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Wawrinka Ready To Challenge Big Three In Melbourne

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Wawrinka Ready To Challenge Big Three In Melbourne

Swiss remains the last man outside of the Big 3 to have won a Slam singles title

Fresh off his semi-final run at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka is ready to continue his strong start to the 2020 season at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The 34-year-old Wawrinka, who beat Rafael Nadal in the 2014 final, is the 15th seed at the season’s first Grand Slam and will meet Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia & Herzegovina in the first round.

“It’s another year and still after all these years on Tour, I’m always very happy to be here. I prepared very well and I feel good here. I practised all week, feeling good, and I hope to get a good start into this tournament,” Wawrinka said.

It’s the first Grand Slam of the season. It’s summer here and we come from the European winter. It’s more or less the first time we see the sun here usually. There are many fans here and a great atmosphere all day on all courts. I won my first Grand Slam here. I also like the conditions and am happy to be back here.”

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Dzumhur, a three-time ATP Tour champion currently ranked No. 92 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-1, which includes their most recent contest last year on clay in Geneva. The two split their hard-court meetings in Dubai (2017) and St. Petersburg (2018).

I know Dzumhur well, I played him several times. I have lost and won against him in the past. He plays mostly from the baseline, moves well, returns well, does everything well. I think it will depend on how I play and if I can impose my game. I hope that I can do that,” Wawrinka said.

The Swiss last won a Grand Slam title at the 2016 US Open, but he remains the last player outside the Big Three of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to have won a major championship. The legendary trio have won the past 12 Grand Slam men’s singles titles (Nadal, five; Djokovic, four; Federer, three).

Wawrinka, however, will bring confidence from his Doha semi-final. The Swiss fell to Frenchman Corentin Moutet in three sets.

It was the first tournament, and of course you always want to improve and do better. I had my chances, which I didn’t take sadly,” Wawrinka said. “Nevertheless it was a good start to the year. I’m very happy about my 10 days in Doha before coming here… I’m happy about the level of my game and how practice goes. Now I can’t wait to play my first match.”

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Purcell Earns Spot In Australian Open Main Draw

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Purcell Earns Spot In Australian Open Main Draw

Gulbis also through to main draw in Melbourne

Australian Max Purcell reached a career milestone at the Australian Open on Friday, qualifying for his first Grand Slam main draw with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against Jozef Kovalik.

The Sydney native, who edged back-to-back three-set matches to reach the final qualifying round, landed 24 winners and converted four break points to cruise into his first major championship after 72 minutes. Purcell entered the tournament with one win from seven previous Grand Slam qualifying encounters.

Joining Purcell in the main draw will be Ernests Gulbis, who defeated Prajnesh Gunneswaran 7-6(2), 6-2 in 80 minutes. Gulbis will be making his 10th appearance in the main draw at the first Grand Slam of the season, where he has reached the second round on two occasions.

Norbert Gombos did not drop a set through his three qualifying matches, booking his spot with a 6-3, 6-3 win against Pedja Krstin. Gombos will be joined in the main draw by Peter Gojowczyk, who landed 21 winners to defeat Constant Lestienne 6-2, 6-3 in 65 minutes.

In second-round action, top seed Dennis Novak beat Filip Horansky 6-1, 6-4 to move one win away from a place in the main draw. Novak, who cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday, will meet Hiroki Moriya of Japan. Moriya overcame 23rd seed Steven Diez 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 37 minutes.

Kimmer Coppejans moved past third seed Brayden Schnur of Canada 7-6(3), 6-3. The 25-year-old will meet Christopher Eubanks in the final qualifying round.

Fellow Top 5 seeds Emil Ruusuvuori and Andrej Martin were also defeated. Elliot Benchetrit outlasted fourth seed Ruusuvuori 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(3), while Mathias Bourgue edged fifth seed Martin 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

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Britain's Heather Watson beaten in Hobart International semi-finals

  • Posted: Jan 17, 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 two Heather Watson was knocked out in the semi-final of the Hobart International, her final warm-up tournament before the Australian Open.

