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SABALENKA RETURNS THIS WEEK



WTA:


Dubai 1000:


The first WTA 1000 event of the year, and obviously, we have a stacked field, with almost everyone from the top 20 making an appearance. Only Ons Jabeur from the top ten will be missing, unfortunately out with injury.


Iga Swiatek should be challenged a bit harder than she was over the weekend in Doha, taking the title dropping only 5 games all week. Aryna Sabalenka is back on the court this week, after her maiden Slam win in Melbourne just a few weeks ago.


Can she continue that incredible hitting, that sees her undefeated this year?


Merida 250, Mexico:


A new tournament on the tour, or at least a new venue, as Merida takes over from Zapopan to host this weeks 250 event. With most of the top players in Dubai, it’s a chance for 21st ranked top seed, Magda Linette to emulate her amazing Australian Open run. The next highest seed in the draw, is USA’s Sloane Stephens, at 40. Aussie Kim Birrell has qualified for the main draw.


ATP:


Rio de Janeiro 500, Brazil:


One of the most photogenic cities in the world plays host to the biggest ATP tournament of the week. It traditionally draws some top-line players, with previous winners such as Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, David Ferrer, and last year, Carlos Alcaraz. Carlos is back to defend his title, but the quality of the field falls away a bit this year, with only Cameron Norrie, and Lorenzo Musetti from the top 20.


Doha 250, Qatar:


Regularly voted as the best ATP 250 tournament on the calendar, Doha has traditionally drawn a field somewhat stronger than a lot of larger tournaments. Dating back to 1993, it really is a who’s who of tennis honour board. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray have all won the title in the last 15 years. If we go back further, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, and Stefan Edberg raised the trophy in the 90’s.


This year, Australia hangs its hopes on Jason Kubler, and Christopher O’Connell. They’ll be joined by the likes of Andy Murray, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, and Felix Auger-Aliassime.


Marseille 250, France:


Another staple event on the tour for 30 years, the indoor event on the Mediterranean has also been won by some absolute legends of the sport, such as Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Boris Becker. In recent times, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios defeated Marin Cilic to take the 2016 title.


This year, it will be up to Alex De Minaur to try to bring some Aussie success in France. Hubert Hurkacz is the top seed this week, while Jannik Sinner will be looking to continue his stellar run of form for another week.


ATP Challenger:


Monterrey 125, Mexico:


The 2015 Tournament of the year, is back for its 8th instalment. Set in a stunning stadium, the event draws large crowds, with an atmosphere worthy of the Challenger tour. Fernando Verdasco is the defending champion, and this was his most recent success on tour, at the ripe old age of 38. No Aussies in the main draw, but great to see Bernard Tomic into the qualifying draw as 4th seed. If he gets through, he’ll join a field with 4 top 100 players, including Frenchman, Adrian Mannerino, the top seed, ranked 59.


Bengaluru 100, India:


Shuffled back a couple of weeks on the calendar, Bengaluru is the second week of a three week Indian swing on the Challenger tour. Australia has had success here, with James Duckworth winning the even back in 2020. He will take his place again this year, as the second seed, with Dane Sweeney and Max Purcell, also gaining direct entry.


Rome 75, USA:


Only in its second year on the calendar, it might be worthwhile digging up the replay of last years final, because it’s fair to say both players have gone on to bigger and better things.


China’s Yibing Wu, and the USA’s Ben Shelton fought it out last year, with Wu taking home the bigger silverware. It is yet another example of why we should be taking notice of players at the Challenger level. And if indeed that’s the case, with 3 Aussies taking the top three seeded positions, it could be a fun week. Jordan Thompson, Rinky Hijikata, and Alexander Vukic will be hoping to be there on finals weekend.


Roverto 75, Italy:


A new Challenger event on the calendar, and again, some Australian interest here, with Li Tu playing his first event since the Australian Open qualifiers. He’s drawn to face top seed, Jurij Rodionov, so it’ll be a big test first up.


ITF:


W40 Macon, France:


Not a bad field for a W40, with all 14 direct acceptances inside, or very close to, the top 200. German Tamara Korpatsch will be the sole top 100 representative, and looking for her first win of the year. She has run into some solid players in the opening rounds this season, so this is her chance to get the year rolling.


W25 Swan Hill, Australia:


Country Victoria plays host to both the men and women this week. On the women’s side, Olivia Gadecki and Priscilla Hon are the clear top two seeds, as the only players ranked inside the top 200. Destanee Aiava, Arina Rodionova, Alexandra Bozovic, and Maddison Inglis will all be looking to get some wins on home soil before having to travel further afield very soon.


M25 Swan Hill, Australia:


On the men’s side, it’s very close to an all Australian event this week. Tristan Schoolkate will be the top seed, but will be challenged by players such as Matthew Dellavedova, Thomas Fancutt, and Luke Saville.

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