Roger Federer Faces Istomin Test, Djokovic Gets Qualifier In Australian Open Openers - UBITENNIS
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Roger Federer Faces Istomin Test, Djokovic Gets Qualifier In Australian Open Openers

A series of intriguing first round matches highlights the Melbourne draw.

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The men’s draw for the Australian Open has taken place with some mouth-watering first round clashes looming.

 

Roger Federer will be seeking to win the tournament for a third consecutive year in a row to bring his overall total to a record 21. The 37-year-old enters Melbourne in solid form after winning the Hopman Cup alongside Belinda Bencic. At the tournament in Perth, he scored wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Cameron Norrie and Frances Tiafoe.

“I think I was seeking confirmation that my level of play was good in practice. In the off-season I felt great, didn’t miss any sessions.” Federer said about his Hopman Cup performance during the draw presentation.
“When I went to Perth I was feeling good, but you never know if it is going to translate into victories. I played great in singles and doubles.”

Federer will start his campaign this year against Denis Istomin. A former top 40 player who reached the fourth round of the tournament back in 2017 in what was one of his best ever runs in the a grand slam. Should he prevail, Federer will then play a qualifier in the second round followed potentially by Gael Monfils and Stefanos Tsitsipas if the draw goes according to the seeds.

“The moment you find out the draw and see who you will play in the first round, that is when you shift your focus only to that first round.” The six-time champion explained.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic will be hoping to continue his 14-match winning streak in grand slam tournaments when he returns to Melbourne next week. The Serbian kicks-off his campaign against a yet to be confirmed qualifier. Then in the second round there could be an intriguing showdown with France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in what will be a rematch of the 2008 Australian Open final, which Djokovic won. Also lurking in his section could be Denis Shapovalov in the last 32 followed by either David Goffin or Daniil Medvedev.

Both Federer and Djokovic are bidding to win the Australian Open for a seventh time this year. If one of them do so, they would become the most decorated male singles player in the history of the tournament.

After an injury-stricken start to the 2019 season, Rafael Nadal is out to prove that he can still challenge for hard court titles. A favourable draw will see him not play a player ranked inside the top 25 until at least the fourth round. He will open against home favourite James Duckworth, who won the Australian Open wildcard play-offs in December. Should he win, he would then take on either Matthew Ebden or Jan-Lennard Struff. Perhaps one of his biggest tests could be in the form of Alex de Minaur in the third round, however, Nadal dismissed the Australian in straight sets at Wimbledon last year. Also in the Spaniard’s section will be 13th seed Kyle Edmund and 18th seed Diego Schwartzman, who are both potential fourth round opponents.

ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev opens up against Aljaz Bedene. The German enters that tournament with a duo of injury concerns. He recently withdrew from the World Tennis Challenge in Adelaide due to a hamstring problem. On top of that, he has reportedly suffered a foot injury during a practice session at Melbourne Park.

Tough first round clashes for Raonic, Murray

In the early rounds there could be some fireworks. Milos Raonic, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2016, starts against Nick Kyrgios in what could be a marathon match if both players stand firm behind serve. The winner will then play either the formidable Stan Wawrinka or Ernests Gulbis.

Andy Murray, who enters the event with some fitness concerns, starts against Qatar Open champion Roberto Bautista Agut. Murray missed the draw last year due to a hip injury. If either of those players want to reach the second week, they may need to defeat 10th seed Karen Khachanov and Marin Cilic. Cilic opens up against the unpredictable Bernard Tomic.

Edmund, who has a wealth of points to defend following his run to the semi-finals of the tournament 12 months ago, takes on Tomas Berdych in the first round. Berdych was troubled by injury last year, but has shown signs of returning back to top form. Illustrated by his run to the final in Doha last week.

The main draw will get underway on Monday.

Projected fourth round draws

Djokovic Vs Medvedev
Fognini Vs Nishikori
Zverev Vs Raonic
Coric Vs Thiem
Cilic Vs Khachanov
Tsitsipas Vs Federer
Anderson Vs Isner
Edmund Vs Nadal

Full draw

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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