2016, Australian Open
Australian Open, Melbourne
January 18-31, 2016; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Hard
Summaries taken from ATP articles (a little blend with others) with my blue notes…
Final: (1)Novak Djokovic d. (2)Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(3) [2:53 h]
Victory at Melbourne Park sees Djokovic equal Roy Emerson‘s record of six Australian titles. It marks his 11th Grand Slam championship, moving him into equal fifth place with Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver on the all-time list for most major titles and closing the gap on his great rivals Roger Federer (17) and Rafael Nadal (14). “Every Grand Slam title is very significant in its own way,” said Djokovic. “Here, because of the fact that I managed to make history tonight and equal Roy Emerson’s six Australian Open titles. I’m very honoured to be mentioned alongside legends of our sport like Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, and to win as many Grand Slams as they did. I can’t lie and say I didn’t think about it. Of course it was in the back of my mind. Coming into the court I knew that I had a chance to make history. Of course it served as a great motivation, as a great imperative to play my best.” Djokovic won three of the four Grand Slam crowns in 2015, only denied the calendar slam by Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros final. The 28-year-old has a staggering 57-6 record in Melbourne, winning his first major title there in 2008 (d. Tsonga) before returning as champion in 2011 (d. Murray), 2012 (d. Nadal), 2013 (d. Murray) and 2015 (d. Murray). “It’s phenomenal,” said Djokovic. “I’m very proud of it, as is my team. We worked very hard to be in this position, and we should enjoy it. We should cherish every moment that we get to experience now because these are the tournaments that we all value, that we all want to play well on. “No doubt that I’m playing the best tennis of my life in the past 15 months.” Djokovic improved to a 22-9 H2H record against Murray. The Belgrade native won six of their seven meetings last season. Since Murray defeated the Serb in the 2012 US Open final, Djokovic has won 14 of their past 16 contests. Djokovic made a lightening start to the match. After saving a break point in his opening game, the Serb raced into a 5:0 lead in just 19 minutes. Murray began to find his range in the latter stages, but could not stop Djokovic sealing the opener in 30 minutes. In a keenly contested 2nd set, Murray saved four break points in the third game, before he paid the price for forehand unforced errors as Djokovic broke for a 4:3 lead. Murray immediately struck back, breaking for the first time in the match to level at 4-all, but lost his serve from a 40/0 advantage in the 11th game as Djokovic regained the initiative. Two consecutive double faults (!) from Djokovic gave Murray the chance to level in the 12th game, but the Serb steadied himself to close out the two-set lead. Building on his momentum, Djokovic broke Murray in the first game of the 3rd set, but the Dunblane native was not going down without a fight. He broke Djokovic in the sixth game to draw level and ultimately force a tie-break. But two double faults from Scot proved his undoing in the early stages of the tie-break, gifting Djokovic a lead that he would never recover. Since the start of the 2015 US Open, Djokovic has compiled a 38-1 match record, with his only defeat coming to Federer in the round robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals – he would beat the Swiss when they met again in the final later that week. In that spell, Djokovic has gone 17-1 against Top 10 opponents. He opened his 2016 ATP World Tour campaign with victory in Doha, where he dismissed Nadal in the final for the loss of just three games. It was a familiar tale for Murray, who has finished runner-up in the Australian Open final five times, with four of those defeats coming to Djokovic. He was also beaten by Federer in the 2010 final. The Dunblane native is only the second man in the Open Era to lose five finals at any one major, joining his former coach, Ivan Lendl, who was five times the runner-up at the US Open. The Scot has a 2-7 record in Grand Slam finals, with his two triumphs coming over Djokovic at the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon. “I saw some of the stats just at the end of the match,” said Murray. “He won 24 more points than me. I had 24 more unforced errors [than him]. I think I didn’t hit my forehand particularly well at the beginning of the match. I started to hit it better in the third set. But that was it. The end of the second set, obviously the game I lost 40/0 up, was a tough one. Maybe I could have nicked that set. I was starting to have quite a lot of opportunities in the second. I had a few chances there when I got the break back I think. That was a tough game to lose. Then obviously in the third I felt like towards the end of the set, after I got the break back again, that I was creating a few chances. In the tie-break, I missed two second serves by a little bit. He had served an ace on the T, which was in by a little bit. I’m proud of the way I fought and managed to get myself back into the match and create chances for myself.” Stats of the final.
2nd semifinal: Friday
(2)Andy Murray d. (13)Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 [4:03 h]
“Last year here is a good match for me to look at because the tennis, in my opinion, wasn’t miles apart,” said Murray. “It was a very close match for three sets. The most important thing for me is to sustain my level for long enough, not just for one set here or there, a few games here or there. I need to do it for a very long period if I want to get the win. That’s my challenge on Sunday. With his brother, Jamie Murray, in the men’s doubles final alongside Bruno Soares, the Murrays are the first brothers in the Open Era to reach the finals in both the men’s singles and doubles at a Grand Slam championship. Showing no signs of nerves in his seventh H2H meeting with Murray, Raonic started the stronger, breaking the Scot in the first game. The right-hander then held from a 0/40 deficit to secure the break and did not look back, striking 14 winners to just four from Murray to claim the opening set in 36 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. But Murray had Raonic under pressure on serve throughout the 2nd set. With Murray starting to pick Raonic’s serve, the Canadian fended off a break point in the second game and again in the sixth game. But the Toronto native blinked in the clutch 12th game. Facing set point at 30/40, he came in behind his serve but netted the backhand volley. Murray had allowed Raonic no opportunity on his serve, making 80 per cent of his first serves and winning 20 of those 24 points. Both players dominated on serve for the first half of the 3rd set, with five love service games to open proceedings. The first sign of danger for Murray came in the ninth game, when he held from 0/30 for a 5:4 lead. Raonic again had Murray under pressure in the 11th game, but was denied on the only break point chance of the set as Murray held for 6:5. In the ensuing tie-break, Raonic struck first with a fearsome forehand return winner to take a 3:2 lead. He quickly stretched the advantage to 5:2 and didn’t falter on his first set point at 6:4, sending down an unreturned serve. Raonic left the court for a medical time-out after only three games of the 4th set. With the Canadian’s movement slightly restricted, Murray pounced, breaking to love in the seventh game. A messy game ensued, with Murray surrendering a 40/15 lead to face a break point courtesy of three unforced errors. But the Scot attacked the net and was rewarded, ultimately holding for a 5:3 lead. After saving a set point in the eighth game, Raonic received more treatment on his upper right leg at the changeover and went on the attack with his forehand in the following game to earn two break back points. Murray found his best tennis when it was needed to reel off four straight points, though, and secure the set. Clearly impeded by his injury, Raonic never got a foothold in the decider. Murray benefited from a double fault to break in the opening game and quickly raced to a 4:0 lead. Raonic showed grit to save five break points in the fifth game, but was afforded no opportunity to get back into the match as Murray went on to serve out victory in just over four hour. “When you play against someone who is tough to break like Milos, you need to protect your own serve to put pressure on them,” said Murray. “I think at the end of the fourth set I did very well. I won some of the break points I faced. I came up with some good second serves. I changed the position of the second serves on a few points. Served close to the lines. That was big. Obviously if the injury affected him significantly at the end, then that’s tough, especially at this stage of an event. As the player, it’s obviously very tough when that happens. I’ve been in that position myself many times before, as well. It’s not easy.” Stats of the match
