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Aussie Assault: Dominant Duo Purcell, Saville Take Aim At 2020

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

Aussie Assault: Dominant Duo Purcell, Saville Take Aim At 2020

After a ruthless run through the Challenger doubles circuit in 2019, Max Purcell and Luke Saville are targeting new highs in 2020

It was Friday afternoon at Melbourne Park. A new Grand Slam season means new belief and new opportunities, and the grounds were beginning to come to life as the 2020 Australian Open drew nearer.

As players descended on Melbourne in preparation for the first major of the new decade, there was still work to be done for those battling in qualifying. For those rising the FedEx ATP Rankings on the Challenger circuit, a berth in a Grand Slam main draw is a significant prize.

In the fading sunlight of Court 8, that dream became a reality for Max Purcell. Competing in his seventh Grand Slam qualifying draw, the 21-year-old Aussie tasted victory in front of the home faithful. An emphatic roar came from Purcell, as he raised his arms in triumph and screamed towards his supporters in the crowd. A straight-set victory over Jozef Kovalik completed a dream run to the main draw.

Just three days later, the Sydney native was back in Melbourne Park, but this time on Court 7. And this time he was battling reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner in his Grand Slam debut. Purcell would eventually fall in a hard-fought clash after two hours and 19 minutes, having struck 26 winners. But regardless of the result, this is the moment the Aussie has worked for throughout his young career. Both Purcell and Sinner are perfect examples of players who have capitalised on their time on the ATP Challenger Tour. While Sinner has rapidly risen the FedEx ATP Rankings, soaring into the spotlight in just one season, Purcell is on a different path. Not all roads to the Top 100 are created equal.

As his Italian counterpart was tearing up the Challenger circuit in singles in 2019, Purcell was doing the same in doubles. Teaming with countryman Luke Saville, they lifted a total of seven trophies and secured a tour-leading 41 match wins together. Close friends off the court and strong teammates between the lines, the Aussie duo produced a magical run through the season, dominating from start to finish. They also appeared in their first ATP Tour events, earning their way into Wimbledon, as well as the 250-level stops in Newport and Los Cabos.


It is a unique dynamic for two players who have built their careers on their singles court. And while they continue to prioritise singles over doubles, the Aussies admit that their success together has helped develop their games in both disciplines. From mastering their net play and timing moving forward to honing their overall court instincts. Few singles players have made such great strides in doubles on the ATP Challenger Tour, but they are succeeding in doing just that. It’s a different path and one they hope will pay dividends in the long run.

Both Purcell and Saville first established themselves on the scene in the mid-2010s, but struggled to find consistent success as the years went on. The 25-year-old Saville is a former junior No. 1, winning the boys titles at Wimbledon in 2011 and the 2012 Australian Open. Two years later, he kicked off his pro career with an upset of Dominic Thiem at Wimbledon, rising to a career-high of No. 152 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Purcell, meanwhile, launched his Challenger career in 2016 with an immediate splash – lifting his lone singles trophy in Gimcheon, South Korea. It came in just his third main draw appearance on the circuit.

A few years later, the Aussies find themselves on a less conventional road to the top. Winning breeds winning and it’s no surprise that Purcell marched through qualifying in Melbourne. Also the winner of 37 singles matches at the Challenger level in 2019, and a finalist in Seoul, he is just eight spots off his career-high of No. 208 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. And Saville reached his first singles semi-final in more than two years, on home soil in Launceston.

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Purcell Earns Spot In Australian Open Main Draw

On Wednesday, the duo advanced to the second round of the Australian Open doubles, earning their first Grand Slam victory together. They will next face eighth seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.

Purcell and Saville spoke to about their strong partnership and goals for 2020…

Max, Luke, it’s been an amazing run for you guys. How do you explain your success together?
Purcell: Since the beginning, we clicked really well. We both have a passion for doubles and it really helps our singles as well. We’re both aggressive singles players and like to get forward to the net. Anything to get our singles games better as well, we’re all for it. We just enjoy it the most.

Saville: We’re firstly good mates. We’re two Australians and he’s four years younger than me. It’s a funny dynamic and I’m sort of a mentor and older figure for him a little bit. He’s had a really good run in singles and we bounce ideas off each other all the time. We’re singles players first and that lets us play more relaxed on the doubles side.

How did you first decide to team up and coordinate your schedules?

