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Koolhof/Skupski Could Face Tsitsipas Brothers In Early Australian Open Test

Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski could face Stefanos Tsitsipas and Petros Tsitsipas in a popcorn second-round clash at the Australian Open following the doubles draw Sunday.

The Dutch-British pair, who lifted seven tour-level titles in 2022, are aiming to win their maiden Grand Slam title as a team and will open against John-Patrick Smith and Alexander Bublik. If Koolhof and Skupski can negotiate through the field, they are seeded to meet sixth seeds Harri Heliovaara and Lloyd Glasspool in the quarter-finals. Haliovaara and Glasspool have already tasted success this year, lifting the trophy at the Adelaide International 1.

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Fourth seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are potential semi-final opponents for Koolhof and Skupski at the hard-court major. The Croatians arrive in Melbourne in impressive form, having lifted the title in Auckland. The 2021 Australian Open semi-finalists open against Argentines Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni.

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Norman On Wawrinka: ‘He Has Everything To Beat The Top Guys'

Magnus Norman is not just a former World No. 2, but one the most prominent coaches of this generation. The Swede helped guide Stan Wawrinka to three Grand Slam titles and No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

After time apart, Norman reunited with Wawrinka last year. ATPTour.com spoke with the Swede ahead of the Australian Open about Wawrinka’s epic series of matches against Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park, helping the Swiss find his best form and more.

[ATP APP]

It’s been 10 years since Stan and Novak started a series of Australian Open matches. How fast has time flown since then?
It’s amazing, it feels like a couple years ago. You look back and you see that he turned pro in 2002, 20 years ago, time flies. You have to make the best of it every day, that’s what I tell the young players who are coming up and what Stan is telling the younger generation of Swiss players as well. You’re 16 or 17 then all of a sudden you’re 24 or 25. You need to make every day count.

Does Stan still play because he enjoys the game and wants to take advantage of these moments?
I definitely think so. He loves the training, the life, the preparing. He likes to play tennis and compete. He put so much effort in to try and come back after a tough couple years with injuries. It’s not easy to come back, you see a lot of guys struggling to find the level again. But Stan, within the last couple months has really been picking up and he’s at the level now where I see him [hit] the ball so well and he’s fit. That was the goal for the last couple years he has left, to try and compete and play at his best level.

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Djokovic, Ruud, Tsitsipas Battle For No. 1 At Australian Open

Three players have something more than just the opening Grand Slam crown of the year to play for at the 2023 Australian Open. Novak Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas all start their campaigns knowing they will become the new No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings by lifting the trophy in Melbourne.

World No. 3 Ruud can also claim top spot by reaching the final, as long as neither Djokovic nor Tsitsipas wins the title. If none of those scenarios play out, the reign of current World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, not playing in Melbourne due to injury, will continue.

[ATP APP]

World No. 5 Djokovic arrives in Melbourne as one of the title favourites. He has won a record nine Australian Open titles, owns an 82-8 tournament record, and began his 2023 season in impressive fashion by lifting his 92nd tour-level trophy at the Adelaide International 1. He can return to World No. 1 for the first time since 6 June by winning his record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

The 35-year-old Serbian also has past experience on his side when it comes to battling for the top ranking. The seven-time year-end No. 1 has spent 373 weeks as World No. 1 across his career, longer than anyone else in history.

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Scouting Report: Djokovic Chasing 10th Australian Open Crown, Can Nadal & Co Stop Him?

Following a thrilling start to the 2023 season, which saw Team United States win the inaugural United Cup, the world’s best players will now descend on Melbourne for the Australian Open.

ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year.

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1) Reigning Champion Nadal: One year ago, Rafael Nadal captured his second Australian Open title when he rallied from two-sets-to-love down to defeat Daniil Medvedev in an epic final. The top-seeded Spaniard returns to Melbourne this week aiming to clinch a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam crown.

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17-Year-Old Shang Joins Countrymen To Make Chinese History At Australian Open

It was a historic 2022 for Chinese men’s tennis, and the country’s stars are showing no signs of slowing down. When Shang Juncheng qualified for the Australian Open on Friday, the 17-year-old ensured more national history would be made.

Shang, Wu Yibing and Zhang Zhizhen are the first male Chinese trio to compete in a Grand Slam men’s singles draw in the Open Era (since 1968) and the first in all of Australian Open history (since 1905).

