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News & media

Keep up to date with all the breaking news, feature articles and previews as we draw closer to Australian Open 2016.

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    Novak Djokovic in action at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome; Getty Images
    With history on the line for Novak Djokovic at the French Open, who presents an obstacle to his success? Todd Woodbridge argues that the biggest threat may come from within.
    | 19 May, 2015

    Todd Talks: Djokovic under intense pressure

    By Todd Woodbridge

    A piece of tennis history hangs in the balance over the next three weeks – can Novak Djokovic place himself among tennis’s immortals by winning at Roland Garros and completing a full set of Grand Slam titles?

    If you go by form it’s a fait accompli. Novak has dominated the sport this year and arrives in Paris on a 37-match win streak, his last loss being to Roger Federer in Shanghai in October.

    If you were to put a short list together of players who may challenge Djokovic, it is a list of the usual suspects.

    Federer, the world No.2, is playing as classically as ever but as his loss to Djokovic in the Rome final showed, he doesn’t hold the intimidation fact he once did.

    Andy Murray is as fine-tuned and confident as he has ever been coming into Paris, but the reality is he has a better chance of knocking off Novak at Wimbledon where the parochial crowd can become involved.

    Rafael Nadal continues to struggle with confidence and he could walk out with all nine Roland Garros trophies under his arm, but that wouldn’t worry Novak this year.

    So who can beat him? The biggest threat comes from within.

    There’s a fine line between being prepared and overdone, and my sense is he now has placed enormous pressure on himself due to the brilliance of his season so far.

    Regardless of who you are it wouldn’t be human not think about the streak and when the inevitable loss may come. Perhaps it may have been better to have lost a match over the last month, just to release the pressure valve a little and redirect some attention to the others.

    Even the greatest can be affected by their own expectations. I vividly remember watching Roger Federer is his quest to win an Olympic singles gold; he fell short in the final and on that day he was flat. Sometimes knowing how close you are can cause you to expend an enormous amount of emotional energy.

    So the biggest factor over the next couple of weeks for Djokovic will be coping with his nerves. Both physical and mental strength are tested more on clay than any other surface, and it will be absorbing viewing.

    Fortunately for Djokovic, no player is presently better equipped to deal with this.

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    Petra Kvitova (L) shakes hands with Serena Williams after defeating the world No.1 in the 2015 Mutua Madrid Open semifinals; Getty Images
    At some point someone needs to take over the mantle of world No.1 from Serena Williams. But who? Todd Woodbridge believe the signs point to Petra Kvitova.
    | 12 May, 2015

    Todd Talks: Petra poised for top spot?

    By Todd Woodbridge

    At some point someone needs to take over the mantle of world No.1 from Serena Williams. But who? My choice is Petra Kvitova.

    As one of the game’s sweetest ball strikers she is an underachiever in my eyes. There is so much untapped ability there that I find myself frustrated she hasn’t excelled outside of the All England Club.

    I commentated on her two Wimbledon victories in 2011 and 2014 and not even Serena has played finals more perfectly than what I witnessed.

    At last though it seems that there has been an absolute commitment and dedication to achieving her full potential. At the end of 2014, her decision to hire Alex Stober – a former ATP physiotherapist and trainer to Li Na – was a stroke of genius.

    There are many similarities between Kvitova’s situation and with what Martina Navratilova did when she made the decision to fully commit to a rigorous fitness and dietary regime; it transformed Navratilova into one of the greatest female athletes of all time.

    News this week that Kvitova and Stober have ended that relationship is a shock, as Stober had already improved her athleticism with a strong off court fitness regime; over a short time it has been obvious that Kvitova’s confidence and self believe are stronger.

    If she is going to challenge she must stick with this regime, because the time is now for her to put the foot down on the accelerator. Otherwise, mother time will pass her by.

    Although Serena has been brilliant this season and is the clear favourite going into Paris, the clay at Roland Garros has never been easy for her, and of the other women in the draw I feel it’s Kvitova who is well placed for a third Grand Slam title.

    With her win in Madrid last week there is renewed confidence – I hope Kvitova fires in Paris because when her strokes flow, nobody is better to watch.

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    Kei Nishikori practises at Australian Open 2015 as coach Michael Chang watches on; Getty Images
    Todd Woodbridge believes the coaching partnership between world No.5 Kei Nishikori and former great Michael Chang could reap dividends at Roland Garros.
    | 02 May, 2015

    Todd Talks: Nishikori primed for success

    By Todd Woodbridge

    In 1989 Michael Chang became the youngest ever men’s Grand Slam champion when he defeated Stefan Edberg in the final of Roland Garros at the age of 17 years and four months.

    I spent this past weekend running clinics and a Fast4 corporate challenge with Michael in Shanghai, China as part of the Australian Open’s long term strategy of growing the game and the event in the Asian market.

    Over my ATP singles career I played Michael on 17 occasions, the most I ever faced one individual. At just 175cm in height he was small in stature but had one of the strongest hearts and minds in the sport – throw in the fact he was the quickest mover, and you can see why he was successful.

    Chang is now coaching world No.5 Kei Nishikori and sees an enormous amount of himself in the Japanese talent.

    Being an American-born Chinese, Chang scoffs at the suggestion that Asian players are not physically strong enough to succeed at the top. He points out that his size never held him back – instead, it is all about the mental belief and body language.

    Chang’s counsel to Nishikori has been to remind him to be different, to stand out from the normal cultural behavioural patterns, and to be a leader by showing aggression on the court – both in the power of his game and, more importantly, his personality.

    Over the weekend we watched closely as Nishikori defended his title in Barcelona. The Barcelona clay is quite firm under foot with a faster, higher bounce, very similar to the clay of Roland Garros.

    Looking ahead to the French Open, Novak Djokovic is the clear favourite; should he falter, it seems of all the young contenders ready to grab an opportunity in an era of Big Four dominance, it is Nishikori who is primed to deliver.

    Nishikori goes into the Roland Garros as a US Open runner-up and with career wins over Djokovic, Federer and Murray. The only scalp he is yet to take off the top four is Rafael Nadal, a nine-time champion in Paris.

    In life and sport we build teams around us in the hope of achieving success. Andy Murray made the right choice in choosing Ivan Lendl, and major titles followed.

    I see Nishikori’s choice in selecting Michael Chang as equally perfect and wouldn’t be surprised to see Nishikori lifting the trophy in Paris in a few weeks time.

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    ausopen.com streamlined site
    Ausopen.com has adopted its streamlined form following the conclusion of Australian Open 2015, emphasising tournament information that fans most want to access in an easy-to-navigate design.
    | 06 March, 2015

    ausopen.com adopts “year-round” format

    By ausopen.com

    Ausopen.com has adopted its streamlined form following the conclusion of Australian Open 2015.

    The “year-round” version of the site emphasises tournament information that fans most want to access, in an easy-to-navigate design that can be viewed across all desktop and mobile platforms.

    It features easy access to ticketing, membership and event information, job applications and tournament news.

    “We want to give fans another experience which simplifies their access to information that we know they are after at this time of year, including tickets, and it was important that the site could be viewed across a range of devices,” explains Kim Trengove, Manager Digital & Publishing at Tennis Australia.

    Fans can still access information – such as scores, draws and player profiles – from the 2015 tournament from a link on the homepage.

    Ausopen.com will remain in its current, more streamlined format outside of tournament dates, switching to the official Australian Open 2016 tournament website – developed by Australian Open technology partner IBM – ahead of the tournament in January.

    “This will serve to keep fans up to date with the most relevant tournament news, special offers and updates on ticketing and membership information throughout the year,” Trengove says.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Premium ticket collage
    Get ready to secure your tickets to another edition of unforgettable Grand Slam tennis at Australian Open 2016 - and why not do it in style?
    | 06 March, 2015

    Secure your place at Australian Open 2016 in style

    By ausopen.com

    With more than 700,000 spectators attending the 2015 tournament, the Australian Open continues to be one of the hottest tickets in sports and entertainment.

