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Hijikata/Kubler Capture Australian Open Crown

  • Posted: Jan 28, 2023

Hijikata/Kubler Capture Australian Open Crown

Australian wild cards defeat Nys/Zielinski

Australian wild cards Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler ended their fairytale run at the Australian Open in style Saturday when they defeated Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski 6-4, 7-6(4) to capture their first Grand Slam title.

Competing in front of vocal home support, Hijikata and Kubler hammered returns and were strong on serve, winning 88 per cent (38/43) of points behind their first deliveries to become the fifth unseeded team to win the Australian Open trophy.

“I have got to thank Rinky,” Kubler said during the trophy ceremony. “He was the reason we teamed for this tournament. I wasn’t sure and then Rinky asked me and I said yeah and decided to play. Two weeks later and we have this trophy, so a big thank you to Rinky.”

“I could never have imagined this,” Hijikata said. “I am glad you said yes Kubs to playing with me a few months ago. It is just unreal. Thank you so much mate, it has been unreal.”

With their 85-minute victory, the Australians followed in the footsteps of Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios, who won the 2022 Aussie Open title as wild cards. Hijikata and Kubler are the third Australian team to win a men’s doubles trophy since last January, with Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell triumphing at Wimbledon.

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Teaming for the first time this fortnight, the wild cards upset sixth seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara, top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski and eighth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

In a tight final, Hijikata and Kubler earned the decisive break of the first set in the third game to gain control. They did not face a break point in the opener to move ahead before they held their nerve in the second-set tie-break, winning a thrilling all-court championship point to seal their win.

“Thank you to all the fans, wow,” Kubler said. “I have never had a summer like this and with you guys, you have made it so special. I have played on a lot of big courts and you being out here with me makes me feel so comfortable. It feels like 1000 against two when I am out here.”

Nys and Zielinski were also competing in their first major final after advancing in deciding sets in four of their five matches.

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Vying For No. 1, Tsitsipas & Djokovic To Headline Big Changes In Top 10

  • Posted: Jan 28, 2023

Vying For No. 1, Tsitsipas & Djokovic To Headline Big Changes In Top 10

Nadal, Medvedev to fall four places

Big changes are coming Monday when the new edition of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings is released following the Australian Open, starting at the very top.

The winner of Sunday’s men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas will rise to World No. 1, ending Carlos Alcaraz’s 20-week rain as the ATP Tour’s leading man. The Spaniard will slip to No. 2 regardless of the result in Melbourne, with the runner-up at No. 3.

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Tsitsipas could become the first Greek and the 29th man overall to top the Pepperstone ATP Rankings since they debuted in 1973; he is assured of matching his career high of No. 3 behind his run to his second major final. Djokovic is bidding to add to his record 373 weeks as World No. 1 by returning to the top spot for the first time since last June.

The Serbian would make the biggest jump to No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings — rising four spots from No. 5 — if he wins is 10th Australian Open title. Tsitsipas would match the biggest move to No. 1 — three places — if he claims his first Grand Slam crown.

The chart below lists the four men who are currently tied for the biggest jump to World No. 1, with each rising from No. 4 on the date below. Both Alcaraz and Carlos Moya debuted atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on the same occasion.

Carlos Alcaraz  12 Sept. 2022
Pete Sampras 11 Sept. 2000
Andre Agassi 5 July 1999
Carlos Moya 15 March 1999

Other notable upward movers in Monday’s edition of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings will include Melbourne semi-finalists Karen Khachanov (up seven places to No. 13) and Tommy Paul (up 16 places to No. 19). 

Both 2022 Australian Open finalists are set to fall after early exits at the year’s first Grand Slam. Rafael Nadal, last year’s champion, will drop four spots to No. 6, while 2022 finalist Daniil Medvedev moves outside the Top 10, dropping four places to No. 12. Matteo Berrettini, a semi-finalist one year ago Down Under, will fall eight places to No. 22.

