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Shapovalov & Felix Lead #NextGenATP To Watch At The Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Shapovalov & Felix Lead #NextGenATP To Watch At The Australian Open

Learn about the 2020 Milan contenders who could make their mark in Melbourne

In back-to-back seasons, the player who won the Next Gen ATP Finals the previous year went on to reach the Australian Open semi-finals two months later. Will a #NextGenATP star make a breakthrough in Melbourne in the coming fortnight? examines five of the #NextGenATP stars to watch at this year’s Australian Open:

Denis Shapovalov
Shapovalov finished 2019 with a career-best result, reaching the final of the Rolex Paris Masters. And the dynamic lefty began 2020 just as well, earning Top 10 wins against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev — both former Nitto ATP Finals champions — and pushing World No. 2 Novak Djokovic to a final-set tie-break at the ATP Cup.

Under the tutelage of former World No. 8 Mikhail Youzhny, Shapovalov has climbed to a career-high World No. 13, allowing fewer lapses in concentration and harnessing his shotmaking abilities.

Despite losing in the quarter-finals of the ASB Classic in Auckland, Shapovalov carries a lot of momentum into Melbourne, where he lost to Djokovic in the third round last year. Shapovalov will play Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for the first time before potentially facing 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner, who opens against a qualifier.

<a href=''>Denis Shapovalov</a> is aiming to lift his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the <a href=''>Rolex Paris Masters</a> this week.

Felix Auger-Aliassime
This #NextGenATP Canadian has been under a microscope since his early teens, as he became the youngest player to win a main draw match on the ATP Challenger Tour when he was 14. And in 2019, the righty showed why, climbing from outside the Top 100 at the start of the year to a career-high World No. 17 in October. He made his first three ATP Tour finals in Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and Stuttgart.

Auger-Aliassime was soaring entering the most recent Grand Slam, seeded No. 18 at the 2019 US Open, where he lost against Shapovalov in straight sets in the first round. But the 19-year-old is off to a good start in 2020, reaching the semi-finals of the Adelaide International, losing in three sets to in-form Andrey Rublev.

Auger-Aliassime will make his Australian Open main draw debut as the No. 20 seed against a qualifier. If he advances, he will face Aussie James Duckworth or Slovenian Aljaz Bedene.

<a href=''>Felix Auger-Aliassime</a> celebrates a point in Monte-Carlo

Miomir Kecmanovic
Kecmanovic competed in the main draw of each of the four Grand Slams for the first time in 2019, reaching the second round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. The Serbian will now look for his first main draw victory at the Australian Open when he faces Italian veteran Andreas Seppi in their first ATP Head2Head meeting, with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka or 27-year-old Damir Dzumhur lurking in the second round.

Kecmanovic has steadily improved, utilising his solid baseline game to climb from World No. 131 at the beginning of 2019 to a career-high World No. 47 last August.

“He has improved his serve enough and his groundstrokes are really solid. He’s tough to beat,” said former World No. 5 Jimmy Arias. “He hits the ball deep, consistently, he moves well and obviously competes well.”

<a href=''>Miomir Kecmanovic</a> hits a volley in the third round of the <a href=''>BNP Paribas Open</a>.

Jannik Sinner
No #NextGenATP star gained as much momentum in the final weeks of 2019 as Sinner. The teenager, who began last season outside the Top 500 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, made a big splash by pushing former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka to four sets at the US Open and defeating then-World No. 13 Gael Monfils in Antwerp. But the Italian saved his best for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, where he took the title with an impressive victory against Aussie Alex de Minaur.

Now Sinner is World No. 79, and ready to make his mark in the first Grand Slam for which he has earned a main draw berth via his FedEx ATP Ranking. Sinner will face a qualifier in the first round in Melbourne, and he could potentially face No. 13 seed Shapovalov next.

<a href=''>Jannik Sinner</a>

Alexei Popyrin
One year ago, when he was 19, Popyrin enjoyed his breakthrough. The home favourite reached the third round of the Australian Open with a win against then-World No. 8 Dominic Thiem, ultimately succumbing in five sets against eventual semi-finalist Lucas Pouille.

But since then, Popyrin has grown even more. Currently No. 95 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, this budding #NextGenATP star led the ATP Tour in 2019 by qualifying for 10 tour-level events. Five players were tied for second with six qualifications each. Popyrin will face a tough test in the first round against 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 28 seed.