    And should you want an enhanced experience, a Premium Ticket Package is the perfect option.

    As well as reserving some of the finest stadium seats from which to take in the world-class action, you will also enjoy access to several stylish environments where you can wine, dine and relax.

    What’s more, with Premium Ticketing and Hospitality packages for Australian Open 2016 going on sale soon, you can be among the first to secure your tickets at one of the world’s biggest sporting and entertainment events.

    For expressions of interest, please contact the Premium Ticketing team on 1300 309 166 or email [email protected]

    And get ready for another edition of unforgettable Grand Slam tennis.

    Australian Open 2016 will be staged on 18-31 January at Melbourne Park.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

    Premium-ticketing-featured-image

     

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    Roger Federer in action at Australian Open 2015
    Dan Imhoff gazes into his crystal ball and predicts what will happen in the men’s game after the season’s first major.
    | 02 February, 2015

    Fearless ’15 predictions: The men

    By Dan Imhoff

    1. Federer will fall from No.2 but rise for Wimbledon No.8
    With a tour-leading 73 match wins last season, Roger Federer will have a tough time bettering that in 2015. But it is the big ones the Swiss great plays this game for after all, so expect him to rebound from a train-wreck of an Australian Open campaign to break clear of Pete Sampras with an eighth trophy on the turf at the All England Club. It’s a little soon to be cramming his second set of twins courtside to witness that final, so he won’t be hanging up the racquet any time this season.

    2. Djokovic will claim his first French Open
    This one’s sure to ruffle a few feathers among the Rafanatics, but the Serb will finally land the one slam missing from his collection. As a more accomplished mover and strategist with the red dirt under foot than Sampras was in Paris, he will rightfully pass the American great as a player owning each of the four majors on his mantelpiece.

    3. Murray will challenge Djokovic for the top ranking
    Having recovered the confidence lacking in 2014 on his sluggish return after back surgery, Murray’s typical brick-wall retrieving, combined with a fresh team beginning to gel, will bring a fresh approach and renewed belief to see him regularly pushing deep at all four majors. Consistent results as opposed to any huge breakthroughs are what will see him better the fluctuating seasons of Rafael Nadal and Federer.

    4. Kyrgios will crack the top 25
    Already having surged to No.35 in the world after his quarterfinal run at Melbourne Park, the 19-year-old has scant points to defend outside Wimbledon. He won just one tour match outside the slams last year, so it is not unreasonable to expect he will be seeded in time for the Indian Wells-Miami stretch. Improved match conditioning will see him notch more match victories, while he’ll change up the design of those sculpted tracks shaved into his noggin at an increasing rate of once a month. Expect him to be Australia’s highest-ranked player, man or woman, by year’s end.

    5. Cilic won’t back up his watershed 2014 moment
    The affable Croatian won’t repeat his 2014 US Open with a spate of ongoing injury lay-offs and the added pressure of defending a Grand Slam title proving too much, seeing him drop back out of the top 10.

    6. Raonic and Nishikori will remain slamless
    If Djokovic, Nadal and Federer remain fit in 2015, the big-serving, lumbering Canadian will not go close to landing a maiden Grand Slam title, having a one from 15 record against these three. Nishikori has already conceded he may be a few years off breaking through, but he will have the best season of the two. Watch him to again fire at Flushing Meadows.

    7. Dimitrov will reach first slam final
    While Dimitrov too may be some way off cracking the Grand Slam duck, he will follow up his breakthrough at Wimbledon from 2014 by going one better this time around on either the grass or on the hardcourts at Flushing Meadows to contest his first final. His record against the Big Three is almost as bad as Raonic’s – one from 13 – so he will likely have to buck this trend against at least one of them to reach a decider.

    8. Nadal will not win a slam for first time in 11 years
    Back, knee, shoulder, foot, wrist and appendix. The injury list mounts. This one is purely dependent on which joint decides to pack it in next for the Spaniard. Granted, if he is even close to fully fit, he will rack up double digits in Roland Garros crowns and inch closer to Federer’s 17-slam record. But having missed or been severely hampered at each of the other three majors at least once in his career, odds are it will eventually happen at his go-to slam.

    9. Hewitt will rack up more wildcards than match wins
    The stalwart of Australian men’s tennis for the past decade has announced he will hang up the racquet after his Melbourne Park campaign in 2016. It’s a year-long farewell tour, where he will likely skip the claycourt swing to rest those weary feet on the sands of the Bahamas before arriving early on the practice courts at SW19 to scatter a few pigeons in the opening rounds at Wimbledon. The soon-to-be 34-year-old’s ranking will plummet, and match wins away from the grass will be scarce.

    10. It will be a torrid return for Del Potro
    Another round of wrist surgery is not out of the question for Delpo, so even if that is a success and he plays pain-free again, he will then have the enormous mental burden of wondering whether one of his two suspect wrists will again fail him. There’s as much chance of him switching to a single-handed backhand as there is of Murray cheering for the England football team, and it is likely to be a limited schedule for 2015. Injury-free though, and if the confidence returns, the Tower from Tandil will stifle the hype over Raonic and co and show he is still the player to best shake up the Big Four in the majors.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Serena Williams poses with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, following her women's singles victory at Australian Open 2015.
    With a record-breaking Australian Open 2015 having come to an end, we celebrate the champions who hoisted the silverware across the various events at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. Men’s singles: Novak Djokovic (SRB) Women’s singles: Serena Williams (USA) Men’s doubles: Simone Bolelli (ITA) / Fabio Fognini (ITA) Women’s doubles: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) / Lucie […]
    | 02 February, 2015

    Meet your Australian Open 2015 champions

    By ausopen.com

    With a record-breaking Australian Open 2015 having come to an end, we celebrate the champions who hoisted the silverware across the various events at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

    Men’s singles: Novak Djokovic (SRB)

    Women’s singles: Serena Williams (USA)

    Men’s doubles: Simone Bolelli (ITA) / Fabio Fognini (ITA)

    Women’s doubles: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) / Lucie Safarova (CZE)

    Mixed doubles: Martina Hingis (SUI) / Leander Paes (IND)

    Boys’ singles: Roman Safiullin (RUS)

    Girls’ singles: Tereza Mihalikova (CZE)

    Boys’ doubles: Jake Delaney (AUS) / Marc Polmans (AUS)

    Girls’ doubles: Miriam Kolodziejova (CZE) / Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)

    Men’s wheelchair singles: Shingo Kunieda (JPN)

    Women’s wheelchair singles: Jiske Griffioen (NED)

    Men’s wheelchair doubles: Shingo Kunieda (JPN) / Stephane Houdet (FRA)

    Women’s wheelchair doubles: Yui Kamiji (JPN) / Jordanne Whiley (GBR)

    Quad wheelchair singles: Dylan Alcott (AUS)

    Quad wheelchair doubles: David Wagner (USA) / Andrew Lapthorne (GBR)

    > for full event draws, visit the Australian Open 2015 tournament website

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    Novak Djokovic poses in the locker room following his victory over Andy Murray in the Men's final of AO 2015.
    Novak Djokovic's form was patchy but he still won his fifth AO title because of his amazing mental fortitude. It also established him as arguably the best hardcourt player of his generation.
    | 01 February, 2015

    Mental toughness Novak’s greatest weapon

    By Matt Trollope

    Novak Djokovic. Mental giant.

    Of all the takeaways from this year’s Australian Open, this is arguably the most significant as the world No.1 cemented his place in tennis history with an Open-era record fifth Australian Open crown on Sunday night.

    Throughout the fortnight at Melbourne Park, Djokovic failed to convince. He never played with the sustained consistency and intensity for which he is famed. He scratched his way to victories against Fernando Verdasco and Gilles Muller in rounds three and four. He overcame listless play and swathes of errors in the semifinals to see off defending champion Stan Wawrinka.

    There were times he gasped for air. Times he appeared to be struggling with physical ailments. He frequently fired exasperated or desperate looks at his entourage throughout the latter rounds of the tournament. He was bothered by a nasty grazed thumb after a fall in the final against Andy Murray.

