Tag: stan wawrinka

2021 Roland Garros preview: Nadal eyes off 14th title as Barty returns to Paris

TO the delight of tennis fans all across the globe, the main draw of the much-anticipated Roland Garros is set to commence on Monday. This comes one week later than initially scheduled, as the French Tennis Federation postponed the tournament in the hope that COVID-19 restrictions would ease and more fans would be allowed to attend the event. The tournament will run from May 30 to June 13.

Up until June 8, French Open officials will allow 5,388 fans through the gates, with a maximum of 1,000 spectators on each court (excluding night sessions). From June 9, Roland Garros will make use of the European Union’s COVID-19 health pass and increase its capacity to 13,146 fans. Each stadium will allow either 65 per cent capacity or 5,000 fans, whichever comes first.

This upgrade will fall during the quarter-final stage of the tournament in both the men’s and women’s draws, a huge boost for the local fans and economy. To compare this with last year’s Roland Garros, the 2020 tournament was pushed back four months to September and crowds were limited to 1,000 patrons each day.

Both 2020 champions Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek will be competing in this year’s event, along with a host of big names in the tennis world. Let’s take a look at who is absent, the contenders to watch and some outside chances to keep an eye on.

THE ABSENTEES:

The most notable absentee is world number three Simona Halep, who will miss the tournament with a left calf tear. Halep, who was the 2018 French Open winner, would be one of the favourites to win this year’s title if she were able to compete.

On the men’s side, Canadian world number 14 Denis Shapovalov withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury that reportedly bothered him through the Geneva Open. Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 Roland Garros champion, has also pulled out with a foot injury.

Big names Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray have chosen not to participate so they can focus on the upcoming grass court season. Wimbledon is set to commence just two weeks after the Roland Garros final.

THE LEADING CONTENDERS:

The year’s tournament is headlined once again by Nadal, who is in pursuit of a historic 21st Grand Slam title. His remarkable record at arguably the toughest Grand Slam is well-documented – 13 French Open titles, 100 wins out of 102 matches and four championship trophies without conceding a set during the tournament. One of those flawless championships where he never lost a set came in 2020, proving that Nadal is not showing signs of slowing down on his favourite surface. If the ‘King of Clay’ ends his career with the most men’s Grand Slam titles, it will be difficult for historians not to consider him the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.

His major challengers remain the two rivals challenging him for that ‘GOAT’ crown– Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Both players sit in Nadal’s half of the draw and, remarkably, we could be treated to a Federer v Djokovic quarter-final showdown if both champions play their part. If Nadal progresses to the semi-final, the winner of Federer v Djokovic would face him in the final four.

Djokovic is arguably a much tougher threat than Federer in this tournament, as the Serbian remains world number one and has won 16 of his 19 matches in 2021. Meanwhile, Federer has no expectations of winning and seems to have conceded defeat already. “I know I will not win the French Open, and whoever thought I would or could win it is wrong,” Federer said. “Roland Garros is not the goal, the goal is the grass.”

Two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem is the other main contender to consider in the men’s tournament. Despite having a poor start to the season, the Austrian world number four has proven in recent years that he is capable of beating anyone when he plays his best tennis. With no Nadal or Djokovic in his half of the draw, this could be his time.

On the women’s side, defending champion Swiatek is considered the favourite given her strong start to the season. The 19-year-old has already won two titles this year – in Adelaide and Rome – and made an impressive run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open before being knocked off by Halep. With Halep’s absence comes a huge opportunity for Swiatek to go back-to-back.

Australian Ash Barty is her main challenger, and these two women could be forced to face off in a semi-final. After missing last year’s tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world number one and 2019 French Open champion is back with the aim of regaining her crown. Her form has been the most consistent of just about any player in 2021, claiming three titles so far along with runner-up honours in Madrid. Barty’s game is reliable and well-suited to clay, so expect her to make a deep run in Paris.

Aryna Sabalenka and Naomi Osaka deserve consideration as contenders too, but for very different reasons. Sabalenka has been brilliant on clay so far this season, having defeated Barty in the Madrid final and losing to her in the Stuttgart final. The 23-year-old has never made past the fourth round of a slam, but she appears ready to fulfil her potential and could make a serious impact over the next two weeks.

On the other hand, fellow 23-year-old Osaka has already lived up to her potential in many ways, winning four Grand Slam titles over the past four years. However, all of these have taken place on hard courts, and her struggles on clay are well-documented. Osaka has never made it past the Round of 32 at Roland Garros, so it will take a major turnaround for her to contend for the championship this year. 

THE ROUGHIES:

World number two Daniil Medvedev‘s record on clay makes for rough reading, as he has fallen in the first round of Roland Garros in each of the past four years. Given Medvedev is one of the most talented players on the circuit, this record is quite difficult for him or any expert to explain. The Russian has added clay court specialist Igor Andeev to his coaching staff in an attempt to reverse these fortunes. If Medvedev gets some comfortable wins under his belt early in the tournament, then he quickly becomes a contender to watch.

Elsewhere, Stefanos Tsisitpas and Alexander Zverev are in strong form, having won recent clay court titles in Monte Carlo and Madrid respectively. They have been drawn in the same half and could meet in a semi-final, especially if Thiem and Medvedev continue their respective struggles. Norwegian 22-year-old Casper Ruud is in impressive form having made the semi-finals in Monte Carlo and Madrid, but he has drawn a difficult first-round matchup in France’s Benoit Paire. Speaking of the draw, it could open right up for Grigor Dimitrov (in Medvedev’s quarter) after he made his debut fourth-round appearance at Roland Garros last year.

If you’re looking for a dark horse to follow on the women’s side, look no further than Garbiñe Muguruza. The 2016 French Open champion has a brilliant record at the slam, making it through to (at least) the Round of 16 in six of the past seven years. The 27-year-old has the ability to beat anyone at her best and could easily make a huge impact at this year’s event. She does have a tough draw however and would likely be forced to face Swiatek in the fourth round.

