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Tomas Berdych talks about how he adjusts to the windy conditions at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. Video courtesy of UCOM.
Australian Next Gen start Thanasi Kokkinakis is set to play his first ATP World Tour singles match in more than a year at the Apia International Sydney next week after a confidence-boosting run to the semi-finals of the Brisbane International doubles. Kokkinakis is happy with how his right shoulder has held up in two doubles wins with fellow Australian Jordan Thompson in Brisbane this week, including Thursday’s 1-6, 6-4, 10-7 upset of top seeds and reigning Wimbledon champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.
“The body felt good today,” Kokkinakis said. “I feel I am still five to 10 percent off. Getting the confidence back in the body is the biggest thing.
“I’m excited (to take the Sydney wild card]. I was trying to play here but I just didn’t feel I was quite ready. I’m trying to train as much as I can because I didn’t have a massive pre-season trying to get healthy. Had it not been the Australian summer I probably would have taken more time, but it would be tough to miss two in a row for me. I’m really keen to play.”
Kokkinakis, 20, said that his decision to enter the Australian Open later this month would depend on his his body felt after his singles return in Sydney. “Obviously I want to play but honestly it’s 50/50 at the moment because I know how much of a step up five sets is,” he said. “If I don’t play singles I want to play the doubles at least, maybe even mixed.
In 2015 the Adelaide native reached a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of 69 and finished (at No. 80) as one of four teenagers in the year-end Top 100. Kokkinakis underwent shoulder surgery on December 29, 2015. He did not play a tournament match on the ATP World Tour last year. His lone appearance came at the Rio Olympics.
Top seed Milos Raonic has delivered on his New Year’s resolution to move forward more in 2017, taking command at net in a 6-3, 6-2 opening-round win over Argentine Diego Schwartzman on Thursday at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp.
Raonic said that his decision to add former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek to his coaching team was based in large part to a shared belief that tapping further upside in the Canadian’s game will most likely come from more forays to the net. Against Schwartzman, Raonic ventured to net 22 times, winning on 12 occasions.
“I probably should have approached 12 more times and I probably should have won a few more,” said Raonic, who went 6/11 in the first set at the net. “I definitely want to, especially at the beginning, since obviously I didn't take care of my serve so well. I hesitated, but also, with him, you've got to understand that he's quite quick. So rarely do you get him sort of reaching for balls.
“If he's able to get to the ball, it's normally with two hands. So he can come up with some good shots, and he was able to do that today, passing some incredible backhands down the line. A few I should have made or should have covered better, I got a little bit lazy on. But I’ve got to put myself there to give myself an opportunity to get better at it.”
Raonic also hit 12 aces and won 75 per cent of his first-service points in the 69-minute victory. He broke for a 4-2 lead in the first set, then won five straight games after Schwartzman had broken serve in the first game of the second set.
“At the beginning I really struggled that first service game, and had another close service game before I started to get in on his games,” said World No. 3 Raonic, who will next face fifth seed Rafael Nadal. “Then I could feel I started imposing myself on him. He started making some mistakes, and I was able to create some things, as well. I have to be glad with how I finished.”
Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov will face off in the quarter-finals after both advanced in straight sets.
Thiem saved all four break points against Aussie wild card Sam Groth to move into the last eight 7-6(5), 6-3. The fourth seed won only one point against the big-serving Groth's first serve, but Thiem feasted on the Aussie's second offering, winning 61 per cent (14/23) of those points.
Dimitrov, the seventh seed, converted all three break points against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut to advance 6-2, 6-4. Thiem beat Dimitrov in their only prior FedEx ATP Head2Head match-up last year in Acapulco.
Grigor Dimitrov has been pumping up the volume on a legendary American soloist between the hotel and courts at the Brisbane International. So how have the courtesy car drivers reacted?
Novak Djokovic talks about his quarter-final win against Radek Stepanek at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. Video courtesy of UCOM.
Fernando Verdasco talks about his big upset win against David Goffin at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. Video courtesy of UCOM.
Novak Djokovic talks about his win against Horacio Zeballos at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha and previews his next match with Radek Stepanek. Video courtesy of UCOM.
Andy Murray talks about his win against Gerald Melzer at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha on Wednesday. Video courtesy of UCOM.
On Court 10 of the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp, the very same court he trained on during his first time at the tournament, Rafael Nadal practised on Wednesday afternoon, preparing for his second-round match against Mischa Zverev. In front of a packed crowd, the Spanish legend practised with Elias Ymer during a high-paced training session.
