Sport

Nine top-100 players set to converge on Canberra for Australian Open warm-up

Tennis ACT will roll out a field boasting nine of the world's top 100 players for a $75,000 warm-up to the Australian Open as Canberra takes its place on the summer of tennis calendar.

Italy's Paolo Lorenzi will be the No.1 seed when the tournament begins on January 9, with the event acting as a last chance for players to fine-tune their game before the first grand slam of the year.

Tennis ACT will officially release the field on Tuesday, with world No.68 Lorenzi to be the headline among a solid field for the ATP Challenger event's first year at the multi-million dollar Canberra Tennis Centre.

Canberra missed out on its bid to host the Davis Cup tie against the United States, with officials opting to take the contest to Kooyong in Melbourne.

Canberra officials are exploring more ways to bring top-line tennis to the capital, including the potential of having a court built into any plans for a new convention centre in Civic.

It is hoped the capital will have a permanent presence on the calendar to offer players a chance to improve away from the spotlight of Sydney or Melbourne.

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It follows the success of the $50,000 Canberra International in November and continues the sport's growing popularity off the back of Nick Kyrgios' remarkable rise.

Kyrgios is set to work with Australian great Lleyton Hewitt in the coming years when the veteran finishes his playing career after the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Hewitt's hopes of a farewell Hopman Cup triumph are all but over but he was happy to get a tough three sets under his belt on Sunday night in Australia Gold's 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic.

Hewitt started slowly in his first singles match since losing in five sets to Bernard Tomic in last year's US Open second round. Czech world No.41 Jiri Vesely won the first four games on his way to the opening set.

But the former world No.1 fought hard for almost 2½ hours before Vesely won 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-4.

While Hewitt and Jarmila Wolfe lost all three matches in the tie, Hewitt enjoyed the experience in preparation for Melbourne but is trying not to focus on the fact it is his farewell tour.

"The Arena is fantastic. It's very similar to Rod Laver Arena with the set-up and the distance from the crowd. It's great preparation for the Australian Open," Hewitt said.

"When you're out there you sort of block out that you know it's near the end and just try to compete, and try to get the most out of yourself every time.

"You obviously know it in the back of your mind, but it's not something I am focusing on too much."

While disappointed in his team's loss, Hewitt was impressed with what he saw earlier in the day from Kyrgios.

Kyrgios beat German youngster Alexander Zverev in straight sets as his Australian Gold team with Daria Gavrilova beat Zverev and Sabine Lisicki 3-0.

"I'm trying to help coach Nick and I'd like him to keep winning. I thought he played pretty well and he had a really good rhythm on his serve," Hewitt said.

"I thought Zverev was faultless in the first set, but Nick's versatility came to the front in the end in the second and third sets."

Meanwhile, world No.11 Karolina Pliskova was clinical beating Wolfe 7-5, 6-3 on the back of winning the last five games in the evening session for the Czech Republic.

She and Vesely blitzed Wolfe and Hewitt 3-0 and can take a step toward Saturday's final with a win over Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov and Elina Svitolina on Tuesday.

"I'm really happy with this win," Pliskova said. "Jiri's played an amazing match too so we are really happy with this to start."

with AAP

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