Australia, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Brisbane International on the eve of his first scheduled competitive match of the season because of a strained left thigh.
The second-ranked Nadal had a bye in the first round and arrived in Australia after withdrawing from an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi following one match.
He played only nine tournaments during an injury-interrupted 2018 season, winning five titles.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion hasn't played a competitive match since September but says he is confident he will be ready to compete at the Australian Open, which starts on Jan. 14 at Melbourne Park.
Nadal says he plans to keep practicing in Brisbane until the weekend, then travel to Melbourne via Sydney early next week.
Australia, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) — Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov had straight-sets wins Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International, where they'll meet in a rematch of the 2017 final.
Second-seeded Nishikori broke at love in the 11th game to seize momentum in a 7-5, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla in the second round, his season-opening match after getting a first-round bye in Brisbane.
"Tough match," Nishikori said. "After 5-5 I think he dropped a little bit his level and I started playing better, playing more aggressive and started getting more rhythm and my serve got better in the second. So yeah, I think it was good first match."
Sixth-seeded Dimitrov, who beat Nishikori for the first time here in the 2017 title match, had to withstand a late comeback from local favorite John Millman before winning 6-3, 6-4. He had three points for a 5-1 lead in the second set but was broken as Millman went on a roll before Dimitrov regained control.
Dimitrov said he was distracted for a while despite being up two breaks but "I was not worried to the extent that I was panicking."
"I managed to keep my composure really good throughout the whole match, especially at 4-4," he added.
He's using the quarterfinal against Nishikori as a barometer for where his preparations stand for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14.
"It's great. I mean it's right off the blocks. It's perfect to play a match like that to kind of see where your game is at, how your movement goes," Dimitrov said. "Kei is the favorite. Right now he's been playing unbelievable, great finish of the year, a lot of confidence right now, striking the ball, amazing, feels free.
"But, again, I like my chances. We've had quite a few battles against each other. I'm just going to try to control things on my terms."
Defending champion and No. 8-seeded Nick Kyrgios was ousted 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 by Jeremy Chardy a day after saying his preparation was hampered by a spider bite last week on his foot.
Chardy will next play Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama, who upset third-seeded Kyle Edmund 7-6 (6), 6-4. Fifth-seeded Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Miomir Kecmanovic.
Anett Kontaveit beat fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (1) to advance to the women's quarterfinals, and Anastasija Sevastova set up a match against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka when she beat Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-0.
Australia, Jan 1 (AP/UNB) —The No. 2-ranked Nadal, in Brisbane preparing to play his first competitive match since retiring from the U.S. Open semifinals last September, found some positives out of an injury-interrupted season that he wants to apply to this year.
"I want to feel myself competitive every week that I am on court and I want to keep fighting for the things that really make me feel alive, you know, for the things that motivate me," Nadal told a news conference Tuesday at the Brisbane International. "Be competitive all the weeks that I am playing."
That doesn't mean he wants to play every week. It just means he's going to be a lot more selective. Based on results in 2018 — he entered nine tournaments, retired from two but still won five titles and had a 45-4 win-loss record — the 32-year-old Spaniard has an outstanding success rate when he's fit.
So regaining the No. 1 ranking is far less of a priority than adding to his 17 major titles.
"I prefer to be No. 1 than be No. 2, and I prefer to be No. 2 than No. 5. That's obvious," he said. "But my main goal is to stay healthy, stay happy and try to play as long as possible."
Nadal is scheduled to play either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round in Brisbane on Thursday. He said he plans to be "on court with a positive feeling," but only if he's feeling fit. The Australian Open starts Jan. 14.
"After the surgeries, I don't want to step back. I want to move forward," he said. "After all I suffered last year in terms of injuries, I don't want to do mistakes in terms of playing without being 100 percent."
A right knee injury forced Nadal to retire from his U.S. Open semifinal, and he had ankle surgery at the start of November. He also missed big chunks of previous seasons because of injuries, but doesn't think his body is letting him down.
"I really believe that I keep having tennis to play in my career, and I really feel that my body is not going worse every year," he said.
