After falling to Rafael Nadal in the Round of 16 at the Australian Open, Nick Kyrgios reflected on an emotional start to the season and the recent progress he has made on and off the court.
The 24-year-old pushed World No. 1 Nadal to a fourth-set tie-break in front of a vocal crowd at Rod Laver Arena, but was disappointed not to be able to level his ATP Head2Head series against the 2009 champion at 4-4.
“I'm shattered to have lost tonight… These are the matches that I want to win the most,” said Kyrgios.
Having started the 2020 ATP Tour season with a run to the semi-finals at the inaugural ATP Cup with Team Australia, Kyrgios entered the Australian Open with a 3-1 record and a growing level of support from the home crowd.
The six-time ATP Tour titlist impressed fans throughout his campaign at Melbourne Park, securing wins against Lorenzo Sonego and Gilles Simon in his opening two rounds.
But the Canberra native showcased the best of his abilities and an impressive fighting spirit in one of the matches of the tournament, shrugging off the disappointment of failing to convert match points in sets three and four to outlast Karen Khachanov in a final-set tie-break on Saturday.
“I feel like I've made progress as a human. A tennis player… I want to keep going in this direction, for sure,” said Kyrgios.
It was clear to see as Kyrgios entered the court on Monday evening that the news of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s passing was at the forefront of his mind.
Kyrgios entered the Rod Laver Arena wearing Bryant’s LA Lakers jersey and had tears in his eyes in the moments before the first point of the match.
“I never met Kobe. But basketball is practically my life,” said Kyrgios. “I watch it every day. I've been following it for as long as I can remember.
“When I woke up to the news, it was pretty emotional. It was pretty heavy, like, all day. Obviously, I was having basketball on at my house, watching the games. I was heavy. Yeah, it's just tough. It's horrible news.”
Kyrgios took inspiration from Bryant during his four-set loss to Nadal, thinking about the five-time NBA champion as he battled from a break down in the fourth set to force a tie-break.
“If anything, it motivated me. If you look at the things he stood for, what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight,” said Kyrgios. “When I was down a break in the fourth, I was definitely thinking about it. I fought back.
Bryant’s tragic death comes during a devastating period for Kyrgios’ home country, as communities across Australia continue to suffer the effects of widespread bushfires.
Kyrgios inspired many of his fellow players and the wider tennis community to come together and support bushfire relief efforts, pledging to donate AUD $200 for every ace he hit during the Australian summer. The 23rd seed landed 25 aces during his match against Nadal, raising AUD $5,000.
Kyrgios also joined forces fellow players, including Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer, for Rally For Relief. The fundraising event hosted at Rod Laver Arena five days before the tournament raised almost AUD $5 million for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.
“If anything, [the bushfires] did fuel me and made me play harder,” said Kyrgios. “They're still going, everything is still going.
“The last month for me has been pretty hectic, pretty emotional. I'm pretty tired. I want to try to continue to help where I can.”
Rafael Nadal moved one step closer to a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Monday, overcoming home favourite Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) in front of a packed crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
Nadal held serve to love on nine occasions and landed 64 winners to reach his 12th quarter-final at Melbourne Park after three hours and 38 minutes. The World No. 1 improves to 5-3 in his ATP Head2Head rivalry against Kyrgios, levelling their hard-court record at 2-2.
Nadal has now won eight of his 10 matches this year. The 33-year-old started the 2020 ATP Tour season with a 4-2 record at the inaugural ATP Cup, leading Team Spain to the championship match (l. to Team Serbia).
As he bids to equal Roger Federer’s haul of 20 Grand Slam trophies, Nadal is also aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four major championships on multiple occasions. The Spaniard has reached five Australian Open finals, lifting the trophy in 2009.
“It was a very tough match,” Nadal told former World No. 1 John McEnroe in an on-court interview. “In the beginning I was in control, but you’re never in control against Nick. When I made the mistake on serve in the second set, with one serve of mine, it was so difficult to break him again.
"I did the same in the fourth set, but he played a good game. I played a scary game at 5-4, it’s part of the sport and you have to accept it. I tried to recover mentally for 6-5 and then the tie-break. When he plays like today with a positive attitude, he gives a lot to the sport. He’s one of the best talents on Tour and I like the Nick Kyrgios of this tournament."
Nadal will face Dominic Thiem for a place in the semi-finals. The Nitto ATP Finals runner-up needed just one hour and 50 minutes to reach his first quarter-final at the opening Grand Slam of the year, defeating Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Nadal leads his ATP Head2head series against Thiem 9-4, highlighted by wins in the past two Roland Garros finals.
“It will be tough, we know each other very well,” said Nadal, when asked about facing Thiem. “He’s a great character and a tough competitor. I will need to play at my best, but I feel I am moving in the right direction. I played well against Pablo two days ago and again tonight against one of the best tennis players in the world. I hope to keep going.”
The top seed made a rapid start in the opening match of the evening session, breaking Kyrgios en route to a 4-1 lead. Nadal covered the baseline well, with Kyrgios failing in his attempts to shorten points as the errors mounted. The Spaniard began to dictate rallies with his forehand as the set progressed and held serve to love after 36 minutes to move into a one-set lead.
After saving three break points in the opening game of the second set, Kyrgios raised his level. The Aussie took advantage of forehand errors to earn his first break point of the match, which he converted with a forehand passing shot that clipped the baseline. From that point, Kyrgios won 12 of 15 service points to level the match.
In the tie-break, Nadal charged the net behind forehand approaches to open a 4/1 gap. Despite forehand errors and a nervous double fault on his first set point, Nadal once again moved forward and clinched the set as Kyrgios struck a forehand into the net.
Kyrgios increased his aggression in the early stages of the fourth set, but failed to find the target. The Aussie handed Nadal a love service break at 1-1 with forehand errors and a double fault. Nadal continued to impress on serve with back-to-back love service holds, before Kyrgios stepped in and dictated rallies with his forehand to force his way to a tie-break.
After great court coverage, Nadal claimed the crucial mini-break as Kyrgios failed to clear the net with an attempted drop shot. The Spaniard closed the fourth-round encounter on his first match point, forcing Kyrgios into an error with a series of driven backhands.
â€œI played a bad game, that's true,â€� said Nadal. â€œI was playing great with my serve, winning all the games with very positive feelings. At 5-4, I got a little bit more nervous at that momentâ€¦ I can lose, I can win, but I cannot play with more nerves than what I should.
â€œI did it already once, and I [did not] want to repeat thatâ€¦ At 6-5, I played a great game with my serve. In the tie-break, I think I was serving well. I think I played a solid tie-break.â€�
Kyrgios was aiming to reach his second Australian Open quarter-final and equal his best Grand Slam result. The Aussie defeated Lorenzo Sonego and Gilles Simon in his opening two matches, before an epic final-set tie-break victory against Karen Khachanov to reach the Round of 16.
â€œWhen he wants to play tennis, when he's focused on what he's doing, I think he's a very important player for our sport because he has a big talent,â€� said Nadal.
â€œHe's one of these players that can be very, very interesting for the crowdâ€¦ I saw him playing during the whole tournament almost every match, and he has been great, with a very positive attitudeâ€¦ His talent is to be one of the best of the world, without a doubt, with good chances to fight for every tournament.â€�
Statistics can sometimes can be deceiving. Although Novak Djokovic leads Milos Raonic 9-0 in their ATP Head2Head series, he hardly feels that a win is a foregone conclusion when they face off. The second-seeded Serbian is ready for a big-hitting showdown against the No. 32 seed from Canada when they meet in quarter-final action at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
”He's one of the tallest and strongest guys physically on the Tour. He has one of the biggest serves. I've got to be ready for missiles coming from his side of the net," Djokovic said. "I played him here and remember it well... One of the key elements will be how well I'm returning and how confident I am on my service games.
"I'm glad to see him healthy and playing at a really good level again. He's a great guy. I've known him for many years and he's a good friend. We speak the same language. It's nice to see him in the quarters.”
Djokovic has been in vintage form so far in Melbourne and won the past 10 sets he’s played. But while the No. 2 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings has been rock solid from the baseline, he’s been turning heads with a beefed-up serve that was implemented during the off-season. Djokovic has only lost serve twice in four rounds and won more than 90 per cent of his first-serve points in his second and third-round victories.
