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How Nadal Provided Sinner With His Biggest Lesson In Australia

  • Posted: Feb 08, 2021

Jannik Sinner may have fallen in the first round at the Australian Open but, following his five-set loss to 11th seed Denis Shapovalov, the #NextGenATP Italian reflected on the great lessons he has learned during his visit to Australia.

The biggest lesson the two-time ATP Tour titlist learned did not come from any of the six matches he played across the Great Ocean Road Open and Australian Open, it came during his two weeks of pre-tournament practice with 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.

“Practising with Rafa is a big, big lesson,” said Sinner. “Even today, I lost but I have to understand why I lost and then it is going to be a big lesson as well. It is not only one. Firstly, to come here, the reason was to practise with Rafa for two weeks because I think he can give me many things about how to stay on court with the right mentality. I think that is the biggest lesson. Today was mentally tough, losing in the fifth but it is going to be a lesson as well.”

Sinner played at an impressive level throughout his three-hour, 55-minute battle with Shapovalov on Margaret Court Arena. The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion made a rapid start to the match and he showed character to recover from a break down in the fourth set to force a decider.

The 19-year-old, who entered the first-round clash on a 10-match winning streak, praised his opponent’s level in the critical stages of the fifth set. Shapovalov converted the only break point he created in the fifth set and landed his 13th winner of the set — a forehand up the line — to clinch victory.

“[Shapovalov] is a great player,” said Sinner. “He served better than me today. There were some difficult points, especially in the first game of the fifth set. He returned good on some points and then he served quite well. There was not much difference between him and I… He deserved to win today.”

Sinner entered the Australian Open after a gruelling run to his second ATP Tour crown at the Great Ocean Road Open last week. The Italian’s first ATP Head2Head encounter against Shapovalov was his fifth match in four days.

Sinner played twice on Friday, saved one match point against Karen Khachanov in a three-hour semi-final on Saturday and recorded a 7-6(4), 6-4 win over compatriot Stefano Travaglia in Sunday’s title match. After the match, Sinner was asked if his efforts at the ATP 250 had played a part in his five-set loss to Shapovalov.

“I don’t think it hurt me, to be honest,” said Sinner. “I started to feel a bit tired after [the match] but I think I can learn many things from that… I tried to be there in every point, to play every point. I tried my best.”

After rising four positions in the FedEx ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 32 on Monday, Sinner may not have to play a seeded opponent when he makes his next appearance at a Grand Slam. But, if he does, he will be in a better position to succeed due to the lessons he has learned in Melbourne.

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Djokovic: 'I'm Not Jealous Of Roger & Rafa's Success'

  • Posted: Feb 08, 2021

Eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic reflected on his record-breaking career on Monday after a dominant performance over Jeremy Chardy in the first round.

Over the next fortnight in Melbourne, the World No. 1 is bidding to become the second man in history to win at least nine major championship crowns at the same tournament, after Rafael Nadal, who has won 13 Roland Garros titles. Nadal and Roger Federer are both tied on a record 20 Grand Slam singles crowns.

“I respect all of my opponents’ records,” said 17-time major champion Djokovic. “[Roger and Rafa] are legends of our sport, and I admire them a lot. They have positively affected my game and my growth, my development and all my success wouldn’t be what it is if these two guys were not there.

“So I have had tremendous rivalries with these two guys and we still keep on going. But I don’t want any of their success, if you know what I mean. I’m not jealous of their success or anything like that. I try to build my own career and my own success.”

When asked about his record-breaking career, Djokovic said: “I have been fortunate, without a doubt, to experience a lot of success and break records in our sport that I obviously love and am very passionate about. Of course, I am always motivated and inspired to achieve big goals and break records.”

The 33-year-old Serbian will soon break Roger Federer’s record for most weeks at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 8 March. Djokovic has spent 307 weeks in the top spot, with all-time leader Federer on 310 weeks.

“I have been very transparent about the fact that one of my biggest goals is to try to reach the No. 1 all-time weeks record, and I’m getting closer and closer to that one,” said Djokovic. “Obviously, that’s kind of a lifetime achievement for me and Grand Slams, as well. Of course, I think I have managed to be very consistent at the [ATP] Masters 1000 events and win a lot of titles there. Those are the biggest events that we have on the Tour other than Grand Slams.”

