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Rublev Overcomes Nerves To Win Doha Opener

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

Rublev Overcomes Nerves To Win Doha Opener

Former champion Tsonga falls to Kecmanovic

Second seed Andrey Rublev felt nervous entering his second-round opener at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, but came through his first test of the 2020 ATP Tour season with flying colours as he dismissed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday in Doha.

Rublev had lost to the Kazakhstani in three of their past four tour-level main draw encounters, and anticipated another “really tough match”. But the 2018 Doha runner-up needed just 69 minutes to clinch the victory as he converted on four of his nine break points and dropped serve once.

“I’m really happy that I could win in straight sets today,” said Rublev. “Both of us were not really feeling the ball as normally we can feel, so it was more about mental.

“It was first match of the season, first match since two months. And, of course, I was a little bit nervous… But in the end, I’m happy that I accepted this and I focussed more on the things [for] how I can win with the game that I have today. And I’m happy with my performance.”

The 22-year-old enjoyed a career-best season in 2019 – reaching a career-high No. 22 FedEx ATP Ranking, winning his hometown title in Moscow and earning a nomination for Comeback Player of the Year – and was pleased he could start the new season with a win.

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“Even when you finish the season well and you don’t play for a while, you lose a little bit [of the] rhythm of playing… If you win the first match, you feel like you’re back in the rhythm,” he said. “And if you lose, you feel I’m not in the rhythm; I need to win match to feel this feeling, to bring the confidence back. And that’s why I think it’s important, the beginning of the season.”

Rublev will look to continue his run in Doha when he next meets Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in their first ATP Head2Head meeting. Herbert, last year’s doubles champion (with David Goffin), dismissed No. 5 seed Laslo Djere 6-1, 6-3 in 62 minutes.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s bid to reclaim the Doha title was cut short as he lost to Serbian #NextGenATP star Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(9), 6-1. The third-seeded Frenchman held three set points in the first-set tie-break, but was unable to capitalise. Kecmanovic, 20, won five straight games to close out the 74-minute match and oust the 2012 champion.

“It was definitely one of my better wins,” said Kecmanovic. “I’ve had some exciting wins last year. And to start the year off with such a big name, it’s definitely motivating me and giving me a lot more confidence to keep going.”

Kecmanovic, who finished 2019 by reaching the semi-finals at the Next Gen ATP Finals, will next meet Hungarian qualifier Marton Fucsovics, a 6-1, 6-4 winner over Turkish wild card Cem Ilkel.

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Verdasco On Doha: ‘This Is My Home’

Spaniard Fernando Verdasco advanced beyond the Round of 16 for just the second time in eight appearances at this ATP 250 tournament, finishing strong to defeat sixth seed Filip Krajinovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-0. The 36-year-old Verdasco, who moved to Doha five years ago, achieved his best result here in 2017 when he reached the semi-finals (l. to Djokovic).

Verdasco awaits the winner between No. 4 seed Milos Raonic and French qualifier Corentin Moutet.

Mixed Results For Doubles Seeds
All four doubles seeds played their quarter-final matches Wednesday in Doha, resulting in two wins and two losses for the top tandems.

Second seeds Henri Kontinen and Franko Skugor battled their way into the semi-finals with a 6-7(2), 6-4, 13-11 victory over Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski. They will face Rohan Bopanna and Wesley Koolhof for a spot in the final after the No. 3 seeds dismissed Frances Tiafoe and Stan Wawrinka, 6-3, 6-4.

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares, the No. 1 seeds, fell to Frederik Nielsen and Tim Puetz 4-6, 6-2, 10-7, while fourth-seeded Frenchmen and 2017 champions Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin were defeated by Luke Bambridge and Santiago Gonzalez 6-3, 7-6(7).

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10 Takeaways From Day 6 At The ATP Cup

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

10 Takeaways From Day 6 At The ATP Cup

A look back at the most memorable moments from Day 6

The group stages are now complete. On Day 6 at the ATP Cup, the four remaining Final Eight positions were taken by group winners Spain and Argentina, while Belgium and Canada advanced as the two best second-placed teams.

