Frances Tiafoe celebrates winning a crucial point against Grigor Dimitrov during their 4th round clash at the Australian Open
The five ATP 250 level hard court stops in the run-up to the Australian Open saw five different players claim titles and find form during the first portion of the 2019 season. Here is your look at all of January’s ATP action.
ATP DohaEmbed from Getty Images
Roberto Bautista Agut claimed a 9th career ATP title defeating Tomas Berdych 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the final, after stunning world #1 Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4 in the semifinals, one of the best wins of his career. The Spaniard also claimed wins against Matteo Berrettini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Stan Wawrinka.
It was a great comeback tournament for Berdych who beat Philipp Kohlschreiber, Fernando Verdasco, Pierre Hugues Herbert and Marco Cecchinato. David Goffin and Herbert won the doubles title over Haase/Middelkoop.
ATP ChennaiEmbed from Getty Images
Kevin Anderson is a dark horse for the Australian Open title and he was the player to beat in India, capturing the Chennai title 7-6 6-7 7-6 over fellow big serving veteran Ivo Karlovic. Gilles Simon, Jaume Munar, and Laslo Djere also fell to Anderson as he didn’t drop a set until the final. Karlovic, the oldest top level player on tour, defeated Felix Auger Aliassime, Evgeny Donskoy, Ernests Gulbis, and Steve Darcis, a veteran on the comeback trail.
Home heroes Bopanna and Sharan defeated Bambridge/O’Mara in the doubles final.
ATP BrisbaneEmbed from Getty Images
Kei Nishikori came through as the favorite in Brisbane, defeating rising Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 in the final. Nishikori didn’t drop a set prior to the final, racking up wins against Denis Kudla, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jeremy Chardy. Medvedev’s path to the final was defeating Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, three capable and crafty veterans.
Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof beat Ram/Salisbury in the doubles final.
ATP SydneyEmbed from Getty Images
Sydney native Alex De Minaur triumphed at home for his maiden ATP title. The Demon edged tour veteran Andreas Seppi 7-5 7-6 for his 5th straight match win. ADM defeated Dusan Lajovic, Reilly Opelka, Jordan Thompson, and Gilles Simon to reach the final, he didn’t drop a set all week.
The veteran Seppi was happy to find form in what was a challenging tournament for him. Jeremy Chardy, Martin Klizan, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Diego Schwartzman were his victims on the week in some nip and tuck matches.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeated the Colombians Cabal/Farah in the doubles final.
ATP AucklandEmbed from Getty Images
Tennys Sandgren has a lot of points to defend in Melbourne, but he enters the AO in great form after claiming his first career ATP title. Sandgren won Auckland without dropping a set this week. Sandgren blitzed past Cam Norrie who grew up in Auckland. Max Marterer, Marco Cecchinato, Leonardo Mayer, and Philipp Kohlschreiber were all defeated by Sandgren.
Norrie defeated Benoit Paire, Joao Sousa, Taylor Fritz and J.L. Struff to reach the final. Ben McLachlan/ Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Klaasen/Venus in the doubles final.
DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. – The Volvo Car Open announced today that it has partnered with Universal Tennis on a qualifying wild card tournament, with the winner receiving entry into the WTA Premier event’s qualifying player field.
The tournament, hosted February 28 – March 3, 2019 at the Family Circle Tennis Center, will include a 32-player draw. Players will be seeded based on their Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) Powered by Oracle. This unique event will provide the opportunity for any female tennis player with a UTR of 11+ to compete for a spot in the professional tennis tournament.
UTR Powered by Oracle is the only global tennis rating system that compares all players, regardless of age, gender, or geography across a single, unified scale. The system is growing quickly worldwide and is being adopted by players, coaches, academies, colleges, clubs and organizers as the most reliable way to measure tennis skill level. The MyUTR engagement platform features a fully integrated event and tournament management system, where tennis events are organized around player UTRs to facilitate competitive, level-based play.
“We look forward to partnering with the Volvo Car Open to create a new opportunity for talented players to play to qualify for the main draw of the tournament,” said Mark Leschly, Universal Tennis Chairman & CEO. “We will also be working closely with the venue to create more compelling year-round opportunities for level-based competition for players of all levels.”
The tournament match play format will consist of two out of three sets, with a match tiebreak for the third.
“We are very excited to create an official partnership with UTR by hosting a wild card event for a spot in our qualifying draw of the 2019 Volvo Car Open,” said Bob Moran, Volvo Car Open Tournament Director. “However, this relationship will go far beyond this event. UTR provides the most accurate and real-time assessment of a player’s ability. It cuts through gender and age to provide a vehicle for men and women to player together and juniors to play with adults based on their UTR rating. We, as a year-round venue, find great value in being able to create and cultivate an even more close-knit community of tennis players. UTR will truly provide a standard for all players!”
The nine-day Volvo Car Open is the largest women’s-only tennis tournament in North America and attracts an average of 90,000 attendees and more than 100 of the top singles and doubles tennis players. Its 2019 field features seven of the top 25 players in the world, including Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens and Kiki Bertens.