Djokovic has won a record 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles — one more than Nadal (35) — from his very first at the 2007 Miami Open presented by Itau to the 2020 Internazionali BNL d’Italia crown in September last year.

“I respect and study the history of the game and the guys that paved the way for all of us that are here at the moment. I’m just very fortunate to be in the situation and position that I’m in at the moment, so I [will] try to keep on going and obviously set up new goals for myself.

“Because I feel like other than [the] passion and love that I have for the game, the biggest reason why I still play [tennis] is exactly that pure emotion that I have of enjoyment when I’m [out] there.

“So I feel [that] over the past 15 years, [after] everything that I have managed to achieve, I don’t settle for anything less but [being at] the top of the men’s game and [winning] the biggest trophies. That’s something I always aim for. I work towards that. I’m still lucky to be where I am.”

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Shapovalov Survives Epic Sinner Showdown

  • Posted: Feb 08, 2021

In one of the most highly-anticipated matches of the Australian Open first round, Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner delivered a classic on Monday at Margaret Court Arena.

Shapovalov snapped Sinner’s 10-match winning streak with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win. The 21-year-old entered the match on a six-match losing streak, but he found his best level under pressure to hand the Great Ocean Road Open champion his first loss since last October’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna.

“Matches like this are so much fun for me to play,” said Shapovalov, in an on-court interview. “This is why I play the sport in front of fans like you guys, that are just so much fun for both guys. Win or lose, today is one of the matches that I am going to remember in my career, just because playing in one of these stadiums, the moment and the quality of tennis today, it was just so much fun to be out here.”

It was an incredible effort by Sinner, who was playing his fifth match in four days. The 19-year-old Italian played twice on Friday, saved one match point against Karen Khachanov in a three-hour semi-final at the Great Ocean River Open on Saturday and recorded a 7-6(4), 6-4 win over compatriot Stefano Travaglia in Sunday’s title match. 

Shapovalov fired 62 winners and won 74 per cent of net points (39/53) en route to victory. The Canadian No. 1 completed a perfect opening day for his nation, adding to straight-sets victories earlier in the day from countrymen Milos Raonic and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Shapovalov was aiming to avoid a second straight loss in the Australian Open first round, after falling to Marton Fucsovics in four sets at the same stage last year.

Sinner made the perfect start on Margaret Court Arena, as he ripped forehands and flicked a backhand passing shot winner to break at the first opportunity. Shapovalov served an ace down the T to avoid falling behind a double break at 1-4, 30/40, but he could not find his way back into the set.


Sinner earned four break points in his opening two return games of the second set. Shapovalov saved them all. The 11th seed struck three unreturned serves and came to the net to escape danger and establish a 2-1 lead. When Sinner’s level dropped at 3-4, Shapovalov pounced. The Canadian took advantage of backhand errors to earn his first break points of the match and he converted his second opportunity with a powerful forehand down the line.

After holding serve to level the match, Shapovalov survived three more break points at the start of the third set as Sinner began to misfire on his forehand. The 6’1” left-hander found success coming to the net and he claimed back-to-back service breaks to move one set from victory.

Sinner committed forehand errors to concede serve early in the second set, but he trusted his groundstrokes and increased his aggression from 1-3 down to turn the set in his favour and force the match to a decider.

Shapovalov halted Sinner’s momentum in the opening game of the fifth set, as he moved the Italian out of position and fired forehands up the line to make an early breakthrough. The Canadian maintained that advantage to serve for the match at 5-4 and he clinched victory with a forehand winner up the line.

“You don’t want to play long five-set [matches] at the beginning of the tournament, but I am just really happy to get the win,” said Shapovalov. “Jannik is such a great opponent. Honestly, he is so talented, he is so great, such a great guy. I am really happy that he has been doing well. I am sure he is going to be a really, really good player. [He is] now, but in the future, for sure.”

Sinner leaves Melbourne with five wins from six matches. At last week’s Great Ocean Road Open, the San Candido native became the youngest player to win two ATP Tour titles since Novak Djokovic, 19, at 2006 Amersfoort and the Moselle Open in Metz.

