Djokovic proved too strong for Murray as he won a fifth Australian Open title in a punishing final. The Serb, ranked number one, came through in a carbon-copy match of theirUS Open quarter-finallast September, which lasted seven minutes shorter. It was a third win over British number one Murray in a Melbourne final and brought him an eighth Grand Slam title. Murray, 27, has now won two of the eight Grand Slam finals he has played in (both triumphs over Djokovic), having lost all four in Australia (three to Djokovic). Murray will ‘try to go one better’ in 2016 “I would like to congratulate Novak – it is a fantastic record and thoroughly deserved,” said Murray. “It is probably my most consistent Grand Slam throughout my career but I just haven’t been able to win.” Murray, who underwent back surgery towards the end of 2013 and was playing in his first Grand Slam final since winning Wimbledon earlier that year, added: “I’m closer than I was a few months ago. I’ll try to come back next year and have a slightly different outcome in the final.” The Scot, who will return to fourth in the world rankings on Monday, had chances in each of the first three sets of the final but ultimately lost his way and his temper as Djokovic won 12 of the last 13 games. Djokovic, a week younger than his opponent, did look vulnerable at times, hurting his hand in a fall (at 4:3* in the 1st set) and appearing to struggle with an ankle problem early in the second set. There were some concerned looks to coach Boris Becker in the stands. He stumbled on more than one occasion and required some energy-boosting fluids at a break down in the third set. Murray later admitted he had been “distracted” by the Serb’s apparent physical issues and, just as at the US Open last September, he could not keep pace with Djokovic in the closing stages. Djokovic had made a blistering start, racing into a 4:1 lead and going 20 minutes before he offered up a first unforced error. It was to Murray’s credit that he twice hauled back breaks to force a tie-break, but a double-fault at 4:2 and a loose volley at 5-all simply gave Djokovic too many chances. The four-time champion clinched it when Murray netted a return. The Scot moved into a *2:0 lead but saw the advantage wiped out when a rejuvenated Djokovic strung together 13 straight points. Again, Murray fought back, a forehand into the corner making it 4-all, and three break points were saved at 5-all (the third one with an ace close to the centre line – Djokovic was deprived of challenges at the time) on the way to a second tie-break. This time the Scot would not relinquish an advantage, winning a gripping rally to lead 5:2 and converting his third set point to keep save his amazing record of never losing two opening sets in tie-breaks (he didn’t experience it even as a junior). When Djokovic netted a forehand to drop serve at the start of the 3rd set, Murray appeared to have finally gained the initiative after two and a half hours. It proved to be his last moment to savour, however. Increasingly frustrated by a resurgent opponent, his second serve slipped from being vulnerable to a liability. Djokovic came back from *0:2, and saved a break point at 3-all thanks to a BH-stretch-volley of a 16-stroke rally- Murray didn’t win a game since then losing nine in a row! Curiously, when they split tie-breaks in the Aussie Open final two years ago, there was 3-all in the third set as well, as the Serbian champion dominated his Scottish opponent… “I think [this victory] has deeper meaning, more intrinsic value now to my life because I’m a father and a husband,” Djokovic said after the match. “Getting married and becoming a father in the last six months was definitely something that gave me a new energy, something that I never felt before. And right now, everything has been going in such a positive direction. I’m so grateful for that.” About his physical problems the Serb said: “I was just weak. I went through a physical crisis in the matter of 20 minutes. And, honestly, I didn’t feel that too many times in my career.” Given Nadal’s physical problems and Federer’s lack of interest in clay-court season, Djokovic will probably have the best opportunity this year to finally win his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros… Murray, one of best specialists of winning five-set matches, showed once again that he isn’t able to compete against Djokovic on the same level through three hours. Amazingly, it’s the fourth time when he loses to the Serb sets Nos. 3 & 4 quickly, after they played two long opening sets; once in these circumstances Murray prevailed (the US Open ’12 final), because he won those sets then and regrouped before the decider…Stats of the final
Certainly, Djokovic has played worse matches than Friday’s men’s semifinal, but when the world’s No. 1 player won the third set against Wawrinka, he didn’t even realize it. Instead, Djokovic simply waited around the baseline preparing to serve again and wondering why the court workers and security were moving about. “Sometimes these things happen. You get carried away by the moment, by the circumstances” he said, likening it to something that might happen at the junior level. “Obviously, anytime you’re playing the defending champion in a full area, there is a lot of tension and sometime you can’t keep track of the score.” Wawrinka said: “Today was a strange match,”After six quick holds to open the contest, Wawrinka broke in the 7th game but lost his service games immediately. Djokovic led with a break in sets Nos. 3 & 4 before Wawrinka was able to level. The Serbe began the deciding set withstanding a break point and did the same what in the two previous sets: broke Wawrinka in the 2nd game. This time the Swiss hadn’t enough fuel in the tank to come back once again. Born just one week apart in May of 1987, Djokovic and Murray started playing each other back in juniors and now will be meeting in their fifth Grand Slam championship match. Each has won two of those previous four major final meetings – Djokovic won the 2011 and 2013 Aussie Open; Murray won the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon. “I’ve known him for a long time,” Djokovic said, “so it’s great we are able to challenge each other now in another Grand Slam final. It’s a great challenge. I’m going to need to step it up. I’m going to need to play better than I did tonight to win the title.” He certainly will, though Djokovic won’t need to play that much better than he did earlier in the tournament, when he dominated everyone. He never lost a set, and his first five opponents broke him just one time. And then Wawrinka, the defending champ, broke him twice in the first two sets. “I did not play at the level that I intended before the match,” Djokovic said. “There were