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Monfils: ‘I’m Not Losing The Faith’

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2022

Gael Monfils suffered a heartbreaking five-set defeat against Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open quarter-finals, but the Frenchman’s resolve is as strong as ever.

“I will take a lot of positive things. Again, I put [myself in a] situation to beat a Top 10 player at the past two Slams in a row, so the past two times, really bad in a way,” said Monfils, who lost against Jannik Sinner in five sets at last year’s US Open. “I keep learning from that, but I feel like it’s been always tough for me. It’s still tough for me, but somehow I’m not losing the faith.

“I need one time… I won’t win 20, but one time, just one time I need. I’m working for this. I still believe I can do it. It’s hard. It’s been 20 years that I’m not doing the good thing, but who knows? This year it might click.”

The 35-year-old was trying to reach his first Australian Open semi-final and advance to the last four at a major for the third time (2008 Roland Garros, 2016 US Open). Not much separated Monfils from that achievement.

“[On the] important points, [I need to] bring the ‘A’ game, and inside the court. It’s easy to say, but inside the court, make the good choices. Either don’t rush or you don’t go for it. It’s always a split second and boom, it’s gone,” Monfils said. “The best, they are the best for that, because [in] the split second, they make the best decision. They know [how] to handle it better, the pressure. And this you cannot learn. It’s experience.”

It was the second time Monfils has lost a major quarter-final against Berrettini. They also went to a fifth set in the last eight at the 2019 US Open, where the Italian triumphed in a tie-break.

“He handled it good, played good, [has a] big game. Obviously my tactic was not up [to par] at the beginning, but as I said, I’m in shape, I have a strong belief, I play good,” Monfils said. “Of course he will have a tough time. I think I’m a good player. Not better than him, but good player. So no matter what, he needs to work to beat me.”

Regardless of his disappointment, Monfils has had a strong start to his 2022 season. He claimed his 11th ATP Tour title in Adelaide and is now 8-2 on the year. All eight of the Frenchman’s victories have come in straight sets.

“I’m working hard. I feel I played good. I was lucky to win a 250, but as I said, I’m gonna click, for sure, maybe go [to] a semi-final in a Slam, maybe more, play better in the [ATP] 500s, play better in the [ATP Masters] 1000s,” Monfils said. “It’s just [the] beginning of the year. It’s a long season. So [I] will have some time for sure. I will go back at home with a positive energy [from] Australia this year.”

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Nishikori Undergoes Hip Surgery

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2022

Japanese star Kei Nishikori announced on Tuesday that he underwent arthroscopic left hip surgery, which will keep him about for “about six months”.

“After trying several different rehab options I have decided (together with my medical team) to have arthroscopic hip surgery this week,” Nishikori wrote on Twitter. “I will work as hard as I can and the goal is to be back in about 6 months. Thank you for all your support and look forward to seeing you on the tour again soon.”

Nishikori, who is currently No. 46 in the ATP Rankings, has not competed since the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last October.

The 32-year-old has climbed as high as World No. 4, lifted 12 ATP Tour trophies and competed in the Nitto ATP Finals four times.

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Dylan Alcott Named Australian Of The Year

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2022

Dylan Alcott on Tuesday was named Australian of the Year and awarded an Officer of the Order (AO) in the Australia Day Honours List. The longtime wheelchair tennis star was recognised for his distinguished service to Paralympic sport and as a role model for people with a disability.

Alcott won his Australian Open quad wheelchair singles semi-final on Tuesday afternoon before flying to Canberra for the evening ceremony. The Australian did not expect to win, he told the media before his flight.

“If by the very odd chance you have a win, you cannot do that on Zoom. So many people with disability should have won that award over the years but haven’t,” Alcott said. “I would never forgive myself if I don’t go, even though I don’t think I’m going to get up. I’m going to go. I always do stuff like this.”

Alcott later added: “I’m always like, It would just be so cool for a person with disability to get up there and be able to have that. Been Young Australian of the Year, Senior, all that, just not many Australians of the Year. Also to be given that platform to talk about what you’re passionate about is super cool.” 

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley congratulated Alcott for his accomplishments on and off the court. 

“We are incredibly fortunate Dylan chose tennis as we’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand his great sense of humour, sharp intellect and his incredible work ethic and drive to succeed in all aspects of his life,” Tiley said in a statement. “His advocacy for people with a disability is a force to behold. He has the power to change the world and is not afraid to use it.

“For a long time we’ve known that Dylan’s influence reaches far beyond the tennis court or the sports stadium. He has a magnificent ability to engage with all people that transcends tennis, and sport.” 

Alcott will play Sam Schroder in the Australian Open final on Thursday. It will be his last competitive match before retiring.

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Preview: Sinner Faces Tsitsipas In Bid For First Slam SF

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2022

A former junior national skiing champion, Jannik Sinner has yet to carve into the fresh powder of a Grand Slam semi-final. He’s the only man in Wednesday’s quarter-final lineup yet to make a run to the final four, with Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Alassime all coming closer to the summit, and Medvedev reaching the peak as the 2021 US Open champion.

Sinner, 20, is also the youngest of the quartet—though he’s a long way from the bunny slopes as a Top 10 player and five-time champ on the ATP Tour.

The Italian prefers tennis to skiing because the racquet sport allows an opportunity to play through mistakes, while skiing slip-up spells the end of the race. In his fourth-round win over Australian No. 1 and home favourite Alex de Minaur, Sinner made 30 unforced errors. But after a slow start out of the gates, his attack began to gather speed. He finished with 35 winners in a 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4 victory.

“I tried to stay composed with myself, and today I have to say I raised the level, especially in the second and third set,” Sinner said following his Rod Laver Arena debut. “In the beginning, there was a little bit of tension on both sides, which is normal. I was expecting a long match.”

