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Rafa: Why Life's Joys Mean More Than Titles

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2020

Rafa: Why Life’s Joys Mean More Than Titles

World No. 1 discusses life ahead of bid for 20th Grand Slam title

It’s midday on Saturday and Rafael Nadal has plenty to keep him busy two days before the start of the Australian Open. For almost an hour, the Spaniard dedicates his time to his tournament press commitments and, when finished, he makes a beeline for Court 23 to take part in an event with the winners of the Rafa Nadal Tour, making use of a clinic his academy is giving.

By now, Nadal has decided to take a breather and cancel the training session he had scheduled at 5pm.

In the morning, the World No. 1 practised for two hours with Dominic Thiem at Melbourne Arena, a short walk from Rod Laver Arena, where he will begin his campaign to equal Roger Federer’s Grand Slam haul of 20 majors against Hugo Dellien.

Shortly after 4:30pm, Nadal, in a pink t-shirt and white shorts, takes his racquet bag and gets in the back of a car, in which his co-passengers are Maria Francisca Perelló, his wife since last October, Benito Pérez-Barbadillo, his press secretary, and the journalist he has agreed to give an interview to while he makes his way back to his hotel through the streets of Melbourne.

As always, Nadal is the perfect gentleman in the one-on-one interview. When the vehicle pulls up to the imposing Crown Towers, the World No. 1 asks the driver if it is possible to stay in the car for a moment to finish the interview unhurried.

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Is the Nadal house more about giving gifts on Christmas Day or Three Wise Men Day (6 January)?
We’ve always been more of a Three Wise Men family.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has to buy a present for Rafael Nadal. It sounds like it would be quite a challenge.
This year, I got a Parchís (Ludo) set with the faces of all the people I normally play with: Rafa Maymò’s, Carlos Moyà’s, my father’s and mine etched into the board. I loved that because we’re always joking about the Parchís games we play before matches. And I got other gifts too that I liked, like clothes.

Why Parchís?
It’s an easy game. It’s a game that suits the people in our team well. Normally there are three or four of us, so it’s a good game for us. We enjoy it because there is tension throughout, it distracts you and helps you not to think too much before matches. I like having time to warm up and then rest, so I entertain myself with a few games. Also, on days off, or in airports, it helps pass the time as a team, not on your own on your phone or watching series. It’s a way of bringing us together.

Do you read often?
I read every day, but not necessarily books.

Press, then?
Yes, of course, I read a lot about what is happening in Spain. These are new times, and the least we can do is read to try and understand all the situations and to have detailed information on everything that’s happening. Yes, I normally read the news every day.

And about yourself?
I read a lot less about me than about the world news in general. I don’t read all the articles that are written about me. Sometimes I am sent one, if it’s particularly harsh, or the opposite, too. So, yes I do like to know who is nice about me and who is not, and I like to understand the reasons why they are nice or not, beyond the article itself. That is, when something negative is written, not just about matches, I try to discover if it is really my fault, or if it is because someone is doing it for a personal reason that I’m unaware of.

<a href=''>Rafael Nadal</a> has reached five <a href=''>Australian Open</a> finals.

And what do you watch?
I just saw a series that I loved: Greatest Events of WWII in Colour. There are 10 really interesting episodes. We know the story, but seeing it like that, with real images, it helps you realise the magnitude and brutality people experienced at that time. It’s part of our history and it’s important to know about it so that we can try not to repeat it. 

“I thought about resting for a season to see if my body would regenerate a little and stop going from one injury to another,” you said early last year. Was the crisis as big as it seemed from the outside?
Crisis… we could call it anything. More than a crisis I would say I had a low point, a difficult point for me. A crisis isn’t playing in two semi-finals, a crisis is other things. In any case, it was relatively short. My real problem started in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells and lasted until halfway through Conde de Godó (Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell). My crisis of energy and enthusiasm only stretched one and a half tournaments. Obviously, my internal crisis started when I injured myself against Khachanov in Indian Wells because it had been a while that I was suffering from one problem after another.

Was it an unfamiliar feeling?
No, because I’ve been injured many times. Although maybe the feeling I had in the match against Leonardo Mayer in the first round of Barcelona was one I’d never had on a tennis court. I can’t remember many like it really.

