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Gamers: Monfils On His Video Game Origins & Respect For Esports Athletes

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

Gael Monfils is into the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, where he will play Matteo Berrettini for a place in the last four. Before that showdown, get to know more about the Frenchman’s love of video games and the esports industry. spoke to Monfils about how he first got into video games as a teen, what he enjoys about Twitch, his favourite streamers and more.

Tell us about your love of video games. When did you start playing, and what are some of the earliest games you remember playing?
It was on the first Nintendo, I enjoyed playing with my dad. Then one Christmas I got the Super Nintendo and started to play a lot of Dragon Ball Z. Then in a tournament in Paris, I think I was 13, the winner would get the PlayStation 1. You had to win it. It was a big goal for me, and then I won it and I started to be a fan of the PlayStation. I played Final Fantasy, and then it kept escalating with computers and everything.

What are you playing at the moment?
I play quite a lot of games. I play FIFA, Warzone, 2K, World Tour Tennis, Mario Tennis. I want to start playing World of Warcraft. I play Naruto. I play every game. I won’t say I have one game especially, but different genres, different types of games.

It is quite funny playing [Mario Tennis]. I think people love it. You get superpowers. I really like when you can hit some big smashes, you have a target.

Watch Gael Takes A Monfils Quiz:

What is your home setup like?
I have got three screens, a big tower, a stream deck, the lights, the Elgato to stream from the TV, the Xbox and the computer. That’s pretty much everything.

What do you take with you on the road? What are the challenges of travelling and transporting everything?
I bring my computer because I play a lot of Magic: The Gathering. I play a lot of that, so I just bring my computer. Sometimes I bring my PlayStation but most of the time I bring my computer. That’s enough to play all the games I like. I just put it in the backpack.

Which ATP Tour players do you play video games with? What do you guys play?
I play with quite a lot. We like to share some moments together, especially the ones you get along with quite well. We play quite a lot together. A lot of players are good, I won’t give names.

How did you get into Twitch?
For a long time, I have been a fan of Twitch and been looking up some streamers. During lockdown, I thought it would be a good time for me to step onto the platform and try myself. I have just been a big fan of gamers on Twitch.

I started to really like the community and the exchange, and I saw that it could be maybe more than just the gaming, so I really like the platform for that. During the lockdown I was Twitching a lot, but I was doing some more hobbies and am a big fan of watches… it was another hobby among my hobbies.

Who are some of your favorite Twitch streamers/content creators?
They are French. One is Domingo and [the other is] Ponce. Those are two guys I really like to watch.

You also used Twitch in some other ways. How much fun was all that for you?
What you can do on the platform is stream some practices, and definitely having a show during the [Nitto ATP] Finals was a very good experience. That you could handle a show and have a good exchange with the community was a great experience.

As a tennis player, you’re now considered a ‘traditional sports’ athlete. What are your thoughts on the massive rise of esports/esports athletes?
It is very good, because I think sometimes people don’t see how hard it is for the esports athletes to be on the top of the game. It requires a lot of practice and a lot of hard work, and some people think it is just video games. But it is not. I would like to see it a little bit from the inside, and I really hope people will get it. It’s definitely hard work. Esports are a big thing.

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Preview: De Minaur Braces For Sinner’s ‘Immense Firepower’

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

Youth will serve— and return —on Monday in the Australian Open fourth round. All but one of the day’s singles competitors are 25 or younger, with 33-year-old Marin Cilic the veteran outlier. Five are recent graduates of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, including former champions Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner, and two-time finalist Alex de Minaur.

Sinner, 20, is the youngest man remaining in the Melbourne draw following the five-set exit of 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz. The 11th seed will take on de Minaur as both look to build on career-best AO runs, each with the loss of just one set.

The 22-year-old from Sydney has not beaten Sinner in their two tour-level meetings, including the 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals title match. The Italian had the home advantage in that meeting, but that will flip this time around with the Melbourne crowd ready to back the last remaining Aussie in the men’s singles draw.

“I know what’s coming: immense firepower,” said de Minaur, who will return to Rod Laver Arena after Laver himself watched his third-round win over Pablo Andujar on the show court. “I’m going to have to be ready to… not get bullied around the court and really take it to him.”

