10 intriguing ties of the Australian Open Men's First Round (5-1) - UBITENNIS
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10 intriguing ties of the Australian Open Men’s First Round (5-1)

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Andy Murray has a tough test against Alexander Zverev (image via olympictennis.net)

Continued from yesterday’s article, I finish the countdown of ten interesting matches from the first round with my top 5 highlighted matches.

 

5. Dan Evans vs Feliciano Lopez (18): This list of some matches that could provide shocks would not be complete without mentioning Dan Evans. After all, the Briton is very talented, and a strong hard-court player. His run at the 2013 US Open saw him defeat Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori, who would play in the final of the 2014 US Open. Evans has had issues with commitment, notably failing to turn up to a Futures tournament with no explanation, but he has a chance against veteran Feliciano Lopez. Lopez epitomises the exact opposite of stereotypes for Spanish players. Sure, he may not be bad on clay, but he excels on grass. A wicked left-handed serve followed by an eagerness to get to the net is a distinct trait of the 2014 Queens Finalist. Lopez is now though a veteran on the ATP Tour, and has spells where he plays beneath his ranking of no.19. Lopez played an epic five-setter in the Australian Open first-round last year, forced to save match points against Denis Kudla. If Lopez plays at a level similar to that day, then Evans, who beat top seed Luca Vanni in qualifying, has more than just a fleeting chance. Pick: Evans in four sets.

4. Taylor Fritz vs Jack Sock (25): Okay, so we like Taylor Fritz on this site. But there is a good reason for that. Players like Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev have taken plaudits for the way they have taken to professional tennis with consummate ease, and those two play an exciting, attacking brand of tennis. But Fritz is perhaps the most rounded player, even when compared to Zverev and Coric. He has a nice if not dominating serve, defends well, and has a never-say-die tenacity about his game. Take the fact that he was down love-four in the deciding set against Mischa Zverev, having spurned a lead in the second set tiebreak. He came back and won the last six games, this against a big-serving German in Zverev. Wins against Dustin Brown, including one where he saved more than fifteen break points, shows he can deal with big-servers. Having said that, Jack Sock could well be a step too far. The American number two is arguably the most complete American on tour at the moment, if you compare his game to everything John Isner possesses, Sock wins everywhere except serve, and Sock’s serve has improved a lot. Sock proved he’s in the form of his career with wins over Kevin Anderson and David Ferrer in Auckland, and he could be in for a career-run at a grand slam. No matter the result, the match is significant just to see two of American tennis’ finest talents meet for the first time. Pick: Sock in straight sets.

3. Alexander Zverev vs Andy Murray (2). A lot of people like the young German Zverev and why not? The 6’6 German is part of a new generation of tennis stars. He naturally has a big serve and a good forehand, but he has not displayed yet the kind of game to beat the top players consistently, his over No.14 Kevin Anderson in Washington DC last year, and a win over No. 19 Mikhail Youzhny in 2014 represent his only two wins over top thirty players. Andy Murray does have the birth of his first child looming, and that could prove a distraction. However, Murray is professional enough to deal with it and he has an excellent record over big-servers. He is noted as being perhaps the second-best returner in the game, and his ability to potentially neutralise Zverev’s biggest asset does not bode well for the young German. Pick: Murray in straight sets.

2. Philipp Kohlscreiber vs Kei Nishikori (7). Philipp Kohlscreiber must be the unluckiest player when it comes to drawing seeds in early rounds, unless your name is Ryan Harrison. The German is more accustomed to being seeded himself, but is unlucky to miss out at this event, ranked this week at no.34. His reward is a meeting with seventh seed Kei Nishikori. The last time Kohlscreiber failed to gain a seeding he was ranked no.33 at Wimbledon in 2015 and drew Novak Djokovic in the first round. This one though while tough, does hand him at least a chance of causing the upset. Nishikori is a very good player, still in that zone just behind the likes of Djokovic, Federer, Murray, and Wawrinka, but still comfortably ahead of most others. That said, his 2015 season was very inconsistent, highlighted by early exits at Wimbledon and the US Open. He did pick up titles at other points of the year though. These two have net met before, and with inconsistencies highlighted in Nishikori’s form, Kohlschreiber surely fancies his chances. Pick: Nishikori in five sets.

