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  • Chinan Open 2017: ‘rebel’ Nick Krygios needs understanding, not loathing, says Andre Agassi

    Nick Kyrgios has admitted it's time for him to appoint a coach but who would be prepared to take him on? Photo: Darrian Traynor Giuseppe Lavazza (left) hosting a press conference with Andre Agassi, on screen, at the n Open on Saturday. Photo: SDP Media
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    Former world No.1 Andre Agassi said he could have a lot to teach Nick Kyrgios but the young n would have to be willing to listen and learn.

    "We know his talent, his high-end ability, it's as much talent as you'll see on a tennis court," Agassi told reporters via video link from Las Vegas on Saturday.

    "We have also heard directly from him he hasn't been a fan of the game and personally has struggled with his desire, with his love for the game."

    On Saturday, Agassi said he could have a lot to offer Kyrgios but said his other commitments prevented him from taking an active role at the present time.

    "He's young and he's an interesting person, one I would need to spend a lot more time with to understand and hopefully there would be desire on his part ... to grow."

    Following his second-round loss to Italian Andreas Seppi, Kyrgios admitted it could be time for him to appoint a coach, as much to help him with his mental game as his physical development.

    "I think it's mental. Mental side of things are big for me. That's where a coach would be good. But obviously I wasn't physically 100 per cent. But it's mental, as well. A massive part of it," Kyrgios said.

    Agassi said his much-publicised struggles with form and drug use meant he could empathise with Kyrgios' battle.

    "I went through many years where I was considered one of the great under-achievers," Agassi said, adding he was "uplifted" by Kyrgios' willingness to admit his struggles.

    "He's obviously a rebel of sorts, a fighter of sorts, he might choose to take some of those fights and fight himself and you never want to see that in somebody. I would much prefer seeing him fighting his opponent and fighting the opportunity to get better.

    "He's young enough – I don't want to say he's so young that this is why he feels the way he does but because he feels the way he does it's a good thing he's this young because he'll have some time to work through it."

    He cautioned against the media or tennis fans rounding on Kyrgios, saying he knows "how deep one's struggles can be and how much good can still exist at the same time".

    "I was always someone who cared more than I portrayed because it was my way of hiding myself from myself.

    "I wish the good for him because he's either uncomfortable in his skin at the moment, or maybe too comfortable. Either way it's a learning process."

    Agassi's appearance at the Open was organised by Lavazza, in his role as a global ambassador for the coffee company.

    On defending champion Novak Djokovic's shock second-round loss to 117th-ranked Denis Istomin, Agassi said: "It was as much a surprise to me as anyone.

    "There's no reason he can't turn around as fast as [his game] seems to have left him. We all have our own unique journey. Novak won't need to learn in as hard of a way as I had to learn [at my lowest point]. He's a heck of an athlete and he still has time ... one of the greatest of all time," Agassi said.

  • Chinan Open 2017: how to get the rock star treatment at the tennis … for a price

    Singer Natalie Bassingthwaite (second from left) sitting on court for the match between Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen The Emirates hospitality suite at the n Open. Photo: Eddie Jim
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    Director of new experiences ... Tennis 's Richard Heaselgrave in the new courtside seats on Rod Laver Arena. Photo: Mathew Lynn

    Former AFL coach Mick Malthouse watches from the Presidents' Reserve section on Rod Laver Arena. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

    If your tennis fantasy combines smelling Andy Murray's sweat and freshening up between sets in the same bathroom used by Madonna on her last world tour, well, here's some good news.

    For the first time at the n Open, well-heeled visitors can have a private dining experience in Madge's dressing room, watch the players come down the race to Rod Laver Arena and then watch the match courtside in the most prestigious tennis seats in , if not the world.

    But all this luxury comes at a price.

    While organisers would not release the prices of the courtside seats, Fairfax Media has learned $22,500 will buy you the newest platinum experience for the men's final; the women's final costs $15,000.

    The cost includes food, drinks and a private security guard to escort guests to and from their seats. And yes, there are still some seats available.

    Tennis 's commercial director, Richard Heaselgrave, said it wasn't enough to offer the Open's top guests "curly sandwiches and tea".

    "Every year we stretch ourselves to find new lounges and experiences. People don't want to come and just have dinner at a table of 10 [with a] white tablecloth and watch some tennis. They want to have things they go home and tell their friends about," he said.

