Feliciano Lopez equalled Roger Federer's record of 81 main-draw appearances at grand slam events in the Open era but he was beaten in the first round at Wimbledon.

The 40-year-old made his grand slam debut at the 2001 French Open and had appeared in every major since the 2002 event in Paris until he failed to progress through qualifying at Roland Garros this year.

Spaniard Lopez went down in straight sets to Botic van de Zandschulp at SW19 on Tuesday.

Ranked 214 in the world, Lopez is a three-time quarter-finalist at the All England Club, while he also reached the quarter-finals of the US Open in 2015.

Since then, the veteran has never progressed further than the third round at a grand slam.

Fabrice Santoro is third on the list behind Federer and Lopez with 70 main-draw appearances at majors, with Mikhail Youzhny and Fernando Verdasco on 69.

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the National Bank Open ahead of his opening match due to a left foot injury.

The Spaniard made a return to action on the ATP Tour last week at the Citi Open, his first outing since suffering defeat to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the French Open in June.

His comeback was aimed at getting prepared for the US Open but, having lost in the last 16 in Washington to Lloyd Harris, he will not now be participating in Toronto.

"I really wanted to play here a lot, but now is the moment to make a decision, and this is unfortunately the decision that I have taken," Nadal told the media.

"I have had this issue for a couple of months, as people know.

"Of course, it is not a happy situation after all the success that I had here in Canada, not being able to play this year after missing a year. It's a tough one, but that's how it is today."

Nadal skipped Wimbledon citing the need to recover after the clay season, while the left-hander also opted out of representing his country at the Tokyo Olympics.

The five-time champion in Toronto was scheduled for a repeat meeting with Harris in the second round. Instead, his place in the draw goes to compatriot Feliciano Lopez.

Dominic Thiem will seek the advice of a specialist in Barcelona after suffering an injury scare ahead of Wimbledon next week.

Number two seed Thiem retired due to a wrist injury when 5-2 up in the opening set against Adrian Mannarino in the Mallorca Championships on Tuesday.

An MRI conducted at a Mallorca hospital was inconclusive, so the US Open champion will now undergo further tests.

In an update on Wednesday, Thiem wrote on social media: "Yesterday during the match I had a problem with my wrist.

"I went immediately to do an MRI at the hospital in Palma de Mallorca. The results weren't that clear and I have decided to go to Barcelona to check with a specialist.

"I hope I can get the results and a clear diagnosis in the next days."

The ATP 250 event continued without him in Mallorca, as Roberto Bautista Agut moved into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 7-5 triumph over Italian Stefano Travaglia.

More Spanish success on home soil arrived as Pablo Carreno Busta won 6-4 6-4 against Jiri Vesely.

In the doubles, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Gomez-Herrera saw off top seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos to reach the last four in that competition.

Djokovic appears to be enjoying himself as he continues to prepare for Wimbledon, saying: "This was a huge win for us, beating one of the best doubles players in the world after losing the first set.

"We are having a lot of fun on the court. I thought we played well even though we lost the first set."

There was a major upset at the Viking International in Eastbourne, meanwhile, with number one seed Gael Monfils suffering a shock last-16 defeat to Australia's Max Purcell – ranked number 283 in the world.

Purcell, who is only in the tournament as a lucky loser, claimed a huge 6-4 5-7 6-4 win in a battle lasting over two hours.

Monfils fired down 16 aces and fought back after being within two points of defeat in the second set but was ultimately beaten and has not made an ATP quarter-final since February 2020.

"It feels unbelievable," said Purcell. "I thought I'd come out and have a go. 

"I've struggled to get into any singles events over the past nine months and primarily played doubles, so to get on a run here, on my favourite surface, is great."

Purcell will take on Andreas Seppi – a comfortable winner over Emil Ruusuvuori – in the last eight.

While Monfils crashed out, there was less drama for the second and third seeds. 

Alex de Minaur won 6-3 6-4 against home hope Liam Broady, while Lorenzo Sonego was a 6-4 6-2 victor in his contest with John Millman.