Here are 10 of the biggest takeaways from Day 6:

1) Spain Qualifies: Roberto Bautista Agut and Rafael Nadal once again proved too strong in Group B singles action. Bautista Agut needed 79 minutes to beat Go Soeda 6-2, 6-4, before Nadal overcame the challenge of Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6(4), 6-4 to clinch a Final Eight spot for Spain.

2) Argentina Advances: Argentina swept its final Group E tie against Croatia 3-0 to book a Final Eight tie against Russia. Guido Pella downed Marin Cilic 7-6(1), 6-3, before Diego Schwartzman recorded his first win of the 2020 ATP Tour season against Borna Coric 6-2, 6-2 to clinch the tie and Final Eight qualification.

3) Serbia Makes It 3-0: In the day session at Pat Rafter Arena, Serbia ended its Group A campaign with a third tie victory against Chile. Dusan Lajovic started the day with a 6-2, 7-6(3) victory against Nicolas Jarry and Novak Djokovic earned an unassailable 2-0 lead after beating Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3.

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4) Polish Power: Poland ended its ATP Cup campaign with a 2-1 triumph against Austria in Sydney. Kacper Zuk rallied from a set down to beat Dennis Novak 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3, before Hubert Hurkacz edged World No. 4 Dominic Thiem 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5).

5) Belgium The Best: After beating Bulgaria 2-1 to end Day 5 with the best second-placed record, Belgium maintained that position on Day 6. Steve Darcis’ men will face Group B winners Spain in the Final Eight.

6) Canada Squeezes Through: Like Belgium, Canada also sat in one of the two best second-place finisher spots at the end of Day 5. Despite a fierce day of competition, none of the three second-placed teams in Groups A, B or E could better Canada’s record. Adriano Fuorivia’s men will meet Serbia in the Final Eight.

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7) South African Success: South Africa finished Group A in second position, upsetting France 2-1 in Brisbane. After Gilles Simon defeated Lloyd Harris 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 to end South Africa’s hopes of a Final Eight spot, Kevin Anderson saved match point to beat Benoit Paire 2-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5) and eliminate France from contention. In doubles, Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse defeated Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 6-4 to clinch a 2-1 win.

8) Paire Magic: Paire produced one of the shots of the tournament during his match against Anderson. Chasing an angled drop shot, the talented Frenchman hit a diving forehand around the net post to find the corner of the court.

9) Georgia Finishes With Win: Georgia ended its ATP Cup bid with a 2-1 success against Uruguay. Aleksandre Metreveli cruised past Franco Roncadelli 6-2, 6-1, before Nikoloz Basilashvili battled past Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to end Group B in third place.

10) Bidding Farewell: With nine countries still in contention for the remaining four positions in the Final Eight at the start of Day 6, five countries ended their qualification bids on Wednesday. South Africa and France exited the competition in Group A, Japan fell short in Group B and the hopes of Croatia and Austria were ended in Group E.

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ATP Cup: Rafael Nadal puts Spain into quarter-finals

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

Rafael Nadal came back twice from a break down against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka to put Spain into the ATP Cup quarter-finals in Australia.

The world number one won 7-6 (7-4) 6-4) to give Spain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie after Robert Bautista Agut had earlier beaten Go Soeda 6-2 6-4.

Nadal then paired up with Pablo Carreno Busta to win the doubles rubber and end Japan’s chances of a last-eight spot.

Argentina later beat Croatia to advance to the knockout stage.

Canada and Belgium sealed the two remaining quarter-final spots as the best runners-up.

The knockout stage, taking place in Sydney, begins on Thursday with Great Britain facing hosts Australia (from 23:00 GMT on Wednesday).

The ATP Cup is a new 24-nation knockout tournament that has been set up by the men’s professional tour to kick off the 2020 season.

