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Updated: 9 min 5 sec ago

Isner Still Coming Up Aces Down Under

Sat, 01/23/2016 - 4:50am

John Isner — all six feet, 10 inches of him — has long been known for his imposing on-court presence, his booming serve making him one of the hardest to break on the ATP World Tour. As Roger Federer once noted, “John can hold easy, that we know.”

Bernard Tomic asserted, “It's a nightmare to play him. He's probably the best server in the world.”

Observed Andy Murray, “It makes the game a whole lot easier when you can serve like that.”

The 10th seeded American continues to impress with his serve at the Australian Open. On Saturday afternoon in Hisense Arena, Isner amassed 44 aces in a 6-7(8), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 win over No.  18 seed Feliciano Lopez. It marked the sixth time in his career that he had registered more than 40 aces in a single match. He is into round of 16 for the first time since 2010, matching his best Australian Open result. Another big server, Andy Roddick, was the last American man to reach the fourth round here, in 2011.

“It's a big win,” said Isner. “It's a very tough opponent, especially for me, the way he plays. He certainly has given me trouble in the past. Also, it’s been a little while since I've been in the round of 16 at this tournament. It feels great. I'm very relieved to get through, want to keep on going.”

Incredibly, he now has 101 aces over three matches in Melbourne Park.

And he has yet to face a break point in 54 games.

Video courtesy

Isner opened with a 6-3, 7-6(7), 6-3 win over Jerzy Janowicz in the first round, and in the second round defeated Marcel Granollers 6-3, 7-6(6), 7-6(2). Against the 34-year-old Lopez, he fought off four set points but couldn’t save a fifth in the first set tie-break. But the 30-year-old former University of Georgia standout soon worked his way back into the match, landing 77 per cent (96 of 124) of his first serves, and winning 79 per cent (76 of 96) of those points.

Isner hit 52 aces in a losing performance against Lopez in the third round of Wimbledon in 2014. The American holds the world record of 113 aces in one match, set during his 70-68 fifth-set win over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.

Isner moves on to face No. 8 seed David Ferrer, who like the American didn't face a break point on Saturday in his one-hour, 44-minute 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 defeat of American Steve Johnson. He is 1-6 against the Spaniard in FedEx ATP Head2Heads.

“I've got to play aggressive,” Isner noted. “He's going to want to get on top of that baseline and move me around all day. He's not going to get tired. We all know that. I've got to go for my shots and try to keep the points shorter. Can't be having long, drawn-out rallies with him. I'm definitely not going to win the majority of those.”

Raonic Extends Perfect 2016 Start

Sat, 01/23/2016 - 2:06am

Both players came in on hot streaks. Milos Raonic had claimed the Brisbane trophy, overcoming Roger Federer to do so, while Viktor Troicki had held off Grigor Dimitrov for a successful title defence in Sydney. Neither player had lost a match in 2016.

But someone’s streak had to end on Saturday at the Australian Open, where the No. 13-seeded Raonic dispatched No. 21 Troicki in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the round of 16 for the fourth time.

“I think it's definitely the best match I have played here in Melbourne so far this year,” said Raonic. “I thought I played smart. I thought I changed up things really well. Took care of my serve really well, mixed up my serve, was efficient at the net. I think I would give myself an ‘A’ grading on the way I was able to play.” 

Raonic, who last year recorded a career-best Australian Open result by reaching the quarter-finals (l. to Novak Djokovic), rolled through the 29-minute opening set with service breaks in the sixth and eighth games, and grabbed another in the eighth game of the second set to take a commanding two-sets-to-love lead.

Troicki, bidding to reach the round of 16 for the first time, battled back in the third set, jumping out to a quick 3-0 advantage. But Raonic would answer with a break of his own in the seventh game, subsequently bringing the set back on serve at 4-all. He added another break, his fifth of the day, and promptly consolidated to close out the Serb in one hour and 45 minutes.

Video courtesy

“I feel like I'm finding answers,” Raonic asserted. “I'm taking care of my serve. I'm creating opportunities on the return. I'm reacting much better, getting a lot more returns back in, putting more pressure on my opponents, so eventually the opportunities are coming to me. Today and my first round was a lot more efficient in that sense. So I think it's just really about keeping that cycle going forward.”

Raonic, who improved to 3-1 in FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters with Troicki, played an aggressive brand of tennis in earning the win. He won 25 of 32 net approaches, to go along with 37 winners.

Raonic’s opponent in the fourth round will be Stan Wawrinka, who defeated Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(3) in Rod Laver Arena. The 25-year-old defeated Lucas Pouille 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 and Tommy Robredo 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 7-5 in the opening two rounds.