1st semifinal: Thursday
(1)Novak Djokovic d. (3)Roger Federer 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 [2:19 h]
45th meeting between them (15th at majors). “I played unbelievable in the first two sets,” Djokovic told Jim Courier in the on-court interview. “It was necessary against Roger, who was playing at a very high level during this tournament, only dropping one set. I knew he would be aggressive. I came out with the right intensity and executed everything perfectly. The two-set lead was comforting, but it was a battle in the end. At the end of the day, it’s important that your convictions are stronger than your doubts.” Djokovic could barely put a foot wrong in a dazzling 1st-set display. The Serb committed just two unforced errors, compared to twelve from Federer. The Swiss elected to receive first, after winning the coin toss, and after starting on the front foot, Djokovic never looked back. The Belgrade native broke in Federer’s first service game and lost only one point behind his first serve as he raced through the opener. Federer tried to halt Djokovic’s momentum at the start of the 2nd set, saving a break point to hold serve with a roar. But Djokovic didn’t flinch. In Federer’s following service game, the Serb broke to love and then a break to 15 in the fifth game all but sealed a two-set lead. In a show of dominance, Djokovic won almost twice as many points as Federer (52 to 27) and did not face a break point. But 17-time Grand Slam champions do not go away quietly. Federer saved a break point in the fifth game of the 3rd set before going on the attack in Djokovic’s service game. With the majority of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena urging him on, the Swiss was thwarted on his first four break points of the match, but not on his fifth. Federer engineered the opportunity by belying his 34 years to chase down a near-impossible get and dinking a forehand winner past Djokovic. He then converted by attacking Djokovic’s backhand corner with a rifled forehand. A nervy service hold in the ninth game saw him claw his way back into the match. The match was delayed at the end of the third set as the roof was closed due to a forecast of imminent rain. Djokovic kept his nose in front serving first in the 4th set and the pressure ultimately told for Federer in the eighth game. At 15/30, the Swiss produced one of the points of the tournament as he chased down a Djokovic lob, then a smash, then a volley to find the line with a remarkable backhand pass. But it would be the last point he won in the contest. Djokovic created a break point opportunity with a forehand pass that clipped the top of the net and went over Federer’s racquet and then converted as he ripped a forehand return to the net-rushing Federer’s feet. The last game was quick due to Djokovic’s very good serving, who later said: “[…] I did not allow myself to have big oscillations. Of course, there was a lot of excitement from the crowd, as well, towards the end of the third set. Then of course they got into it. It was a great atmosphere. But I’ve played in these particular situations before, and managed to use that experience.” Stats of the match
4th quarterfinal: (13)Milos Raonic d. (23)Gael Monfils 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 [2:17 h]
He has been a trailblazer for Canadian tennis throughout his career and Raonic carved out another slice of history for his country on Wednesday night in Melbourne as he became the first Canadian man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals. The Toronto native defeated Monfils for the first time in their three meetings. Raonic holds a 19-41 record against Top 10 opposition, claiming his 19th win last weekend when he beat Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round at Melbourne Park. The right-hander played his first major semi-final two years ago at Wimbledon, falling to Federer. “It’s a very positive thing if you look at the big picture,” said Raonic. “Right now in this moment alone it’s a great opportunity for me. I had a little bit of a disappointing semi-final two years ago, and sort of just want to change that story around and give myself another go with more experience and where I feel like I’m a better player than I was two years ago.” Having lost his only two meetings with Monfils (Stockholm ’11, Halle ’13), Raonic stepped out under a closed roof on the Rod Laver Arena with intent. The calmer of the two in the early exchanges, Raonic benefitted from tentative play by Monfils in the fourth game to break for a 3:1 lead. It was all the Toronto native needed to wrap up the first set in 35 minutes. Monfils raised his level in the 2nd set, though, and was rewarded with a service break in the sixth game. The Frenchman then saved a break point in the ninth game before holding on to level the match. Raonic struck immediately in the 3rd set and his early break proved decisive as he went on to reclaim the lead in the contest. A break in the fifth game of the 4th set put the Canadian well on his way to claiming victory, having hit 46 winners to 35 unforced errors. “I felt good, especially that I took care of the things I need to take care of,” said Raonic. “I was dictating I felt most of the time. I was hitting my shots well. I was quite efficient off the baseline. When I had the chance, I came forward. Closed shots off there. Maybe I was a little bit passive in the second set, but in the third I sort of turned that around for the better. Could have been a little bit maybe more forthcoming in the fourth as well, but I have to be happy with the way I dealt with things, how I played, and how I backed up the performance from two days ago.“
3rd quarterfinal: (2)Andy Murray d. (8)David Ferrer 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 [3:20 h]
It’s become a habit of sorts. For the sixth time in seven years, Murray is headed into the semi-finals of the Australian Open. The No. 2-seeded Scotsman once again ensured his place among the final four in Melbourne with a defeat Ferrer. “It was a pretty brutal match,” said Murray, who out-aced his opponent 11-0. “The start of the match wasn’t so good – a lot of unforced errors. But in the middle of the second set and the third set we both started to play long points. It was pretty physical. I held up pretty good, I think.” Coming into Wednesday’s quarter-final, Ferrer led his ATP World Tour brethren in two key categories at the 2016 Aussie Open: second serve points won (69%) and service games won (97%). He was the only quarter-finalist to advance without dropping a set. But that streak came to an end against Murray. Serving at 1:2 (40/0) in the 1st set, Ferrer coughed up five straight unforced errors to hand the break to his 28-year-old opponent, who went on to close out the stanza in 45 minutes. Ferrer, aiming for his third semi-final in Melbourne, fought back in the second, charging out to a 3:0 lead. But with the 33-year-old serving at 4:2, 15/40, Murray would bring the set back on serve. A timely ace, his sixth of the match, helped Murray save a set point serving at to save a set point at 4:5, but he couldn’t hold off Ferrer in the tie-break. At 5-all on Murray’s serve in the tie-break, Ferrer sneaked to the net and finished the point with a high FH-volley to take the set after 71 minutes. Murray had just broken for 3:1 in the 3rd set when play was suspended due to oncoming rain. Once the retractable roof was closed atop Rod Laver Arena, the Amelie Mauresmo-coached baseliner consolidated for 4:1 and was soon in possession of a two-sets-to-one advantage. The otherwise tireless Ferrer began to show signs of fatigue in the 4th set, a loose forehand error at 2:3 (30/40) one of 54 unforced errors for the Spaniard on the day – handing the four-time runner-up Murray a key break. “When the roof closed, I was obviously up a break in the third and was feeling good,” said Murray. “That first game after the delay was very important. I saved a couple of break points, but then actually played a good game. So it was nice to get through that game. Then I felt like started to play better as the match went on. I think today was probably the best match I played, especially in the second and third set. I started hitting the ball better from the back of the court. Start of the tournament was good. Obviously last few days have been tough and maybe hadn’t played my best tennis and managed to get through.” Stats of the match.