Patrons have the option to choose from individual tickets, ticket packages and travel packages. Ticket prices range from $25 for an individual session to $540 for an all-inclusive weeklong package with complimentary access into a private hospitality suite. The Volvo Car Open also offers packages that include premium seats, ticket savings and membership into the tournament’s Ace Club.
The Ace Club is a program for package holders that provides unparalleled amenities and benefits during the tournament, including private bag storage, invitations to the “Selection Party”, a tournament poster, incentive membership cards and much more. In addition, members have the option to opt-in for Ace Lounge access, an exclusive hospitality location providing first-class amenities like live entertainment, air-conditioning, elevated food options and more.
—A. Alpino, Volvo Car Open
Auckland Raised Cam Norrie Seeking 2019 ATP Auckland Title
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The 250 in Auckland is New Zealand’s only ATP event, it’s preceded by the WTA ASB Classic at the same venue. with both tournaments serving as prep for the Australian Open. With the early rounds complete, who will prevail in the final?
Taylor Fritz vs Cam NorrieEmbed from Getty Images
The young American Fritz battles the Auckland raised Brit Norrie in a big match for both players. Fritz has knocked off two big servers, Marius Copil and compatriot John Isner (the top seed) to reach the quarters. Norrie upset Benoit Paire and Joao Sousa to reach this point. Norrie will have home support, but Fritz should be slightly favored if his game can stay consistent.
Pablo Carreno Busta vs JL StruffEmbed from Getty Images
Both players had easy paths to this point, PCB got a walkover against David Ferrer, while Struff beat Laslo Djere with a retirement and then Jose Statham, who had upset Hyeon Chung in the previous round. PCB is the better player and should be in good shape to advance from this match.
Leonardo Mayer vs Tennys SandgrenEmbed from Getty Images
Both players needed to find form and will be pleased with their results thus far. Mayer upset Steve Johnson and Matteo Berrettini, while Sandgren defeated Max Marterer and Marco Cecchinato. This should be a competitive match, with the experienced Mayer a slight favorite.
Philipp Kohlschreiber vs Fabio FogniniEmbed from Getty Images
Two skilled veterans, Kohli hasn’t dropped a set in wins against Bradley Klahn and Ugo Humbert, and he dominates the h2h against the Italian. Fognini barely beat Peter Gojowczyk, and I expect Kohlschreiber to reach the semis from this matchup.
Carreno Busta d. Fritz
Kohlschreiber d. Mayer
This is PCB’s tournament to lose, Kohlschreiber has great history in Auckland though and is also favored to reach the final.
Carreno Busta d. Kohlschreiber
Aussies Millman, De Minaur and Thompson Still In The Running at ATP Sydney
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The Sydney 250 still has 3 of the 4 top seeds in the running as players seek points and form ahead of the Australian Open.
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Andreas SeppiEmbed from Getty Images
The top seed Tsitsipas won his opening match against Guido Andreozzi and now faces a far tougher test against the veteran Seppi. Seppi has edged past Jeremy Chardy and Martin Klizan to reach this stage, and he’ll be highly motivated to play his best and try to win this tournament, given his AO expectations are far more muted. Tsitsipas is a rising star though and he’ll be tough to put away, I expect the favored Greek to reach the semis.
Diego Schwartzman vs Yoshihito NishiokaEmbed from Getty Images
Schwartzman will be favored against Nishioka after an easy win in the last round. Nishioka qualified and has already won four matches including main draw wins against Ryan Harrison and Andrey Rublev. Both players are undersized ball strikers with punchy games. I’ll go for the upset here though, with Nishioka rising and redlining his game right now.
John Millman vs Gilles SimonEmbed from Getty Images
Millman survived a stern test against Frances Tiafoe and then eased past Marton Fucsovics to reach this stage. The home favorite will be an underdog against Gilles Simon. Simon is 3-1 to start the season and should be in good shape to reach the semifinals in what will be a contest worth watching.
Alex De Minaur vs Jordan ThompsonEmbed from Getty Images
Thompson has been in really good form since the end of last season, but De Minaur is the more talented Aussie and will be favored in this contest. ADM is 4-1 to start the season and has a real shot at lifting this title.
Tsitsipas d. Nishioka
De Minaur d. Simon
The top seed Tsitsipas is favored to lift this title, with De Minaur coming short for the second year in a row.
Tsitsipas d. De Minaur
MARDY FISH NAMED U.S. DAVIS CUP CAPTAIN
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., January 9, 2019 – The USTA today announced that former world No. 7 and Davis Cup veteran Mardy Fish has been named the new captain of the U.S. Davis Cup Team. He succeeds Jim Courier to become the 41st captain in the team’s 120-year history and will make his debut at the newly transformed Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals November 18-24 in Madrid, Spain.
