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Rafael Nadal into Australian Open final; Josh Murphy to join Connacht

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

Rafael Nadal is one game away from history, after he beat Matteo Berrettini in four sets this morning to reach the final of the Australian Open. Victory in Sunday's Melbourne showpiece would give the Spaniard a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam, moving him one clear of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. He withstood a third set fightback from the Italian to win 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and will meet either Daniil Medvedev or Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final - those two are due on court at 8.30am this morning.

Connacht have landed a major coup with the news Leinster's Josh Murphy will be heading to Galway on a two-year deal at the end of the season. Murphy started Leinster's recent Champions Cup romps against Montpellier and Bath, and is able to operate both in the backrow and at lock. Meanwhile Wales boss Wayne Pivac has admitted his side will be up against it in this year's Six Nations Championship given their injury problems, but believes his inexperienced squad can thrive in adversity. He said: "We don't have the biggest player pool in the world, so I think that's going to be the sum total of it. But when I look at it as part of the management, it's the jersey and history that has gone before it. Rugby is the number one sport in the country."

Elsewhere in her column this morning Lisa Fallon has backed the FAI's announcement that the League of Ireland TV will continue this year. Each Premier Division match will cost supporters €7 to watch - and she believes this is a price well worth paying. She writes: "Imagine Apple spending years investing in staff, technology and resources, with people working relentlessly to deliver the next iPhone. And then to turn around and say we will give it to you for nothing? They would never give it away for free. Top football clubs around the world do not usually give away free tickets, even for staff. You might get a discounted rate, but it's never for nothing."

Katie Taylor will make more history in April, when she becomes one of the first female boxers to headline a card at Madison Square Garden. Taylor will meet Amanda Serrano in New York on April 30th.


And Rory McIlroy opened with a frustrating round of 71 in the Dubai Desert Classic yesterday, leaving him six shots adrift of overnight leader Joachim B Hansen. Denmark's Hansen has made a fast start this morning - he is now on nine under for the tournament after nine holes of his second round. McIlroy tees off at 8.20am this morning, with Shane Lowry - also at one under - off at 8.30am. Meanwhile in America, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are part of a three-way tie for the lead in the Farmers Insurance Open.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times