Fast starts fill the trophy cabinet.
Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open an unprecedented eight times from 16 attempts since he first competed at Melbourne Park in 2005. You can draw a straight line from his silverware to his speedy starts in opening sets.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of players who have won the highest percentage of games in the opening set at the Australian Open over the past 30 years finds Djokovic perched at the top of the tree. The data set includes 105 players who have competed in at least 20 matches at the “Happy Slam” since official tennis statistics were first recorded in 1991.
Djokovic is edging towards a remarkable threshold of winning two out of every three games in the opening set at Melbourne Park from 83 matches played. He has won 64.36 per cent (484/752) of games in the opening set, which has fueled his impressive 75-8 record.
The leading 10 players with the highest percentage of games won in the opening set at Melbourne Park since 1991 are highlighted in the table below.
Highest % Games Won In Set One: Australian Open 1991-2020
(minimum 20 Australian Open matches played)
Djokovic's standout year in wrestling control of the opening set was 2016, when he won north of three out of every four games (76.4%) in the opening stanza.
Years Djokovic Won The Australian Open - First Set % Games Won
In the eight years that Djokovic took the title Down Under, he only dropped the opening set four times from 56 matches, with three of those instances coming in the final. The scores in those three finals were:
• 2008 - Djokovic def J.W. Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2)
• 2012 - Djokovic def. R. Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5
• 2013 - Djokovic def. A. Murray 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2
Overall, Djokovic has been extended to a tie-break in the opening set 12 times in 83 matches. He has triumphed in eight of them, including all four in his successful 2015 campaign.
Djokovic is rated third-best in percentage of games won in second sets at 61.6 per cent. Stefan Edberg (67.4%) and Andre Agassi (62.8%) are the two players who sit above him. Djokovic sits in fifth place with percentage of games won in third sets at 62 per cent. Agassi leads the third-set metric, winning 66.4 per cent of games.
The Australian Open is the Slam where Djokovic has won his highest percentage of games in the opening set.
Djokovic Grand Slams - Percentage Games Won In Set One
1. Australian Open - 64.36%
2. Roland Garros - 60.91%
3. US Open - 60.17%
4. Wimbledon - 58.62%
Djokovic has a ninth Australian Open title in his sights next month. Getting off to a flyer to begin the match is a proven strategy to establish separation from his opponents. It’s a fascinating sub-plot to pay attention to when the Australian Open kicks off on 8 February.
Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut invested huge amounts of intensity and commitment into every training session they shared in Mallorca before making their way to Australia. This level of dedication before they begin their season is a clear sign of their intentions: to reach fifth gear for the start of 2021.
Both of them will be members of Team Spain at the ATP Cup, a competition in which they were on the verge of the title last year. Before stepping on the plane for the first event on the calendar, José Vendrell, Bautista Agut’s coach, spoke to ATPTour.com to analyse his player’s form.
We covered his successful recovery from an elbow injury, Bautista Agut’s aptitude for the early season, the training sessions at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar and this year’s ATP Cup.
The last time Roberto played was 17 October last year. An elbow injury prevented him from participating at Cologne-2 and Paris-Bercy. How is he feeling?
He's feeling good, he hasn't lost anything and he's been training pretty well throughout the preseason. The injury at the end of last year forced us to change our schedule. He had a period of forced holiday, and later rehabilitation and training. I'm very happy that Roberto has been able to put this injury behind him, although with caution because the elbow is a very particular and sensitive issue.
Once he was able to return to the courts, what have you focussed on in preparation for the 2021 season?
[We focussed] on the aspects that we considered important for him to be consistent and competitive, but without making big changes. Roberto is 32 years old and what you have to do is make small adjustments and progressions and detect in which areas he can improve. For example, the speed of his crosscourt [strokes] early in the point. It’s a factor that sets you apart in today’s tennis. The first shots with the top players make a big difference and you have to try and focus more on that.
And to work on those margins you travelled to Mallorca to train with Nadal.
Because Rafa improves every aspect of your game. He sets a high bar and superhuman demands with huge intensity in training. That really helps. They were really good days, with a lot of quality from both of them.
What does Bautista get from training with Nadal?
Rafa erases the margins for error. If you make a small mistake, he takes advantage straight away. A lot of intensity is required, starting every point with aggression. Even if you hit hard, you know that you may reach a defensive phase because he counter-attacks... He improves your fitness, mental, technical and tactical games. It's like a centrifuge. He takes you out of your comfort zone and mixes you up and it demands a lot from you.
