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Road to Rogers Cup : Who will take top honours at the Australian Open?

Jan 15, 2019
written by: Caroline Angers
written by: Caroline Angers
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Welcome to Road to Rogers Cup, the weekly roundup of all the action on the ATP Tour ahead of the 2019 Rogers Cup presented by National Bank at IGA Stadium from August 2 to 11.

We’re revisiting the first two weeks of the season and taking a look at how some of the players prepared for the first Grand Slam of 2019, which got underway two days ago in Melbourne, Australia.

Photo: AFP

Recap of the past two weeks: surprises at the lead-up events

Rundown

The three concurrent ATP 250 tournaments that opened the show had a few surprises in store.

Novak Djokovic, who found his way back to the top in 2018, got off to a rocky start. In Doha, he ended up battling players who wouldn’t normally represent a threat. Three of his four matchups were settled in three sets including his final appearance: a semifinal loss to Roberto Bautista Agut, who went on to claim his ninth career title.

Plagued by a back injury during most of 2018, Tomas Berdych was back on track in Doha and took quite a few people by surprise when he fought his way into the final. Two days ago, he made it past the first round of the Australian Open with an easy win over Kyle Edmund (13).

The draws held in Pune, India and Brisbane, where Kevin Anderson (1) and Kei Nishikori (2) collected new trophies.

And just a week before the first Grand Slam of the season, 27-year-old veteran Tennys Sandgren and 19-year-old Alex de Minaur triumphed and raised their first ATP crowns.

In Auckland, Sandgren, then World No. 63, profited from the collapse of the top seeds and ended up facing only one—Marco Cecchinato (3)—in the second round. The imposing American, who made a name for himself last year when he played in his first

Grand Slam quarterfinal in Australia, didn’t drop a single set all week and was very proud of his run in New Zealand: “A lot of work, a lot of training, a lot sacrifice goes into even making a final. And to get a win…I’m kind of speechless.

Meanwhile in Sydney, Alex de Minaur was busy securing his first ATP title. In front of hometown crowds, he earned key wins over Gilles Simon and Andreas Seppi—two dangerous adversaries. He then defeated Pedro Sousa to qualify for the second round of the Australian Open. No doubt that de Minaur is one to watch over the next few days.

For the record

  • Federer dictates. Again. Paired with Belinda Bencic in team tennis at Hopman Cup, Roger Federer reigned supreme once again, as the Swiss players defeated Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber of Germany in the mixed doubles decider. Federer also played a memorable mixed match against the American team, which just happened to include Serena Williams.
  • Murray fights to the bitter end. Andy Murray has already announced that a painful hip injury is forcing him to make 2019 his final season on the ATP Tour. Two days ago, he came to blows with Bautista Agut in a hostile five-set battle. Despite fighting his way back from two sets down, he ultimately relented.
  • Djokovic the favourite in Australia? According to Roger Federer—and we trust the Mighty Fed—the Djoker is the one to beat owing to all the wins he’s racked up in the past six months. Stay tuned!
  • Can Rafael Nadal stay healthy? On the comeback trail following a four-month hiatus after retiring from the US Open, Rafa seems to have recovered from his knee injury. In Melbourne, he convincingly disposed of James Duckworth in the first round. We’ll see how he fares in the days to come.

Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

This week: first Grand Slam of the new season

In 2018, Roger Federer concluded his 30th Grand Slam final appearance by raising the winner’s trophy in Melbourne for a second straight season. This year, quite a few players have their eyes on the prize as they fight their way into the second week of the tournament. Who will survive? Only time will tell!

Photo: Getty Images

Canadian contingent

Five Canadians will play in the main draw of the Australian Open. Eugenie Bouchard, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic were automatically entered, and only Bianca Andreescu came through the qualifying matches. In the doubles event, keep a lookout for Gabriela Dabrowski.

 

Photo: Getty Images