The player landed in Melbourne to play in the Australian Open amid a row over his vaccination status.
The tennis player had been controversially exempted from vaccination rules for the Australian Open.
The final two semi-final spots are on the line on Thursday at ATP Cup on Ken Rosewall Arena and Qudos Bank Arena. A Top-10 clash between Daniil Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini headlines the winner-takes-all Russia v Italy tie, with both also looking to make an impact on the doubles court. Meanwhile any of the four teams can still qualify from Group C…
Here are the five things that matter most ahead of Day 6 at the ATP Cup.
‘Beauty’ Of The Group Stage Format
The standings are tighter-than-tight in Group C going into the final round of matches. Any of the four teams can still qualify for the semi-finals in what is set to be a dramatic day on Qudos Bank Arena.
Team Great Britain captain Liam Broady thinks the format, in which head-to-head match results between two teams take precedence over matches and sets won, is perfect for creating final-day drama. “I think the beauty of the groups is the way they’re scored,” said Broady before Great Britain’s final match with the USA, “There is everything to play for on the last day.”
Matches, sets, and even games won can nonetheless have an impact when it comes to the final standings. Felix Auger-Aliassime, whose Canada team needs to beat Germany to give themselves a chance, acknowledged that every match was still crucial. “It was a shame that we went down 3-0 against the US,” said Auger-Aliassime. “We would be in a better position if we’d got one point.”
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Team GB Looks To Evo
Dan Evans has been in scintillating form this week in Sydney, yet Great Britain’s No. 2 singles player is solely focused on how his team qualifies for the semi-finals in Group C.
“I played well, but it’s not about me right now,” said Evans following the 2-1 loss to Team Canada. “We didn’t get it done as a team. We have to dust ourselves down and get going again. We can still go through. That’s the important thing right now.”
The World No. 25 backed up his opening 6-1, 6-2 singles win over Team Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Canada’s Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday. Britain was beaten 6-4, 6-1 in the deciding doubles, however, meaning it needs a victory against Team USA to have a chance of going through.
Evans and the American tasked with stopping him, World No. 24 John Isner, have an ATP Head2Head series record of 1-1, while the No. 1 singles match is also intriguingly poised – Indian Wells titlist Cameron Norrie and World No. 23 Taylor Fritz share an ATP Head2Head record of 4-4. With several strong doubles pairing options also available for both teams, Evans and Isner will be key in acquiring early momentum on Qudos Bank Arena.
Zverev Hopes Struff Can ‘Make My Job Easy’ Again
World No. 3 Alexander Zverev will look to the performance of his countryman Jan-Lennard Struff to set the tone for Germany against Team Canada.
Prior to Tuesday, Struff held a 0-4 ATP Head2Head record against his American opponent John Isner, but set Team Germany on its way to victory with a 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-5 win. Zverev later acknowledged the impact of winning the first point of the tie. “I think we needed that win. We needed to get on the board,” said Zverev. “It made my job easy, as well. If you’re up 1-0, it’s obviously much nicer to play.”
“For me personally it was very important”, added Struff. “But more important was the win for Germany.” He faces World No. 14 Denis Shapovalov, who he leads 5-2 in ATP Head2Head meetings, in the No. 2 singles match.
Zverev is then aiming to finish Group C with a 100 per cent singles record when he takes on World No. 11 Auger-Aliassime. The German holds a 4-1 ATP Head2Head lead over the young Team Canada captain. Both teams could qualify for the semi-finals with a win.
Hosts Seek Final Flourish
Team Australia’s 3-0 defeat to Russia on Tuesday may have ended their chances of qualifying from Group B, but the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd is not one to be taken lightly.
As No. 2 singles player James Duckworth told ATPTour.com this week, a night session match on Ken Rosewall Arena is motivation enough. “Demon [Alex de Minaur] and I have grown up here in Sydney, so it will be cool to have friends and family out to support,” Duckworth said. “Playing for the green and gold is always a special occasion.”