What were you feeling?
When you have doubts, when you haven’t been able to train for a while… Well, it’s no longer a question of even enjoying it, it’s a question of not being able to train because of too many physical problems and daily pains that don’t allow you to do a person’s normal activities. Always living with problems makes you see everything as black, and you have a slump that’s a little bigger.

Go on.
I was coming off the back of a 2018 with so many problems, although the tennis results were very good. And the first three or four months of 2019, except for the Australian Open, were more of the same. And even during that tournament I had a scare with my abs, a small strain. In Brisbane, I withdrew because of a torn quad, in Acapulco I had the problem with my hand before starting, in Indian Wells the knee problem. And that along with an operation on my foot at the end of 2018, an abdominal tear, withdrawing from the Australian Open, withdrawing from the US Open… You just blow up, of course you do.

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“I would like to be remembered as a good person more than a good tennis player,” you said in Perth recently at the ATP Cup.
I think that applies to everyone…

Well, perhaps not.
The reality is simple: You can have all the titles you want, but if you don’t have the capacity to be able to enjoy life with people that you love, and that love you, what does anything else matter? That’s how I see it.

Is that why you say that surpassing Roger Federer’s majors haul wouldn’t make you happier? You have the chance to equal him at this Australian Open.
The thing is that my future happiness doesn’t depend on surpassing Federer. This is the end of the story. I won’t find complete happiness by winning 20 or even 25 Grand Slams. Does it excite me? Of course, it excites me because this is what I do and I want to be as good as possible, but so many good things have happened to me throughout all these years that all I can do is be grateful for life and the people that have helped me.

But you also say that it excites you.
The sport side of things excites me, but I don’t get confused or obsessed. A few months ago, I won the US Open and then we won the Davis Cup with the Spanish team, but here we are again at the Australian Open. Did that make me happy? Of course, it made me happy, but here we are back in Melbourne. What I mean is, life goes on. And if I hadn’t won all of that? Well, possibly we’d still be here, just the same, and we wouldn’t be unhappy.

Victories give you a fleeting happiness, real happiness comes from other things in life. And although we may be experiencing victories or defeats in the world of sport right now, there are more important things in the world than all of that. Of course, in those moments I am affected by playing well, badly, winning or losing. Of course, it affects my current happiness, but not my future happiness… I can assure you it doesn’t.

<a href=''>Rafael Nadal</a> takes a break during a practice session at the <a href=''>Australian Open</a>.

Can you compare the happiness of winning with going to spend a weekend on a boat and diving or fishing?
Everything is comparable in this life, but they are different situations and different moments of happiness. As much as someone might believe that winning gives you that special happiness, there is also suffering, stress and worry in competition. When you combine all those feelings, of course there is a point of great personal satisfaction when you achieve something. But happiness is the personal satisfaction that you have worked to get there. The happiness you get from achieving that moment is perhaps greater when you are on the boat with your family or friends.

At the end of the day, you are having a relaxing time and it’s a more comfortable happiness, for want of a better expression. The other type is a less comfortable happiness. Other things, if I’m lucky, I will have a lot of time to do them. So far, the personal satisfaction that you get from knowing that you’re going to leave the Tour having done things as well as possible, having been close to your limit, I think that that could give you future happiness.

You said many times that you didn’t see yourself playing tennis at 33. Did you see yourself with children at this age?
I didn’t know. If I didn’t see myself playing tennis… then possibly, I could have had children before. It’s not something that just depends on you.

Would you like to be a father soon?
I love children and I would like to form part of a family, and at the age we are now we’re not going to wait five years.

There is one thing that may come quicker; the expansion of the Rafa Nadal Academy, which is already a reality.
It means a lot to me, but also a lot more to all the people that train there. There are days when it rains in Mallorca, days when those that work hard to improve their game as much as possible can’t train in the conditions they deserve to. With the new courts, especially the indoor ones, we make a significant leap in quality, and the service we’re going to provide the customers is much better because things can be planned. When it comes to hosting events for example, it’s a great help because we know that they can go ahead, whatever happens.

And we have the opportunity to host events that are important to the island. We were looking to keep up with what a leading sports centre needs. Without the expansion we would fall behind. Now we can say that we are on the path to being a leader in tennis and also in sport. And I’m also happy because in some way the people from all over the world that come frequently can enjoy the facilities even more. On a local level too, it will generate more jobs. There are more than 300 direct jobs today, and with the expansion, that number will increase. It’s beautiful for me to have so many people from Mallorca working in a centre like that.

