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Djokovic shrugs off injury as Serbia take Davis Cup control

April 8, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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World number two Novak Djokovic shrugged off his recent elbow injury to give Serbia a winning start in their Davis Cup quarter-final against Spain on Friday with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Albert Ramos Vinolas.

Djokovic

Djokovic, who skipped the Miami Masters because of the injury and came into the tie in Belgrade with just seven wins on the tour this year, wrapped up the rubber in style, dropping just one point on serve in the final set against his 24th-ranked opponent.

Viktor Troicki, the world 39, then made it 2-0 for Serbia by seeing off 19th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

“I am satisfied with my game, especially with the serve,” said Djokovic, who led Serbia to their only Davis Cup title in 2010.

“It worked well today and I won a lot of points off my first serve. At this level that’s important.”

Five-time winners Spain are without Rafael Nadal after the 14-time Grand Slam champion opted to stay at home to prepare for the clay-court season.

The winners of the tie will face either France or Great Britain in the semi-finals.

Federer downs Nadal to win Miami Open

April 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer defeated long-standing rival Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to win the Miami Open on Sunday and continue his outstanding start to the year.

Federer

Since returning from his six month injury lay-off, the 35-year-old Federer has also won the Australian Open and Indian Wells and he heads into a self-imposed break before the French Open as, once again, the dominant presence on the ATP Tour.

Federer has beaten Nadal in all of those events this year and has now won his last four meetings between the pair.

“It’s been a fabulous couple of weeks,” said Federer after his victory before announcing he would take a nearly two month break before the French Open in late May.

“I’m not 24 any more so things have changed in a big way and I probably won’t play any clay court event except the French,” he said.

Nadal was playing in his fifth Miami final but remains without a win in the Masters series event.

Although Nadal still has a 23-14 advantage in the meetings between the two, dating back to their first match in Miami in 2004, Federer now has a 10-9 lead on hard courts.

The first set was a tight affair with both players having their opportunities to break. But it was not until the eighth game and 10th break point of the set that one of them was able to get ahead.

Nadal could only find the net from a Federer backhand and the Swiss grabbed a 5-3 lead and held the next game to secure the first set.

Federer pinpointed his saving of break points in the first game and at 3-3 as crucial moments in the contest.

“It was totally key,” Federer said. “He looked good from the get-go. He was playing big tennis, stepping in and doing all the right things.

“A bit more luck on his side and the wrong decisions by me at that moment and it could have turned very quickly. It was a very intense first set.”

There has always been a marked contrast between Federer and Nadal’s styles and with time it has become further accentuated.

Nadal was working hard in the 83 degrees afternoon heat, thrusting himself into his shots while the elegant Federer’s poise appeared almost casual.

The second set took an almost identical path, albeit with fewer openings to break for both players until Federer again pounced, to grab a 5-4 lead when Nadal went long returning a fine backhand.

“Maybe if you didn’t see the match and just saw the score you might think it was some sort of straightforward match with a couple of breaks. But that is not the full story,” Federer said.

“He had his chances in the first and the second it was close and I think on the big points today I was just maybe a little bit better … it just fell that way.,” added the Swiss, who showed some signs of tiredness after his gruelling three-set win over Nick Kyrgios in Friday’s semi-final.

“I was more in fight-mode today, just trying to stay afloat. Physically and emotionally it has been a draining week, I think I did very well,” he said.

Nadal was left to stomach a third defeat in three finals so far this year following a loss to Sam Querrey in Acapulco and Federer in Australia. But he said he felt in good form heading into the clay season, where he has enjoyed so much of his success.

“I think I am close to what I need to be. I am at a very high level of tennis and I believe I am ready to win titles,” he said.

“I’m playing enough well to fight for everything I think. I have good hopes that I’m going to be ready for Monte Carlo. Always when I am playing that well, on clay always helps a little bit more for me.

“I am very excited about playing back on clay again,” he said.

Federer, Kyrgios advance to Miami Open semis

March 31, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer dramatically fought his way into the Miami Open semi-finals with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) victory over Czech 10th seed Tomas Berdych on Thursday.

Federer

The 35-year-old Swiss, who has already won the Australian Open and Indian Wells so far this year, extended his win streak over Berdych to seven matches.

There was plenty of tension in the match-deciding tie-breaker, where Federer saved match point and then Berdych lost on a double-fault.

“I definitely got very lucky at the end, but I think I showed great heart today,” Federer said. “I fought and Tomas definitely started to step it up, but it was a great match at the end.”

Federer will face Nick Kyrgios in the semi-finals after the Australian came through an entertaining 6-4, 6-7 (9/11), 6-3 victory over 19-year-old German Alexander Zverev.

Federer next will play the winner of Thursday’s later quarter-final between two of the ATP’s up and coming stars, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

Should Federer win Friday, there is a chance he will play Sunday’s final against long-standing rival Rafael Nadal, who faces Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the other semi-final.

But Thursday could very easily have been the end of the tournament for the 18-time Grand Slam champion, who entered the match having not dropped a set over eight consecutive matches at Indian Wells and Miami.

Berdych was broken in the opening game of the match and then Federer dealt with a break point in the second game. The Swiss was comfortable on his serve and then broke Berdych again at 4-2 to put the opening set beyond doubt.

But then, the Czech dug deep and came out fighting.

Berdych broke to go 5-3 up and took the contest into a third set, where Federer made the most of some unforced errors from his opponent to break at 4-2 but then, uncharacteristically, Federer let some sloppiness creep into his game.

Federer was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 and was unable to convert on match-point at in the next game.

Berdych led 6-4 in the tie-breaker but gave up two points and Federer blasted a superb ace to get in front before the double-fault from the Czech ended the contest.

