WTA Insider David Kane | Former World No.7 Belinda Bencic discussed how she discovered Serena was her first round opponent in Melbourne, and her memories of their last encounter in Toronto.
For Johanna Konta the opening weeks of the new season could hardly have gone any better. With the Sydney trophy already in the bag, she heads to the Australian Open with her tail up and another deep run beckoning.
WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen | As she hunts for a 23rd Grand Slam title, Serena Williams will also try to wrest the No.1 ranking from Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open.
WTA Insider David Kane | After busy weeks in Shenzhen and Sydney, No.3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska prepares to take on Tsvetana Pironkova at the Australian Open.
Qualifier Elise Mertens pulls off the first big surprise of 2017, conquering No.3 seed Monica Niculescu to win her first WTA title at the Hobart International.
Dan Evans reacts to reaching his first ATP World Tour final on Friday at the Apia International Sydney. Video Courtesy Tennis Australia.
Gilles Muller discusses ending Viktor Troick's winning streak at the Apia International Sydney for a place in his sixth ATP World Tour final. Video Courtesy Tennis Australia.
Two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki assesses what went wrong on Friday in his loss to Gilles Muller in the Apia International Sydney semi-finals. Video Courtesy Tennis Australia.
Watch how Dan Evans beat Andrey Kuznetsov at the Apia International Sydney on Friday for a place in the first ATP World Tour final. Photo: Getty Images. Video Courtesy Tennis Australia.
Watch highlights of how Gilles Muller beat two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki on Friday for a place in the Apia International Sydney final. Photo: Getty Images. Video Courtesy Tennis Australia.
Puttergill, Damian banned for betting on tennis
It's three days to go until the start of the 2017 Australian Open. Go behind the scenes at Melbourne Park.
#NextGenATP stars Noah Rubin and Andrey Rublev are one step away from the main draw of the Australian Open, with both players recording second-round qualifying victories in a rain-filled Day 3 of qualifying on Friday. Only 16 matches were completed.
Rubin once again came through in a deciding set to take out No. 32 seed Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. The American reached the second round last year in Melbourne through a reciprocal main draw wild card, but looks to qualify for a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. The 20-year-old will now compete for a spot in the main draw against No. 11 seed Evgeny Donsky of Russia, who scored a hard-fought 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2 victory over Australian Matthew Ebden.
The 18-year-old Rublev recorded one of the biggest upsets of the day by defeating fourth seed Yuichi Sugita of Japan, 6-4, 7-6(2). The Russian squandered two match points trying to serve out the contest at 6-5, but regrouped to win the final five points of the tie-break. Next up for Rublev is a final-round qualifying match against No. 22 seed Peter Polansky of Canada, a 6-4 6-3 winner over Mirza Basic.
ATP World Tour veterans Jurgen Melzer and Julien Benneteau also progressed to the qualifying round. Austrian Melzer, who reached the 2011 fourth round (l. to Murray), knocked out No. 13 seed Taro Daniel 6-3, 6-2 and French No. 26-seed Benneteau overcame Guilherme Clezar 7-5, 6-0.
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Sixth seed Gilles Muller ended the 10-match Sydney winning streak of third seed and two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki, advancing into the final of the Apia International Sydney with a 6-3, 7-6(6) victory on Friday.
"I served very well today, especially in the crucial moments when I was down break points," said Muller. "I always managed to serve a first big serve. It helped me a lot. Especially in the second set when I was also starting to struggle a little bit with the heat. In those pressure moments, the serve was there. That's what got me through."
The 33-year-old Luxembourg native will play Daniel Evans in a first-time meeting on Saturday. Muller is looking for his first ATP World Tour title, having gone 0-5 in career finals. He finished runner-up last year in 's-Hertogenbosch (l. Mahut) and Newport (l. Karlovic).
A single break of serve in Troicki’s opening service game was all the sixth seed needed to take the opening set. Both players exchanged service holds in the second set to force a tie-break. Muller was unable to convert on his first match point at 6/5, but made good on his second chance at 7/6 to wrap up the win in one hour and 29 minutes.
“The problem was he was mixing up his serve very well,” said Troicki. “I couldn't find the best rhythm. I should have moved more on the return and make him think more about the serve. It was pretty hot out there. It was tough to play and tough to keep the focus all the time. He played well [and] he also likes to play here.”
Evans booked a spot in his first ATP World Tour final with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia in one hour and 50 minutes during the night session.
Evans settled immediately, opening up a 3-0 lead following a brief rain delay and played with great confidence. Although Kuznetsov, appearing in his first tour-level semi-final, worked his way back into contention, Evans seized control of the decider with a service break in the fourth game. It was the fourth three-set win of the week for the World No. 67.
"It was a good match," said Evans. "I played really well, actually, throughout the whole match… I thought he started pretty slow. I got up pretty early on him, so it was ideal for me. But then, obviously, he's in the semis for a reason. He came back at me, so it was a tough night.
