2014/11/23

Venus Williams Falls in Australian Open First Round

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

(January 13, 2014) Seven-time major singles winner Venus Williams fell in the first round of the Australian Open to 22nd seed Ekaterina Makarova on Monday in Margaret Court Arena.

The 33-year-old veteran blew past Makarova in the first set going 3 for 3 in break point opportunities, hitting 15 winners.

The swing to Makarova came at 4-5 in the second set with Williams serving. The American double-faulted three straight times to give the Russian a break and the second set.

Venus Williams opened the third set jumping out to a 3-0 and then her serve began to fail her. Makarova won five consecutive games to take a 5-3 lead. She would close out the match.

Williams was 5- 14 in break point conversions during the match and hit 56 unforced errors.

“I think she played really well, and I think just my level was a little bit too up and down,” Williams said.

“I was hitting the ball well this week, and, you know, obviously it was disappointing to not win the first round.”

“I just really focused on the match and just tried to put the ball in the court and played aggressive,” she said.  “That’s pretty much what I tried to do.

“I totally do want to win tournaments.  It’s fun.  So going into tournaments, that’s always something I hope for.”

Venus said that she’s feeling better. She was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome back in 2012. “The last 12 months I have had issues, but this year I definitely am looking forward to having a good run and feeling well.”

When asked if she is close to closing the gap between where Williams knows she can play and were she is now, she responded:

“I don’t know.  That’s difficult to say, because I do play really, you know, points really well, and then sometimes I don’t put them together as well.  I feel like I have to be patient with myself, because I really haven’t had a chance to play that consistently.

“So I think I just have to be patient and keep going and just wait for it to keep coming together more and more.”

Overall, Williams is 55-6 in major first round matches, falling in the first round of the Australian Open for just the second time.

Makarova upset Venus’ sister Serena Williams in the fourth round of the 2012 Australian Open.
Makarova will play American Irina Falconi in the second round.

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Juan Martin Del Potro Wins Sydney International

Del Potro

By Dave Gertler

(January 11, 2014) SYDNEY – A flurry of unforced errors in the first set between Bernard Tomic and Juan Martin Del Potro was the beginning of the end of Tomic’s campaign to defend the Apia International title, in Sydney on Saturday night.

For the first six games, both Tomic and Del Potro displayed a cross section of the shots and power available to them, and although Tomic was dropping the first point of his service games – a trend that would continue throughout the rest of the match – he was still managing to hold serve, albeit without pushing Del Potro on his own serve – also an unhelpful trend for the 21-year-old Australian.

Tomic was hanging in there with the world No.5, and serving at 3-all when he made four consecutive unforced errors to hand Del Potro the break. This would be the start of a ten-point run that would only end when Tomic was serving at 3-5, 0-30. Seemingly stripped of his confidence from this point, the set was over a few points later, when Tomic netted a backhand to give Del Potro the first set 6-3.

Tomic would later comment on the significant turning point, saying, “I felt like at the 3 all game I missed two, three shots I shouldn’t have probably missed. From then, he just sort of got momentum and started to relax, and he was starting to play to win rather not to lose. From then it was very difficult for me to turn it around. Very difficult.”

Nonetheless, after a rousing cheer from the Aussie crowd between play of the first and second sets, Tomic showed positive signs of keeping up with the grand slam champion. When Del Potro – whom many in the crowd also came to support – held the opening service game of the second set to love, Tomic matched this feat on his own serve, firing off two aces on the way to his own love-hold.

Unfortunately for Tomic, that was all the love he would get on Ken Rosewall Arena, as he would go on to lose the next five games, and the championship, in a match that lasted 53 minutes.

A stingy Del Potro never let Tomic have more than two points on his serve – he dominated his younger opponent with 83% first serve points won (compared to Tomic’s 60%) and 86% second serve points won (compared to Tomic’s 25%). Towards the end of the short match, Del Potro was regularly clocking over 200km/h on first serve, whereas the Australian’s first serve maxed out at about 160km/h.

