Kyrgios pledges support for victims of Australian bushfires

 

World No. 30, Nick Kyrgios has pledged to donate $200 for every ace he serves during the Australian summer in support of victims of the devastating bushfires that have hit Australia.

Raging bushfires have swept through Australia in the last couple of months, causing loss of life and property. Up to 17 people have died as a result of the fires, while tens of thousands more have been rendered homeless.

The bushfires are some of the worst in the country’s history, and have consumed more than 5.9 million hectares of land. Australia’s most populated state, New South Wales, has been the worst hit, but the fires have also affected other states, including Victoria, whose capital, Melbourne hosts the Australian Open later this month.

The fires have caused extreme heat and drought, and a significant drop in air quality, leading to concerns over the safety of players and spectators ahead of the ATP Cup. New South Wales capital, Sydney, is one of host venues of the tournament.

“We have got medical experts on site during the tournament who will be advising in relation to conditions and ensuring it is safe for players to play and also safe for our fans and our ball boys and staff,” said tournament director Tom Larner.

Despite desperate efforts by the authorities to curb the problem, it is showing no signs of abating, with temperatures expected to reach 46C on Saturday.

Kyrgios took to Twitter on Thursday to pledge his support to the victims, offering to donate $200 for every ace he serves during the Australian summer. The 24-year-old is set to compete at the inaugural ATP Cup, which runs from 3-12 January before heading to Melbourne for the Australian Open, live from Melbourne from 20 January to 2 February.

‘I’m kicking off the support for those affected by the fires. I’ll be donating $200 per ace that I hit across all the events I play this summer’, Kyrgios said on Twitter.

The Australian has since been joined by compatriots, Alex De Minaur and John Millman, who have vowed to give $250 and $100 respectively for every ace they hit. Former US Open champion, Sam Stosur also pledged to donate $200 to the cause.

 

Kyrgios had earlier called on Tennis Australia to organize an exhibition event to raise funds for those affected by the bushfires. The governing body responded on Thursday, with CEO, Craig Tiley stating on Twitter that a number of fund raising and relief efforts will be rolled out throughout the Australian summer.

“For weeks we’ve been watching the devastation caused by bushfires across Australia and the people affected are constantly in our thoughts,” Tiley said.

‘We want to help these communities in a meaningful way and will announce a number of fund-raising and support initiatives that will be rolled out across the ATP Cup, Australian Open and our other events over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for further announcements.’

The ATP Cup later announced that for every ace served during the tournament, $100 will be donated to the Australian Red Cross to aid their relief efforts. The fundraising initiative will be jointly funded by the ATP, Tennis Australia, Tennis New South Wales, Tennis Queensland and Tennis West.

‘Each ace served across the 10-day tournament at all three venues will deliver $100 to the Australian Red Cross bushfire disaster relief and recovery efforts’, read a statement on the tournament’s website.

The ATP Cup is live from Australia from 3-12 January.

Djokovic vs Tsitsipas tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – World no. 2 meets ATP Finals champion in Abu Dhabi exhibition

Novak Djokovic (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Sipa USA)

 

Novak Djokovic aims to remind ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas of his place in the pecking order as the two play the first semifinal at the Mubadala WTC exhibition in Abu Dhabi.

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The Abu Dhabi exhibition is usually played in the final days of December right before the new season begins, but has moved to a new pre-Christmas calendar slot this year. The change hasn’t affected its ability to attract top-class fields, however, with the top players in the world leading a draw which otherwise includes world no. 6 Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov, Andrey Rublev and Hyeon Chung.

Tsitsipas has already got a win under his belt at the Abu Dhabi exhibition event, beating Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4. It’s only been a few weeks since he lifted the biggest trophy of his young career at the Nitto ATP Finals after defeating Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Roger Federer and Daniil Medvedev over the course of the competition, but Tsitsipas raced to a 3-0 start against the hard-hitting but erratic Rublev and never let up. It may be only an exhibition, but it was the first time Tsitsipas had beaten Rublev in three meetings as professionals – the Russian handed him a narrow, painful four-set defeat at the US Open, which was one of the low points of a breakthrough season for the Greek – and it might alter the tenor of the rivalry between the two going forwards.

Stefanos Tsitsipas ended his 2019 season by being crowned ATP Finals champion (Photo Roberto Zanettin / Insidefoto/Sipa USA)

Tsitsipas has made no secret that his ambitions for the 2020 season include winning a Grand Slam and a Masters 1000 Series title (not to mention becoming world no. 1), but he knows such lofty goals are surely destined to bring him into frequent clashes with Djokovic.

The head-to-head between them stands at 2-2, with Tsitsipas surprising the Serb in their first encounter at the Canada Masters in 2018 but Djokovic winning two of the three matches they have played this year, beating Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Madrid Masters in May and 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters. Tsitsipas came from a set down to defeat Djokovic in the Shanghai quarterfinals.

Four times a champion at the Mubadala WTC, most recently in 2018 when he defeated Kevin Anderson in the final, Djokovic traditionally plays well in these types of conditions – he has won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships four times over the years, the Qatar Open twice. It’s no secret that the Serb’s 2019 season didn’t end the way he wanted: He had to retire in the fourth round of the US Open due to injury, lost the world no. 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal despite winning the Paris Masters and Tokyo, failed to make the semifinals of the ATP Finals thanks to defeats to Federer and Thiem and, despite winning all his singles matches in straight sets, failed to keep Serbia in contention at the Davis Cup Finals.

But that should only give Djokovic more motivation for the 2020 season – and the schedule he has set for himself in January, with ATP Cup followed by Adelaide and then the Australian Open, shows that he intends to hit the ground running. Tsitsipas will need to be play a very finely judged blend of attacking and cagey tennis in order to overcome the Serb’s supreme defense, and hope that Djokovic has a poor serving day to boot. Expect Djokovic to assert his authority, come out firing and record a straight-sets victory.

Djokovic vs Tsitsipas is live from Abu Dhabi on Friday 20 December at 5pm local/1pm GMT