TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – Kei Nishikori beat David Ferrer 6-3 6-3 6-3 to get through to the quarter finals of the Australian Open for the second time in his career three years after losing to Andy Murray in the 2012 edition. The 2014 US Open runner-up will face last year’s Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarter finals. The defending champion battled past Guillermo Garcia Lopez in four sets with 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 4-6 7-6 (10-8) Nishikori and Wawrinka will meet for the second consecutive Grand Slam after their epic five-set quarter final at the US Open won by the Japanese player. Diego Sampaolo
Before today’s clash at Melbourne Park Nishikori led 6-3 in their previous head-to-head matches against Ferrer but there were 1-1 in Grand Slam matches. The Japanese player beat Ferrer in the third round of the 2008 US Open. Ferrer beat Nishikori in the fourth round at the 2013 Australian Open.
In today’s match Ferrer was probably too tired after his marathon third round match against Giles Simon on Saturday. He committed 44 unforced errors and hit just 14 winners.Nishikori won the 72 percent of his first-serve points, hit 42 winners and converted on six of his 17 break point chances.
Nishikori broke serve in the third game of the opening set. Ferrer saved two break point chances at 2-4 before dropping serve again in the last game of the set for 3-6. Ferrer broke serve for the first time in the match at the third break point opportunity in the very long opening game of the second set which featured 18 points but Nishikori broke straight back in the next game. Nishikori faced a break point at 2-2 but he managed to hold his serve. The second set went on serve until 4-3 when Nishikori broke serve for 5-3. The Japanese star broke serve in the opening game of the second set and sealed the win on his third match point at 5-3 on Ferrer’s serve.
“I played really comfortable on the court. I had a lot of confidence going into the match and I was playing almost 100 percent of tennis, really aggressive, good forehand and serving was also very good”, said Nishikori.
“It’s going to be a really tough match because I have seen him play on TV in a couple of matches. Even today he was playing really well. He can hit balls forehand,backhand, great backhand actually. He can hit from anywhere at the back. It’s going to be a tough match. I am in the quarter finals, so no easy matches coming up. Hopefully I can play another good match. For sure it gives me confidence that I beat him at the US Open. It’s not like I cannot beat him. It’s going to be a tough match for sure”, said Nishikori of his match against Wawrinka
Wawrinka who faced a more difficult task against Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez who upset “Stan the Man” in the first round of the 2014 Roland Garros. They previously met once at Melbourne Park in 2010 in a first round match easily won by Wawrinka. The Swiss player held a 4-3 lead in the previous seven head-to-head matches.
Lopez went up a break twice and served for the first set but Wawrinka broke back on both occasions to draw level to 3-3 and 5-5 before winning the set at the tie-break. Stan broke serve in the third game en route to clinching the second set with 6-4 in 33 minutes.
Stan was looking to be cruising to a easy win at 4-3 in the third set but he dropped serve twice. Lopez won the last three games to clinch the third set with 6-4 to force the match to the fourth set. It was the first dropped serve for the Lausanne player.
The fourth set came down to the tie-break where Garcia Lopez cruised to 5-0 and to 6-2. The Spanish player earned four set points but Wawrinka saved the fifth with a passing shot. After escaping the big scare Wawrinka clinched a hard-fought win on his second match point after three hours and two minutes. Wawrinka hit 70 winners but he committed 61 unforced errors.
