Playing the Waiting Game

ATP No 1
Photo courtesy of twitter.com

It’s been some time since tennis fans got to enjoy the classical sporting narrative of the young guard usurping the old elite. The Tennis review looks back at the last few years, asks why this changing of the guard has not happened and hopes the waiting game will soon end and we’ll have some Next in Line/Next Gen slam champions to get excited about.

Back in Spring 2017, I posted this article: Men’s Tennis European Clay Court Season 2017 Who Will Step Up? Five Faces

The article was specifically about the Clay season, but the post could also apply to the rest of the 2017 season with one tennis surface more or less sliding seemlessly into the next.

I was asking about when some of the younger players on the tour such as Dominic Thiem, Sascha Zverev, David Goffin and Kei Nisikori were going to reach the next level in their career (self indulgently, I also asked about Martin Klizan, one of my favorite players, who was 28 then and who was once also, albeit briefly and in a very low-key fashion, hyped as a next big thing). These players were not exactly the same generation, but they were all big prospects and had all been stalled somewhat, or, in Thiem and Zverev’s case were about to be, in the traditional career arc of previous era’s players of their talent and type; players who came on to the tour, got some big wins and went on to win slams and reach No.1. I termed them the Next-in-line.

Three seasons on and while some of those players have made progress and some have not, none of them have done the stepping up I was hoping for- winning slams, reaching No.1, and setting up a new order in men’s tennis.

Not that they have done badly, mind.

Thiem has certainly achieved great things- three slam finals and an Indian Wells title.

After much messing around, Zverev broke through, by his standards, at slam level by reaching this season’s AO semi finals.

David Goffin has been unfortunate with injuries, but he did make an ATP 1000 final in Cincy last season and he made the WTF finals in ’17.

Kei Nishikori never achieved what so many of us hoped for him. (I have hope though that he will benefit from 30 being the new 20 in men’s tennis. Anything else and I would have to really start wondering about the tennis Gods). He wasn’t really anywhere near Next Gen back then in 2017, age wise, occupying much the same kind of space Thiem does now.

As for Klizan, he continues to suffer the worst luck with injuries, and has not been able to make a Gaudioesque run to a slam title that I dreamed up for him (perhaps my second favorite tennis narrative, the talented underachiever making good).

Since 2017, there has been no big breakthrough at the top, no giant steps for the next in line, no Gaudio style runs. The only champions we’ve seen at the slams are those from the Big 3, around a decade and a half since they first started dominating them.

These have been the slam champions since the 2017 European Clay Season:

2017:

Roland Garros: Rafa Nadal

Wimbledon: Roger Federer

US Open: Rafa Nadal

2018:

Australian Open: Roger Federer

Roland Garros: Rafa Nadal

Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic

US Open: Novak Djokovic

2019:

Australian Open: Novak Djokovic

Roland Garros: Rafa Nadal

Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic

US Open: Rafa Nadal.

2020:

Australian Open: Novak Djokovic

Considering the Big 3’s talent and work ethic and general advances in science, I should have known better than to expect that 8 years after starting blogging about tennis, I would actually get to do what I had started blogging for in the first place- covering the emergence of a new generation at the top of the game. (I have some old notes I wrote, pre-blogging, when it did happen in previous eras, perhaps I should just publish them.)

After all, I had been here before in 2014 when another ‘next gen’, then known as the ‘young Guns’ could not take what they would have once done in previous eras.

When I first started blogging, in 2012, I, naively in hindsight, expected the start of my blogging life would see out the end of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic power triangle.

It was an exciting time, the final peak of the Big 4 as a group and, I thought, what looked like the end of the Big 3’s combined prime; a golden age, (excuse the hyperbole, but it was warranted back then).

Covering Djokovic and Nadal’s final at AO ’12 was something else. It was a treat to write about Federer winning Wimbledon ’12. Nadal’s comeback in 2013 and the twists and turns of his rivalry with Djokovic was an intriguing one.

In early 2014, I was ready for the next stage, the natural transition from the old and bruised elite to the new sprightly guard, a sporting and tennis story as old and as vital as any.

Djokovic had not been delivering in slam finals and looked mentally fragile; Federer was physically so, suffering a terrible back injury; Nadal had a great 2013, but the toll on his body meant he never seemed to back up a great season with another one, and 2013 had been a great year for Murray, but his exertions left him spent and broken.

I didn’t raise an eyebrow that the elite were starting to decline. They were 33, 28 and 27 years old and champs going out in their late 20s and early 30s was the norm. The odd last run to a title would always be possible for a slam champ, but another lengthy peak at the top seemed unlikely, a combined one even less so.

