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Wednesday, Feb 26th

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Top tennis players from the Asia-Pacific region will compete for a valuable wildcard into Australian Open 2014 at the second annual Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off set for Shenzhen, China in November.

The play-off was announced today in Beijing at an event attended by Grand Slam champion and Australian Open 2011 and 2013 finalist Li Na, and Crown Resorts Chairman James Packer.

“In 2013 we staged the first Asia Pacific Wildcard Play-off in China, with the winners Wu Di and Zhang Yuxuan going on to compete in the main draw of the Australian Open,” Tennis Australia’s Senior Vice President of Sponsorship Glenn Findlay said.

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The richest prize purse in Australian sport is going up another $3 million dollars. Australian Open 2014 will offer AUD$33 million in prize money having increased an incredible $7 million dollars in the past two years. When announced last year, the Australian Open 2013 prize pool of AUD$30 million signified the single biggest increase in the history of the sport and led to increased prize money offerings at all majors this year.

“We said it last year and we still believe it … these incredible athletes deserve every cent and we will continue to do everything in our power to make the life of an international professional tennis player more worthwhile. The Slams have led the way, but the entire tennis fraternity still isn’t there yet,” Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said.

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World Number 8 Korean Jiyai Shin held on to win the 2013 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open by two strokes in front of a packed gallery at Royal Canberra Golf Club, Yarralumla. Shin, a runner-up at the Open in 2008, claimed the first LPGA Tour event of the year after a final round 1-under par 72 to hold off Taiwanese World Number 1 Yani Tseng who fired a closing round 7-under par 66 to finish second.

“Well, finally I win in Australia so I’m really happy about that and well, I was so nervous this morning because on this course I had a good chance for birdie but also a lot make it hard to keep the par,” Shin said.

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Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in four sets, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 to win the Australian Open title for a third straight year, a feat never accomplished before in tennis' Open Era. Neither player was at his peak in the match, with the opening couple of sets being littered with unforced errors. With their games quite similar, and both men in excellent physical condition, the match was expected to be a long drawn affair. The first two sets certainly were indicative of that as they both went beyond an hour, but when Djokovic got his nose in front late in the third, he found another gear. Murray, who appeared to be struggling with blisters and a bit of hamstring niggle, failed to lift his game when it mattered, and Djokovic played the tennis we all know him capable of to pull away comfortably in the end.

Both men had played some fantastic tennis over the last two weeks, especially in their respective semi-final encounters, but were uncharacteristically tentative on the big day. Djokovic was forced to rally with Murray from the back of the court, and nearly every attempt he made to force the play in the early exchanges resulted in an unforced error. Murray's mistakes meanwhile seemed to have no logic to them whatsoever, but fortunately for the Brit they came largely at inconsequential times in the first set.

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The match started off as Melbourne vs Victoria, Victoria Azarenka that is. However, after nearly 3 hours of nerve-wracking tennis, it turned into the battle everyone wanted to see, the Defending Champion vs the People's Champion. And it was the defending champion who prevailed as she joined an elite group of 8 women who had successfully defended their Australian Open title, registering a hard fought and rather emotional 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

In the aftermath of the 'Timeout-gate' controversy, 23-year old Azarenka was always expected to get a frosty reception from a large knowledgeable Melbourne crowd at the Rod Laver Arena, and quite frankly she did. There was mild appreciation for the points that she won at the start of the match, while the response that Li Na got every time she won a point cemented the obvious, her place in the hearts of the fans, and who they wanted to see emerge victorious. There was also the presence of the usual hecklers that one can expect in such an environment, with Azarenka being taunted by the fans whenever she threatened to get ahead.

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For the best part of the past four years, the top four players of men’s tennis – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have completed dominated the Grand Slams. Such has been their dominance that only one player apart from them in Juan Martin Del Potro at the 2009 U.S Open has been able to find success at the Slams. This has left a huge gap between the top 4 and the rest of the players and consequently the early rounds at the majors have been a mere formality – a way to find out which of the 4 is most likely to win.

With the 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal withdrawing from the tournament the top seed Novak Djokovic had an easy semi final where he wiped the floor with his opponent David Ferrer. As a result, all eyes were on the second semi-final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray. That match would have the responsibility of showing the world the best tennis it had ever seen and at the same time give them a clue as to who would walk away victorious from Melbourne.

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On Thursday, in the first of the men’s semi-finals, defending champion Novak Djokovic proved why he is the no.1 player in the world as he came to the Rod Laver Arena firing on all cylinders and displayed a sublime quality of tennis to annihilate 4th seed David Ferrer in straight sets 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.

Ferrer is one of the toughest competitor’s on tour and over the past couple of years has improved his game on the hard courts to progress from a clay court specialist to a tennis player with an all round game. With compatriot Rafael Nadal withdrawing from the tournament the responsibility of filling the gap fell squarely on the fourth seed’s shoulders and a lot was expected from him. Unfortunately, Ferrer did not live up to those expectations and was blitzed off Rod Laver Arena by the top seeded Serb in 89 minutes in what could quite possibly be one of the worst defeats of the Spaniard’s career.

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