Taylor Fritz reaches the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
In the same section of the draw, Tsitsipas will take on Taylor Fritz in another battle of under-25s, with the American playing in the first major fourth-round match of his career. Fritz earned that honour the hard way with a five-set win against Roberto Bautista Agut.

“It’s huge,” said Fritz in his post-match press conference. “It seems stupid, like after that match I was almost close to tearing up a bit. So many people have made the second week of Slams, but it’s just eluded me for so long… it means a tonne. I’m proud. It didn’t come easy; I beat an incredibly tough guy.”

Across seven previous third-round major appearances, Fritz’s opponents have included Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. His 20th seed has protected him from that class of opposition this fortnight—until his meeting with the World No. 4 this round.

The two have shared the court many times as they came up the junior ranks together, and Tsitsipas holds a 2-0 edge in their ATP Head2Head record, with both wins coming on indoor hard courts in 2019 (Laver Cup, Rolex Paris Masters). Despite that record, Fritz said he doesn’t mind the matchup against the Greek.

In the bottom quarter of the draw—Daniil Medvedev’s section—the Russian will take on another American playing at this stage of a Slam for the first time. Maxime Cressy, the lone unseeded player remaining in the bottom half, will bring his serve-and-volley game to the crafty baseliner.

In the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, the former UCLA star will be on the attack, regardless of Medvedev’s elite returning skills.

“I actually don’t even think about my opponent because they try many things,” he said after knocking off Australian wild card Christopher O’Connell in the third round. “He would try to return close or if that doesn’t work, far from the baseline… They try different things to get in my head and if I focus on them it disrupts my game. My mindset is to completely block off what my opponent does.”

The World No. 2 does things better than most on the tennis court, though Cressy does have the experience of playing both Stefanos Tsitsipas (2020 US Open) and Alexander Zverev (2021 Australian Open) at the Slams, with both matches ending in defeat after three tight sets. He also played Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set earlier in January — another straight-sets loss, albeit a tight one, too.

Medvedev, a chess-lover, is preparing to counter Cressy’s aggressive opening gambit: “We’ll have to prepare well tactically, mentally,” he said in press, admitting to being unfamiliar with the American’s game. “I heard he serves pretty well. So if you don’t have a good serve, probably you won’t serve-and-volley, and it’s not going to be effective,” he added with a smile.

“I do think it’s possible, yeah, to be a top player like this. But like no matter what you do — slice, serve-and-volley, or return good — if you want to be at the top, top, you need to make it almost perfect, because other guys will try to break you and your style.”

Daniil Medvedev
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
The Medvedev-Cressy winner will face either Cilic or Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals. The Canadian youngster is after his third straight Slam quarter-final after reaching the last eight at Wimbledon and the final four at the US Open last season. He’s gotten progressively sharper over the course of his Melbourne run, advancing in five, then four, then three sets in the early rounds, most recently with a clinical 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win over 24th seed Daniel Evans.

Cilic’s last major quarter-final came in 2018, when he followed up an AO final run with last-eight appearances in Paris and New York. While he has not been able to find that form in recent years, he certainly showed it in a 7-5, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 win over fifth seed Andrey Rublev in the fourth round.

Ahead of his match with FAA, 12 years his junior at 21, Cilic was asked if he enjoyed getting one over on the younger generation.

“Satisfaction is on a different path,” his veteran answer began. “Satisfaction is there because, I played an incredible match [against Rublev], and it gave me such a great excitement. At the moment I’m feeling really positive about myself. Obviously worked a lot and went with lots of ups and downs. Then a couple of difficult seasons. And to play this well, at this kind of a tournament, it’s definitely, absolutely great satisfaction for me.”

Cilic was 25 when he won the 2014 US Open. Nearly eight years and two major finals later, his booming baseline game has him in title contention once more.

Monday’s slate will compete the men’s quarter-final draw in Melbourne, with the top half already set.

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Shapovalov ‘Expecting A Long Battle’ Against Nadal

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

Denis Shapovalov upset World No. 3 Alexander Zverev on Sunday at the Australian Open to reach the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park for the first time. The Canadian knows it will not get any easier Down Under, with 20-time major champion Rafael Nadal waiting in the last eight.

