Tennis round-up: Federer and Raonic through in Chennai, Spaniards star in Brisbane

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Fight on his hands: Federer struggled past John Millman in India.

Swiss tennis star Roger Federer won his 997th match on the ATP Tour on Thursday, but not before surviving an almighty scare from Australian wildcard John Millman at the Brisbane International.

– WTA top-8 lead all-star DDF Tennis line-up

– A day with Judy Murray: Super mum, super service

– Federer dreaming of winning Aus Open and Wimbledon

Playing his first match of the year after receiving a first round bye, world number two Federer had to come from a set and a break down to overhaul Millman 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in just over two hours.

Federer was out of sorts throughout the match against a player ranked 151 places below him, making 38 unforced errors — most of them in the opening set-and-a-half.

Millman, on the other hand, played some brilliant tennis, spurred on by the emotion of playing in front of family and friends on his home court.

Two years ago he took a set off Britain's Andy Murray at the Brisbane International before fading away.

Millman was out of the game for 12 months from May 2013 with a shoulder injury and has only played lower level Challenger tournaments since then.

He has won just three matches on the main ATP Tour in his career, two of those in Brisbane, and has US$261,000 in prize money, compared with Federer's $88.6 million. 

But for much of the match there appeared little difference between the two as Millman lifted and Federer struggled to find his touch.

Valiant effort: John Millman.

Millman, 25, stunned the capacity crowd at Pat Rafter Arena when he broke Federer to take the first set, then broke again to lead 3-1 in the second.

But Federer noticeably lifted a level, breaking straight back before breaking Millman's next serve to force a decider.

The Swiss maestro took advantage of his tiring opponent to ease away with the third set in 37 minutes.

Federer now plays another Australian wildcard, James Duckworth, in the quarter-finals following his 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 win over Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.

Through: Milos Raonic.

Earlier, Canada's Milos Raonic fired off 17 aces in his 6-3, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

Raonic ended the year ranked eighth in the world and, along with Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, is seen as one of the men most likely to end the dominance of Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Elsewhere in Chennai, Spanish second seed Feliciano Lopez crashed out of the $450,000 ATP Chennai Open on Thursday in a stunning second-round loss to qualifier Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia.

The world number 14 looked rusty in his first match of the season as he tamely went down 6-4, 6-4 to the 156th-ranked Bedene in an hour and 25 minutes at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium.

Progressing: Feliciano Lopez.

Two other Spaniards, third seed Roberto Bautista-Agut and number five Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, advanced to the quarter-finals.

The 15th-ranked Bautista-Agut proved too strong for number 102 Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, cruising to a 6-3, 6-2 win in an hour and 10 minutes.

Bautista-Agut, a finalist in Chennai in 2013, struggled with his first serve and double-faulted four times, but six aces and strong volleys from the baseline helped him dominate the German.

The 31-year-old Garcia-Lopez fought back after losing the first set to oust Tatsuma Ito of Japan 6-7 (1-7), 6-2, 6-0 in two hours on an outside court.

In Friday's quarter-finals, Garcia-Lopez will take on Bedene.

Taiwanese veteran Yen Hsun-Lu rode past Pablo Carreno-Busta of Spain 6-4, 6-4 in 73 minutes to set up a quarter-final clash against Bautista-Agut.

The tournament, which also features world number four and defending Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland, will earn the winner on Sunday $73,400 and 250 ranking points.

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WTA's top-8 lead all-star Dubai Tennis Championship line-up

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Reigning champ: Venus Williams.

Dubai is all set to welcome one of the best player line-ups in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships’ history next month, with eight of the WTA’s top ten taking part.  

– A day with Judy Murray: The super mum with super service

– In photos: The Mubadala World Tennis Championship

– Breathing life into Indian tennis: The IPTL and CTL

According to organisers, the male participants will be finalised in the coming weeks but they are hoping that the likes of reigning champion Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and last year's beaten finalist Thomas Berdych will be present.

The women’s draw will include world no 1 Serena Williams, world number 3 Simona Halep and world number 4 Petra Kvitova.

Other top players heading to Dubai are Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber , while 2014 Champion Venus Williams will also return to defend her title.

Staged at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Garhoud, the action will commence on 15 February with the $2.5 million WTA event, followed on 23 February by the $2.5 million ATP tournament.

Commenting on this year’s event, Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organisers, said: "We are delighted to be welcoming the world’s best players back to Dubai.

“We are looking forward to some thrilling matches, with so many great players here the fans will be able to see world class tennis on every day of the tournament.”

Tournament Director, Salah Tahlak added: “This tournament is eagerly awaited by players and fans alike and the line-up this year is really fantastic. We look forward to welcoming spectators for this year’s event and providing some unforgettable tennis action.”

This year marks the 23rd men’s event and the 15th women’s event, and plans are in place for a packed social programme to accompany the event.

The ever-popular Ladies’ Day, Kids’ Days, and Family Days will return, with competitions and opportunities for lucky fans to win coveted finals tickets.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Tickets for the event will go on sale on 19 January from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily. 

Grandstand tickets can also be bought online at http://www.timeouttickets.com/

For further information about tickets, prices and the tournament visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com.

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A day with Judy Murray: Super Mum with super service

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Super Mum: Judy Murray.

She is the most famous mother in professional tennis and has played a huge role in helping her two sons become Wimbledon champions – Andy in singles and Jamie in mixed doubles.

