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Edmund's 2020 season begins with defeat in Qatar

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

British number three Kyle Edmund was beaten by Filip Krajinovic in his first match of 2020 at the Qatar Open.

Edmund, 24, won the first set but fell to a 6-4 3-6 3-6 defeat by the Serb – the world number 40.

The Briton, who also led by a break early in the decider, had a disappointing 2019 season which saw him slip down the rankings to his current position of 69.

Sixth seed Krajinovic will play Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the last 16.

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Djokovic Loses Point After Video Review

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Djokovic Loses Point After Video Review

Serbia clinched Final Eight spot on Day 4

There have been many notable moments in the career of Novak Djokovic, but the Serbian can add two more to his list following Team Serbia’s dramatic 2-1 victory against Team France at the ATP Cup.

Firstly, the Serbian’s 6-3, 6-7(5), 10-3 doubles victory alongside Viktor Troicki earned his country a spot at the Final Eight in Sydney. But Djokovic will also remember the match for a different reason, after losing a point for the first time in his career by Video Review.

With Troicki serving at 6-3, 2-3, (30/30), Djokovic dismissed Nicolas Mahut’s return with a forehand volley to earn game point. But Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were convinced the Serbian had touched the ball before it had travelled across the net.

“It seemed to me, at first, that it was kind of just in the middle. Not our side. Not their side,” said Djokovic. “But then, the chair umpire, after repeating the video a couple of times, he was right.”

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The situation reminded Djokovic of the moment he fell into the net while hitting another forehand volley during the fifth set of his 2013 Roland Garros semi-final loss to Rafael Nadal.

“I already lost a very important point in my career against Nadal in a similar way like that in the semi-finals at Roland Garros,” said Djokovic. “So I had a little bit of a déjà vu there and got frustrated because of that.”

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But the frustration of a game point becoming a break point did not affect the 77-time tour-level titlist. Djokovic and Troicki recovered from the position to hold serve, delighting much of the pro-Serbia crowd inside Pat Rafter Arena.

“It is what it is. We bounced back, won the next two points,” said Djokovic. “That got myself, I think Viktor and the crowd a little bit hyped up. I think after that the energy of the crowd was amazing. Also, the French team were lifting their team up and it was a big battle.”

Serbia will face Chile in its final group stage tie on Day 6 before travelling to Sydney for the Final Eight. The Group A winners will face the eighth team to qualify for the Final Eight in the day session on 10 January.

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Bublik Earns Doha Debut Win

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Bublik Earns Doha Debut Win

Verdasco, Moutet also through in straight sets

Alexander Bublik marked his Qatar ExxonMobil Open debut with a notable victory on Monday, defeating seventh seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round.

The 22-year-old landed 10 aces and broke Mannarino on three occasions at the 2019 ATP 250 Tournament of the Year. Bublik enters the 2020 ATP Tour season after a breakout campaign last year, highlighted by runner-up finishes at the Hall of Fame Open and the Chengdu Open.

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The Kazakh will face Aljaz Bedene for a spot in the quarter-finals, following the Slovenian’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback win against 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Mikael Ymer.

Fernando Verdasco needed 89 minutes to book his place in the second round, battling past fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-3. The 2017 semi-finalist will meet sixth seed Filip Krajinovic or Kyle Edmund in the second round.

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“I’m happy with the way that I played,” said Verdasco. “I still think that I can play a little bit better… But in general, I’m happy with the way that I played the whole match.”

Corentin Moutet also started his 2020 ATP Tour season with a win, saving each of the seven break points he faced to move past Tennys Sandgren 7-6(3), 6-4. Moutet advances to a second-round clash against fourth seed Milos Raonic.

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Australian Open: Air quality being monitored – organisers

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Australian Open matches could be suspended if air quality is too bad, organisers said after Melbourne reached “very unhealthy” levels amid bushfires.

Fires in Australia have killed at least 24 people since September and millions of hectares of land have been scorched.

“Assessing the likelihood of smoke-induced interruptions is a bit like how we treat heat and rain,” tournament director Craig Tiley said.

“The health of players, fans and staff is a priority at all times.”

Visibility in Melbourne, which hosts the opening Grand Slam of the year this month, is less than 1km (0.62 miles) in some parts of the city and surrounding areas, according to Victoria’s Bureau of Meteorology.

The air quality index in the city reached 213 on Monday, with a reading above 200 considered “very unhealthy”.

Qualifying for the Australian Open begins on Tuesday, 14 January, with the main draw starting on 20 January.

“We have experts who analyse all available live data as specific to our sites as possible and consult regularly with tournament officials and, in the case of heat and smoke, medical experts,” Tiley added.

“We have access to real-time monitoring of air quality at all of our venues and are working closely with medical personnel and local experts onsite to ensure we have the best possible information available to make any decisions regarding whether play should be halted at any point.”

