World's best gear up for Tie Break Tens
Top players prepare to fight for $250,000 in fast-paced event
Eight players, one night, 30 points and a cool quarter of a million for the winner: Tie Break Tens arrives in Melbourne on Wednesday night - and in some style.
Tie Break Tens matches are comprised solely of tiebreaks – no games, no sets, just a 10-point tiebreak in which every point counts. The unique quick-fire event features eight players competing in a straightforward knockout tournament for a $250,000 winner-takes-all prize purse and the coveted Tie Break Tens trophy.
So who's in contention for the jackpot? Here's the first-round match-ups...
Novak Djokovic v Lleyton Hewitt
You’ve got to go back more than five years for the last meeting between six-time Australian Open champion Djokovic and former world No.1 Hewitt, and over a decade for Hewitt’s sole win in seven against the Serbian. But we’ve seen more of the 36-year-old Aussie Davis Cup captain on court this month than Djokovic, who withdrew from his typical pre-season stops in Abu Dhabi and Qatar to give his elbow injury the best chance of being ready for the Australian Open.
Meanwhile in Sydney, Hewitt was busy giving Grigor Dimitrov – 10 years his junior – the run-around in their Fast4 showdown on Monday night. All of which has us wondering...
Lucas Pouille v Rafael Nadal
There were fireworks when Pouille and Nadal met at the 2016 US Open as the Frenchman, then 22 years old and yet to break into the top 20, downed the current world No.1 in a dramatic fourth-round, fifth-set tiebreak, 8-6. The shock result reverberated around the tennis landscape, mitigated in part by the knowledge that Nadal was still battling his way back to full fitness and confidence.
Fast-forward 13 months, however, and once more it was Pouille who came within a tiebreak of once again defeating Nadal – now the reigning French and US Open champion – in the first round in Beijing. Rafa turned the tables on the Frenchman that day, surging to the title to further cement his status as world No.1, but he’ll be wary when they step out together on Margaret Court Arena.
Tomas Berdych v Nick Kyrgios
Back at the scene of their first career meeting back in 2016, Kyrgios will hope to set the record straight in front of the Aussie faithful having lost to Berdych in the third round of the Australian Open. Australia’s No.1 avenged the defeat inside a month back then, beating the Czech top-20 stalwart en route to his first ATP title in Marseille, before repeating the trick later that same season in Dubai.
It’s Kyrgios that heads to Melbourne riding the momentum of his first ATP title on home soil after triumphing in Brisbane last week, while Berdych arrives off the back of a first-round loss in Qatar. But never rule out the towering 32-year-old – with a booming serve and solid strokes off both wings, Kyrgios knows just how dangerous the Czech can be.
Stan Wawrinka v Dominic Thiem
Billed as the battle of the backhands, this also marks the return of Wawrinka after a six-month injury lay-off following knee surgery. Like Djokovic and Nadal, the Swiss was an early arrival at Melbourne Park to ramp up his preparations for the Australian Open, and we’ll get a brief glimpse of where his game is against Thiem, who has come off second-best in the duo’s last three meetings – all of which included a tiebreak, each won by Wawrinka.
But if anyone in the field knows how to turn in on for Tie Break Tens, it’s Thiem. The Austrian sealed the $250,000 prize on home soil in Vienna back in 2016, defeating Andy Murray in the final. A semifinalist in Qatar last week before withdrawing with a virus, the world No.5 is already into his groove in 2018.