2nd quarterfinal: (1)Novak Djokovic d. (7)Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 [2:07 h]
The Serb made the decisive breakthrough in the sixth game of the opener, in which Nishikori had led 40/0, and went on to close out the set in 32 minutes, holding from 0/30 in the ninth game. Djokovic carried his momentum into the 2nd set and benefitted from more wayward forehands from Nishikori to break immediately. Nishikori came close to working his way back into the match, but was thwarted on two break points in the following game. The Japanese held from 0/40 in the third game, but was broken again in the fifth game and could not stop Djokovic from serving out the set in the eighth game, despite holding three break points. Nishikori twice led by a service break in the third set (3:1), but both times could not sustain his high level and aggression. Djokovic made him pay for the unforced errors, which ultimately amounted to 54, and broke the Japanese star in the seventh game before going on to close out victory. Djokovic has now won six straight times easily against Nishikori, whose last victory over the Serb coming in the 2014 US Open semi-finals. Djokovic has won 36 of his past 37 matches and is currently on a 13-match winning streak. The Serb lost only six matches last season (82-6 record) and claimed 11 titles, including three majors at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He fell just short of completing the calendar Grand Slam, finishing runner-up to Stan Wawrinka in the Roland Garros championship match.
1st quarterfinal: (3)Roger Federer d. (6)Tomas Berdych 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4 [2:16 h]
Federer booked a trip to his 12th Australian Open semi-final on Tuesday in Rod Laver Arena, simultaneously extending his record for the most final-four appearances in Melbourne in the Open Era, via a win over Berdych on Australia Day. “I’m very, very happy. Tomas has caused me a lot of problems over the years,” said Federer, who notched his 80th win at Melbourne Park, making the Australian Open his most successful Grand Slam in terms of matches won. “He’s one of the guys who makes you a better player. He’s beaten me on the biggest courts around the world. He was playing really, really aggressive, without any mistakes, without any unforced errors,” said Berdych. “He was just too good today. I mean, that’s it. That’s the way that he needed to play this time. He did it, I would say, quite accurately today.” Federer and Berdych traded breaks in the third and fourth games of the opening set. Berdych saved a set point serving at *4:5 (30/40), but the No. 6 seed couldn’t hold off Federer in the tie-break. The 17-time Slam champ carried the momentum into the 2nd set, converting service breaks in the first and seventh games to further distance himself. They again swapped breaks in the second and third games of the final set. But with Berdych serving at 4-all, he was broken for the fifth time, giving his opponent a chance to serve out the match. Federer finished with 48 winners to 26 unforced errors. His aggressive attack resulted in 24 of 29 (83%) successful net points. “I do feel really good at the net since a few years now,” said the Swiss. “It’s where it all sort of started for me when I came on tour. I know how it works up there. I still think there’s room for improvement. Every player manages to defend or pass it differently. The question is, do you come in off a low ball because you’re being dragged in, or are you coming in on your terms? You would assume that these are not stats you can keep up. It’s okay. As long as you’re coming in on the right plays, it’s okay to be beat.”
Week Two at the Australian Open kicked off with a bang Sunday at Melbourne Park, as Kei Nishikori became the tournament’s first quarter-finalist with a convincing 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. A blockbuster Top 10 battle saw the seventh seeded Japanese advance to the last eight for the second straight year and third overall. With the roof closed, Nishikori fired 31 winners and won 15 of 21 net points to dispatch the ninth seed and 2008 finalist. He extended his H2H advantage over Tsonga to 5-2, exacting revenge after most recently falling in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals in five sets. “It’s all good,” said Nishikori. “I’m feeling very good. My body and also tennis is very good. I’m looking forward to play the next round. It’s great to finish in straight sets always, especially as a Grand Slam is two weeks, so it’s long time. It’s great to finish quick. I’m surprised that I broke him early in every set. I was returning well today, so that makes it tough for him to have a good serve. It seems like he didn’t have many first serves in. I think today I had very good tactics and I played very patient.” Novak Djokovic fought hard to beat No. 14 seed Gilles Simon 6-3 6-7(1) 6-4 4-6 6-3 in 4 hours 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to reach his 27th straight Grand Slam championship quarter-final. The streak equals Jimmy Connors‘ mark for second place in the list of most consecutive last eight appearances at majors. “I was obviously pleased to win the match,” said Djokovic. “But in terms of the performance itself, I haven’t done well at all. [You] can expect unforced errors (someone counted him 100… out of 174 points he lost) when you’re playing Gilles who is one of the best counter-punchers on the tour at the moment and he’s been around for many years… I honestly didn’t expect to make this many unforced errors. In terms of a level that I’ve played, it’s [a] match to forget for me… I have tremendous respect for his [Connors’] achievements and who he is, what he has done for this sport. He drew a lot of people to watch tennis, bringing a lot of energy on the court, a lot of charisma, just a lot of quality overall. To be able to be mentioned alongside such a legend of course is a privilege. The fact that I’ve played this many quarterfinals in a row definitely pleases me.” In the 2nd set the Frenchman saved eight mini set points in two different games. To take the pair’s 11th meeting to a deciding set, Simon got his first break of the 4th set on his seventh break point chance of the set at 4-all. The Frenchman was then unable to convert a 40/15 lead, but closed out on his fourth set point opportunity. By playing deep, Simon led Djokovic to try many backhand drop shots… with little success. “I think I lost the fourth set because I lost my calm,” said the Serb. “At 4-all, 30/0, I just wasted that game with some unforced errors [and] handed him the set. After that, the set was gone. I had to just regroup and find that strength and find that focus that was necessary for me to win the match.” Djokovic regrouped and broke in the 4th and 6th games of the deciding set, before Simon staged a short-lived comeback. The last time Djokovic failed to reach the last eight at a Grand Slam was at 2009 Roland Garros, when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round. “It’s always a bad feeling when you lose in five,” said Simon. “So many things could have been different… He put more on the ball. I think the conditions were getting slower also. He was hitting the ball harder. He took more risks and the balls were staying in. From leading 2:1, 40/0, I think he played only good shots until 5:1. He definitely played better in the end.” Sixth seed Tomas Berdych drew on his big-match experience Sunday to fight past No. 24 seed Roberto Bautista for a place in his sixth straight Australian Open quarter-final. If Berdych is to compete in the semi-finals for a third consecutive year. “I’m just going to stick with the things that I’m doing right now,” said Berdych. “I think it’s been a great preparation. It’s been a great start to the season.” Berdych struck 66 winners, including 18 aces in a 4-6 6-4 6-3, 1-6 6-3 victory over Spaniard Bautista in 3 hours and 18 minutes. “It was a tough fight,” said Berdych. “It’s always kind of a fight with Roberto. He has improved quite well in the last couple of months, playing some good tennis. It was not an easy one. I’m pleased with the way [that] I handled the match. I was playing well tactically, with the right game plan. It was a good challenge for me.” Bautista started the match in confident fashion and may well have won the first two sets. But Berdych dug himself out of danger at 3-all, 0/40 in the 2nd set, when he won five straight points to hold. Berdych broke for a 3:1 lead in the deciding set and went on to improve to an 18-8 record in fifth sets. Bautista’s first loss after 8 consecutive wins (his longest streak so far). “I have to play well,” said Roger Federer on Berdych. “I think the court suits him. I think this sort of flatter bounce and faster court is good for his serves, good for his returns. It’s a fast court [and] I think for his kind of game it’s good.” Federer