Roger Federer loses ATP Finals opener to Kei Nishikori

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LONDON — Roger Federer lost his opening match at the ATP Finals for the first time since 2013 as he went down 7-6 (4), 6-3 to Kei Nishikori on Sunday.

An error-strewn display from the 20-time Grand Slam champion allowed Nishikori to take the first set via a tiebreaker despite the Japanese player struggling for consistency himself.

Federer earned the first break points in the opening game of the second set, and took his chance, but Nishikori hit straight back in the following game.

Nishikori was far more composed than Federer from that moment on and broke for a 4-2 lead, before closing out the match for a first win over Federer since 2014.

Six-time champion Federer will now likely need to win his remaining two round-robin matches to keep alive his chances of claiming the 100th title of his career.

Earlier, Kevin Anderson made a confident start to his ATP Finals debut with a 6-3, 7-6 (10) victory over Dominic Thiem.

Having qualified for the season-ending tournament for the first time, the 32-year-old Anderson produced a dominant serving display to take the first set at the O2 Arena, before saving two set points to come through a tense tiebreaker in the second.

“I think it was important, you know, going out there and getting off to a good start,” Anderson said. “I definitely felt a little bit nervous.”

The fourth-seeded Anderson, who was runner-up at Wimbledon this year, was taken to deuce in his opening service game, but dropped only one more point on serve in the first set – and wasn’t punished for taking just one of seven break point opportunities on Thiem’s delivery.

Anderson’s groundstrokes were almost as impressive as his serve, particularly in the first set, and drew a series of errors from Thiem in the fourth game, which resulted in the crucial break.

Thiem, who beat Anderson in straight sets at the U.S. Open this year, was struggling for consistency as he made just 48 percent of his first serves with 12 unforced errors, compared to just five winners.

“I didn’t have a good start,” Thiem said. “It was not working out at all.”

The 25-year-old Austrian rallied in a far more competitive second set but couldn’t force a break point despite taking Anderson to deuce on two occasions.

Thiem was showing glimpses of the form that took him to the French Open final earlier this year, but his unforced errors continued to bail out Anderson and the set went to a tiebreaker.

A rare triumph for Thiem in a lengthy rally gave him the first mini-break and a 2-1 lead, but Anderson quickly hit back before the pair exchanged mini-breaks once more to leave the score at 5-5.

Both players raised their level as 10 consecutive points, which included three match points for Anderson and two set points for Thiem, went with serve.

Anderson, who saved a match point before knocking Federer out in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July, once more displayed his ability to thrive under pressure.

Forced wide by Thiem, Anderson slapped a forehand winner up the line to bring up a first match point on his own serve at 11-10.

“The more I’m in those positions,” Anderson said, “I definitely feel more and more comfortable.”

He didn’t waste it, hitting a 13th ace of the match to ensure that the sixth-seeded Thiem has now lost his opening round-robin match on all three of his appearances at the tournament.

Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge

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CANBERRA, Australia – Tennis star Nick Kyrgios was due to appear in an Australian court Friday to apply to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds.

His lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared in a court in Kyrgios’ hometown of Canberra in October and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Friday, when lawyers for the 27-year-old Australian are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

Kyrgios, a Wimbledon finalist last year, is set to appear in court in person for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July last year.

His hearing was listed to start at 2:15 p.m. local time (0315 GMT).

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and if dealing with an allegation in such a way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police in December that year.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s U.S. Open title defense in September last year to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for Friday’s hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because of an injured left knee that required arthroscopic surgery.

He was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.

Kyrgios was considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park last month before he had to pull out of the tournament. Djokovic went on to win the Australian Open singles championship for the 10th time.

Australian Open director: Novak Djokovic’s hamstring had 3-cm tear

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Novak Djokovic played at the Grand Slam event with a muscle tear of 3 centimeters – a little more than an inch – in his left hamstring along the way to winning the championship.

“He gets a bad rap, but at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone can question his athleticism. This guy, I did see, he had a 3-centimeter tear in his hammy,” Tiley said in an interview.

“The doctors are … going to tell you the truth,” Tiley said. “I think there was a lot of speculation of whether it was true or not. It’s hard to believe that someone can do what they do with those types of injuries. But he’s remarkable.”

Djokovic won the trophy at Melbourne Park by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets for a record-extending 10th title there and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam trophy overall. Rafael Nadal is the only other man who has won that many majors.

The triumph also allowed Djokovic to return to No. 1 in the ATP rankings.

The 35-year-old from Serbia hurt his hamstring during a tune-up tournament in Adelaide ahead of the Australian Open. He wore a heavy bandage on his left thigh and was visited by trainers during matches in Week 1 in Melbourne.

He said he took “a lot” of painkiller pills and did various treatments to help the leg.

“Let me put it like this: I don’t say 100%, but 97% of the players, when you get results of the MRI, you go straight to the referee’s office and pull out of the tournament,” Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said after the final. “But not him. … His brain is working different.”