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Max Mirnyi Previews Doubles At The 2019 Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 14, 2019

Max Mirnyi Previews Doubles At The 2019 Australian Open

Marach/Pavic are the defending champs in Melbourne

For the first time since the 2002 Australian Open, recently retired Max Mirnyi is not competing in the doubles draw of a Grand Slam. A former No. 1 player in the ATP Doubles Rankings, the Belarusian played 84 of the past 86 doubles majors.

But Mirnyi is still keeping a close eye on the sport he played professionally for more than 20 years, and he is excited to watch what happens at the 2019 Australian Open. With that being said, Mirnyi does not want to make predictions, knowing how tough all the teams competing are.

“To comment and predict any tennis event is a very hard and unpredictable thing, and doubles is much moreso,” Mirnyi said.

However, ‘The Beast’ told what to look out for in Melbourne during the fortnight.

The Bryan Brothers Are Back Together
“I’m happy to see that Bob and Mike are back together. They had a promising start in Auckland by taking out Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, I think that’s a good sign. I would recommend fans and the players be wary of what’s going on there. I think it’s great that Bob has come back this strong and is ready to play the big matches again.”

Marach/Pavic Defend Their Title
“Traditionally, the team that should be most motivated is the one that is defending the title and in this case, that’s Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic. They’re the No. 1 seeds and probably have a good chance to do what they did last year. You have on that particular team Marach, who is an older, more experienced player and Pavic, who has shown that he’s a good prospect with knowledge about the doubles game. He’s a hard worker, so I think that team has a lot of upwards momentum.”

Singles Players Teaming Up
“I’m very keen on seeing some teams that are made up of singles players. Normally at a tournament like a Grand Slam, they always have good motivation to start with, but also a good possibility to do good things. It’s a two-week event. Those that pick up good form and play a lot matches [in singles and doubles] normally catch the roll and keep going with the doubles as well.

“That was the case for me for many years. I felt when I was playing one match after another, it was easier to reproduce it on the doubles court. Also, there’s the fact that it allows you to focus on the doubles only when you’re eliminated from singles. Four years back, a team like Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini won the Australian Open.”

Mirnyi’s Doubles Teams Made Of Singles Players To Watch:
– Daniil Medvedev and Ilya Ivashka
– Nick Kyrgios and Matt Reid
– Leonardo Mayer and Joao Sousa
– Radu Albot and Malek Jaziri (2018 US Open semi-finalists)

Top Teams Sticking Together
Eight of the top 10 seeds in Melbourne played together last season. Marcelo Melo could not compete due to injury, so his usual partner, Lukasz Kubot, is playing with Horacio Zeballos. They are the seventh seeds. 

“I think it’s a good sign. The fact that teams are staying together just shows that there’s much more unity within those teams. There’s much more long-term thinking, and I think that’s great for the sport because when you see too many frequent changes, it normally indicates that teams are in a state of panic… an event like this at the beginning of the year shows players are committed, they probably have been preparing together in the off-season, and it lays out the outlook for the year, at least the first five, six months of the year.”

Colombian Duo, Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, Seeks First Slam
“They got far last year, losing in the final. I think it’s due for them to win a Grand Slam title. They’ve been really persistent with the work that they’ve done. They’ve had a good friend of mine, a former doubles player, coaching them: Jeff Coetzee. He’s done a great job with them and I’m very keen to see them do well. Hopefully they can get a Slam title together.”

Mirnyi first came across Cabal in the final of Roland Garros in 2011, when the Belarusian won the title with Daniel Nestor. Mirnyi has been impressed by the Colombian ever since.

“He’s certainly been around and proved himself time and time again. They had success in Rome last year, a few other events they did well. Now that they’re one of the top seeds, they should do well.”

“Playing the Colombians is a little bit like playing the Bryan brothers. They’re beatable, a lot of guys beat them, but when it comes to the pressure situations, normally those teams that have worked through a lot together and know each other’s tendencies don’t have to speak to one another so much. That eliminates the miscommunication factor, which often is the case for teams that are fresh. A costly mistake of a miscommunication can be the deciding factor for winning or losing a match. Teams like Bryan/Bryan and Cabal/Farah that have played together for a long time, the opposition feels that you really have to play well to beat them, you have to beat them with what you’ve come out there to do, with your gameplan. Usually those teams are not going to make an error or miscommunication to hand you the win.”

Teams That Just Missed The Nitto ATP Finals Starting Strong
Those are usually very hungry teams that have a lot to think about and if they’re staying together, there’s a good possibility for them to improve and a Grand Slam is a good opportunity for them to make that improvement. It’s key at the beginning of the year because if you put yourself in a good position in the ATP Doubles Race To London from the get-go, it gets a bit more respect for that team and it’s like a headstart almost in the Race.”