So, back in 2014, I got ready to write about this changing of the guard. Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic were expected to take the places of the Big 3 on the tennis podiums and rankings, and I was looking forward to that. Three very different games, nice guys, and something fresh to the tennis mix.

It seemed like it might even happen, what I was hoping for. Dimitrov gave Djokovic a good match in the Wimbledon semis and Nishikori actually beat Djokovic at the USO ’14.

However, they could not push through.

We did, though, get some new faces holding up the slam trophies.

Wawrinka and Cilic, aged 28 and 26 respectively, both stepped up and won slams that year and interrupted the Big 4’s slam dominance.

Watching them do so a little later in their careers made up somewhat for the ‘young guns’ not coming through. Wawrinka and Cilic may not have been ‘young’, but they were new and different, and, excellent, and that, was good enough.

Still, though I wanted my Next Gen story line, but the 2014 Young Guns never did come through- the baton Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were supposed to hand over to Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic left somewhere in the locker room.

In 2015 to 2016, it was all Djokovic and his history making, and then Murray having a world class second wind.

Raonic did get close, but he could not quite get close enough. Nishikori showed signs of resurgence but he was just too fragile.

In 2017, Federer surprised many of us in Australia and Nadal came back to slam competing and then slam winning form, as he likes to do.

Meanwhile, as far as the next in line went, one of the guys I was counting on, Dimitrov, suggested great things in Melbourne ’17, really great let’s-get-excited-as-hell things, and then promptly vanished.

So, in the spring of 2017, I thought, surely, it was time for a new era to come in and I would have something new to write about or, more to the point, the story I wanted to write about.

It seemed like the signs were there; signs I would, naturally, misinterpret.

First, I doubted the following- the likelihood of Federer continuing to win slams after the AO, the chances of Nadal with his physical game winning more slams, and the probability of a burnt out, injured Djokovic making a comeback to the top.

Federer’s gap between his first and last slam was, in 2017, 14 years; Nadal’s is now also 14. Djokovic could tie that record in 2022. Before that, Sampras had held the record with 12 years, followed by Becker (11), Andre Agassi (10) and Jimmy Connors (9). Surely, I thought, the gap could not get even bigger. Of course, in 2018, a year later, it did; Federer increasing the gap to fifteen years, winning his first slam at Wimbledon 2003 and, for now, his last at the AO’ 18 (I am never writing him off again. Lesson learned.)

Perhaps it’s only natural that with every other record inevitably being broken, the age one would, too, but it would only go so far, I reasoned, and maybe the Fedal AO ’17 final was that duo’s Sampras-Agassi US Open 2002 moment; the final hurrah before a new cheer.

The start of the Clay season suggested I might have a point. Thiem beat Nadal in Rome and Zverev beat Djokovic in the final.

But the changing of the guard, once again, never happened. Quite a lot of teasing went on, though.

At the end of 2017, Dimitrov beat Goffin at the WTF finals.

In 2018, we had rumblings of movement at the top with Khachanov in Paris and Zverev at the WTF, both beating Djokovic, Zverev beating Federer and Djokovic back to back.

In 2019, we had Daniil Medvdedev’s superb run and his great efforts versus Nadal in the US Open final.

The WTF ’19 teased us once again with that final between Tsitsipas and Thiem.

At the start of 2020, when Thiem led Djokovic by two sets to one in the Australian Open final with another inspiring display of power hitting, I thought this is it.

I thought wrong.

And, while it’s certainly encouraging that Medvedev and co. are gaining ground outside the slams and in some respect at them, and it was a great sight to see Medvedev, Zverev, Tsitsipas and Berretinni make up the Shanghai last four last season, slams are the pinnacle of the sport, where the real history is made.

Tsitsipas winning the WTF is close, but the Majors are where you get to put the cigar in your mouth and take a well-deserved puff.

That’s precisely why Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are still winning them. They have unparalleled motivation at their age with the slam race at 20, 19 and 17, and they have all the confidence and experience, and the right conditions, to keep playing and winning slams and pushing each other until their bodies give up on them because they do not look like giving up the race anytime soon.

In tennis, there is a conversation happening about why this changing of the guard has not happened.

Some say the Big 3 are just too great, and their motivation greater.

Some say the playing field just is not level- the Big 3 have so much money they can stay at the top with all the support and medicine money can buy while other players struggle to achieve those same advantages.

Some say the Next Gen/ Next in Line are distracted, too rich too young, and just don’t work as hard.

Some say the Next Gen/ Next in Line have not had the advantage of new technology to give them an edge over the older generations.

Others say the ATP has manipulated the whole thing, for example, slowing down surfaces, and the slam count is over-inflated (even Roger Federer has suggested this.)

 Anyway, every surface is very similar today, otherwise we couldn’t have achieved all these things on all these different surfaces so quickly, like him and myself.

