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Federer, Kyrgios Among Stars To Congratulate Kokkinakis

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2022

It did not take long for a heartwarming story to come to the forefront during the 2022 ATP Tour season.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, whose career has been riddled by injury and illness, won his first tour-level title on Saturday at the Adelaide International 2. The 25-year-old Australian was visibly emotional within moments of clinching the championship.

“When I’m having good wins, playing in front of a packed house, it reminds you why you keep doing it, why you get up in the morning, do the training sessions, spend countless hours rehabbing what look like injuries you may never come back from. It just makes it all worth it,” Kokkinakis said. “In front of mum and dad, then seeing the tears in their eyes when I went to hug them after the match, they’re the moments you live for.

“Who knows, not a lot of people get the opportunity to win a title. For me to do it at home kind of in my comeback, I just started to play again, I hope this is just the beginning for me.”

In the aftermath of his big win, Kokkinakis has received plenty of support from his colleagues. Later in the evening, Kokkinakis revealed on Instagram that he had received a message from former World No. 1 Roger Federer.

“Maiden title at home big fella, love the sound of that Thanaser. Amazing… keep going,” Federer wrote.

One of the biggest wins of Kokkinakis’ career came against Federer in Miami in 2018. Then World No. 175, he became the lowest-ranked player to defeat a World No. 1 in 15 years. The Swiss was happy to compliment the Aussie.

“He’s a cool guy, a cool demeanour. I know him well. He’s been to Dubai to practice with me a couple of times,” Federer said at the time. “We have worked very hard together. I’ve always liked his game.”

Kokkinakis’ longtime friend, countryman Nick Kyrgios, was also quick to celebrate the victory.

“I’m so proud [especially with] everything you’ve been through my lil bro,” Kyrgios wrote in an Instagram story that featured an old photo of the pair together.

“Congrats!! Great to see you holding that trophy,” tweeted WTA legend Kim Clijsters.

It has been a long journey for Kokkinakis. Entering the season, he had made just one ATP Tour semi-final. Not only did he reach another last week in Adelaide, but he followed it up with his dream performance at the same venue this week.

It was not easy to get to this point, which wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott alluded to on social media.

“Seriously behind the scenes, the absolute mountain of work this dude has put in has been incredible to watch. And more importantly is a ripping bloke,” Alcott tweeted. “You bloody deserve this brother!”

Other stars who congratulated Kokkinakis on social media include Mark Philippoussis, Janko Tipsarevic, John Isner, Jeremy Chardy and Daria Saville (nee Gavrilova).

Kokkinakis will now prepare for his first-round match at the Australian Open against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann.

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Stars Weigh In On Upcoming Netflix Tennis Documentary Series

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2022

An upcoming Netflix series, which purportedly offers an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look at life on the ATP and WTA Tours a la the popular Formula 1: Drive to Survive, was all the buzz on Media Day at the Australian Open, with several players weighing in on news of its production.

“I was the first person to know about that before any of you,” Stefanos Tsitsipas told the gathered press with a grin. “I’m very privileged to be in it. I’ve watched Drive to Survive. I instantly became a huge fan of F1. I’m extremely happy they’re bringing this to tennis and making something similar in that sense.”

“I think it’s great thing for the ATP to try to promote the sport,” said Alexander Zverev. “I think tennis will gain younger fans through a Netflix documentary like Drive to Survive because [it] shows the inside of the sport, the pit lane, all that. I think the drama comes with it. I’m going to be very interested to see how it’s going to be with tennis because I am inside the locker room, I am inside with the players, so I know what it is like. It’s going to be interesting to see how much Netflix can show of that.”

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev says he watched all three seasons of Drive to Survive and looks forward to the tennis equivalent.

“I liked Formula 1 before watching it, so it’s not like I watched it and now I’m a Formula 1 fan. It’s really cool. We can never know how it’s going to work out in tennis. We can only know after the first season is out. But I think it’s exciting,” Medvedev said. “It’s great to bring more fans to the sport, to try at least, a younger generation maybe. They can see the inside a little bit.”

The series is being produced by Box To Box Films with James Gay Rees and Paul Martin serving as executive producers. Filming is already underway in Melbourne.

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Karatsev Overwhelms Dogged Murray To Claim Third ATP Title

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2022

Aslan Karatsev dominated Andy Murray to claim his third ATP Tour title at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Saturday.