Imposing himself in return games will be a much harder task against Raonic’s serve. The Canadian hasn’t been broken in 12 sets and leads the tournament in both aces (82) and first-serve points won (87%). But Djokovic's dominance over Raonic, including a quarter-final win five years ago at this event, will likely allow him to feel confident in swinging freely on returns.
“It's a huge advantage when you hit serves from that height. You can hit any angle, anything you really want. That puts a lot of pressure on your opponent,” Djokovic said. “But, of course, that also has some disadvantages in terms of movement.”
Although an early exit in Melbourne would have pushed Raonic out of the Top 50 for the first time in nine years, his current ranking doesn’t reflect a dip in form, but rather an ongoing challenge to stay healthy. The 29-year-old only played 14 tournaments last year as he dealt with multiple injuries, including glute and back ailments.
But when Raonic is in top shape, he still displays the level that brought him to the 2016 Wimbledon final (l. to Murray) and a career-high ranking of No. 3. Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, widely considered one of the best returners in the game, admitted after his third-round defeat last week to Raonic that he “felt a bit stupid returning his serves.” Marin Cilic, who lost on Sunday to Raonic, declared that the Canadian is playing well enough to take the title.
“I didn't play much tennis last year, so I think the toughest part in this off-season was I knew I did six good weeks of training and I knew it would sort of come together,” Raonic said. "I was hoping I would play well in the first week of the year, but that didn't happen. I knew I had to be patient… I’m glad it’s paying off pretty early.”
Raonic is fully aware of his record against Djokovic, but knows there have been chances to get in the winner’s column. Their most recent battle was a tight three-setter at the 2018 Western & Southern Open. Prior to that, he extended the Serbian to two tie-breaks at the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals. Raonic’s serve will help keep the score close and he believes he can get over the line by capitalising on the limited opportunities that Djokovic might offer.
If Raonic is to pick up his first win over the seven-time champion, Rod Laver Arena would be a fitting location. With more quarter-final appearances (5) and a better record (31-9, 78%) at this event than any other Grand Slam, Melbourne has been a fruitful hunting ground for him. Picking up his first win over a Top 3 player since 2016 would deliver a clear statement that the Canadian is back in business.
“I'm going to have to serve well and then I'm going to have to get my return at a high percentage, make him play a lot of those points, and then try to be efficient on my service games,” Raonic said. “I think we play quite opposite from each other, and he's done a good job in the past neutralising my serve. So I have really got to focus on my things well and be the one dictating.”
Having already completed an improbable run to the Australian Open quarter-finals two years ago, Tennys Sandgren proved he’s not a one-hit wonder with his latest effort to reach the last eight in Melbourne. But if the American is to achieve his maiden Grand Slam semi-final, he’ll need to tackle third-seeded Swiss Roger Federer when they meet on Tuesday.
“I wonder why he's not ranked higher, to be honest,” Federer said. “Every time I see him play, I feel like he plays very well. He's got a lot of stuff in his game that he's deserving of being higher.”
The 38-year-old Swiss is eager to add to his legacy with a 21st Grand Slam title. Should he capture a seventh crown in Melbourne, he’ll share the all-time record with Novak Djokovic for most titles at this event.
Federer’s path to the last eight hasn’t been smooth sailing. He was two points from defeat in an epic third-round clash with Aussie John Millman and dropped a set in his fourth-round victory over Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.
But the Swiss brings his best to the business end of tournaments and holds a flawless 14-0 record in quarter-final matches in Melbourne. Federer also has far more experience at this juncture than the American. Tuesday will mark his 57th Grand Slam quarter-final, compared to two for Sandgren.
Federer, who kicked off his fourth decade on Tour this month, finds himself in the unusual position of going up against a player he’s never faced. With longtime coaches Ivan Ljubicic and Severin Luthi tasked with a fact-finding mission on the American, he’s confident that he’ll have a sound strategy in place.
“The good thing is you have enough time here. It's not like at an [ATP] Masters 1000 or 500 or 250, where you finish late, then next thing you know, you have to play again at 6:00pm the next day, scrambling to get all the info together,” Federer said. “I think the coaches have seen him quite a bit. They'll try to get some more info, maybe look into how he's played in the past against players like me.”
One thing that Federer already knows to expect is that Sandgren’s current form defies his FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 100. The 28-year-old has continued to thrive at the start of the year. In addition to his pair of quarter-finals at this event, he captured his maiden ATP Tour title 12 months ago in Auckland (d. Norrie). Fourteen of his 36 tour-level wins have come in the month of January.
“I like how he moves. Very explosive. Has a nice first serve as well. He can counter-punch, but also likes to go on the attack,” Federer said. “It reminds me a little bit of the olden days, when you would do the transition game very good and very quickly. I feel like that's what I've seen a lot of him doing very well.”
Sandgren is regarded as one of the fittest players on Tour, but he arrived Down Under with even greater speed around the court and a noticeable increase in muscle. His hard work during the pre-season paid off last week with wins over Italy’s top players, scoring a five-set victory in the second around against eighth seed Matteo Berrettini and prevailing in a grueling fourth-round battle with No. 12 seed Fabio Fognini.
Although Sandgren may be reserved off the court, he has a clear love for the spotlight when facing top players in elite evehts. He holds a 5-2 record against Top 20 players in Grand Slams and relishes the opportunities that marquee matches bring.
“I haven't had that many looks or wasn't supposed to. The fact that I am [in the quarter-finals], I get amped up. I want to perform. I want to do well. I don't want to take the time on the court for granted,” Sandgren said. “Getting to play in a big stadium, in front of a lot of people, because I've played a lot of tennis in front of very few people, the fact I get to do that seems to bring out the best tennis in me.”
Having already reached the last eight once before at this event, Sandgren won’t be awe-struck for the occasion. The baseline battler is ready to leave it all on the court against Federer and believes he still has more Melbourne magic to create.
“It seems if I play pretty well, I have a shot. With the way I serve, some of the offensive and defensive skills I bring to the table, [it] seems to translate in some of these bigger matches,” Sandgren said. “I spent a lot of time in my career not sniffing these opportunities. The fact that I was blessed enough to keep hold of my dream and be able to try and fulfill it, have the body to do so, the opportunities… I definitely don’t take it for granted.”
Stan Wawrinka sent a warning sign to his rivals on Monday. The Swiss, who captured the 2014 Australian Open title, believes he is finding his best form once again.
“I think the last time I played so well was before the surgery,” said Wawrinka, after his 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 victory over fourth seed Daniil Medvedev. “I feel since the off-season my level is really high. Physically, I'm moving better than last year. So I'm improving. I'm pretty sure [that] the last time I played that well was before the surgery.”
Wawrinka underwent two left knee surgeries in August 2017, just two months after competing in his fourth Grand Slam championship final at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal).
“I have been practising really hard,” admitted Wawrinka. “I've been feeling great on the court, on the practice court, good sessions, putting in a lot of work physically and tennis-wise. The week before I came here, I was really feeling at the top level.”
His victory over Medvedev was his biggest match win since overcoming then-World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the 2019 US Open fourth round.
“I know I'm in the right place,” said Wawrinka. “Winning or losing, that's not what shows if you’re feeling good mentally. Of course, you work on it, you work to accept to suffer, you work to accept to push yourself always. There's many, many things that you can do to improve your mindset.
“I know that since the end of last year after the off-season, I took a few days off for myself, thinking a little bit more about what I wanted for next year , the way I want it to go. Those moments you need to always be honest with yourself. You cannot hide. You cannot lie to yourself. Then when you know what you want, you have to put the work on it. That's what I'm doing. Hopefully I can keep doing it the full year.”
The 33-year-old Wawrinka will next look to beat seventh seed Alexander Zverev in Wednesday’s quarter-finals for the first time in their third meeting.
“I always try to enjoy what I'm doing to the maximum,” said Wawrinka. “I still believe it's a big [pleasure] to play tennis. It's my passion. It's something that I love to do. I'm playing, travelling around the world, playing in front of people, getting a lot of emotion from it. I love the process, also how you have to try to improve [and] the time you need to put in on the practice court to get to your level.
