Former top 100 player James Duckworth has secured a place in next months Australian Open after winning the national play-off tournament in Melbourne.
The 26-year-old outlasted compatriot Luke Saville 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), in a closely fought match. Saville knocked out top seed Alex Bolt in the semi-finals of the tournament. Duckworth’s reward is a place in the main draw of the Melbourne major for the seventh time in his career and first since 2017.
“I thought today, probably until those last couple of games when I was pretty nervous, was probably the cleanest I’d hit the ball and the most comfortable and confident I’d felt on the court, which I was pleased about,” Duckworth said following his win.
Duckworth’s triumph comes after what has been a turbulent past two years for him. Since his last appearance at the Australian Open, he has had to undergo five surgeries and dropped outside the top 1000 earlier this year. Last year, he could only play in two tournaments due to injury. Within a 13-month period, he underwent three foot surgeries, as well as operations on his shoulder and elbow.
“There were definitely times over the last few years when I thought maybe I’d never play tennis again, let alone the Australian Open,” he reflected.
“It was tough sitting on the sidelines and going through so much rehab and spending so much time on the operating table as well. So to be able to get back is just a dream come true.
“I’ve obviously been through a lot over the last couple of years and to be able to play my home Grand Slam again – which in my opinion is the best tournament in the world, the support you get here is incredible – is just an unbelievable feeling.”
On the rise once again, Duckworth is currently ranked 244th in the world. This season he has achieved a win-loss record of 15-12. In September he won his first title since undergoing multiple surgeries at the ATP Cary Open. A Challenger tournament in America.
Looking ahead to the upcoming grand slam, Duckworth will be bidding to win his fourth main draw match at the event. He has previously reached the second round of the Australian Open in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Birrell caps off dream week
In the women’s tournament, world No.288 Kimberly Birrell clinched the wildcard without dropping a single set all week.
Birrell, who last played at the Australian Open in 2016, breezed past Astra Shama 6-4, 6-2. The 20-year-old also knocked out third seed Jaimee Fourlis and second seed Ellen Perez on route to the final.
“So many mixed emotions – I think it all kind of hit me in the end, because I knew she was going to put up a fight until the very last point until we shook hands,” Birrell said.
“So happy, and just so much joy, and maybe a little bit of relief too. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity and I’m so glad that I was able to take it.”
German-born Birrell has won two titles on the ITF Tour, including the $60,000 Darwin Open this year. She is yet to crack the top 200. Her most significant result on the WTA Tour occurred on the doubles tour. At the 2016 Hobart International she finished runner-up alongside Jarmila Wolfe.
Similar to Duckworth, Birrell has also endured her fair share of injury issues despite her young age. Shoulder surgery in 2016 sidelined her from action for 11 months before she made a steady return.
“It really helps having been through the whole experience before. I played juniors, I’ve been around the environment. It’s not gonna be anything new. And during that Australian Open (in 2016) I played on Hisense Arena, one of the biggest courts in the world. I’m definitely gonna draw on that experience, for sure.” She said.
“I’ve learned so much since then. It’s only been two years but it feels like kind of a lifetime ago because I’ve been through so much since then – coming off a surgery, and kind of almost starting from scratch.
“I feel like I’ve just played so much more tennis since then; my body is completely different to what it was back then. I have so much more faith in myself, and that I can back up match after match and compete against the top girls.”
The Australian Open will get underway on January 14th.
Ashleigh Barty Earns First Grand Slam Quarter-Final With Thrilling Win Over Sharapova
Ashleigh Barty beat Maria Sharapova in an exciting three-set match to progress to her first Grand Slam quarter-final.
Ashleigh Barty overcame Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in a gripping match to advance to the first Grand Slam quarter-final of her career at the Australian Open.
The Australian, 22, has risen steadily up the rankings since she returned to tennis in 2016 following a spell away playing cricket for the Brisbane Heat.
And today she sent the home crowd on the Rod Laver Arena into raptures by beating one of the most famous players in the sport with a performance full of character.