“The feeling is really good,” Toni Nadal, Rafael's uncle and coach, explained to ATPWorldTour.com in Brisbane. “Yesterday he played at a great level against [Alexandr] Dolgopolov, a good opponent... So far, things are going pretty good for us.”
After calling it a season after the Shanghai Rolex Masters in October because of pain in his left wrist, Rafael Nadal went to his hometown, Manacor, to prepare for the 2017 season. The Spaniard used the longer training block than usual to work on different aspects of his game.
“Having a longer pre-season allowed us to train in a different way,” said Toni Nadal. “Also we were lucky to train with some young talents from the [Rafa Nadal] Academy.That was really good for us because we were able to conduct different drills with them. It was really useful.
“Many times we have had to train carefully because of physical problems, something that hasn’t happened this season... So far, things are going OK but we have to wait a little bit.”
Toni Nadal hopes that injuries stay away from his nephew so he can fight for the biggest titles this season. “It’s pivotal to stay injury-free throughout all the season to be competitive,” said Toni Nadal. “Back in 2009, we had a knee injury. Rafa could have been World No. 1 because he was firmly on the top spot when the issues raised at [Roland Garros] and prevented him from playing Wimbledon.
“Right there our chances to finish the year as World No. 1 vanished. In 2012, the same. He reached the Australian Open final after having many problems against [Novak] Djokovic and he managed to close the gap again. He defeated Novak in Monte-Carlo and was playing to fight for a top spot, but physical problems hampered him again. All these things affect your work. Many times you miss tournaments and can’t play a complete season.”
The arrival of Carlos Moya to Rafael Nadal’s camp has been one of the new aspects around the current World No. 9. Moya joins Toni Nadal and Francis Roig to make the team stronger. Moya, a former World No. 1 who will join Rafa’s box during the Australian Open, will try to help the Majorcan achieve his goals.
“Rafa made the decision,” said Toni Nadal about Moya’s arrival. “I think this will work fine. When a new member arrives, he always brings something fresh, a different point of view. And I think that this will be good for Rafa.”
Toni Nadal also said he's excited that both his nephew and Roger Federer will be returning to tour-level action this month after dealing with injuries last season.
“Their rivalry is not just a tennis rivalry, it is a clash about concepts of the game,” said Toni Nadal. “At the beginning it was a big No. 1 against a rising youngster who had a completely different game style. They played many big matches, especially the 2008 Wimbledon final, which is labelled by many as the best match ever played. Their rivalry is fantastic for the way both play and has brought many fans to our game.”
Shaking hands after a match is customary, but a selfie?
Horacio Zeballos may have started a new trend after being defeated by Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-4 at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open on Wednesday: The Argentine asked the defending champion for a quick picture as he left the court.
“It was quite nice, a nice surprise,” said the Serbian World No. 2. “I think at the end of the day, two tennis players on the court try to outplay each other and win in the game of tennis. Once that's finished, once you shake hands, you're people... You're a person, a human being. Of course you want to win. But once it's done, it's done. The past is behind you.”
Eehhh sorryy. Creo que tengo la mejor selfie del dia jejeje. Que groso Nole.un genio!! Y yo figuretiiii.. Me encanto!! pic.twitter.com/lMXDqKdcyl— horacio zeballos (@HoracioZeballos) January 4, 2017
Zeballos' tweet roughly translates to say: "Ehh Sorry, I think I get the best selfie of the day hehehe. How great is Nole, genius!! I loved it!!"
Djokovic, who goes on to face Radek Stepanek in the quarter-finals in Doha, said he had never experienced being asked for a selfie by a player he had just defeated.
“I think today's selfie is a nice example about how one person and a player can leave whatever behind. It was just [a] minute or two after we shook hands. He was already over his lost match and he moved onto doing something different.
“I applaud him for that. I think it was a really nice gesture.”
Time will tell if other players pick up this friendly gesture after their matches. So if he didn’t start a new trend, at least Zeballos got a nice souvenir.
World No. 1 Andy Murray battled past Gerald Melzer to secure a spot in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open quarter-finals. The Scot needed two hours and 23 minutes to overcome the Austrian’s effort, 7-6(6), 7-5 on Wednesday.
“It was a really good match. I was happy with how I handled it. It wasn't easy because I was having to do a lot of defending and I wasn't able to impose myself as I would've liked because he was taking huge cuts every time he had the opportunity,” Murray said. “But the positive was in the important moments I stayed strong. I served pretty well when I needed to. I moved really well tonight, which is huge part of my game. So to be moving like that this early in the season is really positive.”