And vice versa? What would you say Bautista brings to the table?
Both players train in a very real way. I don't think there's much difference between how they train and how they compete… But in terms of intensity and seriousness, they really invest themselves. It's been positive for both of them because having a player of the quality and intensity of Roberto will also have helped [Rafa] and focussed him even more, if that's possible, before the season.
From your words it seems you are very happy with this pre-season experience.
Of course. The experience was very good, both Rafa's team and the academy treated us wonderfully. It's a place that lives and breathes tennis, ideal for preparing. It's a world-class centre. Also, if you're lucky enough to train with Rafa, as we did, it's wonderful. It was really good for Roberto to fine-tune that final bit of quality that isn't easy to find in such a long preseason.
If there’s one thing that sets Bautista apart, it’s his ability to come flying out of the blocks when competition starts. His record proves that.
He's very competitive. He's a quality player and not someone that needs much of a warm-up where maybe others need two or three tournaments to find their “A” game. He likes to always be playing well and that means he is ready after a while without competing.
And to what do you think he owes his great performances in the first month of competition each season?
The circumstances are favourable to him. [He has] rest, good preparation, the conditions of the Australian swing and being at home for a while, where he always feels good. All this means he feels fresh and makes him comfortable on court. He's an awkward opponent as the stats demonstrate. There's not much more to it. It's obvious he's one of the players with the best numbers at the start of the year.
At the ATP Cup last year he won all six matches he played. In 2021 he will be back in the Spanish side.
We're really excited, whenever there are tournaments where you represent your country he is very happy to play. Playing in teams with the rest of his teammates really motivates him.
What are you expecting from this year’s ATP Cup?
The tournament has had to be adapted this year, but it is well-conceived because for the players it was a high risk to start without competing in the weeks leading up to the Australian Open. It's a good opportunity. It also takes place in Melbourne and I think that it's a good litmus test for everyone. We're very excited like in 2020 and hopefully we'll have a chance like last year when we were very close to the title.
Marcus Daniell hit a booming ace off the court this week — for charity.
The Kiwi announced that starting in 2021, he will donate at least 10 per cent of his annual winnings to effective charity organisations for the rest of his life.
“I take deep pleasure in knowing that every success I have in my working life will ultimately end up saving or changing lives,” Daniell said.
Daniell on 30 November 2020 launched High Impact Athletes, an organisation whose purpose is to channel charitable donations to the most effective, evidence-based charities in the world, specifically in the fields of extreme poverty and environmental impact. The doubles player has now taken his efforts to another level.
In an article he wrote on the High Impact Athletes website, Daniell explained the rationale behind his decision through eight points. One of those explains why committing to donate 10 per cent of his income is “really not scary at all”.
“I don’t need a fancy car or an expensive watch or even an extra barista-made coffee each day to be happy,” Daniell said. “Donating that 10 per cent is not going to decrease my happiness, but it is going to make thousands of lives a whole lot better.”
Daniell, who has been pledging a percentage of his winnings for years, does not donate to just one charity. The No. 45 player in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings in 2015 became involved in the effective altruism movement, which focusses on using one’s resources to do the most good. That means Daniell researches charities and networks with organisations that are part of the movement to discover the charities that will make the most tangible impact with the donations.
Some of the charities HIA aligns with in the environmental impact area include The Clean Air Task Force, The Humane League and The Good Food Institute. Extreme poverty-related charities HIA supports include the Against Malaria Foundation, Helen Keller International and Give Directly.
Daniell has involved several tennis players, including Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jan-Lennard Struff, in High Impact Athletes’ efforts to streamline charitable donations effectively. The 31-year-old’s goal for 2021 is to channel more than $1,000,000 in donations to the most effective charities in the world by the end of the year.
There is no active player outside of the Big Four — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — who has a better winning percentage against the Top 10 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings than Daniil Medvedev.
According to the Infosys ATP Performance Zone, the Big Four are in a league of their own against active players. Djokovic leads the way with a 68.3 winning percentage, with Nadal (64.7%) and Federer (64.6%) not far behind, and Murray at 55.1 per cent. But Medvedev, who is only 24, is already making his mark against the world's best players.
Best Winning % vs. Top 10 (Active Players)
Player Record vs. Top 10 Winning % 1) Novak Djokovic 215-100 68.3% 2) Rafael Nadal 174-95 64.7% 3) Roger Federer 224-123 64.6% 4) Andy Murray 102-83 55.1% 5) Daniil Medvedev 16-19 45.7%
The Russian star has won 45.7 per cent of his matches against Top 10 opponents (16-19), which gives him a better winning percentage than former World No. 1s Carlos Moya (42.3%), Jim Courier (42.1%), Thomas Muster (42%) and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (40.7%).
