Tag: taylor fritz

Djokovic claims remarkable ninth Australian Open title

WORLD number one Novak Djokovic has edged ever closer to joining Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles after taking home his ninth Australian Open Grand Slam in straight sets last night. Taking on the in-form Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic fought past a tougher first set, to dismiss the reigning ATP Finals winner in straight sets, 7-5 6-2 6-2 and claim his 18th ATP Tour major.

“I think it was a very successful tournament and I’d like to praise [tournament director] Craig Tiley for a tremendous effort,” Djokovic said. “It was challenging on many different levels and Tennis Australia should be very proud for making it possible.”

Fans heading down to Rod Laver Arena predicted the night to be a nail-biter considering the form of Medvedev, and the muscle tear that has been plaguing Djokovic throughout the tournament that almost saw him bow out to Taylor Fritz in the fourth round. But instead it was the Serbian who raced away to a strong start going 3-0 up with an early break, forcing his opponent on the back foot. Medvedev fought back to secure a break himself, but with Djokovic up 6-5 in the first, he saw his chance. He lifted his aggression in the twelfth game and set up three set points, of which he made good on the third one to win the opening set 7-5.

The Serbian was far from clinical though, only serving the two aces and hitting 12 winners for seven unforced errors, compared to 12 and nine for Medvedev. His work at the net was already causing headaches for the Russian with all of his seven net charges being successful. The game became more about which player would yield first as Djokovic was not hitting his high volume of winners credit to Medvedev’s work rate across the court, but the Russian was also not able to really able to hold his own serve either, broken three times to one in the second set. Despite only winning seven less points than his opponent (20-27), Medvedev could not capitalise off the Serbian’s serve, and struggled on his own second serve.

The third set was even stranger with neither player serving an ace, but Djokovic well and truly in control of the match with consistent serving. He actually hit three less winners (4-7) but had eight less unforced errors (5-13) which was the story of the match. The world number one also broke twice from his two chances, and was more clinical at the net (83 to 67 per cent success), as he won seven more points than Medvedev for the set again (28-21). In the end, the match lasted just one hour and 53 minutes with the world number one taking home a remarkable ninth crown.

“I would like to thank this court, I would like to thank Rod Laver Arena, I love you each year more and more – the love affair keeps going,” Djokovic said.

“It has been definitely emotionally the most challenging Grand Slam that I ever had with everything that was happening, injury, off-the-court stuff, quarantines. It has been, least to say, a roller-coaster ride in the last four weeks,” he revealed.  “It was very challenging for me to keep my mind serene and keep my focus directed into what matters the most. I have put a lot of energy and time, along with my team, to be here sitting with a trophy. “So I’ll take a lot of positives out of this month here in Australia.”

While the disappointment for Medvedev was real – the Russian is still yet to win his maiden Grand Slam – he did receive some good news, with the fact he will become the world number three today, rising above US Open winner and last year’s Australian Open runner-up, Dominic Thiem.

“Congratulations to Novak and your team,” Medvedev said post-match. “Nine Grand Slams in Australia and 18 in total is an amazing thing and it is probably not your last one.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN MEN’S FINAL RESULT:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated [4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 7-5 6-2 6-2

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 32 wrap: The greatness of Dominic Thiem shines through in a classic

IN the most highly-anticipated match of day five, world number three Dominic Thiem came back from two sets-to-love down to defeat Australia’s own Nick Kyrgios 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4 in a thriller on John Cain Arena.

The match was initially all about Kyrgios, as he came out of the blocks flying. He broke in the first game— the only break point opportunity for either man in the opening set— and won 83 per cent of his points on his first serve. The second set was similar, as Kyrgios was up and about while Thiem struggled to make an impact with his returns. Kyrgios got his break in the ninth game and served out the set to take a commanding lead. Thiem almost lost another break in the opening game of the third set, but he held on despite constant pressure from Kyrgios and the Australian crowd.

From there, the narrative shifted. It was no longer about Kyrgios and his tricks, it was about the greatness of Thiem. At one stage, Thiem won 22 consecutive points on serve and, to put it simply, never gave Kyrgios a chance. In the final three sets, the Austrian won a staggering 19 of 22 points on his second serve, not to mention over 80 per cent of points on his first serve. It was a clinic from the reigning US Open champion, as he reduced his unforced errors and started to show a much grander intensity.

