The new tennis season has begun with one ITF and a few ATP/WTA events on January 3, 2016. Top men and women players are testing themselves ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam at Melbourne. The new-year week began with the Hopman Cup at Perth, where the best mixed-gender teams from eight nations are fighting for top honor. For the first time in Hopman Cup’s 28-year history, Australia are being represented by two different teams. Veterans Lleyton Hewitt and Jarmila Wolfe are in Australia Gold team while Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova represent Australia Green. On January 4, men’s events got underway at Chennai and Doha while Brisbane Open also had women players besides men. World’s no.1 Novak Djokovic and no.6 Rafael Nadal are playing at Doha while women’s top star Serena Williams has chosen to represent USA at the Hopman Cup. Also playing for Great Britain in Hopman Cup is world no.2 Andy Murray while world no.3 Roger Federer has chosen to play at Brisbane. At the Aircel Open in Chennai, Stan Wawrinka is trying for his third straight title before flying to Australia.
The Hopman Cup is one of the few ITF events that are contested between nations rather than individuals. The International Tennis Federation also oversees the organization of Davis Cup, the Fed Cup, Olympics and Paralympics. In its 2016 edition, reigning champion Poland are not playing but interestingly Australia have two teams named as Australia Gold and Australia Green. While veteran star Lleyton Hewitt and Jarmila Wolfe have combined to form Australia Gold, Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova constitute the Australia Green team. Kyrgios is in top form and he has carried the Green team to the threshold of Saturday’s final. In a stunning showdown on Wednesday, Australia Green defeated Great Britain 2-1 with Kyrgios stealing his first-ever victory over Andy Murray in men’s singles. However, the scores were tied 1-1 after Heather Watson brought parity with an epic 6-7, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Daria Gavrilova and the result of the tie hinged on the mixed doubles match. That game turned out to be a thriller with Kyrgios/Gavrilova combining superbly to oust Murray/Watson 6-2, 6-7, 11-9. The victory almost ascertained final berth for Australia Green. However, the denial for Kyrgios/Gavrilova can come should Great Britain score a huge win against Germany on Friday coupled with Australia Green suffering a heavy loss against France. While such an eventuality is nearly ruled out, the prospects of an all-Australian Hopman Cup final were dashed with Australia Gold losing to Ukraine on Wednesday. There was disappointment for world no.1 Serena Williams, who couldn’t play due to injury and her team suffered on that count.
At Doha’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals on Wednesday. While Djokovic defeated Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2, Nadal scored a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Dutchman Robin Haase. On Thursday, Djokovic faces 8th seed Argentinian Leonardo Mayer for the semifinal berth and Nadal takes on Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov. Other quarterfinalists at Doha were; Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych; Great Britain’s Kyle Edmunds; Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and Ukrainian Illya Marchenko.
In Chennai, Stan Wawrinka looked every bit as solid as he had been in the last two editions of the Aircel Open. The Swiss is already in the QF after an easy 6-3, 6-2 win over Andrey Rublev of Russia. Wawrinka next takes on Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. If he beats Garcia-Lopez, Wawrinka will inch to within two matches of taking his third consecutive Chennai Open title. Other quarterfinalists at Chennai Open include; Croatia’s Borna Coric, who defeated USA’s Austin Krajicek and Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat Australia’s John Millman.
In the Brisbane International Tournament, there were rumors about some unknown injury to Roger Federer. The top seed and defending champion Swiss has yet to play his first match but if does and beats Germany’s Tobias Kamke, he will sail through the QF to join Canadian Milos Raonic, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Frenchman Lucas Pouille. Both Raonic and Dimitrov survived three-set games before their entry into last eight. Raonic countered the challenge thrown at him by Croatia’s 31-year old doubles specialist Ivan Dodig before coming through at 6-7, 6-1, 6-4. In his match, Dimitrov took close to 3 hours in beating Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 5-7, 7-6, 6-2. However, it was a different story with the 21-year old world no. 78 Pouille, who caused a major upset by beating sixth-seeded Belgian David Goffin 7-6, 4-6, 6-3. Among women, the race to the singles title became wide open after withdrawals by Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep and injury caused to Garbine Muguruza. Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber are two heavy favorites this year. As for women’s doubles, the Indo-Swiss combo of Sania Mirza/Martina Hingis have continued with their terrific form and reached the semifinals by defeating Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 4-6, 10-6.
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