“(Sharapova) is an absolute champion,” Barty said in her post-match interview. “I knew that I just had to keep chipping away and just trust the work we’ve done (to prepare).”
She continued, “I know that I can match it with the best when I execute (the way I want).”
In the first three games of the match, both players held serve easily. However, the games got tighter and tighter as the set wore on, and eventually Sharapova earned the first break point in the seventh game.
Barty saved it, and soon had a couple of chances to break the Russian. She was ultimately unable to take them, but it was clear by now that serving was no longer the dominant force in the match.
This was especially true in game nine, as Sharapova was fired up by her gutsy hold. She cut out the errors from her play, hit deeper and harder and earned two break points.
The Australian saved them both, but then made a double-fault to hand the Russian another chance. And she gifted the World No.30 the break with a loose backhand that went wide.
It proved crucial, as Sharapova held to love to close out the first set 6-4.
Barty turns it around in the second set
The five-time Grand Slam champion put Barty’s serve under pressure again in the first game of the second set, but the Australian held firm to fend her off.
The World No.15 started to use her variety more effectively in the next few games, and it eventually unsettled Sharapova so much that she played a succession of poor shots and dropped her serve in game four.
Barty backed up the break with a dominant service game to move 4-1 ahead. She then put a bit of pressure on the Russian’s serve and watched the World No.30 fall apart and lose the game to love.
To the delight of the home crowd, the Australian quickly wrapped up the second set 6-1 to level the match at one-set all.
Barty holds off Sharapova comeback to seal win
Sharapova took a lengthy bathroom break to compose herself, and she was greeted by a chorus of boos when she returned to the court.
Either that upset the Russian, or she was still thinking about the second set, because she played an awful first service game and dropped her serve for the second time in succession.
And things got worse for the World No.30 from then on, as Sharapova failed to take advantage of a 15-30 scoreline on Barty’s serve and then proceeded to lose her own serve again and fall 3-0 behind.
On the other side of the net, the Australian remained calm and continued to play sensible, calculated tennis to consolidate her lead at 4-1.
But there was another twist around the corner, as Barty made a couple of errors to hand the Russian two break points. Sharapova took the second to cut the deficit to 4-2.
In the next game, the World No.15 tried everything to restore the double break, but the five-time Grand Slam champion dug in and held onto her serve.
Remarkably, it looked like the Russian was about to draw level in game eight when she earned two break points. However, she failed to take her chances and Barty held on to lead 5-3.
Sharapova then held to make sure the Australian would have to serve for the match. And for a couple of minutes, it looked like she would do it easily when she raced into a 40-15 lead.
But the Russian slammed a huge forehand winner and then Barty double-faulted to make it deuce. The World No.15 wasted another match point with an error, but she eventually sealed the win at the fourth time of asking with an ace.
Milos Raonic Pleased To Be Tested Ahead of Zverev Clash
Milos Raonic spoke about his tricky matches so far at the Australian Open and his upcoming clash with Alexander Zverev.
Milos Raonic looks in excellent form. He has beaten three difficult opponents, Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and will now face an even tougher fourth, Alexander Zverev, in the last 16.
Although the Canadian has only dropped one set so far, he has been challenged all the way, and the main reason his matches have remained relatively short is because he has produced his best tennis at key moments.
“I have been pushed,” Raonic said. “I have been having stressful moments in matches that I’ve handled quite well. I think that gives me some ease going into sort of the challenges further along.”
The Canadian continued, “I haven’t had the chance to play that many matches over a long period of time now, so to have that kind of test and to do well I think is pretty good.”
Raonic not sure experience gives him the edge over Zverev
Next, Raonic faces one of the biggest challenges in tennis when he takes on the World No.4. And he is not convinced by any suggestion that his past successes at Grand Slams give him an advantage.
“I think it’s irrelevant because you don’t know how those things are going to play out. That’s on his end of things. I’ve been here quite a few times now, the start of the second week. I’ve got to just focus on the things I know I need to do.”
