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Monfils, Gasquet Look To Make It 6 For 10 In Montpellier; All You Need To Know

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020

Monfils, Gasquet Look To Make It 6 For 10 In Montpellier; All You Need To Know

Draw, schedule, tickets & more about the 2020 Open Sud de France

Frenchmen have triumphed at all but two editions of the Open Sud de France, and former champions Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet will be among those looking to continue the tradition as Montpellier celebrates the 10th edition of the ATP 250 tournament.

Monfils, who is set to be the top seed, captured the title at the inaugural edition in 2010 (d. Ljubicic) and again in 2014 (d. Gasquet). Gasquet reached six consecutive Montpellier finals from 2013-18, and won his tournament-record three singles titles in 2013 and 2015-16. The duo will be joined in the field by countrymen Gilles Simon, Adrian Mannarino, recent ASB Classic titlist Ugo Humbert, 2019 finalist Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Gregoire Barrere.

Belgium’s David Goffin, #NextGenATP Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner also feature. 

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Gasquet Captures Third Montpellier Title

Here’s all you need to know about the Montpellier tennis tournament: when is the draw, what is the schedule, where to watch, who has won and more. 

Established: 2010

Tournament Dates: 3-9 February 2020 (10th edition)

Tournament Director: Sebastien Grosjean

Draw Ceremony: Saturday, 1 February at 12pm in the VIP Village

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Schedule
* Qualifying: Sunday at 10:30am and Monday at 12pm 
* Main draw: Monday – Friday at 12pm and 7pm, Saturday at 1pm
* Doubles final: Sunday, 9 February at 12pm
* Singles final: Sunday, 9 February not before 2:30pm

How To Watch
Watch Live On Tennis TV
TV Schedule

Venue: Arena Montpellier 
Main Court Seating: 7,500

Prize Money: €524,695 (Total Financial Commitment: €606,350) 

Tickets On Sale: Buy Now 

View Who Is Playing, Past Champions, Seeds, Points & Prize Money Breakdown

Honour Roll (Open Era)
Most Titles, Singles: Richard Gasquet (3)
Oldest Champion: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 33, in 2019
Youngest Champion
: Alexander Zverev, 19, in 2017
Highest-Ranked Champion: No. 7 Tomas Berdych in 2012
Lowest-Ranked Champion: No. 30 Gael Monfils in 2014
Most Match Wins: Richard Gasquet (24) 

2019 Finals
Singles: [WC] Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d [7] Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) 64 62  Read & Watch
Doubles: [1] Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) d [WC] Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) / Antoine Hoang (FRA) 64 63  Read More 

Social
Hashtag: #OSDF20

Facebook: @opensuddefrance
Twitter: @OpenSuddeFrance
Instagram: @opensuddefrance

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Preview: Will Thiem Loosen Djokovic's Iron Grip On The Australian Open Title?

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020

Preview: Will Thiem Loosen Djokovic’s Iron Grip On The Australian Open Title?

ATPTour.com previews the Australian Open final

Seven-time champion Novak Djokovic has lifted the Australian Open trophy more times than anyone else in history, and he has enjoyed one of his most dominant runs ever to reach the final this year. But Austrian superstar Dominic Thiem has been on a tear in Melbourne, lashing his groundstrokes through anyone standing in his way of a maiden Grand Slam championship. The question is, will Djokovic maintain his iron grip on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup with another flawless performance, or will Thiem soar to new heights and complete his dream run?

Djokovic and Thiem will meet for the 11th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series on Sunday evening on Rod Laver Arena, but the stakes have never been higher. The Serbian, who leads their series 6-4, is trying to extend his record to eight Australian Open crowns, earning his 17th major title to claw closer to Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal’s (19) all-time marks. Although Thiem has won four of their past five clashes, defeating Djokovic in Melbourne is an entirely different challenge.

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“I won more of the [most recent] encounters than he did. But I think it doesn’t count so much. It’s absolutely his comfort zone here. He always plays his best tennis in Australia since many, many years. So I’m expecting that as well in the final,” Thiem said. “All I can do is do my best, play great tennis again, and of course take a look at the past matches we had… try to repeat the good stuff that I did there.”