The 27-year-old lost 6-3 4-6 6-4 to Russian Elena Rybakina, who will play China’s Zhang Shuai in the final.

Watson will play Czech world number 62 Kristyna Pliskova in the Australian Open first round next week.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski lost in the semi-final of the Adelaide International.

The pair lost 5-7 6-3 15-13 to fourth seeds Filip Polasek and Ivan Dodig in a match that lasted one hour 49 minutes.

Britain’s Joe Salisbury and American partner Rajeec Ram lost 6-3 6-4 to Manuel Gonzalez and Frabrice Martin in the other semi-final.

The Australian Open begins in Melbourne on Monday. The men’s doubles draw will take place during the first week.

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Konta to miss GB Fed Cup duties in 2020 to protect body

  • Posted: Jan 17, 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 will not play for her country in the Fed Cup this year as she looks to protect her body and extend her career.

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

“I need to take care of my body and take some decisions which are not always easy,” Konta told BBC Sport.

Fellow Briton Katie Boulter has also cast doubt on her participation in the team event this year.

“I haven’t confirmed my status on Fed Cup at the moment,” said Boulter, 23, who was the British number two before a stress fracture in her back.

“It is something I am going to focus on after the Australian Open.”

Britain face a qualifier away to Slovakia on 7 February with a spot in the inaugural Fed Cup finals at stake.

Konta and Boulter were part of the Great Britain side that beat Kazakhstan last February to reach the World Group II stage for the first time in 26 years.

Boulter injured her back in the tie, playing through the pain to win her two singles matches, but barely playing for the rest of the year in consequence.

Konta, ranked 13th in the world, says managing her knee issue – a tendonitis-like inflammation – played a part in her decision. She made the call after discussing her plans with British captain Anne Keothavong at the end of last year.

“It is a tough decision because the Fed Cup has always been something close to my heart,” said Konta, who will compete for only the second time in four months when the Australian Open starts on Monday.

“I’ve had some incredible experiences in my career so far in Fed Cup and I’m looking to hopefully have some more.

“I’m not retiring [from it] full stop, just for this season with it being an Olympic year. With the challenge I had at the end of last year it is to be able to hopefully have more Fed Cup seasons under my belt.

“Hopefully it will give me the longevity I want.”

Konta is seeded 12th at the Australian Open, where she reached the semi-finals four years ago.

She starts her latest campaign in Melbourne against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who is ranked 85th in the world but can trouble opponents with her variation.

Of her current fitness, Konta said: “I’m getting there. It’s not acute, it’s something that is manageable and something that will continue to be managed for quite some time.”

Boulter reached 86 in the world during February’s Fed Cup tie, but has slipped to 317th having not played a match on the main WTA Tour since then.

She has a nightmare draw in Melbourne, facing Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina on Tuesday.

“I am completely free of pain, I’m in a good place physically and that’s the main thing for me,” Boulter said.

“Svitolina is an amazing player but I’m just happy to be on the court.”


BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller at Melbourne Park

Johanna Konta has been virtually ever-present in the GB Fed Cup team since 2013, and her sabbatical will hit the team very hard.

The recent retirement of Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova had made this very tricky away tie appear much more winnable.

The task of qualifying for April’s extremely lucrative Fed Cup finals will now fall to Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and Katie Boulter. Although, as you have read, Boulter’s participation is far from assured.

With the Tokyo Olympics taking place in July, the period between May’s French Open and September’s US Open is even more frenetic than usual.

And Konta is no doubt mindful of the stress a switch from the hard courts of Melbourne to the indoor clay of Bratislava could put on her knee.

But it’s a huge blow to the team, just as they’ve finally clambered their way into the elite bracket.

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GB's Dart reaches Australian Open first round

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Harriet Dart became the fourth British woman to reach this year’s Australian Open first round after she won her final qualifying match.

Dart, 23, won 6-1 6-3 against Italian Giulia Gatto-Monticone in Melbourne.

The world number 169, who lost in the first round last year, joins Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Katie Boulter in the main draw.

She will find out her opponent when qualifying is completed and the winners are placed in the draw.