To Kyrgios’ credit, he tried absolutely everything to turn the match back in his favour. Slower serves, underarm serves, drop shots, tweeners, arguing with the chair umpire, chatting with the crowd; it was a very entertaining Kyrgios showcase. Unfortunately for the Australian, he was up against a man that would never lay down.

The ability to persist in the longer rallies combined with his incredible serving made Thiem unstoppable. He capitalised on his first match point by hitting a signature backhand bullet down the line. After the match, Thiem reflected on his performance and the difficulty of playing Kyrgios in front of his home fans.

“There are easier things than playing Nick at his home tournament on his favourite court,” Thiem said. “He is a huge player when he is on fire like today. “When I was down two break points in the first game of the third set, I was considering the prospect of losing. “But I kept fighting and with the break in the third set, I thought there was a chance to turn it around. The longer the match went on, the more comfortable I felt.

“I stood further behind the baseline to return his serves in order to read his serve better and I got more looks to break him. “I always prefer playing in front of a crowd, even if they are for their local hero, but I accepted it. “Tonight was epic and it was a great match.”

This result will give Thiem plenty of confidence going into the second week, so do not be surprised if he works his way into a second consecutive Australian Open final. His biggest threat on that side of the draw is world number one Novak Djokovic, who survived a major scare against American 27th seed Taylor Fritz. The Serbian pulled out his 7-6 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2 victory in just under three-and-a-half hours.

In other results, Felix Auger-Aliassime was too strong for Denis Shapovalov in the battle of Canadian youngsters, taking it out in straight sets 7-5 7-5 6-3. This was Auger-Aliassime’s first Grand Slam victory against Shapovalov. He will take on 27-year-old qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the fourth round, who produced the biggest upset of the day to defeat eighth seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-3 6-3. Karatsev hit 50 winners in the clash compared to Schwartzman’s five, which was particularly impressive given that it was his first ever match against a player ranked inside the ATP Top 10.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev looked fantastic in his straight sets win over France’s Adrian Mannarino, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic hit 48 winners in his victory against Spain’s Pedro Martinez, and Canada’s Milos Raonic was too good for Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.

In tomorrow’s matches, Australia’s final men’s championship hope Alex de Minaur will take on 16th seed Fabio Fognini in a fascinating matchup. Meanwhile, 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will aim to continue his outstanding start to the tournament against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

ROUND OF 32 RESULTS:

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) defeated  [27] Taylor Fritz (USA) 7-6 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-2
[3] Dominic Thiem (AUT) defeated Nick Kyrgios (AUS) 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-4
[6] Alexander Zverev (GER) defeated [32] Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-3 6-3 6-1
[14] Milos Raonic (CAN) defeated Marton Fucsovics (HUN) 7-6 5-7 6-2 6-2
[18] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) defeated [15] Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-0 1-0 (retired)
[20] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated [11] Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 7-5 7-5 6-3
[23] Dusan Lajovic (SRB) defeated Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-7 7-5 6-1 6-4
[Q] Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated [8] Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-3

Picture credit: ATP Tour

Australian Open Men’s Round of 64 wrap: Tsitsipas survives epic thriller from brave Kokkinakis

A NEVER-say-die attitude from fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis was on full display in yet another Rod Laver classic match yesterday at the Australian Open. The second round encounter had the Greek star overwhelming favourite against the talented local who has battled with injuries over the past few years, but clearly has the talent to be a top ATP Tour player.

In an unbelievable four-hour and 32-minute slog fest, Tsitsipas finally got up 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4 but Kokkinakis lost no fans along the way – including Tsitsipas himself – having pushed the 2019 ATP Finals winner to the brink.

“I think he has a huge forehand, [a] very good serve,” Tsitsipas said of Kokkinakis’ game post-match. “All the potential is there. I really hope he stays injury-free, because it can be very frustrating. I have dealt with it, and I know it’s very difficult mentally to go through things like this. “I just wish him good health and that he can compete an entire year without any pain or anything bothering him.”

Kokkinakis had a well balanced game and out-served Tsitsipas with 23 aces to 17 and two less double faults (8-10), though the Greek star won 86 and 56 per cent of his first and second serve points compared to 72 and 46 per cent. The big factor was the break point conversions, with Tsitsipas breaking five times from 22 chances to the Australian’s zero from three. The fifth seed also hit 78 winners to 58, and 16 less unforced errors (46-62).