If Djokovic becomes the third man to win at least eight titles at the same Grand Slam, joining Nadal (Roland Garros, 12) and Federer (Wimbledon, 8), he will also regain the No. 1 FedEx ATP Ranking on Monday. But the second seed, who has never lost an Australian Open semi-final or final (15-0), knows he will face one of the most dangerous players on the ATP Tour.

Most Australian Open Titles (All-Time)

 Novak Djokovic  7
 Roger Federer  6
 Roy Emerson  6
 Andre Agassi  4
 Jack Crawford  4
 Ken Rosewall  4

Thiem earned his first hard-court victory against Djokovic at last year’s Nitto ATP Finals, where he raised his aggression to incredibly high levels to do something few players are able to, hitting through the Serbian’s defences. “Probably it was maybe the best match I ever played. It was a real classic and epic match,” Thiem said at the time.

Djokovic has followed Thiem’s run in Melbourne, where he is into his maiden Slam final on hard court, and the World No. 2 knows he will have to be at his best in a match that projects to be between one of the most relentless attackers in the game and its best defender.

“Dominic won our last match we played against each other, a close one in London. He played a terrific match against Rafa last night. I watched that. Definitely one of the best players in the world. Deserves to be where he is,” Djokovic said. “It seems like he’s improved his game a lot on hard courts, because his game is more suitable to the slower surfaces.”

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

Thiem won three of his five titles in 2019 on hard court, including his first ATP Masters 1000 victory at Indian Wells. And if he is to become the second player (Wawrinka, 2014 Australian Open) to beat both Djokovic and Nadal at the same major, the Austrian will need to continue flattening out his shots and stepping into the court, which has helped his improvement on the surface.

“I think I have to keep a good balance. Of course, I have to risk a lot. I have to go for many shots. At the same time, of course, not too much. That’s a very thin line. In the last match against him, hit that line perfectly in London,” Thiem said. “But for sure he’s the favourite. He’s won seven titles here, never lost a final, going for his eighth one. I’m feeling good on the court. I’m playing great tennis. So [I’ll] try to be at my absolute best on Sunday.”

Most Grand Slam Wins Against Djokovic

 Rafael Nadal  9
 Roger Federer  6
 Stan Wawrinka  3
 Dominic Thiem  2
 Tomas Berdych  2
 Andy Murray  2
 Marat Safin  2

Djokovic is not in new territory, getting set to play in his 26th Grand Slam final (16-9). But Thiem, a two-time Roland Garros finalist, is trying to make his biggest breakthrough yet. If he springs the upset, he will become the first player born in the 1990s to win a major, and just the second Austrian to do so, joining former World No. 1 Thomas Muster. A victory will also send him to a career-high World No. 3.

“It’s just a matter of one match here and there that can potentially give him a Grand Slam title, that he can actually get in the mix of top three in the world,” Djokovic said. “He definitely has the game. He has the experience now. He has the strength. He has all the means to really be there. He has improved in the past 12 months playing on the hard court without a doubt, and the results are showing that.”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Thiem has proven to play as physical of a game as anyone on the ATP Tour. But Djokovic (12 hours, 29 minutes) has spent nearly six hours less than his opponent (18 hours, 24 minutes) on court throughout the tournament, and he will look to wear the fifth seed down with his elastic defence. Thiem, however, feels ready for the occasion.

“With all the adrenaline and everything, it’s going to be fine. I played two super intense matches against Rafa and now against Sascha. So of course I’m going to feel it, especially tomorrow,” Thiem said. “But [I’m] going to have great treatment, [an] easy hit tomorrow, and then of course try everything to be 100 per cent on Sunday night.”

Most Appearances Before Winning Australian Open Title (Open Era)

 Petr Korda  9
 Stan Wawrinka  9
 Thomas Johansson  8
 Dominic Thiem  7?
 Ivan Lendl  7
 Marat Safin  7

Djokovic presents plenty of challenges, no matter what Thiem brings to his table. The 32-year-old shrinks the court, forcing even his most aggressive opponents to go for more than they are comfortable with. In the meantime, he waits for any short balls to pounce and take control of rallies himself. This fortnight, Djokovic has been serving tremendously well, too, winning 82 per cent of his first-serve points.

