As bushfires continue to rage in Australia, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and three grand slams have pledged a combined $400,000 (579,542 Australian dollars) to the relief effort.

The fires have ravaged large swathes of land, killing at least 28 people and millions of animals in the country where the first slam of the year begins next week.

Various fundraising initiatives have been launched and now the ITF has joined with Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open to boost the cash total.

"The worldwide tennis community has come together in support of all those affected by the bushfires across many parts of Australia," said ITF president David Haggerty.

"This donation will support the Red Cross teams who are working hard on the ground providing essential emergency assistance including relief centres, aid and practical support for victims, evacuated families and those who have lost their homes.

"We would like to commend all members of the tennis community who are currently raising funds and awareness."

Among the other activities taking place is the AO Rally for Relief at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday January 15, which will see Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Roger Federer take part.

Benoit Paire held off a fighting challenge from rising star Jannik Sinner to move into the second round of the Auckland Open, while top seed Alex de Minaur withdrew from the Adelaide International.

At the first edition of the ATP tournament in Adelaide, sixth seed Cristian Garin fell to Lloyd Harris, the South African qualifier winning 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-4.

Jeremy Chardy defeated fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon in straight sets, with Dan Evans, Sam Querrey and home hope James Duckworth the other players to progress.

The action came as top seed De Minaur pulled out of the event after aggravating an abdominal injury while representing Australia at the ATP Cup.

"I have seen the physios, I have seen the doctors and I will be continuing to do that for the whole of the week and hopefully I will be ready to play in Melbourne," De Minaur said ahead of the Australian Open.

In Auckland, Italian Sinner – winner of the Next Generation ATP Finals in November – took number five seed Paire to a final set but the Frenchman eventually prevailed 6-4 2-6 6-4 in one hour and 55 minutes.

Defending champion Tennys Sandgren started his campaign with a routine 6-4 6-3 triumph over wildcard Michael Venus.

But last year's beaten finalist Cameron Norrie was knocked out in straight sets by qualifier Thiago Monteiro, with American Frances Tiafoe also being eliminated at the hands of qualifier Mikael Ymer.

Hubert Hurkacz and Ugo Humbert saw off Lorenzo Sonego and Casper Ruud respectively in Monday's other matches.

Home hope Ajla Tomljanovic overcame a self-confessed lack of focus to beat Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 and secure a second-round clash with Adelaide International second seed Simona Halep.

Tomljanovic fell 3-0 behind before battling back to take the first set to a tie-break, where she held her nerve before rounding out the win in more convincing fashion in the second.

"Not the greatest start," said Tomljanovic. "I don't even think it was nerves. I wasn't too focused at the start.

"With her, you have to be really sharp, disciplined, but still aggressive. It took me a little bit to find the balance.

"But I think once I got going, it was a battle. I mean, she's always tough. She never gives up. She runs down every ball, really makes you win it. This is a quality win for me."

Another Australian in the draw is top seed Ashleigh Barty, who got a first-round bye and will now face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova following the Russian's 6-2 6-4 win over Anett Kontaveit.

Fourth seed Belinda Bencic beat Daria Kasatkina 6-4 6-4, while Sofia Kenin defeated Viktorija Golubic 6-0 6-4.

Other first-round results saw former world number one Angelique Kerber down Wang Qiang 6-1 6-3, Dayana Yastremska beat Timea Babos 7-5 6-3, and American Danielle Rose Collins dump out Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3 6-2.

At the Hobart International, seventh seed Rebecca Peterson retired hurt against Fiona Ferro, but fellow seeds Magda Linette and Veronika Kudermetova progressed without cause for concern.

Novak Djokovic believes there is no clear favourite for the men's singles at the Australian Open and says the 'big three' will be challenged at the opening slam of the year.

The last 12 majors have been shared between Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, with Stan Wawrinka the last man other than the trio to win a slam at the 2016 US Open.

Djokovic impressed during the inaugural ATP Cup last week, scoring wins over Nadal, Daniil Medvedev and Kevin Anderson en route to helping Serbia to glory.

