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Stan Wawrinka Wins Ninth Final In A Row, Djokovic Wins No. 700 – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

  • Novak Djokovic earned his 700th career match win in Dubai, beating Jaziri in straight sets. He is now the third active player with 700 wins, behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
  • The 28-point tiebreak in Dubai that was played between Stan Wawrinka and Marcos Baghdatis was the longest in an ATP final since Andy Roddick beat Mardy Fish in San Jose in 2004, also playing a 28-point tiebreak.
  • Wawrinka’s title in Dubai extends his win streak in finals to nine after starting his career 4-9 in finals.
  • There were four finals played last week that involved a player with a one-handed backhand and a player with a two-handed backhand. All four of the players with one-handed backhands prevailed, including Dominic Thiem over Bernard Tomic, Pablo Cuevas over Pablo Carreno Busta, Wawrinka over Baghdatis, and Carla Suarez Navarro over Jelena Ostapenko.
  • Cuevas played seven left-handers in a row, including all five of his opponents that he beat en route to his title in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first player to win a title playing only left-handers along the way. Cuevas played Facundo Bagnis twice, Thiago Monteiro twice, Federico Delbonis, Nadal, and Guido Pella.
  • Nick Kyrgios held all 47 of his service games during his title run in Marseille before being broken in his first service game in Dubai.
  • Baghdatis served up a bagel to Roberto Bautista Agut in Dubai. The last time he had won a set 6-0 was against Andy Murray at the French Open in 2010. Baghdatis has won four 6-0 sets against players in the Top 20, but only won two of the four matches that included bagels.
  • Franko Skugor of Croatia won his first match on the ATP World Tour in six years in Dubai, beating Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets. His most recent win came in July of 2010 in Umag when he beat Filippo Volandri.

Andy Murray Outlasts Milos Raonic To Reach Australian Open Final For Fifth Time

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Andy Murray is into his fifth Australian Open final after defeating Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 on Friday in Melbourne. Murray ended Raonic’s undefeated start to the season, as the Canadian had won nine matches in a row to start off 2016. Murray will go on to face Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open for a fourth time, the most recent of which came in 2015 with Djokovic winning in four sets.

The eagerly anticipated semifinal match between the No. 2 seed and the No. 13 seed got off to a start that not many people would have expected. Raonic broke Murray at love to start off the match, before fighting back from a 0-40 whole on his serve to get the hold and go up 2-0. There’s not much else to say about the first set, other than that Raonic had another break chance at 4-2, but Murray snuffed it out. Too little too late for Murray, as Raonic cruised on his serve throughout the set to take the early lead.

The second started very tight as Murray had break points in two of Raonic’s first three service games, but was unable to convert on any of them. Raonic struggled to make an impact on Murray’s serve throughout the duration of the set, winning only six points on Murray’s serve. Being able to relax on his own serve allowed Murray to continue to apply pressure on Raonic’s serve, opening up a break chance in the 12th game of the set. Murray would not miss out on this opportunity, as he took it and the set to level the match.

Five holds at love started off the third set as both players appeared to settle down a bit now that the match was back at even. Only once in the set did a returner get past 30 in a game, and that was when Raonic took Murray to deuce at 5-5 and saw a break point. Raonic failed to convert on that, but when the set went to a tiebreak, he was ready to pounce on the big points, taking it 7-4 and going up two sets to one.

The experienced Murray didn’t let the disappointment of dropping the third set get to him, as he waited for an opportunity in the fourth set to take advantage of. It took a while, as once again the servers dominated and the returner got past 15 only once in the first six games of the set, but when Raonic played one poor service game at 3-3, Murray was all over it and broke at love to take the lead. The last three games of the set all went to deuce as Raonic had three opportunities to get back on serve in the set, but Murray played too well for Raonic and closed out the fourth set to even the match up again.

Raonic’s window to get the win appeared to close as the fourth set ended as Raonic quickly found himself down 4-0 in the fifth set. The Canadian appeared to be hindered by a groin injury throughout the match, but the pain intensified as the match approached the end. Murray took advantage of Raonic’s inability to move as well as he had been, jumping out to the double break lead and not looking back, only losing one point on serve in the deciding set.

Murray’s consistent level of play and tough defense proved to be too much for Raonic throughout the match, as Murray hit only 28 unforced errors, 50 less than what Raonic hit. Murray also applied a lot of pressure on Raonic’s second serve, as Raonic won only 44 percent of the points on his second serve.