It would be remiss to rule out Serena Williams, who remains just one championship away from Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles. Three of Williams’ titles have come at the French Open, but her form on clay in the lead up to this year’s event has been subpar. In contrast, American 17-year-old Coco Gauff‘s form in the lead up has been outstanding, winning a title in Parma and making the semi-finals in Rome. This tournament presents a huge opportunity for Gauff, who has a lethal backhand and appears to have fixed her double faulting issues. 

American Jennifer Brady will look to continue her dominant start to the season after making the 2021 Australian Open final, while experienced stars Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka are capable of doing some damage in the bottom half of the draw.

FIVE ROUND 1 MATCHES TO WATCH:

[2] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) v Alexander Bublik (KAZ)

[4] Sofia Kenin (USA) v Jelana Ostapenko (LAT)

[13] Jennifer Brady (USA) v Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

[15] Casper Ruud (NOR) v Benoit Paire (FRA)

[15] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS)

PREDICTIONS:

Men’s champion: Rafael Nadal

Women’s champion: Ash Barty

 

Picture credit: Getty Images

ATP Tour wrap: Intriguing results heading into ATP 250 Rounds of 16

THE second day of Round of 32 proceedings is almost complete at the trio of ATP 250 tournaments at Qatar, Marseille and Santiago, with plenty of formidable outcomes continuing to set the tone for the quality of matches.

At Qatar, David Goffin continued his excellent form of late with a 6-4 6-4 clean sweep over Filip Krajinovic, rendering the Serbian wasteful and winning a whopping 82 per cent of his first serve points. Proceedings did not go quite so well for fellow seed Stan Wawrinka who was outplayed by South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Harris took the Swiss talent to three sets only to run out 7-6 6-7 7-5 victor in two hours and 40 minutes. Whilst Wawrinka had a higher first serve win rate (87 per cent), Harris was more efficient with an 81 per cent win rate off a 69 per cent clip to claim victory, with his cleanliness on serve (11 aces for three double faults) compared to Wawrinka’s 17 and five doing the trick in this encounter.

Wildcard Malek Jaziri managed an to capitalise on a wealth of chances in an excellent outing against lucky loser Norbert Gombos, defeating the Slovakian – who ranks 95th in the world to Jaziri’s 262nd – in straight sets, 6-2 7-5. In other matches, Daniel EvansVasek Pospisil and Marton Fucsovics all reigned supreme, with the former claiming a 6-4 1-6 6-2 comeback victory over Jeremy Chardy, whilst Pospisil and Fucsovics both won in straight sets.

QATAR OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[6] David Goffin (BEL) defeated Filip Krajinovic (SRB) 6-4 6-4
[Q] Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [7] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 7-6 6-7 7-5
Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4 1-6 6-2
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 7-6 6-3
[WC] Malek Jaziri (TUN) defeated [LL] Norbert Gombos (SVK) 6-2 7-5
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) defeated [Q] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-3 6-4

 

In Marseille, proceedings went much the way of the hometown heroes on day two as four Frenchman made their way through to the Round of 16. Wins to Pierre-Hugues HerbertJo-Wilfried TsongaLucas Pouille and Arthur Rinderknech kept France on the hunt, with the former and latter coming away with scalps as Herbert defeated sixth seed Kei Nishikori, whilst 138 ranked Rinderknech disposed of world number 96 Mikhail Kukushkin. Meanwhile, Tsonga got back on the winners list with a tough victory over Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, with the 3-6 6-4 7-5 battle seeing the two players combine for 32 aces and only seven double faults in a two-hour and seven-minute encounter.

The only seed – of two – to win through on day two at the Open 13 Provence was Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, as the seventh seed Spaniard disposed of Greek wildcard Petros Tsitsipas – younger brother of world number five Stefanos – in 45 minutes, 6-0 6-2. Also joining Davidovich Fokina in the second round are Australian Matt Ebden and American Mackenzie McDonald, after both players fought hard for victories ovwer Benjamin Bonzi and Stefano Travaglia, respectively.

OPEN 13 PROVENCE ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) defeated [6] Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-1 6-4
[7] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) defeated [WC] Petro Tsitsipas (GRE) 6-0 6-2
Lucas Pouille (FRA) defeated [Q] Alex Molcan (SVK) 7-5 6-3
[Q] Matthew Ebden (AUS) defeated [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) 3-6 7-6 6-3
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-6 7-6
[Q] Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) defeated Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 1-6 6-3 6-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) defeated Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 3-6 6-4 7-5

 

The only tournament which saw two seeds prevail on day two was at Chile, with a couple of Argentinian seeds in Federico Coria and Federico Delbonis reigning supreme in three sets. A huge three-hour and 10-minute encounter between Coria and Gianluca Mager delayed a lot of the day’s proceedings, with the 4-6 7-6(4) 7-6(4) result not coming easy to the Argentinian. But overall, Coria was far more consistent on serve, with a better efficiency and winning ability, whilst also backing it up on the return. His compatriot in Delbonis took all of two hours and 51 minutes to dispose of Spaniard Jaume Munar, 6-4 6-7 6-4. Two more Argentinians were not so lucky though, with Sebastian Baez and Francisco Cerundolo both disposed of in straight sets, with the latter unable to back up his excellent finals-bound run from last week going down in under an hour to Andrej Martin.

It was an impressive day for qualifiers as three players continue through to the Round of 16 following consecutive days on court, with Dutch young gun Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune downing the aforementioned Baez 6-3 6-2, whilst Chilean Alejandro Tabilo defeated Jozef Kovalik 6-1 0-6 6-4 and Juan Pablo Varillas downed Joao Sousa. One match remains, with a duo of wildcards in hometown hope Gonzalo Lama and Argentinian Juan Manuel Cerundolo just beginning.