“There are many things I really enjoy.. I don't know how many, but not many years left. I want to do the maximum with it. I want to enjoy the maximum.”
Alexander Zverev completed a polished performance on Monday night for advance to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time. Three years ago, his brother, Mischa Zverev, reached the last eight (l. to Federer).
The seventh-seeded German came through 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes against childhood friend Andrey Rublev, ending the Russian’s 15-match winning streak dating back to November last year. Zverev has reached two Grand Slam championship quarter-finals before at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019.
“It feels amazing,” said Zverev, who won 49 of his 54 first-service points and struck 11 aces. “I played some great matches against some great opponents. This is Andrey’s first loss of the season, having won two tournaments and getting through to the fourth round with unbelievable tennis. I’ve known Andrey since we were 10 years old… I think he will be Top 15, Top 10 very soon. I’m just happy and I hope I can continue.”
The World No. 7 will next challenge Stan Wawrinka, the No. 15 seed and 2014 champion, and look to extend his perfect 2-0 ATP Head2Head record. Wawrinka beat fourth-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev in five sets earlier on Monday.
“The first match [against Marco Cecchinato at the Australian Open] wasn't the best, but I won," said Zverev. "The second match [against Egor Gerasimov] wasn't the best either, but I won. Then it went better and better. I hope it will continue being like that. The draw isn't getting easier. Stan is a multiple Grand Slam champion. It's going to be very difficult playing against him.
“He showed why he's a Grand Slam champion, beating [Daniil] Medvedev, coming back from two-sets-to-one down, playing great tennis. He's still one of the toughest players to play, especially here in Australia.”
After Rublev double faulted at 3-3, 15/15, Zverev sensed his chance. He then defended well from behind the baseline and Rublev handed him the first service break with a forehand approach into the net. Zverev consolidated the break and later closed out the 29-minute opener with Rublev hitting a crosscourt backhand wide.
Rublev went after too much in the first game of the second set and paid the price. Zverev closed out another 29-minute set with an ace in a hold to love, then bided his time in the third set until 4-4, when Rublev made another groundstroke error in his bid to scramble back a Zverev backhand.
Zverev completed his fourth match win of the year, having gone 0-3 for Team Germany at the ATP Cup at the start of 2020, with a forehand volley — his 34th winner of the pair’s fourth meeting (Zverev now 4-0).
“It felt good from start to finish,” said Zverev. “Obviously, it’s nice to get a win like that against a quality player… I'm happy with how it went."
Rublev, also 22, lifted trophies at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open crown (d. Moutet) and the Adelaide International (d. Harris) in the first weeks of the year. He was the first player since Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 to win consecutive titles to begin a season. Prior to losing to Zverev, Rublev had beaten wild card Christopher O'Connell, Yuichi Sugita and No. 11 seed David Goffin in Melbourne.
After Tennys Sandgren advanced to his second Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday, a member of the media told the American that he is now 5-2 against Top 20 opposition at Grand Slams.
“Wow,” Sandgren said.
The 28-year-old has proven over the past three years he has the game to play on the sport’s biggest stages, beating the likes of Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka, Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini at the season’s first Grand Slam. But it all seems a bit surreal to him still.
“The fact that I am [on this stage], I get kind of amped up. I want to perform. I want to do well. I don't want to take the time on the court for granted,” Sandgren said. “Getting to play on a big stadium, getting to play in front of a lot of people, because I've played a lot of tennis in front of the very few people, the fact I get to do that, seems to bring out the best tennis in me. It seems if I play pretty well, I have a shot.”
It’s not lost on Sandgren that it took him several years to get to this point. The Tennessee native turned professional in 2011 after competing for two years at the University of Tennessee. But he would not break into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time until 12 June 2017, when he was one month shy of his 26th birthday.
“I wasn't supposed to be here. I spent a lot of time in my career not sniffing these opportunities. So there are better players than me that I played with in Futures and Challengers that have stopped playing because they just ran out of money or got injured or something like that. The fact that I was blessed enough to keep hold of my dream and to be able to try and fulfill it, have the body to do so, the opportunities, [I am] definitely blessed,” Sandgren said. “It's worked out pretty well. There's definitely a world where it didn't work out. Some of the margins were pretty small for me to have some of these opportunities. I definitely don't take it for granted.”
On the three occasions Sandgren has made at least the fourth round of a major, he has been ranked outside the Top 90. So his success against top players on these huge stages isn’t something fans would expect. But that doesn’t mean last year’s Auckland titlist, who has been ranked as high as World No. 41, hasn’t worked to best prepare himself so that he’d be ready in such moments.
“There’s been a few things in the past two years that I wouldn’t have thought would be the case. It’s too far away. That’s how these things go a lot of the time. You can’t see into the future enough to know how good things could be or what kind of successes you might have,” Sandgren told ATPTour.com in Zhuhai last year. “There are so many stories where people are nowhere — in the entertainment industry or business, if you started your company in their garage. Did you ever imagine that you’d have a multi-billion dollar company? No, of course not. But you put in the work every day and you try to have a vision of the future that you can tolerate, and you try to manifest that somehow, and work hard and do all the right stuff in the hopes that something might materialise that’s worthwhile.”
When Sandgren left Tennessee, the Big Four had already established themselves at or near the top of the sport, providing a model to aspire to. The American went through a number of years during which playing them was not possible because of the level at which he was competing. But now he’s faceed Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray twice each, with his matches against the Serbian coming at Grand Slams. Of course it’s sunk in that he’s gotten to compete against tennis legends, but that’s not what hit him the most during his climb.
“It hit me more when I started playing ATP events that I was playing ATP events because I felt maybe a little out of place. But playing guys who I’ve watched play has been more comfortable because I feel like I belong more in the tournaments, so I’m just a guy playing,” Sandgren told ATPTour.com. “I’m just one of the guys who gets the opportunity to play a legend and that’s cool. That’s an enjoyable experience. I’ve played a lot of matches in relative obscurity, so to be able to have those opportunities is a lot of fun. It’s of course challenging because you have to figure out what the heck you’re going to do and there’s more people and there’s pressure that comes with that, sure, but it’s way more of an opportunity and an enjoyable experience to go out there and compete and entertain some people and have fun with it.”
Sandgren first played in a major main draw at 2017 Roland Garros, for which he earned a wild card. That was around the time period when he began to play more tour-level events. And at first, he didn’t always feel that he belonged at that level, even if his game was there. But that core belief has grown over time, and that has made a big difference during his Australian Open quarter-final runs.
“Getting the confidence to believe in myself, that I do actually belong on this stage, is crucial for competing,” Sandgren said. “I mean, if you don't feel like you should be there, you're probably not going to play very well.”
It certainly would be a confidence boost for Sandgren to hear what his next opponent, 20-time Slam winner Roger Federer, said after defeating Marton Fucsovics to set a clash against the World No. 100. They will play one another for the first time on Tuesday.
“I wonder why he's not ranked higher, to be honest. Every time I see him play, I feel like he plays very well,” Federer said. “He's got a lot of stuff in his game that he's deserving of being higher.
“I like how he moves. Very explosive. Has a nice first serve as well. He can counter-punch, but also likes to go on the attack. Reminds me a little bit of the olden days when you would do the transition game very good and very quickly. I feel like that's what I've seen a lot of him doing very well.”
Just four months ago, during a match against Murray in Zhuhai, Sandgren tore a ligament and suffered a stress fracture in a toe in his right foot. It would have been easy to get frustrated, as he had only 78 FedEx ATP Ranking points to defend from the end of the 2019 US Open through the end of last season. But due to the injury, he only earned 10, playing just one ATP Challenger Tour event after Zhuhai.
But Sandgren worked hard during the off-season, balancing training with recovery for his toe, and his conditioning has paid dividends, with his physical game holding up against some of the world’s best at Melbourne Park. And now, he’s earned a shot at Federer.
“I was kicking myself that I lost to a too-good Sam Querrey at Wimbledon [last year] in the Round of 16 because I would have played Rafa in the quarters. That would have been very special. I was a little upset I wasn't able to get to that match,” Sandgren said. “It would be incredibly special to be able to play [Roger] at least once in my career. To play him on a big stage like [the] quarters of a Slam would be a ton of fun, really.”
