LISTEN: Full script of Episode 126 where we discuss Serena Williams' form at Australian Open, Prithvi Shaw's comeback and more

  • With Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber out of the tournament, Serena Williams is now the favourite to win the Australian Open.

  • Prithvi Shaw told the media on Monday that he would make his return to competitive cricket during the IPL

  • Australia prevailed against Uzbekistan after a penalty shoot-out while Japan defeated three time champions Saudi Arabia to qualify for the quarter-finals

Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.

Serena Williams looks in imperious form in the 2019 Australian Open. She defeated the current world no. 1 Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in a thrilling match that saw fortunes shift before Williams upped her game to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Williams said after the match, "I'm such a fighter, I never give up. It was an intense match and there were some incredible points but I love playing tennis and being out here and I love this court, it's really cool to be back." She will face seventh seed Karolina Pliskova in her next match. With Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber out of the tournament, Serena Williams is now the favourite to win the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic survived a minor scare to continue his quest for a seventh Australian Open championship. He defeated Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 to make it to the quarterfinals but had to work for the win. He said after the match, "It was a cat-and-a-mouse game for most of the match. That's why it was so lengthy. We had rallies of 40, 45 exchanges. It was physically exhausting. His backhand is very, very solid. He didn't give me much from that side."

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev lost against Canadian Milos Raonic 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 and had a meltdown midway that included smashing his racquet. The 21-year-old threw a tantrum during the second set, whacking his racquet into the ground eight times to leave it a crumpled mess. The German player has repeatedly been called the flag-bearer for the next generation, but once again failed to live up to that billing. He has now failed to qualify for the last eight of a major 14 times in 15 attempts. Raonic said after the match, "I just tried to stay composed and it worked out well for me today."

The controversy around Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, after their comments on a television talk show, could continue for some time yet. While the two players stand suspended by the BCCI until an ombudsman appointed by the Supreme Court investigates the matter, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) said it is seriously considering behavioural counselling programmes for the Indian team.

A BCCI official, on condition of anonymity, told PTI, "The Indian senior team as well as the Emerging, A teams and U-19s will have behavioural counselling session at the National Cricket Academy. The course will deal with every aspect of a professional sportsperson's life. There will also be sessions on gender sensitivity."

PTI noted that despite an extremely tight schedule, the senior team will attend a few sessions but the course will be more relevant for India's younger cricketers, like the U-19, who are thrust into the spotlight with IPL riches before they are even 20 years old. A former India player said, "Players like 17-year-olds Prabh Simran Singh, who was acquired for Rs 4.8 crore by KXIP, or Prayas Ray Burman, who was purchased for Rs 1.6 crore by RCB, have become overnight millionaires even before playing a single Ranji match. There should be life coaches, who would counsel them."

Prithvi Shaw, who suffered an ankle injury in Australia last year on the cusp of the Test series, told the media on Monday that he would make his return to competitive cricket during the IPL. He said, "I will be fit before the Indian Premier League and I am trying hard to reach full fitness. I am working on my ankle as well as on my upper body."

Shaw twisted his ankle as he took a catch in a warm-up game against Cricket Australia XI. He explained that he tried to get fit for the second Test but the injury seemed to worsen, which meant he was forced to take a break. He recalled, "I was trying hard to play in the second Test and the physios too were trying to get me fit for the match. However, the more they tried, the swelling increased and it got more painful. So, I thought even if I play, I will not be able to give my 100 percent because it was not easy to play with that pain."

The 2019 edition of the IPL begins on 23 March.

Some news from the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Australia prevailed against Uzbekistan after a penalty shoot-out while Japan defeated three-time champions Saudi Arabia to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan was the hero of the day for the defending champions as the goalless match went to penalties. Australia seemed the favorites before the match, but Uzbekistan outplayed them in the first half as the men in yellow jerseys looked listless. Australia managed just one shot on target before half time. They attacked more in the second half but could not get past Uzbekistan's defence. The game went to a penalty shoot-out. Australia scored four while their goalie Ryan saved two spot kicks by Islom Tukhtakhujaev and Marat Bikmaev, handing Australia a 4-2 win.

Japan had a good outing on Monday as they defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0 to make it to the quarterfinals. Japan are four-time winners of the Asian Cup while the Saudis have won it thrice, but the contest did not live up to those expectations. In fact, the Saudi team has not scored a goal after scoring six in their first two group games. Takehiro Tomiyasu scored the only goal of the match in the 20th minute to help Japan make it to the next round.

Updated Date: Jan 22, 2019 13:55:57 IST