Despite the loss, Raonic has proved to the tennis world that he has made the necessary improvements to compete at the highest level of tennis. With wins over Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka already in 2016, combined with this valiant effort against Murray, the rest of the ATP will be on the lookout for the big hitting Canadian.

Murray will now take advantage of the much needed day of rest after having to battle Raonic for over four hours, before taking on Djokovic in the final. Murray has played Djokovic in five of the nine grand slam finals that he has played in, but has not been able to beat him in the three finals they’ve played in Melbourne. Murray did come out victorious at the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013, and will hope to replicate those results on Sunday night in Rod Laver Arena.

Angelique Kerber “Upsets” Victoria Azarenka To Reach Aussie Open Semifinals

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Angelique Kerber fought her way into the semifinals of the Australian Open on Wednesday when she beat Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 7-5. Despite being the higher seed, Kerber was the underdog in the eyes of many tennis fans. Azarenka had been in great form to start off 2016 after winning the title in Brisbane and not losing a set in her first four matches at the Australian Open, along with the fact that she held a 6-0 record against Kerber, but the German proved why she is the higher ranked player and now has the opportunity to make her first grand slam final.

Kerber got off to a hot start in the quarterfinal as she broke Azarenka at love in the opening game of the match before grabbing another break and running out to a 4-0 lead. Azarenka, though, had been making Kerber’s service games tough as well, as she had a break point in Kerber’s first service game and then was able to get one of the two breaks back and brought the score to 4-3. When Kerber served at 4-3, Azarenka had two more break chances in a game that lasted 16 points, but could not capitalize and ended up losing the game, before being broken in the next game to drop the set.

The tides appeared to turn in the favor of Azarenka in the second set as she broke in the opening game and got out to a quick 2-0 lead. Neither player had much trouble on their serves until Azarenka saw a break point on Kerber’s serve at 4-2 and took advantage of it to take a double break lead at 5-2. While trying to serve out the set and take the match to a third set, Azarenka got up 40-0 before losing five points in a row to get broken. She had another opportunity to close out the set at 5-4 and was up 40-15, but again ended up being broken thanks to the resilience from Kerber, combined with a hesitant style of play from Azarenka. With the German back on serve at 5-5, she held comfortably before applying pressure on the Azarenka serve again and breaking to close out the match for the straight sets win.

A major problem for Azarenka, clearly, was her inability to defend her serve. Kerber won more than half of the points in Azarenka’s service games, including 62 percent of her second serve points. Kerber’s steady play was also a huge factor, as she limited her unforced errors to 16 while she hit 31 winners.

Kerber became the first German to reach the Australian Open semifinals since 1998 and will go on to face Johanna Konta for a spot in the Australian Open final after Konta beat Zhang Shuai in straight sets in their quarterfinal match.

Agassi, McEnroe, Roddick, Courier Highlight 2016 PowerShares Series Fields

The PowerShares Series, the tennis circuit for champion players over the age of 30, announced its slate of player fields for its 12-city circuit that begins April 8 in Chicago. Competing players in 2016 are Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis, James Blake and Mardy Fish.

The PowerShares Series also announced the addition of an event in Denver at the 1stBank Center on November 5. Ticket and VIP experiences information – including play-with-the pros opportunities – can be found at www.PowerSharesSeries.com. The full schedule with player fields are listed below;

 

April 8                       Chicago  (UIC Pavillion) – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake

April 9                       Charleston (Family Circle Tennis Center) – Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Mardy Fish

April 14                    St. Louis (Chaifetz Arena) – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, James Blake

April 22                    Memphis (Landers Center) – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

April 23                    Tulsa (BOK Center) – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis

July 17                      Newport, R.I. (International Tennis Hall of Fame) – Andy Roddick, James Blake + 2 Players TBA

August 21               Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest University) – Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, James Blake, Mardy Fish

August 25, 26       New Haven (Yale University) – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, James Blake, Mardy Fish

November 4          Portland, Oregon (Moda Center) –  Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mardy Fish and TBA

November 5         Denver (1stBank Center) – Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, James Blake and TBA

December 1          Orlando (Amway Arena) – Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, James Blake

December 3          New York (Barclays Center) – Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, James Blake

 

Each PowerShares Series event features two one-set semifinal matches and a one-set championship match. For the second straight year, players will make their own line calls, with assistance of electronic line-calling.

