Novak Djokovic makes light work of Rafael Nadal to win record-breaking seventh Australian Open title

27 Jan

Novak Djokovic produced one of the great grand slam final performances to swat aside Rafael Nadal and become the first man to win seven titles at the Australian Open.

The predictions had been for something akin to their near six-hour battle in the final here seven years ago but Djokovic had other ideas, taking just two hours and four minutes to claim a 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory and a 15th slam crown.

The title, his first in Melbourne since 2016, separated him from the tie he was in with Roy Emerson and Roger Federer, while Djokovic is the first man ever to win three successive slam titles on three different occasions.

It was a day for making history for Djokovic

Three years ago, of course, he went on to make it four in a row by winning the French Open, and on this form even Nadal on clay will be hard pushed to prevent a repeat.

Part of the problem was that the Spaniard did not appear to trust the more aggressive game that had carried him through to the final without the loss of a set and instead reverted to his more defensive clay-court style.

That was manna from heaven for Djokovic, who, instead of fearing the Nadal forehand, sees it as something to be attacked, and time and again he got his reward.

This was their seventh meeting in a slam final and the first to be decided in straight sets, with Djokovic’s final tally of 34 winners and only nine unforced errors demonstrating just what an extraordinary performance this was.

Nadal began their 53rd meeting trailing 27-25 but had not won a set in seven hard-court matches against Djokovic since 2013 so perhaps it was not surprising he began nervously.

Djokovic was ruthless, dropping only one point in the first three games, and only one on serve in a first set that was far less close than the scoreline suggested.

Nadal, who came into the tournament having not played a competitive match since the US Open, was so tight he completely missed an attempted forehand but by the end of the nine games there were at least signs that he was starting to warm to his task.

Djokovic is now the only man to win seven Australian Open titles

But the forehand, which has been so destructive this tournament, continued to be more miss than hit and nothing less than perfection was going to be good enough against Djokovic in this form.

He broke the Nadal serve again to lead 3-2 and finished off the second set with a run of five games in a row.

Nadal was defeated in just over two hours

Djokovic appeared to be throwing in drop shots just to give himself a challenge so utterly in control was he, and the pattern did not change in the third set, with the Serbian moving ahead in the third game.

He finally faced a break point at 3-2 but Nadal netted and with that went his final chance to get any kind of foothold in the match.

Djokovic clinched victory on his second match point when, aptly, Nadal missed once more with a forehand.

Jamie Murray labels Dan Evans as ‘ill-informed and dumb’ following British No.4’s comments on doubles game

21 Jan

Jamie Murray has described Dan Evans as “ill-informed and dumb” as the war of words about the profile of doubles within British tennis intensified.

Jamie, older brother of men’s singles star Andy Murray, accused the Lawn Tennis Association of not promoting the success of doubles enough and undervaluing his coach, Louis Cayer, on Saturday.

Murray is in the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles and mixed doubles events at this year’s Australian Open

That prompted Evans to fire back, telling the Daily Mail: “Jamie thinks we should be celebrating six pairs inside the main draw of a grand slam. So we are celebrating people who didn’t make it at singles and people who didn’t have the attitude to work hard enough to make it in the singles game?

“I like the doubles guys and they’ve done well, but to think we should celebrate this so the kids growing up look up to this as a huge achievement is completely wrong. Kids want to be in the second round of main draw singles events not doubles.”

After reaching the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles and the mixed doubles at the Australian Open, Murray did not hold back in his response, claiming Evans, who is working his way back up the rankings after a one-year suspension for cocaine use, has “made a hash of his career”.

“For me these are lazy comments to make,” he told a press conference. “It is ill-informed and dumb really. Also, to question the reason that we are on the doubles tour is because we don’t work as hard as the singles guys is just total nonsense.

“I’ve been playing the tour since 2007, travelling the world, working my ass off to stay at the top of the game and make a living for myself.

“To come from someone who really hasn’t applied himself as much as he should, and really he has made a hash of his career with his decision-making and stuff. To come out with those sort of comments is just ignorant I think. For me it’s really disappointing.

Evans is on the comeback from a year-long ban given in October 2017 for cocaine use

“Of course when people start playing they want to be singles players because, if you look at the prize money and the glory and stuff, that’s where it is. I’m playing on a tour where 80 per cent of the prize money goes to the singles. At the grand slams it’s even more.

“So we’ve got a much smaller slice of the pie, but I still manage to make a good living playing tennis. Let’s be honest, a lot better living than what Dan has done in his career.

“If he does something that’s noteworthy and deserves recognition then absolutely he should get it, along with anybody else that’s got a GBR next to their name. But just to kind of lazily trash the doubles game, for me it annoys me a lot.”

The row is potentially a problem for Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, with Murray and Evans long-standing members of the team, although Britain do not play until November.