spots tonight where I played the way I need to play, but parts of the match where I was too defensive and allowed him to dictate the play from the baseline. And he has great depth with his shots. And once he has control of the rally, it’s very difficult to play against him.” This will be Djokovic’s 15th Grand Slam final and his fifth at the Aussie. He’s won all four previous finals here, while Murray has lost three times (in addition to the losses to Djokovic, Roger Federer defeated him here in 2010). Overall, Djokovic is 15-8 against Murray, winning seven of their past eight matches and the past four in a row. But Murray has been playing very well here, while Djokovic struggled in his semi. “He’s been playing some great tennis these couple weeks,” Djokovic said. “From my side, it’s going to be necessary to perform at my best and play the best match of the tournament if I want to win. Obviously, it’s the finals. There’s no clear favorite. But as you mentioned, the record I have in finals against him here in Australia can serve maybe as a slight mental edge. But not much. I don’t think he’s going to feel that on the court. I’m sure he’s going to be very motivated to win his first title here. I’m going to, of course, give my best that that doesn’t happen.” The two have known each other so long that Djokovic says he has no trouble understanding Murray’s Scottish accent, which has become clearer over the years. “He’s trying to talk very clear and slow to everybody. I thank him.” They also know each other’s game very well, too. “Very similar game and very similar role to professional tennis,” Djokovic said. “So I think that’s what makes it very special.” Who will win the final? We’ll see. Although to learn who wins, you might want to keep your eye on the scoreboard rather than Djokovic. Stats of the match
Murray has reached the Australian Open final for the fourth time, beating the Czech player in a tension-filled semifinal to earn one more shot at a long elusive title. There was obvious animosity between the players due to a coach switching from Murray to the Berdych camp: Dani Vallverdu was hired by Berdych a few weeks after Murray cut ties with the Venezuelan after five years together. “You wanted there to be tension,” Murray said after the match. “A lot was made of Dani, my ex-coach, working with him. I felt was a little unfair and unnecessary. This is sport, there’s more to life than sport. It was a little unfair and created extra tension.” There were also complaints from Berdych about the balls – the umpire checked them, no problem. And then there was an attempt by Berdych at some mild-mannered trash talking as the players swapped ends after he captured the 1st set (Murray had a set point at 6:5* – Berdych saved it with a backhand volley). Berdych muttered something as the two men crossed, causing an annoyed Murray to complain loudly to the umpire, Pascal Maria. When Maria asked Berdych what he said, he responded, “Good play, Tomas. That’s all I said.” Murray said he was surprised more than anything. “He said something literally as we were walking right past each other change of ends. The thing is because there’s cameras and microphones everywhere players don’t say stuff to the opponents.” Berdych, subdued after yet another Grand Slam let-down, said he was just trying to pump himself up as he walked to his chair. “I think I’m allowed to do that winning a set” he said. “What, I have to be worried about every word that I’m going to say?” Murray, the former US Open and Wimbledon champion, said the emotional reactions were understandable given the hype leading into the match. “Obviously losing in the finals is disappointing. But making four finals is a very, very difficult thing to do,” he said. “And, yeah, I’m proud of my record here. I’ll go in with best tactics possible, prepare well – I literally couldn’t have done anything more to put myself in a better position come Sunday.”Berdych seemed well focused after a nightmarish 2nd set, but his two consecutive double faults at *2:3 (40/0) in the 3rd set proved costly – he was broken in that game after several deuces. Murray broke Berdych’s serve in the 11th game of the final set and clinched the match with an ace. As Murray basked in the center-court spotlight after his semifinal victory, he lauded his new coach and former best player of the women;s circuit – Amelie Mauresmo. “A lot of people criticized me working with her,” Murray said of the two-time Grand Slam winner. “And I think so far this week we’ve showed that women can be very good coaches, as well.” Mauresmo smiled at Murray from his player’s box and nodded, as Rod Laver Arena erupted with applause. Murray’s decision to hire the formerMauresmo in June, after parting ways with Ivan Lendl, sparked criticism from some current and retired players and the British media. Her position was then under scrutiny in Britain after Murray was eliminated from Wimbledon and the US Open in the quarterfinals last year. “I’m very thankful for Amelie for doing it,” Murray said. “It was, I would say, a brave choice from her to do it, and hopefully I can repay her now in a few days.” Stats of the match
Five matches won. Zero sets lost. Djokovic is making his 2015 Australian Open run look easy. After yet another straightforward win, this time a victory over World No. 8 Raonic in the quarter-finals, even the Serb admitted there were few flaws in his performance. In the opening set the Canadian won two games facing break points but in the tense tie-break Djokovic displayed his superiority and never looked back breaking thrice in the following two sets never being threatened in his own service games. “I’m a self-critic,” he said, after improving to a 5-0 H2H record against Raonic. “But I’ve got to try to take the positives out of every match. Tonight there was not much I could complain about. From the first game until the last I played the way I wanted… It’s easier said than done, but I feel very good about my game in this moment.”About his next opponent – Stan Wawrinka – Djokovic said:“He’s been playing some great tennis under the circumstances. Got to give him credit for that. I like Stan; respect him a lot. But I’m sure once we’re both on the court, we both want to win.”Now on an eight-match winning streak against Top 10 opposition, the 27-year-old has reached the semi-finals in Melbourne without dropping a set for the first time since his title run Down Under in 2008. Even with considerable confidence in tow, Djokovic is not forgoing thorough preparation in advance of his semi-final showdown. He’ll be watching video of his heartbreaking loss one year ago. Just for the tenth time in the Open era all four quarterfinals were concluded in straight set matches (previously in Melbourne it occurred in 1993 & 2008.
