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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Rafael Nadal To Skip ATP Cup Ahead Of Australian Open

Where will the former world No.1 play his first tournament of 2022?

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WASHINGTON, USA - August 4: Rafael Nadal of Spain at the Citi Open Tennis Tournament at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center on August 4, 2021 in Washington, USA (Photo by Peter Staples)

20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will not be starting his season at the ATP Cup in Australia, according to a leading sports newspaper.

 

Marca has reported that the former world No.1 has opted to not play in the team event which is set to get underway on January 1st. Nadal is currently on the comeback from a foot injury and hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since August. Next month he will return to action in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship which is an exhibition event.

“I am very happy to be back at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi,” Nadal said in a video released earlier this week. “I hope to see you soon there.”

It is understood that due to his off-season schedule Nadal has chosen to pass on the team event but it is unclear as to what or if he will play in any other events leading up to the Australian Open which will begin on January 17th. Besides the ATP Cup, four ATP 250 events will be staged in the lead up to the Grand Slam.

The 35-year-old isn’t the only top Spanish name set to miss the ATP Cup. It has also been reported that rising star Carlos Alcaraz and Marcel Granollerswill not be playing as they intend to arrive in Australia at a later date. Instead the team will be headed by Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta. Unlike the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup offers both ranking points and prize money to players.

Nadal has won 24 out of 29 matches played on the Tour this year before ending his season due to injury. He won the Italian Masters and Barcelona Open to increase his career ATP title tally to 88. In the majors he reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and the semi-finals of the French Open.

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Next Generation Of Players ‘Not Moving The Needle For Tennis,’ Claims McEnroe

The former tennis player and Davis Cup captain voices his concerns about the men’s game.

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Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner pictured at the 2021 ATP Finals (image Via ATP)

Tennis faces an issue with the younger generation of the men’s game unable to sell the amount of tickets in comparison to that of the big three, according to one former Grand Slam champion.

 

Patrick McEnroe, who won the 1989 French Open doubles title, says the younger players are ‘not moving the needle’ for the sport compared to what Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done. Three greats of the game who between them have won 60 Grand Slam titles and have spent more than 850 weeks as world No.1. Although with all of the trio being above the age of 30, many are wondering how the future of the sport will fair when they retire.

Speaking to The New York Times, 55-year-old McEnroe cites the US Open as an example of the next generation being unable to attract enough fans when compared to the Big Three. This year’s tournament took place without Nadal and Federer due to injury. However, Djokovic reached the final before losing to Daniil Medvedev.

“The larger issue for tennis if I put on my ESPN hat and former U.S.T.A. hat is that, let’s be honest, these young guys at the moment are not moving the needle for tennis the same way the older guys have,” he said. “They are not selling tickets the first week of the U.S. Open the same way that Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have been doing.”

Following his loss to Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals on Sunday, world No.2 Daniil Medvedev said he is confident that the future of men’s tennis is in good hands. The 25-year-old Russian won his first major title earlier this year in Flushing Meadows and reached the final of the Australian Open.

When there was [Bjorn] Borg and [John] McEnroe, when they were close, finished their careers, everybody was like, ‘tennis is over, we won’t ever have any great players, it is finished,” Medvedev said.
“We did have some: [Pete] Sampras, [Andre] Agassi, they were at the top. [When] Sampras retired, [people were saying] ‘okay, tennis is over’.
“Then we had Novak, Roger and Rafa. If you asked just before they came, everybody would say, ‘well, tennis will not be interesting anymore’.
“It’s the same here. Tennis is a great sport, so I don’t see why our generation would miss on something.”

In the ATP’s year-end top 10 for 2021 eight out of 10 entrants are under the age of 25. The only exceptions are 34-year-old Djokovic and 35-year-old Nadal. Furthermore, seven out of the eight Masters 1000 events this year was won by different players which could be the start of a changing landscape on the Tour.

According to McEnroe, one player who he believes is destined to win a major title is Zverev who has won more matches (59) and ATP titles (six) than any other player this year. The German is the first male player from his country to end a year in the world’s top three since Boris Becker back in 1994.