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Federer & Djokovic through but Shapovalov loses his cool

  • Posted: Jan 20, 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.

Novak Djokovic began his Australian Open title defence with a four-set win over Jan-Lennard Struff, while six-time champion Roger Federer claimed a comfortable victory at Melbourne Park.

World number two Djokovic overcame a third set wobble to beat Germany’s Struff 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 2-6 6-1.

Djokovic is a seven-time champion in Melbourne and is bidding for his 17th Grand Slam title overall.

Swiss Federer earlier breezed past American Steve Johnson 6-3 6-2 6-2.

It is the first time that Djokovic has dropped a set in the opening round of the Australian Open since 2006.

However, he saw off a tiring Struff in two hours 20 minutes to set up a second-round meeting with either Japan’s Tatsuma Ito or Indian lucky loser Prajnesh Gunneswaran.

  • Konta & Edmund matches postponed as rain disrupts play
  • Evans fights back to win in five sets
  • Williams, Barty & Osaka into second round

Umpire’s warning was terrible call – Shapovalov

Denis Shapovalov, 20, lost his cool in a 6-3 6-7 (7-9) 6-1 7-6 (7-3) defeat by Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics.

The Canadian 13th seed was warned by the umpire for throwing his racquet down and responded: “I’m not breaking any rules.

“It’s my racquet I can do whatever the hell I want with it. What are you talking about, I didn’t break it.

“If I broke it, give me a code, 100%. I didn’t break my racquet. It was a terrible call, do your job.”

The rules state that players cannot “violently or with anger hit, kick or throw a racquet” within the tournament site.

Speaking after the match, Shapovalov admitted he had been nervous during the match but said the call from the umpire was “horrible”.

“I’m going to get fined for whatever the code was and he gets off the hook because he makes a call because he feels like it,” he said.

“I think it was a terrible call. The racquet was still intact and he gave me a warning because I did it two or three times.”

Federer win ‘sets up season nicely’

Third seed Federer, playing his first competitive match since the ATP Finals in November, needed just one hour 21 minutes to beat Johnson.

The 38-year-old, who is chasing a 21st Grand Slam title, will face the winner of French qualifier Quentin Halys against Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic in the next round.

“I am very happy. It is nice to be back here in Australia. I felt really good, so it was a really good first round for me,” Federer said.

“I trained really hard [between seasons], needed some vacation. I am just so happy I didn’t have any setbacks. That sets you up nicely for the season.”

Earlier, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who ended Federer’s title defence in Melbourne in 2019, made light work of his first-round match against Italy’s Salvatore Caruso.

Sixth seed Tsitsipas breezed past his 95th-ranked opponent 6-0 6-2 6-3 and will face Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber next.

American Sam Querrey also progressed with a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over Croatia’s 25th seed Borna Coric, while there were wins for Italian eighth seed Matteo Berrettini and Argentine 22nd seed Guido Pella.

A number of first-round matches that were set to take place on the outdoor courts were cancelled because of rain.

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Australian Open: Serena Williams, Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka into second round

  • Posted: Jan 20, 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.

Serena Williams underlined why she is the Australian Open favourite with a rapid first-round win, while world number one Ashleigh Barty overcame a scare to reach the second round.

Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0 6-3 in just 58 minutes.

Australia’s Barty recovered from a poor start against world number 120 Lesia Tsurenko to win 5-7 6-1 6-1.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka also advanced on the opening day.

Third seed Osaka started slowly against Marie Bouzkova, before winning 6-2 6-4.

While Williams claimed a convincing victory over her Russian opponent, there was an even faster win for seventh seed Petra Kvitova, the 2019 runner-up, demolished fellow Czech Katerina Siniakova 6-1 6-0 in 51 minutes.

Former champion Caroline Wozniacki got her final tournament before retirement off to a good start with a 6-1 6-3 victory over American Kristie Ahn.

However, 2017 US Open champion and 24th seed Sloane Stephens was beaten by China’s Zhang Shuai.

The American served for the match in the second set but then lost seven games in a row as she fell to a 2-6 7-5 6-2 defeat.

Britain’s Johanna Konta was due to play on the first day but her match was one of 32 rescheduled for Tuesday because of rain.