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Djokovic v Tsitsipas: The Rivalry

  • Posted: Jan 28, 2023

Djokovic v Tsitsipas: The Rivalry

Recapping six epic matches between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas

The 13th ATP Head2Head matchup between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas will play out on Sunday in the 2023 Australian Open final, with the contest doubling as a straight shootout for No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

Ahead of the title match, breaks down six classic matches between the pair.

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2022 Rolex Paris Masters SF, hard, Djokovic d. Tsitsipas 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4)
Djokovic extended his winning streak to eight straight matches against Tsitsipas with this gutsy victory, claiming the final four points of the match after falling behind by a mini-break in the decisive tie-break. In a high-quality contest that ebbed and flowed, Djokovic was at his best early and late, though Tsitsipas nearly snatched victory after edging ahead 4/3 in the tie-break.

The pair combined for 63 winners and just 23 unforced errors with clean hitting at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Djokovic’s dominant serving made the difference, as he won 84 per cent (41/49) of his first-serve points and did not face a break point in the first or third set.

“Deservedly so, we went into — both of us — into an even battle all the way until the last point, until the last shot,” the Serbian said. “Some incredible points towards the end. I’m just really glad to overcome this challenge.” Read Match Report.

Djokovic won all four of his 2022 matches against Tsitsipas, dropping just one set across matches in Rome, Astana, Paris and Turin.

Novak Djokovic earns a hard-fought victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2022 ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris.

2021 Roland Garros Final, clay, Djokovic d. Tsitsipas 6-7(6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Tsitsipas was within touching distance of his first Grand Slam title after a battling performance in set one and a dominant display in set two, with the Greek firmly in the ascendency behind his attacking game. But Djokovic left the court after losing the second set and emerged as a “different player”, shifting the match decisively when play resumed.

Suddenly it was the Serbian on the front foot as he dialled up the aggression and introduced doubt into his opponent’s game. He did not face a break point in the final three sets, controlling each one behind an early break.

“I managed to make a break, early break in the third,” Djokovic said post-match. “After that, I felt like I got into his head. I feel like I started swinging through the ball better. The momentum was on my side, it shifted. There was no looking back from that moment.”

With his first comeback from two-sets-to-love in a major final, Djokovic won his 19th Slam title and his second in Paris. The victory also sealed a historic feat for the Serbian, making him the first player in the Open Era – and only the third player in history – to achieve the career Grand Slam twice. Read Match Report.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic embrace after a five-set thriller at Roland Garros in 2021.

2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia QF, clay, Djokovic d. Tsitsipas 4-6, 7-5, 7-5
In a match played across two days in Rome, Tsitsipas slept on a set-and-a-break lead before Djokovic began to find his footing on the clay. Trailing 6-4, 2-1 overnight, the Serbian forced a deciding set on Saturday, then twice battled back from a break deficit to advance to the Rome semi-finals for the eighth straight year.

Tsitsipas served for the match at 5-4 in the third, but fell victim to his opponent’s unrelenting consistency and depth in the closing stages, several untimely errors proving his undoing.

“There are many things to say about today or yesterday’s match. It kind of felt like we played two matches,” Djokovic reflected. “The one yesterday, where he was the better player. He started better today also. I managed to somehow to hold my nerve [and] break his serve in the important moments in the second and third sets.” Read Match Report.

Novak Djokovic rallies from a set down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2021 ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome.

2020 Roland Garros SF, clay, Djokovic d. Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1
Djokovic nearly scored a straightforward victory in his first Grand Slam meeting with Tsitsipas, but the Greek’s heavy hitting erased a match point at 5-4 in the third set and set the stage for a lengthy battle that clocked in at just under four hours.

With new life, Tsitsipas continued to pummel his groundstrokes and attack the Djokovic backhand. He fought off 10 of 11 break points in the fourth set, converting two from two on return, but ran out of steam in the fifth as Djokovic reasserted himself on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“I was definitely not pleased with the way I played the finishing stages of the third and fourth sets, but I was very pleased with the way I kept my composure mentally throughout the entire match,” said Djokovic. “I did feel that even though I lost the third and fourth, I still felt like I was the better player on the court. I had more control. I just felt comfortable playing.” Read Match Report.