Tennis also allows the opportunity to recover from lost sets, though Sinner has only had to do so once this fortnight, when he dropped the second set of a third-round win over Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel. Only Gael Monfils, who was a perfect 12-for-12, had a better set record on the way to the quarters.

In World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, Sinner will meet his first Top 30 opponent of the new year. But he’s no stranger to the game’s elite, having made his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, where he replaced Matteo Berrettini midway through round-robin play as an alternate in Turin. In replacing his countryman, Sinner became the youngest man to compete at the Finals since Lleyton Hewitt in 2000.

In comparing the two Italians, Tsitsipas gave a glowing review of his quarter-final opponent: “Jannik, I would consider the more talented player from the baseline, that looks like he’s very relaxed when he’s playing. Doesn’t show much tension when he’s out there; pretty cold-blooded in comparison with Matteo, who looks a little bit more emotional.”

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The Greek enters Wednesday’s meeting off a comeback, five-set win over American Taylor Fritz in the fourth round. A two-time semi-finalist in Melbourne (2019, 2021), Tsitsipas has been sharp in a return from an elbow injury that saw him follow Berrettini out of the Nitto ATP Finals. But he looked out of sorts for stretches before a mighty finish against Fritz.

Tsitsipas blamed his struggles on passive play: “There were certain moments where I got defensive and wasn’t going for my shot too much, and I kept talking to myself and kept saying, ‘Hit the ball, go for it.’

“That eventually was engraved in my mind. That voice became a reality in the fifth set.”

All things considered, he’s happy with his game and confident in his ability to challenge for his first major title—seven months after falling a set short against Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final.

“I would predict that I’m headed towards the right direction and things look good for me so far,” he assessed. “With the right mindset and with the right attitude and with the right development throughout the tournament, my chances are pretty good.”

Tsitsipas holds a 2-1 ATPHead2Head advantage over Sinner, with all three meetings coming on clay courts during the European spring swing.

Wednesday’s second match will see Medvedev and Auger-Aliassime square off in a rematch of their 2021 US Open semi-final, a straight-set win for the Russian. Both men enter behind four-set wins, but the pair exited the fourth round with contrasting views on their victories.

“I’m not really happy about my, let’s call it, mentality today,” Medvedev said following a 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-5 win over American serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy. Over the course of the match, a frustrated Medvedev made several audible comments about his opponent’s luck, as Cressy saved a bevy of break points and struck line-clipping second serves.

“I was a little bit harsh with Maxime, who played a really good match,” he continued. “At the same time, I’m not the only player to do it, to try to get into my opponent’s head.”

Auger-Aliassime was a 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, 7-6(4) winner over Marin Cilic. The Canadian, who was down two-sets-to-one in the opening round against Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori, is rounding into form as he seeks a second consecutive Slam semi-final.

“Knowing in the back of my mind that I have the stamina, the mentality to last in matches and tournaments, of course it helps me to know that I can go deep in these types of tournaments,” he said of his Melbourne run.

Medvedev holds a 3-0 ATP Head2Head record against the 21-year-old, with the most recent meeting come in the semi-finals of the ATP Cup. The Russian triumphed in Sydney, 6-4, 6-0, but Team Canada went on to win the competition.

Going into what will be their third hard-court match in five months, Auger-Aliassime is uniquely prepared for one of the ultimate tests in the sport—facing Medvedev on his preferred surface.

“The reality is he’s the best player, almost, in the world now,” the Canadian said, leaning into his underdog status. I need to, you know, play a great match. I need to be able to give a great effort both mentally and physically to go through.”

After Wednesday’s action, the remaining men will enjoy a day off before both semi-finals take place on Friday.

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Shapovalov: 'I'm Happy With The Way I Was Able To Fight'

  • Posted: Jan 25, 2022

Despite falling agonisingly short against former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open on Tuesday, Denis Shapovalov was proud of his spirited quarter-final performance in Melbourne.

The Canadian, who was making his first appearance in the last eight at Melbourne Park, rallied from two sets down to level, before being edged 3-6 in the deciding set on Rod Laver Arena.

“I’m happy with the way I was able to fight and come back,” Shapovalov said in his post-match press conference. “I definitely found my game late in the third and in the fourth [sets]. It’s good to have more time at the Grand Slams to have opportunities to try to find your game. [It was a] good tournament for me overall.”

The 14th seed upset World No. 3 Alexander Zverev to set up his match against Nadal, but struggled to cope with the Spaniard’s intensity in the early phases of their clash. However, he altered up the tactic board, showing his growing maturity as a player to claw his way back into the match.

“I just changed things,” Shapovalov added. “I felt like I was shanking a lot of returns, so I just tried to prep a little bit higher. Once I did that, I was really seeing his serves and returning well.”

The 22-year-old, who now trails Nadal 1-4 in their ATP Head2Head series, was ultimately left frustrated though with his level in the fifth set.

“It just sucks to lose that one,” Shapovalov added. “I definitely felt like I had it on my racquet. And, I mean, [in the] third, fourth and fifth set, I felt like I was the better player, had more chances. [It was] just one bad game from me.”

Nadal’s victory means he has maintained his chances of capturing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title this week in Melbourne. When asked about the Spaniard, Shapovalov was full of admiration, acknowledging how tough of a competitor the 35-year-old still is.

“Rafa did a good job in the last set,” Shapovalov said. “Once he broke, he held his service games and served really big. He’s obviously putting a lot of pressure on you and making a lot of balls and playing aggressively when needed. Maybe other opponents would give me a little bit more freedom. It was definitely tricky.”

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