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New Coach, Same Big Goals For Cabal & Farah

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2022

The new season has just started for Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah and it already feels like change is afoot. For the first time in almost a decade, the Colombians are no longer coached by the South African Jeff Coetzee, who helped them win their first two Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019) and climb to No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings.

But what has not changed is the team’s ambitions. Under the watchful eye of the Argentine Mariano Hood, former World No. 20 in doubles (2003), Cabal and Farah have come out all guns blazing in 2022, something they made clear in this interview with before their first clash at the Australian Open against the South African Lloyd Harris and Australian Alexei Popyrin.

What were the best and worst parts of 2021?
Juan Sebastián Cabal: The good part was that in such tough circumstances because of COVID-19, we managed to remain among the best. And although we had fitness problems, we were always fighting for the tournaments. We were satisfied. The bad thing was that it was very mentally and physically difficult. Hopefully this year will be different.

Robert Farah: The best thing was that we won three ATP 500s, tournaments that you dream of winning when you’re young. They were really big events: Dubai, Barcelona and Vienna. Also, we capped off a great year at the [Nitto ATP] Finals, where we were playing well. The bad part was the pandemic, that was really hard mentally. Often we were unable to return to our country, as Colombia was on the red list, that made the year very difficult.

What are the goals for 2022?
Cabal: In the longterm, to be at the [Nitto ATP] Finals, to win Grand Slams, fight for the No. 1 spot… Our idea is to set up our schedule to fight for the big tournaments and the final rounds.

Farah: It’ll also be important to look after our health in order to be competing at 100 per cent. To go out onto court and enjoy ourselves. If we can do that, we can win a lot of matches and make ourselves dangerous again at all tournaments.

What will the new team look like for the season?
Cabal: The fitness coach is the same: Jefry Vergara, from Colombia. And the coach is Mariano Hood. In weeks when he can’t, we’ll have people we trust. We’ll also have two Argentine physios, Diego and Andrés, who will alternate weeks.

Why Mariano Hood as your new coach?
Farah: We know Mariano really well, we’ve always known that he’s a great coach. When we left things with Jeff, who we’d been with for eight years and to whom we owe so much because he had a great impact on our career, Mariano was one of the first people who came to mind and I think we’re happy to start a new chapter with him.

What do you hope for from your new coach?
Cabal: We felt that our time with the last coach had come to an end. Everything ended on good terms. He’s a great friend of ours. Now we’re hoping for a new outlook on things. We already know how good we are, what we can achieve. But maybe with a different perspective and a fresh start we can do more, fight for something new.

Juan, you’re 35, and Robert you’re 34, do you feel like veterans or still feel young?
Cabal: We’re not young. Of course, every year that passes takes its toll. But it also depends on your body, and the motivation, how much you want to play. There is life after tennis, but for now we’re still setting ourselves goals and working hard. We’re nearly veterans but our desire is still the same.

How much longer can you play elite tennis?
Farah: I’d like about three more years in elite tennis. From there, personally, I’d like to start new things in my life. But for now we’re really focussed on this season and the following ones. Hopefully we can stay healthy for the final years of our career and perform as well as possible.

You have 70 Grand Slam wins together. Are you ready to break 80 this season?
Cabal: I think so. If we do things well, we can break that barrier and maybe get even more wins. We’re working hard for that.

Where do you think you’ll win your 20th title as a team?
Cabal: We’re not losing sleep over that. The only thing is to give our all because then the results will follow. Sooner or later. Hopefully it will be in Australia.

Farah: I’d like it to come in Australia, that’s the goal.

Who are the opponents to beat this season?
Cabal: The Frenchmen [Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hugues Herbert], the Croatians [Mate] Pavic and [Nikola] Mektic, [Ram] Salisbury and [Rajeev] Ram, [Marcel] Granollers and [Horacio] Zeballos. Together with them, we’re the most consistent, the ones that are in the fight for the titles and finals.

Farah: It won’t change that much compared to last year. Also, there is a new pair, John Peers and Filip Polasek who finished last year very well. In 2022, they’ll be dangerous. The Belgians [Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen] could be a danger, they’re playing better every year. Bruno [Soares] and Jamie [Murray]. But we know that we have the game to face any of them. If we’re focussed and enjoying the Tour, we can be very dangerous.

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Hanfmann Facing Nadal: 'You Always Have A Chance'

  • Posted: Jan 19, 2022

After Yannick Hanfmann lost in the first round at Roland Garros against Rafael Nadal in 2019, he spoke about looking around the stadium and taking in the moment. The guy across the net wasn’t too shabby either. Nadal lost just six games that day.

“These are the toughest challenges in tennis for sure,” Hanfmann said in an interview with the tournament. “And it felt like it today.”

