Djokovic ties Federer's record; Sania returns to WTA circuit


IMAGE: Novak Djokovic's ninth Australian Open title last month guaranteed that he would surpass Roger Federer's record on March 8. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic equalled Roger Federer's all-time record for most weeks as ATP world number one on Monday, holding the top spot for the 310th week.

Djokovic's ninth Australian Open title last month guaranteed that he would surpass Federer's record on March 8.

Having reached another milestone in his illustrious career, Djokovic had said he would look to adjust his calendar and make overhauling Federer and Rafa Nadal's joint-record of 20 Grand Slam titles his top priority.

"Now, after achieving the historic number one for the longest weeks at number one, it's going to be a relief for me because I'm going to focus all my attention on Slams mostly," the Serb had said after his title triumph at Melbourne Park.

"When you are going for number one ranking, you kind of have to be playing the entire season and you have to be playing well, you have to play all the tournaments.

"My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have to adjust also my calendar - not have to, but I will have an opportunity to do that which, as a father and a husband, I'm really looking forward to that."

This is Djokovic's fifth stint atop the world rankings. The 33-year-old reclaimed the top spot from Nadal in February last year and finished as the year-end number one for the sixth time - tying the record set by American great Pete Sampras.

Sania Mirza returns to WTA circuit with win in Doha with Klepac

Making a winning return to the WTA circuit, Sania Mirza reached the doubles quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open with Slovenian partner Andreja Klepac, in Doha on Monday.

The Indo-Slovenian pair won 6-4 6-7(5) 10-5 against Nadiia Kichenok and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine in the opening round of the WTA 500 tournament.

It was Sania's first match in 12 months and incidentally it was at the Doha Open where she played last in February 2020 before pandemic halted the tennis competitions across the world.

Sania herself had recovered from COVID-19 in January this year.

It was Nadiia with whom Sania had paired when she returned to competitive tennis after maternity leave and won the Hobart Open in January 2020.

An early break put Sania and Klepac down 0-3 and struggling at deuce in the fourth game but they managed to hold on, getting on board.

The Indo-Slovenian pair needed just one break to get back on serve and they got that in the seventh game, breaking the Kichenok sisters at love in the seventh.

With an easy hold, they were 4-all and pocketed the set with another break.

The Ukrainians again drew the first blood in the second set for a 3-1 lead but Sania and Klepac fought hard to drag it to the tie-breaker but could not stop the rivals from pushing the contest to a Super Tie Breaker.

The Indo-Slovenia pair raced to a 5-1 lead in a jiffy and closed the match, converting the second match point.

After Melbourne loss, Sabalenka vows to be ready for Serena

Aryna Sabalenka's mind was full of doubts before playing Serena Williams for the first time at the Australian Open but the feisty Belarussian has vowed to be mentally much stronger going into her next contest against the 23-times Grand Slam winner.

The strongly built Sabalenka finished 2020 with trophies at Ostrava and Linz and arrived in Melbourne for the year's first Grand Slam after picking up her third straight title at a WTA 500 event in Abu Dhabi.

Sabalenka did not drop a set in her first three rounds before going down in three against the 39-year-old American in the fourth last month.

The 22-year-old showed plenty of steel to fight back from 4-1 down in the decider to level the match but her nerves finally gave way when she committed an array of errors while serving to stay in the match trailing 5-4.

"I felt like I missed my opportunity because I feel like if you are coming back from 1-4 and you're kind of feeling your game and you're there, you're fighting, you just have to take this opportunity," Sabalenka told reporters in Doha on Monday.

"I felt like mentally I was a little bit up and she was down. I would say it was not really smart mistakes from me. But it was good experience because I never played against these kind of champions like Serena.

"And going on the court, I was kind of like thinking what's going to happen, how she's playing, what's her power and all this stuff. Then I step in on the court and I understand, like, 'wow, actually I can play her, I can beat her'."

Sabalenka, who will defend her Qatar Open title this week, managed to match Williams's power from the baseline but felt her approach was not right.

"I can guarantee that my mindset will be different going on the court," the world number eight said. "I don't know what's going to happen on the court, but I know that my mindset will be much stronger than last time.

"Now I know what to expect from her and now I know where her level is. I think, yeah, it will be different next time."


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