Top seeds in a hurry on day of U.S. Open upsets

Opening day at Flushing Meadows produced plenty of shock and awe as Djokovic delivered a jaw-dropping performance, speeding past Joao Souza of Brazil 6-1 6-1 6-1 as if the Serb had a taxi metre running outside the National Tennis Center.

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Williams also played as if she had an appointment to keep as she began her final push towards a calendar year Grand Slam by pounding Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0 2-0 before the ailing Russian waved the white flag and retired injured.

Eighth seed Rafa Nadal, a two-time U.S. Open champion, needed a bit more time to get the job done, the Spaniard taking nearly three hours to fight off a challenge from 18-year-old Croatian prospect Borna Coric 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4.

Following a Broadway-style opening ceremony complete with orchestra and choir, Williams stepped onto centre court under a spotlight to loud applause from an adoring New York crowd just seven matches from her quest to sweep this season’s slams.

The six-time champion would exit Arthur Ashe Stadium just 30 minutes later to more applause and her target reduced to six more wins to join the exclusive club of calendar Grand Slam winners Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.

“It’s been really amazing, I can feel the support and the love on my journey for this milestone,” said Williams, who won the first of her 21 majors at Flushing Meadows 16 years ago.

“I’m so ready. Whatever happens I’m here, I’m at home where it all began in 1999, so this is incredible for me to still be here and playing well.

“It’s kind of awesome that this is the last grand slam of the year, because if it were in a different country, I think I would still love it but it’s not the same as being an American playing in New York, playing for that ultimate goal.”

NISHIKORI NIGHTMARE

Frenchman Benoit Paire provided the big shock of the day, grinding out a 6-4 3-6 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Nishikori, after the Japanese fourth seed squandered two match points in the fourth set tiebreak.

Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in last year’s final, had no such opening day hiccups as the ninth-seeded Croat began the defence of his title with a 6-3 7-6(3) 7-6(3) win over Argentine qualifier Guido Pella.

“It’s always very sad to lose in the first round, but I think he was playing good tennis,” Nishikori lamented. “I

don’t think I played badly. Didn’t play great, but still, it’s never easy first match.”

The 25-year-old had plenty of company at the departure lounge following a string of shocks that included Serbian seventh seed and former world number one Ana Ivanovic, eighth seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova and 10th-seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

A hot, muggy day got off to an ominous start when 50th-ranked Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova dispatched Ivanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3 on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

Anna Tatishvili gave the home fans a reason to get excited as the 121st-ranked American qualifier destroyed Pliskova 6-2 6-1 while Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin kept the upsets trending with 2-6 7-5 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic, the 21st seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up.

Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, one of just two players to beat Serena Williams this season, strolled past Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva to stay on track for a quarter-final showdown with the 33-year-old American.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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SA premier wants changes to abuse reports

Mandatory reporting of child abuse is clogging up the system and putting children experiencing severe abuse at even greater risk, says South Australia’s premier.

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Jay Weatherill has called for a winding back of mandatory reporting as the state’s child abuse hotline struggles with tens of thousands of unanswered and abandoned calls.

A leading child advocacy group says the state government needs to get its act together, but the premier says that while mandatory reporting sounds good, it is swamping the child protection system.

“It’s the equivalent of having everyone going into the emergency waiting room at a busy hospital, everybody that’s got a heart attack all the way through to an ingrown toenail,” Mr Weatherill told radio station 5AA on Tuesday.

Mr Weatherill’s comments came as Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire revealed more than 15,000 calls to SA’s child abuse hotline had been abandoned in the past financial year and 85,000 went unanswered over the past four years.

Mr Brokenshire said the premier’s remarks were “outrageous” and the problem was with the system itself.

“Don’t blame mandatory reporters for clogging the system,” he said.

“If a teacher or police officer or doctor believe that a child is at risk, then they mandatory report it and it’s up to the experts to work out the level of risk and the priority for attending to that child.”