Karatsev defeated the former World No. 1 6-3, 6-2 to deny Murray a 43rd career title. The Russian has now won three of the four ATP Tour finals he has contested, with his sole defeat coming against Matteo Berrettini in Belgrade in 2021.

It was Karatsev’s first ATP Tour final on Australian soil, but not the first success the Russian had experienced Down Under. It was 12 months ago, at the 2021 Australian Open, that Karatsev exploded on to the scene, winning eight matches to come through qualifying and reach the semi-finals before losing to Novak Djokovic.

Since becoming the first player in the Open Era to make the semi-finals of a Grand Slam on his debut, Karatsev has established himself as a formidable force on the ATP Tour, reaching a career-high World No. 15 after winning his second ATP Tour title in Moscow. Currently ranked World No. 20, Karatsev reached the Sydney final via three-set thrillers against Lorenzo Sonego and Daniel Evans, but he was dominant from the beginning of his first career meeting against Murray.

Murray had been broken just twice in 45 service games in Sydney coming into the match, but his serve was under pressure from the start against Karatsev, who set the tone with a clean return winner off Murray’s first serve to bring up two break points in Murray’s first service game. Consolidating the ensuing break to love, Karatsev played a near-perfect first set, striking 14 winners against just four unforced errors. His formidable returning contributed to Murray’s struggles on serve and by the time the British player double-faulted twice to go down 3-6, he had landed only 48 per cent of first serves compared to Karatsev’s 72 per cent.

Karatsev’s fautless performance continued in the second set as he immediately broke Murray’s serve for the third time.

The crowd on the Ken Rosewall Arena were in full voice as the British player managed to get on the board for 1-3 with an ace, and some typically dogged defence from Murray saw him secure his first break points of the match in the next game. In a 13-minute game, Karatsev fended off five break points and some of Murray’s best tennis of the day to hold for 4-1. Even Karatsev’s first double fault on match point only momentarily delayed his victory.

Karatsev follows in the footsteps of compatriot Daniil Medvedev, who won the Sydney Tennis Classic in 2019. He finished the 91-minute match with a total of 29 winners and 14 unforced errors, having saved all five break points he faced.

“I’d like to congratulate Aslan on a fantastic week. I know he also arrived here late in Australia, he was recovering from COVID, so even more impressive to come back straight away and play at that level. Good job and all the best for the Aussie Open,” Murray said after receiving the runner-up trophy.

“I’d like to thank my team who are here for all of their help this week. It’s my first time back in the finals for three years, it’s been a long road to get back here but I couldn’t have done it without all of your help so thank you.

“… I’d also like to say thank you to everyone who put the event on, this is my first time in Sydney, you did a fantastic job. It’s not easy times just now to run events but I really enkoyed it so thanks so much to everyone for putting this event on.

“Finally, to all of you who came out to support tonight, what an amazing atmosphere to play in, thank you, it was so good. I’ve really missed playing in front of these sorts of crowds and these sorts of matches. Unfortunately the result didn’t go my way tonight but I’ll keep trying my best to come back and have more nights like this.”

After lifting the trophy, Karatsev said: “First of all, congrats to Andy. Big effort to come back, to play unbelievable this week. I want to congratulate also your team.

“Thank you very much to my team, we are doing an amazing job. Thank you very much to everybody here for coming to support, it was an unbelievable atmosphere in a difficult situation. It’s a difficult time to make this tournament happen, so thank you to everyone.”

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Medvedev Talks The Talk, Walks The Walk

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2022

Daniil Medvedev was just 17, part of a promising crop of Russian juniors with Safin- and Kafelnikov-infused dreams. The Muscovite was on his way to a title on clay in Berlin when an interviewer asked him if his generation — himself, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, Roman Safiullin, et al — had the stuff to make it to the top of the game.

Medvedev, ever confident, predicted that the group indeed did.

“We were strong in the juniors,” said Medvedev, two days ahead of the Australian Open, where last year he finished as a runner-up to nine-time champion Novak Djokovic. “You’ll probably find many interviews of guys who say this and it doesn’t happen. For us, it happened. The more Russians we see in the Top 10, Top 30, Top 100, the better. My words were right.”

“It was definitely cool that it happened.”

It almost didn’t. Medvedev says that it wasn’t until 2017 that he truly committed himself to a future in tennis.

“There were some years in my junior career where I was still not sure if I was going to become professional or not, so I was doing more school stuff, university stuff, maybe practising less,” said Medvedev, who drew Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen in the opening round in Melbourne.