Stan Wawrinka lost both of his previous ATP Head2Head meetings to Daniil Medvedev in Grand Slams, but turned the tables in a captivating comeback win at the Australian Open on Monday. The 2014 champion and No. 15 seed reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne with a 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 victory over the fourth seed.
”That was an amazing match and an amazing atmosphere,” Wawrinka said in his on-court interview. “It was really tough to play against Daniil. I had to raise my level in the fourth and fifth sets. The level was super high and the atmosphere is always something special here in Australia.
“I’m finding solutions. I was losing a bit of confidence in the second and third sets, and was fighting against myself to play my game. I had to fight, stay positive and I’m happy with the result."
The Swiss is through to his fifth quarter-final in Melbourne and reached the last eight at this event for the first time since 2017. Next up for Wawrinka is seventh-seeded German Alexander Zverev, who beat No. 17 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes. Wawrinka is 0-2 lifetime against Zverev.
”As a tennis player and tennis fan, I always try to watch the big matches. It’s going to be interesting to see them play,” Wawrinka said. “It’s amazing for me to keep playing here and to play at that level. I’m really proud of what I’ve done on the court and I’m looking forward to playing in the quarter-finals.”
Wawrinka started their Margaret Court Arena clash in peak form. Disrupting Medvedev’s flat groundstrokes with heavy spins and a variety of angles, the Swiss held the momentum throughout the opening set and broke Medvedev twice to take an early lead. Wawrinka landed 85 per cent of his first serves (17/20) and hit 16 winners to just eight unforced errors.
But Medvedev kept calm and weathered the storm. The fourth seed added more length to his shots in the second set, pushing Wawrinka back in the baseline rallies and earning a break at 1-1 after drawing a forehand error. The Russian cleaned up his game considerably, hitting just two errors in the set and frustrating his opponent with incredible defence. Medvedev grabbed an insurance break at 3-1 after prevailing in a lengthy rally and rode the momentum to level the match.
The effort it takes to win points against Medvedev began to take its toll on Wawrinka, who showed more visible emotion after falling short in points. Medvedev's depth on his groundstrokes prevented the Swiss from moving forward as frequently as he did in the opening set, forcing him to engage in 20-ball rallies that favoured the Russian.
Although Wawrinka didn't offer many opportunities, Medvedev pounced on the few he received. A loose service game from the No. 15 seed at 3-3 in the third set saw him hand a break to Medvedev with four unforced errors. The slight advantage was all the fourth seed needed and he went on earn a commanding advantage.
Medvedev and Wawrinka each raised their level in the fourth set, with breathtaking exchanges frequently leaving the crowd gasping in unison. Both players refused to budge and traded service holds to forced a tie-break.
It was the Russian who blinked first in the critical moments, gifting Wawrinka a pair of baseline errors and a 3/0 lead in the tie-break. Sensing the opportunity, the No. 15 seed began opening up on his backhand, charging the net to hit a delicate half-volley winner for a 5-2 lead. Wawrinka whipped the crowd into a frenzy after converting his first set point, tapping his forehead with his index finger as the match went into a decider.
Medvedev, normally unflappable in tight moments, showed signs of frustration for the first time in the final set. With Wawrinka unloading from the baseline and hitting corners with ease, the Swiss won eight of the first nine points and stormed to a 2-0 lead. A forehand passing shot at 4-2 gave the 2014 champion his fourth break of the match and he nodded his head at his team.
Wawrinka ripped a down-the-line forehand on his first match point to wrap up play after three hours and 25 minutes. He finished the day with a staggering 71 winners.
â€œHe was playing really well,â€� said Medvedev. â€œI think I did a good job to make it two sets to one. I had some opportunities in the fourth set. I didn't have break points, but I was really close in many games. But Stan played well [and] served amazing.
â€œI think it was a tight battle where in the first and fifth sets he was really better than me. In the second and third sets, I was better. The fourth was kind of the deciding set, let's say, where he was really good in the tie-break. After a loss, I'm not disappointed too much. Here I'm like, â€˜I did my bestâ€™. Of course, I could do some shots better. But he played a great match. I wish him only luck for the rest of the tournament.â€�
Medvedev dropped to 7-2 this season. The 23-year-old opened his year by leading Russia to a semi-final finish at the ATP Cup. He is still searching for his first five-set win at a Grand Slam (0-6).
Six titles. 77 victories. Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan’s record at Melbourne Park speaks for itself.
The American twins’ final Australian Open campaign came to an end on Monday, after falling to a 6-3, 6-4 defeat against fourth seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek in the third round.
Dodig and Polasek won 95 per cent of first-serve points (35/37) to advance after 70 minutes, ending the 41-year-old Bryans’ hopes of a seventh trophy at the opening Grand Slam of the year. The Bryans lifted their sixth title in Melbourne in 2013, beating Robin Haase and Igor Sijsling in the championship match.
The six-time champions will retire following the US Open, the scene of their Grand Slam debut in 1995. The Bryans own 16 Grand Slam titles as a pair, an all-time team record in men’s doubles.
Alexander Bublik and Mikhail Kukushkin moved one win away from the championship match, ending Day 8 on Rod Laver Arena with a 7-6(6), 7-5 quarter-final victory against Australian wild cards James Duckworth and Marc Polmans.
The Kazakhs, who broke serve on four occasions, will face Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury or Henri Kontinen and Jan-Lennard Struff for a place in the final.
Ram and Salisbury, the No. 11 seeds, saved seven set points en route to upsetting No. 6 seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 7-6(11). Ram and Salisbury fought back from 3/6 to 6/6 in the second-set tie-break, then saved more set points at 6/7, 7/8, 8/9 and 10/11 before converting on their second match point. This is Ram’s fourth trip to the quarter-finals in Melbourne and the first for Salisbury.
Kontinen and Struff needed one hour and 27 minutes to move past Simone Bolelli and Benoit Paire 7-5, 6-3. Kontinen is aiming to lift his second title in Melbourne after prevailing in 2017 (w/Peers).
Santiago Gonzalez and Ken Skupski booked their place in the quarter-finals, defeating 16th seeds Austin Krajicek and Franko Skugor 6-3, 6-4. The unseeded pairing converted two of three break points to advance after 63 minutes. Gonzalez and Skupski will face Australian wild cards Max Purcell and Luke Saville for a spot in the semi-finals.
Dominic Thiem advanced to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time on Monday, cruising past No. 10 seed Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 after one hour and 50 minutes.
“I think that I played my best match so far of this Australian Open. A very, very good feeling,” Thiem said on court after his triumph. “The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and then was managing to hold my serve well. I’m so happy because I’m for the first time in the quarter-finals here.”
Thiem arrived in Melbourne having lost two of his three matches at the inaugural ATP Cup. And in his two most recent Grand Slam appearances — at last year’s Wimbledon and the US Open — he lost in the first round. But after coming from two sets to one down against Aussie wild card Alex Bolt in the second round, Thiem has rounded into form, winning eight of his past nine sets to reach the quarter-finals.
Thiem will next face top-seeded Rafael Nadal (4-9) or Aussie Nick Kyrgios (0-1), the No. 23 seed. The Austrian has a losing ATP Head2Head record against both players.
“I couldn’t be happier to be done, to be in the quarter-finals and to watch that, relax from home. I’m also very excited for that match,” Thiem said. “Obviously it’s going to be such an entertaining contest tonight and then also in two days, it doesn’t matter who I face. So I’m really excited to watch that match and may the better one win tonight.”
Monfils walked onto Rod Laver Arena with confidence, losing only one set in his first three matches to put himself in position to play for his second trip to the last eight at Melbourne Park. But Thiem carried a 5-0 ATP Head2Head lead against the Frenchman into the match, and it showed.
Far too often, Monfils left balls in the middle of the court, allowing the heavy-hitting Thiem to push the No. 10 seed wherever he pleased. And even though Monfils is as fleet afoot as anyone on the ATP Tour, he wasn’t doing enough to push the Austrian off the baseline. When Monfils tried to up his aggression, that led to more unforced errors. And when the pair got into cat-and-mouse points, which Monfils typically excels in behind his world-class athleticism, Thiem always had the answer.