“Those two are inspirations for me. They’re like older brothers and I think they’re doing really well for Chinese men’s tennis,” Shang told ATPTour.com. “They’ve inspired me a lot and they’ve been on the Tour longer than me, so it’s always good experience practising with them, talking to them, and I wish them all the best for this upcoming Australian Open.”

In September 2021, Shang had yet to earn a Pepperstone ATP Ranking point. Now the Chinese star is inside the world’s Top 200. ‘Jerry’ is the youngest Grand Slam men’s qualifier since 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz at the 2021 Australian Open.

“I’m super excited to be here and I don’t think it’s a surprise for me. It’s obviously not in the calendar that I’ll be playing the main draw of the Australian Open when I’m 17 years old,” said Shang, who is being coached by Dante Bottini, the former coach of Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov. “I’m just very excited for this opportunity to be able to play qualifying and have the chance to qualify. I’m very excited for what’s coming next.”

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Draper Excited For Nadal & Challenges Ahead: 'I'm Learning All The Time'

When the Australian Open draw was made, several matches stood out. Matteo Berrettini is playing Andy Murray in the first round and Andrey Rublev is facing Dominic Thiem.

But perhaps the biggest opportunity belongs to Jack Draper, the 21-year-old Briton who will try to upset top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal.

“It’ll be amazing to play on court with him, he’s a great champion," Draper said. "[There are] a lot of emotions obviously when I think of playing him.”

Nadal is still very much the present, but it is clear Draper is part of the future. Already with two Top 10 wins on his resume and an appearance at the 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals, the lefty is on the rise. The World No. 40 is not allowing his early success to get to his mind, though.

“Tennis is such a small bubble and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the winning and losing and the pressures and the challenges on a daily basis. It’s not easy sometimes,” Draper said. “I’m learning how to enjoy it a little bit more, and I think when mentally I start to learn how to enjoy the challenges, that’s when it will become really fulfilling for me.

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Kwon Edges Bautista Agut To Seal Stunning Adelaide Triumph

Soonwoo Kwon polished off a stirring tale of second-chance success on Saturday at the Adelaide International 2, where the South Korean held off Roberto Bautista Agut in an absorbing championship match to triumph at the ATP 250 event.

The South Korean edged the fourth-seeded Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) in a two-hour, 43-minute epic to lift his second ATP Tour title. Only playing in the main draw as a lucky loser after losing in the final round of qualifying, he took out Tomas Machac, Pablo Carreno Busta, Mikael Ymer, Jack Draper and Bautista Agut with a series of big-hitting displays this week in South Australia.

“Since being beaten in [qualifying], I told myself I've got nothing to lose, and then I came all the way to the finals,” said Kwon after his victory. “And why not? I put every energy into it, and that worked.”

Kwon made a fast start to his maiden ATP Head2Head clash with Bautista Agut, breaking the Spaniard in the opening game of the match with more of the free-flowing groundstrokes that had defined his run to the final. Some solid serving ensured he faced no break points for the rest of a set that he clinched in confident fashion to the delight of his vocal supporters in the stands.

Bautista Agut returned the favour in the second set, however, sealing an early break of his own en route to forcing a decider. A high-quality deciding-set featured a series of exhilarating all-court exchanges, with two breaks of serve apiece leading to a decisive tie-break with little to choose between the two players.

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Murray: 'I Feel Ready To Play A Top Player'

Andy Murray believes that he is ready to exact Grand Slam revenge on Matteo Berrettini at the Australian Open. The Scot fell to the World No. 13 in four sets at the US Open in September, but feels that his body and game are in better shape ahead of the first major of the season.

“Obviously [it is] a tough draw,” Murray said in his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday. “But I also feel I am in a much better place than I was during any of the Slams last year coming into it. I feel well prepared. I feel ready to play a top player early in the event. Whereas last year at times, my game didn’t feel that great and getting a difficult draw didn’t feel great. I feel I am in a better place this time to deal with that.

“I know how I am feeling today compared to when I went into the match at the US Open and I am playing better. I am in a better place physically. I feel well prepared for the event. Obviously the matches I have played against him [before], you would hope you would learn stuff from and take stuff away from it that will help you go into the next one.”

[ATP APP]

The Scot failed to advance past the third round at the three majors he played last season. However, the former World No. 1 is pleased with the work he has done in the offseason as he aims to earn his first win of the year in Melbourne.

