Category Archives: Tennis

Nadal dominates Fritz for 3rd Mexican Open Title

World number two Rafael Nadal captured his first ATP Tour title of 2020, easily defeating unseeded Taylor Fritz in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, in the final of the Mexico Open on Saturday.

The 33-year-old Nadal, playing in his first tournament since losing in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open last month, didn’t drop a set all week and improved to 19-2 all-time at this event.

He nabbed his third Mexico Open title to go with victories in 2013 and 2005. “I couldn’t be happier. I played a great event from the beginning to the end,” Rafael Nadal said.

“Acapulco was the first big title that I won in my career, so to be able to stay here after 15 years is amazing.

“I can’t thank enough the people who make me feel at home every single time.”

Nadal wasted no time figuring out Fritz’s game in the first career meeting between the two. The 19-time Grand Slam winner made eight unforced errors and needed just one ace but it came in the final match of the second set to get to championship point.

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Nadal closed it out with a blistering serve that handcuffed Fritz and gave Nadal his 85th career title.

Nadal ceded the world number one ranking to Novak Djokovic after the Australian Open, where the Serb conquered a record eighth title.

Nadal could have regained the top spot with a win in Acapulco, but he also needed Djokovic to fail to reach the final in this week’s Dubai event.

Djokovic extended his win streak to 21 matches by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 earlier Saturday to lift the Dubai trophy.

Nadal won the final eight points to take the first set. He seized control by breaking Fritz’s serve in the ninth game to go up 5-4. He then served for the set, winning four straight points.

On set point he hammered a serve which Fritz barely got back. That set up an overhead smash for Nadal which he put away nicely.

Nadal broke Fritz twice in the second set, including the fifth match to go up 3-2. He broke Fritz again to take a 5-4 lead and then served out the match. Nadal has now won a title 17 straight years.

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Monfils claims third Open Sud de France title

Gaël Monfils defeated Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday to win the Open Sud de France title for a third time, equaling French countryman Richard Gasquet’s tournament record.

The ninth-ranked Monfils saved all four break points he faced in winning his first title of the season and ninth of his career.

“Hopefully I can have some more success,” said Monfils, who has won three of his four finals in the southern French city of Montpellier. “I am very pleased about my performance today. I think I played very solid again and I was very happy with the way I handled the key moments.”

Monfils improved to 6-0 in career matches versus Pospisil, ranked No. 132 and still searching for his first career title. He has lost both finals in his career. Monfils became the eighth French champion in 10 editions of the ATP 250 event and the world No. 9 will head to Rotterdam to defend his title next week full of confidence.

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The 33-year-old defeated Daniil Medvedev and Stan Wawrinka in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy last year.

It was a disappointing day for 29-year-old Pospisil, who was looking to capture a first ATP title in his second final, having returned to form following back surgery in January 2019.

The 29-year-old Canadian, blighted by injuries since he reached a career-high ranking of 25th in 2014, is hopeful that his best form is coming back.

“It was an incredible week. I had great wins and I feel like I am definitely improving week by week,” Pospisil said. “I will try to rest now, take a couple of days easy and get ready for the next event.” Monfils earns 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points and €89,435 for lifting the trophy. Pospisil collects 150 ATP Ranking points and €47,105.

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Canberra tournament to relocate due to wildfires

The bushfires still hold the whole of Australia in suspense. At the weekend, a new heat wave threatens to intensify the fires. Temperatures beyond the 40-degree mark and strong winds are expected on Saturday.

Even the tennis tour is not spared the effects of this natural disaster. While donations for the victims of the bush fires were collected as part of the ATP Cup, the Challenger tournament in Canberra even had to be postponed due to the poor air quality and the continuing bush fires.

The new venue is now Bendigo, a city in the state of Victoria. “Over the next few days, it would have been very unlikely that matches would take place. Because the conditions are too unpredictable, we decided to reschedule the event as early as possible,” said the Australian Tennis Association.