Judy Murray is a regular figure in the spotlight and it’s not just because of her recent stint on BBC’s dance competition show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. She is Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain and recently launched a programme to get more girls involved in tennis.

Sport360° caught up with the 55-year-old in Abu Dhabi, where she took part in a clinic for UAE coaches at Zayed Sports City. 

– Kareem Allaf is Andy Murray's MWTC hitting partner

We’ve had world-class tennis events in the UAE now for almost two decades yet the country hasn’t been able to produce any top players. What do you think needs to be done?

The big events are great because it obviously gives people the chance to see the top players. Any sport needs role models and needs big events to stimulate an interest. 
But the strength of your sport is only as good as its grassroots. So you need to make your sport attractive to start with. But then make it as accessible as you can to as many as you can.

How would you describe your coaching philosophy?

For me, tennis is a complex coordination sport. You’ve got a piece of equipment, you’ve got a moving ball, you’ve got a net, you’ve got white lines and you’ve got an opponent. So for me in tennis, it is all about getting kids well-coordinated first. Because if they’re well-coordinated then actually they can probably pick up any sport quite well. And you can develop coordination skills by playing actively at home. The problem nowadays is that so many of the things that are trendy for kids to play with involve sitting on their butt and fiddling with their thumbs and fingers. So it’s about coordination first, and then it’s getting to love the sport so there has to be a lot of fun involved. 

We know Andy loves his video games. Were him and Jamie like that when they were young, or was it easy to get them to be active outdoors?

They played video games but not all the time. They did loads of sports. They tried every sport under the sun except skiing. But because me and their dad and their grandparents, we’re all sporty, so we played actively with them all the time. Doesn’t mean we were coaching them to do anything. We were just playing football or basketball or table tennis. Whatever it was, we were always playing with them. They liked PlayStation as well, Andy more than Jamie. In Scotland the weather is terrible, so these things are great as indoor entertainment. 

We’ve seen parents who have coached their kids and it created a strain in their relationship. How did you manage to navigate that successfully while coaching your own children when they were younger?

It probably helped me a lot that I was the Scottish national coach for about nine or 10 years when my kids were young and developing. And because tennis was such a small sport in Scotland, we had one indoor centre with four courts, which happened to be very close to where we lived, which also was a big reason why Jamie and Andy and some of the others managed to become good players. 

Whenever we travelled to other tournaments it wasn’t about me and my kids always, sometimes it was, but most of the time I’d be driving a minibus and I had 10, 14, 16 kids to look after. Or certainly a car full of them. I think I didn’t get so caught up in my kids because I always had so many others to look out for. And I also think that when they got to a certain age I decided it was more important to be a mum than a coach, then for me it was all about finding the right people to work with them. 

When Andy hired Amelie Mauresmo as his coach, it created a lot of attention with her being the first female to coach a top player. What was your reaction?

I think it’s great. I think it’s got nothing to do with her being female. I think it’s all about finding the right fit for you. It shouldn’t be about gender. It just is the case that the men’s tour and the women’s tour is populated almost entirely by male coaches. 

I hope that that might make other players, male and female, think that there are female coach options. I think she was such a skilful player herself, she was world No1. I loved the way she played the game, I loved the variety and the feel she had for the game and I think she can appreciate the things that Andy can do with the ball and help him hopefully to maximise what he’s got and get back on track. He’s enjoyed it very much so far and that’s the most important thing.

There’s always these jokes and stories of keeping track of Andy’s results when you’re in attendance, and his results when you’re not. Do you think your presence affects Andy’s performances?

I don’t think so. I think for all top players,  the biggest events are where they need the most emotional support. And virtually all the top players will have family members with them there. So I try to go to the slams to support. I hate watching it on the television. I think he likes it when I am there, but he doesn’t really need me to do anything for him.

You’ve been captain of the Great Britain Fed Cup team for a while now, how is the experience going for you?

I really enjoy the Fed Cup because I love team competition, I always have. The problem for Great Britain in the Fed Cup and for many other nations is that we’re in one of these big zones where there are 16 teams, we play over four days in February, usually somewhere quite obscure where next to nobody is watching. There is very little media coverage of it because it’s the week after the Australian Open and no journalists travel. So it doesn’t have the profile that Davis Cup has for example. 

The Davis Cup format is totally different to Fed Cup, everybody has home and away ties which means the governing body of your nation is able to use the ties and the team to stimulate fan base, interest, media profile, excitement. And it’s hard for us to do that with Fed Cup in the zone that we’re in. So basically for us if we play in February and we don’t get out, there isn’t anything else until the following February.

I think I would really like to see Fed Cup having the same format as the Davis Cup and allowing home and away ties because we need to build women’s tennis and I think team competition is one of the best ways to do it.

You’re focused on developing tennis amongst females at home. How do you plan to do that?

What I’ve done with Fed Cup is to look at how do can become a stronger women’s tennis nation. And we have had to work very hard to make tennis more attractive to little girls and to build a stronger female coaching workforce because I really believe that more female coaches will keep more girls in the game. 

In August I launched a programme called the Miss-Hits. Which is six animated characters that each represent a tennis shot and it’s a 12-week programme for girls aged 5-8, backed up by a website and an app which teaches them how to keep the score and how to play a fun competition.

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