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Nadal & Team Spain Visit Sydney Harbour Amidst United Cup Preparations

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Nadal & Team Spain Visit Sydney Harbour Amidst United Cup Preparations

Nadal playing competitive mixed-gender team event for first time

With the luxury of a late start at the inaugural United Cup, Team Spain took full advantage of some leisure time by taking a trip to the iconic Sydney Harbour on Thursday. Led by Rafael Nadal, Pablo Carreno Busta and Paula Badosa, the Spaniards will open play on Saturday — New Year’s Eve — against Great Britain.

“We’re going to try our best to start in a good way and then enjoy the last day of the year,” Nadal said. “Starting with a good result on the 31st helps to finish the year in a positive way… We’re going to work as a team, and let’s see if we can [take] our chances.”

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The 36-year-old never played for Spain at Hopman Cup, and he is enjoying the unique experience of the mixed-gender event in Australia.

“It’s a new experience, new type of competition,” he said of the United Cup. “I think all of us, we are very excited to enjoy this special one… We never worked as a mixed team.”

While Nadal and World No. 13 Carreno Busta give Spain strong representation from the ATP Tour, Badosa will be an equally important part of the team’s success. The 25-year-old reached a career-high ranking of No. 2 last April and enters this season at World No. 13.

“It’s my second time here in Sydney,” said Badosa, who won a WTA 500 in the city to kickstart her 2022 season one year ago. “Last year when I came here I really enjoyed it. I went for a walk, I went to visit the opera… nice restaurants as well.”

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Bencic & Huesler Give Captain Wawrinka Closeout Opportunity

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Bencic & Huesler Give Captain Wawrinka Closeout Opportunity

Switzerland leads Kazakhstan 2-0

World No.12 Belinda Bencic opened her season with a tense 7-6(0), 6-3 win over No. 51 Yulia Putintseva on Day 1 of the United Cup in Brisbane, before Marc-Andrea Huesler extended Switzerland’s lead to 2-0 against Kazakhstan in Group B.

Bencic secured the straight-set win by coolly reeling in Putintseva, who led by a break early in both sets. After falling behind 4-1 in the opening set, Bencic fought off three set points on her serve to level at 5-5. She took her momentum into the tie-break, where she kept a clean sheet to secure the opening set after 72 minutes.

“I’m happy I kept fighting,” Bencic said. “For sure the positive attitude as well from my team, the crowd, and the great atmosphere got me through.”

Bencic pulled off another comeback in the second set, though with fewer dramatics. Despite falling behind 1-3, the Swiss Olympic champion never lost her cool. With both team captain Stan Wawrinka and coach Dmitry Tursunov urging her on, Bencic cleaned up her errors and ratcheted up the pressure to win the next five games.

“How can you not listen to such a champion when he’s telling you things,” Bencic said, referring to Wawrinka. “I was trying to listen, to focus, and do what I had to do.”

The victory leveled Bencic’s head-to-head against Putintseva to 3-3.

<a href=''>Marc-Andrea Huesler</a>
Photo: Getty Images

Huesler also needed to work hard Thursday evening, ultimately battling past 21-year-old Timofey Skatov 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 after two hours and 23 minutes.

Skatov scratched and clawed for his country inside Pat Rafter Arena, showing the talent that helped him to his maiden ATP Challenger Tour crown last October in Italy. But the Swiss was too calm under pressure, saving six of the seven break points he faced to triumph.

Huesler is playing the best tennis of his career aged 26, sitting at a career-high No. 56 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The lefty, who claimed his first ATP Tour title last year in Sofia, was just inside the Top 200 this time last year.

Playing captain Stan Wawrinka will have a chance to seal the tie for his country in the No. 1 men’s singles match on Friday when he faces another playing captain, Alexander Bublik. The Kazakhstani leads their ATP Head2Head 2-0, with both their previous clashes coming in 2022 (the second lasted three games before Wawrinka retired).

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United Cup Day 2 Preview: Wawrinka Continues Comeback Against Bublik

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

United Cup Day 2 Preview: Wawrinka Continues Comeback Against Bublik

Berrettini, Tiafoe also in action; Pegula faces Kvitova

When Stan Wawrinka injured his foot early in the 2021 season, he thought he’d miss only a few weeks. Instead, he was sidelined for more than a year — and suffered many moments of doubt that he would ever play tennis again.

“Of course there were those questions in my mind,” Wawrinka said last year in Monte Carlo before his first match back on the ATP Tour. “I was afraid things wouldn’t happen the way I wanted them to happen.”