It was the second demoralizing defeat this month for Berdych. He lost at Indian Wells in the third round after leading 6-1, 5-2 against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Asked about his frustration, Berdych said: “What should I do? Should I destroy the table? Then you see how much I’m frustrated. I don’t know.

“It’s obviously not something that you want, to finish the tournament like that. But I got a lesson in the last tournament, so this is going to be fine to get over with. I think this is going to be a strawberry cake after that. It’s going to be fine.”

Federer improved to 17-1 in 2017, his best start to a season since 2006, and has now won seven tie-breakers in a row.

The Kyrgios-Zverev quarter-final was billed as a glimpse at the future of top-level tennis and if so, the sport should have an entertaining era ahead.

The match featured huge serves from Kyrgios, audacious and expertly executed lobs from Zverev and an intense second set tie-breaker decided for the German after his rival tried unsuccessfully to return a lob on set point through his legs.

Kyrgios, though, has added greater control to his always explosive game and finished strong to set up a fascinating clash with Federer.

Venus downs Kerber to set up Konta clash at WTA Miami

March 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Venus Williams rolled back the years to send world number one Angelique Kerber crashing out of the Miami Open on Wednesday and advance to a semi-final showdown with Britain’s Johanna Konta.

Venus

Williams, at 36 the oldest woman in the field, downed Kerber in straight sets, winning 7-5, 6-3 while Konta fought back to beat Romania’s Simon Halep 3-6, 7-6(9/7), 6-2.

Both results had the element of surprise about them with Kerber the top seed and Halep the third and in good form, but they set up what should be a fascinating contest on Thursday.

The other semi-final pits Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki against second-seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

With the local crowd behind her, Williams, a three-time winner at Miami clearly believed she could topple the German but the first set saw both players struggle to hold their serves.

The American broke Kerber four times while Williams failed to hold serve twice, but the contest was more one-sided in the second set.

Williams raced to a 4-1 lead before Kerber broke back and started to produce some great shots as she battled in vain to save the match.

“It was an interesting match. I was controlling it. I had more errors than I like and lower first serve percentage than I would like,” said Williams.

“I have to play well against the number one in the world. She’s on top of her game and she played well, so I had to find a way to play a little better,” added the American.

Kerber has yet to win a tournament this year and most recently went out in the round of 16 in Indian Wells.

“This wasn’t the best start I would have wished for, but it’s not a drama because I’m still playing good and winning matches. I’m looking forward to playing again,” she said.

“It wasn’t my best game, but she deserved to win because she played really well tonight,” added the German.

Konta’s victory over made her the first British woman to reach the last four at Miami.

“I’m really happy that I’ve come through and I am just looking forward to my next round – it’s going to be a tough one,” said Konta.

Halep settled well in the opening set, with her powerful forehand dominant, but Konta fought back well in the second.

The Australia-born Konta broke early to establish a 3-0 lead but the gritty Romanian clawed her way back winning the next three games while her opponent failed to make the most of her openings in what was an error-strewn contest.

Nonethless, Konta stuck at her task and was able to break again when Halep was serving for the match and force a tie-break which she eventually won 9-7 to take the pair into the third game.

There was a tense discussion between Halep and her Australian coach Darren Cahill.

Konta broke in the fifth game of the deciding set and visibly growing in confidence she broke again to take a 5-2 lead and serve out for the match.

Nadal on track for Federer showdown at ATP Miami as Sock downed

March 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal took a step closer to a possible final against long-time rival Roger Federer in the Miami Open after a straight sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday at Key Biscayne.

Nadal

Nadal’s 6-2, 6-3 win over the 13th-seeded Sock sets up a semi-final meeting with unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini who upset second ranked Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day.

The Spaniard’s forehand was ominous as he neutralised Sock in one hour and 22 minutes.

Nadal was able to save six of seven break points earned by Sock as he kept control of the contest.

He broke Sock in the American’s first service game and swiftly established a 3-0 advantage and a second break at 5-2 wrapped up the opening set.

The American showed his spirit though as he broke Nadal at the start of the second but was unable to take advantage of a double break that could have put him 3-0 up.

Instead Nadal pulled back to 2-2 and with Sock failing to make the most of a chance of further break points it was comfortable in the end.

The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won in Miami despite being a four-time finalist and he expects plenty of work to get past Fognini and make it a fifth appearance.

“We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best,” said Nadal.

Fognini has three wins from ten meetings with the Spaniard, the most recent coming on clay in Rio de Janiero in 2015.

The 29-year-old world number 40 showed plenty of confidence as he took the game to his Japanese opponent from the outset.

It was the Italian’s first victory in three attempts over Nishikori and his first Masters series quarter-final win since 2013, when he reached the last four in Monte-Carlo.

Nishikori earlier said he had not felt fully in top shape for the contest.

“I wasn’t 100%, physically, I mean, it was tough conditions for me,” he said, referring to the heat on the mid-afternoon Key Biscayne centre court.

“But it was also same for him, too. He was playing a lot of the long matches, but I think he still played good enough to beat me today,” he added.

Fognini, who was cheered on by his friend, former Italy footballer Christian Vieri, said he had come through a demanding test.

“It wasn’t easy and I was just focused on my game. I am very happy, I’m in the semifinal, I’m playing well and I feel good again on the court,” he said.

On Thursday, Federer takes on Czech tenth-seed Tomas Berdych while the last quarter-final pits Germany’s Alexander Zverev against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

Federer, Wawrinka advance in Miami

March 26, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer survived a brave challenge from American qualifier Frances Tiafoe before emerging with a 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 victory as he got his Miami Open title bid underway.