  • Gauff beats Venus Williams again to advance
  • Federer & Djokovic win but angry Shapovalov out
  • GB’s Evans fights back to advance

‘It’s all good’ for Barty after shaky start

Top seed Barty won the Adelaide International on Sunday but struggled for rhythm in a patchy match.

Ukrainian Tsurenko, who reached the 2018 US Open quarter-finals, was playing just her second match after injuring her elbow but initially held firm against an error-strewn Barty.

Barty was broken in the opening game of the match, silencing the packed Rod Laver Arena, and Tsurenko ultimately served out the set after Barty sent an easy forehand long.

The Australian made 19 unforced errors in the opening set but was able to take advantage of a fading Tsurenko, whose served crumbled as the match progressed.

The 23-year-old won 14 of the final 16 games to close out the match and will play either Polona Hercog or Rebecca Peterson next.

Barty, who claimed her first Grand Slam singles title in Paris last year, said: “It’s all good. This is the moment I’ve been looking forward to the most throughout the off season.”

Williams puts aside air concerns to advance

The tournament started as scheduled on Monday after air quality improved in Melbourne, although matches were later postponed because of heavy rain.

Last week’s qualifying event had been disrupted by delays because of the air pollution caused by widespread bushfires.

Williams, who had a pulmonary embolism after giving birth in 2017, said she had been concerned about what conditions might be like during her match.

“That is still a concern for pretty much everyone. Every day all the players and the tournament make sure that all the players are updated on what the play conditions would be like,” said the American.

“It’s literally every day, we are just waiting every day to see how the air quality would be. Today, it seemed normal. Yeah, it seemed pretty good.”

Eighth seed Williams, who won her first WTA title in three years in the run-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year, will play Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek next.

The 38-year-old was made to work harder in the second set by 18-year-old Potapova, who broke in the third game of the second set after a double-fault by Williams.

But Williams immediately broke back and pulled away to victory.

  • I wasn’t having fun – Kiki Bertens column

‘I didn’t do anything to you’ – Osaka on social media exchange

Osaka, who broke the net with one of her serves against Czech Bouzkova, will play China’s Zheng Saisai in the second round.

While the Japanese 22-year-old was happy to get through to the next round, she was less impressed with one comment she had read on social media – and decided to reply.

One user had posted “Boooooooo – Don’t want her to win – Hate her interviews – Not Cute – Annoying” on the event’s official Twitter page, with Osaka later replying: “Are you big mad or little mad?” She later told reporters she could not understand why someone would jeer her like that.

“She was hating. What would her children think? You’re just going to come on the internet and boo me for no reason? I didn’t do anything to you,” Osaka said.

“She was very upset. I also wonder, people like this, if they see you in person, I wonder what they would do?”

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Tennis Auction To Raise Funds For Bushfire Relief

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2020

Tennis Auction To Raise Funds For Bushfire Relief

Top stars donate memorabilia for fundraising auction

Tennis Australia has galvanised the global tennis community to raise funds for bushfire relief with a spectacular tennis charity auction.

Australia’s biggest ever live tennis auction is open now for people around the world to bid on once-in-a-lifetime experiences and memorabilia, with all proceeds going towards bushfire relief.

Items and experiences including, a photo with the two 2020 Australian Open champions, Naomi Osaka’s shoes from the 2018 US Open final, an hour lesson with Goran Ivanisevic, a private dining experience with Neil Perry for you and six friends, a painting by world No.1 Rafael Nadal and his ATP Cup teammates, Serena Williams’ shoes, signed tennis outfits, signed racquets and live concerts at Melbourne Park are just some of the exclusive items up for grabs with more items to come.

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The tennis community has rallied together across the Australian summer to raise much needed funds for Australian bushfire relief, with more than AUD $5.1 million raised so far through Tennis Australia’s Aces for Bushfire Relief initiative.

Another initiative calls for fans and players to pledge a donation for #Aces4BushfireRelief. Fans can pledge any amount for each ace served by their favourite player during the Australian Open.

The players with the most pledges as of 20 January are Roger Federer (116 pledges for a cumulative $523.35 per ace), Nick Kyrgios (67 pledges for a cumulative $300 per ace), Rafael Nadal (59 pledges for a cumulative $202.50 per ace), and Ash Barty (28 pledges for a cumulative $101 per ace). This is on top of the $100 per ace being pledged by the tennis community for aces served across the Australian Open, ATP Cup, Brisbane International, Adelaide International, Hobart International and Apis Canberra (Bendigo) International.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the global tennis community, and the way players, officials, fans and other tennis organisations have united to raise money for those affected by the devastating bushfires,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.