Djokovic improved to 37-1 on the 2020 season with the victory, though he would be turned back by Rafael Nadal in a three-set final.

Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas meet in the semi-finals of Roland Garros in 2020.

2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters QF, hard, Tsitsipas d. Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3
Tsitsipas improved to 2-1 in this young rivalry with a stirring comeback to earn his first win against a reigning World No. 1. Djokovic cruised to the opening set, but Tsitsipas claimed the second with his first break, then saw home an early advantage in the decider.

After hitting two aces as he served out the match, the Greek punctuated his statement win with an overhead.

“It’s the best comeback that I have ever had probably,” Tsitsipas reflected. “It was a very difficult victory mentally too. I wasn’t really thinking that long term that I have to win two sets. It just went step by step. It happened. I broke him, I won the set, I stayed there, broke him again, eventually I got the win at the end. I wasn’t really thinking too much in the future, and I think that helped a lot.” Read Match Report.

That same day, Tsitsipas qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time thanks to other results. He would mark his debut at the season finale with a surprise title, defeating Dominic Thiem in third-set tie-break in the London final.

Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates his second win over Novak Djokovic at the 2019 ATP Masters 1000 event in Shanghai.

2018 National Bank Open R16, Tsitsipas d. Djokovic 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3
Earning the second of four consecutive Top 10 wins in Toronto, Tsitsipas opened this ATP Head2Head series with a victory that helped propel him into stardom. Just days before his 20th birthday, the Greek introduced the world to his fearless game, closing out the win in fitting style with a ripped forehand winner.

“I feel very proud for me, myself, and my country. I’m putting Greece more deep into the map of tennis,” the then 18-year-old said after the victory. “So I’m pretty sure I’m making my family proud, all of those people that are watching, my coach, my father. It was a very emotional win. I’ve never felt so many emotions after a victory.” Read Match Report.

The Greek would go on to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final with wins against Thiem, Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson.

Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2018 ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto.

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Final Preview: Djokovic, Tsitsipas Square Off For Melbourne Title, World No. 1

  • Posted: Jan 28, 2023

Final Preview: Djokovic, Tsitsipas Square Off For Melbourne Title, World No. 1

Pair’s 13th meeting is rematch of 2021 Roland Garros final

The Australian Open has been a home away from home for Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas throughout their respective careers. In Sunday’s final, both men will chase major milestones in Rod Laver Arena, on a court that helped each rise to stardom.

In addition to the Grand Slam glory at stake — Djokovic is playing for a record-tying 22nd men’s singles major title, Tsitsipas for his very first — the final will also determine the new No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Djokovic, who has spent a record 373 weeks as World No. 1, is bidding to return to the top spot for the first time since last June. Tsitsipas, in his first Australian Open final, is chasing a historic debut at the pinnacle of the men’s game, with the opportunity to become the first Greek to hold the honour.

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“These are the moments I’ve been working hard for. To be able to play finals like this, but finals that have bigger meaning that just a final,” Tsitsipas said after his four-set semi-final win against Karen Khachanov. “It’s a Grand Slam final, I’m fighting for the No. 1 spot. It’s a childhood dream to be capturing the No. 1 spot one day. I’m close. I’m happy that this opportunity comes here in Australia and not somewhere else, because this is a place of significance.”

With the sizable Greek and Serbian populations in Melbourne, a raucous atmosphere can be expected in the stands on Sunday. The tennis we’ve seen from the two competitors this season guarantees there will be fireworks on the court, too. Neither man has lost a match in 2023, with Djokovic 11-0 and Tsitsipas 10-0.


