If it’s the Coco and Serena show in Auckland, then the Brisbane International is the home of the Grupo Del Muerto. And indeed, there’s no place like home…unless you’re seeded in the Group of Death.
Top seed and world #1 Ash Barty hoped to take a bit of a victory lap down under and win a big home country tournament or two before the Australian Open, but the gods of the draw decided to have a little fun with her at the Brisbane International, a premier-level WTA tour event. In order for Barty to get out of her quarter, she’ll need to get by Maria Sharapova, Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
After Barty’s bye, she’ll face a very wild card in Maria Sharapova, provided Sharapova dispatches a qualifier. Barty beat Sharapova in their one and only meeting at the Western & Southern Open last summer, but you truly never know which Sharapova will show. I’ll give Barty the edge and send her on to the third round against Sloane Stephens, who beat the Australian in their only meeting at the 2017 US Open. Barty’s quest for a title to open 2020 will likely end with a Stephens victory in the quarterfinals.
(Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP)
4 seed Elena Svitolina’s quarter is also dangerous, with Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys, Donna Vekic and Danielle Collins waiting in the wings. The Ukrainian will get past the plucky Danielle Collins in the opening round and Donna Vekic in the second before being eliminated by an in-form Madison Keys, who must defeat Kerber to get there.
Naomi Osaka, 2018 Citi Open (Photo: Mike Renz for Tennis Atlantic)
Naomi Osaka, a year wiser, is used to getting her own quarter these days and what to do with such a blessing. In a trip-up match with Sakkari, she should prevail before facing another major test in Sonia Kenin. It’s a test she should also pass before dispatching Kiki Bertens in the quarterfinals.
Karolina Pliskova has become more of a sure thing over the last year, a compliment to her maturity as a player. As such, I believe she’ll use that bye and a second round match against an Australian wild card to polish her early-season form. She’ll need the tune-up before beating Naomi Osaka in 3 sets to advance to the final against Madison Keys. In three sets, I’ll predict it’s Pliskova who begins 2020 with the Brisbane title.
Will Auckland Become @CocoGauff Land? 2020 @WTA @ASB_Classic Auckland Preview, Predictions Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Or will it be like old times again with Serena and Wozniacki meeting in the final?
The 2020 Coco Gauff tour is almost underway. The ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand is stacked with the aforementioned former grand slam champions and a dose of the youth movement. Not too shabby for a WTA International level event.
Gauff, who is amazingly still 15 years old, looks to play her first pro match down under. It’s hard to believe that she made her pro debut just last year in Miami before shocking the world with stellar play at Wimbledon and the US Open. Down Under has been patiently waiting for a chance to join her carnival of tennis enthusiasm. Gauff will have a tough opening round match against 21-year-old Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova, where she’s a favored -149, and assuming Gauff prevails, she’ll likely face Serena Williams in Round 2.
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Photo: (C) 2014 Chris Levy @tennis_shots for TennisEastCoast.com)
Or will she? Outside of the American teen sensation, all the buzz is about the first-round match between grand slam champs with a lot of mutual history. Serena Williams and Sveta Kuznetsova have met 13 times, and although Serena holds a 10-3 edge on the 2004 US Open champ, anyone who follows women’s tennis knows that Kuznetsova can beat anyone when she’s in form. With Serena at -400 in the match, this could be a nice upset pick.
Amanda Anisimova’s quarter co-stars Caroline Garcia, who should meet in the quarterfinals with Anisimova advancing to a semifinal against Serena Williams. Garcia’s game hasn’t inspired a lot of confidence lately, and she’s even money against Taylor Townsend in the opening round. I’m going to stand by Garcia, though, as she’d only need to beat the winner of Flipkens-Bouchard to reach the quarters.
Julia Goerges is the 4 seed and her quarter is shared by 5th seeded Caroline Wozniacki. It’s highly likely that they’ll meet in the quarterfinals here, a rematch of last year’s Auckland final. I expect Wozniacki to fight right up through her supposed final grand slam in Melbourne Park to go out with a bang and I’d take her to advance to a semifinal and to contest Serena Williams in the final.
Petra Martic doesn’t get any respect as a top 20 player, as least not from me yet. I’ve been watching her fail to qualify or get knocked out of the first round of too many tournaments to mention. And her quarter is full of spoilers, like Alize Cornet, Bec Peterson, Alison Van Uytvanck and American Cici Bellis. I see Bellis surprising Martic in the quarterfinals before falling to Wozniacki in the semis. That said, the oddsmakers have installed Martic as a -149 favorite in her opener against Van Uytvanck. You’d expect a little more confidence in a 2 seed.