In addition to the men’s Challenger tournament, an ITF futures event for women should have taken place in Canberra next week – but nothing will come of it either. The health of everyone involved is simply a priority, according to the Australian Tennis Association.

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Tennis ACT chief executive Kim Kachel said Friday that the decision to move the tournament to Bendigo was made after consultation with the local authorities.

“The health of players, fans, volunteers, staff and stakeholders is our biggest priority at all times,” Kachel said. “Unfortunately, the best advice from the weather and fire experts is that the conditions over the next few days mean it is unlikely there would be any play.

With conditions too unpredictable the decision was made to relocate at the earliest available opportunity.” Bendigo is about 370 miles east of Canberra and in an area of Victoria, which is not badly affected by bushfires.

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Williams, Wozniacki to play doubles in Auckland

Long-time friends Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki will play doubles together for the first time at the WTA Tour’s ASB Classic in Auckland starting on January 6.

Former world No 1 Wozniacki has started her season in Auckland every year since 2015 and has made the hard court tournament the first stop of her short farewell tour.

The 29-year-old was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after winning the 2018 Australian Open and will retire from tennis after playing the Open in Melbourne next month.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, has not played doubles with anyone other than her sister Venus since the Fed Cup World Group playoff in 2015 with her last WTA tournament in doubles without Venus was in 2002.

Ciljsters to make comeback in March, Robson undergoes second hip operation, Osaka appoints Fissette as new coach, meanwhile Wozniacki has not played doubles for more than three years.

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Williams was Wozniacki’s bridesmaid at her wedding earlier this year and will play an exhibition in Copenhagen in May – Wozniacki’s final match before retirement.

“We’ve been wanting to play doubles together for a long time but it just hasn’t worked out so I’m really excited that it’s finally going to happen, especially at one of my favourite tournaments on tour,” Wozniacki said. “It’s going to be so much fun!”

“This is a pairing that I think tennis fans have been waiting to see for a long time,” tournament director Karl Budge said Tuesday. “To have Serena and Caroline on court together, on the same side of the net, is an amazing opportunity for tennis fans to see history being made.”

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, has not played doubles with anyone other than her sister Venus since the Fed Cup World Group playoff in 2015. Her last WTA tournament in doubles without Venus was in 2002.

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2 time major champ Osaka names Fissette coach

Reigning Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka will be coached by Belgian Wim Fissette for the 2020 season.

World No.4 Naomi Osaka will have a new coach by her side as she embarks on her title defense at the Australian Open next month.

The two-time Grand Slam champion will be coached by Belgian Wim Fissette in 2020, Osaka’s team confirmed to WTA Insider on Sunday. 

The former World No.1 worked with three coaches last season, as her longtime partnership with Sascha Bajin ended following her second Grand Slam victory in Melbourne becoming the first top-ranked tennis player from Japan.

Osaka released coach Sascha Bajin, who also helped her claim the 2018 US Open. Osaka then hired former Clemson University All-American Jermaine Jenkins, a former hitting partner for Venus Williams and a national coach for the USTA’s Player Development program, as her coach in March.

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After parting ways with Jenkins following the US Open, Osaka won back-to-back titles at the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the China Open with her father, Leonard Francois, as her coach before pulling out of the season-ending Shisheido WTA Finals Shenzhen with a shoulder injury.

Osaka is the latest in a decorated dossier of clients for Fissette, who has worked with former World No.1s, including Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, as well as Johanna Konta, Sara Errani and Sabine Lisicki.

The Belgian first broke into the elite coaching ranks at the turn of the decade, as he guided compatriot Cljisters during her first comeback to the WTA, in which she won three Grand Slam titles and returned to the World No. 1 ranking.

Osaka is set to begin her 2020 season at the Brisbane International in January, alongside six of the world’s Top 10.