On two teams that finished No. 12 and No. 13 in the ATP Doubles Race To London in 2018, respectively: Ben McLachlan/Jan-Lennard Struff and Dominic Inglot/Franko Skugor…
Struff and McLachlan just won a title, so that’s a sign that they’re in full force. Even though there was probably disappointment not qualifying for the [Nitto] ATP Finals last year, they’re strong and already grabbing a title this year. So definitely, those teams are the ones to look for and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those teams is maybe going to be in the Top 5 of the Race at the end of the Australian Open.”

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Andy Murray defies logic in five-set thriller to remind us he is still Andy Murray

  • Posted: Jan 14, 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.

As Andy Murray walked out of a tennis court as a professional player for what could be the final time, the DJ at the Australian Open hit play on Joe Esposito’s ‘You’re The Best’.

You may know the song, especially if you’re over 30. Or younger and a cult classic aficionado.

It is the one used for the montage at the end of The Karate Kid, the classic 1984 film, just after the protagonist Daniel LaRusso defies logic, defies expectation and defies injury to beat his opponent.

By chance or by choice, it felt apt.

Unlike LaRusso, Murray did not claim an unlikely victory.

But, even in defeat against Spanish opponent Roberto Bautista Agut, it was another example of Murray defying the odds.

The Scot has done that throughout his career, taking the British public on a rollercoaster journey, on his way to Grand Slam titles, Olympic medals and leading his nation to Davis Cup glory.

Yet it was a surprise he managed to do it again in a four-hour thriller which left the 7,500 people inside the Melbourne Arena, and millions more back in Britain engrossed, excited and emotional.

Four days earlier, the 31-year-old broke down in front of the world’s media as he revealed he is set to retire this year because of a chronic hip injury which, even after surgery, has left him in pain putting on his socks.

Not only that, but also this tournament in Melbourne might even be his farewell.

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Pitted against 22nd seed Bautista Agut, and a few days after he struggled in a practice match against Novak Djokovic, most predicted a three-set – or, if you were more generous, four-set defeat against an opponent who recently won the Qatar Open title.

They were wrong.

Instead of going out looking like an imitation of the man who has entertained a nation, he went out looking almost like the man who gave British tennis some of its finest moments for the best part of a century.

“I know that I’m not the same player as what I was,” Murray said candidly afterwards.

Maybe not in terms of movement, but in terms of fighting spirit and never-say-die-attitude he certainly was.

And, largely, there was nothing wrong with his tennis skills: hitting some wonderful winners, landing serves of up to 130mph and doggedly defending his baseline like the old Murray.

With Murray believing this could be the end, it ensured there was one major story at Melbourne Park on Monday – and everyone wanted to see it.

That even meant compatriot Dan Evans, who had just won his opening match, was met by only one member of the British press as the rest trooped over to Melbourne Arena.

Murray’s match being put on the site’s third show court – instead of the bigger Rod Laver Arena or Margaret Court Arena – meant grounds pass holders could queue to bag a seat.

That ensured a partisan atmosphere which, at times, was almost akin to a Davis Cup tie.

Queues snaked from the concourse, down the stairs and out of the door long before the preceding match between Kyle Edmund – Murray’s successor as British number one – and Tomas Berdych came to an end.

In among the lines were plenty of familiar accents. And those who owned them were wearing Scotland football shirts, tartan skirts, Saltire flags, tammie hats…

Two particularly dedicated fans – Linda Tront and Bernadette Brown, originally from Paisley and Dundee but now living down under – even brought a meticulously crafted homemade banner.

Scottish blue and tartan tape carefully cut, sewn and stuck on a piece of silk, spelling out their personal message to their hero.

“There will only ever be one Andy Murray. Thanks for the memories,” it read.

It took about eight hours for Linda to make, she claimed. Staying up until the early hours to start crafting it and getting up not long afterwards to finish.

“We come here every year for Andy and have watched all of his five finals where he came runner-up,” Bernadette said.

“We have shouted with him, cried with him, we’ve done everything with him.”

Rarely is such dedication from a fan often matched by the subject of their affection. Murray is one of them and made sure he left everything he had out there on court – for himself and for his supporters.

“I didn’t care if I damaged my hip any more in the match,” he said afterwards.

“It was easier to deal with the pain knowing that I’m not going to play another match for at least five months or maybe not again.”

With the latter still a distinct possibility, despite seemingly refusing to rule anything out in his post-match news conference, this felt throughout like a farewell.

Mum Judy was sat in his player’s box, next to his older brother Jamie – who rarely watches his sibling, while the likes of Davis Cup captain Leon Smith and Fed Cup skipper Anne Keothavong, plus young British players Katie Swan and Harriet Dart, also lent their support.