As the stakes get higher, Wawrinka hits his backhand harder. Or so it seemed on Wednesday afternoon as the defending champion powered past the Japanese with a straight sets victory to reach the Australian Open semi-finals. The 29-year-old Wawrinka is two wins away from reclaiming his Australian Open crown. Last year at this stage, the Swiss defeated Berdych and Nadal to win his first Grand Slam championship. Wawrinka is now on a 20-match winning streak in the month of January. In 2014, he opened with back-to-back victories in Chennai and Melbourne (he also won a Davis Cup rubber on January 31st) and is threatening to do so again, having retained the Chennai crown at the start of the season with victory. The fourth-seeded Wawrinka went into the quarter-finals having dropped just one set, but turned up the heat even more against Nishikori to send out a strong message to those left in the draw. Having lost their last match in five tight sets in the US Open quarter-finals, the Swiss barely let Nishikori into the contest on Rod Laver Arena. That being said, it’s possible that Nishikori will go to sleep tonight thinking about the failed drop shot he attempted at 6-all in the tie-break. The Japanese had clawed his way back from a 1:6 deficit in the breaker and, with all the momentum, was bossing the point against Wawrinka before the ill-fated forehand drop shot. As the ball trickled back down Nishikori’s side of the net, coach Michael Chang slumped in his seat with it. There were to be no more second chances from Wawrinka, who sent down his 20th ace to seal victory. The Swiss limited Nishikori to just 23 winners and won 86 % of his first serve points. He is five-zero in the tie-breaks he has played at Melbourne Park this year. “That one I was really happy because I was not going to get to that ball,” admitted Wawrinka. “I had the wind with me, so it was not easy to make a drop shot, especially at that moment. It was a crazy tie-break, but a good tie-break. Good to finish in three sets. Today I was serving really well. I’m happy with that part of my game. It’s never easy to break Kei because he’s playing so well. You need to be focused on what you need to do. You need to change the speed. You need to change where you serve also. I think it was one of my best matches if I look at that.”Stats of the match
2nd quarterfinal: (6)Andy Murray d. Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 [2:05 h]
Murray is through to the Australian Open semi-finals for the fifth time after beating rising Australian star on Tuesday night. The 27-year-old Murray is looking to reach his first Grand Slam final since his historic Wimbledon victory in 2013. The right-hander is hoping to become the first man in the Open Era to win the Australian Open title after losing in the final three times. He finished runner-up in 2010-11 and 2013. “I’m happy. It’s nice to be in the latter stages of a slam again,” said Murray in the post-match interview with the two-time champion Jim Courier. “I’m happy with that. Obviously we want to do the best possible, but all you can do is prepare as best you can, which I certainly did over the past few weeks and months, and have given myself an opportunity. Maybe I won’t play well in a couple of days; maybe I play great. I don’t know. But I’ve given myself a good opportunity again, and hopefully I can use it to my advantage.” In an eagerly anticipated match up, the 19-year-old Kyrgios stepped onto Rod Laver Arena after Murray to great fanfare, but the experienced Scot did a masterful job at keeping the home crowd at bay. Indeed, a small smile from the Scot in the tunnel hinted that he was ready to relish the occasion. The two-time Grand Slam champion kept his emotions steady and produced clutch tennis on the big points to stop Kyrgios from ever building up a head of steam. The youngster had held comfortably his first two service games, but since then to the end of the match he was struggling with getting cheap points.Nevertheless, the Canberra native stayed with Murray to force a tie-break in which led 4:3 trying to encourage the crowd to bigger support. Murray immediately responded with exquisite forehand lob and showed his adrenaline for the first time in the match. At 5-all, there was a moment of brilliance from the Dunblane native that clinched it as he landed a backhand lob inside the baseline to take a commanding lead. Kyrgios’ exploits during the past 10 days looked to catch up with him in the 3rd set. And as he tired, Murray pounced. The Scot moved Kyrgios relentlessly around the court and it paid dividends as he earned the apparently decisive break in the 6th game. Kyrgios found a second wind, but it was short lived. Murray regained control with another break in the 8th game and closed out victory in just over two hours. He is through to his 15th Grand Slam semi-final. “It was a really good experience,” said Kyrgios. “That was my first Aussie Open Grand Slam match playing on Rod Laver, so that was really cool. But he was way too good for me tonight. There are some things I can take from that match and get better at. He was just way too good for me. I said to him at the net, ‘This is your time; go get him.’ I think he’s got a really good chance of winning the whole thing.” Stats of the match
1st quarterfinal: (7)Tomas Berdych d. (3)Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-0, 7-6(5) [2:13 h]
Could Berdych’s ‘Happy Slam’ get any happier? After revealing his engagement to Ester Satorova last week in Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens, the Czech has blitzed through the Australian Open draw without the loss of a single set to reach the semi-finals. But Berdych has set himself a deadline. He may have snapped a 17-match losing streak against Nadal in a sublime quarter-final display, but he won’t allow himself to dwell on the victory. He has his sights set on going all the way at Melbourne Park. “Everything was working,” said the Czech, who defeated . “I was able to execute it really well. But until the last point you can’t think about anything else. You have to really keep going until the last one. When it’s done, it’s done. It’s great. I might be thinking about it and enjoying the time probably till tomorrow morning. When I wake up, I need to get myself ready for another one. There is a still long way to go in this tournament, and I need to be ready for it.”Vitas Gerulaitis famously said, “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row,” after snapping a run of 16 straight defeats to Jimmy Connors at Masters 1979 in New York. Berdych had not beaten Nadal in nine years, not since the 2006 Mutua Madrid Open when it was held indoors in the Spanish capital (in the Open era there are only three other cases that one player beat the other one 17 times in a row: Ivan Lendl managed to do it against Tim Mayotte & Connors, and Bjorn Borg against… Gerulaitis, in 1981 for the last time). But on Tuesday afternoon, with new coach Dani Vallverdu in his corner, he finally rediscovered the winning formula. But a win of that significance is surely as much mental as it is tactical. Just how did he do it? “I started pretty well,” said the right-hander. “I started with the plan that I set up before the match, and then it turns that it was the right one. I was able to keep going with the same plan all the way through the match. Even though the first two sets looked easy, you know you’re playing Rafa, and you know what kind of opponent he is and you have to be ready for anything. So that’s why I keep myself really focused and kept going all the way until the end and tried to make my chances. Even though he just changed a couple of things – he got better in the third set – I was still able to finish it and close it up in three sets.”In the 3rd set Nadal fought for every point, actually it started as he fist-pumped levelling at 2-games apiece. At 4-all Berdych fought off two break points, three games afterwards Nadal saved a double match point with two service winners. In the tie-break Berdych quickly built a 5:1 lead. The Czech player kept his composure and produced arguably his best second serve of the match holding fourth match point, the first one on his own serve, causing Nadal’s return error.
