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Kokkinakis/Kyrgios Potential Second-Round Foes For Mektic/Pavic

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2022

Top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic could face a tricky draw at this year’s Australian Open.

If the Croatians, who won nine tour-level titles together last year, defeat Argentines Facundo Bagnis and Federico Delbonis in the first round, they could face Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios in the second round. Longtime friends Kokkinakis and Kyrgios open against countrymen Alex Bolt and James McCabe,

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“Playing with him is always an experience. I don’t think we’re the most traditional doubles pairing you’ll see. We have fun out there. We like to get the crowd going,” Kokkinakis said. “Singles is so intense and so serious. The media hypes it. It’s massive for us as well, we want to do well. Being on court with each other, we can kind of relax a little bit, kind of feed off each other. It gives us a good sort of bond.”

This will be Kokkinakis and Kyrgios’ fourth time competing in the Australian Open as a team. Kokkinakis lifted his first ATP Tour trophy on Saturday in Adelaide.

Joe Salisbury, Rajeev Ram
Photo Credit: Morgan Hancock/Getty Images
One of the leading tournament favourites will be second seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (above). The 2020 champions also reached the final Down Under last year. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek defeated them in the championship match.

Polasek and Australian John Peers became a full-time team in the middle of last year. They developed into one of the world’s best pairs by the end of the season, winning the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. They are the fifth seeds in Melbourne.

“To kick off in Australia with an Aussie guy, it’s almost like a dream come true to have the Aussie fans on our side. I really hope for and am looking forward to a great run there,” Polasek said. “Usually all the best teams in the offseason work hard and they always come up with something new. It’s going to be really interesting and I think the field is very strong.”

Other teams to watch include third seeds Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos, fourth seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah and 2016 champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares. One new pair to keep your eyes on is Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski. The Dutch-Briton duo got off to a perfect start in 2022 by claiming titles in Melbourne and Adelaide. The 10th seeds will begin their Australian Open against Monaco’s Romain Arneodo and Frenchman Benoit Paire.

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Scouting Report: Nadal Targets Slam Record, Can Medvedev & Co. Stop Him?

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2022

Following an exhilarating start to the new season, which saw Canada win the ATP Cup title in Sydney and Rafael Nadal capture his 89th tour-level trophy in Melbourne, the world’s best players will now compete at the Australian Open. looks at 10 things to watch at the first major of the year.

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1) Rafa Returns: Nadal made a winning return to the Tour earlier this month when he captured his 89th tour-level crown at the Melbourne Summer Set, not dropping a set en route to the trophy. Now the Spaniard will compete at a major for the first time since he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros (l. to Djokovic) last June. This will be his 17th appearance at the season’s first major..

The World No. 6, who won the Australian Open title in 2011, advanced to the quarter-finals in 2020 and 2021, but will look to go further this year as he chases a record-breaking 21st major title, starting against American Marcos Giron in the first round. The legendary lefty is currently tied with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on 20 Slam triumphs.

2) Medvedev’s Mission: Second seed Daniil Medvedev cracked the Grand Slam code in September when he defeated Djokovic to clinch his first major at the US Open. With the taste of Slam success in the Russian’s mouth, the 25-year-old will be hungry for more in Melbourne, where he reached the final in 2021.

The World No. 2, who won ATP Cup matches against Alex de Minaur, Matteo Berrettini and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the start of the season, will play Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen in the first round.

3) Can Zverev Capture Maiden Major? Alexander Zverev enjoyed a strong second half to the 2021 season, earning a 32-4 record since Wimbledon. He captured the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, his fifth ATP Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, the crown in Vienna and the trophy at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Despite winning 19 tour-level titles, the German has yet to triumph at a major, with his best run in Australia coming in 2020 when he reached the semi-finals. The third seed will be aiming to change that record over the next fortnight, starting against countryman Daniel Altmaier in the first round.

4) Tsitsipas’ Time? Like Zverev, Tsitsipas is also chasing a maiden major title at the Australian Open. The fourth seed has twice reached the semi-finals in Melbourne, with the first coming in 2019 when he upset Roger Federer en route to the last four aged just 20. The Greek then advanced to the same stage last year, falling to Medvedev.

The 23-year-old, who earned tour-level titles in Monte-Carlo and Lyon in 2021, will hope to set the wheels in motion for another deep run in Melbourne, starting against Swede Mikael Ymer in his opening match.

5) Italian Charge: Italian pair Berrettini and Jannik Sinner both enjoyed impressive 2021 seasons, winning six tour-level titles between them, with their strong form earning them spots at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin (Sinner competed an alternate, replacing Berrettini due to injury). The last Italian man to win a major was Adriano Panatta at Roland Garros in 1976, but with confidence high, Berrettini and Sinner will be aiming to change that over the coming fortnight.