“Ever since I started playing professionally and started understanding what the Davis Cup was and how special it was, even as a player, I wanted to be the Davis Cup Captain,” Fish said. “I just thought that position was so special – leading the guys and leading the team, building relationships and the team aspect around it. I’m a team-sport athlete stuck in an individual sport, and I love the team aspect of Davis Cup. To even be considered, let alone named the Captain, is incredibly humbling.”
In this new era of Davis Cup, the role of Captain will be expanded, with the position working more closely with USTA Player Development throughout the year, as well as traveling to multiple tournaments and camps to support American players, serving as a mentor for American pros and juniors. He will also ensure the U.S. Davis Cup team remains a strong platform to grow the game through the USTA’s Net Generation youth initiative.
“Mardy Fish embodies all of the qualities of a successful Davis Cup Captain and will be an invaluable asset to Team USA,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Patrick Galbraith. “His achievements as a player both on tour and in Davis Cup are renowned, and his acumen for the game is as strong as his relationships with our American players. There are few people in tennis as qualified to lead the U.S. Davis Cup Team into the next decade, and we cannot wait to see what that future has in store under Mardy’s leadership.”
Fish, 37, reached the singles quarterfinals at three of the four Grand Slams and won a combined 14 ATP titles (six singles, eight doubles) before retiring from playing at the 2015 US Open. He also produced a number of signature performances while representing his country, earning the singles silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics and writing his name in the U.S. Davis Cup record book.
Fish played in 11 Davis Cup ties for the U.S. from 2002-12 and is still the last U.S. Davis Cup player to win three live matches in a single tie, in a 3-1 World Group Playoff win in Colombia in 2010 that kept alive the U.S.’s now-record uninterrupted streak in the World Group. Fish’s two singles victories in that tie were five-setters, and he and Courier are the only U.S. Davis Cup players to win two five-set matches in the same tie. In his last Davis Cup playing appearance, Fish beat Stan Wawrinka in five sets and teamed with Mike Bryan to beat Wawrinka and Roger Federer in a 5-0 sweep of Switzerland in the 2012 First Round.
After retiring in 2015, Fish worked part-time as a coach with USTA Player Development, helping to guide young Americans on tour, including Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson, through 2017.
In 1976, Mark Edmondson won his sole Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in impressive fashion, beating reigning champion and all-time great John Newcombe in the final. That triumph is particularly notable for two reasons. Edmondson remains the last Australian man to win the Australian Open, a remarkable distinction in a tournament almost completely dominated by domestic players before 1976. Edmondson is also the lowest-ranked player to win a Slam, storming to his surprise win as the 212th ranked player in the world.
The former record also does not appear to be in imminent danger. While there is currently an array of talented Australians, giving the nation greater strength in depth than in recent years, there is no candidate with genuine aspirations on lifting the first Grand Slam of 2019. When you consider that not even Lleyton Hewitt or Pat Rafter could triumph in their home Slam, it doesn’t bode well for the mercurial Nick Kyrgios. While Kyrgios’ talent has always been unquestioned, his fitness and game management have been more debatable. Kyrgios runs the risk of going the same way as Bernard Tomic, another player who emerged as a great Australian hope.Embed from Getty Images
Tomic’s level of dedication to the sport is well-documented, although he did grind out some Challenger wins in 2018 as a necessity due to his low ranking. One player who appears to be a more dependable Australian prospect is Alex de Minaur, who ends the year as the highest-ranked Australian at a career-high 31. De Minaur is showing great potential and has so far been unfazed by pressure. While the Australian could benefit from seeding to make a strong run at the Australian Open, he is yet to beat a top 20 player in 13 attempts. De Minaur will have to end that record before he can be a genuine Slam contender.Embed from Getty Images
Someone with a much better record against the elite is Andy Murray. The three-time Slam winner will start his season as fifth favourite in the Australian Open tennis market at Paddy Power, with odds of 14/1 reflecting the hope that Murray’s class is permanent. Murray struggled with injury for much of 2018, but his success at the Australian Open in previous years is cause for hope that the Brit can get back to his best quickly.Embed from Getty Images
That success has manifested in five Australian Open finals, but each final has ended in defeat for Murray. The juxtaposition of his recent injury record against his career Slam record has created a unique opportunity for Murray, as the player ends 2018 ranked 257 in the world. Murray will not be seeded at the Australian Open but instead enters via his protected ranking. Yet this is a player famed for a battling mentality that can overcome the toughest draws.
If Murray doesn’t accumulate many ranking points at the tournaments preceding the Australian Open, he could break Edmondson’s long-standing ranking record. This will not necessarily be a concern for Murray; winning his first Australian Open after five final losses and a year blighted by injury would be an outstanding achievement in its own right.
Novak Djokovic is the strong favourite to continue his fine form from 2018, but then John Newcombe was strong favourite in 1976. An Australian may not follow in Edmondson’s footsteps just yet, but a resurgent Murray has a better chance than anyone else of becoming the lowest-ranked male Slam winner.