Nadal to open Tie Break Tens tournament

  • Michael Beattie
  • Elizabeth Bai/Tennis Australia
  • 10 January 2018
  • 7pm
  • Margaret Court Arena

World No.1 Rafael Nadal will return to action for the first time in 2018 on Wednesday night to face Frenchman Lucas Pouille in the first round of Australian’s inaugural Tie Break Tens tournament, while six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will take on Australia’s Davis Cup captain and former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt.

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.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash was on hand to conduct the first-round draw at Melbourne Park, also pairing Tomas Berdych with Australian No.1 Nick Kyrgios and setting up a battle of the backhands when three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka marks his long-awaited return against former Tie Break Tens winner Dominic Thiem.

“It’s a fun event, it’s great money for the guys, it’s great practice, and it’s intense,” Cash said of the event. “The great thing about tiebreaks is that anybody can win one. You don’t have to be a top-ranked player to win – a guy like Lleyton Hewitt, who hasn’t played much, can have three good tiebreaks and come away with the money!”

And Cash is backing Hewitt to spring an upset against 12-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic: “I think that’s a potential upset: Novak likes to take a bit of time to get used to the court, and you know Lleyton’s going to be scrambling everything back, making him play. Lleyton was fantastic under pressure and in tiebreaks, and while Novak is too, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the old man knock a recovering Djokovic out straight away.”

Lleyton was fantastic under pressure and in tiebreaks, and while Novak is too, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the old man knock a recovering Djokovic out straight away.
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash predicts some upsets at Tie Break Tens.

Pouille’s stunning victory over Nadal at the 2016 US Open makes their showdown another potential upset, believes Cash. “Rafa tends to like to get his teeth stuck into a match and wear a guy down. He hasn’t got a chance to do that in this format.”

Krygios lost his last meeting with Berdych at Melbourne Park, but the Brisbane champion has won their last two showdowns – “There’s going to be some serious firepower in that one,” adds Cash – while three of Wawrinka and Thiem’s four showdowns have featured tiebreaks, each won by eventual winner Wawrinka.

“It’ll be nice to see Stan come back,” Cash said of Wawrinka, returning to action for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in August. “He’s a big, powerful guy, and you tend to have a bit of an advantage in this format when you can use your serve to get some free points, which he’ll be looking for having not played a lot of tennis.”

Tie Break Tens launched in 2015 when rising British star Kyle Edmund beat top seed Andy Murray in a gripping final at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Since then, two further tournaments have been staged in Madrid and Vienna with stars such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Grigor Dimitrov, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Johanna Konta all vying for that lucrative winner’s cheque.

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