recorded his 79th match win at Melbourne Park, venue of the Grand Slam championship, with a 6-2 6-1 6-4 victory over No. 15 seed David Goffin, in a match that finished at 12:17 a.m. local time on Monday. He is now through to his 12th Australian Open quarter-final (47th overall). Gael Monfils left fans on Margaret Court Arena with their jaws on the floor Monday at the Australian Open, flying into the quarter-finals behind his hallmark exuberant display. The 23rd-seeded Frenchman defeated Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov 7-5 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) in 2 hours and 37 minutes, firing 44 winners and 14 aces. He converted three of seven break chances and covered 2131.8 metres in total, including a few through the air in the 2nd set after laying out for a stunning full-extension dive at 2-all (deuce). Monfils will make his first quarter-final appearance at the Australian Open in his 11th trip down under. It is the second-most attempts before reaching the last eight in Melbourne for the first time, with countryman Fabrice Santoro having broken through after 14 tries. “It was tough,” Monfils said. “I think I knew he would come and step in, try to play very fast. That’s what he did. I was a bit nervous so I could not hit through him for a while. Then suddenly I think I served a bit better and I put more pressure. I grabbed the first set. I felt unlucky in the second. I lost the momentum because at this period I thought I had him. It was a bit tough for me to grip my racquet (after the dive). Then it was a bit tougher to play. Milos Raonic held his nerve despite a spirited comeback by fourth seed and 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka on Monday at the Australian Open. Raonic, the No. 13 seed, hit 82 winners, including 24 aces, to beat Wawrinka 6-4 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena in 3hours and 44 minutes. “I’m very happy with the way I played, the way I competed, the way I turned things around after sort of having the momentum against me going into the fifth [set],” said Raonic. “I’m happy [with] the situation I’ve put myself in. At the same time, as happy as I am, my mind’s already on what’s the process for my next challenge. “I was volleying the first volley really well. I was finishing the points. I was putting pressure on him. I was giving him a situation maybe that he wasn’t too comfortable in.” Raonic got off to a flying start, revealing a new wrinkle to his game with a persistent net approach that kept Wawrinka on the back foot. The hyper-aggressive Canadian crashed the net with alacrity in the early stages, claiming 17 of 25 such points in the first and second sets. Raonic also had Wawrinka’s serve under pressure, putting 75 per cent of returns in play. He would break for 5:4 in the 1st set and three more times in the second, reeling off six of seven games from 0:2 down to take a commanding two-set lead. But Wawrinka would not go quietly. They remained on serve until 5-all in the 3rd (Raonic three points away from victory at 5:4), when Raonic’s net game began to flicker. Wawrinka rifled a return winner at an approaching Raonic’s feet, followed by a pair of forehand and backhand passing shots that caught the Canadian out of position at the net. He broke in the 11th game. Raonic held firm in the fourth-set opener, saving two break points in a 20-point game. But Wawrinka gained a stronger hold by breaking to 30 in the fifth game and went on to save three break points in a 15-point game for a 5:3 advantage. In a serve-dominated deciding set, Raonic opened up a 4:2 lead. Wawrinka, who struggled for service consistency, saved one match point at 3:5, Ad Out. But it was a stay of execution, as Raonic closed out to love in the next game. Drawing Wawrinka to the net with a drop shot, the match ended with a simple volley into an open court. Raonic won 54 of 83 (65%) points at the net overall and is now 6-4 lifetime in fifth sets. David Ferrer has advanced to the Australian Open quarter-finals without losing a set for the first time. The eighth seed battled his way past No. 10 seed John Isner 6-4 6-4 7-5 on Monday and now stands one victory away from equalling his best performance at Melbourne Park. “I’m very happy,” said Ferrer. “A quarter-final without losing a set. My fitness is okay. It’s important in the second week to be in good condition.” Andy Murray extended his winning streak against Australians to 17-0 on Monday night when he defeated No. 16 seed Bernard Tomic at the Australian Open. Second seed and four-time finalist Murray defeated the home hope 6-4 6-4 7-6(4) in 2 hours and 30 minutes for a place in his seventh straight quarter-final at Melbourne Park. “It was a tricky match,” said Murray. “I got up a break, I think, in all of the sets. Each time he obviously got it back. So there were quite a few momentum shifts in all of the sets.”
Novak Djokovic, seeking a sixth Australian Open title, advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park for the 10th consecutive year with a 6-1 7-5 7-6(6) win over the No. 28 seed, Andreas Seppi. At 6:4 down in the tie-break Djokovic saved two set points and then earned match point when Seppi netted a shot. The defending champion clinched it when the Italian missed a return, improving his record against Seppi to 12-0. The last time the world No. 1 failed to reach the round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament was at the 2009 French Open. Gilles Simon awaits the 28-year-old in the last 16 after the French player beat Federico Delbonis 6-3 6-2 6-1. The No. 14 seed took a little more than an hour and a half to complete his routine victory. If only all matches were played on paper – life would be a lot easier. On paper, it looked as if Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had eased himself into the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday with a straight-sets win over his countryman, Pierre-Hugues Herbert. But matches are not played on paper, and out at Margaret Court Arena, Jo was huffing and puffing to find a way past the talented but erratic qualifier. He managed it 6-4 7-6(7) 7-6(4) in a little over two hours, but it was awfully hard work. “It’s never easy playing against a guy you like,” Tsonga said. In the 2nd set Tsonga saved a set point at 4:5 despite being lobbed (he passed Herbert with his one-handed backhand); he also saved another set point in the tie-break, on serve. Despite his runner-up finish at the 2014 US Open, the Australian Open remains Kei Nishikori’s most successful Grand Slam. The two-time quarter-finalist improved to 19-6 in Melbourne Park on Friday, advancing to the round of 16 for the fifth straight year with a 7-5 2-6 6-3 6-4 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain. “I have to give a lot of credit to him, because he was hitting really hard,” said Nishikori, who dealt with a sore wrist. “I thought he was going to hit with more spin, but he was hitting a lot of flat balls and they were going in. So it was tough to play. But I started playing much better in the third and fourth [sets]. I tried to dictate a little more, tried to step in and use more forehands, and I think I was able to come in many times today (he won 16 of 24 net approaches).” Also advancing on Friday was No. 15 seed David Goffin, a 6-1 3-6 7-6(2) 7-5 winner over No. 19 seed Dominic Thiem in a 3-hour contest indoors. The Belgian, who led his country to the Davis Cup final last year, registered 55 winners, 17 aces among them, to 61 unforced errors. “I was really aggressive at the beginning of the match,” said Goffin, “That’s why it was 6-1. And then he started to serve better and was feeling better on the baseline. That’s why it was tough the last three sets. It was tough until the end.” A mini-upset occurred at Melbourne Park on Friday night, with 24th seed Roberto Bautista upending No.12 seed Marin Cilic in the third round. Cilic, the US Open champion of 2014, was far too error-prone to contend with the focused, determined Spaniard, Bautista Agut wrapping up a 6-4 7-6(5) 7-5 victory in 2 hours, 35 minutes. Bautista bidding to reach the second week at a major for the fifth time – and second at Melbourne Park – held onto his advantage, yet with the first set in hand, he quickly fell behind 5:2 (30/15) in the 2nd as Cilic found his range on his powerful groundstrokes. Yet the Croat couldn’t close out the set, despite serving for it at 5:3. Errors again proved his undoing – he finished with 55 in all, compared with Bautista’s 31 – and soon the Spaniard was level at 5-all. In the ensuing tiebreak, Cilic went up an early mini-break, but again couldn’t maintain his lead. In the last game of the match the Spaniard needed four match points on Cilic’s serve. Tomas Berdych is through to the fourth round at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row after fending off a fightback