Barty bagels, Rafa dazzles, Sherif becomes 1st Egyptian eve to advance in Grand Slam - GulfToday

Barty bagels, Rafa dazzles, Sherif becomes 1st Egyptian eve to advance in Grand Slam

Mayar Sherif

Egypt’s Mayar Sherif waits to hit a return against France’s Chloe Paquet in their Australian Open match in Melbourne on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

Women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty raced away to a 6-0, 6-0 ‘double bagel’ at the Australian Open even as Spanish great Rafael Nadal’s injured back didn’t slow his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title on Tuesday

Mayar Sherif became the first Egyptian woman Tuesday to advance past the first round of a Grand Slam tennis tournament on Tuesday, with a little help from superstar footballing compatriot Mohamed Salah.

The Cairo-born, California-educated Sherif, 24, beat French player Chloe Paquet 7-5, 7-5 in what Australian Open organisers called a “slice of history”.

The win guarantees Sherif will continue her meteoric rise in the world rankings (she is currently at 131) and comes only a few months after she secured a berth at Roland Garros last year -- also a historic first at the time.

She will face Kaja Juvan in the next round, after the Slovenian’s British opponent Johanna Konta was forced to abandon her match due to injury.

Women’s champion Sofia Kenin also reached round two, but two-time winner Victoria Azarenka lost after breathing problems.

Nadal, who pulled out of last week’s ATP Cup with back problems, beat Serbia’s Laslo Djere 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 in one hour and 52 minutes on a sun-kissed Rod Laver Arena.

“It’s been a tough 15 days for me,” said the 2009 champion, whose back stiffness first flared during an exhibition match last month.

Nadal, 34, is attempting to outstrip his old rival Roger Federer, who is out with injury, and take sole ownership of the all-time record for Grand Slam titles.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev extended his winning streak to 15 matches with an emphatic 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.

The 2019 US Open finalist is raising hopes of a maiden Grand Slam title with his unbeaten run, which includes winning the Paris Masters, ATP Finals and last week’s ATP Cup with Russia.

Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev also continued his winning start to the year with a straight-sets win over German Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

And Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas made short work of French veteran Gilles Simon, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in 92 minutes.

Barty also outclassed Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, losing only 10 points as she raced into round two in just 44 minutes.

Women’s champion Kenin was less convincing and she audibly vented her frustrations during her 7-5, 6-4 win against Australian Maddison Inglis, who is ranked outside the top 100.

Two-time major-winner Garbine Muguruza, who was stunned by Kenin in last year’s final, had little trouble beating Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan 6-4, 6-0.

But an ailing Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 champion, went out to Jessica Pegula.

Azarenka was seen gasping and using an inhaler, and then looked close to collapse on court. After a medical timeout she played on but lost 7-5, 6-4.

SALAH’S WISDOM FOR SHERIF: The successive achievements of Sherif, the young Egyptian tennis player since 2019, when she turned professional, have caught the eye of Liverpool striker Salah.

In a video call organised by their shared sponsor, he imparts wisdom on dealing with the pressures of high-level sport.

“I can tell you that when I started working on my mental strength more, I saw huge improvements in my play,” Salah told her in a post shared last week.

Guided by Spanish coach Justo Gonzalez, Sherif went on a 26-match win streak and cracked the top 200 in women’s rankings just months into her budding career last year.

Sherif hopes to continue her stellar run and represent Egypt in the delayed Tokyo Olympics this year -- another first for the country.

For now, Sherif is setting her sights on the next round in Melbourne.

“It means a lot to me. This was a mental barrier I had to pass... it was very, very tough to adapt my game to it. Courts are faster and the heat... but (I am) very, very happy with my accomplishment,” said Sherif.

“And I’m going for more,” she added.

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