World No. 8 Dominic Thiem continues his busy schedule when he competes at the Apia International in Sydney, while two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki searches for more glory (and history) in the Harbour City.
Held the week before the Australian Open, the Apia International Sydney attracts a top-quality field of players looking to tune up their games and get some wins under their belt ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year.
Played at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre since 2000, the combined ATP-WTA Apia International Sydney was originally known as the New South Wales Open and has a rich heritage dating back to 1885 when it was used by colonial officials to select the Davis Cup team. Australian player W. J. B. Salmon won the first men’s title at the New South Wales Open in 1885 and Miss A. Lamb took the inaugural women’s title.
The tournament was originally held at the Sydney Cricket Ground before being hosted for 76 years at a White City location and moved to its current location in 2000, when Sydney hosted the Olympics.
Australian greats including Jack Crawford, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche and Rod Laver have all starred at the Apia International Sydney and gone on to win the trophy, with Rod Laver winning the title in 1961 – the centre court at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre is now named in Ken Rosewall's honour.
In more recent years, Pete Sampras became the first man since Australia’s Neal Fraser (1959-60) to win back-to-back titles at the ATP Sydney tournament when he defeated Thomas Muster in 1993 and Ivan Lendl in 1994, with Tim Henman defeating Carlos Moya in the 1997 final.
Australian star and the youngest man ever to be ranked world no. 1, Lleyton Hewitt, thrilled the home crowds when he captured four titles at the Apia International Sydney, winning in 2000-1 and 2004-5, his reign interrupted only by Lee Hyung-taik (2003) and a certain Roger Federer, when he defeated Juan Ignacio Chela in 2002.
Bernard Tomic brought that joy back to Aussie fans when he won the Sydney title in 2013, entering as an unseeded player and coming through the draw to defeat big-serving Kevin Anderson in the final. In fact it marked Tomic’s first ever ATP Tour victory and he made it back to the final in 2014, but was soundly beaten by US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 6-1.
2015 was full of surprises, as two qualifiers ended up contesting the final, with Viktor Troicki ultimately winning through to pick up his maiden title. Fabio Fognini was the top seed, but the Italian was left winless after a gutsy display from defending champion Juan Martin del Potro. Aside from being sidelined due to his lingering wrist injury, del Potro made his highly anticipated return to action in Sydney. He would then go on to reach the quarterfinals, before succumbing in a nail biting clash against Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7 (5), 6-7 (3). Kukushkin, a qualifier, then went on to face Troicki in the final, but it seemed he had given his all just to reach the final two, as Troicki ran away with the victory in a one-sided affair.
Troicki continued his love affair with Sydney in 2016, but he was tasked with a much tougher challenge in the final in the form of talented Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. Troicki recovered from a slow start to force a deciding set tiebreaker, where he would go on to save a match point on his way to securing back-to-back Sydney titles.
No man since John Bromwich between 1937-39 has won three straight titles in Sydney, but that is exactly what Troicki will be attempting to do in 2017. Dominic Thiem, fresh (hopefully) from a hectic 2016 campaign which saw him capture four ATP titles, reach a grand slam semi-final for the first time, beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, break into the top 10 and make a debut appearance at the season-ending ATP Finals, looms as Troicki’s biggest obstacle on paper.
Pablo Cuevas, who won a pair of ATP titles in 2016 and broke into the top 20 for the first time, is always a solid competitor, along with another fellow two-time ATP title winner in 2016, Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. Gilles Muller usually performs well in Sydney and is back again, while mercurial talents Fabio Fognini and Benoit Paire are set to be dangerous unseeded floaters.