CHILE OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[Q] Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (NED) defeated [Q] Sebastian Baez (ARG) 6-3 6-2
[7] Federico Coria (ARG) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 4-6 7-6 7-6
[8] Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated Jaume Munar (ESP) 6-4 6-7 6-4
Andrej Martin (SVK) defeated [SE] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) 6-1 6-2
[Q] Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) defeated Jozef Kovalik (SVK) 6-1 0-6 6-4
[Q] Juan Pablo Varillas (PER) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-4 6-1
[WC] Gonzalo Lama (CHI) v. [WC] Juan Manuel Cerundolo (ARG)

2021 ATP Tour 250 Doha/Marseille/Santiago previews: Fed Express returns

THREE ATP Tour 250 events take place this week, with the biggest talking point being the return of Roger Federer for the first time in more than 12 months. The Fed Express will play at Doha in a strong top-end field, whilst tournaments at Marseille and Santiago also take place this weekend.

DOHA:

Federer’s return to the ATP Tour will be the story of this tournament, regardless of how he goes. The now world number five will be seeded second at this event behind Austrian Dominic Thiem, who has become a Grand Slam winner since the Swiss maestro last played. The top five talents are joined by another Top 10 player in Andrey Rublev who hopes to build on his strong early season form, as an additional four Top 15 players are entered making it a really impressive elite group.

The injury-stricken Gael Monfils returns alongside recent Open Sud de France finalists in David Goffin and Roberto Bautista Agut, and young gun Canadian Denis Shapovalov. The latter is in the form of his life ranked 11th overall, with Goffin is seventh seed but still 14th in the world. Stan Wawrinka rounds out the eight seeds coming in at world number 20, while all the automatic entries are inside the Top 50.

Among those entries are Dusan Lajovic – fresh off an upset win over Daniil Medvedev at Rotterdam – as well as Lorenzo Sonego – who defeated Novak Djokovic late last year – and Alexander Bublik – who claimed an upset win over Alexander Zverev last week – who will be threats to the Top 20 players. Croatian Borna Coric and Brit Daniel Evans are other Top 30 players in the draw, while Australian John Millman will be searching for that all-important first win in an individual event for 2021.

No one is expecting Federer to storm to a title straight off the bat as much as that would be a fairytale, however he would be the sentimental favourite. Much more likely is a Thiem-Rublev final which would be entertaining, with Shapovalov and Goffin the others in-form.

 

MARSEILLE:

The two players considered the next Grand Slam winners will face-off in Marseille, with world number three Daniil Medvedev and world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas entered as the top two seeds. The Russian top seed will be wanting to improve on his shock first round loss to Lajovic last start, and will be fresh here, while Tsitsipas will be looking to continue his Rotterdam form if he does indeed play. Third seed Karen Khachanov is the other Top 30 player, with the draw thinning out after the top six.

Young guns Ugo Humbert and Jannik Sinner continue to follow each other around the world at the same tournaments and remain danger men to any player above them, whilst Kei Nishikori‘s recent form – which included wins over Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur at Rotterdam – has the sixth seed in the mix as well. Compatriot Yoshihito Nishioka and Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina round out the eight seeds at the event, with France unsurprisingly well represented in Marseille.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will be back again to try and grab a win in his second 2021 start, joined by the likes of Lucas Pouille and Pierre-Hugues Herbert as automatic entries. Brit Cameron Norrie and Belarusian Egor Gerasimov have shown potential at different points this year, while young Finn Emil Ruusuvuori is another one to watch out for.

Tsitsipas will arguably start favourite, with a final against Medvedev the dream for onlookers, but you can never discount Humbert or Sinner with their potential.

 

SANTIAGO:

By far the weakest draw mainly due to the clay surface, the 250 event in Santiago will draw some of the lower ranked clay court specialists to try and grab a win. Cristian Garin will be the strong favourite for the event, seeded first as 22nd in the world, while 29th ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire is the other Top 50 player. After that it drops off with third seed Pablo Andujar (57th) and fourth seed Laslo Djere (60th) also entering.

Recent maiden title winner Juan Manuel Cerundolo, as well as Chilean Nicolas Jarry have earned wildcards at the event, with Jarry the other home nation hero after Garin in the main draw. The lowest automatic entry outside of wildcards is 128th ranked Slovakian Jozef Kovalik who reached a quarter final at Cordoba, while the likes of Marco Cecchinato, Salvatore Caruso and Jaume Munar are others to watch.

This is Garin’s tournament to win. His favourite surface, a weakened draw, it is hard not to see him lifting the cup, with perhaps the red-hot Cerundolo his biggest challenger, alongside the unpredictable but talented clay courter in Cecchinato.

Picture credit: Julian Finney

ATP Tour wraps: Seeds prevail in tight contests on Day 2 at Rotterdam, Buenos Aires

DAY 2 at both the Rotterdam and Buenos Aires ATP tournaments saw plenty of tight encounters, as seeds reigned supreme for the most part but were certainly challenged as they did so.

At Rotterdam, second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was made to work for his victory over world number 76 Egor Gerasimov, as the Belarusian used everything in his arsenal in the 7-6 7-5 encounter. Taken to just under two hours on court, Tsitsipas marginally controlled his return games (31 per cent to 27 per cent) which led to the win and saved ix of eight break points to command victory. Fourth seed Russian Andrey Rublev came away relatively unscathed in comparison, defeating qualifier Marcos Giron 7-6 6-3, whilst the remaining seed in Stan Wawrinka was not quite as fortunate, disposed of in straight sets by Rublev’s compatriot Karen Khachanov 6-4 7-5.