In 2015, Roddick won the PowerShares Series points title in his second year of competing on the series with 1,600 points. Roddick won a record eight events Los Angeles, Lincoln, Chicago, Austin, Little Rock, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Blake finished second in the points rankings with 1,200 points, winning events in Boston and Cincinnati. Philippoussis finished in third with 1,100 points, winning titles in Salt Lake City and Vancouver. The year before in 2014, McEnroe won the points title for the first time in the nine-year history of Champions Series tennis by winning events in Kansas City, Indianapolis, Nashville and Charlotte.

ABOUT INSIDEOUT SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a Los Angeles based producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, The World Series of Beach Volleyball and numerous corporate outings. Since inception, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment has raised over $4 million for charity. In 2014, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment merged with Horizon Media, the largest privately held media services agency in the world.  For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.powersharesseries.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ABOUT HORIZON MEDIA

Horizon Media, Inc. is the largest and fastest growing privately held media services agency in the world. The company was founded in 1989, is headquartered in New York and has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Horizon Media was chosen as 2011 Independent Media Agency of the Year by Mediapost, 2010 U.S. Media Agency of the Year by Adweek, Brandweek, and Mediaweek as well as by Ad Age and as one of the world’s ten most innovative marketing and advertising companies by Fast Company in 2011. In 2012, Bill Koenigsberg, President, CEO and Founder, was honored by Advertising Age as Industry Executive of the Year. Most recently, in 2014, Bill Koenigsberg was named 4As Chair of the Board and is the first person from a media agency to hold this prestigious position in the 100 year history of the 4As, the marketing industry’s leading trade association. The company’s mission is “To create the most meaningful brand connections within the lives of people everywhere.” By delivering on this mission through a holistic approach to brand marketing, Horizon Media has become one of the largest and fastest-growing media agencies in the industry, with estimated billings of over $5.3 billion and over 1,200 employees. The company is also a founding member of Columbus Media International, a multi-national partnership of independent media agencies. For more information, please visit horizonmedia.com.

ABOUT INVESCO POWERSHARES

Invesco PowerShares Capital Management LLC is leading the Intelligent ETF Revolution® through its lineup of more than 140 domestic and international exchange-traded funds, which seek to outperform traditional benchmark indexes while providing advisors and investors access to an innovative array of focused investment opportunities. With franchise assets of nearly $100 billion as of October 2, 2015, PowerShares ETFs trade on both US stock exchanges. For more information, please visit us at invescopowershares.com or follow us on Twitter @PowerShares.

ABOUT POWERSHARES QQQ

PowerShares QQQ™, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) based on the NASDAQ-100 Index®, is one of the largest and most traded ETFs in the world. Under most circumstances, QQQ will consist of all of the stocks in the index which includes 100 of the largest domestic and international nonfinancial companies listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market based on market capitalization.

 

Novak Djokovic Makes 100 Unforced Errors In Five-Set Win Over Gilles Simon

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Gilles Simon gave Novak Djokovic everything he could handle on Sunday at the Australian Open, but in the end it was the Serb who was able to come through after a five set battle that lasted more than four and a half hours. Despite losing 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, Simon was able to provide many challenges for Djokovic and perhaps created the blueprint for how to stop the No. 1 player in the world.

The entire match was tightly contested, including the first set despite the overall lower quality of play. It appeared as if Djokovic would roll through another easy win early on as he dominated his first two service games and broke at love to take a 3-1 lead. It was then that Simon proved he would make things difficult as he broke back immediately and went on to have four break chances in Djokovic’s 3-3 service game that lasted 20 points. Djokovic was able to fight through that game to get the hold, and then break in the next game as Simon let the disappoint of not converting on the break points linger, eventually leading to a 6-3 first set win for the Serb.

Djokovic completely controlled the second set, only losing five points on serve, until the tiebreak. Simon, who saved 10 break points and had to play 25 more service points in the second set than Djokovic did, felt a sense of relief as he made it through the set and showed that in the tiebreak as he loosened up and only lost one point.

Djokovic was able to settle back down in the third set and broke Simon in his first service game, running out to a 3-0 lead. Simon, just like in the first set, made things difficult for Djokovic though, as he bounced back and broke to get the set back on serve at 3-2. Each player looked confident on their serves throughout the rest of the set, until Djokovic found a break point at 5-4 and pounced on it to win the set.