– Roger Federer, Australian Open, 2016 after his semi-final loss to Nadal.

Whatever the reason is, I have been playing the waiting game for a long time, too long, and maybe you have, too.

The ageing process means we will eventually get there. Even the big 3 cannot defy that.

If, when tennis returns, the Big 3 keep going where they left off, I will enjoy it, for some of the tennis they produce is beyond excellent, and while I may prefer the idea of another scenario, I’d be a fool not to appreciate the actual and, admittedly, extraordinary one taking place before me.

But I’ll be cheering on the likes of Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime, Rublev, di Minaur, Coric, Zverev, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Fritz, Tiafoe, Kecmanovic, Humbert, and Hurkacz to do what I enjoyed so much seeing Sampras, Agassi, Kafelnikov, Moya, Kuerten, Roddick, Hewitt, Ferrero, Safin, Nadal, Djokovic, and del Potro do before them: take on, as youngsters, the established champions and carve their names on the sport’s greatest trophies.

I’ll also cheer on the Thiems and Nishikoris, the players whose chances of living the young gun dream have passed by but who could still enjoy a second Sunday or two of lifting a slam trophy.

It was new faces breaking through at slams that made me want to write about tennis, and when they finally turn up, I’ll be ready with my pen to finally try and do them justice on the page as they do themselves on the court.

(If Klizan does it, I’ll write a book about it).

Please share your comments below.

Are you also waiting for the next in line to break through in men’s tennis? Or would you be happy to see the Big 3 go on indefinitely?

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Wimbledon Cancelled- What Does this Mean for Tennis?

Wimbledon
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

On the 1st April, the 134th Wimbledon Championships was cancelled due to Covid-19, and no, unfortunately this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The last time this happened was during World War Two.

Wimbledon was set to take place from the 29th June to the 12th July, and, unlike the French Open, the tournament has not announced a rescheduled date. In fact, the AELTC will not be rescheduling at all and instead have announced Wimbledon will return the following year, beginning on the 28th June 2021.

Ian Hewitt, the AELTC chairman, was disappointed to announce the news, but remained hopeful that Wimbledon would be able to help during this national pandemic. Hewitt said:

“It is a decision we have not taken lightly, but instead we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”

Was there a realistic alternative?

Within the world of sport, there has been much talk of continuing to host events behind closed doors to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus through large groups.

While tennis behind closed doors could potentially work, it is a route the ITF, ATP and WTA should approach with caution. At this point, it would be very out of line with the current viewpoint concerning Covid-19. With numerous countries being in lock-down, it would undoubtedly feel odd to hear of tennis tournaments being played and, after Roland Garros rescheduled without liaising with other tournaments, the last thing tennis needs would be more bad press.

There is not just the health of players or spectators to consider, either. Although professional tennis is a game which only requires two people to play, linesmen, ball boys/ girls and umpires are all needed, too. While there will be ways around this, just because governing bodies could logistically make playing behind closed doors possible, it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be the right choice to take.

What does this mean for the players and the fans?

Unfortunately, very bad news. The entire grass court season has been cancelled. No Halle, no Eastbourne, no Queens.

In my last article, How Will Covid-19 Affect Tennis, I explored some of the possibilities tennis would be likely to take.

With the devastating news announced from Wimbledon, it is seeming more and more likely that a line will have to be drawn under tennis in 2020; it is difficult to picture the sport returning anytime soon when an international tour is made up from players from across the globe.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict which players this will suit more when tennis does return. Perhaps Djokovic possesses a slight advantage given as when tennis does return, it will likely be in the hard-court season; the surface he has shown remarkable consistency on this year, as well as throughout his whole career.

Meanwhile, those who are quick to point out Federer isn’t getting any younger should perhaps bear in mind both Djokovic and Nadal have previously taken time to adjust back to match play when away from the tour, whereas Federer has been able to summon some of his greatest play (let’s not forget that legendary 2017 Australian Open campaign).

It will be interesting to see how players such as Tsitsipas, Thiem, Medvedev and Zverev respond to the break. I believe Thiem and Medvedev will hit the ground running. Although their styles of play couldn’t be further apart, they have both shown a strong mentality in the last year; an aspect which will surely serve them well during this unpredictable time. I imagine Tsitsipas on the other hand will be a little more frustrated. He appears to be an extreme perfectionist, much like Nadal, which will undoubtedly serve him well in his career, but he could potentially grow frustrated at the prospect of not being able to compete. Zverev has received his fair share of criticism regarding his Grand Slam performances but made a real breakthrough in the recent Australian Open where he found some of his best tennis. He’ll be well worth a watch when the game returns to see if he can replicate his best play on the big stage.