A couple of compatriots faced off with only one of each nation surviving amongst all-French and all-Australian battles. The results flipped across the two as Jeremy Chardy upset Ugo Humbert in the lone three-setter of the day, whilst Alex de Minaur kept up his great form with a 6-1 6-4 win over John Millman in one hour and 18 minutes, with this the only match of the day that did not feature a seventh game or tiebreaker set. In the remaining matches, another Frenchman fell as Hubert Hukacz disposed of Adrian Mannarino, whilst Borna Coric defeated homegrown wildcard Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-4 7-6.

ROTTERDAM OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[2] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Egor Gerasimov (BLR) 7-6 7-5
[4] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated [Q] Marcos Giron (USA) 7-6 6-3
Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [8] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-4 7-5
[Q] Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated Ugo Humbert (FRA) 4-6 7-6 7-6
Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-1 6-4
Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 7-6
Borna Coric (CRO) defeated [WC] Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) 6-4 7-6

In Buenos Aires, the two seeds were successful although one got a lot more of a wake up call than he probably would have liked, as fifth seed Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas was tested by Danish 17-year-old Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune in the lone three-set encounter of the day. Whilst Rune was eventually disposed of in just under two hours, the wildcard certainly made himself known during his ATP Tour main draw debut, taking out the first set before falling 2-6 6-4 6-3 to the experienced Spaniard. American Frances Tiafoe also reigned supreme, with the eighth seed downing Argentinian Facundo Bagnis in 68 minutes 6-1 6-3, marginally the quickest win of the day, just pipping qualifier Sumit Nagal at the post following the Indian’s 70-minute 6-2 6-0 sweep of Joao Sousa.

With a number of Argentinians competing on home soil, not everyone could go through to the Round of 16 as qualifiers reigned supreme against their experienced foes. Francisco Cerundolo battled hard to overcome compatriot Federico Coria, 6-4 7-5, whilst wildcard Facundo Diaz Acosta could not hold up under pressure from qualifying Spaniard Jaume Munar, going down in the 7-6 6-3 encounter. The remaining matches saw Lukas Klein down Andrey Martin in straight sets, whilst a tight all-Italian battle between Gianluca Mager and Salvatore Caruso saw the former come away with five aces and bragging rights.

One match remains to complete in Argentina, as compatriots Federico Delbonis and 19-year-old Juan Manuel Cerundolo go head-to-head to close out the Round of 32, with Delbonis leading 3-2 in the first set at time of publish.

ARGENTINA OPEN ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[5] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) defeated [WC] Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (DEN) 2-6 6-4 6-3
[8] Frances Tiafoe (USA) defeated Facundo Bagnis (ARG) 6-1 6-3
[Q] Francisco Cerundolo (ARG) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-4 7-5
[Q] Lukas Klein (SVK) defeated Andrej Martin (SVK) 6-4 6-3
Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 7-6 6-4
[Q] Jaume Munar (ESP) defeated [WC] Facundo Diaz Acosta (ARG) 7-6 6-3
[Q] Sumit Nagal (IND) defeated Joao Sousa (POR) 6-2 6-0
Federico Delbonis (ARG) v. Juan Manuel Cerundolo (ARG)

Picture credit: ANP

2021 ATP World Tennis Tournament & Argentina Open preview

WITH only two past winners in the 2021 World Tennis Tournament draw, the odds are in favour of a first-time winner at the 500 Rotterdam event which will welcome a number of the top stars on Tour. With Novak Djokovic nursing a torn muscle, and Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem resting, Russian Daniil Medvedev will enter the tournament as top seed and favourite at the event.

Gael Monfils is a back-to-back winner, but has opted not to take part this year as he still battles coming back from injury and his own form, while Stan Wawrinka (2015) and Andy Murray (2009) are the only past winners of the event in the draw. Despite not featuring any of the Big Three – Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer – the next crop of talents are all attending, with Australian Open finalist Medvedev the pick to go deep given his recent form.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev have all been handed top four seedings at the exclusive event, while Felix Auger-Aliassime is also in the top eight alongside more experienced talents in Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin and Wawrinka. Aside from Goffin who has struggled of late, the rest of the seeds have been in some strong form, with the top four particularly favoured to once again continue their ATP Tour success.

Outside the top eight, Alex de Minaur is a huge threat, while young guns Ugo Humbert and Jannik Sinner are back again, as are the likes of Karen Khachanov and Hubert Hurkacz. Further down the list, John Millman will hope to turn around his poor start to 2021, with Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori past Top 10 talents who are always dangers at any level, as is Grand Slam winner Murray. In terms of local hopes, Botic Van De Zandschulp and Robin Haase have been handed wildcards, but face an incredibly uphill battle against the world’s best players.

If you had to pick a winner, Medvedev is the choice, though the stacked field with Cilic being the lowest ranked automatic entry outside of wildcards, means it is an incredibly talented draw.

 

ARGENTINA OPEN:

From the star-studded 500 tournament to a lower-ranked clay court event in Argentina, some of the top clay courters in the world will look to take full advantage of a weakened field to snare a title. Top seed Diego Schwartzman is able to remain in his home country following the Cordoba Open, and he will be joined by second seed and clay court specialist, Cristian Garin. Benoit Paire and Miomir Kecmanovic round out the top four seeds, with Paire grabbing his second win in 12 months, and the up-and-coming Kecmanovic in a similar form struggle.

Guido Pella is a threat in his home nation, with Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Laslo Djere and Pablo Andujar rounding out the top eight players and Top 60 talents at the event. The 2019 winner, Marco Cecchinato is back to try and win another title, ranked 79th in the world currently. Joao Sousa  – ranked 93rd in the world – is the lowest ranked automatic entry, though the Argentinian wildcards yet to be fully announced are always a threat.

Schwartzman and Garin are the clear and away standouts in this draw, and would make for an entertaining final.

