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Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Sydney & Auckland

  • Posted: Jan 05, 2019

Scouting Report: 20 Things To Watch In Sydney & Auckland

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP Tour

The ATP Tour heads into the second week of its 2019 season with two ATP 250 events on deck. Reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas is the top seed at the Sydney International, while 2018 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier John Isner leads the way at the ASB Classic.

Draws: Sydney | Auckland

Top 20 Trio: World No. 15 Tsitsipas, No. 16 Daniil Medvedev and No. 17 Diego Schwartzman headline the Sydney International. Medvedev won his first of three titles last season inside Ken Rosewall Arena, spoiling the hopes of Sydney native Alex de Minaur in the final. De Minaur returns home this week as the No. 1 Aussie and the No. 31 player in the ATP Rankings.

2) No. 1 Aussie: One year ago, De Minaur entered Sydney as a special exempt and World No. 167. He advanced to the Brisbane semi-finals and Sydney final to become the youngest player since Rafael Nadal in 2005 to reach consecutive tour-level semi-finals. De Minaur, who turns 20 on 17 February, achieved a new career-high ATP Ranking 18 times in 2018 and earned ATP Newcomer of the Year honours.

3) First-Time Defending Champion: Like De Minaur, Medvedev was an unlikely finalist at the 2018 Sydney International. The Russian came through qualifying to win his first ATP Tour title. It was a sign of things to come for Medvedev, who went on to win two more championships in 2018 at Winston-Salem and Tokyo. Medvedev led all players with 38 victories on hard courts last season.

4) First-Time No. 1 Seed: Tsitsipas is the top seed at a tour-level event for the first time, although he won the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals title as the No. 1 seed. The 20-year-old is the first Greek to be ranked inside the Top 20, win an ATP Tour title (Stockholm), play an ATP Masters 1000 final (Toronto) and reach a Grand Slam Round of 16 (Wimbledon). Tsitsipas earned four Top 10 wins in Toronto.

5) New #NextGenATP: The dawn of a new season means another class of #NextGenATP players eager to make their mark on the ATP Tour. In 2019, players born in 1998 or later are considered #NextGenATP. Three of the four #NextGenATP players ranked inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings are competing in Sydney: Tsitsipas, De Minaur and Frances Tiafoe, who celebrates his 21st birthday on 20 January.

6) Sydney Sensations: De Minaur isn’t the only 19-year-old Sydney native playing in his hometown. Alexei Popyrin is a wild card after making his ATP Tour debut at the 2018 Sydney International. Popyrin qualified a year ago before falling to fellow Aussie John Millman in the opening round.

7) Other Aussies: Millman, James Duckworth, Matthew Ebden and Jordan Thompson will also represent Australia this week. In 2018, Millman achieved a new career-high ATP Ranking 10 times, peaking at No. 33 soon after upsetting No. 2 Roger Federer to reach the US Open quarter-finals.

8) Dangeous Diego: Schwartzman rose to a career-high No. 11 in the ATP Rankings in 2018, winning the biggest title of his career in Rio de Janeiro. The 5’7” Argentine finished the season with more than 30 wins for the second consecutive year.

9) Pouille’s Push: Frenchman Lucas Pouille not only won a title for the third consecutive year in 2018, but he also cracked the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time, albeit for two weeks. With new coach Amelie Mauresmo in his corner, will Pouille enjoy an even better 2019?

10) Studs in Dubs: Three of the eight teams that qualified for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals are competing in the Sydney doubles draw: Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares and Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya. Murray and Soares won their first of nine team titles at 2016 Sydney.

The Champs Are Here: Four-time champion David Ferrer and two-time champions Roberto Bautista Agut and Isner are eager for another title at the ASB Classic. Ferrer will make his final appearance in Auckland before retiring later this season. His countryman Bautista Agut arrives after triumphing at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

2) Strong Starter: This isn’t the first season that Bautista Agut has begun at a high level. He went 9-1 with a title in Auckland to start 2016 and 11-1 with a title in Chennai to start 2017. The Spaniard beat Juan Martin del Potro to win his second Auckland title last year. Bautista Agut has earned at least 30 wins in five straight seasons and he has been ranked inside the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings each week since 12 May 2014.

3) Ferr-well: Ferrer’s four titles and 31 wins are the most at the ASB Classic in the Open Era. The 36-year-old Spaniard is making his 14th Auckland appearance and has been absent only once since 2006. Ferrer won his first non-clay title in Auckland in 2007 and three in a row from 2011-13.

Watch Ferrer Climb the Auckland Harbour Bridge In 2014

4) Fond Memories: Isner is the No. 1 seed after ending a year inside the Top 10 for the first time and Top 20 for the ninth straight time. The 6’10” American won the first of his 14 ATP Tour titles at the ASB Classic in 2010, then added another victory in Auckland in 2014. Auckland is the only title that Isner has won outside of the USA.