Hanfmann, who played college tennis at the University of Southern California, will get another shot at the legendary lefty on Wednesday in the second round of the Australian Open. His college coach, Peter Smith, is excited to watch from afar.

“To play those guys in majors is quite special,” Smith said. “He has to have the mindset of going out there to win the match, and he can do it. Some things need to go right, but you always have a chance, and he’s got to believe he has a chance.”

Just two weeks ago, Hanfmann was on Team Germany at the ATP Cup. Alexander Zverev had plenty of nice things to say about his countryman.

“I think Yannick is maybe the one who is quietest out of all of us,” Zverev said. “He’s a very good guy, he’s somebody that gets along with everybody well, one of the nicest guys on Tour.”


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That does not mean Hanfmann is not a tough competitor. And according to Smith, his former player is a tremendous athlete.

“He knows he’s extremely capable. So if you are doing something with him, you’re playing basketball or we used to play ultimate frisbee, he knows he’s the best on the field. When he is, he’s got a swagger to him,” Smith said. “I just think it’s taken a while for him to get that swagger in tennis. Feeling just comfortable there, that he’s in the right place and can handle all of that.”

Hanfmann has also come through in big moments before with plenty of pressure on him. Smith recalled one moment when the German pulled off a gutsy comeback to help USC clinch the NCAA Championship. In the first round of qualifying last week, he rallied from a set and a break down against Jason Jung.

“In those situations, he’s a quiet fighter. But he is a fighter,” Smith said. “I have seen him in college matches, a national championship match, he was down match point, hit an unbelievable shot, came back and won the match. He has that in him.”


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The 30-year-old is not the only former USC men’s tennis star in the Australian Open draw. Steve Johnson beat Jordan Thompson in the first round on Tuesday and Emilio Gomez also qualified for the main draw, losing against former World No. 3 Marin Cilic.

“Incredibly proud [of them]. They’re such incredibly great humans and just to see, you’re just pissed you’re not there,” Smith said. “I’ve been with them on the pro tour and just seeing them there, and they’re plenty good enough. Seeing them have that success, it’s very rewarding.”

Hanfmann will be especially confident after coming through qualifying and dismissing home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first round of the main draw. Kokkinakis was in great form after winning his first ATP Tour title on Saturday in Adelaide.

“He is a confident kid, but [it is about] knowing he belongs there. And he does belong there,” Smith said. “You don’t go out and beat Kokkinakis like he did. Kokkinakis is playing great. He’s got the game, that is for sure.”

The World No. 126 will have his work cut out for him against 20-time major champion Nadal. But Hanfmann, a two-time ATP Tour finalist, will give it his best shot.

“You never know, right? You never know. Stranger things have happened and that’s why they play the match,” Smith said. “That’s why they play the game. Rafa’s got to win it.”

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Kyrgios On Medvedev 'Moment': 'That's Why I Play'

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2022

When the Australian Open draw came out, one of the blockbuster showdowns on the horizon was a potential second-round clash between World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and Australian Nick Kyrgios. After Kyrgios guaranteed that match would occur with a win against Liam Broady on Tuesday, he did not shy away from sharing his own excitement.

“It’s going to be a hell of an experience for me. He’s probably the best player in the world at the moment. So I’m pretty excited, I’m excited for that moment. That’s why I play the game,” Kyrgios said. “I feel like those matches still excite me, to go out there and play the best in the world. That was always something I wanted to prove to people that someone like me could do, win those matches.

“I’m not going to go into it with a lot of expectation. I’m going to go out there, have some fun, play my game. I have a pretty set-in-stone game plan of what I need to do to have success.”

Nick Kyrgios
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Kyrgios produced a solid performance in his opener against Broady, a qualifier. The Aussie had not competed since the Laver Cup last September, but he struck 41 winners and did not lose serve against the Briton.

“I’m pretty pleased with the way I responded. It was a pretty flawless [performance]. Everything I could control, serving, attitude, all the non-negotiables, I did great,” Kyrgios said. “Liam obviously qualified, tough competitor. Obviously I’ve had pretty good success against lefties at Grand Slams. I’ve only ever lost to Rafa at a Grand Slam that’s a left-hander. I was pretty confident my game style was going to match up well, but it was just good to be back out there.”

As always with Kyrgios, there were some theatrics on the court, from using the underarm serve to hitting a forward-facing tweener. The home favourite got the John Cain Arena crowd involved from early on.

“I think that’s something I have kind of created on that court. They know what to expect. First game against [Dominic] Thiem last year when I broke, the court went into an absolute berserk state,” Kyrgios said. “I think from the get-go, I know I’ve got the crowd in the palm of my hand, and [at] any time I can use that to spark a moment or spark some energy.”

Kyrgios will hope to do the same against Medvedev, who he says “ticks all the boxes”. The Aussie leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-0, with their most recent meeting coming in the 2019 Citi Open final.