300: Federer Reaches Slam Milestone

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 11:48pm

Roger Federer climbed into rarefied territory on a rainy Friday at the Australian Open. With a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 third-round win over 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov in Rod Laver Arena, the No. 3 seed clinched the 300th Grand Slam match win of his storied career, becoming the first man to reach the milestone.

Only Martina Navratilova (306) stands in front of him.

"It's very exciting, I must tell you," said Federer of the milestone. "Like when I reached 1,000 [tour-level wins] last year, it was a big deal for me. Not something I ever aimed for or looked for, but when it happens, it's very special. You look deeper into it, I guess, where it's all happened and how. So it's very nice. I'm very happy." 

Federer embed:

Video courtesy

The 48-minute first set went in Federer’s favour behind a service break at 3-all, the only interruption the opening, then closing, of Rod Laver Arena’s retractable roof due to rain. But the Bulgarian Dimitrov, who after three straight-sets losses took his first set off Federer in the Brisbane quarter-finals earlier this month, would get another to level the match at a set apiece, his aggressive play paying dividends against the 17-time Slam champ.

Federer didn’t wait long to assert himself in the third set, breaks coming in the second and sixth games for a 5-1 advantage. A game later he was ahead two sets to one. A forehand error from Dimitrov at 2-all, 30/40 in the fourth and final set would give Federer a seemingly insurmountable lead, and the Swiss went on to clinch the contest in two hours and 40 minutes. He finished with 47 winners, including 13 aces.

"That was my goal, to react quickly after the second set because I struggled a little bit," said Federer. "But then found my way back, then was able to take charge of the match. It was important. Conditions, again, were very different indoors than they were against Dolgopolov in the second round. Even night session plays different.

"Just got to manage these conditions a bit. I'm pleased. Wasn't easy. I didn't expect it to be against Grigor. It was a tough round, so I'm happy."

It was Dimitrov's  seventh straight loss to a Top-10 player.

Federer, at 34 a decade Dimitrov’s senior, is the oldest man to reach the round of 16 at the Australian Open since Andre Agassi played his way into the quarter-finals in 2005. He is looking to become only the third man to win five Australian Open singles titles after Roy Emerson (six) and Novak Djokovic (five), having won the title in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010.

Dimitrov was bidding to reach the fourth round for the third consecutive year. His best Australian Open result is a quarter-finals showing in 2014 (l. to Rafael Nadal).

"I felt I could have played better tennis throughout the whole match," said Dimitrov. "After the second set, I was just getting a little flat. I was hoping to have a better result. I'm not going to lie. Losses like that always hurt, but in the same time I just lately haven't played those kind of matches I think.

"Just don't get discouraged at the same time. It's not like I'm losing every match or anything like that. I thought I played good tennis at the beginning of the year, and that's important. Still a lot of tournaments to come ahead. So I'm really going to try to go out there and use all my confidence that I've built so far and, of course, keep trying."

Federer advances to play No. 15 seed David Goffin of Belgium, a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 winner over No. 19 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria. The 25-year-old Goffin is through to the fourth round of a major for the third time, having also reached the last 16 at 2012 Roland Garros (as a qualifier) and 2015 Wimbledon. The right-hander will look to overturn a 0-3 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Federer.

Federer Grand Slam Milestone Wins

 Win #
 Year Opponent
Tournament  Round  Score 1 2000 Michael Chang
Australian Open 1R 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 100 2006 Tim Henman
Wimbledon 2R 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 200 2010 Alejandro Falla
Wimbledon 1R 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-0 300 2016 Grigor Dimitrov Australian Open 3R 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4


Stan’s The Man With 400th Win

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 11:43pm

A night after his compatriot Roger Federer became the first man to reach the 300-win mark at the majors, Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka captured the 400th tour-level win of his career at the Australian Open, advancing to the round of 16 with a 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(3) decision over Lukas Rosol in Rod Laver Arena.

The No. 4 seed became the 12th active player to record 400 wins (400-233). Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who fell to John Isner in Hisense Arena, is hot on his heels with 398 to his name. 

The 2014 titlist, into the fourth round for the fourth straight year, remains unbeaten in three FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Rosol, and is riding an 11-match winning streak against players from the Czech Republic.

"Always a tough opponent for sure,” Wawrinka told reporters. “But I'm happy the way I'm playing so far. Today I think the beginning I started really well, not only with the serve, but returning almost every shot, making him play a lot, being aggressive, taking the ball early. I’m happy with the match in general. Three sets, it's a good win.”

A service break in the fourth game of the first set would separate Wawrinka from his 51st-ranked opponent, who was bidding to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam for the first time. The Swiss would register two more breaks in the second set in the sixth and eighth games, and later took control of the decisive third-set tie-break. He totaled 45 winners to 23 winners in the winning effort.