Melzer proved strong from the start of the first set, breaking Murray for a 2-1 lead. The two-time champion went on to break right back and, after the pair traded breaks again, Murray went on to capture the first set 8-6 in the tie-break after 78 minutes. Murray serving, Melzer saved two match points at 4-5 in the second set before breaking the Dunblane native and extending the clash. Nicolas Almagro will be Murray’s opponent in the last eight. The top seed leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1.
Elsewhere, third seed Tomas Berdych topped Czech compatriot Jiri Vesely 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals. The World No. 10 fired 13 aces and capitalised on both of his break point chances to capture the win in one hour and 45 minutes. Berdych next faces fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who dropped only six points on serve (33/39) to beat Dustin Brown 6-1, 6-3.
In doubles, top seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 10-4 over David Marrero and Nenad Zimonjic to reach the semi-finals. They next play Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, who were 6-3, 6-7(5), 10-7 winners over fourth seeds Dominic Inglot and Florin Mergea.
Dominic Thiem talks about a fun pre-season in Tenerife, his heavy 2016 schedule, hopes for 2017 and more at the Brisbane International.
Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik, competing against a Top 10 player for the first time in his career, knocked out top seed and 2009-2010 champion Marin Cilic 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-5 on Wednesday in the Aircel Chennai Open second round.
Kovalik, who finished at a year-end best No. 117 in the Emirates ATP Rankings last season, withstood 18 aces from Cilic and saved nine of 11 break points for victory in two hours and 48 minutes. He goes on to meet Tecnifibre-sponsored Daniil Medvedev, who defeated eighth seed Yen-Hsun Lu 6-4, 6-3 in 86 minutes.
In doubles, second seeds Guillermo Duran and Andres Molteni defeated Johan Brunstrom and Andreas Siljestrom 7-5, 7-6(5) to reach the semi-finals. Fourth seeds Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak beat Konstantin Kravchuk and Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(5), 6-3 to reach the last eight and home hopes Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan topped Marcelo Demoliner and Nikola Mektic 6-4, 6-4 for a quarter-final meeting with James Cerretani and Philipp Oswald.
World No. 2 Djokovic broke No. 71-ranked Zeballos’ serve in the fourth game en route to opening up a 4-1 lead, then for a 3-2 advantage in the second set. It was his ninth match win (9-1 lifetime) at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, where he beat Rafael Nadal for last year’s title.
“You’re trying to start with the right intensity, and the start of the match today was definitely better than the first round,” said Djokovic. “Although I was quite pleasantly surprised with his aggressive play… it was a good, quality match. I thought I played well on my service games."
The Serbian goes on to face 38-year-old Radek Stepanek, the oldest player to win a match since Younes El Aynaoui at 2010 Doha, after he defeated wild card Arthur De Greef 6-3, 6-2. Stepanek is now the oldest ATP World Tour quarter-finalist since Jimmy Connors, aged 42, at the 1995 Gerry Weber Open in Halle. Djokovic leads Stepanek 12-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
“I know Radek very well," said Djokovic. "He's one of the best friends on the tour that I have. He keeps on surprising everybody with his level of consistency in his game.”
Fernando Verdasco broke a two-match losing streak against David Goffin, the fourth seed, by saving 12 of 14 break points in a 6-1, 7-6(6) victory over one hour and 42 minutes. The 33-year-old Verdasco had match points at 5-4 and 6-5 in the second set, before closing out on his sixth match point. He will next challenge sixth seed Ivo Karlovic, a 7-6(3), 7-6(3) winner over Karen Khachanov.
Nicolas Almagro notched his fourth-straight victory over seventh seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in a 7-6(5), 7-6(6) win over one hour and 46 minutes. Kohlschreiber could not convert one set point opportunity at 5-4, 40/30 in the second set. Almagro will next play World No. 1 Andy Murray.
Spend the day with Kei Nishikori during an off-season training in Florida, attended by dozens of Japanese media, and hear what the star says about his future goals.
Watch highlights of Kyle Edmund beating Lucas Pouille at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. Video courtesy Tennis Australia. Getty Images photo.
Watch highlights of Stan Wawrinka fighting past Viktor Troicki at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. Video courtesy Tennis Australia. Getty Images photo.
Watch Jordan Thompson records the biggest win of his career over David Ferrer on Wednesday in Brisbane. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP World Tour. Video courtesy Tennis Australia.