Fourth round: ATP
Rafael Nadal went into his match against World No. 15 Kevin Anderson with a plan: crowd the baseline to put pressure on Anderson’s massive serve. But when that wasn’t working early in the first set, he moved on to Plan B. That quick thinking shifted the momentum (when Anderson squandered four break point at 5-all in the opening set), earning the Spaniard a 7-5 6-1 6-4 win Sunday afternoon and booking his spot in the Australian Open quarter-finals for the eighth time. “We decided to go close to the baseline in the beginning,” Nadal said of his strategy against his fourth-round opponent. The left-hander goes on to face Tomas Berdych, who defeated Bernard Tomic 6-2 7-6(3) 6-2. Nadal leads Berdych 18-3 in their H2H record and has won their past 17 contests, not losing to the Czech since 2006. In the 2nd set Berdych seemed frustrated after losing two games on return despite five break point in total, but played an excellent tie-break and never looked back. Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios  saved one match point as he fought from two sets down to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals with a 5-7 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) 8-6 victory over Federer’s conqueror, Andreas Seppi. “It’s crazy. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said Kyrgios after the 3-hour 32-minute victory. “When I saw I had finally won the match it was incredible. It was the best feeling I ever had. To know the body could come back from two sets to love, knowing I haven’t had matches, it’s just massive confidence.” Kyrgios has reached the Grand Slam quarterfinal for the second time in his career having just played 11 main-level events, no other player in the Open era managed to do it so quickly. My stats of his serving against Seppi... Andy Murray reached his sixth consecutive Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday as he edged Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5 in a night session match on Rod Laver Arena. The match lasted as long as the Kyrgios-Seppi encounter even though one set less was played. In the pair’s seventh meeting, Dimitrov got off to a fast start, opening up a 3:0* (deuce) lead in the 1st set, but Murray worked his way back into the opener and won six of the next seven games to take the lead. The Scot built on his momentum as he broke for a 3:1* lead in the 2nd set, but let it slip. Murray looked to have clinched a decisive break in the 11th game as he took a 6:5 (deuce) lead, but he failed to serve out the set and Dimitrov made him pay in the subsequent tie-break (the Bulgarian won incredible point to take a 4:2 advantage). However, Dimitrov found himself in trouble on serve in the 8th game of the 3rd set and Murray converted his third break point before serving it out to reclaim the lead in the match. In the 4th set, Dimitrov wasted a set point at 5:2*, then had to deal with two problematic decisions of chair-umpire Jack Gardner, who ordered replaying two points lost by Murray claiming that decisions of linesmen affected strokes of the Scot. Dimitrov being broken in the 11th game at ‘love; devasteted his racquet.“I thought I played well,” said Murray. “I thought he started the match extremely well. He came out very aggressive, very explosive. But it’s tough to keep that level of intensity up. Once I got myself into the match, I felt like I was able to dictate a lot of the points.” World No. 5 Kei Nishikori is through to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second time after overcoming David Ferrer 6-3 6-3 6-3 Monday in Melbourne. “I played really comfortable on the court,” said Nishikori. “I had a lot of confidence going in to this match, and I was playing almost 100 per cent tennis; really aggressive, good forehand, and serving also was really good.” Last year they met four times and each of those encounters went the distance. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka survived a stern test from Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, prevailing 7-6(2) 6-4 4-6 7-6(8) in their fourth-round match on Monday. It took the Swiss 70 winners and just over three hours to advance to the quarter-finals at the Australian Open for the third time. The 2nd set proved speedier for the reigning champion, as he needed just one break and 33 minutes to earn a two-set lead. He then got an early break for a 4:2* lead in the 3rd set, but Garcia-Lopez fought to break back for 4-all and needed just one set point on Wawrinka’s serve to sink his teeth into the match and force a fourth set. “I started to be on my defensive a little bit too much,” said Wawrinka. “[It] was important to win that match again. It is great for me to be in [the] quarter-finals.” The Spaniard continued to challenge Wawrinka in the 58-minute 4th set, causing the reigning champion to fight back from an *0:5 deficit in the tie-break and fend off five set points before finally winning the match. Wawrinka said: “0:5 was a bad start to the tie-break. At 2:6 I knew I was close to coming back because I had the wind with me. I had to focus on every point. I knew if I was going to come back to 5:6, [it] was going to get nervous.” Garcia-Lopez wasted his fifth set point serving at 8:7.Milos Raonic became the first Canadian man in the Open Era to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals on Monday as he edged Feliciano Lopez 6-4 4-6 6-3 6-7(7) 6-3 on Australia Day in Melbourne. My serve-stats of that match. The Toronto native is the first Canadian into the last eight in Melbourne since Michael Belkin in 1968. “It’s great to be doing what I’m doing and that it is making a difference,” said Raonic. “It is, I guess, part of some history, if you look really deep. But at the end of the day, at the same time, I’m always pushing myself for what I want to achieve. I’m always sort of looking in the mirror and saying, ‘That’s who I have to compare myself to: to myself.'” Raonic had lost his last match with Lopez, in Toronto last year, and was pushed all the way on Hisense Arena by the 33-year-old Spaniard, who just does not know when he is beaten. Leading two-sets-to-one, Raonic looked to have the match on his racquet in the 4th set tie-break. He was denied his first match point on Lopez’s serve leading 6:5, but then had the chance to close out the match on his own serve at 7:6. Lopez came up with a telling pass forcing a volley error, though, and Raonic then hooked a forehand wide to give the Spaniard his first set point, which he duly converted. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic ended Gilles Muller’s inspired run on Monday night with a 6-4 7-5 7-5 victory over the Luxembourg native. The Serb limited the big-serving Muller to just two aces in the 32-minute opener. He broke for a 4:3 lead before closing out the set, with his momentum halted only briefly as he had his grazed fingers – hurt as he put a hand on the court to steady himself – treated by the physio. Muller managed to keep Djokovic at bay for much of the 2nd set. He fended off three break points before the Belgrade native made a decisive move, breaking for a 6:5 lead and taking charge of the contest. “I think I played maybe one or two bad games on my serve in the match,” Muller said. “[Against] those guys, they’re right there right away at that moment, and you’re behind.”In the 3rd set Djokovic saved four break points in the 6th game and once again notched a decisive break in the 11th game.