Djokovic played two near-perfect matches as he breezed past Alex de Minaur (fourth round) and Grigor Dimitrov (quarters), his lingering hamstring injury firmly in the rearview. He was again untouchable against Tommy Paul in the semi-finals, except for a late wobble in the opening set and a weary few moments early in the second — both of which could fuel Tsitsipas’ belief heading into Sunday.

“I was really tight on the court… I was struggling also physically and emotionally,” Djokovic said of the late stages in a 7-5 first set, when he surrendered a 5-1 lead before closing it out. “I guess in these kind of particular matches, at the final stages of a Slam, you can expect to have a crisis, one or two or three crises. The less the better. But I did have [one].”

Tsitsipas has also been otherworldly at times during his run, though he lost three sets to Djokovic’s one in reaching the title round. Both times he was truly tested, he responded with a champion’s resolve.

After Jannik Sinner flipped their fourth-round match on its head, dominating sets three and four after Tsitsipas’ blistering start, the Greek leaned on a sublime serving performance to claim the final set in one of the matches of the fortnight, escaping with a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 victory. When Khachanov saved two match points in the semi-finals to force a fourth set, Tsitsipas again regrouped to seal his second Grand Slam final appearance.

The third seed now has an opportunity to avenge his defeat to Djokovic in the 2021 Roland Garros title match, when the Serbian battled back from two-sets-to-love down to lift the title. It was the first time in Djokovic’s career that he managed such a comeback in a Slam final.

“I won that match, so my recollections are very positive,” Djokovic said with a smile in an on-court interview following his semi-final win. “It was a really physical, mental, emotional battle. It always is with Stefanos. I respect him a lot; he has improved over the years. I actually think he is one of the most interesting guys off the court, with his interests off the court, his hair style and all. But it’s all business on Sunday, for both of us. Let the better player win.”

Days earlier, Djokovic momentarily forgot that the pair had met with a major title on the line. Tsitsipas, asked about that oversight in his post-semifinal presser, delivered a deadpan reply: “I don’t remember, either.”

 Active players to reach multiple major finals  
 Player  Appearances
 Djokovic   33
 Nadal  30
 Murray  11
 Medvedev, Thiem, Wawrinka  4
 CIlic  3
Del Potro, Ruud, Tsitsipas  2

That Roland Garros win was the fifth of what is now nine straight for Djokovic in the pair’s ATP Head2Head, in which he owns a decisive 10-2 advantage. The Serbian has won both of their Grand Slam meetings (their 2020 Paris semi-final also went five sets) and all four of their contests last season, dropping just one set in four matches.

Djokovic has an equally impressive overall record dating back to his run to a fourth consecutive (and seventh overall) Wimbledon title in July. The Serbian is 37-2 since the start of the grass-court Slam, including his 11-0 mark in 2023. He has won five of a possible six tour-level titles in that span, including a record-tying sixth trophy at November’s Nitto ATP Finals (matching Roger Federer) and the Adelaide International 1 crown earlier this season.

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Tsitsipas, who lost a 6-4, 7-6(4) decision to Djokovic in Turin, is seeking his first title since his Mallorca triumph last June, just before Wimbledon. But there is no better place for him to return to the winners’ circle than Rod Laver Arena, the sight of his stunning 2019 upset of Federer — a result that put the Greek on the map as a then 20-year-old rising star. 

After defeats in his first three Melbourne semi-finals against Rafael Nadal (2019) and Daniil Medvedev (2021-22), Tsitsipas has broken new ground at what he calls his ‘home Slam’. Having broken through that barrier, he now faces one of tennis’ toughest test as he seeks the double prize on offer in Sunday’s final.

For Tsitsipas to succeed, he must deal Djokovic his first loss in an Australian Open semi-final or final. The Serbian will enter the title match with a 19-0 record in those two rounds in Melbourne, having lifted the trophy in each of his nine previous runs to the last four.

Did You Know?
The 11-year age gape between Djokovic (35) and Tsitsipas (24) is the largest in an Australian Open final in the Open Era, and the sixth largest in any major final.

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