The Novak Djokovic Foundation, and Children Change Colombia, supported by Jamie Murray, have been selected among nine recipients in the ATP ACES For Charity grant programme for 2017. Grants of $/€15,000 will be awarded to a total of nine charitable causes, nominated by ATP World Tour players, tournaments and alumni.
A total of eight grants will benefit youth through programmes worldwide, including Djokovic and Murray’s causes which respectively focus on early childhood education and development in Serbia and dedicated to defending the rights of Colombia’s most at-risk and neglected children. The other causes include the Zelmerlöw & Björkman Foundation’s boarding school in Kenya, Corazoncitos Foundation and Fundación Tenis Uruguay, Greater Curacao Tennis Patrons Foundation, SOS Children’s Villages, Beijing Golden Wings Art Rehabilitation Center For Disabled Children and four social projects supported by the Rio Open: Tênis Para Todos, Tênis Solidário, Tênis na Lagoa and Escolinha de Tênis Fabiano de Paula.
An ATP ACES For Charity grant has also been awarded to CSJ leMoNaiD, founded by 13-year-old Juliette Jones in Sydney with a mission to stop Motor Neurone Disease.
Entering its seventh year in 2017, the ATP ACES For Charity program is a global initiative aimed at giving back to communities where ATP World Tour events are played, as well as recognising and supporting tournament, player and alumni charitable initiatives. Since 2011, the grant programme has awarded 76 grants totalling more than $940,000 in donations.
The recipients of the 2017 ATP ACES For Charity grants are:
Jonas Bjorkman: The Zelmerlöw & Björkman Foundation works hard for a better world through education and opportunities for needy youths. It is the main sponsor of the high school Kenswed Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. The Foundation has recently drilled a well for 600 households in the region and will build a boarding school for 32 homeless girls at the start of 2017. The ATP ACES for Charity grant will benefit this project, with the annual cost of food for these 32 girls equalling the grant amount. The Zelmerlöw & Björkman Foundation is also involved in two primary schools and one high school in the HIV/AIDS-exposed Kwazulu-Natal region in South Africa, and plans to expand its project to Ethiopia and Uganda this year by building a high school for needy girls in Addis Ababa and a youth centre for street orphan boys in Kampala.
Pablo Cuevas: The Uruguayan supports two foundations that work with children in his home country: Corazoncitos Foundation and Fundación Tenis Uruguay. Corazoncitos Foundation is dedicated to helping children with congenital heart diseases, providing them with access to special treatment and resources that are often limited in Uruguay. Fundación Tenis Uruguay has a mission to promote the development of self-confidence and responsibility in children from deprived communities, giving them the opportunity through the systematic and disciplined practise of tennis to improve their lives. The foundation aspires to contribute to the formation of principles and values that enable these youths to fully integrate into society. Fundación Tenis, officially established in May 2001 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, currently supports 200 children in Uruguay and more than 600 in total.
Novak Djokovic: The Novak Djokovic Foundation, founded in 2007, focuses on Early Childhood Education and Development for disadvantaged children. Its project work has a strong presence in Serbia, where there is tremendous need, and its advocacy is global. The Foundation’s mission is to enable children to grow up, play and develop in stimulating, creative and safe settings, whilst learning to respect others and care for their environment. The ATP ACES For Charity grant will go towards the “Friendship Games”, a camp created for Serbian children from socially disadvantaged communities, age 7 to 10, with an aim to inspire better socialisation and inclusion through numerous creative workshops, games and group activities. To date, the Foundation has organised four camps benefitting 300 children from 26 locations. Watch: Friendship Games
Jamie Murray: Children Change Colombia, established in 1991, is dedicated to defending the rights of Colombia’s most at-risk and neglected children, working on issues that are neglected by others, including sexual violence and exploitation, forced recruitment into armed groups and demobilisation of child soldiers, access to education, and violence in schools and communities. Murray and his wife Alejandra have supported CCC since 2011, organising a number of children’s tennis clinics to raise funds and awareness. The ATP ACES For Charity grant will help support a project that will focus on preventing the commercial sexual exploitation of youths in the district of Sante Fe, Bogota, and provide young people already experiencing commercial sexual exploitation with the tools to rebuild their lives. The project, which runs from January to December 2017, will work with 840 youths and 326 adults.