    Mr Heaselgrave said the customers for the courtside seats included corporates, wealthy individuals and the lucrative Chinese market, which he's hoping to treble to about 35,000 within two years.

    With the top tickets in the stands to the men's final selling for about $600, the courtside seats take the experience to a stratospheric level, starting with the concierge-style booking service.

    "It's a more one-to-one sale of a seat, it's not like going on [to an online booking agency]," Mr Heaselgrave said.

    He said the n Open had taken inspiration from American sport, the theatre and the cinema when it came to creating platinum experiences.

    "Those other [industries] don't have Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal so they have tried harder on the experience front. That's the double whammy [we can offer]," he said.

    The Open is also an important lure for celebrities, with the likes of Shane Warne and Natalie Bassingthwaighte already spotted in the courtside seats.

    Elsewhere, celebrities and VIPs are entertained in the invitation-only President's Reserve, as well as sponsors' "super boxes" and hospitality suites.

    At Emirates, there's free-flowing French Champagne from morning until evening and a buffet of seafood, salads and sweets, while Lavazza uses its box to showcase coffee-infused recipes by a range of famous-name n chefs.

    Dean Cleaver, regional manager of Victoria and Tasmania, said the suite was a "haven" for guests away from the on-court action.

    "It's not a hard sell, we're trying to influence them if they're not already flying Emirates and rewarding them if they do."

    Nigel Meakins, general manager of Lavazza , said the box gives a "social face to the business and not just business across the desk".

    "We can have a personality around our brand and ... not just a transactional conversation."

    Celebrities hosted by Lavazza at the n Open have included Olympic basketballer Liz Cambage and actress  Olympia Valance.

  • Chinan Open 2017: End of the road for the Aussie men, so where to now?

    "Disappointing", Lleyton Hewitt called the deflating end to an Open that closed in a singles sense for the 10-strong n men's contingent with Bernard Tomic's loss to world No.51 Dan Evans on Friday night. For the first time in three years, there will be no local male presence in the last 16.
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    The positives that many were keen to talk up were 17-year-old debutant Alex de Minaur, as well as the much-improved Jordan Thompson in the middle tier. But at the top end, where seeded pair Nick Kyrgios and Tomic reside, there was obviously far less to applaud.

    First, Kyrgios. If we must. John Newcombe was one of the many who found the 21-year-old's self-destruction against Andreas Seppi difficult viewing. "Yeah, like everybody else, very hard to watch," he said. "He's got a lot of work to do. He obviously needs to reassess what his priorities are.

    "I think [on] the physical side he's just got to get his body into great shape, because he's a big tall guy and if he doesn't get the body into shape the limbs are gonna break down." And the mental part? "I think they both come hand in hand. When you get out there and you feel like your body's breaking down, it could just be breaking down a little bit ... and it seemed to me maybe that's what was happening the other night, it all gets too much for him.

    "It's 'oh, I'm not going to be able to live up to the expectations'. So he's the only guy that can do it. He's got to make a decision that he's gonna go out and spend the time. My advice would be to take six weeks off and get your body into great shape."

    A word, too, for Tomic, who meandered through the first two sets of his match against a more pro-active and urgent Evans. What was not a terrible loss was nevertheless a wasted opportunity, given that the British player blocking his path to another second week was a battler from Birmingham rather than a dual Wimbledon champion from Dunblane. Later, the 27th seed quipped that his plan was "to stick to another 12 years of making fourth rounds, third rounds", while acknowledging Hewitt's critique that he had played too passively.

    "If he's going to get to the top 10, where he says he wants to be, then he's got to be beating the Dan Evans," said Newk, the seven-time major winner. Quite.

    Todd Woodbridge thought Tomic played "a good match", but one that should confirm his resolve to start these contests differently, more aggressively, make an early statement of intent that will help the 24-year-old avoid long and physical matches. "I think Bernie can look at that and go 'OK, I've found my form, but now I've got to go into this next part of the year and gun it'," Woodbridge said.

    "At the top end, our guys showed they're good enough but they've got to get that whole package together to be able to contend into the second week. They've certainly got that ability, there's no doubt. But to me the highlight was to have some new guys come through so that we can focus on them."

