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Djokovic: 'It's Kind Of A Gamble To Play'

  • Posted: Feb 14, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic says that his abdominal pain was bearable in his fourth-round victory over Milos Raonic on Sunday, but competing at the Australian Open “was kind of a gamble”.

The eight-time champion, who suffered the injury in his five-sets victory over Taylor Fritz on Friday, underwent an MRI scan in Melbourne and did not practise ahead of his clash against Raonic on Rod Laver Arena.

“It’s kind of a gamble,” said Djokovic, who had his abdominal muscles taped up against Raonic. “That’s what [the] medical team told me. It’s really unpredictable… It could cause much more damage than it is at the moment, but it also could go in a good direction. So that’s something that I don’t know, and I don’t think I will also know until I stop taking painkillers.

“As long as I’m with high dose of painkillers, I guess, still [I] can bear some of the pain. But the tricky thing with the painkillers is that they kind of hide what’s really happening in there, so you might not feel it, but then the big damage might be done.”

Djokovic, who will next play sixth seed Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open so soon after their epic ATP Cup clash, admitted he took the decision to play Raonic only a few hours before the match began.

“I didn’t know [a] few hours before I stepped on the court tonight whether I was going [to] play or not,” said the 33-year-old. “I didn’t hit a tennis ball yesterday. I tried to use every single hour possible to recover and give myself at least a little bit of chance to step on the court, which I have done.

“But I somehow managed to find a way and win, and that’s what matters the most. Now I’ve got another 40 hours or something like that until the next match, which is great about Grand Slams. You get that day, [a] day-and-a-half in between to really rest. So, most likely, I won’t be training tomorrow and just go back to [my] recovery routine and hope that things will get better.”

Asked about the potential long-term effects of the injury, Djokovic added, “I have talked a lot with my own medical team and also the medical team of Tennis Australia — the Australian Open. They all share opinion that there is a slight, very slight, slim chance that I will make significant damage that would take me out of the Tour for [an] extended period of time.

“There is always a risk that the injury will get worse, but they don’t think it’s going to be very significantly worse that it’s going to jeopardise my entire season… I really don’t know exactly how far I’m going to go with this injury or how far I’m going to go in the tournament. There is still potentially three matches to go, and it’s only going to get tougher and tougher for me on the court.”

Djokovic has a 5-2 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Zverev, who beat No. 23 seed Dusan Lajovic in straight sets on Sunday.

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Djokovic Nets Major Milestone, Now For Zverev At Australian Open

  • Posted: Feb 14, 2021

Eight-time champion Novak Djokovic worked hard on Sunday night for a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals for the 12th time.

The World No. 1 became only the second man (after Roger Federer) to record 300 match wins at the four Grand Slam championships (300-45) with a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Canadian No. 14 seed Milos Raonic in two hours and 56 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

Most Grand Slam Singles Match Wins (Open Era, as of 14 February 2021)

Rank Player Win-Loss Record
1) Roger Federer (SUI) 362-59
2) Novak Djokovic (SRB) 300-45
3) Rafael Nadal (ESP) 284-39
4) Jimmy Connors (USA) 233-49
5) Andre Agassi (USA) 224-53

Djokovic showed few signs of the abdominal muscle injury that he picked up in his third-round victory over No. 27 seed Taylor Fritz on Friday, striking 41 winners — including 10 aces — past Raonic. Djokovic improves to a perfect 12-0 ATP Head2Head record against the Canadian, who struck 26 aces and had strapping applied to his right ankle in the second set.

“I had no preparation for this match,” said Djokovic. “I used every hour I had to recover since the Taylor match. My physio and those of the ATP and Australian Open gave me their best support to get on the court. I have definitely been fitter in the past and I will continue to take each day one at a time.”

The 33-year-old Djokovic, who is six matches unbeaten in 2021, will now challenge sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev, who beat No. 23 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia earlier in the day at Melbourne Park. Djokovic leads Zverev 5-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, including a 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-5 victory at the recent ATP Cup.

“Sascha is one of the top men’s players in the past five years,” said Djokovic. “He has won the [Nitto] ATP Finals title and is an established Top 10 player. He has the weapons, a big serve and moves well for his height. We played an exhausting match at the ATP Cup recently and I won’t expect anything less when we meet in the quarter-finals.”


