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Wednesday, Feb 26th

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If there was ever a feel good story in tennis, this is it. Chinese journeywoman Zhang Shuai has participated in 27 Grand Slams before the 2016 Australian Open, battling in the qualifying rounds of most of them, and having never won a match in the main draw, having reached that stage 14 times in the past.

Zhang, who turns 27 on Thursday, gave herself an early birthday present, winning her first main draw match in a Grand Slam at the 28th time of asking, and in the process produced an upset of stunning proportions, beating the no.2 seed Simona Halep of Romania in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.

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One of the greatest matches in the modern era of tennis was played out at the 2009 Australian Open when Rafael Nadal beat fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in five and a quarter hours in the semi-finals.

Few expected a repeat of that contest when Nadal drew Verdasco in the first round this year with the latter seemingly well past his prime, having slipped to the outer edges of the top 50 and now in his 30s.

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It was a mixed bag for fans of British tennis on Day 2 of the Australian Open with the two players advancing to the round of 64 and another couple crashing out of the tournament at the first hurdle.

After a disappointing opening day saw Heather Watson and Kyle Edmund get knocked out of the Australian Open, all eyes were on British no.1s Andy Murray and Johanna Konta as they opened their campaigns against rather varied pedigree opponents.

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On paper Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams face challenging first round matches when they begin their respective Australian Open title defences next week in Melbourne with the Serb drawing South Korean teenager Hyeon Chung, while Serena opens her campaign against the highest ranked unseeded player in the women's draw, world no.35 Camila Giorgi of Italy.

Given Djokovic's form so far this season, he shouldn't really be challenged by any of his early opponents, and the odds-on-favourite for the title faces potential matches against Benoit Paire and Kei Nishikori before a possible semi-final showdown with Roger Federer.

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Two time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has won her first title in three years, lifting the Brisbane International crown yesterday, crushing Germany's Angelique Kerber in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1 on Saturday.

Vika, a former Champion here in Brisbane too, has battled to regain the form that took her to the top of the world rankings with injuries playing a huge role in her struggles over the last couple of years.

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For two and a half sets and the better part of three hours Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray stood toe-toe battling for supremacy in arguably one of the greatest Australian Open finals in recent memory, however, when the dust settled and everything was said and done it was the world no.1 Djokovic, who collected his 5th Australian Open title, leaving Murray to wonder what might have been as he fell at the final hurdle in Melbourne for the fourth time in his career.

The match started at a blistering pace and after saving three break points on his serve early in the opening set, Djokovic pulled ahead 4-1. Murray though stormed back into contention and the opening set made its way into a tiebreak. The quality of tennis at this stage of the match was rather exceptional, and Djokovic just about sneaked away with the first set, 7-5 in the breaker.

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Veteran tennis stars Leander Paes and Martina Hingis started their 2015 season on a spectacular note by winning the Final of the Australian Open Mixed Doubles event in Melbourne earlier today.

Paes, 41, and Hingis, 34, picked up their first title today, beating the defending Australian Open champions Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 6-3 in a shade over an hour. The veteran duo always looked a tad better than their opponents on the day with Paes in particular raising his game for the big occasion. The Indian legend returned serve better than he did over the last two weeks, and that ensured that his team was always in the driver's seat.

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