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Scouting Report: 10 Things To Watch At The Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Scouting Report: 10 Things To Watch At The Australian Open

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming fortnight in Melbourne

After a thrilling start to the season at the ATP Cup as well as in Doha, Adelaide and Auckland, the ATP Tour’s stars are ready for the first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open. looks at the storylines to watch in Melbourne:

1. Big Three Lead the Way Again: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have combined for 14 of the past 16 Australian Open titles, 12 straight Grand Slam championships and 55 of 66 majors dating back to Federer’s breakthrough at Wimbledon in 2003. The legends return to Melbourne Park as No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings (Nadal, Djokovic, Federer) and No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 on the Grand Slam title leaders list (Federer 20, Nadal 19, Djokovic 16). This is the eighth time the Big 3 come in together as the Top 3 seeds:

 Year  Rafael Nadal  Novak Djokovic  Roger Federer
 2020  No. 1  No. 2   No. 3
 2019  No. 2  No. 1 (Won)  No. 3
 2015  No. 3  No. 1 (Won)  No. 2 
 2012  No. 2  No. 1 (Won)  No. 3
 2011  No. 1  No. 3 (Won)  No. 2 
 2010  No. 2  No. 3  No. 1 (Won)
 2009  No. 1 (Won)  No. 3  No. 2 
 2008  No. 2  No. 3  No. 1 (Won)

2. Nadal Looks For Second Title: This is the fourth time Nadal comes into the Australian Open as the top seed and he won his lone title here in 2009 as World No. 1. He was also the No. 1 seed in 2011 (QF) and 2018 (QF). If Nadal could capture his second Australian Open title, he would become the third man to win all four Grand Slam tournaments at least twice, joining Australian greats Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

Last season he became the oldest player (33) to finish year-end No. 1 in the history of the FedEx ATP Rankings (since 1973). It was his fifth year-end No. 1 finish, tying Djokovic, Federer and Jimmy Connors for second, trailing only Pete Sampras (6).

3. Dominance Down Under: Djokovic owns a record seven Australian Open titles. He is followed by Federer and Emerson, who have six titles each at the year’s first major. Djokovic beat Nadal in straight sets in last year’s final.

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The 32-year-old Serbian led his country to the ATP Cup title by going 6-0 in singles (2-0 in doubles) with Top 10 wins over No. 10 Gael Monfils, No. 5 Daniil Medvedev and No. 1 Nadal. Djokovic has 899 career wins and with a first-round victory he will become the sixth player in the Open Era with 900 wins (899-187).

4. Federer Eyes Aussie 100: Last season Federer earned his 100th tour-level singles title by capturing the Dubai crown. He also reached 100 wins at Wimbledon (101). The 38-year-old Swiss superstar is making his 21st consecutive appearance in Melbourne and he owns a 97-14 career record at the tournament.

Last year, Federer had a 17-match winning streak snapped with his fourth-round loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas. The last time the Swiss did not advance to at least the semi-finals in Melbourne in two consecutive years was 2002-03, when he made the Round of 16.

5. Battle for No. 1: Nadal has a 515-point lead over Djokovic going into the Australian Open, and the Serbian could potentially regain No. 1 by the end of the fortnight.

Djokovic has 2,000 points to defend and Nadal is defending 1,200 points. To regain No. 1, Djokovic must win the title AND Nadal must not reach the semi-finals. Nadal and Djokovic are two of the six players to rank No. 1 at least 200 weeks:

 Player  No. of Weeks At No. 1
 Roger Federer   310
 Pete Sampras  286
 Novak Djokovic  275 
 Ivan Lendl  270
 Jimmy Connors  268
 Rafael Nadal  207 (as of 13 January)

6. Who’s Next? No players currently under the age of 30 have won a Grand Slam title. At last year’s US Open, 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev almost broke through, losing to Nadal in five sets in the championship match. The Russian is seeded a career-best No. 4 in a Grand Slam tournament.

Other young stars to watch are No. 5 Dominic Thiem (26), who is a two-time Roland Garros finalist; No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion and last year’s Australian Open semi-finalist; No. 7 Alexander Zverev (22), who won the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals title and is a two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalist; Denis Shapovalov (20), who is ranked a career-high No. 13 and will be a Top 16 seed in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. Shapovalov’s best Slam result came at the 2017 US Open, where he made the fourth round.

7. Russians on the Rise: Andrey Rublev won the Doha title last weekend and moved into the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time at a career-high No. 18. He joins Medvedev at No. 4 and Karen Khachanov at No. 16 inside the Top 20. The last time three Russians were ranked inside the Top 20 was 28 March 2005 with No. 4 Marat Safin, No. 15 Nikolay Davydenko and No. 19 Mikhail Youzhny.