“That level, you can change quickly. I did maybe two mistakes, then he started to play a little bit faster, a little bit more flat. I started to be on my defensive a little bit too much. I am happy to get through. It was important to win that match again. It’s great for me to be in quarter finals and get there. I remember the last time I managed to come back in a tie-break was in Shanghai against Lukas Kubot, losing 6-2 also. It was a bad start to the tie-break. At 6-2 I knew it was close to come-back because I had the wind with me. I had to focus on every point. I knew if I was going to come back at 6-5, he was going to get nervous. I did a good passing shot, along line. They always know I go along line. It was a good one. It was nothing special. I was just focused point after point”, reflected Wawrinka of his fourth set tie-break
“I am not focused to win a major. I am taking match after match. I know it’s difficult to do it. It’s amazing I already did one. I am happy to still be there playing great tennis so far. I have the chance to play one more quarter final and see how it’s going to go, Kei is a tough player. He improved a lot last year. I played against him at the US Open. It was a five-set match. I practiced with him before the tournament. He ‘s a great shot maker. He can make winner. It doesn’t matter. He is always taking the ball really early.. It’s always tough to play against him. He doesn’t give you a lot of time. It’s a new year and we start to zero again. Different condition if I have to play him. It will depend a little bit on me and the way I am going to serve, the way I am aggressive from the baseline. If I can play my game, it’s tough for him to always take the ball early. We will see how I am going to deal with that”, said Wawrinka
A lot of players said that surface is faster this year than last year. Wawrinka agreed with that. “It’s quite fast so far. I played only during the day. It’s fast condition and a fast court. We still had some great matches to watch. I think it’s a great Australian Open for people to watch. So far I am happy with the way it goes for me”
American No.3 Reilly Opelka Blasts ‘Shocking’ ATP Cup
The new event has been described as unfair and a embarrassment by the American.
With the Davis Cup currently under close scrutiny this week, one player on the tour have turned his criticism to a brand new team event coming to the tour in 2020.
Reilly Opelka has launched a verbal attack on the ATP Cup, which will get underway in January. The event features 24 teams playing in three cities across Australia. Unlike the Davis Cup, both prize money and ranking points are available. Many of the world’s top players have already confirmed their intention to play in the event. Although one noticeable absence will be Roger Federer.
“The ATP Cup is pathetic. I think it’s shocking on behalf of the ATP for them to pass that and allow that.” The 22-year-old told reporters in Madrid.
“It’s pretty embarrassing, actually. It’s pretty bad for the sport. It makes it (the tour) more top-heavy than it already is.”
The teams for the ATP Cup are determined by the ranking of the country’s highest ranked player. However, with only two singles players allowed to play in each team some countries find themselves in a tough spot. Once being America, who currently has eight players in the top 100. Opelka argues that due to the rules of the competition, the distribution of ranking points is unfair.
“I’m 35 in the world. I’m not going to play because I’m the second- or third-highest ranked American, and only the top two guys play.” He stated.
“It counts as an additional 19th tournament. So every player gets 18 tournaments on their ranking card. So you have to take your top 18 results, those go for your ranking. Those that play ATP Cup gets a 19th. So it’s unfair, there’s not equal opportunity for everyone.”
Opelka used the example of Moldova playing in the ATP Cup as one of the reasons why he is frustrated. The country has qualified due to the ranking of their top player Radu Albot, who is currently ranked 46th in the world. However, Moldova’s second highest ranked player is outside the top 800.
Fortunately concerning the Davis Cup, the former Wimbledon junior champion has a much more favourable view. This week is the inaugural week-long finals, which has encountered some blips already. The most being the schedule of the event with some ties now finishing until as late as 4am.
“I’m a fan of the new format. Maybe making it every two years or every three years would be I think the next step in the right direction.” Opelka concluded.
“Tennis players are pretty good at that. You don’t really know when you’re going to play matches. You can go really long, or you can go really quick. We’re used to being on standby.” He added.
This week is Opelka’s debut in the Davis Cup.
Serbia beats France 2-1 to secure spot in Davis Cup quarter final
Serbia qualified for the quarter finals at the Davis Cup at the Caja Magica in Madrid with wins in both singles matches by Filip Krajinovic over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic over Benoit Paire.
In the opening match Filip Kajinovic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5 7-6 in 1 hour and 48 minutes to give Serbia a 1-0 lead.
Krajinovic dropped two points on his first serve and earned his first three break point at 3-3 before breaking serve in the 11th game after a loose forehand from Tsonga. The 27-year-old Serbian player sealed the opening set 7-5 with a service winner.