Djokovic remains undefeated in 2020, after winning all six of his singles matches at the inaugural ATP Cup to work his way into form and gain confidence heading into the Australian Open.

“I’m pleased with the way I’ve been feeling and playing,” Djokovic said. “I thought the ATP Cup went really well for me. I got a lot of hours spent on the court, singles and doubles. It was a great lead-up for the Australian Open. Obviously, I got a lot of positive energy from that competition. I dropped only one set so far up to the final.”

To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and in Melbourne, that has long been Djokovic. Will Thiem be up for the challenge?

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Paire Leads The Way In Pune; All You Need To Know

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020

Paire Leads The Way In Pune; All You Need To Know

Draw, schedule, tickets & more about the 2020 Tata Open Maharashtra

Frenchman Benoit Paire leads the charge at the Tata Open Maharashtra, one of three ATP 250 tournaments held in the week following the Australian Open. Paire, 30, is making his eighth tournament appearance and is a two-time semi-finalist (2017, 2018). He has made a strong start to his 2020 campaign, reaching his ninth tour-level final at the ASB Classic in Auckland (l. to Humbert). 

The Pune singles field also includes Ricardas Berankis, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Stefano Travaglia, Soonwoo Kwon, Ivo Karlovic and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Last year in Pune, a 39-year-old Karlovic became the oldest player to reach a tour-level final since a 43-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1977 (Hong Kong). 

Former champions of the event, which used to be held in Chennai, include former World No. 1s Pat Rafter and Carlos Moya. Stan Wawrinka owns a record four singles trophies at this tournament. Home favourite Leander Paes leads the way in doubles with six titles.

Here’s all you need to know about the Pune tennis tournament: when is the draw, what is the schedule, where to watch, who has won and more. 

Established: 1996

Tournament Dates: 3-9 February 2020 (25th edition)

Tournament Director: Prashant Sutar

Draw Ceremony: Saturday, 1 February at 3pm

Are You In? Subscribe To Get Tournament Updates In Your Inbox

Tickets On Sale: Buy Now

Get Tickets for 2020 <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/tournaments/pune/891/overview'>Tata Open Maharashtra</a>, ATP Pune Tennis

Schedule (View On Official Website)
* Qualifying: Saturday and Sunday at 3pm
* Main draw: Monday to Friday at 3:30pm, Saturday at 5:00pm
* Doubles final: Sunday, 9 February at 3pm
* Singles final: Sunday, 9 February not before 5pm

How To Watch
Watch Live On Tennis TV 
TV Schedule

Venue: Balewadi Stadium
Main Court Seating: 4,000

Prize Money: US $546,355 (Total Financial Commitment: US $610,010) 

View Who Is Playing, Past Champions, Seeds, Points & Prize Money Breakdown

Honour Roll
Most Titles, Singles: Stan Wawrinka (4)
Most Titles, Doubles: Leander Paes (6)
Oldest Champion: Gilles Simon, 33, in 2018
Youngest Champion:
Marin Cilic, 20, in 2009
Highest-Ranked Champion: No. 4 Patrick Rafter in 1998 and Stan Wawrinka in 2015-16
Lowest-Ranked Champion:
No. 96 Michal Tabara in 2001
Most Match Wins:
Stan Wawrinka (23)

2019 Finals
Singles: [1] Kevin Anderson (RSA) d Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 76(4) 67(2) 76(5)   Read More
Doubles: [1] Rohan Bopanna (IND) / Divji Sharan (IND) d Luke Bambridge (GBR) / Jonnny O’Mara (GBR) 63 64  Read More

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Anderson Triumphs In Record-Breaking Pune Final

Social
Hashtag: #AdvantagePune #TOM2020

Facebook: @maharashtraopen
Twitter: @MaharashtraOpen
Instagram: @MaharashtraOpen

Did You Know… The tournament debuted in 1996 in New Delhi before relocating to Chennai the following year. It found its new home in Pune in 2018.

