TENNIS – The 2015 Australian Open crowned Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams after two weeks of exciting tennis, upsets and memorable matches at Melbourne Park. Djokovic won his fifth Australian Open title and his eighth overall win in a Major equalling Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and André Agassi. Williams has become the second best player in history with 19 Majors behind Steffi Graf. The Australian Open may have an impact on the season of some of the top stars. Diego Sampaolo
Novak Djokovic confirmed his status as the King of Melbourne winning this title for the fifth time. Melbourne Park is becoming the backyard of Djokovic in the same way as the Roland Garros for Nadal and Wimbledon’s All England Club for Federer.
Djokovic’s next goal will be to win the Roland Garros for the first time in his career and complete the Career Grand Slam with the only Trophy missing from his cabinet. A triumph in the French capital could raise his hopes to complete the calendar year-Grand Slam.This is a hard but not impossible goal for Nole who came close to this achievement in 2011 when he triumphed in the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open losing an epic semifinal against Federer
Only Don Budge, the first player to win the four singles Majors in the same year was Don Budge in 1938, and Rod Laver, who accomplished this feat in 1962 and 1969, accomplished this feat in the history of men’s tennis. Three women won the four Slams in the same year: Maureen Connolly (1963), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (who achieved the Golden Grand Slam with the Olympic Gold in Seul 1988). This is enough to say how tough the achievement is for Djokovic especially in modern tennis.
The First Grand Slam of the year also produced some major changes to the ATP Ranking. These changes could have a major impact on future seeds and draws for the next tournaments. The most significant changes regard two top-10 player Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.
The first change to the Ranking is the return of the Fab 4 after the return of Murray to the fourth place behind Djokovic, Federer and Nadal after finishing runner-up to Djokovic in the Australian Open final on Sunday. The Dunblane native, who fell out of the top-4 after losing in the quarter final last year in Melbourne and ended the 2014 season in sixth place in the Ranking after a difficult year marred by injury problems which he managed to rescue thanks to a strong finish to the year in which he collected three titles in Shenzhen, Vienna and Valencia. Murray had a strong return to form Down Under with wins against Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios and Tomas Berdych before keeping pace with Djokovic in the first two sets of the final which ended with tie-breaks. Murray broke serve at the start of the second set but from then on he started faltering and dropped 12 out of the last 13 games. Murray will have to improve his game especially after the final in which he hit 41 winners but 49 unforced errors.
Apart from the rise to the fourth place the Australian Open final was an important confidence-booster for Murray for the next months in which he will be bidding to his third Grand Slam title after the 2012 US Open and his triumph at Wimbledon in 2013. He will have to defend important points at the Roland Garros where he reached the semifinal last year. He reached the quarter final last year at Wimbledon and at the US Open where he will have his best chances to lift another Grand Slam Trophy.
The other major impact on the Ranking regards Stan Wawrinka who reached the semifinal Down Under after another solid tournament in which he beat Kei Nishikori in the quarter final but he could not defend his title points this year and dropped five places to Number 9 in the ATP Ranking after losing the semifinal against eventual champion Nole Djokovic. This means that he will face the risk to meet tough rivals in early rounds of the next Master 1000 Tournaments. He will also have to defend the title points in Monte-Carlo, although early exits last year in Madrid, Rome and the Roland Garros mean that he will have the chance to collect a lot of points since May.
The other major impact on the Rankings was produced by young Aussie Rising star Nick Kyrgios who rose to a career high Number 35 after reaching his second Grand Slam quarter final after last year’s Wimbledon. He has become the first teenager to reach two Grand Slam quarter final since Roger Federer in 2001
Kyrgios, who beat Federer’s conqueror Andreas Seppi before losing to Murray in the quarter final, has the potential to become the next star of the circuit and the great achievement in the Happy Slam could raise his confidence ahead of Wimbledon where he will try to improve his result of last year.
Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov reached at least the semifinal stage in Grand Slam tournaments in 2014 and are expected to follow in the footsteps of Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic as first-time Grand Slam champions in 2015. These three stars were not ready to lift their first Major Trophy in Melbourne but upsets are behind the corner especially at Grand Slam level. Among the reasons, which explain how the challenge faced by Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov is, there are the return to the top of Andy Murray, and the consistent tournament of Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych.