My instinct is, however, no player will be at a major advantage or disadvantage, it will just be about who trains well during this global pandemic and who is able to make a fast return to match play.

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How Will Covid-19 Affect Tennis?

Federer Nadal
Photo courtesy of twitter.com

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the professional tennis season has been suspended until the 7th June 2020. This includes the Grand Slam Roland Garros which was originally scheduled for the 24th May to the 7th June. At this moment in time, tournaments post the French Open are still intending to be played, though with the current state of coronavirus internationally, it seems likely the suspension will extend beyond the 8th June.

So what will happen?

As with most questions concerning this global pandemic, no one really knows the answer. There are, however, a few outcomes which are likely to take place

  • The calendar returns to normal onwards from the 8th June and Roland Garros goes ahead 20th September.
  • The ATP tour becomes even more brutal – assuming the current global pandemic is resolved later in the year, there would be a lot of tournaments for players to catch up on in a short amount of time.
  • The ATP tour becomes shortened – the ATP decide which tournaments go ahead.
  • All tournaments are cancelled for the year.

Although the latter may seem very unlikely at a glance, tennis fans should reluctantly remember just how much travel the ATP tour features with tournaments taking place on each continent annually. The four Grand Slams alone take place on three different continents. Players from all over the world travelling all around the world to compete seems very, very far off where we currently are today.

Roger, Rafa and Novak

Since 2017, three men have shared winning the four Grand Slam events. With Rafael Nadal just one Grand Slam behind Roger Federer’s record, there is no doubt Nadal would have been looking forward to Roland Garros; a tournament he has won 12 times in the last 15 years.

Novak Djokovic has had an incredibly strong start to the 2020 season, winning 18 out of 18 of his matches (ATP Cup, Australian Open and Dubai Open). This suspended period for the in-form Serb could prove a momentum breaker, or offer him more time to study Nadal’s clay game down to a tee, as he did in the 2015 Roland Garros quarter finals.

Roger Federer announced he would be missing this year’s clay court season, and so, much of his schedule will likely remain the same- train and prepare for grass.

With Novak hot on Roger and Rafa’s heels, each Grand Slam is proving more vital than the last. If Wimbledon were to go ahead, it is possible we could witness Roger’s record being matched, or even broken, all within a four-month period. In the minds of the ‘Big 3’, when tennis does return, it will likely play a considerable part in defining who finishes as the greatest of all time.

Battle of the schedules

This year’s French Open has been rescheduled to the 20th September to the 4th October. It does come at an odd time, just one week after the US Open and during the same week as the hugely popular event, the Laver Cup. Then again, we are living in a very odd time…


This is an aspect Roger will undoubtedly be disappointed about as his management company, TEAM8, are part creators of the Laver Cup event. The Laver Cup has been a fantastic event, which has provided a refreshing, light-hearted yet competitive event after the US Open. Despite its appeal however, the event stands little chance of squaring up to the French Open. Many players earn a large salary (Roland Garros paid out 46,000 euros for a first round exit in 2019) for just turning up and they have a chance to pick up world ranking points.

While the Laver Cup organisers appear to be unphased by the rescheduling, Heinz Guenthardt, a former Swiss professional tennis player, former coach of Steffi Graf, and good friend of Federer’s says the Laver Cup won’t hesitate to change the dates.

What about the majority of professionals?

Recent reports show Lucas Pouille has rented an apartment with a tennis court for the foreseeable future, where alongside his team he is able to train. However, this is a luxury only few professionals can afford to do, which begs the question- what will the vast majority of professionals be doing in this prolonged break?

I caught up with professionally ranked tennis player Sean Hodkin (digitally of course, adhering to the latest social distancing regulations) who said:

“Obviously it’s going to be tough to train over the next few months but we’ve found ways around it. I’m training both on and off court at the moment, which involves making use of public courts, hill sprints and interval training on a field by my house. I also have weights at home to work on explosive routines, as well as keeping up a lot of yoga which has recently been my main aim in training.

But can we still play tennis?

While the tennis circuit may have come to an unfortunate and abrupt stop, the good news is the LTA has recently put out a guide on how to approach playing tennis under the current COVID-19 circumstances, which you can find here. Of course, do be sure to check the news each day to ensure that the government’s policies haven’t changed since the publishing of this page.

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Is Nick Kyrgios Good for Tennis?

Kyrgios Indian Wells
Photo courtesy of vk.com

Nick Kyrgios is no stranger to making a headline or two. Whether it be for his on and off court antics, or his performances, someone always has something to say about the 24-year-old Aussie.

Kyrgios burst onto the scene in 2014 with his infamous Wimbledon win over Rafael Nadal. His use of ‘tweeners’, showboating and racket abuse against the world number one was viewed by many as disrespectful, and instantly gained him some haters. Bad mouthing other professionals, ranting at umpires and ‘tanking’ during matches are also but a few reasons why many take against him.