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Thiem: ‘We Always Have To Beat All These Unbelievable Legends’

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020

Thiem: ‘We Always Have To Beat All These Unbelievable Legends’

Austrian will play for his first Grand Slam title on Sunday in Melbourne

Dominic Thiem has already enjoyed two shots at Grand Slam glory, at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019. Now, after battling past 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in four sets on Friday evening, the Austrian superstar will get his chance at the Australian Open trophy.

But in his way stands as difficult of an obstacle as you’ll find in tennis: seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in Melbourne.

“We are playing in tough times, [we] young players. We always have to beat all these unbelievable legends. But I think it’s a complete different situation,” Thiem said. “Rafa won Paris 12 times, Nole here seven times. That’s [an] unbelievable achievement. But I try to take my experience that I made in the past two major finals and try to improve myself even more. I think I did that from ’18 to ’19 in Paris, and I tried to improve even more now.

“In this one I have the feeling that I have great experience now. I’m feeling that I can really keep up my level for all the two weeks, which was not the case maybe in my first Roland Garros final. So that’s what I’m taking, [and I’m going to] try to be in the zone straightaway on Sunday night.”

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Thiem Fights Back To Reach Australian Open Final

At last year’s Australian Open, Thiem was upset in the second round. At the time, he was known for his success on clay. But two months later at Indian Wells, Thiem broke through for his first ATP Masters 1000 title — perhaps surprisingly, on hard courts — and from there, he has become a force on hard, too. Three of his five titles in 2019 came on the surface (Indian Wells, Vienna, Beijing), and he finished the year by reaching the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals, which is also on hard.

“Indian Wells, that victory gave me so much relief and so much confidence because [I] finally got my first Masters 1000 title on hard court,” Thiem said. “Then I think last fall in Asia, then in the indoor season, I made this huge step forward. I really developed my game I think in the right direction. I got more aggressive on hard courts, started to serve smarter and to return better. That also gave me a lot of confidence for this new year and for Australia because I told myself, ‘If I can be in the finals in London, the [Nitto] ATP Finals, why not as well in a hard-court Slam?’ Since then I know that I’m also playing very well on the faster surfaces.”

Djokovic is on a roll, winning 16 consecutive sets dating back to the fourth set of his first-round win against German Jan-Lennard Struff. Thiem, however, has had to battle this fortnight, going five sets in the second round against Alex Bolt, four hours and 10 minutes against top seed Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and three hours and 42 minutes against Zverev in the last four.

“With all the adrenaline and everything, it’s going to be fine. I played two super-intense matches against Rafa and now against Sascha. So of course I’m going to feel it, especially tomorrow,” Thiem said. “But I’m going to have great treatment, an easy hit tomorrow, and then of course try everything to be 100 per cent on Sunday night.”

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Thiem showed some of his best form to defeat Nadal on Wednesday, winning three tie-breaks under pressure against the Spanish legend. And he did not suffer a letdown against Zverev, rallying after dropping the first set and going after his shots when it mattered most.

“I had big issues with that two, three years ago, when I was beating a big guy. Almost all the time I lost my next match. But with experience and with more times when you are facing that situation, it got better,” Thiem said. “Today in the beginning, I had some troubles. I was not in the zone straightaway in the match like against Rafa. It took a while, maybe 20, 30 minutes. But I think that’s normal. You just have to fight through and stay full in the match.”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Thiem lost his first five ATP Head2Head meetings against Djokovic, winning just one set in those matches. But he has won four of their five clashes since, including a victory at last year’s Nitto ATP Finals.

“I won more of the last encounters than he did. But I think it doesn’t count so much. It’s absolutely his comfort zone here. He always plays his best tennis in Australia since many, many years. So I’m expecting that as well in the final,” Thiem said. “All I can do is my best again, playing great tennis again, and of course take a look at the past matches we had as well in Paris and also London, try to repeat the good stuff that I did there.”

Thiem knows that history is on Djokovic’s side in Melbourne, where the Serbian has never lost from the semi-finals on. But the World No. 5 carries good form and a dangerous game into the championship match.

“For sure he’s the favourite. I mean, he’s won seven titles here, never lost a final, going for his eighth one,” Thiem said. “I’m feeling good on the court. I’m playing great tennis. So [I’ll] try to be at my absolute best on Sunday.”

