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Federer, Maria gun for more glory

Federer, Maria gun for more glory
Evergreen Swiss great Federer, 33, brought up a jaw-dropping 1,000th victory on Sunday by beating Canadian Milos Raonic to win the Brisbane International, laying down the Australian Open gauntlet to arch-rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

The world number two is now aiming for a 1,007th win, which would give him the title at Melbourne Park. “Yeah, I do believe that. Then again, it’s just talk. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do the running, I’ve got to do the clutch play when it matters the most,” Federer said when asked if he could claim a fifth Australian Open and his 18th Grand Slam.

In contrast to his flying start to 2015, world number one Djokovic’s preparations were cut short by giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic in the Qatar Open quarterfinals. It was even worse for Nadal, who suffered a shock defeat in his first match of the season in Doha to German qualifier Michael Berrer as he continues to recover from appendix surgery. The Spaniard, a 14-time Grand Slam winner, has played few matches since Wimbledon last July but brushed off his shaky start. “It’s a big motivation to be back at my best level as quickly as possible, and that’s what I am trying to do,” he said.

Swiss Stan Wawrinka is the defending men’s champion after his breakthrough four-set win over Nadal last year. Sharapova, who has been a fixture on the tennis circuit since 2002, continues to shine with victory over Ana Ivanovic in Brisbane handing her a 34th career title. She won her only Australian Open in 2008, beating Ivanovic in the final. The Russian’s closest rival, world number one Serena Williams, is gunning for a sixth Australian Open title but was unimpressive at the mixed-teams Hopman Cup in Perth this month.

The American, aiming for a 19th Grand Slam crown, spluttered her way through with moments of brilliance interspersed with extended periods of erratic play.  “I do feel like I am getting back into the groove, I am not moving as well as I was last year. I am going to try and improve that and I know I can so but I am getting there,” said the American, who is the defending US Open champion but has not won the Australian Open since 2010.

Along with a revitalised Ivanovic, world number three Simona Halep of Romania is shaping as a threat after winning the warm-up Shenzhen Open on Saturday, although she pulled out of this week’s Sydney International with gastroenteritis. The dangerous Agnieszka Radwanska is another player to watch out for. 

Agencies

Agencies

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