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Battle: Verstappen first and Hamilton third in Abu Dhabi’s opening practice

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The first practice session of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was held on Friday and Max Verstappen topped the time sheets, setting a time of 1:25.009. That was quicker than Valtteri Bottas by 0.196 seconds and than title rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.346 seconds.

Sergio Perez was fourth fastest, while the pace of the AlphaTauris was good too as Yuki Tsunoda was fifth quickest and Pierre Gasly seventh.

Ferrari seemed to be focusing on their 2022 plans, with Charles Leclerc going out with aero rakes on the back of his car to gather some useful data.

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Overall, the drivers spent time getting a feel for the track, with some adjustments having been made to the Yas Marina Circuit.

When the second practice session takes place, we’ll get a clearer sense of who should be quick in qualifying and the race since FP2 will start at 17:00 local time, the same start time as the two main events.

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Taro Daniel SWEARS in hilarious on-court interview after beating Andy Murray at Aus Open

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Taro Daniel had the Australian Open crowd inside the John Cain Arena in stitches during his on-court interview after beating Andy Murray for his honest assessment of the shock win. Murray rolled back the years on Monday when he defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili in a five-set thriller.

In 2019, Murray looked as though he was bowing out of the sport in a tearful press conference.

But three years later, he bounced back with a strong win against the No 21 seed.

An easier test was expected against Japan’s Daniel, who had never gone past the second round of a major in his career.

The 28-year-old had built up some momentum after coming through the qualifiers without dropping a set and defeated Chile’s Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera in the first round.

Murray was expected to provide a tougher test for Daniel, but the three-time major champion was far from his best.

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While Murray was guilty of making a host of unforced errors, Daniel’s workrate and movement across the baseline was causing his opponent all sorts of problems.

Murray’s head dropped after going 2-0 down as he failed to take advantage of a few great opportunities.

And the former world No 1 even uncharacteristically smashed his racket to the floor before Daniel served for the match.

The Japanese tennis star was elated after winning the match with a serve-and-volley with the crowd jumping out their seats.

“It’s amazing,” Daniel said.

“Winning a match like this hear with a lot of people, especially after Covid playing without crowds and suddenly I’m able to play this big match. It’s unbelievable.

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Emma Raducanu urged to ‘turn off’ voices like Piers Morgan after torrent of criticism

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EMMA RADUCANU must “turn off” outside voices of criticism from the likes of Piers Morgan, Express.co.uk was told.

Raducanu has defeated her first opponent, the American Sloane Stephens, for a spot in the Australian Open second round. In what was her senior debut in Melbourne, the US Open champion won 6-0, 2-6 and 6-1 against Stephens, a former winner in New York. The Briton played sharply as she wrapped up the first set in 17 minutes before minor errors crept into her game.

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Stephens took advantage of this to level but Raudcanu soon reasserted control to win.

The 19-year-old will now face Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic in the second round today.

Raducanu has had something of a meteoric rise, having spent the beginning of 2021 studying hard for her A-level exams.

Now, however, she is British No 1, and looks set for a stellar career should she replicate her historic win in the US last year.

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Rafael Nadal blasted Novak Djokovic tantrum: ‘Not the best’

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RAFAEL NADAL took aim at Novak Djokovic over a furious on-court meltdown last year.

Rafael Nadal’s bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title continues today. Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are all currently tied on 20 Grand Slams. In his 18-and-a-half year career, this is the first Grand Slam where the Spaniard has not had fellow immortals Federer or Djokovic to contend with. The stars appear to be aligning for Nadal, with the significance of the elusive 21st title scarcely overstated.

His quest for Australian Open glory sees him face Russia’s 28th seed Karen Khachanov in the third round today.

Federer looks unlikely to add to his collection — he turns 41 in August and has just had a third major knee operation.

Djokovic’s future, meanwhile, remains uncertain. Following his bitter legal fight with the Australian government, both the French and US Open appear to be leaning towards a strict policy that prevents unvaccinated players from competing.

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The Serbian is reported to be in talks with lawyers to sue the Australian government for £3.2million for “ill treatment”.

Though Nadal refused to bask in Djokovic’s deportation from Australia, he has criticised his Serbian counterpart in recent months.

During last summer’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic had numerous meltdowns in his bronze medal match defeat to Nadal’s fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.

He lost his cool twice in the deciding set, throwing his racket into the empty stands and then smashing another into the net post shortly afterwards.

Though Nadal did not compete in Tokyo, he admitted he would have expected better from the world number one.

Speaking to the media ahead of the Citi Open in Washington in August, he said: “Luckily there were no people in the stands and nothing else happened, but hey, they are things that happen from time to time.

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