Duckworth recently broke into the Top 50 for the first time in his career and will be looking to sign off his debut ATP Cup campaign with a strong showing in his first ever tour-level meeting with World No. 58 Arthur Rinderknech. France’s Ugo Humbert, who sensationally beat Medvedev in his opening singles match in Sydney, will hope to improve on his 1-0 ATP Head2Head lead against De Minaur.
Doubles To The Fore For Medvedev, Berrettini
Adjusting from singles to doubles court is never easy, but Medvedev is confident in his abilities.
The World No. 2 singles star played just five doubles matches in 2021 but says he can already feel improvement after partnering Roman Safiullin in wins over France and Australia. “I don’t play a lot, so of course it’s not easy for me because it’s different tactics, different shots you need to make,” said Medvedev after the Australian win. “I’m learning every day and these two matches showed some great strengths I can have in doubles.”
On Thursday he will partner Safiullin again for defending champion Team Russia, in its crunch Group B match with Italy.
The Italian doubles pairing will also be one to watch. Berrettini admitted he had only first practiced doubles with Jannik Sinner the day before they played together against France on Tuesday, but never thought it would be a problem. “I think it takes time to play the best way possible, but we are good tennis players, so we don’t need a lot of time,” Berrettini said. “Today I think we showed that.”
Russia will hope for more heroics in the singles from their ‘new secret weapon’ Safiullin against World No. 10 Sinner. Medvedev and Berrettini (2-0 in ATP Head2Head) will then play for the first time since the 2021 ATP Cup final, when the Russian ran out a 6-4, 6-2 winner to seal the trophy for his team.
SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 6 JANUARY 2022
KEN ROSEWALL ARENA start 10:00 am
Group B – Russia v Italy, Day Session
R. Safiullin (RUS) vs J. Sinner (ITA)
D. Medvedev (RUS) vs M. Berrettini (ITA)
Subject to change – D. Medvedev (RUS) / R. Safiullin (RUS) vs M. Berrettini (ITA) / J. Sinner (ITA)
Group B – France v Australia, Night Session
A. Rinderknech (FRA) vs [WC] J. Duckworth (AUS)
Not Before 7:00 pm
U. Humbert (FRA) vs [WC] A. de Minaur (AUS)
Subject to change – F. Martin (FRA) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs [WC] J. Peers (AUS) / L. Saville (AUS)
QUDOS BANK ARENA start 10:00 am
Group C – Great Britain v United States, Day Session
D. Evans (GBR) vs J. Isner (USA)
C. Norrie (GBR) vs T. Fritz (USA)
Subject to change – J. Murray (GBR) / J. Salisbury (GBR) vs T. Fritz (USA) / J. Isner (USA)
Group C – Germany v Canada, Night Session
J. Struff (GER) vs D. Shapovalov (CAN)
Not Before 7:00 pm
A. Zverev (GER) vs F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
Subject to change – K. Krawietz (GER) / T. Puetz (GER) vs F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) / D. Shapovalov (CAN)
World number one Ashleigh Barty marks her return to the court with a gritty win against American teenager Coco Gauff in Adelaide.
Jaume Munar beat former World No. 3 Kevin Anderson for the first time in their third ATP Head2Head meeting on Wednesday at the Melbourne Summer Set. Munar won 6-4, 6-4 in hour and 50 minutes, and next plays Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen.
Slovakia’s Alex Molcan, the Belgrade Open finalist (l. to Djokovic) last season, wore down Italian qualifier Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 in two hours and 31 minutes for a second-round meeting against fourth-seeded Belgian David Goffin.
Alexei Popyrin, who earned a career-best 22 match wins in 2021, began his year with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win over Stefano Travaglia of Italy in one hour and 44 minutes. The Australian next challenges Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands.
Elsewhere, Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis knocked out Marcos Giron of the United States 7-5, 6-4 in 90 minutes for a clash against top-seeded Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park.
It is “appalling” that Novak Djokovic can enter the country for the Australian Open, locals say.