“I’m definitely expecting a long battle out there. Obviously he makes you play a lot. His defence is very good. He’s very good at what he does,” Shapovalov said. “So [I’m going to] have to try to play my game, take it to him and keep doing what I have been doing, playing patient, fighting for every point, and just picking my spots to play aggressively.”

Shapovalov made his first big statement on the ATP Tour at the age of 18 in 2017, when he stunned Nadal in Montreal in front of his home fans. Now 22, he has an opportunity to spring another upset to reach his second major semi-final.

It has been a tremendous start to the season for Shapovalov and Canadian tennis overall. Shapovalov and countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime, who will play 27th seed Marin Cilic in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday, led their country to the ATP Cup title in Week 1.

“I think what we’ve been doing has been amazing, especially with the start of the season for Canada,” Shapovalov said. “And what we’re doing in Australia here is special, as well. Hopefully a lot of Canadians are able to watch.”

Denis Shapovalov
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Shapovalov is now 7-1 in singles this season. It is a scorching start, especially considering he tested positive for COVID-19 upon his arrival in Australia and had to quarantine, leaving him to wonder how things would go Down Under.

“There were a lot of doubts once I got to Australia with the quarantine, having gotten COVID, not sure how I would take it, not sure I would be able to play ATP Cup,” Shapovalov said. “Obviously very happy with the way I’m feeling, first of all, coming out of quarantine, playing ATP Cup, had a little bit of doubts. [I] wasn’t ready to play the first match and kind of worked my way through the tournament and started to feel back to normal towards the end of that week.

“So it was a good sign. And then coming here, I had a couple of aches and wasn’t feeling 100 per cent physically. So wasn’t practising that much, to be honest, and [was] just trying to prepare the body as best as possible.”

The No. 14 player in the ATP Rankings also has had to get used to having a new coach. At the end of the 2021 season, Shapovalov and Mikhail Youzhny mutually parted ways. The Canadian began working with Jamie Delgado, the former coach of Andy Murray, and so far “it’s been awesome” according to the lefty.

“Jamie was one of the guys that me and my team had thought about. We heard that he had split with Andy. So we just gave him a call and asked if he’d be interested to join the team and try out and see how it would work,” Shapovalov said. “Obviously it’s been really good so far. It’s been just a couple of weeks. Obviously it’s really new. But we’ve definitely clicked in terms of personalities and in terms of working on the court. I think we both have kind of the same vision for my game.

“I feel like he’s a super understanding person. Obviously he’s got so much experience and he’s been through so much with Andy. So he’s definitely got a lot of experience under his belt. That’s something that I really thought would be great to add to my team.”

Everything is going well for Shapovalov. Now, he will aim to maintain his level against 2009 Australian Open champion Nadal.

“Just really happy with where I am in terms of my game, in terms of the level right now. Obviously every day is different. But I feel like with every match I have gained a little bit of confidence and a little bit of comfort playing on these courts,” Shapovalov said. “I’m just pleased overall with my game so far and my fighting spirit. Just battling [it] out in every single match. Hopefully I can continue going this way.”

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Berrettini Powers Into Australian Open QFs

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. When you’re both… well, that’s a powerful combination.

World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini moved into the Australian Open quarter-finals Sunday night after riding his luck to a crucial first-set break against Pablo Carreno Busta, which set him on course for a 7-5, 7-6(4) 6-4 victory.

With the Spaniard serving at 5-5 in the first set, Berrettini beneffited from two dead netcords in the game to break to love. He then responded with “the good” in the following game when he faced a break point at 30/40. He hammered back-to-back aces and closed out the set with a Serve +1 easy put-away forehand.

The Wimbledon finalist is delighted to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park after last year being forced to withdraw from his fourth-round match with Stefanos Tsitsipas due to an abdominal injury.

“It was really tough last year. I really wanted to play, but I couldn’t with the tear in the ab,” he said. “But I believe there is a reason for everything that happens and I’ve been wishing to come back as soon as possible and the way I won today shows how much I care about this tournament.”

