Novak Djokovic has officially been named in the line-up for next month’s ATP Cup in what is the biggest indication yet that he will travel to Australia.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion is set to headline the team event in Sydney which will feature 18 out of the world’s top 20 players. Djokovic guided Serbia to the title back in 2020 but this year they failed to progress beyond the knockout stages after losing to Germany. The country is the top seeds for the 2021 edition and have been drawn in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain. Seedings in the event are determined by the ranking of the country’s top player.
Djokovic’s inclusion in the squad is the biggest hint yet that he intends to defend his title at the upcoming Australian Open which will only allow players who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate. The rules are in line with a health mandate that has been implemented in the state of Victoria. In recent weeks the 34-year-old has refused to disclose his vaccination status and has been coy about his plans at the Melbourne major.
“The players are aware of the conditions if they come to Australia so if they’re playing in the ATP Cup we’re expecting all those players to play the Australian Open,” tournament director Tom Larner told reporters on Tuesday.
The region where the ATP Cup is played doesn’t have the same entry criteria as the Australian Open regarding a mandatory vaccination. However, unvaccinated players will have to apply for an exemption and then go through a 14-day quarantine if they still wanted to play in the event.
Besides Djokovic, US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini are all set to play. The event will also see the return of Dominic Thiem who hasn’t played on the Tour since June due to a wrist injury. Stefanos Tsitsipas is also on the entry list despite recently undergoing surgery on his elbow.
“There’s no better place for us to launch the 2022 season than with the ATP Cup in Sydney. The players have loved competing at this event in recent years and the 2022 player field speaks for itself. We’re delighted that fans will be able to see so many of the world’s best representing their countries in the opening week of the season and we look forward to a fantastic event.” ATP Cup Chief Tour Officer Ross Hutchins said in a statement.
A total of 16 countries are participating in the ATP Cup and they have been split into four groups of four. The winner of each group will then move into the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of two singles matches and one doubles. A total of USD$10 million in prize money is up for grabs and singles players can earn a maximum of 750 ranking points.
The ATP Cup is set to get underway on January 1st.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
French Player Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours After Australian Open Defeat
The world No.40 was preparing to leave the country.
Ugo Humbert is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 following his first round loss at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Humbert, who was the 29th seed in the men’s draw, is understood to have produced a positive result during a routine procedure players have to conduct before they leave the country. It is unclear as to if he is currently suffering from any symptoms.
Humbert crashed out of the tournament to compatriot Richard Gasquet, who won their match 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6 (3), 6-3, in three hours and 18 minutes. Gasquet also tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia earlier this month but was given the all clear to play at Melbourne Park following a negative test. There was a 15-day period between the 35-year-old announcing on Twitter he had the virus and his first match against Humbert.
“I was tested positive on my exit test yesterday and I’ll stay one more week in isolation in Australia,” Humbert wrote on Instagram.
“Thanks for your support and see you soon.”
The 23-year-old has started his season by winning one out of four matches played. Prior to the Australian Open, he scored one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Cup in the group stages. However, following that victory he suffered losses to Alex de Minaur and Matteo Berrettini.
Tennis Australia is yet to comment on Humbert’s positive test.
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