The fans in Auckland should get a two-fer, as they’ll see a Serena Williams-Coco Gauff battle, but they should also be so fortunate as to be gifted a blast from the past final, with Serena Williams besting Caroline Wozniacki to win her first tour title of any kind since the memorable 2017 Australian Open.
Bernard Tomic was on court a full five minutes before Lukas Lacko sauntered into his first round main draw match on Grandstand court this afternoon just before 2:30. Early bird Tomic sent Lacko packing in 53 minutes, 6-4, 6-2, and will face top seed John Isner on Wednesday night at the New York Open.
On facing Isner, I got a great quote out of him: “I think it’s gonna be pretty easy, no?”
Bernard Tomic, 2019 New York Open
Bernard Tomic, 2019 New York Open
Seriously though. “We’ve played a couple of times,” he told me after the match. “Last time I had a chance to win. I lost 7-6 in the 4th (set) in Davis Cup. You know, he has one of the best serves in the world. There’s not much you can do sometimes. I have to go out there and try to play the way I did today.”
Tomic appeared on Australian Television last week and described the poor treatment he received from former US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt during the early days of Tomic’s career.
“There’s a lot of pressure in this sport and you learn how to deal with it,” Tomic told me. “I had a lot of pressure when I was young. I’ve played really solid and really well so far in my career. I mean I haven’t won slams and that, but maybe that’s something I can do in the future. But 10 years in this career, maybe 8-10 years still in this career. I still feel super young. I’m 26 and there’s guys who are 38, 37, 39 and still playing. It’s been a long journey, but got to keep going and do what I do and hopefully one day it’ll pay off.”
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.
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.
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 Thompson
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.
2019 ATP Brisbane Has Dimitrov, Nishikori, and Raonic Looking To Get On Track Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Brisbane is the start of the season for a good number of top players as they prepare for the Australian Open under the Australian sun. With the early rounds complete we take a look at the quarterfinals and beyond at this ATP 250 on hard courts.
Operating under a protected ranking, former AO finalist Tsonga has defeated Thanasi Kokkinakis and Taro Daniel to reach this stage. He benefited from Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal due to fatigue before Nadal was due to play his opening match. Home hero ADM, a rising star, represents a far tougher challenge though. ADM plays well at home and hasn’t dropped a set so far. Tsonga has experience but he’s still a bit shaky at times and I’d expect De Minaur to reach the semis.
After a rough 2018 for the formerly top 10 Raonic, he’s in good form so far, defeating Aljaz Bedene and Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets, with his serve game firing. This is another match where the young gun should have an edge over the legacy name though. The rising Medvedev (age 22) got a bye into round 2 and eased past a still sluggish Andy Murray in straight sets. Medvedev has dark horse potential at the AO and should be favored here.
Chardy upset a spider bit Nick Kyrgios and has once again reached the quarters of an ATP event. He’s not an elite player, but the Frenchman excels at playing at a good (but not great) level. He should have an edge over the less experienced Uchiyama, similarly to how he edged past J.L. Struff in three sets in round 1. The qualifier Uchiyama edged Ugo Humbert in round 1 before stunning Kyle Edmund in straight sets in round 2. It’s been a disappointing start for British tennis in Australia.
These two generational talents have significant history, including a 2017 Brisbane final meeting that saw Dimitrov prevail. Nishikori has won 4 of 5 meetings though and after a routine win against Denis Kudla he should be favored against the inconsistent Dimitrov. Dimitrov is aiming to return to the top 10 after a disappointing 2018, and a win against the top 10 Nishikori would be huge though. I expect a battle with Nishikori taking it.
Medvedev d. De Minaur
Nishikori d. Chardy
A rematch of last year’s Sydney finals in the semis of Brisbane, Medvedev is likely ahead of ADM at this point in their careers but it should be close. Nishikori is expected to lift the title though as he’s the most talented player left in the draw and his form looks solid.
Tour veteran Gilles Simon put together a surprising weak on home court in Metz, claiming his second title of 2018 7-6 6-1 against qualifier Matthias Bachinger. The win marks the first time Simon has won multiple ATP titles in a season since 2011. He dropped a set against Filip Krajinovic in the second round, but otherwise eased past Jiri Vesely, Richard Gasquet, and Radu Albot to reach the final.
