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Lobs and smashes Down Under

The tennis world is returning to the courts following a brief Christmas break in preparation for the first Grand Slam event of the new year, the Australian Open.

While the majority of top men, including defending Melbourne champion Roger Federer, are in action in Doha, the Algarve’s current Portuguese No1 Rui Machado is warming up in Madras this week.

The 26-year-old from Faro faced Colombian Alejandro Falla in the opening round of the Chennai Open before a possible clash with the talented Japanese Kei Nishikori, while compatriot Frederico Gil will have had to have been at his best to overcome Tomas Berdych.

Machado overtook Gil in the world rankings late last year and now stands at No96, a position which guarantees him direct entry to the Australian Open for the first time later this month. Together with Gil who holds the record of having been the highest ranked Portuguese player of all time (No66) both men are hoping to make an even greater impact in 2011.