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Djokovic, Inspired By Nadal & Federer, Begins Quest For 8th AO Title

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2020

Djokovic, Inspired By Nadal & Federer, Begins Quest For 8th AO Title

7-time Australian Open champ says the game’s young stars are closing in on a Grand Slam breakthrough

Defending Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says that his rivalries with fellow ‘Big Three’ members Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have underpinned the success that has stamped him as one of the game’s greatest players of all time.

As he begins his quest for a record-extending eighth Australian Open title, the five-time year-end World No. 1 paid tribute to the men, with whom he will once against battle for the first major of the year.

“[My rivalry] with Roger and Rafa… is one of the motivations for me to still keep going at this age,” Djokovic, 32, said. “The three of us have inspired each other throughout our rivalries and careers to be better, to understand how we can overcome obstacles in the matchups.

“I am more grateful today to be in the same era with these two guys than I was probably 10, 15 years ago (smiling). I think that definitely rivalries with them made me very, very strong, very resilient, and also very motivated that I am still today.”

Chasing his fifth major after turning 30, Djokovic said that he also turned to his great rivals for inspiration to remain at the top of the game in the latter stages of his career.

“Roger has talked about this as well, Rafa as well, that age is just a number. It’s not just a cliché, but it’s really something that I feel like the three of us have in common. It’s really the way we approach career and our everyday life.

“I think we found a way, a formula, to balance private-professional life so we are able to kind of excel in tennis and still be able to compete at the highest level after many years, still be motivated, still be mentally fresh and, of course, physically prepared and fit to compete in best-of-five sets with young players that are coming up. They’re obviously very hungry to reach the great heights and fight for the biggest trophies in sport.”

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Having seen Russian 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev push Nadal to five sets in the 2019 US Open final and 21-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas beat the world’s best to win November’s Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic says that the challenge to deny the game’s young stars a major breakthrough will be tougher than ever in 2020.

“They’re coming closer and closer. It’s obvious. Medvedev had a great fight with Rafa in the last Grand Slam in US Open of last season. Tsitsipas played semis here last year. Dominic Thiem twice finals in French Open. They’re very, very close. They’re literally one set away.

“On a given day, in the very near future, I think that can happen. It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable.”

Djokovic, who is chasing his 900th match win Monday night against German Jan-Lennard Struff, said that his lead-in week to the Australian Open was less intense than previous years due to his strong performance at the inaugural ATP Cup, which included six singles wins in addition to doubles play.

“I did not have such an intensive couple of weeks the year before the Australian Open for many years. It was a lot of physical and emotional energy being spent in the ATP Cup, which of course was perfect for me individually, won all my matches in singles and doubles. We as a team won the title, which was definitely one of the highlights of my career.

“I keep saying that, winning with my friends, with the team, representing my country, winning team competitions, is definitely something that I cherish and that fulfills me truly.

“It was a phenomenal couple of weeks and great leadup to Australian Open. But it did take a lot out of me. I did adjust my training sessions towards that, so I had a little bit more of recuperation rather than just stepping on accelerator a little bit more.

“I just actually kind of put a level down a little bit, just tried to keep the sessions a bit shorter, with good intensity. That’s all, just maintain the right rhythm for the first match.”

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Konta & Evans lead British challenge in Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Johanna Konta says she is not concerned by a lack of court time before launching her Australian Open campaign on Monday.

Konta, seeded 12th, faces tricky Tunisian Ons Jabeur, while compatriots Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund also play on the opening day in Melbourne.

Konta, 28, has only played one match since September’s US Open because of a knee injury.

“I am in a position to compete – that’s why I am here,” she said.

As well as the British players, there will be a host of star names in action when the first Grand Slam of the new season starts on Monday.

Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the defending women’s champion, opens up on Rod Laver Arena before American great Serena Williams, Swiss legend Roger Federer, Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty and Serbian defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic also play their openers on Melbourne Park’s 15,000-capacity main show court.

Coco Gauff – the 15-year-old who took Wimbledon by storm last year – faces 39-year-old fellow American Venus Williams in the standout match on Margaret Court Arena.

That is a rematch of their first-round meeting at the All England Club, which saw Gauff announce her arrival on the world’s biggest stage by beating the seven-time Grand Slam champion in straight sets.

Monday’s order of play on Rod Laver Arena
Day session starts at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Sunday)
Naomi Osaka (Jpn) [3] v Marie Bouzkova (Cze)
Anastasia Potapova (Rus) v Serena Williams [8] (US)
Steve Johnson (US) v Roger Federer (Swi) [3]
Night session starts at 19:00 local time (08:00 GMT)
Ashleigh Barty (Aus) [1] v Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr)
Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger) v Novak Djokovic (Ser) [2]
  • Williams seeks 24th Grand Slam
  • Federer defends himself after criticism

‘I’m happy to be back in the swing of things’

Former Australian Open semi-finalist Konta has been managing the knee problem – a tendonitis-like inflammation – since the latter stages of last season.

