Jared Donaldson faces Francis Tiafoe in Australian Open Qualifying, tough draw for Britain's Dan Evans - UBITENNIS
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Jared Donaldson faces Francis Tiafoe in Australian Open Qualifying, tough draw for Britain’s Dan Evans

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Jared Donaldson has been handed a big test in the form of compatriot Francis Tiafoe (Image via itftennis.com)

The Australian Open is set to begin tomorrow, though it is not a draw filled with names like Roger Federer, or Novak Djokovic. Instead, the Australian Open Qualifying event is starting. Here the names are a mixture of young talent, on their way up, players trying to have mid-career success, or veterans trying to stay in the games as long as possible. Some names like Radek Stepanek, and Dustin Brown will be familiar. Others like Duckhee Lee, Taylor Fritz, and Oliver Anderson might just become familiar.

 

The toughest draw in Australian Open Qualifying probably belongs to twenty-first seed Jared Donaldson. As a seeded player, he was entitled to believe that he would receive a favourable draw for at least the first two rounds. What he got instead was nightmare first round as he faces another young American star in Francis Tiafoe.

Qualifying top seed Luca Vanni faces an unpredictable match against Britain’s Dan Evans. Evans actually leads the head-t0-head having won the inaugural meeting at a futures event six years ago. That also took place on a hard-court. The third-round seed for Vanni or Evans is Bjorn Fratangelo, who must likely defeat teenage sensation Duckhee Lee in round two.

Third seed Tim Smyczek, who successfully qualified last year before losing to Nadal in the second round, have a favourable draw, with Kenny de Schepper the biggest name in his section. Likewise fourth seed Alejandro Falla, who might have to face recent ATP quarter-finalist Thomas Fabbiano in the third-round.

Fifth seed Jan Lenard-Struff’s section includes Tour veteran Radek Stepanek, Marinko Matosevic, and Alejandro Gonzalez. Sixth seed Lukas Lacko could face Mirza Basic, who enjoyed a strong finish to 2015.

Seventh seed Marsel Ilhan has a tough draw, with Aleksander Nedovyesov, Aldin Setkic and Ryan Harrison making stiff competition. Eighth seed Go Soeda must face the likes of Maximillian Marterer, Alexander Kudryavtsev, and likely the winner of the Tiafoe/Donaldson clash to progress.

Beginning with the bottom half of the draw, Michael Berrer, who reversed a career retirement decision last year, starts against Tristan Lamasine. All eyes will be on his second-round match though, as that could include Taylor Fritz, who starts against Hiroki Moriya. Norbert Gombos has a tricky path to meeting either Berrer or Fritz, as he has to face the winner of Mischa Zverev or Andrea Arnaboldi’s encounter, if he beats Roberto Marcora.

Tenth seed Radu Albot starts against Jan Mertl, and could face German Daniel Brands in the third round. Three Frenchman feature in that section. Eleventh seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin starts with Zhe Li of China, and his projected seed for the final round, Gastao Elias, has a very tough start against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Yuichi Sugita and Dennis Novikov make up the final seeds of the third quarter, with Ante Pavic and James Ward, who starts against Peter Polansky, also featuring.

Tatsumo Ito has a nice draw, as his seeded third-round opponent Andre Ghem, is more suited to clay events than hard-courts. However, Oliver Anderson, who recently defeated Dennis Novikov and Tim Smyczek also features here.

Kimmer Coppejans and Igor Sijsling have some tough matches to negotiate if they are to meet in the final round. Alex Bolt, Karen Khachanov, and Grega Zemlja are all names capable of springing a shock.

Dustin Brown and Konstantin Kravchuck have a good chance of meeting, as the only name in their section likely to cause trouble is Andrey Golubev.

The final section sees home hope John-Patrick Smith start against Michael Linzer. He could eventually face young Swede Elias Ymer, who plays Renzo Olivo first.