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Kenin's 'butterflies' v Muguruza's experience – Australian Open final preview

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020
Australian Open women’s singles final
Venue: Melbourne Park Date: 1 February Time: 08:30 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

American 14th seed Sofia Kenin says she has “butterflies” at the prospect of playing in her first Grand Slam final against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open.

The pair meet in Melbourne at 08:30 GMT on Saturday.

“I’ve pictured so many times being in the final. I’ve always dreamed about it,” Kenin, 21, said.

Unseeded Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open and Wimbledon in 2017, is bidding for her third Grand Slam title.

After also losing at All England Club in 2015, the 26-year-old will compete in her fourth major final.

“I’ll take into consideration my previous experiences, but it doesn’t guarantee anything,” the world number 32 said.

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Child prodigy Kenin one step from fulfilling dream

Kenin, who was born in Russia but moved to the United States when she was a few months old, is the first American to reach the Australian Open final aside from the Williams sisters since Lindsay Davenport in 2005.

She was a child prodigy in the States, making numerous television appearances and hitting with Grand Slam champions like John McEnroe, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams when she was young and going on to reach the 2015 US Open girls final.

She won the WTA award for the most improved player in 2019 after winning three titles and climbing more than 40 places in the world rankings.

Now she is close to something even bigger.

Kenin reached the final after ending world number one Ashleigh Barty’s hopes of becoming the first Australian champion in Melbourne since 1978.

“First I’m just going to be enjoying the moment,” she said. “You don’t experience this so often. This is so exciting. Literally butterflies.

“I’m just going to also focus on what I need to do, focus on my game. I got here, it’s time to shine, do the best I can. Hopefully I can do something more special.”

‘The racquet has to speak out there’ – Muguruza hopes experience will prove key

Muguruza is bidding to become only the third unseeded woman to win the Australian Open, after home player Chris O’Neil in 1978 and American great Serena Williams in 2007.

The Venezuelan-born Spaniard slipped to 36th in the world at the end of last year, a little over two years after she was ranked number one.

But she has looked close to her best in Melbourne, having reunited with former coach Conchita Martinez – the 1994 Wimbledon champion – at the start of the season.

The experience of winning the sport’s biggest prizes is something which Muguruza hopes she can use to her advantage

“It’s something that not a lot of players can feel it. But at the end the racquet has to speak out there,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter how many Grand Slams you have. It’s a tennis match.

“Even if you have 15 Grand Slams, you go out there and you have somebody that can beat you.”

Muguruza has reached the Melbourne final by beating four seeded players, including three ranked in the world’s top 10.

Victories over Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina and Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens earlier in the tournament marked her out as a potential champion at Melbourne Park.

And she moved within another win of achieving that with a gutsy victory over Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep.

“I think she has the right attitude at the moment. She’s very focused,” said Martinez, who worked with Muguruza when she won Wimbledon.

“I have seen this look before when she’s been playing really good tennis.

“I like how she’s doing everything right to put herself in a good situation, to do well, to play well.”

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Wheelchair doubles champion Hewett told he cannot compete next year

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

Australian Open wheelchair doubles champion Alfie Hewett has been told he cannot compete beyond this year because his disability is not severe enough.

Hewett, who has Perthes disease which affects his hip and femur, and partner Gordon Reid beat Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer in Friday’s final.

Hewett does not meet new classification rules introduced last August.

“There’s a new system that’s come in, and I just don’t meet the requirements for it,” Hewett, 22, told BBC Sport.

“But there’s no other option for me, because I’m not able to compete on my feet.”

The 22-year-old became very emotional as he and Reid celebrated a 4-6 6-4 (10-7) win over the top seeds at Melbourne Park.

In future, eligibility will be determined by an evaluation rather than a player’s self-assessment. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) says the new rules will “improve the integrity of classification”.

“I know there’s been a lot of noise in the last six months, and the decisions have been made now,” Hewett continued.

“At the moment it is my last year, so that’s why today meant a lot to me. And obviously Gio (Reid) knew that as well, and coming into that third-set tie-break it was just a case of going out there and giving it my all.