Jean-Julien Rojer: The Greater Curacao Tennis Patrons Foundation, to be re-named the Jean-Julien Rojer Foundation, was established in 2005 and is run by Rojer’s father Randall. It has a mission to support and guide children of all ages, diversity and social economic backgrounds who strive to maximise their potential by promoting and cross weaving education and sports. Its goal is to raise awareness of education in the community and make it possible for every child to have an opportunity to excel in their studies as well as in their sport. The donation will be used towards tools and equipment that are needed for less-fortunate children in schools as well as the sporting arena.
European Open (Antwerp): SOS Children’s Villages, supported by the European Open, has a mission to build families for children in need, help them shape their own futures and share in the development of their communities. Established in 1949 in Austria with a commitment to help children following the Second World War, SOS has grown to help children all over the world who are orphaned, abandoned or whose families are unable to care for them. Prior to last year’s tournament, the European Open in collaboration with the Kim Clijsters Academy, raised € 25.000 for SOS Children’s Villages new multi-sport ground in Tryavna, Bulgaria through a successful World Record attempt by Peugeot, in which tennis coach Maxime Braeckman set a new record by playing 40 consecutive matches of tennis over 25 hours.
China Open (Beijing): The Beijing Golden Wings Art Rehabilitation Service Center For Disabled Children provides a unique charitable service to the families of disabled children and a unique rehabilitation program through all forms of art education. Its mobile art museum has featured 2,300 pieces of Gold Wings students’ art works and been seen by more than one hundred thousand visitors over a three-year span, with the organisation raising ￥600,000.00 for the students’ families over seven years. Since 2015, the China Open Little Painter programme with Golden Wings has given children the opportunity to understand and learn about tennis through painting, with the artwork made into posters by the tournament. In 2016, the organisation established the first tennis team of autistic children in China, which will be further supported by the ATP ACES For Charity grant.
Rio Open presented by Claro: The Rio Open supports four social projects benefitting 436 children and their families, promoting internal tournaments, clinics, interaction with their idols, among many other things. The biggest project supported by the tournament, Tênis Para Todos, has a mission to provide integrity and education to children in a well-known Brazilian favela. Tênis Para Todos provides complete nutrition, uniforms, classes, transportation, sports equipment, monthly events outside the hotel and even 100 per cent scholarship at Estacio University if they achieve all the requirements. The ATP ACES For Charity grant will help support the project for another 12 months, paying for the children’s courses. The tournament’s other beneficiaries are Tênis Solidário, Tênis na Lagoa and Escolinha de Tênis Fabiano de Paula. Watch: Rio Open Supports Social Projects
Apia International Sydney: CSJ leMoNaiD, supported by the Apia International Sydney, was founded by 13-year-old Juliette Jones with a mission to stop Motor Neurone Disease (ALS). It has a goal of raising awareness and creating a steady flow of revenue into research for a cure. First established as a lemonade stand in 2014, the sale of leMoNaiD has raised more than $20,000 through the Go Fund Me page and a regular Saturday stall at the Ramsgate Foodie and Farmers Market in Sydney. Funds from the ATP ACES for Charity programme will significantly help Juliette and leMoNaiD hit its $40,000 target in order to continue to produce leMoNaiD and to recruit Dr Dominic Rowe and his neurology team at Macquarie University’s research facility.
Stan Wawrinka opened his 2017 ATP World Tour season on Wednesday night by beating World No. 29 Viktor Troicki 7-6(5), 6-4 in 90 minutes at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. Wawrinka is now 7-0 lifetime against Troicki in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
“I'm quite happy with my level at the start the year,” said Wawrinka. “I think it was a good match, in general, for sure. A few up-and-down with focus and my [shot] choice during the game, but it's always tough to play against Troicki.
“I'm just enjoying a new tournament that I’ve never played. [A] new facility, new court, new fans, new city, and that's what makes the difference. Especially at 31 years old, when you've been on the tour for so long, to play some new tournaments. It makes you a little bit fresher mentally, also.”
Troicki broke for a 3-2 lead and served for the first set at 5-4, before Wawrinka seized control of the match. At 3-3, Troicki recovered from 15/40 but was broken in the next service game. Troicki’s lone win over a player in the Top 4 of the Emirates ATP Rankings came over No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic at 2007 Umag.
Wawrinka, who is making his debut at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament, will next face Kyle Edmund in the quarter-finals on Friday. Last year, Wawrinka lifted four titles and went 46-18 on the season.
“He's a great player, having arrived in the Top 50 last year for the first time,” said Wawrinka. “I played him in Shanghai. He's a tough player. He's improving, going up. It's going to be an interesting match to play him.”