Also a veteran, Bachinger took part in his first ever ATP final, coming through qualifying and then defeating Jaume Munar, Gregoire Barrere, Yannick Maden, and Kei Nishkori, his last two wins coming in three sets, with the stunning result over Nishikori one of the finest wins of his journeyman career.
The home nation swept the titles as Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin teamed up to defeat the Skupski brothers in the doubles final.
Austrian #1 Dominic Thiem balled out on hard courts claiming a third title for 2018 with a 6-3 6-1 routine victory against Martin Klizan in the St. Petersburg final. Thiem won four matches, dropping just a set in Russia. His wins came against J.L. Struff, Daniil Medvedev in a third set tiebreak, and Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final.
Klizan had a good tournament as well, claiming wins against Evgeny Donskoy, Fabio Fognini, Denis Shapovalov, and Stan Wawrinka to reach the final, the final two wins coming in three set contests.
Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini teamed up to win the doubles title against Jebavy/Middelkoop.
Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka claimed his first ever ATP title 7-5 2-6 6-4 against Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The 23 year old has overcome a rash of injuries and in his first ATP final he was clutch against the more experienced Herbert. Like the other winner on the ATP Tour this week, Bernard Tomic, Nishioka came through qualifying to reach the main draw. In the main draw his wins came against Denis Kudla, Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Fernando Verdasco, with Shapovalov and Verdasco taking three sets to defeat.
Herbert defeated Dusan Lajovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Albert Ramos, and Alex De Minaur to reach the final, needing three sets in his last two victories, including a nip and tuck win against ADM. The result is Herbert’s second ever ATP final.
Salisbury/Mclachlan defeated Lindstedt/Ram in the doubles final.
It’s been a long road back to this point for 25 year old Aussie Bernard Tomic, but he finally claimed another piece of ATP hardware winning his first title since 2015 6-1 3-6 7-6(7) against Fabio Fognini. Trailing in the tiebreak, Tomic had to produce both luck and skill to comeback for the win. He is now likely set to feature again at the higher level ATP tournaments as he had to come through qualifying where he dropped sets in two of his three matches, just to reach the main draw in this 250. In the main draw he edged Bradley Klahn and Lloyd Harris, then eased past Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Joao Sousa to reach the final.
Fognini has reached 4 ATP finals this season, he had a relatively smooth path against Ruben Bemelmans, Matt Ebden, and Taylor Fritz this week, though he did drop a set to Fritz.
Croatia’s Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig defeated Nedunchezhiyan/Krajicek in the doubles final.
Andy Murray Looks To Find Form at the 2018 Shenzhen Open ATP 250 Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
The ATP Asian swing features a 250 in Shenzhen, China on hard courts this week, the more notable of the two ATP events in China for the week. Here is your preview with predictions.
David Goffin will be hoping to continue his good form in round 2 against either Andy Murray or Zhizhen Zhang. Goffin should be favored against Murray, but I’ll back the upset, a focused Murray should rise up and knock off Goffin. I’ll also back Murray to get revenge on Fernando Verdasco after Verdasco beat him at the US Open. Verdasco’s both to the quarterfinals is Jason Jung, followed by Taro Daniel/Tatsuma Ito, he’ll be favored in both matches.
St. Petersburg quarterfinalist Denis Shapovalov should ease past Ilya Ivashka and Yoshihito Nishioka or Denis Kudla in round 2 before running into Borna Coric in a tough quarterfinal match. Coric opens with Di Wu or Cam Norrie, I have him as the favorite to take this section over Shapovalov.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was upset early in his last tournament but I don’t see Dusan Lajovic or Pierre-Hugues Herbert being able to repeat that feat in round 2. This is a weak section, with the winner of Andreas Seppi/Albert Ramos probably favored against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez or VIktor Troicki. Tsitsipas over Seppi is my pick here.
Damir Dzhumur should get past Jiri Vesely/Ramkumar Ramanathan before facing off with Alex De Minaur in the quarters. The young Aussie opens with Yuichi Sugita, Mackenzie McDonald or Lukas Lacko are set to follow. De Minaur will be the favorite against Dzhumur in the quarters and has a real shot at this title.