    Yet when it counted, he was impenetrable.

    In the semis, Wawrinka simply couldn’t stay with the streaking Serb, falling to a 6-0 defeat in the fifth set. Ditto Murray, who after winning the second set and breaking serve to move ahead 2-0 in the third, lost 12 of the next 13 games – and the last nine straight – and wilted while the top seed recovered from a physically shaky patch of play and began to relax and swing freely.

    Winning final sets to love against some of your toughest rivals in the two biggest matches of the tournament? It’s extraordinary.

    “I can’t say how proud I am. That (result) is going to serve definitely only as a great deal of inspiration for the rest of my career,” he said.

    “In these particular matches and circumstances, mental strength probably plays the most important role. In winning those matches, you need to be able to find that inner strength, mental, physical, emotional, especially when you’re down in the finals and when you’re playing a top rival.

    “There’s a lot of things that can influence your state of mind. Of course, it’s not always possible to be 100 per cent concentrated for three-and-a-half hours. But it’s important to keep going because you fall many times, but mental strength allows you to keep going.”

    Djokovic’s mental strength was something that was being called into question last season. He fell in the Roland Garros final to clay-court nemesis Rafael Nadal, making it his third straight loss in his last three Grand Slam final appearances. Appearing to be slightly psychologically tortured, there was also the theory that impending marriage and fatherhood were potential distractions for the 27-year-old.

    A five-set victory in the 2014 Wimbledon final over Roger Federer dispelled all such chatter and banished those lingering mental demons.

    Six months later, he holds another major crown.

    “I think it has deeper meaning, more intrinsic value now to my life because I’m a father and a husband. It’s the first Grand Slam title I won as a father and a husband. Just feel very, very proud of it,” he explained.

    “I try to stay on the right path and committed to this sport in every possible way that I have had in the last couple of years and try to use this prime time of my career really where I’m playing and feeling the best at 27. This is why I play the sport, you know, to win big titles and to put myself in a position to play also for the people around me.

    “Getting married and becoming a father in the last six months was definitely something that gave me a new energy, something that I never felt before. And right now everything has been going in such a positive direction in my life. I’m so grateful for that. So I try to live these moments with all my heart.”
    With an all-time-high crowd attendance of more than 700,000 fans and an Open-era record sixth women’s crown for Serena Williams securing her a 19th major victory, Australian Open 2015 has been defined by both the creation and re-writing of history.

    With his four-set victory over Murray, it’s worth considering Djokovic’s place within it. A sparkling record of five titles at Melbourne Park from five finals moves him into second place behind six-time winner Roy Emerson on the all-time list of Australian Open winners. It’s his eighth major championship, drawing him level with legends Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Ken Rosewall and Fred Perry.

    And it arguably establishes him as the best hardcourt player of his generation, a title he now lays claim to over another legitimate contender in Murray; Djokovic has now defeated his Scottish rival in all three Australian Open finals they have contested.

    “(Tonight) it was a similar situation (against Murray) two years ago in Australian Open final, 2013, where two sets went over two hours, was a similar battle. Then I felt that I had some physical edge over him in that match. That was in back of my mind. That was something that kept me going,” Djokovic revealed.

    “And obviously the importance of the moment, being in finals of Grand Slam. I didn’t want to give up. I try never to give up. Even though I went through this moment (of physical distress), I believed that I’m going to get that necessary strength. I’m going to have to earn it, and that’s what I did.”

    He believed, and he emerged victorious. Such a result will only serve to bolster his confidence further. And moving forward, this could mean many more Grand Slam wins.

    Novak Djokovic, the mental giant, may one day also be considered a giant within the tennis pantheon.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Andy Murray in action at Australian Open 2015
    The changing of the guard in the men’s game has still to materialise but some players' stars are definitely rising, while others fell well short of expectations.
    | 01 February, 2015

    Winners and losers: the men

    By Michael Beattie

    WHO SHONE?

    Andy Murray
    Even before Sunday’s final, Andy Murray’s Australian summer had put clear water between himself and the frustrations of 2014. He arrived with unbeaten singles runs at Abu Dhabi’s Mudabala World Tennis Championship and the Hopman Cup in Perth, and moved through the gears with each passing round in Melbourne to give himself another shot at his first Australian Open title.

    He may be back to his snarling, scrambling best on court – just ask Tomas Berdych – but Murray has been every bit as impressive off it, advocating more female coaches in the sport and pleading with the Australian public to take it easy on Nick Kyrgios as he finds his way in the men’s game. He may have lost his fourth Australian Open final from four attempts, but it’s good to have the real Andy Murray back.

    Nick Kyrgios
    Talk about holding court. The undisputed people’s champion of week one, Kyrgios barnstormed his way to a second Grand Slam quarterfinal, riding some huge serving, hard hitting and the swell of Aussie support in the stands though to his debut appearance at Rod Laver Arena.

    He fell to Murray in the last eight, but what a journey to get there: from the bad-tempered five-setter with Federico Delbonis in the first round, his court jester asides with the crowd as he disarmed Ivo Karlovic, the statement of intent against Malek Jaziri and the comeback from two sets down against Andreas Seppi that shook Hisense Arena to its very foundations.

    Having played his last major as a teenager, Kyrgios is already a dozen wins into his Grand Slam career yet still in search of his second ATP Tour win. Just another brilliant absurdity in the #NKrising story – this kid is the real deal.

    Honourable mentions
    Tim Smyczek, for his sportsmanship as the match of his life slipped from his grasp; Gilles Muller, the 2008 US Open quarterfinalist who beat two seeds to reach the second week of a slam for just the second time in his career; and Novak Djokovic, who has dragged himself through to a fifth Australian Open final, finding a way to win against defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals.

    WHO EMERGED?

    Thanasi Kokkinakis
    With Kyrgios joining seven of the eight top seeds in the quarter-finals, breakthrough performances were rare commodities in the men’s draw. But the sight of 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis high-fiving every front-row member of the crowd following his first-round win after ousting No.11 seed Ernests Gulbis in five sets was a joy to behold. That he backed it up by pushing fellow Aussie Sam Groth to a decider was every bit as impressive, if for his powers of recovery alone.

    With the Special Ks in town, the future of Australian men’s tennis looks every bit as bright as the gaudy fluoro gear they both pitched up in this year.

    Honourable mention
    James Duckworth – another Aussie who made good use of his wildcard, winning his opening match against Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic.

    WHO DISAPPOINTED?

    Federer and Nadal
    With 31 Grand Slams between them, the bar is so high for these two that anything but the semifinals feels like a let-down – not in judgment of their talents, but in the context of the grand narrative that has dominated men’s tennis for the past decade.

    Nadal’s get-out-of-jail win over Tim Smyczek in the second round and quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Berdych come with the increasingly regular mitigation: injury-induced lack of playing time leading up to the tournament. The Spaniard had considered withdrawing altogether as he struggled to get match fit. All the same, it was tough to watch battle with himself as much as his opponent.

    There was no lucky escape for Federer, who arrived brimming with confidence after his Brisbane International title coincided with his 1,000th tour win. Andreas Seppi had won just two sets in 10 previous defeats against the 17-time Grand Slam champion but undid Federer in the third round, the standout shock of the men’s draw.

    France
    Allez les Bleus indeed. The 12 Frenchmen who made it to the main draw combined for eight wins in Melbourne, one of which was handed to Edouard Roger-Vasselin by Tommy Robredo’s retirement, while another was guaranteed – and even that turned out to be a tough first-round five-setter for Gael Monfils against compatriot and wildcard Lucas Pouille.

    Former finalist and French No.1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the first to go, withdrawing before the tournament even began with the arm injury that also restricted his involvement in the Davis Cup final still causing him problems. The last men standing were Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet, who reached the dizzy heights of the third round before being run into the ground by David Ferrer and blasted off court by Kevin Anderson, respectively. At least Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut reached the doubles final…

    (Dis)honourable mentions
    Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori. Did exactly what the seeding expected of them, but hopes that this Australian Open would provide further evidence that the next generation was set to storm the Big Four hegemony were dashed by the time the quarterfinals were over.