However, with tennis failing to tap into the younger generation and struggling to maintain talented juniors, are players like Kyrgios helping the sport grow more than hindering it?

Since Kyrgios has emerged on the tour, he has put tennis in the spotlight and steered the sport into having a bigger presence on social media; an absolute necessity for connecting with the younger generation. While tennis is also appreciated for being a gentleman’s sport, especially by those from the older generation, Kyrgios has helped modernised it by presenting a tougher side to the sport through his extroverted character.

Kyrgios doesn’t just draw attention to himself on court, but off court with many of his comments. In this year’s 2020 Australian Open, Kyrgios imitated Nadal’s service motion and while this received laughs from the crowd and even the chair umpire, Jaume Campistol, Kyrgios’ argument remained serious – if he also had a long service routine, would he be allowed additional time between points? The ATP tour can be so brutal that some pros almost turn into robots, blandly following PR and adhering to authoritarian demands. Kyrgios makes for quite a refreshing watch by challenging the status quo.

With the ‘Big 3’ each approaching the latter stages of their careers, a tennis fan could be forgiven for worrying about the state tennis will be left in afterwards. This is not to say the next gen aren’t promising, but rather it is unlikely we will witness an era which has been dominated by three completely different characters. Federer and Nadal have almost become brands within tennis, meaning they can engage non tennis fans easily enough. Although the next gen does look promising in their talent, it will be a difficult feat to fill the shoes of current superstars. Tennis will need to remain attracting new viewers in order to grow, and Kyrgios has undoubtedly been pathing a path for this.

Although Kyrgios may divide opinion on whether he is good for tennis or not, something which cannot be argued with is the increase of eyes he gets on the sport – something any tennis fan should be pleased with.

Ultimately the way I see it is, I like Kyrgios, but I love the sport more. With this in mind, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if Kyrgios does not win a Grand Slam, because I believe he is contributing to a greater cause; helping grow tennis.

This article was written by James Ashoo. Find out more about him on his website here.

Find James on Linkedin here.

What’s your opinion on Nick Kyrgios? Is he good for tennis? Have your say in the comments below. 

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Australian Open 2020 Men’s Singles Preview

Djokovic
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

From 2017-2019, only 3 men won slams- Roger Federer (x3), Rafa Nadal (x 5) and Novak Djokovic (x4). From 2007-2009, only four men won slams- Roger Federer (x6), Rafa Nadal (x4), Novak Djokovic (x1) and Juan Martin del Potro (x1).

It’s been a while since we’ve had a del Potro breaking through at the top of the game the way he did at the USO ’09. Since then, we’ve had Stan Wawrinka winning three slams, Andy Murray winning three, and Marin Cilic winning one, but when those 3 broke through to win their 1st slam, they were 29, 25 and 25 respectively. del Potro was all of 20 years old.

A 20 year old, or a player aged 26 or under (the clock is ticking for Thiem-lucky for him 30 is the new 20 in men’s tennis), winning their first slam at this year’s Australian Open seems far fetched despite the progress some of the younger contenders have made in the past 12 months from Daniil Medvedev reaching the US Open final and taking Nadal to five sets, Dominic Thiem reaching his 2nd Slam final and Stefanos Tsitsipas winning the 2019 WTF.

The principal reason for that is Novak Djokovic. The world No.2 will be looking for a record 8th Australian Open title and a 17th slam. He’s looking very good for it, too. He went unbeaten at the ATP Cup and Australia is where he arguably gets the most support of all the slams, though he hasn’t yet faced Roger Federer there in a final.

Looking past Novak Djokovic winning the 2020 Australian Open final requires some superb lenses. He has so many things going for him from his excellence over five sets, his slam experience which sees him play his best tennis in the latter stages and his form coming in, beating Medvedev and Nadal in the last two rounds of the ATP Cup and with both men playing some great tennis.

If anyone else wants a look in this Open, they will need Djokovic to lose before the final. Or perhaps the better term is get beaten, because it will take one heck of a performance.

That duty could come down to Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) in the last eight. The Greek has said he’s ready to win a slam and has given up his social media apps to focus on the game. They say when a child becomes a man, he gives up childish things, and how good it would be to see Tsitsipas become a man beating Djokovic over five sets on RLA.

The bad news for Tsitsipas, is that if he did that, if he did indeed beat Djokovic in the quarters, he could have to beat Roger Federer in the semis and Rafa Nadal in the final. Beating the Big 3 back to back to win your first slam and break the current lock of all active slam champs being over 30 is the stuff tennis scriptwriters dream of. Tsitsipas is one of the most likely contenders to pull it off.