Selected first-round matches with predictions in bold

(1) Luca Vanni vs Dan Evans

(3) Tim Smyczek vs Jose Pereira

Henri Laaksonen vs (24) Alejandro Gonzalez

Francis Tiafoe vs (21) Jared Donaldson

Taylor Fritz vs Hiroki Moriya

Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs (20) Gastao Elias

(12) Yuichi Sugita vs Ante Pavic

James Ward vs Peter Polansky

(13) Tatsumo Ito vs Marton Fucsovics

 

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Tour Suspension Will Benefit Novak Djokovic More Than Nadal And Federer, Claims Woodbridge

The former world No.1 doubles player explains why he thinks Djokovic will benefit more than his rivals.

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Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge believes the current suspension of tennis could have a silver lining for Novak Djokovic and his bid to claim the greatest of all time honour.

 

On Wednesday it was confirmed that all professional tennis tournaments have been suspended until at least July due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision came shortly after Wimbledon was forced to axe their event for the first time since 1945. Prior to the suspension, Djokovic started 2020 unbeaten by winning 18 matches in a row. During that period he guided Serbia to the ATP Cup title, won a record eighth Australian Open title and triumphed at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Now with the tour being brought to a halt, some are speculating as to what the implications could be on the prestigious Big Three. A trio featuring Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Between them they have won 52 out of the last 60 grand slam tournaments.

Woodbridge believes Djokovic is in the best situation because of his age. At the age of 32 he is younger than both Nadal (33) and Federer (38). Although neither of those players are planning to retire from the sport just yet.

“Because of the uncertainty, it makes it hard to see how the three can dominate when they come back because of the age of Roger and Rafa,” Woodbridge told Yahoo Sport Australia.
“It also puts more pressure on Rafa and it changes all of those storylines that were on the table for 2020.
“For Novak, it may come at a good time in his career to actually rejuvenate him again, give him another big burst.
“So if anything, this period helps him the most.”

The biggest question mark surrounds Federer, who recently underwent knee surgery and will turn 39 in August. However, the Swiss Maestro has recently confirmed that he intends to play the 2021 season after pledging to return to the court in Halle. One of the grass-court tournaments that has been cancelled this year.

“We experience difficult times, however, we will arise from it strengthened. Already today I am glad and excited about my return to Halle next year.” He said.

Although Woodbridge believes the suspension will hinder Federer’s dream of extending his record-breaking grand slam tally of 20 titles. He last won a major at the 2018 Australian Open. However, since then Federer has only reached a grand slam final in one out of seven attempts.

“The less match play that you get in this period at that age, it’s so much harder to come back and recover once you start again.” Woodbridge explained.
“So I really think that post-2020 will be a new era of people trying to create records because it’ll have really have broken up a great period in tennis.
“It has stopped the potential, I think, of Federer winning one or two more.
“It becomes very highly unlikely for him.”

Djokovic heads the world rankings with a 370-point lead over second place Nadal. Federer is currently in fourth position behind Dominic Thiem.

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Grigor Dimitrov – ‘Tennis Is A Microscopic Thing In The World Right Now’

The world No.19 speaks out about how he is coping during the tour suspension.

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Former grand slam semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov has become the latest player to urge the governing bodies of tennis to make a united decision regarding when play will resume again.

 

The ATP and WTA Tours are currently suspended until June due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although it is likely that the suspension will be extended further with rumours that Wimbledon will be cancelled for the first time since the second world war later this week. Dimitrov’s last tournament was at the Acapulco Open in Mexico, where he reached the semi-finals before losing in straight sets to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

“Tennis is a microscopic thing in the world right now. The ATP supervisors I’ve talked to in recent days have a variety of theories, but for the time being, we can really only guess if we’re being honest.” Tenniskafe quoted Dimitrov as saying during an interview with bTV.
“The tournaments are cancelled, but we have a big luxury in tennis – there is always next week. Yes, it is very difficult right now, you have seen the Olympics cancelled. The only thing that is at the forefront is to go through this situation we are in, and then start rebuilding. “

The world No.19 is currently residing in California during the lockdown. Describing the situation where he is as ‘more casual’ compared to other parts of the world. California is where the Indian Wells tennis tournament was set to take place earlier this month before it was cancelled.