Federer

Tiafoe, ranked 101st in the world, struggled against Federer’s serve but was strong on his own and forced a first set tie-break in which the Swiss came out on top.

The 19-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone then broke Federer’s serve in the first game of the second set only for the 18-times Grand Slam winner to break back twice and run out a comfortable winner in the end.

Federer was full of praise for his opponent and said he would have gained valuable experience from the contest.

“I hope he’s going to learn a lot from a match like this just because playing on a centre court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers. That’s what it’s about, and it should feed a player like him with a lot of energy moving forward,” he said.

Federer is in fine form having clinched the Australian Open and Indian Wells so far this year and extended his record to 14-1.

The 35-year-old is looking for his third Miami title following wins in 2005 and 2006.

Federer should have met Del Potro in Miami last year but the Swiss had to pull out with an illness and he says he is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with the South American

“We’ve had some epic matches against each other: Semis at the French, Olympic semis, finals at the US Open. You name it, we’ve had some really good ones,” he said.

Reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka got off to a solid start, beating Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 at Crandon Park on Saturday.

In the absence of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the top two ranked players in the world, Wawrinka is the number one seed and is fired up after reaching the final at Indian Wells last week, where he was beaten by Federer.

“I’m playing better tennis. I feel that I’m playing good here. I took the confidence from Indian Wells. So let’s see… When I’m playing well, when I am confident with my game, I know I can beat anybody,” said Wawrinka, who turns 32 on Tuesday.

“It has been quite tough conditions these last few days here. Raining, really windy today. It’s really windy on the court, so it’s never easy.

“I’m happy the way I was moving, the way I was playing, and my attitude in general was really positive,” added Wawrinka, who next faces Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

Wawrinka will face either Malek Jaziri next after the Tunisian beat Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also progressed on Saturday enjoying a 6-4 6-3 win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

Federer in full flight heading into Miami

March 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer keeps saying he’s still on the comeback trail, but he’s covering ground faster than he ever imagined.

Federer

The Swiss, sidelined much of 2016 with a knee injury, soared to a fifth ATP Indian Wells Masters title on Sunday to go with the 18th Grand Slam crown he claimed at the Australian Open in January.

And now that he’s back at number six in the world, Federer is reassessing his goals for 2017.

“This was not part of the plan, to win Australia and Indian Wells,” Federer said after his 6-4, 7-5 victory over fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the Indian Wells final.

“The goal was to be top eight by after Wimbledon, so I’m there much, much faster.

“I will make the plan for the remainder of the season, especially for the clay, after Miami, and then see also what the goals are because the goals are clearly changing after this dream start.”

Federer emerged from a daunting quarter in Indian Wells that also included world number two Novak Djokovic and 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal as well as former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and rising talents Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev.

Kyrgios sent Djokovic packing, and the Serbian star has since withdrawn from this week’s tournament in Miami saying an elbow injury he’s carried for months had worsened.

Federer wiped the floor with Nadal in Indian Wells just two months after his thrilling five-set win over the Spaniard in the Australian Open final.

Wawrinka was the only player who managed to break Federer’s serve in the California desert, but eventually even he could only stand back and admire his superstar compatriot’s majestic progress to the title.

“The way he’s playing is just so beautiful,” Wawrinka said of the 35-year-old Federer. “Everything looks perfect. He’s moving amazingly well. He has amazing touch. He’s doing everything you can do on the tennis court.”

Federer captured his 90th career title. Although he said it was too soon to start thinking about the milestone of 100, he certainly goes into Miami a strong favorite with Djokovic as well as injured world number one Andy Murray out of the second Masters event of the year.

He has leapfrogged Nadal to sixth in the world rankings. Whether he can move past Wawrinka, Djokovic and Murray and regain the number one ranking is a question that Federer, in his current incarnation, isn’t too worried about.

“Sure I’d love to be number one again,” he said. “But anything else other than world number one for me is not interesting. So that’s why the rankings is not a priority right now.”

Instead, he’s focused on approaching each tournament he plays with energy and eagerness, something he admits was missing when he turned up in Dubai and lost to 116th-ranked Evgeny Donskoy.

“I just wasn’t 100 percent prepared, unfortunately, because of the injury I was carrying after Melbourne,” he said. “I was still tired. I was lacking energy.”

At Indian Wells, he said, the preparation was complete and the energy was good, and he anticipated the same for Miami.

“I think I’m going to be fine on that front just because I’m feeling too good on the court and I’m having too much fun,” Federer said. “Winning creates a lot of good energy.

“But I know how hard it is to win back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami titles.

“That’s why I go to Miami knowing it’s going to be really difficult,” added Federer, who is showing renewed talent for making the difficult look oh so easy.

Djokovic, Federer, Nadal advance at ATP Indian Wells

March 14, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic launched his bid for a sixth ATP Indian Wells Masters crown with a two-set triumph over Kyle Edmund as the stars shone on Sunday in the California desert.

Djokovic

The 46th-ranked Edmund served for the second set at 5-3, but world number two Djokovic broke him en route to a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) triumph.

His reward is a tough third-round clash with former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 winner over fellow Argentine Federico del Bonis.

“I think I played very well in the first set,” Djokovic said. “Second set was obviously up and down. But credit to Kyle for playing some really aggressive tennis.

“He made a lot of winners in the beginning and midway through the second. There was not much wrong I did. I did miss some forehands. But other than that, it was a very solid match. Good, quality tennis, a good test.”

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also reached the third round, Federer flying through with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over France’s Stephane Robert in just 51 minutes.

Nadal opened his account with a steady 6-3, 6-2 victory over Argentina’s Guido Pella.