Australian Open Men’s Round of 64 wrap: Kyrgios and Fritz come back from brink, as Fucsovics holds on in thrillers

THREE epic five-set matches were the talking point of the Round of 64 action at Melbourne Park yesterday, featuring two unseeded players toppling higher ranked opponents, and another winning against a compatriot, to book their place in the third round of the Grand Slam. Australian Nick Kyrgios and American Taylor Fritz both advanced through to the Round of 32, coming from two sets to one down in order to win, while Marton Fucsovics survived a mighty scare to hold on in a nail-biting tiebreak.

The longest match of the day went to Fritz and fellow American Reilly Opelka, with the match lasting a whopping four hours and seven minutes. Opelka won the first set 6-4, which followed three consecutive tiebreak sets – with Opelka being two sets to one up before Fritz levelled in the fourth – and Fritz eventually ran away with it in the fifth to post a 4-6 7-6 6-7 7-6 6-2 victory. Opelka served a casual 43 aces on his way to 91 winners, whilst his opponent had 18 and 54 respectively. However despite both serving seven double faults, Fritz only had an additional 26 unforced errors compared to the wild Opelka (79).

At night, Kyrgios also had to come from two sets to one down against the talented Ugo Humbert, posting a remarkable five-set win over the 29th seed. Kyrgios won 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 6-4 having been a break down late in the fourth set, but forced a tiebreaker which he won 7-2. Both big servers, Kyrgios marginally shaded Humbert with 30 aces to 27, as well as an 80 per cent first serve success rate, ahead of 78 per cent for his French opponent. Humbert was superb off the return, hitting 11 return winners to five (and seven more overall), as well as four less unforced errors. In the end it was Kyrgios’ ability to stand up when it counted for him to move through to the next round.

In a different style of match, Fucsovics had to hold on against a fierce and determined Stan Wawrinka in five sets, causing the upset of the day during the 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6 victory. He won the first two sets and looked good, until the Swiss star clicked into gear, roaring back into the match. It was fitting that a massive 20-point tiebreaker would split the two, with Wawrinka two points away from victory at one stage, leading 8-4 in that super tiebreak. He won just one of the next eight points – though did have two match points against the Hungarian, before Fucsovics could finally collapse in jubilation. Fucsovics hit 34 winners to Wawrinka’s 49, but also had many less unforced errors (46-73) in the win.

The three five-set matches were complemented by a number of unseeded players pushing their seeded opponents in matches. Frances Tiafoe took a set off tournament favourite and world number one Novak Djokovic before going down 6-4 6-7 7-6 6-3, while Corentin Moutet, Jiri Vesely and Alexander Bublik did the same against Milos Raonic, Pablo Carreno Busta and Dusan Lajovic respectively. Unseeded Spaniard Pedro Martinez needed four sets to dispose of Finn Emil Ruusuvuori – who defeated Gael Monfils in the first round – coming back from a disappointing first set to win 1-6 6-3 6-2 7-6.

Most of the other seeded wins were one-sided as Dominic Thiem and Diego Schwartzman cruised through without too many headaches. Three Australians departed in straight sets at the hands of seeds, as Denis Shapovalov knocked off Bernard Tomic, Grigor Dimitrov took out Alex Bolt, and Felix Auger-Aliassime claimed a win over James Duckworth. In other matches, 32nd seed Adrian Mannarino continued his good form with a convincing 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, whilst the most one-sided result of the entire day was Russian qualifier Aslan’s Karatsev‘s 93-minute rout of Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, dropping just one game on his way to a 6-0 6-1 6-0 win.

The Round of 32 matches that the day two results have set up include blockbusters such as third seed Thiem up against Kyrgios, Carreno Busta taking on Dimitrov and an all-Canadian battle between Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime. Completing the Round of 64 matches today, Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex de Minaur are in action against fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas respectively, while rising stars Carlos Alcaraz and Mikael Ymer face off, and Casper Ruud takes on Tommy Paul.

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3 6-7 7-6 6-3
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Dominik Koepfer (GER) 6-4 6-0 6-2
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [Q] Maxime Creesy (USA) 7-5 6-4 6-3
[8] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated [LL] Alexandre Muller (FRA) 6-2 6-0 6-3
[11] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated [Q] Bernard Tomic (AUS) 6-1 6-3 6-2
[14] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-7 6-1 6-1 6-4
[15] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Jiri Vesely (CZE) 6-3 7-6 2-6 6-4
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [17] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 7-5 6-1 4-6 2-6 7-6
[18] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defaeted [WC] Alex Bolt (AUS) 7-6 6-1 6-2
[20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated James Duckworth (AUS) 6-4 6-1 6-2
[23] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) defeated Alexander Bublik (KAZ) 6-4 7-6 4-6 6-3
[27] Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Reilly Opelka (USA) 4-6 7-6 6-7 7-6 6-2
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) defeated [29] Ugo Humbert (FRA) 5-7 6-4 3-6 7-6 6-4
[32] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 6-1 6-2 6-4
[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Egor Gerasimov (BLR) 6-0 6-1 6-0
Pedro Martinez (ESP) defeated Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) 1-6 6-3 6-2 7-6

Picture credit: Getty Images

Australian Open Men’s Round of 128 wrap: Finn young gun and Belarusian danger man upset French duo

FINNISH young gun Emil Ruusuvuori caused the biggest upset on day one of the 2021 Australian Open, knocking off 10th seed Frenchman Gael Monfils in a five-set thriller. The match lasted three hours and 46 minutes, and was not the only heartbreak for France, with second ranked Frenchman Benoit Paire also bowing out of the Grand Slam.

The 21-year-old Ruusuvuori showed unbelievable grit and determination to save 17 break points during the 3-6 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 win, broken six of 23, whilst breaking his opponent the same amount of times. Monfils fired off 13 aces to four and only had five double faults to 11, but it was Ruusuvuori’s perseverance in the end that saw him get up in a remarkable upset.