Wawrinka and Rosol were two of the 13 men aged 30 and over to reach the third round in Melbourne. This is the most through to this stage of the Australian Open since there were 19 in 1977.

Video courtesy

Next up for Wawrinka will be No. 13 seed Milos Raonic, who dispatched No. 21 Viktor Troicki in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the round of 16 for the fourth time. He is an unbeaten 4-0 against the Canadian in FedEx ATP Head2Heads.

“He's a tough player, for sure,” said Wawrinka. “Never lost [to him], but it's always been a tough match. He's been playing really good since the beginning of the year, winning the first title in Brisbane against Roger in the final. He's trying to improve. He's trying to win big titles. It will be a difficult match. In general, I always find some solution to break his serve, even though it’s really tough. We'll see. Hopefully, I can be ready and be strong enough to take that one.”

Thirty-three winners, including 10 aces, were good enough to get Gael Monfils past countryman Stephane Robert 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 in an all-French battle in Hisense Arena. It was the 350th match win of the No. 23 seed's career. Robert was hoping to get the better of his countryman and become the first qualifier through to the round of 16 since Raonic in 2011.

Murray And Soares Team Up in Australia 2016

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 5:30pm
Jamie Murray shares why Bruno Soares is his perfect match on the doubles court.

Goffin Reacts To Victory Over Thiem

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 5:24pm
David Goffin advances to the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time after his closed-roof win over Dominic Thiem.

Growing Up Roger

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 4:33pm

Despite being the first man to notch 300 match wins at Grand Slam tournaments, Roger Federer found success to be a long and winding journey.

“I made a lot of mistakes,” said Federer as he reflected on his early career, one which saw him upset Pete Sampras on the Wimbledon Centre Court at age 19. Following that unexpected win, the ponytailed wunderkind needed to wait two more years before fulfilling his immense promise and capturing his first Grand Slam title on the same court.

“I wish I could have maybe been tougher when I was younger in practice, but I guess that's just how it needed to be,” said Federer, who was eliminated in the first round of 2003 Roland Garros by underdog Luis Horna before finally putting it all together weeks later at SW19. “It needed to be genius or horrible. I needed to have that wide spectrum. I needed to make mistakes to become the player I am today.

“I think it's really important. It's okay to make mistakes.”

The final win over Mark Philippoussis was a long time coming for the then-21 year old, but Federer stressed the importance of patience for young guns looking to take that step today.

“There's more professional tennis players than ever,” he said. “The depth is greater. Talent takes you only so far. You have got to be patient. You can't expect to win Slams at 16, 17, 18 anymore these days, or skyrocket through the rankings, unless you're out of this world.

“The spotlight's on you when you're a teenager. You have to react very quickly to all the things that are coming at you. That's why I think it's always very interesting to follow a teenager growing up on the tennis tour. It’s too bad that we don't see more of them, because they still are so young and are just themselves.”

Federer stressed the importance of being surrounded by quality people during that process.

“I had unbelievable coaching, support team, parents, wife, and everybody around me throughout,” Federer noted.

“[Marc Rosset] was a big influence on me because he guided me around the tour a little bit, showed me where to string a racquet and where to book practice courts,” said Federer of his compatriot, a towering player who was ranked No. 9 in the world and who won gold at the 1992 Olympic Games. “Maybe if you're not sure how to handle the press, whatever it was, you could always ask the right people."

Now an elder statesman of the game at age 34, Federer is no doubt thrilled with how his career has unfolded. But there is a wistful tone in his voice when he thinks back to the time when he was a raw, long-haired kid, ready to take on the world.

“Eventually you figure out how to handle yourself on and off the court. But I think the process is always very intriguing. It's been amazing. I've been truly privileged to have the experience.”

Nadal: I'm On The Right Track

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 2:16pm

The surprise of the Australian Open so far came on Tuesday night when Rafael Nadal suffered his first opening-round exit at Melbourne Park at the hands of Fernando Verdasco in a dramatic five-set contest. But as Nadal exclusively told EL ESPAÑOL before returning home to Mallorca, he won’t be letting this defeat undo all the hard work he has put in.

"It's a tough loss," said Nadal. "But you go out to compete knowing you can win or you can lose. This is something I've always been aware of throughout my career. But I had trained well and I had trained a lot. For a while now I've been training much more than I was able to before, when physically I just couldn't. When you've worked so hard, you feel like you've done everything right, and the match doesn't go your way...

"I know that I'm doing everything right. The work has been done,” continued the 29 year old. “The defeat on Tuesday doesn't change that. I am well and I hope to continue like this moving forward. Yes, I lost to Djokovic in the Doha final, but I'm on the right track. I'm going to try to continue this way and put the Verdasco match behind me. It's a difficult defeat at the moment, but in a few weeks I'll be competing again. I have to keep up the hard work to be ready.