    De Minaur and Thompson, most notably, with Woodbridge saving an honourable mention for Andrew Whittington, the unsung wildcard who made an overdue cameo in the second round. Acknowledging the serious physical development still required by de Minaur over the coming years, Woodbridge nevertheless saw plenty to like in the junior Wimbledon finalist, who beat Austrian Gerald Melzer on day one.

    "I think we saw something really nice in him, we saw great competitive spirit, good nature, all the things you want to see out of a youngster, so that was exciting," said the former doubles great and top 20 singles player. "And also Jordan Thompson's summer. He made a bit of a statement that he's ready to step up and be a [top] 50 player and contend more at bigger tournaments."

    Newcombe agrees, predicting top 40 or higher as realistic for the Sydneysider, and better still for fellow Olympian Thanasi Kokkinakis when his body finally permits, while also heartened by what he hears from Hewitt and Tony Roche about de Minaur's attitude and effort.

    "He needs to get some more weapons but he's really keen, he wants to work hard and he's absorbing everything he can, so I see him progressing very nicely. But it's not an obvious one, like when you first saw Philippoussis play you said 'shit, he's got weapons', and Nick the same," Newcombe said.

    "I think our young guys did well. We tend to be a little bit like the English media at Wimbledon: when a Brit wins a first round it's big news, and when they don't make the third round it's like 'oh, well, what's going wrong?' But I really like what Lleyton's doing, building this culture ... so I see good things but there's a long way to go. Not bad but it could be better."

    And Hewitt, the Davis Cup captain? His assessment of 's week? "Obviously disappointing from the Aussie standpoint, especially on the men's side, the last couple of days," Hewitt said from Channel Seven's courtside bunker. "I think we did really well to get quite a few couple of guys through to the second round but we couldn't go into that second week. and it is a disappointing result. All the n players want to do especially well in their home grand slam, but a lot of those young guys will be good for the experience."

  • 2017 Chinan Open: David Goffin destroys Ivo Karlovic to progress to the fourth round

    David and Goliath: Little David Goffin beat big Ivo Karlovic. Photo: AARON FAVILAAs Ivo Karlovic and David Goffin posed for their pre-match photo on Hisense Arena, you couldn't help but giggle.
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    It was the first time the two had ever played each other in an official match (they met at the Kooyong exhibition last weekend), so seeing them stand side by side, separated only by a net, was quite a sight. At 211cm, the Croatian is more than a ruler's length taller than Goffin (180cm). If it was a physical clash of two men; it was David v Goliath. Well, except, David was seeded higher.

    Highlighting the difference in physical make-ups of the two was their clothes.

    Karlovic was dressed in a fluorescent yellow top, with matching shoes, socks and hat. You wouldn't lose him in the dark.

    The Belgian, on the other hand, was dressed conservatively in an all navy kit, with dark socks and black shoes, with only a hint of yellow. Then it's the way they play.

    Karlovic is a renowned serve-and-volleyer, for obvious reasons. His big serve is difficult to penetrate, and before you know it the ominous big man is charging towards the net to finish the point off.

    But that played largely into Goffin's hands. The compact  Belgian chases down almost anything and makes his opponents work hard to win points, and he rarely makes mistakes. And that's largely how the entire match panned out. It ended up being a procession.

    Goffin made just two unforced errors on his way to a 6-3 first set win, where he continually passed the incoming Karlovic at the net. The big Croatian couldn't find an answer and the match was over before he knew it, losing the final two sets 6-2, 6-4 in a match that lasted less than 90 minutes, repeating the dose of a week earlier at Kooyong. In total, Goffin made just five unforced errors compared to Karlovic's 28.

    "Yes, I was worried to fight until midnight," Goffin said with a smirk, admitting he was not expecting to win as easily as he did.

    "The score came as a bit of a surprise. I knew I had all the weapons in my racquet to beat Ivo, but not in straight sets.

    "I was ready for a lot of tie-breaks also, but I'm happy in the way I broke him."

    The 26-year-old from Rocourt is in career-best form, finishing 2016 at a career-high ranking of 11, making him the highest ranked male player from Belgium in history.  A win in the fourth round on Monday would equal his career-best performance at a grand slam, matching his efforts in last year's French Open.

    To do that, he'll have to get past no. 8 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, who shot up the rankings after reaching last year's semi finals of the French Open.