Medvedev helped bolster his standing at the end of the 2020 season. He was struggling by his high standards, entering the final two tournaments of the year with an 18-10 record. But Medvedev surged to end the season, claiming a third ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters and the biggest trophy of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals. It was an ominous sign for the rest of the ATP Tour and a return to his giant-slaying ways.
With victories over Djokovic, Nadal and 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem at The O2 in London, he became the first player to defeat the Top 3 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings at the Nitto ATP Finals. Medvedev also became the first player to accomplish the feat at any tournament since David Nalbandian's 2007 Mutua Madrid Open run.
Many eyes have been rightfully on Thiem in recent years thanks to the Austrian's success, especially against Federer (Thiem leads 5-2), Nadal (6-9) and Djokovic (5-7). But the World No. 3's winning percentage against the Top 10, 43.8 per cent (32-41), is not as high as Medvedev's.
With eight Top 10 wins in 2019 and seven last year, Medvedev's confidence continues to grow. Since breaking into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings on 15 July 2019, at the start of a magical North American summer swing, Medvedev has posted a 12-7 record against Top 10 opponents.
As Medvedev prepares in Australia for the ATP Cup and the Australian Open, the goals of the 24-year-old will be clear. Carry his late 2020 form in 2021, make a bigger impression against the Big Three – Federer (Medvedev trails 0-3), Nadal (1-3) and Djokovic (3-4) – and potentially clinch more of the sport's biggest prizes.
The world's leading tennis players have begun arriving Down Under for a very different Australian summer swing reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The likes of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Dominic Thiem are preparing for an abbreviated ATP Cup, new and relocated tournaments in Melbourne and an Australian Open pushed back to February from its traditional mid-January start.
Djokovic, who last year dominated the swing by leading Serbia to victory in the ATP Cup and capturing a record eighth Australian Open title, arrived wearing his ATP Cup jacket.
To ease player travel logistics during the pandemic, Tennis Australia chartered 15 flights to bring players from the first ATP Tour stops in Antalya and Delray Beach (Miami), as well as from travel hubs including Dubai and Los Angeles. Some players will be travelling from Doha, where the Australian Open men’s qualifying event took place. Adhering to health and safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, players will submit to 14 days of hotel quarantine upon arrival before competing.
There will be plenty of action in store as players including Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem, Matteo Berrettini and more are set to suit up for their country 1-5 February at the ATP Cup in Melbourne. Serbia is the defending champion after winning the inaugural edition by defeating Spain in the final.
Ready to go ✈️ 🇦🇺— ATP Tour (@atptour) January 14, 2021
(via Matteo Berrettini/Instagram) pic.twitter.com/FVYSbweQZA
In the same week, Melbourne will also host two ATP 250 events, which run 31 Jan. - 6 Feb. David Goffin and Karen Khachanov will headline the Murray River Open (Melbourne 1), while Stan Wawrinka and home favourite Nick Kyrgios feature at Great Ocean Road Open (Melbourne 2). #NextGenATP stars including Jannik Sinner (Melbourne 1) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (Melbourne 2) will also be in action.
🇦🇺— Kei Nishikori (@keinishikori) January 14, 2021
The men's Australian summer swing will culminate at the Australian Open, to be held from 8-21 February. Fans will be allowed to attend in a limited capacity. Djokovic is the defending champion after defeating Thiem in five sets last year to claim his eighth Melbourne crown.
The Nitto ATP Finals, the prestigious season finale of the ATP Tour set to be staged in Turin from 2021-2025, was today presented at a stakeholder engagement event in the Piedmont capital, hosted by Intesa Sanpaolo.
The event, broadcast live with tournament partners, key regional and national government representatives and media in attendance, showcased the long-term vision and positioning of the Nitto ATP Finals as it moves to its new home in Turin, following 12 successful years in London.
Presentations by Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman, Angelo Binaghi, President of the Italian Tennis Federation, and Chiara Appendino, Mayor of Turin, alongside other key stakeholders, explored Turin’s successful bid to host the tournament — which saw the city triumph among 40 applicants — and the city’s ambitions to build on the legacy and growth of the ATP’s showpiece event, whilst promoting the region.