Del Potro said post match, “I think I play great. My forehand works perfect, I make a lot winners, many aces, play good slices. Every long rally we played I won all of them.” He summarized the win over Tomic, saying, “I think Bernard was a little frustrating after see me very focus on the match and hitting the ball so well. He is still young in some moment of the match, but he has everything to win titles, and he will reach finals very, very soon.”

Both players are now looking ahead to the Australian Open in Melbourne, where Tomic has drawn world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the first round. Ken Rosewall, the man himself, had congratulated both players on court after the final was over. “He said, Very good tournament. Pleased to have you back,” Tomic recounted his conversation with the living tennis legend, “I said, Thank you, Mr. Rosewall, hopefully next year I can come back and have another chance of winning.  He wished me luck for Tuesday’s match against Rafa.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney and was covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova Wins Sydney Title

Tsvetana Pironkova

Tsvetana Pironkova

By Dave Gertler

(January 10, 2014) SYDNEY – Tsvetana Pironkova has ended an astounding run at the Apia International with a history-making win in the final over Angelique Kerber of Germany. The 26-year-old Pironkova had never reached the final of a WTA tournament before, nor had the Apia International women’s event been won by a qualifier. To realize this achievement, Pironkova had to win eight matches in eight days, beating top seeds Petra Kvitova and Sara Errani along the way.

Immediately after winning her first title, the emotion poured out of the world No.107, as she fell to her knees rocking back and forth for a few moments with her head in her hands, crying. After dedicating the win to her late grandfather in her trophy speech, she said, “This is something that I’ve been waiting for for so long and something that I’ve missed so much. Now that I finally have it, it’s all surreal. I still cannot believe it, honestly.”

Acknowledging the support of her parents, who were in the front row at Ken Rosewall Arena, Pironkova said, “My mom and dad are the people that have always been with me. Good or bad, they have always been behind my back and pushing me. My dad is also my coach, so obviously he’s very excited, too.”

Pironkova had been the more consistent player in a first that saw five breaks of serve between her and her and the world No.9 Kerber, Pironkova breaking Kerber to close out the set 6-4 before racing to a lead in the second set. Pironkova was serving at 3-1 when Kerber seized control of the match, won three games in a row and was serving with a break at 4-3.

Pironkova immediately broke back for 4-4, rallying the support of the crowd who began to sense the magnitude of what they were witnessing. After Pironkova then held serve, Kerber, a game away from losing the match, called her coach onto the court at the change of ends, but was unable to stop the momentum of Pironkova who, with the crowd firmly behind her, broke Kerber for the match.

Pironkova, aware that eight straight matches isn’t ideal preparation for a grand slam tournament, was nonetheless determined to savour the moment, saying, “Now I won the title. I’m not just going to take it for granted. I am going to be happy for as much as I can. I’m I am going enjoy this moment as much as I, and take everything from it that I can. It can only give me good things.”

Pironkova was definitely feeling the effects of eight consecutive matches, revealing that, “In the beginning of the match I was feeling pain all over my legs actually, in my thighs. I said, You’re in the final now.  You cannot let this affect you that much. Play until you pass out. So yeah, I guess the adrenaline helps you to pull through it, because right now when I walk I feel like my legs are going to fall apart, you know.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Del Potro and Tomic advance to the finals of the Apia International

Bernard Tomic

Bernard Tomic

By Dave Gertler

(January 10, 2014) SYDNEY – Juan Martin Del Potro put on a clinical display of dominant tennis to beat Dmitry Tursunov in the semifinals of the Apia International, on Friday.

Tursunov mustered all the defensive skills he could manage to try and hold off the Argentine world No.5, who seemed to be hitting bigger and moving around the court at a higher intensity than the Sydney crowd had yet seen in 2014. The 31-year-old Russian world No.32 fought well on serve but was unable to match the level of the 2009 US Open champion. While he kept up for most of the first set, only ceding one break toward the end for 4-6, the second set was more one-sided, Tursunov broken twice on the way to a 2-6 scoreline.

