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Simona Halep: World number one loses to Ashleigh Barty at Sydney International

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January.

World number one Simona Halep’s first match in more than three months ended in defeat by Australia’s Ashleigh Barty at the Sydney International.

The Romanian, who cut short her 2018 season with a back injury, was beaten 6-4 6-4 by the world number 15 in the second round after a first-round bye.

French Open champion Halep, 27, who was runner-up at last year’s Australian Open, has started 2019 without a coach.

The first Grand Slam of the year starts in Melbourne on Monday.

Barty fired 26 winners on her way to her first victory over a world number one. She will face Belgian 10th seed Elise Mertens in the next round.

Despite the defeat, Halep was pleased that she had played “a good level of tennis” and was not troubled by her back.

“No pain at all, that is a great sign,” she said. “The tennis is good, I just have to believe in myself more.”

Former US Open champion and fourth seed Sloane Stephens followed Halep out of the tournament after a 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 defeat by Kazakh world number 44 Yulia Putintseva.

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Andy Murray to face Novak Djokovic in practice match before Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January.

Britain’s Andy Murray will face world number one Novak Djokovic in a practice match on Thursday as part of his preparations for the Australian Open.

Murray has lost four times to Djokovic in the Australian Open final.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Murray missed most of last season after hip surgery and has tumbled down the rankings to 230th.

Australian Open organisers said the match on the Margaret Court Arena show court would be open to the public.

  • Murray’s expectations ‘tempered’ before Australian Open

Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, played just six tournaments in 2018 and has used his protected ranking to enter the first Grand Slam of the year.

The Scot will not be seeded in Thursday’s draw (from 07:00 GMT) for the opening Grand Slam of the year and so could face a top-ranked player in the first round.

Murray’s first tournament since September ended last week with a second-round defeat by Russian world number 16 Daniil Medvedev at the Brisbane International.

The Australian Open starts on Monday and runs until 27 January.

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Serena Williams: my big sister, mentor & boss – hitting partner Jarmere Jenkins

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019
Australian Open 2019
Dates: 14-27 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live Sports Extra. Watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January
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Jarmere Jenkins’ phone lights up. It’s an incoming call from his older brother Jermaine.

“Hey man, how would you like to work with Serena Williams?”

Jarmere – a former professional tennis player turned investment sales consultant, out of work and plotting his next career move – thought it was a joke.

Fast forward 14 months and he is an integral part of Team Serena, the small network of colleagues and confidants helping one of the world’s all-time greatest players compete for Grand Slam titles again – little over a year after she “almost died” giving birth.

“On paper the specific role is hitting partner on court. But the gig is much more than that,” he says.

Employee, hitting partner, gym buddy, ‘Mafia’ opponent, friend – to name but a few.

So, how has Jenkins ended up here?

It is a tale of talent, unfulfilled promised, hard work, a devastating natural disaster, circumstance and fortune all rolled into one.

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‘I missed more balls than her – and she had not hit for nine months’

Standing on the baseline, Jenkins was feeling nervous. Across the net was someone he considers to be a “superhero”.

“This was someone who I had grown up watching my whole life,” he recalls of his first hitting session with 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams.

“Coming from where I’m from, there are not many African Americans that play tennis, let alone make finals at Wimbledon or any other Grand Slam.

“I was exceptionally nervous. But it was a good nervous. It was the first time she had hit a tennis ball in nine months and she wasn’t missing a ball.

“In fact, I missed more balls than her. And I had been training and getting ready for her.”

Jenkins – a 28-year-old from a small town in Georgia – must have done something right. More than a year later he is still a key member of the Williams’ team.

Being part of the 37-year-old’s inner circle, enabling him to travel the world and work at the Grand Slams – particularly Wimbledon – is a “dream come true”.

But what happens if he has an off day in the hitting session? A day, which most tennis players have once in a while, where they can’t find their rhythm.

“I’ve had two bad days,” he says. “That was due to the brutal heat I think – a year ago in Miami. I was super tired.

“There is a certain expectation and standard that comes with being on court with Serena.

“At the time she didn’t say anything, I actually took it upon myself to apologise to her and she understood. I haven’t let it happen since then.”