All roads on the ATP Tour this season lead to Turin and the FedEx ATP Race To Turin has officially begun, with only the best eight ATP singles players and doubles teams set to qualify. With players travelling to Australia to begin their 2021 campaigns, Daniil Medvedev, the Nitto ATP Finals defending champion, and Matteo Berrettini, Italian No. 1, sent their support via video message.
In addition to providing an overview of broadcast, marketing, ticketing and corporate hospitality operations, organisers thanked the tournament’s portfolio of globally renowned commercial and media partners for their support, including Nitto, who recently extended their commitment as Title Partner of the Nitto ATP Finals until 2025.
Gaudenzi said: “The Nitto ATP Finals has been an incredible story of growth and innovation, taking place in iconic cities around the world over the past 50 years. Now, we look forward to raising the bar together in Turin, an impressive city with the ambition and vision to build on that legacy and create something inspirational for our fans. We would like to thank all event partners for their invaluable commitment to the Nitto ATP Finals, and also to our players, who will be instrumental in writing future chapters of our most special event.”
Binaghi said: “Our management team has become accustomed to setting ourselves ambitious goals, as highlighted by the success and growth of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome over the past 20 years. Now, we have climbed Everest. The Nitto ATP Finals is the most important indoor tennis tournament in the world. Throughout the bidding process we were supported by the Government, the Region, the Municipality and the largest financial institution in our country and together, we have reached the top.”
Appendino said: “Thanks to a great team effort, we are here today, speaking about Turin as the centre of the tennis world. Turin won the bid against some of the best cities in the world, and now we look forward with confidence to delivering an outstanding event over the next five years. We are working together to create an event that engages city of Turin all year round, with great attention paid to each local territory.”
Sebastian Korda’s dream week at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com fell short of the perfect ending Wednesday when he lost in the championship match against Hubert Hurkacz, but the disappointment won’t keep the #NextGenATP American down.
“I always handle things pretty well. In 2019 I lost in the final of the last tournament of the year in a Challenger with a couple of match points against J.J. Wolf and if I had won that match, I would have gotten into the Australian Open Qualifying,” Korda said. “It’s always a step in the right direction and I always take the positives out of things and I’ll have no problem dealing with this. For me it’s only a big plus. I’m going to go back, I’m going to go work hard and just trust my tennis and keep doing the things that I’m doing.”
That mindset helped the 20-year-old stay focussed throughout an impressive showing in Delray Beach, where he reached his first ATP Tour final. Before the tournament, Korda only owned three tour-level wins, all of which came at Roland Garros last year.
The World No. 119 isn’t leaving the ATP 250 with the champion’s trophy, but next Monday he will move to the fringe of the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Reaching that milestone will be one of the American’s biggest goals when he begins competing again, but Korda is focussed on improving daily, not just shooting for certain numbers.
“For sure to break the Top 100 and be a consistent player at these bigger tournaments would be a super big thing for me to get used to this atmosphere and these players,” Korda said. “It would be super cool, but everything is a process and for me, I’m still 20 years old, so this year is still all about learning and working hard.”
Photo Credit: Andrew Patron/BigShots
After a few days at home in Florida, Korda plans to train in the Czech Republic ahead of ATP Challenger Tour events in France. But the short time at home will give the 6’5” righty a chance to reflect on a special week in Delray Beach. Korda’s parents, former World No. 2 Petr Korda and former WTA player Regina Kordova, were in the stands at the ATP 250 throughout the week, as was his sister Jessica Korda, a professional golfer. Sebi’s other sister, Nelly Korda, who is also a professional golfer, made it to Delray Beach for the title match.
“I always went to my sisters’ golf tournaments and it was always me and my parents on the outside. It’s super cool to see my whole family sitting in a box,” Korda said. “I've dreamed about playing Grand Slams and seeing my family up there supporting me ever since I was a little kid. Envisioning these things has always been super special and to see it’s coming true now, all the hard work and all the time that I’ve put into doing what I love, it’s finally paying off and hopefully I can keep going on the same path that I’m going on right now.”
Many young players would be devastated after losing their first ATP Tour final. But Korda was smiling and even laughing at times during his post-match press conference. Now he’ll get ready for the three-hour drive to Florida’s western coast, where the Korda family lives. Instead of thinking about his loss against Hurkacz, Korda will spend the ride alongside Nelly, reminiscing on one of the best tournaments of his young career.
“It hasn’t fully sunk in, how well I played this week and the great matches that I played,” Korda said. “I played some really good, top players this week and only good things are going to come from this.”