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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.

Federer wins Nadal thriller to clinch 18th Slam

January 29, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer defied age and his Grand Slam nemesis Rafael Nadal to win a record 18th Grand Slam title in a thrilling, five-set final at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Federer

Federer, 35, won a classic encounter 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to become the oldest major-winner in 45 years and move four titles clear of Nadal and Pete Sampras on the all-time list.

The veteran Swiss jumped for joy and cried tears of happiness as he sealed the win on his second championship point, ending a five-year wait for a big victory after Wimbledon in 2012.

Neither Federer nor Nadal, 30, was expected to reach the final but both players grabbed their chance after the early demise of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

And it was a final for the ages as momentum shifted from one side to the other before Federer finally seized control in the deciding set.

“That is a milestone in my career, they are always epic matches against Rafa,” said Federer, adding: “Rafa has caused me the most problems in my career.”

For Federer, it sealed an astonishing comeback from six months out with injury. His fifth Australian title came seven long years after his last, against Murray in 2010.

“Tennis is a tough sport, there’s no draws. But if there was going to be one I would have been very happy to accept a draw tonight and share it with Rafa, really,” Federer said.

“Keep playing please, Rafa. Tennis needs you.”

Federer becomes the oldest major champion since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972 at the age of 37.

His ranking has dipped to 17 after a knee problem ended last season following Wimbledon, but he will now rise to 10 when the new rankings are released this week.

It was the 35th meeting between the two long-time rivals with Nadal now leading 23-12 and 6-3 in major finals, including his five-set win over Federer in the 2009 Australian final.

“I would have said a great event would be making the quarters,” Federer said of his pre-tournament expectations.

“Today I just drove myself forward, I said, “Believe in it, run for the ball. Serve and run, serve and run. Just fight and see if you get lucky.

“I did, really got lucky tonight.”

Nadal, who has also come back to form and fitness after an injury-ravaged 2016, has held the edge over Federer in major finals, winning their last four.

“It’s amazing how well he’s playing after being away for so long. For sure, you have been working a lot to make that happen. I am very happy for you,” Nadal told the crowd.

“It was a good month for me, amazing month for me, really enjoyed it. I worked very hard to be where I am today. Probably Roger deserved it a little bit more than me.”

“I’m just going to keep on trying. Feel like I’m back to a very high level. I’ll keep fighting this season.”

Federer, playing aggressively and with a flatter backhand than normal, took the match to Nadal and got the only service break to take the opening set.

Nadal fought back with two breaks to level before Federer got the bit between his teeth with a double break in the third set.

The Spaniard hit back in the fourth set with a service break in the fourth game to take the final into a fifth set.

He again broke the Swiss early in the final set but Federer stirred himself and broke Nadal twice before serving out for a brilliant and emotional victory.

Federer, considered by many as the finest player in tennis history, is now the first man to win five or more titles at three different Grand Slam events.

He has collected five Australian Opens, seven Wimbledons, five US Opens and one French Open in a span of victories which now stretches across 14 years.

Federer, Nadal clash in blockbuster Aussie final

January 29, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will collide in a hugely anticipated Australian Open final on Sunday after both veterans beat the odds to open a new chapter in their thrilling Grand Slam rivalry.

Tennis

Federer, 35, will become the oldest Grand Slam finalist in 43 years, while Nadal, 30, has defied a series of injuries to reach his first major title match since he won the 2014 French Open.

It’s a final that nobody saw coming but after the early exits of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the old rivals have seized their opportunity with both hands.

For Federer, it’s a chance to extend his all-time record tally of Grand Slam wins to 18, and exact a measure of revenge on his long-time nemesis.

Nadal can win his 15th Grand Slam title, closing the gap on Federer and drawing level with Pete Sampras in second place on the all-time list of major-winners.

It comes after Serena and Venus Williams, aged 35 and 36 respectively, met in the women’s final — making it the first Open-era Grand Slam tournament where all four singles finalists have been in their thirties.

Neither of the former world number ones was expected to reach the final after injuries disrupted their seasons last year and their rankings dipped, to 17 for Federer and nine for Nadal.

