Feature photo: Daniel Nestor at the 2015 Rogers Cup men’s doubles final.
An hour-long first set followed by a key break in the second on Thursday sent Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic to the men’s doubles final at the Australian Open.
Nestor and Stepanek beat Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Marcel Granollers (Spain) 7-6 (11) and 6-4 and will face Great Britain’s Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares of Brazil for the first men’s Grand Slam doubles title of the season.
For Nestor, it will be his fifth Australian Open men’s doubles final, having won the tournament once in 2002 with long-time partner Mark Knowles.
The opening set in Nestor and Stepanek’s match saw each team win a break point before heading to tiebreak, where 24 points were needed to settle the first frame. At 11-11 in the tiebreak with each team having lost serve four times, the Canadian and his Czech Partner took a point off their opponents with a forehand volley. A misplaced forehand from their opponents in the next point gave the tiebreak 13-11 to Nestor and Stepanek after 63 minutes of play.
RELATED: Nestor’s 1000th career win
The edge in the second set came early for 43-year-old Nestor and Stepanek, 37, when a break point was won on the first service game against Cuevas. Nestor and Stepanek held serve rest of the way to take the set and match 6-4.
The men’s doubles final is expected to take place Saturday night in Melbourne. Murray and Soares are the seventh seed, while Nestor and Stepanek are unseeded. Murray is the older brother of singles superstar, Andy, who faces Canada’s Milos Raonic on Friday.
Wednesday, January 27
Winning three break points that made the difference, Milos Raonic beat Gael Monfils to advance to the men’s singles semifinals in Melbourne, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Raonic became the first Canadian men’s player to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open.
His next opponent will be number two seed Any Murray of Great Britain.
Tuesday, January 26
Daniel Nestor is off to the semifinals at the Australian Open for the ninth time after a victory on Tuesday with partner Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.
The 43-year-old Canadian Olympic champion from Sydney 2000 and his Czech partner beat Treat Huey of the Philippines and Max Mirnyi from Belarus 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday. This is the fifth time in seven years that Nestor has reached the men’s doubles semifinals. He and Stepanek will face Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Marcel Granollers (Spain), who beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil and American Jack Sock en route to the semifinals.
Nestor and Stepanek are not seeded at Melbourne, while Cuevas and Granollers are the 16th seed at the Australian Open. Their match will take place on Thursday (Day 11) of the tournament.
RELATED: Nestor’s 1000th career win
Monday, January 25
On Day 8 at the Australian Open, Milos Raonic won his fourth round match in men’s singles beating Stan Wawrinka in five sets. Raonic’s next opponent will be Gael Monfils of France, the rivals will play at approximately 3:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, January 26.
Canada’s two remaining doubles players at the Australian Open will compete in the quarterfinals on Tuesday (Day 9) and if both win, will meet each other in the semifinals.
Daniel Nestor and his Czech partner Radek Stepanek will face Treat Huey (Philippines) and Max Mirnyi (Belarus) after beating Spain’s Pablo Andujar and Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Another partially Canadian team, Vasek Pospisil and his partner Jack Sock of the United States, take on Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Marcel Granollers (Spain). Their path to the quarterfinals went through Australian duo of Sam Groth and Lleyton Hewitt 6-4, 6-2.
Both Nestor and Pospisil’s wins arrived on Day 7.
Saturday, January 23
A perfect start to the 2016 season continued through Day 6 at the Australian Open for Milos Raonic after he beat Viktor Troicki in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
The win – his seventh of the season in as many matches – puts Thornhill, Ontario’s Raonic into the fourth round of men’s singles at the season’s first major, where he is likely to play world number four Stan Wawrinka.
A pair of well-executed opening frames saw Raonic win 26 of 27 first serve points to take a roaring lead over his Serbian opponent on Saturday in Melbourne. The 14th seeded Canadian quickly took a two-sets-to-zero advantage in just over an hour winning them respectively at 6-2 and 6-3.
Troicki, the no. 21 seed, made the most of a temporary dip in form for Raonic in the third set, taking a break point from the Canadian and consolidating for a 3-0 lead. It all seemed to be going well for Troicki until Raonic made it business as usual.
The Canadian held serve on his next two games, then took a service game from Troicki when the Serbian made an unforced error on a backhand, allowing the Raonic to close the gap. Troicki’s edge in the third set was completely eliminated when Raonic held serve for 4-4.
From there things got worse for Troicki, falling behind love-30 on his next service game with two unforced errors. A double fault followed, giving Raonic break point, which he converted on another unforced error from the Serbian. Once down 3-0, Raonic came back to win the third set 6-4, and with it the match and a pass to the fourth round of the Australian Open on Monday.
Other Canadians still in contention at the Australian Open are Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor with their respective partners. Pospisil with American Jack Sock is in the third round in search of quarterfinals, while Nestor playing with Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic will look to do the same.