Wawrinka faced Alexander Bublik in that comeback match and played credibly, losing in three sets. As it turns out, the 37-year-old Swiss player’s first match of 2023 comes against Bublik on Friday in Brisbane as Switzerland and Kazakhstan meet in a Group B confrontation at the United Cup.

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His 2022 season, understandably, was an uneven one, but there were flickers of the elite game that took Wawrinka to three Grand Slam singles titles. He reached the quarter-finals in Basel and the semis in Metz, beating then-World No. 4 Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round before falling in the semis to — yes — Bublik, when a hamstring injury forced his retirement 18 minutes in.

While his Pepperstone ATP Ranking slid into the low 300s last year, Wawrinka has it back to No. 148. His Swiss teammate, Marc-Andrea Huesler, is World No. 56. Wawrinka can draw from an extraordinary well of experience. He’s one of three players (along with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych) to defeat all of the Big Four — Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray — in Grand Slam play.

Bublik took the title in Montpellier back in February and won 33 tour-level matches across the 2022 season. He’s sits at No. 37 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings — and will take that 2-0 ATP Head2Head advantage over his Friday opponent into Pat Rafter Arena.

Pegula, Kvitova To Turn Up The Heat
How’s this for a blazing match in the sweet spot of the Australian summer: World No. 3 Jessica Pegula against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in a United Cup Group C encounter between the United States and the Czech Republic.

With a win Friday in Sydney, Pegula will clinch the opening tie for the U.S. On Day 1, Madison Keys and Taylor Fritz won their matches to give the Americans a 2-0 lead.

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The last time we saw these two square off was the fourth round of the 2022 US Open, when Pegula produced a 6-3, 6-2 victory, which sent her into the quarter-finals against World No.1 Iga Swiatek. The eventual champion prevailed in two tight sets over Pegula, but the American was headed to the WTA Finals and a career-high ranking.

Pegula’s finest moment came in Guadalajara, when she beat four major champions — Elena Rybakina, Bianca Andreescu, Sloane Stephens and Victoria Azarenka — on the way to the final. There she defeated World No.6 Maria Sakkari for her first WTA 1000 title. One week later, she was in Fort Worth for the WTA Finals, where she qualified in both singles and doubles.

“It’s just more of a reward and confidence boost for me, I think, to just show what a great season I had and how consistent I’ve been,” Pegula said. “I think as the year went on it became more of a goal. So, yeah, it’s a huge honour.”

More from the United Cup

Pegula won 42 of 63 matches for the year and her coach, David Witt, was the WTA Tour’s Coach of the Year.

Kvitova, coming off a strong season as well, is ranked World No. 16 after winning the title in Eastbourne last season. She also reached the final at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and won three matches at the US Open before running into Pegula. The Czech player won her two previous matches against Pegula, both in 2020, in Doha and the US Open in straight sets.

United Cup: Day 2 Order of play (local time)

Sydney, Ken Rosewall Arena

U.S. vs. Czech Republic (Group C):
Jessica Pegula (USA) vs. Petra Kvitova (CZE), 10 a.m.
Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs. Tomas Machac (CZE), to follow
Mixed doubles, TBD  (USA) vs. TBD (CZE), to follow

Australia vs. Great Britain (Group D)
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) vs. Harriet Dart (GBR), 5:30 p.m.
Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs. Daniel Evans (GBR), to follow
Mixed doubles, TBD (AUS) vs. TBD (GBR), to follow

Perth, RAC Arena

Greece vs. Bulgaria (Group A)
Maria Sakkari (GRE) vs. Viktoriya Tomova (BUL), 10 a.m.
Michail Pervolarakis (GRE) vs. Dimitar Kuzmanov (BUL), to follow
Mixed doubles, TBD (GRE) vs. TBD (BUL), to follow

France vs. Argentina (Group F)
Caroline Garcia (FRA) vs. Nadia Podoroska (ARG), 5:30 p.m.
Adrian Mannarino (FRA) vs. Federico Coria (ARG), to follow
Mixed doubles, TBD (FRA) vs. TBD (ARG), 8:30, to follow

Brisbane, Pat Rafter Arena

Italy vs. Brazil (Group E)
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs. Thiago Monteiro (BRA), 10 a.m.
Lucia Bronzetti (ITA) vs. Laura Pigossi (BRA), to follow
Mixed doubles, TBD (ITA) vs. TBD (BRA), to follow