8. Medvedev on the Move: This is the fifth straight Grand Slam tournament for which Medvedev has improved his seeding position (11-4 seeded):

 Tournament  Seed  Result
 2020 Australian Open  No. 4  ?
 2019 US Open  No. 5  Runner-Up
 2019 Wimbledon  No. 11  Third Round
 2019 Roland Garros  No. 12  First Round
 2019 Australian Open  No. 15  Fourth Round

Last season, Medvedev led the ATP Tour in tour-level match wins (59) and finals (9), winning a career-best four titles.

9. Aussie Title Hopes: The last Australian man to win the Australian Open was Mark Edmondson in 1976. This is the longest current drought by a home country Grand Slam tournament. Leading the way is No. 2 Aussie Nick Kyrgios, ranked No. 26 and a 2015 Australian Open quarter-finalist. He came into Melbourne ranked No. 52 last year and lost to former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in the first round. No. 1 Aussie Alex de Minaur withdrew due to an abdominal injury.

10. Bryan Brothers Make Farewell: Six-time Australian Open doubles champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan make their final appearance in Melbourne. They have won the most Grand Slam doubles titles as a team (16) and have the most tour-level match wins (1,102) together in the Open Era. They have finished as the No. 1 team a record 10 times.

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Wawrinka Ready To Challenge Big Three In Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Wawrinka Ready To Challenge Big Three In Melbourne

Swiss remains the last man outside of the Big 3 to have won a Slam singles title

Fresh off his semi-final run at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka is ready to continue his strong start to the 2020 season at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The 34-year-old Wawrinka, who beat Rafael Nadal in the 2014 final, is the 15th seed at the season’s first Grand Slam and will meet Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia & Herzegovina in the first round.

“It’s another year and still after all these years on Tour, I’m always very happy to be here. I prepared very well and I feel good here. I practised all week, feeling good, and I hope to get a good start into this tournament,” Wawrinka said.

It’s the first Grand Slam of the season. It’s summer here and we come from the European winter. It’s more or less the first time we see the sun here usually. There are many fans here and a great atmosphere all day on all courts. I won my first Grand Slam here. I also like the conditions and am happy to be back here.”

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Dzumhur, a three-time ATP Tour champion currently ranked No. 92 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-1, which includes their most recent contest last year on clay in Geneva. The two split their hard-court meetings in Dubai (2017) and St. Petersburg (2018).

I know Dzumhur well, I played him several times. I have lost and won against him in the past. He plays mostly from the baseline, moves well, returns well, does everything well. I think it will depend on how I play and if I can impose my game. I hope that I can do that,” Wawrinka said.

The Swiss last won a Grand Slam title at the 2016 US Open, but he remains the last player outside the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to have won a major championship. The legendary trio have won the past 12 Grand Slam men’s singles titles (Nadal, five; Djokovic, four; Federer, three).

Wawrinka, however, will bring confidence from his Doha semi-final. The Swiss fell to Frenchman Corentin Moutet in three sets.

It was the first tournament, and of course you always want to improve and do better. I had my chances, which I didn’t take sadly,” Wawrinka said. “Nevertheless it was a good start to the year. I’m very happy about my 10 days in Doha before coming here… I’m happy about the level of my game and how practice goes. Now I can’t wait to play my first match.”

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Purcell Earns Spot In Australian Open Main Draw

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Purcell Earns Spot In Australian Open Main Draw

Gulbis also through to main draw in Melbourne

Australian Max Purcell reached a career milestone at the Australian Open on Friday, qualifying for his first Grand Slam main draw with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Jozef Kovalik.

The Sydney native, who edged back-to-back three-set matches to reach the final qualifying round, landed 24 winners and converted four break points to cruise into his first major championship after 72 minutes. Purcell entered the tournament with one win from seven previous Grand Slam qualifying encounters.

Joining Purcell in the main draw will be Ernests Gulbis, who defeated Prajnesh Gunneswaran 7-6(2), 6-2 in 80 minutes. Gulbis will be making his 10th appearance in the main draw at the first Grand Slam of the season, where he has reached the second round on two occasions.

Norbert Gombos did not drop a set through his three qualifying matches, booking his spot with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Pedja Krstin. Gombos will be joined in the main draw by Peter Gojowczyk, who landed 21 winners to defeat Constant Lestienne 6-2, 6-3 in 65 minutes.

In second-round action, top seed Dennis Novak beat Filip Horansky 6-1, 6-4 to move one win away from a place in the main draw. Novak, who cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, will meet Hiroki Moriya of Japan. Moriya overcame 23rd seed Steven Diez 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 37 minutes.

