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Kyrgios On Australian Open Title: 'This One Ranks No. 1 For Me'

  • Posted: Jan 29, 2022

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios on Saturday became the first wild cards in the Open Era to win the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open. To say they were thrilled would be an understatement.

“I have won some big titles around the world, played some amazing matches. This one ranks [No.] 1 for me,” Kyrgios said. “When I say I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else, I mean it. It was just special. The whole week, winning each round, I didn’t take it for granted. I was soaking it in.”

Kokkinakis, who crafted one of the early stories of the season when he triumphed in Adelaide for his first ATP Tour title, agreed with his longtime friend.

“Comparing to what I have gone through in the years I have had the past few years, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Adelaide was No. 1 for me, but this has trumped it,” Kokkinakis said. “To be a Grand Slam champion with my boy — we have known each other since we were eight, nine years old, done some serious things together, have had some serious experiences — but this is incredible. We didn’t expect this at all.”

It has been an especially meaningful Australian summer for Kokkinakis. For years, the 25-year-old has struggled with injuries, which have largely kept him off the biggest stages in tennis.

“I knew what I was capable of, but you always have doubts and you always think to yourself, ‘What if it doesn’t happen? What if my career doesn’t plan out the way I want it to, or what if I never win a title or get a chance like that?’” Kokkinakis said. “To have the summer I’ve had, I was stoked with making a semi-final in Adelaide, just coming from not much in a Tour event and then to win, I was, like, ‘Can’t get any better than this.’ Then to win a Grand Slam after that, this month has been unbelievable for me.”

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios
Photo Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Kokkinakis and Kyrgios defeated four seeded teams en route to the title, including top seeds Nikola Mektic/Mate Pavic and third seeds Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos. The Aussies beat countrymen Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the final. They served big and blasted away from the baseline to lift the trophy.

“I think if doubles players try and play how we play, it’s not gonna work, and if we try and play how doubles specialists play, it’s not going to work,” Kokkinakis said. “It’s just how we’ve been brought up, and what we think gives us the best chance to succeed. There’s heaps of ways to play doubles but for us pretty much playing singles in a half court works.”

Kyrgios admitted to feeling “like a completely different person” over the course of the fortnight, even waking up at 7:30 a.m. and arriving at the venue for a hit at 8:30 a.m. That paid off for the Australian duo. He said, “This is a memory that we are never going to forget.”

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Stats Preview: Will Medvedev Or Nadal Serve & Volley In Australian Open Final?

  • Posted: Jan 29, 2022

Rafael Nadal is known for his pounding forehand and fighting spirit, while Daniil Medvedev is known for his dogged defence and problem-solving abilities. But could net play decide the 2022 Australian Open final?

History shows that is a legitimate possibility. When the pair met in the 2019 US Open final, serve-and-volleying was a key tactic in the match for both players.

Nadal stunningly used the play 20 times, winning all but three of those points (85%) en route to a thrilling five-set victory. Medvedev serve-and-volleyed an astonishing 29 times (22/29, 76%) in his loss. Combined, they deployed the play 19 times in the deciding fifth set, with the serve-and-volleyer winning nearly 74 per cent of those points (14/19).

Flashback: Nadal-Medvedev 2019 Flushing Meadows Brain Game Analysis

Both men often return from deep behind the baseline, providing an opening for it to be used. But will they take advantage on Sunday inside Rod Laver Arena?

So far this tournament, neither has utilised the tactic much. Nadal has won 12 of his 14 serve-and-volley points through six matches, and Medvedev has won his two, both of which came in his come-from-behind five-set victory against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarter-finals.

Net Play At 2022 AO – Medvedev & Nadal

 Player  Net Pts Won (%)  Serve & Volley Pts Won (%)
 Daniil Medvedev  106/162 (65%)  2/2 (100%)
 Rafael Nadal  96/122 (79%)  12/14 (86%)

However, both men have not been shy coming forward during the tournament. Nadal has won 79 per cent of his 122 trips forward (96/122), and Medvedev has claimed 65 per cent of his 162 net points (106/62). The tournament average for net points won in the men’s singles draw has been 67 per cent.

Fittingly, Medvedev and Nadal excelled at net in their two toughest victories. Medvedev won 73 per cent of his net points in his five-set win against Auger-Aliassime, and Nadal took 85 per cent of his (22/26) against Denis Shapovalov in their five-set clash in the last eight.

A majority of points are played in the zero-to-four-shot rally range, and that has been no different for Medvedev and Nadal this fortnight. Within that range, Medvedev has won 54.1 per cent of his points (560/1,036) compared to 53.6 per cent for Nadal (430/802).

But keep an eye on what happens if points last longer than four shots. Nadal has been more dominant in those rallies, winning 59.4 per cent (244/411) of them through six matches. Medvedev has been good in that same range, but not as good as Rafa. He has won 53.8 per cent (239/444) of points lasting five or more shots.

