 by the unseeded pair of John Isner of the United States and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic. Huey and British partner Aljaz Bedene were also bundled out of the Aircel Chennai Open in India last week. The New Zealand tournament is classified as an ATP 250 in the World Tour and offers $500,000 in cash prizes. It is also part of their preparation for the first Grand Slam event of …

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