The 16-time slam winner accepts the usual suspects will be considered favourites in Melbourne, but tipped the likes of Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem to challenge.

"I think it's really open, the Australian Open or any other slam," Djokovic told reporters.

"I don't think there are really clear favourites. You have obviously Federer, Nadal, myself because of the experience and everything and the rankings that we get to be probably named the top three favourites.

"But then you have Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem that are really showing some amazing tennis.

"They showed that they matured on the big stage, that they can challenge the best players in the world and win against them.

"So, everybody keeps on talking about a NextGen player winning a slam. It seems like it's getting closer. Hopefully not this year. We'll see."

While Djokovic and Nadal have geared up for the Australian Open by playing the ATP Cup, helping Serbia and Spain to the final respectively, Federer opted to stay home and train in his native Switzerland.

Federer insists he has no fitness concerns despite not playing a competitive match since November.

"I've trained long and hard in the off-season and I didn't have any setbacks, which is crucial," Federer said.

On the continued success he, Djokovic and Nadal have enjoyed, Federer added: "I'm aware that at 38 I shouldn't be the favourite, it should be someone probably in their 20s, but the three of us have been able to stay as the favourites, which is great for us.

"Both guys are already showing great signs. I was watching a little bit of their ATP Cup match and thought that was a great match.

"Both guys, injury free, are always tough to beat."

Rafael Nadal feels there needs to be an agreement between the ITF and the ATP to create a single "world cup" as opposed to the separate Davis Cup and ATP Cup.

ATP world number one Nadal starred in Spain's triumph at the Davis Cup - organised by the ITF - in November, but he and his country were on the losing side at the inaugural ATP Cup on Sunday, going down to Novak Djokovic's Serbia.

The Spaniard enjoyed the new tournament but suggested the two competitions were a source of confusion.

"[The ATP Cup] is a long competition. It's a tough way to start the season," Nadal said. "I don't know. I think it's a great competition but, at the same time, I can't change my mind.

"Two world cups in [just over] one month is not real. It's not possible. So, we need to find a way to fix it and we need to find a way to make a big deal with ITF and ATP to create a big world team cup competition, not two world cups in one month.

"I think that's confusing for the spectators. We need to be clear in our sport.

"And for the health of our sport and the benefit of our sport, in my opinion, it is mandatory that we fix it.

"I think it is a great competition. I am excited to be part of it, excited to represent my country.

"I enjoyed sharing the week with my friends on the team. The organisation has been fantastic, honestly, everything as good as possible. Just, in my mind, we need to create one thing and not two."

Meanwhile, Nadal was unhappy with some sections of the crowd in Sydney, where a partisan Serbian contingent roared on rival Djokovic, who beat the world number one 6-2 7-6 (7-4) in the second singles rubber, before joining forces with Viktor Troicki to beat Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-4 in the doubles decider.

"Honestly, the crowd was fantastic every single day," Nadal continued. "But, sometimes, people from some countries, they probably don't understand how tennis is.

"They think it is more like football, but the atmosphere in tennis is different. The respect for the players should be there. At some point, the respect - from a small part of the crowd - was not there."

Serena Williams finally ended her wait for a first title since becoming a mother with victory in the Auckland Open final on Sunday.

The 23-time grand slam champion saw off fellow American Jessica Pegula, winning 6-3 6-4.

Though Williams won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant, she has experienced plenty of frustration since returning to the circuit following the birth of her daughter.

However, the weight of her title drought has now been lifted going into the first slam of the year at Melbourne Park, where she is the bookmakers' favourite to equal Margaret Court's all-time record for major wins.

Here we look back on Williams' six finals since her return.

Wimbledon 2018 v Angelique Kerber - Lost 6-3 6-3

Seeded 25th, Williams produced a remarkable performance to reach the final at the All England Club less than a year after giving birth. She did not drop a set until the quarter-finals, but was handily beaten by Kerber in the championship match.

Looking back on her performance in finals, Williams said after the 2019 US Open: "Kerber doesn't count because I was exhausted. My baby was eight months, and that's tough."

