Saturday, February 20, 2021

Cal coach Ram, Salisbury fall short in AO title defense

Joe Salisbury, left, and Brydan Klein pose after winning the doubles
title in the 2017 Stockton (Calif.) Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   About 16 hours after winning his second Australian Open mixed doubles title, Rajeev Ram returned to Rod Laver Arena to defend his men's doubles crown.
   This match did not go as well. 
   Returning brilliantly, ninth-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Filip Polasek of Slovakia beat fifth-seeded Ram, a volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley, and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 in the final in Melbourne.
   Ram, 36, is nicknamed "Rampras" because his serve resembles legend Pete Sampras'. 
   Dodig, 36, won his second Grand Slam men's doubles title, while Polasek, 35, played in his first major final.
   Polasek retired for five years (2013-18) because of back, spine and left-leg injuries. He became the second Slovakian to win a Grand Slam title. Daniela Hantuchova won four major mixed doubles crowns.
   Men's singles final — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is scheduled to face fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sunday at 12:30 a.m. PST on ESPN (replays at 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tennis Channel).
   Djokovic, 33, is 4-3 against the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Medvedev, 25. But Medvedev has won three of the past four meetings, all in best-of-three-set matches. In their only previous Grand Slam encounter, Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.
   Djokovic seeks his third consecutive Australian Open singles title, ninth overall and 18th in majors, two short of the record held by Roger Federer, 39, and Rafael Nadal, 34. Djokovic is 17-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals. 
   Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 14 of the past 15 majors — Dominic Thiem won last year's U.S. Open with Djokovic defaulted and Nadal and Federer absent — and 57 of the past 69.
   Medvedev has won 20 consecutive matches, including 12 wins against top-10 players (one against Djokovic). In his only other Grand Slam final, he lost an epic match against Nadal in the 2019 U.S. Open.
   Cal women — Freshman Jada Bui lifted the No. 17 Bears (5-1) to a 4-3 victory over No. 3 UCLA (5-2) in Berkeley. Bui, from Canada, defeated Abi Altick 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 on Court 4. 

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