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Ernests Gulbis vs Jiri Vesely Preview – ATP Auckland 2015 Round 2

Ernests Gulbis vs Jiri Vesely Preview – ATP Auckland 2015 Round 2

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

Gulbis3 Ernests Gulbis vs Jiri Vesely Preview – ATP Auckland 2015 Round 2

 

Two weeks into the New Year and Ernests Gulbis is ready to kick off his 2015 season with strong showings at the Heineken Open in Auckland. The Latvian will begin his week on Wednesday afternoon against rising Czech star Jiri Vesely. The two competitors have yet to cross paths on the ATP World Tour, which only adds to the intrigue ahead of their evening match-up.

Watch the match live here: Gulbis v Vesely

Latvian No. 1 and all-around oddball Ernests Gulbis took part in a surprisingly strong season in 2014 – a year that saw him compile a 41-21 win-loss record; claim two titles (Marseille, Nice); and reach the semi-final round of the French Open, where he lost to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Now, he will look to add to his accomplishments this season and potentially break into the Top 10 on the tour. First, however, he will have to get past Vesely in a tough opening match of the season.

Ranked at No. 63 in the world, Jiri Vesely crusied through his fifth match of the season with a straight sets victory over Brazilian adversary Thomaz Bellucci. The young Czech prospect struck 10 aces and won 86% of his first service points, which made the contest exceedingly difficult for Bellucci. The Brazilian was unable to convert any of his six break point opportunities and allowed Vesely to break him to win the opening set. A tiebreak would settle the score in the second set before the contest ended in 1 hour and 35 minutes.

This marks the first time that Gulbis and Vesely will meet on the ATP World Tour and could potentially make for an enthralling encounter. Gulbis is known as a big-hitter in tennis and is more than capable of taking command of the contest. However, Vesely continues to improve himself and grow as a player – maybe that will help him pick up an upset over the Latvian?

Prediction: Ernests Gulbis in Three Sets

Marin Cilic Officially Withdraws from the Australian Open

Marin Cilic Officially Withdraws from the Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

Marin Cilic1 Marin Cilic Officially Withdraws from the Australian Open

 

Just a few short days after withdrawing from the Brisbane International ahead of the official start of the 2015 season, Marin Cilic has officially announced that he is unfit to participate in the season-opening Grand Slam event in Melbourne.

“I am really disappointed to announce that I had to withdraw from the Australian Open,” Cilic announced on his website. “It is a right shoulder injury, that hampers me for some time now and forced me to withdraw from the ATP World Tour event in Brisbane. It is improving day by day, but I still don’t feel fit enough to be able to compete at the highest level.

The reigning US Open champion is a former semi-finalist at the Australian Open (2010), where he lost to tournament runner-up Andy Murray. After only playing a few matches at the IPTL during the off-season, it now appears that the shoulder injury that limited his playing then has only gotten worse over the following month.

With his withdrawal, Cilic joins Radek Stepanek, Tommy Haas, Janko Tipseravic and Jack Sock as early victims of the injury plague.

“I am really sad that I won’t be able to participate in Melbourne, especially after winning the last Grand Slam in New York, but I was advised by doctors to be careful as much as possible to avoid even more serious problems.

“I have received lots of support letters from my fans worldwide lately and I am grateful for your support and best wishes. I was really looking forward to being back on court in Australia and now I hope we will meet very soon in Zagreb.”

James Ward will replace Cilic in the main draw of the tournament.

Simona Halep Withdraws from Sydney, Will Still Play Aussie Open

Simona Halep Withdraws from Sydney, Will Still Play Aussie Open

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

Simona Halep20 Simona Halep Withdraws from Sydney, Will Still Play Aussie Open

 

Simona Halep withdrew from the event citing a gastrointestinal illness.

“We’re sorry to receive the news that Simona has had to withdraw from the tournament due to illness and we wish her a speedy recovery in time for the Australian Open,” Alistair MacDonald, the Tournament Director in Sydney, said. “We look forward to welcoming her back to Sydney next year.”

Halep, who lifted the Shenzhen title last week, was due to begin her Sydney campaign with a contest against Karolina Pliskova. She was eventually replaced by lucky loser Nicole Gibbs.