To start, we won a Challenger – a big 125 event – in Bangalore at the end of 2018. We aligned our schedules a bit and play mostly in Asia. We like the faster hard courts, so we travel around and play whenever we can together. When we cracked the Top 100 and got to No. 80, we decided to play ATP Tour events together but only when there was a good opportunity. We played Wimbledon, Newport and Los Cabos. We got into Wimbledon as an alternate, ending up just slipping in there, which was awesome.

No team won more matches and titles last year than you two. Talk about the chemistry you have developed on the court. It doesn’t happen often for two singles players.
Purcell: We’re just lucky that we like playing similar schedules, so we can partner together the majority of the weeks. There were only four or five tournaments last year where we weren’t together. So many people mix up who they play with. When it gets down to those tough moments, they don’t know what their partners are doing and have that trust. We know each other so well and it feels easy. Nothing really changes when we’re on the court and we don’t have to worry about who is serving or returning well. We just find ways around it. He’s just a great guy and a great friend.


Did you surprise yourself with the success you’ve had together?
Saville: Yeah, for sure. This time last year, if someone said that we’re going to win eight Challengers, that’s pretty ridiculous. Our game style is pretty tough at the Challenger level. We need to keep improving to get better at the next level, but we still have some work to do with our game.

Obviously both of you are singles players first, but how has your run together given you confidence as a whole?
Purcell: I was always looking to come forward in singles and play at the net, but when it came down to those tough moments I wouldn’t trust it. I’d stay back. With all the tough volleys you pull out in doubles, it makes it easy to think about finishing at the net, rather than hoping players miss. That’s a huge part of tennis and you just have to get forward. So many players are walls at the back, so that’s the way tennis is going these days.

Saville: When I’m done with singles, I feel like there could be a path in doubles. I’d have a few regrets if I decided to take the full-time doubles route now. I’m playing pretty good tennis and have some momentum going. We don’t want to go fully doubles yet, but we do it where we can. There’s definitely some unfinished business on the singles court. We’re focusing on singles, but doubles is a big priority. It’s good to obviously get in Slams and financially helps a lot.

How has the doubles helped improve your singles game, particularly your net play?
Purcell: I have more confidence now. We’re doing more than an hour warmups before doubles matches, just so we can get singles and doubles practice in. We need to get enough volley work in. We’re looking to get better and better. We want to test ourselves. It would be nice to focus more on doubles because we can get into some bigger tournaments now, but we have to hold back because our singles rankings won’t get us in there. We just have to keep moving along in Challengers and hopefully our singles will get us in those bigger events.

Saville: My volleys and knowing where to cover has improved a lot. The confidence of winning matches and being in tournaments on Saturdays and Sundays – in semis and finals – is priceless as well. You have to play with extra pressure and that’s transferred a bit into my singles. Where to serve and return has also transferred over and it all ties together. There are a bunch of guys who have had success mixing singles and doubles. Herbert is one of them. With my singles game style, I like to move forward and play a front-court game. I think that ties in well with doubles. I think I can have a career being good in both.

Luke, you’re only 25 but have been on tour for many years now. You’ve experienced a lot already in your career. What would you say is the toughest part of competing at this level and rising up the rankings?
Saville: It’s been a long time without breaking through, ever since juniors. I’ve been asked a lot and it’s hard to point to where it went wrong for me. I was making a bit of a run a few years ago, getting to No. 150, but right now I have belief in myself again and I’m playing some pretty good tennis. If I lost hope by now, I’d probably have started playing full-time doubles already. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m still enjoying it. I love traveling and doing what I love. Going to different places and seeing what they have to offer is nice. And the competition of playing matches, getting better and improving the ranking is what I love. Seeing improvements in my game is what drives me. Proving to myself that I can get to the next level keeps me believing.


If you could point to one moment in 2019, what would you say was the highlight of your season?
Saville: Playing Wimbledon is definitely an achievement and we’re pretty proud of it. We snuck in as second alternates but we feel like we earned it. We were playing for six or seven months, but to get into a Slam was really good for us. We battled our way through the Challengers and didn’t need a wild card. Every Aussie Open for the past few years I’ve relied on wild cards, so that was special. Just getting into Wimbledon with what we’ve achieved leading up. There was also a final in Anning, China, where we were down a set and a break and they served for the match. We came back and won that somehow. That was definitely pleasing. We had a few moments like that throughout the year.