Seventh seed Berrettini reached the fourth round in Australia last year, but faces a tricky opening test against #NextGenATP Brandon Nakashima, who reached two tour-level finals last year. Sinner is seeded 11th and plays lucky loser Joao Sousa.


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6) Murray Back On Australian Soil: Former World No. 1 Andy Murray is a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, last reaching the championship match in 2016. The Scot has not competed at the first major of the season since 2019, when he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets in an emotional performance on Melbourne Arena.

Murray arrives in Melbourne in form, having advanced to the championship match at the Sydney Tennis Classic last week. It was the first time the 34-year-old had reached a tour-level final since October 2019 (Antwerp, d. Wawrinka). Murray will begin against 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, whom he defeated in three sets in Sydney last week.

7) Home Hopes: There is a feel-good factor around Australian tennis. Adelaide-native Thanasi Kokkinakis soared to his maiden tour-level title at the Adelaide International on Saturday. The wild card had reached a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 69 as a 19-year-old in 2015, before injuries derailed his career. However, the Australian is now fully fit, in good form and will start his campaign against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann.

Australia’s seeded player at the Australian Open is 32nd seed De Minaur. The 22-year-old, who advanced to the third round in 2021, earned impressive victories against Matteo Berrettini and Ugo Humbert at the ATP Cup earlier this month. The World No. 34 plays #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the first round.

Former World No. 13 Nick Kyrgios will look to entertain the crowd again as he competes for the first time since September against British qualifier Liam Broady. The 26-year-old enjoyed a run to the last eight in Melbourne in 2015 and advanced to the fourth round in 2018 and 2020.

There are 10 Australians in the draw, with Alex Bolt, James Duckworth, John Millman, Christopher O’Connell, Alexei Popyrin, Jordan Thompson and Aleksandar Vukic also playing.

8) #NextGenATP Stars In Action: Carlos Alcaraz is one of the brightest talents emerging in the game right now, as evidenced by his victory at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in November. The Spaniard is seeded at a Slam for the first time (31st) and plays Chile qualifier Alejandro Tabilo in his opening match.

Eighteen-year-old Holger Rune, who made his main draw debut at a major at the US Open in September, will take on Nur-Sultan titlist Soonwoo Kwon, while Argentine Sebastian Baez, who won six ATP Challenger Tour titles last year, plays Albert Ramos-Vinolas. 

Read More: The Fire Within Holger Rune

9) More Players To Watch: Russia’s Andrey Rublev is at a career-high No. 5 in the ATP Rankings and is a former quarter-finalist (2021) in Melbourne. The 24-year-old will begin his bid for a first major title against Italian Gianluca Mager. Casper Ruud had a standout 2021 campaign, winning five tour-level titles before he reached the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals. The eighth seed plays Alex Molcan in the first round.

Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz will also provide a threat in Melbourne. Auger-Aliassime helped guide Canada to ATP Cup glory earlier this month and will look to use his momentum at the first Grand Slam of the season, starting against Emil Ruusuvuori. Tenth seed Hurkacz faces Egor Gerasimov.

10) Mektic/Pavic Lead Doubles Field: Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic won nine tour-level titles as a team in 2021 and will look to add to their trophy haul in Melbourne as they headline the doubles field as the top seeds. The Croatians will face stiff competition from teams including last year’s finalists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos and 2016 champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.

Teams consisting of singles stars in the field include Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, Alcaraz and Pablo Carreno Busta and Lloyd Harris and Popyrin.

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Ruud: 'I Still Feel I’m A Little Behind The Really Top Guys'

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2022

Casper Ruud is aiming to close the gap on the world’s Top 3 in 2022 – and the first step would be reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open.

Ruud had his best result at a major in Melbourne 12 months ago when he defeated Jordan Thompson, Tommy Paul and Radu Albot to make the fourth round before being forced to retire with an abdominal injury against Andrey Rublev.

But although he went on to capture an incredible five Tour-level titles, break into the Top 10 and qualify for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, Ruud did not see the Grand Slam results he wanted in the remainder of the 2021 season, going a combined 3-3 at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.

“For me, Grand Slams this year will be the tournaments where I feel I have the most to improve, because last year I did well here but the three other ones, I wasn’t able to do as well as I hoped,” Ruud admitted.

By making the last 16 in Melbourne, Ruud equalled the career-best Grand Slam result achieved by his father Christian. But the 23-year-old, who begins his Australian Open campaign against Alex Molcan on Tuesday, has his eye on more.

“I’ve been asked about my goals for this season and I think I’ve said it a couple of times, that a quarterfinal in a Grand Slam is what I’m hoping for,” Ruud revealed.