    > Re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Martina Hingis (L) and Leander Paes pose with the trophy after winning the Australian Open 2015 mixed doubles title
    Martina Hingis partners Leander Paes to the mixed doubles title – beating Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic 6-4 6-3 – 12 years after Paes won the same trophy with Martina Navratilova.
    | 01 February, 2015

    Paes lands ‘Martina’ double

    By Michael Beattie

    Twice retired, 16 times a Grand Slam champion: Martina Hingis has a major title to her name in this third chapter of her career, partnering Leander Paes to beat Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-4 6-3.

    The Swiss former world No.1, who won seven Australian Open singles and doubles titles before her first break from the sport in 2003, collected a second mixed doubles crown in Melbourne to go with her 2006 triumph, won during her second spell in professional tennis.

    It is the second time Martina and Leander have lifted the mixed doubles trophy, only this time the Indian – now a winner of 15 men’s and mixed doubles titles – was partnering the 34-year-old having won in 2003 with the player she was named after, Martina Navratilova.

    “Martina – thank you for lending me Leander!” Hingis joked, drawing a smile from Navratilova in the stands. “I know you won your last (Australian Open) title together. Not even in my wildest dreams that 20 years later I’d be standing here again.”

    Hingis and Paes opened their campaign against Australia’s ‘Win a Wildcard’ winners Sam Thompson of Donvale and Werribee’s Masa Jovanovic. The Melburnians, who went down 6-2 7-6(2), no doubt took heart from their Swiss-Indian No.7 seeds’ run to the title.

    Defending champions Nestor and Mladenovic had earned their berth the hard way, beating top seeds Sania Mirza and Bruno Soares in the semifinals. The final pitted the Canadian and Frenchwoman’s power and angles against the craft and movement of Hingis and Paes, both showed great reflexes at net in the opening exchanges.

    It took a while for the Indian to find his best form early on, and a sloppy service game kept the French-Canadian pair in contention after slipping 3-0 down. But the No.7 seeds’ i-formation line-up caused plenty of problems for their opponents, who were driven to distraction by the 41-year-old’s roving at the net, backed up by some sterling defensive work from Hingis.

    Mladenovic took a wild swing at a backhand drive volley to hand a set point at 4-5, and Nestor double-faulted to give up the first set in 29 minutes.

    The Frenchwoman profited from a lucky net cord as her return foxed Paes’ attempted intercept to break for a 2-1 lead in the second, but the 21-year-old fell to a break in the very next game. She did Nestor no favours at net in game six with some poor volleys and in a flash the No.3 seeds were 4-2 down, but Hingis could not maintain the pressure as the Canadian secured the break back with an unplayable return.

    Still, Hingis and Paes were on top, moving their opponents around the court with some deft touches and fine returns. When Nestor was unable to protect Mladenovic’s serve in game eight the writing was on the wall, and Hingis sealed victory with a backpedalling smash that Mladenovic could not field.

    “It’s a great honour to keep coming back to Australia,” said Paes, who paid tribute to the workers behind the scenes after winning his seventh mixed doubles title, five years on from his last victory – a triumph he put down to finally playing with Hingis at a major.

    “There are a few people who got us together,” the 41-year-old said. “All you guys back home who put us together to win our first Grand Slam, thank you.”

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Serena Williams (L) and Maria Sharapova pose with their trophies after the Australian Open 2015 women's singles final, won by Williams.
    Alix Ramsay says predicting shifts in the women's game is no easy task, but that if A0 2015 has taught us anything it is that Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will take some shifting.
    | 01 February, 2015

    Fearless ’15 predictions: The women

    By Alix Ramsay

    Women’s tennis – the future landscape, the boss said. Tell us about that. Given that it is the last day of the tournament and everyone is exhausted (not only does the water go the wrong way down the plughole in Australia, they appear to have 35-hour days here in Melbourne), none of us can remember our own names at this point; predicting the future might be an ask too far. Right, then: the future landscape… Well, scanning the horizon, it looks pretty flat apart from two large peaks and a small hillock. Now read on…

    1. Serena and Shazza is the only show in town
    What the past two weeks have taught us is that, in their pomp, the current world Nos.1 and 2 are streets ahead of everyone else. The other women can have their moments but when it comes to sheer, dogged, you’re-not-having-this-point-if-it’s-the-last-thing-I-ever-do determination and champion’s spirit, neither woman can be matched. There will be times during the year when they are not at the physical best – that is an occupational hazard for any player – and there will be times when they are not fully match-tough, but when it comes to the business end of a slam, you will have to kill them to beat them. And then, in time honoured fashion, Serena meets Shazza and Serena wins. It seems to be one of the laws of nature.

    2. Keys to success
    At last, America has cause for hope. Young Madison Keys has brought a smile to the face of America – her run to the semifinals at Melbourne Park was a real sign that she is a keeper. For years, the Land of the Free has been looking for someone to follow in the footsteps of the Williams sisters; many have tried, none has succeeded. Until Madison, that is. She has a huge serve and a clumping forehand and now, coached by Lindsay Davenport, she has a wealth of experience to call on when she needs it. While Lindsay teaches her how to focus and think like a serial winner, Madison’s raw power is pushing her on and up the rankings. Watch this space.

    3. Growing up is hard to do
    The likes of Genie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens still have a long way to go before they can cut it with the big girls. My dear old dad used to call their like “promising youngs” (ever the optimist, Dad regarded himself as a “promising young” until the day he died), but at some point the new generation have to grow up and become proven pros. Genie was given a lesson in how it’s done in the quarterfinals by Shazza and as for Sloane – she of the alarming personal revelations in Elle magazine but the terse, snarky responses in post-match pressers – was summarily dismissed in the first round by Victoria Azarenka. There is more to being a champion than having nice ground strokes and a bit of attitude.

    4. Mighty atoms
    Simona Halep is a fighter, as is Dominika Cibulkova. Yet last year’s French Open and Australian Open finalists have a small problem – they are small. Halep is 1.68m (5ft 6in) and Cibulkova is an even more diminutive 1.60m (5ft 3in). And Halep lost in the quarterfinals to Ekaterina Makarova, while Cibulkova took a pasting from Serena in the last eight. The amount of work both women have to do to deal with the sheer power that so many of the bigger women can generate with apparent ease means that every round in every tournament is a potential banana skin waiting to send them skidding towards the exit. They will have their moments, will these mighty atoms, but they will struggle to claim the major prizes.

    5. London Calling
    Petra Kvitova left Melbourne in a hurry, bundled out in the third round by Madison Keys. Now, Petra at her peak is a wonder to behold. Her lefty serve and thundering power have taken her to two Wimbledon titles – even she was amazed at the shots she was pulling off in her thrashing of Genie Bouchard in SW19 last year. When she won Wimbledon in 2011, she was overwhelmed by what she had achieved but when she won again last July, she was ready; she knew had what it took to win a Grand Slam. She may not be the most consistent of performers but don’t take your eyes off her when she gets back on the grass in a few months’ time.

    6. Oh, Ana…
    What can you say about Ana Ivanovic? She has the power, she has the talent and she has the looks to be a world-class superstar. Alas, she does not have the brain for the job. Not that she lacks smarts – in fact, she probably has too much brain power for her own good. When the situation gets tight, Ana gets to thinking and the more she thinks, the more she frets. And the quicker she loses. She didn’t make it past the first round here and you do wonder how far she will go in the three slams to come this season.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Serena Williams poses with the trophy after winning the Australian Open 2015 women's singles title; Fiona Hamilton
    On a night where she surpassed Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with her 19th major crown, Serena Williams has Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 titles within her grasp.
    | 31 January, 2015

    Serena scaling the mountain

    By Alix Ramsay

    Chris Evert sounded ever so slightly miffed. In her post-playing career as a TV pundit, she had just watched Serena Williams break the record she had held for the best part of 30 years by beating Maria Sharapova in Saturday night’s Australian Open final and claiming her 19th major trophy.