The three stars are packed together in a remarkable bottom quarter of the draw.

But Djokovic said he can’t afford to think about a possible quarter-final clash with either of his longtime rivals with del Potro coming up.

While Djokovic has won 12 of their 16 career meetings, the Argentine handed him a crushing two-tiebreak defeat in the first round of the Rio Olympics — a defeat Djokovic avenged in Acapulco this month.

“Big guy, big serve, big forehand,” Djokovic said of del Potro.

“Definitely not the draw that you like early in the tournament and that you wish for, but it is what it is,” added Djokovic, who is trying to get back to the winner’s circle after a shock second-round exit at the Australian Open and a quarter-final loss to Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.

Ninth-seeded Federer, resurgent after a 2016 season marred by injury, downed Nadal in an epic Australian Open final to secure his 18th Grand Slam title.

He hit a speed bump in Dubai this month, failing to convert three match points in a third-round loss to Evgeny Donskoy — but he was firing on all cylinders against the 81st-ranked Robert.

“Very happy,” said Federer, who missed Indian Wells last year with a knee injury that required surgery. “Knee is a thing of the past, which is great. I don’t even have to think or talk about it.”

Nadal was pleased with a “solid” opening effort against Pella, made trickier by the oven-like mid-day temperatures and the fact that Pella, like Nadal, is a left-hander.

“I didn’t try to do amazing things. I tried to play solid,” the fifth-seeded Spaniard said. “For moments I played well. For moments I played a little bit less well. Important thing, I won, and I won in straight sets.”

Nadal knows he’ll have to turn up the intensity if he wants to end a hard court title drought stretching back to 2014.

The bottom half of the draw also features fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, who eased past Britain’s Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.

But sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in the 2014 US Open final, was an early casualty, beaten 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 by 19-year-old American Taylor Fritz.

The jam-packed half of the draw is a contrast to the wide-open top half, which lost a lot of its lustre on Saturday when world number one Andy Murray was stunned by 129th-ranked Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil.

“That’s sport, no?” Nadal said. “Yesterday probably Andy didn’t play his best match and Vasek served very well. So then you go to a tiebreak and anything can happen.”

Djokovic seeks to turn up heat in California desert

March 11, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Five-time champion Novak Djokovic will be out to reassert his dominance on the hard courts of Indian Wells this week, seeking to shake off the slump that has dogged him into 2017.

Djokovic

Djokovic’s five titles in the California desert include the last three.

But the Serbian star arrives at a tournament he has owned shaken by a second-round exit at the Australian Open, which was followed by a shocking quarter-final loss to young Australian Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco.

The setbacks come on the back of a troublesome second half of 2016, when he lost his world number one ranking to Andy Murray and relinquished his Wimbledon and US Open titles.

Acknowledging that his longed-for first French Open crown last year left him emotionally depleted, Djokovic nonetheless says his game remains good enough to get him back to the summit.

“Right now I feel like it was better than it was, especially in the second part of last season,” Djokovic said Thursday as unseeded men swung into action in the first ATP Masters tournament of the year.

“Particularly after the US Open I had those couple months where I wasn’t myself on the court. Now I’m at the better place and I believe that I’m headed in the right direction.”

Djokovic, who lifted the trophy in Doha this year before his Australian Open defeat, insisted the latest setbacks haven’t discouraged him.

“Generally if I see myself kind of (in) larger perspective today compared to end of last season, I’m a different player,” he said. “I feel more comfortable, I feel more fresh. I look forward to competing and I feel more confident on the court.”

But he’s got a monumental task in Indian Wells, where he anchors a bottom quarter that also includes four-time champion Roger Federer, and three-time winner Rafael Nadal.

The talent-laden section also includes former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro, Kyrgios and young German Alexander Zverev.

“I haven’t had too many draws like that,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite amazing to see that many quality players are in one quarter.

“It is what it is,” he added. “Obviously Nadal and Federer are starting to build their rankings. They haven’t played, especially Roger hasn’t played for six months of the last season.

“Winning the Australian Open he got in the top 10 but he’s still not top eight, obviously that’s potentially putting him in position to play last 16 with a top eight player.

“We’ll see what happens. I guess in the first four or five days of the tournament we’ll have some very, very strong matches.”

Murray heads the draw that gives all 32 seeded players a first-round bye.

Among Thursday’s matches, Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi downed Robin Haase of the Netherlands to book a first-round meeting with third-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka.

Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil defeated Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 6-3 to earn a clash with Murray, while France’s Jeremy Chardy beat Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 to book a meeting with eighth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem.

The 23-year-old Thiem, who won his eighth ATP title in Rio last month, is among the young players keen to muscle in on the game’s “Big Four” of Murray, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer.

Even after his 2016 Australian Open victory more than a year ago, Djokovic indicated he could feel them coming, telling reporters that wolves running up the hill are hungrier than the wolf at the top.

“I guess I’m one of the wolves going up now,” Djokovic said Thursday. “And I’m hungry.”

Federer unfazed by treacherous Indian Wells draw

March 9, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer, riding high after an 18th Grand Slam triumph, isn’t rattled by the tennis version of the group of death.

Federer

The Swiss superstar, whose Australian Open victory in January signalled a resurgence after a year disrupted by injury, is drawn in the same quarter with three-time defending champion and second seed Novak Djokovic and Spanish fifth seed Rafael Nadal in the Indian Wells ATP Masters.

“Amazing, amazing draw,” said world number one and top seed Andy Murray, who has the luxury of analyzing it from a safe spot on the opposite end of the bracket.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, probably it would be one of the toughest sections of a draw of all time.”