1. Rafael Nadal (5) vs Fernando Verdasco: Those whose memories stretch back to the 2009 Australian Open semi-finals will remember a match that stands up there as one of the greatest semi-finals in Australian Open history. Nadal defeated an inspired Verdasco in five sets that day, in a match featuring sublime tennis from both men. It might be unrealistic to expect the same to happen this year, though the match will certainly be entertaining. Verdasco has suffered a dramatic loss of consistency since that incredible run, and Nadal is coming off the back of a very uncertain 2015 season. Nadal is still one of the game’s best and though Verdasco does not produce form like that which saw him finish 2009 in the top ten, he still produces flashes. Errors are perhaps going to be as much the decider in this match as sensational rallies. A win for Verdasco could see him lose badly in the second round, that is just the nature of his game these days. A loss for Nadal, whose confidence is still fragile despite some return to form at the end of 2015, could be disastrous. Pick: Nadal in four sets.

Highlights of the fourth set tiebreak between Nadal and Verdasco in 2009.

 

Honourable mentions: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has a tough match against Marcos Baghdatis. This did not make my countdown because Tsonga leads the Head-to-head 5-0, and Baghdatis has not been past the third round of a slam for six years. But its Marcos Baghdatis. I still predict Tsonga to win.

Gilles Simon will not enjoy taking on Vasek Pospisil in the opening round. The Canadian has a good serve, and Simon suffered an early defeat to Grigor Dimitrov in Brisbane, his only event so far this year.

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US Open Must Allow Entourages Of Three Or Four People, Says Thiem

The world No.3 says he is feeling good ahead of the return of professional tennis next month.

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Dominic Thiem has come out against proposals to restrict the number of coaching staff that can travel to this year’s US Open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

This year’s New York major will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing a series of measures to help minimise the threat posed by the virus. Part of their plan is to limit how many people a player can bring with them to the tournament. It was originally reported that only one team member per player would be allowed to travel, but it has emerged that the limit has since been extended to three.

Speaking about the limits, three-time Grand Slam finalist Thiem said the idea of only allowing one member of his team to travel with him would be a risk for some players on the Tour.

*”I do not think so. Three or four people must be allowed. It would be extremely risky to travel without your own physio. You need a local coach for this,’ Thiem told The Kronen Zeitung newspaper on Sunday.

Thiem last played a match on the ATP Tour at the Rio Open in February where he lost in the quarter-finals. However, throughout the lockdown he has still managed to maintain his match fitness by participating in numerous tournaments. In total he has played 24 matches across three different countries, including one named after him called Thiems 7.

“Right now I feel very good,” he said. “I have played a lot of exhibition games in the last two months and I am not tired at all. I really wanted to play tennis again, since my start of the year was very good.’
“During This period of confinement at home I have been crushing myself a lot in the physical aspect and already when I returned to training. I have decided to improve the backhand and the serve a little more.”

The ATP Tour will resume next month with Thiem hoping that he can continue his form generated from earlier this year. At the Australian Open he reached the final for the first time in his career before getting edged out by Novak Djokovic. Although when he returns, tournaments will not be the same as before due to the ongoing pandemic with strict safety measures and reduced crowds in place.

“When the circuit returns, the matches will be exactly the same as we had previously, but the atmosphere will be different,” he said.
“All tennis players will miss playing tournaments where many people travelled to see us every day. In New York, Paris or Melbourne there are between 60,000 and 70,000 people every day in the facilities. That previous life we ​​had will not be the same and we may have to get used to this new normal for a few years.”

Thiem is one of only four men to have already made more than $1 million in prize money so far this year on the ATP Tour.

*NOTE: Since the publication of this article quotes have been edited following a translation mix-up.

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Nick Kyrgios Slams Thiem Over Defence Of Controversy-Stricken Adria Tour

The world No.40 has accused the Austrian of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to understand his view.