Switzerland vs. Kazakhstan (Group B)
Stan Wawrinka (SWI) vs. Alexander Bublik (KAZ), 5:30 p.m.
Jil Teichmann (SWI) vs. Zhibek Kulambayeva (KAZ), to follow
Mixed doubles, TBD (SWI) vs. TBD (KAZ), to follow

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Cornet Cruises Past Carle; France Lead Argentina 1-0 In United Cup

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Cornet Cruises Past Carle; France Lead Argentina 1-0 In United Cup

Rinderknech takes on Cerundolo in second match of Group F tie

Alize Cornet passed the test of a first-time encounter with flying colours on Thursday at the United Cup, defeating Maria Lourdes Carle 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 15 minutes to give Team France a 1-0 lead over Team Argentina in Perth.

Cornet, a quarter-finalist at the 2022 Australian Open, had never faced No.147-ranked Carle before. Consequently, the first five games were filled with extended baseline exchanges as both players probed each other’s games while refusing to miss.

It was University of Georgia alumna Carle, 22, who ran out of ideas first. A lapse into error handed Cornet the first break for 4-2, and the Frenchwoman seized momentum firmly to reel off six straight games, including 13 of the last 14 points of the first set.

Punishing Carle’s second serves and getting the better of the all-court rallies, Cornet was in control at 2-0 in the second set — until she squandered three game points for 3-0. Carle took advantage, breaking back with a vicious slice to halt the run of games against her.

But Cornet refused to let that become a turning point. A booming backhand winner down the line regained her advantage for 3-1 and she did not drop another game, sealing her first match point with an authoritative smash.

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Australian Open Prize Money Hits Record High

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Australian Open Prize Money Hits Record High

Men’s and women’s singles champion will receive nearly $3M AUD

The world’s best tennis players will be competing for more than AUD $100 million prize money this summer.

The historic prize pool is a result of a record $76.5 million in prize money for the Australian Open (a 3.4 per cent increase) as well as the addition of the lucrative new United Cup event.

“It is critical to the continued success of the Australian tennis summer that we provide strong and relevant playing opportunities and ensure that the best players in the world are compensated appropriately. We want to ensure Australia is the launchpad for the global season and that we see as much of them as possible. They inspire us all to engage in this great sport as well as inspiring future generations,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.

“We are delighted to have more than $100 million in prize money on offer across the Australian summer, along with more chances to compete across the country. We’ve worked tirelessly alongside the ATP and WTA to launch the exciting new United Cup, which includes its own significant ranking points and prize money, a further two WTA and ATP events in Adelaide, the Hobart International and an upgraded ATP 100 Challenger in Canberra.

“At the Australian Open we’ve upped prize money for every round from qualifying, through to the finals, with the major increases in the early rounds, where these substantial rewards help players invest in their own careers and in many cases, set themselves up for success throughout the year.”

2023 Australian Open Singles Prize Money (Men & Women)

 Round  Prize Money
 Champion  $2,975,000
 Finalist  $1,625,000
 Semi-finalist  $925,000
 Quarter-finalist  $555,250
 R16  $338,250
 R32  $227,925
 R64  $158,850
 R128  $106,250

2023 Australian Open Doubles Prize Money (Men & Women per team)

 Round  Prize Money
 Champion  $695,000
 Finalist  $370,000
 Semi-finalist  $210,000
 Quarter-finalist  $116,500
 R16  $67,250
 R32  $46,500
 R128  $30,975

Australian Open 2023 prize money fast facts:

  • Australian Open total prize pool of $76.5 million, up 3.4 per cent on 2022
  • Singles, doubles and qualifying increase by 3.2 per cent
  • Prize money increases in every round
  • First round qualifiers – $26,000 up 3 percent
  • First round doubles teams – $30,975 up 3.1 percent
  • First round main draw singles players – $106,250 up 3.2 percent
  • Players reaching the second round – $158,850 up 3.1 percent
  • Semi-finalists will earn $925,000, up 3.4 percent
  • Singles champions will take home $2.975 million
  • The total Australian Open prize purse is $76.5 million, up 3.4 percent on AO 2022
  • Australian Open prize money has increased by more than 321 percent, or $58.32 million in the 20 years since 2003, when it was $18.18 million
  • Prize money has more than doubled (155 percent increase) from $30 million in 2013 (10 years)
  • Prize money has increased 283 per cent since Craig Tiley became Tournament Director for AO 2007.