from Nick Kyrgios to prevail 6-3 6-4 1-6 6-4 in the Friday night session on Rod Laver Arena. The Czech looked set for a routine victory as he chalked up the first two sets with a single service break in each. Home favourite Kyrgios, watched from his box by Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and teammate Thanasi Kokkinakis, hit back strongly in the third set, though. The Canberra native made just four unforced errors and made 86 per cent of his first serves as he clawed his way back into the match. But Kyrgios could not extend Berdych to a decider. The 20-year-old held from 15/40 in the sixth game, but found himself three match points down serving at (0/40) 4:5. He saved the first, but a double fault on the second handed victory to Berdych in 2 hours and 27 minutes. “He’s very dangerous for the top guys,” said Berdych. “He can play really some big tennis. He can be very dangerous. You really have to play a good game, have a good effort. That’s what I did today. That’s his game, that’s his style.” A night after his compatriot Roger Federer (comprehensive four-set win over Grigor Dimitrov) became the first man to reach the 300-win mark at the majors, Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka captured the 400th main-level win of his career at the Australian Open, advancing to the round of 16 with a 6-2 6-3 7-6(3) decision over Lukas Rosol in Rod Laver Arena. The No. 4 seed became the 12th active player to record 400 wins (400-233). Wawrinka and Rosol were two of the 13 men aged 30 and over to reach the third round in Melbourne. This is the most through to this stage of the Australian Open since there were 19 in 1977. Next up for Wawrinka will be No. 13 seed Milos Raonic, who dispatched No. 21 Viktor Troicki in straight sets 6-2 6-3 6-4 to advance to the round of 16 for the fourth time (Raonic trailed *1:4 in the 3rd set). He is an unbeaten 4-0 against the Canadian. “He’s a tough player, for sure,” said Wawrinka. “Never lost [to him], but it’s always been a tough match. He’s been playing really good since the beginning of the year, winning the first title in Brisbane against Roger in the final. He’s trying to improve. He’s trying to win big titles. It will be a difficult match. In general, I always find some solution to break his serve, even though it’s really tough. We’ll see. Hopefully, I can be ready and be strong enough to take that one.” Thirty-three winners, including 10 aces, were good enough to get Gael Monfils past countryman Stephane Robert 7-5 6-3 6-2 in an all-French battle in Hisense Arena. It was the 350th match win of the No. 23 seed’s career. Robert was hoping to get the better of his countryman and become the first qualifier through to the round of 16 since Raonic in 2011. John Isner – all six feet, 10 inches of him – has long been known for his imposing on-court presence, his booming serve making him one of the hardest to break on the ATP World Tour. As Roger Federer once noted, “John can hold easy, that we know.” Bernard Tomic asserted, “It’s a nightmare to play him. He’s probably the best server in the world.” Observed Andy Murray, “It makes the game a whole lot easier when you can serve like that.” The 10th seeded American continues to impress with his serve at the Australian Open. On Saturday afternoon in Hisense Arena, Isner amassed 44 aces in a 6-7(8) 7-6(5) 6-2 6-4 win over No. 18 seed Feliciano Lopez. It marked the sixth time in his career that he had registered more than 40 aces in a single match. He is into round of 16 for the first time since 2010, matching his best Australian Open result. Another big server, Andy Roddick, was the last American man to reach the fourth round here, in 2011. “It’s a big win,” said Isner. “It’s a very tough opponent, especially for me, the way he plays. He certainly has given me trouble in the past. Also, it’s been a little while since I’ve been in the round of 16 at this tournament. It feels great. I’m very relieved to get through, want to keep on going.” Isner moves on to face No. 8 seed David Ferrer, who like the American didn’t face a break point on Saturday in his 1-hour, 44-minute 6-1 6-4 6-4 defeat of American Steve Johnson. He is 1-6 against the Spaniard “I’ve got to play aggressive,” Isner noted. “He’s going to want to get on top of that baseline and move me around all day. He’s not going to get tired.” Second seed Andy Murray kept alive his chances of reaching the Australian Open final for a fifth time by beating Joao Sousa on Saturday. The second seed knocked out No. 32 seed Sousa 6-2 3-6 6-2 6-2 in their third clash in four years at Melbourne Park (a year before Murray beat Sousa 6-1 6-1 7-5 in the third round). Murray saved a break point in the third and fifth games, before taking control of the 31-minute 1st set. Sousa capitalised on a number of mis-timed groundstrokes to win only his second set in seven meetings against Murray, breaking at the start and the end of the 2nd set. Murray responded and won five of the first six games in the 3rd set, then continued to grow in confidence in the 4th set. Earlier in the match, Murray’s father-in-law, Nigel Sears, collapsed while watching his charge, Ana Ivanovic, play Madison Keys on Rod Laver Arena. The third-round match was suspended for an hour before played resumed. Murray, competing on Margaret Court Arena, had been unaware of the situation. Afterwards, he left for the hospital with his mother, Judy Murray. Andrey Kuznetsov  took the advantage of a favourable draw, and became the only unseeded player to advance to the last 16. The 24-year-old Russian overcame Dudi Sela 7-5 3-6 6-1 7-6(4) on Court No. 3. They met once before in a ‘best-of-five’ format, and the Israeli survived it 7-6 6-3 6-7 5-7 6-4 at the US Open ’13.
Picstats of Hewitt’s career. The curtain came down on Lleyton Hewitt’s illustrious career on Thursday night in Melbourne as David Ferrer defeated the former World No. 1, 6-2 6-4 6-4. Hewitt was competing in his 20th successive Australian Open. As expected, the 34-year-old Hewitt left it all out on the court, but the No. 8-ranked Ferrer held off the Aussie’s challenge to claim victory in 2 hours and 32 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Hewitt was watched from his box by his family, former Aussie players (Tony Roche, Jason Stoltenberg, Peter Luczak) and a current one (Thanasi Kokkinakis) among others. “He was too good tonight,” Hewitt said in his on-court interview. “He’s a Top 8 player in the world, couple of times a semi-finalist here. He plays extremely well in these conditions and is at the top of his game at the moment. It’s a weird emotion; I don’t think it will fully set in for a couple of days’ time. As I’ve always said, I’m such a competitor, I try and push myself all the time to get the most out of myself. Obviously it was in the back of my mind coming into every match this week, but I have had a fantastic last month. I feel honoured to have this support and this love from these crowds. It means so much to me. I’ve had so much success and big matches on this court; I feel fortunate to finish here.” World No. 1 Novak Djokovic put on a masterclass as he raced into the Australian Open third round with a 6-1 6-2 7-6(3) victory over spirited French teenager Quentin Halys  on Wednesday night in Melbourne. As good as Djokovic was – and his performance was close to that of the Doha final against Rafael Nadal – the 19-year-old Halys was not overawed and gave a good account of himself on the Rod Laver Arena. After the first two sets passed him by in 56 minutes, Halys earned himself a break of serve to start the 3rd set. Djokovic immediately hit back, but the Frenchman dug in for a tough set, extending Djokovic to a tie-break – which featured a standout round-the-net-post winner from Halys on the first point – before the Serb broke away to clinch victory in 1 hour and 40 minutes. The Belgrade native hit 42 winners and committed just 14 unforced errors. Gilles Simon battled through to win a tough five-set match against Evgeny Donskoy 6-3 5-7 7-6(1) 4-6 7-5. The 14th seed appeared to have be in control in the 2nd set (4:2*, 40/30) until he got broken and that changed the match dramatically. The Russian began to feel comfortable on the court and had two set points to lead 2-1 in sets. Even though he lost dramatic set, he broke early in the 4th set and held his serve five times to force the decider. Up 1:0 in the 5th set, Simon got a hold of three break points after Donskoy hit three consecutive errors. But, the Frenchman couldn’t capitalize the break points as Donskoy forced ‘deuce’. The Russian ended up holding his service game to tie the set. Both players would hold their service games till the 12th game of the set. At 5:6, the pressure was on Donskoy to hold serve. The Russian got into trouble early on as he got 0/30 after missing a forehand and a backhand. In the next point, Simon came to the net and