“Then I started thinking more about tennis. I was young, so I could do other stuff that would disturb me reaching my top potential. I think it was when I was 21 and I started working with Gilles [Cervara] full-time that I decided to be more concerned about my tennis career, to be more into it… I kind of made a deal with myself that if it didn’t work out, maybe I wouldn’t do it anymore. But it did work.”

Now 25, Medvedev is a major singles champion, having halted Novak Djokovic’s calendar-year Slam quest at the US Open in 2021. The World No. 2 — the first player not named Djokovic, Nadal, Federer or Murray to occupy the spot since 2005 — says his achievement in Flushing Meadows paid dividends far beyond the $2.5 million in prize money.

“It gave me a lot of confidence, I want to say, in my life and in my tennis life,” he said.

“Now I feel like I know even more what I can do, how I can play, what I have to do to play like this. Of course, tennis is about ups and downs. We never know what’s going to happen. But I’m feeling much more confident than last year in terms of knowing my game, what I’m capable of.”

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Where Does Medvedev Play Most Of His Points? The Answer Might Surprise You

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2022

What is the most abundant rally length in tennis?

For example, do players play more four-shot rallies, eight-shot rallies, or 13-shot rallies in their matches? The mathematical term is the mode, and it sheds light on the most misunderstood element of our sport.

Case in point: Daniil Medvedev at the 2021 Australian Open.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Medvedev’s 2021 Australian Open campaign, during which he reached the final, shows exactly where the Russian played the vast majority of his points. The eye test finds Medvedev deep in the court to return serve and hitting backhands cross court ad nauseam to wear down opponents. It feels like he is part man, part machine as he patrols the baseline with his ungainly and unbreakable groundstrokes. Visually, you could easily form an opinion that Medvedev is a glorified grinder and plays more six, seven or eight-shot rallies than anything else. The eye test is wrong. Dead wrong.

Medvedev plays more one-shot rallies than any other, and it’s not even close.

Rally length in tennis is predicated on the ball hitting the court, not the strings. A serve lands in and the return is missed long. That’s a rally length of one (one ball in the court) even though the ball was struck twice.

Medvedev played 28.5 per cent (349/1226) of total points as a one-shot rally in Melbourne in 2021 through seven matches. That includes all the points where he served the ball in and it was either an ace or a return error, and likewise for his opponent. The next highest total was a three-shot rally, at 14.4 per cent (176). What’s eye-opening is that a one-shot rally occurs twice as much as a three-shot rally (28.5% to 14.4%). The curve is steep at the start of the point.

A three-shot rally occurs more than a two-shot rally due to the halo effect of the serve. It’s important to note that odd-numbered rallies can only be won by the server and even-numbered rallies can only be won by the returner. The graph below shows how our sport is incredibly front-end loaded when it comes to rally length.

Medvedev Rally Length 2021 Australian Open

Medvedev played considerably more one-shot rallies in Melbourne last year than any other. He also thrives on them. Medvedev won 62.8 per cent (219/349) of points where only one ball landed in the court. He also won 56.3 per cent (72/128) of two-shot rallies as well. He lost the three-shot rally length (43.2%) but dominated the four-shot rally length (66.7%).

The longest rally Medvedev played at the 2021 Australian Open was 43 shots against Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals. Rublev won it when Medvedev missed a forehand with both players standing at the back of the court. Medvedev played 26 points where the rally went 20 shots or longer last year. He only won 11 of them (42%). On the other end of the spectrum, he played 743 points when the rally was one, two, three or four shots. He won 57 per cent (427) of this huge slice of the competitive pie.

Long rallies are typically more spectacular and stick in our mind, even though there are very few of them. Short rallies tend to be directed to our short-term memory, and are somehow quickly forgotten. It takes a stats sheet to uncover how our sport is truly organised.

2021 Australian Open: Daniil Medvedev Rally Length Played

Rally Length Total Points % Of Total Points
0 (double fault) 40 3.3%
1 349 28.5%
2 128 10.4%
3 176 14.4%
4 90 7.3%
5 91 7.4%
6 73 6.0%
7 55 4.5%
8 41 3.3%
9 31 2.5%
10 29 2.4%
11 18 1.5%
12 16 1.3%
13 12 1.0%
14 13 1.1%
15 10 0.8%
16 6 0.5%
17 9 0.7%
18 8 0.7%
19 5 0.4%
20 6 0.5%
21 4 0.3%
22 2 0.2%
23 3 0.2%
24 2 0.2%
25 4 0.3%
27 2 0.2%
28 2 0.2%
43 1 0.1%

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