“[It was a] great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion,” Tsitsipas said. “I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirit.”

Tsitsipas will have to recover quickly to take on Swede Mikael Ymer tomorrow who took care of Spanish qualifier and wonderkid, Carlos Alcaraz after dropping the first set, 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-5. Ymer was one of just six unseeded players to advance through to the next round, with most at the expense of Australians. Macedonian Radu Albot knocked off wildcard Christopher O’Connell in straight sets, 6-2 7-5 7-6, while South Africa’s Lloyd Harris needed five sets to post a win over another wildcard in Alexei Popyrin, 6-2 1-6 6-3 6-7 6-3. After only dropping one game in his first match, Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin was brought back to earth, losing in four sets to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.

The only two other unseeded players to make it to the Round of 32 were those who knocked out a couple of seeds in United States’ Mackenzie McDonald and Spain’s Feliciano Lopez. McDonald knocked off 22nd seed Croatian Borna Coric 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4, while Lopez toppled 31st seed Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 coming back from two sets to love down to win in three hours and 18 minutes over the Italian out on Court 7.

It was certainly an interesting day for the Italians to say the least, with 16th seed Fabio Fognini and compatriot Salvatore Caruso going toe-for-toe over five sets on John Cain Arena, and then a little more post-match. Fognini won 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6, including 14-12 in the deciding tiebreak, where the Top 20 player was questioning Caruso’s luck throughout the match and the supervisor had to physically separate them. Nonetheless, Fognini joined fellow ATP Cup finalist, Matteo Berrettini in the next round after his younger compatriot knocked off Czech rising qualifier, Tomas Machac in four sets.

Other winners on the day were Russian duo, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov who waltzed through in straight sets, as did the top two players on display in the night session, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. Alex de Minaur was the sole Australian through to the next round in that half of the draw, joining Nick Kyrgios in the third round of the men’s competition, while Casper Ruud and FIlip Krajinovic also won though after defeating their respective opponents in four sets.

Entering the third round tomorrow, there are a number of mouthwatering clashes, as Berrettini and Khachanov do battle, as do de Minaur and Fognini. Russian pair Medvedev and Rublev seem to have an easier run to a potential quarter final now with 24th seed Ruud and 28th seed Krajinovic the sole remaining seeds in that quarter of the draw.

In today’s action, all eyes will be on the all-Canadian battle between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, as well as the blockbuster battle between third seed and last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem taking on Australian Nick Kyrgios. Adrian Mannarino locking horns with Alexander Zverev is an underrated battle, while 27th seed Taylor Fritz will take his shot at world number one and tournament favourite Novak Djokovic.

ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-1 6-4 6-2
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-2 7-5 6-1
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-4 6-4 7-6
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Tomas Machac (CZE) 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3
[16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6
[19] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-2 6-4 6-4
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3 6-3 7-5
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated [22] Borna Coric (CRO) 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4
[24] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Tommy Paul (USA) 3-6 6-2 6-4 7-5
[28] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2 5-7 6-1 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated [31] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4
Radu Albot (MDA) defeated [WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-2 7-5 7-6
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-2 1-6 6-3 6-7 6-3
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) leads [Q] Roman Safiullin (RUS) 3-6 7-5 6-3 7-6

Picture credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

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: Aussie upsets rule day two

IT was a memorable day for the home nation at the Australian Open, as four more Aussies moved through to the second round of the Grand Slam yesterday. Two of those results were major upsets, with none bigger than wildcard Alexei Popyrin‘s come-from-behind five set win over 13th seed David Goffin. The Australian won 3-6 6-4 6-7 7-6 6-3 in three hours and 43 minutes, hitting 50 winners to 42, and capitalising off his second serve to put the Belgian away.

The result marked Goffin’s second first round exit to start 2021, after going down to Spanish young gun Carlos Alcaraz in the lead-up tournament. Speaking of Alcaraz, he booked his passage into the second round with a comprehensive 6-1 6-4 6-4 victory over fellow qualifier, Dutchman Botic Van de Zandschulp. Remarkably there were three all-qualifier battles out on court today, with rising Czech talent Tomas Machac overcoming Spaniard Mario Viella Martinez when leading two sets to one and 3-0 in the fourth before Martinez retired hurt. American Michael Mmoh was the other qualifier to oust a fellow qualifier, defeating Viktor Troicki in a 7-6 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5 in a whopping four hours and six minutes.