Ninth-seeded Federer, however, downplayed the drama of sharing a quarter with Nadal and Djokovic. Among the three of them they have won 12 of the past 13 Indian Wells titles.

To add a little more spice, they are joined by former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, dangerous Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, mercurial Australian talent Nick Kyrgios — who shocked Djokovic in Acapulco last week — and tenacious teenager Alexander Zverev, who took Nadal to five sets in Melbourne.

“Most of the guys you won’t even see, because they’ll eliminate each other,” the unflappable Federer said.

But he admitted it got his attention when the draw was made.

“The first message I got was Dudi Sela or Stephane Robert (for his first opponent) and I was like ‘OK, fine,'” Federer said.

“Then I heard that Rafa was in my section I was ‘OK’. Then I heard that maybe Novak’s in my section — you’re like ‘OK, fine.’

“It doesn’t matter,” Federer insisted. “I’ve gone through so many draws. I came here to Indian Wells to play against those guys. So it doesn’t matter if it’s the semis the final or actually the fourth round.

“I think it’s good for me to play those guys early. I look forward to it.”

The unique situation is the result of last year’s drop in form — and ranking — for Federer and Nadal, who signalled their resurgence with an epic Australian Open final duel in which the Swiss emerged victorious.

Federer and Nadal could meet in the fourth round, and whoever advances from that section could meet Djokovic in the quarters.

In the same half, fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori and sixth-seeded Marin Cilic lurk.

The highest seed awaiting Murray in the quarter-finals could be seventh seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, or eighth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, could meet Murray in the top half’s semi-final.

While Murray said all possible paths to the final were treacherous, he, like many, was mesmerized by the talent packed into the bottom quarter.

In addition to Federer’s 18 Grand Slam titles, Nadal has won 14, Djokovic 12 and del Potro one.

“In terms of the amount of Grand Slams you have in that bottom section and then also the younger, up-and-comers, it’s pretty exciting for tennis fans for sure,” Murray said. “Obviously a section, ideally, you would want to be avoiding, if you can.”

Murray heads for Indian Wells after Dubai tennis triumph

March 5, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray solidified his position at the top of the rankings through a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Fernando Verdasco to win the Dubai Tennis Championships for the first time on Saturday.

Murray

Murray, 29, claimed the trophy in the emirate after finishing runner-up to Roger Federer in 2012.

Now the Scot and his team face a 16-hour flight halfway around the world to Los Angeles to prepare for the start of the Indian Wells Masters in less than a week.

“It’s direct but it’s still a long flight, it will take a few days to get over that,” said Murray after claiming his 45th career title.

“This week has given me great momentum which I hope to use going to Indian Wells and Miami.”

His win on Saturday allowed Murray to become the first British champion in the 25-year history of the Dubai tournament.

He was playing in his seventh final in his last eight tournaments and 14th final in his last 16 events.

He holds a healthy points lead over number two Novak Djokovoic, with the off-form Serb facing immense title defence pressure in both Indian Wells and Miami over the next four weeks.

The Scot is amazed at his winning form stretching back to last autumn when he made his run to surpass Djokovic for the top ranking position.

“It’s obviously been a good run. You want to try and peak and play your best tennis at the Slams, but you know, giving yourself a lot of matches gives you confidence to go into those big events.

“Conditions, again, are totally different than Indian Wells, which is a very slow court with fast balls – the other way around from here.

“I have to get there and adjust to that. Winning this week is fantastic, I feel good. I was a bit tired yesterday, but I felt a lot better today.

“I’m trying to get to Indian Wells much earlier than I did last year. I’ll arrive on Sunday, which is a good thing.

“Even though it’s a long trip, it gives me five, six days to get ready before my first match.”

Murray improved his record over 35th-ranked left-hander Verdasco to 13 wins and just one loss.

He was playing in his second final of 2017 after losing to Djokovic in nearby Doha during the opening week of the season in January.

The first three games of the contest featured breaks of serve before Murray steadied, breaking for 5-3 and taking the opening set.

In the second, Murray earned a 2-1 lead as he eased to victory.

Despite his defeat, Verdasco will return to the top 30 for the first time since April 2015 thanks to his run to the final.

“I think that obviously I had, if not the toughest opponent I can have in the final, then one of them, for sure,” said Verdasco.

“He’s number one in the world right now. It was obviously a really difficult final to win, but I came trying everything and giving everything.

“I said yesterday that being in the final of a 500 after five years is a great week for me and I have to take the positive things.”

Murray survives seven match points in Dubai epic

March 3, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray saved seven match points to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Championships with a marathon 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (20/18), 6-1 win over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Thursday.

Murray

The top seed managed to avoid joining second seed Stan Wawrinka and seven-time winner Roger Federer on the sidelines after the Swiss pair crashed out in earlier rounds.

But world number one Murray needed to scrap and struggle for almost three hours against 33-year-old Kohlschreiber, with the pair duelling in a 31-minute second-set tiebreaker which determined the final direction of the epic quarter-final.

“It was very rewarding to come through a match like that and obviously I’m very pleased to get through it,” Murray said.

“I would have been very disappointed if I’d lost the second set, but also, I didn’t feel like I was playing badly.

“I played a poor tiebreak in the first set, but apart from that, I felt I was playing pretty well and he was playing really good stuff.”

The Scot held off Kohlschreiber’s match points, but still needed eight set points to take the contest into a decisive final set.

The result ended Kohlschreiber’s quest for a 400th match win.

Thursday’s dramatic second set equalled five other 20-18 tiebreaks recorded since tiebreak scores were first kept in 1991.

Such was the drama that Murray and Kohlschreiber forgot to change ends at 15/15, instead changing at 16/16.