Former world number one and seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe famously claimed Williams would struggle to be in the top 700 on the men’s circuit. So what is it like for a man who was ranked inside the world’s top 200 to play against her?

“The best way I can explain it is that I’ve been working with Serena for one year and two months, and not one time I’ve been on the tennis court with her have I felt comfortable,” Jenkins says.

“It is how she hits, how she moves.

“I have never felt I could have a lazy practice with her. If I feel that way I can only imagine how the girls who play against her feel.”

‘A journeyman who would win and still lose money’

From the day his dad Jackie found an old racquet in the garage and started playing tennis, it seemed inevitable Jarmere would follow suit.

Tennis proved to be his path into the American college system, studying at the University of Virginia where he became the number one ranked college player in the United States.

A successful graduation to the ATP Tour followed, where the highlights included climbing to a ranking of 190th and reaching the final qualifying rounds of the US Open and Australian Open.

“Financially, it’s tough as a player further down the Tour rankings, when you don’t have sponsorship and not winning that many matches,” he says.

“I got injured at the 2014 US Open, from there I lost my contracts and the numbers weren’t adding up.

“I’d go to play tournaments and some tournaments I would win but the numbers were still negative. I’d still lose money.

“Unless you are progressing up the ladder pretty fast, you’re losing money. Maybe unless you are top 150 in the world.”

‘There wasn’t enough creativity for me in 9 till 5’

Tennis had been Jenkins’ life. Suddenly, after deciding to quit the Tour in 2017, he found himself out of the sport he loves and looking for another job.

That led him to Philadelphia, where he became a sales consultant for a multi-national investment company.

“People would call me wanting to invest money and I would allocate their funds to certain mutual funds or exchange-traded funds,” he says.

“It was a rough transition for me to go from playing tennis all my life to all of a sudden now doing a nine-till-five job, having to do things by a certain time.”

After sticking that out for several months, Jenkins decided to leave the corporate world – “there wasn’t enough creativity” – and move back into tennis.

So he moved to Puerto Rico to teach tennis to children, only for another intervention – this time from Mother Nature – to change the course of his life.

Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people on the north Caribbean island, with Jenkins able to escape danger as around 130,000 people were forced to leave.

Although upset at the destruction left behind on the island, his return to the States turned out to be “perfect timing” in professional terms.

It was September 2017 and that was when he took the call from Jermaine, who was then the hitting partner of Serena’s older sister Venus.

That connection meant Jarmere had already crossed paths with Serena on “a handful” of previous occasions and, after instantly accepting the offer, he flew out to the academy of Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France.

After a week’s training, Mouratoglou decided Jenkins was the right fit.

“From there I went back to Florida, met with Serena and we developed a good relationship. And I’ve been working with her since,” Jenkins says.

“I feel honoured to be able to work with one of the greatest athletes of all time, not just one of the greatest tennis players of all time.”

‘She always has that fire in her eyes’

Spending blocks of weeks together at tournaments and travelling around the world on the circuit means being part of Team Serena is a full-on job that requires undivided attention.

So, what is she like to work with? Is she always serious? A workaholic? Fun?

“A little bit of it all,” Jenkins says. “You watch her on TV and for me it is like seeing how magic works first hand.

“Growing up I have always looked at her as this superhero – and I still do. But now I also look at her like a big sister/mentor/boss.

“To see that fire she has in her eyes when she’s playing in the Grand Slam finals – the same fire she has in her eyes when we are practising – is amazing.

“There is a tonne of work ethic that goes into being Serena – it just doesn’t happen overnight.”

But it is not all work. Like all teams working away together, there have to be moments when they all switch off.

And in Team Serena that often centres around ‘Mafia’ – a card game that pitches the informed minority (the Mafia) against the uninformed majority (the Innocents).

“You have a narrator, a police officer, a nurse and the whole game you’re trying to guess the Mafia. I’m always the Mafia and I always win,” Jenkins says.

“I’m the biggest competitor you’ll ever see. Serena will never admit it but I’m a better card/board game player than her.”