He said injuries, "just sometimes happen." But he is also clear that he does not want to suffer the way he did last season.
"That mentally kills you," he said.
Consequently, he'll keep his physical condition in mind more than he has before. And 2018 will be his benchmark.
"I won five events out of nine that I played," he said. "It was a great level of tennis every time that I was on court. So that's great news. I enjoyed it a lot. I achieved things that were amazing for me. So, yeah, tough year in terms of injuries. (But) in terms of tennis level, enjoying every time I had the chance to be on court, it was a great year."
Brisbane, Jan 1 (AP/UNB) — Andy Murray doesn't know how long his latest comeback can last, so he's planning on making the most of it.
The 31-year-old Murray returned to competitive tennis for the first time since September and gradually warmed into it, going on a late roll to take the last four games in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Australian wildcard entry James Duckworth at the Brisbane International on Tuesday.
"It's been really hard. Eighteen months, a lot of ups and downs. It was tricky just to get back on the court competing again," said Murray, who had a noticeable limp between points but didn't show many injury signs during rallies of strain from his troublesome hip. "I'm happy I'm back out here competing again."
He appeared stiff and rusty to start the match but managed to chase down Duckworth's chips and drop shots and moved across court well, twice manufacturing forehand winners from defensive positions on important points.
Winner of three majors and a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, Murray is playing on a protected ranking in Brisbane after sliding to No. 240 in a 2018 season in which he finished 7-5 from 12 matches after surgery on his right hip in January. He missed the last five weeks of the season with an ankle injury.
"I want to try to enjoy it as much as I can," Murray, a two-time champion in Brisbane, told the crowd in a post-match interview. "I'm not sure how much longer it's going to last."
No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal is also scheduled this week to play his first competitive match since September, but he is taking a cautious approach after being restricted to nine tournaments last year because of injuries.
"After the surgeries, I don't want to do it a step back. I want to move forward," he said. "After all I suffered last year in terms of injuries, I don't want to do mistakes in terms of playing without being 100 percent."
Nadal is set to play either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round on Thursday.
"I'm here, so I hope to be ready for it. My goal is, of course, to be on court on Thursday and to be on court with a positive feeling."
Despite the disruptions last season, Nadal won his 11th French Open title and reached the semifinals of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, where he had to retire because of an injury, and finished the season ranked No. 2.
He had ankle surgery in November and played one match at an exhibition tournament before traveling to Australia to build up for the season's first Grand Slam tournament.
In first-round women's matches, Johanna Konta ousted No. 3-seeded Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Ajla Tomljanovic, who beat Katerina Siniakova 1-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, finished last season in the top 10 for the first time and is more concerned about the Australian Open later this month than recording a loss in her season-opener in Brisbane.
"I'm always like 'It's going to work out, like in the long run ... when it really matters, when it's really important,'" she said. "Just doing little things now to try to help me in the long run.
"It's the first match of the year — I have like 80 more matches to go," she added. "Ask me in November what I think about my first-round loss in Brisbane."
Dhaka, Dec 30 (UNB) — Bangladesh ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has earned a landslide victory in his local area Narail-2 constituency in the 11th national election by a big margin.
Mashrafe got 274, 418 out of 284,813 votes, as per the unofficial counting, and has been announced victorious.
The closest contender of Mashrafe, standing on the ruling Awami League’s Boat symbol, Jatiyo Oikya Front candidate AZM Dr. Fariduzzaman with paddy sheaf got 8006 votes. SM Nasiruddin of Islami Andolon got 2389 votes. It means Mashrafe got more than 96 percent votes.
Total votes of the Narail-2 constituency is 317, 844. Mashrafe’s share amounts to over 96 percent.
Winning the poll, Mashrafe became the second national cricket team captain after Naimur Rahman Durjoy to become an MP. However, Mashrafe is the first current player to achieve the honour.
Mashrafe had collected the nomination form of Awami League on 11 November and subsequently he was awarded the nomination by the ruling party. And thus, he became the first-ever sitting cricketer to try hand in the national politics.
The right-arm pacer is expected to lead the Tigers in next year’s World Cup in England.