The highlights of Day 1 at the ATP Cup - UBITENNIS
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The highlights of Day 1 at the ATP Cup



The first edition of the ATP Cup will kick off on Friday 3 January with three exciting matches. Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas will face Canada’s Shapovalov in the day session of the Group F at the Pat Rafter Arena in Brisbane, before local favourite Alex De Minaur takes on 2018 ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev in the night session. Last September’s US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev will play against 2019 Monte-Carlo champion Fabio Fognini.


The round robin Group F including Canada, Greece, Germany and Australia promises to be among the highlights of the round robin stage of the ATP Cup, as it features plenty of young stars like Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger Aliassime, Alex De Minaur and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas will face Shapovalov for the fourth time in their careers. This match will be the opening tie at Pat Rafter Arena. Shapovalov beat Tsitsipas in two of their three head-to-head matches at the 2018 Australian Open and at the 2019 Miami Open. Tsitsipas scored his only win against his Canadian rival in Monte-Carlo 2018. Tsitsipas is looking to start the new season on a high note after winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals in London. Shapovalov enjoyed the biggest season of his career in 2019 winning his maiden ATP title in Stockholm and reaching his first Masters 1000 final in Paris Bercy.

Jan-Lennard Struff will face Nick Kyrgios in the opening match of the tie between Germany and Australia in Brisbane. In the second match Alexander Zverev will fight against Alex Minaur in a blockbuster. Zverev carries a 4-0 lead in their previous four head-to-head matches (three times in 2018 in the Davis Cup, in the Washington final and in Shanghai Round of 16 and once in 2019 in the Acapulco quarter final).

De Minaur and Zverev met for the first time in a Davis Cup tie in February 2018. De Minaur, who was making his debut in the Davis Cup, pushed Zverev, but lost in a fifth-set tie-break.

“There is a couple years’ more experience. I have had a couple good years on Tour, and I am very happy with where I am right now. I know it’s going to be an incredibly tough match, but I am looking forward to it. I think I have put in a lot of hard work through the pre-season and I feel ready for a new year. I had probably about a week and a half of holidays, and then we came over here to Oz and started the pre-season. It was a real big focus because we had such an unbelievable year last year, so we wanted to make sure to be in the best possible position to try and come out and do it all again, especially knowing that coming up here, my first three matches are against such high-level opponents, so I have got to be ready ”, said De Minaur.  

De Minaur has enjoyed his breakthrough season in 2019 winning three titles in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai and reaching two finals in Basel and at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. He ended the 2019 season with a career-high ranking of world number 18.

“Back then he was an up and coming young guy, and now he is ranked top 20 in the world. It’s different, but we played a lot of good matches with Alex. I think that the Davis Cup match here was the best one that we played. I mean, 7-6 in the fifth set we played over four hours. It’s not easy against  him because he is not somebody that will give you a lot, and I will know exactly where I stand after that match. It’s all about building and getting better and stronger. Keep putting those hard yards in the gym and every single ounce of muscle I can put on is greatly appreciated ”, said De Minaur.

De Minaur said that he has been inspired by Stefanos Tsitsipas. Both players will meet on 7 January when Australia faces Greece.

“Tsitsipas is a year older than me and has been doing crazy things. Now it’s my turn to hopefully step up in my own journey and be able to knock off as many goals as I can. The way I have been able to finish the year, it’s given me a lot of confidence and I know where I want to be and now it’s all about just keeping that level and trying to contend for more titles and hopefully higher level titles”, said De Minaur.

Last June’s Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies will face John Peers and Chris Guccione in the doubles match. Peers won the 2017 Australian Open doubles match with Henri Kontinen.

The match between Daniil Medvedev and Fabio Fognini will highlight the tie between Russia and Italy at the RAC Arena in Perth. Karen Khachanov will face Stefano Travaglia in the opening match.

Italy won five of the six previous ties played by these two teams in the Davis Cup, but Russia starts with top 20 players and carries a favourite role.

Medvedev will face Fognini for the fourth consecutive year and leads 2-1 in their previous three head-to-head matches. Fognini won their first clash in Cincinnati in 2017, but his Russian rival prevailed twice in Sydney semifinal in 2018 and in Shanghai Masters 1000 quarter final last October.

Medvedev led the ATP Tour in 2019 with 59 overall wins and reached nine finals. He achieved a career-high number 4 last September after reaching the US Open Final. He qualified for six consecutive finals after Wimbledon and won four titles in Sofia, Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and Shanghai.

“I believe we have the dream team, and we will be the future champions of the ATP Cup. We will be the future champions of the ATP Cup. I am really happy, I am proud to be part of a great team. Everyone is a great guy, which is very important. The first tie is always tough, the first match in the arena. Italians are always tough to play against. They are grinders and it will be important to take a good first step. It will be tough, but our confidence is rocking. We have been here a few days and we are ready to play. Russia is into tennis with Danil and Karen doing right now. We want to move ice hockey from top spot and make Russians proud”, said Russian team captain Marat Safin.  

Norway will face the USA in the opening tie at RAC Arena in Perth. John Isner will face Casper Ruud for the second time. Isner beat Ruud in straight sets at Wimbledon last year.

The Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney will host the tie between Belgium and Moldova. David Goffin will face Radu Albot for the fourth time in their careers. The Belgian player won all their previous three matches in Sofia 2017, Gstaad 2017 and Halle 2019 in three sets. In the same Sydney Group Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov will face Great Britain’s Daniel Evans in their fourth head-to-head match.

The ten-day ATP Cup Tournament will welcome 24 teams, each consisting of five players. Every team will play the other three teams in their respective round robin group in a best of-three match tie (two singles matches followed by a doubles match). The singles matches are best-of-three-sets, while the doubles matches will have a match tie-breaker, if they split the first two sets. The six teams that finish first in their groups, as well as the two best second-place finishers advance to the knock-out stage.

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Novak Djokovic ‘Hurt’ By Father’s Absence From Australian Open Final



Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic said he mutually agreed with his father that he did not attend his latest Australian Open match but admits it was a bitter pill to swallow. 


Srdjan Djokovic had attended his son’s matches throughout the majority of the tournament but has recently been caught up in controversy. On Wednesday a video surfaced on social media of the 62-year-old posing for a photo with pro-Russian supporters with one of the fans waving a flag with the face of Vladimir Putin on it. Another fan was also wearing a t-shirt with the ‘Z’ symbol on it which is used to support the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags were banned from the tournament this year following an incident in the first round. A Russian flag was shown during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Prompting anger from Ukraine with its ambassador to Australia calling for a ‘neutral flag’ policy to be implemented. 

Srdjan has since issued a statement saying the incident was ‘unintentional’ and said his family ‘only wish for peace in the world.’ He subsequently also missed Djokovic’s semi-final match to avoid any possible ‘disruption’ before doing the same for Sunday’s final.

“I thought things would calm down in terms of media and everything, but it didn’t. We both agreed it would probably be better that he is not there,” Djokovic said after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas to win a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title
“That hurts me and him (Srdjan) a lot because these are very special, unique moments. Who knows if they repeat again? So it was not easy for him.”

Whilst he was not in the stands, Djokovic was reunited with his father shortly afterwards. Although the tennis star said Srdjan ‘was not feeling his best’ due to the situation. 

“It is what it is. I think in the end also what he told me is that it’s important that I feel good on the court, I win the match, and he’s here for me,” Djokovic continued. 
“If it’s going to be better for me as the outcome of the match so that he’s not in the box, then so be it. That was the whole conversation.’
“In a way, I’m also sad that he was not there, present, in the stands. But he was throughout the entire tournament, so it’s fine. In the end, we have a happy ending.”

Djokovic has now won five out of the past seven Grand Slam tournaments he has played in. At the Australian Open alone he has won 28 matches in a row.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship



Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 


But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open: Facing Tsitsipas For World No. 1 Spot May Be Different for Novak Djokovic



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It probably was a good thing that Novak Djokovic wasn’t facing a top opponent in the Australian Open semifinals. Certainly not one the caliber of Stefanos Tsitsipas.


Of course, Tommy Paul did his best. He just isn’t a top ten caliber player.

The American could rally with Djokovic, but when it came time to win the point or game, he  usually was nowhere to be found on the Rod Laver court.


The fact that Tsitsipas is in contention for the No. 1 ranking in men’s tennis is enough to ensure that Paul isn’t quite in the league with the Greek superstar.

Djokovic will need to be better than he was against Paul when he steps onto the court to face Tsitsipas on Sunday night in the Australian Open singles final.

There was Djokovic blundering his way through a one-sided 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 win over Paul. The scoreline should have been closer to 3-1-2. But Novak appeared to have all kinds of physical ailments — legs, knees, bandaged hamstring. Or just plain conditioning and breathing hard. You name it.


It was just night time in Melbourne. You wonder what might have happened if Novak had been assigned some daytime duty like everyone else in the tournament. Say, like Tsitsipas had been assigned for his closer than the scores reflex in the Greek’s 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win over Karen Khachanov in Friday’s other semifinal.

Tsitsipas is a real threat to claim the world’s top ranking on Sunday night with a victory over the legend from Serbia. Of course, in the 2021 French Open final, Tsitipsas won the first two sets against Djokovic.

It’s possible. Tsitsipas could come through this time.


Novak was only a shadow of the old Djokovic Friday night. And that was against a player who may never earn a berth in another Grand Slam semifinal.

Of course, Djokovic wasn’t quite as out of it as Rafa Nadal was in the second-round blitzing by Mackenzie McDonald. But Nadal was nursing a hip injury. He may be a different player in Paris in four months.

Djokovic still has all of the big shots and serves he has displayed for much of the last two decades. He just didn’t seem to know where all of those weapons were headed in the semifinals.


Of course, if Novak pulls a solid performance out of his bag of tricks and denies Tsitsipas the world’s top ranking, Djokovic likely would stand in Nadal’s path in Paris to a record 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The task won’t be easy. First, Novak has to take care of business on Sunday night. But with a record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title up for grabs, Djokovic may actually look like himself. 

As Novak says, he wants to be known as the best player in the world.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at 

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