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Home Hope Kyrgios On Australian Open Bid: ‘It’s A Privilege To Go Out There’

As one of the most naturally gifted players on Tour, Nick Kyrgios is used to handling great expectations.

For the highest-ranked Australian in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, nowhere is that ability to cope with pressure more in demand than at the Australian Open. His impressive 2022 season may even have taken home expectations up another notch for the 27-year-old this year, but Kyrgios is relishing the moment as he prepares for his 10th main draw appearance in Melbourne.

"I think everyone wants to get to a position in their sport or their profession, [to] be one of the best and have that expectation and pressure,” said Kyrgios on Saturday, the day after entertaining a packed house on Rod Laver Arena in a charity match against Novak Djokovic. “It's a privilege to go out there and feel that Australia wants me to win and to be one of the favourites. It's a good feeling.”

That was one FUN chapter in the @DjokerNole and @NickKyrgios AO story ✌️

Thanks for a great night! #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/TxzfI2cAA0

— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 13, 2023

Kyrgios has enjoyed some stirring runs at his home major since making his main draw debut in 2014. He reached the quarter-finals in 2015 and the fourth round in 2018 and 2020, and lifted the 2022 men’s doubles title alongside close friend Thanasi Kokkinakis. Yet he admitted that there are pros and cons to the extra attention that comes with playing at home.

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Djokovic Reveals Motivation At Australian Open: 'There Is No Secret'

Novak Djokovic is the leading favourite at this year’s Australian Open. The Serbian is not shying away from the pressure of standing at the doorstep of history, either.

If Djokovic claims his 10th title at Melbourne Park, he will tie Rafael Nadal for the most men's Grand Slam singles titles in history with 22. Is that a motivating factor?

“Of course, it is. I mean, that's why I keep on playing professional tennis, competition tennis, because I want to be the best, I want to win the biggest tournaments in the world. There is no secret about it,” Djokovic said. “It doesn't get bigger than this. You have four Slams that historically have been the biggest events in our sport. It's also one of the biggest reasons why I was really looking forward to come back to Australia: because of my record here. I really love playing in Rod Laver Arena, particularly night sessions. I've had plenty of success that hopefully can continue this year.”

[ATP APP]

Djokovic is the fourth seed, but he has been playing as well as anyone on Tour over the past several months. He captured titles in Tel-Aviv and Astana last October before claiming his sixth Nitto ATP Finals crown in Turin.

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Arevalo/Rojer Claim Adelaide Title

After winning four tour-level titles in 2022, including the Roland Garros crown, Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer claimed their first trophy of the new season Saturday at the Adelaide International 2.

The El Salvadoran-Dutch duo was set to contest a rematch of that Paris final, in which they saved three championship points to defeat Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, at the ATP 250. Instead, they received a walkover in the title match as Dodig withdrew with a back injury. The second seeds were also the beneficiaries of a walkover in the semi-finals, when Lloyd Glasspool (partnering Harri Heliovaara) pulled out with a wrist problem.

[ATP APP]

"It's very unusual. This has never happened before, I think for either of us, back-to-back walkovers — especially not in the final, in this manner," Rojer said after the trophy ceremony.

"We played a couple of matches, so we'll take those with us into Melbourne for sure, and try to build on that... It's a great start for us to the year."

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Back On Top: Gasquet Wins Auckland Title With Late Charge

Richard Gasquet turned back the clock with a vintage display in Saturday's ASB Classic final to claim his first ATP Tour title since 2018. The 36-year-old Frenchman stunned second seed and former Auckland resident Cameron Norrie 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, winning the final five games of the match to become the oldest champion in the event's 66-year history.

The former World No. 7 last raised a tour-level title more than four years ago in 's-Hertogenbosch. The Auckland triumph, which lifted him 25 spots to No. 42 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings this week, is just the second outdoor hard court triumph of his career (Doha 2013). It is the 16th title of his decorated career.

[ATP APP]

Gasquet denied Norrie a full-circle moment at the tournament he once attended as a young fan, with the Briton thwarted in the final of the ATP 250 for a second time in five years. The defeat is his first of the new season, dropping him to 6-1 on the year.

In a matchup that pitted Gasquet's iconic one-handed backhand against Norrie's flat two-hander, the Frenchman proved he still has plenty of substance to go along with his style. Both men had countless opportunities to hit groundstrokes off both wings across many marathon rallies, but it was Gasquet who stood tallest down the stretch after falling behind 0-3 and 1-4 in the final set.