Berrettini, who saw just 50 per cent of his serves come back into play in the first two sets, advances to play Frenchman Gael Monfils, a 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-3 winner over Serb Miomir Kecmanovic.

“I was really precise with my serving and he wasn’t reading my serve, which is why I hit a lot of aces,” Berrettini said.

“My serve percentage was high, which was important. I felt I had more energy going into the third set. When my serve is working it’s always good for my tennis.”

Pablo Carreno Busta

The 25-year-old recorded his first straight-sets win of the tournament, having gone four sets with Americans Brandon Nakashima and Stefan Kozlov in the first two rounds and a pulsating fifth-set tie-break with 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz in the third round.

Berrettini crushed 57 winners, including 28 aces, against Carreno Busta in the two-hour, 22-minute victory. He put 77 per cent of first serves into play and won 87 per cent of first-serve points and 57 per cent of second-serve points.

Berrettini has now reached the quarter-finals at all four Grand Slams, the 10th active player to achieve the feat. He is also the fourth Italian man to reach the last eight in Melbourne (and will hope that he is joined by Jannik Sinner, who plays Alex de Minaur in the fourth round Monday).

Berrettini holds a 2-0 ATP Head2Head edge over Monfils, including a fifth-set tie-break win over the showman in the 2019 US Open quarter-finals.

“It was a really tough match and the emotions were all over the place for me and him,” Berrettini said. “I remember that match with a smile, but it will be a different match this time. For sure it will be a fight.”

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Monfils Marches On In Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

Gael Monfils likes getting things done quickly but is not afraid to put in the hard yards when needed.

The Frenchman was given a real test by Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday evening, but the World No. 20 stayed strong to reach his 10th Grand Slam quarter-final with a 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory in two hours and 35 minutes on John Cain Arena.

The victory takes Monfils to the last eight in Melbourne for the first time since 2016 [l. to Raonic], but he has his eyes on a bigger prize in Melbourne.

“It’s been a long journey for me and I’m quite happy, but it’s not finished,” said the 17th seed in his on-court interview. “I will try to play this quarter-final not like the last time, I will try to be better. It’s an achievement but we’re not quite finished yet.”

Monfils had spent just five hours and five minutes on court in racing through his first three rounds, but World No. 77 Kecmanovic was also full of confidence having gone past the second round of a major for the first time in his career. A three-set Monfils victory in the pair’s first meeting at the Rolex Paris Masters just two months ago also suggested it would be anything but one-way traffic.

A tight start saw no break points until the 10th game but a set that had seemed destined for a tie-break then burst into life. Monfils recovered from 0/40 to hold and Kecmanovic got himself out of the same situation in the very next game. A double fault from the Serb at 5-6 down gave Monfils another opportunity, however, one he took with aplomb with a rasping backhand winner.

Kecmanovic defiantly stuck with his higher-ranked opponent but was left with a mountain to climb after 17th seed Monfils also edged the second set tie-break. The Frenchman’s explosive game finished off the Serb’s hopes in the third, Monfils ending the match with 54 winners and 81 per cent (48/59) of points won behind his first serve.

“It was very tough, he played extremely fast on both sides,” said Monfils. “I tried to be very aggressive today, tried to not let him dictate the points. I served quite well, and then it was just battling, battling, hanging in there.”

Monfils’ opponent in the last eight will be either seventh seed Matteo Berrettini or 19th seed Pablo Carreno Busta. With a 3-0 losing ATP Head2Head record against Italian Berrettini and a 3-3 record against Spaniard Carreno Busta, the Frenchman will not underestimate his opponent, no matter whom he faces.

“Both are extremely good,” said Monfils. “Matteo, I lost to him in the quarter-final of the [2019] US Open 7-6 in the fifth, and Pablo beat me in a semi-final [Metz] last year, so it’s going to be fun, a great match, but I will be ready for them.”

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‘Locked In’ Kyrgios/Kokkinakis Into Doubles QFs

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis continue to wreak havoc in the Australian Open doubles draw.