Feliciano Lopez reached the milestone of 500 ATP Tour wins with a comeback victory over Karen Khachanov at the Mallorca Championships.

Lopez, who turns 40 in September, prevailed 4-6 6-2 6-4 against the sixth seed.

He is the 10th active player to reach 500 wins, after Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet, Fernando Verdasco, Marin Cilic, Stan Wawrinka and Tommy Robredo.

"More than the 500 wins, the important thing to me is the chance to keep playing in these kinds of tournaments and to keep being competitive," Lopez told ATPTour.com.

"I didn’t expect to be able to play at the level I am on the ATP Tour at 40 years of age, which I will be in September."

Spanish veteran Lopez would have expected to be taking on Dominic Thiem next, but the world number five retired due to a wrist injury when 5-2 to the good in the opening set against Adrian Mannarino.

"It's nice for me to be in the quarter-finals, but winning this way is not so cool. I really like Dominic, he's such a nice guy and I hope he will be feeling better soon," Mannarino said. "I hope it is not so serious, especially right before Wimbledon."

Elsewhere on the Balearic island, top seed Daniil Medvedev breezed past Corentin Moutet 6-4 6-2, while Casper Ruud defeated Tennys Sandgren in straight sets.

At the Viking International in Eastbourne, there were mixed fortunes for Lopez's countrymen Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Fokina, seeded sixth, saw off Mikael Ymer 7-5 6-1, but number seven seed Ramos-Vinolas fell 6-4 6-3 to Emil Ruusuvuori.

Alexander Bublik defeated fellow Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin is straight sets, while Jo-Wilfred Tsonga went down in similar fashion against Egor Gerasimov.

Fifth seed Casper Ruud secured his place in the last 16 of the Mallorca Championships with a straight sets win over Gilles Simon on Monday.

The 22-year-old claimed a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory to set up a meeting with Tennys Sandgren in the next round.

Following Ruud onto Centre Court, the American beat Spain's Jaume Munar 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 in just over two hours.

Sixth seed Karen Khachanov is also safely through, although he surrendered a set in beating French qualifier Lucas Pouille 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 6-4.

But Dusan Lajovic, seeded eighth, was not quite as fortunate.

Lajovic, ranked 41st in the world, was beaten 6-4 7-6 (7-2) by Slovakian qualifier Lukas Klein (ranked 256).

Feliciano Lopez came out on top of battle of Spaniards in the round of 32, beating Nicola Kuhn 6-1 7-6 (7-4).

Their compatriot Roberto Carballes Baena is in with a chance of joining them on Tuesday after seeing his clash with Sam Querrey paused due to light with both players having taken a set.

Elsewhere, Corentin Moutet beat Lloyd Harris to set up a meeting with top seed Daniil Medvedev, while Jiri Vesely and Stefano Travaglia also progressed.

Monday's other scheduled ATP event in Eastbourne saw play cancelled due to rain, with the scheduled match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Egor Gerasimov pushed back as a result.

Top seed Matteo Berrettini beat Andy Murray to reach the quarter-finals at Queen's Club and Ugo Humbert upset Alexander Zverev at the Halle Open on Thursday.

Murray, a five-time champion at Queen's, was beaten 6-3 6-3 by Italian Berrettini as the three-time grand slam champion struggled a day on from being given a Wimbledon wildcard.

The former world number one beat Benoit Paire in his first ATP Tour singles match since March on Tuesday, but the 34-year-old revealed he is still being troubled by a groin injury after his loss to Berrettini and knows he must raise his game.

Murray said: "I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good. That's the thing that I'll need to improve the most.

"Then there is still a slight niggle in the groin, so [I have] to try to get rid of that discomfort between now and Wimbledon. I need to be playing points, basically. I played two sets in preparation for this event.

"I do feel like I genuinely have been hitting the ball well in practice, but then like today when you're under a bit more pressure and stuff and you're having to make very split-second decisions when you're on the court, if the guy is serving 140 miles an hour, like, it's difficult to prepare for that."

Dan Evans made history earlier in the day, getting the better of Adrian Mannarino 6-4 7-6 (9-7).

With Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie having already progressed, Evans' win ensured there will be three Britons in the singles quarter-finals for the first time in the Open Era.

Feliciano Lopez will not retain his title in London after the Spaniard went down 6-2 6-3 to second seed Denis Shapovalov. Spanish veteran Lopez won in 2019, with last year's tournament cancelled due to the pandemic.

There will be no glory on home soil in Halle for German Zverev, who was taken out 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-3 by unseeded Frenchman Humbert.

Humbert has now beaten a top-10 player on every surface, with Zverev serving 20 aces but bowing out after his 22-year-old opponent claimed the only break of the final set.

Sebastian Korda battled past Kei Nishikori 2-6 6-3 7-5 in Halle, while Lloyd Harris also moved into the last eight at Lukas Lacko's expense.

Two teenagers lit up the ATP Tour on Tuesday as Lorenzo Musetti raced through at the Sardegna Open and Carlos Alcaraz advanced in Marbella.

Musetti, 19, produced arguably the standout result of the day as he dismantled Dennis Novak, wrapping up a 6-1 6-0 win in just 53 minutes.

"It was an incredible match," said Musetti, who has been in impressive form of late and moved to 6-2 for the year.

The Italian reached the last four in Acapulco, where ninth-ranked Diego Schwartzmann fell at his racket.

He added on Tuesday: "From the beginning, I felt so comfortable on the court and hitting the ball. I had really good feelings."

Musetti will face top seed Dan Evans next in Cagliari, where Jan-Lennard Struff had to save five match points before finally seeing off Joao Sousa.

None of the seeds followed Monday losers Guido Pella and Tommy Paul out of the tournament, as John Millman also triumphed. Gilles Simon shook off Stefano Travaglia.

At the Andalucia Open, 17-year-old Alcaraz insisted he still saw room for improvement despite setting up an exciting meeting with veteran compatriot Feliciano Lopez.

Sixth seed Lopez, who turns 40 in September and made his professional bow six years before Alcaraz was born, will be wary of the threat of the self-critical prospect, a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 winner against Nikola Milojevic.

"I have played a great match and above all I have been with a very high intensity from the beginning to the end," wildcard Alcaraz said, quoted on the ATP website.

"If I had to give myself a grade, it would be a nine [out of 10], because you can always play better."

Lopez defeated Taro Daniel, while number five seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina came from behind to beat Damir Dzumhur 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 6-2.

Vasek Pospisil launched a stunning tirade during his three-set defeat to American qualifier Mackenzie McDonald in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday.

The Canadian former world number 25 was docked a point for verbal abuse, subsequently conceding the first set, before a meltdown during the change of ends.

Pospisil used a profanity in reference to ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi when speaking to chair umpire Arnaud Gabas.

“[Gaudenzi was] screaming at me in a player meeting for trying to unite the players — for an hour and a half," Pospisil said to Gabas. "If you want to default me, I’ll gladly sue this whole organisation.”

He did fight back to win the second set but ultimately lost to McDonald 6-3 4-6 6-3.

Pospisil, who is nowadays ranked 67th, was joined among the first-round exits by last week's Mexican Open semi-finalist Dominik Koepfer, who went down 6-1 6-4 to wildcard Hugo Gaston as he claimed his first career Masters 1000 win.

Sam Querrey, ranked 63rd, also bowed out 6-3 6-4 to Lu Yen-hsun, who will meet world number two Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

YOUNGSTER BEATS VETERAN

Australian youngster Alexei Popyrin secured his maiden win at the Miami Open, knocking out the oldest player in the draw Feliciano Lopez 6-4 7-6 (7-4).

Popyrin, 21, claimed his first ATP Tour title last month in Singapore and backed that up with a strong display against the 39-year-old former top 20 Spaniard.

Recent Open 13 Marseille runner-up Pierre-Hugues Herbert got past Portugal's Pedro Sousa 6-1 6-3, while South Africa's Lloyd Harris defeated Emilio Nava 6-4 7-6 (9-7).

Frances Tiafoe won in the final match of Wednesday, coming from behind to beat Stefano Travaglia 5-7 6-4 6-2.