He might not need to go to such lengths anyway. Roger Federer has not played a warm up event so we can’t gauge his level. He has a tough draw with Hubert Hurcakz in the third round, or recent Adelaide Champ Ugo Humbert.

As for Nadal, he’s had a week’s rest since the ATP Cup and won’t play until Tuesday. He’d be happy to see Djokovic knocked out and to face Tsitsipas in the final instead. He doesn’t have quite the issues Djokovic has with the Next Genners, though they do give him a tough time now and then. His path to the final could see him have to beat Nick Kyrgios or Karen Khachanov in round 4, and both men have tested him, nay beaten him re Kyrgios, at pre slam quarters stages; Dominic Thiem (5), who gave him hell in the 2018 US Open quarters and has improved so much on hard courts, and Daniil Medvedev (4) in the last four, and who doesn’t want to see them replicate that US Open final?

australian open

The dream for me would be a Medvedev versus Tsitsipas final. Those two have a bit of a history which would make things even more interesting than they already would be. I won’t hold my hopes up, though. Majors are still very much Majors even if there have been some shifts in the tennis power spectrum the last 12 months. Confidence and experience is the biggest currency, and with Djokovic’s pockets overfilling with both, this Australian Open 2020 men’s singles title is his to lose.

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Fantasy Australian Open 2020: At least 1,276 GBP/1,500 Euro in prizes!

The tennis players do not have much time to get in shape in the new year. The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam, is starting soon. Novak Djokovic is the men’s record holder with seven titles and the Serbian is again the top favorite for this year.

However, it will not be easy with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and upcoming stars like Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as main rivals.

Also for Serena Williams she is at seven victories. But with the ladies there are many more contenders. In 2019, Naomi Osaka finally won her second Grand Slam after a great final against Petra Kvitova. The home crowd will undoubtedly hope that the world’s number 1, Ashleigh Barty, will take the title in Melbourne.

Click here to register and click here to go to the game when you are already registered at Zweeler.

The Fantasy Australian Open 2020 starts on Monday 20 January 2020 at 1:10 hours CET. As a participant to the Fantasy Australian Open you need to create a team which exists out of 30 tennis players. All tennis players (men and women) are divided into 7 different groups. You can choose per group a restricted total of tennis players of which you think are going to win the most points in the Fantasy Australian Open.

The game will cost €7.00/£5.96 per team and will start with a guaranteed amount of €1,500/£1,276 in prizes. The first prize will be €300.00/£255 (41 GC prizes).

Zweeler Fantasy Sports Games set up a few great games for the Tennis Season 2020 so you can enjoy Tennis with even more passion!

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ATP Cup Day 10 Final Notes

Finals are often the least impressive days of tournaments and so it was on the final day of the ATP Cup.

The highlight, for many singles fans, was a single set played between Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. There was much hype for this match, but those who knew that Djokovic had won their last 8 hard court matches, and had not dropped a set, had little expectation.

When Djokovic won the first set 6-2, another routine win for the Serbian seemed incoming. Nadal mixed up his routine, though, going for some serve and volley plays. He even got three break points at 3-2, but the Serbian won five points in a row to put that break bid to rest.

While Nadal was successful in taking Djokovic to a tiebreak, saving break points at 5-5, what he did not do successfully enough throughout the match was move inside the court for both returns and rallies, and that is what he will need to change if he is going to have any chance of doing better than a tiebreak set versus Djokovic on hard. Nadal needs his forehand down the line to work versus Djokovic and taking the ball feet beyond the baseline does not allow him to play that shot aggressively.

On hard courts, with Nadal and Djokovic, the ATP have a tough situation. Hard courts are the most played on courts on the tour, but if every time Nadal and Djokovic meet on them, the tour’s big One Vs Two matches on that surface is not really a rivalry but more a mismatch.

The ATP Cup format meant it did not matter too much in deciding the outcome of the tie. Djokovic’s win leveled the tie at 1-1 after Bautista-Agut’s straight sets defeat of Dusan Lajovic. And while the doubles tie did not deliver a thrilling finale, the Serbian win was a crowd pleaser. The Sydney crowd were overwhelmingly in favor of the Serbs, to such degrees Djokovic said he had never played with such support.

Grade: C-. Most tournaments don’t get it right come finals day. So much luck is involved in producing a fitting end to an event. The ATP Cup did get at least a competitive set of hard court tennis out of Nadal and Djokovic and the atmosphere could be felt through the TV screen. Still, the final was underwhelming.

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ATP Cup Day 9 Notes

Novak Djokovic has not had the best of times versus the tour’s Next Gen the last few years with losses to Khachanov in Paris-Bercy ’18, Sascha Zverev at Rome ’17 and WTF ’18, Tsitsipas at Canada ’18, and to Daniil Medvedev at Monte Carlo and Cincy ’19.

