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Raonic, Isner into Aust Open third round

John Isner and Milos Raonic are serving up some ominous numbers to their Australian Open rivals at Melbourne Park.

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The Open smokeys have both blasted their way into the third round without dropping a single game on serve, let alone a set.

Isner, seeded 10th, is looking particularly threatening after downing Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-3 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-2) on Thursday to book a date on Saturday with Feliciano Lopez.

“He actually beat me on this court a few years ago,” Isner said of Lopez.

“We have been on tour for eight years together. He’s a big lefty server and likes fast courts. It will be a tough match.”

The American has fired down a tournament-high 57 aces and is yet to face a solitary break point.

Raonic, the 13th seed who opened his season with victory over Roger Federer in the Brisbane International final, is also looking untouchable on serve.

The Canadian took his ace count to 37 in his 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 victory over Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo.

Raonic next faces Viktor Troicki, who defeated Tim Smyczek 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-4) on Thursday.

Frenchman Gael Monfils also banked another straight-sets win, two days after the enigmatic 23rd seed’s path to the quarter-finals opened up following the surprise exit of former world No.1 Rafael Nadal and 11th seed Kevin Anderson.

Monfils sent compatriot Nicolas Mahut packing with a 7-5 6-4 6-1 victory and next plays countryman and qualifier Stephane Robert.

The 29-year-old would then have expected to meet Nadal in the fourth round – if the Spanish fifth seed didn’t suffer a shock opening-round loss to Fernando Verdasco.

Verdasco couldn’t back up the boilover, with world No.87 Dudi Sela beating him 4-6 6-3 6-3 7-6 (7-4) on Thursday.

Lopez, Troicki, Joao Sousa and Steve Johnson also advanced to the third round of the Open on day four.

Lopez beat Guido Pella 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-3) 6-7 (8-10) 6-4, with the clash lasting four and a half hours.

It was the first time a five-set match at the Open has featured four tiebreaks since 1993.

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Mehajer welcomes Auburn council probe

With his coveted position in jeopardy, flamboyant Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer has welcomed a public inquiry into his council affairs.

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The NSW government has given the western Sydney council two weeks to prove it should not be suspended.

“I have serious concerns about Auburn City Council’s perceived decision making in relation to planning and development matters and the appearance that those decisions may have delivered an inappropriate benefit to some councillors,” Local Government Minister Paul Toole said.

Mr Mehajer, who is also a property developer, said that councillors guilty of wrongdoing should be sacked.

“The council and greater community should not suffer due to a consequence (sic) of other members’ poorly guided actions,” he said.

An administrator will be appointed if the council is suspended while the public inquiry investigates allegations development decisions have been skewed to benefit councillors and their relatives.

“There are ongoing concerns around some councillors’ potential conflicts of interests,” Mr Toole said.

Opposition leader Luke Foley, who is also the member for Auburn, said the inquiry was overdue.

“Mr Mehajer and his colleagues, a number of them, have made Auburn a national laughing stock,” he told reporters outside NSW parliament.

Mr Foley said the local councils needed to be reformed to block developers from taking elected council positions.

Auburn councillor Irene Simms said she’s disappointed at being tarred with the same brush as other councillors despite her calls for the inquiry.

“Those of us who have not been involved, we also get targeted. It’s a price I’m prepared to pay if it will get community faith restored,” she told AAP.

North Sydney Council will also face a public inquiry following allegations of conflict and dysfunction.

Mr Toole said North Sydney councillors have repeatedly failed to address the poor relationship between them leading to poor performance issues.

The dysfunction has cost ratepayers almost $250,000 over the past two years, he said.

Richard Beasley SC has been appointed as commissioner to conduct the public inquiry into Auburn council, while Thomas Howard SC will head the North Sydney council inquiry.

Auburn City councillors held an informal emergency meeting on Thursday evening to discuss the inquiry.

“Mr Mehajer was coming but decided not to because he didn’t want to join the unwelcome media attention to the council,” Councillor Simms told AAP.

She said the seven councillors unanimously agreed the council should remain in place while the investigation is conducted.

“Everyone seemed concerned… we didn’t even know this inquiry was coming, we had no warning,” she said.

“But hopefully it’s a good investigation and we get some results and a definitive answer.”

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Sick leave set to soar around Australia Day

Mondayitis is an illness, real or imagined, that strikes three per cent of Australians on any given workday.

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But it gets worse before a holiday.

 

Stephen Cartwright from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Business is questioning the leap in sick days.

 

“Logically there is no reason five per cent of the population gets sick on the day between a public holiday and weekend, and three per cent normally.”

 

This Monday, 180-thouasnd sickies are tipped to cost the country 62 million dollars.

 

On the street, people say a fake sickie is poor form:

 

“It’s inconvenient for your boss, especially if you call in the morning then they have to find a replacement.,” said one.

