ATP

Andy Murray sets up Basilashvili showdown in Sydney, a repeat of Wimbledon battle

By Sports Desk January 11, 2022

Andy Murray swept through his opening test at the Sydney Classic as the wildcard grabbed his first win of the year.

Murray sped to a 6-3 6-1 victory over Norwegian Viktor Durasovic, a player ranked a lowly 345th by the ATP who won through two qualifying rounds to reach the main draw.

The Scot broke four times across the contest and won 25 of 26 points when landing a first serve, an encouraging rate. Realistically, anything other than a comfortable win for the former world number one would have been concerning ahead of the Australian Open.

Murray at least put last week's disappointing first-round loss to Facundo Bagnis at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament behind him, and now a stiff tests await him in the last-16 stage.

Georgian second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili is next for Murray on Wednesday, with the world number 23 a familiar foe after these two met in the first round at Wimbledon last July.

On that occasion, Murray won in four sets following a desperate wobble in the third, which he lost from 5-0 ahead.

Five times an Australian Open finalist, Murray believes limbering up this week in Sydney can set him up well for the season's first grand slam.

"It is perfect conditions here," Murray said. "It feels like you are playing indoors. It is really nice to get your range here, and hopefully I can carry that through to Melbourne.

"I was hoping to get matches in Melbourne last week, but that didn't happen. Thankfully the tournament organisers and Tennis Australia agreed to give me the wildcard and the opportunity to play here, and I am very grateful for that."

Tuesday also saw a win for Maxime Cressy, the American serve-volleyer who caused a stir with his run to last week's final in Melbourne before pushing eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the title match.

Cressy, who was born in Paris, is a throwback in an era dominated by baseliners, and his game again came good as he saw off Adrian Mannarino 6-3 7-5. Dusan Lajovic awaits him in round two after the Serbian beat Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

At the Adelaide International 2 tournament, South African fifth seed Lloyd Harris made a first-round exit, losing 5-7 7-5 6-4 to Soonwoo Kwon.

There was another positive performance from Adelaide's own Thanasi Kokkinakis, who swatted away Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-4 6-0 to tee up a second-round shot at American second seed John Isner.

Kokkinakis, a once-bright young prospect who is finding his way again on tour after injury trouble, reached the semi-finals of last week's Adelaide tournament and is eyeing another run in South Australia before heading to Melbourne.

"After a good run last week, I was pretty knackered – I'm not going to lie," Kokkinakis said, quoted in The Australian. "But I thought another one in my hometown was a perfect situation.

"It was kind of a win-win for me almost. If I won, perfect, I get more matches. If not, I get to Melbourne and get to prepare for Aussie Open, but I'm stoked with the win."

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    World number one Iga Swiatek put herself among an illustrious group of tennis greats by claiming her 17th match win at Roland Garros.

    Swiatek is the favourite for the French Open title this year, and the Pole has been in dominant form so far in Paris.

    On Saturday, she defeated Danka Kovinic 6-3 7-5 to move into round four, tallying up a 31st consecutive win in the process – only three players Justine Henin (32), Serena Williams (34) and Venus Williams (35) have recorded longer winning streaks this century.

    Swiatek won the first and only grand slam title of her career at Roland Garros in 2020, and of the 19 matches she has now played at the French Open, the 20-year-old has won 17.

    That feat ranks her just behind Margaret Court, Chris Evert and Monica Seles for the number of wins from their first 19 matches at Roland Garros in the Open Era.

    Evert, Seles and 24-time grand slam winner Court managed 18 victories from that number of matches.

    Swiatek was beaten by Maria Sakkari at the quarter-final stage in Paris last year.

  • French Open: Swiatek made to work but tallies up 31st successive win French Open: Swiatek made to work but tallies up 31st successive win

    Iga Swiatek's quest to win a second French Open title continued as she progressed into the fourth round with a 6-3 7-5 defeat of Danka Kovinic.

    Playing early on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Saturday, the top seed made ultimately got past the world number 95 Kovinic in straight sets, though the Montenegrin did not go down without a fight.

    Kovinic took all three break points that Swiatek offered up, with two of those coming in the second set, halting what seemed set to be a procession for the favourite.

    It has been over 100 days since Swiatek last lost a match, but the Pole temporarily lost her composure as Kovinic reeled off four straight games to go from 4-1 down to 5-4 up.