What are your goals for 2020? In both singles and doubles.
Purcell: Top 100 in singles in 2020 would be a big goal. I’m heading in the right direction, but I don’t like to put that pressure on myself. If Luke and I can hang around Top 50 in doubles, that would be great as well, because it can put us in any tournament we want.

Saville: I want to get back into Grand Slam qualies in singles. I want to get more singles weeks in, where I’m going far. But I can definitely use what we’ve achieved in doubles as a springboard for singles going forward. If you can get more comfortable at the next level, even in doubles, it’s all positives.

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Australian Open: Harriet Dart hopes to make amends against Simona Halep

  • Posted: Jan 22, 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 the BBC Sport website and app.

British qualifier Harriet Dart wants to draw on last year’s chastening Australian Open experience when she meets two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep on Thursday.

Dart, 23, plays the fourth seed on Rod Laver Arena – where she lost 6-0 6-0 to Maria Sharapova in 2019.

“It is a great opportunity to see where my level is,” Dart, ranked 173, said.

Dart and Heather Watson, who plays 16th seed Elise Mertens, are the last British players left in the singles.

The match between Dart and Romanian Halep opens the night session on the 15,000-capacity arena at 08:00 GMT.

You can follow Dart’s progress on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra’s Tennis Breakfast and through the BBC Sport website’s live text service.

Watson had to wait until Wednesday to play her opening match, beating Czech Kristyna Pliskova 4-6 6-3 6-1 in blustery conditions. Her second-round match is second on court 22 at about 02:00 GMT.

Thursday’s order of play on Rod Laver Arena
Day session starts at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT):
Garbine Muguruza (Spa) v Ajla Tomljanovic (Aus)
Laura Siegemund (Ger) v Karolina Pliskova (Cze) [2]
Egor Gerasimov (Blr) v Alexander Zverev (Ger) [7]
Night session starts at 19:00 local time (08:00 GMT):
Harriet Dart (GB) v Simona Halep (Rom) [4]
Rafael Nadal (Spa) [1] v Federico Delbonis (Arg)
  • Live scores, schedule and results

Dart moved into the second round this year with a gutsy three-set win over Japan’s Misaki Doi, going some way to putting that heavy defeat by five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova behind her.

She was also beaten 6-1 6-1 by Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty on Centre Court at Wimbledon last July.

“They were both completely different occasions on big courts against big players,” Dart told BBC Sport.

“I think I have kept learning from all the experiences I’ve had over the past year and hopefully I can draw on them and bring that to the match against Halep.

“She’s one of the players I particularly look up to. Her athletic ability is pretty incredible and she’s a Grand Slam champion for a reason.”

British number two Watson, 27, will meet Mertens for the second time in a week after winning their Hobart quarter-final last Thursday.

Another success for the Guernsey player would see her reach the Australian Open third round for the first time since 2013.

“Beating her last week will give me confidence to know I can beat her, especially if it gets close,” Watson said.

“I stayed calm last week and stayed there every point. That’s what you need to do against a player like her who is very solid.”

Meanwhile, 14th seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski begin their men’s doubles campaign on court 14, while Joe Salisbury and Cameron Norrie are among other Britons in doubles action.

Other notable matches on Thursday
Margaret Court Arena: Daniil Medvedev (Rus) [4] v Pedro Martinez (Spa) (about 02:00 GMT)
Melbourne Arena: Nick Kyrgios (Aus) [23] v Gilles Simon (Fra) (about 08:00 GMT)
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Britain's Evans set to skip Tokyo Olympics

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

British number one Dan Evans says he would prefer to miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and concentrate on the hard court season in the the United States.

The 29-year-old, who is at a career-high world ranking of 32, insists his stance is not a lack of enthusiasm for representing Great Britain.

“I think everyone should represent their country for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and ATP Cup but the Olympics is sort of an individual event,” he said.

“I’m not sure I’ll be going to Japan.”

The Olympics run from 24 July to 9 August and the tennis event, which has 64 players in singles, does not carry prize money or ranking points.

The US hard court season is made up of several events running from late July to the US Open which starts with qualifying from 24 August.

“First and foremost I have to take care of myself and my life rather than maybe taking time out – there’s some good tournaments on at that point,” he added.

