Challenger Tour: Second seed Jordan Thompson exits Launceston in the first round - UBITENNIS
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Challenger Tour: Second seed Jordan Thompson exits Launceston in the first round

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Matthew Barton secured his third big win of 2016 by defeating Jordan Thompson (Image via Zimbio.com)

On the first day of the Launceston Challenger there was one major shock as the second seed Jordan Thompson was defeated by countryman Matthew Barton in a close three-set match. Barton secured the eventual 7-5, 6-7, 6-4 victory in two hours and twenty-six minutes. 

 

Barton’s win was the just the latest of a good start to the year for the twenty-four year-old who has already defeated the likes of Steve Johnson and Denis Kudla, both members of the Top 100.

Third seed Saketh Myneni of India avoided the same fate but it was a close thing against qualifier Marc Polmans. Myneni did eventually edge the Australian 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 in a match that also lasted more than two hours.

There were two Australian teenagers and a former junior number one also in action, though they enjoyed mixed fortunes. Eighteen year-old Omar Jasika, fresh off his first win at a Grand Slam main draw against Illya Marchenko, eased past Kento Takeuchi of Japan 6-3, 6-2.

Sixteen year-old Alexei Popyrin did not enjoy the same success, as he was beaten by a lucky loser from qualifying in Jarred Chaplin 7-5, 6-2. Former Junior No.1 Filip Peliwo of Canada did win though, as he defeated Finn Tearney of New Zealand 6-2, 6-3.

Fourth seed Alexander Sarkissian starts Tuesday’s play against Matt Reid, with enigmatic French veteran Stephane Robert also playing against Maverick Banes.

Other seeds including Luke Saville and Andrey Golubev also play. My matches of the day are Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, a highly-touted youngster, against Briton Brydan Klein and Alex Bolt against Shuichi Sekiguchi. Bolt is trying to recover his top 200 ranking, and is in good form having beaten Jared Donaldson in Maui last week.

Selected matches with picks in bold:

Matt Reid vs (4) Alexander Sarkissian

Alex Bolt vs Shuichi Sekiguchi

(8) Andrey Golubev vs Gavin Van Peperzeel

(7) Luke Saville vs Harry Bouchier

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs (6) Brydan Klein

 

 

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Dominic Thiem is planning to play in Doha and Dubai next March

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Dominic Thiem will focus on playing on hard court before the Miami Open and chose to play in Doha and Dubai instead of travelling to South America. 

 

According to the Austrian website Thiem will not take part in the South American Swing, but he will travel to Middle East to play in Doha (8 March) and Dubai (15 March) in preparation for the Miami Open, the first Masters 1000 tournament of the 2021 season. 

In the past years the Austrian star made different plans and took part in five editions of the Rio Open, where she won the title in 2017, and three editions of the Buenos Aires tournament, where she won two editions in 2016 and 2018. Under the guidance of Nicolas Massu Thiem won his first Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells in 2019 and his maiden Grand Slam trophy at the US Open. He reached the final at the 2020 Australian Open losing to Novak Djokovic and finished runner-up in the past two editions of the ATP Finals in London losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2019 and Danil Medvedev in 2020.

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Aryna Sabalenka is aiming to continue her winning streak in Melbourne

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Aryna Sabalenka won the WTA title in Dubai last February and two back-to-back trophies in Linz and Ostrava last autumn in the season affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic. The world number 7 player picked up where she left off by winning the first tournament of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi. She rose three places from 10th to 7th in the WTA Ranking.

 

Sabalenka extended her impressive winning streak to 15 matches. Her ninth career title in Abu Dhabi is a confidence-booster ahead of the Australian Open, where she will chase her first Grand Slam title. She has not lost a match since the third round defeat to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at Roland Garros last October. 

“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning in Abu Dhabi and I am happy to start the season with a title. I am going to Australia. I am confident that I will do everything I can to win matches”, said Sabalenka. 

In the Abu Dhabi final Sabalenka beat Veronika Kudemertova 6-2 6-2 after converting six of her thirteen break points. 

“I am proud that I was fighting no matter what. In some matches I didn’t feel my serve, some matches, I didn’t feel my forehand or backhand, but I would just keep fighting, finding my shots, and this is what I am really proud of”. 

Sabalenka is 9-4 in her career finals and won all her six finals in the past 16 months, but she does not rest on her laurels, as she is looking ahead at news goals. 