  • Watch: Tsitsipas told off by mum after hitting dad with racquet
  • Opponent persuades angry Cuevas to play on

Nadal aims to ‘increase level’ after errors

Spain, who won the Davis Cup – another men’s team tennis event – in November, ended their group-stage campaign with a perfect record of nine wins.

But an unusually sluggish Nadal was made to work hard against world number 72 Nishioka, making 19 unforced errors and dropping serve twice in the first set.

It was the first time Nadal, who has not dropped a set at the tournament yet, had played in the hot conditions of the Perth day session.

“It’s the first time I played under these heavy conditions, so the feeling on court is completely different,” Nadal, 33, said.

“I think it’s been a positive week for me winning against three tough opponents,” he added. “It’s going to be tough in Sydney. I really hope to be ready to increase my level.”

Nadal can equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles at the Australian Open, which starts on 20 January, but the Spaniard said he was not thinking about catching the Swiss great.

“My only goal is to keep playing good tennis, keep enjoying this sport and being happy,” he said. “And if that happens and I stay healthy then the goal is to keep producing chances in the events that I’m going to play.”

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Quarter-final line-up completed

In a winner-takes-all tie between Argentina and Croatia in Sydney, Guido Pella beat 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 before Diego Schwartzman swept aside Borna Coric 6-2 6-2 to put the South Americans through to the quarter-finals.

Belgium – who were runners-up to Great Britain in Group C – clinched a place as one of the best second-placed teams, while Canada took the final spot for the knockouts.

Novak Djokovic’s Serbia, who had already qualified for the Sydney knockout stage, finished their round-robin campaign with a 2-1 win over Chile in Brisbane.

“Sydney’s got a big Serbian community, hopefully the support can be as good as it was here, even better,” said 16-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who beat Cristian Garin 6-3 6-3 to make it three singles victories and one doubles win so far.

France and Croatia had chances to go through but failed to take them.

France needed to beat South Africa 3-0 but lost 2-1 despite captain Gilles Simon stepping in as a late replacement for the injured Gael Monfils to beat Lloyd Harris in the opening match.

Benoit Paire failed to serve out the match twice against Kevin Anderson and had a match point saved in a 2-6 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (7-5) loss.

Croatia meanwhile, would have gone through if they had beaten already-qualified Argentina in the doubles, but Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic lost to Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni on a deciding tie-break.

In the tie between already eliminated Georgia and Uruguay in Group B, a fuming Pablo Cuevas packed his bag and walked off court after getting a warning from the umpire – before his opponent Nikoloz Basilashvili went after him and persuaded him to resume the match.

How the ATP Cup quarter-finals shape up
Great Britain v Australia Thurs, 9 Jan – 10am local time (Wed, 8 Jan – 23:00 GMT)
Argentina v Russia Thurs, 9 Jan – 5:30pm local time (06:30 GMT)
Serbia v Canada Fri, 10 Jan – 10am local time (Thurs, 9 Jan – 23:00 GMT)
Belgium v Spain Fri, 10 Jan – 5:30pm local time (06:30 GMT)

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ATP Cup: Pablo Cuevas walks off court before opponent persuades him to return

  • Posted: Jan 08, 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.

A fuming Pablo Cuevas packed his bag and walked off court after getting a warning from the umpire – before his opponent went after him and persuaded him to resume their ATP Cup match.

The bizarre episode began when the Uruguayan returned from a changeover unusually pumped while trailing 5-4.

He had sprinted out of his chair, roared towards his bench and leapt high in the air while receiving serve.

He also made several other exaggerated gestures, receiving a code violation.

Cuevas, 34, was incensed by the warning – which came when Georgian opponent Nikoloz Basilashvili had three set points – and asked the umpire if he was “crazy” and demanded the supervisor be called.

After a lengthy exchange with the supervisor, Cuevas decided he had had enough and put his racquets back in his bag, then headed towards the exit with boos ringing out in the Perth arena.

Basilashvili, however, walked over to the Uruguayan world number 41, put his hand on his shoulder and spoke to him to get him to change his mind.