Kokkinakis, Bolt, Rubin, and Gunneswaran Secure BB&T Atlanta Open Main Draw Spots Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
BB&T Atlanta Open Qualifying for 2018 concluded on Sunday with the four qualifiers set. Two of them are Australian as Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated Hubert Hurkacz 6-2 7-6 in just over an hour and a half, and Alex Bolt defeated Denis Kudla in the last match of the day 6-7 6-3 6-3 in 2 hours.
Kokkinakis got off to a great start with an immediate break, and for his part wasn’t broken in the match despite a few spare chances for Hurkacz of Poland. The second set was much closer but from 6-6 Kokkinakis won two consecutive points to secure his qualification. Hurkacz would go on to make the main draw as a lucky loser.
Bolt dropped the opening set despite breaking back after going down a break. He played a poor tiebreak to hand Kudla a one set lead. Kudla couldn’t maintain his advantage though, he was broken in the opening game of set 2 and then once more in the final game of the second set, all while failing to pressure Bolt in the Australian’s service game. That theme continued in the third set, Kudla offered little on return and despite saving an early break point on his serve, he was broken to go 4-2 down in the third, and eventually lost the match.
The remaining qualifiers were American Noah Rubin and India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran. Gunneswaran made his ATP main draw debut in Stuttgart just a few weeks back, and now he’s into his second ATP main draw at the age of 28. He also won his first challenger title this year, and perhaps next will make his main draw debut in a Grand Slam. Gunneswaran eased past Tommy Paul 6-3 6-3 in just over an hour, he wasn’t broken in the match.
Rubin eased past a previously in-form Jason Jung 6-4 6-2 in a match that was also just past an hour. Rubin did not face a break point and had relatively smooth sailing to reach his third ATP main draw this year.
Kyrgios beat fellow young Alexandr Zverev in three sets, top 5 player Andy Murray in straights, and Frenchman Kenny De Schepper by the same number of sets to help on the men’s singles side, then beat Alex Dolgopolov in the final. The hard hitting, charismatic Kyrgios looks to be in great form heading into the Australian Open.
Gavrilova lost to Heather Watson and Carolina Garcia, but did beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, and finalist Elina Svitolina. The Australian team were most successful in mixed doubles, going 3-0 in their matches against Zverev/Lisicki, De Schepper/Garcia, and Murray/Watson. They won both of the singles ties in the final, and thus didn’t need to play an additional mixed doubles tie.
Dolgopolov, like Kyrgios, was 3 -0 in singles play. The unpredictable shotmaker defeated a retiring Lleyton Hewitt, Jack Sock, and Jiri Vesely to help his team reach the final.
Svitolina also went 3-0 in round robin play, with wins over Jarmila Wolfe, Victoria Duval, and Karolina Pliskova. She looks to be in good form heading into the coming weeks as well.
The exhibition schedule features “Fast 4” tennis this week, along with the Kooyong Classic, which once again features over a dozen ATP caliber players, and the Adelaide World Tennis Challenge, a smaller exhibition event.
Day one of the Davis Cup World Group semifinal between Great Britain and Australia featured action in the opening pair of singles rubbers. Andy Murray played Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first match of the afternoon quickly followed by Daniel Evans vs Bernard Tomic.
Andy Murray d. Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3 6-0 6-3
The partisan British crowd welcomed their number one player on to the court with a thunderous ovation as the first rubber got under way.
The Scot, playing at home in Glasgow, would apply the early pressure after a strong opening service game by earning an early break point. Kokkinakis would save that particular one, but he soon found himself under more and more pressure. Murray pressed for a break in the Aussie’s following service game but yet again the 19 year old played the big points well.
There was a stark contrast in the service games with Murray holding easily whilst his opponent struggled. It would all be too much for Kokkinakis who after a valiant effort to save break points, lost his serve to go 4-2 down. The Brit would serve out the set much to the delight of the Glasgow crowd. Murray only lost two points on serve the entire first set.
The Brit rallied again in the second set, winning all six games for the loss of only five points to give himself what seemed like an unassailable lead. The backhand was on fire and the teenager was struggling to hit through the Brit’s defence on a slow indoor hard court.
Kokkinakis managed to get on the scoreboard early in the third but it would all be in vain. Murray would break for a fifth time in the match with a return winner. Murray was cruising, and keen to waste as little energy as possible he broke again to take the first victory for Great Britain.