“I hope I can achieve it in this year and I would obviously love to do it here in Melbourne where I had actually the most success of my Grand Slam career. That would be, of course, fun to beat [my father’s] record, I’ve been able to tie it. Like I said, this year the goal for me has been to do better in the Grand Slams so I hope I can be able to achieve a quarter-final.”

Ruud’s exceptional 2021 season saw him spending more and more time in the rarefied air of the world’s best players: He played eight matches against Top 5 opponents over the course of the season.

“I think that even though I was able to break into the Top 10 last year and have my best year on Tour, I still feel like I’m a little bit behind the really top guys. Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev, they are a bit on a different level, I think,” Ruud reflected.

“I’ve been able to play them a couple of times and I don’t feel like I’ve been too close, unfortunately. Of course, the scorelines have been close here and there, the first time I played Novak I had a couple of set points in the first set back in 2020, but I still feel they are on a bit of a different level. And I wish, of course, that I can reach that level myself but it’s a good indication that I need to keep working hard…

“But I think we’re all eager to catch up and challenge them for the bigger titles in the coming years and if we look at the big picture, in the next 15, 20 years I think we will have more people and players that will be able to win Grand Slams and challenge each other to win Grand Slams and the biggest titles on Tour.”

Ruud didn’t just see top players across the net last year. Having practiced with Rafael Nadal at his academy in Mallorca in the past, in 2021 the Norwegian joined the exclusive club of qualifiers for the season-ending championships in Turin and shared a Laver Cup bench with Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I didn’t know all of them too well before Laver Cup, some of them I’d been practicing a little bit more with and all these things,” Ruud remembered.

“But I got a little bit closer to Sascha [Zverev] and Stef [Tsitsipas], I was talking a little bit more to them off court and when we were on the bench. All of them are nice guys but I hadn’t been playing or practicing with them too much from before so it was nice to get to know them and see what they do both on and off the court when they want to perform at the highest levels. It gives inspiration and motivation to keep working. And also knowing that what we are doing in my team is working out well but there are still room for improvements.”

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ATP Statement On Novak Djokovic Australian Visa Cancellation

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2022

ATP Statement

Today’s decision to uphold Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events. Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation.

Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport’s greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon.

ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players.

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Berrettini, Tomljanovic Having Fun In the Sun

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2022

Tennis’ first couple Matteo Berrettini and Ajla Tomljanovic mixed business with pleasure Sunday on the eve of the Australian Open, practising together at Melbourne Park in preparation of their first-round matches at the year’s first Grand Slam.

Berrettini, the seventh-seeded Italian, faces a challenging opener against 20-year-old American Brandon Nakashima, who slashed his year-end ATP Ranking from 166 in 2020 to 68 by the end of last season.

Berrettini performed strongly at the majors last year, reaching the Wimbledon final, the quarter-finals at the US Open and Roland Garros and the fourth round of the Australian Open, his deepest run in four outings in the Victorian capital.

Tomljanovic, who at No. 43 is the second highest-ranked Australian behind World No. 1 Ash Barty, is looking to push beyond the second round at the Australian Open for the first time in eight outings.

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Murray: 'I'll Keep Trying My Best To Have More Nights Like This'

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2022

Andy Murray has won 46 tour-level titles, reached No. 1 in the ATP Rankings and accomplished plenty more in his distinguished career.

But the Scot is hungry for more. That was plenty apparent on Saturday evening during the Sydney Tennis Classic trophy ceremony following his loss in the championship match against Aslan Karatsev.

“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,” Murray said. “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.”

The 34-year-old has played on the biggest stages in the sport countless times. However, he still is keen to return to those big matches. And Murray made it clear this week he does not just want to play in those moments, but succeed in them.

The No. 135 player in the ATP Rankings, who is still working towards his best form following hip surgery, has said on multiple occasions one of his big goals is to reach 50 tour-level titles. He currently has 46.

“I have made some of my shorter-term goals quite clear and things I still want to try and achieve,” Murray said earlier in the week. “I want to try and win tournaments again. That’s one of the reasons why I’m still playing, because I believe I can still do that.”

Karatsev had too much firepower on Saturday. The Russian, who broke onto the scene in Australia last year by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals as a qualifier, saved all five break points he faced. It was their first ATP Head2Head clash.

“What he [is doing], for me it’s unbelievable… I arrived a bit late to this kind of level, but especially to get this kind of player, one of the greatest players in the world and all time, for me it was a really important match,” Karatsev said. “I think it’s a huge comeback from him to play at this level after what he had in the past with the injury.”

It was a positive effort for Murray, who did not reach an ATP Tour semi-final in 2021. Now he will travel to Melbourne, where he will play Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round of the Australian Open. 

Murray is not just doing this for himself, either. The 34-year-old made that clear during his speech Saturday.

“I would like to thank my family back home,” Murray said. “I don’t know if you’re all watching, but I miss you all.”

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