hit a forehand volley winner to get three match points. Donskoy followed it up with a backhand forced error to give the match to Simon as the Frenchman survived his tough, grueling five-setter match to advance to the 3rd round in Melbourne after an almost 4-hour battle. Simon next faces Federico Delbonis of Argentina, who survived a 5-set encounter against his compatriot Renzo Olivo in a 4-hour 13-minute duel. Delbonis squandered a 5:0* lead in the 3rd set (three set points at 5:2), then was three points away from elimination at *4:5 (0/15) in the 4th set! Guido Pella was another Argentinian involved in a 5-set thriller. Pella lost to Feliciano Lopez 6-7(2) 7-6(4) 6-7(3) 7-6(8) 4-6 after 4 hours 31 minutes, despite winning one point more (204-203). Lopez fired 42 aces, and lost his serve four times. It’s just the second match in Australian Open history featuring four tie-breaks in a five-set encounter: in 1993 Richard Fromberg defeated Markus Zoecke 7-6(3) 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-7(9) 6-3. Nick Kyrgios surged into the third round of the Australian Open under the lights on Hisense Arena on Wednesday evening as he held off Pablo Cuevas for a 6-4 7-5 7-6(2) victory. The 20-year-old Kyrgios narrowly avoided a fourth set, saving two set points when serving at 4:5 (15/40) in the 3rd set. The Canberra native went on to clinch the ensuing tie-break, sealing victory with a rifled backhand winner in just under two hours. Former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was too strong for 18-year-old Australian Omar Jasika, reaching the third round with a 7-5 6-1 6-4 victory. The Frenchman was given a stern test by the ‘wild card’ in the 1st set, but struck 40 winners as he went on to claim victory in 1 hour and 43 minutes. World No. 310 Jasika had claimed his first tour-level win in the first round when he beat Illya Marchenko. Roger Federer had practised with Alexandr Dolgopolov as recently as the off-season in Dubai. So the No. 3 seed knew good and well that the 35th-ranked Ukrainian had the fitness, the speed and the tennis IQ to makes things difficult for him in the second round in Melbourne. The Swiss kept that all in check on Wednesday in Rod Laver Arena by simply serving his way past his 27-year-old challenger, charting 25 aces and winning 88 per cent (43 of 49) of his first-serve points in a straight-sets 6-3 7-5 6-1 win. He will next face 27th seed Grigor Dimitrov in a third-round blockbuster after the Bulgarian got past Argentine Marco Trungelliti 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5. Even after all these years, Federer explained, he’s still fine-tuning his service game. And the hard work clearly paid off on Wednesday. “I think it’s a very important part of the game,” said Federer, who moved to within one win of 300 career victories at the majors. “I think everybody should work on it, to be honest. It’s the only shot that we can actually really control. The rest we are reacting to. I thought today I did serve very well.” Forty-nine unforced errors proved Spaniard Nicolas Almagro‘s undoing in a 6-3 6-1 6-3 loss to 19th seed Dominic Thiem of Austria. Thiem finished with 28 winners to 14 unforced errors in the 1-hour and 40-minute victory. No. 12 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia smacked 17 aces in dismissing Spain’s Albert Ramos 6-4 6-3 7-6(4). Auckland titlist Roberto Bautista, the No. 24 seed, was a perfect seven for seven in break-point conversions, outlasting Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in five sets 4-6 6-2 4-6 6-2 6-1 (Bautista’s second straight five-setter). Qualifier Stephene Robert became the most unexpected player in the third round after a tight win over Rajeev Ram 6-1 6-7(6) 4-6 7-5 7-5. The 35-year-old Frenchman  saved a double mini-match point at 4-all in the 5th set and another one at 5-all. Canadian Milos Raonic had to rely on his big serve for support in a 7-6(6) 7-6 (5) 7-5 defeat of Spain’s Tommy Robredo at the Australian Open Thursday. The 13th seed, from Thornhill produced 24 aces in a marathon effort to reach the third round for a sixth consecutive year. The 25-year-old Raonic improved his perfect record against Roberdo to 6-0 after defeating the veteran three times in 2015. The contest lasted 2 hours 55 minutes, with Raonic going through from 75 winners, but only one break of serve in the final game (the Canadian saved a set point in each of the first two sets). He now stands 16-5 over his career at the tournament and 6-0 in 2016 after earlier defeating Federer for the Brisbane title. Raonic finally finished his effort with Robredo spraying a return long. “I don’t think I played as clean as I would have liked. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is I got the win,” Raonic said. “I feel like I’m playing well. I feel like I can put forth that tennis.” From his careful habit of always acknowledging ballkids and umpires to the quality way in which he supported first-round opponent Diego Schwartzman when he was forced to retire hurt, John Millman has already shown himself as a quality person. Now the Queenslander is increasingly revealing himself as a quality player too, the 26-year-old collecting many new fans as he fought back to defeat the higher-ranked Gilles Muller 4-6 6-4 6-2 4-6 7-5 in a high-quality match on Show Court 3 on Thursday night. “It’s probably a breakthrough win,” said the elated Australian. “I managed to turn the tables around today when I was being outplayed at the start of the match. I was down a set and a break (and) had to dig deep today and change things up and find a way.” Indeed, Millman’s progression to a Grand Slam third round for the first time was notable for both his heart and his absence of panic. After dropping serve in the ninth game and allowing Muller to serve out the first set in 31 minutes, Millman settled in for a fight against his more experienced opponent. Having provided the smart-serving Luxembourgian with little resistance as he remained stoic at the baseline until then, the Queenslander added some variety midway through the second set. Serving at 4:3, Muller had both a break and a 40/0 lead, helped by a pair of aces among the 22 he recorded for the night. But buoyed by a bulging and supportive home crowd – which was remarkably unwavering, even as the last Hewitt match was completed just nearby – Millman was starting to find his rhythm. From 40/0 down, he included a stunning backhand volley winner and capitalised on some Muller errors to finally manage his own service break. Momentum was finally with the Aussie, and competing both efficiently and effectively, he rode it for the next two sets. After winning the final four games to claim the 2nd set, the Queenslander claimed another important break of serve in the sixth game of the 3rd set. By then, the poker-faced but clearly addled Muller had recorded many of the 73 unforced errors that would outweigh the 61 winners he’d eventually amass for the match. Experience showed when Muller delivered a perfect volley to set up a break point in the third game of the 4th set. The 32-year-old capitalised, and despite a brave fight from the Australian, was able to edge ahead after a drama-filled fifth game in which a let was called when the vibration dampener fell from Muller’s racquet and the Aussie responded with a double fault. In the 5th set Millman led 4:2 (30-all), Muller equaled, but lost his serve trying to stay in the match for the second time on the second match point for the Australian. Andy Murray the No. 2 seed advanced to the third round for the eighth straight year via a 6-0 6-4 6-1 win over power server Sam Groth. He will next face Joao Sousa, the No. 32 seed having advanced with a 6-3 7-5 3-6 6-1 victory over Santiago Giraldo. “I know he can serve better than that,” said Murray. “He doesn’t just hit the big serves. He can use different spins and stuff. I think when he’s serving well he can make it very tough for guys, because he’s not that predictable with the serve. He changes the pace on it. I think he actually is better from the back of the court than he thinks he is. I don’t think he maybe needs to serve and volley as much as he does, because from the back he hits the ball good as well.” Murray, long one the sport’s best returners, sped through the opening set with three service breaks. He surrendered just one point on his serve in the 29-minute opener. It wasn’t until the fourth game of the 2nd set that Groth managed to hold serve. The 67th-ranked Australian would bring the set back on serve at 4-all, only to have Murray break him again for a two-sets-to-love lead. Murray, a four-time Australian Open runner-up, would add two more breaks in the 3rd set, sealing this match-up of 28-year-olds in one hour and 31 minutes. The Scotsman led most key stats: aces (10-6), winners (35-23), service breaks (7-1) and first-serve points won (82%-59%).
