Men’s Qualy’s Draw at Aussie O Features Many Veteran Players

It’s not only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Willy Tsonga, Feliciano Lopez and John Isner playing many years into their 30’s at this year’s Aussie O. Even the Men’s Qualifying Tournament which starts tomorrow features many veteran male players. There’s Nicolas Mahut of France, a grizzled 37, Dudi Sela at 34, Dustin Brown, the Jamaican-German is now 35, Go Soeda, the Japanese is 35, Donald Young and Martin Klizan are both 30, Sergiy Stakhovsky is 34, and Ernests Gulbis is 31. Perhaps, the most interesting matchups are Gulbis, who won six matches in 2019, going against the 6-7 Maxime Cressey, the 22-year-old Californian-Frenchman, who employs a serve-n-volley game which could work well on the fast courts of Melbourne.

Then Bernard Tomic, the 27-year-old embattled Australian who has slipped in the rankings to no. 182, takes on Denis Kudla, also 27 and now no. 115. A host of young Americans have made the day-long trip to Melbourne to try and qualify, including Noah Rubin, Ernests Escobedo, Christopher Eubanks and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, who got in with a no. 253 ranking. The two oldest qualifiers are Mahut, one of my favorite players and still a top doubles player and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who are 37 and 36 respectively. Both are still extremely fit and competitive.

Interesting to note are the absentees from the draw including Jack Sock, Michael Mmoh and of course, much-missed David Ferrer.

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  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Catherine, thanks for correcting me earlier this year on Australia, with fires now 10x historic levels. Given the player statements as a pedestrian fan I now am in favor of boycotting the Australian. Conditions won’t improve in time, and they are already awful. They can’t do this. Sports Illustrated coverage today, excerpts below.


    “Slovenia’s Dalila Jakupovic went into a coughing fit during her match against Switzerland’s Stefanie Vögele and was forced to retire despite leading through two sets.”

    “I was really scared that I would collapse,” she said, according to The Guardian. “That’s why I went on to the floor because I couldn’t walk anymore. I don’t have asthma and never had breathing problems.”

    Eugenie Bouchard won her match against You Xiaodi in three sets but had to overcome chest pains that she described as “spikes in her lungs,” according to The New York Times.
    The Wildfires remain an issue in Victoria’s east and in southern New South Wales. The EPA categorized the air quality as “very poor.” Residents have been told to stay indoors and keep windows shut.

    A match between Russian star Maria Sharapova and Laura Siegmund of Germany was called off due to smoke.”

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    Tournament organisers have been living in a dream thinking everything will be ok and somehow smoke will stay away from Melbourne Park. Conditions may improve but then again they may not. Nature knows best.

    Were there any fall-back arrangements considered ?

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Scoop, looks bad. Practice SUSPENDED temporarily due to bad conditions. And this from Kooyong exhibition:

    “Maria Sharapova and Germany’s Laura Siegemund called off their Kooyong Classic match with the former up 7-6, 5-5.”

    “Both Sharapova and Siegemund reported feeling the onset of coughing fits and breathing issues as a result of the smoke, citing that as the reason for calling off the match.”

    More insanity from the qualies – Bouchard won, but see this:

    “Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard was forced to take a lengthy medical time out in her Australian Open qualifying match against China’s Xiaodi You on Monday.
    The former world no.5 called for the break after complaining of a sore chest, and was escorted from the court into the rooms in the arms of doctors a short time after.”


    time to pack it up.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    A tweet from the Australian, re: the Bouchard versus You match:

    “Bouchard has a long medical timeout. You is now underhand serving. Clearly in pain. Looks disoriented. This match just got weirder — and seems like it’s going on forever. #AusOpen”

    Insanity. Time to pack it up.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    Other: Doping – Jarry suspension, from Wertheim: “Nicolas Jarry has been provisionally suspended under Article 8.3.1(c) of the 2019 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (the “Programme”), pending determination of the charge against him at a full hearing pursuant to Article 8 of the Programme.”