The Australian Open, which is the first Grand Slam of 2020, starts at Melbourne Park on Monday.

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Harris Serves Way Into First ATP Tour Final In Adelaide

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Harris Serves Way Into First ATP Tour Final In Adelaide

Auger-Aliassime plays Rublev in second semi-final

South African Lloyd Harris reached his first ATP Tour final on Friday at the Adelaide International, battling past American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 in two hours and nine minutes.

“I’m so excited to be in the final here in Adelaide. Just ecstatic with the match I played,” Harris said. “Looking forward to [the final] tomorrow.”

Last year, Harris made his first tour-level quarter-final and semi-final in Chengdu as a lucky loser. But the World No. 91 has gone one step further in Adelaide, blasting 13 aces and winning 85 per cent of his first-serve points against the man who is one spot ahead of him in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

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This was the first ATP Tour semi-final between two qualifiers since Roberto Carballes Baena beat Andrej Martin in Quito in 2018. Harris was on the back foot towards the end of the second set, despite recouping a break to force a tie-break, as Paul was taking control of rallies more often and not allowing the South African to dictate play.

But Harris, who defeated fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta and sixth seed Cristian Garin earlier in the ATP 250 tournament, was undeterred. He lost just two first-serve points in the decider en route to his victory. Harris will play second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or third seed Andrey Rublev for the trophy.

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How Federer Uses New Balls To His Advantage On Hard Courts

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

How Federer Uses New Balls To His Advantage On Hard Courts

Infosys ATP Insights learns who best takes advantage of fresh balls on serve

New balls, please…

With the Australian Open on the horizon, an Infosys ATP Insights deep dive of serve performance with new balls over the past five seasons uncovers how players take advantage of the fresh, faster balls on hard, grass and clay courts.

Serving With New Balls – Holding Serve 2015-2019

 Surface  Player  Service Games Held %
 Grass  Milos Raonic  100%
 Hard  Roger Federer  94.58%
 Clay  John Isner  95.24% 

1. Roger Federer Leads On Hard Courts
Breaking Roger Federer’s serve on hard courts when he is serving with new balls is an almost insurmountable task. Federer has lost serve only 11 times out of 203 service games on hard court in the past five years when serving with fresh balls. Overall, John Isner has won the most service games on hard with new balls with 214 service games, while Dominic Thiem has played the most, with 233 service games.

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on hard (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. Roger Federer = 94.58% (192/203)
2. Ivo Karlovic = 94.01% (157/167)
3. Nick Kyrgios = 93.79% (166/177)
4. Reilly Opelka = 93.24% (69/74)
5. John Isner = 92.24% (214/232)

2. Milos Raonic Is Perfect On Grass Courts
In the past five years, Milos Raonic has played 43 matches on grass and served with new balls 64 times. He has impressively won every one of those service games. Overall, Raonic has won 70 per cent (49/70) of his matches on grass throughout his career, proving to be his most successful surface. Surprisingly, he has not yet won a grass-court event, but was a finalist at Wimbledon and Queens in 2016, and Stuttgart in 2018.

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on grass (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. Milos Raonic = 100% (64/64)
2. Ivo Karlovic = 98.31% (58/59)
3. Matteo Berrettini = 95.45% (21/22)
4. Kevin Anderson = 94.92% (56/59)
5. Marin Cilic = 94.74% (54/57) 

3. John Isner Surprises On Clay Courts
You would not naturally think of the 34-year-old American Isner as a leader in clay-court performance metrics, but his form is unsurpassed on the surface with new balls, holding serve 95.24 per cent (60/63) of the time. In fact, Isner’s hold percentage on clay with new balls is better than on grass or hard.

John Isner Winning Percentage Holding Serve With New Balls (2015-19)

 Surface  Winning Percentage
 Clay  95.24% (60/63)
 Grass  92.59% (50/54)
 Hard  92.24% (214/232)

The five best performers holding serve with new balls on clay (minimum 20 attempts) in the past five seasons:

1. John Isner = 95.24% (60/63)
2. Kevin Anderson = 93.75% (45/48)
3. Hyeon Chung = 91.43% (32/35)
4. Steve Johnson = 91.07% (51/56)
5. Juan Ignacio Londero = 89.47% (34/38)

Serving with new balls offers a distinct advantage for the server. Breaking it down by the surface helps identify which players naturally perform better on which surface.