“I probably won’t do it because of certain situations. I don’t have long to play as well so I probably won’t go over to Japan.”

Evans declined a place in Britain’s team for Rio 2016 after being offered a role following a spate of injury withdrawals.

He was beaten 6-4 6-3 6-4 by Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in his second-round match at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

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Kiki Bertens column: 'Idol' Clijsters' comeback was a complete surprise

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

Kiki Bertens, the Dutch world number 10, is the latest WTA Tour star to feature in a BBC Sport column. In her second piece from the Australian Open, the 2016 French Open semi-finalist talks about the impending comeback of her idol Kim Clijsters, why she is never satisfied after a match and how she tries not to talk tennis with her husband at the dinner table.

Even though I never really liked watching tennis too much when I was growing up, it is fair to say Kim Clijsters was my idol.

Kim was a great player, a great person and a great champion. Plus she is from Belgium, really close to where I am from, so it is pretty obvious why I liked her.

That meant I was really happy to see her announce a comeback at the age of 36 after more than seven years away from the WTA Tour.

It came as a complete surprise to me. I never saw it coming. But now I’m thinking it would be great if I could play her one day.

I don’t know how I would feel if that was to happen, but of course I would want to beat her! That’s the case with every player.

Her game was very good to watch; she was really aggressive and her movement was good.

We will have to see how successful her comeback is going to be. Maybe it won’t be that easy.

Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are examples of other former Grand Slam winners who have tried to come back after a long time away.

It is not as easy as it was before – I think the level is so high and everyone can play really well.

It will be tough for Kim and I have no idea how she is shaping up now.

But she was a great athlete in her prime and you can’t rule anything out. So let’s see what happens.

‘I need to play more aggressively’

I started the Australian Open with a 6-1 6-4 win against Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu on Tuesday – but, despite the scoreline, I was not completely happy.

Of course I am happy with the result, but I am never really satisfied with how I play. There is always something that I want to do better.

I think winning by that scoreline and not being completely satisfied is a good sign. And it is a sign of how far I have come over the past few years – and that I still want more.

My confidence has grown so much in the past few years that even when I’m not playing my best, I still feel calm on court and find a way to win.

Against Begu, I was not playing really aggressively, apart from my serve, which I used really well.

The rest of my game was more about moving a lot from side to side, making as many balls as I could and just putting it back in the court.

For the next match, and if I want to go deeper in the tournament, I will have to play more aggressively.

‘Playing a new opponent requires some homework’

On Thursday, I will play Arina Rodionova in the second round – she is an Australian wildcard who I’ve never faced before.

That is going to be a tough one, like all matches are at a Grand Slam. She had a good first-round win, losing the opening set to Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko before turning the match around.

Arina is from Melbourne so I’m sure she will have the crowd behind her, but that does not faze me.

It is really exciting when I play someone I have never played before. My coach Elise Tamaela went to watch her match to find out how she is playing.

Normally I rely on Elise going to a match and listening to what she tells me about an opponent, as well as drawing on my own experiences.

But if I’ve never played a girl before, then I will also watch videos of her play on the internet. That’s my homework.

I will watch it and see what she did well but I think it is more important to concentrate on my own strengths.

‘How my husband and I juggle tennis and marriage’

As I told you in my first column, I got married in the summer to my husband Remko, who is part of my team.

He is a physio and a fitness trainer, but a coach as well, and my coach Elise is also a fitness trainer and physio. So they can do both – and if I’m not happy with one, then I can switch to the other!

It is great he is part of our team because otherwise we’d have no time to see each other.

Remko has his own tennis academy in Belgium so he travels with us for half of the year.

I think it is good that he travels with us only half of the time, and not full time, because I think that would make it a little bit tougher.

We manage to balance our work and private life very well; we have found a good way to do that.

Most of the time when we are on site at a tournament it is work, and that really starts when he is doing my warm-up before practice.

At the end of the day, when we have finished stretching and the rest of my recovery routine, he becomes my husband again and the work stops.

Then we can do normal stuff as husband and wife, go for a nice dinner, watch a movie or just relax.

When we are having dinner in a restaurant, we try not to talk about tennis – but sometimes it is hard.

Does whoever bring up to tennis first at the dinner table have to pay the bill? Not at the moment. But that’s a good idea, maybe we will start doing that!