“I’ve never played a tiebreak that long ever. Not in juniors, nothing even close to that, I’ll probably never play another one like that again,” Murray said.

“I’ve have been playing on the tour for 11, 12 years now, and nothing’s been close to that.”

Murray will next meet French seventh seed Lucas Pouille who defeated Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy — the man who stunned Federer — 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7/2).

Pouille, who has lost all three matches he has played against Murray, completed his quarter-final win at 1.46 on Friday morning in Dubai.

Murray has never won the Dubai title, but came close in 2012 when he was runner-up to Federer.

In the bottom half of the draw, fourth seed Gael Monfils fired 10 aces but still crashed out 6-3, 7-5 to Fernando Verdasco.

The French showman was unable to make a major impression in a match which was paused for almost half an hour in the closing stages due to light rain.

Spain’s Verdasco will play his second semi-final of the season on Friday, facing Dutchman Robin Haase, a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 winner over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

Monfils lost for the first time in four meetings against Verdasco, with the unseeded Spaniard taking charge from the start.

Verdasco spent 35 minutes in winning the opening set and set about consolidating in the second.

The 33-year-old, ranked 35th, broke for 3-2 with Monfils saving three break points in the seventh game to stay in touch.

But Verdasco then produced a love game for 5-3 just before rain stopped play. The Spaniard finally prevailed after 81 minutes.

“I played almost a perfect match,” Verdasco said. “I’m very happy, it was a really complete match in all the ways that you can imagine.”

Djokovic battles into ATP Acapulco quarterfinals

March 2, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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World No. 2 Novak Djokovic battled into the quarterfinals of the ATP Acapulco event on Wednesday, rallying for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Juan Martin del Potro.

Djokovic

The Serbian star led a parade of the top four seeds into the last eight, with second-seeded Rafael Nadal, third-seeded Marin Cilic and fourth-seeded defending champion Dominic Thiem all advancing.

Top-seeded Djokovic, back in action this week for the first time since his shock second-round exit at the Australian Open in January, had to dig deep against former U.S. Open champion del Potro after falling a break down in the third set.

He broke back immediately to level the set at 4-4 then held at love to pile the pressure on del Potro, who fended off one match point with a service winner but couldn’t hold off Djokovic on the next.

“Every match that I’ve played against delPo in the past couple of years has been very close, really enjoyable to play and great for the crowd to watch,” said Djokovic. “I am very happy and proud to win this match, even though I was close to losing when he was serving at 4-3 up in the third set.

“I just tried to get as many returns back in play as possible.”

The Serbian advanced to a quarterfinal clash with Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over American Donald Young.

Djokovic’s travails in a match lasting two hours and 38 minutes were a far cry from Nadal’s comprehensive 6-1, 6-1 victory over Paolo Lorenzi.

”I played a complete match today and I’m feeling great after a month without playing,” said Nadal, a two-time winner in Acapulco who is playing his first tournament since falling to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final.

“I think I played a very solid match … some great shots, some good winners,” added the Spaniard, who dropped just seven points on his serve and never faced a break point against the 38th-ranked Italian.

Nadal broke Lorenzi for the fifth time in the final game of the match, delivering a stinging forehand winner to wrap up the win in just 66 minutes.

Nadal next faces Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 winner over Australian lucky loser Jordan Thompson.

Cilic booked his quarterfinal berth with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory over fellow Croatian Borna Coric.

Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, remained unbeaten against his 20-year-old compatriot.

He fired a dozen aces, and broke Coric three times in the match — including twice in the final set to set up a clash with American Steve Johnson, a 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 winner over American wildcard Ernesto Escobedo.

Austria’s Thiem advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Adrian Mannarino.

Thiem, winner at Rio de Janeiro last week, booked a meeting with American Sam Querrey, who toppled fifth-seeded Belgian David Goffin 6-2, 6-3.

Djokovic through in Mexico on return

March 1, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Former world number one Novak Djokovic was made to work hard before finishing strongly to defeat Martin Klizan in straight sets on his return to competition at the ATP Acapulco event on Tuesday.

Djokovic

Djokovic has not played since his shock second round exit at the Australian Open in January, and showed signs of ring-rustiness before defeating Klizan 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) before a raucous Mexican crowd.

The 29-year-old Serbian started slowly and was forced to save two break points in the third game of the first set before hanging on for a 2-1 lead.

He had to save a further break point in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead but then swiftly punished world number 62 Klizan with a break to go 4-2 up.

The contest then went with serve as Djokovic claimed the opening set.

Klizan was soon in trouble in the second set as he suffered a break in the opening game before Djokovic held for 2-0.

That proved to be the cue for a mini-collapse, however, as Djokovic was broken twice and Klizan raced into a 4-2 lead.

But the 27-year-old Slovak’s composure deserted him and Djokovic broke back and held to level at 4-4.

The set went with serve to go into a tie-break and once again Djokovic’s superior experience of pressure situations told, Klizan snatching at a forehand that went long to give his opponent match point.

Djokovic duly sealed the win with a deft lob that left Klizan scrambling to return before finishing with a volley into an open court.

Elsewhere Tuesday, Australia’s Bernard Tomic wilted in the sultry conditions against American Donald Young before retiring citing the heat.

Tomic lost the first set in a tie-break 7-6 (7/5) but then retired before the second set got under way.

In other matches, third seed Maric Cilic advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine.

Murray says fully fit for Dubai ATP

February 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray leads a trio of Grand Slam champions into the Dubai Tennis Championships, their first matches since the Australian Open, with the Scot now fully fit after a bout of shingles.