    Well, that was a nice way to treat a fellow living legend. Evert had racked up 18 of the big pots by 1986. Four years later, her old mate and biggest rival, Martina Navratilova had matched that – at Wimbledon in 1990 – but she had not beaten it. But just four months after she and Martina had welcomed Serena into the “18 club” at the US Open – and got her an 18-carat Tiffany gold bracelet to mark the occasion – she waltzes off and up the honours board and is now setting her sights on Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 major titles.

    Still, Evert knew she was watching history being made. If the world No.1 stays fit and focused, who knows how many of these trophies she can stash away?

    Certainly, Sharapova cannot stop her. The Russian is far and away better than anyone else in the chasing pack, but after her 6-3, 7-6(5) defeat, her 16th on the bounce to the new champion, she does not seem to have the physical wherewithal to take on the great Serena.

    Not that this win was easy for Serena. Struggling with a heavy cold, she bolted from the court after the first-set rain delay with a severe coughing fit. She had been hacking away as she returned to the court, but once there, she was in real trouble.

    “I had a really bad cold and a really bad cough,” she said. “I ended up throwing up, actually. I think that helped me – when I got everything out of me, cleared my chest out. I just got a really bad cold and a really bad cough. Usually when that happens, you stay in bed and don’t play matches every other day and practice every day.

    “I’ve never done that before. I guess there’s a first time for anything. I think in a way that just helped me – I felt better after that. My chest was really stuck at that point.”

    Fully cleansed, she set about Sharapova as only she can – welting her serve and racking up the aces (18 in all). Shazza did what she could, giving everything she had in the second set, but it was still not enough. She fended off a couple of match points, leathering the ball as hard as she could, and doing it with nerves of steel, but Serena was not to be stopped.

    Even when she was called for hindrance – yelling ‘come on’ before Sharapova had had time to hit her return – she did not flinch. There were times when she was nervous, sure enough, but any outside distractions were not going to get in the way of her winning another slam.

    Now, when she had been called for the same offence in 2011 US Open final against Sam Stosur, she went nuts. And she lost. This time, she went back to the baseline and served again. Although, when she won the next point, she waited, she looked at the umpire and then she said, very pointedly, ‘come on’ – the umpire may have been in charge, but Serena was the real boss in RLA.

    “It just goes to show you I have more fun on the court,” she said. “I would have never done that three years ago, four years ago. I would have stayed so in the zone, so focused. I’m like, ‘okay, I’m going to have a little fun with this. I’m really enjoying myself’. That’s what I want to do. Every match I want to go out and just enjoy myself. Whether I win or lose, I just want to have fun. So I just kind of made a little sarcasm after that. And I didn’t want to get another hindrance call, so I was really careful not to do that anymore.”

    And when one poor hack asked her, in all innocence, whether she had ever been called on the hindrance charge before, Serena had a little more fun. Rolling her eyes and then looking around the packed interview room, she left a pregnant pause and then answered: “Do you follow tennis?” as everyone giggled.

    With 19 titles to her name, she is already thinking about the 20th. The French Open has not been her happiest hunting ground – a paltry two trophies won there. Tsk, tsk – and her recent record at Wimbledon has not been too clever either.

    “When I think about Paris, I don’t think about 20,” she said. “I just think about winning there. It’s the one slam I only have two titles at. And Wimbledon I’ve been struggling. So I think, okay, now that I got this under my belt, I’m a little more comfortable with my ranking now. Now I can really move. Like I did so bad last year at Roland Garros, and Wimbledon as well. So those are the two I really have my eye on, because I would like to do better at those. And I know I can do better. I’m not going into it not as number 20, but I want to win Roland Garros.”

    And if she gets her wish and turns around her recent results at both events, she will be up to 21 titles, just one step away from Steffi Graf’s record. There will be an awful gnashing of teeth in the TV commentary booth if she manages to equal that particular record.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Madison Keys in action during her semifinal loss to Serena Williams at Australian Open 2015
    Dan Imhoff runs the rule over who shone, who emerged and who disappointed on the women’s side of the draw at Australian Open 2015.
    | 31 January, 2015

    Tale of the tape: the women

    By Dan Imhoff

    WHO SHONE?

    Venus Williams
    Rolling back the years, the 34-year-old American joined sister Serena in the quarters of a slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2010. It wasn’t quite time for dad Richard to bring back his little white board welcoming fans to the “Williams Show”, but it was cause for celebration nonetheless considering Venus’s comeback from injuries and the energy-sapping Sjogren’s Syndrome. Entering her 15th Australian Open campaign, Williams had sounded a warning shot by winning the lead-up event in Auckland, but there is a perpetual question at this stage in her career whether her health will hold up. She sprung the upset on sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, before bowing in a changing of the guard to Madison Keys in the last eight.

    Serena Williams
    A perfect half-dozen Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cups in her grasp, the Williams juggernaut rolled on with Serena surpassing Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for her 19th Grand Slam singles crown. Despite being well below optimum health in the final, she continued her absolute dominance of Maria Sharapova, having now come out on top in her past 16 stoushes with the Russian, dropping just one set in her past 12 showdowns. Despite mid-tournament glitches, dropping sets to Elina Svitolina and Garbine Muguruza, the world No.1 continued her trend of having gone on to win the title at Melbourne Park every time after passing the quarterfinals. Further endearing herself to the crowd, she donated $200 for every ace she served this tournament to motor-neurone disease research.

    Ekaterina Makarova
    Unlike the prolific Russian top-tenners before her to have played second fiddle to one M. Sharapova, lefty Makarova shuns the spotlight and has never really figured in discussions of potential slam contenders come the fortnight’s end. That may be about to change after the Muscovite reached her second-straight Grand Slam semifinal, the third time she has made the quarters or better at Melbourne Park. She fell somewhat meekly to her countrywoman Sharapova, but her straight-sets wallopings of third seed Simona Halep and rising Czech Katerina Pliskova, in particular, showed what this now well-entrenched top-liner is capable of producing.

    WHO EMERGED?

    Madison Keys
    The standout of the 2015 women’s event, the bubbly down-to-earth American is a breath of fresh air. That unbridled power has always hinted at her potential, but until former American great Lindsay Davenport came on board in the off-season, it was never really harnessed. Until now. The 19-year-old swung from the hip to down two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and backed it up with an upset of seven-time major winner Venus Williams before falling short against Serena in her first slam semifinal. It was enough for the world No.1 to deem her a major champion in waiting.

    Garbine Muguruza
    The vivacious Venezuelan-born Spaniard Muguruza looked like becoming just the fifth player to upend Serena Williams twice in a major when she took the first set of their fourth-round clash. Serena’s not a fan of those kind of statistics and ultimately found her serve and her confidence, but it was enough to suggest the 21-year-old Muguruza is on track to become a regular fixture in the second week of majors.

    WHO DISAPPOINTED?

    Ana Ivanovic
    ‘Toegate’ goes some way to explaining the Serb’s first-round disaster, but before cries of “don’t sink the boot in”, so to speak, consider this. For the first time in years, the world No.5 was again a serious slam contender. She was impressive in reaching the Brisbane final having bagged four trophies last season, and was cruising when up a set against Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka in her opening assignment. From there though, those flaky shaky days of old returned, with it later emerging she was sporting a fractured toe.

    Coco Vandeweghe
    Sure, her go-for-broke groundstrokes paid dividends in her upset of Aussie slam winner Sam Stosur at Rod Laver Arena, but it was the American’s failure to back up the win in the following match against unheralded compatriot Madison Brengle which earns Coco her place on the list. She salvaged just five games, broke only once from eight attempts, and misfired with nearly four times the number of unforced errors.

    Simona Halep
    The typically consistent and dogged Romanian was completely off in her quarterfinal flunk against Makarova, smacking an error on average every couple of minutes. After reaching the Roland Garros decider last year and finishing the year at No.3, big things were expected of Halep, but after a 6-0 second set to end her campaign, the 23-year-old made the surprising admission she no long believed after losing her concentration.