Raonic has moved up to his career high position of World Number 6 after reaching the quarter final for the first time at the Australian Open. However, the young Canadian showed that he cannot rely only on his big serve if he wants to have a serious chance to beat the Fab 4 in Grand Slams, as it happened in the Melbourne quarter final match where his best weapon was not enough to prevail against Djokovic.
Raonic, who will have to defend his semifinal points at Wimbledon after reaching this stage of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career, is just 360 points behind fifth ranked Kei Nishikori, who reached the quarter final in Melbourne.
The Japanese player, Grand Slam finalist for the first time last September at the US Open, beat David Ferrer but lost against Wawrinka who played his best match of the tournament in the quarter final against the Japanese player. By reaching the quarter final Nishikori equalled the same result achieved in 2012. The player coached by Michael Chang won just six of his 25 head-to-head matches against the top-10 but prevailed only twice in Grand Slams against Wawrinka in the quarter final and Djokovic in the semifinal at the 2014 US Open.
In comparison to Nishikori, Raonic won just five of his 27 head-to-head matches against top-10 players but has a 4-2 win-loss record against Murray. The Canadian has the potential to reach again the semifinal in Grand Slam tournaments in the near future.
Dimitrov reached the semifinal at Wimbledon last year but in the other Slams he was quarter finalist only at the Australian Open in 2013 and 2015. This year he faced a very tough task when he was beaten by Murray who was looking to take a re-match after losing last year at Wimbledon. Dimitrov won just four of 19 head-to head matches against the top-10 but has the talent to equal the semifinal achieved last year at Wimbledon.
Tomas Berdych performed well at the start of this year reaching the final in Doha and the semifinal in Melbourne. His Australian Open campaign was highlighted by his win over Rafa Nadal in the quarter final where the Czech player broke his 17-match losing streak against his Spanish rival. His run ended with the defeat against Murray in the semifinal but he showed consistency during the tournament reaching the semifinal for the second consecutive year. Much credit goes to his new coach Dani Vallverdu. Reaching the second Grand Slam final after Wimbledon in 2010 could be a realistic goal for Berdych in the next tournaments if he keeps the consistency.
Roger Federer suffered a major disappointment as he was knocked out by Andreas Seppi in the third round but he has still the chance to bounce back and add another Grand Slam to his impressive collection especially in his favourite Slam at Wimbledon where he won seven times and played a epic final against Djokovic. Winning the 18th Slam title could be the major goal for the final part of his legendary career- It remains to be seen how the Swiss Maestro will plan the rest of the season after the Australian Open especially in spring, if he will drop some tournaments from his calendar and if he plays in the Davis Cup first round against Belgium next March.
Rafa Nadal showed once again his ability to win very hard battles but he is vulnerable to injuries which are taking a heavy toll on his career. He will chase a lot of titles on his favourite clay surface next spring in the tournaments, where he did not perform at the same level as in the past years, before defending his title points at the Roland Garros. After Paris he will not have much to defend for the rest of the year, because he played sparingly in the second half of 2014 because of injury and physical problems.
Serena Williams celebrated her 19th title to move up into second place in the all-time list of winners of Grand Slam titles behind Steffi Graf who won 22 Major titles. Williams can dream to win more Grand Slam crowns and close the gap on the German legend if she keeps her form.
Serena has been at the top of the Ranking for a total of 226 weeks and is closing the gap on Chris Evert who was first for 260 weeks and is still ranked third in the all-time ranking of players who stayed at the top for more weeks behind Steffi Graf (377 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (332 weeks).
Runner-up Maria Sharapova lost her 17th consecutive match since 2004 against Serena but she fought hard in the second set and can look to the next tournaments with a renewed confidence especially during the spring clay season where she will have to defend the title points in Madrid, Stuttgart and the Roland Garros. Maria, who started her season with a title in Brisbane against Ana Ivanovic, showed once again the ability to fight hard until the end especially when she saved two match points against Alexandra Panova in the second round. Last year she won a hard final match against Simona Halep in Paris and she will certainly take advantage of this ability to fight hard until the last point in long and tough matches during the European clay season.
Sharapova has learned to move effectively on the clay surface, which was considered as one of her worst surface. She won two of her six Grand Slam titles in 2012 and 2014 in Paris and finished runner-up in 2013.