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Is Nadal Vulnerable At The Australian Open? 'Of Course, Without A Doubt'

Rafael Nadal is always one of the leading favourites regardless of the tournament he enters. The Spaniard has earned that recognition by holding No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for more than 200 weeks, claiming 36 ATP Masters 1000 trophies and 22 Grand Slam titles.

But the 36-year-old arrives at the Australian Open in a slump, having lost six of his past seven matches. Does Nadal feel he is vulnerable at Melbourne Park?

“Of course. Yeah, without a doubt. I have been losing more than usual, so that's part of the business,” Nadal said. “Just accept the situation. I think I am humble enough to accept that situation and just work with what I have today. I need to build again all this momentum. I need to build again this confidence with myself with victories. But it's true that I have been losing more than usual.”

Nadal made no excuse for his current skid. But two of those losses were at the Nitto ATP Finals, and the lowest-ranked player he lost to was then-World No. 31 Tommy Paul at the Rolex Paris Masters.

“The real thing is I have been losing more than usual. Yeah, that's the truth. I need to live with it and just fight for the victories,” Nadal said. “By the way, I didn't play that bad the first two matches the year. I lost against two great opponents, but having very positive chances to win both matches. I already have been here for three weeks, practising every day with that conditions, with the best players. That helps a lot in general terms.”

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Tsitsipas Aims To Bring United Cup Form To Australian Open

Stefanos Tsitsipas returns for his sixth Australian Open in a far better place, both physically and mentally, than he was one year ago. At the 2022 event, the Greek entered with great uncertainty, still on the mend from right-elbow surgery.

Despite arriving with low expectations, Tsitsipas advanced to the semi-finals for the second straight year and third time overall at the Happy Slam. This year, he is flying high entering the season's first major after leading Team Greece to the semis at the inaugural United Cup.

"United Cup was a great experience. I'm happy that the event took place," he said during Saturday's Australian Open media day, noting that he personally campaigned for such a mixed-gender team event to be added to the tennis calendar.

[ATP APP]

"I enjoyed every minute of it, sharing it with Maria [Sakkari] by my side. We formed some really nice memories, both in Perth and Sydney, despite our loss to Italy. I can only take good things out of it.

"We fought. We didn't prevail and come out victorious, but it was definitely one of those events that tennis [has been] lacking. Tennis doesn't have events like this. Tennis is a very individual, lonely sport. Getting together, sharing these moments together, being part of the same cause and the same goal together, it was something that makes me grow as a player and makes me want to look forward to the next edition of the United Cup."

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Mektic/Pavic Open 2023 Campaign With Auckland Title

After falling one match short of the title at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic earned their way back into the winners' circle in their first event of the 2023 ATP Tour season.

In Saturday's doubles final at the ASB Classic in Auckland, the Croatians defeated Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow 6-4, 6-7(5), 10-6 to claim their 15th tour-level title as team. The result secured a measure of revenge for the champions, who were upset by the Americans in their lone previous ATP Head2Head matchup at the 2021 US Open.

[ATP APP]

Living up to their billing as top seeds in Auckland, Mektic and Pavic won three Match Tie-breaks in their four victories, never losing the opening set. They improved to 120-34 as they began their third season as a team, their partnership highlighted by titles at Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 in addition to four ATP Masters 1000 crowns. The 34-year-old Mektic and 29-year-old Pavic have both reached the top of the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings in their careers, with both currently inside the Top 10.

Lammons and Withrow, both 29, were seeking their second ATP Tour title in their third final together. Their previous triumph came on home soil in San Diego last season, a year in which they also reached the Gijon final.

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Five Challenger Tour Players To Watch At The Australian Open

ATPTour.com looks at five Challenger Tour players to keep your eyes on during the 2023 Australian Open.

Rinky Hijikata (AUS)
The 21-year-old sets his sights on making a splash at his home Slam, where he is playing the main draw for the first time. Last season, Hijikata met Rafael Nadal in the opening round of the US Open and pushed the 22-time major champion to four sets.

In October, Hijikata won his maiden Challenger title on home soil at the Playford Challenger. The Sydney native became the youngest Australian to win a Challenger title since 2018, when the-then 19-year-old Alexei Popyrin won in Jinan, China.