Thursday January 21
A stubborn Tommy Robredo combined with unforced errors made it difficult for Milos Raonic as he overcame his second round tie in Melbourne, winning 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 7-5 at the Australian Open.
With the win on Thursday, Raonic advances to the third round in Australia, where he reached the quarterfinals in 2015. His growing resilience will be tested next against either American qualifier Tim Smyczek or 21st seed Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
With a career record of five wins and no losses against Robredo and in championship form after winning a warm-up tournament in Brisbane ahead of the season’s first major, one could be forgiven for expecting Raonic to roll over his Spanish opponent in the second round.
Robredo however, did his homework and kept the Canadian tied to the baseline for much of the opening two sets, leaving Raonic unable to demonstrate his increasing mobility against the veteran. It didn’t help that the Canadian committed an uncharacteristic 45 unforced errors to Robredo’s 10 over the first two sets.
Relying on his booming serve, Raonic refused to succumb to Robredo in either of the first two tiebreakers, eventually winning both showing no sign of nerves (the Canadian had fallen behind 3-0 in the first tiebreaker before recovering to win).
In the third set, Raonic stared down adversity on two break points to take a 2-1 lead. Then up 6-5, the first break point of the match was finally won by either of the two competitors when Robredo returned wide to end the final game, set and match in Raonic’s favour at 7-5.
Wednesday, January 20
Canadians enjoyed mixed results at the Australian Open on Day 3, with a couple of players advancing and another two ending their respective runs in Melbourne.
There was good news in men’s doubles, where Sydney 2000 Olympic champion Daniel Nestor with Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic bounced Chinese Taipei duo Hsieh Cheng-peng and Yang Tsung-hua 6-1, 7-5 in the first round.
Nestor – who recently won his 1000th career match with a different partner – and Stepanek could face either Spanish duo Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and David Marrero or 10th seeded Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, both of Poland, in the next round.
Another Canadian to win in men’s doubles first round was Vasek Pospisil with his partner Jack Sock of the United States. The number nine seeds had trouble with Philipp Petzschner (Germany) and Alexander Peya (Austria) losing the first set, but recovering to win a pair of tiebreaks to take the match 1-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).
Next up for the North American pair are Robin Haase (Netherlands) and Fernando Verdasco (Spain).
Bad news for Canadian tennis arrived on the women’s side of the brackets, with Eugenie Bouchard losing her second round tie to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland. The world number four player was too strong for Bouchard, recovering from a 4-2 deficit in the opening set to win the match 6-4, 6-2.
On a comeback trail after a 2015 season when her form dipped before ending the year with a concussion, Bouchard has already won seven matches in 2016, including a final appearance in Hobart ahead of the Australian Open.
Also on the loss column on Wednesday was Gabriela Dabrowski with Polish partner Alicja Rosolska, falling to Brits Johanna Konta and Heather Watson 6-1, 7-6 (7) in women’s doubles.
On Thursday, Milos Raonic will return in second round singles action against Tommy Robredo.
Tuesday, January 19
Raonic quickly sent Lucas Pouille to the exit in Melbourne, beating the Frenchman 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in straight sets at the opening major of the 2016 tennis season on Tuesday.
What a great way to start off my @australianopen campaign. It's great stepping out on court to a packed crowd with even more people waiting to get in. The energy was great and the fans brought it. This is my little thank you for making it that much more special to play in front of an energetic and lively crowd. #TeamMilos 📸: @atpworldtour @newbalance @rolex @wilsontennis @avivacanada #australianopen #tennis #atp #win #believeinthesleeve #TheWillToSucceed #melbourne #OnToTheNextOne #FansComeFirst #autograph #selfie
The Canadian entered the Australian Open after lifting the Brisbane International title before taking last week off to prepare for the major. His readiness was apparent from the get go, winning the opening set in just 23 minutes.
Raonic’s next opponent will be Tommy Robredo in a section that includes 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka.
Coming off a tournament final appearance in Hobart, Bouchard started the Australian Open on a winning note beating Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4 on Monday.
Bouchard’s reward for a convincing victory is a match against the number four player in the world, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in the second round.
Difficult opponents at early rounds in Australia for Raonic and Bouchard are due to both players suffering a difficult 2015 season and dropping in world rankings. Raonic is the 14th ranked ATP player coming into Melbourne (where he is seeded 13th) and Bouchard sits at 37th overall in the WTA tour.
One Canadian who couldn’t overcome his first round test is Vasek Pospisil. Despite beating 14th seeded Gilles Simon in the opening set, the Canadian couldn’t hold off his French counterpart, who prevailed 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Pospisil remains in Australia to play doubles. Other Canadians set to compete in men’s doubles are Daniel Nestor and Adil Shamasdin.
On the women’s side in doubles Pan Am Games double medallist Gabriela Dabrowski is the lone Canadian entrant.