Tagged in: tennis

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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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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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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Zverev defeats error-prone Nadal at ATP Finals

After being thoroughly outplayed by defending champion Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals, Rafael Nadal declined to make any excuses.

The top-ranked Spaniard wouldn’t blame the abdominal issue that forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters semifinals just nine days earlier, or a hand injury that kept him sidelined before that. And he bristled at the notion that his recent marriage could be a factor in a sub-par performance.

Something was clearly off for Nadal, though, who lost 6-2, 6-4 to a player he had a perfect 5-0 record versus before Monday’s match at the O2 Arena.

Nadal dropped his serve three straight times, didn’t force a single break point, and his normally powerful forehand was responsible for more than four times as many unforced errors (13) as winners (3). Still, Nadal insisted there was nothing wrong with him physically.

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”I did not feel pain in the abdominal at all”, he said. ”So the physical issue was not an excuse at all. The only excuse is I was not good enough tonight”.

Nadal hasn’t finished a tournament since winning the U.S. Open in August, also pulling out of Shanghai because of a hand injury.

That lack of playing time certainly isn’t helpful coming into an event featuring only the top eight players in the world, rather than lower-ranked early opponents.

He still has to face Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev in round-robin play, and probably has to defeat both in order to reach the semifinals.

For Zverev, this latest victory means he has defeated each of tennis’ Big Three in his last three matches at the O2.

The German defeated six-time champion Roger Federer in last year’s semifinals and then five-time winner Novak Djokovic in the final. “It’s definitely a place and a court that I love, and that brings maybe the best out of me,” the seventh-seeded German said.

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World No.2 Pliskova splits with coach Conchita Martinez

World No.2 Karolina Pliskova has confirmed she has split from her coach Conchita Martinez.

Former Wimbledon champion Martinez, who was second in the world herself during her playing career, began working with Pliskova on a full-time basis 10 months ago.

The Czech acquired four WTA titles in 2019 – the joint-most on the tour – but failed to make it beyond the fourth round of a grand slam after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals in January.

Last week, Pliskova was defeated in the last four of the season-ending WTA Finals by Ashleigh Barty.

“I decided I will no longer work with Conchita,” Pliskova wrote on her social media accounts.

“It was tough decision, as the season was great. Thank you for all this year, and wish you only the best. Life is a change!” Martinez, who coached Garbine Muguruza when she won Wimbledon in 2017, also posted a message on social media.

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“Just a little note to inform you that Karolina and I have decided to take different paths next year,” she said.

“It has been an incredible year full of great moments and emotions. I wish Kaja and her team the best for the future.”

Pliskova lifted trophies in Brisbane, Eastbourne and Zhengzhou this year, as well as at the Italian Open.

She was runner-up at the 2016 US Open and held the World No. 1 ranking in 2017 before Martinez joined her team.

Martinez  worked with Garbine Muguruza, another former World No. 1, and helped her fellow Spaniard to the Wimbledon title in 2017.

However, after finishing their partnership following the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen 2019, the 27-year-old has not yet announced the name of her new coach. Earlier, before hiring Martinez as a full-time coach in February, Pliskova was mentored by Rennae Stubs for one year. 

Martinez and Stubbs had been sharing coaching duties in Pliskova’s team after the Czech parted ways with Tomas Krupa in 2018.

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Federer withdraws from Paris Masters

World number three Roger Federer has withdrawn from this week’s Paris Masters on Monday as he fine tunes his schedule heading into the season-ending ATP Finals.

The 38-year-old Swiss lifted a record-extending 10th Swiss Indoors championship title in his hometown of Basel on Sunday and has decided not to play back-to-back weeks at this stage of the season.

The world No 3 did not drop a set on his way to victory on home soil, sweeping aside Peter Gojowczyk, Radu Albot and Stefanos Tsitsipas before destroying in-form De Minaur in the final.

An emotional Federer wept on court in Basel and conceded that the victory had ‘hit him hard’, perhaps contributing to the decision on Monday morning to pull out of the last Masters event of the year in Paris.

“I am extremely disappointed to have to pull out of the Paris Masters,” Federer said.