Hetty Johnston, from child advocacy group Bravehearts, agreed the problem was not with mandatory reporting but with how the government manages information.

“Do we want mandatory reports to only apply if a child is nearly dead?” she told AAP.

“At what point does the child become at great risk and require a mandatory report?

“How many children are out there and being exposed to the most heinous of harm that we can’t respond to because we can’t get our act together?”

Opposition child protection spokeswoman Rachel Sanderson called on the government to increase funding for the child abuse hotline.

“An effective child protection system begins with an efficient reporting mechanism,” Ms Sanderson said.

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Nadal flashes old form in win over Coric

The first two sets brought a vintage performance on a sultry night from Nadal, who has dropped to world number eight in what has been a lacklustre season for the 29-year-old Spaniard.

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Given his last chance to keep alive a 10-year streak of winning at least one grand slam title, 14-times major winner Nadal schooled the 18-year-old Coric over the first two sets.

But Coric responded with his best tennis and broke the Spaniard in the 10th game of the third set to send the match to a hard-fought fourth set.

The Spaniard finally prevailed thanks to a service break on a forehand service return winner in the seventh game.

“It’s a very happy moment for me,” said Nadal, returning to Flushing Meadows for the first time since his 2013 U.S. Open triumph after missing last year with a wrist injury.

“Last year was very hard not having chance to being back in one of my favourite tournaments.”

Nadal avenged a 6-2 7-6 loss to Coric last year at Basel in his only previous encounter with the up-and-coming Coric, who at number 33 is the youngest player in the world’s top-50.

“I think I played great. The first two sets I played a very high level of tennis,” said Nadal, who served brilliantly over the first two sets and in the fourth.

“Then I get a little bit tired. I was sweating a lot.

“He is a great player and has an amazing future.”

Coric, who reached the semi-finals this year in Dubai and Nice, leads all teenagers with 22 wins this season on the ATP Tour, nine more than Alexander Zverev of Germany.

“It was the first time in my life on such a big court,” said Coric, who two years ago won the U.S. Open junior title. “I played a solid match, so very good.”

Nadal next meets Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, a 6-3 6-2 6-2 winner over Swedish qualifier Elias Ymer.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Strain comeback behind Qld horror flu year

Queensland’s horror flu season should pass soon despite a strain that was previously vaccinated against making an unexpected comeback, health authorities say.

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More than 18,000 cases of influenza have been reported in the state so far this year, with roughly 3000 reported last week alone.

This is partly due to the resurgence of the so-called B Brisbane flu, which wasn’t included in this year’s three-strain subsidised vaccine.

Instead, the government-funded dose provided protection against Influenza A California, Influenza A Switzerland and Influenza B Phuket.

While the nominated strains are set in February in anticipation of each year’s flu season, people can pay more for a four-strain vaccine for extra protection.

Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Communicable Diseases Unit Dr Sonya Bennett said the surprising prevalence of the Brisbane strain was partly to blame for this year’s spike in overall cases.

“The proportion of B Brisbane does seem to be rising,” she said on Tuesday.

She said the secondary B strain typically only accounted for about five per cent of cases and was less severe than an A-strain virus.

The Brisbane strain had been in the subsidised vaccine mix between 2010 and 2012.

Despite its shock revival, Dr Bennett said the department expected the worst to be over soon.

“It is difficult to predict when the flu season will be over but figures suggest we are nearing or have reached the peak,” she said.

But some experts are calling for the federal government to consider coughing up for a four-strain flu vaccine to ensure future flu seasons aren’t so severe.

Influenza Specialist Group chairman Dr Alan Hampson anticipated this could happen in coming years after the government begins a new tender process with manufacturers.

He conceded it was rare for B-strain infections to outweigh their A-strain counterparts, but said this year’s experience just reinforced the need for a four-strain vaccine.

“Influenza is really unpredictable,” Dr Hampson said.