As he looks to rebuild for his next few tournaments, beginning in Rio de Janeiro on 15 February, Nadal is determined to stay positive. "It's a Grand Slam and it's painful, of course, but I can't ignore reality. Neither a victory nor a defeat can make you lose perspective. The defeat against Verdasco can't take that away from me. Since Beijing I've been playing at quite a high level. My results between Beijing and the end of the season were final, semi-final (Shanghai), final (Basel), quarter-final (Paris) and semi-final (Barclays ATP World Tour Finals) in difficult tournaments. And 2016 started with another final in Doha.

“The past few months have been a consistently high level and the level I hope to be at. This defeat is stumbling block that I have to accept in this good spell. I do accept it and I will try to get back on the right track.

"My philosophy in life, not just in sport, is that things won't go well without effort and hard work. The truth is that I lost a match that I was close to winning. Maybe normally I would have won it and now I would be in the second round, looking forward and thinking that I'm playing well, ready to have a good tournament."

In addition, Nadal also spoke of the importance of mental strength when playing, and feels he has improved in that regard since last year. "Of course you can lose matches with your head. You can also win matches that way, obviously. But you can't win 14 Grand Slams with your head. The only way to win them is having the shots that allow you to do so. When you find yourself up against a player at his highest level, and you are at your limit, your head has an impact. When you're poor mentally, you lose matches. Last year I showed that."

The World No. 5 finished by reiterating that he is content with the work he is doing and the way his game is progressing. "I like what I do," said Nadal. "I'm happy and I feel fortunate. I know that what I'm doing isn't for life, it has an expiry date and I don't know what that is. So I'm going to try and get the most out of it. I want my last years on tour to be successful, but above all to be successful on a personal level. The way to get that satisfaction is to do whatever I can so that things go as well as possible."

Berdych Ends Kyrgios Campaign, Sets Bautista Agut Clash

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 12:54pm

Tomas Berdych is through to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row after fending off a fightback from Nick Kyrgios to prevail 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in the Friday night session on Rod Laver Arena.

The Czech looked set for a routine victory as he chalked up the first two sets with a single service break in each. Home favourite Kyrgios, watched from his box by Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and teammate Thanasi Kokkinakis, hit back strongly in the third set, though. The Canberra native made just four unforced errors and made 86 per cent of his first serves as he clawed his way back into the match.

Video courtesy

But Kyrgios could not extend Berdych to a decider. The 20 year old held from 15/40 in the sixth game, but found himself three match points down serving at 0/40 4-5. He saved the first, but a double fault on the second handed victory to Berdych in two hours and 27 minutes.

"He's very dangerous for the top guys," said Berdych. "He can play really some big tennis. He can be very dangerous. You really have to play a good game, have a good effort. That's what I did today. That's his game, that's his style.

"He's a great player. He just took advantage of that [in the third set]. It was just a couple of points thath on one side it was just close in, the other one was close out. All of a sudden the gap just become huge in the score.

"But I didn't feel that way, that it's going so fast. So that's all right. I mean, he can play well. He can play big. But I just refocused myself and then played well again in the fourth set." 

The 30-year-old Berdych was a semi-finalist for the second time at Melbourne Park last year, falling to Andy Murray. He also reached the final four in 2014, losing to Stan Wawrinka. The Czech has reached one Grand Slam final in his career, finishing runner-up to Rafael Nadal at 2010 Wimbledon.

Reflecting on the loss, Kyrgios, who was a quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year, said, "I'm so disappointed, like I put so much work in, and I just feel like I let a lot of people down. I was expecting a bit more out of myself. I was expecting like another real deep run. I put a lot of work in. It's pretty heartbreaking.

"I knew I would have to play some of my best tennis to win. I knew I wasn't the favourite, but I definitely felt like I should have won. I just put a lot of pressure on myself. It's a good experience as well. I know what I have to do now to get better."

For a place in the quarter-finals, Berdych will face Roberto Bautista-Agut, who upset 12th seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-5. Bautista Agut is on an eight-match winning streak, coming into the Australian Open on the back of his third ATP World Tour title in Auckland (d. Sock). The Spaniard is bidding to reach his first major quarter-final and has a 2-3 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Berdych.

Video courtesy

“I played a good match today and raised my level from the earlier rounds,” said Bautista Agut. “The pressure has gone after winning the first two rounds. I’m very happy for the victory and my level of play.

“It’s almost impossible for me to start better than this. I’m playing well, with intensity, and I’ve already had victories against good players that last year I might have lost to.”