Kokkinakis struggled to get anything going in this match with Murray’s defence and backhand causing him multitude of problems. The Scot also served at 76% and lost only six points behind serve. The Aussie struggled hugely behind his second serve only winning 21% behind it, compared to Murray’s 77%.
It was a fine start for Great Britain as they got the ball rolling with an easy 6-3,6-0, 6-3 victory.
“I started the match really well,” Said Murray of his performance post match.
“At the beginning he had some big serves, and once I got that break at the middle part of the first set I started to just continue to play better and he wasn’t getting as many free points on his serve after that.”
Kokkinakis also spoke of the Brit’s performance.
“There’s not too many players in the world that get close to him when he’s playing like that,” Kokkinakis said post-match.
“I just got outplayed today, just too good. I guess he knows my game and the court plays nicely for him, he was able to do what he wanted. Just shows where I need to get to. I was already motivated but that gives me more to work on and see where I’m going to get too.”
Murray also spoke of the crowd support and how they helped boost him towards victory.
“Obviously it gives you a lift,” Said Murray.
“It’s a big occasion and to have the support behind you makes, it makes a huge difference. I don’t know why that it, but it’s the case in every single sport in my opinion. I don’t know any football teams that play worse when they play at home, you know.
“It’s… all of the British performed I would say better at the Olympics when it was held in London, yeah. It’s just it helps when you have the backing of the crowd, it makes a difference.”
Bernard Tomic d. Dan Evans 6-3 7-6(2) 6-7(4) 6-4
So it was left to Tomic to restore some order on the Australian side as he attempted to extract revenge on Evans who beat him in New York two years ago.
The 23 year old Aussie was keen for his team not to go 2-0 down in the tie and earned an early break. Chances to double that lead came and went, but Tomic was comfortable on serve and managed to hold on to take the first set 6-3.
It looked like we could be in for a repeat of the previous match, only in the favour of the Aussie after a break in the opening game of the second set. But Evans had been in this situation before against Tomic, and he was keen to repeat his comeback from the US Open in 2013. The Brit managed to break back and force a second set tiebreak. But then Tomic once again took over proceedings, racing away with the breaker 7-2.
The Australian number one would yet again break early in the third set as he looked to not waste too much time on the court- But Evans had other ideas. The Brit earned 15-40 whilst Tomic served for the match but the break points were saved. One more break back chance went begging but the Brit did not give up the fight and pumped up by the Glasgow crowd he was able to extend the match at least for a little while longer.
It would go to a second consecutive tiebreak to decide the third. It was a nervy breaker but the Brit pulled out an exquisite drop shot at 4-3 to earn the first mini break. That would be enough to seal the third set as the comeback certainly gained some real traction.
But Tomic would stop that process in it’s tracks with a break a the fourth set. Evans fought to try get them back on terms in the fourth set, but instead the world number 300 would fall behind a double break. The Aussie failed to serve out the match (again), though third time would prove to be a charm for Tomic, who served it out to love to claim a 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 victory.
“It was very emotionally tough out there, the crowd the atmosphere it drains you every point every game. “ Said Tomic
“Today was a little bit different that I’ve played in Davis Cup. It was more atmosphere, tougher situation and playing a player that was striking and felling the ball very well. So for me this moment was very tough and I was getting tired quickly out there after the third set so I’m happy I held it together in the end.”
“Yeah it was very good out thee.” Said Evans of the crowd.
“I was saying earlier that when I went out to the opening ceremony I was a bit taken back by how loud it was here. It was, you know, they do help you and spur you on when you’re down and that’s part of Davis Cup and having a home tie.”
Doubles ahead on Saturday
With the tie firmly poised at 1-1 heading into the second day, the big question is whether Andy will partner his brother Jamie Murray for the doubles. We had previously seen the world number three partner up with his brother to defeat France. Will Leon Smith bring Andy in again? Well Murray doesn’t know.
“It isn’t my decision. It’s up to the captain to decide that. You know obviously now I have the option to be picked I think as the match was quick,” said Murray.
“I think everyone on the team wants to play doubles. I mean everyone wants to try and help where they can. And ultimately the decision is up to the captain and the players who go on the court have a job to do when they get out there, but we don’t make the decisions.”
It will most certainly be big serving Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt for the Aussies in what could end up being the crucial match in deciding this tie. But for now it’s finely balanced at 1-1, and you can catch what happens in the doubles rubber tomorrow.