“You just don’t know until the last moment, until the virus is out there and circulating.”

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Fire brings Adelaide CBD to a standstill

Four people were hospitalised for smoke inhalation and another was treated at the scene.

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The blaze broke out in the Wing Chun Academy, a martial arts centre off Hindley Street, just after midday on Tuesday.

It forced the evacuation of nearby buildings, including the Hotel Grand Chancellor, as about 80 firefighters and 18 fire trucks battled to bring it under control.

Several streets cleared in Adelaide CBD due to large fire. pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/XNxxoGOzmX

— Rhiannon Elston SBS (@rhiannonelston) September 1, 2015

Several roads were closed and people were urged to avoid the area as smoke billowed from the building.

The blaze took half the city’s firefighters about two hours to contain and a Metropolitan Fire Service spokeswoman said it had caused significant damage.

“Crews are currently digging away in the roof up there so they can make sure the fire is thoroughly out,” she said.

“There’s still some concern that the front facade of the building may collapse.”

Photo: Smoke from structure fire in Adelaide, Australia, continues to fill city skyline; officials confirm fire ha… pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/54wAFav2xo

— Eugenio Bertolaccini (@EBertolaccini) September 1, 2015

A guest at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Sydneysider Molly Cooper, said she was doing her make-up when the alarms went off.

“I smelled smoke through the whole building,” she told AAP.

“I think I was the last person to leave. I didn’t expect it to be such a huge thing until I came outside.

“There were crowds everywhere, fireman everywhere, photographers.”

Adelaide fire view from Leigh Street before shut to public #adelaidefire pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/X8JdAAdQE0

— David Maegraith (@DavidMaegraith) September 1, 2015

 

Fire trucks all over Hindley St #Adelaide as fire continues to blaze pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/hOzChl4D38

— Matthew Pantelis (@MatthewPantelis) September 1, 2015

The owner of a nearby skate store, Allan Mawer, said the fire was “full on”.

“All of a sudden they were pulling everyone back,” he told AAP as the fire raged.

“That guy on the cherry picker’s been up there for a good 20 minutes absolutely blasting the whole building (with water).”

Fire crews using cranes to contain building fire from above #adelaidefire @7NewsAdelaide @Y7News pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/HIPMG7JpJk

— Stacey Lee (@Staceylee_) September 1, 2015

MFS assistant chief officer Roy Thompson said no one was inside the building when the fire started.

“Our main concern was the building collapsing,” he said.

“That facade on the front of the Win Chung Academy was a major concern – bits and pieces actually started to fall off in the laneway.”

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Slade hurts knee but should be fine – All Blacks

The 27-year-old, however, was quickly cleared of anything serious, assistant coach Ian Foster said when asked if it was shades of deja vu after the 2011 World Cup when the All Blacks lost three flyhalves, including Slade, to injury during the tournament.

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“He slipped over during training and landed awkwardly on his knee and gave it a bit of a tweak,” Foster told reporters in Wellington. “He was walking around the shed afterwards.

“He’s fine.”

Foster added that inside centre Sonny Bill Williams had missed the session due to a cold while Waisake Naholo, who is still recovering from a broken leg, and Liam Messam only had light training by themselves.

Prop Charlie Faumuina, who missed several months as he recovered from neck surgery and was then concussed when training with the Auckland provincial team two weeks ago, came through the session fine.

“It was good to be back out there with the boys, it was pretty physical,” Faumuina told reporters. “I’m a little bit banged up and a little bit sore but it’s all good.”

Faumuina underwent surgery towards the end of the Super Rugby season to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve in his neck that was causing him pain and diminishing his strength.

That strength was slowly returning, he said, with a special neck harness allowing him to build up his power in the gym during weights sessions, he said.

“Like any other muscle it just needs time in the gym to get tougher,” he added. “I have that harness and just jump on one of the cable machines and do rotations.”