US Open 2018 v Naomi Osaka - Lost 6-2 6-4

Little about the excellent performance of Osaka is remembered as the contest was overshadowed by Williams' furious exchange with umpire Carlos Ramos that saw her receive three code violations, resulting in a game penalty. The trophy ceremony was marred by boos from the crowd, with Williams having to comfort a tearful Osaka.

Wimbledon 2019 v Simona Halep - Lost 6-2 6-2

Williams looked in imperious form at SW19 and few would have bet against her going into the final, but she was blown away by Halep, who cruised to an emphatic victory in just 56 minutes to win her second grand slam.

Rogers Cup 2019 v Bianca Andreescu - Lost 3-1 ret.

In an eventual preview of the US Open final, Williams was betrayed by her body as she was forced to retire after four games in Toronto. Appearing in tears as she was treated by the trainer, Williams was unable to continue after seeming to complain of back spasms.

US Open 2019 v Bianca Andreescu - Lost 6-3 7-5 

Another rout appeared on the cards as teenager Andreescu stunningly raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set. However, Williams - willed on by the ear-splitting roar of the Arthur Ashe crowd - fought back to level at 5-5 and at that point a turnaround appeared inevitable. The Canadian recovered, however, and dealt Williams her fourth consecutive major final defeat.

Auckland Open 2020 v Jessica Pegula - Won 6-3 6-4

Williams laid down an ominous marker when she brushed aside the promising Amanda Anisimova in just 44 minutes in the semi-final and Pegula had no answer in the showpiece as the 38-year-old claimed her 73rd WTA title. She was able to celebrate winning a tournament with daughter Alexis Olympia for the first time and announced she would donate her prize money to the Australian bushfire relief effort.

Just over a week out from the Australian Open, Williams looks in blistering form as she eyes a record-tying slam.

Serena Williams said winning in Auckland was "just a step towards the next goal" as she heads to Melbourne for a shot at history in the Australian Open.

The 38-year-old American succeeded in her mission to land a first trophy since landing her 23rd grand slam at Melbourne Park in 2017.

She was absent from the tour for 12 months while becoming a mother and had since been unable to capture a title, losing five finals - including four in grand slams.

The defeats were becoming a worrying trend, but a 6-3 6-4 victory over compatriot Jessica Pegula in the Auckland Open final on Sunday broke that streak.

Now Williams heads to Australia with a 24th slam her target as she bids to move level with Margaret Court at the top of the all-time list.

"It's pretty satisfying just to get a win in the finals," Williams said. "I think that was really important for me and I just want to build on it.

"Obviously, it's just a step towards the next goal."

Williams could not make it a twin success as she and Caroline Wozniacki fell to Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend in the doubles final.

"I'm OK with what happened," Williams said in a post-match news conference.

"I'm glad I was able to get a title in the singles - it's been a while. But I've been in the finals a lot, so I just keep going and just keep trying."

Victory over Pegula gave Williams a 73rd WTA singles title, meaning she has won tournaments in four decades, starting with five she won in 1999 as a teenager.

The Australian Open begins on Monday, January 20.

Novak Djokovic drove Serbia to glory in the ATP Cup final, sinking Spain with a sublime singles win over Rafael Nadal and a clinical doubles performance.

Tuning up for the defence of his Australian Open title, Djokovic helped Serbia recover from the loss of the first singles rubber, when Roberto Bautista Agut scored a 7-5 6-1 victory over Dusan Lajovic.

With the pressure growing late on Sunday evening in Sydney, Djokovic rose to the occasion against world number one Nadal and landed a 6-2 7-6 (7-4) success for a 29th win in the pair's 55-match career rivalry.

That meant the inaugural edition of this event would be decided on doubles, and while Djokovic returned after a brief break to partner Viktor Troicki for Serbia, Nadal was only a spectator.

Pablo Carreno Busta and Feliciano Lopez lined up for Spain, but they could not resist the Serbian pairing and fell 6-3 6-4, the match ending at 01:05 local time on Monday morning.