    The final game of Kovinic's streak was settled by a poor Swiatek backhand into the net as the 20-year-old saw the momentum swing the way of her opponent, who was frustrating the world number one with some sublime drop shots.

    Swiatek took a moment to recover, donning an extra layer, and responded in the next game by holding to 15, and a stray forehand from Kovinic then handed the 2020 champion a break and the chance to serve out the match.

    It was an opportunity Swiatek grasped, and though Kovinic fended off the first match point with a powerful forehand, a return straight into the net confirmed her exit.

    Swiatek will face Zheng Qinwen or Alize Cornet in round four.

    Data Slam: Swiatek closing in on Henin

    Swiatek's winning streak now stands at 31 matches, just one short of the tally reeled off by former world number one Justin Henin in 2008. Should she go all the way and triumph again at Roland Garros, then she will match the longest winning streak of this century, set by Venus Williams in 2000 (35).

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Swiatek – 13/23
    Kovinic – 13/31

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Swiatek – 1/0
    Kovinic – 3/4

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Swiatek – 5/10
    Kovinic – 3/3

  • French Open: Alcaraz delivers 'absolute clinic' to crush Korda hopes in Roland Garros romp French Open: Alcaraz delivers 'absolute clinic' to crush Korda hopes in Roland Garros romp

    Carlos Alcaraz put on a mesmerising show for the late-night Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd as the teenage sensation of men's tennis raced into the French Open fourth round.

    In a performance described by former British number one Tim Henman as "an absolute clinic", Alcaraz swept to a 6-4 6-4 6-2 win against American Sebastian Korda.

    Korda, 21, is widely expected to be a star of the men's tour for years to come, and he beat Alcaraz on clay in Monte Carlo only last month.

    This time he found 19-year-old Spaniard Alcaraz too hot to handle on the surface, with the fast-rising world number six demonstrating the form that has brought him a tour-leading four titles in 2022 already.

    Tournament organisers were giving the Paris crowds a glimpse into the future by handing Korda and Alcaraz the hot-ticket night session slot. They are both becoming increasingly a factor in the present, too, and Alcaraz is rated a strong contender for the title this fortnight.

    Victory made him the youngest man to reach round four at the French Open since Novak Djokovic in 2006, the ATP said. After winning titles in Barcelona and Madrid, Alcaraz is on a 13-match winning run.

    It took him two hours and six minutes to get the job done this time, flashing 18 passing shot winners past his opponent, the son of one-time Roland Garros runner-up Petr Korda.

    "It's amazing to play in front of such a great crowd, a great atmosphere here in Philippe-Chatrier," Alcaraz said. "I think the night session is fun to play, the whole people enjoyed the match, and I'm grateful to play in front of such a good crowd.

    "Of course, in early matches I'm trying to have fun out there. I love playing this kind of tennis court. I love playing in France. I'm enjoying every single second."

    Baseliner Alcaraz surprised many by bringing out a rush of serve-volley points, and revealed that was at the behest of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero.

    He also revealed how Ferrero, who was briefly a world number one and won the 2003 French Open men's title, remained in great nick on the practice courts at the age of 42.

    "I think not too far away, a couple of months ago or a year ago, he beat me in a training set," Alcaraz said. "He's in good shape, and he could beat a lot of players now in a training set."

    Henman, analysing the match for Eurosport, said Alcaraz was the complete package. It was a performance that suggested Alcaraz's five-set struggle against Albert Ramos-Vinolas in round two was a blip.

    "I thought his performance was absolutely incredible," former world number four Henman said. "Korda perhaps didn't play as well as he would have liked, but he wasn't allowed to play because of the sheer quality of Alcaraz in every area.

    "All credit to Alcaraz, it was an absolute clinic out there."

    Henman said the youngster turned "defence into attack in the blink of an eye", adding: "I think he came in expecting a really difficult match, and he destroyed Korda."

    Alcaraz reached round three on his Roland Garros debut last year, and has now gone a step further, with Russian Karen Khachanov awaiting him next.

    Swedish great Mats Wilander, who won the French Open three times in the 1980s, said Alcaraz on the backhand was "very much like Novak Djokovic".

    "The forehand side I'm not really sure, I can't explain it," said Wilander, "because the speed of his arm and when he decides to go full... when he goes full it is unbelievable when the ball hits the clay and bounces."

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