Bryans, Dodig/Melo, Bopanna/Mergea Among Doubles Winners

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 12:09pm

Rain wreaked havoc with the doubles schedule on Friday at the Australian Open, but when they finally got on court, Bob and Mike Bryan made short work of Mahesh Bhupathi and Gilles Muller to reach the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

The Americans, who have changed things up by switching sides on the court at Melbourne Park, are chasing their first Grand Slam title since the 2014 US Open. They are six-time winners at the Australian Open, most recently lifting the trophy in 2013 (d. Haase/Sijsling).

The twins go on to face Raven Klaasen and Rajeev Ram, who saved a match point in their 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey.

Second seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Austin Krajicek and Donald Young. "We had a long day,” Melo said. “We warmed up five or six times. Twice we were just about to go on court and the rain came back. I came to the courts at 8am and finally got on court at 5:30pm. So there were many hours waiting, but we are happy to play as well as we played after all that. We are very happy to be in the third round."

Fourth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea also cruised through, dismissing Lukas Dlouhy and Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-2 to set a clash with Treat Huey and Max Mirnyi, who beat Thomaz Bellucci and Marcelo Demoliner 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4.

"Today we played a very solid match and I think put a lot of pressure on our opponents when they served," said Bopanna. "It was tough with the weather and waiting all day there, but glad we stayed tough and played some good tennis. We're happy to be into the third round and looking forward to it." 

Ninth seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock were given a free pass into the third round when Robin Haase and Fernando Verdasco withdrew from their clash, with Verdasco citing a foot injury.

Nishikori Into Second Week

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 12:00pm

Despite his runner-up finish at the 2014 US Open, the Australian Open remains Kei Nishikori’s most successful Grand Slam. The two-time quarter-finalist improved to 19-6 in Melbourne Park on Friday, advancing to the round of 16 for the fifth straight year with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain.

“I have to give a lot of credit to him, because he was hitting really hard,” said Nishikori, who dealt with a sore wrist. “I thought he was going to hit with more spin, but he was hitting a lot of flat balls and they were going in. So it was tough to play. But I started playing much better in the third and fourth [sets]. I tried to dictate a little more, tried to step in and use more forehands, and I think I was able to come in many times today (he won 16 of 24 net approaches).”

A break in hand, the 26th-seeded Garcia-Lopez, who came into the match with a 0-2 deficit in FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters with Nishikori, had a chance to serve out the first set at 5-4. But after falling behind 15-40, he dumped a forehand into the net as his opponent brought the set back on serve. Two games later, Nishikori took the 46-minute set on yet another untimely error from Garcia-Lopez.

Tsonga highlights courtesy

To the 32-year-old Spaniard’s credit, he didn’t let the missed opportunity drag him down. He came out firing in the second set and broke Nishikori in the first and fifth games to level the match at one set apiece. It was the first set he had taken from the top-ranked Japanese man in their three encounters.

Nishikori, 26, moved ahead two sets to one with a break at 3-2 in the third, and struck again at 1-all in the fourth to distance himself in the two-hour, 48-minute contest.

Nishikori advanced to the third round after defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round, and Austin Krajicek 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 in the second round. This is his seventh Australian Open appearance. He reached the quarter-finals in 2012 (l. to Andy Murray) and in 2015 (l. to Stan Wawrinka).

Garcia-Lopez was bidding to reach the round of 16 here for the second straight year. He fell to 2-8 against Top-10 players at the majors.

The match was played under a closed Margaret Court Arena roof as rain prevented play on all but the three covered courts in Melbourne Park.

Nishikori, who registered 33 winners to 38 unforced errors, will next face No. 9 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tsonga defeated Pierre Hughes-Herbert 6-4, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) in the first of two all-French third-round clashes. The 2008 Australian Open runner-up has now lost just one of 14 meetings with his countrymen at the majors. Nishikori owns a 4-2 edge in FedEx ATP Head2Head match-ups with the Frenchman.

“He's going to be a tough, tough opponent,” Nishikori observed. “We played last year at the French and I almost came back, but he raised his level in the fifth. It was a really tough loss for me, so I hope I can get revenge here. I’ve been playing good and with a lot of confidence, so it's going to be a good match.” 

Also advancing on Friday was No. 15 seed David Goffin, a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5 winner over No. 19 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria. The Belgian, who led his country to the Davis Cup final last year, registered 55 winners, 17 aces among them, to 61 unforced errors.

“I was really aggressive at the beginning of the match,” said Goffin, who will face Roger Federer in the next round. “That's why it was 6-1. And then he started to serve better and was feeling better on the baseline. That's why it was tough the last three sets. It was tough until the end.”