“We’re grateful for the terrific response but hope this is just the beginning, as we encourage everyone involved in our event to give generously. The players are responding with either direct donations of cherished personal items or their time, and we will continue to work with our partners, both national and international to contribute to this great cause.

“As we start the Australian Open, our thoughts are with those who have suffered loss and heartbreak due to these terrible fires, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to make a difference and help rebuild lives and communities.”

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Teenager Gauff beats Williams at Grand Slam again

  • Posted: Jan 20, 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.

American 15-year-old Coco Gauff proved last year’s victory over Venus Williams was no fluke when she beat the seven-time Grand Slam champion once again to reach the Australian Open second round.

Gauff announced her arrival last July with victory over her “idol” Williams, 39, in the Wimbledon first round.

And just like last time, she did it in straight sets, winning 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.

Gauff’s celebrations were slightly delayed because she did not realise the final point had been given her way.

“That was really difficult. She played really well and I was really nervous for today’s match – I was a bit shocked when I saw the draw, but glad I was able to get through it,” said Gauff, who was making her Australian Open debut.

“I am feeling great. I really like this court and really like this crowd.”

Gauff will play Romanian world number 74 Sorana Cirstea next.

More to follow.

  • Follow live coverage of day one
  • Williams & Osaka into second round
  • GB’s Evans fights back to advance

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Flawless Federer Races Through First Test In Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2020

Flawless Federer Races Through First Test In Melbourne

Hurkacz plays Novak on Monday

After 21 consecutive appearances at the Australian Open, Roger Federer is familiar with every inch of Rod Laver Arena. The third-seeded Swiss brought the level of comfort that dozens of matches on a court can provide to his opening-round clash with Steve Johnson, sweeping aside the American 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in a breathtaking display.

Federer said in his pre-tournament press conference that his expectations for this fortnight were low, but the six-time champion may want to raise them after his latest performance. He broke the American five times and remains unbeaten in opening-round matches in Melbourne (21-0). Federer has never lost before the third round at this event.

“I remember coming here for juniors in 1998 and then played qualies in the following year. I remember beating Michael Chang in my first main draw here [in 2000],” Federer said. “That was fun. Now he’s coaching against me [with Kei Nishikori], but we’re good friends because my kids are friends with his kids.”

Johnson arrived with confidence after winning an ATP Challenger Tour event last week in Bendigo. But his off-pace slice backhands and chip forehand returns played into Federer’s strengths, allowing the Swiss to attack with his forehand and move forward. A forehand volley winner gave Federer an immediate break in Johnson’s opening service game and he led 4-1 after 18 minutes.

Rain briefly brought both players off the court so the roof could be closed, but it did little to disrupt Federer’s momentum. He continued to coast in his service games and grabbed the early advantage.

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The second set was one-way traffic for Federer, who won 16 of the first 18 points and sprinted to a 4-0 lead. Even when Johnson made the correct play, he was often reduced to a spectator as he watched Federer whip winners past him. Federer landed 80 per cent of his first serves (16/20), consistently setting himself up for one-two punches to end points. A forehand winner from the Swiss, his 26th of the match, gave him a commanding two-sets lead.

Federer opened the third set by once again jumping out in front with an early break. He comfortably served out the match on his first try to wrap up play after just 85 minutes. Federer improved to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head with Johnson and has yet to drop a set against the American.

Next up for Federer is Japanese wild card Tatsuma Ito or Indian lucky loser Prajnesh Gunneswaran.

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Kiki Bertens column: I considered retiring at 25 because I wasn't having fun on court

  • Posted: Jan 20, 2020

Kiki Bertens, the Dutch world number 10, is the latest WTA Tour star to feature in a BBC Sport column at a Grand Slam. In her first column at the Australian Open, the 2016 French Open semi-finalist talks about how she almost retired before going on to enjoy the biggest successes of her career, the air quality in Melbourne and getting married in the off-season.

At the end of the 2017 season I was on the brink of retirement and I had a decision to make: quit playing or do things differently.

I chose to do things differently – with my approach to practice, recovery, nutrition and many other things.