Once again, Simon put his persistent style of play on display as he looked in control in the second set. It started early as Simon played only 10 service points in his first two games compared to Djokovic’s 24, allowing Simon to look at five break points. He was unsuccessful in converting those break chances, but did go on to earn two more later in the set. Simon converted on his seventh break point of the set to go up 5-4 and went on to serve out the set, taking the match to a decider.

In the fifth set, Djokovic played his best tennis, racing out to a double break lead at 5-1. He was unsuccessful at serving out the match the first time as Simon just would not go away, but the Serb held on and served out the match at 5-3 for the five set win.

Djokovic was pleased with the win, but disappointed in his quality of play. The credit has to be given to Simon as he was able to force Djokovic into making exactly 100 unforced errors after he made less than 80 in the first three rounds combined. The errors matched with an unsuccessful break point conversion rate of less than 25 percent would normally lead to a loss for most other players, but the No. 1 player in the world was able to find a way to tough out the valiant effort from Simon.

Djokovic will hope to bounce back to his normal quality of play as he takes on Kei Nishikori, who is coming off a win in which he handily beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, in the quarterfinals. Nishikori will be looking to repeat his form from when he beat Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2014 US Open in hopes of pulling off another major upset.

Daria Gavrilova Pleases Home Fans With Continued Australian Open Run

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Daria Gavrilova kept Australian tennis fans’ hopes alive for a deep run as she was able to defeat the No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 on Friday at the Australian Open to advance to the round of 16. Gavrilova has been the sole Australian representative in the women’s singles draw since Tuesday, as she was the only Australian woman to advance out of the first round.

In the first set, Gavrilova and Mladenovic exchanged breaks in each of their second service games before Gavrilova would go on to break in the seventh game and hold on to that lead to close out the set. The efficient 32-minute first set included zero deuce games and only saw two games in which the loser of the game got to 30.

The second set was more tightly contested as the first game lasted nine points before Mladenovic was able to hold. Gavrilova then held for 1-1, the last hold before four consecutive breaks were exchanged. After being down a break twice and battling back both times, Mladenovic went on to get a break in the tenth game and close out the second set, forcing a decider.

Gavrilova and Mladenovic wound up playing the longest third set of the women’s singles tournament at the Australian Open as they needed 20 games to decide a winner. Once again, Gavrilova was able to break early in the set, but was unable to consolidate as she was broken right back by Mladenovic to get the set to 1-1. There was minimal trouble on serve until Gavrilova broke Mladenovic again to go up 5-4 and have a shot at serving out the match. Her consolidation troubles continued, though, she was broken at 15 and Mladenovic prolonged the match. Finally at 9-9, Gavrilova got the decisive break to go up 10-9 and went on to hold to make her first fourth round at a slam.

One of the main differences in the match came in the unforced errors department as Mladenovic committed 61 while Gavrilova contained hers to 30. The two were not unfamiliar with each other though, as they had faced off in the 2009 final of the French Open juniors, where Mladenovic was able to get the straight sets win. Gavrilova was able to get her revenge on Friday, and is able to continue her dream run in front of her home fans.

The Aussie winning the 171 minute match is a testament to her maturity and ability to keep her composure in difficult situations as she continues her best run at a slam. The 21 year old dubbed the win as the “best win of [her] whole career,” but has an opportunity to get an even better one as she will take on the No. 10 seed Carla Suarez Navarro in the fourth round.

Daria Gavrilova Pleases Home Aussie Crowd With Upset Of Petra Kvitova

by Kevin Craig

@Kcraig_tennis

Daria Gavrilova, the 21-year-old from Australia, gave the home crowd plenty to cheer for on Wednesday at Melbourne Park as she defeated the No. 6 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Night matches in Margaret Court Arena are always a special event to watch, and having a home favorite playing a Grand Slam champion was no exception. Gavrilova is full of confidence currently after having teamed up with Nick Kyrgios to win the Hopman Cup in the first week of the year, and that confidence was on display as she got the biggest win of her career in the second round of the Australian Open.

In the beginning of the match, things appeared bleak to the Aussie crowd as Gavrilova fell down an early break in the first set to the big-hitting Kvitova. Gavrilova was undeterred, though, and fought back to win four of the next five games after being broken to win the set.