“I think I played the best match of the week,” said Del Potro, “I played great with my forehands and serves. I didn’t make easy errors and I play solid on the baselines and I play good dropshots, good volleys. I think I did everything okay, and I’m glad with my level of today. I’m looking forward for the final of tomorrow.”

When asked whether it was the announcement of the Australian Open draw earlier in the day that had been the catalyst for his performance today, Del Potro emphasized his focus on this tournament, saying, “I didn’t see (the draw) yet, and I don’t want to know yet. I think I’m trying to be professional. This tournament is not over yet for me. I have an important match tomorrow, so I try to just be focus on this tournament, on this draw, this schedule. And my team already knows they’re not allowed to talk about Melbourne yet.  My friends, too. If I can be focused just on in tournament it’s much better for me.”

While the second semifinal was being decided between Sergiy Stakhovsky and Bernard Tomic, Del Potro discussed his thoughts on playing Tomic – the eventual winner – saying, “He’s hitting harder his forehand. He been working a lot on that forehand I think. He improve a little bit his game. In the final everything can happen. Doesn’t matter who’s the favorite on the paper. The final must to be play, and tomorrow I can tell you who is the winner.”

Tomic’s win over Stakhovsky was a nervous one, Stakhovsky known as a net-rushing all-court player, and also famously for his upset over Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013. In a topsy-turvy affair, Tomic seemed unsettled and less confident than the calculating, aggressive Tomic who had beaten Alexandr Dolgopolov the previous evening.

In the early stages of the match, Stakhovsky was the more aggressive and won the first set in a tie break. While Tomic and Stakhovsky together faced 11 break points in the first set, the second set saw only one break point – on Stakhovsky’s serve – which Tomic converted, to win the set 7-5, taking the match to a deciding set.

Stakhovsky’s unforced errors were a factor throughout the match, and were his downfall in the third set, along with some untimely double faults. Tomic became the more aggressive and relatively consistent player of the two, in a match largely characterized stalemate. Forcing the break of serve at 3-3, Tomic held for 5-3 and broke again to close out the match.

Tomic was realistic about his chances against Del Potro, and gave an honest assessment of his sketchy performance in the semifinal by saying he will need to, “Play the way I played in my first round and the quarters to win.”

Like Del Potro, Tomic – who it was announced today will face world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the first round at the Australian Open – was reluctant to cast his thoughts ahead to next week’s grand slam, saying, “My main priority is tomorrow night, and on Sunday I’ll think about the Australian Open.” When asked again, he said, “Like I said, we’ll talk about it Sunday.”

About Del Potro, Tomic said, “He can play amazing. I have to stick with him to have a chance. He could get tight and I play a little bit differently, so hopefully I can get buzzed up and play my tennis,” also adding that the Argentine’s forehand is the best on tour.

As an overall strategy going into the final, Tomic said, “I know what Juan is gonna be doing.  Obviously he’s very, very good at what he does. This is why he’s there. I have to do something different. I have to play my game. It’s a final. I’ll go out there, have fun, relax, and I’m going for the win.”

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Defending Champion Tomic Tops Crafty Dolgopolov

Tomic jacket

By Dave Gertler

(January 9, 2014) SYDNEY – Bernard Tomic has beaten Alexandr Dolgopolov to reach the semifinals of the Apia International in Sydney. It was an entertaining match from the start, both players being known for their crafty and hard-to-predict shots and patterns of play, Tomic with the bigger serve and shots – when he needs them – and Dolgopolov the faster around the court and able to pull the trigger from anywhere.

The first set was very close, with both players hitting purposefully and matching each other shot for shot. Tomic got the first break but Dolgopolov broke back a couple of games later before Tomic broke again, taking the first set 6-4.