Raonic quickly tested out Djokovic with powerful serves, curious to see the full extent of the Serbian’s movement. But the Canadian was the first to come under pressure at 3-3, when Djokovic hit a forehand into the net on his first break point. Djokovic won the first three points of the tie-break and clinched the 56-minute opener when Raonic struck a forehand slice into the net off a deep forehand.

Djokovic continued to do a good job of keeping Raonic in baseline rallies, but could not convert one break point in the second game of the second set. Raonic came through a medical time out for a right ankle injury after the third game and broke Djokovic’s serve for the first time at 2-2 with a forehand crosscourt winner. Raonic won four straight points at the end of the second set, which lasted 49 minutes.

Top seed Djokovic broke in the fourth and sixth game of the third set, which he wrapped up with quick reactions on a backhand volley. The Serbian committed just four unforced errors in the 29-minute set, and kept the pressure on 2016 semi-finalist Raonic, who appeared to be hampered by his ankle injury on return of serve.

Raonic recovered from 15/40 at 1-1 in the fourth set, but Djokovic broke decisively at 4-4. The Serbian joined Federer (362-59) in the 300 match wins club at the major championships with a hold to 15, and now has two days to prepare for Zverev.

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Preview: Fabio Weighs Risk & Reward Against Rafa

  • Posted: Feb 14, 2021

It’s been a lopsided rivalry, really. Rafael Nadal boasts a 12-4 advantage in ATP Head2Heads against Fabio Fognini dating back to 2013. No, it’s not Borg-McEnroe or Sampras-Agassi. It’s not Fedal. But there’s something to this Spanish-Italian match-up that makes it unlike any other.

Perhaps it was their dust-up during the Hamburg final in 2015, when Nadal snapped a two-match skid against Fognini, prevailing 7-5, 7-5. Courtside microphones picked up Fognini, who amassed 60 unforced errors that afternoon, airing out his frustration at his opponent.

Fognini would famously avenge the loss later that same year at Flushing Meadows. Playing some of the most aggressive tennis of his career, the flamboyant and fiery Italian roared back from two sets down in the third round to pull off one of the most stunning upsets in US Open history, winning 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. The match, which lingered until 1:30 a.m., featured some dazzling shot-making, including 70 winners from the victor.

The loss was a significant one for Nadal, then No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. It officially ended the Mallorcan’s streak of winning at least one Grand Slam title a year for 10 consecutive years. It remains his only loss after taking a two-sets-to-love lead.

Fognini had never beaten a Top 10 player on a hard court in 17 previous attempts.

“[It] was something incredible that I did today,” Fognini told reporters afterward. “With Rafa, you have to risk. You have to attack him when you have the chance.”

That storyline continues in 2021. Fognini and Nadal, now 33 and 34, respectively, will face off for a 17th time on Monday in the fourth round at the Australian Open. Despite the history, both players insist there’s no ill will between them.

“The past is the past,” said 16th seed Fognini, who impressed with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory over home favourite and No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur in the third round. “The future is going to be the future.”

“I have a very good relationship with him,” said the second seed Nadal, who despite some lower back tightness is looking sharp in his quest for a record 21st Grand Slam singles title. “Of course, we had our story on court a couple of years ago, but no problem at all after that. I always try to have a good relationship with everybody in the locker room. Life is much happier like this, no?

“With Fabio, I never had a big problem. Just on court that one time. I was speaking with him now in the locker room. When he’s playing well, he’s one of the most dangerous opponents on tour without a doubt.”

Andrey Rublev strikes 33 winners to beat Feliciano Lopez in straight sets at the Australian Open on Saturday.

We’ve seen some stellar starts in tennis. John McEnroe kicked off his 1984 campaign with a 42-match win streak, finishing the year at 82-3. More recently, Novak Djokovic won his first 41 matches in 2011 en route to a 70-6 mark. Andrey Rublev isn’t quite there yet, but the tennisphere is fast taking notice of the Russian’s start to 2021.

After a straight-sets, 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 dispatch of Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the third round, Rublev, the seventh seed at Melbourne Park, is a spotless 7-0 on the year, a streak that includes a title with his countrymen at the ATP Cup.