Faumuina could possibly play for Auckland this week against Waikato in an effort to regain match fitness after he had been involved in a head clash with a provincial team mate at training on Aug. 18 and concussed, which had delayed his recovery.

“It’s been a bit frustrating with the neck surgery and then coming back and potentially playing and then getting concussed,” the 28-year-old said.

“It slowed me down a little bit but I’m just so happy to be back in the team and looking forward to getting on with it.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Business as usual after Heydon ruling: Abbott

Royal commissioner Dyson Heydon on Tuesday ended a two-week freeze on hearing evidence in the inquiry into union corruption – a day after ruling against a union bid to have him dismissed over perceived bias.

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Mr Heydon had been asked to disqualify himself for accepting an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party event in Sydney.

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“In respect of the royal commissioner and the royal commission, today it’s business as usual,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra. 

“Rorts, rackets and rip-offs inside the union movement are being  exposed.”

He said the commission, which the coalition government set up after the 2013 election, was not a “political plaything”.

“It’s actually the key to better unions, more honest unions and a better, more honest Labor party,” Mr Abbott said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said allowing Mr Heydon to continue was like letting Collingwood football club president Eddie McGuire “declare himself OK to be the umpire in a Collingwood grand final”.

His party is pressing ahead with a bid to pass a motion in the Senate calling on Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to sack Mr Heydon.

“It is appropriate that the Labor party and that the parliament takes up the matters of this shambolic and tainted royal commission,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said the motion would have no legal consequence – based on advice from the Senate clerk – and was a “completely unprincipled” stunt.

However, opposition Senate leader Penny Wong said the clerk had advised the motion Labor planned was an appropriate way for the Senate to express its view on the matter.

Senator Abetz said the opposition and unions had a right to go to court to appeal the decision.

The ACTU is considering such action but has not yet decided how to proceed.

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Qld Labor govt to probe LNP donations

Queensland’s Labor government will hold an inquiry into political donations, focused on the previous Liberal National Party government.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made an election commitment to hold the inquiry and she hopes it will help allay the public’s “significant concerns” about the link between contracts awarded under the Newman government and donations to the LNP.

“(People) have been expressing concerns on a regular basis,” she said.

“You only have to listen to radio stations and you will hear people ringing up and talking about alleged impropriety, so let’s get to the bottom of it.”

Despite being aimed at her political rivals, Ms Palaszczuk denied the inquiry would be an attempt to get square with the LNP, because it would also look at Labor donations.

“If you’ve got nothing to hide there’s no concern,” she said.

She confirmed the inquiry would investigate the LNP about 28 unnamed donors who gave $100,000 to the party, and the approval of the controversial expansion of the Acland open cut coal mine.

The premier initially tried to brush off comparisons with the federal coalition government’s trade unions royal commission before calling on all involved in any inquiries to co-operate with them.

“If there is an inquiry, governments, whether you are on one side or another, you should abide by that inquiry,” she added.

Ms Palaszczuk said the Crime and Corruption Commission could possibly hold the inquiry and the terms of reference would be released by the end of this month.

Opposition Police Minister Jarrod Bleijie doubted the CCC would get involved in a political witch hunt and damage its integrity, which had only just been restored with the appointment of an independent chairman, Alan MacSporran QC, who started work on Tuesday.

“The new Labor government, the first thing they want do is again involve the CCC in politics,” he said.

“I think the CCC won’t do that because they know the risks associated with that.”

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Hayne awaits 49ers final cut decision

Jarryd Hayne, Jesse Williams, three other Australians and a Kiwi got early good news but face some more nervous days as their NFL clubs decide whether to keep or cut them.

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The final week of the NFL pre-season is a cut-throat time, with team management tapping players on the shoulder and sending them on the way.

The clubs needed to reduce their rosters to 75 by Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) and then to a final 53 by Saturday (Sunday AEST).