“If it’s on the day after Australia Day and you take a sickie, I feel that reflects badly on you, said another.

“Yeah it is so obvious.”

 

Obvious or not, for many workplaces – it’s the doctor’s call.

 

And the proof is in the signing of a sick note – a requirement of many workplaces, on the days preceding or following a weekend or holiday.

 

Australian Medical Association Chair, Dr Brian Morton, says doctors should act ethically.

 

“You take the patient’s word, but there have to be genuine symptoms and signs to justify the writing of that certificate … The system needs a change, because we don’t need to medicalise a workplace issue. The employer can negotiate with employees and make rules.”

 

The AMA believes the cost of verifying sick leave should not be carried by the health system.

 

But Stephen Cartwright says the alternative is a crippling cost to industry.

 

“What you’re essentially saying is in addition to the 13 public holidays, in addition to the four weeks of annual leave – we are actually going to give another two weeks of leave, and the employers are going to pay for that. And I think the big danger in all of that is we’ve got to go back to why sick leave was invented in the first place, which was to say, if you are sick – and sometimes you can get sicknesses that last a week or two weeks – you’re not going to miss out on wages in those periods where you are genuinely unwell.”

 

In the age of social media, the experts have a warning: take a sick day at your own risk and think before you post a photo online – or that stretch of days off could be indefinite.

 

And the general consensus on the streets:

 

“If you don’t want to work, don’t get a job”

“You gotta work, you gotta do what you gotta do I guess.”

 

Unless of course, you really are sick.

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University ATAR scores challenged over relevance

Should the Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks be one of the main factors to measure student entry into university?

 

ATAR is a national ranking of students who complete Year 12.

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There are concerns the scores don’t reflect a student’s potential or accurately predict a student’s success.

 

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Dawkins, says ATARs should not be used in isolation.

 

“The thing about ATARs is that they provide a piece of information, but only one piece of information. The important questions for universities is to determine how well a student is going to do in a course and whether or not they should be accepted into that course. Our analysis shows that some students with very high ATAR scores actually don’t do very well and some students with very low ATAR scores actually do sensationally well.”

 

Professor Dawkins says other factors, such as students’ socio-economic background, their previous experience and motivation, should also be considered.

 

Suzanne Connelly, from the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre, agrees.

 

“It is simply a guide and students should always list the courses they really want to get into – being a little bit realistic – but list their dream courses at number one and work from there.”

 

That’s the process used by 23 year old Rachel who graduated from year 12 with a low ATAR.

 

She was able to pursue her dream of studying civil engineering.

 

“I knew I had to do really well in maths methods, specialist maths and then a good study score in English, and I think physics was highly regarded as well.”

 

Victoria University Professor Peter Dawkins says more support should be provided to help students direct their studies towards the right career.

 

“It’s very important that students and universities and the schools the students come from have a very good dialogue about what are good pathways for them – what are the right courses given their background, where are they going to end up. It’s that kind of dialogue and rich understanding that we need to get into our student population rather than giving undue emphasis to this thing called the ATAR score.”

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Murray disarms Groth with masterly display

Murray, a four-times runner-up at Melbourne Park, likes nothing more than fending off the heavy hitters and had too much craft for Groth as he won the first nine games on the way to a straightforward 6-0 6-4 6-1 victory.

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Groth was making his first ever appearance on Rod Laver Arena, and it showed as he was taken to the cleaners.

“He didn’t start the match off serving that well, which helped,” Murray told reporters after his 91-minute victory.

“Because I was returning well, that maybe put some more pressure on him.

“I tend to enjoy playing against that game style. Always did since I was a kid.”

Groth began the match having blasted 27 aces and the fastest serve recorded at the tournament so far at 235 kph in his first round victory against Adrian Mannarino.

Against Murray his first ace did not arrive until the second game of the second set, by which time he was already reeling from a slow start punished by the 28-year-old Scot.

Murray was lobbing and passing at will and such was his complete mastery of his opponent, all Groth could do was shake his head and offer a wry smile.

“I wasn’t making first serves,” Groth said. “Wasn’t making first volleys. He’s too good of a player not to do that against and not a guy you want to get behind against either.”

Groth finally got on the scoreboard in the 10th game, the Australian raising his arms in triumph to earn a massive roar from the parochial crowd.

Murray lost his momentum and Groth broke back as he levelled the set at 4-4.

“I think I held serve, got a game on the board, released a few nerves and probably just started playing the way I wanted to,” Groth said.

Murray, however, regrouped and broke Groth’s serve to seal the set then ran away with the decider to set up a third round clash with Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

Despite his easy progress so far, however, Murray said he felt there was a lot of work to do before his next match.

“There’s some things I certainly could have done better,” Murray said. “I didn’t serve a high percentage of first serves. I wasn’t hitting the ball from the back of the court as well.

“It’s been a very good start but I can still get better.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty/Patrick Johnston)