5) Fabulous Fabio: Like Isner, No. 2 seed Fabio Fognini is coming off a career year and he is opening his 2019 campaign at the ASB Classic. Fognini set career-highs in 2018 with three titles, 46 wins and a year-end ATP Ranking of No. 13. The Italian earned his 300th win on home soil in Rome.

6) Shapo’s Show: World No. 27 Denis Shapovalov, the second-ranked #NextGenATP player behind No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas, will make his second consecutive appearance at the ASB Classic. The left-handed Canadian made semi-finals in Delray Beach, Madrid and Tokyo in 2018, and he seeks his maiden ATP Tour trophy.

7) Chung’s Challenge: Coming off the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals title, Hyeon Chung was one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He beat both Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to the Australian Open semi-finals, then reached back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finals in Indian Wells and Miami. Chung, World No. 25, is within six spots of his career-best ATP Ranking: No. 19.

8) 15-Love: Gael Monfils will begin his 15th season on the ATP Tour in Auckland. In his 2018 season debut at Doha, Monfils won his seventh title. The Frenchman finished the year strong as well with a runner-up showing in Antwerp in October. He previously appeared at the ASB Classic in 2007 and 2013.

9) Another Former Champ: German Philipp Kohlschreiber won the second of his eight ATP Tour titles in Auckland in 2008. The 35-year-old, currently World No. 34, has remained inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings since 6 March 2006.

10) Studs in Dubs: Three of the past five year-end No. 1 doubles teams are in Auckland: Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic (2018), Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau (2015) and Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (2014). The Bryan brothers reunited last week in Brisbane for the first time since Bob Bryan went down with a hip injury in the Madrid final last year.

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Bautista Agut beats Berdych to win Qatar Open

  • Posted: Jan 05, 2019

Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut won the Qatar Open with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory over Tomas Berdych in the final.

The world number 24 triumphed in one hour 55 minutes in Doha to claim his ninth ATP Tour title.

Seventh seed Bautista Agut beat world number one Novak Djokovic in Friday’s semi-final.

Bautista Agut, 30, had lost his past three meetings with Berdych, the 33-year-old former world number four who has slipped to 71 in the rankings.

Wildcard Berdych was playing his first tournament since Queen’s in June because of a back injury.

In the deciding set, Bautista Agut built a 4-1 lead but Berdych had two break points that would have reduced the deficit to one game.

He missed a forehand approach shot and Bautista Agut went on to serve out the match to love.

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Anderson wins ‘battle of giants’ in India

In India, world number six Kevin Anderson won the Maharashtra Open, beating Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-5) in the tallest ATP final in the Open era.

The 6ft 11in Karlovic saved two championship points in the final set to take it to a third tie-break in Pune against 6ft 8in South African Anderson.

Anderson, 32, hit 36 aces against Karlovic, who at 39 was the oldest finalist in an ATP event for 42 years – Australia’s Ken Rosewall was 43 in 1977 when he defeated Tom Gorman to win in Hong Kong.

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Bautista Agut Completes Dream Run In Doha

  • Posted: Jan 05, 2019

Bautista Agut Completes Dream Run In Doha

Spaniard upset World No. 1 Djokovic in the semis

Roberto Bautista Agut closed out one of the best weeks of his career in style, defeating former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to win the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, his ninth ATP Tour title.

The victory comes just one day after upsetting World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who had won 29 of his previous 31 matches heading into their semi-final clash. Bautista Agut has now captured glory in January in four consecutive seasons after becoming the third Spaniard to win the title in Doha, joining Rafael Nadal (2014) and David Ferrer (2015). His triumph against Berdych also gives him 250 tour-level match wins.

“It was a great start to the season,” Bautista Agut said, before looking ahead to the rest of the season. “I wish to feel good physically, mentally, like I am now, like I felt this week. And if this happens, I think I can get better in the [ATP] Rankings, and why not be closer to the Top 10?”

Bautista AgutIt was by no means easy against Berdych, though, and it appeared that Bautista Agut’s path to victory was going to get complicated deep in the third set. The seventh seed gained a 4-1 advantage, and then held three consecutive break points to take a double-break lead. But Bautista Agut made surprising mistakes with an open court to allow Berdych to stay in the match.

After hanging onto his serve for 2-4, Berdych loosened up and played aggressively, especially with his forehand, to earn two break points of his own to get back on serve. But on the second of those opportunities, Berdych missed a sitting forehand approach shot, and that would be his last opportunity. Bautista Agut served out the match to love, striking a final forehand winner after one hour and 55 minutes, looking towards his camp and letting out a roar of ‘Vamos’!

“It was overall a very good match and I think the biggest difference was one game in the third set where I lost badly my serve where I hit two double faults in one game,” Berdych said. “In such a tight match, [that] just made the big difference and that’s why I think Roberto won today, because he was playing well overall and he had a great week.”