Points Won By Rally Length At 2022 AO

 Player  Daniil Medvedev  Rafael Nadal
 0-4 Shots  560/1,036 (54.1%)  430/802 (53.6%)
 5-8 Shots  151/285 (53%)   157/266 (59%)
 9+ Shots  88/159 (55.3%)  87/145 (60%)

After defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals, Medvedev made clear he enjoys the longer rallies.

“Probably [it will be a] physical match,” Medvedev said. “Rafa likes to drag people into long rallies. I like it, too.”

In many metrics, Medvedev and Nadal have faired similarly well at the Australian Open. Medvedev has earned a slightly better rate of break points won (39% to 36%) and break points saved (79% to 76%), while also averaging 1.6 winners for every unforced error (263-163) compared to 1.4 for Nadal (214-151). The lefty has won 56 per cent of his baseline points (362/651) compared to 51 per cent for the Russian (383/746).

When Nadal spoke to the media, he did not yet know whether he would face Medvedev or Tsitsipas. But he said that no matter his opponent, one thing will always stay the same.

“If I’m not able to play at my top level, [there] will be simply no chance,” Nadal said. “Of course [tactics] change a little bit, playing against one or the other. But one thing [that is] not going to change is that I need to play at my highest level.”

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Preview: Will Nadal Win 21st Slam Or Medvedev Play Australian Open Spoiler?

  • Posted: Jan 29, 2022

History will be made on Sunday in the Australian Open final. But will it be because Rafael Nadal claimed a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title or because Daniil Medvedev became the first man in the Open Era to earn his second major crown at the next Slam following his first?

Entering the tournament, both men downplayed their chances. Nadal had only played five matches since Roland Garros last year due to a left foot injury. The 35-year-old was clear he had to “accept that things [are] not going to be perfect”.

“I came here just with the clear goal to be back on the Tour,” Nadal said before the event. “That’s the most important thing. Then if I am able to win matches, be improving every single day, fantastic.”

The sixth seed was right. His tournament has not been perfect. This has not been like many of his Roland Garros runs, in which the lefty steamrolled the field en route to the trophy. But one thing no injury can take away from Nadal is his determination, and that has been on full display throughout the fortnight.

In the quarter-finals against Denis Shapovalov, Nadal let slip a two-set lead and admitted to dealing with a stomach issue in the brutal Melbourne heat. But as he has often done throughout his career, the 89-time tour-level titlist relied on his unparalleled fighting spirit and found a way to win.

Watch Nadal SF Highlights:

Then in the semi-finals, when big-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini appeared to have seized the momentum and turned their match around, Nadal once again battled through, triumphing in four sets to reach his sixth Australian Open final. The emotion on his face after match point as he smiled towards his box said it all.

“I went through a lot of challenging moments, a lot of days of hard work without seeing a light there,” Nadal said. “But [I was] still working and still receiving plenty of support from my team and from my family, too, without a doubt.”

Nadal is now three sets away from breaking his tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for the most men’s singles Grand Slam titles in history. The Spaniard can also become the fourth man in history to claim multiple crowns at all four majors. But earlier in the week, he was clear that his future happiness will not depend on finishing with more Slams than his great rivals.

“No, I am super satisfied and feel [I am a] very lucky person in general for all the things that happened to me in this life,” Nadal said. “I have a way to approach life. You can’t be always frustrated if the other, if the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a better phone or a better thing. I’m not going to be frustrated if Novak or Roger finishes their career with more Grand Slams than me.”

Watch Medvedev SF Highlights:

Medvedev would be happy to halt Nadal’s historic pursuit. But the second-seeded Russian said he is not focussed on that.

“It’s not me going for the 21st, not me trying to break these records. I’m going for my second one. I’m still far from all these things,” Medvedev said. “I’m just trying to focus on myself, doing my job. Of course, I’m not lying, I know what’s happening, I know what Rafa is going for, I knew what Novak was going for. I’m not gonna say, ‘Oh, yeah, I am trying not to listen about this.’ But it’s kind of their thing, not mine. I’m just there to try to win the final.”

Last September, Medvedev stopped Djokovic’s chase of the Grand Slam — winning all four majors in a single season — with a dominant display in the US Open final. Will he play spoiler again, but this time at Melbourne Park?

Entering the tournament, the Russian star was one of the leading favourites if not the favourite as the highest-ranked player in the field and the most recent Grand Slam champion. But like Nadal, he attempted to shift the pressure off himself.

“I always say whoever is the highest ranked is the favourite,” Medvedev told Eurosport. “So this time I will go with Rafa because he has 20 Grand Slams.”

Both men have earned their spot in the championship clash, which is a rematch of the 2019 US Open final. On that occasion, Nadal sprinted to a two-set lead with a break in the third set before Medvedev found his footing in his first major final and forced a fifth set. The Spaniard clawed his way to a grueling four-hour, 51-minute victory.