Paire went down in four sets to Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, 6-2 2-6 7-6 7-5 despite hitting a whopping 74 winners to 25. The match was controlled off Paire’s racquet, also hitting 21 aces to five. The issue for the Frenchman has always been his consistency with said power, casually serving 23 double faults and hitting 90 unforced errors – numbers that will rarely ever win you a tennis match.

It was not all bad news for the French nation however, with the most in-form Frenchmen in Ugo Humbert and Adrian Mannarino – both seeds themselves at 29th and 32nd respectively – moving onto the next round, as did Corentin Moutet and lucky loser Alexandre Muller. Of those results, Moutet’s five-set upset of Australian John Millman on his home soil was huge, as the up-and-coming talent won 6-4 6-7 3-6 6-2 6-3 to advance to the Round of 64.

As for the home nation hopes, it was a mixed bag with Nick Kyrgios getting through his opening round match in straight sets, James Duckworth taking care of lucky loser Damir Dzumhur in three, and Alex Bolt managing to fend off Norbert Gombos in four. Even Bernard Tomic booked his spot in the Round of 64 after opponent Yuichi Sugita had to retire at a set apiece and Tomic 4-1 up in the third. Unfortunately for the home fans, wildcard Marc Polmans joined Millman in exiting the tournament.

The most talked about match coming into day one was the unbelievable draw between 11th seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov and Italian rising talent Jannik Sinner. It lived up to all expectations with Shapovalov winning 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4 in three hours and 55 minutes of action. Shapovalov controlled the tempo with 62 winners to 26, but also hit 71 unforced errors to 44. He managed to win 75 per cent of his first serve points, and broke Sinner five times from 10 attempts. The Italian will be ruing missed opportunities, setting up a whopping 20 break point chances, but only making the most of three of them.

In terms of the top eight seeds, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem both moved through to the second round without dropping a set, while Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman were forced to work a little harder to win in four. Canada would have certainly been pleased with day one, as Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime barely broke a sweat in easy straight sets wins to join Shapovalov in the Round of 64. Stan Wawrinka, Pablo Carreno Busta and Grigor Dimitov also advanced without a hiccup, while Dusan Lajovic was put through the ultimate test of five sets against Ukrainian qualifier Sergiy Stakovsky before surviving, while American Taylor Fritz won in four sets against Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

American trio Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and qualifier Maxime Cressy also booked their places in the second round of the Australian Open, while Czech Jiri Vesely needed five sets – coming from two sets to one down -to put away Belgian qualifier, Kimmer Copperjans. Spaniard Pedro Martinez, Kazakh Alexander Bublik, Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, Russian Aslan Karatsev, Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic and German Dominik Koepfer were the other winners on day one.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN MEN’S ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-3 6-1 6-2
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 7-6 6-2 6-3
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated Marcos Giron (USA) 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-2
[8] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Elias Ymer (SWE) 7-6 6-4 2-6 6-2
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) defeated [10] Gael Monfils (FRA) 3-6 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3
[11] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) defeated Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4
[14] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-2
[15] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7-5 7-6 6-2
[17] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) defeated Pedro Sousa (POR) 6-3 6-2 6-4
[18] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-4 6-2 7-6
[20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [LL] Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) 6-2 6-4 6-2
[23] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) defeated [Q] Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) 5-7 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-4
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated [25] Benoit Paire (FRA) 6-2 2-6 7-6 7-5
[27] Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 7-6 3-6 6-2 7-6
[29] Ugo Humbert (FRA) defeated Yasutaka Uchiyama (JPN) 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-3
[32] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) defeated Dennis Novak (AUT) 6-2 6-4 7-6
[WC] Alex Bolt (AUS) defeated Norbert Gombos (SVK) 6-2 6-2 4-6 6-3
Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-4 7-5 5-7 6-4
[Q] Maxime Cressy (USA) defaeted [LL] Taro Daniel (JPN) 7-6 7-6 6-4
James Duckworth (AUS) defeated [LL] Damir Dzumhur (BIH) 6-3 6-2 6-4
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) defeated [WC] Marc Polmans (AUS) 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-7 6-3
[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Gianluca Mager (ITA) 6-3 6-3 6-4
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) defeated Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 6-2 6-4 6-3
Dominik Koepfer (GER) defeated [LL] Hugo Dellien (BOL) 7-5 6-2 6-4
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) defeated [Q] Federico Ferreira Silva (POR) 6-4 6-4 6-4
Pedro Martinez (ESP) defeated Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-7 6-1 6-1 6-1
Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated John Millman (AUS) 6-4 6-7 3-6 6-2 6-3
[LL] Alexandre Muller (FRA) defeated Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) 4-6 6-3 6-0 6-3
Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated [PR] Yen-Hsun Lu (TAI) 6-3 7-6 6-3
Frances Tiafoe (USA) defeated Stefano Travaglia (ITA) 7-5 6-2 6-2
[Q] Bernard Tomic (AUS) defeated Yuichi Sugita (JPN) 3-6 6-1 4-1 RET
Jiri Vesely (CZE) defeated [Q] Kimmer Coppejans (BEL) 6-4 3-6 6-7 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: Tennis World USA

ATP 250 wraps: Semis decided after hectic day of action

A HUGE day of action at Melbourne Park resulted in the semi-finalists being decided for the two ATP 250 events, the Great Ocean Road Open and the Murray River Open.

A blockbuster semi-final between Karen Khachanov and Jannik Sinner awaits in the Great Ocean Road Open. The pair of top four seeds in the tournament booked their spots in the final four after winning their respective quarter finals. Khachanov had his work cut out for himself against Dutchman, Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-7 7-5 6-3, while Sinner toppled seventh seed Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets, 7-6 6-4. The first set tiebreaker went to 12-10 before the young Italian could emerge victorious, but managed to get the job done.

Earlier in the day, Khachanov knocked out South African Kevin Anderson in straight sets, while Sinner took out Aljaz Bedene in equally tight circumstances. Kecmanovic had made the semis after a win over Salvatore Caruso, while Van de Zandschup was a surprise quarter finalist following an upset two-tiebreaker win over sixth seed American, Reilly Opelka.

