The Courier-Mail

Sparks fly but Serena says it’s cool

- LEO SCHLINK

SERENA Williams has dismissed suggestion­s of a rift with former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka after scrambling to a desperate third-round French Open win.

The pair, close friends offcourt, clashed heatedly at the end of the second set as Azarenka waved away Williams during a line call argument.

Trailing 2-4 in the second set and 0-2 in the third set, Williams scrambled to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 triumph to preserve hopes of a Grand Slam sweep.

“I was really down and out and I just really zeroed in,” Williams said. “I focused and really wanted to win that.”

Questioned about her argument with Azarenka, the American said: “We talked about this a long time ago.

“We said, ‘We’re going to leave everything on the court, we’re going to give 500 per cent and when we’re off the court, we’ll be really cool’.

“I love that relationsh­ip, because she’s a really fun girl.”

Williams advanced to a fourth-round clash with compatriot Sloane Stephens.

Azarenka lost composure when her shot was incorrectl­y called long, and the umpire ordered they replay the point.

Williams insisted she had been distracted by the call but Azarenka, up at the net in discussion with the umpire, angrily waved away the American.

Azarenka duly lost the following point and darted off the court for a toilet break. She then stormed to a 2-0 lead before losing the next six games.

Post match, Azarenka called for a review system to deal with disputed points.

IN PARIS NICK Kyrgios will seek urgent medical attention as Thanasi Kokkinakis reflects on how much work needs to be done to excel at Grand Slam level.

The fallout from the pair’s French Open defeats shunted Kyrgios and Kokkinakis on contrastin­g paths to Wimbledon.

While they emerged from Roland Garros with careerhigh rankings – Kyrgios at No.25 and Kokkinakis at No.68 – there were reality checks for both.

Kyrgios was handicappe­d by elbow soreness in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 loss to world No.3 Andy Murray and admits he is baffled by the problem. Kyrgios’s serving power waned significan­tly as the match wore on, allowing Murray to dictate.

The brash young Australian was bleary eyed with emotion after the match and it seems certain he will miss at least one of the Wimbledon lead-up events.

Murray confirmed the difference in Kyrgios’ serving ef- fectivenes­s. “The beginning of the match he was serving big, over 200km/h, and then started slowing down to 170, 180, and not really going for aces,” Murray said.

“That’s something that he normally serves, a bunch of aces. He has a very quick motion and very accurate serve.

“He was still hitting huge shots. On the overhead clearly he was struggling there, and that was obviously to my benefit.”

Kokkinakis, 19, was upbeat after losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to world No.1 Novak Djokovic, not because of the scoreline but rather the confirmati­on of how much he has developed.

“Great experience for me to play on such a nice court against No.1 in the world and one of the greatest players of all time,” he said. “Just shows kind of where I need to get to. I don’t think I need to change too much what I’m doing.

“I’m on a good path. I’m not happy that I didn’t return great, I don’t think. That was probably the one thing I was disappoint­ed with.”

Kokkinakis will play three tournament­s in preparatio­n for his first main draw Wimbledon, where he will also partner 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in doubles. He walked off Court Philippe Chatrier to Djokovic’s ringing endorsemen­t.

The Serb had a generous message at the net for the South Australian.

“He just said ‘keep working hard, got a big future, a lot of talent’,” Kokkinakis said.

Djokovic lauded Kokkinakis for being able “to come out on centre court and play with courage and play with power and believe in himself”.

Joining Djokovic and Murray in the fourth round were defending champion Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer, Jack Sock, Marin Cilic and Jeremy Chardy.

 ??  ?? BLOW UP: Serena Williams.
BLOW UP: Serena Williams.
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