“I have to pace myself since I want to play as long as possible on the ATP Tour. “I am sorry for my French fans who I will see next year at Roland Garros.”

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The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been a regular at France’s only 1000-level event outside of Roland Garros, winning it back in 2011 and reaching the semi-finals last year before losing in three sets to Novak Djokovic.

But Federer has stripped back his schedule since coming back from injury in 2016 to prioritize his family life and cited that in his winner’s speech on Sunday, before his Paris message.

“I think it might be partially reminiscing back at everything that went on this week.

“Definitely the family, the thought of the team aspect, the family aspect, everything that goes into me still being able to do it today.

“People think I just go out there and just do it and have these types of weeks or these types of matches at will.

“But there’s so much more that goes into it, let alone managing four children, [which] is a challenge, but a good one.”

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Zverev stunned at Basel, ATP Finals spot at risk

Second-seeded Alexander Zverev was eliminated in the first round of the Swiss Indoors on Tuesday, losing 7-6 (7), 6-4 to Taylor Fritz.

Zverev led 4-0 in the first-set tiebreaker and later held a set point before Fritz took his opportunity to clinch it with an ace.

The 31st-ranked American got the only service break of the match in the third game of the second set and converted his first match point with a two-handed backhand winner.

The defeat rules out a possible final against top-seeded Roger Federer, who part owns the agency which manages the sixth-ranked German’s career.

The loss also harms Zverev’s chances of defending his ATP Finals title next month.

He is seventh in the season-long standings to progress to the eight-man event in London.

The German’s defeat to the 21-year-old American came barely a week after defeat in the Shanghai Masters final to Daniil Medvedev and puts his chance of defending his ATP Finals title in London at risk. “I was completely flat for some reason,” he said. “I was tired and not focused at all. It was a weird feeling.”

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Zverev conquered the season-ending tournament last November, beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back.

The season points race will be determined next week at the Paris Masters as the last two of the eight spots are decided.

“The way I played today, in my current mental stage, I’m not going to beat anybody,” Zverev, ranked seventh in the world, said.

“I’m very disappointed but it’s more about myself than the result.”

Zverev, a semi-finalist last year in Basel, fought hard to take the opening set into a tiebreaker, but was overwhelmed in the second by his American adversary in 86 minutes.

“Normally I really enjoy it on court, the tough moments, the fighting,” Zverev said. “But today I was completely out of it. I may go home for a few days and clear my mind. I’ll try to do well in Paris and hopefully make it to London.”

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Nishikori to have season-ending elbow surgery

Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open runner-up, will have season-ending surgery on his right elbow and is pointing to be ready to go for the start of 2020.

Nishikori’s manager, Olivier van Lindonk, wrote in an email Monday that the right-hander from Japan will have a “small procedure removing two small bone spurs” in the elbow.

The procedure is programmed for Tuesday. That means Nishikori will miss the Paris Masters indoor hard-court tournament next week and the Davis Cup Finals that begin in Madrid on Nov. 18.

Van Lindonk said the goal is for Nishikori to be able to begin his offseason training for 2020 at the start of December. The next Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, starts Jan. 20.

Nishikori has not competed since a third-round loss at the U.S. Open in September.

According to van Lindonk, Nishikori has struggled with irritation in his elbow since the French Open in May. Despite that, Nishikori reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros before losing to 12-time champion Rafael Nadal, then followed that up by also reaching the round of eight at Wimbledon in July before losing there to eight-time champion Roger Federer.

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“He has tried to heal this with rest,” van Lindonk wrote, mentioning five tournaments that Nishikori pulled out of because of the problematic elbow, and added: “But time has proven that rest & rehab was not enough.”

The 29-year-old Nishikori has been ranked as high as No. 4 and is presently No. 8. He closes 2019 with a 29-14 record and one title.

Nishikori and two-time Grand Slam title winner Naomi Osaka, who also plays for Japan, are projected to be two of the biggest stars at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

He was the first man born in Asia to reach a major championship final when he was the runner-up to Marin Cilic at Flushing Meadows five years ago. And at the U.S. Open a year ago, Nishikori and Osaka gave Japan a men’s semifinalist and a women’s semifinalist at the same Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

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