After being broken early in the second set, Dolgopolov lost some crispness off his shots, taking a more defensive style of play, which left Tomic to control most of the points. The crowd in Ken Rosewall Arena swayed between supporting Tomic’s on-court performance, and simply being enthralled at the level of tennis they were seeing from both players.

Dolgopolov briefly returned to the level of play that saw him oust No.2 seed Jerzy Janowicz yesterday in the second round, but it was too little too late, as Tomic held on to win the second set 6-3, the match lasting 1 hour and 5 minutes.

Bernard Tomic photo by Paul Gertler

Bernard Tomic photo by Paul Gertler

Tomic discussed his mentality going into the match against Dolgopolov, who’s been ranked as high as No.13, saying, “He’s very difficult to play. I knew as soon as I was playing him it was going to be a difficult match. I don’t like playing him. I played the right tennis. I was very focused and very clear what I needed to do.” Expanding on his tactics for this match, he added later, “I played him so many times I know exactly what he’s going to do and does. I’m just probably lucky he was expecting me to play a little bit more the way I played the few other times I played him. But I didn’t. I didn’t let him get into that zone. That’s why I felt like I had the better advantage.”

Tomic’s acknowledged his good form early in the year, saying, “Every match is getting better and better. I played the first match good and it felt very good, comfortable out on the court today, like in the first round.”

Despite clearly being focused on his campaign to defend his Apia International title, Tomic still had time to discuss the jacket he wore in the post-match news conference. When asked about it, he smiled and said, “It’s from space…It’s a very cool jacket. It’s really unusual.  I don’t know. I like it.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Pironkova Stuns Kvitova in Sydney

Kvitova

Petra Kvitova

By Dave Gertler

(January 9, 2014) World No. 107 Tsvetana Pironkova will be the first women’s qualifier to reach the finals of the Apia International after taking out the No.2 seed Czech Petra Kvitova in straight sets on Ken Rosewall Arena on Thursday. It will also be her first appearance at a WTA level final.

In order to get there, she has had to play seven days in a row, getting past some of the toughest opponents in both the qualifying and the main draws. Physically she says she’s doing fine, apart from, “Some pains here and there.” She said, “It’s quite normal considering I’ve been playing for seven consecutive days now. But these are not serious injuries. These are normal things that happen to you after so many matches. I’ve had them before. I know it’s nothing to worry about too much.”

Showing a glimpse of the mentality that was her motivation to reach her first final, she said, “This is something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time now and something that I’ve been missing, to go to the final or even have a title. So you can only imagine how I will feel tomorrow on the court. We’ll see what happens.”

Angelique Kerber

Angelique Kerber

Despite her undergdog status, Pironkova has won one of her two previous matches against Angelique Kerber, who will be her opponent in the final after Kerber beat American Madison Keys in just over an hour. It was a convincing win for Kerber, who seemed to make fewer unforced errors as the match wore on, neutralizing Keys’ power-hitting and big serving, making the first set a more even contest – at 6-4 – than the second when Kerber used her lefty forehand to attack Keys’ backhand, taking the set 6-2.

Reaching the final of the first tournament of the year Kerber attributed to simple hard work, saying, “I was working very hard in my off season and trying to play more aggressive in my practice sessions,” saying of Keys that she is, “A great, talented player, and I knew this before the match because I had a great, tough match last year at Melbourne against her. So she served very well today, and I think I had a great return.  I think that was also the key in this match.”

While Pironkova joked that winning seven matches in a row is equivalent to a grand slam, her opponent Kerber sees Sydney as an integral part of her preparation for the upcoming slam next week, saying, “I think for me it’s important to have some matches before a grand slam and to feel good, and, yeah, to know that everything is working.  So that’s why I also decide to play here. I think, yeah, I had right now good matches. Tomorrow I had another one, and then I think I am ready for Melbourne.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Top Seed Del Potro Pushed by Stepanek

Del Potro

By Dave Gertler

(January 9, 2014) We’re into the sharp end of the 2014 Apia International in Sydney, on a Thursday that features men’s quarterfinals and women’s semifinals matches on Ken Rosewall Arena, with a mix of singles and doubles matches being played on Grandstand Court.