Rinky Hijikata is crowned champion at the 2022 Playford Challenger. Credit: Tennis Australia

The former University of North Carolina star, who is World No. 169, has already clashed against Top-5 players such as Nadal and Daniil Medvedev at the ATP 250 event in Los Cabos, where Hijikata earned his first Tour-level victory before meeting the-then World No. 1. Should Hijikata get past qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in Melbourne, he could face third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round.

Shang Juncheng claims the Lexington Challenger at 17.
Yosuke Watanuki at the 2023 Canberra Challenger.
Luca Van Assche in action at the 2022 Maia Challenger.
Mattia Bellucci in action at the 2022 Vilnius Challenger.
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Bautista Agut's Son Steals The Show In Adelaide!

Roberto Bautista Agut may have won a nail-biting three setter against home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis on Friday in Adelaide, but it was his son who won the hearts of fans with an adorable cameo after the semi-final.

While the Spaniard was delivering his post-match interview, a large smile came across his face as he noticed his son, two-year-old Roberto, making his way on court. When they made eye contact, Roberto Jr. sprinted towards his dad as if he was covering the baseline!

The 34-year-old shared hugs, kisses, and laughs with his son. When interviewer John Fitzgerald commented on the good looks of the toddler, Bautista Agut commented, ‘because of my wife!’ Shortly after, Roberto Jr. took off again as the Aussie crowd cheered him on.

The World No. 26 hopes to lift his son in one arm and the Adelaide trophy in the other on Saturday. Aiming for his 12th Tour-level title, Bautista Agut will play South Korean Soonwoo Kwon in the Adelaide International-2 final.

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Felix On Uncle Toni Controversy: ‘It Didn’t Bother Me In Any Way’

A key storyline at Roland Garros last year was the ‘Uncle Toni controversy’. Toni Nadal, the uncle and former coach of all-time great Rafael Nadal, coaches Felix Auger-Aliassime. Before the pair clashed on the Parisian clay, Uncle Toni told the media he wanted his nephew to win.

That caused drama in the media, where some wondered how Auger-Aliassime would feel about the situation. The moment became a central theme in the fifth episode of Netflix’s new tennis series, Break Point.

Although dramatic on the show, Auger-Aliassime told ATPTour.com that there was no controversy on his side.

[ATP APP]

“I had been working with him for a while. It’s a discussion that we had from day one about potentially playing Rafa… [that]normally that he might sit it out and not be in the box or just watch from a neutral place,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was still nice to see him at the match, though. Of course I saw him in the front row.

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Flashback: Berrettini's First Grand Slam Final At Wimbledon

Matteo Berrettini has always excelled on grass courts, his big serve and booming forehand at their most dangerous on the slick lawns. But it was at the 2019 US Open where the Italian made his Grand Slam breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals before a defeat to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

With that experience in his locker, in addition to a run to the 2021 Roland Garros quarter-finals, Berrettini was hotly tipped for another deep run at Wimbledon in 2021. His title triumph on the grass at The Queen's Club in London, just before the year's third major, lifted him further up the list of favourites at the All England Club.

[ATP APP]

At Wimbledon, Berrettini dropped just one set in his first four matches as he cruised into the quarter-finals for the first time. A pair of four-set victories against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz sent him through the the final, where World No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic was waiting. By reaching the championship match, he became the first Italian man to reach a major final since Adriano Panatta in 1976.

Berrettini looked back on the final, a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) defeat played at the highest level from both men, in the Netflix docuseries Break Point. For added perspective, ATPTour.com caught up with his brother, fellow tennis player Jacopo Berrettini, for his own reflections.

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Flashback: When Kyrgios Stunned Nadal At Wimbledon 2014

It didn't take long in his tennis career for Nick Kyrgios to prove he was a man for the big stages. In his very first Wimbledon in 2014, the Aussie wild card saved nine match points to upset Richard Gasquet before pulling off an ever bigger shock in his Centre Court debut.

In his first meeting with Rafael Nadal — the World No. 1 at the time — Kyrgios powered to a 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 fourth-round victory that truly marked his arrival at the game's highest level. As No. 144 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, he became the first man in 10 years to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals on his tournament debut, a result that earned him his breakthrough into the Top 100 at the age of 19.

[ATP APP]

In the first episode of the Netflix docuseries Break Point, Kyrgios gave his perspective on that inflection point in his career.

Kyrgios' longtime friend and current manager, Daniel Horsfall, also recalled the enormity of that result in an interview with ATPTour.com. After closely following the early stages of the Australian's career, Horsfall witnessed his friend become a superstar in front of his own eyes.

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