“I feel like it’s inevitable Zverev is going to win a major,” said former Davis Cup captain McEnroe. “I’ve been saying for a couple years that he’s been knocking on the door. Now he’s banging on it.”

Zverev has played in 25 Grand Slam main draws so far in his career but he only reached the final once. That was during the 2020 US Open where he had a two-set lead over Dominic Thiem before losing in a five-set marathon.

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The 10 Highest-Earning ATP Players of 2021

37 men on the ATP Tour have earned more than $1M in prize money this year but who has made it into the top 10?

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If the 10 highest paid players on the ATP Tour put their 2021 earnings together it would exceed more than $40M and that doesn’t take into account what they have made away from the court via endorsements or other business activities.

 

A total of 37 men has crossed the $1M mark in prize money winnings this year which is nine more than the women’s WTA Tour who operate their own financial structure. Out of that group only one man has managed to make more money in doubles than singles to reach the milestone. That was France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert who made $619,550 against $449,421.

11 men surpassed the $2M mark with Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime narrowly missing out on a place in the top 10 by $89,907. So who has made the most this year and how have they done it?

UbiTennis looks at the on-court earnings of the world’s best players based on data from the ATP. The figures are in US$ and don’t take into account other factors such as endorsements.

10) Jannik Sinner

Total earnings: $2,233,199
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,159,534 DOUBLES $73,665
ATP Matches won: 46
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 10

Italy’s Jannik Sinner is the youngest player on the list at the age of 20. His earnings this season equates to almost two thirds of what he has earned during his entire professional career ($3,623,450). In 2021 the rising star won three ATP 250 titles and one 500 event in Washington. He also reached his first-ever Masters 1000 final in Miami which he lost to Hurkacz. On the other hand, he has experienced mixed results in the Grand Slams with two first round losses and two fourth round runs.

Sinner is the youngest player to finish a season inside the world’s top 10 since Juan Martin del Potro back in 2008.

9) Hubert Hurkacz

Total earnings: $2,313,289
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,173,247 DOUBLES – $140,042
ATP Matches won: 36
ATP titles won: 3
Year-end ranking: 9

Poland’s Hurkacz has achieved a series of firsts in his career this year. Prior to 2021, the 24-year-old had only ever won one ATP 250 title and never reached the second week of a major tournament. This changed in April when he stunned the field to win the Miami Masters whilst seeded 26th in the draw. Scoring back-to-back wins over top 10 players for the first time. A couple months later Hurkacz became the first male player from his country to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since 2013. He also won hard court titles in Delray Beach and Metz.

Hurkacz is the first Polish man in ATP rankings history to finish a season inside the top 10.

8) Casper Ruud

Total earnings: $2,314,629
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,230,592 DOUBLES – $84,037
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 8

Norway’s own king of clay Casper Ruud has blossomed on the Tour this season. During the summer he became the first player since Andy Murray in 2011 to win three ATP titles within as many weeks. The trio of titles during July came a couple months after he won another clay-court event in Geneva, Switzerland.

Clearly Ruud is at his most comfortable on the dirt but he has also produced some strong results on the hard courts. In February he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open which is his best performance at a Grand Slam to date. More recently, he won his first ATP title on the surface at the San Diego Open. Another sign of Ruud’s consistency this season is the fact he has reached the quarter-finals or better in five out of six Masters 1000 tournaments he has played in this year.

He is the first Norwegian to finish in the year-end top 10 on the ATP Tour.

7) Cameron Norrie

Total earnings: $2,623,881
Prize money breakdown
: SINGLES – $2,518,782 DOUBLES – $105,099
ATP Matches won: 50
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 12

British talent Norrie started the year ranked outside the top 70 but has surged up the rankings since then. He has featured in the final of no fewer than six tournaments this year across three different surfaces. It was in the Mexican city of Los Cabos where he won his maiden trophy. However, that achievement was later surpassed by his unexpected run to the title in Indian Wells which is one of the biggest tournaments outside of the majors.

Norrie has recorded a career-best 50 wins this season and has recorded two wins over top 10 players – Dominic Thiem in Nice and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.

