Pavlyuchenkova shocks Bacsinszky at Brisbane International

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Big win: Pavlyuchenkova.

Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova caused the only upset on the first day of the season-opening Brisbane International when she swept aside fifth-seeded Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 6-1.

– VIDEO: Rafael Nadal reflects on 2016 Mubadala victory

– VIDEO: Sport360 comp winner enjoys Wawrinka clinic

– INTERVIEW: Stan Wawrinka holds high hopes for 2016
– INTERVIEW: Andy Murray on fatherhood and 2016

The powerful Russian took just over an hour to defeat Bacsinszky and set up a clash against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. Cornet booked her place in the second round when she beat fellow countrywoman Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4.

Dominika Cibulkova survived a scare from Belgian Yanina Wickmayer to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the tournament’s first match at the Pat Rafter Arena.

The Slovakian was down 4-3 in the third set before storming home to see off Wickmayer in two hours and 11 minutes.

“I was really, really strong, especially mentally,” she said. “In these first tournaments of the season… you never know what to expect.”

Former Brisbane finalist Andrea Petkovic of Germany was untroubled in her 6-1, 6-2 win over Brazilian Teliana Pereira. Petkovic will take on either third seed Maria Sharapova or Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.

In the only other main draw match Varvara Lepchenko of the US beat Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-1 and will now face second-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka begins her campaign today when she plays Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina, while the men’s draw gets underway when fifth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon clashes with Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov. 

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Kyrgios raring to face Murray after strong start to 2016

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Postive mindset: Kyrgios.

Precocious Australian Nick Kyrgios warmed up for an early season test against world No. 2 Andy Murray with an impressive come-from-behind win on the opening day of the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth.

– VIDEO: Rafael Nadal reflects on 2016 Mubadala victory
– VIDEO: Sport360 comp winner enjoys Wawrinka clinic
– INTERVIEW: Stan Wawrinka holds high hopes for 2016
– INTERVIEW: Andy Murray on fatherhood and 2016

Kyrgios, 20, who raised eyebrows with his on-court behaviour last year, was too good for fellow young gun Alexander Zverev in a match that was played out at a frenetic pace.

Kyrgios dropped the first set but steamed through the second two to beat the teenage German in just over an hour, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Kyrgios will face Murray when Australia Green – one of two teams representing the host nation in the event – plays Great Britain on Wednesday, a match he said he was keenly anticipating.

“I have been looking forward to that for a long time now so I’m going to go and do everything I can to physically prepare for that battle,” he said.

Murray has won all four of their encounters, most recently at last year’s US Open, and Kyrgios has taken just one set off the Scot.

Zverev, at just 18, is tipped, along with Kyrgios, to be one of the stars of the men’s game for the next decade. He achieved the only break of the first set, but the volatile Australian kept a cool head to regain control of the match.

“I felt as if it was a lucky break in the first set, I played a couple of loose points,” the world No. 30 said. “I knew I just had to stay calm.”

Daria Gavrilova beat a rusty Sabine Lisicki in the women’s singles 6-2, 6-2, and Australia Green went on to achieve a clean sweep, winning the mixed doubles on a tiebreak, 6-3, 4-6, 10-7.

World No. 36 Gavrilova celebrated her first appearance for Australia with a comfortable win over a clearly underdone Lisicki.

The Russian-born Gavrilova only officially switched allegiances to Australia last month. For Lisicki, it was her first match since the US Open last September having been sidelined with a knee injury.

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Djokovic admits concerns after friend becomes Federer coach

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Weird place: Novak Djokovic (l) and Roger Federer.

World number one Novak Djokovic admitted Sunday it will be bizarre to see his friend Ivan Ljubicic helping coach one of his greatest rivals, Roger Federer, this season.

“Yes! Honestly, yes,” said Djokovic, when asked if he would find it strange to see the Croat as part of the Swiss legend’s coaching staff.

“But you know, again, we are professionals.”

– VIDEO: Rafael Nadal reflects on 2016 Mubadala victory
– VIDEO: Sport360 comp winner enjoys Wawrinka clinic

– INTERVIEW: Stan Wawrinka holds high hopes for 2016
– INTERVIEW: Andy Murray on fatherhood and 2016

It was announced in December that Ljubicic, a former world number three, would be hired in a move widely interpreted as Federer trying to find a way to defeat a dominant Djokovic, who won three Grand Slams last year and was also a finalist in the French Open.

“He (Ljubicic) knows my game, he knows the game of all Roger’s opponents, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Roger has hired him to be with him on the team,” said Djokovic, speaking in Doha, ahead of his first tournament of the season, the Qatar Open, which begins on Monday.

“Whether it’s going to work or not, that’s something to see for all of us, but I wish them all the best. He’s a great guy, very calm, very composed, and I am sure Roger knows why he hired him.”

Federer has denied that the Croat has been hired just to help him overcome the Serb. Djokovic also said he was well-rested from his winter break and was “very excited” to start again on the tour.

Given his performance last season there has been speculation that Djokovic could become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slams in a single season.

There is also the extra prize of a “fifth major” this season, with an Olympics gold medal up for grabs in Rio in August. The Serb said he would play to win every match.

“Grand Slams and Olympic Games are the priority of the season, but it’s a long season, so I can’t really predict what’s going to happen or guarantee if I am going to win any of the Grand Slams or all four.

“Of course, I am going to try to win every tournament and every Grand Slam that I play on, that’s kind of the mindset that I have.”

Djokovic kicks off his season on Monday though it is still not yet known who will come through the qualifiers to face him in the first round. Doha last year represented one of his rare failures as Ivo Karlovic beat him in three seats in the quarter-finals.

Also playing in Doha this year is Rafa Nadal and defending champion David Ferrer. Djokovic added money was not a “priority” after it was revealed he and Federer were in a race to become the first $100 million in tennis.

“Money is not really why I am playing this sport,” he said.

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