Murray

The world number one revealed on Sunday that he had consulted doctors in London earlier this month about the painful skin condition upon his return following a fourth-round Melbourne loss to Mischa Zverev.

“I’m fine now, I’ve been training flat-out for the past few weeks,” Murray said in Dubai after light rain interrupted preparations for the tournament starting Monday.

He said he had “had to go easy for a little while.I didn’t notice anything anyway until I got back from Australia.”

Murray, 29, the top seed, begins his campaign in the Gulf against Tunisian Malek Jaziri in the first round. Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland is seeded second with compatriot and seven-time champion Roger Federer third.

“I know him fairly well but I’ve never trained with him, he’s very talented with big forehand,” Murray said of Jaziri.

Murray, losing finalist to Federer five years ago here, is competing in the emirate for the first time since 2015, when he lost a quarter-final to Borna Coric.

Defending champion Wawrinka is on the way back from injury which kept him from the Rotterdam indoor event earlier this month. Federer will be testing himself with back-to-back matches after his historic Australian Open title.

“This is a little bit of the unknown,” the 35-year-old Swiss said. “I’ve said it’s going to take me until April to know exactly where I stand and see if I feel my best.

“I’m still a work in progress, let’s see how my body will react. My recent weeks in the Swiss Alps means I’m fresh again.”

Wawrinka takes on Damir Dzumhur while Federer opens against Frenchman Benoit Paire, whom he has defeated three times but last played four years ago.

France’s Gael Monfils will make the quick-change from Marseille indoors to take part as fourth seed, ahead of Czech Tomas Berdych and Spain’s sixth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, crowned Chennai champion in January.

Federer wants Rafa as Laver Cup doubles partner

February 21, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer revealed on Monday he wants to join forces in doubles with arch rival Rafael Nadal at the inaugural Laver Cup this year.

Federer

The Swiss tennis great made the confession at the unveiling of the new tournament scheduled for Prague in September which will pit a Bjorn Borg-captained European team against John McEnroe’s rest of the world.

Federer, who beat Nadal in an epic five-set Australian Open final last month, admitted on Monday: “I’ve always wanted to play with Rafa… just because our rivalry has been so special.

“I’ve seen his wicked forehand go past me too often!”

The new addition to the tennis calendar is named after Rod Laver, the last man to achieve the calendar Grand Slam in 1969.

“Rod Laver wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and play our best and win for our teammates. We will play to our best possibilities,” Federer, 35, told the media launch in Prague.

Federer, the world number nine, is due to figure with sixth-ranked Nadal at the September 22-24 event.

The Laver Cup will be held every year except in an Olympic season, with four matches each day — three in singles, one in doubles.

Each team comprises six players — four based on the ATP singles rankings after Wimbledon and two picks by the captains, Borg and McEnroe.

Federer refused to see Team Europe as a clear winner, although it currently has 17 players in the top 20 of the ATP rankings.

“I think Team Europe are going to be big favourites but because of the setup of the Laver Cup I think the margins are always going to be very slim,” said Federer.

Before talking to journalists, the Swiss star played the Czech Republic’s number one Tomas Berdych on a boat on the Vltava river in Prague’s historic centre on a chilly Monday morning.

Berdych, ranked 14th in the world, said their game under the picturesque Charles Bridge was “a very nice opportunity to show Roger a little bit of the town.”

“We were joking we should do this every day,” said Federer.

“I thought it was very particular, very unique — it was definitely a privilege,” he beamed before confessing: “It was a bit windy though.”

Nishikori battles into Buenos Aires final

February 19, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Japanese top seed Kei Nishikori reached his second final of 2017 with a gruelling 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq at the Buenos Aires clay court tournament.

Nishikori

World number five Nishikori needed two hours 45 minutes to see off wild card Berlocq, the 34-year-old world number 77 to set-up a Sunday title showdown against Ukraine’s Aleksandr Dolgopolov who beat Spanish fourth seed Pablo Carreno-Busta 7-5, 6-2.

Nishikori made the final on hard court in Brisbane in January but was beaten by Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in three sets.

The 27-year-old will be chasing his 12th career title on Sunday and third on clay after triumphs in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015.

Dolgopolov, 28, has not dropped a set all week to reach his seventh ATP final.

He will be contesting his first title match in three years, since falling to Rafael Nadal in Rio de Janeiro in 2014.

“I feel very good,” said world number 66 Dolgopolov. “It’s really nice to be in a final again because because I had a couple of tough years.”

Nishikori will square off against Dolgopolov for the sixth time, having won all 10 sets played.

Sharapova handed Madrid Open wildcard

February 9, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has been handed a wildcard for the Madrid Open in May just weeks after completing a 15-month ban for doping, organisers confirmed on Wednesday.

Sharapova

The Russian who won the French Open for her fifth Grand Slam in 2014 – shortly after winning the Madrid Open that year – plans to make her return to the circuit in Stuttgart on April 26.

“Sharapova requested an invitation to play in the tournament and after careful consideration, we decided to give her a wild card,” said tournament director and former Wimbledon champion Manolo Santana.

“Maria is one of the best players of the last 15 years and also a past winner of our tournament.

“In Madrid she always plays well and I’m sure she will come back to the courts highly motivated and hoping to do well in her first tournaments.”

Sharapova hasn’t played on tour since testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

However, her initial two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation, was reduced to 15 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Sharapova is one of those players that all tennis fans want to see,” added tournament CEO Gerard Tsobanian.

The tournament runs from May 6 to May 13.

Britain advances in Davis Cup after Canadian default

February 6, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Britain booked a Davis Cup quarter-final matchup against France in odd fashion Sunday after the decisive final singles match ended when Canada’s Denis Shapovalov hit the umpire with a ball.