For all of Mmoh’s great work, he gets the reward of playing Rafael Nadal in the second round, with the King of Clay shrugging off the talented Laslo Djere in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 6-1. Roman Safiullin was the fourth qualifier to make it through to the next round, toppling Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 6-4 6-3 6-4 to set up a date with Cameron Norrie in the Round of 64. The Brit talent upset his top ranked compatriot Daniel Evans, with the 30th seed coming off his maiden ATP Tour title just two days earlier.

Back on the Australians, 21st seed Alex de Minaur took out 2020 Australian Open quarter finalist, Tennys Sandgren in three sets, 7-5 6-1 6-1 to move through to the Round of 64. Joining him were compatriots Thanasi Kokkinakis who made his successful return via a straight sets win over Soonwoo Kwon, and Christopher O’Connell who stunned German talent Jan-Lennard Struff by saving six break points and only conceding 23 unforced errors in the 7-6 7-6 6-1 victory. The other big upset of the day was Moldovan Radu Albot stunning 12th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets. Bautista Agut expressed his displeasure in being locked away in quarantine for two weeks, but due to his first round performance can now sightsee for another fortnight, having gone down to Albot 6-7 6-0 6-4 7-6.

Looking at the top seeds, all bar Goffin made it through, with only Karen Khachanov dropping a set – to Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic – and Casper Ruud winning via a Jordan Thompson retirement whilst two sets to love up. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Borna Coric and Lorenzo Sonego breezed through to the second round without dropping a set, while Filip Krajinovic (28th seed) had to go to four sets to win against Dutchman Robin Haase. Aside from Goffin and Evans, the third seed to bow out at the first hurdle was 26th Polish seed, Hubert Hurkacz who went down to Swede Mikael Ymer in five sets after leading two sets to one, 3-6 6-3 3-6 7-5 6-3.

Of the unseeded battles, There were a number of Americans who made it through in Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald joining Mmoh in the next round, while Spanish trio Feliciano Lopez, Pablo Andujar and Roberto Carballes Baena all made it into the Round of 64. Elsewhere, Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas set up a second round date with di Minaur, while South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, Italian Salvatore Caruso, Brazillian Thiago Monteiro and Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis all won their respective singles matches.

Looking to day three, it will be a mini-ATP Cup style battle between Canada and Australia when Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime take on Bernard Tomic and James Duckworth respectively with the winners of those clashes to face off. Nick Kyrgios will have a stern test against 29th seed Ugo Humbert, while Alex Bolt also takes on a seed in 18th seed Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. A couple of exciting matches to watch out for include 32nd seed Adrian Mannarino up against Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, while another Serbian Dusan Lajovic takes on Alexander Bublik. Top seed Novak Djokovic will look to fend off the Americans as he takes on Frances Tiafoe in the second round before facing the winner of 27th seed Taylor Fritz, and his compatriot Reilly Opelka.

ROUND OF 128 RESULTS:

[2] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Laslo Djere (SRB) 6-3 6-4 6-1
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Vasek Pospisil (CAN) 6-2 6-2 6-4
[5] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-1 6-2 6-1
[7] Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Yannick Hanfmann (GER) 6-3 6-3 6-4
[9] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-6 7-5 6-3
Radu Albot (MOL) defeated [12] Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 6-7 6-0 6-4 7-6
[WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) defeated [13] David Goffin (BEL) 3-6 6-4 6-7 7-6 6-3
[16] Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-3
[19] Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated [WC] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) 6-3 6-7 7-6 6-4
[21] Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Tennys Sandgren (USA) 7-5 6-1 6-1
[22] Borna Coric (CRO) defeated Guido Pella (ARG) 6-3 7-6 7-5
[24] Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Jordan Thompson (AUS) 6-3 6-3 2-1 RET
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [26] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3-6 6-3 3-6 7-5 6-3
[28] Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Robin Haase (NED) 7-6 6-3 4-6 6-2
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated [30] Daniel Evans (GBR) 6-4 4-6 6-4 7-5
[31] Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) defeated Sam Querrey (USA) 7-5 6-4 6-4
[Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) defeated [Q] Botic Van de Zandschulp (NED) 6-1 6-4 6-4
Pablo Andujar (ESP) defeated [Q] Quentin Halys (FRA) 6-4 7-5 7-5
Ricardas Berankis (LTU) defaeted [WC] Sumit Nagal (IND) 6-2 7-5 6-3
Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) defeated Attila Balazs (HUN) 7-5 3-6 6-2 6-3
Salvatore Caruso (ITA) defeated [Q] Henri Laaksonen (SUI) 6-2 6-4 6-3
Pablo Cuevas (URU) defeated Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-4 4-6 6-2 6-2
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [LL] Mikael Torpegaard (DEN) 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-2
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) defeated Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 6-4 6-1 6-1
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated [WC] Li Tu (AUS) 6-7 6-4 7-6 6-4
[Q] Tomas Machac (CZE) defeated [Q] Mario Vilella Martinez (ESP) 6-7 7-5 6-0 3-0 RET
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated Marco Cecchinato (ITA) 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2
[Q] Michael Mmoh (USA) defeated [Q] Viktor Troicki (SRB) 7-6 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5
Thiago Monteiro (BRA) defeated Andrej Martin (SVK) 7-6 6-1 6-2
[WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) defeated Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) 7-6 7-6 6-1
Tommy Paul (USA) defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 6-4 7-6 6-4
[Q] Roman Safiullin (RUS) defeated Ilya Ivashka (BLR) 6-4 6-3 6-4