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 12:27 pm

    More doping: Farah (Colombia) Doubles #1 – POSITIVE TEST – from Jose Morgado: “Robert Farah, doubles world number one, also tested positive. And that’s why he is missing the #AusOpen”

  • Jeff · January 14, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Wow didn’t know that fight rumor was confirmed. Though I doubt it was a real fight since I don’t see either Kyrgios or Sock as true fighters. It was probably over a video game, I would guess.

    They should definitely cancel the Australian Open. I know that sounds crazy but this sounds awful

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Problem with smoke is that you are breathing in all sorts of stuff some of which may contain carcinogens – setting up all kinds of difficulties in the future..

    They will probably leave any decisions until next week, hoping that the atmosphere will clear. Big gamble though.
    It’s not as though no one knew about this.

    Robert Farah played in a fund raiser in Adelaide just a couple of days ago with Halep and Kerber and one other player I’ve forgotten.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Agree with Jeff, cancel the Australian. Sorry to say this but even from a liability perspective (e.g., players sue Australian organizers in future for health problems) there’s no way they can play. The idea of “three indoor courts” for all the Australian tournaments (men’s, women’s, juniors, wheelchair, what have you) is insanity.

    I’m sure the issue will “dissolve” as the weather clears up, but if I were Craig Tiley (who I know is about the tennis, not the conditions) I’d look at the damage done already, stand up to the board of the Australian, and say we should cancel. And if they say no, quit.

    Even if conditions improve, and they already DID improve (with the predictable result being players coughing up a storm and quitting matches or enduring terrible conditions) they should cancel and postpone.

    They are holding on for dear life, but at the players expense. They don’t get it. They either postpone or it’s the end of the Australian Open (weird to phrase it that way, but why should anyone play a tournament that treats the players as cattle?)

  • Harold · January 14, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    That’s a bit naive, for every player that pulls out, there will be 5 ready to step in and take the slot. Points over health has been the Tennis mantra since the rankings

    Maybe if Gauff threatens to pull out the organizers will freak…lmao😂😂😂

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    WTA website: no mention of air quality in match reports. The WTA website is a joke, and the WTA itself may be somewhat of a joke.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Harold, hope tournament organizers cancel or postpone. I think you are getting at the tournament being in the driver’s seat, holding the purse strings and the fact most players want the pay-day and will sacrifice their health for the money/status etc (qualies purse is rich, if you win a qualies round you get serious money – $20K if you LOSE the first round of qualies).

    I hope there are some grown ups. With conditions this bad I’d AT LEAST postpone until conditions return to “much more normal” rather than “get a respirator” as they are now. I expect the big guys to pipe up about conditions – they are in the best position next to organizers to threaten ticket sales and use their market power to force the tournament to do something.

    Bottom line is there is a very serious issue here – Australia’s air quality monitor for Melbourne has said “stay indoors” and the tournament is holding matches with players coughing up a lung and serving under-hand under 50 mph (Jay Clarke – UK, Bouchard’s opponent You from China). If anything it’s suck tennis, and at worse it’s players and fans developing long-term lung conditions.

    There’s too much on the line for the organizers to quit now, but I think it would be the right move to AT LEAST postpone until there’s a green light (which there isn’t).

  • Harold · January 14, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    Postpone? Delay Delray? TP would have a fit!

    Top players are probably practicing indoors somewhere, and pretend they’re clueless.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Harold, seems to be case. Nadal/Federer have already practiced and no word from their camps. Djokovic said he would do something with the player council but nothing on that yet. At least Svitolina has put up a statement regarding the air quality – she’s really concerned (while other players cough their lungs out for the $$$ in the qualifying draws, which I think you suggested they don’t have much of a choice – they play if the tournament says play).

    Maybe another moment for our “hero” Nick Kyrgios. It would be bad for him personally, but good for the sport and it would be something he does while his country’s tennis federation hems and haws (they sent players out into hazardous conditions yesterday – conditions had improved and still were awful, worst ever!)

  • catherine · January 14, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Andrew – WTA are mostly talking about Adelaide and Hobart where the air quality is ok – not that I’m defending the WTA – it’s the pits.