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ATP And Dunlop Announce Global Partnership

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019

ATP And Dunlop Announce Global Partnership

Also Silver Partner of both of the ATP Tour and the Nitto ATP Finals

ATP and Dunlop announced today a new, five-year partnership that will see Dunlop become the Official Ball of the ATP Tour and the Nitto ATP Finals beginning in 2019.

Dunlop will also become a Silver Partner of both of the ATP Tour and the Nitto ATP Finals. The partnership expands Dunlop’s already extensive portfolio of partnerships with ATP Tour events, which includes a Next Gen ATP Finals Gold Partnership that began in 2018.

“This new agreement is a testament to Dunlop’s continued commitment to the sport of tennis and we are excited to build a long-term partnership with such a world-renowned brand,” said Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President.

“Dunlop has exhibited the foremost standards of quality and attention to detail throughout the process of testing and developing the new ATP Tour Official Ball, which ensures the highest levels of performance and consistency for our players across all conditions and playing surfaces.”

“This is a significant moment for the brand, and we are delighted to become the Official Ball of the ATP Tour and Nitto ATP Finals,” said Masahiro Asahino, Head of Racket Sports for SRI.

“Dunlop is often referred to as the ‘No.1 Ball on Tour’ and is used at more ATP tournaments than any other brand; the multi-year partnership is a testament to this and recognises our commitment to developing a new ATP Tour Official Ball of the highest standard and giving players more consistency on the Tour.

“We are excited to connect with millions of fans from around the world on this global stage.”

In addition to the Nitto ATP Finals and the Next Gen ATP Finals, the Dunlop ATP Tour Official Ball will be used at numerous other high-profile ATP Tour events spread across the entirety of the ATP calendar, on all playing surfaces.

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Evans and Ward progress to round two of Australian Open qualifying

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January.

Britons Dan Evans and James Ward have reached the second round of Australian Open qualifying in Melbourne.

Evans, who reached the fourth round of the 2017 tournament, easily beat Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-2 6-3.

British number three Ward fought back against Australia’s Maverick Banes to win 3-6 6-1 6-2.

However, Jay Clarke and Katie Swan lost their first-round matches, with Swan leaving the court in a wheelchair after suffering a muscle spasm.

The 19-year-old trailed Canadian Bianca Andreescu 6-1 before retiring injured, although the problem is not thought to be too serious.

Clarke was beaten 6-2 6-3 by top seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy.

Evans and Ward will need two further victories to qualify for the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January.

World number 190 Evans will next play Austrian Jurij Rodionov, while Ward will face Argentinian Marco Trungelliti.

  • Dart two wins from Australian Open
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Tsitsipas Sails Through Sydney Opener

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019

Tsitsipas Sails Through Sydney Opener

Greek looking to back up his breakthrough 2018

Greece’s #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas looked nearly as sharp on Wednesday as he did in November when he captured the Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan. The 20-year-old dismissed Argentina’s Guido Andreozzi at the Sydney International 6-3, 6-4 to earn his first tour-level win of the season.

Tsitsipas broke the 27-year-old three times and held off a late comeback from the Argentine to move into the quarter-finals. The World No. 15 broke through in 2018, reaching finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the Rogers Cup and winning titles at the Intrum Stockholm Open and in Milan. Tsitsipas will next face Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who beat Slovakian Martin Klizan 7-6(2), 6-2.

Watch: Tsitsipas Serves Up Sushi Doughnuts, Sydney Fish Market

Third seed Diego Schwartzman also gained his first win of the new season, breaking Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez five times en route to a 6-2, 6-3 win. The Argentine will face Yoshihito Noshioka for a spot in the semi-finals. The Japanese left-hander routed Russian Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-1.

Brisbane International quarter-finalist Alex de Minaur dismissed 21-year-old Reilly Opelka 6-4, 7-6(5). The 19-year-old De Minaur withstood 17 aces from the 6’11” American and won 88 per cent of his first-serve points (28/33). The fifth seed will face countryman Jordan Thompson for a place in the semi-finals.

Cabal/Farah Move Into Last Four
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah booked their place in the Sydney International semi-finals on Wednesday, beating Matthew Ebden and Robert Lindstedt 6-3, 7-6(1). The top-seeded Colombians dropped only six points behind their first serves (33/39) to advance after 79 minutes.