“If any of this Grand Slam talk has any effect on him, it can creep in, but I can’t impose that kind of pressure on him. I’ve got to use my game to put pressure on him. I don’t know if the situation will get to him or not.”
This approach speaks volumes of Raonic’s level-headed nature, as does his assessment of the dangers of relaxing during his encounter with Herbert after facing two stronger opponents before him.
“It was something that I was well aware of that I didn’t want to let happen. He’s played well this week. He beat Querrey first round, who is a similar player to me and he managed to fend that off. Then he played Chung in the second round, who was defending a run to the semis here, so I knew he was doing things well.”
“He also won the first few matches in the first tournament of the year, I believe, so I knew he had been playing well over the last little while. It could have happened, but it wasn’t an issue today.”
Australian Open Day 3 Preview: Five Must-See Matches
The Australian Open action continues with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber looking to continue their search for another grand slam.
By Matthew Marolf
Wednesday’s schedule features names like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, Kerber, and Wozniacki.
With those big names all heavy favorites in their second round matches, this preview will dig deeper into what look to be Day 3’s more competitive matchups. They include some exciting youngsters, as well as a few veterans exceling late in their careers. To the relief of players and fans alike, Wednesday is forecasted to be much cooler than the first two days of the fortnight in Melbourne.
Kevin Anderson (5) vs. Frances Tiafoe
Anderson is one of the hottest players on tour, and continues to build upon the momentum of the last two seasons. The 32-year-old South African ended 2018 by advancing to the semi-finals in his ATP Finals debut, and started 2019 by winning the title in Pune. With a strong showing in Melbourne, he could make his debut inside the top four. He took out a tricky first round opponent in Adrian Mannarino in four sets on Monday. He has another tricky draw here in the 20-year-old up-and-coming American. Last year saw Tiafoe win his first ATP title at Delray Beach, upset Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych in Miami, and advance to the final in Estoril. Frances is an explosive shot maker with great speed around the court. These players met three times last year, all on hard courts. Anderson won each match, though Tiafoe twice pushed him to a final set. Anderson should prevail here as well, but Tiafoe could easily complicate matters if he plays well and keeps his unforced error count relatively low.
Anett Kontaveit (20) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
2018 was a breakthrough year for Kontaveit, who is now ranked inside the top 20. Her season was highlighted by upsetting Jelena Ostapenko at this tournament a year ago, taking out Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the semifinals in Rome, defeating Petra Kvitova at Roland Garros, and making the final in Wuhan. Kontaveit again upset Kvitova to start off her 2019 season in Brisbane. Sasnovich also impressed last season, and is the highest-ranked player to not be seeded at this tournament. She was a finalist a year ago in Brisbane, and upset Kvitova at Wimbledon. And 2019 has gotten off to a strong start for Sasnovich. She upset Top-Seeded Elina Svitolina in Brisbane, and came through qualifying in Sydney to reach the semifinals. Both Kontaveit and Sasnovich won their first round matches rather easily. Kontaveit holds a slight 4-3 edge in their head-to-head. They played three times last year, with Sasnovich taking both of their 2018 hard court meetings. In what could easily be a prolonged, three-set battle, Sasnovich should be slightly favored based on her recent hard court success over Kontaveit.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) vs. Viktor Troicki
Tsitsipas was a revelation on the ATP tour in 2018. He advanced to the finals in Barcelona and Toronto, losing to Rafael Nadal on both occasions. The 20-year-old went on to win his first ATP title in Stockholm, and then also took the trophy at the second annual ATP Next Gen Finals. Troicki was ranked as high as 12th in the world back in 2011, but is now all way down at No.200, as he’s battled injuries over the last several years. The 32-year-old veteran is still a dangerous opponent, as evidenced by getting his seventh-straight five set match win in Monday’s first round. Viktor can be a dogged, yet emotional competitor. If he has anything left after come through qualifying and winning a five-setter, he could make things interesting for the young 14th seed. Tsitsipas though has enough game to where he should pull through in his first career meeting against Troicki.