He is just the fourth Belgian man to reach the last 16 in Melbourne. Olivier Rochus was the last to do so in 2005.

Goffin highlights courtesy

Djokovic Holds Off Seppi To Set Simon Clash

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 10:42am

Twelve months ago, Andreas Seppi posted one of the upsets of the year as he stunned Roger Federer in the third round of the Australian Open. He made life difficult for Novak Djokovic on Friday night, but the World No. 1 made sure he did not fall victim to the Italian, overcoming strong resistance to prevail 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(6) on Margaret Court Arena.

A 25-minute first set flashed by as Djokovic won more than double the amount of points as Seppi, but the Italian found his feet in the second set. He saved break points to hold serve in the first game and was denied the chance to break Djokovic in the sixth game. The Serb made his breakthrough in the 11th game before closing out the tight 59-minute set.

Video courtesy

Seppi again had chances to break Djokovic at the start of the third set as he continued to dig his heels in. Djokovic rallied from 15/40 to hold though. In the eventual tie-break, Seppi recovered from 2-4 down to hold two set points at 6-4, but was unable to convert. At 6-6, a looping forehand from Djokovic brought an error from Seppi and the Serb sealed victory with an unreturned serve in two hours and 21 minutes.

"I think that I started very well," said Djokovic. "A set and then a couple of break points early in the second. Didn't use that. He started serving well. I backed up half a step back. He started playing more aggressive tennis. Not as many unforced errors.

"I think I served my way out of trouble several times. But certainly I must be pleased with a straight-sets win because both sets, especially the third, could have gone a different way.

"I played a quality player who took out Federer last year here and who has been on the tour for many years. He is not afraid to play big tennis on a big stage. He likes it, I think. It was a great test. It was a physical match, a lot of exchanges from the baseline. I'm just glad to go through." 

Djokovic improved to a 12-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over the Italian as he set up a fourth-round meeting with France’s Gilles Simon.

The Belgrade native is through to the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the 10th straight year and has a 53-6 tournament record. He is bidding to equal Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian titles and become the 10th man in history to win six titles at any Grand Slam event. The right-hander triumphed in Melbourne in 2008 (d. Tsonga) and again in 2011 (d. Murray), 2012 (d. Nadal), 2013 (d. Murray) and 2015 (d. Murray).

World No. 15 Simon will attempt to beat Djokovic for just the second time in 11 meetings after dismissing Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 in one hour and 42 minutes. Since beating Djokovic in their first contest eight years ago in Marseille, Simon has lost his past nine meetings with the Serb. The 31 year old is looking to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open for the first time since 2009 (l. to Nadal).

John Millman Receives Award, Eyes Australian Open 4th Round

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 8:51am
John Millman is set to take on fellow Australian Bernard Tomic for a place in the Australian Open fourth round.

Hewitt Reflects on Final Singles Match

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 6:00am
Lleyton Hewitt talks about his goosebump moment and more as he reflects on the final singles match of his career, at the Australian Open.

No Second Thoughts: Hewitt Takes Stock

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 1:43pm

As Lleyton Hewitt stood on Rod Laver Arena after playing his final singles match, a video was played on the big screen with messages from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. The video ended with Nick Kyrgios, whom Hewitt has mentored in the past six months, declaring the two-time Grand Slam champion to still be the best player in Australia and suggesting he reconsider his retirement.

Naturally, it had to be asked in the press conference if the 34-year-old Hewitt was having any second thoughts about hanging up his racquets.

With his three children, Ava, Mia and Cruz seated beside him, Hewitt responded, “No, I've been set on it. I got the most out of my body. I've pushed myself to the limit. I look forward to the next phase in terms of work, helping these next guys coming through, including the likes of Nick.”

Indeed, it was very much a family affair as Hewitt bid a fond farewell to professional tennis on Thursday evening, bowing out in the Australian Open second round against David Ferrer. The Adelaide native was joined on court afterwards by his children, who had been watching with their mother, Bec, in the stands, and explained they had been a large part of why he had continued to play for as long as he did.

Read: Hewitt Bows Out

Read & Watch: Lleyton Hewitt - The Game Changer

“Especially the past few years, they've actually been able to come to tournaments and remember it,” said Hewitt. “They're going to have lifelong memories of being out there with me and Cruz hitting with the likes of Federer, Nadal, Murray, these guys. It's pretty cool.

“It's probably pushed me to play that little bit longer to enjoy it so they could get something out of it, as well. Cruz, the past couple years, he came on a little boys trip to a couple of different tournaments. It's been nice.”

Hewitt has spent the past 12 months building up to this moment, since announcing last year that his 20th successive Australian Open would be his last tournament.