Murray (top left) and Evans (bottom right) were part of Great Britiain’s Davis Cup winning team in 2015

Evans is well known as a straight-talking character, and Murray added: “I’m friends with him. I like him. You know what he’s like, he’s a character. He’ll shoot from the hip, he won’t necessarily think first before speaking, but, if that’s how he feels, that how he feels.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of other guys that maybe think the same but I’m not going to lose sleep over what he thinks about doubles.”

One of Murray’s initial complaints had been that he felt Cayer should be performance director at the LTA, a position held by Simon Timson.

But Cayer insisted he did not want the job, telling the BBC: “I have no intention, I didn’t apply, I don’t want to be performance director. My passion is to coach players on court, and to coach coaches. I’m very valued.”

Cayer also disagreed with Murray that doubles is not supported enough, saying: “Everyone acknowledges that the British doubles system is a world-leading thing. We are recognised internationally, and Jamie is very recognised in Great Britain. I think the LTA really recognises and supports the doubles.”

Roger Federer crashes out of the Australian Open as 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas stuns defending champion in Melbourne

20 Jan

Roger Federer’s was dumped out of the Australian Open by 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas at Rod Laver Arena.

The Greek, who was not born when Federer made his professional debut, has rapidly established himself as one of the most exciting propsects in the game and backed it up spectacularly with a 6-7 (11) 7-6 (3) 7-5 7-6 (5) victory to move through to a first grand slam quarter-final.

Federer was betan by the better man in Melbourne

Federer had not lost a match at Melbourne Park since a semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic in 2016 but his often brilliant forehand was wayward, especially at the big moments, and he failed to take four set points in the second set that might well have changed the outcome.

The 37-year-old must have glimpsed something of his younger self in his opponent, from the flowing single-handed backhand, the willingness to charge the net, and the confidence to believe he could beat his childhood idol, just as Federer did to Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001.

Tsitsipas said: “Roger is a legend of the sport, (I have) so much respect for him. He showed such good tennis over the years. I’ve been idolising him since the age of six. It was a dream come true just being on Rod Laver facing him. Winning at the end, I cannot describe it.”

There was drama from the first game, when Tsitsipas was given two time violations, resulting in the loss of a first serve, and saved two break points.

Tsitsipas played out of his skin

But from there he grew into the match impressively and held his serve more comfortably than Federer, who was struggling to find the timing on his forehand, through to the tie-break.

With the tension levels creeping up and up during a dramatic game, Tsitsipas had three set-point opportunities but could not take them and it was Federer who pounced, taking advantage when his opponent appeared to be put off by a shout from the crowd.

Tsitsipas has received raucous support during the tournament from Melbourne’s large Greek population but, with Rod Laver Arena not open to ground pass holders, most of them had to make do with cheering him on from in front of the big screen.

The noise, which could be heard in Laver, gradually reduced as Federer began to pile on the pressure in the second set. Tsitsipas saved four break points across two long service games and then four set points at 4-5.

The crowd at Melbourne Park were treated to a classic encounter

But that galvanised the young Greek, who stands out from the crowd not just with his flamboyant game but his love of photography and philosophy, and he played much the better tie-break to level the match.

Federer had tightened back up, with his forehand a liability whenever he had an opportunity to press. Having failed to take any of 10 break points across the first two sets, he missed two more chances in the sixth game of the third set.

In the next game, Tsitsipas had his first two openings on Federer’s serve but the Swiss, too, stood firm. However, serving at 5-6, Federer again coughed up two opportunities and this time Tsitsipas took one, inevitably on a forehand error.

Rather like when he wilted in the heat against John Millman at the same stage of the US Open, this was a reminder that Federer is trying to achieve unprecedented things, and even the greatest cannot win the ageing game.

But, if Federer was feeling the pace, so was Tsitsipas, who called the trainer for a leg massage at 4-3, much to the annoyance of his opponent, who was serving next.

The set would be decided by another tie-break, and Federer showed he was not finished quite yet with a brilliant running forehand winner to make it 2-2. However, another missed forehand gave Tsitsipas a first match point, and he did not blink.

Australian Open: Andy Murray beaten by Roberto Bautista Agut despite fighting back to force fifth set

14 Jan

Andy Murray showed that his hip injury has not dulled his fighting qualities as he battled for four remarkable hours before falling to a five-set loss against Roberto Bautista Agut in what could be his last professional match at the Australian Open.

Murray tearfully announced on Friday that he is planning to retire this year, and maybe as soon as after this tournament, the 31-year-old threatened a miracle but was ultimately beaten 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-2 by the Spanish 22nd seed.

Murray’s hopes were not high given the state of his right hip but this was a remarkable performance for a man who admits he struggles to put his shoes and socks on.

Murray’s career may have just come to an end

A kinder draw and Murray might well have delayed the seemingly inevitable but Bautista Agut is one of the fittest and grittiest players on tour, and he fought off the Scot’s comeback.

The snaking queues outside Melbourne Arena of tennis fans wanting to see Murray was a sight to behold and he was greeted by a deafening roar as he emerged onto the court, which has seats available to holders of ground passes.