“During the tournament in China I got this problem in my stomach,” said Halep, who, after winning the title in Shenzhen three days ago, mentioned she was feeling a little bit sick before the final.

“I didn’t play for three days. I was waiting until today to see if I was ready to play again, but I feel like I cannot play. It’s tough to play a tournament like this so unfortunately I decided to withdraw.”

However, Halep does not expect this to impact her preparation or participation in the Australian Open.

“You never know with the stomach, but hopefully in two or three days I’ll be ready to play again,” she said. “Right now I just need to think about recovering, then I will worry about matches later.”

The Romanian is the third seed at the tournament, behind Serena Williams and aria Sharapova. As a clear favourite at the event, she will look to play her best and aim for her maiden Grand Slam title.

“I’m confident now,” Halep said. “Last year I did some good results but now it’s another year and another start, and I’ve had a good start, winning in Shenzhen and playing better match by match.”

ATP Announces Prize Money Increases at Challengers Events

ATP Announces Prize Money Increases at Challengers Events

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

ATP Challenger Tour11 ATP Announces Prize Money Increases at Challengers Events

 

The ATP announced on Thursday afternoon that they intend to increase prize money in an attempt to further enhance the ATP Challenger Tour.

The tour, which comprises of approximately 150 events annually, is the stepping-stone for elite competitors who want to head to the ATP World Tour. With that in mind, the increases will take place at the lower end of the spectrum of events – a predicted 100% increase in minimum prize money within the next 10 years.

“Men’s professional tennis is enjoying one of the most successful periods in its history, however it is essential that we see growth across all levels of the game,” said Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President. “Almost every player earns their stripes on the Challenger Tour before they make it on the ATP World Tour and every bit of extra prize money helps as they look to forge a career in men’s professional tennis. The ATP is committed to making that career path as viable as possible.”

In 2007, the minimum prize money was $25,000 + hospitality. By 2014, the minimum was $40,000 + hospitality. This will rise to $50,000 in 2015. The tour also plans to offer additional umpires, physiotherapists and other PR staff to help players with accessibility.

The ATP also announced that they will look to alter the Challenger schedule so that it resembles the World Tour one, thus reducing travel costs.

‘We need to get the right Challenger events in the right weeks, reducing travel costs and improving the medical services, player education, officiating and marketing at these events,” added Kermode. “We are taking a holistic approach as we look to make the time players spend at the Challenger level more sustainable.”

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Garbine Muguruza Preview – WTA Sydney 2015 Round 2

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Garbine Muguruza Preview – WTA Sydney 2015 Round 2

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

Garbine Muguruza Agnieszka Radwanska vs Garbine Muguruza Preview – WTA Sydney 2015 Round 2

 

Following impressive showings in the opening round of the tournament, Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza will cross paths for a third time on the WTA tour when they meet in the second round of the Apia Sydney International. Radwanska leads the head-to-head series 2-0 and will look to remain undefeated against the rising star.

After suffering a loss to Alize Cornet in their last meeting at the Hopman Cup, Radwanska was able to avenge that loss on Monday afternoon with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over the Frenchwoman. The Polish star saved five of six break points and won 63% of her first service points to close out the match in 83 minutes. Compared to their match last week, the only contest that Radwanska has lost in 2015, this was a straightforward affair for the in-form Pole. If she can maintain this confidence and momentum heading into the Australian Open, she may be one of the favourites to reach the later stages of the tournament.

World No. 24 Garbine Muguruza picked up the upset of the day when she dispatched Sara Errani in straight sets to reach the second round in Sydney. The Spaniard stormed through the opening set 6-0 before facing some resistance from the Italian No. 1 in the second frame. She won 76% of her first service points and struck 8 aces to win the match in 1 hour and 50 minutes.

The two competitors have cross paths previously on two occasions, both of which ended in victories for Radwanska. She earned her first win at the Miami Masters I 2012, while the second victory took place at the Australian Open last season. Given her record on hard courts so far, the Polish star should have the advantage against Muguruza on Tuesday.

Prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska in Three Sets

Sloane Stephens vs Heather Watson Preview – WTA Hobart 2015 Round 2

Sloane Stephens vs Heather Watson Preview – WTA Hobart 2015 Round 2

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

Sloane Stephens31 Sloane Stephens vs Heather Watson Preview – WTA Hobart 2015 Round 2

 

Once considered the future of women’s tennis in the United States, Sloane Stephens has since fallen off the beaten path and dropped significantly in the rankings. However, she managed a successful start in Hobart and will now look ahead to another match-up against British No. 1 Heather Watson. This marks the fourth time that the two competitors will cross paths on the professional tour, with Watson leading the series 3-0.

Following her disappointing showing last week, Stephens started off her campaign in Hobart in much better fashion, as she cruised past her first opponent Monica Niculescu in straight sets to set up her encounter with Watson. She eventually defeated her opponent 6-4, 6-2 after going down a break early in the opening set.

“I’ve played some great tennis here,” she said. “My favorite Indian restaurant is here and I always have a good time here, so I’m always really looking forward to coming back to Hobart all the time.”

World No. 49 Heather Watson also needed straight sets to dispatch her opponent Magdalena Rybarikova 7-5, 6-1 in 82 minutes of court time. Watson won 69% of her first service points and converted 7 of 13 break points to close out the match and set up her fourth meeting with the American youngster.

This marks the first time that these two competitors will cross paths on the tour since 2012. Watson remains undefeated in the series with a 3-0 mark but has not faced Stephens in several years – a period that proved tempestuous in the Briton’s life. Given Watson’s record against Stephens, this should be her match to lose. However, Stephens will also be motivated to gather some momentum ahead of the Australian Open next week.

Prediction: Sloane Stephens in Three Sets

Juan Martin del Potro vs Sergiy Stakhovsky Preview – ATP Sydney 2015 Round 1

Juan Martin del Potro vs Sergiy Stakhovsky Preview – ATP Sydney 2015 Round 1

  • Posted: Jan 13, 2015

 

Del Potro8 Juan Martin del Potro vs Sergiy Stakhovsky Preview – ATP Sydney 2015 Round 1

 

After several false starts, Juan Martin del Potro will finally make his long-awaited comeback to the professional tour on Tuesday afternoon at the Apia Sydney International. The Argentine will begin his campaign against crafty Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky, whom he has never encountered on the ATP World Tour.

After withdrawing from a scheduled return to professional competition at the Brisbane International, the ‘Tower of Tandil’ Juan Martin del Potro has announced that he is prepared to return to the tour this week, even though it appeared as though his wrist was still bothering him.

“[The wrist] hurts a little bit. It bothers me sometimes when I hit backhands but I am trying to hit harder because I need to hit harder if I want to play this tournament. Sometimes the pain is high, sometimes it is low,” del Potro said. “It’s much better than [it was] three or four weeks ago and the doctor says that I can’t make it worse by playing at a high level, so I am very positive for that. I need to do a lot of treatment every day. I do a long warmup before practice and matches, which takes a lot of time. That is my life at the moment.”

Del Potro, who is currently ranked No. 138 but will use a protected ranking of 7 in 2015, prepared his training both on and off the court in Argentina. He has not played a match since February 25. He managed to win the Apia international in Sydney at the start of the season, then struggled from then on and eventually opted for surgery after failed bids in Rotterdam and Dubai.

“It will be a big challenge to play this tournament and see if I can start the season healthy and play for the whole year.”

World No. 69 Sergiy Stakhovsky began his year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open last week, where he reached the second round of the tournament before losing in straight sets to Novak Djokovic. He will now look to earn an upset victory over a former Grand Slam champion to build momentum heading into the Australian Open.

This marks the first time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour. Given Del Potro’s current state and long layoff, it is unlikely that he will manage a victory against Stakhovsky. However, if he can make the match slightly competitive, he will be well on his way to making a full recovery.

Prediction: Sergiy Stakhovsky in Straight Sets

Federer Wins Brisbane Title, Claims 1000th Match Win

Federer Wins Brisbane Title, Claims 1000th Match Win

  • Posted: Jan 11, 2015

Federer24 Federer Wins Brisbane Title, Claims 1000th Match Win

 

What a remarkable way to begin 2015.

17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer claimed his 1000th match win on Sunday afternoon when he defeated Canada’s Milos Raonic in three sets to lift the Brisbane International title for the first time in his career.

Federer, who now joins Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl as one of three men to reach that number, defeated Raonic 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4 in he final and was later joined by Rod Laver and Roy Emerson after the match to celebrate his achievement.