There have been no smoke-related interruptions so far at the ATP Cup, which is taking place in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, but this week’s Canberra challenger event was relocated more than 450km away to Bendigo and some football and basketball matches have been cancelled.

Nick Kyrgios, Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty have been among the tennis players who have pledged financial support to the relief fund.

Australian Open organisers also announced plans to raise money, including staging an “AO Rally for Relief” with a group of leading players and a music event.

“The inordinate loss of people, wildlife, stock, homes, schools and businesses is going to require an extraordinarily widespread effort to get these families and communities back on their feet,” Tiley said. “Our aim is for tennis to play a significant role where we can to help that recovery.”

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Stay Or Go? Djokovic, Nadal Balance Competing Roles At ATP Cup

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Stay Or Go? Djokovic, Nadal Balance Competing Roles At ATP Cup

Top singles players want to support their teammates but also prepare themselves

Novak Djokovic was still a couple hours away from playing at the ATP Cup in Brisbane, but already the Serbian was showing his emotions for his country.

Midway through the first set of Serbian Dusan Lajovic’s match against Lloyd Harris of South Africa, Lajovic had a chance for a break point but missed a forehand approach. Djokovic slapped his leg and leaned back in Serbia’s Team Zone.

By now, the 32-year-old knows well how to manage his emotions and balance his competing roles at the inaugural 24-team event, which is playing played in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney and moves exclusively to Sydney on Thursday for the Final Eight.

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Djokovic and other No. 1 singles players play the second match of their ATP Cup tie, meaning their pre-match routine can – and often does – include supporting their teammate, the country’s No. 2 singles player, who plays before them.

But it takes some thinking, as Djokovic acknowledged, to make sure you’re supporting your teammates while sticking to your own pre-match routine and not getting too emotionally involved as a supporter.

It’s kind of a balance between the two, really. Because it’s a team competition, you’re always kind of finding that additional energy and strength and motivation that is probably always different in individual tournaments, because it’s all about you,” Djokovic said. “And here it’s, even though there’s that factor of individual and elements of an individual tournament, it’s still a team competition.”

The World No. 2 stayed through 12 games of Lajovic’s match against Harris before heading to the locker room to warm up. His opponent that night, Kevin Anderson, followed the same routine, offering a fist pump and encouraging words to Harris before exiting the court in Pat Rafter Arena.

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The South African has years of team tennis experience, having played collegiate tennis at the University of Illinois in the U.S. and on Team World at the 2018 Laver Cup in Chicago.

I just find that balance pretty comfortably… that balance of getting out there and being excited, but obviously realising that you still have to play afterwards,” Anderson said.

At the end of the day, yelling at the top of my lungs is not going to maybe help Lloyd too much. It’s just being there, being supportive. I think just more time and days before the match is probably more valuable than, arguably more valuable, than just being out there.”

Although both Djokovic and Anderson watched much of the first singles match, others have different strategies that have worked for them throughout the years. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, for instance, watched only three games of Roberto Bautista Agut’s singles match on Saturday before leaving to prepare for his debut at the ATP Cup in Perth.

I am old in these situations. A lot of experience… We know how to manage the situation,” Nadal said. “If things are not going well, it’s not because we lose energy in moments we should not.”

Croatia’s top singles players want to be so locked in they watch even fewer than three games with their teammates in the Croatia Team Zone by the baseline.

Borna Coric watched none of Marin Cilic’s match, and vice versa, and why change something that works: Croatia is 2-0 in Sydney.

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“If I’m playing first, he’s not there, and I know it and I’m OK with it. And also he knows that I’m not going to be on his match, obviously,” said Coric, who overcame Cilic as the country’s No. 1 singles player last year.

Cilic, however, came after his match to support Coric and watch the 23-year-old face Austria’s No. 1 Dominic Thiem. Coric pulled off the upset against the World No. 4 for his first Top 10 win in more than a year (0-3 in 2019).

“It was really nice for him that he came to my match afterwards, because his support means a lot to me,” Coric said of Cilic. “He’s older, and still, even though if he’s the No. 2 at the moment, I feel like he’s our leader. So it did mean a lot that also he came. Obviously he was playing a very long match, but that just shows his character.”

Djokovic and other No. 1 singles players also make it a point to support their countrymen who are playing doubles and finishing up the tie, but Djokovic’s movements during the first singles match aren’t always as methodical as they may seem.

For instance, if Lajovic would have gone to a third-set tie-break with Harris, Djokovic would have trotted back on court and stood alongside his teammates to root for his countryman.

“You care, you’re passionate, you want to be out there for your teammate,” he said.

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Novak Notches Notable Upset In Sydney

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Novak Notches Notable Upset In Sydney

Austrian gives countryman Thiem a chance to close out the tie

Dennis Novak earned one of the biggest wins of his career on Monday at the ATP Cup in Sydney, upsetting World No. 25 Guido Pella 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 14 minutes to give Austria a 1-0 lead over Argentina.