The crowds may have witnessed Murray’s final act as a professional tennis player

Murray waved and held a thumb up, no doubt determined to soak it all in.

His coaching team, Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, friend and former coach Dani Vallverdu, British players Katie Swan and Harriet Dart and mum Judy were among those in attendance and they were joined during the opening set by brother Jamie, who rarely watches Andy live because he finds it too stressful.

If that was an indication this was far from just another match, the early stages were encouraging, with Murray moving much better than he had in Thursday’s practice match against Novak Djokovic that set the alarm bells jangling.

He was striking his backhand well but movement to the forehand remained a major issue and the ever-present limp slowly became more pronounced.

It was a tough situation for Bautista Agut, taking on the crowd and an opponent who was clearly not at full fitness but whose capabilities on the day remained a question mark.

The Spaniard took the first set after breaking at 4-4 and Murray’s chuntering to himself was a reminder that he still very much wanted to win a tennis match.

There were flickers early in the second set with two break points but Bautista Agut went on to take that too. It would not be Murray, though, if he did not go down without a fight, and fight he did.

Bautista Agut triumphed 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-2

Broken for 1-2 in the third set, he hit straight back, pushing a backhand down the line to finish a vintage point and holding his arms aloft.

There were more celebrations when he fought off a break point at 4-4, and he forced a first set point in the next game. He would have taken it, too, but for an overrule from umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore on a second serve that was backed up by HawkEye.

But Murray was not to be denied in the tie-break, creating two set points when Bautista Agut shanked a forehand over the baseline and taking the second with a forehand guided into the open court.

Murray roared in delight and defiance, his fighter’s instinct drowning out the pain.

Murray’s fightback was remarkable, but he could not see it through

And the heroics did not end there. Murray matched Bautista Agut throughout the fourth set and was the better player in the tie-break.

But he was unable to maintain his momentum early in the fifth set, with Bautista Agut winning five games in a row.

Murray fought back tears as he served at 1-5 but there was still time for one more magic moment as he saved a match point by finishing a long rally with an angled volley winner.

The three-time grand slam champion must now decide on his next move, having said on Friday that his original plan to retire after Wimbledon is in jeopardy because of the amount of pain he is in.

That was echoed by the Scot’s surgeon, and Murray may well choose to have a second operation straight away to improve his quality of life.

Will Andy Murray play at Wimbledon 2019? Tournament dates and prize money for Grand Slam

11 Jan

Sir Andy Murray is set to call time on his illustrious career at this summer’s Wimbledon Grand Slam.

The 31-year-old former world number one has been struggling with a chronic hip condition for more than a year-and-a-half and will hang up his racket this year.

Will Andy Murray play at Wimbledon 2019?

Murray is set to play at the Australian Open next week and is planning to then carry on until Wimbledon.

But he has admitted the severity of his injuries may mean he’ll have to end his career early and not get his dream send off at The All England Club.

Andy Murray is a two-time Wimbledon champion

Will Andy Murray play at Wimbledon 2019?

As it stands yes, Murray will play his last Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon. The Scot is hoping to bow out after the showpiece in SW19 but knows his fitness problems may mean he’ll end his career in Melbourne.

He said: “I’m going to play [at the Australian Open]. I can still play to a level. Not a level that I’m happy playing at. But it’s not just that. The pain is too much really and I don’t want to continue playing that way.

Andy Murray has made an emotional retirement announcement

”During my training block [in Miami last month] I spoke to my team and told them I can’t keep doing this. I needed to have an end point because I was sort of playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop.

“I said to my team, look I think I can get through this until Wimbledon. That’s where I’d like to stop playing. But I’m also not certain I’m able to do that.”

Asked if the Australian Open could be his last tournament, Murray added: “Yes I think there’s a chance of that for sure because I’m not sure I’m able to play through the pain for another four or five months.”

Andy Murray will retire after this summer’s Wimbledon

Andy Murray’s Wimbledon record

Murray made his Wimbledon debut in 2005 and made the third round before being beaten by David Nalbandian in five sets.

He reached three straight semi-finals between 2009 and 2011 before losing to Roger Federer in the 2012 final.

Murray then won his first Wimbledon title a year later, seeing off Novak Djokovic in straight sets and claimed glory again in 2016, beating Milos Raonic.

His last appearance at the tournament was his five-set quarter-final defeat to Sam Querrey in 2017.

Novak Djokovic won at Wimbledon last year

Wimbledon 2019 tournament dates

This year’s Grand Slam will held between July 1 and July 14. It will be the 133rd edition of the famous grass court tournament.

Novak Djokovic won the Men’s Singles last year while Angelique Kerber claimed glory in the Women’s Singles.

Wimbledon 2019 prize money

While the prize pot for this year’s Grand Slam has not been confirmed as of yet, the total amount paid out in 2018 with £34million.

The total prize money has increased every year with £2.4million more awarded in 2018 than in 2017.

Djokovic and Kerber both picked up cheques worth £2.25million for winning last summer.