Tsonga fended off three break points in the opening game of the second set. The Frenchman earned his only break point chance on return at 2-1, but Krajinovic saved it to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next eight games to set up a tie-break. Krajinovic earned the crucial mini-break on the 12th point to close out tie-break 7-5.
World number 2 Novak Djokovic cruised past Benoit Paire 6-3 6-3 in 70 minutes to secure the qualifying spot for Serbia in the quarter final.
Djokovic saved two break points in the first match of the opening set. The Serbian player earned a break in the eighth game and sealed the opening set 6-3 on his third set point.
Paire dropped his serve in the third game of the second set after a backhand down the line winner from Djokovic. The Serbian star hit a return winner at 5-3 to set up a quarter final clash against Russia on Friday.
Last week’s ATP Finals champions Pierre Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut beat Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki 6-4 6-4. Herbert and Mahut broke serve in the fifth game to seal the opening set 6-4. Tipsarevic and Troicki broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Herbert and Mahut got the break back in the fifth game. After saving a break point in the eighth game Herbert and Mahut earned the decisive break in the ninth game and closed out the match on his first set point.
Serbia set up a quarter final against Russia, who qualified as one of the two-best-placed group runners-up by clinching second spot in Group.
Jack Sock and Sam Querrey take late-night decisive doubles clash over Italy
The clash between Italy and the USA came down to a decisive doubles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid after Fabio Fognini and Taylor Fritz won their respective singles matches.
Fabio Fognini beat Relly Opelka 6-4 6-7 6-3 after 1 hour and 54 minutes to give Italy a much-needed win to the Italian team.
Fognini earned an early break at 1-1 after two errors from Opelka and dropped just five points in five service games. Fognini did not face a break point to close out the first set 6-4 in 33 minutes.
Both players stayed neck and neck setting up a tie-break. Opelka earned a mini-break to take a 5-3 lead in the tie-break and earned three set points. The US player sealed the first set point, but Opelka converted his second chance 7-4.
Opelka saved the first break point with an ace, but Fognini converted his second chance with a forehand passing shot in the second set to take a 2-0 lead. Fognini dropped just three points to build up a 5-2 lead. Fognini served out the win on his first match point to give Italy a 1-0 win.
“I am tired for sure because it was tough. One of the things I did today was my serve, don’t ask me why. I am surprised about that”, said Fognini.
Taylor Fritz came back from one set down to beat Matteo Berrettini 5-7 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the second match. Berrettini saved a break point in the second game with a forehand down the line and a service winner. In the fifth game Fritz saved two break points in the fifth game. Berrettini broke serve in the 11th game to take a 6-5 and sealed the first set on his first set point.
In the third set both players stayed neck and neck til the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. In the seventh game Fritz saved a break point. Berrettini held his serve at love. Fritz closed out the second set at 6-5 after 51 minutes.
Berrettini saved two consecutive break points in the first game of the third game. Fritz rallied from 0-30 down to hold his serve for 1-1. Fritz broke twice in the third and fifth games to race out to a 5-1 lead. Berrettini saved a match point and held his serve for 2-5, but Fritz sealed the win on his second match point.
“Playing for my country is all the motivation I need. I just kept digging, kept fighting. It was really close. I lost the first set by close margin, and I told myself to tough out the second set like I know I can do, and my aggressive and fitness carried me through the third”,said Fritz.
Jack Sock and Sam Querrey came back from a set down in the decisive doubles match to take a 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to give the USA a 2-1 win. The doubles match ended shortly after 4 am and was one of the latest finishes to a match in tennis history. The USA finished second in the Group F behind Canada, who secured the first spot with their wins over Italy and the USA earlier this week. Neither team was able to earn a break in the first two sets. Italy broke serve to take a 3-1 lead. Sock and Querrey broke back immediately before earning the decisive break at 4-4. The US team served out the win after 2 hours and 30 minutes.
“Reilly played a great match and Taylor came out in in a tough position knowing he needed to win. To get the doubles means a lot”, said Querrey.
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