Sinner’s title run at the ATP 250 was his first appearance on the ATP Tour since he claimed his maiden tour-level trophy at the Sofia Open last November. The Italian is the youngest player to win back-to-back titles since Rafael Nadal, 19, at the 2005 China Open in Beijing and the Mutua Madrid Open.

“[Shapovalov] is a great player,” said Sinner. “He served better than me today. There were some difficult points, especially in the first game of the fifth set. He returned good on some points and then he served quite well. There was not much difference between him and I… He deserved to win today.”

Shapovalov will face Australia’s Bernard Tomic in the second round. The former Top 20 player was leading Yuichi Sugita 3-6, 6-1, 4-1 when the Japanese retired from their match on Court 8.

“It is better to play two-and-a-half sets, [like Tomic did], but I am going to try to recover as much as possible and get ready,” said Shapovalov. “Bernard has been a great player and he is a really tough opponent. He has got a great serve [and] he is super solid from the back. It is definitely going to be another tricky match.”

If Shapovalov gets through that match, he could meet countryman Auger-Aliassime in the third round. The Murray River Open runner-up continued his strong run of form with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory against Cedrik Marcel-Stebe.

Auger-Aliassime broke serve on six occasions and struck 25 winners to record his first win at the Australian Open. The seven-time ATP Tour finalist will face James Duckworth in the second round. The Aussie moved past lucky loser Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 40 minutes.

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Day 2 Preview: Rafa Ready For 2021 Debut

  • Posted: Feb 08, 2021

To think that Rafael Nadal was just a promising young Mallorcan, albeit no sure thing, when he made his main-draw debut at the Australian Open in 2004. Just 17, he was a bullish baseliner with oodles of lefty topspin and a ‘til-the-last-ball mindset.

He would reach the third round that year, eventually succumbing to home favourite Lleyton Hewitt, 7-6(2), 7-6(5), 6-2. A strong early-career showing, no doubt. But, truth be told, nobody really knew what the future held for the clay-bred newcomer, who some mistakenly typecast as a one-surface wonder.

“He’s a hell of a prospect,” said Hewitt. “[But] clay’s his No. 1 surface at the moment… He’s just one of the next Spaniards coming up. There’s a lot of them.”

A slew of talented Spaniards? Hewitt had that right. But there’s only one Rafael Nadal.

Nadal returns to Melbourne some 17 years later, deadlocked with career-long rival Roger Federer with a record 20 major singles titles. Since that first appearance at Melbourne Park back in 2004, he’s reached the final on five occasions, winning it all in 2009, when he famously ousted a tearful Federer in five sets. He has a chance to make history in 2021, but only if the tricenarian’s body is up to the task.

The World No. 2 emerged from quarantine to join his fellow Spaniards at the ATP Cup, only to be sidelined with back tightness, something he says he’s been dealing with for more than two weeks. But Nadal insisted he was doing all he could to be ready for his Day 2 opener in Rod Laver Arena, where he’s scheduled to face 56th-ranked Serbian Laslo Djere.

“I was not able to practise the right way the last week and a half,” Nadal told reporters on Sunday. “I’m still not having the best feeling possible in my back, but I am practising again. I did a lot of things to recover. It’s not serious, but the muscle is still tight, so it’s difficult to play with freedom of movement. Let’s hope the situation keeps improving. We’re doing everything. My physio [Rafael Maymo] is here, the doctors are here — everybody is helping me in all possible ways.”

Also on the Rod Laver Arena line-up for Day 2 is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who’ll open against Frenchman Gilles Simon. Some of the most exciting moments of the Athenian’s young career have come at Melbourne Park. In 2019, he stunned Federer, 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5), en route to the semi-finals.

Riding high after claiming their first ATP Cup title are Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev. Both players will be in action on Tuesday: The fourth seed Medvedev against Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, and the seventh seed Rublev against Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann. Medvedev, 24, swept his last 10 matches of 2020, including title runs at the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals.

Daniil Medvedev clinches Russia's place in the ATP Cup final.

Daniil Medvedev defeated three Top 10 players during Russia’s successful ATP Cup campaign last week.

With his 6-4, 6-2 dismissal of Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the ATP Cup clincher, Medvedev has now won 10 straight against Top-10 competition in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and his winning streak has reached 14 matches.

“It’s a really big achievement,” said Medvedev. “It’s a big boost in confidence. Even when you lose, you know that you’re capable of playing this level, and it helps you for the next time to stand up.”