    Australian Summer of Tennis Prize Money Fast Facts:

  • Exceeds $100 million for the first time – up 10.8 per cent on 2022

  • The United Cup, an ATP-WTA event presented in partnership with Tennis Australia, offers USD $15 million in prize money as well as up to 500 Pepperstone ATP Ranking points and 500 WTA Ranking points.

Just some of the initiatives for players at AO 2023 include:

  • Player Recharge Zone with performance focused nutrition bar and mindfulness activities
  • Enhanced Player Performance Spaces including three gyms, additional preparation/recovery space with ambient temperature, a new player stretch area and outdoor stretch area
  • Six themed restaurants/cafes spread across two floors of the dedicated Player Pod – Gourmet Italian, Japanese, Asian Stir Fry, Super Green Salad and Grill, and a Deli/Sandwich Bar, along with the fab coffee Melbourne is renowned for
  • Two new cafes at the National Tennis Centre, a great spot for training and recovery on non-match days
  • Foot Fault is a Grand Slam first – a brand new player foot care service with specialists offering private consultations, treatment for foot problems and education on ongoing foot care throughout the tournament
  • Specialist Medical Clinics for players pre-tournament, including podiatrist, dermatologist, shoulder and tendon specialists and recovery specialists
  • Additional Player Quiet Rooms
  • Five free restrings per round
  • Match analysis data available for all players
  • Player Gifting experience with a focus on sustainability
  • Player Beauty Bar, hairdressing, beautician services, nail bar, etc
  • Player Barber
  • Childcare and Parent Room

Enhancing the experience for players competing in the AO Junior Championships is another focus for 2023, with a range of initiatives designed to welcome them into the Grand Slam family, including a $500 travel grant for all competitors.

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Norrie Moves Great Britain Ahead Against Australia

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Norrie Moves Great Britain Ahead Against Australia

Briton Swan faces Hives in second match of tie

Cameron Norrie ensured Great Britain made a winning start to its United Cup tie Thursday when he powered past Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-3 to give his nation a 1-0 lead against Australia in Group D.

In front of a lively crowd in Sydney, the World No. 14 did his best to quieten the Australian supporters, hitting his flat backhand with consistent depth to keep De Minaur pinned behind the baseline for large periods of the 90-minute encounter.

“I am feeling great,” Norrie said. “First match of the year there is a lot of nerves. It is a tough task to play Demon in Australia on this court, him playing at home. He loves playing here and it was not easy. I ran a lot, absolutely drenched three shirts. A lot of running and it was humid in there. I enjoyed the atmosphere and it was nice to get the win as well.”

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The 27-year-old, who won 87 per cent (26/30) of his first-serve points, crucially rallied from 1-1, 0/40 on serve in the first set, gaining momentum from that moment to take control of the first set. Norrie then earned a break in the second set and won the majority of the lung-busting exchanges to triumph.

With his entertaining victory, Norrie has levelled his ATP Head2Head series against De Minaur at 1-1, having fallen to the World No. 24 in Barcelona last season.

Katie Swan will aim to double Great Britain’s lead when she faces Zoe Hives in the final match of the day. The United Cup is a new mixed-teams event featuring 18 countries across Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. Played over two days, ties will be comprised of two ATP and two WTA singles matches and one mixed doubles match.

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Djokovic Ready For Adelaide: 'The Field Is Super Strong'

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Djokovic Ready For Adelaide: ‘The Field Is Super Strong’

Serbian set for next week’s ATP 250

Sixteen years ago, 19-year-old Novak Djokovic lifted the third ATP Tour trophy of his career in Adelaide. The Serbian, now a 91-time tour-level titlist, will try to triumph in the Australian city once again next week when he takes on a tough field at the Adelaide International 1.

“The field is super strong. You have Medvedev, Felix, Rublev. You have really, really top guys,” Djokovic said Thursday. “Also in the opening rounds, you can play Thanasi Kokkinakis, who is title defender, right? That could be fun actually. Playing Thanasi in front of his home fans, could be fun.”

Djokovic knows he will need to be sharp from the first ball at the ATP 250. As the 35-year-old noted, some of the world’s best players will be competing, including former World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, red-hot Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 2022 Nitto ATP Finals semi-finalist Andrey Rublev, Rolex Paris Masters champion Holger Rune and Italian Jannik Sinner.

“I always have faith in myself and belief that I can win every tournament that I play in. I think with the career that I’ve had, I feel like I deserve to have that kind of I guess mental approach,” Djokovic said. “Things are obviously different. Lots of young guys on the tour, [there has been] kind of a shift of generations. But [Rafael] Nadal and myself, [we are] still going strong from the older guys.”