Pablo Carreno Busta earned his third consecutive win of the season Wednesday, overcoming Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-4 to book Spain’s place in the semi-finals at ATP Cup in Sydney.
Following Chile’s victory over Norway, Spain needed just one win in its final Group A tie against 2020 champion Serbia to secure a place in semi-finals, where it will play Poland.
In the No. 2 singles match, Carreno Busta, who defeated Alejandro Tabilo and Viktor Durasovic earlier this week, played aggressively against Krajinovic, firing 30 winners and breaking three times to triumph after 80 minutes.
“It was the best match of the group,” Carreno Busta said in his on-court interview. “I am close to 100 per cent. Today I played very well, very aggressively, very solid. I feel very comfortable on court, so it is going well.”
In a dominant performance, Carreno Busta stepped inside the baseline and demonstrated great footwork to dictate with his forehand on Ken Rosewall Arena to improve his ATP Head2Head series record against Krajanovic to 2-1.
“I was very focused on trying to do my best,” Carreno Busta added. “I know Filip is a great opponent. He is very aggressive on return, but I think I served well and I was very solid from the baseline and I dominated more than him, which was the key.”
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In the second match of the tie, Roberto Bautista Agut laid down a marker, moving past Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-4 to give Spain an unassailable 2-0 lead against Serbia.
“I had to play very well,” Bautista Agut said in his on-court interview. “It was very intense. We had to play a lot of rallies because both of us made a lot of returns, so we had to play every point. I am very happy to have won the match in two sets today.”
The World No. 19, who is making his third ATP Cup appearance, won 90 per cent (28/31) of his first-serve points and played consistently from the baseline to triumph after 84 minutes. With his victory, Bautista Agut has maintained his perfect record against Lajovic, extending his lead in their ATP Head2Head series to 5-0.
“The humidity on the court was very tough and we needed some matches coming from Europe,” Bautista Agut added. “I am really happy I have won three matches and that Spain is in the semi-finals.”
It is the second time the pair has met at ATP Cup, with Bautista Agut downing the World No. 33 in the championship match in 2020, before Novak Djokovic turned the tie around for Serbia.
In the final match of the tie, Serbian duo Nikola Cacic and Matej Sabanov edged Pedro Martinez and Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7(5), 6-3, 10-5 in one hour and 48 minutes.
ATP Cup format sees the No. 2 singles played first, followed by the No. 1 singles and the doubles. Doubles uses no-ad scoring and a Match Tie-break in place of a third set.
Each country plays three matches in group play from 1-6 January across Ken Rosewall Arena and Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney Olympic Park. One team emerges from each of the four groups to contest the two semi-finals, which will be split over two days (7-8 January), with the final played 9 January.
See the semi-final qualifying scenarios
Greece earned its first Group D victory on Wednesday at the ATP Cup, following wins for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Michail Pervolarakis, who recorded his first tour-level victory in Sydney.
World No. 4 Tsitsipas was leading Nikoloz Basilashvili 4-1 in the first set, but the Georgian returned to his Team Zone complaining of breathing difficulties after two points of the sixth game. “It’s not easy playing when you’re not 100 per cent, but I completely understand,” said Tsitsipas.
In a fantastic doubles match, Georgia’s Aleksandre Bakshi and Aleksandre Metreveli saved three match points for a 4-6, 6-3, 16-14 victory over Pervolarakis and Tsitsipas in one hour and 34 minutes. The Greeks held match points at 9/8, 11/10 and 13/12 in the Match Tie-break.
Greece lost to Poland 2-1 and Argentina 3-0 in its two previous Group D ties.
In the No. 2 singles match, 25-year-old Pervolarakis earned his first ATP Cup singles victory for Greece with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Aleksandre Metreveli of Georgia in 68 minutes on Qudos Bank Arena. Pervolarakis said, “It’s unbelievable. It’s my first ATP Tour singles match win.”