Against Medvedev at the ATP Cup, Djokovic looked like he was going to put the pretenders in their place, winning it 6-1. The Russian got an early break in set 2 for 3-1, but Djokovic broke back.

The match then took on the mood of a real contest, the rallies long, both players biding their time, waiting for just the right ball to do something with.

That closely contested nearly 80 minute long second set came to a head when, serving at 5-6, a Djokovic double fault gifted Medvedev with a break point. Medvedev took it, picking up a Djokovic volley and hitting it for a backhand winner.

In the third, a rally to draw admiration from even the most seasoned of tennis watchers earned Djokovic a break for 3-2.

Serving at 5-4, Medvedev had his chance to really make this match one of those all time classics, holding break points, the first at 30-40 after drawing Djokovic in with a drop shot and then passing him. Djokovic saved it, standing inside the baseline and dictating play to force an error on the run.

An error from Djokovic moving inside the court and netting the ball gave Medvedev his second break point. This time Djokovic saved it at the net, the two trading exchanges up there before the world No.2 got the better of his rival. A failed attempt at a drop shot from the Russian and Djokovic had match point. Medvedev saved it with a back hand down the line winner.

Djokovic went on to save another break point with aggressive play and an ace earned him his second match point. Djokovic stayed aggressive and won it with a forehand down the line forcing an error.

Serbia, thanks to Djokovic’s win and Dusan Lajovic’s measured and focused win over Karen Khachanov will face Spain in the final.

Rafa Nadal needed an opening down a set versus Alex de Minaur and involved in a tight second. de Minaur was not giving him anything, hitting the ball flat and making the match all about him.

The Nadal opening came with de Minaur serving to stay in the second set at 5-6, 30-30. de Minaur stayed back in a long rally when he was mid court and in control only to be pushed back by the Nadal forehand which dictated the rally and forced an error. On set point, the Nadal forehand once again came into its own and he had the second set.

Nadal rode this second wind taking the third set 6-1.

With Roberto Bautista Agut dismissing Nick Kyrgios, Spain were through to the final.

The ATP Cup cannot brag too much about bringing us Nadal and Djokovic the week before the AO. Doha did this already back in 2016, not that it was anything special, the Serbian dropping just three games.

The ATP Cup has delivered, however, a final which not only pits the world No.1 and 2, Nadal and Djokovic, against one another, but also serves up, for singles fans, Bautista Agut versus Lajovic, which will be a great match to watch.

Nadal versus Djokovic may not be such a pleasure. Nadal has not won a set off Djokovic in 8 hard court meetings. It’s always worth watching their matches just in case we do get a match, but the chances are this match could be one of the more forgettable of this ATP Cup, which is not as insulting as it sounds considering the great quality contests we’ve had this last 9 days, two of which we saw this semi-final day.

Grade: B+. Had the de Minaur Nadal third set been a contest, this could have gotten an A.

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ATP Cup Day 8 Notes

To keep Belgium in the quarters, after the Spaniards won the first match, David Goffin had to beat world No.1 Rafa Nadal. It was a tall order- Nadal led the head to head 4-1. If there was a glimmer of hope, those four defeats had all come on Clay, and Goffin’s sole win had come on hard court, albeit indoors (WTF RR ’17).

Goffin did not shy away from the challenge. He played an aggressive match to defeat Nadal 6-4, 7-6 (3) in 2 hours 23 minutes.

Goffin broke for 3-2 in set 1 as Nadal double faulted. You never quite know what you will get from Goffin mentality wise, and perhaps having his team around him and the atmosphere of the nearly packed out stadium is what stirred him on to put dropping his serve in the very next game and a loss of 13 straight points to go 0-40 down at 3-4 behind him and win three consecutive games to take the first set 6-4 in one hour. Later, Goffin put his win down to his Dimitrov victory and the confidence it gave him, but the team spirit of this ATP Cup seems to be injecting a lot of players with some real grit, and they need it playing in the Australian Summer.

In brutal conditions, both men drenched in sweat, the two got into an equally severe second set lasting nearly 90 minutes and decided on a final set tiebreak. Goffin got an early lead for 2-0 and had two break points leading 4-2, but Nadal was Nadal, fought back, and then broke back for 4-4 with some powerful forehand hitting.

In the final set tiebreak, Nadal hit two errors for Goffin to go up 3-1. 2-5 down, Nadal double faulted. On his second match point, Goffin served it out with an ace for a confidence boosting win.

