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Djokovic’s ‘Season Of Giving’ Helps Build 2 Preschools

  • Posted: Feb 11, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic recently celebrated an early-season win off the tennis court as the Novak Djokovic Foundation raised nearly a quarter of a million euros to promote early childhood education in Serbia.

The Novak Djokovic Foundation’s third Season of Giving campaign rallied fans and supporters from around the world to raise €108,000 with the goal of opening a preschool in both Vajska and Ljubis, two villages in Serbia. Novak and his wife, Jelena Djokovic, then matched the donations, ensuring that over 100 children will have access to crucial early education.

“Thank you so much for supporting our Season of Giving campaign. In the past two months, we’ve managed to raise €108.000!” Jelena, co-founder and Global CEO of the Novak Djokovic Foundation said. “We’ve reached our goal and exceeded our goal. Novak and I will match your donations, so we will have a quarter of a million to invest in opening two new kindergartens in Serbia in two villages. This means a lot to us.”


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With the donations, the foundation will be building the first preschool in the village of Ljubis, where children previously travelled around five kilometers every day to learn with their peers. For Vajska, a place where as many as 25 different national minorities live in harmony, the new preschool will aim to reach as many children from marginalised groups as possible.

“Thanks to social media, thanks to your word and support and help, we’ve had more than a thousand individuals who donated their money, and multiplied our message,” Jelena said. “This is something that means a lot to us. Thank you so much for believing in our mission, in our team, and for believing in their dreams.”

Since 2007, the Novak Djokovic Foundation has been an advocate for childhood education and inclusive early education that supports children from disadvantaged communities – especially in Novak’s and Jelena’s native Serbia. The Djokovic family also supported Serbia’s battle against COVID-19 last year, donating €1 million for the purchase of ventilators and medical equipment to support hospitals and medical institutions.

Did You Know?
The Novak Djokovic Foundation received an ATP ACES For Charity grant in 2013, 2017 and 2020. In 2012, Djokovic was named the ATP Tour’s Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year in the ATP Awards.

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Under The Lights, Rafa Shines Bright Against Mmoh

  • Posted: Feb 11, 2021

Rafael Nadal extended his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title on Thursday, when he defeated Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 at the Australian Open.

The second seed struck 40 winners and won 15 of 16 net points under the roof on Rod Laver Arena to claim victory in one hour and 47 minutes. Nadal is through to the Australian Open third round for the 15th time in 16 tournament appearances.

“I always try to be better [than the previous match]. Sometimes [I am] better, sometimes not,” said Nadal, in an on-court interview. “I think tonight has been a positive evening for me, winning in straight sets. [It is] great news, for everything.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has dropped a combined 15 games in his opening two matches, showing no signs of the back stiffness that forced him to miss playing duties at the ATP Cup and enter the year’s first major championship with no match practice in 2021.

Nadal is five wins away from becoming the first man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam on two occasions. The Spaniard owns a record 13 Roland Garros crowns, four US Open trophies and two Wimbledon titles, alongside his lone triumph at this event in 2009. Nadal has also finished as a runner-up in Melbourne on four occasions since he lifted the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup 12 years ago (2012, ’14, ’17, ’19).

Nadal quickly established control of his second-round match against Mmoh. The Spanish superstar stepped in on short balls to outmanoeuvre Mmoh with his forehand and earn an early break. Nadal ripped cross-court backhand winners to double his advantage and clinched the set after 27 minutes.

“I have been improving my backhand all my career,” said Nadal. “When I was younger, I was able to run everywhere. Now, I need to be able to have better shots and the backhand is an important shot for me. When I am playing well [with] the backhand, the court opens better for me. I can normally produce angles with the forehand, but when my backhand is working then normally I am able to play much better.”

Rafael Nadal owns a 67-14 record at the Australian Open.

Mmoh managed to hold serve comfortably throughout the majority of the second set, but Nadal pounced at 2-2 to claim the only break of the set. The Spaniard returned with aggression on his backhand side and Mmoh overhit on his groundstrokes to concede serve for the first time. 

Mmoh attempted to shorten points by increasing his number of visits to the net in the third set, it was a tactic which proved unsuccessful. Nadal won half of the points when the American charged the net (6/12), which included a sublime backhand passing shot to break serve at 2-2. Nadal drove a forehand winner up the line to add another break to his tally two games later and converted his first match point with a swinging serve into Mmoh’s backhand.