The second set started off fairly straightforward, with no breaks of serve coming until the sixth game, when Gavrilova was able to garner a break for a 4-2 lead. She would go on to attempt serving for the match at 5-3, but it was an unsuccessful attempt for the Aussie as Kvitova was able to fight back in that game and get back on serve. Gavrilova was able to keep her composure though and break right back to earn the 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Gavrilova took advantage of Kvitova’s poor serving performance, winning 52 percent of all of Kvitova’s serve points, including 57 percent on second serve. Combine that with 35 unforced errors from Kvitova, including four in the final game, and Gavrilova was well on her way to the upset.

There is a possibility that Kvitova was not 100 percent healthy, as she was forced to withdraw from both the events she was signed up for prior to the Australian Open.

The night before the upset occurred, Lleyton Hewitt somewhat foreshadowed what would happen, praising Gavrilova in his post-match press conference on Tuesday. Hewitt complimented her work ethic and claimed “she’s got a lot of good things ahead of her.”

Gavrilova will look to keep the Aussie dream alive as she takes on the No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic in the third round.

, the 21-year-old from Australia, gave the home crowd plenty to cheer for on Wednesday at Melbourne Park as she defeated the No. 6 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Night matches in Margaret Court Arena are always a special event to watch, and having a home favorite playing a Grand Slam champion was no exception. Gavrilova is full of confidence currently after having teamed up with Nick Kyrgios to win the Hopman Cup in the first week of the year, and that confidence was on display as she got the biggest win of her career in the second round of the Australian Open.

In the beginning of the match, things appeared bleak to the Aussie crowd as Gavrilova fell down an early break in the first set to the big-hitting Kvitova. Gavrilova was undeterred, though, and fought back to win four of the next five games after being broken to win the set.

The second set started off fairly straightforward, with no breaks of serve coming until the sixth game, when Gavrilova was able to garner a break for a 4-2 lead. She would go on to attempt serving for the match at 5-3, but it was an unsuccessful attempt for the Aussie as Kvitova was able to fight back in that game and get back on serve. Gavrilova was able to keep her composure though and break right back to earn the 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Gavrilova took advantage of Kvitova’s poor serving performance, winning 52 percent of all of Kvitova’s serve points, including 57 percent on second serve. Combine that with 35 unforced errors from Kvitova, including four in the final game, and Gavrilova was well on her way to the upset.

There is a possibility that Kvitova was not 100 percent healthy, as she was forced to withdraw from both the events she was signed up for prior to the Australian Open.

The night before the upset occurred, Lleyton Hewitt somewhat foreshadowed what would happen, praising Gavrilova in his post-match press conference on Tuesday. Hewitt complimented her work ethic and claimed “she’s got a lot of good things ahead of her.”

Gavrilova will look to keep the Aussie dream alive as she takes on the No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic in the third round.

Fernando Verdasco Stuns In Australian Open Upset Of Rafael Nadal

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Fernando Verdasco stunned the tennis world on Tuesday in Melbourne when he defeated Rafael Nadal in an epic five setter, 7-6, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2.

After a tight first set in which Verdasco was simply the better player, Nadal seemed to relax and take things under his control, winning the second and third sets with a break advantage. It was the fourth set, though, when Verdasco began to really assert his presence again, forcing the set into a tiebreak and winning it.

Despite winning the fourth set, the momentum did not immediately shift in Verdasco’s favor, as Nadal was able to break and take a 2-0 lead early in the fifth set. Nadal then saw another break point as Verdasco was serving at 0-2, but Verdasco managed to fire four aces in the game and hold, making that the first of six consecutive games he would win to close out the match.

The final game of the match was essentially a microcosm of the entire match. As Nadal was serving at 2-5, he got up 30-0, but Verdasco turned the game around by hitting four consecutive winners, allowing him to break and win the match.

Verdasco used his big-hitting style of play to simply overpower Nadal, managing to hit 90 winners past the nine-time French Open champion. The forehand alone for Verdasco was able to hit 41 winners, while he hit 20 aces and 10 return winners, allowing him to keep the points short.

Many tennis fans were excited for this match before it even began as it was a rematch of the extraordinary semifinal played between the two men at the 2009 Australian Open in which Nadal won in five sets after a grueling five hour battle. The two Spanish warriors did not disappoint this time either, as Verdasco was able to unexpectedly turn the tables in his favor, toughing out Nadal in five more grueling sets that lasted just under five hours.

After dropping his first 13 meetings with Nadal, Verdasco has now been able to win three of the last four, including at the Miami Open last year. Verdasco has a favorable draw in the second round to back up this result, as he plays 87th ranked Dudi Sela.