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Australian Barty named WTA Player of the Year

As 2019 winds down, Australia’s Ash Barty has added another accolade to cap off a stunning season, being named the Women’s Tennis Association’s (WTA) player of the year.

Barty picked up 82 percent of the media vote to get the award, which has of course been won by some of the biggest names in tennis, like Serena Williams (five times), Steffi Graf (eight times) and Martina Navratilova (seven times)

The world number one started the year by reaching the final in Sydney, when she was ranked a then-career-high 15th in the world, and it only got better from there.

She captured her first grand slam title at the French Open, which was one of six tournament finals she reached this year.

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On top of the Roland Garros crown, she scooped the biggest pay packet in tennis history by winning the WTA Finals last month, ending a year that also included titles at Birmingham and Miami.

All told, the 23-year-old won 57 matches on tour in 2019, which was the most by any women’s player.

It all conspired to help her become Australia’s first women’s world number one since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

Earlier in the week, Barty picked up three Australian Institute of Sport Performance Awards (ASPAs) — female athlete of the year, ABC sport personality of the year and the sporting moment of the year.

“We are a sporting nation, we love it and it is in our blood, so to receive the votes and the support from the public is amazing,” she said after receiving the ASPAs.

A little over two weeks ago she also acquired the Newcombe Medal as Australia’s best tennis player for the third straight year.

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Wozniacki to retire after 2020 Australian Open

Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1-ranked tennis player, announced she will retire from the sport after the 2020 Australian Open. The 29-year-old is presently ranked No. 37 in the world and has 30 career singles titles since turning pro in 2005.

Wozniacki first shared the news during an appearance Friday on “Good Morning America,” telling the hosts she was “ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.” She then shared a statement on social media.

Wozniacki won the 2018 Australian Open, her lone Grand Slam title, with a win over top seed Simona Halep. The Denmark native was runner-up at the 2009 U.S. Open and the 2010 WTA Tour Championships, earning the No. 1 ranking for 71 weeks between 2010 and ’11.

Her most recent match was a semifinal defeat to Naomi Osaka at the China Open. She said the retirement has nothing to do with her health and more to do with what else she wants to accomplish in life, as well as leaving the sport on a high note.

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Wozniacki struggled in 2019, not winning a singles title for the first time in her career as she battled injuries and dropping from the top five.

The year prior, 10 months after winning her first slam title, she announced a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

In June, Wozniacki married former New York Knicks player David Lee, and the couple recently moved to a condo on Fisher Island in Miami. One of the 18 tennis courts at the Palazzo Del Sol facility in Fisher Island is named after the tennis star.

In her social media announcement, Wozniacki said she wants to start a family while traveling and promoting awareness about rheumatoid arthritis. She also started classes at Harvard Business School this past September.

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Ashleigh Barty claims third straight Newcombe Medal

Ashleigh Barty has added yet more silverware to her stunning 2019 collection after collecting a third straight Newcombe Medal as Australia’s outstanding tennis player of the year.

Never in doubt, Barty formally received her award from John Newcombe at tennis’s night of nights at Melbourne’s Crown Palladium on Monday.

During an remarkable season, Barty became Australia’s first French Open champion since Margaret Court in 1973 and the country’s first women’s world No.1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

She was also the first-ever Australian woman to secure the year-end top ranking – and first Aussie since Lleyton Hewitt to do so in 2002.

Barty crowned her spectacular season in ultimate fashion by defeating four top-eight rivals in eight days to win the prestigious WTA Finals in Shenzhen and, with it, $6.4 million – the biggest cheque in tennis history.

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Fittingly, having also claimed the Newcombe Medal in 2017 and then sharing it last year with Alex de Minaur, Barty joins fellow grand slam champion Samantha Stosur as only the second three-time recipient of the award.

Stosur, who also landed a hat-trick from 2010-2012, was also recognised on Monday night with the Spirit of Tennis Award.