The biggest drawcard of the men’s tournament, Juan Martin Del Potro, had to contend with consistent pressure from Radek Stepanek throughout their two hour and eight minute quarterfinal. After Del Potro served well to seal the first set 6-4, the Czech 35-year-old played high-risk tennis which seemed to affect Del Potro’s confidence and energy levels, particularly in the second set, during which Stepanek outplayed his opponent, ranked 40 places above him, to win it 6-3.

After being broken in the second set, Del Potro was visibly frustrated, and experienced a dip in energy, errors frequently coming off his racquet.

Post-match he described a moment when he almost smashed his racquet, saying, “Yeah, I was close, but I can’t do that yet. When I get eight or ten racquets, I will smash all of them. I will talk before with the chair umpire to don’t call me a code violation or something. I have to be allowed to do that after two years maybe.”

The third set provided some of the most entertaining tennis seen so far in the 2014 Apia International, when Del Potro lifted his game to match the swashbuckling net-rushing of the world No.45. Whereas in the second set, Del Potro had faced eight break points, saving only five, he proved the better player on all the big points, only allowing Stepanek one break point, which he saved. Del Potro’s break came early at one game all, and with the help of a small but vocal Argentinian contingent on Ken Rosewall Arena, was able to hold onto the advantage and take the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Talking about his growing confidence toward the end of the match, he said, “I’m trying to be calm all the time.  I was positive every moment of the match.  Even Radek improve his game during the second set, I was positive, waiting for my chance, and I play a fantastic two pints in the third game of the third set to break his serve. Then I serve okay.  Just doing my job, and I was close the match really calm.”

In the second men’s quarterfinal, Dmitry Tursonov defeated Denis Istomin 7-6, 6-2. Del Potro and Tursonov will meet in Friday’s men’s semifinal.

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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After Ousting Top Seed Mattek-Sands Forced to Retire in match against Keys

 

Madison Keys

Madison Keys

By Dave Gertler

(January 8, 2014) SYDNEY – After surviving three rounds of qualifying, then claiming two big scalps in the first and second rounds of the Apia International, Bethanie Mattek-Sands retired hurt from her quarterfinal match against American compatriot Madison Keys on Wednesday night.

After being broken three games into the first set, Mattek-Sands called the trainer on for a medical time out, after which she was walking gingerly around the court and pulling the trigger early in points. After holding serve at 1-3 down, Mattek-Sands’ called the trainer out again, before deciding to retire from the match. After the match, Mattek-Sands made a statement to media that the injury is lower-back related, and that she expects to be ready for the Australian Open next week.

“I’ve been through my share of injuries.  You know, once you start compensating too much on the court other things start hurting.

“For me, I want to take care of my body.  It’s not even just about Australian Open, it’s about the rest of my year.

“My biggest goal is to stay healthy.  I’m a huge competitor and it always hurts to have to withdraw, but I wish the best to Madison.

“I just got to be careful,” Mattek-Sands said.  “I’ve probably injured every part of my body at some point in my career.  It’s just I have to be smart about it.  I want to keep playing throughout this whole year.”

“I’m taking a couple days completely off,” the American continues.  I’m going to take care (of) the body and get treatment from the trainers and go from there.

“Really looking forward to Melbourne.”

“Bethanie and I always have great matches,” Keys said.  “It’s always kind of not great when you can’t finish a whole match.

“I just hope she’s better for next week.”

For Keys, she advanced to the semifinals.

“First semifinal in a Premier event, so very excited about that,” Keys acknowledged.  “Definitely a confidence booster.  Just trying to keep building from this and, you know, hopefully keep doing well all year.”