The right-hander may have only won four matches last year, but he has enjoyed a special farewell tour, which saw him lead Australia to the Davis Cup semi-finals – where he played a memorable doubles rubber alongside Sam Groth against the Murray brothers – and go out to great ovation at Wimbledon, the US Open and a special on-court ceremony at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

His final bow fittingly came on Rod Laver Arena, where he has enjoyed some of the most momentous wins and biggest battles of his career – not least a semi-final victory over Andy Roddick in 2005.

“I've been very fortunate that I've had such a great career that I had the opportunity to go out on my terms,” said Hewitt. “A lot of great sporting athletes don't have that opportunity. Especially if you play in a team environment where a coach makes a decision whether you're going to play or not and sometimes where you finish your career.

“I actually had the ball in my court in a lot of ways to do that here at the Australian Open. I feel really pleased about that.

“It was an unbelievable atmosphere out there,” continued Hewitt, who brought the crowd to its feet on more than one occasion with a final flourish. “A couple of the roars during the match tonight were as loud as I've ever played in front of. I was getting goosebumps at times. Obviously just watching the video and hearing those great players talk about you in that light was pretty emotional.

“Especially when I got back in the locker room, I guess that hits you a little bit more then. When I'm with my close friends and coaching staff that have helped me so much out. It's sort of a strange feeling because you're obviously disappointed not to keep going, but obviously proud of everything we've done as well.”

The journey is not quite over for Hewitt. Before he fully assumes his role as Australia’s Davis Cup captain, there is at least one more match left to play: the men’s doubles second round with Sam Groth. The Australians play another homegrown player, John Peers, and his Finnish partner, Henri Kontinen, on Friday.

“I saw Grothy in the locker room and he was already asking about practice tomorrow and warming up tomorrow!” said Hewitt. So the retirement celebrations tonight won’t be too exuberant then? “No, I might have a quiet beer. That's it.”

Hewitt Gives Final Presser After Australian Open Exit

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 12:21pm
Flanked by his three children, Lleyton Hewitt reflects on his storied career after a second-round defeat at the Australian Open, his final pro tournament.

Hewitt Bids A Fond Farewell

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 11:30am

The curtain came down on Lleyton Hewitt’s illustrious career on Thursday night in Melbourne as David Ferrer defeated the former World No. 1 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open. Hewitt was competing in his 20th successive Australian Open.

As expected, the 34-year-old Hewitt left it all out on the court, but the No. 8-ranked Ferrer held off the Aussie’s challenge to claim victory in two hours and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Hewitt was watched from his box by his family, Tony Roche and Thanasi Kokkinakis among others.

“He was too good tonight,” Hewitt said in his on-court interview. “He’s a Top 8 player in the world, couple of times a semi-finalist here. He plays extremely well in these conditions and is at the top of his game at the moment.

“I came out and gave everything I had like always. I left nothing in the locker room. That's something I can always be proud of. My whole career I've always given 100 per cent. I love coming out here and competing. It's never hard to come out playing in front of such great spectators every time I play out here on Rod Laver Arena. It's like a second home for me and I'm just so fortunate to have this opportunity 20 years in a row.

Read & Watch: Hewitt Takes Stock In Final Presser

“It’s a weird emotion; I don't think it will fully set in for a couple of days' time. As I've always said, I'm such a competitor, I try and push myself all the time to get the most out of myself. Obviously it was in the back of my mind coming into every match this week, but I have had a fantastic last month. I feel honoured to have this support and this love from these crowds. It means so much to me. I’ve had so much success and big matches on this court; I feel fortunate to finish here.”

The Adelaide native did not go down without a fight. Leading by a set, Ferrer was on the verge of taking a double-break lead in the second set. But Hewitt saved two break points in the seventh game and almost recouped the break in a marathon eighth game, which saw Ferrer save seven break points.

Hewitt finally broke the Ferrer serve in the sixth game of the third set, levelling up at 3-3, much to the delight of the fans. But it was to be his final hurrah, as Ferrer broke again in the following game before closing out victory. In their exchange at the net, Ferrer asked Hewitt if they could swap shirts after leaving the court. The Spaniard goes on to face Steve Johnson on Saturday.

Speaking to Jim Courier for the host broadcaster afterwards, Ferrer admitted, “I was nervous because it's a different day. Finally I won the match, but if I'd lost, it might have been my last match! He gave a very good performance. He's one of the best players in history. I have a shirt signed by him from seven years ago, the only shirt from another player I have in my house.

“It’s a sad day, because Lleyton is finishing his career. He's an idol for me and an amazing player. In my career, tonight is going to be very special for me, playing in Lleyton's last match. The match was tough. Lleyton fought until the last ball. He's unbelievable. He deserves everything coming.”