Djokovic added: “I know what I need to do in order to compete with them, in order to be one of the contenders for the title here and in Melbourne. The good memories and good history that I have on Australian soil gives me a lot of positive emotions and belief that I can do it again, that I can go far.”

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The Serbian has long enjoyed success in Australia. He has won nine of his 21 Grand Slam championships at the Australian Open.

“The goal is to peak in Melbourne. That’s where I want to play my best. I guess at this stage of my career, with all the achievements, every big tournament win is possibility to make more history. Of course, that’s very humbling for me. It’s also a big challenge, but it’s a huge motivation,” Djokovic said. “I don’t lack inspiration and motivation to play my best”.

For now, Djokovic is fully focussed on making a good start to the year in Adelaide. This morning, he was watching highlights of when he defeated Australian Chris Guccione to triumph in the city in 2007. Djokovic will hope those memories help push him to success next week.

“It’s a great place. People in Adelaide and generally in Australia love tennis, love sports. It’s a sporting nation,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully we’re going to have a lot of people watching and we can have some good time.”

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Challenger Tour: Five To Watch In 2023

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2022

Challenger Tour: Five To Watch In 2023

The Beijing native Shang aims for a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals 

One of the intriguing elements of the ATP Challenger Tour is the chance to witness the game’s brightest young stars before they evolve into household names at the season’s most prestigious events.

Each week players work hard to secure points, prize money, and the chance to launch their career to new heights. In 2022, several youngsters made a sudden impact on the Challenger Tour and now they hold high hopes of furthering their careers this upcoming season. looks at five Challenger Tour players to keep an eye on in 2023, including Frenchman Luca Van Assche, who looks to build upon his late-season surge while Italy’s Francesco Passaro hopes to use the valuable Milan experience as a stepping stone in his career.

Luca Van Assche
The 18-year-old, who won the 2021 Roland Garros boys’ singles title, has won nine of his past 10 matches, including collecting his maiden Challenger title at the Maia Challenger. The Frenchman was also a finalist at the Lisbon, Brest, and Valencia Challengers.

ATP Challenger Tour 

Now at a career-high 137 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Van Assche aims to continue his strong run to open the new season, including at the Canberra Challenger, where the teen will compete next week.

“My goal is to continue like how I ended the year, with a lot of confidence,” Van Assche told “I’m just working hard every day and my goal is to be in the Top 100 as soon as possible.”

Francesco Passaro
Following the Italian’s standout year, which earned him a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals, Passaro is closing in on making his Top 100 debut. A five-time Challenger finalist in 2022, Passaro earned his maiden title at the Trieste Challenger, where he rallied from a set down to defeat Zhang Zhizhen in the championship match.

Passaro was one of seven Italian #NextGenATP Challenger champions this past season. The Perugia native joined countrymen Matteo Arnaldi, Mattia Bellucci, Flavio Cobolli, Francesco Maestrelli, Lorenzo Musetti, and Luca Nardi.

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Juncheng Shang
At the Lexington Challenger, the Chinese teen became the youngest (17 years, 6 months) player to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020 and the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history.

After a runner-up finish in Granby and a semi-final appearance in Las Vegas, the lefty cracked the Top 200 for the first time. The Beijing native, who became the first player born in 2005 to win a Challenger title, now sets his sights on a strong year with hopes of qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Gabriel Diallo
Earlier this month, the 6’7” youngster announced he will forego his senior season at the University of Kentucky and turn professional. The Canadian had already seen his game translate well to the Challenger Tour. Now tennis will be his full-time job.

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In August, only one week after claiming his first Challenger main-draw win in Vancouver, Diallo was lifting his maiden Challenger trophy. The Montreal native was unfased as he won on home soil in Granby and the following month finished runner-up at the Fairfield Challenger (l. Mmoh). The 21-year-old enters the new year as 227 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

Timofey Skatov
At the Challenger 125 event in Parma, Italy, Skatov became the only Kazakh Challenger champion of the year. The World No. 142 defeated Jozek Kovalik, who was on a nine-match winning streak, in the final.

Skatov, 21, plays his best tennis on clay, where he reached six Challenger semi-finals in 2022: Coquimbo, Lisbon, Braga, Seville, Roseto Degli Abruzzi-2, and Parma. Across four tournaments in September and October, the Kazakh won 14 of 16 matches and earned the highest-ranked win of his career, then-No. 71 Federico Coria, at the Coquimbo Challenger.

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