An emotional Djokovic said of Serbia's 2-1 triumph: "I'll remember this experience for the rest of my life as it is definitely one of the nicest moments in my career."

Nadal was as intense at courtside as he can be in match action, but he was also essentially powerless to influence the outcome as Davis Cup winners Spain fell short of what would have been a famous double.

Serbia, backed by a large contingent of their supporters roaring approval inside the Ken Rosewall Arena, moved one game away from the trophy after a strong service game from Troicki.

And while Lopez and Carreno Busta staved off the immediate threat, there was never any doubting Djokovic would complete the job once he got ball in hand.

He served out to love, sank to the court, then embraced Troicki before being mobbed by the rest of the Serbia squad.

Djokovic hurled a racket into the crowd, caught by a thrilled female fan, before he and Troicki wrapped themselves in a Serbia flag.

Djokovic said on Amazon Prime: "I've been very fortunate and blessed to have an amazing career in the last 15 years, but playing for the team and playing for the country with some of my best friends for a long, long time, you just can't match that, that's too special."

Troicki explained teaming up with Djokovic had been a treat, saying: "I remember playing with him since we were nine, 10, and to share such a moment with him... I'll remember it for the rest of my life. It's unreal."

Reilly Opelka squandered three match points to join fellow American seed Taylor Fritz in suffering a first-round exit at the inaugural Adelaide International.

Eighth seed Opelka took the first set against Pablo Cuevas and passed up three opportunities in a second-set tie-break before succumbing to a 5-7 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-2) defeat.

Fritz, seeded fifth, slipped to a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) loss to Alexander Bublik, who now owns a 2-0 lead in their head-to-head record having also triumphed in Chengdu last year.

In the day's other match, Laslo Djere needed three sets to defeat Alexei Popyrin.

Novak Djokovic extended his hard-court dominance against Rafael Nadal as he brought Serbia level with Spain in the ATP Cup final.

After Roberto Bautista Agut fended off Dusan Lajovic 7-5 6-1 in the opening rubber, the Sydney crowd saw the world's top two players lock horns in a critical showdown.

Djokovic took it 6-2 7-6 (7-4) for a 29th win in his 55-match rivalry with Nadal, who helped Spain win the Davis Cup last year.

And that meant the inaugural ATP Cup would be decided by a doubles showdown, which was set to get under way after 23:00 local time.

Djokovic and Nadal have played each other more times in singles than any men's tennis rival pairing in the Open era and this latest meeting went largely in keeping with recent trends.

Nadal had won three of their past five matches, but all those wins came on clay, his preferred surface, while Djokovic's successes in the mini sequence came on grass in the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finals and on hard court in last year's one-sided Australian Open final.

Djokovic was made to work harder than the scoreline suggested to take the opening set, and then the world number two withstood severe pressure on his serve in the sixth game of the second set, fending off five break points including three at love-40.

It was Nadal's turn to produce heroics in the 11th game, saving two break points - the first with a volley onto the baseline and the second when lashing a backhand clean winner down the line.

With a large Serbian contingent inside the Ken Rosewall Arena, the crowd favoured Djokovic, yet the match was still in the balance as it went to the second-set tie-break.

Djokovic gave himself a crucial mini break to lead 5-4 though, lancing a backhand out of Nadal's reach. Nadal sliced inches wide and then lashed a forehand into the net, and the rubber belonged to Serbia.

Djokovic said: "Every time I get to play Rafa, we get to play a lot of exciting points. There were some incredible exchanges today. I started off the match perfectly really, everything worked for me.

"I think my serve got me out of trouble in the second set when he was love-40. If he broke my serve at that moment, the match could have easily gone to a third set and it's anybody's game.

"I'm just really glad to hold my nerve in the end."

Caroline Wozniacki said she and Serena Williams "had so much fun" together - even though their Auckland Classic doubles title hopes were shattered in Sunday's final.

The unheralded American duo of Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend pulled off a notable upset, winning 6-4 6-4 to deny newly crowned singles champion Williams and former world number one Wozniacki.