Cabal and Farah will meet Aussies Lleyton Hewitt and Jordan Thompson or Martin Klizan and Nicholas Monroe for a place in the final. Hewitt and Thompson upset Brisbane International finalists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-1, 6-3 in 56 minutes.

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares moved two wins away from their second Sydney title, saving all three break points they faced to beat Ivan Dodig and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-5, 6-3. Murray and Soares lifted their maiden team title at the tournament in 2016.

The second seeds will face Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski in the semi-finals. The British brothers won 75 per cent of service points (47/63) to defeat Aussies Alex Bolt and Matt Reid 6-4, 7-6(4).

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Britain's Norrie into Auckland quarter-finals

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online from 19 January.

British number two Cameron Norrie reached the ASB Classic quarter-finals with a straight-set victory over Joao Sousa in Auckland.

World number 93 Norrie beat the Portuguese, who is ranked 49 places above him, 7-6 (7-4) 6-4.

The 23-year-old saved all six break points he faced as he closed out the match in 95 minutes.

He will face 50th-ranked Taylor Fritz in the last eight after the American stunned top seed John Isner.

Fritz beat big-serving Isner, ranked 10th in the world, 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-5).

The event is one of the last before the Australian Open starts on 14 January.

  • Murray returns, Wozniacki & Federer defend titles – preview
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Clutch Fritz Outdoes Isner In Auckland

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019

Clutch Fritz Outdoes Isner In Auckland

21-year-old reaches first QF of 2019

American Taylor Fritz is No. 50 in the ATP Rankings, but when it comes to playing his best in tie-breaks, he’s Top 5.

The 21-year-old exhibited his big-point prowess again on Wednesday, upsetting top seed and No. 10 John Isner 7-6(3), 7-6(5) at the ASB Classic for his second Top 10 win.

“I like to think that one of the strengths of my game is playing under pressure and playing the big moments well. More often than not, the matches I lose, that’s where I get let down. So I’m happy to start the year… playing well under pressure and handling those big moments well,” Fritz said.

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The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier was 0-2 against Isner in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and had won only one of their five sets. But Fritz didn’t let that or Isner’s rising ace count – 26 for the match – bother him. He played calm and clean in the tie-breaks, converting his second match point when Isner lifted a backhand long.

“John’s beaten me twice before… I really wanted to get the win on him. I knew I could. We had a lot of close points, and it just feels really good to get through that,” he said.

Fritz won 70 per cent (21-9) of the tie-breaks he played in 2018, third on the ATP Tour, according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, behind only reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev (74%, 17-6) and Brisbane International champion Kei Nishikori (77%, 17-5).

Fritz will face Brit wild card Cameron Norrie or Portugal’s Joao Sousa for a spot in the semi-finals. Fritz’s countryman Tennys Sandgren also reached the quarter-finals on Wednesday. Sandgren, who made the quarter-finals of the Australian Open last year, upset third seed Marco Cecchinato of Italy 6-3, 6-3 and awaits the winner of Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer and Italian Matteo Berrettini.

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Federer: 'He Didn't Want Me To Be A Wasted Talent'

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2019

Federer: ‘He Didn’t Want Me To Be A Wasted Talent’

Swiss hopes Peter Carter would be proud

In an emotional interview with CNN Sport, Roger Federer shared just how much he’s still affected by the loss of his boyhood coach Peter Carter, who died in 2002 in a car crash while on honeymoon. Carter was 37.

Federer, speaking with CNN’s Christina Macfarlane, broke down in tears when asked what Carter would now think of Federer, a champion of 20 Grand Slam titles.

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“Sorry,” said Federer, his eyes welling up. “I hope he would be proud. I guess he didn’t want me to be a wasted talent so I guess it was somewhat of a wake-up call for me when he passed away and I really started to train hard.”

The year after Carter died, in 2003, Federer won Wimbledon, the first of his 20 Slam titles. “Peter was really a really important person in my life because I think if I can say thank you for my technique today, it’s to Peter,” Federer said.

The 37-year-old Swiss will try to three-peat and win tour-level title No. 100 at the Australian Open, which starts Monday.

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