“In my opinion all federations and players, no matter what rank they are, must come together and make a general decision. Because it’s really not easy at the moment to talk to everyone about points, tournaments, competitions … But now other things are really more important – to be safe, to be healthy and to go through this thing.” He said.

During the suspension, the 28-year-old is keeping himself busy in other ways. Recently he has signed up for an online course with Harvard Business School. Becoming the latest of a series of players to do so. He also manages to keep in touch with his fellow rivals on the tour thanks to the world of social media.

“One of the first players I wrote to was Fabio (Fognini) because he was in Italy. Everyone is on Instagram, we know everyone what they do every minute.”

When the restrictions related to the pandemic comes to an end, Dimitrov has vowed to return back to Europe as he outlines the first thing he would do.

“I just want to go back to Europe. Whether it will be in Bulgaria or in Monaco – I do not know. I certainly want to go home, gather all my relatives and just spend time together. I’ve been in the US for over a month now. As things currently look, there will certainly be another two months. Hopefully it will be faster, but I just want to go home and be with my loved ones.” He concluded.

In the fight against Covid-19 in his home country, Dimitrov has made a donation to a hospital in Haskovo. The city where he was born.

Dimitrov has started the 2020 season with a win-loss record of 7-5. Besides his run to the semifinals in Acapulco, he also reached the second round at the Australian Open and Rotterdam. He has been ranked as high as third in the world.

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Tennis Could Be Suspended For ‘A Long Time,’ Warns Millman

The top 50 player isn’t expecting to play on the tour anytime soon.

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Australian player John Millman has indicated that he believes the current suspension of the ATP Tour is all but certain to be extended in the coming weeks.

 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both the ATP and WTA Tour have been suspended until at least June 8th. Although those in change of both of those governing bodies have previously admitted they are uncertain as to when play will resume. ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has said that ‘it is unknown at this time’ as to when men’s tournaments will resume. Meanwhile, Steve Simon has echoed a similar view during an interview with The Tennis Channel.

Speaking about the current situation, world No.43 Millman said the sport is in a difficult situation due to its global reach with both tournaments and players based around the world. For example the Australian started his season by playing four tournaments in four different countries across three continents within five weeks.

“We’re going to have to be pretty unified in terms of our recovery process before the tour can resume,” Millman told The Age.
“Maybe the tournament location has got the COVID-19 situation under wraps and then manage to contain it, but if someone’s flying in from South America, say, and their country hasn’t got a hold of it, then the tournament can’t (go ahead).
“You can’t have the tournament going when only certain players can get there. I think that’s
where the problems lie.”

The 30-year-old didn’t speculate as to when he and his rivals will be returning to the court, but believes it could be a while. During the coming week the fate of Wimbledon will be decided at an emergency meeting. The All England Club is pondering the motion of cancelling this year’s tournament. A move that has never been taken during peacetime. Wimbledon has been scrapped a total of 10 times during the first and second world wars.

“It’s almost like we have to have a vaccine or the virus has to run its course before there’ll be any let-up there.” Millman commented.

Besides trying to maintain fitness, many players like Millman are in a difficult situation financially due to a lack of income. He has managed to earn $290,705 on the tour this year before the suspension. This is the 44th highest total on the men’s tour. In total, 131 players have surpassed the $100,000 mark. Although the earnings don’t take into account travel costs, coaching, accommodation and so on.

“I just can’t see us playing tennis for a long time and now it’s a matter of trying to stay (the) fight, trying to scrape by a little bit while not much is coming in,” he said.
“You’re used to a bit of money coming in and obviously that’s not the case anymore. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s just not easy. You try and make do.
“But I don’t want to be a sob story, that’s for sure, because I know Australians are doing it a lot tougher than me.”

Millman reached the third round of the Australian Open earlier this year before losing to Roger Federer in a five-set thriller.

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