“[I] have to give myself credit. I hope I grew a lot doing these things,” Medvedev said at the time. “But I need to continue and I need to be better.”

Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal helped the US Open set a new attendance record this year.
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The Russian has done just that. The 2020 Nitto ATP Finals champion has no clear weaknesses. At 6’6”, the 25-year-old often powers through service games at lightning speed before drowning opponents during his return games with jaw-dropping movement and defence. His strokes might look unconventional, but the results are unquestionable.

Perhaps most importantly, Medvedev has developed a champion’s knack for raising his level when it matters most. Felix Auger-Aliassime played sensational tennis in the quarter-finals to take a two-set lead against him before the World No. 2 raised his game to rally for a spot in the last four, where he ousted rival Stefanos Tsitsipas in four sets.

Medvedev thrives in the big moments. This is his fourth major final, and they have all come against legendary opponents, with two against Djokovic and this the second against Nadal.

“It’s really tough to get into the final, and I always have them there waiting for me. But it’s fun,” Medvedev said. “When I was like eight, ten years old I was playing against the wall and I was imagining that it’s Rafa on the other side, or Roger. Novak was still not yet there…

“Now I have the chance to play [Rafa for the] second time. First one was a close one, epic one. I’m gonna try to prepare well, and need to show my best, because that’s what I took of the three finals that I had before, that you have to do better than 100 per cent in order to win.”

Nadal will throw everything but the Yarra River at Medvedev on Sunday. The sixth seed will launch forehand rockets, try to sneak forward if Medvedev stays far behind the baseline like he did at points in Flushing Meadows in 2019. But will it be enough?

Rather than worrying about the result, the Spaniard plans to enjoy the moment.

“Winning, it’s special, yes, but winning without all the work that you have behind of course is not the same,” Nadal said. “If the things are easy, [they] don’t have the same value. In my case, I think I have been able to enjoy it probably more than the other, because for a lot of times I was close to not being able to do it again.”

Did You Know?
Nadal leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 3-1, but Medvedev won their most recent clash at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals.

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Kokkinakis & Kyrgios Complete Dream Run, Win Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 29, 2022

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios completed their dream Australian Open run late Saturday evening when they defeated fellow Aussies Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell 7-5, 6-4 to lift the trophy.

The crowd favourites, who thrilled fans throughout the tournament with their entertaining play, are the first wild cards to win the event in the Open Era and the first wild cards to triumph at any major since Wimbledon in 2012, when Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen were victorious.

“This week has been a dream come true for me. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else,” Kyrgios said during the trophy ceremony. “Max has been to the final twice, so he’s a hell of a doubles player. Matty’s had a hell of a career, so I’m just super happy.”

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios
Photo Credit: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
This was the pair’s fourth appearance at a major together. But in their three previous Grand Slam appearances, they won just one match. At this year’s Australian Open, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios defeated four seeded opponents — top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, 15th seeds Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar, sixth seeds Tim Puetz and Michael Venus and third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos — en route to the trophy.

“Nick, I love you brother. I can honestly say we did not expect to even come close to this, but with the help of you guys all week, [it has] been unbelievable,” Kokkinakis said. “The coverage it got and the support for us, we couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Heavy hitting from Kokkinakis and Kyrgios off the ground proved too much in the big moments in their one-hour, 35-minute victory. Purcell saved the first championship point at 3-5 in the second set with a big serve out wide. But in the next game, Kyrgios held to love.

The champions completed their victory when Kokkinakis punched a backhand volley through the middle of the court for a winner. Kokkinakis and Kyrgios dropped their racquets and immediately sprinted into a chest bump before embracing to celebrate their big win.

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios
Photo Credit: Damian Traynor/Getty Images
In the first set, Kokkinakis hit big off the ground to claim the match’s first break, on his team’s fourth break point chance of the game, for 6-5. Their break in the second set, at 3-3, also came off big hitting from Kokkinakis, who struck a forehand that drew a volley error from Ebden.

Kokkinakis and Kyrgios are the first all-Australian men’s doubles champions at the Australian Open since Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde triumphed in 1997. Both men are known for their singles play, but despite Adelaide champion Kokkinakis (first round) and Kyrgios (second round) losing in the singles draw by the second round, they bounced back to create a memorable run in the doubles.

“It’s been a rough couple years for me personally… but what a month we’ve had. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Kokkinakis said. “Coming into the Aussie Open, I was already happy, and this is a crazy cherry on top.”

This was Ebden and Purcell’s second tournament together after reaching last year’s Australian Open quarter-finals. In 2020, Purcell made the Australian Open final with Luke Saville. 

“They adapted really well. Gotta give them credit. We didn’t do too much wrong. They were roping balls, front and centre lobs at our toes, smoking huge serves,” Ebden said. “We sort of did everything we could, but just wasn’t our day.”

Did You Know?
This was the first all-Australian men’s doubles final at the Australian Open since Mark Edmondson and Kim Warwick defeated Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee in the 1980 championship match.

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