‘Cooked’ Special Ks doubling up, Brits send Aussies out of Cup, Demon keen to break Nadal duck, Kvitova cruises

Despite ending up “cooked” at last year’s Australian Open, Thanaski Kokkinakis doesn’t plan on dialing down his start to the tennis year and will play doubles again with Nick Kyrgios.

Kokkinakis is playing both editions of his home Adelaide International which started on Sunday and is also defending his maiden ATP singles title in the second tournament next week.

Kygrios is also due to play in week two, however he pulled out of Australia’s United Cup team with an ankle injury.

Kokkinakis was uncertain if his good mate would front in Adelaide but was confident the Special Ks would reunite to defend their Australian Open doubles crown.

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis celebrate.

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis celebrate winning the Australian Open men’s doubles final. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

“We’ll be playing at Aussie – doubles is a lot less taxing on the body, and mentally it’s a bit easier as well,” Kokkinakis told reporters in Adelaide.

“Obviously singles is our priority but I think it would be rude not to go out there and have fun with it.”

Kokkinakis beat France’s Arthur Rinderknech in an epic final to win his Adelaide title last year while he was also pushed to three sets in three rounds leading up to that.

The trophy came after also reaching the semi-finals in the first Adelaide tournament, beaten by eventual champion Gael Monfils.

He admitted the workload took its toll once he arrived at Melbourne Park but said he had no regrets.

“I felt like I had a marathon almost every match in that second week,” the 26-year-old said. “It was pretty full on coming into Aussie, but I wouldn’t change it any other way. It was a blessing and a curse – obviously it was my greatest week on tour and an incredible moment. Even though I lost and was pretty cooked for AO, I still wouldn’t have changed it.”

With a world ranking of 93, Kokkinakis got a wildcard into this week’s Adelaide draw, which is stacked with talent.

Top seed Novak Djokovic is playing in Australia for the first time since he was deported from last year’s Open and is drawn to play Frenchman Constant Lestienne in round one. Another former world No.1 Daniil Medvedev, now ranked seven, takes on Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

World No.6 Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime is the second seed and will face a qualifier. Kokkinakis will play American world No.34 Maxime Cressy while Jordan Thompson is up against France’s Quentin Halys and another Australian Chris O’Connell meets Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic.

Alexei Popyrin won his way into the main draw, beating China’s Wu Yibing 6-4 3-6 7-5 in the final round of qualifying on Sunday. He was joined by fellow Australian up-and-comer Rinky Hijikata, a 7-5 6-4 winner over compatriot James Duckworth.

Brits bounce Aussies out of Cup

Australia’s tilt at the inaugural United Cup is effectively over after just one tie, with Great Britain winning through to the Sydney play-off by completing an upset win over Spain.

In the box seat for victory over the Spaniards after establishing a 2-0 lead when Cameron Norrie shocked Rafael Nadal and Katie Swan did a similar job on Nuria Parrizas-Dias, Great Britain went on with the job in Sydney on Sunday night.

Dan Evans was the hero for the Brits after sealing an unassailable 3-1 advantage with a grinding win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

It came after Great Britain had beaten Australia 3-2 in their opening tie.

With only the top team in each of the six groups progressing to the next round, Spain join Australia on the sidelines after the first phase.

Their players will, however, get some more match practice over the next two days when Australia and Spain meet in a dead tie.

Australia had high hopes coming into the tournament with a squad featuring Nick Kyrgios, Alex de Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic.

But Kyrgios’s 11th-hour withdrawal and injury to two-time Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tomljanovic put Australia’s campaign into disarray.

Despite their advantage, the Brits still had some work to do on Sunday when Harriet Dart went down to Paula Badosa 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (7-5) 1-6.

Darts belied her world ranking of No.98 to push Badosa all the way, at one stage only two points from winning the match in a thrilling second set tiebreaker.

But the No.13 steeled herself when it mattered most and ran away with the third set to get Spain back in the tie.

With Nadal waiting in the wings for a potential deciding fifth rubber, much hinged on what Ramos-Vinolas, a replacement for Pablo Carreno Busta, could do against Evans.

After a sluggish first set, the Spaniard roared back to life in the second and Evans, a disappointing first-up loser to Australia’s Jason Kubler, looked on edge entering the decider.

However, the world No.27 secured a vital break in the seventh game and ultimately served out the contest for a 6-3 1-6 6-3 win, rendering the mixed doubles a dead rubber.

“I don’t feel my strongest but I’ve got a great team behind me,” Evans said.

“It helps that it’s not a regular tournament; it’s tough to throw the towel in when you’ve got all that lot behind you.”

The US are in the box seat to meet Great Britain, a win against Germany set to secure their passage through to the Sydney semi-final.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 08: Rafael Nadal of Team Spain serves to Yoshihito Nishioka of Team Japan during day six of the 2020 ATP Cup Group Stage at RAC Arena on January 08, 2020 in Perth, Australia.  (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Demon sets sights on Nadal

Alex de Minaur will be playing for pride and a breakthrough win against the men’s all-time greatest grand slam winner – unfortunately, it won’t mean a great deal for Australia.