Thiem earned two breaks in the opening set to set the tone, and he never relinquished his momentum, going the entire match without facing a break point. The Austrian struck 31 winners to 19 unforced errors.
“I always played my best tennis against him, so maybe that’s one reason,” Thiem said of his success against Monfils.
At 3-3 in the second set, the physicality of the match began to show in Monfils, who hunched over after a 32-shot rally. In that same game, Monfils served and volleyed on break point, following in a kick serve to Thiem’s backhand, but he missed a backhand volley wide. From there, Thiem was off to the races.
In the first game of the third set, Monfils sprayed an inside-out forehand wide from the middle of the court wide. And Thiem won his service games the rest of the way, holding the final game to love.
It is no secret that the ATP Challenger Tour event in Rennes is one of the top indoor tournaments on the circuit. A show from start to finish, the Open de Rennes features world-class production value and entertainment for fans, as well as premier hospitality for the players. Over the years, France has set the standard for indoor events with Rennes joining Orleans, Mouilleron le Captif, Pau, Lille and Brest among the best in the world.
On Sunday, a Frenchman finally celebrated his moment in the spotlight after a seven-year title drought in Rennes. Arthur Rinderknech thrilled the home faithful with his maiden victory on the ATP Challenger Tour. The 24-year-old, a native of Gassin, defeated British veteran James Ward 7-5, 6-4 for the title in front of a standing-room-only crowd. A total of 3,000 packed Le Liberté to witness the moment.
Rinderknech is the first French champion in Rennes since 2013, when Nicolas Mahut prevailed. The tournament was celebrating its 14th anniversary.
A former standout at Texas A&M University, the Frenchman became the first player to celebrate his maiden moment in 2020. He won six matches in seven days, upsetting German players Mats Moraing and Tobias Kamke along the way. It was a breakthrough moment for Rinderknech, considering he had never previously reached a semi-final on the circuit.
"This is an incredible week," said Rinderknech. "If I had been told Monday that I will be here today, I would never have believed it. I had the public won over to my side, but James fought hard and he had a very good level of play and did not make it easy.
"I've played all of my matches on this Centre Court. It's a great chance to play here and it’s a feeling that I will never forget. Thank you to the audience who made my matches easier, especially the ones where I was most upset. That I am here today, it is also thanks to them."
Gaio Bags Bangkok Title
Federico Gaio earned his second title in as many years, prevailing on the hard courts of Bangkok. The Italian lifted the trophy when Robin Haase retired due to heat exhaustion in the third set. Gaio was leading 6-1, 4-6, 4-2 when Haase was forced to stop.
It was an impressive week for the 27-year-old, who earned three wins over former Top 40 players - Denis Istomin, Jiri Vesely and Robin Haase. Gaio celebrated his fourth title in total and first on hard courts. He most recently triumphed on the clay of Manerbio in August.
Four Continents In Spotlight Next Week
Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe lead the field at the Oracle Challenger Series in Newport Beach. Two-time defending champion Fritz and World No. 50 Tiafoe are joined by #NextGenATP star Miomir Kecmanovic and local native Steve Johnson.
The first clay-court event of the year is in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where Marco Cecchinato and reigning champion Thiago Monteiro are top dogs. Former junior No. 1 and 16-year-old Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune is competing in his sixth Challenger event.
In Burnie, Australia, Taro Daniel is joined by 2019 winner and third seed Steven Diez. Meanwhile, on the indoor hard courts of Quimper, France, Enzo Couacaud leads the home charge and is joined by top seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Milos Raonic has not lost a service game or a set so far this Australian Open en route to the quarter-finals, in which he will face seven-time champion Novak Djokovic. By the looks of it, the Canadian star is at his top level, playing as well as anyone in the draw.
But somehow, the 29-year-old — backed by a loud game that is highlighted by a booming rocket-like serve — has launched into the second week quietly. Raonic has earned tremendous victories over reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and former World No. 3 Marin Cilic thus far this fortnight. But entering the event, Raonic was not one of the favourites, or even in the discussion.
Raonic’s current FedEx ATP Ranking is No. 35. Since February 2012, he has spent only four weeks placed that low. Last year, the Canadian played only 14 tournaments, as he dealt with multiple injuries, including back and glute ailments.
“I didn't play much tennis last year, so I think for me the toughest part in this off-season was I knew I did six good weeks of training and I knew it would sort of come together. I was hoping I would play well in the first week of the year, but that didn't happen. I knew I had to be sort of patient for it to come together,” Raonic said. “I'm glad it's paying off pretty early. And now I have to find a way to continue playing well in this tournament, and after that find a way for continuity and try to create some momentum so I can do this week-in and week-out, without having to take long breaks in between and sort of regressing my training and then having to pick up my training again.
“It would be nice to be able to consistently train, and then that way I don't have to really train as hard, because my level isn't falling off because I haven't been bedridden or sitting on a couch for weeks at a time.”
Raonic has dealt with a laundry list of injuries over the years: right hip, right foot, left wrist, elbow, right ankle, right calf and right knee among them. But through it all, Raonic has always found a way to remain a threat. He has not been ranked outside the Top 50 since 14 February 2011, just after his 20th birthday.
So even though, fresh off a first-round loss in Doha, it didn’t seem Raonic would be a player to watch for, he has proven he should have been. Entering Monday’s play, he leads the tournament in aces (82) and first-serve points won (87%) on top of going four matches — and 12 sets — without being broken.
“Milos played unbelievable tennis and he is just showing that he’s in great form, maybe the best form I’ve seen him during all his career,” said Cilic after losing to the Canadian. “From my own opinion and playing against him, I feel he has a really good chance to win the tournament.”
Interestingly, Raonic believes he didn’t begin the tournament in great form. He only needed three hours and four minutes combined to win his first two matches of the event, but he was still rounding into form in his mind.
“I was really struggling with my serve through the practice week. The first match, it didn't feel necessarily that great because it was a little bit windy on that court. Then the second match, you can sort of feel it that day of warming up. I just sort of found my rhythm,” Raonic said. “I wasn't necessarily sure what to do. Once I get my rhythm and once I have continuity of playing, it comes for me. Serving is the most natural thing for me to do. So once I can figure out, ‘Hey, this is sort of how I need to go about it’, I can sort of work on that.”
Raonic will look to fire up his cannon-like right arm for by far his biggest challenge of the event so far, playing a man whom he has not beaten in nine attempts: the second-seeded Djokovic. They have played 23 sets, Raonic winning just two of them.
“I’m going to have to serve well clearly, and then I think I'm going to have to get my return at a high percentage, make him play a lot of those points, and then try to be efficient on my service games,” Raonic said. “I think we play quite opposite from each other, and he's done a good job in the past neutralising my serve. So I have really got to focus on my things well and be the one dictating.”
Although the pair’s ATP Head2Head rivalry has been one-sided thus far, Raonic does have weapons he brings to the court. Just ask Tsitsipas, whom Raonic dispatched without facing a break point.
“He's playing forehands from all over the court, and you don't really know where you should stand exactly, because he's just so fast and just turning around, hitting those forehands. Serve is great, one of the best in the game,” Tsitsipas said. “I felt a bit stupid returning his serves. I felt like I was slow. My anticipation was not there.”
Entering this tournament, the Canadian hype was surrounding #NextGenATP stars Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, who both were upset in the first round. But Raonic, as he has for nearly a decade, remains a threat, set to compete in his fifth Australian Open quarter-final and his 10th quarter-final at a Grand Slam. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t the focus of attention as far as Canadian players go.
“Couldn't care less,” Raonic said. “I just care about how I'm playing and feel on the court.”
Raonic is feeling well at the moment, and he hopes that will propel him even further in Melbourne.
“Rafa has enormous amounts of pressure on his shoulders, but he’s been away from home for a long time, since 28 December. I think he needs to do other things to reduce the focus and forget about tennis a little bit.”
These are the words of Carlos Moya, one of Rafael Nadal’s coaches and a former No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Moya is the first to defend the 19-time Grand Slam champion’s breaks and he frequently suggests moments of downtime so that Nadal can disconnect from competition, freeing his mind from the pressure he is under.