Russia’s ATP Cup triumph came against Italy, whose team included 33-year-old Fabio Fognini as its No. 2 player. The No. 16 seed in Melbourne, Fognini will face Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.

Daniel Evans, the No. 30 seed, carries some serious momentum into his all-English first-round showdown with Cameron Norrie. Evans claimed the first ATP title of his career on Sunday, scoring a convincing 6-2, 6-3 victory over Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Murray River Open. He appears to be rounding into form at exactly the right time.

“I didn’t play great in the first two rounds,” said Evans. “I didn’t feel great at all. Hanging in, I found my level in the end and here we are. I played good tennis the past three matches, probably some of the best stuff I’ve ever played.”

David Goffin, the No. 13 seed and a quarter-finalist in 2017, will take the court against Australian wild card Alexei Popyrin. Also among the featured first-round matches are No. 21 Alex de Minaur vs. Tennys Sandgren; Guido Pella vs. No. 22 Borna Coric; and Sam Querrey vs. No. 31 Lorenzo Sonego.

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Djokovic Fires Warning To Australian Open Title Rivals

  • Posted: Feb 08, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic fired a warning to his Australian Open title rivals on Monday night with an awesome performance on Rod Laver Arena.

The eight-time champion experienced no let-downs in his quality of play after he swept past the experienced Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 in just one hour and 31 minutes.

“It feels great to play in front of big crowd,” said Djokovic, in an on-court interview. “We hope the circumstances will pass soon and I’m really glad to see a lot of people here. I have an ongoing love affair with Rod Laver Arena, and I hope to have these kind of performances again. I’m lucky to have a lot of good memories on this court.”

Djokovic is bidding to become the second man in history to win at least nine major championship crowns at the same tournament, after Rafael Nadal, who has won 13 Roland Garros titles.

Djokovic, who hit 41 winners, will next face American Frances Tiafoe, who knocked out Great Ocean Road Open runner-up Stefano Travaglia 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 51 minutes.

Djokovic bookended the 32-minute first set with service breaks, then ran through a 22-minute second set, hitting 11 winners from 25 points, with no unforced errors. Chardy ended a seven-game losing streak from 3-4 in the first set with a service hold in the sixth game of the second set.

The 33-year-old, who represented 2020 champion Serbia at the ATP Cup last week, playing each of the Group A ties on Rod Laver Arena, didn’t give Chardy an opportunity to get into the match.

Djokovic broke in the first game of the third set, then clinched another break with a superb, angled backhand winner off a Chardy drop shot. He closed out with his ninth ace, having lost just nine of his first-service points.

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Zverev Battles Past Giron At Australian Open

  • Posted: Feb 08, 2021

Alexander Zverev was made to feel more than a little uncomfortable on Monday as he began his Australian Open campaign with a hard-fought victory.

Competing just two days after helping Germany reach the ATP Cup semi-finals, sixth seed Zverev dug deep to beat American Marcos Giron 6-7(8), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 42 minutes for a place in the second round.

“He played incredibly well and played really well on the big stage against a Top 10 player,” said Zverev in an on court interview. “He had me on the ropes and the second set could have gone either way. I didn’t want to go two sets down. I am happy to get through and in the end I played better. The first round of a Slam is never easy.”

Giron recovered from 2-4 down in the first set, but could not convert four set points in the tie-break at 6/3 and 7/6, before Zverev held a set-point chance of his own at 8/7. Giron held on, striking a forehand winner, and earned three consecutive points to clinch the 59-minute opener.

Zverev led 5-2 in the second set, but got frustrated with Giron’s potency — he won 20 of 22 first-service points — and let the American back in. But the lapse was temporary as Zverev performed strongly in the tie-break, and went on to break early in the third and fourth sets.

Zverev, who hit 50 winners, including 16 aces, against Giron, went 1-2 in singles play for Germany at last week’s ATP Cup in Melbourne. The 23-year-old will next play American qualifier Maxime Cressy or lucky loser Taro Daniel of Japan at Melbourne Park.

Elsewhere, French No. 32 seed Adrian Mannarino knocked out Dennis Novak of Austria 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(2) and now plays Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, who defeated Kamil Majchrzak of Poland 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

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