“Honestly, I feel like the favourites out there on the doubles court”, said Kyrgios after he and Kokkinakis beat 15th seeds Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the third round on Sunday afternoon. “The way he [Kokkinakis] is playing right now, he’s obviously very confident after the last month, which is amazing to see. I feel like we’re locked in, it’s probably the best doubles we’ve played together.”

The crowd-pleasing duo emphasised the impact of the fans on Kia Arena as they backed up their impressive second-round defeat of top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic against Uruguayan-Ecuadorian pairing Behar and Escobar.

“Having that crowd support, you’ve seen how much it helps,” said Kokkinakis. “It feels like a party atmosphere out there. When we enjoy ourselves, first and foremost, I think that brings the best focus out of us.”

The Aussies had won only one of four previous Australian Open matches together coming into this year’s tournament, but they slammed 38 winners, including 23 aces, on Kia Arena to reach the quarter-finals of their home slam for the first time.

“Another win at the Australian Open, you’re not going to take that for granted,” added Kyrgios. “I definitely think we’ve got a good shot at winning this.”

Another Australian, John Peers, partnered Slovak Filip Polasek to a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 victory over German 12th seeds Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies. Peers and Polasek, the fifth seeds and US Open semi-finalists who won the Sydney Tennis Classic leading in, won 50% (24/48) of return points as they never allowed the German pairing to settle.

Their quarter-final opponents will be third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, who also enjoyed a straight-sets win over Spanish pairing Pablo Andujar and Pedro Martinez. Spaniard Granollers and Argentine Zeballos won 85% (39/46) of points behind first serves and outhit their opponents by 32 winners to 17 as they advanced to a first Australian Open quarter-final together with a 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini claimed another upset after beating eighth seeds and 2016 Australian Open champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-3. Sydney runners-up Bolelli and Fognini hit just 20 winners to their opponent’s 32 but saved the best until last as they broke twice in the third set to back up their impressive second-round win over ninth seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo.

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Zverev: 'One Of My Worst Matches Since Wimbledon'

  • Posted: Jan 23, 2022

It was a swing that promised so much but ultimately delivered relatively little for Alexander Zverev.

The World No. 3 German ended his Australian Open campaign with a straight-sets loss to World No. 14 Denis Shapovalov Sunday at Melbourne Park. Coming into the Australian summer with the confidence of having beaten the world’s best to win his second Nitto ATP Finals title in November, the 6’ 6” German had every reason to believe big things were in store.

A shot at his first Grand Slam title and the potential to vie for World No. 1 in the first quarter of the season were realistic goals. But it all ended with a disappointing 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 defeat to the Canadian on Margaret Court Arena.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to do better. I came here with a goal to win, and maybe to become No. 1 and all that,” Zverev said. “But if I play like that, I don’t deserve it. It’s as simple as that.

“I think after a match like this, it’s very silly to talk about [No. 1]. I think I need to figure myself out first.”

Zverev said that Shapovalov surprised him by standing farther back and putting more returns into play, but that he didn’t take a lot of confidence into the match.

The third seed began his year with strong wins over Cameron Norrie and Taylor Fritz at ATP Cup, but he also suffered a three-set loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime. At Melbourne Park he had three straight-sets wins over Daniel Altmaier, John Millman and Radu Albot, but he said he never felt at the top of his game.

“I was playing bad the whole week. To be honest, I didn’t think I was playing that great,” Zverev said. “Except against John Millman maybe I had a good match, but the other two matches weren’t great either…

“To be honest, there is not much I can say or take away that was positive from today. Maybe since Wimbledon, [it’s] one of the worst matches I have played. It’s just tough.

“I give credit to Denis. It’s incredible he’s in the quarters. I think he deserves it. He’s done a lot of work. He’s improved his game. But I’ve got to look at myself, as well. Today was just awful from my side.”

Zverev said that he had a good preparation during the off season and hopes that he can quickly turn around his mixed start to 2022.

“It’s no one else’s fault. It’s not the coach’s fault, it’s not my team’s fault, it’s no one else’s fault. It’s purely me. At the end of the day, as the world No. 3, I have to take responsibility for the things I do and don’t do. Today was just not good enough to beat someone like Denis.”

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