Kimmer Coppejans moved past third seed Brayden Schnur of Canada 7-6(3), 6-3. The 25-year-old will meet Christopher Eubanks in the final qualifying round.

Fellow Top 5 seeds Emil Ruusuvuori and Andrej Martin were also defeated. Elliot Benchetrit outlasted fourth seed Ruusuvuori 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(3), while Mathias Bourgue edged fifth seed Martin 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

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Britain's Heather Watson beaten in Hobart International semi-finals

  • Posted: Jan 17, 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.

British number two Heather Watson was knocked out in the semi-final of the Hobart International, her final warm-up tournament before the Australian Open.

The 27-year-old lost 6-3 4-6 6-4 to Russian Elena Rybakina, who will play China’s Zhang Shuai in the final.

Watson will play Czech world number 62 Kristyna Pliskova in the Australian Open first round next week.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski lost in the semi-final of the Adelaide International.

The pair lost 5-7 6-3 15-13 to fourth seeds Filip Polasek and Ivan Dodig in a match that lasted one hour 49 minutes.

Britain’s Joe Salisbury and American partner Rajeec Ram lost 6-3 6-4 to Manuel Gonzalez and Frabrice Martin in the other semi-final.

The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Monday. The men’s doubles draw will take place during the first week.

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Konta to miss GB Fed Cup duties in 2020 to protect body

  • Posted: Jan 17, 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.

British number one Johanna Konta will not play for her country in the Fed Cup this year as she looks to protect her body and extend her career.

Konta, 28, has only played one tournament since September’s US Open because of a knee injury.

“I need to take care of my body and take some decisions which are not always easy,” Konta told BBC Sport.

Fellow Briton Katie Boulter has also cast doubt on her participation in the team event this year.

“I haven’t confirmed my status on Fed Cup at the moment,” said Boulter, 23, who was the British number two before a stress fracture in her back.

“It is something I am going to focus on after the Australian Open.”

Britain face a qualifier away to Slovakia on 7 February with a spot in the inaugural Fed Cup finals at stake.

Konta and Boulter were part of the Great Britain side that beat Kazakhstan last February to reach the World Group II stage for the first time in 26 years.

Boulter injured her back in the tie, playing through the pain to win her two singles matches, but barely playing for the rest of the year in consequence.

Konta, ranked 13th in the world, says managing her knee issue – a tendonitis-like inflammation – played a part in her decision. She made the call after discussing her plans with British captain Anne Keothavong at the end of last year.

“It is a tough decision because the Fed Cup has always been something close to my heart,” said Konta, who will compete for only the second time in four months when the Australian Open starts on Monday.

“I’ve had some incredible experiences in my career so far in Fed Cup and I’m looking to hopefully have some more.

“I’m not retiring [from it] full stop, just for this season with it being an Olympic year. With the challenge I had at the end of last year it is to be able to hopefully have more Fed Cup seasons under my belt.

“Hopefully it will give me the longevity I want.”

Konta is seeded 12th at the Australian Open, where she reached the semi-finals four years ago.

She starts her latest campaign in Melbourne against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who is ranked 85th in the world but can trouble opponents with her variation.

Of her current fitness, Konta said: “I’m getting there. It’s not acute, it’s something that is manageable and something that will continue to be managed for quite some time.”

Boulter reached 86 in the world during February’s Fed Cup tie, but has slipped to 317th having not played a match on the main WTA Tour since then.

She has a nightmare draw in Melbourne, facing Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina on Tuesday.

“I am completely free of pain, I’m in a good place physically and that’s the main thing for me,” Boulter said.

“Svitolina is an amazing player but I’m just happy to be on the court.”


BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller at Melbourne Park

Johanna Konta has been virtually ever-present in the GB Fed Cup team since 2013, and her sabbatical will hit the team very hard.

The recent retirement of Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova had made this very tricky away tie appear much more winnable.

The task of qualifying for April’s extremely lucrative Fed Cup finals will now fall to Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Katie Boulter. Although, as you have read, Boulter’s participation is far from assured.

With the Tokyo Olympics taking place in July, the period between May’s French Open and September’s US Open is even more frenetic than usual.

And Konta is no doubt mindful of the stress a switch from the hard courts of Melbourne to the indoor clay of Bratislava could put on her knee.

But it’s a huge blow to the team, just as they’ve finally clambered their way into the elite bracket.

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GB's Dart reaches Australian Open first round

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Harriet Dart became the fourth British woman to reach this year’s Australian Open first round after she won her final qualifying match.