In the other half of the draw, Stefano Travaglia and Thiago Monteiro will eye off their maiden ATP Tour title in the semi-finals. Travaglia upset third seed Hubert Hurkacz in three sets, 3-6 6-3 7-5, following an earlier win over danger man Alexander Bublik. Monteiro took out the last Australian hope in Jordan Thompson, as well as Spanish young gun Carlos Alcarez earlier in the day.

With just two seeds remaining in the draw, the winner of the Khachanov and Sinner match will go in as heavy favourites for the final tomorrow.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD OPEN QUARTER FINALS RESULTS:

[2] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) 6-7 7-5 6-3
Stefano Travaglia (ITA) defeated [3] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3-6 6-3 7-5
[4] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated [7] Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB) 7-6 6-4
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated [11] Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-4 6-4

A couple of retirements marred the Murray River Open quarter finals after players were forced to double up from the missing day’s play on Thursday. Instead Friday provided spectators with plenty of action and the semi-finalists were decided. Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that three of the four semi-finalists are yet to win an ATP Tour title.

The favourite to take home the title of the remaining players is rising star, Felix Auger-Aliassime who made it into the semis after winning in a tiebreaker against Jiri Vesely before the Czech retired at the the end of the set. Earlier, Auger-Aliassime took care of Egor Gerasimov in three sets, while Vseley had knocked off Ricardas Berankis.

Auger-Aliassime will now take on Corentin Moutet in the semi-finals, with neither player having won a title to their name. The 21-year-old Frenchman is a year older than his Canadian opponent, but much younger than second seed Bulgarian, Grigor Dimitrov who he toppled in the quarter finals. Winning 7-5 6-2, Moutet had a memorable victory which followed on from his victory over James Duckworth earlier in the day.

Unfortunately the quick turnaround between matches was always going to wreak havoc on player recovery, and those eyeing off a deep Australian Open such as 34-year-old Stan Wawrinka will always err on the side of caution. The Swiss veteran pulled out of his quarter final with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, having struggled past Alex Bolt in three tight sets. Chardy knocked off sixth seed American, Taylor Fritz in straight sets.

In the last quarter final, eighth seeded Brit Daniel Evans won through in straight sets, 7-5 7-6 over fourth seed Borna Coric. Following a straightforward win over Nick Kyrgios earlier in the day, Coric was in good form, but it was Evans who got the better of him and is now eyeing off his maiden title on Tour, the oldest of the remaining players left in the draw.

MURRAY RIVER OPEN QUARTER FINALS:

Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated [2] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 7-5 6-2
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated [1] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) W/O
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Jiri Vesely (CZE) 7-6 0-0 RET
[8] Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Borna Coric (CRO) 7-5 7-6

Picture credit: Tennis Australia/ Natasha Morello

ATP 250 wraps: Two top five seeds knocked out of contention

THERE was plenty of excitement had at both the Great Ocean Road Open and Murray River Open as a number of big names plied their trade and showcased their flashy style while a couple of surprise losses also headlined the Round of 32 action. With plenty of experienced heads on court, there was a slight glimpse to the future with some fresh faces making a name for themselves thanks to some big scalps.

It was another action packed day at the Great Ocean Road Open as a plethora of seeded players progressed through to the next round with the likes of Karen Khachanov, Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner getting the job done in two sets against their respective opponents. Australian, Max Purcell put Khachanov through his paces pushing him to a tiebreaker in the first but simply could not maintain that intensity throughout going down 7-6 6-3. It was a similar tale for fellow Australian, Aleksandar Vukic whose journey ended against Sinner with the Italian flexing his muscles and motoring past Vukic to claim a 6-2 6-4 victory. However the talking point of the day came through a major upset with number one seed, David Goffin bundled out in straight sets by up and coming Spanish youngster Carlos Alcaraz  6-3 6-3. Alcaraz is quickly making a name for himself with the youngster proving that the hype surrounding him on the ITF circuit is more than warranted with his impressive demolition performance against Goffin.

Australian Christopher O’Connell fell agonisingly short of victory against eight seed Alexander Bublik with the two partaking in a  gruelling two hour battle. Although Bublik walked away with the chocolates 7-6 6-7 6-4 he was well and truly pushed to his limits with the first and second sets going to tiebreakers. Speaking of three setters Americans Tennys Sandgren and Sam Querrey were bundled out in their respective matches as their Italian opponents capitalised on their opportunities. Salvatore Caruso took care of Sandgren 6-4 6-7 6-4 while Stefano Travaglia edged ahead thanks to some strong form in the backend of the match 6-7 6-3 6-4.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD OPEN RESULTS

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated David Goffin (BEL) 6-3 6-3
[2] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Max Purcell (AUS) 7-6 6-3
[3] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) defeated Mikael Torpegaard (DEN) 6-4 6-3
[4] Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) 6-2 6-4
Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP) defeated [5] Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 7-5 6-3
[6] Reilly Opelka (USA) defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR) 7-6 6-4
[7] Miomir Kecmanovic (CRO) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 6-3 6-4
[8] Alexander Bublik (KAZ) defeated Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 7-6 6-7 6-4
Salvatore Caruso (ITA) defeated [9] Tennys Sandgren (USA) 6-4 6-7 6-4
Stefano Travaglia (ITA) defeated [10] Sam Querrey (USA) 6-7 6-3 6-4
[11] Jordan Thompson (AUS) defeated Pierre-Hughes Herbert (FRA) 6-4 3-6 6-3
[13] Aljaz Bedene (SLO) defeated Dane Sweeny (AUS) 6-0 6-4
Kevin Anderson (RSA) defeated Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (GER) 6-4 6-2
Pablo Cuevas (URU) defeated Robin Haase (NED) 7-5 6-3
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated [ALT] Matthew Ebden (AUS) 6-7 6-4 6-3
Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) defeated [PR] Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 6-4 3-6 6-4