He’s not done yet! Lleyton Hewitt lives to fight another day in his professional tennis career after beating fellow Australian James Duckworth 7-6(5) 6-2 6-4 in the first round at the Australian Open on Tuesday night. The 34-year-old Hewitt will end his playing career when the curtain comes down on his 20th successive Australian Open, but first the former World No. 1 will challenge David Ferrer in the second round on Thursday. It was, as Hewitt phrased it, an “awkward” match-up with Duckworth, whom Hewitt has mentored in recent years and now has a vested interest in since assuming the role of Davis Cup captain at the start of the year. But Hewitt rose to the occasion, breaking Duckworth five times, including the final game of the match to claim victory with a trademark lob after 2 hours and 23 minutes as the crowd in Rod Laver Arena rose to its feet. “I felt pretty good,” said Hewitt. “I was pretty pumped up before I went on. I think I was able to block out everything else once I was out there. I think I had my game face on. It might have been in the back of my mind a couple of times, but I was focused, ready and competitive to get out there and hopefully get past the line.” The Adelaide native goes into the clash with Ferrer with a 1-2 H2H record against the World No. 8. It will be their first contest since the 2012 US Open, where Ferrer won in four sets. Earlier in the day, Ferrer was a 6-4 6-4 6-2 winner over Peter Gojowczyk. The Spaniard, a two-time semi-finalist at Melbourne Park, hit half the number of unforced errors as his opponent (26 to 52) and broke serve five times to wrap up victory in 1 hour and 36 minutes. Looking ahead to the clash with Ferrer, Hewitt said, “He’s like a brick wall out there. He competes as well as anyone on tour. He moves great. Everyone thinks he just makes balls, but he’s a pretty aggressive baseliner out there. He doesn’t get back too far behind the court.” Hewitt was joined in the second round by 16th seed Bernard Tomic, who rallied from a set down to beat Denis Istomin 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4 6-4 in just under 3 hours. “I played up and down,” said Tomic. “He was playing very good, playing freely, playing very relaxed. He’s beaten very good players in the past. I knew he would come out like that. I served very well. That was the most important thing. But I went through lapses where I played very well and played very bad. A few things I need to work on tomorrow to try to recover as much as I can.” Novak Djokovic survived a scorching Melbourne summer’s day and a spirited early challenge from Korean teen Hyeon Chung as he began his quest for a sixth Australian Open title on Monday. The defending champion, who won the first of his 10 majors at Melbourne Park in 2008, broke open the match with a run of six consecutive games from late in the 1st set before going on to close out the match 6-3 6-2 6-4. “Having to play somebody for the first time, especially somebody that is as young as him, he’s only 19, it can be tricky,” said Djokovic. “Obviously getting out on the court and playing against a player that has nothing to lose. He moves very well, as well. He can play equally well from defence to offence. And he’s one of the players that people are talking about as a potential top player in the future. He’s got that potential, no question about it. He needs experience, he needs more time.” With temperatures climbing above 34 degrees Celsius on site (and higher on court), Djokovic took comfort in an ice towel on changeovers as he faced heat from the elements and from Chung’s ground-strokes The 19-year-old South Korean swung freely on both wings, testing the World No. 1 early and later breaking back for 3:4 in the first set. But from there Djokovic won the next six games to break open the match as he surged to a commanding 6-3, 4:0 lead. “It was pretty warm,” said Djokovic. “But, again, it was warm for both of us. For these kind of conditions, you have to prepare yourself, expect the warm days like this and accept them, as well.” Noah Rubin said Monday was just “another day at the office.” A bit of an understatement, considering he essentially received a promotion and a raise at what was already his dream job. Rubin, a 19-year-old from Long Island, earned his first victory in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament, upsetting 17th-seeded Benoît Paire of France, 7-6(4) 7-6(6) 7-6(5), at the Australian Open (the first all-tie-break three-setter in Melbourne since 2004). Rubin, ranked 328th, had never beaten a top-100 opponent, much less a top-20 player. Paire’s flair was often undone by Rubin’s steady attacking to his forehand, and the Frenchman’s dislike of the heat kept his body language negative in contrast to Rubin’s calm. “I don’t know him pretty well personally, but I’ve seen him play, and he’s kind of up and down like that,” Rubin said. “He’s an extremely talented individual. He can come up with drop shots, hasn’t missed a backhand in six years, so I kind of knew, going into it, my game plan, and I stuck with it pretty well. He came up with a few good shots, and I just kept focused.” In a first-round clash between two former finalists, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga battled past Marcos Baghdatis 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-2 on Monday night in Melbourne to advance at the Australian Open. Tsonga, who finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 final, ultimately had too much firepower for Baghdatis, the 2006 finalist (l. to Federer). Even Baghdatis’ courtside Cypriot army could not deter Tsonga, who raised his level after Baghdatis had taken the 2nd set. The Frenchman struck 13 aces and 39 winners as he improved to a 6-0 lead over Baghdatis in their H2H series (the Cypriot beat Tsonga in Melbourne 2003 in the semifinal as they were juniors). Last week’s Auckland champion Roberto Bautista survived a first-round scare, edging Martin Klizan 6-2 6-3 4-6 2-6 6-2. The 24th-seeded Spaniard captured his third ATP World Tour title at the weekend. He enjoyed his best run at Melbourne Park two years ago when he upended World No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro en route to the fourth round. Grigor Dimitrov came through a tense 2nd set to beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-3 7-6(8) 6-3 in 2 hours and 25 minutes. The 27th-seeded Bulgarian, who reached the Sydney final on Saturday, goes on to face Marco Trungelliti in the second round, with the prospect of Federer on Friday should he advance. Andreas Seppi sprung one of the surprises of the year at the Australian Open 12 months ago, when he stunned Federer in the third round. The 28th-seeded Italian made a winning return to Melbourne Park on Monday as he avoided a fifth set by defeating Teymuraz Gabashvili 3-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(10), setting a clash with Denis Kudla. In the 4th set Seppi wasted a match point at *5:3, then saved two set points in the tie-break. Roger Federer was in ruthless form on Monday evening in Melbourne as he surged through to the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-2 6-1 6-2 victory over Nikoloz Basilashvili in just 72 minutes. The Basel native rifled 31 winners to just nine from his opponent and converted eight of his 14 break points. “That was a good match,” said Federer. “I’m really pleased how I was able to play. Definitely gives me a bit of a lift in confidence because this year I haven’t been able to play properly yet. I had some decent matches in Brisbane, but it was all under a cloud knowing that I wasn’t 100 per cent. But this was a match where I was able to focus on my game, on tactics, all that stuff. So it was nice to