The 2011 US Open champion was honoured for her leadership, professionalism and the positive impact she’s had on the sport throughout a near-20-year pro career.

“Sam has genuinely remained unchanged and unaffected by all her success,” said her former long-time coach David Taylor after presenting Stosur with the award.

“I cannot recall a single training session in the almost eight years we spent together where she did not give 100 per cent.

“It’s a testament to Sam’s character that she has enjoyed longevity at the pinnacle of the game. A multiple grand slam champion, Sam joins the ranks of Australian tennis greats and is a terrific role model for any aspiring player.”

Barty’s trusted mentor Craig Tyzzer was named elite coach of the year.

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Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev break world attendance record for tennis match

The exhibition between Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City has broken the record for the largest crowd to watch a tennis game with announced attendance of 42,517 fans.

The previous record was 35,681 spectators for an exhibition between Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams in 2010 in Brussels.

Federer won the friendly encounter, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.

Saturday’s match marked the first time Federer, 38, had played in Mexico since he was a junior, and was part of the Swiss’ South American tour, which also included meetings with Zverev in Chile and Argentina.

“It means the world for us and tennis to get to write history in Mexico,” Federer was quoted having told the crowd. “It has been 23 years I haven’t come to Mexico and what an error I made. It gave me the opportunity to play in front of one of the best crowds, I have chills.”

Alongside the singles, Bob and Mike Bryan played a doubles exhibition with Mexican pair Santiago Gonzalez and MiguelReyes Varela.

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The event is part of Federer’s South American tour, which has also included an exhibition in Santiago, Chile with 13,000 spectators, in Buenos Aires with 14,000 fans and a scheduled appearance in Bogota, Colombia in front of 8,000 fans that had to be called off because of a government curfew to contain protests in the country. The next event is in Quito, Ecuador.

A scheduled game in Colombia was called off due to social unrest in Bogota, where the contest would have taken place.

Federer will have an opportunity to break the new record as early as February, when he faces Rafael Nadal in an exhibition game in South Africa.

The clash will take place at the Cape Town Stadium, which has a capacity of 55,000, and will be preceded by a doubles contest in which Federer will partner Microsoft founder Bill Gates, while Nadal pairs with South African comedian Trevor Noah.

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World No.2 Pliskova hires Daniel Vallverdu as coach

Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova announced her new coaching team ahead of the 2020 campaing, which will be headed by longtime ATP coach Daniel Vallverdu replacing the 2016 US Open finalist’s former coach, Conchita Martinez, and flanked by recently retired WTA star Olga Savchuk.

Pliskova began 2019 with Martinez, a 1994 Wimbledon champion, and former WTA Doubles No.1 Rennae Stubbs, and reached the Australian Open semifinals with a victory over 23-time major winner Serena Williams en route.

The self-styled “Ace Queen” split with Stubbs following the Middle East Swing and finished out the year with Martinez, with whom she qualified for and reached the semifinals of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.

Pliskova and Martinez announced their split shortly after her three-set loss to eventual champion and 2019 WTA Year-End World No.1 Ashleigh Barty.

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Vallverdu is noted for his work with the likes of two-time Olympic Gold medalist and former World No.1 Andy Murray, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, 2017 ATP World Tour Finals winner Grigor Dimitrov, and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka. 

“Karolina is a great player and I’m looking forward to working with her to help her reach her goals,” Vallverdu said in a quote posted on Pliskova’s official website. “WTA is something new for me, but I like challenges.”

Savchuk previously worked with Pliskova in between the US Open and Asian Swing, working with the Czech star the week she captured the inaugural Zhengzhou Open. 

“They’ve known each other for a long time from the WTA Tour and they have a great relationship,” notes Michal Hrdlicka, Pliskova’s husband and manager.

Pliskova will work with both Vallverdu and Savchuk as the off-season unfolds, and will travel together with the team to Australia to start the 2020 campaing at the Brisbane International, where she is the defending champion.

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