The World No. 105 pushed former World No. 3 Marin Cilic to three sets on Saturday, leading the Croat to say that Novak was playing at a “great level”. The Austrian maintained that against Pella, holding all 10 of his service games across the final two sets to stun the lefty.

“I felt not really good in the beginning. It was a huge difference [from] two days ago, the conditions.
I mean, the first set looks quite easy for him,” Novak said. “After the first set I went to a toilet break with Thomas, and I came out and changed a little bit my game and fought back in the game. I think at the end I played really good tennis.”

Novak admitted that Austria’s captain, former World No. 1 Thomas Muster, gave him a “rough speech”. But it was clearly productive, with Novak storming back against Pella.

“He just told me to start moving better, hitting the ball, going for it, not waiting for him to miss,” Novak said. “That’s what I changed. I think I stepped in the court, and I played some really good shots.”

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This is Novak’s second-biggest victory by FedEx ATP Ranking, having defeated then-World No. 19 Lucas Pouille in five sets at Wimbledon two years ago. It is Novak’s 14th tour-level victory.

After the first set, it appeared that victory would be difficult. Novak won only 39 per cent of his service points in the opening set, getting broken three times, while winning only three return points. But Novak did not shy away from the occasion, going after his shots to give countryman and longtime friend Dominic Thiem an opportunity to close out the tie against Diego Schwartzman.

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Djokovic pledges donation to fire appeal as cricket great Warne auctions first Test cap

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Australian cricket great Shane Warne is set to raise more than 300,000 Australian dollars (£160,000) for the bushfire appeal by auctioning off his prized ‘baggy green’ Test cap.

The 50-year-old wore the cap throughout his 145-Test career, in which he took an Australian record 708 wickets.

At least 24 people have died since the fires began in September.

“Everyone is in this together and we continue to find ways to contribute and help on a daily basis,” said Warne.

“This has led me to auction off my beloved baggy green cap that I wore throughout my Test career.

“I hope my baggy green can raise some significant funds to help all those people that are in desperate need.”

All money raised will go to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund, with the highest bid at 07:00 GMT on Monday standing at A$301,500. The auction is open until Friday.

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The fires are a natural part of the Australian weather cycle, but have been worsened this year by hotter-than-average temperatures and a persistent drought in many areas.

Warne is Test cricket’s second-most successful bowler, with only Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800) taking more wickets.

The ‘baggy green’ is given to an Australian Test player when he makes his international debut and cricketers usually wear the same cap throughout their career.

Legendary batsman Don Bradman’s ‘baggy green’ fetched A$425,000 (£225,000) in 2003 – the Australian, who died in 2001, has the highest Test average of 99.94 runs.

Tennis stars also pledge financial support

Novak Djokovic, the world number two in men’s tennis, has also pledged financial support to the relief fund, matching the A$25,000 donation given by five-time women’s Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova, 32, asked Djokovic to support the cause after saying on Sunday she would donate, with Serbia’s 16-time major winner agreeing to help in a Twitter message to the Russian on Monday.

Australian world number one Ashleigh Barty has already said she will give all of her prize money from the Brisbane International to the relief fund.

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Anderson targeting Grand Slams after ATP Cup win

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson says he is still capable of winning a Grand Slam after earning his first win since knee surgery as South Africa beat Chile at the ATP Cup.

Anderson, 33, pushed Novak Djokovic on Saturday in his first match since July, before easing past Cristian Garin 6-0 6-3 in Australia on Monday.

It helped South Africa earn their first win at the inaugural 24-team event.

Croatia and Japan moved closer to the quarter-finals with their second wins.

  • GB avoid early ATP Cup exit
  • What is the ATP Cup?

Anderson, who lost to Djokovic in the 2018 Wimbledon final, was ranked eighth when he suffered a knee injury during last year’s tournament at the All England Club.

He missed the rest of the 2019 season as a result and needed surgery in September, but has not looked far from his best at the ATP Cup on his return.

Anderson, who also reached the 2017 US Open final, where he lost to Rafael Nadal, needed just one hour and 14 minutes to beat world number 33 Garin.

That clinched the tie for South Africa following Lloyd Harris’s 6-4 6-4 victory over Nicolas Jarry, before Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse beat Garin and Jarry 1-6 6-3 10-7 in the doubles to complete the whitewash.

“My best ranking is top five, so I would like to get back there,” Anderson said, who is now the world number 147.

“I want to win a Masters series. I’m definitely a good enough tennis player to do that. I’ve put myself in good positions but haven’t quite taken that step.

“And then, obviously, the grand prize in tennis: a Grand Slam. I’ve been in two finals. That’s the ultimate goal for me. It’s one that I really feel like I have a good chance of doing it.”