Following his first-round win against Laslo Djere, Nadal revealed that he had to adjust his service motion to lessen the stiffness in his back. The World No. 2 held serve comfortably throughout his night on Rod Laver Arena, as he served seven aces and won 84 per cent of his first-serve points (43/51). Nadal was not taken to deuce in any of his 13 service games.

Nadal will meet Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the third round. The 25-year-old recovered from a set down to overcome Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(3) in three hours and 31 minutes. Norrie and Safiullin’s match began on Court 8, but after a two-hour delay due to rain, it was moved to Margaret Court Arena in order to be completed.

“[Norrie] won two good matches,” said Nadal. “Winning against Evans… [who] came to the tournament winning the week before [at the Murray River Open]… He has experience on the Tour already. [It is] gonna be the toughest test, without a doubt. I need to be playing at high level if I want to keep having chances to be through. And I am looking forward to try to make that happen.”

Did You Know?
With victory against Mmoh, Nadal improved his record against qualifiers to 26-1 at Grand Slam events. The 34-year-old’s only loss to a qualifier at a major championship came in 2015, when Dustin Brown claimed a four-set win at Wimbledon.

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Medvedev In A Rush On 25th Birthday

  • Posted: Feb 11, 2021

When Daniil Medvedev led by a set and 4-1 on Thursday night, he looked to be in a rush for a dinner reservation in Melbourne to celebrate his 25th birthday. For a short time in the second set at the Australian Open, Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena had other ideas.

The fourth-seeded Russian grew increasingly frustrated by the resilience of Carballes Baena, but he eventually extended his winning streak to 16 matches unbeaten after a 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 win over one hour and 44 minutes on John Cain Arena.

“I have the momentum and I feel like I can do a lot things,” said Medvedev, who hit 35 winners, including 13 aces. “I hope I can keep it up. So far it’s working and I hope it doesn’t stop. There’s no time to celebrate my birthday in a tournament. I got presents from my wife, but I’ll soon look to my next match.”

Medvedev began his winning streak in November, picking up the Rolex Paris Masters (d. Zverev) and Nitto ATP Finals (d. Thiem) titles. He went a perfect 4-0 last week to help Russia to the ATP Cup crown (d. Italy) and defeated Vasek Pospisil of Canada in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

Medvedev will next look book his place in the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the third consecutive year with victory over Serbian No. 28 seed Filip Krajinovic on Saturday. Krajinovic beat Pablo Andujar of Spain 6-2, 5-7, 7-1, 6-4 in the second round.

Carballes Baena broke serve for a 2-1 advantage in the first set, which provoked Medvedev into action. Such was the Russian’s focus, he won 20 of the next 22 points and, at the end of the set asked, whether the net was a fraction too high. It was!

Daniil Medvedev claims his 16th consecutive match win to reach the Australian Open third round on Thursday.

Returning four metres behind the baseline, Medvedev came within one point of a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Carballes Baena kept fighting and broke in the seventh game en route to levelling at 4-4. Medvedev soon regrouped and capitalised on errors by striking two forehand winners to break at 6-5.

World No. 99 Carballes Baena missed a high smash at 1-2, 15/30, which sealed his fate in the third set. Medvedev rifled back a backhand return and stormed in for a winner to clinch the decisive break. He didn’t look back and completed the final game with a forehand winner and three aces.

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Five-Set Fabio: Fognini Saves M.P. In All-Italian Thriller

  • Posted: Feb 11, 2021

Fabio Fognini is no stranger to five-set matches. The Italian has contested 36 of them throughout his career (23-13), which now includes seven encounters at the Australian Open.

Fognini stepped onto John Cain Arena on Thursday holding a three-match winning streak in five-set clashes at the opening major championship of the year, and he extended that run to four victories by saving match point to overcome countryman Salvatore Caruso 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(12).

With neither player able to break serve in a fifth set which lasted 85 minutes, Fognini and Caruso required a Match Tie-break to decide the outcome of the match. Fognini trailed 1/5 in the match decider and saved match point at 10/11 with patience in an extended baseline rally.

The 16th seed made the crucial breakthrough at 12/12, as he charged behind the baseline and ripped a cross-court backhand passing shot winner to earn his fourth match point. Fognini fired a powerful serve out wide to clinch victory after three hours and 56 minutes.