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

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Federer Records 99th Melbourne Win, Books Millman Clash

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

Federer Records 99th Melbourne Win, Books Millman Clash

Swiss reaches third round in Melbourne for 21st time

Roger Federer improved to 41-0 in the first two rounds of the Australian Open on Wednesday night, moving past Filip Krajinovic 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena.

The six-time champion started and finished with a flourish to extend his unbeaten ATP Head2Head record against Krajinovic to four matches. Federer ripped 42 winners to break serve seven times throughout the one-hour, 32-minute encounter.

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Federer is now just one win away from winning his 100th match at the Australian Open. The Swiss, who owns a 99-14 record at Melbourne Park, is the only man to win 100 matches at a Grand Slam event. Federer owns a record 101 wins at Wimbledon.

Federer will need to beat Australian John Millman to reach that mark at the year’s opening major championship. Millman, who beat Federer in four sets at the 2018 US Open, defeated 31st seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 28 minutes. Federer leads Millman 2-1 in their ATP Head2Head series.

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Federer is aiming to equal Novak Djokovic’s record of seven Australian Open titles this year. The 38-year-old captured his sixth trophy at this event in 2018, beating Marin Cilic in five sets to add a 20th crown to his record Grand Slam titles haul. Rafael Nadal can equal that total at this event if he wins his second Australian Open title.

Krajinovic was aiming to equal his best Grand Slam result by reaching the third round in Melbourne for the second straight year. The Serbian also reached the third round at Roland Garros last year.

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Thursday Preview: Medvedev Hopes To Maintain Magic, Nadal Back In Action

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

Thursday Preview: Medvedev Hopes To Maintain Magic, Nadal Back In Action

Thiem, Zverev among other stars pushing for third-round berth

Outside of the Big Three, fans might look to Daniil Medvedev as the next favourite at the Australian Open. The World No. 4 will try to show why that’s the case on Thursday in the second round.

Medvedev will play Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez. The 22-year-old Martinez had never won a tour-level match before beating German Dominik Koepfer in the first round, and he will try to spring the upset against the two-time ATP Masters 1000 champion, who won more matches (59) and reached more finals (9) than anyone on the ATP Tour in 2019.

That puts the pressure squarely on Medvedev, who battled past 2019 Melbourne quarter-finalist Frances Tiafoe in his four-set opener.

“I think I have a lot of things to improve regarding today’s match. Especially the serve, I was not happy at all with my serve,” said Medvedev, whom Tiafoe broke five times. “The most important is to win, to just win the match, get into the second round, get the sensations of the court, of the atmosphere, everything. Usually later in the tournament everything goes better and better.”

<a href=''>Daniil Medvedev</a> is the No. 4 seed at the <a href=''>Australian Open</a>.

The last time Medvedev lost to someone ranked as low as World No. 168 Martinez was in the first round of an ATP Challenger Tour event held in Playford, Australia, during the first week of the 2018 season (l. to then-World No. 379 Marinko Matosevic). The Russian No. 1 is trying to reach the third round at the season’s first Grand Slam for the second straight year.

The man he played in the final of last year’s US Open, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, is also in action on Day Four. The legendary lefty is pursuing his 20th Grand Slam championship this fortnight, which would tie him with Roger Federer for the most all-time. But Nadal is not looking ahead of his next opponent.

“I’m thinking about Sousa or Delbonis. That’s all,” said Nadal, who later learned he will play Argentine lefty Federico Delbonis in the second round. “I’m thinking about my practice of tomorrow, trying to follow up the level of tennis that I played in the third set. That should be my main goal today. I need to play at my highest level if I want to keep going on [in] the tournament.”

<a href=''>Rafael Nadal</a> AO 2020 Tuesday

Nadal holds a 3-0 ATP Head2Head series lead against Delbonis, winning all six of their sets by a margin of 6-3 or greater. The top seed also brings momentum into the match, not only from a straight-sets win in the first round against Bolivian Hugo Dellien, but from leading Spain to the final of the inaugural ATP Cup.

One player who did not enjoy as much success at the ATP Cup is World No. 5 Dominic Thiem, who lost two of his three singles matches in Sydney. But the Austrian star beat tricky Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 in his opener, and he’ll look to build off that against Aussie wild card Alex Bolt.

“I was playing great in the practice week, but it’s something very different coming into the first match with all the pressure, with all the tension in it. So I think that [Tuesday] was a very good match and a good step in the right direction,” Thiem said. “I hope, of course, that I can keep it up and also hope that I can improve still many things and get better from match to match.”