Last year, the Russian won his first 11 matches of the season, claiming titles in Doha and Adelaide before falling to David Goffin in the fourth round at Melbourne Park. When he gets on a run, he’s very difficult to stop. Also last year, Rublev won 19 of 20 matches during a hot streak that reaped titles in Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna and a quarter-final appearance (l. Tsitsipas) at Roland Garros.

Into the Round of 16 at the Australian Open for the second year in a row, Rublev will next face 24th seed Casper Ruud of Norway.

“He’s been one of the best players on Tour the last seven, eight, nine months, so I’m up for a big test on Monday,” said Ruud, only the second Norwegian player to reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam. (The first was his father and coach, Christian, at this same tournament in 1997.)

“It’s going to be a physical match because he has really great physical power,” said Rublev, whose two wins over Ruud came in Hamburg in 2019 and 2020. “He can run a lot. He’s hitting the forehand really hard.”

This from a player who, despite his slight 165-pound build, possesses a penetrating, heavy-ball forehand usually reserved for the likes of a Juan Martin del Potro or Fernando Gonzalez. It’s the kind of shot that leaves commentators wondering aloud over the airwaves: Where does that firepower come from?

Daniil Medvedev is chasing his maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

With Rublev and ATP Cup teammates Daniil Medvedev and Aslan Karatsev all advancing, this is the first time in the Open Era that three Russian men have reached the Round of 16 at the Australian Open. Like Rublev, the fourth seed Medvedev has yet to lose in 2021. (In fact, he’s riding a 17-match win streak that dates back to November 2020.) He’ll look to keep that going when he takes the court against the only American man remaining in the draw: Mackenzie McDonald. The 192nd-ranked former UCLA standout has battled injuries of late, but appears to be putting it all together again. (See his 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 upending of 22nd seed Borna Coric in the second round.)

“He’s tricky, man,” said McDonald of his next opponent, against whom he’s 0-2. “Honestly, he makes a ton of balls. He’s got amazing reach. His serve is really good. Returns, exceptional. I mean, he can really do everything. It’s showing with his ranking and his results. That’s been definitely a struggle for me in the past playing him. He’s made me feel uncomfortable. But, hopefully, I can take all those matches into consideration for my next one and I’ll plan accordingly and hopefully I can make the best of it.”

Rounding out the action on Day 8 will be a hard-hitting affair between fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and ninth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini. This won’t be their first encounter in Melbourne. In fact, in their only career ATP Head2Head, Tsitsipas downed Berrettini in the opening round of the Australian Open, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4). in 2019. Tsitsipas has twice reached the Round of 16 here, his best result a semi-final showing in 2019 (l. to Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-0).

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Zverev Wins 50th Grand Slam Match, Beats Lajovic In Melbourne

  • Posted: Feb 14, 2021

Alexander Zverev was impressive on Sunday, as he recorded his 50th major championship match win for a place in the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second consecutive year.

The German struck 44 winners, including 15 aces, to beat No. 23 seed Dusan Lajovic 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3 in two hours and 21 minutes for a place in his fifth Grand Slam quarter-final.

“Today was a pretty good match, much colder than the other days,” said Zverev. “I’m very happy with a win and it could have gone either way early on. It wasn’t easy.”

Zverev will now prepare to face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the eight-time Australian Open champion, on Tuesday. Zverev trails Djokovic 2-5 in their ATP Head2Head series.

When asked about the match-up Zverev said: “You’ve got to play your best tennis, especially here. This is his favourite court, this is his favourite tournament. To be able to have a chance against him, you have to be playing extremely well. You have to be playing aggressive tennis, being the one that dominates. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think it’s one of the toughest challenges in our sport.”

Lajovic started positively in his bid to beat Zverev for the first time in three ATP Head2Head meetings. But groundstroke errors started to mount for Lajovic and Zverev recovered, breaking serve in the third and seventh games. Lajovic saved one set point at 3-5, with a superb backhand winner off a Zverev return.

Following an exchange of service breaks late in the second set, Zverev dominated in the tie-break and kept his Serbian opponent deep behind the baseline. Zverev clinched the second set with a mid-court forehand winner, then capitalised on four Lajovic errors at 1-2 in the third set. Zverev completed victory by striking his 15th ace.