    The Germans
    Barring Julia Goerges reaching the fourth round at a major for the first time in two years, it was a tournament to forget for her seeded Fed Cup teammates. It was a trifecta of first-round upsets, with ninth seed Angelique Kerber having a shocker, falling to Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu; 13th seed and 2011 quarterfinalist Andrea Petkovic falling at the first hurdle to American Madison Brengle; and 28th seed Sabine Lisicki being humbled by Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.

    > Re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Rafael Nadal in action at Australian Open 2015
    The strange, the funny, the insightful and the downright baffling – the best quotes from the men at AO 2015.
    | 31 January, 2015

    They said it: The men

    By David Packman

    The Australian Open is well known for producing some winners off the court as well as on – and the 2015 edition has proved no exception. Player press conferences and interviews have once again provided a treasure trove of humour, insight and, well, some awkwardness to boot.

    Here’s the top five from the men … and the best “non-quote” for good measure.

    RAFA GOES ALL EXISTENTIAL …
    When asked what might have been if he managed to clinch that vital third set tiebreaker against Tomas Berdych, Rafa quipped philosophically that “if” doesn’t exist in sport. “If. If. If. Never comes,” he said. “The thing is, you have to do it.” We’re quite certain Nike would have been proud.

    … BUT CALLS A SPADE A SPADE
    After his loss to Berdych, Rafa was making no bones about his form. When USA Today’s Nick McCarvel suggested he had been “up and down” this tournament, Rafa asked him to repeat his question. “You’ve had a very good match and you’ve had a so-so match today,” said McCarvel. “No, not so-so,” Rafa smiled. “Very bad. You can say it, no problem.”

    SMYCZEK: THE GOOD BLOKE
    In Aussie lingo, American Tim Smyczek would be officially dubbed “a good bloke” after his act of sportsmanship during his five-set loss to Rafa reverberated around the world. The moment: After a fan yelled out from the crowd, he called for Nadal to replay his first serve rather than have it declared a fault – which subsequently led to match points against him. “I want to congratulate Tim because he was a real gentleman,” Rafa said in his press conference. Smyczek simply said it was the right thing to do.

    A BIT OF KYRGIOS CHEEK
    Teenage quarterfinalist Nick Kyrgios played up to his reputation during his on-court interview after a tidy four-set victory over Ivo Karlovic in the second round. When the interviewer said to him: “It was a good comeback from you in that fourth set, because you know, Newk [John Newcombe] said in the commentary ‘Lose this one, you’re into a fifth, anything can happen,’” Nick responded: “Well, yeah, that’s usually what happens when you lose a fourth set, you go into a fifth one.” Kyrgios also followed up his verbal handiwork with a tweet.

    FREEBALLIN’, YES I’M FREEBALLIN’
    Andy Murray’s impending nuptials with fiancé Kim Sears has been a talking point this year, but discussion was fairly standard until he was asked during an on-court interview if he would wear the kilt in the traditional Scottish way. He asked the crowd to “relax” before replying: “Yes obviously, proper kilt”. When pressed on whether that meant he would be ‘freeballing’ – no underwear –Murray said “exactly”. Kim shook her head and smiled while mother Judy just laughed.

    … AND FINALLY, THE NON-QUOTE
    The quote that everyone wanted to hear but never came involved Tomas Berdych. After snapping Rafa’s 17-match winning streak over him, everyone expected him to up the ante on Vitas Gerulaitis’ famous line after finally defeating Jimmy Connors in 1980 to end a similar run. “And let that be a lesson to you, nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row,” the flamboyant American said at the time. Fast forward to 2015 – asked if nobody beats Tomas Berdych 18 times in a row, the Czech missed out a momentous opportunity, saying only “Well, no. I heard that already …”

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the official tournament website

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    Eugenie Bouchard waves to the crowd after a win at Australian Open 2015
    The strange, the funny, the insightful and the downright baffling – the best quotes from the women at AO 2015.
    | 31 January, 2015

    They said it: the women

    By David Packman

    The Australian Open is well known for producing some winners off the court as well as on – and the 2015 edition has proved no exception. Player press conferences and interviews have once again provided a treasure trove of humour, insight and, well, some awkwardness to boot.

    Ahead of the women’s final, here’s the best of the girls.

    WHAT HAPPENS IN RUSSIA STAYS IN RUSSIA
    Maria Sharapova was curious as to why gathered media laughed when she said she didn’t know whom her compatriot Maria Kirilenko was getting married to. “Why are people laughing?” she said. After being told it was odd she didn’t know, the second seed simply said, “What happens in Russia stays in Russia.”

    TO TWIRL OR NOT TO TWIRL?
    Canadian fan favourite Eugenie Bouchard seems to have a knack for finding herself in awkward situations Down Under. After bursting the bubble of the Genie Army with her Justin Bieber moment in 2014, she was this year asked in an on-court interview to “give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit” after her win over Kiki Bertens. She said afterwards that she was fine with it – if men were asked to “flex their muscles and stuff” as well. Serena Williams was more circumspect on the matter: “I don’t know. I twirl all the time in dance class.”

    Eugenie was also caught a little off-guard after her fourth round match, this time by a question about her mid-match toilet break. “What did you find back there?” she was asked. Her response was apt: “The toilet.” Makes you wonder if players twirl in a different direction here in the Southern Hemisphere.

    SERENA DOES SOME CROWD-SOURCING
    When Serena Williams was a set down and struggling in her fourth round contest against Garbine Muguruza, she heard a voice in the crowd. “Use some spin”. She took heed and came back to post a memorable victory. “There’s coaches everywhere out here,” she said on-court afterwards before pointing to someone in the crowd: “It was you? Thank you!” Interviewer Rennae Stubbs then suggested she give the fan a cut of the prize money: “Five per cent?” “Come on Rennae!” was Serena’s response.

    SUPER BOWL MADNESS TAKES OVER
    With the Super Bowl on the radar this weekend, Serena, a co-owner of the Miami Dolphins, seemed best placed to answer the question of which tennis players would make good football players? “Well, I would be quarterback for sure … or linebacker,” she said. “I would love to be a linebacker. I just love to block.” She went on: “Nadal would be a good running back because he’s low and he can run fast. Roger would be a good quarterback. He’d be a great quarterback. What about some of the ladies? Venus, wide receiver. Absolutely, wide receiver. Genie would be a good cornerback. Maria, I’m not sure. I don’t know. Maybe she’s a good cornerback as well because she’d be able to be out in the field, produce some blocks. It would be fun. We should all get together and play.” As for the Super Bowl itself? We’re with quad wheelchair tennis player David Wagner. Go Seahawks!

    KIM S(W)EARS
    Finally, there was tension aplenty during Andy Murray’s semifinal victory over Tomas Berdych, and Andy’s fiancée, Kim Sears, was right in the thick of it, aiming what appears to be an expletive-laden outburst in the direction of the Berdych camp. Murray later said that in a match of such high stakes, such things are to be expected. “When there’s a lot of tension surrounding something, which (the media) created, then it’s completely normal,” he said, adding that his team had prepared for it. In that case, let’s hope Kim got her lines right.

    > re-live Australian Open 2015 at the tournament website

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    Mark Philippoussis; Getty Images
    Former World No.8 Mark Philippoussis is set to return to the courts of Melbourne Park, teaming up with Frenchman Henri Leconte in the Australian Open 2015 Legends tournament.
    | 31 December, 2014

    Philippoussis set for Australian Open return

    By ausopen.com

    Former World No.8 Mark Philippoussis is set to return to the courts of Melbourne Park at Australian Open 2015 and will team up with Frenchman Henri Leconte in the Australian Open Legends tournament.

    “Playing at the Australian Open is always a thrill, especially as it’s on my home ground,” Philippoussis said today.

    “The Australian Open attracts one of the most competitive line-ups in the world and I’m looking forward to putting the heat on some of my old on-court rivals.”