For Williams, it was just the second women's doubles final defeat of an incredible WTA career, meaning her record in those matches stands at 23-2.

With Wozniacki retiring after the Australian Open, this was her last chance of a title in Auckland, where she was twice a singles runner-up.

The close friendship between Williams and Wozniacki was apparent, as the pair could be frequently seen in hysterics at the changeover between games, and both said afterwards they wished they had paired up earlier in their careers.

"We had a blast," Williams, who was a bridesmaid for Wozniacki last year, said.

But they could not get the job done on this occasion, with former singles number one Wozniacki and all-time great Williams outfought under the floodlights.

Townsend served for the match and brought up three match points with an ace beyond the Williams forehand, clinching the title when Wozniacki netted on the backhand.

Wozniacki said in an on-court presentation: "Serena, thank you so much for playing doubles with me. It's been so much fun. I think my only regret in tennis is that we didn't do this earlier because I've had such a blast.

"It's rare that I have this much fun on court.

"It's really a fun way to finish off here in Auckland. I couldn't have scripted it any better - obviously I wished we'd have won today, but you guys did so good. We did our best. Congrats on the singles as well today, Serena.

"We have so much fun off the court and now on the court as well. I want to take a little credit for Serena winning the singles today because I think the doubles helped her!"

Williams, filming her partner's interview on her smartphone, said her message to Wozniacki was: "Just congrats on an amazing career. It's not over yet. We have one more tournament to go of her being amazing."

That will come later this month at the Australian Open, the event at which Wozniacki won her one grand slam title in 2018.

"I had the most fun - maybe too much fun today," Williams said. "My only regret is we didn't do this sooner but at least we got to do it."

Former world number one Serena Williams claimed her first WTA Tour title in three years after winning the Auckland Open on Sunday.

Not since winning the 2017 Australian Open had Williams clinched silverware – the 23-time grand slam champion a runner-up at Wimbledon (2018 and 2019) and the US Open (2018 and 2019), while she retired in the 2019 Rogers Cup final.

However, Williams ended her drought by defeating fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-4 in the women's final in New Zealand.

"It feels good. It's been a long time. I think you could see the relief on my face," Williams said during her on-court interview before announcing she will donate her prize money (and a dress from each of her matches) to the bushfire relief effort in Australia.

Williams was almost flawless against Pegula, stepping up her preparations for the upcoming Australian Open with two aces and just one break of serve to capture her 73rd WTA crown – a record stretching across four decades after winning her first in 1999.

After a sluggish start, which saw the top seed fall 3-1 behind in the opening set, Williams eventually found her range en route to the 38-year-old's first trophy as a mother.

After snapping a sequence of five defeats in finals since her 2017 triumph at the Australian Open, Williams will look to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 slam titles at Melbourne Park.

Meanwhile, defending champion and second seed Karolina Pliskova won the Brisbane International for a second straight year after outlasting Madison Keys in three sets.

Pliskova prevailed 6-4 4-6 7-5 over eighth seed Keys for her third victory at the WTA Premier event in Brisbane.

Andrey Rublev claimed the first ATP Tour title of 2020 by defeating Corentin Moutet 6-2 7-6 (7-3) in the final of the Qatar Open.

Moutet, 20, beat Milos Raonic in the second round and on Friday overcame Fernando Verdasco and top seed Stan Wawrinka in three sets to reach his first final at this level.

However, getting the better of Rublev - the runner-up in 2018 - proved too much of a challenge, with the promising 22-year-old kicking off his season by claiming a third ATP Tour title of his career that will send him into the top 20 for the first time.

Rublev did not drop a single set throughout the tournament and after taking a 6-1 lead in the second-set tie-break against Moutet he did not look like missing out on the trophy.

"It's amazing. For the moment I have no words. I'm always really happy to play here and to win a title here is something special for me. It's an amazing start to the season and I can hope to continue the same level," Rublev said in his on-court interview.