Despite being forced to three sets, Swiss talent Stan Wawrinka managed to progress through to the next round of the Murray River Open. Up against Mikhail Kukushkin, the number one seed dug deep and really put the foot down in the final set to claim victory in their two hour long match 4-6 6-3 6-1. Keeping that theme rolling of top seeds progressing was Grigor Dimitrov who made light work of Australian Andrew Harris 6-3 6-3 while up and coming Canadian youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime managed to claim another win by comfortably defeating Japan’s Yuichi Sugita. Croatian and fourth seed Borna Coric lived to see another day pushing past Emil Ruusuvuori in two sets despite the overall match lasting an hour and forty minutes 7-5 6-4. It was a good day for Jiri Vesley with the Czech causing an upset win against fifth seed Casper Ruud to stop his campaign in his tracks 5-7 7-6 6-3.

It was an all Australian affair as Nick Kyrgios and Harry Bourchier went head to head with the thirteenth seed showcasing his power and dominance against his lesser experienced opponent. Pushed to a tiebreak in the third Kyrgios managed to fight off a spirited Bourchier and walk away with the win 6-2 7-6. Both Alex Bolt and Alexei Popyrin moved through to the next stage getting over the top of their American counterparts although Bolt had his work cut out for him surviving a challenging three setter against Mackenzie McDonald 6-4 6-7 7-5.

 

Murray River Open results

[1] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) defeated Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 4-6 6-3 6-1
[2] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [WC] Andrew Harris (AUS) 6-3 6-3
[3] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated Yuicji Sugita (JAP) 6-3 6-1
[4] Borna Coric (CRO) defeated Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) 7-5 6-4
Jiri Vesley (CZE) defeated [5] Casper Ruud (NOR) 7-5 6-4
[6] Taylor Fritz (USA) defeated Federico Coria (ARG) 6-2 6-1
James Duckworth (AUS) defeated [7] Ugo Humbert (FRA) 7-6 6-4
[8] Daniel Evans (GBR) defeated Pedro Sousa (POR) 6-3 7-5
Marcos Giron (USA) defeated [10] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 6-4
Corentin Moutet (FRA) defeated [12] Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-4 6-4
[13] Nick Kyrgios (AUS) defeated [ALT] Harry Bourchier (AUS) 6-2 6-7
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [15] Tommy Paul (USA) 6-4 6-3
Egor Gerasimov (BLR) defeated [16] Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 6-3 1-6 6-3
Ricardas Berankis (LTU) defeated [WC] Jason Kubler (AUS) 7-6 7-5
Alex Bolt (AUS) defeated Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 6-4 6-7 7-5
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-3 6-4

Hopman Cup hypothetical teams: Switzerland & Czech Republic

ONE of the most unique tennis tournaments which features both ATP Tour and WTA Tour players is the Hopman Cup. Given the world circumstance and the fact it was already skipped on the eve of last year, it looks to be either delayed later in 2021, or perhaps at the turn of the New Year in 2022. However, in this new series we wanted to look at some hypothetical Hopman Cup teams and what they might look like if there was no COVID-19 pandemic, and if the famed mixed tournament did go ahead.

We continue the series with Switzerland and Czech Republic, who have played 12 Hopman Cups each, making them equal fifth overall on the most Cups played.

Switzerland: Roger Federer & Belinda Bencic

It is amazing to think that this combination not only would be the dream combination, but is a reigning back-to-back winner at the event. It is easy to see why. The pair played in 2017, but then won together in 2018 and 2019, with the age gap something to marvel at as Belinda Bencic grew up supporting Roger Federer as a child. If they were both fit you would expect them to return to the tournament to try and win a third title together, though Federer also won the title back in 2001. If the 18-year gap between Federer’s first and most recent title does not make you feel old, keep in mind that 2001 title was won alongside Martina Hingis.

When Federer and Hingis lifted the title, Bencic was four years-old, and it was a dream for her to play alongside one of the greatest of all-time. The fairytale became endearing to fans when a photo from Bencic’s Twitter account circulated of her as a child alongside Federer, next to one of her alongside Federer competing at the event. If the pairing was not to compete, the Swiss do have some other options such as Stan Wawrinka and Jil Teichmann, with another large age gap in that duo as well. Though they would not be bad choices, having two top 15 players is hard to beat.

Czech Republic: Jiri Vesely & Karolina Pliskova

In the tennis world, some nations are heavily slated towards either the ATP or WTA Tours, and in the case of the Czech Republic, it is the latter with four players inside the top 30, and nine inside the top 100, making them the clear standout nation when it comes to women’s tennis. In terms of the Hopman Cup, the question would be put to the best of the lot in sixth ranked Karolina Pliskova, who might not have had the best 2020, but overall is the all-round talent. She would thrive in the conditions, and if it was not her, then Petra Kvitova would be a damaging talent to opposition nations at the event. Both Pliskova (2016) and Kvitova (2012, 2014) have competed at the Hopman Cup, so it is not farfetched to suggest the duo would consider putting their hands up if given the opportunity.

Having won the 1989 title under Czechoslovakia, and then 1994 and 2012 titles under the Czech Republic, the nation has been able to pull plenty of big names to the event. For the men’s side, they do not have as many top-end talents, but Jiri Vesely would be the pick to compete. With Tomas Berdych winning the title here in 2012 with Kvitova and having since retired, Vesely could look to do the same with the left-hander, or perhaps renew the duo with Pliskova who he teamed up with in 2016. If not Vesely, then the talent gets a little thing, with the world number 68 the clear standout. Tomas Machac is a 20-year-old talent coming through and is ranked 193rd in the world, while Jonas Forejtek way down in 357th is a teenager who showed some grit on debut this year.

Picture: EssentiallySports