Before the top seed plays against No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday night, Moya spoke to ATPTour.com about how Nadal’s other life in Melbourne is going.
On Bowling Across The Globe...
“We were in Abu Dhabi and there was a bowling alley by the hotel. We played there for a couple of days and then we saw that there was also one where we’re staying here, so we’ve been a couple of times," Moya said. "There are a few of us on the team who play, but Rafa normally wins. If he’s playing at night, we’ll go bowling the day before. There’s no schedule, just whatever we feel like.”
On Team Ludo Games...
“We play Ludo almost every day,” Moya said. “The normal players are Rafa, his father, Sebastian, [fitness trainer] Rafa Maymo, and me, although new players come along sometimes. He was good at bowling, not so much at Ludo in recent days.”
On Family Nights…
“His family are here in Melbourne: his wife, his father, his sister… If I see that they are making plans, I step back a little,” Moya said. “With the pressure he’s under, as well as the pressure from the team, it makes it important to give him space. It’s necessary to do it, even though he is very respectful about that. And it’s necessary to do it so that later, our point of view has an impact. For example, we went to eat together in St. Kilda on some of the first few days.”
On Quality Over Quantity In Training...
“I far prefer quality to quantity, but I understand that at 18 or 20 years old, you need a lot of the latter,” Moya explained. “At this point of his career, the demand has to be as high as possible, and the wear and tear as little as possible. He shouldn’t be on court just for the sake of it. It’s better for his head and for his body.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do. Of course, there has to be a balance. If the results don’t come, it means something has to be changed. We always have to apply what we think is required in each situation.”
On Effective Communication...
“When it comes to talking to a professional player, it’s very important to find the right moment, particularly in his case,” Moya revealed. “Rafa has 10 billion things in his head. As much as you want to tell him something, it’s difficult for the message to get through if he’s not receptive. I’m patient and always wait for the right time, although sometimes if that time doesn’t come, I tell him anyway.
“For example, Rafa likes to have the pre-match talk after his warm-up. We talk when he is preparing his racquets and other things.”
On Watching Tennis Together...
“We watch tennis together sometimes,” Moya said. “We watched some of the Federer-Millman match together, but you can’t really be in his room for four hours. He stayed there having his dinner. I went to my room and we ended up watching it separately. There’s no guide telling us what to do. There are a thousand different situations and it’s a question of trying to figure out when I have to be there and when I don’t.”
Editor's Note: This story was first published on 25 January after Novak Djokovic spoke on ESPN about how Kobe Bryant mentored him. On 26 January, Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash. He was 41.
Tennis players often speak about the other players — current and former — they learn from and how those lessons impact their own games and careers. But it’s not every day that a superstar from another sport enters the conversation.
Seven-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic revealed on Saturday during an off-day interview with ESPN that he has learned a lot from retired basketball legend Kobe Bryant, especially when the Serbian fell outside the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings two years ago while he was dealing with an elbow injury.
“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic said. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.
“I’m very grateful to him for being there for me, for being very supportive. I love Kobe, who doesn’t? He’s an amazing guy and one of the best basketball players and athletes of all-time.”
Bryant visited the US Open last year, and at the time, in his own interview with ESPN, he reflected on one specific conversation he had with Djokovic about overcoming hurdles such as an injury and adjusting to the games of rising stars while getting older.
“He was going through a process of, ‘Physically, I’m not where I used to be. How did you adjust and change your game?’” Bryant recalled. “We talked about it for a while and having the acceptance of an athlete to say, ‘I’m not what I used to be.’
“Novak’s my guy. We have a relationship. We’ve had a relationship for a long time.”
Djokovic posted a video in December of himself training in a gym with football star Cristiano Ronaldo. Both men were leaping up in an attempt to touch their head to a piece of string as if they were going up for a header.
“He was basically teaching me how to jump. He is considered as one of the greatest football, soccer players of all-time, obviously. What I love about that guy is his work ethic and his constant need to improve. He’s such a professional,” Djokovic said. “He’s got at home all these recovery devices and things. He’s always trying to find a way how to be best in the world and make a huge mark not just in his sport, but all sports. He’s a beast, he’s an unbelievable athlete. We trained together that day, and it was a great experience.”
Djokovic takes all of these interactions very seriously, seeing an opportunity to not just spend time with some of the best athletes in the world, but to also learn from them as he tries to improve his game.
“To be surrounded with the people like Kobe and Cristiano is obviously a huge pleasure and honour for me. When I’m next to them, I turn into a student. I try to have my ears wide open and listen to what they have to say and ask questions,” Djokovic said. “I’m not afraid to ask questions and they are not as well. I think that’s a great way of exchanging some experiences and things that maybe you could use in your sport, in your life, in your career. It’s just amazing to share those life stories with them.”
Djokovic faces No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Sunday.
There is no doubt that Andrey Rublev is one of the players of the moment. The Russian will play in the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday against Alexander Zverev after producing a spectacular start to the year, in which he has won all 11 matches he has played, including titles in Doha and Adelaide.
Shortly before battling for a place in the quarter-finals at the season’s first major, Fernando Vicente, the Russian’s coach, sat down with ATPTour.com to analyse what the World No. 16 has achieved.
On Winning Two Titles To Start The Year...
“I’m very happy because he deserves it. I’m surprised at the results, but he works so hard and puts so much into it... Rublev is a very good player, he’s been playing well and of course it’s not easy to win tournaments”, says Vicente of the trophies picked up by his charge in Doha and Adelaide in the first two weeks of the season. “He’s playing very well, hitting the ball amazingly well and [is] very content mentally. It’s been many years since that last happened, but he still has a lot to improve on… he lacks a little in reactions and his second serve and he could come to the net more.”
Being Unbeaten Thus Far In 2020...
“He’s tired, but he’s coped with it”, Vicente says. “He’s not overwhelmed, he knows he has several wins under his belt here in Melbourne, and in Goffin he beat one of the big opponents, one of the best in the world. Rublev wants to reach that level."
On Rublev’s Evolution In Their Four Years Together…
“This is our fourth year, and he’s changed everything”, recognises Vicente, who started to train Rublev when he was a junior. “He’s a very restless person and he didn’t have much [of an] idea of how to play tactically. He wouldn’t see what was happening. We laid the foundations for learning while we worked on his physical strength… He really liked hitting it hard, but he wasn’t used to running.”
On Rublev’s Character…
“The mental side is very important,” confesses the Spanish coach. “He’s trying to control himself because sometimes he goes crazy, and his opponents know that. He has to accept that other people play well, too. Now he’s more relaxed.
“On court there is no problem because he loves playing and he’ll put in whatever hours you ask of him without saying a word. The problem is more about controlling his emotions, being capable of seeing what is happening on the other side of the net, managing his nerves and not showing them.
“A lot of the time that comes from being demanding: he can do nine things well and one badly, and he beats himself up about it too much. He doesn’t deserve that. Nobody can get every ball on the line at five thousand miles an hour.”
On One-On-One Conversations With Rublev In The Early Hours…
“With Rublev you really have to choose the right moment to tell him things”, says Vicente. “On court it’s very hard. His mind is a little unusual. Sometimes we are up until five in the morning talking in the hotel because he’s lost a match.
“Last year in Paris, when he had just won in Moscow, we were up until four in the morning talking one-to-one for two nights because he was feeling receptive, and it was a good time to analyse what he does well and what he does badly, where he makes mistakes, how he can improve as a person.”
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. In the aftermath, current and former ATP Tour stars paid tribute to Bryant's legacy on social media.