“Abu Dhabi was an amazing week for me. I have been fighting through everything. To start the season with a title with a title is something really unbelievable. This was a new beginning. I am not focusing on the past. What happened there, happened there. Now it’s a clean sheet and I have to start from the beginning. I am actually surprised by this title because I have been practicing indoors on a different surface and coming here, the outdoor courts are a really different bounce. It’s a little windy here. To handle these conditions and win the title is something I am really proud of. I am really happy”, said Sabalenka to the WTA website. 

Sabalenka showed impressive form in Abu Dhabi, where she dropped just one set during the tournament. 

“Before the tournament, I didn’t play well and it was tough to adjust. I was staying calm and kept working and kept trying to find it. I didn’t have any expectations. I was focusing on my game, on my movement. I think this was the key. In the matches, my focus was on my game and the movement. I wasn’t focusing on the conditions or anything. I was just playing with what I had. Some days I didn’t feel my forehand, some days I didn’t feel my backhand. Some days I didn’t have my serve, but I am proud that I kept going and kept fighting and trying to find my shots. This is what worked really well this week and what I am really with”. 

Sabalenka started playing more relaxed and this contributed to her winning streak of 15 consecutive matches. Sabalenka explained how her perspective has changed after the death of her father in 2019. 

“It started a little bit earlier when I lost my father. I think after that moment I just understood there are so many things in life to be worried about and tennis is just a small part of my life, in the big picture. Of course, I don’t like to lose and I am worried about tennis and doing everything I can, but we have to enjoy our life, we have to enjoy our time on the court, enjoy our time on the court, enjoy the opportunities. This happened one year ago, but to find this kind of mentality takes some time. I began to have a more settled mentality about my tennis in Ostrava last October. In the match against Sara Sorribes Tormo I was down 0-6 0-4. After that one I understood anything can happen. No matter what you have to keep fighting. You don’t have to get upset about anything. You just have to do your job and that’s it. After that match in Ostrava, everything just clicked”. 

Sabalenka is aiming to continue her winning streak at the Australian Open. 

“This will be tough. I know that I can lose. Everyone can lose. I will do everything I can to continue winning. If I lose then it’s fine. I just want to make sure I did everything I could. It’s really tough, but I think I can handle it”. 

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Davis Cup

Davis Cup Finals To Be Extended To 11 Days But With Fewer Teams

One of the oldest tennis events in the world will be changed once again.

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The International Tennis Federation has approved a series of changes for the prestigious Davis Cup competition with the option of a multi-city finale on the cards.

 

In a bid to ‘ease the burden on players’ the ITF Board has extended the length of the Davis Cup finals from seven to 11 days. The move comes following the inaugural competition in 2019 when some ties went on until as late as 4am due to the scheduling. As a result of the change, this year’s finale is set to take place between November 25th – December 5th. Meaning that the competition will eat more into the off-season which players use to train for the following year.

Furthermore, from 2022 the number of teams playing in the finals will be reduced from 18 to 16. This year’s field will remain unchanged as the teams have already been decided. Both of these proposals were put forward by Kosmos, who is the main financial backer of the competition.

“We recognise that the most successful tournaments adapt and evolve over time, and while the inaugural Davis Cup Finals delivered fantastic tennis, it also provided some learnings,” tournament director Albert Costa said in a statement.
“We are committed to a long-term vision for this historic competition and are confident these adjustments will enhance the experience for players and fans.”

Discussions are also underway over the possibility of making the end-of-season team showdown a multi-city event. Kosmos wants to expand the number of hosts from one to three. Although details about how this will be done have not been disclosed and the ITF are yet to approve it. Supporters of the idea argue that it will make the event appeal to a wider audience.

“With large stadiums providing show courts for all ties, the introduction of a multi-city event will bring the competition to the widest possible audience, while we will also be able to ease the burden on players with improvements to the scheduling. Crucially, a revised schedule will allow us to avoid late finishes while providing more rest for players,” Costa commented.

Should the multi-city idea get the green light, Madrid will still host both the semi-finals and final of the event. Meanwhile the other two cities would each stage two group stages and one quarter-final. Interestingly Kosmos Tennis has already launched a bid to find cities despite their proposal not being approved yet.

The Davis Cup Finals will return later this year after the 2020 edition was forced to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain are the reigning champions.

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