Picture credit: Brandon Malone/AFP

2021 Murray River Open ATP preview: Deep draw provides even competition

UNLIKE its opposing ATP 250 event, the 2021 Murray River Open has some good depth to its ranks, with 14 players inside the Top 50 and many of the qualifying direct acceptances are far from easy beats as well. It looks like a difficult draw to predict who will win, but top seed Stan Wawrinka will be the favourite heading in as he returns to Australia.

Always hard to beat during the Australian Summer, the 18th ranked Wawrinka leads a strong field which also sees the return of Nick Kyrgios. The former top ranked Australian takes to the court for hist first competitive match since February last year, and is seeded 13th at the event. The last time Kyrgios played a full match – he retired to Ugo Humbert in Acapulco in February last year – was a four-set Round of 16 loss to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open. How he fares in this event will be a real unknown considering his lack of court time.

The top seed reached the quarter finals of the ATP Paris Masters, defeating the red-hot Andrey Rublev along the way. He had some shock losses last year – including straight set defeats to players outside the Top 200 – but has the capacity to beat anyone on his day. If every player was to play at their maximum peak, Wawrinka and Kyrgios are the two best in the draw.

One player who neither would particularly enjoy facing is second seed Grigor Dimitrov who is always a chance as a tough opponent. The Bulgarian former world number three defeated Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas in his last tournament back in Vienna, and has form over Wawrinka, defeating him in Acapulco on Dimitrov’s way to a semi-final loss to Nadal. A disappointing second round loss at Melbourne Park to Tommy Paul – who is seeded here – will burn for Dimitrov, keen to have a prolonged impact in the upcoming Grand Slam.

Rounding out the top four seeds are Canadian young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime and Croatian Borna Coric. Yet to win a title, Auger-Aliassime has the talent to do it here at this event, but four consecutive losses leading into 2021 – two of which were to opponents outside the Top 80 – and he just needs to refresh for the Australian Summer. Coric is another player yet to win a title, seemingly cruising along in the Top 30, but capable of making the step up. He came close to a maiden title in St Petersburg, defeating Milos Raonic in the semis before bowing out to Rublev in the final. Remarkably, Coric claimed the scalps of Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem last year, so is more than capable.

Looking down the list, Casper Ruud has the opportunity to stand up to the critics, whilst Taylor Fritz is in a position to go from potential to fulfilled potential at world number 30. Humbert showed those signs last year as he had a breakout season that netted him two titles, while Daniel Evans rounds out the top eight seeds and is one of the most frustrating opponents given he can just purely wear opponents down.

A good mix of ageing and young talent fills out the large draw, with Adrian Mannarino, Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet all seeded, while Paul, Frances Tiafoe and Emil Ruusuvuori have entered the draw from an up-and-comping perspective. Outside of Kyrgios, James Duckworth is a home town hero, but he is far from the only Australian with direct entries of Alexei Popyrin, Marc Polmans, Alex Bolt, Bernard Tomic and fan favourite, Thanasi Kokkinakis all back in action.

