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Venus, Townsend & Vickery headline Auckland ASB Classic

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By Editorial Team

Venus Williams flies into Auckland fresh off a big win against Serena in Abu Dhabi this week, but the year is just getting started for the 2015 title holder. Venus will now face Victoria Azarenka in the first round of play in what could be a tough challenge as Victoria’s ranking dropped following maternity leave last year as she struggled to win against the top 5 players on tour. Venus has a slight edge in the match due to her power game, recent match play and willingness to compete in early rounds.

In addition to Venus’ return to tour play, Taylor Townsend and Sachia Vickery are making a big push up the rankings this year. Taylor plays Barbora Strycova, the 5th seed, where she should be competitive, but must be able to use her lefty spin to dictate points. Fitness will also be a factor due to the long break leading into the 2019 season.

Sachia must face Kristen Flipkens where she will be most challenged after coming off of a roll coaster season and finishing in a slump due to multiple knee injuries. She now must pull herself together or suffer an early exit as she hopes to elude a rocky start heading into the Australian Open.

Asia Muhammad is also making a stand in the qualifying draw after winning her first round match yesterday to now face fellow American, Danielle Lao. This should be a battle for the main draw spot tomorrow. The energy is definitely running on high in Auckland as these four women fight for position atop of the 2019 season.

All main draw matches begin tomorrow, December 30th, and televised on Tennis Channel.

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Monfils and Tiafoe take center stage at AO

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By Jason Barron

Frances Tiafoe will have a tough task ahead of him playing in the Australian Open against Kevin Anderson. They played each other 3 times in 2018, with Anderson winning all 3. But, Tiafoe did take a set off him twice before. This will be the first best of 5 match that they have played, and a longer match could favor Tiafoe if he can outlast Anderson. Tiafoe has competed well against the 6th ranked Anderson in the past and should believe he has a chance going into the match.

The key will be to cut off the angles and attack on 2nd serves. Tiafoe can’t give Anderson a lot of time and space to whip in his serves or powerful groundstrokes. Tiafoe needs to make Anderson uncomfortable by moving him around the court and having him come to the net. If Tiafoe can utilize his speed and hit the corners he could counter Anderson’s big serves with superior all-around play. This would be a huge win for Tiafoe and get him get off to a great start in 2019.  

Gael Monfils will face Taylor Fritz in his 2nd match at the Australian Open. They have never played each other, but Monfils should get the win. Monfils has the advantage in experience, ability, and court movement. Fritz is a better server and could possibly overpower Monfils in rallies. Monfils will need to dictate the points and use his court movement to take advantage of a slower Fritz. Monfils has shown the ability in the past to beat big servers like Kevin Anderson and John Isner.

Fritz is a level below those players and Monfils should be able to take advantage and make him uncomfortable. If Monfils does beat Fritz he would likely face Roger Federer in his next match. That will be a monumental task to overcome, but it is sure to be an entertaining match with the creativity of both Monfils and Federer on display.

Both the Tiafoe-Anderson and Monfils-Fritz matches will be played on Tuesday, January 15th. Tune in on ESPN for continuing coverage of the Australian Open.

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Eubanks, King and Brown in AO Quali Finals

ATP Tour

by Editorial Team

Chris Eubanks was able to pass the young sensation, Felix Auger-Aliassime, in straight sets today to now face Pedro Martinez in the Australian Open final round of qualifying. Chris is now a favorite to make the main draw with his huge serve and improved backhand. It is obvious that practice time in the off-season has paid off for Chris as he continues to boast wins against his top 100 opponents.

“Marathon Man” Darian King refuses to go away after a disappointing 2018 season where he was not able to make a main draw appearance in the grand slams. Tomorrow he will have his chance to extend his stay in Australia while collecting a big check with a win over tough competitor Viktor Troicki of Serbia. This will be a tall order for Darian, but he should be up to the task with two 3-setters under his belt already. The momentum from the Baghdatis win should spill over into this final qualifying match to propel Darian forward into the main draw.

Dustin Brown has not had it easy either, but by looks of it he appears to back on his game. With new sponsorship from Head rackets and Hydrogen apparel, Dustin has recommitted himself to the sport and is now making a major push to reach the AO main draw with a possible win over the South African and 11th seed, Lloyd Harris tomorrow.

All matches can be seen on Tennis Channel and TennisChannel.com

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Naomi Osaka vs. Destanee Aiava | 2019 Brisbane International Second Round | WTA Highlights

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