 

COMEBACK CAM

Brit Cameron Norrie produced a heroic final-set fightback to claim his spot in the second round, where he will face Grigor Dimitrov.

Norrie trailed 5-1 in the third set against Yoshihito Nishioka, before winning 6-1 3-6 7-5, winning the last six games to clinch victory.

The 56th-ranked Brit sent down eight aces in the victory, although he got the edge on return and converted seven of his 10 break points.

SECOND ROUND

Top seed Medvedev will face Lu on Thursday, while third seed Alexander Zverev will take on Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori.

Norrie will meet Dimitrov, while 11th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Herbert and eighth seed David Goffin will take on James Duckworth.

Harris has a match-up against seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Rafael Nadal was able to ease through to the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday, thanks in part to the help of YouTube.

The Spaniard looked in impressive form as he swept aside Michael Mmoh 6-1 6-4 6-2 in the evening session at Melbourne Park, with perhaps the biggest hinderance for Nadal caused by a rowdy spectator who was eventually escorted out of Rod Laver Arena.

Having come through qualifying, Mmoh had rallied to stun Viktor Troicki in the opening round. However, he never threatened a stunning upset of the 2009 champion, who will next face Cameron Norrie.

Meanwhile, Daniil Medvedev marked his birthday with a routine win of his own, the in-form Russian stretching his unbeaten run to 16 matches to suggest he is a serious contender for the title.

Stefanos Tsitsipas found life a little tougher in his outing but while the Greek survived the scare to move on in the main draw, fellow seeds Borna Coric and Lorenzo Sonego were knocked out.


NO VIDEO NASTY FOR NADAL

Ever the consummate professional, Nadal revealed he did his research online to find out more about second-round foe Mmoh, who had to get through three qualifying rounds just to make the main draw.

The world number 177 managed more aces than the 2009 champion but failed to create a break-point opportunity in a contest that lasted one hour and 47 minutes. Like the fan who disturbed play by shouting and making gestures towards Nadal as he served for the second set, Mmoh perhaps knew he was heading for the exit.

"I always have a lot of respect for every opponent. Yesterday, I was watching some videos of him on YouTube, trying to know a little bit more about him," Nadal said in his on-court interview after the match.

"Every day when you go onto the court, anything can happen - you can win, you can lose. You need to be ready to accept both things."

Norrie is next for the 34-year-old, the Briton defeating qualifier Roman Safiullin in four sets.


NO TIME TO CELEBRATE FOR MEDVEDEV

While Roberto Carballes Baena offered some resistance in the second set, Medvedev provided a further demonstration of his obvious talent with a 6-2 7-5 6-1 thrashing of the Spaniard.

The fourth seed from Russia was on court for one hour and 44 minutes but insisted afterwards his focus will now switch to his next opponent - Filip Krajinovic - rather than celebrating turning 25.

"There's no time to celebrate my birthday in a tournament. I got presents from my wife, but I'll soon look to my next match," he said. "If I'd have lost, I probably would go and celebrate, but I won so I can't now."

Krajinovic defeated Pablo Andujar 6-2 5-7 6-1 6-4 to progress. He was triumphant in the only previous meeting with Medvedev on the ATP Tour, winning in straight sets when they went up against each other at Indian Wells in 2019.


TSITSIPAS FIGHTS LIKE LION, LOPEZ EXTENDS SLAM STREAK

Tsitsipas was stretched to the limit but came out on top against Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 in a gruelling encounter.

Tsitsipas - who reached his maiden grand slam semi-final at the Australian Open two years ago - rallied from a set down to eventually see off Kokkinakis after four hours and 32 minutes.

Local hope Kokkinakis was playing his first major since the 2019 US Open and threatened a huge upset against the fifth seed.

"Great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion," said Tsitsipas, who next meets Mikael Ymer. "I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirits."

In his 75th consecutive grand slam, 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez came from two sets down to top 31st seed Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.

Fabio Fognini was involved in a thrilling five-setter against Salvatore Caruso, which ended with the pair engaging in a tense verbal exchange that led to security intervening.

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