The move almost backfired for the Georgian, who went on to lose the second set to an inspired Cuevas before winning 6-4 1-6 6-4.

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Both countries had already been eliminated from the tournament.

It is not the first time Cuevas’ conduct has come under the spotlight – at Wimbledon in 2016 he was fined almost £7,000 after threatening to urinate in a ball can on court and then staging a sit-in protest during a match.

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The ATP Cup's Final Eight Is Set

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

The ATP Cup’s Final Eight Is Set

Belgium and Canada secure the last two spots in the Final Eight

The Final Eight for the inaugural ATP Cup is set. Eight teams will compete in Sydney at Ken Rosewall Arena for the championship, starting on Thursday.

With Argentina’s doubles win on Wednesday evening, the two best second-place teams were finalised. The Belgians are the seventh qualified team, and Canada qualifies eighth.

Quarter-final 1
Great Britain (Group C winner) v Australia (Group F winner) – Thursday, 9 January, 10am AEDT

Quarter-final 2
Argentina (Group E winner) v Russia (Group D winner) – Thursday, 9 January, 5:30pm AEDT

Quarter-final 3
Serbia (Group A winner) v Canada (Second runner-up) – Friday, 10 January, 10am AEDT

Quarter-final 4
Spain (Group B winner) v Belgium (First runner-up) – Friday, 10 January, 5:30pm AEDT

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Adelaide International: Johanna Konta withdraws as 'precautionary' measure

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

Britain’s Johanna Konta has pulled out of next week’s Adelaide International as a “precautionary” measure.

The 28-year-old world number 12 has been managing a knee condition for much of the last year.

On Monday, she lost in three sets to Barbara Strycova in the first round of the Brisbane International.

That was her first match since September’s US Open, and will be the only one she plays before the Australian Open begins on 20 January.

British number one Konta will head to Melbourne next week to spend time on the practice courts in the run up to the season’s first Grand Slam.

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Australia fires: Roger Federer, Serena Williams & Rafael Nadal to play fundraiser

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will take part in an exhibition match to raise money for a bushfire relief fund in Australia.

The match is scheduled for 15 January, five days before the start of the Australian Open, and will take place at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena.

Australian Nick Kyrgios will also be playing, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki.

Fires in Australia have killed at least 25 people since September.

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Millions of animals have also been killed and almost 2,000 homes destroyed.

Milder weather brought brief respite last weekend but fire crews are again preparing for worsening conditions with temperatures predicted to soar on Friday.

“For a period of about two and a half hours we’re going to be showcasing the game, but also coming together as a community to play our part in the relief effort,” said Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley.

Kyrgios is donating 200 Australian dollars (£106) for every ace he hits in events held in Australia in January as part of the fundraising effort, while compatriot Ashleigh Barty will donate all of her prize money from the Brisbane International.

World number eight Belinda Bencic has pledged the same amount for every double fault she hits at the Adelaide International and Australian Open.

“I’m not the best at hitting aces but much better at double faults,” the 22-year-old Swiss wrote on Twitter.

“I won’t be angry at myself when I hit one and finally they will be useful.”

Meanwhile, a group of nine Australian players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) have pledged 750,000 Australian dollars (£392,000) towards the relief and recovery efforts.

Ben Simmons, Aron Baynes, Jonah Bolden, Ryan Broekhoff, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles, Thon Maker and Patty Mills are the players involved.

“We are heartbroken over the devastation these fires are causing all across our homeland,” the players said.

“Our thoughts are with our families, friends and all of the people of Australia. We hope you feel our love and support and know that we will continue to bring awareness to this crisis globally and provide assistance in any way we can.”

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Maria Sharapova says women's Brisbane event feels 'second-hand' alongside ATP Cup

  • Posted: Jan 08, 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.

Maria Sharapova says the women’s Brisbane International feels like a “second-hand” event because the men’s ATP Cup has taken over centre court.