Martina Hingis Returns To No. 1 Doubles Ranking – Passing Shots With Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

  • Bob and Mike Bryan are the No. 3 seeds in the men’s doubles draw at the 2016 Australian Open. The last time the Bryans were seeded lower than No. 2 at a grand slam was at the French Open in 2005, where they would go on to make the final.
  • American Nicole Gibbs was able to qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open without dropping a set. In her three matches, Gibbs was able to win more than half of her return points, 52 percent, allowing her to break her opponents 15 times total.
  • Viktor Troicki was able to defend his title in Sydney, defeating Grigor Dimitrov 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(7). Troicki became the first man to win back to back titles in Sydney since James Blake did so in 2006 and 2007. Prior to his loss in the final, Dimitrov had won 11 consecutive deciding set tiebreakers. The last time Dimitrov had lost a deciding set tiebreak before this was in 2012 against Donald Young in Memphis. The man who holds the record for most deciding set tiebreakers won consecutively is Carlos Moya with 17.
  • In the Simona Halep – Svetlana Kuznetsova semifinal match in Sydney, Halep was able to win almost every statistical category, yet she lost the match. Kuznetsova won 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3, despite winning five less points than Halep did. Kuznetsova went on to win the title, defeating Monica Puig in straight sets in the final.
  • The doubles team of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won their 30th match in a row by defeating Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in the final in Sydney. The longest win streak by a women’s doubles team is held by Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova at 44. With the title, Hingis will join Mirza as co-No. 1 doubles players, seeing Hingis return to No. 1 in the rankings for the first time since 2000.
  • Also in Sydney, Teymuraz Gabashvili was able to make his first ATP semifinal after going 0-16 in ATP quarterfinal matches to start his career.
  • Mikhail Youzhny won his second challenger tournament in a row, defeating Adam Pavlasek in Bangkok, 6-4, 6-1. The win will boost Youzhny back into the Top 100 after having been outside of the Top 150 as recently as November of 2015.
  • Three tournaments in the United States have taken place on the futures circuit in 2016 so far, and each event has seen a different American teen reach the final. Stefan Kozlov won in Los Angeles in the first week of the season, while Tommy Paul won in Plantation and Michael Mmoh lost the final in Long Beach in the second week.

Brothers Andy and Jamie Murray Put Britain On Davis Cup Brink

by Kevin Craig

Great Britain took a massive step towards securing their first Davis Cup title since 1936 by defeating Belgium in the doubles rubber on Saturday in Ghent. The British team of Andy and Jamie Murray were able to defeat the Belgian team of Steve Darcis and David Goffin in a tight four set match.

The Brits won the match by a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 score line, fighting off a resilient performance from the home team. The first set was straightforward for the Murray brothers, only making four unforced errors and saving the only break point they faced. The Belgians kept it tight, though, as only three points separated the two sides in the first set.

Darcis and Goffin continued to play well into the second set, and were able to prolong the match by getting a break and winning the set. The Belgians controlled play with their serve, making 80 percent of their first serves and winning five out of the six points played on their second serve. This success on serve allowed them to apply pressure on the Great Britain service games, leading to three break point opportunities. Again, the set was very tight throughout, as this time only two points separated the teams.

The third set saw the momentum shift in the favor of the Brits as the overall quality of the match dropped. The third set saw five breaks total, but the advantage in that department went to the Murray brothers as they broke three times, compared to the Belgians’ two. Darcis and Goffin struggled on their first serve, only winning 29 percent of their first serve points, allowing the Brits to see four break chances. The Murray brothers didn’t perform at their highest level, either, but they were able to play the bigger points better, allowing them to take a two sets to one lead.

The fourth set was determined by which team was more efficient on break chances, and that was Great Britain. Belgium had a lot of opportunities, but succeeded on none of them, wasting seven break chances in the fourth set. On the other side of the net, the Murray brothers only had two break chances, but took advantage of both of them, allowing them to win the set, and the match, with a comfortable double break.

Many were surprised by the fact that Goffin was chosen to play the doubles over Ruben Bemelmans, a player with much more success in his doubles career. While Goffin may be a much better player all around, Bemelmans had been a successful part of Belgium’s doubles teams for the past few years. The decision to not play Bemelmans may not have ultimately changed the outcome of the match, but Great Britain is now able to head into Sunday knowing they only need one win to take home the Davis Cup title. With Murray playing the first match of the day, British tennis fans hope they will be celebrating early.