Third round: ATP
World No. 7 Tomas Berdych recorded his 300th match win on hard courts, as he put an end to Viktor Troicki’s perfect start to the 2015 season Friday at the Australian Open. With Djokovic watching from the sidelines, Berdych defeated his countryman 6-4 6-3 6-4 firing 20 aces and never being forced to save a break point. Troicki in his last service game fought off seven match points…Bernard Tomic advanced to the Last 16 for the first time in three years after he beat fellow Australian Sam Groth 6-4 7-6(8) 6-3 in 1 hour and 33 minutes. The 22-year-old Tomic committed just eight unforced errors. In the tie-break, Groth had a set point at 6:5, but committed a double fault. Sixth seed Andy Murray hit 39 winners for a 6-1 6-1 7-5 victory over Joao Sousa, who recovered from a 1:4 deficit in the 3rd set. Murray failed to capitalise on two match point opportunities at 5:4, but the Scot regrouped and clinched his 36th victory at Melbourne Park when a Sousa lob went long. “I thought I played well today,” said Murray. “I managed to dictate a lot of the points. I controlled the baseline very well. I hit the ball cleanly. It was a good performance.” Tenth seed Grigor Dimitrov is one victory away from 150 match wins after he battled to beat 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-3. World No. 78 Baghdatis had come up big at the end of the 3rd set to gain the upper hand. He broke to go up 5:3 and saved four break points in the next game. Dimitrov turned the momentum in his favour when Baghdatis committed back-to-back double faults in the 4th set to gift the 23-year-old Bulgarian a break point chance. This time, Dimitrov seized his opportunity. He broke at 1-all in the decider and once again leading 5:3. In a stunning performance, World No. 46 Andreas Seppi recorded one of his greatest victories to knock out second seed and four-time former champion Roger Federer 6-4 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(5), passing the Swiss with forehand on match point from very difficult position, for a place in the fourth round. “To beat Roger first time, especially in a Grand Slam, best-of-five, is a special moment for me,” said Seppi. “Of course, at the beginning, I just went on the court to enjoy the match and to play my best tennis… I was pretty calm. I have to say, from the beginning [and] also in the important moments.” It ended a 10-match losing streak against Federer (1-21 in sets!), who saw his run of 11 straight semi-final appearances at Melbourne Park come to an end. Seppi struck 50 winners – seven fewer than Federer – for victory in just under three hours. It broke a 23-match losing streak against players in the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings and his first win over a World No. 2 since he beat Nadal in Rotterdam 2008. Said Seppi: “After the first set, I felt, ‘I am there, I am hitting the ball very well.’ I started to believe that I can do more. I think the second set tie-break was very important. It worked out pretty well.” In the opening set Federer led 40/15 trailing 4:5* when he made two uncharacteristic forehand errors. The Swiss had his chances to clinch both tie-breaks that he lost: led *5:3 in the first one & *5:4 in the second. Federer reached at least semi-final in his last eleven Aussie Open appearances!Rafael Nadal got off to a fast start against Dudi Sela, but was later tested before he booked a spot in the fourth round. Nadal, the third seed and 2009 champion, lost just 25 points in the first two sets of his 6-1 6-0 7-5 victory over the Israeli. Nadal, now 44-8 at the Australian Open, will meet No. 14 seed Kevin Anderson for the second time. The South African reached the fourth round for the third straight year after he struck 18 aces to beat No. 24 seed Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-6(3) 7-6(6). It was only his second win in six meetings against Gasquet, who drops to a 4-2 mark on the season. The Frenchman squandered a double set point in the 3rd set tie-break. Despite bleeding noseNick Kyrgios continued his excellent service disposition: in three sets against Malek Jaziri, the young Austrialian struck 25 aces & 25 service winners to twin 6-3 7-6(6) 6-1. In the tie-break Kyrgios’ backhand caught the line as he trailed 0:4. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic raised his level as needed on Saturday to withstand the challenge of Fernando Verdasco, beating the Spaniard 7-6(8) 6-3 6-4 – in the tie-break the Spaniard led 5:3 before Djokovic converted his fourth set point.“It was a turning point probably winning the tie-breaker as close as it was,” said Djokovic. “I thought I served very well, allowed myself to have a lot of free points in the first serve. What I could have done better I thought was just capitalising on the break point opportunities, especially in the first set.” The 27-year-old Djokovic goes on to face Gilles Muller, who upset the 19th-seeded John Isner 7-6(4) 7-6(6) 6-4 in 2 hours and 13 minutes. The 31-year-old Muller will contest the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2011 US Open. He withstood 30 aces from the American, while firing 24 of his own. In the tense 2nd set tie-break, Muller saved set point with an overhead and a moment later won the set when his forehand hit the net-cord and went over the side of the helpless Isner – the American devastated his racquet immediately… In other right-handed vs left-handed duel between big servers, concluded with very similar scoreline, Jerzy Janowicz lost to Feliciano Lopez 6-7(6) 4-6 6-7(3). My serve stats of those two encounters. World No. 8 Milos Raonic fired 22 aces and equalled his best result at the Australian Open, cruising into the fourth round with a 6-4 6-3 6-3 victory over German Benjamin Becker on Saturday afternoon. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka extended his pair of winning streaks as he dismissed Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-4 6-2 6-4. The Swiss now has a 7-0 mark to start the 2015 season and has won nine straight matches at Melbourne Park. The World No. 4 seized control of his third-round match as he went on a six-game run to build a set and *4:0 lead against the 33-year-old Nieminen in the 2nd set. “I feel good,” said Wawrinka. “It was a really good match from me today. I was playing great. Tried to be more aggressive than normal.” Next up for Wawrinka is Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam event just the second time in 42 appearances as he dismissed Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-2 6-4 6-4 in two hours. Wawrinka leads their H2H series 4-3, but it was the Spaniard who won their most recent contest in the first round of Roland Garros last year. Fifth seed Kei Nishikoriunexpectedly lost the 1st set blowing a set point (6:5* in the tie-break)but secured his place in the fourth round at the Australian Open for the fourth year in a row after overcoming Steve Johnson 6-7(7) 6-1 6-2 6-3. Nishikori hit 49 winners to just 24 unforced errors and converted seven of his 10 break points as he finished strongly to claim victory in 2 hours and 29 minutes. The ninth-seeded David Ferrer ground out a hard-fought win over Gilles Simon, enduring several comebacks from the Frenchman before advancing with a 6-2 7-5 5-7 7-6(4) victory in 3 hours and 37 minutes. Ferrer led 5:3* in the 3rd set and squandered a 5:1* lead in the 4th set before closing out victory in the subsequent tie-break. Simon led 6:5* in the 4th set, but Ferrer held to ’15’. After the match the unbeaten this year 32-year-old Spaniard was cramping… They also met in the third round of the last year’s US Open, and then Simon left the court as a four-set winner (2:51 hrs).