Lesia Tsurenko (24) vs. Amanda Anisimova
Tsurenko has been experiencing a late-career surge. The 29-year-old advanced to her first Major quarterfinal at last year’s US Open, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the process. And just two weeks ago in Brisbane, she upset Naomi Osaka on her way to the final, where she was up a set and a break before succumbing to Karolina Pliskova. On the other side of the spectrum, Anisimova is a 17-year-old who has already made a strong impression on the tour. The American upset Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells last March, and advanced through qualifying all the way to the final in Hiroshima in September. She has a big game, and some have already tipped her as a future Major champion. Jon Wertheim recently even suggested she could be the next teenager to win a Major. Is Anisimova ready to upset a seed at a Major? She has the fire power to do so, but I still favor the more experienced and in-form Tsurenko in what should be a fascinating contest.
Roberto Bautista Agut (22) vs. John Millman
Roberto is coming off the match that captured everyone’s attention on Monday, his thrilling five-set victory over the soon-to-be-retired Andy Murray. He’ll need whatever energy he has left on Wednesday, as the crowd will again be against him as he plays the veteran Australian. Millman does not possess any big weapons, but is a tenacious competitor who will not go away easily. And he’s coming off the match of his career at the last Major, when he upset Roger Federer at the US Open. On a terribly hot and humid day in New York, Millman outlasted Federer in the near-unbearable conditions. Bautista Agut is 3-0 lifetime against Millman. They both possess similar games, with Roberto being just a bit stronger in almost every category. But if Bautista Agut is feeling less than 100% on Wednesday, Millman is the kind of opponent that can grind the last bits of energy out of him. With the crowd in Melbourne solidly behind him, a Millman upset could just happen.
Other notable matches on Day 3:
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. 31-Year-Old Australian Matthew Ebden.
Roger Federer (3) vs. British Qualifer Dan Evans.
Angelique Kerber (2) vs. 22-Year-Old Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
Maria Sharapova (30) vs. 23-Year-Old Rebecca Peterson.
After Indian Wells Success, Dominic Thiem’s Work With New Mentor Massu Continues To Blossom
Sloane Stephens out to defend her title at the Miami Open
Over Three Months Bianca Andreescu Has Proven She Is The Next Big Thing In Women’s tennis
Gutsy Dominic Thiem Downs ‘Legend’ Federer To Win Biggest Title Of Career In Indian Wells
Bianca Andreescu becomes the youngest WTA Premier Mandatory champion at Indian Wells
Toni Nadal Says Controversial ITF Transition Tour Only Benefits ‘Young Rich People’
Entry Lists For Dubai, Acapulco, Sao Paulo LIVE
Entry List For Indian Wells LIVE
Janko Tipsarevic Makes Urgent Appeal To ITF About Changing Reforms
Roger Federer Explains What His Motto In Life Is During Q&A Video For Barilla
Roger Federer Explains What His Motto In Life Is During Q&A Video For Barilla
(VIDEO) Serena Williams Narrates New Nike Advert Celebrating Female Athletes
Australian Open Day 14: Novak Djokovic Triumphs at the Australian Open
VIDEO: Watch Novak Djokovic’s Hilarious Exchange With Ubitennis Journalist
Australian Open Day 13: Naomi Osaka Conquerors The Australian Open
WTA3 days ago
Bianca Andreescu Continues Dream Run By Edging Out Svitolina
Focus3 days ago
Angelique Kerber Hails Aggressive Tennis Ahead Of Andreescu Final
Focus2 days ago
Indian Wells Day 13 Preview: The Men’s Semi-Finals
Hot Topics2 days ago
Indian Wells Day 14 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Finals
Hot Topics2 days ago
Dominic Thiem Is Out To Prove That He Is More Than a Clay Court Player
ATP3 days ago
Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot beat Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini to reach the Indian Wells doubles final
Focus2 days ago
Rafael Nadal Withdraws From Federer Clash With Knee Injury, Withdraws From Miami
Hot Topics2 days ago
Dominic Thiem edges Milos Raonic to set up Indian Wells final against Roger Federer