play that way.” Federer finished his two-year cooperation with Stefan Edberg at the end of 2015, and began to work with Ivan Ljubicic, who had been coaching Milos Raonic. The 25–year-old Canadian is coached by former No. 1 in the world – Carlos Moya. He’s waited seven years, but revenge tasted sweet for Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday night in Melbourne as he stunned Rafael Nadal 7-6(6) 4-6 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2 in 4 hours and 41 minutes in the first round of the Australian Open. On the very same court, Rod Laver Arena, in 2009, Verdasco had been on the losing end of a 5-hour, 14-minute marathon against Nadal in the semi-finals that lingered into the Melbourne night – the longest match in Australian Open history at that time. It looked as though Nadal would once again edge his countryman as he led 6:5 (30/0) in the 4th set, and 2:0* (40/30) in the decider. But Verdasco reeled off the last six games to claim a memorable victory. “I was just closing my eyes and everything went in!” Verdasco told Jim Courier an on-court interview for the host broadcaster. “In the fourth set I started serving better than the second and third. He started playing less deep and strong. I started coming inside the court, being aggressive and it went well. Winning against Rafa in five sets here, coming from two sets to one down, is an unbelievable feeling.” When Verdasco took the more-than-hour-long first set in a tight tie-break, fans figured they might be in for another match for the ages. Nadal, the No. 5 seed, stormed back with service breaks in the third and ninth games of the 2nd set, and added another to open the third in moving ahead two sets to one. Verdasco would break Nadal to kick off the 4th set and even had a chance to serve out the set 5:4. But Nadal would battle back to force a tie-break. However, Verdasco found the range on his forehand again and bullied Nadal into submission as he took the match into a decider. “Of course, I have thought many days, many times about that semi-final,” said Verdasco. “It was my longest match ever. It was my first time in a Grand Slam semi-final. I didn’t really think I would have another five-set match against Rafa here in Australia. Of course at the beginning of the fifth I was for a second thinking about that semi-final. I was like, ‘Please, I don’t want to lose with a double-fault at 4:5, 30/40. He started by breaking my serve. After that, I started playing really good, hitting very hard serves, forehands, and not making many mistakes. I’m very happy with the way that I finished the match. It’s a big difference. That was the semi-finals; now it’s the first round. It’s just the beginning of the tournament. Hopefully I will keep it up playing like today and hopefully do a good tournament.” It also marked only Nadal’s second defeat in the first round of a Grand Slam, with the other loss coming against Steve Darcis at Wimbledon in 2013. “He had a lot of success hitting every ball at full power in the fifth,” said Nadal. “I have to congratulate him.” It was billed as The Present vs. The Future, a 28-year-old Andy Murray with Wimbledon, US Open and 33 other ATP World Tour titles to his credit against an 18-year-old wunderkind who has hopeful Germans giddily re-envisioning the glory days of Boris Becker and Michael Stich. But although fans in Margaret Court Arena caught a glimpse of the kind of raw talent that in 2015 made Alexander Zverev the youngest member of the Top 100 and earned him Emirates ATP Star of Tomorrow honours, it was Murray who ruled the day, advancing to the second round via a 6-1 6-2 6-3 win. “He’s obviously very good,” said Murray of the young German. “There’s a lot of good, young players coming through just now. He’s quite different to a lot of the other ones. He’s much, much taller, which has benefits.” There was drama on Court 19, where 30th seed Jeremy Chardy of France and Latvian Ernests Gulbis did battle for five sets over 4 hours, Chardy finally outlasting his opponent 7-5 2-6 6-7(5) 6-3 13-11 behind 24 aces (Gulbis fired 25). The Latvian was serving to win the match at 5:4, but was broken to ’15’. Later on, the Frenchman needed seven match points in three different games to seal the victory. Chardy has one of the best 5-set record among the active players percentage-wise: 9-2 (82%) In other exceptionally dramatic five-set encounter, the other five-set specialist (record: 17-5) Tommy Robredo outlasted Malek Jaziri 7-5 3-6 4-6 7-6(7) 8-6 being close to lose each of three sets he won (saved a set point at 4:5 in the 1st set, came back from 2:4, 0/30 in the 4th set to save a match point at *5:6 in the tie-break, and finally in the 5th set, he was serving twice to stay in it, holding twice to ‘love’). Robredo needed 4 hours 47 minutes to notch that unbelievable win (he served 20 aces – his personal best). Two match points in the 4th set saved also Viktor Troicki defeating a Spanish veteran Daniel Munoz-De La Nava 4-6 4-6 6-1 7-6(4) 6-3. Troicki known for years as a player who loses dramatic matches more often than he wins them, has won three MP-down matches in his last four tournaments (F.Lopez, Dimitrov, De La Nava). Only days after reaching the Sydney semi-finals, Gilles Muller of Luxembourg stayed hot, upsetting 20th-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini 7-6(6) 7-6(7) 6-7(5) 7-6(1) in just under 4 hours, amassing 34 aces and winning 89 of 100 first-serve points. There were just two breaks of serve in the marathon match. Brian Baker returned to professional tennis at the Australian Open on Tuesday, when he made a first-round exit to Simone Bolelli. Playing his first tour-level match in almost two and a half years, the American was beaten by Bolelli, 6-7(6) 6-7(3) 7-6(2) 6-7(5). Baker saved three match points serving at 5:6 in the 3rd set, but ultimately fell to Bolelli in 3 hours and 39 minutes. The 30-year-old Baker had not played on tour since the 2013 US Open (l. to Hewitt in 1R), having undergone right knee surgery. So, the last year’s doubles champions Fognini & Bolelli were involved in all tie-break four-setters – no-one played a match of this type in Melbourne since 2000 (Max Mirnyi d. Antony Dupuis) Still nursing a knee injury, No. 11 seed Kevin Anderson retired with unseeded American Rajeev Ram leading 7-6(4) 6-7(4) 6-3 3-0. To the delight of the home fans in Hisense Arena, power-serving Australian Sam Groth registered 27 aces in a 7-6(6) 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over France’s Adrian Mannarino. “The end goal was always to come here and be playing well by the time I got to Melbourne,” said Groth. “I think it’s a credit to me and a credit to my team that I was able to come out and beat a guy who is still ranked much above me. He’s still a quality player. I think he was probably the favourite going into the match.” No. 18 seed Feliciano Lopez surrendered just three points on his first serve (35 for 38) in taking down Great Britain’s Daniel Evans 6-1 6-0 6-4 in 87 minutes. After dropping the first two sets to Diego Schwartzman, Aussie John Millman prevailed 3-6 5-7 7-6(2) 5-0 when his opponent retired with injury (the Argentinian led 4:2*, 30-all in the 3rd set). No. 10-seeded American John Isner overwhelmed Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz with 36 aces and 61 winners in a 6-3 7-6(7) 6-3 win in 1 hour and 44 minutes. “It’s a tough first round, for sure,” noted Isner. “Given his credentials, he’s a big player. He was hitting some big serves out there. I stayed composed in that second-set tie-breaker. It was very critical. I was able to get that one under my belt, win the third set pretty easy. Three sets, not that long out there – I’m very happy.”