    Thiem had little trouble in defeating Frenchman Benoit Paire in four sets; 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a touch under two and a half hours.

    The 23-year-old last year became the youngest player to make the top 10 since Milos Raonic back in 2013.

    Thiem and Goffin know each other well, having played on seven occasions, with the Belgian holding a narrow 4-3 lead.

  • Nick Cave heading to Newcastle after stella Sydney shows

    Half a dozen tunes in and ’s Prince of Darkness announces it’s getting bloody hot on stage. Should he strip off his trademark black attire, just like the Nick Cave of old would have?
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    But just as the clutch of frenzied worshippers gathered at his feet begin to salivate, Cave reflects: “When I was younger I didn’t give a f...k.” He clarifies: “Well, I did actually.” “It’s just we have to keep up appearances as we get older”.

    It’s a sentiment that the borderline middle-age audience at the Sydney Convention Centre relates to - how did the youthful abandon of a couple of decades agosomehow evolve into such reasoned consideration?

    It’s also a handy insight into the night’s set list that encompases a 30 year career spent meditating on love, lust, loss, murder, death and religion - often concurrently. More specifically, how do these experiences shape andchange us over time?

    Nick Cave - I need you“I hear you’ve been out there looking for love” Cave whispers in the set’s opener Anthocene. The line carries a sense of hesitancy and tenderness under the song’s gnawing electro pulse. It feels more like an exchange between long lost friends. And, of course, it is - this is the first time Cave and his legion of Sydney followers have interacted since the tragic loss of his son Arthurin 2015.

    But the intimate reuniondoesn’t last long. White strobes slash across the arena like a switchblade and Nick Cave the legendarydemonic preacher is back as he launches into Jesus Alone.

    A third cut from last year’s Skeleton Tree album, Magento, follows. It’s only three songs and we have already traversed an emotional landscape spanning the need for love and redemption through to a reflection about how “the urge to kill someone was basically overwhelming.”

    Nick Cave - Jack the Ripper Higgs Boson Blues follows before the set, with the assistance of brilliant multi-media imagery moves into long-time fan favouriteterritory with furious renditions of From Her to Eternity and Tupelo.

    Any good set of songs needs at least one point of contention. Tonight it ishow Cave has chosen to package his so-called “hits”The Ship Song and Into My Arms. Conventional wisdom would surely have dictated these would be left as encore numbers, but here they aremid-set. There is respectful appreciation for both, but one can’t help but feel they are there out of obligation. Does Cave simply want to get them out of the way?

    Nick Cave - Distant SkyThe question is given more weight with the next two Skeleton Tree offerings, Girl in Amber and I Need You. Both contain a fresh emotional intensity that could easily see them replace the previous two songs as show-stoppers.

    With his audience drenched in ruby red lighting, Cave returns to his menacing best with Red Right Hand. He prowls and taunts the front rows as only he can and throws in a social media twist tothe song’s mid-90s lyrics with “he will read your Tweets.”

    Nick Cave - Red Right HandThe intensity continues with a powerful rendition of the Mercy Seat that has lost none of its brooding torment over three decades.

    And then, as if to reinforce the fine line between beauty and horror, the main set wraps up with the new offerings Distant Sky and Skeleton Tree.

    Having already taken out the obvious encore contenders Cave takes a leaf out of Bruce Springsteen’s book and approaches the front row for song suggestions.

    Jack the Ripper is tossed up and Cave and band more than capably oblige.

    The Prince of Darkness returns TweetFacebook Nick Cave, Sydney Convention CentreThe Bad Seeds then plough head-first into a rollicking rendition of Stagger Lee - a song that arguablytransports Cave back to his legendary Birthday Party past, both lyrically and performance-wise, more than anything he has produced in the past 30 years.

    Another request, People Ain’t No Good, follows. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking Cave surely wouldn’t end the gig on such a downer, would he? But then again maybeit would have been an appropriate statement given the events in Cave’s lifein recent years.

    He wraps it up and quickly assures us: “That’s a song I wrote a few years ago. People since then have improved.”

    Push the Sky Away is the show’s last offering. The line “Some people say it’s just rock and roll, but it gets you right down in your soul” perhaps best sums up the essence ofwhat Cave the artist and performer has strived to deliver to his legion of fans since the late 1970s.

    Nick Cave and Bad Seeds Play at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Sunday night.