Dart, 23, won 6-1 6-3 against Italian Giulia Gatto-Monticone in Melbourne.

The world number 169, who lost in the first round last year, joins Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Katie Boulter in the main draw.

She will find out her opponent when qualifying is completed and the winners are placed in the draw.

The Australian Open, which is the first Grand Slam of 2020, starts at Melbourne Park on Monday.

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Harris Serves Way Into First ATP Tour Final In Adelaide

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Harris Serves Way Into First ATP Tour Final In Adelaide

Auger-Aliassime plays Rublev in second semi-final

South African Lloyd Harris reached his first ATP Tour final on Friday at the Adelaide International, battling past American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 in two hours and nine minutes.

“I’m so excited to be in the final here in Adelaide. Just ecstatic with the match I played,” Harris said. “Looking forward to [the final] tomorrow.”

Last year, Harris made his first tour-level quarter-final and semi-final in Chengdu as a lucky loser. But the World No. 91 has gone one step further in Adelaide, blasting 13 aces and winning 85 per cent of his first-serve points against the man who is one spot ahead of him in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

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This was the first ATP Tour semi-final between two qualifiers since Roberto Carballes Baena beat Andrej Martin in Quito in 2018. Harris was on the back foot towards the end of the second set, despite recouping a break to force a tie-break, as Paul was taking control of rallies more often and not allowing the South African to dictate play.

But Harris, who defeated fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta and sixth seed Cristian Garin earlier in the ATP 250 tournament, was undeterred. He lost just two first-serve points in the decider en route to his victory. Harris will play second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or third seed Andrey Rublev for the trophy.

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How Federer Uses New Balls To His Advantage On Hard Courts

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

How Federer Uses New Balls To His Advantage On Hard Courts

Infosys ATP Insights learns who best takes advantage of fresh balls on serve

New balls, please…

With the Australian Open on the horizon, an Infosys ATP Insights deep dive of serve performance with new balls over the past five seasons uncovers how players take advantage of the fresh, faster balls on hard, grass and clay courts.

Serving With New Balls – Holding Serve 2015-2019

 Surface  Player  Service Games Held %
 Grass  Milos Raonic  100%
 Hard  Roger Federer  94.58%
 Clay  John Isner  95.24% 

1. Roger Federer Leads On Hard Courts
Breaking Roger Federer’s serve on hard courts when he is serving with new balls is an almost insurmountable task. Federer has lost serve only 11 times out of 203 service games on hard court in the past five years when serving with fresh balls. Overall, John Isner has won the most service games on hard with new balls with 214 service games, while Dominic Thiem has played the most, with 233 service games.

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on hard (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. Roger Federer = 94.58% (192/203)
2. Ivo Karlovic = 94.01% (157/167)
3. Nick Kyrgios = 93.79% (166/177)
4. Reilly Opelka = 93.24% (69/74)
5. John Isner = 92.24% (214/232)

2. Milos Raonic Is Perfect On Grass Courts
In the past five years, Milos Raonic has played 43 matches on grass and served with new balls 64 times. He has impressively won every one of those service games. Overall, Raonic has won 70 per cent (49/70) of his matches on grass throughout his career, proving to be his most successful surface. Surprisingly, he has not yet won a grass-court event, but was a finalist at Wimbledon and Queens in 2016, and Stuttgart in 2018.

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on grass (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. Milos Raonic = 100% (64/64)
2. Ivo Karlovic = 98.31% (58/59)
3. Matteo Berrettini = 95.45% (21/22)
4. Kevin Anderson = 94.92% (56/59)
5. Marin Cilic = 94.74% (54/57) 

3. John Isner Surprises On Clay Courts
You would not naturally think of the 34-year-old American Isner as a leader in clay-court performance metrics, but his form is unsurpassed on the surface with new balls, holding serve 95.24 per cent (60/63) of the time. In fact, Isner’s hold percentage on clay with new balls is better than on grass or hard.

John Isner Winning Percentage Holding Serve With New Balls (2015-19)

 Surface  Winning Percentage
 Clay  95.24% (60/63)
 Grass  92.59% (50/54)
 Hard  92.24% (214/232)

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on clay (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. John Isner = 95.24% (60/63)
2. Kevin Anderson = 93.75% (45/48)
3. Hyeon Chung = 91.43% (32/35)
4. Steve Johnson = 91.07% (51/56)
5. Juan Ignacio Londero = 89.47% (34/38)

Serving with new balls offers a distinct advantage for the server. Breaking it down by the surface helps identify which players naturally perform better on which surface.

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