    A finalist at Wimbledon in 2003 and at the 1998 US Open, Philippoussis joins a star-studded line-up of top players-turned-coaches including Michael Chang (USA), Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) and Goran Ivanisevic (CRO).

    Ivanisevic, who famously defeated Australia’s Pat Rafter to claim the 2001 Wimbledon title, has turned his hand to coaching with spectacular success, guiding current world No.9 Marin Cilic (CRO) to a US Open crown.

    On the opposite side of the net at this year’s memorable US Open final was Japanese sensation Kei Nishikori, coached by 1989 French Open champion Chang, the youngest ever Grand Slam men’s singles champion, who is set to make his debut at the Australian Open legends event in 2015.

    Former world No.3 Ljubicic, who coaches current world No.8 Milos Raonic (CAN) and also manages current world No.7 Tomas Berdych (CZE), will be hoping to improve on his Australian Open 2002 campaign when he was beaten by returning legend Wayne Ferreira (RSA).

    Also returning for the Legends tournament in 2015 are former world No.1 and triple Australian Open singles champion Mats Wilander (SWE), Australian Open 1999 runner-up Thomas Enqvist (SWE) and two-time Australian Open doubles champion Fabrice Santoro (FRA) as well as crowd favourite Henri Leconte (FRA).

    Other Aussie legends include 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash and last year’s event winners Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge who together claimed two Australian Open doubles titles.

    Also returning to Melbourne Park and debuting in the Legends draw, is former world No.4 Jelena Dokic whose fairytale run to the Australian Open 2009 quarterfinals is a fond memory for many fans.

    Also in the draw are three Grand Slam champions-turned-coaches – 18-time major winner Martina Navratilova (USA), Australian Open 2000 champion Lindsay Davenport (USA) and 1997 French Open champion Iva Majoli (CRO), who coach respectively world No.6 Agnieszka Radwanska (POL), world No.30 Madison Keys (USA) and world No.82 Donna Vekic (CRO).

    Joining them in the field is 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli (FRA).

    Legend’s tournament director Todd Woodbridge said that fans should expect some very competitive and exciting tennis at Australian Open 2015.

    “The 2015 Legends field is a super-competitive bunch especially with the addition of Aussies Mark Philippoussis and Jelena Dokic,” Woodbridge said

    “I know I definitely want to win and I think the coaching rivalry between Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic and Ivan Ljubicic will just add more fuel to the fire.”

    The Legends tournament will take place between Saturday 24 January and Friday 30 January 2015 at Melbourne Park. The full field will be announced in the coming weeks.

    Men

    Fabrice Santoro (FRA)
    Goran Ivanisevic (CRO)
    Henri Leconte (FRA)
    Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)
    Jonas Bjorkman (SWE)
    Mansour Bahrami (IRI)
    Mark Philippoussis (AUS)
    Mark Woodforde (AUS)
    Mats Wilander (SWE)
    Michael Chang (USA)
    Pat Cash (AUS)
    Thomas Enqvist (SWE)
    Thomas Johansson (SWE)
    Todd Woodbridge (AUS)
    Wayne Arthurs (AUS)
    Wayne Ferreira (RSA)

    Women

    Barbara Schett (AUT)
    Iva Majoli (CRO)
    Jelena Dokic (AUS)
    Lindsay Davenport (USA)
    Marion Bartoli (FRA)
    Martina Navratilova (USA)
    Nicole Bradtke (AUS)
    Rennae Stubbs (AUS)

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    Former world No.24 Benoit Paire will be among the entrants at Australian Open 2015 qualifying; Getty Images
    With an exciting array of talent dotted through the draws and a main draw berth on the line, Australian Open qualifying is must-see action for tennis fans.
    | 30 December, 2014

    AO qualifying a tennis fan’s dream

    By Matt Trollope

    For hardcore tennis fans, Australian Open qualifying is one of the best times of the year.

    They can watch some of the world’s best tennis players – for free – across multiple courts at Melbourne Park in the week preceding the tournament. And with most of these matches taking place on the intimate outside courts, they can get right up close to the action.

    The prize for qualifiers is a main draw berth at the year’s first Grand Slam event, meaning the competition is fierce and matches often dramatic. And because the draws feature an exciting mixture of former top players making their way back from injury or rediscovering form, up and coming stars and local talent, there are interesting plotlines wherever you look.

    Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic, at world No.105, heads the 128-player men’s event while Teliana Pereira of Brazil is the highest-ranked of the 96 female competitors. Many Australians will remember Kavcic, who overcame local James Duckworth in a second round five-set epic in gruelling heat at Australian Open 2013.

    Duckworth, ranked 127th, is also in the qualifying draw, leading a large contingent of Aussie men featuring John Millman, Luke Saville, John-Patrick Smith, Matt Ebden and Ben Mitchell. They will be joined by 18-year-old Harry Bourchier, who has been granted a qualifying wildcard after winning the 18/u Australian Championships.

    Olivia Rogowska and Anastasia Rodionova will fly the Aussie flag in the women’s field, as will Olivia Tjandramulia, the 17-year-old Queenslander who, like Bourchier, is a wildcard entry after capturing the 18/u national girls’ title.

    The draws are laced with players who were once ranked in the elite upper echelons of the game.

    There is a host of former top 100 ranked Americans including Ryan Harrison, Bradley Klahn, Robby Ginepri – who once peaked at world No.15 – and Tim Smyczek while the women’s draw will see Shahar Peer (former world No.11), Virginie Razzano (former No.16), Su-Wei Hsieh (former No.23) and Sesil Karatantcheva (former No.35) all lining up for a shot at the main draw.

    Two Frenchman – former No.24 Benoit Paire and Nicolas Mahut, once ranked as high as 37th – also fall into this category. Both are famous for their Grand Slam exploits; Paire lit up Margaret Court Arena at last year’s Australian Open with his electrifying five-set defeat of Aussie talent Nick Kyrgios, while Mahut made history with John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010, falling 70-68 in the fifth set of their first round encounter, the longest match ever played.

    The theme of family is strong at Melbourne Park in 2015; among the qualifying entrants are Austrian brothers Jurgen and Gerald Melzer – Jurgen being a former top 10 star – and Ukrainian twins Lyudmyla and Nadiia Kichenok. Meanwhile, Poland’s Urszula Radwanska and Czech Kristyna Pliskova will aim to join their higher-ranked sisters Agnieszka and Karolina respectively in the main draw when they begin their qualifying campaigns.

    And let’s not overlook the emerging brigade of talent who will pepper the men’s and women’s qualifying draws.

    The Grand Slam nations are producing several exciting prospects on the men’s side, with Kyle Edmund (GBR) and Enzo Couacaud (FRA) – both still teenagers – among the starters and looking to continue their impressive transition to the senior ranks.

    On the women’s side, Canada’s Francoise Abanda – who stretched world No.10 Dominika Cibulkova to three sets at this year’s WTA Rogers Cup in Montreal – and Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, a former world No.4 junior who qualified for Wimbledon this year, are two more teenagers who will be ones to watch in qualifying.

    Another is Adam Pavlasek, the 20-year-old former top 10 junior who will arrive at Melbourne Park with matches under his belt after representing the Czech Republic at Hopman Cup alongside Lucie Safarova.

    Australian Open 2015 qualifying will be staged at Melbourne Park on 14-17 January 2015.

    Entry is free and gates open at 9:30am each day; the event is also live-streamed with broadcast and commentary on ausopen.com.

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    Shingo Kunieda in action at Australian Open 2014; Getty Images
    Japanese duo Shingo Kunieda and Yui Kamiji will headline the men’s and women’s fields for the Australian Open 2015 Wheelchair Tennis Championships 2015 at Melbourne Park from 28-31 January.
    | 24 December, 2014

    Japanese stars headline wheelchair field

    By ausopen.com

    Japanese duo Shingo Kunieda and Yui Kamiji will headline the men’s and women’s fields for the Australian Open 2015 Wheelchair Tennis Championships 2015 at Melbourne Park from 28-31 January.