“I played some quality tennis today… and I felt really good on the court, [for the] first time in a while,” said Lajovic. “I’m positive [about] this tournament. I’m disappointed right now, but [I’m] looking towards [the] future. I think I’m in a good spot.”

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The Competitive Fire That Burns Within Casper Ruud

  • Posted: Feb 14, 2021

Casper Ruud will play the biggest match of his life on Monday against seventh seed Andrey Rublev in the fourth round of the Australian Open. The Norwegian star will have a chance to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final, so there will be an abundance of pressure on the 22-year-old’s shoulders.

Ruud would rather have it no other way.

The 24th seed lives for these moments. Many players dread pressure and the nerves that often come with big matches, but Ruud embraces it all.

“It shows that your body is pumping up adrenaline to fight,” Ruud told “You really show yourself that you’re preparing for a tough fight, for a tough moment. It shows that you really want to win and that’s a good feeling. You prefer to play when you’re not nervous of course. You can get tight, you can maybe miss shots that you shouldn’t. But at the end of the day, I’ve learned that being nervous is actually a good thing.”

When you watch Ruud play, he shows few emotions, and rarely displays his nerves. The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor never gets too high or too low. It’s as if the Norwegian has ice in his veins. But inside, he is a fiery competitor.

“Overcoming pressure situations when you’re nervous on break points, set points, all these things, that’s probably the best feeling for a player,“ Ruud said. “That tension that you get in your body on those points and overcoming it, that’s one of the biggest satisfactions on the court. It’s tough when you lose them when you don’t get that feeling, but that makes the time you overcome those situations feel even better.”

Competing drives Ruud off the court, too. He is an avid golfer, who has a dedicated Instagram page to show the world his skills on the course.

“I like to win when I play, so I challenge better golfers than me, worse golfers than me,” Ruud said. “It’s just the challenge of trying to win and get better at it.”

But while he doesn’t often show it, Ruud admitted that he does feel nerves, saying, “I get nervous too, even if it might not seem like it.”

The Norwegian recalls the semi-finals of the 2017 Rio Open presented by Claro. Then 18, he began the week without a tour-level win, but earned a match point in the second set against gritty Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta. He was desperate to reach his first ATP Tour final that day in Brazil. But that moment remains the most nervous he has ever been on court.

“I knew that if I had won I would break into the Top 100 as an 18-year-old and I would play in all the main draws at the Slams that year,” Ruud said. “That was a little bit of a nerve-wracking moment for me. It all just collapsed when I didn’t win that second set. In the third set it all just went south and I remember I was really nervous on that match point and in those games trying to close out the match. I played a great match up until that point, but after that, the nerves got me.”

Ruud didn’t show it by screaming or throwing a racquet, but from 6-2, 5-4 up, he did not win a game the rest of the match and did not crack the Top 100 until March 2019, more than two years later.

The Norwegian played Roger Federer in the third round at 2018 Roland Garros, and the Swiss was highly complimentary of his opponent’s demeanor.

“I can see why he’s going to be good in the future. He’s got a great attitude, very calm, very quiet, maybe very Norwegian, I’m not sure,” Federer said. “But it’s nice to see that he’s very focused, he’s got good energy. Even though he is maybe more on the calm side, also very fair… It’s just nice to play against a guy like that, to be quite honest.”

Rublev leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 2-0, but the red-hot Russian expects a difficult battle.

“It’s going to be tough,” Rublev said. “It’s going to be a physical match because he has really great physical power. He can run a lot. He’s [hitting his] forehand really hard.”

Ruud is just the second Norwegian player to reach the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam, joining his father Christian Ruud, who accomplished the feat at the 1997 Australian Open. The 22-year-old will try to become the first from his country to reach a quarter-final. No matter what happens, Ruud has come a long way since that day in Rio de Janeiro.

“I’ve grown up. I’ve matured more than I was back then. I’ve gotten physically stronger, mentally stronger. My tennis has gotten better. I don’t have weaknesses that I had,” Ruud said. “I think it’s just a big development that I’ve made in all aspects of my game. In one way I’m happy that I didn’t break into the Top 100 at that stage. It’s been tough, but I’ve enjoyed the tough work to get here and it’s a nice way to get a little bit of payback when you reach the late stages in a Grand Slam.”

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