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MATCH POINT—Anett Kontaveit defeats Petra Kvitova in Brisbane:

 

There is no rest for the weary in tennis. After—at most—a two-month offseason, the ATP and WTA tours are back, with an opening-week schedule chock full of tournaments and exhibitions.

And if you'd like to watch those tournaments and exhibitions, the majority of which are taking place in Australia, you'll likely need to stay up through the night. At least the required U.S. viewing schedule for the upcoming Australian Open won't be such a shock to the system.

That's where this collection of highlights, recaps and commentary might come in handy.


The above video of Anett Kontaveit's 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory over Petra Kvitova shows how the upset ended. Here's a full highlight package of the 20th-ranked—yet unseeded—Estonian's win in Brisbane:

 

"She plays well on all surfaces and is poised to have a breakthrough year," Tennis Channel analyst and former doubles Grand Slam champion Mark Knowles told me about Kontaveit this offseason. "She has a good team led by Nigel Sears. I think she has the belief to take the next step at the Slams."

Kontaveit will next face Lesia Tsurenko, with the winner advancing to the semifinals to play either Anastasija Sevastova or US Open champion Naomi Osaka.


I mentioned exhibitions at the top of this piece, but the Hopman Cup is an exo in name only. With guaranteed singles matches before the Australian Open, while at the same time an opportunity to represent one's nation, the competitors treat this seriously; only the mixed doubles might be considered something of a lark. But even yesterday's Serena Williams & Frances Tiafoe vs. Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic marquee match lacked elements of a typical hit-and-giggle.

On Wednesday, Alexander Zverev, now coached by Ivan Lendl, and Lucas Pouille, now coached by Amelie Mauresmo, squared off in singles action as part of the France vs. Germany matchup. It went Zverev's way, 6-3, 6-7 (8), 6-2; along with teammate Angelique Kerber's 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Alize Cornet, the Germans took this contest despite France's win in mixed doubles.

Here's how Zverev defeated Pouille:

 

"Lucas fought well and played really well in the important moments," Zverev told the Associated Press. "He's a very tough opponent, and I think he's going to do well in the Australian Open."

The 2018 ATP Finals champion also cited the event's Australian Open tune-up bonafides.

"You want to play tough opponents, you want to play the best players before a Grand Slam," Zverev said. "I've played two very good players, and I'm happy to get those matches under my belt."


In Auckland, top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Laura Seigemend, a lucky loser, 6-3, 6-2.

From the AP:

After waiting until the third day of the tournament to play, Wozniacki broke Siegemund in the fourth game of the first set and then opened up a 3-0 lead in the second before becoming frustrated with a swirling wind.

"I definitely felt a bit rusty out there, just with that little bit of wind," Wozniacki said. "It wasn't my prettiest match but I just tried to hang in there and tried to serve well and get a lot of balls back. Hopefully tomorrow is going to be better."

Wozniacki is playing in Auckland for the fifth time and reached the final last year, losing to Julia Goerges, before going on to win the Australian Open. She found a difficult opponent in Siegemund, who has a wide range of shots.

"She's a tricky player," Wozniacki said. "She comes to the net, she fights for the ball, she mixes the pace so it's not easy for sure."

Here's how Wozniacki finally tamed the swirling wind and that tricky player:

 


Last but not least, Maria Sharapova won her second match at the Shenzhen Open, defeating 17-year-old Wang Xinyu by retirement.

The cause of the retirement was cramps, something we'll likely see again in Melbourne, with players dealing with time away from the courts and the Australian summer heat.

 

From the AP:

"It's not the way either of us wants to finish the match, win or lose," Sharapova said. "I thought (Wang) was absolutely the dominant player in this match, and had all the opportunities to win it, even though I felt like I was finding my stride and getting a little bit closer to the line and being more aggressive."

Wang, who won two Grand Slam doubles titles last year, received a wild card into the Shenzhen event.

"She has all the tools to play well, and I think she showcased that, and it's obviously a very unfortunate way to end the match," Sharapova said.


This Week on Tennis Channel Plus:

Hopman Cup (Sat - Sat 12.29 - 1.5)
•    Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber headline the Hopman Cup. Watch live coverage on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Saturday 12/29 at 9:00pm ET.

ATP/WTA Brisbane (Sun - Sun 12.30 - 1.6)
•    Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens open their 2019 seasons in Brisbane. Live coverage from three courts begins on Tennis Channel Plus on Sunday 12/30 at 8:00pm ET.

WTA Auckland (Sun - Sun 12.30 - 1.6)
•    Catch the action from the ASB Classic including Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. Live coverage begins on Tennis Channel Plus on Sunday 12/30 at 8:00pm ET.

WTA Shenzhen (Sat - Sat 12.29 - 1.5)
•    Watch first to last ball action from the Shenzhen Open featuring Maria Sharapova and Jelena Ostapenko beginning Saturday 12/29 at 11:00pm ET.

ATP Pune (Mon - Sat 12.31 - 1.5)
•    Watch Kevin Anderson, Marin Cilic and Hyeon Chung live from Pune starting Monday 12/31 at 6:30am ET.

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