“I am tired as I was fighting for every point,” said Fognini, in an on-court interview.. “I had chances in the fifth set, two at 15/40 [in the seventh and 11th games]. I played one really bad, then the other he served well. I was lucky in the Match Tie-break. When you play against a compatriot it’s always tough. I gave everything until the end. I was 1/5 down, then he played two bad points. At 5/5, anything was possible and I held on.”

Fognini has become an expert at surviving fifth-set Match Tie-breaks at the Australian Open. Since the tournament changed its match-ending format in 2019, the Italian has entered a fifth-set Match Tie-break on three occasions. He owns a 3-0 record in those matches. Fognini’s previous two wins in this format came in his opening two matches of last year’s event. The 33-year-old outlasted Reilly Opelka and Jordan Thompson en route to the fourth round.

If Fognini is to make it that far in Melbourne this year, he will need to get past Australian No. 1 Alex de Minaur in the third round. De Minaur advanced to the third round for the second time in Melbourne with a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 win against Pablo Cuevas. The 21st seed won 86 per cent of his first-serve points (44/51) to advance in one hour and 58 minutes.

“Pablo is a very skilled, veteran player and I had to be on my top game to get through tonight,” said De Minaur, in an on-court interview. “I am very happy with how I maintained my focus throughout the whole match. I played some great quality tennis and yet again, I am happy to be back.”

De Minaur has equalled his best Australian Open result by reaching the third round. The 21-year-old also made it to the third round in 2019, when he lost in straight sets to 2009 champion Rafael Nadal. De Minaur missed last year’s event with an abdominal injury.

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Russia's "Secret Weapon": Karatsev Shining Down Under

  • Posted: Feb 11, 2021

After Team Russia won the ATP Cup on Sunday, Daniil Medvedev stepped to the microphone to speak on behalf of his team during the trophy ceremony. The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion singled out countryman Aslan Karatsev, who did not play a live match during the event because of Medvedev and Andrey Rublev’s singles dominance.

“Aslan, I’m not joking, was a secret weapon for doubles,” Medvedev said. “He didn’t manage to show it because we didn’t have a 1-1 match, but he was our secret weapon.”

If Karatsev’s skills were a secret, they’re out in the open now. The 27-year-old beat Egor Gerasimov 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 on Wednesday to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

This is Karatsev’s first Grand Slam main draw. On nine previous occasions, the Russian fell in qualifying. This January in Doha, the World No. 114 finally broke through, and he is making the most of his opportunity.

“It was a long journey,” Karatsev said. “A lot of work [was] put in.”

Aslan Karatsev

In 2017, the Russian struggled with a knee injury, which he suffered while training in Spain. That kept him out for six months.

“From this moment it was really tough to get the confidence back and to feel the game,” Karatsev said. “It was not that easy.”

When Karatsev returned, he struggled to find his form again. When play was suspended last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Karatsev was outside the Top 250 of the FedEx ATP Rankings and he stopped playing for three months. But once the Russian learned play would resume in August, he trained hard to prepare, and came out of the gates firing.

“I just played really well in the three Challengers in a row in the Czech Republic,” Karatsev said. “Of course when you’re winning matches, you get more confidence. You feel more relaxed when you go out on the court.”

Karatsev found the best level of his career, winning 18 of his final 20 Challenger matches to end the season, with 16 of those victories coming in straight sets. That sent him to a career-high World No. 111 in November, positioning him to compete on Russia’s ATP Cup team.

“Of course it’s a really good feeling. It’s a good atmosphere first of all. You see the big players, how they’re playing,” Karatsev said. “I was on the Russian team and you see how Medvedev and Rublev are playing. You get some confidence and you see how they do things. It’s helped me a lot.”

Now Karatsev will have arguably the biggest opportunity of his career against eighth seed Diego Schwartzman. Rublev feels it will be a good test for his countryman.

“In the end of last year he was already showing a really great level… I knew that he would do even better this season and in the end he already passed two rounds. He beat great guys and now he’s going to play against Schwartzman,” Rublev said. “It’s going to be an interesting match. I think it’s going to be a challenge for him to see what he needs to improve and how the level is. Maybe he will have chances to win.”

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