“I shed a few tears at the end, and back in the locker room. We’ve had a great time together, and a good adventure, and if this is the last time I play the Australian Open, then it’s very, very happy memories.”

Reid, who has now won seven Grand Slam titles alongside Hewett, has huge sympathy for his doubles partner.

“It’s obviously been tough,” he said.

“I can’t imagine putting myself in Alfie’s position. Classification in Paralympic sport is a very controversial subject, one that’s never going to be perfect and there’s always going to be someone that misses out.

“Things could change, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, and hopefully this isn’t the last year we see Alfie playing wheelchair tennis.”

Players have the right to appeal, but it is likely to prove quite a challenge should Hewett decide to go down that route.

A spokesperson for the LTA said: “We are supporting all the players on our world class programme through the new classification process. That process is still ongoing, we are continuing to liaise with the ITF on it – therefore won’t be commenting on any specific player cases.”

The ITF website says players are eligible to compete in the open wheelchair division “if they have a permanent physical disability that results in substantial loss of function in one or both lower extremities (limbs), and that meets or exceeds the sport’s eligibility criteria”.

The rules have also been approved by the International Paralympic Committee.

Another player who affected by the new regulations is the Dutch five-time Grand Slam champion Marjolein Buis.

When she announced her intention to retire at the end of the year, she accused the authorities of “taking away my job and my passion”.

Whiley win eases pain of missing son’s birthday

Briton Jordanne Whiley won her first Grand Slam title on Friday since returning to the sport after the birth of her son.

The 27-year-old and Japanese partner Yui Kamiji defeated Dutch top seeds Diede de Groot and Aniek van Koot 6-2 6-4.

Whiley said the victory eased the pain of having missed her son Jackson’s second birthday, which was on Thursday.

“I’ve been away for three weeks now and that’s the longest I’ve been away from him so it’s been really difficult,” said Whiley, who won her third Australian doubles title.

“And to have his second birthday yesterday was really emotional for me to be here. But I said to Marc, his dad, my coach and fiance, that if I’m going to be away from him then I have to make everything count.

“So I’m really pleased I’m bringing home the title. That’s something that has really aided my performances coming back. I don’t want to waste any time while I’m away.”

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Thiem to face Djokovic in Australian Open final – report & highlights

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app; Watch highlights on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.

Dominic Thiem will meet defending champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s Australian Open final after digging deep to beat Alexander Zverev.

Thiem, 26, won 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-4) in a match briefly interrupted by rain and a lighting failure.

The Austrian fifth seed said “it was an unreal match” and he will now look to win his first Grand Slam, after losing the past two French Open finals.

Djokovic is favourite to win a record-extending eighth title and 17th major.

The 32-year-old has lost just three matches in the past 10 Australian Open tournaments.

German seventh seed Zverev, 22, was bidding to reach his first Grand Slam final but instead, it his good friend who will play for the title.

“To reach the Australian Open final is unreal,” said Thiem, who will bid to become only the second Austrian player – after Thomas Muster at the 1995 French Open – to win a Grand Slam.

“Two tie-breaks, so tough and so close, it was almost impossible to break him.”

  • Reaction to Thiem’s victory over Zverev
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Third time lucky for Thiem?

Thiem produced a heroic effort, physically and mentally, to beat Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal in an epic quarter-final that lasted more than four hours on Wednesday.

As a result it looked as though the Austrian, who said he did not get to sleep until 5am following that win, was lacking energy against Zverev.

The crushing groundstrokes he produced against Nadal initially lacked fizz, largely down to being pinned back by the big-serving German.

“It is not easy because I played four hours and 10 minutes against Rafa, who is the most intense man on tour,” said Thiem, who is through to his first Australian Open final.

“I had some troubles in the first set, it was both of our first semi-finals here and it was not easy.”

But Thiem fought back in the second set, hitting cleaner and helped by a horror of a service game from the German, to level.

The unforced error count crept up again in the third, seemingly as a sign of fatigue, but he recovered when it mattered most.

After saving two set points at 5-4 in the third, Thiem started the tie-break with a deft pick-up at the net which provided the momentum – following that with an ace, two service winners and pair of blistering winners off either wing – to clinch the lead.