Second round: ATP
Was Roger Federer stung by a bee Wednesday? He certainly felt something happened after the first set of his 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 second-round victory over Simone Bolelli. “I don’t know if it’s a blister,” said Federer, who instantly felt pain on the little finger of his right hand. “It’s the weirdest thing… I feel it on the tip of my finger. I just felt really odd starting after the break, and for three, four games, it was the funniest feeling I have. I feel like it’s numb and swollen.” World No. 53 Nick Kyrgios reached the third round for the first time on Wednesday as he held off Ivo Karlovic for a 7-6(4) 6-4 5-7 6-4 victory. The 19-year-old Australian withstood 40 aces from Karlovic (19 service winners), while firing 25 of his own (32 service winners), to claim victory in 2 hours and 20 minutes. “I’m feeling really confident now, especially after I played a good clay-courter in the first round,” said Kyrgios, who battled past Delbonis in five sets on Monday. “I thought he played really well. Obviously physically backing up after five sets as well, I can take massive confidence out of that.” The Canberra native, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Wimbledon last year, goes on to face Malek Jaziri. The No. 75-ranked player became the first Tunisian to reach the third round of a Grand Slam eventedgingEdouard Roger-Vasselin1-6 6-3 6-4 1-6 6-3 after dramatic last game in which Roger-Vasselin had a good position to break back having saved three match points but his dropshot landed in the net. “I’m going to feel nervous when I walk out on the court,” said Kyrgios. “I know it’s a good opportunity at a Grand Slam to play someone unseeded. I know there’s a lot of expectation. I’m going to do everything I can the next couple days to recover and go out there and give it my best.”Rafael Nadal drew on all of his fighting qualities Wednesday night. The third seed, playing just his 10th tour-level match since July 2014, ground out a comeback victory against World No. 112 Tim Smyczek. Nadal maintained his record of never losing to a qualifier at a Grand Slam championship, but his 4-hour 12-minute 6-2 3-6 6-7(2) 6-3 7-5 win kept fans on Rod Laver Arena on the edges of their seats. In the 3rd set Nadal wasted a 5:3* lead, then was serving to stay in the match at 4:5 in the 5th (held at ‘love’). In the final game Smyczek saved three consecutive match points, at ‘deuce’ Nadal played a backhand winner and converted his fourth match point with a forehand winner followed up with a celebration on the knees.“The weather was different today than the past couple of weeks,” said Nadal. “[It was] very humid… I should not be that tired after 40 minutes… I feel lucky to have the chance to finish the match, and then to find a way to win.” “It was really special tonight,” said Smyczek. “It was pretty clear Rafa didn’t have his best stuff. But it just shows the kind of player, the kind of champion he is because, he was sick and not playing well. That was his C or D game. He found a way to win. So hats off to him. That’s why he’s one of the best.” Kyrgios was not joined in the third round by the other half of the “SpecialKs” duo, as Thanasi Kokkinakis’ challenge was ended by fellow Australian Sam Groth. The 27-year-old Groth  reached the third round of a major for the first time as he battled past 18-year-old Kokkinakis 3-6, 6-3 7-5 3-6 6-1 in just under three hours on Hisense Arena. “The journey I’ve taken the past two years, the past ten years, the past twenty years, it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” said Groth. He will contest another all-Australian clash in the third round, after Bernard Tomic defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(6) 7-6(5) in 3 hours 9 minutes of highly entertaining battle featuring 67 winners off both sides!“I was really impressed with the level of tennis tonight,” said Tomic. “We were playing both pretty well. He was coming up with shots I’ve never seen before. Some shots, I don’t know how they were going in. But I played good myself. So I was very happy. This is the tennis I’ve been waiting to play down here in Melbourne.” Tomic trailed 1:3* (30/40) in the 2nd set, fought off four set points in the 3rd set (including 3:6 in the tie-break – Kohli’s double fault on his last set point) and won tremendous point serving at 5-all (0/30) in the 4th set.Andy Murray improved to a perfect 10-0 tour-level record against Australian players, including a 3-0 H2H mark against Marinko Matosevic, with a 6-1 6-3 6-2 win Wednesday afternoon. Feliciano Lopez survived second consecutive miracle as he left the court as a winner due to Adrian Mannarino‘s retirement. The Frenchman took the first two sets ”6-4’ after plenty of breaks and led *4:0 (30/0) in the 3rd set, but Lopez came back saving a match point on return at 3:5. The Spaniard won the set after another bizarre twist (from 0:3* to 7/3), and the first four games of the 4th when Mannarino decided to quit due to exhaustion. The 33-year-old Lopez becomes the first Open era player to win twice back-to-back matches at majors having saved match points (!) – previously he did it at Wimbledon 2002. Besides that he joins Greg Rusedski as the second player to win six MP-down ‘best of five’ matches. Other big-serving left-handed, Gilles Muller outsmarted Roberto Bautista 7-6(5) 1-6 7-5 6-1. After the first three sets Bautista had won 18 points more, yet was two sets to one down – it discouraged him to keep the same level of concentration in the 4th set… Two points away from a fifth set, World No. 5 Kei Nishikori stepped up to complete a 4-6 7-5 6-2 7-6(0) comeback win over Croatian Ivan Dodig on Thursday afternoon. “I thought he was playing really well, especially the first couple sets,” said Nishikori. “He was really aggressive, returning well, and I was struggling my service game especially.”Dodig led 5:3 in the 4th set, there was 30-all when he served in the 10th game. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic cruised into the third round with a commanding 6-0 6-1 6-4 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov, Thursday on Rod Laver Arena. Djokovic won nine straight games to start his first meeting against the 23-year-old Russian, currently No. 88. The Serbian dropped serve at ‘love’ to fall 0:2 in the 3rd set, but won the next four games. Defending champion Stan Wawrinka prevailed against Romania’s Marius Copil in a tight three-set match. The World No. 4 won 108 points to Copil’s 104, closing out a 7-6(4) 7-6(4) 6-3 victory in 2 hours and 16 minutes. Wawrinka secured the decisive break to go up 5:3 when Copil double-faulted. “It was quite a tough match,” said Wawrinka. “Happy to get through, especially in three sets.”Jerzy Janowicz battled back from a two-sets-to-one deficit to defeat No. 17 seed Gael Monfils 6-4 1-6 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3, hitting 50 winners for victory in 3 hours and 8 minutes. He maintains his record of always reaching the third round in Melbourne by ending a six-match losing streak against Top 20 opposition. Janowicz, who struggles with winning games when forced to save break points, until the final set was broken every time Monfils created an opportunity, however, at 2-all in the 5th set, the Pole saved three break points with two volleys and an ace to build a decisive 3:2 lead.David Ferrer, a semi-finalist in 2011 and 2013, squandered four set points in the opening set, but beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 5-7 6-3 6-4 6-2 in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Eighth seed Milos Raonic struck 17 aces (30 in his first round match) past Donald Young in a 6-4 7-6(3) 6-3 victory that extended his winning streak against Americans to 12 matches, dating back to August 2013. He lost just 12 of his service points for the 130th hard-court win of his career. Raonic will next challenge Benjamin Becker, who recorded one of his greatest wins in a duel of two 33-year-old players. Becker defeated 2005 runner-up Lleyton Hewitt for the first time, in their third meeting, 2-6 1-6 6-3 6-4 6-2 to reach the third round. Becker: “I was a little bit embarrassed to be down 6-2 6-1. I wanted to get into the groove, play my game that I know I can play [and] try to fight. Obviously, the break in the third set was big for me. [It] gave me confidence, I started to play better. From that point on I felt like I was back to my game.” Becker enjoyed his first five-set victory in seventh attempt (he was within a few points to win his first and third five-setters facing Verdasco & Chela). Hewitt has worsened his a once stellar five-set record, it’s 32-23 now (nonetheless 30-14 prior to 2009). More five-setters than Hewitt among the Open Era players notched only Ivan Lendl – 58 (36-22).
First round: ATP
Among the Top 20 players there’s lack of the US Open ’14 champion Marin Cilic & former Aussie Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.. The first round was successful for the local players, 7 of 10 Australians entering the event, advanced to the second round – the most since 2003 when 8 of 11 reached the last 64. On the first day of the event the main attention was focused on the most perspective, tall Australians born in the 90s: Thanasi Kokkinakis [147 ATP, 196 cm], Nick Kyrgios [53 ATP, 193 cm] & Bernard Tomic [66 ATP, 195 cm] – all appeared in yellow outfits, and all won tough encounters, however, the most experienced in this group, the 22-year-old Tomic did it in four sets, his younger compatriots went the distance. The 18-year-old Kokkinakis saved four match points as he ousted 11th-seeded Ernests Gulbis 5-7 6-0 1-6 7-6(2) 8-6, while one year older Kyrgios finished just after midnight, edging Federico Delbonis 7-6(2) 3-6 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3. “I’m really happy with how I felt physically,” said Kokkinakis after the 4-hour 7-minute contest. “I was thrilled with that win. Best win of my career. A lot of matches last year I was winning a set against these good players, but never able to finish the match through. I’m really happy with how I stuck together. Even though I thought for a lot of the period of that time I wasn’t playing my best tennis, I found a way to kind of get the points there, the games I needed to.” After winning the 3rd set in 33 minutes, Gulbis had a game point to lead 3:0 in the 4th set, but Kokkinakis managed to end a 5-game losing streak and clinched his fist – from that moment to the end of the match he was extremely pumped up and it helped him in the end. With the raucous Fanatics cheering him on, Kokkinakis denied Gulbis on four match points in the late stages of the 4th set to win the first five-set match of his career. The Adelaide native was staring down the barrel of defeat at *5:6 in the fourth set as Gulbis earned two match points at 15/40. After saving the first two, he fended off two more (third after impressive inside-out forehand), before benefitting from two Gulbis double faults to dominate the ensuing tie-break. The decider was a tense affair. Kokkinakis saved two break points at 3-all and one break point at 4-all before coming through a titanic 13th game. After saving break point at 30/40, Kokkinakis looked finally to have succumbed on Gulbis’ next opportunity when his forehand was called long. But the electronic review proved it to have caught the very back edge of the line. After saving a third break point to hold, Kokkinakis went after his Latvian opponent in the next game. Gulbis saved one match point with an ace at 30/40, but a costly double fault gave Kokkinakis another chance and he converted as Gulbis miscued a forehand. It was Kokkinakis’ second main draw win at the Australian Open and the delighted right-hander celebrated with a lap of Court 3, high-fiving the home support… “That was massive,” said Kyrgios after 3:08 hrs victory over Delbonis. “Obviously I haven’t played a lot of competitive tennis in the past couple months due to injury. It was really good to get my first win again. It was my first win in 2015, Australian Open. I’m really pleased I got through. I’m really happy the way I pulled up, as well.” Kyrgios struck 22 aces to 14 of his opponent (Delbonis hit more winners: 62-61). Tomic came back from a *2:5 deficit in the 1st set, and finished strongly to defeat Tobias Kamke 7-5 6-7(1) 6-3 6-2 in 2 hours and 49 minutes. The Gold Coast native fired 25 aces and converted six of his 10 break points. Tomic has only fallen at the first hurdle at Melbourne Park once in seven main draw appearances. “It was a very important match,” said Tomic. “It’s not easy playing a player like this who’s coming out, playing confident, hitting the ball well. It was tough. I didn’t start the way I wanted.” Seventh seed Tomas Berdych (plays his 46th major, just the second one without a baseball cap, previously he did it at Roland Garros ’08) advanced to the second round after he defeated Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-3 