“It’s a little bit tough standing here, in front of so many Grand Slam champions; it’s an honour,” said Raonic in the on-court ceremony. “We all know today was a significant milestone for Roger. When we were warming up, I heard all those titles; I honestly thought he was playing for 2000 match wins today! I think he needs to step it up!”

Federer captured his 83rd title on the ATP World Tour, but it was not a straightforward encounter against the Canadian. Raonic rallied back in the second set and forced a riveting decider between the two players. In that final set, Federer saved five break points while Raonic saved four before succumbing to Federer’s resilient pressure.

“It’s a special moment, no doubt about it,” said Federer upon receiving a commemorative award from Laver. “I’ve played a lot of tennis over the years, so to get to 1000 wins tonight really means a lot to me. I’ll never forget this match.”

With the loss, Raonic drops to a 1-8 record against Federer and a 6-8 mark in finals.

“It was a great tennis match. I stayed out there, competed, gave it my all,” said Raonic. “I gave myself a chance after being down a set and a break. I think it just shows the development I’ve been able to make over the last little while. You put me in that same situation few months and weeks ago and I think I could be out of that stadium pretty quickly.”

Stan Wawrinka Beats Qualifier Aljaz Bedene to Win Third Chennai Title

Stan Wawrinka Beats Qualifier Aljaz Bedene to Win Third Chennai Title

  • Posted: Jan 11, 2015

Wawrinka13 Stan Wawrinka Beats Qualifier Aljaz Bedene to Win Third Chennai Title

 

In keeping up with his fantastic 2014 season, Stan Wawrinka successfully defended his title at the Aircel Chennai Open to kick off his year in impressive fashion.

Wawrinka, who is now a three-time champion at this event, defeated Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-4 in a contest that lasted 69 minutes on Sunday afternoon. The Swiss star faced no break points and needed just one match point to close out the contest and give himself the necessary momentum heading into the Australian Open.

“I feel really happy,” said Wawrinka. “It’s tough to win tournaments on the ATP Tour. I feel good, with more confidence [and] feeling well with my game. I’m happy with my game in general, but it’s just the beginning of the season and I hope I can play well all [of] the season.”

Wawrinka also took home $73,400 and 250 Emirates ATP Ranking points for his efforts. His opponent, the No. 156-ranked Bedene, left with $38,650 and 150 Emirates ATP Ranking points.

“It’s been a great week,” Bedene said on court after the match. “I guess the hard work pays off. It’s been my favourite tournament now for the third year and I’m looking forward to coming back next year. Well done to Stan. He played amazing today.”

Wawrinka won his maiden Grand Slam title last season after he won the Chennai Open. He will be looking to replicate his efforts this season as well.

“It’s one of the reasons I come back every year. It was a great final. I’m really happy with my level.”

David Ferrer Topples Tomas Berdych to Lift Doha Crown

David Ferrer Topples Tomas Berdych to Lift Doha Crown

  • Posted: Jan 11, 2015

Ferrer1 David Ferrer Topples Tomas Berdych to Lift Doha Crown

 

After going through a dry spell for the past 11 months, David Ferrer kicked off his 2-15 season in sublime fashion with a title win at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

The Spaniard, who had not won a title since Buenos Aires last February, defeated Tomas Berdych 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour and 29 minutes. The Spaniard won 71% of his first service points, saved 6 of eight break points he faced, and struck 15 winners to close out the match. It was his 22nd ATP World Tour title.

The match took a particularly enthralling turn in the second set, when Berdych failed to serve out the set on three different attempts and allowed Ferrer to close out the match to love.

“I’m very happy,” said Ferrer. “I put in hard work this preseason. It’s special winning this tournament. I was ready to play tonight’s match against Berdych – a Top 10 player.”

Ferrer, who moved to 8-5 in the head-to-head series against Berdych, earned $195,000 in prize money and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings for his efforts on Sunday. A dejected Berdych took home $102,675 and 150 ranking points. However, the Czech No. 1 allowed himself to see the silver lining after the match.

“First of all, it’s a disappointment to lose the final,” reflected Berdych. “But on the other hand, it’s been a very solid week. It’s been a couple of good matches. I was not able to execute the right way (today), but I think it’s a good start for me.”