Pervolarakis made the most of his opportunity, breaking Metreveli for a 4-2 lead in the first set with a forehand return winner down the line. The 25-year-old recovered from 0/30 when serving for the set, which lasted 37 minutes, closing out on his fourth opportunity. Two breaks of serve — in the first and seventh games — were enough in the second set, which ended with a Metreveli backhand error.
“I’m really excited I was able to get that win for my country and for myself,” said World No. 399 Pervolarakis. “Right now I’m at [an ATP] Ranking where I’m not able to play ATP events weekly, but my goal is to just improve [over the] next year.”
Edouard Roger-Vasselin has been in pain for years. Since 2014, the Frenchman has struggled with his right hip, so much so that he had to stop playing singles at the end of 2016. According to the 38-year-old, he spent more time in the physiotherapist’s room than on the tennis court.
But his biggest blow came last April, when Roger-Vasselin played football with his seven-year-old son, Mateo.
“He was faster than me. I am supposed to be an athlete and I couldn’t play football with my son. Even he was like, ‘Dad you’re too slow, go be the goalkeeper! I don’t want you on my team!’” Roger-Vasselin told ATPTour.com. “I remember perfectly that time when I was like, ‘I need to do something.’
“I have time to play with my kids and I want to be able to play football or do sports with my kids. The quality of life was terrible. If I just had a walk with my wife on the beach, after 30 minutes we had to sit and to stop.”
This was not general soreness or a dull pain. Although Roger-Vasselin has never had a knife in his body, he likened the pain to being stabbed.
“The body reacted every time to protect the pain,” Roger-Vasselin said. “Every time I tried to tie my shoes, the body was reacting and at the end I couldn’t really tie my shoes. The pain was there from the morning until the evening.”
Last July, enough had been enough. Roger-Vasselin decided to undergo hip resurfacing — the same surgery Bob Bryan and Andy Murray had — on his right hip. The Frenchman admitted he was scared of going through with it. He consulted Bryan and Murray as he deliberated.
“Bob told me to do it right away. He said it was amazing and I had to do it,” Roger-Vasselin said. “Andy and I had a couple of discussions and he said he felt much better after. At the end it was my choice, but for quality of life I had no other option.
“To see them also come back on Tour and have some success, the decision was easy. But it took time to decide… I’m really glad I did it. I was scared to do it. Of course, it was hard. But now I’m really happy.”
The early days of Roger-Vasselin’s recovery were not easy. The first week, he recalled, was “really, really bad”.
“It was really painful, to be honest. Then it was quite quick to get back on my feet, to have a regular life. After four weeks, I was able to walk without crutches. I was able to enjoy normal life for another month and then after two months I started to go back to rehab and get back the strength of my leg, because I was really weak,” Roger-Vasselin said. “For personal life, it’s amazing. Going back on court to be an athlete, it took time. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Then I could feel from the beginning of December, this was good.”
Now the Frenchman has no pain. And if anything, the time off gave him a mental reset, as he got to spend a lot of time with his family and friends. The ATP Cup, where he is a member of Team France, is Roger-Vasselin’s first event back.
What is exciting for Roger-Vasselin — who will play with Rohan Bopanna this year — is that even when he was in pain, he performed well. Just 14 months ago, the former doubles World No. 6 made the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals with Jurgen Melzer.
“If I could play with one leg and a half, let’s see what happens with two legs now. I’m really looking forward to it,” Roger-Vasselin said. “I know it’s going to be a long process, but if I’m capable of playing without pain and growing my physical options, I deeply have the feeling I can be much better than I was. Let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Before Roger-Vasselin went under the knife six months ago, he made a deal with his son: They were going to play football in a few months.
“I was like, ‘Listen kid, in three months I’m going to be faster than you.’ He was like, ‘No chance daddy, I know you!’” Roger-Vasselin said. “I was really happy, proud of the work I had done. Now I killed him on the football field in November and December! He was so devastated that he’s slower than me now. But of course he was happy for me and it was maybe the best win of the year, that I could be faster than my son.”