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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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Demoralized Alex De Minaur Says He Is Mentally Struggling After French Open Loss

Less than a month after achieving his best ever result in a Grand Slam, the 21-year-old is ‘not happy’ with his form at the moment as he tries to get the spark back.

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Australia’s top player says he needs to take a ‘long hard look in the mirror’ after crashing out in the first round of the French Open.

 

Alex de Minaur, who was the 25th seed in the men’s draw, fell in straight sets to Italian qualifier and former semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato. The loss continues his lacklustre record at Roland Garros where he has only won one match in four appearances. Although the Australian admits that he is at a loss following his most recent defeat at the clay court major.

“I’m going through probably this rough patch, and everyone has it, but at the moment it’s what I’m dealing with,” he said.
“I’m not happy with where I am, not happy with what I’m showing on court. So it’s a little bit demoralizing in itself that I can’t come out and play the tennis that I want to and that I know I can.”

The mood of the 21-year-old is a stark contrast to that of a couple weeks ago at the US Open. In New York de Minaur achieved a new milestone in his career after reaching the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career before getting knocked out by Dominic Thiem. The person who went on to win the men’s title.

It is the mental part of his game that de Minaur says he is struggling with the most. Echoing similar comments from David Goffin following his loss to Jannik Sinner in Paris. For the world No.27 he believes the only way to get out of his slump is to win matches. De Minaur also lost in the first round of the Italian Open to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer prior to Roland Garros.

“I’m not one to make excuses. At the end of the day, I just didn’t perform the way I wanted to. I’ve had two matches where I missed out on countless opportunities. And I believe that is what I needed to gain some confidence and some momentum,” De Minaur reflected on his current form.
“It’s a pity because a sport like tennis is very based on results, everything. Mentally, it’s a lot based on results. So you can do all the right things and be training well, be feeling physically fit, feeling mentally well, but if you go into a match and you’re not getting those results, then it almost feels like nothing of that counts.”

It is unclear as to what the next move for De Minaur will be as he refuses to rule out the possibility of taking a short break from tennis ahead of the new season. He has now lost in the first round in three out of his four most recent tournaments since the Tour restarted back in August.

“It’s bizarre because I’m basically coming off my career best in a Grand Slam. So obviously there are a lot of things that I need to just clear my head out and almost just maybe not putting as much pressure on myself, that’s probably one of the things,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do but hopefully whatever I decide to do, it will help me out and I can get back to where I want to be.”

As de Minaur exits France, his conqueror Cecchinato will play Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round.

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Alexander Zverev Motivated To Prove Critics Wrong As He Eyes Deep Run At French Open

The German tennis star weighs up his chances of glory at Roland Garros.

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Alexander Zverev at the US Open 2020 (photo Twitter @usopen)

Playing in his first match since narrowly missing out on his maiden Grand Slam trophy Alexander Zverev returned back to winning ways on Sunday evening at the French Open.

 

Zverev, who is seeded sixth in this year’s draw, recovered from a 2-5 deficit to defeat Austria’s Dennis Novak 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 Court Philippe Chatrier, whose roof remained open despite it drizzling with rain. The match was a test for Zverev due to a number of reasons. Not only did he have to contend with the cold and breezy conditions, it was his first competitive match on the clay and his first since losing to Dominic Thiem in the US Open final 14 days ago.

“Conditions are obviously very different than the US Open. First of all, we play on a different surface. Then we play in very cold temperatures,” Zverev told reporters.
“I’m happy to get through because Dennis is somebody that plays well on this surface. He can beat good players.”

A lot has changed for Zverev when it comes to playing in the majors since his last Roland Garros appearance. This year he has already reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, as well as the final in New York. A big turnaround for a player who was once criticised for not shining when it comes to playing in the major tournaments. Although the French Open is still the only Grand Slam where he has reached the quarter-finals twice.

“I’m probably the third-best player this year when it comes to slam results after Novak and after Dominic,” he said.
“I obviously do want to win one, win more than one. I was two points away on multiple occasions in New York. That obviously was very upsetting, and in a way frustrating, but at the same time I know how close I’ve gotten. I had one hand on the trophy, but I do believe that I can win them now. “

The question is will Roland Garros be the place where he will win his first major title? When asked what he did between the US Open and now to address any issues with his second serve, the witty German played down any negatively by replying ‘I was on a boat doing nothing at all. Then I came here (Paris) to practice.’

Jokes aside Zverev is becoming a more prominent contender for the biggest titles of the sport. Although he admits that doing so at the French Open this year will be hard work for him.

“Obviously it’s not going to be the easiest slam for me with how the conditions are, with how the preparation was for me. But we’ll see how it goes now, the French Open and the following years to come, as well,” he stated.

Up next for Zverev will be a second round meeting with either France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert or American qualifier Michael Mmoh.

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Marco Cecchinato reaches the second round at Roland Garros

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Former Roland Garros semifinalist Marco Cecchinato upset two-time Next Gen Finals runner-up and number 25 Alex De Minaur 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 6-0 to reach the second round at the French Open. 

 

De Minaur rallied from 0-40 down to break serve in the third game of the opening set. Cecchinato broke straight back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. De Minaur earned another break from 40-15 down in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead. Cecchinato broke back at love in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. After another trade of breaks the first set came down to the tie-break. Cecchinato took a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but De Minaur won the next two points to draw level to draw level to 4-4. Cecchinato saved two set points. The Italian player earned two set points on De Minaur’s serve but he did not convert them. Cecchinato sealed the tie-break 11-9 on his third set point. 

De Minaur saved a break point in the first game of the second set to hold his serve at deuce before breaking serve at 15 in the second game to take a 2-0 lead. Cecchinato broke straight back in the third game to draw level to 2-2. In the eighth game Cecchinato saved four break points to hold serve after seven deuces to draw level to 4-4. Cecchinato converted his 11th break point in a 34-point marathon game after 20 minutes to win the second set 6-4. 

Cecchinato broke three times in a row to take a bagel win in the third set. 

Cecchinato will face the winner of the all-Argentine clash between Federico Delbonis and Juan Ignacio Londero. 

Another Italian player Stefano Travaglia cruised past Spain’s Pablo Andujar 6-3 6-4 6-4 in 2 hours and 23 minutes. Travaglia will face Kei Nishikori, who edged Daniel Evans 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-4 after 3 hours and 49 minutes. 

Evans broke three times in the first, fifth and seventh games to win the first set 6-1. Nishikori won the second set by the same scoreline with three consecutive breaks. 

Nishikori took a 5-2 lead in the third set with a break in the second set. The Japanese player wasted two set points. Evans won four consecutive games with two breaks in the 9th and 11th games to take a 6-5 lead. Nishikori broke straight back in the 12th game to force the set to the tie-break. Nishikori won the tie-break 7-3. Evans broke twice in the second and sixth games to win the fourth set 6-1. 

Nishikori broke in the second game to build up a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. Evans broke back in the fifth game. Both players went on serve until the 10th game, where Nishikori converted his second break point from 40-30 down to claim the fifth set 6-4.

“I think I was rushing too much in the first set. With his slice, I think I was trying to hit the winner too early. I was little more patient in the second set onwards. Things start working well for me, because in the first set I was rushing too much and I did not feel well. It was raining heavily. I started playing better. There were many ups and downs, but I think I managed well in the end”, said Nishikori.  

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