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Tsitsipas Back Up to Speed in Comfortable Australian Open Win

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2022

Stefanos Tsitsipas wasted little time getting up to speed at the Australian Open on Tuesday night.

The Greek dispelled any lingering doubts around his recovery from an elbow injury with a quickfire 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win against Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in two hours and 10 minutes to reach the second round.

Tsitsipas has been understandably cautious at the beginning of the 2022 season. There was concern for the World No. 4 when he withdrew from his opening singles match against Hubert Hurkacz at the ATP Cup earlier this month, but the Greek insisted he just needed more preparation.

Fast-forward two weeks and the fourth seed made a fine start to his Australian Open campaign, showing no signs of physical discomfort against World No. 86 Ymer. Having reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park in 2019 (l. to Nadal) and 2021 (l. to Medvedev), Tsitsipas will hope this win can be a springboard for another deep run in Melbourne.

His run last year also included a meeting with Ymer, in which Tsitsipas dropped just six games in a straight-sets third-round win. The Swede managed a better tally this time around but was still unable to make a real dent in the Greek’s defences.

Tsitsipas won five games in a row in taking the first set 6-1, but had to recover from going down an early break to win the second. A year ago, Ymer had defeated Hubert Hurkacz and Carlos Alcaraz before falling to Tsitsipas, and he showed glimpses of that quality again. However, all too often he found himself pinned to the baseline as Tsitsipas made good use of his volleying skills, winning 34 of 48 points he played at the net.

Tsitsipas’ lack of match practice began to show a little in the third set, with some sloppy errors bringing his unforced error count to 38. He highlighted this area for improvement after the match.

“[I will try to] decrease the unforced errors, I think I had a few more than I usually have,” said Tsitsipas. “When you’re a professional tennis player, these small things can make a massive difference.”

He was also full of praise for Ymer, an opponent he knows well.

“Mikael is someone that I’ve been competing with for the past fifteen years, we are the same age, so it’s special to be facing each other on this court,” said Tsitsipas. “We started from eight years old playing together and now we are playing on Rod Laver [Arena].

“He gave me a hard time, really going after every single ball and staying in the match for as long as he could.”

Next up for Tsitsipas will be Argentine Sebastian Baez, who eliminated Spanish veteran Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 after three hours and 26 minutes.

Baez is used to the big stage after competing in last year’s Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. At the 21-and-under season finale, the Argentine defeated Hugo Gaston and Lorenzo Musetti to earn a place in the semi-finals, where he lost against Carlos Alcaraz.

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De Minaur Feeds Of Aussie Fans To Stage Musetti Comeback

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2022

Alex De Minaur fed off strong home support to rally from a set down and defeat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the Australian Open first round on Tuesday.

A bright start from the sublimely talented Italian suggested that de Minaur would be in for a tough evening on Kia Arena, but Australia’s No. 1 player fought back impressively to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said de Minaur when addressing the crowd after the match. “I’ve had some great memories on this court, playing in front of my home fans. There’s no place I’d rather be, that’s for sure.

“The most important thing is I stayed positive throughout the whole match. I’m not allowed to get negative on court so if you guys see me negative on court, make sure to tell me off.”

#NextGenATP star Musetti was playing in the Australian Open main draw for the first time but has already shown he has the game for the big stage. He reached the fourth round of the 2021 French Open on his Grand Slam debut, going two sets up on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic before being forced to retire in the fifth set.

“He’s obviously a very talented player,” said de Minaur. “He’s gone to five sets with Novak, so I knew it was going to be a very tough match and I was happy I was able to turn it around after the first set, play some good tennis and move on to the second round.”

At just 22, de Minaur has already won five ATP Tour titles, including two in the 2021 season (Antalya, Eastbourne). He showed some early season form at this year’s ATP Cup in his hometown of Sydney, winning two singles matches, including a confidence-boosting victory over World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini.

The threat of Musetti was immediately evident as the 19-year-old reeled off five consecutive games to seal the first set 6-3. The Italian was never able to build on that early promise, however, and the speed and tenacity of de Minaur began to tell as he took the second set 6-3 to level.

The third set was one-way traffic as Musetti’s game eluded him and the Australian took it 6-0, making it eight games won in a row in the process. Musetti won just five points in the set as the home favourite began to assert his dominance.

The Italian was more competitive again in the fourth set, but de Minaur made sure that his young opponent was constantly under pressure, winning 28 out of 40 points at the net and hitting 34 winners on his way to victory.

De Minaur faces another star of this year’s ATP Cup in the second round, Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak. The World No. 107 won all three singles matches he played for Poland at the team competition two weeks ago, and he came through 6-1, 6-1, 7-5 against Italy’s Andreas Seppi on Tuesday to set the De Minaur clash.

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