We are deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and others on board. On behalf of everyone at the ATP Tour, our thoughts and condolences are with the affected family and friends at this extremely difficult time.— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 26, 2020
I woke up this morning with the horrible news of the tragic death of one of the greatest sportsman in the world. Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers. My condolences to his wife and families. I am in shock.— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) January 27, 2020
My heart truly mourns over the news today. Kobe was a great mentor and friend to me. You and your daughter will live forever in our hearts. There are not enough words to express my deepest sympathies to the Bryants and every family suffering from this tragedy. RIP my friend pic.twitter.com/VRmgaOaITT— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 27, 2020
♥ï¸�♥ï¸� pic.twitter.com/x7U2VplP3w— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) January 27, 2020
Terribly sad to wake up to this news today. RIP Kobe Bryant. Too young. Deepest condolences to family and friends of the sporting legend.— Rod Laver (@rodlaver) January 26, 2020
Kobe ðŸ˜— Lucas Pouille (@la_pouille) January 26, 2020
RIP #MambaForever ðŸ’”— Tomáš Berdych (@tomasberdych) January 26, 2020
Absolutley devastating. Such a sporting legend and Icon, who committed everything he had to a sport and to a city, only to pass well before his time. #RIPKobe— Luke Bambridge (@Bambo290) January 26, 2020
I am so saddened by this news feel so sorry for his wife and 4 daughters— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) January 26, 2020
today is reminder life is so precious and fragile i am so saddened for Kobe’s wife and 4 girls #prey ðŸ™�— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) January 26, 2020
My God. How Life unfolds... I just learned about @kobebryant death. This is such a tragedy.— Jelena Djokovic (@jelenadjokovic) January 26, 2020
Horrible news today— Jan-Michael Gambill (@JanmikeGambill) January 26, 2020
Life is so precious man. I was a huge fan. RIP Mamba— Mardy Fish (@MardyFish) January 26, 2020
No words! One of my sporting heroes! Always so nice every time. So lucky that my boys got to meet him this last summer. Gone way too soon! Such an incredible person with so much left to… https://t.co/lBcuf2RRh1— Mark Knowles (@knowlzee10s) January 26, 2020
Kobe Bryant was everything an athlete dreams of becoming. He was a legend, and he will forever be an inspiration. RIP Kobe— Ryan Harrison (@ryanharrison92) January 26, 2020
This is brutal manðŸ˜¢ðŸ™�ðŸ�¼ https://t.co/nU7kyd5uGw— Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) January 26, 2020
Shocked ....disaster for sport worldwide .... RIP #MambaForever— Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_tennis) January 26, 2020
What a great tragedy! The death of the legend Kobe Bryant n daughter in a helicopter crash. Thoughts n prayers with his family n friends. He brought so much joy to so many in the world. A basketball genius n Oscar winner. RIP Kobe.— Vijay Amritraj (@Vijay_Amritraj) January 26, 2020
ðŸ’”ðŸ™� pic.twitter.com/5eZ32MNXSj— Sébastien Grosjean (@sebboca29) January 27, 2020
Lost for words. #ripkobe— Marcus Willis (@Willbomb90) January 26, 2020
life can be so brutally tragic ðŸ’”— Paul Annacone (@paul_annacone) January 26, 2020
Shocked to hear of @kobebryant's death this morning. Our thoughts are with his family. RIP. Legend of sport.— Craig Tiley (@CraigTiley) January 26, 2020
Argentine star Juan Martin del Potro will undergo a “new intervention” on his right knee in Miami on Monday, according to his team.
“We hope that this is the definitive solution to eliminate the pain that not only has prevented DelPo from playing tennis, but also making it difficult for him to perform daily activities,” his team wrote in a statement. “After his previous operation performed in June by Dr. Ángel Ruiz Cotorro in Barcelona, the recovery progressed, but pain persisted throughout, which prevented DelPo from running and jumping, and even activities such as walking up stairs.
“Despite the pain he remained active, regaining muscle and leg strength, hoping to return quickly to the circuit. In addition to rehabilitation, he trained in the gym and on the tennis court with reduced mobility. According to his doctor’s time frame, DelPo was aiming to return to the tournaments in Stockholm and Vienna [last October].
“Unfortunately the pain never left, which forced the cancellation of these tennis commitments and spurred Delpo to seek new medical consultations. What followed next were lots of trips, different treatments, diets and training, until reaching the medical conclusion that a new surgery was required and inevitable.”
Del Potro last competed at last June’s Fever-Tree Championships in London, where he fractured his right patella for the second time in less than a year during a victory against Denis Shapovalov. The 22-time tour-level champion missed the last four weeks of the 2018 season and was limited to just four tournaments before arriving at Queen's Club in 2019 after breaking his patella at the 2018 Rolex Shanghai Masters.
The Argentine has successfully returned from injury before, winning ATP Comeback Player of the Year in the ATP Awards in 2011 and 2016.
When Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios play, the tennis is almost always sensational. Throw in the Melbourne crowd and the opportunity to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, and their clash on Monday in the fourth round of the Australian Open promises to be a blockbuster showdown.
“I'm super excited, honestly. Playing one of the greatest tennis players on centre court at your own Slam, it's pretty damn cool,” Kyrgios said. “Obviously it's going to be another physical battle. Nothing comes easy with him. He had a relatively routine match [on Saturday], so he's going to be feeling good. I'm looking forward to it. That's why you play.”
Kyrgios played the longest match of his career late Saturday evening, finding a way to battle past big-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov in a fifth-set Match Tie-break after four hours and 26 minutes. Immediately, as Kyrgios fell to the court in celebration, the fans knew that their home favourite was not only moving on, but that he will get a crack at top-seeded Nadal, who is chasing his second title at Melbourne Park.
“I feel good,” Kyrgios said. “I feel like my game is ready to go.”
Nadal has won four of the pair’s seven ATP Head2Head encounters, most recently defeating the Aussie in the second round at Wimbledon last year. The Spaniard showed his toughness to win tie-breaks in the third and fourth sets at SW19, triumphing after just over three hours.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion, who is chasing Roger Federer’s record of 20 major trophies this fortnight, knows that Kyrgios at his best could challenge anyone on the ATP Tour, as he has throughout their rivalry.
“He's a very top, talented player. But there is a lot of important things that you need to do to become a champion,” Nadal said after his Wimbledon win. “He has a lot of good ingredients.
“With his talent and with his serve, he can win a Grand Slam, of course. He has the talent to do it.”
But Rafa is Rafa after all. Upsetting the Spaniard will be a tremendous task for Kyrgios. The legendary lefty is trying to reach at least the quarter-finals at the season’s first Grand Slam for the 12th time in his 13 most recent appearances, while the Aussie is trying to make the last eight at a major for the first time since the 2015 Australian Open.
Nadal is also in devastating form. The 33-year-old led Team Spain to the final of the inaugural ATP Cup to start the year, and he has not yet dropped a set in Melbourne. The 84-time tour-level champion has allowed only one set to go past 6-4, and he defeated former World No. 10 Pablo Carreno Busta, the No. 27 seed, in only one hour and 38 minutes in the third round.
“It was my best match of the tournament so far, without a doubt. Big difference between today and the previous days,” Nadal said after defeating Carreno Busta. “I have been serving well, starting to create damage with the forehand. Hitting serve and one shot.”
Even though Kyrgios has beaten Nadal on three occasions, his challenge will be to find a way to knock off the Spaniard in full flight. Kyrgios, who defeated Nadal in Acapulco last year, will be able to look back at that match and even his Wimbledon loss positively as he steps into Rod Laver Arena on Monday.
“Every time you put up a battle like that against Rafa, you're going to take confidence from it. Two tough tie-breaks. There's nothing in that match really. He changed up his game plan a little bit,” Kyrgios said. “I'll probably expect him to serve a little bit more to my forehand when I play him in a couple days. That's what he did at Wimbledon. He had some pretty good success there. I thought he played really well at Wimbledon. I came out a little slow. But the grass just seemed so slow. I couldn't really break him down.”
How has Kyrgios found success against Nadal? The Aussie has a short backswing on his backhand, allowing him to blunt the heavy topspin of Nadal’s cross-court forehand. Kyrgios’ booming serve also allows him to start off points on the front foot. But that’s not all, according to the 24-year-old.
“Ever since juniors I enjoyed playing lefties. I feel like I kind of know what game plan I need to bring to be successful against them. [But] Rafa is a different beast altogether,” Kyrgios said. “I kind of know his patterns. Everyone knows his patterns, can't do anything about it. Federer knows his patterns. Everyone knows his patterns. He executes them at the highest level.”
As Kyrgios said, he plays for challenges like facing Nadal on a stage like Rod Laver Arena. The question is, even if he brings his best, will he have enough to beat Nadal?
Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev have 34 ATP Tour titles and more than $53 million in prize money between them. What they don’t have is an Australian Open quarter-final. The trio of talented young stars all seek to record their best result in Melbourne when fourth-round action continues on Monday.
Fourth seed Medvedev looks to continue his pattern of success against No. 15 seed Stan Wawrinka. The Russian leads 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head rivalry and earned both wins in Grand Slams (2017 Wimbledon & 2019 US Open). Both matches were competitive four-setters, but saw Medvedev wear down the Swiss in the latter stages each time.
The 24-year-old has picked up where he left off last year, posting a 7-1 record this season and striking winners with ease. Medvedev has comfortably handled the pressure of being viewed as a title contender in Melbourne, blocking out expectations and focussing on each match in front of him.
“Stan is a big hitter, great serves. I'm going to work a little bit on my return, maybe will work just to be aggressive myself, to not let him [hit shots he wants] all the time because that's when he's the most dangerous,” Medvedev said. “I will just have to give my best on the court. That's how I have my opportunities to win.”
After two lengthy battles to start his campaign, Wawrinka received a reprieve on Saturday when No. 19 seed John Isner retired in the second set of their third-round match due to injury. The 2014 champion (d. Nadal) is a player who needs matches to feel comfortable and often raises his level in the latter stages of big events. If his heavy backhand is firing, it could pose problems for Medvedev’s flat groundstrokes.
“It's great to be back in the second week, that's for sure,” Wawrinka said. “Feeling way better. [Ready] to have a good practice tomorrow and to be ready for the next one.”
Fifth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem carries a flawless 5-0 record in his ATPHead2Head series with No. 10 seed Gael Monfils of France. The Austrian’s intense pre-season training helped carry him through second and third-round matches that saw him spend more than six hours combined on court. Thiem is pleased with how his level has improved with each match and believes he can elevate his game even further.
“It's always fun to play against him. Such a great athlete. Such a great sportsman. We had fun and great encounters in the past. I expect similar [on Monday],” Thiem said. “[It’s] going to be a nice atmosphere, as well. He's such a good shot-maker, always amazing rallies against him. He got back into the Top 10 [of the Fedex ATP Rankings] last year, playing great as well in the beginning of this year.
“I'm expecting a tough encounter. [The] second week of a Grand Slam is special. Every opponent is playing outstanding tennis. It's going to be a really good and tough match.”
Although Monfils has only reached the quarter-finals once in 13 previous trips to Melbourne, his flashy shotmaking was in full flight during the first week. He also appears to be playing with an even greater sense of urgency. Monfils believes he can win a Grand Slam title, but knows his opportunities are limited at age 33. Reaching the finish line in Melbourne will require him to beat opponents that he has historically struggled against, but he’s eager for the challenge.
“Dominic beats me most of the time we play. Always tricky and [he] improved a lot on hard courts. I think he's playing great at the moment,” Monfils said. “I just have to be myself, try to figure out with my coach a good way to beat him.
“I feel fine physically, so that will help. I think it’s a challenge that I will face.”
Alexander Zverev, the No. 7 seed, aims to continue his dominance against No. 17 seed Andrey Rublev. The German holds a 3-0 lead in their ATP Head2Head rivalry and won all six sets that they’ve played. Zverev has yet to drop a set in Melbourne and looks poised to produce the Grand Slam breakthrough that his fans have been eager for.
“[Rublev] is one of the most hard-hitting players on tour. Out of every position, he can hit a winner,” Zverev said. “He improved a lot. I think he improved his serve a lot. He improved his movement a lot. He's somebody that is very young still, but is always working and always improving.”
Rublev has already achieved his best result in Melbourne and extended his unbeaten streak this season to 11 matches. The Russian captured titles in Doha (d. Moutet) and Adelaide (d. Harris) this month, and is growing in confidence with each match. Although he’s shown no signs of fatigue so far, fitness could potentially play a factor as he gets ready for his 12th match in three weeks.
“Sascha won so many tournaments,” Rublev said “He was No. 3 in the [rankings], won so many ATP [Tour] titles. He won the Nitto ATP Finals. It's going to be tough, but interesting.”
The final match on Monday’s schedule will see top-seeded Rafael Nadal square off with No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios. Nadal leads their ATP Head2Head rivalry 4-3, but Kyrgios has won two of their past three matches on hard courts. The 2009 champion (d. Federer) enjoyed the most comfortable run to the second week of anyone left in the draw, dropping an average of seven games per match.
Kyrgios scored an epic fifth-set match tie-break win over No. 16 seed Karen Khachanov to earn the right to face Nadal. Although he admitted in his on-court interview that his legs “feel like they’re 40 kilos,” the fiery 24-year-old always gets up for prime-time matches against the world’s best players. He’ll have the Rod Laver Arena crowd on his side as he looks to create more second-week magic Down Under.
Roger Federer became the first man to reach 15 Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday, sprinting from a set down to beat Marton Fucsovics 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 at Rod Laver Arena.
Two days after surviving a final-set match tie-break against John Millman, the six-time champion broke serve on seven occasions to move clear of 14-time quarter-finalist John Newcombe. Federer has now reached the last eight at 57 Grand Slam events.
“It was a tough start, I thought Marton played clean,” said Federer. “I guess it was the rest of the Millman match, that guy gave me a beatdown from the baseline, so maybe it took my confidence away a little bit and I think it just took some time."
It is the second time in three years that Federer has beaten Fucsovics in the fourth round in Melbourne, having also ended the Hungarian’s run in 2018. With his two-hour, 11-minute victory, Federer improves to 3-0 in his ATP Head2Head series against the 27-year-old.
“The morning after John’s match and this morning, I lay in bed for like an hour and I was like, ‘When are we going to stand up?’… I’m good. I was able to recover and play a good match, so I am sure I am going to feel better with every day that goes by after that match.”
With a semi-final spot on the line, Federer will face two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren for the first time. Sandgren battled past 12th seed Fabio Fognini 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-4 in three hours and 27 minutes.
“He was not going to be a baseball player, that’s for sure, with that name. It’s unreal actually,” joked Federer in his on-court interview with John McEnroe. “I am looking forward to playing against him. I have never played against Tennys. I have played a lot of tennis in my life, but never against Tennys.”
Fucsovics made the quicker start under the lights, claiming the opening break of the match at 3-3. Three errors from Federer handed the Hungarian triple break point, with Fucsovics ripping a forehand up the line to convert his third opportunity. The 6’2” right-hander took the opening set with a comfortable service hold, as Federer missed a cross-court forehand return.
An emphatic reaction followed from Federer, who held serve to love before striking winners up the line off both wings to break for a 2-0 lead. Federer soon clinched a second service break, as the forehand winners continued to flow, and he levelled the match with a swinging serve into Fucsovics’ forehand.
Federer took the momentum into a crucial third set, landing a huge backhand down the line to win the opening point. The Swiss mixed the pace well and showed great touch en route to a 4-0 lead, as Fucsovics struggled to find a way past the 38-year-old. Despite dropping serve in the sixth game, the six-time champion Federer moved one set away from the quarter-finals with a short backhand volley.
”Things went very quick. I think it's good for me to know that I can put streaks like this together,” said Federer. “I think in any tournament I played very well, I had those streaks happening at some point.”
For the third straight set, Federer earned an immediate service break. The World No. 3 attacked his opponent’s forehand, extracting multiple errors as he closed in on the last eight. Federer booked his meeting against Sandgren with a powerful serve into Fucsovics’ forehand.
“I was looking to mix it up a little bit more. It gets really slow in the night time, especially when it is cool like this, so I just had to figure it out and I finally found a way," said Federer. "I had a good start to the second set and from then on, things got a little bit easier.”
Fucsovics was aiming to become the first Hungarian player to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals. The World No. 67 upset 13th seed Denis Shapovalov in the first round, then earned straight-sets wins against Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner and American Tommy Paul.
“He really played a great tournament,” said Federer. “He beat three young guys, [got] through a tough section to make it to the fourth round.
“I was surprised also, like Sandgren, that he's not ranked higher. I think a lot of Marton. I think through this result, it's going to give him a lot of confidence moving forward, and we'll see him back in the Top 50 very, very soon.”