The unexpected reprise of one of tennis’s great rivalries will be their ninth meeting in a major final, the most between any two players in the post-1968 Open era.

Nadal has won six of their major finals, with Federer’s last victory in 2007. But the Spaniard said past results were irrelevant.

“It’s a different match, different moment for both of us. I think this match is completely different than what happened before,” he said.

“It’s special. We have not been there in that situation for a while, so that makes the match different.

“I really don’t think about what happened in the past. I think the player who plays better is going to be the winner.”

The pair last contested a Grand Slam final at Roland Garros three years ago. They also met in the Australian Open semi-finals in 2014, with Nadal winning each time.

“Now it’s a different time. A lot of time has gone by,” Federer said. “I know this court allows me to play a certain game against Rafa that I cannot do on centre court at the French Open.”

It will be Federer’s sixth Australian Open final and his 28th Grand Slam decider in total, and caps a marvellous comeback after the second half of last season was wiped out by a knee injury.

He has thrilled his many fans with his revival, having not figured in a Grand Slam final since the 2015 US Open.

“This is the last one (match) so I will leave it all out here in Australia and if I cannot walk for another five months I will give it all I have,” Federer said.

Federer can become the first man to win five or more titles at three Grand Slam events, while Nadal stands to become the only man in the Open era to win all the majors at least twice.

Serena beats Venus to win record 23rd Slam title

January 28, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Serena Williams rewrote history Saturday to surpass Steffi Graf and capture a record 23rd Grand Slam title as well as the world number one ranking by beating her sister Venus in the Australian Open final.

The dominant American swept past her greatest rival 6-4, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena for her seventh Melbourne Park crown to finally clinch the record for Open-era major titles, nearly 18 years after winning her first.

The 35-year-old, who equalled Graf’s mark of 22 at Wimbledon last year, now stands just one behind the all-time 24 won by Margaret Court, who was in the president’s box to witness Williams’ feat.

Her astonishing achievement also means she again becomes the world’s top-ranked player, ending the brief stay of Angelique Kerber who knocked Williams off the top after three-and-half years in September last year.

Fittingly, her sister and closest confidante Venus was on the other side of the net to share the moment, another chapter written in their long rivalry.

It was Venus — still a teenager with beads in her hair — who knocked Serena out in round two on her Grand Slam debut in Melbourne 19 years ago, and they have since played nine major finals together, living each other’s highs and lows.

At 36 and seeded 13, Venus had turned back the clock to make her first Grand Slam title match since Wimbledon in 2009, but adding to her seven major successes was not to be.

Showing the single-mindedness that has propelled her to greatness, a focused Serena, seeded two, overcame a scratchy and nervous start in which all four opening games were breaks and when she smashed a racquet in frustration.

But she soon settled to get a decisive break to go 4-3 in front with an unstoppable backhand, and served out the set with an ace.

Serena was fired up and after the first two games of the second set went to serve, she worked three break points in the third only for her sister to negotiate her way out of trouble with some big forehand winners.

The tense battle went with serve to 3-3 before Serena cranked up the pressure to break with a scintillating crosscourt backhand and take a 4-3 lead.

With history beckoning, she wasn’t about to throw it away and she served out the match, falling to the floor in celebration before a long embrace with Venus to share the biggest moment of her career.

Nadal edges Dimitrov to set up dream Federer final

January 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Rafa Nadal had to be at his battling best to outlast Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-4 at the Australian Open on Friday and set up a mouth-watering ninth grand slam final meeting with his great rival Roger Federer.

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN

The 30-year-old Spaniard looked every inch a 14-times grand slam champion as he slugged it out with his 25-year-old opponent over nearly five hours on Rod Laver Arena to reach his first major final since the 2014 French Open and 21st overall.

“Grigor was playing unbelievable, it was a great match,” Nadal said.

“I feel very happy to be part off it, I enjoyed it a lot. To qualify for the final in a match like this is amazing.”

With 35-year-old Serena Williams facing her 36-year-old sister Venus in Saturday’s women’s final and a rested Federer, 35, waiting for Nadal on Sunday, it is the first time in the open era that all four finalists at a grand slam have been over 30.

