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The Kooyong Classic gets underway

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A clear indicator that the season’s first Gland Slam is just around the corner is the fact that the Kooyong Classic is underway. This event, which first took place in 1988 when the Australian Open moved from the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club to Melbourne Park, serves as the perfect preparation for the inaugural Slam as all players are assured three top-quality encounters.

 

Past champions include Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and, more recently, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and defending champion, Fernando Verdasco. The 28th edition got underway today, with a mix of rising stars and established veterans taking part.

The first match on court was an absolute belter between Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Simon. The Spaniard  came out on top an incident-filled battle 6-7, 6-4, 11-9. The Spaniard was figthing jet-lag after arriving just in time from Doha, where he picked up the doubles crown alongside Marc Lopez, and the Frenchman was hampered by an abdominal injury which resulted in medical attention. According to Simon’s camp this injury is the consequence of a shoulder injury from back in September which has forced him to alter his service action and therefore strain his abdominal muscles.

“Besides this problem I’m fine. I hope to get this better and play at the Australian Open”, said Simon. With his victory Lopez advances to the next round, whereas Simon goes on to a play-off with the other first round losers. “I have big jet lag in my body right now. I’m looking forward to playing better on Friday in my second match. I’ve always said this is the best preparation for the Open. The courts and conditions are the same, even the wind is there”, stated Feliciano Lopez following his win.

Next on court was a battle of two players who have seen better days. Nicolas Almagro, still struggling to rediscover his finest form which took him into the top ten before a foot injury, squared off with the talented Paul-Henri Mathieu, who is also in the final straight of his career. The Spaniard, who was surprised by Ante Pavic in the first round of Chennai, got a confidence-boosting 7-5, 6-3 win. More importantly for Almagro’s morale, he rallied back from a 3-5 deficit in the opening set to clinch it.

“I played well, I feel good about my tennis. I’m ready to play in my 11th Australian Open. I’m ready to fight, I’m healthy and I’m over the last two tough years”, claimed an upbeat Almagro.

The last clash pitted together two of the game’s rising starts: Omar Jasika and Hyeon Chung. Jasika, just 18, is part of a new wave of exciting Australian players and will try to make the most of a wildcard at his home Slam next week. Unfortunately for the Melbourne player he was no match for a player who seems like he is no longer a promise but a reality. Chung, already ranked 51 at the tender age of 19, put the Aussie to the sword with a 6-4, 6-3 win and got sweet revenge over Jasika: “I lost to him six months ago so it was good to avenge him this time”.

Jasika will get another chance to pit his tennis against a first class opponent tomorrow when he faces Kei Nishikori. The other three matches will also be a good chance to see some rising stars and gauge the form of more established players as Alex Zverev faces Kyle Edmund, Marcos Baghdatis takes on Pablo Carreño, who took a set off Nadal in Doha, and finally Hopman Cup hero Nick Kyrgios will try to keep up his hot form when he takes on Davis Cup finalist David Goffin.

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Novak Djokovic reaches the semifinal in Tel Aviv

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Novak Djokovic beat Canadian lucky loser Vasek Pospisil 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 to reach the semifinal at the Tel Aviv Watergen Open. 

 

Djokovic has improved his record to 6-0 in his head-to-head matches against Pospisil. He has won all 13 sets they have played. 

Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Djokovic earned two mini-breaks to race out to a 4-0 lead. Pospisil won five of the next six points to draw level to 5-5. Djokovic won the next two points to seal the tie-break 7-5. 

Djokovic went up a break at the start of the second set. Pospisil broke back in the fifth game to reduce the deficit to 2-3. Djokovic broke again in the eighth game before serving out for the match in the next game. 

Djokovic set up a semifinal against Roman Safiulin. The Serbian player is aiming to win his third title this season after his previous triumphs in Rome and Wimbledon. He is currently ranked 15th in the ATP Race to Turin. As he won a Grand Slam title at Wimbeldon this year, he will qualify for the ATP Finals if he remains in the top 20. 