    The year’s first Grand Slam event will feature the top seven ranked male players in the world as of the entry cut-off date, as well as one wildcard, while the women’s event will be contested by the world’s top eight.

    Kunieda heads into Australian Open 2015 after yet another stellar year on the ITF Wheelchair circuit; he produced a magnificent 51-1 win-loss record during a season highlighted by singles titles at the Australian, French and US Opens as well as the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.

    Kamiji, named the female ITF World Champion in 2014 alongside Kunieda who was awarded the men’s honour, rose to world No.1 for the first time in 2014 shortly before winning at Roland Garros; she later capped her breakout season with victory at Flushing Meadows.

    Local interest in the event will be driven by Sydneysiders Ben Weekes and Adam Kellerman, who will go head-to-head in a one-match showdown to secure the single men’s wildcard up for grabs.

    Fellow Australian Dylan Alcott will carry hometown hopes in the men’s quad event, with the Victorian entering the tournament after a stellar season during which he peaked at world N0.2 and went 34-11 as well as winning four titles.

    He will be joined by fellow top-four stars David Wagner (USA), Andy Lapthorne (GBR) and Lucas Sithole (RSA).

    The full field is listed below (figures in brackets indicate world ranking at cut-off date):

    Men Rank Women
    Shingo Kunieda (JPN) 1 Yui Kamiji (JPN)
    Stephane Houdet (FRA) 2 Aniek van Koot (NED)
    Gordon Reid (GBR) 3 Jiske Griffioen (NED)
    Gustavo Fernandez (ARG) 4 Sabine Ellerbrock (GER)
    Nicolas Peifer (FRA) 5 Jordanne Whiley (GBR)
    Maikel Scheffers (NED) 6 Marjolein Buis (NED)
    Joachim Gerard (BEL) 7 Sharon Walraven (NED)
    8 Katharina Kruger (GER)
    Australian WC winner TBD WC
    Quads Rank
    David Wagner (USA) 1
    Dylan Alcott (AUS) 2
    Andy Lapthorne (GBR) 3
    Lucas Sithole (RSA) 4
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    Jordan Thompson poses with his Australian Open 2015 player accreditation following victory in the final of the Australian Open 2015 Play-off; Elizabeth Xue Bai
    Jordan Thompson has come through the most dramatic of Australian Open Play-off finals to confirm his place in the main draw at Australian Open 2015.
    | 21 December, 2014

    Thompson wins dramatic Play-off decider

    By Matt Trollope

    Jordan Thompson has come through the most dramatic of Australian Open Play-off finals to confirm his place in the main draw at Australian Open 2015.

    The New South Welshman defended his Play-off title with an epic 6-1 6-3 1-6 6-7(2) 9-7 over second seed John-Patrick Smith, played in brutally hot conditions at Melbourne Park on Sunday.

    As the match wore on and the temperature climbed into the mid 30s, it became a battle of physical fitness and mental will over technique and tactics.

    The trainer was on court attending to both players; Thompson suffered a blood nose and quadricep cramps while Smith sustained a jarred knee and was later stricken with even more serious cramps.

    Slumped in a courtside chair following the victory, Thompson spoke to the media and recounted “the most gruelling match” he had ever played.

    “I couldn’t even remember the score when I was winning – I just knew I had to win one more game,” he said.

    “If I go to five in the Australian Open hopefully I’ll be fitter for it and hopefully it won’t be as hot, because I really think that hurt me.

    “I just competed really well and got there in the end.”

    It was a match of wild momentum swings. Thompson led by two sets to love and seemed on course for a routine victory, only for Smith to find the range on his errant forehand and begin to work his way back into the match.

    Thompson became extremely frustrated as the left-handed Queenslander moved towards leveling scores, and once it was two sets apiece, Smith looked to have won the mental battle.

    Thompson’s shoulders slumped as he fell behind 0-3, 15-40 in the deciding set – a deficit that after the match he could not even recall.

    Yet he produced some powerful first serves when he needed them to escape that hole and get on the board at 1-3, and after Thompson broke serve in the fifth game, Smith called for the trainer to attend to his knee.

    His movement compromised, Smith still managed to keep his nose in front; with game’s going on serve, he moved ahead 4-3 and watched as Thompson collapsed to the court with his first episode of cramping.

    With both men walking wounded, Thompson was the first to gain a seemingly decisive advantage, breaking serve in the ninth game and scoring an opportunity to serve for the match.

    He was promptly broken to love.

    He gained another opportunity when he broke serve to lead 7-6. And was subsequently broken at 15.

    But it was in the very next game that Smith’s body almost completely gave way. It was gut-wrenching viewing as his leg almost completely locked up with cramps and immobilised him; after an extended time between points, he carried on, but double faulted to surrender his serve for a third time.

    Leading 8-7, Thompson made no mistake on his third attempt to serve out the match, roaring in delight as Smith committed a final error.

    “Even the last game was tight, but I think when he started taking a few more timeouts my cramps started to feel a bit better, so that helped me … I was trying to feed off it (when Smith cramped) because I knew I was feeling better than him,” the 20-year-old said.

    “It means the world (to win), to play another home Grand Slam is amazing.”

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    Daria Gavrilova poses with her Australian Open 2015 player accreditation following her victory in the final of the Australian Open 2015 Play-off; Getty Images
    Daria Gavrilova has capped a stunning comeback from injury to win the Australian Open 2015 Play-off and secure a main draw wildcard into the year’s first Grand Slam event.
    | 21 December, 2014

    Gavrilova scores Australian Open 2015 wildcard

    By Matt Trollope

    Daria Gavrilova has capped a stunning comeback from injury to win the Australian Open 2015 Play-off and secure a main draw wildcard into the year’s first Grand Slam event.

    And she did so in fine style, reeling off 11 of the final 14 games to record a comprehensive 6-4 6-2 victory over Arina Rodionova.

    This time last year, Gavrilova was on crutches after suffering a serious right knee injury, “jealous” watching from the sidelines as other players competed for a prized main draw berth.

    But this year she secured one herself, and was thrilled to have done so.

    “I still can’t believe it. I’m just really happy and I don’t know what to say,” she laughed.

    “I actually thought about it during my match. I was like ‘oh wow you were on crutches last year, so come on, keep fighting, you can do it’. So that helped.”

    Initially it was the fourth-seeded Rodionova who looked the form player of the two, barely missing a ball and attacking strongly to immediately break serve and build a 2-0 lead, winning eight of the first nine points.

    Gavrilova enjoyed a settling service hold in the third game, producing some winners and appearing to find her range.

    Down 3-1, Gavrilova held then broke to level scores at three all before coming through an epic seventh game featuring 11 deuces; the two women could barely be separated as they each gained and lost several opportunities to nudge ahead.

    “Wow,” was Gavrilova’s response when asked to assess the importance of the seventh game.

    “I said (to myself) if you win this game, you’re going to win the match.

    “Although I lost the next game I still thought I was tougher that time, and I could be tough again.”

    Indeed, Rodionova held serve comfortably to level scores at 4-4, but Gavrilova’s confidence had surged – she smacked a swinging volley winner on the way to holding for 5-4, and broke in the next game by forcing errors and producing winners to take the second set.

    Players were evenly-matched at the beginning of the second set but it was Gavrilova who made the first move; with her grunts becoming louder, she cracked a down-the-line forehand winner to hold for 2-1.

    In the next game – another deuce struggle – Gavrilova broke with a delightfully angled crosscourt backhand winner.

    From there the floodgates opened. Gavrilova produced another three winners – she was especially damaging off her forehand wing – to consolidate the break and push ahead 4-1. Two games later another swinging volley winner helped her hold to love for 5-2 and she quickly reached three match points in the eighth game as Rodionova wilted.

    She narrowly missed two would-be winners, but sealed victory on her third match point when Rodionova erred.

    “It just feels great that I won it,” she said.

    “I feel like I deserve to be in the main draw of the Australian Open.”

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