Dimitrov, riding high on a 10-match winning streak and seeking his first grand slam final, did his best to keep the twentysomething standard flying into the weekend, firing 79 winners.

There were no signs of the mental frailties that have prevented Dimitrov from fulfilling the potential promised by his nickname “BabyFed” as he went blow-for-blow with the powerful left-hander.

Ninth seed Nadal had conceded only six breaks in reaching the final four but was forced to save two break points in the opening game alone, setting the tone for a frenetic evening.

The 2009 champion soon hit his stride, though, and a booming pass that the world number 15 was unable to get back gave Nadal a break for 3-1 and he wrapped up the opening set in 35 minutes.

The Bulgarian refused to buckle, though, and pounced to break to love for a 3-1 lead in the second set, Nadal perhaps distracted by a time violation warning.

From there, the set descended into chaos with both players broken twice and Nadal forced to save four set points before Dimitrov evened up the contest on the fifth.

The break points continued to come thick and fast in the third set, Nadal converting his third and Dimitrov his fourth to keep the set on serve.

After a short break while a spectator received medical attention in the stands, Nadal held for 6-6 and the set went into a tiebreaker.

Nadal missed a large part of the 2016 season because of a wrist injury but proved there was nothing wrong with his fitness as he scrapped to win it, sealing the deal with a blistering forehand which Dimitrov parried into the net.

With the break points having dried up completely in the fourth set, a tiebreaker looked inevitable and Dimitrov quickly took control of it before serving up a 195 kph bomb to send the contest into a decider.

There were chances for both men in the fifth but, with midnight long past, Nadal came to the net to punch a backhand into the back court, break for 5-4 and earn the right to serve for the match.

Still Dimitrov would not lie down, though, and Nadal needed three match points to win his 12th straight grand slam semi-final and reach his fourth Australian Open final.

“I don’t think either of us thought we would be playing in a major final at the Australian Open,” Nadal said of he and Federer.

“First of all I hope to recover well, I think it’s a privilege for both of us.”

Bulgarian blockade as Nadal eyes Federer final

January 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal will try to set up a hugely anticipated Australian Open final with his old rival Roger Federer when he plays the in-form Grigor Dimitrov in the semis on Friday.

Nadal

Few gave injury-hit thirty-somethings Nadal and Federer any chance pre-tournament but the Swiss maestro is already into Sunday’s title match and his long-time sparring partner is keen to follow.

The early defeats of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic opened the door to other challengers and Federer and Nadal have shown they’re still at the front of the queue.

Nadal, 30, has looked fit and aggressive, if not fully back to his best, in beating third seed Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Alexander Zverev in his last three matches.

“All of them are top players. So that’s very important for me because that means that I am competitive and playing well. I worked hard to try to make that happen,” Nadal said.

The 14-time Grand Slam-winner, now ranked ninth, is aiming for his first major final since in two-and-a-half years after returning from an injury-wrecked 2016.

But Bulgaria’s Dimitrov, once dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ for his similarity to Federer, poses an interesting test as he is in the form of his life and playing with new focus and determination.

Dimitrov has beaten five top-20 players in a 10-match winning streak this year, equalling the best of his career, which includes his victory this month in Brisbane.

“He’s a player that has an unbelievable talent, unbelievable potential. He’s started the season playing unbelievable,” Nadal said.

“It’s going to be a very tough match for me. I hope for him, too. I have to play my best because he’s playing with high confidence.”

The 2009 winner is 7-1 in his matches with 15th seed Dimitrov, including a four-set quarter-final win at the Australian Open three years ago.

Another salient statistic is that Nadal is 66-8 against players with one-handed backhands at Slams.

The last time the Bulgarian won 10 straight matches was back in 2014, when he took the title at Queen’s and reached the last four at Wimbledon.

“I feel like I have all the tools to go further and my job isn’t over yet,” Dimitrov said. “I’m looking forward to my match. I think I’m prepared.

“I think I’m ready to go the distance. I don’t shy away from that. I’m confident enough to say that as I feel good physically, and overall on the court.”

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