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Australian star Nick Kyrgios has continued his public criticism of the Adria Tour by taking aim at two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

 

The 25-year-old has repeatedly hit out at the exhibition event, which Thiem participated in. Organised by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the event took place in Belgrade and Zadar before it was scrapped following an outbreak of COVID-19 among both players and coaching staff. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric all got infected. The outbreak came after the Adria Tour was criticised for a lack of social distancing and players attended various public events together. Although at the time, all of their actions were done in accordance with local regulations. Something the Serbian Prime Minister now admits was a mistake.

However, Thiem has called out Kyrgios over his vocal criticism of fellow Adria Tour competitor Alexander Zverev. The German attended a party in southern France less than a week after the COVID-19 outbreak despite issuing a statement saying he would go into self-isolation.

“It was his mistake, but I don’t why a lot of people want to interfere. Kyrgios has done a lot of mistakes. It would be better for him to come clear instead of criticising others,” Thiem told Tiroler Tageszeitung.

Continuing to defend the actions of his fellow players, Thiem also jumped to the defence of Djokovic. Who has been under heavy criticism over the event with some going as far as questioning his position as president of the ATP Players Council.

“He didn’t commit a crime. We all make mistakes, but I don’t understand all the criticism. I’ve been to Nice and also saw pictures from other cities. It’s no different from Belgrade during the tournament. It’s too cheap to shoot at Djokovic.”

The comments have now been blasted by Kyrgios, who stands by his previous criticism of players. Accusing Thiem of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to see his point of view.

“What are you talking about @ThiemDomi? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does?” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
“None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.”
“People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake,'” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide and some players have voiced concerns over travelling to America which has recently seen a rise in cases. On Wednesday Alexi Popyrin became the first player to say he won’t play the US Open due to health concerns.

The ATP Tour is set to resume next month but it is unclear as to what events Thiem and Kyrgios will be playing in.

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Roger Federer Eyeing Olympic Glory At The Age Of 39 In 2021

The Swiss tennis star isn’t ready to step away from the sport just yet.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has vowed to play at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo after undergoing two surgeries on his knee.

 

The former world No.1 hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then he had twice undergone arthroscopic surgeries which is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to diagnose and treat problems with the joints. Federer announced shortly after having the procedure done for a second time that he will not be returning to the Tour again this year.

Despite the setbacks, the 38-year-old has vowed to return to action at the start of 2021 with Olympic glory one of his main targets. He is already a two-time Olympic medallist after winning gold in the men’s doubles back in 2008 followed by silver in the singles draw at the 2012 London Games.

“My goal is to play Tokyo 2021. It’s a wonderful city. I met my wife in my first Olympics in 2000. It’s a special event for me,” Federer said on Monday during the launch of ‘The Roger’ shoe with Swiss brand ON.
“I had two surgeries and I can’t hit at the moment, but I’m very confident I will be totally ready for 2021.
“I do miss playing in front of the fans, no doubt. Now, I think if tennis comes back we know it won’t be in a normal way where we can have full crowds yet.”

Federer will be 39 when he returns to action, but is yet to speculate as to when he may close the curtain on his record-breaking career. He is currently the second oldest man in the top 200 on the ATP Tour after Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who is 41.

Besides the Olympics, the Swiss Maestro is also setting his eye on Wimbledon where he has claimed the men’s title a record eight times. However, he hasn’t won a major title since the 2018 Australian Open. The Grass-court major has been cancelled this year for the first time since 1945 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Of course I miss Wimbledon, of course I would like to be there currently playing on Centre Court for a place in the second week,” he said.
“Clearly, one of my big goals, and that’s why I do recovery work every day and work so hard, and why I’m preparing for a 20-week physical preparation block this year, is because I hope to play at Wimbledon next year.”

Even though he is not playing for the rest of the year, Federer incredibly still has a chance of qualifying for the ATP Finals due to recent changes in the rankings calculations. Due to the pandemic, players are now allowed to use their best results at 18 tournaments based on a 22-month period instead of 12 months. Something that could enable him to remain inside the top eight until the end of 2020 depending on how his rivals fair.

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