The home side are already out of the next phase of the United Cup after Great Britain topped the group with a win over Spain, who now also can’t progress any further in the competition.

It takes the gloss off what otherwise had loomed as an exhilarating Monday clash in Sydney between the 22-time grand slam champ and the local lad with perhaps the best wheels in the game as the sides meet in a dead tie.

Nadal was rested for the dead mixed doubles rubber against Great Britain but it is assumed he’ll want the match practice ahead of the Australian Open against de Minaur.

He holds a 3-0 career lead over de Minaur, who is running out of opportunities to get one over the veteran who is in the twilight of his career.

The Australian was only a handful of points away from dusting off Nadal in straight sets when they met on the same court at the ATP Cup in Sydney three years ago.

HAMBURG, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15: Alex De Minaur of Australia celebrates a point against Benjamin Bonzi of France during the Davis Cup Group Stage 2022 Hamburg match between France and Australia at Rothenbaum on September 15, 2022 in Hamburg, Germany.  (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

(Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

But the Spaniard held his nerve before running away with the match in the third set.

“He’s a great player. Playing super fast. Playing with very high intensity. Taking the ball very early. Improved the serve,” Nadal said of the world No.24.

“(It’s) going to be another very tough match that I need to play very well in to have any chance. So let’s see.”

It’s going to be a very tough tie for Australia as well.

Maddison Inglis will go in as an underdog against Nuria Parrizas Diaz for the second rubber, while things will hardly get any easier on Tuesday when battler Zoe Hives is slated to face world No.13 Paula Badosa.

Jason Kubler, a first-up winner against Dan Evans, may then meet Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Other Monday ties: US vs Germany; Greece vs Belgium; France v Croatia; Italy vs Norway; Poland vs Switzerland.

Kvitova, Ruud in cruise control

Casper Ruud’s Australian Open tune-up has begun impressively, while Petra Kvitova has sealed a first United Cup victory for the Czech Republic by beating Germany’s Laura Siegemund in Sydney.

Kvitova’s 6-4 6-2 win on Sunday morning gave her country an unassailable 3-0 lead, securing the tie after star German Alexander Zverev was upset by Jiri Lehecka in his comeback from injury a day earlier.

Germany won the second men’s singles rubber and the mixed doubles, but the Czechs still walked away with the 3-2 victory.

The Czechs’ win moves them to 1-1 after losing their opening tie of the new mixed teams event 4-1 to the United States, who can secure their passage to the semi-finals with victory over Germany from Monday.

Kvitova, ranked 16 but a former world No.2, was tested by the world No.177.

But the left-hander swung freely to break at 5-4 in the first set and then rifled another winning return past the German to set-up a 2-0 advantage in the second set before eventually prevailing in one hour, 50 minutes.

In Brisbane, world No.3 Ruud fought to keep Norway alive, beating Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-2.

After an ankle injury kept him out of last year’s Australian Open, Ruud powered to the finals of the French and US Opens to peak at No.2 in the world.

“It’s always refreshing waking up on January 1. I always feel very motivated coming down here to Australia,” he said.

“Last year was a bit unfortunate, so I’m very eager to have a good start to the season and this is the perfect way to start.”

However, Brazil went on to win the tie 4-1, with Laura Pigossi beating Norway’s Ulrikke Eikeri 6-3 6-4 in the women’s singles rubber, and Brazil also winning the mixed doubles.

The result improved Brazil’s overall record to 1-1, with Italy (1-0) able to secure passage if they beat Norway in the final Brisbane leg.

Bulgaria won their tie against Belgium 3-2 after triumphing in a pulsating mixed doubles contest.

World No.29 Elise Mertens gave Belgium a 2-1 lead in the tie after producing a stunning third set in her 6-4 3-6 6-0 win over Gergana Topalova.

But world No.196 Dimitar Kuzmanov leveled it up at 2-2 with a dominant 6-2 6-0 win over world No.129 Zizou Bergs.

Belgium were on track for victory after Mertens and David Goffin raced through the opening set of the mixed doubles, but Bulgaria’s pairing of Isabella Shinikova and Alexandar Lazarov fought back to win 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 10-6 (match tiebreak).

Meanwhile, Poland and Croatia have both won their ties to stay in the hunt to take out their groups.

Hubert Hurcakz got the ball rolling for the Poles with a 7-6 (10-8) 4-6 6-3 win over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik before Magda Linette gave her team an unassailable 3-1 lead with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Zhibek Kulambayeva.

Hurcakz and Iga Swiatek won the doubles for a 4-1 win. Poland now face Switzerland for group supremacy.

Petra Martic got the job done in the first rubber of the night for Croatia, downing Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska 6-2 4-6 6-1 to give her side a 3-0 advantage. Croatia went on to inflict Argentina’s second 5-0 loss after already being whitewashed by France.

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