She did not play again after losing to Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina in the US Open quarter-finals, making her return in Brisbane last week with a three-set defeat by Czech Barbora Strycova.

Konta meets Jabeur, who is ranked 85th but causes problems for opponents with her variety, last on 1573 Arena at about 19:00 local time (08:00 GMT).

“Having played only one tournament in the past four months, I’m really happy to be back in the swing of things,” Konta, who reached the Melbourne last four in 2016, told BBC Sport.

“Overall, I think practice is going well. I feel I am continuously building and getting better.”

British men’s number one Evans, 29, is seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time after breaking into the world’s top 30.

That means he cannot play one of the big names until the third round – when he is projected to face 16-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic.

First, Evans must get past American world number 132 Mackenzie McDonald, who he faces on court 14 at 11:00 local time (00:00 GMT, Sunday).

“Being seeded feels no different really, I just have to concentrate on my first match and hopefully get a win there. I can’t do more than that,” Evans said.

“I need to focus on the job in hand.

“It is obviously a great feeling to know you can’t play one of the top guys, but there are plenty of other good players out there who are ready to go and can beat me.

“It is a great achievement to be seeded but the end goal is to be going deep in these tournaments, not turning up as a seed and losing.”

Edmund, who was replaced as the top-ranked Briton by Evans in October, plays Serbia’s 24th seed Dusan Lajovic on court 15 about 13:30 local time (02:30 GMT).

The 25-year-old slid down the rankings during 2019, when he struggled for form and fitness. But he ended the year on a high by being Great Britain’s standout player in their run to the Davis Cup semi-finals.

Edmund is hoping a new coach in Franco Davin, who notably helped his fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro win the 2009 US Open, can spark him to replicate the form that took him to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2018.

“It is going well. It is a different dynamic working with a South American,” said Edmund, who is ranked 69th.

“He’s got experience so is a calm person and a calming influence.”

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Courtship: How Peers Won Over New Doubles Partner Venus

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2020

Courtship: How Peers Won Over New Doubles Partner Venus

New Aussie-New Zealand tandem forms alliance for 2020

No-one likes rejection. Whether it be asking a girl on a date or making advances on a new doubles partner, John Peers suffers the same rejection anxiety as the rest of us when he weighs the risk-reward equation. “I hate [the process],” he says.

Approaching a new doubles partner – especially one in a committed relationship – is inherently awkward. But believing that he was destined for success with World No. 11 Michael Venus, Peers initiated a WhatsApp thread with the New Zealander that has now paired the 30-somethings for the 2020 season.

“I’ve only [approached a new partner] a few times as I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of long-term partners,” said Peers, who parted ways with Henri Kontinen at the end of last season. “It’s pretty much like a relationship: You throw a few messages out, hope for the best. Mike said yes, so that was good.

“It’s never easy looking, not knowing what they are going to say. He hung me out there for a few days to make we wait. We just wanted to make sure it would be good for both of us and fingers crossed it will be.”

While 20-time titlist Peers and Kontinen mutually agreed that it was in both their interests to seek success elsewhere, the decision was less clear-cut for Venus, who ended 2019 by reaching the Nitto ATP Finals title match with South African partner Raven Klaasen.

“The difficulty for me was that I’d had two good seasons with Raven, so when you’re doing well it’s never easy to go somewhere else,” Venus told ATPTour.com. “But things just seemed to align with John, including the ability to practise year-round together in London. Not many teams get that chance. We felt the more time we could spend together the more it would help. It was an opportunity I really liked the sound of.”

Venus says that he likes what his new partner brings to the table. “He’s got a big serve. He’s aggressive. Good hands around the net. Moves well. Understands the doubles game very well. I think he does everything pretty well. I’ll just try and hang onto him, clean up the little bits I can here and there.”

Although the new teammates are confident they have made the right choice, Peers admits that finding their best form together may happen after the season is in full swing. Earlier this week the team suffered a tight first-round loss in Auckland in their debut outing.

“The more time you spend together in difficult situations on the same side of the net the better things will get. In the tough situations it’s a bit of an unknown what they will do until you’ve spent time together. With time you get to know the finer details of what they want to do at certain moments.”

The seventh seeds will open their Australian Open campaign against Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen and Germany’s Tim Puetz.