Wawrinka and Kyrgios are great shouts for the tournament, but Humbert has the potential to do anything, and with the Australian Open around the corner, some players at the tournament may have more to prove than others.

Picture credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Davis Cup future side: USA

IT has seemed a world away since Spain lifted the 2019 Davis Cup. While the 2020 edition was ultimately cancelled and had to be postponed until 2021, it gives tennis fans extra time to work out what teams might look like when it recommences.

Draft Central will take a look at various nations over the break and see what the team might look like. Today’s team is the United States of America (USA) who have decisions to make not only in the singles, but the doubles too with their legendary doubles pairing retiring this year.

TEAM:

#25 John Isner
#29 Taylor Fritz
#39 Tommy Paul
#14D Rajeev Ram

The United States have a real tough choice on their hands when it comes to picking a Davis Cup team. They have a lot of solid players – being such a huge nation that will always be the case – but they do not have a locked and loaded combination that will secure them easy wins. In fact, the issue with American tennis at the moment, is the fact that they do not have one player you could back 100 per cent in a match against a Top 30 player.

John Isner would ensure he made the team, and given he could play doubles with his serve, he is a logical choice to be included. At 35-years-old, captain Mardy Fish should be looking to other options, as he did in their last clash which saw Tommy Paul blooded during the sweep of Uzbekistan, as well as Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz included. The Americans cannot afford to have both Isner and Opelka playing as they are the same type of player – big server – just 12 years apart.

Instead, you pick one of Isner or Opelka, and then allow Fritz – who has the talent but needs to get moving when it comes to more consistency – to take over the main singles role. Personally, Paul should be given the chance to gain consistency at international level, and at 23-years-old – the same age as Fritz and Opelka – the United States could really rebuild.

The big issue is the retirements of Bob and Mike Bryan, who have been the USA’s doubles pairing for more than two decades. With the 42-year-old twins departing, it might be worth bringing in the top ranked American in 36-year-old Rajeev Ram who is 14th in the world for doubles. He could play with any of the American players, but perhaps Opelka if he comes in for Isner, allowing Fritz and Paul to take the singles. If Jack Sock is fit, then perhaps Sock could be a wildcard inclusion as a former Top 10 player.

Picture: ATP Tour

Gombos snuffs out Goffin’s last ATP Finals hope

DAVID Goffin has missed out on qualifying for the ATP Finals following a shock second round loss to Slovakian qualifier Norbert Gombos at the Paris Masters. The eighth seed went down in a heart-breaking loss 6-4 7-6 which officially put a line through the world number 14’s hopes of playing in the most prestigious invite-only event of the year.

The 105th ranked Gombos won 75 per cent of his first serve points off a 56 per cent efficiency, breaking three times from four chances, whilst saving six of eight for Goffin’s break point opportunities. The match lasted 97 minutes before Norbert won in the tightest of second sets, getting up 8-6 in the tiebreaker. What made the victory all the more remarkable was that Goffin held three set points to take the match into a decider at 6-3, but the Slovakian hit back to win the last five points of the match and claim victory. The loss now ends Goffin’s season for 2020.

Gombos could cause more havoc on the ATP Finals race when he takes on Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the next round. The world number 15 has to win the Paris Masters to have any hope of making the eight-man tournament, and even then has to rely on ninth ranked Diego Schwartzman to exit early. The consistent Spaniard got the job done in the Round of 32 though, defeating German Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 6-2 to advance to the third round.

Carreno Busta dominated off serve, only dropping four points off his first serve, and 12 for the entire one-hour and 20-minute match, saving Struff’s only break point opportunity. By contrast, Struff only won 71 and 52 per cent of his points off serve, still managed to hold on in all bar two service games, with Carreno Busta breaking twice in the second set to run away with the contest after a nail-biting first set.

At the time of publishing, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frenchman Ugo Humbert were locked in the tightest of tussles at a set apiece and 3-3 in the decider. Humbert won the first set in a tiebreaker 7-4, before Tsitsipas won the second 8-6. Remarkably, the Greek star faced three match points at 6-3, but won the last five points of the second set to force it into a decider. The winner will now take on Maric Cilic, who had a walkover against another Frenchman in Corentin Moutet in the Round of 32. Having just gone out on court, Italian Matteo Berrettini and American Marcos Giron were going head-to-head in the final Round of 32 match.