Thiem <a href=''>Australian Open</a> 2020 Tuesday

Thiem showed his hard-court prowess in 2019, winning the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells and reaching the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals. No. 7 seed Alexander Zverev won the season finale in 2018, and he’s pushing for his biggest Grand Slam breakthrough yet in Melbourne.

The German, who also cruised through his first-rounder, will face Belarusian Egor Gerasimov in the second round.

“I didn’t play well at the ATP Cup. Everybody saw that. I was struggling a lot with my serve, I was struggling a lot with my groundstrokes. I think I was much more stable [in my first round] than I was there,” Zverev said. “This is a positive for me. Obviously there’s a lot still to build. I think this is already getting better. So hopefully I can still get better in the next few days, maybe weeks. We’ll see how it goes.”


Nick Kyrgios will try to thrill the Aussie crowd as he tries to reach the third round at his home Grand Slam for the fourth time. The big-serving 24-year-old will have to stay focussed against consistent veteran Gilles Simon of France.

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The 23rd-seeded Kyrgios beat the former World No. 6 in straight sets in their only previous match at last year’s Citi Open. But Simon excels at lulling opponents to sleep during points, putting ball after ball into the court at different, typically slow paces, before taking advantage of any opening he finds in rallies.

Other matches to watch on Thursday include No. 10 seed Gael Monfils against 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic, No. 29 seed Taylor Fritz playing two-time major finalist Kevin Anderson and three-time Slam champion Stan Wawrinka against Italian veteran Andreas Seppi.

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Watson fights back to reach second round in Australia but Evans loses

  • Posted: Jan 22, 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.

Britain’s Heather Watson showed tremendous fight to reach the Australian Open second round before Dan Evans missed out on the chance of a potential meeting with Novak Djokovic.

Watson, ranked 75th, won 4-6 6-3 6-1 in blustery conditions against Czech Kristyna Pliskova.

British number one Evans, seeded 30th, lost 6-4 6-3 6-4 to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in his second-round match.

Watson and Harriet Dart are the only remaining Britons in the singles draws.

Watson will meet Belgian 16th seed Elise Mertens for the second time in a week after winning their Hobart International quarter-final last Thursday.

  • Osaka puts aside outburst to reach last 32
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Watson weathers the wind to win

After beating Pliskova, Watson said having played in similar conditions in Hobart last week – and growing up in windy Guernsey – had stood her in good stead.

“It was super windy today but I felt prepared because it was like that in Hobart a lot of the days,” the 27-year-old said.

“But being a first-round match and being postponed I felt a bit nervous in that first set and a bit tense.

“I managed to loosen up, relax and enjoy the match.”

Mertens beat Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic later on Wednesday as, like Watson, she had to come back a day later as a consequence of the backlog of matches caused by Monday’s rain washout.

Watson has not enjoyed many victories in the Grand Slams recently, showing her pleasure at digging in and beating 65th-ranked Pliskova with a wide smile and tight clenched fist towards her box.

The Briton had won only one match in her last six appearances in the main draw in Melbourne but had come here in good form after her Hobart performances.

In difficult conditions in which both players struggled at times with their ball toss, Watson eventually dealt with them better as Pliskova – twin sister of second seed Karolina – began to show her frustration.

Watson’s service game improved as the match wore on and she continued to hit a steady stream of winners to to clinch an impressive victory.

“I don’t mind the wind and with the way I play – a lot of slice, drops shots, change-of-pace balls – I think it works well. And I’m patient,” she said.

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Out-of-sorts Evans ends British hopes in the men’s singles

British number one Evans needed to fight back from two sets down in his opening match against American Mackenzie McDonald, but there was no sign of another memorable comeback against an inspired Nishioka.

Evans, 29, said he did not “feel good at all” going into Monday’s match, possibly the effects of his heroics for Great Britain at the ATP Cup and playing in Adelaide last week.

Two days later he again looked out-of-sorts and this time he was unable to put any pressure on his opponent.

“I’ve not had the ranking to skip weeks, but maybe in hindsight I could not have played last week,” Evans said.

“It’s been a long few weeks since pre-season. I’ve been away a long time and I didn’t feel great.”

Evans, who was competing in his first Grand Slam as a seeded player, could not force a single break point as 71st-ranked Nishioka eased into a two-set lead.