"There's still much to work on, but I'm happy to become a top-20 player. I still have huge room to improve and I want to try to my maximum and see what happens."

Serbia and Spain both prevailed in the ATP Cup to set up a dream final that could see Novak Djokovic face Rafael Nadal.

Having won all three matches of their quarter-final tie with Canada in the quarter-finals, Serbia again remained unbeaten versus Russia, while Spain dispatched hosts Australia with successive singles wins.

Reigning Australian Open champion Djokovic came through an engrossing three-setter with US Open finalist Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic had lost his last two meetings with Medvedev, who threatened a comeback in Sydney after he recovered from a hugely disappointing first set to force a decider.

The world number two struck the ultimately decisive break in the fifth game of the third. However, typically obdurate to the end, Medvedev had three break-back points before Djokovic finally took his second match point.

It finished, fittingly, with the type of lengthy baseline rally that defined a captivating contest, Medvedev firing a cross-court forehand into the net to give Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead with a 6-1 5-7 6-4 victory.

Earlier Dusan Lajovic beat Karen Khachanov 7-5 7-6 (7-1), and Serbia also came through in the dead rubber doubles clash as Nikola Cacic and Viktor Troicki defeated Teymuraz Gabashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk.

Paying tribute to Medvedev, Djokovic said of the match: "[It was] exciting, exhausting, joyful, dreadful all at once. At one point we both refused to miss from the baseline, so it was a lot of rallies and it was very exhausting. A very physical battle, but also a mental battle.

"He showed why he's one of the best players in the world, why he's top five. This kind of consistency and this kind of solid game from back of the court, big serves, got him to where he is. He deserves to be there.

"[It was] definitely one of the most exciting matches I have played against him or any other top player in the last few years."

World number one Nadal was similarly tested by Alex de Minaur, whose energy and intensity had the home crowd in Sydney on their feet as he took the first set in his quest to level the tie after Roberto Bautista Agut easily beat Nick Kyrgios 6-1 6-4.

US Open champion Nadal did not have a break point until the 12th game of the second, but he took it to force a decider and subsequently raced away to claim a 4-6 7-5 6-1 success.

Wary of the obvious threat posed by Djokovic and Serbia in the final, Nadal said on court: "It's going to be a super tough final against Serbia.

"Novak likes to play here and Serbia has a great team and is playing very well. But Roberto played an amazing match this afternoon and we have a good team, so we are ready for it."

Serena Williams was in brilliant form to reach the Auckland Open final, while Karolina Pliskova saved a match point to beat Naomi Osaka in a thrilling Brisbane International semi.

Williams needed just 44 minutes to crush 18-year-old Amanda Anisimova 6-1 6-1 in their last four clash at the WTA International tournament in New Zealand.

The 23-time grand slam champion mixed 17 winners with six unforced errors and lost just nine points on serve. Williams served five aces and converted all five of her break points in a dominant display in the lead up to the year's first grand slam in Melbourne.

The American moved into her 98th WTA Tour final and will be aiming for a 73rd title but first since the 2017 Australian Open when she faces Jessica Pegula.

Pegula upset fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki 3-6 6-4 6-0 in their semi-final.

A two-time runner-up, Wozniacki – who will retire after the 2020 Australian Open – won just 10 points in the third set.

Wozniacki will contest the doubles final with Williams against Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad.

In Brisbane, Pliskova lost a first set on a tie-break in which she squandered two set points and saved four, and was staring down the barrel after Osaka broke for a 6-5 lead in the second.

However, Osaka's first serve on match point was overly tentative and a series of errors handed Pliskova the break back. The second seed took full advantage, winning the subsequent tie-break and taking the decider in comfortable fashion to defeat the reigning Australian Open champion 6-7 (10-12) 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Earlier, Madison Keys rallied past Petra Kvitova to clinch a 3-6 6-2 6-3 victory, meaning there will be no all-Czech final in Queensland.

At the Shenzhen Open, Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova clinched her maiden WTA Tour title with a 6-2 6-4 win over Elena Rybakina in the final.

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