Hewitt remains in the doubles at Melbourne Park, competing alongside Sam Groth.

Rojer and Tecau Talk About Life at The Top

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 11:29am
Australian Open top seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau talk about being the world's No. 1 team after a first-round win at the Australian Open.

Wawrinka Marches On In Melbourne

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 10:09am

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka cruised into the third round with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Radek Stepanek on Thursday at the Australian Open.

The Swiss struck 43 winners and converted five of his 12 break points as he sealed victory in just over two hours on Hisense Arena.

Wawrinka captured his first Grand Slam title two years ago at Melbourne Park, stunning Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals before beating Rafael Nadal in the final. The Lausanne native added a second major title at Roland Garros last year, beating Djokovic in a match that ultimately denied the Serb the calendar Grand Slam.

The 30-year-old Wawrinka goes on to face Lukas Rosol, who upset 25th-seeded American Jack Sock 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 6-3. Rosol withstood 50 winners from Sock, striking 45 of his own to set up the clash with Wawrinka, whom he trails 0-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

Andrey Kuznetsov continued his good start to the year as he reached the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time with a 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) victory over No. 30 seed Jeremy Chardy. The Russian was a quarter-finalist in Doha in the first week of the season, falling to Nadal in three sets. He goes on to face Dudi Sela.

Australia’s John Millman enjoyed a thrilling five-set victory over Gilles Muller, prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5  in three hours and 38 minutes. The 26-year-old Brisbane native had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park before beating Diego Schwartzman in the first round.

"It's probably a breakthrough win," said Millman. "I came close at Wimbledon to that third round. Lost in five sets (against Marcos Baghdatis). I managed to turn the tables around today when I was being outplayed at the start of the match. I was down a set and a break. I had to dig deep today and change things up and find a way, and I managed to.

"That's been unchartered waters for me, winning a five-setter. I managed to do that today. I guess that's why you live, don't you? To experience those moments, to experience that type of atmosphere, the people out there created. It was pretty special."

Next up for Millman will be countryman Bernard Tomic, who needed three hours and 50 winners to edge Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5. Tomic is a win away from repeating his best Australian Open performance, having reached the fourth round in 2012 and 2015.


Bryans Pull 'Switcheroo' For R1 Win

Thu, 01/21/2016 - 9:25am

They were dethroned from the World No. 1 spot at the end of 2015 and had a hiccup at the start of 2016 with a first-round loss in Sydney. Not ones to lick their wounds, Bob and Mike Bryan decided to change things up as they began their Australian Open campaign, pulling the ‘switcheroo’.

The change in tactic – with Mike switching to the deuce court and Bob on the Ad side – brought the 37-year-old twins a 7-5, 7-6(4) first-round win over Chris Guccione and Andre Sa. But were their opponents surprised by the change in formation?

"They didn't seem too surprised!” Mike told “We actually warmed up on the other side to try and trick them and when they looked up to serve, they didn't do a double take, so I think they were kind of expecting it. A couple of guys were practising next to us and it circulates pretty fast. It's like high school gossip, it spreads like wildfire!

“I think 2010 was the last time we played that way consistently. It worked today. We got some returns going and had a lot more options with the second shot. That's what we're going to do this week and probably continue into the rest of the year.”

Bob added, "Guccione was serving bombs and Sa is one of the best returners out there. It was a tough game and we're happy to get through.”

The team to take over the No. 1 mantle from the Bryans, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, also made a winning start, beating Martin Klizan and Sergiy Stakhovsky 7-5, 6-2. “They broke us on our second service game, but after that we didn't face any more break points and started getting more opportunities on our return games and managed to convert at the end of the first set,” said Tecau.

“Once we got that first break, we kept the energy and the momentum and got another break the next game. The second set went better for us. Overall, it just took us a while to get into a good rhythm, but we're very happy with this match because it was a tricky match-up against two guys who can come up with crazy shots that you don't usually see on the doubles court."

Fourth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea – runners-up at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last year – quietened the home support as they defeated Nick Kyrgios and Omar Jasika 7-5, 6-3. “It was not an easy match playing the local players,” said Bopanna. “We didn’t play great, but found a way to keep hanging in there and come out with a win.

“The atmosphere was fantastic and it’s brilliant to see how the Aussie players get great support and it was great to play in a packed stadium.”

Sixth seeds and last year’s runners-up Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut cruised through their opener, dismissing Nicholas Monroe and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo 6-1, 6-4. They were joined in the second round by seventh seeds and last week’s Sydney champions, Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, who beat Jonathan Marray and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-3, 6-4.

Other first-round winners on Thursday included eighth seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers, 10th seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, and 11th seeds Dominic Inglot and Robert Lindstedt.