    No one at the WTA has any idea of how to put together a website. Just lots of big pictures and no need to actually write anything or have an opinion on anything. Might offend someone.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 14, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    Definitely can’t delay Delray! Think of the consequences. Everything might be pushed back a week and that means Newport too. At T-P, Delray and Newport rule and then comes the USO Qualis.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Hope Australian clears up, because the player reports are damning. Apparently clearing up more today but quality from the Australia EPA: “VERY POOR” (yesterday: moderate to HAZARDOUS)


    Jakupovic, who withdrew while up a set plus: “”It was really bad. I never experienced something like this and I was really scared. I was scared that I would collapse,” she was quoted as telling press. “That’s why I went on the floor. Because I couldn’t walk any more. And I couldn’t stretch myself. When I was on the ground it was easier to get some air…I think it was not fair because it’s not healthy for us. I was surprised. I thought we would not be playing today. We don’t have much choice. If we don’t go on the court, maybe we get fined.”

    Liam Brody: “At 6-3, 3-0 down, when you are supposed to be relatively fresh, I was bent double and gasping for air. My fitness is one of the best parts of my game but I definitely didn’t feel great”

    Bouchard: “No cough, just heavy air, a bit tough to breathe and a long, tough point I felt I couldn’t breathe well”

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Australian Open air quality: now only “very poor” (second worse category) and up from “hazardous”. Play is delayed until the smoke clear (literally).

    Unbelievable. I am glad the air is getting somewhat more clean but you gotta admit…it’s time to rethink tennis and conditions for the players. Last year drove the players nearly into the ground, and this year one of the four most important tournaments (I think it keeps on ranking fourth unless you win one of them, in which case it’s one of your favorite tournaments), which usually sees players passing out from the heat, now has them coughing up a storm and suffering from a lack of oxygen.

    Either tennis has an Australian Open problem or tennis has a “player as livestock problem”. I think it’s the latter but for purpose of tennis getting better I’ll start with tennis has an Australian Open problem. No slam faces what the Australian does so the Australian has an obligation to work on these major issues before it’s too late.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    a headline: “Victorious Eugenie Bouchard nearly overcome by bad air in Australian Open qualifying”.

    Tell me tennis doesn’t have a problem.

  • Jeff · January 14, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    It is not only the players but the ballboys, workers and spectators who are at risk. And who wants to watch low-quality tennis since the conditions won’t allow the players to compete at optimum level.

    I don’t really see an option. If I was a player I would pull out and go someplace safer.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Kyrgios was supporting Sock at the US Open last year, first round vs Cuevas. Sock knew he was there but did not have any kind of eye contact or interaction with him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    How close are the fires to the AO site? Might have to double or triple the fire trucks there and just work day and night to put the flames out. I’d guess right now it’s 50-50 the tournament plays under current normal format. Too much of a health risk to too many people. Cutting it down to two out of three or even one set would be interesting.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Players feel pressure to play, but one already did decide forget it (the WTA player Jakupović), who withdrew up a set plus (and gets a record $20K for bowing out).

    Only big players or players with a big following like Kyrgios can do something. So far Craig Tiley, the Aussie Open organizer and director, says all the right things but the players are still suffering.

    I think this is the old “cross your fingers and hope for the best when the tournament starts”. I think heads will roll for this because there’s no reason to play. Just do two a day if the conditions are vastly better. If not, postpone a few days.

    The air quality index for Melbourne is back at “Hazardous” (worst level) with players due to hit the courts in about three hours following the two hour delay for poor air quality. It’s around 10:30 AM and practice courts are due to open up in a half hour (during this hazardous level of air quality) with matches starting in 2.5 hours.

    The Australian Open put out a statement indicating conditions early in the morning were at the same terrible levels as yesterday.

    I dunno. This is a bad start.

    More from the indoor courts, from Jay Clarke (British player) on twitter via Simon Briggs (UK reporter)

    “Jay Clarke, the British No5, said “There was talk of it [qualifying] moving indoors but we actually went over to the NTC [at 11am] and it was worse. They have got permanent vents open so when it [the smoke] got in it wasn’t able to get out, so no players were practising indoors”

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Scoop, they can’t even do indoors. Jay Clarke, British player, said conditions indoors were awful at the National Tennis Center, which recycles the air from outside so they are in trouble.