The beauty of the team format is that, with Spain winning the deciding doubles, fans will still get to see Nadal in action tomorrow, and up against no less a player than Alex de Minaur. Quite how beautiful that prospect will be for Nadal is questionable. The Spaniard has barely had an off season after his Roland Garros win-Wimbledon Semis-Montreal win-US Open win- Laver Cup participation-Paris-Bercy Semis- WTF three setters vs Medvedev and Tsitsipas-Davis Cup win-Mubudaba exho and now cross country ATP Cup play. He could still have two matches in Sydney with a possible one in the final versus Djokovic.

Denis Shapovalov was in a similar position as Goffin tie wise in Canada’s clash with Serbia, the Canadian tasked with defeating Novak Djokovic to level the tie at 1-1 after Dusan Lajovic defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Shapovalov broke with a drop shot on his third break point at 4-4, coming back from 0-40 down. The Canadian then served out for the set and took it 6-4.

Djokovic came back to take the second set 6-1 and the match into a decider.

Shapovalov took a medical time out on the changeover before the third. But he was not perturbed by the speed the second set slipped by him or his physical niggles and both he and Djokovic got involved in a seriously competitive and high quality third set.

Djokovic broke for 5-4, but the Serbian, who did not have one of his better serving days, could not serve it out. Shapovalov was firing off the backhand and coming to the net to hit volley winners to earn break point and a careless Djokovic forehand down the line error tied the set at 5-5.

A loose forehand gave Djokovic a break point in the next game, but the backhand of Shapovalov saved him, not in the way you would expect it, though. After one sublime backhand after another, the Canadian hit a half volley on the backhand, a short ball which Djokovic, in position and ready to got for it, hit into the net. Shapovalov won the next two points, closing the game with an ace, for 6-5.

Djokovic served out to love to take the match to a deciding set tiebreak. A long forehand from a charging Shapovalov gave Djokovic the minibreak. Djokovic consolidated winning a superb rally and then hitting a service winner for 3-0. A double fault and Djokovic had another mini break as Shapovalov complained about the crowd. The Canadian did not give up, staying aggressive and moving in, but he hit a volley into the net and he was 0-5.

A double fault from Djokovic finally got the Canadian on the score board in that tiebreak, but a backhand long after yet another blistering rally, and Djokovic had five match points.

He needed four of them- on the fourth, Djokovic forcing an error from his rival.

The tournament has been great preparation for Shapovalov. He’s beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sasha Zverev and tussled with de Minaur and Djokovic.

Grade A: An inspiring upset and a high quality match with a third set tiebreak means two As in a row from me for the ATP Cup.

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ATP Cup Day 7 Notes QF GB Vs Aus

Watching Alex de Minaur lose is just as inspiring as watching him win; just as he wins fighting, he goes down so, too.

After coming back from 2-4 in the third set versus Dan Evans, at 5-6, de Minaur saved four match points. The first one was a magnificent passing shot. The second a forehand winner down the line worthy of your most aggressive baseliner. The third, a one two punch, a second serve out wide and then knocking away the short ball for a winner. The fourth, an ace out wide. If he was going down, he would go down swinging. De Minaur always looks like he knows exactly what he is going it and he can do many different things and looks impressive doing them all.

The two played one of those tiebreaks: winner after winner; near winners bettered by actual ones; line painting or misses by the merest of margins. Evans prevailed, one winner after the other from 2-2- a service winner, a backhand down the line winner, a classic lure them in to the net and then pass them winner, a backhand volley winner all topped off with a service winner to take the tiebreak 7-2.

Dan Evans has had an excellent ATP Cup. The talented all courter still has time to fulfill his potential- a top 20 player, at least, even one who could live on the edge of the top 10- and seems to have used this tournament as a statement of intention. With his slice, depth of shot on the forehand and careful placement, lobs, careful approach shots and sound volleys, he has a classic but rare game not many players are equipped to deal with.

Evans’ victory was not enough to get Britain through. Nick Kyrgios soundly beat Cameron Norrie and Kyrgios and de Minaur edged Murray and Salisbury 18-16 in the final set breaker.

In the semis, Australia will face Russia.

In the Russia Vs Argentina tie, Khachanov withstood a second set fightback from Guido Pella while Daniil Medvedev had to deal with the ever ready for a fight Diego Schwartzman.

The Russian won an entertaining and well contested match in three sets, and from a match with these two you would expect nothing less.

Things got fiery, too, with the two men arguing at the end of set 1 and Medvedev being given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct when he would not stop arguing with Schwartzman and his team despite the umpire getting down off his chair to intervene, and then a point penalty after Medvedev hit the umpire’s chair with his racket after being broken at 3-3 in set 2 and then taking up the early code violation with the umpire.

Medvedev will rise back to world No.4 now, overtaking Dominic Thiem, and be seeded in the top four for the Australian Open.

Grade A: You can’t do much better than the Evans-de Minaur match. That alone warrants an A.

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