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Sinner Eyes First Slam Win, Maybe More, In Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2020

Sinner Eyes First Slam Win, Maybe More, In Melbourne

Past two Milan champs have reached Australian Open SF two months later

Jannik Sinner is aware of the precedent former Next Gen ATP Finals champions Hyeon Chung of South Korea and Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas have set for the 18-year-old Italian, who makes his Australian Open debut on Monday.

Both Chung and Tsitsipas won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in November and, two months later, reached the semi-finals of the season’s first Grand Slam in Melbourne. Both players were 20 and upset all-time greats on their way to the last four: Chung stunned then-six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round, and Tsitsipas upset 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer to make the quarter-finals.

Like the previous Milan champions, Sinner feels momentum from winning the Next Gen ATP Finals. But the 18-year-old also knows his situation isn’t exactly the same as his counterparts and says he isn’t feeling any pressure to replicate Chung’s or Tsitisipas’ achievements Down Under.

I think both have done a great job here, especially the beginning of the season. It can give you a little bit of confidence, winning this tournament or playing better in the end of the season,” Sinner said in Melbourne.

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I think I am still a little bit younger than them, so it’s a little bit different. The momentum, I don’t know if this year is going to be the momentum or maybe two or three years after. I think I will need a little bit more time. But after two weeks, we know everything.”

Sinner will face Aussie wild card Andrew Harris in his Melbourne debut on Monday. The Italian played his first Grand Slam match last August at the US Open. He qualified but lost to 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in four sets in the first round.

Sinner, however, hasn’t had such pre-tournament stress this month. He received direct entry into the main draw because of his FedEx ATP Ranking, No. 79, and spent last week adjusting to the conditions by practising with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev, among others.

The Newcomer of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards is seeking his first win of 2020. He lost straight sets to Finland’s #NextGenATP Emil Ruusuvuori at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Bendigo. At the ASB Classic in Auckland, Sinner fell in three sets to eventual finalist Benoit Paire of France.

Italian <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/jannik-sinner/s0ag/overview'>Jannik Sinner</a> receives the Newcomer of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards.
Jannik Sinner receives the Newcomer of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards on Saturday in Melbourne. (Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The season, I didn’t start it as I wanted. We didn’t play so many matches before the Australian Open, so it’s not going to be easy for me. But I think we practised well. Our off-season, we put in a lot of work so I feel great on court… I felt here we especially tried to practise with the best guys,” Sinner said. “Day after day, I feel better on court, and we will see. The matches are always a little bit different, but hopefully I can feel better than the first two matches.”

Much about his life has changed since he beat three-time ATP Tour champion Alex de Minaur of Australia in the title match of the Next Gen ATP Finals. Autograph and selfie requests have skyrocketed, and journalists from around the world suddenly want a few minutes of his time wherever he goes. But to the 18-year-old, it’s all good.

I am young, and I think at the moment nothing is heavy, to make some interviews, or some pictures with fans or something like this. If you’re young, it’s okay,” Sinner said. “I don’t know if you played 20 years on Tour, maybe it can be heavy sometimes, I don’t know. Now, for me, it’s okay.”

Sinner’s first Grand Slam win will come in the near future, even if Harris, No 162 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, leans on the home crowd and pulls off the upset. Either way, Sinner can appreciate how far he’s come in the past 12 months. One year ago, he was playing in a Futures Event in Monastir, Tunisia. He lost in the second round.

A little bit changed,” Sinner said before laughing. “But I think the focus is always trying to be on court the best as you can be. Trying to improve your game always, day after day. That’s our main goal. Maybe off court a little bit changed, but on court is basically always the same.”

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Federer Receives ATPTour.com Fans' Favourite Award

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2020

Federer Receives ATPTour.com Fans’ Favourite Award

Swiss legend’s popularity as strong as ever

As he prepares for his 21stAustralian Open, Roger Federer was presented with the 2019 ATPTour.com Fans’ Favourite Award. The six-time champion in Melbourne, who is one of the most popular players in tennis history, won the award for the 17th straight year.

The 38-year-old Swiss has been honoured with a record 38 ATP Awards starting with his first Fans’ Favourite Award in 2003. Federer has also been selected by fellow players as the recipient of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (2004-09, 2011-17) and Comeback Player of the Year (2017); received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award (2006, 2013); and is a five-time ATP Tour No. 1 (2004-07, ’09).

Federer begins his quest for a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title on Monday against American Steve Johnson.

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Kyrgios: ‘I'm Playing For A Lot More Than Myself’

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2020

Kyrgios: ‘I’m Playing For A Lot More Than Myself’

Aussie reflects on bushfires, ATP Cup ahead of Australian Open

It has been an emotional build-up to the Australian Open for Nick Kyrgios this year, with the Canberra native lending his support to bushfire relief off the court and helping his nation to reach the semi-finals of the inaugural ATP Cup in front of home fans.