The Briton looked to be struggling physically as he sat in his chair at the end of the second set, although he recovered to push Nishioka, who made only two unforced errors in the previous set, closer in the third.

However, he was broken in his penultimate service game as a tie-break loomed, unable to land a first serve before hitting a forehand wide of the line on Nishioka’s first match point.

The 24-year-old Japanese fell to his knees on the court and looked up to the sky in celebration as contemplated his achievement of reaching the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.

His reward is a meeting with Serbian defending champion Djokovic, who beat Nishioka’s compatriot Tatsuma Ito 6-1 6-4 6-2.

Evans was the third and final Briton to fall in the men’s singles after Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie lost their opening matches on Tuesday.


BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Dan Evans was the first to admit that Yoshihito Nishioka handled the windy conditions better than he did.

But having confessed to feeling sore in his first-round victory over Mackenzie McDonald, it’s clear Evans’ success at the ATP Cup and in Adelaide earlier this month did come at a price.

As he said – in typical Evans style – he was at a bit of a loose end last week, and so couldn’t resist a trip to Adelaide, where he reached the quarter-finals.

The upside was a 10-place rise in the rankings and an extra $250 000 (£192,000) in the bank.

Evans says he has no regrets, but hinted he will make a few changes to his schedule so he can arrive at the big events feeling fresher in future.

British interest as doubles begins

The men’s doubles got under way on day three with two British players involved.

Jonny O’Mara progressed to the second round alongside partner Marcelo Arevalo, from El Salvador, with a 6-3 6-2 win over Bolivian Hugo Dellien and Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero.

However, Dom Inglot and Saudi Arabia’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi were knocked out in the opening round, losing in three sets to Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau.

The eighth seeded Dutch-Romanian pair won 6-1 3-6 6-2.

Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski begin their campaign against Canadian Vasek Pospisil and Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz on Thursday.

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Djokovic Channels Ivanisevic In Serving Clinic

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

Djokovic Channels Ivanisevic In Serving Clinic

Top seed cruises past Ito on Wednesday

After a grueling four-set win on Monday, Novak Djokovic will welcome the quick day he earned on Wednesday at the Australian Open. The top seed overwhelmed Japanese wild card Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the third round in Melbourne.

Although Djokovic will be satisfied with hitting 31 winners to 17 unforced errors, he’ll be even more pleased with serving stats that one of his coaches, former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, would be proud of. The defending champion cracked 16 aces, lost just 11 points on serve (53/64) and won 93 per cent of his first-serve points (43/46).

”He was playing pretty aggressive and flat, with not too many unforced errors in the second set. I just managed to somehow find my way,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “From my side, my serve helped me a lot to get out of trouble.

”I knew shots would come quick and flat, so I had to be quite low [and] put some variety on the shots, spins, slices, and come to the net on occasion. It worked well.”

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He’ll take on another Japanese player in the next round when he meets Yoshihito Nishioka. The 24-year-old defeated No. 30 seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

”I’m playing all the Japanese players in the field,” Djokovic said with a smile. “He’s very quick, probably one of the quickest players we have on the Tour. You know what his strengths are [and] what his weaknesses are, so hopefully I can execute the game plan.”

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Ito, No. 146 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, picked up his first Grand Slam victory in six years to earn the right to face Djokovic. But the 31-year-old quickly found himself on defence in Rod Laver Arena. Ito lacked the strength in his shots to overpower the top seed and was resigned to trying to outrally the seven-time champion.

Djokovic dominated the early stages of the match, racing to a 5-0 lead in less than 20 minutes. The Serbian didn’t give Ito a chance to get involved in his service games, dropping just two points on serve to cruise through the opening set.

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Ito was able to impose himself more in the second set, but continued to feel the pressure. While the Japanese was routinely forced to save break points, two of Djokovic’s service games took less than 90 seconds. The top seed let out a roar after a strong forehand gave him a break at 4-4 and he comfortably held in the next game for a commanding advantage.

Djokovic moved into full flight in the third set, leaving Ito visibly bemused with the flashy winners racing past him. The Serbian easily closed out the match on his first try after one hour and 35 minutes.

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Australian Open: Defending champion Naomi Osaka reaches last 32 in Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 22, 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.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka moved into the last 32 at the Australian Open with a straight-sets win over China’s Saisai Zheng.