Monday’s ATP Cup results
Brisbane (Group A) Perth (Group B) Sydney (Group C)
Day session: South Africa 3-0 Chile Japan 2-1 Georgia Croatia 2-1 Poland
Night session: Serbia v France Spain v Uruguay Austria v Argentina
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Britain's Konta beaten by Strycova in Brisbane first round

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

British number one Johanna Konta is out of the Brisbane International after losing in three sets to Barbora Strycova in the first round.

World number 12 Konta, who has been battling a knee injury, forced a decider after Strycova dominated the opener – but the Czech won 6-2 3-6 6-3.

Konta, has not beaten Strycova, ranked 31st, in three attempts, last losing in their 2019 Wimbledon quarter-final.

In Auckland, 15-year-old Coco Gauff won 6-3 6-1 against Viktoria Kuzmova.

  • ‘I can only listen to my body’ – Konta hopeful of playing Australian Open

American Gauff became a global sensation last year after reaching the Wimbledon last 16, backing that run up in October with her first WTA singles title and climbing well inside the world’s top 100.

Now ranked 68th, she started her 2020 campaign with an impressive straight-set win against 21-year-old Slovak Kuzmova, hitting 15 winners and four aces in her victory.

Serena Williams makes her return to the singles in Auckland on Tuesday for the first time since losing the US Open final to Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu in September.

The 38-year-old American, who will go for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, which starts on 14 January, will play Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi after original opponent Svetlana Kuznetsova pulled out through illness.

Williams has been on court in the doubles, however, playing alongside Denmark’s former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

Wozniacki, who won the her maiden Grand Slam at the 2018 Australian Open, will retire after this year’s opening major.

The long-time friends are playing together for the first time on the WTA Tour and started with a 6-2 6-4 first-round win over Japan’s Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.

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Murray Explains How ATP Cup Strategy Rooms Can Make A Difference

  • Posted: Jan 06, 2020

Murray Explains How ATP Cup Strategy Rooms Can Make A Difference

Strategy Rooms provide key statistics and insights for players in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney

It’s never easy to know what an opponent will do on the tennis court. But at the ATP Cup, the Strategy Room helps point players in the right direction.

Former doubles World No. 1 and 23-time tour-level doubles titlist Jamie Murray took inside Sydney’s Strategy Room to explain how various statistics and insights into matches could make the difference in critical moments at this inaugural 24-team competition.

“I really like this stuff. Sometimes you can get too bogged down in it and then forget actually you need to go out and play and you’re worrying too much about what the other guys might do,” Murray said. “You’ve still got to focus on what you can do and what you can control, because at the end of the day you might think that the guy’s going to serve there, but he’s got free choice to do what he wants to do. [But] you can definitely use it to your advantage, 100 per cent.”

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Murray noted that there are some things he may look at to check progress on a part of his game that he is working on. And while it is important to look at standard stats such as first-serve percentage or first-serve points won, that’s not necessarily the most valuable aspect of the Strategy Room, or scouting in general.

“If I’m looking at the opponents that I’m going to play next, it’s more trying to find out almost like what they don’t do,” Murray said. “So if they play regular formation and they never cross, then I’ll know that I can keep returning crosscourt. Or one player, if he never serves wide on the deuce court, then I know I only have to protect the T serve and the body. So it’s things like that that kind of give you an edge.

“Maybe I’d filter second serves, where these guys are serving second serves. If they’re only serving in the body for example, then I know I don’t have to cover a wide serve, so I can cheat my position a bit. Or when they’re doing I-formation, is there a way that they always cover the cross-court return, or are they always covering down the line? Are there certain patterns that they like to play?”

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The Strategy Room could also work in reverse to help players make sure they’re not getting too predictable. For example, if someone visited and saw that another player poaches crosscourt returns 85 per cent of the time in the ad court, that could play into their strategy.

“A big part of what we’re taught in Britain and our philosophy is to be unpredictable and not to be doing the same things over and over again,” Murray said. “When you’re out there, if it’s 4-4 deuce and you know that the guy never serves wide to you so you’ve only got to cover two serves instead of three, that’s a huge advantage and you can anticipate it a bit.”

In general, Murray’s coach does a lot of the scouting for matches to come. But if he’s set to face opponents he never has before, he’ll try to watch them on YouTube or television to learn their tendencies. Having advanced analytics like those being provided in the Strategy Room makes preparation even easier.

“For a doubles team, if you had access to that [information from the Strategy Room] the whole year, you can definitely use it to your advantage. It’s still obviously about getting out there and executing what you’re trying to do,” Murray said. “But it definitely helps if you know for sure certain plays that teams do or that they don’t do. That definitely gives you an edge when you’re going into matches.

“In doubles, the margins are so small and matches are deciding all the time by two or three points. So if you have that little extra edge, it can really help.”

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