Hayne, the former rugby league star, survived the first round of roster reductions at the San Francisco 49ers as expected.

Williams the 191cm tall, 148kg Brisbane defensive tackle, who had a cancerous kidney removed just three months ago, continued his miraculous recovery by dodging the Seattle Seahawks’ initial 10-man cuts.

Another Australian giant, 198cm, 145kg offensive tackle David Yankey, appears set to remain with the Minnesota Vikings after he wasn’t included among 11 players released.

Duelling Australian punters Brad Wing and Jordan Berry also remain on the Pittsburgh Steelers roster, although one will be gone by the end of the week.

The competition hasn’t hurt their friendship.

“You’d always rather be in competition with someone like that, who’s going to push you,” Wing told the Beaver County Times.

“(We) Want to make sure that there’s as many of us (Australians) in the NFL as there can be,” Berry added.

New Zealand running back Paul Lasike’s NFL dreams remain in reach, with the Arizona Cardinals keeping the 25-year-old while axing 11 players.

However Geelong-raised Dallas Cowboys punter Tom Hornsey, US college football’s top punter for 2013 after starring with the University of Memphis, was cut on Monday after competing with incumbent Chris Jones for the job.

It was no a surprise Hayne that was not among the 10 players axed by the 49ers after he dazzled coaches, fans and US media in three pre-season games in recent weeks.

The 49ers cuts did offer a lesson to the former NRL star though, with a fellow project player, British Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye, waived.

Hayne is expected to make the final 53 roster, although Wednesday’s final pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers could decide his fate.

The 49ers play their NFL regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on September 14.

The team have multiple options at Hayne’s running back and punt return positions.

Tomsula described Bruce Ellington, the team’s punt returner last season, as “very quick” and “explosive” after he shrugged off injury to play against the Denver Broncos on Saturday.

Ellington says he’s determined to keep others from taking his job.

“I’m going to go out here this week and prove to the coaches that they can trust me and I can be out there making plays,” Ellington told reporters.

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Rates set to stay on hold

The Reserve Bank appears unmoved by the recent routs on global share markets and is likely to keep the cash rate unchanged for some time.

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The cash rate was left at a record low of two per cent for a fourth straight month after the RBA’s September board meeting.

Governor Glenn Stevens noted recent market volatility, but also said the US economy is strengthening, and the US Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) would soon raise its interest rate for the first time in over nine years.

Westpac chief economist Bill Evans expects the RBA to keep rates on hold well into 2016.

“Despite the market pricing in a 100 per cent probability of a rate cut by year’s end, Westpac continues to expect that rates will remain on hold over the course of 2015 and 2016,” he said.

RBC Capital Markets head of economics Su-Lin Ong said Mr Stevens’ reference to weakness in the Chinese economy was only minor.

Share markets around the world plunged early last week, most notably China’s, on the back of worries about its slowing economic growth.

While the local market has since recovered some of its falls, August was its worst month since the global financial crisis, and Wall Street endured its worst month in three years.

“I guess they need to say something given that it’s the key development since the last meeting but they don’t say much more than that,” Ms Ong said.

The RBA is clearly waiting for the FOMC decision later in September, she said.

A Fed rate hike will boost the US dollar and push the Australian dollar even lower, making locally produced goods more competitive with imports.

Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe said the RBA is now more upbeat about the Australian economy.

“The Australian dollar had finally reached levels the RBA was comfortable with and unemployment had peaked sooner and at a lower level than expected,” he said.

The RBA’s forecast of economic growth between two and three per cent in 2015/16 appears likely, Mr Blythe said, although it may come on stronger than expected consumer spending offsetting weaker than expected business investment.

ANZ and Roy Morgan’s weekly consumer confidence survey, also out on Tuesday, showed sentiment remains above its long term average.

The manufacturing sector is also gathering strength, with activity rising for a second straight month in August, according to the Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Manufacturing Index.

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