“It was a great and positive win. Vasek is one of my best friends on the tour. We have known each other for many years. It is never easy playing someone you respect so much and like so much, but we are both professionals and wanted to win the match and you can see that. ”, said Djokovic. 

Constant Lestienne came back from one set down to beat Maxime Cressy 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-3) setting up a semifinal against Marin Cilic, who reached his fifth semifinal this year after receiving a walkover from Liam Broady.   

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Jannik Sinner reaches his third consecutive semifinal at the Sofia Open

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Jannik Sinner cruised past Aleksandar Vukic 6-2 6-3 to advance to his third consecutive semifinal at the Sofia Open. Sinner scored his 45th tour.level win this season moving up to 12th in the ATP Race to Turin. He will rise to 10th if he wins his third consecutive title in Sofia. 

 

Sinner has extended his winning streak to 11-0 at the Sofia Open. He claimed the trophy at this tournament at the Sofia Open in 2020 before he successfully defended his title last year.  

Sinner faced four break points after three double faults in the first game of opening set. Vukic saved a break point with a forehand at 1-2. Sinner broke twice in the sixth and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. 

Sinner built up a 3-0 lead with a break at the start of the second set. Vukic broke back in the seventh game for 3-4. Sinner earned his second break in the eighth game. Sinner missed out on his first match point with his fifth double fault. Vukic fended off a second match point with a forehand passing shot. Sinner saved a break point with an ace before sealing the win on his third match point. 

“I hope to raise my level in the next match. I am happy to reach the third semifinal at this tournament. I feel at home in Sofia. I will try to play my best tennis in every match”, said Sinner, 

Sinner will face a semifinal match against Holger Rune, who will face Ilya Ivashka 6-2 5-7 6-4 after 2 hours and 22 minutes. 

Rune broke in the fifth and seventh games to win the first set 6-2. Ivashka saved four break points in th third game before breaking for the first time in the match in the 12th game to close out the second set 7-5. 

Rune earned a break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Ivashka broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Rune broke for the second game in the ninth game and held serve on his second match point. 

Lorenzo Musetti moved past world number 132 player Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7-3) 6-1 after 1 hour and 16 minutes to reach his second ATP Tour semifinal of the season. 

Struff earned an early break in the second game to open up a 3-0 lead. Musetti came back from 15-40 down to break back in the fifth game with a backhand passing shot winner. Musetti went down 0-2 in the tie-break, but he rallied by winning seven of the next eight points to seal the tie-break 7-3. Musetti broke twice in the second and fourth games and sealed the win on his first match point with a forehand winner after 77 minutes. Musetti set up a semifinal match against Marc Andrea Huesler, who saved two match points in the tie-break of the second set to beat Kamil Majchrzak 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3. 

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Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin

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Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas have qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals singles tournament in Turin, Joining Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal and US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz. 

 

Ruud secured his spot in the year-end championships by winning his second-round match in Seoul. 

Ruud reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Miami and two Grand Slam finals at Roland Garros and at the US Open. He also won three ATP Tour titles in Buenos Aires, Geneva and Gstaad. The Norwegian player has scored 47 ATP Tour-level wins and is ranked third behind only Alcaraz (52) and Tsistipas (49). 

Ruud made his first appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin last year. He won his round robin matches against against Cameron Norrie and Andrey Rublev before losing to Danil Medvedev in the semifinal. 

“I just got the news that I qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin and I am looking forward to coming back to Italy. I had such a great time last year. It’s a great country for tennis”, said Ruud. 

Tsitsipas has become the fourth player to qualify to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals. The Greek player will make his fourth consecutive appearance at the year-end tournament. He won the title in 2019 beating Novak Djokovic in the final. Tsitsipas started the 2022 season with a semifinal at the Australian Open last January. He advanced to the final in Rotterdam where he finished runner-up to Felix Auger Aliassime.

The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion won his second consecutive title at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. Last May Tsitsipas finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. During the US hard-court season the Athens native player lost to Borna Coric in the final of the Cincinnati Masters 1000 tournament. 

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