The Japanese third seed took one hour 20 minutes to see off the world number 42 6-2 6-4 on Margaret Court Arena.

Osaka, 22, now faces a potential third-round meeting with US teenager Coco Gauff, who plays Sorana Cirstea later.

American 14th seed Sofia Kenin also progressed against compatriot Ann Li, beating the wildcard 6-1 6-3.

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Wednesday Preview: Tsitsipas To Face Test, Djokovic & Federer Also In Action

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2020

Wednesday Preview: Tsitsipas To Face Test, Djokovic & Federer Also In Action

Others to compete include Berrettini, Bautista Agut, Sinner

Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Roger Federer at last year’s Australian Open en route to one of his biggest breakthroughs, advancing to the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

The No. 6 seed hopes to go even further this year, but he’ll need to focus on a tough second-round test on Wednesday against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber. The Greek star will try to maintain the form he found in his first-round win against Italian Salvatore Caruso, in which he lost only five games.

“[There] might be a bit of tension when you start a Grand Slam. You never know what to expect, in what kind of form the players are,” Tsitsipas said. “It is kind of a relief. I felt good on the court… I felt like my game was there. I’m happy to be in the next round. I hope I can increase my level, play better.”

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Tsitsipas owns a 2-0 ATP Head2Head lead against Kohlschreiber, the former World No. 16, who is trying to make the third round of the Australian Open for the seventh time. The 36-year-old has plenty of variety in his game, with a crafty one-handed backhand that he can use to find acute angles, pushing opponents off the court.

But in his run to the last four last year, Tsitsipas showed that he is capable of playing an aggressive game style to take the racquet out of his opponent’s hands, using his big serve and forehand to set up rushes into the forecourt.

“I definitely feel like I’m more experienced now. Last year I did feel more [like] a kid who was trying to get confidence by doing certain things on the court,” Tsitsipas said. “Now I feel like I’m more mature and more conservative in my thinking. I also think what I feel now compared to before, I’m just very sure with myself. I don’t really doubt myself that much.”

<a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a> is unbeaten in 2020.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer will also be in action on Day Three.

Djokovic, a seven-time titlist in Melbourne, will play Japanese wild card Tatsuma Ito, who on Tuesday won his first Grand Slam main draw match since the 2014 US Open.

The Serbian was stunned here in the second round three years ago by Denis Istomin. But before that, Djokovic most recently lost that early at a Grand Slam at 2008 Wimbledon, when he fell to former World No. 1 Marat Safin. The 16-time major titlist battled through a tough four-setter in his opener against powerful German Jan-Lennard Struff.

“I actually like tough first rounds, in Grand Slams particularly. Historically I’ve had lots of success in Grand Slams where I had tough opponents in the first round because it gets me going from the beginning,” Djokovic said. “Of course you can always play better and I expect myself to be better as the tournament progresses, but it was a good matchup and I’m glad how I overcame the challenge.”

Federer 2020 <a href=''>Australian Open</a> Monday

Federer, who has won two of the past three Australian Open titles, will look to move one step closer to 100 wins at this event when he faces Serbian Filip Krajinovic, who won his opener in five sets that took three hours and 54 minutes.

The 38-year-old Swiss, who is 98-14 at Melbourne Park, has won all three of his meetings against Krajinovic, with all of those matches coming on hard courts. In their two battles that came outdoors, Federer did not drop a set.

“I have to be careful. Round-by-round, point-for-point mentality,” Federer said. “I know other guys that are playing extremely well right now, so I think it’s just important to stay very calm about things.”

Federer’s Record By Grand Slam

 Australian Open  98-14
 Roland Garros  70-17
 Wimbledon  101-13
 US Open  89-14

No. 8 seed Matteo Berrettini will try to maintain the good level that helped him to a straight-sets win in the first round when he plays American Tennys Sandgren, who made the quarter-finals in Melbourne two years ago. The Italian is trying to reach the third round for the third straight major. He had not won a match at the Australian Open before his first-round victory against Aussie wild card Andrew Harris.

Roberto Bautista Agut, the ninth seed, completed his victory against fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez on Tuesday, and he will be back on the court Wednesday against American wild card Michael Mmoh. No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini, who finished off a two-set comeback against big-serving Reilly Opelka, will have another tough battle against Aussie Jordan Thompson.

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