Like those around them, Murray’s nearest and dearest constantly jumped to their feet, roaring encouragement and pumping their fists in his direction.

The first standing ovation came when Murray arrived on court – and countless more followed.

Moods and momentum swung. A positive start for the Briton, perhaps surprising many by being so competitive in the opening set, saw him earn a break point at 4-3 and that was greeted with a roar that Hampden would have been proud of.

But he could not convert and Bautista Agut – who you felt for being almost cast as the pantomime villain – seized his chance by breaking in the very next game.

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With regular renditions of ‘Let’s go Andy, let’s go!’ ringing in his ears, Murray missed more break points early in the second set as Bautista Agut again took advantage and took control.

The pain which Murray described on Friday was becoming clear by this point. His face becoming more contorted, his limp becoming more pronounced.

And the atmosphere, as a result, became more subdued.

That only became worse when Bautista Agut went a break up early in the third before, out of nowhere, Murray conjured up a break point.

A backhand winner did the trick as Murray – looking shattered physically and emotionally – slowly lifted his arms into the air in celebration.

Suddenly the belief was back as quickly in Murray and the stadium as it was draining from Bautista Agut.

The Spaniard famously coughed up a two-set lead to lose in five against another Brit, Cameron Norrie, in a Davis Cup match last February and any suggestion that it could happen again initially seemed a fanciful one.

Then Murray won the third-set tie-break – and then the fourth.

By this stage Murray had been walking back to the baseline after changeovers almost like a WWE wrestler staggering around the ring, geeing the baying crowd to get behind him even more with plenty of arm-waving and fist-pumping.

It was pandemonium.

Crackling PA systems, dodgy Hawkeye connections, fireworks from the nearby Melbourne Cricket Ground only added to the drama.

And then, in the blink of an eye, another twist sneaked up as Bautista Agut regained control and ran away with the final set.

Murray has often burst into tears at emotional moments in his career and threatened to do so again before he served to stay in the match at 5-1.

The whole stadium rose again to show their appreciation to one of the game’s greats, forcing him to pause and allowing him to thank them for their support.

“I was emotional at that moment. It was cool,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ve had that before in any matches.

“The atmosphere the whole match was amazing. I loved it. I’m really appreciative that the people gave me that atmosphere to play in.”

In the end, Murray could not finish with a final flurry like LaRusso. Yet a summer sequel in London – sure to be another blockbuster for the British public and a proper chance to say goodbye – is not out of the question.

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Opelka Shocks Isner To Claim First Grand Slam Victory

  • Posted: Jan 14, 2019

Opelka Shocks Isner To Claim First Grand Slam Victory

Dimitrov through in four sets

In a meeting between two of the tallest players in the Australian Open draw, 6’11” Reilly Opelka caused the biggest upset of the day to beat 6’10” John Isner 7-6(4), 7-6(6), 6-7(4), 7-6(5) on Monday.

The 21-year-old ended Isner’s nine-match unbeaten Grand Slam record against American opposition after two hours and 58 minutes, firing 40 aces to record his first Grand Slam victory. Isner also landed 47 aces in a match which featured a combined 143 winners.

Opelka’s only previous Grand Slam appearance came as a qualifier in Melbourne, falling in five sets to David Goffin in 2017. The World No. 102 improves to 2-1 against Top 10 players, having also beat then-No. 8 Jack Sock at 2018 Delray Beach.

Opelka will meet Thomas Fabbiano for a place in the third round. The Italian beat Australian wild card Jason Kubler 6-4, 7-6(1), 2-6, 6-3 in three hours and four minutes.

Grigor Dimitrov recovered from a set down to beat Janko Tipsarevic 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. The 2017 semi-finalist (l. to Nadal), making his ninth straight appearance at Melbourne Park, fired 42 winners, including 18 aces, to advance after two hours and 33 minutes.

During the off-season, Dimitrov has continued to work with former World No. 1 Andre Agassi in Las Vegas. Agassi began work with the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion at the Rolex Paris Masters last November, as Dimitrov looks to make a return to the Top 10 in the ATP Rankings.

“[Andre has] done so much outside of the court,” said Dimitrov. “I’m just a better person, period. On a daily basis, I have learned something new from him.”

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The 20th seed, who entered the match with a 1-4 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Tipsarevic, improves to 3-1 this season after a run to the Brisbane International quarter-finals (l. to Nishikori). Former No. 8 Tipsarevic was making his first appearance at any level since the 2017 US Open, following surgery on both hamstring tendons.

Dimitrov will meet Pablo Cuevas in the second round. The 33-year-old Uruguayan needed just over two hours to beat Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6, 6-1.

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