Looking at the first round matches played on the day to complete the Round of 64, 12th seed Stan Wawrinka blasted his way into the next stage with a 6-3 7-6 triumph over Great Britain’s Dan Evans. Wawrinka hit 35 winners and served eight aces, not being broken during the match thanks to a high 83 and 67 per cent of points off his first and second serve respectively. Evans was pretty solid too, winning 76 per cent of his first serve points, but struggled off his slower second serve, winning just 46 per cent, and was broken in the first set which cost him in the 93-minute loss.

“I’m really happy with my level today, I was serving and moving well,” Wawrinka said post-match. “I was happy to be back here in Paris, even without crowd it’s always a great tournament. “We are lucky to still have some tournaments going, so I’m trying to enjoy them as much as possible.”

Now Wawrinka will face a fellow veteran in Richard Gasquet who dominated American Taylor Fritz early before having to fight through three sets to post a victory. Gasquet trounced his younger opponent 6-0 in just 25 minutes to start the match on his home court, but Fritz fought back to win the second set before the home nation hero won in three, 6-0 3-6 6-3 in 96 minutes on court. Gasquet had two less aces (9-11), but won more of his second serve points (50 per cent to 31 per cent) which was the key difference in the end.

“I am home and I like to play here in Bercy, even if there is no crowd,” Gasquet said post-match. “I am very happy with the way I played. It is very difficult to play without the support of a crowd.”

It was a relatively good day for the French, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert coming from behind to defeat Tennys Sandgren in a third set tiebreaker, 2-6 6-4 7-6, while Adrian Mannarino posted a straight sets 7-6 6-3 win over Serbian Dusan Lajovic. The news was not as positive for Mannarino’s conqueror at Nur-Saltan with recent maiden title winner John Millman going down in straight sets to another Serbian in Miomir Kecmanovic.

In other results, Lorenzo Sonego continued his good form of late, backing up his Vienna final with a first round win over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, 6-1 6-4. Also through to the next round was 10th seed Milos Raonic who won his fifth straight match over Aljaz Bedene, only dropping six points on serve to win 6-2 6-3 in just over an hour. Kevin Anderson booked his spot in the Round of 32 after Laslo Djere pulled out trailing 5-2 in the first set, while Yoshihito Nishioka defeated Pablo Andujar in a come-from-behind 5-7 6-4 6-2 victory.

Picture: Getty Images

2020 ATP Paris Masters preview: Five-time winner Djoker out as Rafa returns to Tour

RAFAEL Nadal will return to the ATP Tour at the Rolex Paris Masters and has earned the status of top seed after five-time winner Novak Djokovic opted not to play at the event. Instead, the world number one who had a shock loss to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna will head to the Nitto ATP Finals in a bid to retain the top spot in the rankings. For Nadal, he is coming off a memorable win at Roland Garros for his 13th title, and will be looking for his first ever Paris Masters.

As Andy Murray and Jack Sock are not competing in the Masters 1000, the only past winner is 2018 victor, Karen Khachanov who enters the draw as the 11th seed and with a soft first couple of matches. The Russian takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the opening round and potentially in the Round of 32, or French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi. A Round of 16 clash with in-form Diego Schwartzman is where it gets a little difficult, with Australian Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev in that quarter of the draw as potential quarter finals opponents.

Top seed Nadal has a bye in the first round like all the top eight seeds, with the clay court champion to take on either Filip Krajinovic or compatriot Feliciano Lopez in the second round. Krajinovic has had some bad luck of late, copping Djokovic in the opening round at Vienna and then a second round clash with Rafa in the Paris Masters. Up the other end of the draw, second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has a jaw-dropping unlucky second round clash with either Ugo Humbert or Casper Ruud, with the former favoured given the match is on hard court.

Medvedev will need to put a disappointing loss at Vienna behind him, mainly because he will likely face his conqueror from the Erste Bank Open in Kevin Anderson. The South African plays Laslo Djere in the first round before the Russian in the Round of 32 should the big-server advance through. It is a huge eighth of the draw, with de Minaur taking on fellow top 30 talent Dusan Lajovic, while the dangerous Sonego locks horns with the always unpredictable Alexander Bublik.