But while those efforts have left the 24-year-old searching for a balance in recent weeks, Kyrgios believes that playing for a greater purpose has elevated his game.

“It is not easy to just completely switch your concentration [to] the Australian Open… When you put it in perspective of what is actually going on… I have to find the balance. I have to go out there and try to get the best out of my game,” said Kyrgios.

“But I think when I’m playing, at the moment, I’m playing for a lot more than myself. I feel like I’m getting the best out of myself with that.”

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The World No. 26 will continue to donate AUD $200 to aid bushfire relief for every ace he serves during this year’s opening major championship and his charitable efforts have also inspired a number of fellow players to make similar donations.

Kyrgios was also present at Rally For Relief on Wednesday, a fundraising event at Rod Laver Arena which helped raise almost AUD $5 million for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. The six-time ATP Tour titlist’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by fans at Melbourne Park, with Kyrgios feeling he has received ‘maybe a little’ more support than usual as he makes his final preparations for the tournament.

“Every time I play here, I’m well-supported,” said Kyrgios. “All my practices are pretty full. I think people are excited to see me.

“I guess with everything going on, the other stuff outside tennis, maybe that’s more what they support rather than my tennis itself. Everything I’m doing is just because I care.”

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The ATP Cup provided Australian players with the unique experience of playing for their country on home soil ahead of the Australian Open. Kyrgios won three of his four matches at the innovative team event, his only tournament appearance ahead of the Australian Open.

“I really enjoyed [the ATP Cup]. I think a lot of players did. For the first time they’ve had it, I think it was a success,” said Kyrgios. “I really thought it was awesome. I think a lot of my teammates loved it, as well.

“Just any time you get the chance to play in front of your home crowd, feel the energy like that, it’s pretty special.”

After the intensity of the ATP Cup, Kyrgios has enjoyed spending time on the practice court with fellow Aussie Jordan Thompson. The 2015 quarter-finalist will be aiming to improve his 11-6 record at Melbourne Park this year.

“[I have been] feeling good [in the] past couple days. I’ve hit with my good friend, Thompson. Having a good time,” said Kyrgios.

Kyrgios will open his campaign against Lorenzo Sonego of Italy. The top-ranked Australian in this year’s draw beat Sonego in their only previous ATP Head2Head meeting at last year’s Western & Southern Open in straight sets.

“Sonego is a tough competitor,” said Kyrgios. “I played him in Cincinnati last year. It was a tough match. Very capable player. Big serve. Loves to hit his forehand.”

With the feeling of playing for a bigger cause and the support of a nation as the top-ranked Australian in the draw, could Kyrgios be ready for another deep run at this year’s event?

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'I'm pretty fit' – Evans responds to Henman's 'miss a few meals' quip

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

British number one Dan Evans says he is happy with his physical condition after Tim Henman suggested he should “miss a few meals” if he wants to break into the world’s top 20 players.

Evans, 29, has leapt up the rankings to be seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam in next week’s Australian Open.

Henman made the comment after captaining Britain at the ATP Cup, where Evans was the team’s best player.

“I’m pretty fit, it’s just how I look I guess,” said Evans, seeded 30th.

Former world number four Henman, who made a return to top-level tennis after being chosen by Andy Murray to lead Britain, bonded well with Evans during the inaugural tournament held in Australia, where they were beaten by the hosts in the quarter-finals.

Evans won three of his four matches, including impressive victories over Belgium world number 11 David Goffin and Australia’s world number 18 Alex de Minaur.

That prompted Henman to say the world number 33 had the ability to break into the top 20 if he looks after himself better off the court.

“Just because you were a good tennis player doesn’t mean you’re an expert in all fields,” Evans told BBC Sport.

“Tim has plenty of opinions, that was his opinion on this subject and I’ll leave him to it.”

Nevertheless, Evans said he still wants to lean on Henman, who had a similar playing style, in the future after their success together at the ATP Cup.

“If I see him I’ll ask him stuff, he was really good and a big help,” Evans added.

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Australian Open 2020: What happens when tennis greats call it a day?

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2020
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki will retire after the Australian Open, calling time on her playing career before she turns 30.

The 2018 Australian Open champion, who won 30 WTA singles titles, plans to focus on her life away from tennis and hopes to start a family.

At 29, it is an early departure for the Dane, who is ranked inside the world’s top 40.

But how much do you remember about other tennis stars who decided to hang up their racquet at an early age?

Take our quiz below to find out…

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