"I know (Gilles) pretty well. Obviously, he has a great serve. He likes to come forward. It's going to be a different match. It won't be so fatiguing, actually. It will be sort of very stop/start. He'll be hitting a lot of aces, so we'll see."
DOUBLES: Top seeds and defending champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares moved one step closer to retaining their Sydney title, scoring a 6-3, 7-6(4) semi-final win over Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. Murray and Soares are now on a 13-match win streak in Australia, which includes titles last year in Sydney and the Australian Open.
Awaiting them in the final are Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop, who fought back to defeat Mate Pavic and Alexander Peya 6-3, 3-6, 10-8. Koolhof and Middelkoop are looking for their third ATP World Tour doubles title, having prevailed this past season in Sofia and Kitzbuhel. They have also excelled on the ATP Challenger Tour, racking up 11 titles in the past two years.
“It wasn’t easy. Stevie is such a good player and had such a good year last year. I was able to fortunately get a couple of breaks and that was enough,” said Sock. “I enjoy being out here, playing in front of big crowds and being on big stages. Obviously I want to win, but either way, I’ve played a lot of matches this week and my confidence is high.”
The No. 23 in the Emirates ATP Rankings continues to excel in Auckland, having finished runner-up last year (l. Bautista Agut), and now sports a 10-2 record at this event. Sock also finished runner-up in 2016 in Houston (l. Monaco) and Stockholm (l. del Potro).
Standing between him and the title is Joao Sousa, who recorded an emphatic 6-1, 7-5 win over eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis in the other semi-final. The Portuguese player is into his first ATP World Tour final since lifting up the winner’s trophy at Valencia in November 2015.
"I think the hard work has paid off. I had a really good pre-season and I feel great," said Sousa. "I’ve been playing better and better as this tournament goes on, moving really well. I look forward to tomorrow’s final.”
Sousa leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry against Sock 1-0, with the lone win coming this past May at the Mutua Madrid Open, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.
Sock grabbed the lone break of serve in the opening set against Johnson with an overhead winner to lead 5-4 and took the early advantage one game later. A backhand slice passing shot saw the fourth seed earn a crucial break to lead 2-1 in the second set. Sock closed out the match with another break of serve at 5-3 by rifling a forehand passing shot winner on match point.
Sousa raced to a 5-0 lead in his opening set against Baghdatis as the eighth seed struggled to find the range on his shots. Both players traded service holds throughout the second set, but Sousa found another gear by breaking Baghdatis to love for a 6-5 lead and then firing an ace in the next game on his third match point.
DOUBLES: Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky continued their solid week in Auckland, defeating Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak 6-4, 6-4 in semi-final action. Erlich and Lipsky have yet to drop a set this week. They will play fourth seeds Marcin Matkowski and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, who beat wild cards Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner 6-4, 6-4.
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Sock advances to Auckland Classic final
Top seed Murray opens up his quest for his first Australian Open title against Illya Marchenko, with the Brit winning their lone meeting at the 2011 edition of this tournament. Looking ahead, Murray could face No. 16 seed Lucas Pouille in the fourth round and either No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori or No. 17 seed Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.
Second seed Djokovic was given a very tricky first-round against veteran Fernando Verdasco. The Serbian leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 9-4, including a third-round victory in the 2015 edition of this tournament. However, he was forced to save five match points in prevailing over Verdasco earlier this month in the semi-finals in Doha. The Spaniard is also more than capable of upsetting big names in early rounds, as evidenced by his first-round win last year in Melbourne over Rafael Nadal.
Federer was given a comparatively kind opener in his first sanctioned tournament since Wimbledon, with the Swiss maestro guaranteed to play a qualifier in his first two rounds. His path gets significantly harder afterwards, though, with potential matches against No. 10 seed Tomas Berdych in the third round, Nishikori in the fourth round and Murray in the quarter-finals.
Ninth seed Nadal starts out his campaign Down Under against Florian Mayer. A mouth-watering third-round clash against No. 24 seed and #NextGenATP star Alexander Zverev looms ahead, while an equally entertaining fourth-round clash against sixth seed Gael Monfils is also on the cards.
Third seed Milos Raonic will need to be on his game from the first ball when he plays the always-flashy Dustin Brown in his first match. No. 13 seed and recent Chennai champion Roberto Bautista Agut is a likely fourth-round matchup, followed by a potential quarter-final clash against Monfils.
Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka kicks off his search for a second Australian Open crown against Martin Klizan. The 2014 champion is on course to face No. 14 seed Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round and seventh seed Marin Cilic in the last eight.
Another notable first-round match includes the return of former World No. 2 Tommy Haas, who will square off against Benoit Paire. The German is competing in his first tournament since Vienna in October 2015.
Wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrew from the men’s singles draw due to injury. His spot will be filled by a lucky loser from the qualifying draw.
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