The one to watch at the moment is Andrey Rublev, taking the sixth seed and has a potential second round match with Hubert Hurkacz, and then could meet Stan Wawrinka in the Round of 16. If that is not big enough, then a mouth-watering quarter finals matchup between Rublev and Alexander Zverev, both of whom are coming off big winning streaks, will be the match of the Tour. Zverev faces either Miomir Kecmanovic or John Millman in the second round, with a likely third round clash against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.

Among the other seeds, Schwartzman returns after a rest from Vienna to face either home nation hero Richard Gasquet, or Taylor Fritz in the second round, while Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on Marin Cilic and fellow Canadian Milos Raonic meets Aljaz Bedene. Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin round out the top eight seeds and will be hoping for better luck than late, with both receiving very winnable matches to the third round.

The big question mark will be whether Nadal can return to his best in Paris without Djokovic there, and how the likes of Zverev and Rublev will stack up with all the big guns at the ATP Masters 1000 with the best of the best eyeing off a place in the ATP Finals.

Austrian wildcard stuns Shapovalov in Vienna

AUSTRIAN wildcard Jurij Rodionov has stunned eighth seed Canadian Denis Shapovalov in a straight sets win, to advance through to the second round of the Erste Bank Open. The match lasted 87 minutes as the world number 153  won just his second match for the year. Both players have strong serves, but Shapovalov’s went missing with 10 double faults to two, whilst the pair served up five aces apiece in the match for a 6-4 7-5 result to Rodionov.

Both Rodionov and Shapovalov are 21-years-old though the latter has built a much bigger CV thus far. His inconsistent serving hurt him in the end as the Austrian took full advantage off the second serve, winning 62 per cent of Shapovalov’s second serves, and 68 per cent of his own. Despite coming close in both sets, Shapovalov dropped three service games to one, and eventually bowed out of the tournament to put his ATP Finals hopes in real danger. A good run in Vienna would have put the Canadian in contention for a top nine spot this year, especially with Gael Monfils losing his first round match – which would have seen Shapovalov leapfrog him with a win – and Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman both not competing in the tournament.

For Rodionov, he now advances into the Round of 16 to take on the winner of Aljaz Bedene and Daniel Evans. The news was not as good for fellow Austrian wildcard, Dennis Novak who suffered a tight three-set loss to South African Kevin Anderson. Whilst the former top five player is not what he used to be after injury kept him out of recent times, he was able to take care of the 92nd ranked Novak, winning 6-7 6-4 7-6 in two hours and 44 minutes of match play. Serving 18 aces, Anderson was hard to break – though it did happen once from the only opportunity – whilst Anderson broke twice to always put pressure on the Austrian. It came right down to the nail-biting deciding tiebreak as Anderson got up 8-6 in that third set to win in an epic thriller.

Monfils’ injury-affected year continued with another retirement from his first round match in Vienna. The enigmatic Frenchman lasted just nine games before pulling the pin against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, going down 6-1 2-0 in 39 minutes before he had to retire. In that time, Carreno Busta won 16 of 21 points on serve, and Monfils only won 11 off his own serve, producing seven double faults in five games and clearly looking in trouble from early on. Carreno Busta will now take on Anderson in the second round of the tournament.

In the other results, Borna Coric made it 4-0 in his head-to-head against Taylor Fritz, defeating the American 6-4 6-4 in an hour and 29 minutes. Fritz served 12 aces to eight, but Coric’s consistency off his second serve – winning 71 per cent of the points to 48 per cent – was the difference – as well as breaking twice from three opportunities whilst saving all three of Fritz’s chances. Coric sets his sights on a likely Novak Djokovic Round of 16 encounter, with the world number one taking on Filip Krajinovic tomorrow. Lastly, fifth seed Andrey Rublev rolled on to easily take care of Slovakian Norbert Gombos 6-3 6-2 in just 60 minutes, serving 11 aces without a double-fault and only dropping 10 points on serve. He broke three times from four chances and did not face a break point in a dominant performance.

Tomorrow’s schedule of play at Vienna sees an all-Serbian battle between Djokovic and Krajinovic following on from a massive clash with Grigor Dimitrov and Karen Khachanov. At night, Dominic Thiem takes on lucky loser Vitaliy Sachko following Kei Nishikori‘s late withdrawal from the tournament, and Cristian Garin locks horns with Stan Wawrinka. Nishikori was one of three players to pull out at late notice, with Cologne finalist Diego Schwartzman and Antwerp finalist Alex de Minaur also pulling out allowing multiple lucky losers a second chance in Austria.