    They can’t do this. They should postpone. They won’t. Expect more retirements today. I think heads will roll for this poor judgment.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    Or: qualies players to be sacrificed. However you want to see it. If you’re a big player, gosh I don’t know why they’d stick around other than solidarity or other obligations, suffer together with the qualies players getting a beatdown from the poor conditions.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    Nice piece from Simon Briggs. Gets the player perspective. Qualies players as cannon fodder. Even if that’s not what the organizers are trying to do (they aren’t) that’s the result they are achieving anyways and players don’t like it.

    Sure hope the conditions clear up fast. Someone could die.


  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    Lung disease of lung ailments have to be a major concern for everyone involved in the tournament, fans, media, volunteers, ballkids, it’s way too much to risk over a sporting event. Wouldn’t some kind of surgical masks help to block/filter most of the smoke from being inhaled? Why isn’t anyone trying that option?

  • Jon King · January 14, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Scoop, I liked the sound of your surgical mask idea so I did a google search. An article from Australia says the cloth masks are “virtually useless against particles from smoke”.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Good work Jon. If it does not improve, it’s over before it begins. Did you see Lan won Coffee Bowl? Nice interview here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljm_7qh6pIk I was stunned to see a full house stadium for the night finals. Finals were televised too. This tournament looks more popular and well attended than several ATP and WTA tournaments. They sell tickets too. What a fantastic experience for Lan. She handled playing on TV in a big stadium like a seasoned pro.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    I remember about seven years ago at Delray Beach, on a night, Sock, Pospisil and Tomic were hanging out together, they were shooting hoops. They were all teens at the time. Thought Sock and Tomic would have the better careers but it looks like Pospisil will outlast them.

  • jg · January 14, 2020 at 7:39 pm

    Noah Rubin said some players were wearing masks at the Fairfield challenger when they had the fires in California, and ultimately they had to move the tournament indoors. This is going to happen more often, didn’t they cancel the marathon in the Olympics? This is going to happen more often, the tour and slams will have to prepare for it.

  • Hartt · January 14, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Scoop, if you saw those guys 7 years ago Vasek wasn’t a teenager, he is 29 now. He is a couple years older than the other two.

    I hope Vashy can make the best if his remaining years in pro tennis. It would be great to see him at least match his career high of No.25, or maybe even do a little better.

  • Hartt · January 14, 2020 at 11:41 pm

    I see from the score that Kerber retired in the 2nd set of her match vs Yastremska, who had won the first set and was leading in the 2nd.

  • Jon King · January 14, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    Yes Scoop, I meant to post the other day about the Coffee Bowl. Excellent tournament for Lan.

  • catherine · January 15, 2020 at 1:01 am

    Hartt – Kerber retired with a left hamstring problem, which she has had before, but it looks like Yastremska was going to hammer her anyway. Doesn’t augur well for the AO, if that ever happens.

    I don’t think Angie’s fit. For whatever reason. She’s nowhere near the level she needs to be to compete. Better take a break and consider her plans for this year. May be that her time’s up.

    Vekic wins. Of the 3 who went to Penfold’s winery she’s the only one left standing.

  • catherine · January 15, 2020 at 1:22 am

    Some changes to WTA rules and listen to this from Simon: ‘ ‘The (new) system provides better transparency in the actual quality of the product that is being delivered at the time’. Does he mean the players ? Or groceries ?

    Also there’s a new provision stating that a player can have 2 Excused Withdrawals per year which means she can w/d without any reason being given or supporting documents. Sloane Stephens applauds this but then she would wouldn’t she ?

  • Andrew Miller · January 15, 2020 at 1:25 am

    Raining in Melbourne. Qualies players saved.