Last year, Bautista Agut won two titles — including the biggest victory of his career at the ATP 500 event in Dubai — to return to his career-high in the ATP Rankings of No. 13. But various injuries throughout the year saw the Spaniard miss three ATP Masters 1000 events and Wimbledon. 

That is all in the past now, as Bautista Agut is in superb form. This week, the Spaniard beat three players who have reached the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings, also defeating former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. Bautista Agut’s run nets him 250 ATP Ranking points and $219,755.

“It’s always a very tough draw, very tough tournament with a lot of good players in the draw. And when I started the week, I was feeling good with the ball,” Bautista Agut said. “I was enjoying practising. I was playing match by match. And since the first moment of the tournament until the last point, I felt really good on the court.”

Despite the loss, it was an impressive week for Berdych, whose last event prior to arriving in Doha came at the Fever-Tree Championships last June, as the Czech missed time due to a back injury. Berdych, who was seeking his first title since Shenzhen in 2016, gains 150 points and earns $118,320 in prize money.

Did You Know?
Before this match, Berdych led Bautista Agut 4-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and had won three consecutive matches against the Spaniard. All three of Bautista Agut’s victories against the Czech have come in three sets.

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Anderson Triumphs In Record-Breaking Pune Final

  • Posted: Jan 05, 2019

Anderson Triumphs In Record-Breaking Pune Final

Anderson lifts sixth title

One year after finishing as runner-up to Gilles Simon, Kevin Anderson placed his hands on the Tata Open Maharashtra trophy on Saturday.

The 32-year-old South African clinched his sixth tour-level title after two hours and 44 minutes, recovering from 2/5 down in the final-set tie-break to beat Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 7-6(5) in the tallest ATP Tour final in the Open Era. Breaking the record previously set by Anderson and John Isner at the 2013 BB&T Atlanta Open, 6’8″ Anderson won 88 per cent of first-serve points (57/65) to overcome 6’11” Karlovic.

Now 7-1 in Pune, Anderson notched his fourth victory in five FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the 39-year-old to improve his record in tour-level finals to 6-13. Last year, Anderson reached a personal-best five championship matches on the ATP Tour, picking up titles in New York and Vienna.

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In a set with few opportunities on return for either man, Anderson earned the only break points of the set in the tenth game. The South African connected on multiple returns and fired passing shots past the World No. 100 to manufacture two set points. Despite being unable to take advantage of either opportunity, Anderson soon moved into a one-set lead.

The World No. 6 capitalised on a costly double fault from Karlovic to earn the first mini-break of the tie-break before immediately doubling his advantage for a 5/2 lead. A low return placed at the laces of his opponent opened up the three-point gap, with Anderson eventually taking the first set courtesy of another double fault from his opponent.

Once again, Anderson applied pressure to Karlovic’s serve in the second set. But, despite earning four break points, the South African was unable to avoid a second tie-break as Karlovic found success charging the net under pressure. From there, Karlovic levelled the match as Anderson leaked uncharacteristic errors on his serve and forehand.

After Karlovic saved two championship points at 5-6 (15/40) with back-to-back aces, a final-set tie-break was required to decide the champion. Karlovic opened up an early lead and showed his best form at the net to maintain his advantage until 5/4. Facing two Karlovic serves, Anderson earned both points with back-to-back passing-shot winners before firing an ace out wide to claim the title.

As the oldest player to reach a tour-level final since a 43-year-old Ken Rosewall defeated Tom Gorman to win 1977 Hong Kong, Karlovic was aiming to secure his first tour-level crown in two and half years. In August 2016, Karlovic beat Feliciano Lopez in straight sets to lift his eighth ATP Tour trophy in Los Cabos.

Anderson earns 250 ATP Ranking points and gains $89,435 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Karlovic receives 150 ATP Ranking points and collects $47,105.

Did You Know?
In 2018, Anderson became the first South African to finish in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings since No. 10 Wayne Ferreira in 1996. The two-time Grand Slam finalist finished the season at No. 6 with a 47-19 record.

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Federer and Bencic retain Hopman Cup for Switzerland

  • Posted: Jan 05, 2019

Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic secured a 2-1 victory over Germany’s Angelique Kerber and Alexander Zverev to win the Hopman Cup for the second year in a row.

In a rerun of the 2018 final, Federer beat Zverev 6-4 6-2 to give the Swiss an early 1-0 lead.

Wimbledon champion Kerber then overcome Bencic 6-4 7-6 (8-6) to level the tie.

However, the Swiss claimed a tight 4-0 1-4 4-3 (5-4) win in the mixed doubles to claim their fourth Hopman Cup title.

The mixed doubles is played in a fast four format – the first team to four points wins, with a tie-break held if the scores are 3-3.

Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Federer is the first player to win three Hopman Cups – twice with Bencic and once with Martina Hingis, in 2001.

It has been reported that the Hopman Cup will be replaced by an ATP tournament from next year.

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