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It's that time of year again. The first Grand Slam of 2020 is less than a day away, as all eyes will be on Melbourne Park for the Australian Open.For Steve Johnson, that means a massive opportunity awaits. The American will open his campaign on one of the game's biggest stages, battling Roger Federer under the bright lights of Rod Laver Arena. Monday's day session encounter will be the tournament's first men's match on the main stadium.But first, the California native had one last piece of business to take care of on Saturday. Johnson claimed his second ATP Challenger Tour title in five months, lifting the trophy in nearby Bendigo. After kicking off the 2020 campaign with a quarter-final finish at the Canberra International - also held in Bendigo - he improved to 7-1 on the new season with a 7-6(2), 7-6(3) final victory over Stefano Travaglia."Any time you enter a tournament, you want to be the last man standing," Johnson told the Bendigo Advertiser. "I was lucky to play a couple of good tie-breaks today and get a win. I feel good going into the Australian Open."I felt I started out both tie-breaks very well and that's key. Once you get a lead and with the way I was serving it was very important. Tennis is a game of a couple of points here and there and I was lucky to get on top today."Forehand winner for the TITLE @SJohnson_89 is your champion in Bendigo! pic.twitter.com/6vbVIEmimA— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) January 18, 2020Johnson, who peaked at a career-high No. 21 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2016, is hoping the new year will bring new beginnings. He dropped just one set in five matches in Bendigo and will look to carry the momentum into Melbourne Park. The 30-year-old will face Federer for the third time, having dropped their two previous encounters in Wimbledon in 2016 and at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells the following year. "It's going to be fun, it's just another challenge ahead," Johnson added. "He's probably the best ever to do it. I've played him a couple of times before, so I will try and take that experience going into Monday and go out there with no fear."Johnson, who recently streaked to the semis at the Winston-Salem Open and reached a Challenger final in Fairfield, California, is eyeing his first win over a Top 5 opponent. A four-time ATP Tour champion, he is projected to rise to No. 75 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday.Balazs Blasts To Bangkok TitleWelcome back, Attila Balazs! On Saturday, the Hungarian captured the crown at the Bangkok Open, marking his first Challenger title in nearly 10 years. He overcame Aslan Karatsev 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-6(6), in a marathon two hours and 50 minutes, clinching the second trophy of his career.Balazs is back!️ "I'm very happy. The last time I won a Challenger was almost 10 years ago in Italy. It's a special victory for me." pic.twitter.com/qiy8L32zRU— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) January 18, 2020Balazs, who retired from pro tennis in 2014 to begin a coaching career, finding his stride at the age of 31. Last year, the Budapest native earned his first Top 50 win over John Millman and reached his first ATP Tour final on the clay of Umag as a qualifier. And he was not done there. On Monday, he will rise to a career-high No. 112 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Nearly 10 years after lifting his maiden Challenger trophy in Palmero, Italy, in 2010, Balazs is back."I'm very happy," said Balazs. "The last time I won a Challenger was almost 10 years ago in Italy. It's a special victory for me."

For Taylor Fritz, 2019 was a year of firsts. He won his first ATP Tour title in June at Eastbourne, and cracked the Top 25 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time in August. But while the American was happy with his season, he’s not ready to stop there.“I just feel like I’m nowhere near where I want to be or where I should be,” Fritz said. “So I want to keep wanting to get better, wanting to beat more people, wanting to be higher-ranked.”Fritz spent his off-season in his home state of California, doing everything under his control to strive for more, whether that involved cleaning up his diet — eating meals such as egg whites with avocado for breakfast — to working nonstop on his game on the court and his fitness off of it.“Maybe before, the little stuff didn’t make that much of a difference. But I feel like now, for me to keep moving forward, I need to really commit in pretty much every single way, so I’m just trying to do everything I can,” Fritz said. “Going into the off-season for me, it’s just the time to do everything right and make the most of every single day to get better and train, because everyone else is doing it. So I think my mindset every morning is just to train as hard as I possibly can so when I get done that day, I could believe that I outworked everyone else.”Gena Ball, a USTA Strength & Conditioning Coach, is one of those who worked with Fritz on his physical conditioning during the off-season, and she said that the American left no stone unturned.“When he’s given details that he needs to have, he tries to hit them like that. If he feels like that wasn’t a good rep, you’re going again,” Ball said. “He’s not going to let you say that was good, he’s going to do one more.”Fritz is also trying to improve certain aspects of his game on the court. The 22-year-old World No. 32 feels that since the best players in the sport tend to be some of tennis’ best movers, he needs to improve how well he finishes points. That is something one of his coaches, David Nainkin, agrees with.“We’re working on his transitional game,” Nainkin said. “Recognising opportunities where he could come forward a little more, how to utilise his powerful groundstrokes to finish some points up at the net.”Another one of Fritz’s coaches, Paul Annacone, believes that this season, Fritz could not only continue where he left off in 2019, but continue improving.“2020 is really about growth,” Annacone said. “Laying the seeds to grow and then sprinkling some great gold-dust on it and watching it grow.”

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