A new season and a first roundup!

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Roger Federer started the year undefeated as Switzerland went all the way in the Hopman Cup. Belinda Bencic did more than her fair share though, her only loss was to Angelique Kerber in the final and providing she can stay injury free, Bencic will have a very, very good year! She teamed up with the Federer-Express to go undefeated in the doubles. Kerber and Goffin were also the big winners this week going 4/0 and 3/0 in singles respectively. Reports suggest Angie was playing aggressively and serving pretty well. Goffin continues to impress having finished off 2017 so well.

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Nick Kyrgios won in Brisbane. Earlier in the week he had knee problems and said that he was still feeling the effects of the hip injury that kept him out at the end of last season. He upped it though with wins over Dimitrov and Ryan Harrison in the last two rounds. Harrison took advantage of Murray’s withdrawal and Raonic’s loss to Young Ozzy, Alex De Minaur. De Minaur went on to make the semis’ before losing out to Harrison.

Gael Monfils won in Doha, the Frenchman got off to a slow start against both Lorenzi and Struff, just edging past both in final sets. Peter Gojowyczk then lost in straights to Monfils and Thiem pulled out of their semi-final with a fever. You have to remember that this was Gael’s first event since the U.S Open where he had knee problems. In the final he beat Andrey Rublev, the Russian once again impressing over the week though, victories over Verdasco, Coric and then Guido Pella in the semis. Pella once again showing how underrated he is on hard courts, it went to a final set breaker against Rublev. A special mention has to go out to Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Richard Gasquet en route to a quarter-final defeat to top seed Thiem. Tsitsipas has been talking his chances up this season and you can see him backing them up! He looks a top player.

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Gilles Simon won in Pune, it was his first title for nearly 3 years. I think Marseille 2015 was his last title at a quick glance. Simon beat Marin Cilic and Kevin Anderson in the last two rounds. Simon was quoted as saying earlier in the week that he chose to play in Pune as he had never been to India before but his consistency and trickery won him the day. He also beat Bautista Agut in the second round so I don’t think there is any denying that he deserved this! RBA was one of the players who didn’t appreciate the change of ball at the event. Yonex balls were used in India instead of the Wilson ones at the Australian Open.

Elina Svitolina got off to a good start, winning in Brisbane. The Ukranian appears to have been working on her serve in the offseason and 34 aces here suggest that. It wasn’t flawless though as the victories over Konta and Pliskova (QF & S-F) proved. The final turned out to be a lot easier against¬†Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the Belarussian had made it through qualies earlier in the week. She had been struggling with a thigh injury as the week progressed and that’s not the kind of injury you want going into a final against the Ukranian. She will be pleased with victories over Mladenovic, Kontaveit, Cornet and Sevastova. Top seed Garbine Muguruza pulled out in the third set of her second-round match against Aleksandra Krunic with cramp. Ash Barty got her season off to a disappointing start with a 6/3 6/2 loss to Lesia Tsurenko in the first round!

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Julia Goerges continued her fine form on from last season by winning Auckland. A tough opener against the plucky Monica Puig was followed by straight sets wins over Kuzmova, Hercog, Hsieh and top seed, Caroline Wozniacki in the final. The weather was poor in New Zealand last week with players having to play the quarters and semis on Saturday. The big serve and forehand combo once again proving too much for the field. Her success over Wozniacki showed once again how her game matches up well against the Dane! Congratulations to Sachia Vickery, who made her first main tour semi-final and beat two top 50 players in doing so (Davis and Radwanska), she made her way through qualies here also. She is now on the verge of the top 100 and I am hoping this is the breakthrough year for the 22-year-old. Other players who impressed during the week were Wildcard Sofia Kenin who made the quarters before losing to Wozniacki and Polona Hercog who also made the last 8 before losing to the eventual champion. Let’s see how Julia gets on in Melbourne, she will fancy her chances in this form!

Simona Halep claimed the title in Shenzhen, as you would expect from the top seed. She was pushed hard by Ying-Ying Duan and then Katerina Siniakova in the final, which was actually played indoors. Her path was made easier by Jelena Ostapenko falling to Kristyna Pliskova in her opener and then last years Champion, Siniakova taking out Maria Sharapova in the semis. This is a classic event that Halep will more often than not win, can she step it up in Melbourne though? We know what the answer has been till now!

Andy Del Potro

 

 

 

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