  • catherine · January 15, 2020 at 2:12 am

    Yastremska plays Vekic next and this will be a baseline bashing bore I predict. I’m not a great fan of Yastremska – someone described her as the new Bouchard. No variety and can’t see Bajin’s added anything. I think she had occ but I can’t imagine why.

    Angie should not have played that match. She’s overweight, underpowered and out of it. Difficult to watch.

  • catherine · January 15, 2020 at 3:31 am

    Collins loses 3 games to Kenin and Sabalenka bts Pera in 2, good quick result after her long match yesterday v Hsieh, which the WTA has continued to ignore.

    FAA playing now and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s coming up from his dip in form.

  • Hartt · January 15, 2020 at 5:34 am

    FAA did win his match against Duckworth. I couldn’t see the match, but it looked like a straightforward win from the score.

  • catherine · January 15, 2020 at 6:44 am


    Interview with Sabalenka – must be difficult to play under such emotional stress. Brave.

    Apparently she has split from Tursunov for the time being (again) but showed good form in her two matches in Adelaide.

  • Jon King · January 15, 2020 at 8:17 am

    Sabalenka, Anisimova, Ostapenko….just been a terrible time for WTA players losing rather young fathers.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 15, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Very interesting situation between Sabalenka and Tursunov and it probably has a lot more to do with just tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 15, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Nice to see Rafa and Fed donating $250,000 each to Australia Red Cross and Nishioka donating $10,500.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 15, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Jon I saw some video, full stadium, TV broadcast it, TV interviews after, like a pro event. Looked more pro than junior, that’s for sure. High quality tennis too.

  • Hartt · January 15, 2020 at 9:07 am

    Scoop, a slight correction, the $250,000 is what Rafa and Fed are donating together, not each. Those 2 do like to do things together.

    I enjoyed the set that Nick and Fed played. Although they were not killing themselves, it was real tennis, and it was great to see Roger moving so well.

  • Andrew Miller · January 15, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Australian Open saved by rain. Fortunate ending of apocalypse conditions for players and fans and tournament organizers. B. Schnur was really livid about abysmal conditions, the Guardian piece if anyone caught it was something. He took the “Top Guys” to task for not stepping in to help players as they bowled over during qualies matches, and didn’t use their stature to address the situation of treacherous conditions. I think he’s right also – what’s best for the sport sometimes and especially when the health of players is on the line is to stop the madness. Schnur may come off seeming like a low level player railing at the unfairness, but that misses the point – tournament organizers put players in harm’s way and no one stepped in to stop it.

    It happened at the challenger in California as was noted in the above comments. So expect that it will happen again. The tournament and other tournaments should pay attention to a basic obligation to keep players healthy. They can’t intervene for the harm players do to themselves as Noah Rubin has noted eg drug use, abuse of alcohol etc, but they can postpone play for a few days when court conditions are historically bad.


  • Andrew Miller · January 15, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Feel sorry for Sabalenka. As to the Tursunov thing the writing was on the wall. Any time the discontent goes public I think the coach player situation will fall apart. I think the writing is on the wall for other coaching situations too, if players are chewing out coaches or coaches are saying stupid things to the press.

    Surprises me anyone says anything. But I guess as some have said here it’s a competitive and individual sport, players can discard coaches at will and do, and coaches, whose situation is usually precarious, often seem to be auditioning for their next gig.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 15, 2020 at 9:37 am

    I don’t know, they seem to be playing the Qualis. Escobedo came back to beat Krueger and Rubin lost to Japanese player. You have to wonder how long Rubin will stay out on tour. i might get to see him at the New York Open next month and I’ll try to talk to him, but he’s lost in the first round of Qualis now at both the USO and AO so it doesn’t bode well for the New Yorker.

    My question about the air condition in Australia is how can they seemingly play with no problems in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide, but in Melbourne the conditions are intolerable?

  • catherine · January 15, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Dan – Australia’s a big continent and most of the fires are concentrated in the South East (Victoria, NSW) and parts of Queensland. South Australia was affected in the Adelaide Hills but clearly not near enough to the area where the tournament is held.

    Sydney did have dificult conditions and caused problems with cricket a couple of weeks ago.

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