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Murray refuses to put time frame on recovery after injury setback

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2020

Andy Murray says he is not putting a time frame on his recovery from a pelvic injury after delaying his comeback to the middle of February at the earliest.

The injury forced him to miss this month’s Australian Open.

He now says “bone bruising” is taking longer to heal than expected.

The Scot, 32, last played at the Davis Cup in November and will now miss tournaments in France and the Netherlands next month.

“I don’t want to rush anything or put a timeline on my recovery,” said the three-time Grand Slam champion.

“I’m going to listen to my body and step back on the court to compete when the time is right.”

He added: “The bone bruising is taking longer to heal that first thought, so I won’t be playing in Montpellier or Rotterdam in February.”

Murray, who had hip resurfacing surgery at the beginning of 2019, is continuing his rehabilitation and training in the gym, including yoga sessions.

After Wimbledon in 2017, he missed almost a year of tennis because of a career-threatening hip injury.

He then played in only two tournaments between October 2018 and the start of June 2019.

With Feliciano Lopez, Murray won the men’s doubles at Queen’s Club last June and returned to singles’ action in August.

Victory over Stan Wawrinka in the final of an ATP Tour event in Antwerp, Belgium, in October was Murray’s first title in two years, before he got injured during the Davis Cup a month later.

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'Stef Is Kind Of A Genius': Tsitsipas Gearing Up For An Even Better 2020

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2020

‘Stef Is Kind Of A Genius’: Tsitsipas Gearing Up For An Even Better 2020

Catch up with the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion’s off-season preparation

Stefanos Tsitsipas punctuated his 2019 season in the greatest way possible, winning the Nitto ATP Finals in London, marking the biggest title of his career. The sixth seed at the Australian Open, Tsitsipas will now try to build on that great finish in the year ahead.

“It was a great end of the year, coming in London strong from the very beginning, full of confidence. It just gave me so much to work around with. I felt very flexible in my way of thinking,” Tsitsipas said. “At the end I left from London with the trophy, which I couldn’t really believe what just happened. It was a great, great week with good fan support, a good team around me.”

The Greek had already shown his potential, winning three prior ATP Tour titles and reaching two ATP Masters 1000 finals. But defeating Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev in one week broke new ground for the 21-year-old.

“I remember playing the Next Gen Finals [in 2018] and thinking to myself that the young generation I’m currently facing at the Next Gen ATP Finals is the future,” Tsitsipas said. “Players are young, they’re ambitious, they play so well. There’s nothing to fear of going out and playing with the elder players. So for me, that was very crucial to be in that kind of thinking and that kind of mindset.”

That paid dividends, as Tsitsipas is now not only the future, but the present. He certainly made an impression on those around him, including mentor Marcos Baghdatis.

“He came on end of the year finding again his rhythm,” Baghdatis said. “I find it incredible what he did. For me, Stef is kind of a genius.”

Tsitsipas’ run in London didn’t come out of nowhere, though. It was the high point of a steady progression that began at the end of 2018, when he won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. Just two months later, he reached the Australian Open semi-finals, upsetting Federer in Melbourne.

“The fact that the semi-final, you start off with a bang beating Federer and a semi-final finish at the Australian Open was huge and then I think the momentum just went on from there,” said Mark Philippoussis, an 11-time ATP Tour champion. “Finishes strong at The O2. I felt like we saw him raise his game a level and really see what he’s capable of.”

After his big win to end 2019, Tsitsipas took some well-earned time away from the court to reset, visiting Iceland, Cyprus and Oman before heading to Dubai for his off-season training.

“It’s rare that I get to do these kinds of things,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m usually very focussed and concentrated on my tennis, so I really cherish the fact that I’m able to travel and go to places away from tennis and not be concentrated on tennis despite my love for the sport.”

Now Tsitsipas is ready to try to progress even more in 2020.

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