The WTA event is taking place at the Queensland Tennis Centre – the same venue as the Brisbane round-robin stage of the inaugural men’s team event.

“There’s a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre-court spot,” the five-time Grand Slam champion said.

Four of the world’s top five female players feature in a strong field.

  • Nadal puts Spain in ATP Cup quarter-finals
  • Watch: Tsitsipas told off by mum after hitting dad with racquet

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens accused organisers of favouring male players, with women’s matches being played on outside courts.

“We just weren’t in the conversation to even be considered,” the American, 26, said.

“It was what the ATP wanted – they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that’s kind of how it always is.”

Russia’s Sharapova, who lost in the first round to American qualifier Jennifer Brady on Tuesday, added: “You definitely recognise it and notice it. It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event.”

Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley did not directly address the issue but said tennis in Australia was in a “transitional period” after the introduction of the ATP Cup, which is being played in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

“We are working with the tours to create an Australian summer of tennis that is an incredible global launch to the international tennis season,” he said.

“The ATP Cup is the first step in that and now we are in great talks with the WTA about a new concept and are really excited about the potential in this space.”

With the knockout stage of the ATP Cup being played exclusively in Sydney from Thursday onwards, women’s matches will be able to move to centre court in Brisbane for the later stages of their tournament.

Sharapova given Australian Open wildcard

Former champion Sharapova is seeking to put behind her an injury-hit 2019 and was handed a wildcard for the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old former world number one has dropped to 147th after playing just 15 matches last year because of a long-term shoulder injury.

Her current ranking means she would have had to come through qualifying to reach the main draw of the opening Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, which starts on 20 January.

The 2008 Australian Open champion failed a drugs test at the 2016 edition, which led to a 15-month ban from tennis.

She reached the fourth round of last year’s tournament, losing in three sets to Ashleigh Barty, who has since become world number one.

“To be in the draw of the Australian Open is incredible,” said Sharapova, who also reached the final in 2007, 2012 and 2015.

“I’ve had wonderful experiences there, from holding the championship trophy to losing some very tough finals as well – there have been a lot of ups and downs in Australia.

“So to have another chance, another opportunity, to compete on all those courts is very special.”

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Guido Glorious! Pella Beats Cilic To Put Argentina On Brink Of Final Eight

  • Posted: Jan 08, 2020

Guido Glorious! Pella Beats Cilic To Put Argentina On Brink Of Final Eight

Schwartzman can clinch Argentina’s spot in the Final Eight

It is winner-takes-all on Wednesday evening inside Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney. The victor between Argentina and Croatia will top Group E and advance to the Final Eight of the inaugural ATP Cup, while the country that falls short will be eliminated.

Lefty Guido Pella certainly got Argentina off to a strong start. He defeated former World No. 3 Marin Cilic 7-6(1), 6-3 in one hour and 53 minutes to give his country a 1-0 lead. The 2019 Sao Paulo champion held strong behind his second serve, winning 60 per cent of those points, en route to his triumph.

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“Ole! Ole Ole Ole! Guido! Guido!”

Those chants rang out through the Sydney night from early on in the match. Fans lined up early on the grounds of the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre, with Argentine fans walking around playing the drums and trumpets, as Croats waved their country’s flag and wore Croatian apparel. The atmosphere was what the ATP Cup is all about.

Pella played consistent tennis throughout, forcing Cilic to come up with special shots, putting pressure on the Croat. And Cilic, who has the ability to take the racquet out of almost every player’s hands, made an abundance of unforced errors.

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Both men did well facing break points — Cilic saved five of seven chances and Pella staved off five of six — but that one additional break was plenty for the Argentine.

Pella now leads Cilic 3-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, winning three consecutive matches in their rivalry. At 2018 Wimbledon, Pella came from two sets down to upset the Croat.

Diego Schwartzman will now try to close out the tie for Argentina, qualifying for the Final Eight. Schwartzman faces Borna Coric, against whom he has lost two of three meetings.

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