“I’m not really focused on the rankings so much, Keys said in regard to 2014.  “More just focused on getting a good start to the year and kind of building up more match momentum just so that I feel more confident and better for the rest of the year.

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Del Potro Survives Test from Mahut to Advance in Sydney

Juan Martin Del Potro

(January 8, 2014) SYDNEY – Sydney top seed Juan Martin Del Potro had to rally to beat Nicolas Mahut 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in his opening match of the tournament.

“I think to be my first match after two months it was okay,” note the Argentine.  “The court and the balls are really fast and it’s tough to play long rallies.

“And also Mahut serves really well, and he played a lot of slices and volleys.  It’s tough to feel the ball on the baseline.  In the end I broke his serve in the third set, only once, and that was enough to close the match.”

The world No. 5 gets another challenge in Czech Radek Stepanek next.

“He’s a really tough opponent,” Del Potro said.  “They won the Davis Cup, so he must feel confidence playing in this surface.  He has experience.  He’s doing really well in doubles matches, too.

“We play many times.  Every match was close.  I need to improve a little bit my game basically when I start the match and then see what’s happen.

“I’m glad to be in quarterfinals here once again, and I am looking forward to go far in this tournament.”

In other men’s matches, Alexandr Dolgopolov upset second seed Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-2, 6-2 while defending champion Bernard Tomic moved in the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Blaz Kavcic.

“I’m trying to prepare as best I can,” Tomic said.  “I’m not looking at this to defend my title, like I said yesterday.  I’m looking to win another one.  I believe I can do it.

“Eight players left.  I’m confident.  I’m going to keep trying.  Tomorrow is a difficult match.  I’ve got to go out there and play tennis like I did in the first round, ant that’s going to give me the best chance of winning.

Tomic is the defending champion at the Apia International.

Tennis Panorama News is in Sydney Australia covering the Apia International tennis tournament. Follow the Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN

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Matosevic Gets Home Support in Win over Seppi

Marinko Matosevic

Marinko Matosevic

By Dave Gertler

(January 8, 2014) SYDNEY – Twenty-eight-year-old Australian Marinko Matosevic has had a confident second round win over world No.25 Andreas Seppi in front of an appreciative Grandstand Court crowd, on the 6th day of the Apia International tennis tournament in Sydney.

Matosevic made the most of Seppi’s inconsistent forehand, attacking it frequently, as well as hitting a total of 7 aces in two sets. It was a convincing win for the world No. 56 Matosevic, who broke Seppi once in each set, 6-3, 6-4 in 71 minutes.

Crowd support had been a big factor in his first round win over Florian Mayer, yet Matosevic was underwhelmed by the energy on Grandstand Court today. Candid in press, he said, “The crowd was a little dead today. I played an unbelievable point to break him in the second set.  We had like a 20 shot rally. He came in, I’ve lobbed him, and I had like a few little claps.” After the crucial point he was referring to, Matosevic had raised his hands in the air to energize the crowd.

“I tried to get them going.  I was like, Come on, guys.  It was one of the best points this tournament has ever seen. If that doesn’t get them going, I don’t know what will.” Quickly rescinding this tongue-in-cheek claim, he said, “I was just kidding about the greatest point. It was good a good point, though.”

Matosevic’s quarterfinal opponent was decided on an outside court between qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky and French 6th seed Julien Benneteau, on a day featuring mostly men’s matches here at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. Stakhovsky was dialed into the form that has now seen him win five consecutive matches in Sydney, taking the match 6-3, 6-2.

Needing only to get past world No.99 Stakhovsky to reach a likely semifinal against defending champion Bernard Tomic, Matosevic said, “I don’t really look forward.  I’ve done that before.  Every tennis player has looked ahead and then you lose. So I’m just concentrating, you know, like the old cliché, one match at a time.  As soon as you think ahead, that’s when you lose.”

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Australian summer of tennis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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