When it comes to those who consume coffee, it’s hard to agree on the perfect drink, given all of the modern customizations available. Hot or iced? Light or dark roast? Black or espresso brewed? Any milk? Prefer a dairy-free option? Sugar or flavored syrup? Feeling like whipped cream today?

For several tennis players, coffee is a staple of their daily routine. And they, too, have their affinities.

There’s Donna Vekic, whose go-to is a double espresso. “I go strong,” the Croatian says.

The same rings true for Edouard Roger-Vasselin. “Just two shots of Nespresso and I'm good for the rest of my life,” he declares.

While she’s more of a tea drinker, Elina Svitolina concurs on her preference. “When the jet lag really hits me, I try to take a few espressos.”

Tsvetana Pironkova neighbors closely, but has modifications. “I have one cup a day. It’s either a single or double espresso with some cold milk and a little bit of sugar,” she shares.

Alex de Minaur also prefers a milk-base, being a latte guy.

And there’s Johanna Konta, who “absolutely loves an iced coffee.”

Karolina Pliskova likes one coffee each morning, “just to wake up the body a little bit.”

Aryna Sabalenka has recently seen herself do a 180. “I became a coffee fan. Before, I didn't really like it, but I think when you get older, you start to like coffee. This thing has really made me scared,” she reveals with a laugh.

Melbourne, where the best on the WTA and ATP Tours descend each year for the Australian Open, is a coffee lover's paradise—a place that many agree brews damn good beans. The city’s diverse neighborhoods each have their unique gems for the passionate aficionados. Locally-owned cafes dominate chains in providing distinct experiences, yet come together to serve up a remarkably reliable scene. The ambiance is universally inviting, and the end product is treated like a work of art.

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How do you take your coffee? For players in Melbourne, quite seriously

How do you take your coffee? For players in Melbourne, quite seriously

Ashleigh Barty

According to world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Melbourne’s world-class delivery ultimately lies in the person behind the drink.

“It’s all in a good barista, ensuring they know what they're doing, but down here in Melbourne, every corner there's a good coffee shop. You certainly don't have to go hunting too hard,” she assures us. “I think everyone has their favorites, their little pockets that they love to go to.

“One of my absolute favorites is The Pound just off Chapel Street. I've known the owners for a long time now and it's a little hideaway for me. I certainly love going there.”

Like Barty, fellow countryman de Minaur has a spot in South Yarra. Before Victoria's five-day lockdown came into effect on Saturday, the 21-year-old regularly hit up SOS for a latte and acai bowl. The city’s offerings are a match made in heaven for his palate.

“Where do I start? You go into a coffee shop in the morning and normally, you have a coffee. It’s not bad. It just gets you hyped up. But here, there’s nothing I enjoy more than going to breakfast and ordering a coffee,” he says. “It’s just smooth, it’s creamy, it’s just an unbelievable taste. I don’t know how to word it, but it’s just above everything else.”

A couple miles to the west, Vekic discovered a new prized hub just last week.

“I actually went to the South Melbourne Food Market for the first time, and it’s amazing,” the 24-year-old says. “There’s a couple of places around there for coffee, which are all really nice.”

When he was in quarantine, Roger-Vasselin struggled to get his fix with hotel offerings and delayed delivery services. Once free to roam the streets, the former Roland Garros doubles champion was thrilled to immerse himself into the scene again, one that reminds him of home.

“The taste of course is important, but it's also the view. A little bit like I do it in France, or in Paris, when it's spring or summer,” he reflects. “We just enjoy being outside and drink the coffee. And this is part of my life, of my culture.”

Pironkova didn’t drink much coffee when she was last in town for the Happy Slam in 2017. But when a major life change impacted her daily routine, the Bulgarian’s need for caffeine kicked in quickly.

“I really only started to drink coffee when I gave birth,” she discloses. “This is my first visit in Melbourne after that, so I’m yet to discover Australian coffee. I will definitely do that.”

How do you take your coffee? For players in Melbourne, quite seriously

How do you take your coffee? For players in Melbourne, quite seriously

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Tsvetana Pironkova

Barbora Strycova made her first Australian Open appearance in 2003, going out in the qualifying stage. Having developed an appreciation for certain spots over time in the Central Business District and Docklands, the current WTA doubles No. 1 has found her access to Melbourne’s offerings to be a worthy topic of discussion.

“For me, coffee in Melbourne is the best of the best. Friends who lived here in Australia and are back in Czech are jealous of me that I can have the best coffee now,” Strycova says. “We have always pretty long conversation just about coffee. The setup of the cafes is so cool. I love to have a bitter coffee and that's what I get here.”

Of course, not everyone can be pleased. Nick Kyrgios alleges, “I’m from Canberra. We’ve got way better coffee there. It’s alright here. I’m not complaining.”

Catching up with Nick Kyrgios at Lonsdale Street Roasters:

Yet some who have high standards can be won over. Take Matteo Berrettini. As a native of Italy, where coffee is profoundly rooted in its identity, his expectations of being impressed weren’t the greatest when Aussie girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic took him for a cup.

“She told me two years ago, I think, that Australia has a nice coffee. And I was like, ‘Yeah, but I'm coming from Italy. For sure, ours is better,’” Berrettini recalls. “But I have to be honest, I try yours and it's really nice. So I'm happy to come here and enjoy.”

And as Mischa Zverev sums it up, even if a cup of joe isn't your cup of tea, there's something magical about the coastal city that inspires experimenting with a blend or two. For you just might ask yourself where you've bean all your life.

“I’m not a coffee drinker, but if you’re in Melbourne, you kind of have to be,” he says. “It’s the capital of the world when it comes to coffee.”

Nestled between January's summer swing of tournaments in Australia, and March's Sunshine Double in the U.S., February can be overlooked in tennis. But not in 2021, with the Australian Open's temporary move to the second and shortest month of the calendar. Beyond that, February is Black History Month, and also a pivotal time for the sport in its rebound from the pandemic.

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How do you take your coffee? For players in Melbourne, quite seriously

How do you take your coffee? For players in Melbourne, quite seriously

To commemorate this convergence of events, we're spotlighting one important story per day, all month long, in The 2/21. Set your clock to it: it will drop each afternoon, at 2:21 Eastern Standard Time (U.S.).