6) Matteo Berrettini

Total earnings: $3,231,908
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,201,126 DOUBLES – $30,782
ATP Matches won: 41
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 7

Berrettini’s season came to a heartbreaking conclusion after he was forced to pull out of the ATP Finals in his home country due to injury. However, prior to that the Italian can take comfort in what has been another breakthrough season for him. It was on the Grass where Berrettini achieved his biggest success by winning the Queen’s title before going on to reach his first major final at Wimbledon.

Known for his thunderous forehand, the 25-year-old also achieved new milestones on the clay by reaching his first Masters 1000 final in Madrid. A couple weeks after Madrid, he won the Belgrade Open. Overall, he reached the quarter-final or better in three out of the four Grand Slam events.

Berrettini is the first Italian man in history to finish a season inside the top 10 on three separate occasions.

5) Andrey Rublev

Total earnings: $3,331,378
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,131,467 DOUBLES – $199,911
ATP Matches won: 49
ATP titles won: 1
Year-end ranking: 5

Rublev is the only player on the list to not win multiple titles this season. His sole triumph took place back in March when he won the Rotterdam Open. Although since then he has also reached the final of two Masters 1000 events as well as a 500 tournament in Halle. In the majors he achieved a win-loss record of 9-4 which his best result being a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Among the 10 highest earners this year, Rublev has won the most when it comes to playing doubles ($199,911). Alongside compatriot Aslan Karatsev they won the Qatar Open and reached the final in Indian Wells. Rublev also won gold in the mixed doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Tokyo Olympics but prize money isn’t awarded at that event.

4) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Total earnings: $3,579,155
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,503,608 DOUBLES – $75,547
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 4

Prior to being forced to pull out of his last tournament of the year due an elbow injury, Tsitsipas has enjoyed a mainly successful season on the Tour. The Greek has reached the semi-final stage or better in nine tournaments he has played in, including both the Australian Open and French Open. It was at Roland Garros where he played in first major final and led Djokovic by two sets before losing in five.

Overall, Tsitsipas has reached five ATP finals, winning titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Lyon Open. However, all of his final appearances took place during the first half of 2021 and he hasn’t defeated a top 10 player during the second half.

Nevertheless, he closes out 2021 with a year-end best ranking of fourth.

3) Alexander Zverev

Total earnings: $6,420,344
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $6,361,173 DOUBLES – $59,171
ATP Matches won: 59
ATP titles won: 6
Year-end ranking: 3

Zverev tops the 2021 leaderboard when it comes to most matches won (59) and most titles (six). However, he still hasn’t been able to rise to the top of the highest-earning players. The German saw a surge in his prize money last week where he won the ATP Finals which earned him an impressive $2,143,000.

This season Zverev has triumphed at two ATP 500 events, two Masters tournaments, won a gold medal at the Olympics and claimed the ATP Finals trophy. These achievements enabled him to become the first German player since Boris Becker back in 1994 to finish a season inside the world’s top three.

Against top 10 opposition, the 24-year-old had a winning record of 12-8.

2) Daniil Medvedev

Total earnings: $7,481,271
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES -$7,466,284 DOUBLES -$14,987
ATP Matches won: 58
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 2

More than a third of Medvedev’s earnings this year is from just one tournament. His triumph over Novak Djokovic at the US Open earned the Russian a $2.5M payout. To put that into perspective, only six other ATP players have managed to earn more than this amount throughout the entire season.

Medvedev also won two 250 titles, as well as the Canadian Open. He finished runner-up at the Australian Open, Paris Masters and ATP Finals. Against top 10 opposition, he won 10 out of 15 matches played.

As a result of his success, Medvedev is the first Russian man since 2000 to finish a season ranked inside the world’s top two.

1) Novak Djokovic

Total earnings: $9,100,547
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $9,069,225 DOUBLES – $31,322
ATP Matches won: 51
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 1

Djokovic has played in 12 just tournaments this season but it is his success at the majors which has elevated him to the honour of the highest-earning player in men’s tennis this year. By winning three out of the four Grand Slams he made roughly $6M alone. On top of that, Djokovic also won the second Belgrade Open and the Paris Masters.

The world No.1’s surge this year further cements his position as the highest-earning tennis player in history when it comes to prize money. His tally now stands at $154,756,726 which is over $24M more than his nearest rival (Roger Federer has made $130.5M).

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