7-6(1) 6-3. “I think it was a good test for me for the first round,” said Berdych. “I’m glad to handle it the way I did.” Berdych’s compatriot, Jiri Vesely lost in four sets in a duel of last week qualifier/champions (Vesely won his maiden title in Auckland while Viktor Troicki triumphed in Sydney). Third seed and 2009 titlist Rafael Nadal got off to a speedy start on Monday, defeating Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-2 6-2 in his opening match at the Australian Open. Ten years before they met on the same Rod Laver Arena & the teenage boy at the time – Nadal – survived in five sets. This time Nadal lost just eight of his service points and hit 37 winners for victory in 1 hour and 50 minutes. Another young Australian but less gifted than Kokkinakis-Kyrgios-Tomic trio, 22 -year-old James Duckworth  defeated Blaz Kavcic 6-2 5-7 7-6(7) 3-6 6-2 in 3 hours 55 minutes on Court No. 6 – two years ago they battled much harder on court No. 3 when Kavcic prevailed after 4 hours 52 minutes, which is the eight longest match in the tournament history. This time, in a crucial tie-breaker, Duckworth saved two set points after rapidly squandering a 5:0 lead!Roger Federer maintained his record of never having lost in the Australian Open first round – the second seed, a winner of 17 Grand Slam championships, defeated Yen-Hsun Lu 6-4 6-2 7-5 during the night session on Rod Laver Arena. He will face in potentially another easy match Simone Bolelli, who was a 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-1 winner over a spent Juan Monaco. Federer’s compatriot No. 4 Stan Wawrinka kicked off his Australian Open title defence with a convincing 6-1 6-4 6-2 win over World No. 100 Marsel Ilhan. In 10 Melbourne appearances, the Swiss No. 2 has never lost a first-round match. Former World No. 1 and 2005 Australian Open runner-up Lleyton Hewitt  came through a topsy-turvy first-round encounter on Tuesday night in Melbourne to beat Chinese “wild card” Ze Zhang 6-3 1-6 6-0 6-4. “I was obviously the favorite going out there tonight, but I knew he was going to be really flashy, and I was going to have to weather the storm when he had a run-on of games,” Hewitt said of Zhang. “It’s happened every time I played against him (third time). I was able to do that and change the momentum when I needed to.”Hewitt participates in his record 19th Australian Open (Fabrice Santoro played in Melbourne 18 times). This year the 42-year-old Santoro came to Australia as a coach of Sergiy Stakhovsky. The serve-and-volleyer of Ukraine wasted a 5:2* (30/15) lead in the 4th set, but got decisive break at 3-all in the decider to eliminate Dusan Lajovic 6-3 4-6 6-4 6-7(3) 6-4 in 3 hours 33 minutes.Roberto Bautista came through a tricky opening round, denying Austrian young gun Dominic Thiem 4-6 6-2 6-3 7-6(5) in just under three hours. In a 8-deuce game at *4:5 in the 4th set, the Spaniard fought off three set points.David Ferrer recorded his sixth win in seven meetings against Thomaz Bellucci on Tuesday to open his Australian Open campaign. The ninth seed, who has reached the 2011 and 2013 semi-finals at Melbourne Park, found his rhythm late in the second set en route to a 6-7(2) 6-2 6-0 6-3 victory. Ferrer lost just 13 points in the third set. The 32-year-old Ferrer started the 2015 season by clinching his ninth hard-court title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. He has lifted 22 trophies overall. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic calmed any doubts surrounding his Australian Open preparations on Tuesday as he cruised into the second round with a 6-3 6-2 6-4 victory over qualifier Aljaz Bedene. More troubles had other favorite to the title, Andy Murray facing a debutant at majors – Yuki Bhambri of India. Murray won in straight sets, but was forced to erase a *1:4 deficit in the 3rd set. Former Australian Open semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco overcame a slow start to beat Great Britain’s James Ward 2-6 6-0 7-6(6) 6-3 in 1 hour and 42 minutes having saved a set point in the tie-break. Jerzy Janowicz in a “Goliat vs David” encounter, battled past Hiroki Moriya 7-6(5) 2-6 6-3 7-5 in just under three hours. Moriya was “lucky loser” replacing Juan Martin del Potro, who returned to the tour last week in Sydney after a 10-month injury break. The frustrated Janowicz (26 aces, 13 double faults) was two points away from losing sets number one and four to the 37 cm shorter 24-year-old Japanese (203 cm vs 165 cm), who has won just one main level-match in his career thus far (in Tokyo 2012 over Robin Haase). Janowicz next meets Gael Monfils, who fought back from a 0-2 sets deficit for just the second time his career on Tuesday (the previous one in the Aussie Open first round as well). The No. 17 seed hit 58 winners, including 23 aces, in a 6-7(3) 3-6 6-4 6-1 6-4 victory over fellow Frenchman, “wild card” Lucas Pouille, in 2 hours and 38 minutes (Pouille was eight points away from victory in sets No. 3 and six point in the decider). In a battle of two very weak 5-set players, Vasek Pospisil edged past Sam Querrey 6-3 6-7(5) 2-6 6-4 6-4. Querrey didn’t handle the pressure serving at 4:5 in the last two sets – he delivered a bunch of errors and committed a double fault on Pospisil’s second match point. Five set record: Pospisil 2-5, Querrey 3-10... Qualifier Elias Ymer  became the first Swedish player since Robin Soderling at Wimbledon ’11 to play a Grand Slam event. The 18-year-old boy of Ethiopian origin, lost in five sets to twelve years older Go Soeda. One of the most experienced Open Era players in terms of marathon five-setters, Feliciano Lopez made a miracle effort: he was heavy breathing in the 5th set against Denis Kudla, but somehow managed to save three match points at 5:6 on return to win 3-6 6-2 4-6 6-2 10-8 in 3 hours 17 minutes. Denis Istomin and Andreas Seppi faced each other for the ninth time and fifth time their match went the distance! They have created just the fifth Open Era pair to play five-setters five times. Here are scorelines:
Wimbledon 2012: Istomin 6-7(2), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6… 206 minutes Australian Open 2013: Seppi 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 6-2… 247 minutes Wimbledon 2013: Seppi 7-6(6), 7-6(3), 5-7, 3-6, 6-3… 198 minutes US Open 2013: Istomin 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-1… 185 minutes Australian Open 2015: Seppi 5-7, 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4… 171 minutes