That was the fourth tie-break he had won in a row, following the three which saw him beat Nadal.

It also provided the confidence that took him through the fourth-set decider.

After two loose errors led to him being pegged back, Thiem was helped when Zverev whacked an overhead wide of the doubles court for a 4-2 lead.

The tension and drama increased when the umpire overruled a call that Zverev hit long at 4-3. The point was replayed with Thiem landing a ferocious forehand to win it.

Another winner brought up three match points for the Austrian and he took the second when he sprung forward to put away a forehand volley at the net.

Thiem broke out into a beaming smile before sharing a warm hug with his opponent, whom he has known since their junior days.

“In all of the tie-breaks I think I was 2-0, 3-0 up and it gives you confidence for the rest,” he said.

‘I felt like I was in Austria on a skiing holiday’ – Thiem helped by lights delay

The magnitude of their first Australian Open semi-final and, a first Slam semi-final in Zverev’s case, led to both players starting nervously.

But the tension was lifted – mainly among the crowd but also in Thiem, it turned out – during a bizarre stoppage.

As the players headed to their chairs after the opening game of the third set, Zverev complained that some lights behind the baseline had gone out.

Although it was barely noticeable to most of the puzzled fans on Rod Laver Arena, it led to an eight-minute break while tournament officials dealt with the problem.

The crowd were particularly entertained by Sweet Caroline playing over the speakers, with Thiem’s mother Karin dancing to the Neil Diamond classic and the player breaking into a grin.

“That helped loosen me up a little,” he laughed.

“I like that song. I felt like I was in Austria on a skiing holiday, they play that song all the time.”

Thiem was still in the groove when they resumed, comfortably holding and then breaking for a 2-1 lead.

Although he was broken back for 5-5, the momentum remained tilted in his favour throughout the rest of the match.

  • Reaction to Thiem’s victory over Zverev
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Zverev’s demons return at key points

Following his first-round win, Zverev pledged to donate his entire prize pot to the Australian bushfire relief fund if he won his first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park.

A gesture of great generosity, it was also one that seemed fanciful.

Zverev looked far away from being able to tilt a crack at the trophy after losing all of three of his matches in a torrid start to the season at the ATP Cup in Sydney.

The 22-year-old took his anger out at his father and coach, Alexander senior, in an unsavoury argument during a defeat by Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, where he hit 10 double faults and landed just 45% of his first serves.

However, his serve was the part of his game which was instrumental in carrying him to the last four in Melbourne and winning the first set against Thiem.

“I’ve spent hours on that shot. So at some point I knew it had to come back,” said Zverev.

Zverev landed 90% of his first serves in the opening set, allowing his opponent to win just seven receiving points.

However, the demons returned at crucial moments in the match.

A pair of double faults allowed Thiem to break for the first time in the second set, from which point Zverev started missing more first serves and let Thiem apply more pressure.

Another double fault in the fourth set tie-break helped Thiem to a 3-0 lead and, after pegging him back to 3-2, Zverev produced that wild overhead to lose momentum again.

From there he was unable to recover, continuing Germany’s 17-year wait for a Grand Slam men’s finalist.

“I had a lot of chances. I had 14 break points. That should be plenty,” Zverev added.

“In the important moments, I didn’t play my best. He did. That’s where the match kind of went his way.”

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Updates: Zverev Wins First Set Against Thiem

  • Posted: Jan 31, 2020

Updates: Zverev Wins First Set Against Thiem

ATPTour.com provides updates of the second semi-final at Melbourne Park

Seventh seed Alexander Zverev leads fourth seed Dominic Thiem 6-3 on Friday in the Australian Open semi-finals. The winner will play seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final.

Zverev elected to receive and the decision reaped dividends with a service break, but Thiem got back immediately. Light rain began to fall in the fourth game and briefly suspended play and it was until 3-3, that Zverev put his foot on the accelerator, winning 10 straight points to a 5-3 lead and 0/30 on Thiem’s serve. Zverev clinched the 40-minute opener when Thiem hit a backhand into the net.

Thiem leads their ATP Head2Head rivalry 6-2, including a straight-sets win last year in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals.

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