As a result I reached the world’s top 10 for the first time in 2018 and won three WTA tournaments. So I guess I made the right decision!

Why was I considering retirement at the age of just 25? Because I really wasn’t having fun on court.

I was still winning matches and I was ranked 31 in the world at the end of the year so it was still going pretty well. But I was struggling a lot.

Going through the tour every year and just focusing so intensely on tennis all the time was not working for me. I had to find another way.

I was stressing too much about everything, stressing about draws, stressing about how I was practising.

If one day I did not have a good practice I was worrying a lot about how I’d play over the next few days.

Now, I still work really hard every day, of course, and do everything I can do. But off the court I relax a little more, enjoy my time with the people around me – my husband, my family and the other girls – then go again the next day.

I have changed my work-life balance for the better.

And I don’t worry as much. I think ‘OK, one day I play good, the other day maybe not’. There is always a next day.

I have realised it is more important to be happy and enjoying the life you are living – win or lose.

‘I never thought I’d reach the world’s top 10’

After deciding not to retire and carry on, I reached the world’s top 10 for the first time in 2018 and won three WTA tournaments. So I guess I came a long way.

For me it was always a huge thing to become top 10 because I’d never really seen myself being able to achieve that dream.

Then last year I won the Madrid Open – my biggest title yet – and was the first woman to win the tournament without dropping a set.

As a result I went up to fourth in the world and that meant I became the highest-ranked female player from the Netherlands ever. That was a huge thing for me and a huge deal back home.

I never thought I’d go as far as this. After doing that, everything is a bonus from now and I am enjoying it all as much as possible.

Of course I still put pressure on myself and I’m still setting goals that I want to achieve.

Improving my game by trying to play more aggressively is the main one and hopefully make steps in the rankings and the big tournaments as a result.

The furthest I have gone at the Australian Open is the third round so hopefully I can do better than that this year.

I like it here and always feel good, so I don’t exactly know why I haven’t gone further in Melbourne.

Perhaps it is because normally I start to play better when I have played a lot of matches. At the beginning of the year that is a little bit of a struggle, I still have to find rhythm.

I played some great matches in Brisbane earlier this month, where I lost to Naomi Osaka in the singles quarter-finals and also reached the doubles final with Ashleigh Barty.

So I think I’m ready and excited to see what happens.

‘People are suffering so much because of the bushfires – it is heartbreaking’

Of course I have been following the news about the bushfires that have been happening in Australia – it is heartbreaking to see so much devastation.

They are suffering so much here and I feel really bad for the people and animals.

Ash Barty – who is, of course, Australia’s world number one – is my regular doubles partner and she donated her prize money from the Brisbane International to the relief fund.

That got me thinking that I wanted to do something so I said I would donate 100 Australian dollars for every ace that I hit in the tournaments over the Australian summer.

I know it is only a small part but I wanted to get involved because it is something that is close to my heart, particularly because I’m so close to Ash.

The air quality in Melbourne has been a big talking point and when I arrived here on Tuesday night I saw the conditions were not great.

I think it was really tough for the players to play qualifying matches in that.

I had a hit on Wednesday morning when it was still not great but I only had a light hit so I didn’t have any problems with my lungs or my breathing.

But I can imagine if you’re playing for two, or two and a half, hours it is not really healthy.

I know the Australian Open is doing the best they can to find a way to overcome any problems, for them it is also a new situation. I think they are monitoring it really well.

They just have to go day by day, see what they have to do and we all hope there will be no problems.

‘I had another big match in the off-season… my wedding!’

The off-season was also pretty busy for me away from tennis – I got married!

My husband Remko is in the tennis world too, he is a physio, a fitness trainer and a coach, and he is also part of my team.

We have known each other for four years now and he proposed at the end of the 2018 season.

I was not really expecting him to propose when he did, even though he knew I really wanted it because I told him many times! So it was a big surprise.

Then all through the year we were building up to the big day and it was really exciting.

We got married at home in Breda where we live, we had a ceremony with only our close family then in the day and at night we had a fun party with more people coming for that.

A few of my friends from the WTA Tour were there – Julia Goerges is one of my closest friends so she was there for the whole day, Johanna Larsson as well, and then lots of Dutch and Belgian tennis faces were there at night.

It goes without saying, the day was really special. Now I hope married life will bring me good luck on the court too!

Kiki Bertens was speaking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Melbourne Park.

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