Evans

The 17-year-old Israeli-born Canadian was defaulted after hitting a ball into the face of chair umpire Arnaud Gabas, handing Britain’s Kyle Edmund a 6-3, 6-4, 2-1 triumph that gave Britain a 3-2 victory in the first-round tie at Ottawa.

“It was a strange way to finish,” Edmund said. “I’ve never been part of something like that.”

Britain advanced to a quarter-final matchup April 7-9 against France with that winner facing either Spain or Serbia in a September semi-final.

Gabas suffered bruising and swelling around his left eye and was taken to a nearby hospital.

Shapovalov apologized to Gabas in the referee’s office while he was being treated, and was contrite in a press conference.

“I would like to begin with apologizing to that umpire, the referee and to all ITF officials. It was unacceptable behavior from me,” said Shapovalov, who was frustrated at losing a point, took a ball from his pocket and hit it wildly to send it flying into Gabas’s face.

“I feel incredibly ashamed and embarrassed, for letting my team down and my country down. That’s the last time I’m going to do anything like that. I’m going to learn from it.”

Vasek Pospisil had blasted 25 aces in a 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) victory over Dan Evans after three hours and 23 minutes earlier to draw Canada level at 2-2, setting the stage for the final drama.

Pospisil took to Twitter to defend his young teammate.

“No one is nicer or carries themselves better for a 17 y/o than Shapovalov,” Pospisil tweeted. “Everyone can see that today was an accident. Can happen to anyone.”

British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith was sympathetic as well.

“It’s a shame that it has happened that way and I feel for the young lad because he’s a great talent and he has learned a harsh lesson today,” Smith said.

“I thought Kyle, from what we saw Friday to the way he came out today, he was absolutely fantastic.”

World number one Andy Murray was absent for Britain but injured fourth-ranked Canadian Milos Raonic was also missing.

In the first reverse singles, Pospisil smacked a forehand winner to grab a 6-4 edge in the final tie-breaker. Evans answered with his seventh ace but Pospisil took the final point to keep Canada’s hopes alive.

It was a busy weekend for Pospisil, who teamed with Daniel Nestor in a Saturday doubles loss to Britain’s Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray.

He had beaten Edmund in three sets on Friday, when Shapovalov fell to Evans in the opening match of the tie.

Djokovic, Kyrgios in lead roles at star-stripped Davis Cup tennis

February 2, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios hope the Davis Cup heals the wounds of their painful Australian Open exits this weekend when they will be the only two men in the top 15 taking part.

Djokovic

World number one Andy Murray has opted out of Britain’s trans-Atlantic trip to Ottawa where Canada will be without fourth-ranked Milos Raonic for the World Group opener.

Meanwhile, Australian Open champion Roger Federer and world number three Stan Wawrinka miss Switzerland’s tie in the United States.

Rafael Nadal, the runner-up to Federer in Melbourne, will sit out Spain’s match in Croatia, who will be missing Marin Cilic, while Japan and France meet in Tokyo with Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the sidelines.

Tomas Berdych is out of the Czech Republic team to face Australia in Melbourne while David Goffin skips Belgium’s short hop to Germany.

Just as worryingly for the 117-year-old tournament is Juan Martin del Potro sitting out defending champions Argentina’s home tie against Italy.

Despite seeing all of his Grand Slam rivals take a breather, world number two Djokovic — stunned in the second round in Melbourne by unheralded Denis Istomin for his earliest exit at a major in nine years — is relishing leading 2010 champions Serbia against Russia in Nis.

“I am overjoyed to be back amongst these guys as we are all close friends and it’s a very special atmosphere every time we get together,” 29-year-old Djokovic told daviscup.com.

“But Russia are a young team and we can’t underestimate them.”

Russia, who won the last of their two titles in 2006, will be led by world number 52 Karen Khachnov.

A win for Serbia will set-up a quarter-final against either five-time winners Spain or 2005 champions Croatia who meet in Osijek.

In the absence of Nadal, Spain will be led by 16th-ranked Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta, the world 26.

Croatia, however, have to rely on Franko Skugor and Nikola Mektic, ranked at 223 and 319 respectively, neither of whom have ever won a Davis Cup singles tie.

At Kooyong in Melbourne, number 15 Kyrgios will try to restore his battered reputation after being accused of tanking in his five-set, second round loss to Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open.

Australia, the 28-time champions, face a Czech side led by world number 54 Jiri Vesely in the absence of world number 12 Berdych.

“I’ve got to improve a lot of things in my game, I’ve got to work harder,” said 21-year-old Kyrgios.

For Great Britain, Murray dropped out the Canada tie after his shock fourth-round defeat to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open. World number three Raonic is missing after injuring his groin in his quarter-final loss to Nadal.

With top 50 players Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund, Britain will be favourites as Canada’s top singles player is Peter Polanksy, ranked at 128.

The winners of that tie will face either Japan or nine-time champions France in the quarter-finals.

Japan are missing fifth-ranked Nishikori, who was bothered by a hip injury in his defeat to Federer in Australia.

In his absence, Yoshihito Nishioka, ranked 85, leads the Japanese challenge against a French squad who can still boast Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon, both inside the top 25.

Without Federer and Wawrinka, Switzerland will look to Henri Laaksonen and 35-year-old Marco Chiudinelli, both outside the top 100, to shock their American hosts led by Jack Sock, John Isner and Sam Querrey, all in the top 30.

Top seeds Argentina are without Del Potro and Federico Delbonis, the men who won the reverse singles to beat Croatia in the 2016 final, when they start their title defence on clay in Buenos Aires against Italy.

The winners will face either Germany or Belgium who meet in Frankfurt.

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