The major surprise of this year’s Australian Open Madison Keys could produce a major impact in the circuit after reaching the semifinals. The US teenager has reached the top-20 for the first time in his career after starting the tournament in 35th place in the WTA Ranking and is the youngest player in the top-20. Keys upset her childhood idol Venus Williams in the quarter final before losing against Serena in the semifinals. If Keys keeps this level, she could reach have the potential to reach the top-10 in the coming months and become the new star of the future. Keys could follow in the footsteps of Eugenie Bouchard, who start the 2014 season with a semifinal in Melbourne and went on to reach another Grand Slam semifinal at the Roland Garros before qualifying for the final at Wimbledon. The young Canadian did not confirm the semifinal of last year but she played a good tournament losing to Sharapova in the quarter final.
The other semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova confirmed her excellent level on the Grand Slam stage reaching her second consecutive semifinal after the US Open. She also reached the quarter final at Wimbledon last year. The Russian player crushed Simona Halep 6-4 6-0 in the quarter final before losing to Sharapova in the semifinal showing her potential to raise her game on the bigger stage. Thanks to her consistency Makarova has moved up to ninth place in the WTA Ranking and has the potential to reach her first Major final in the coming three tournaments.
Serena’s older sister Venus made a surprising start to her season winning in Auckland and reaching the quarter final in Melbourne. Venus beat Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the quarter final in a Grand Slam for the first time since 2010. She was beaten by Madison Keys in a clash between two different generations. Venus moved up seven position from 18th to 11th place in the WTA Ranking and cannot be written off in the coming tournaments if she is fit. Considering her illness which affected her in her recent years it’s a great achievement for the US legend.
Two players who suffered defeats in the early rounds were Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova but they faced tough players. Wozniacki lost to Vika Azarenka in the second round, while Kvitova was knocked out by Keys in the third round. Both players will have the chance to bounce back in the coming months. Last year they also did not start well but they raised their level in the second half of the season. Kvitova lost in the first round in Melbourne in 2014 but she finished strongly winning her second title at Wimbledon, New Haven and Wuhan. Wozniacki lost in the third round in Melbourne and fell in the first round in Paris but she enjoyed a second half winning a title at Istanbul and reaching the final at the US Open and Tokyo and the semifinal in Eastbourne, Cincinnati, Wuhan and in the WTA Championships in Singapore.
Vika Azarenka made a successful come-back with her her spectacular second round win over Wozniacki after starting the tournament as unseeded in 44th place in the WTA Ranking. She dropped to World Number 49, but her win over Wozniacki could be a confidence-booster for Azarenka who will try to improve her ranking in the coming tournaments.
Halep could not handle the pressure of high expectations and faltered in the second set against Makarova losing with a bagel. The young Romanian will have to defend a lot of points during the spring clay season where she will try to defend the final reached last year in Paris.
Agnieszka Radwanska was beaten by Venus Williams and dropped to eighth place, her lowest ranking since 2012.
Last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova lost eight positions in the Ranking dropping to 18th but she showed encouraging progress reaching the quarter final in her favourite tournament.
Italian Camila Giorgi enjoyed a solid tournament reaching the third round where she came close to upsetting Venus Williams. She improved her ranking by two positions to Number 31.
The major disappointment of this year’s tournament Down Under was Ana Ivanovic who did not advance the first round. The Serbian enjoyed a consistent 2014 season winning four titles in Auckland, Monterrey, Birmingham and Tokyo but reached her only Grand Slam quarter final in the Australian Open. She will have to raise her game if she wants to improve her record in Grand Slam tournaments. She will have to defend her final points of last year in Stuttgart and the semifinal points in Rome.
Andy Murray Set For 2017 Rematch With Wawrinka As Thiem Handed Tough Route In Paris
Dominic Thiem is given a hard draw at Roland Garros as Andy Murray meets a familiar foe in his first match.
Andy Murray set for a 2017 Roland Garros rematch with Stan Wawrinka as Dominic Thiem handed difficult draw in Paris.
The Roland Garros draw has served up some tasty first round encounters with the main talking points taking place in the third quarter.
In that third quarter, sees a rematch between two grand slam champions from an epic semi-final in 2017.
Of course that match is Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in what is Murray’s first appearance in Paris since that match.
A couple of days ago, the duo were practicing in a sign of reminiscing their past, now they will do more than that when they take on each other in the first round.
However the tasty matches don’t stop there as the recent US Open champion Dominic Thiem has been given a rotten draw which includes a first round match against another former US Open champion, Marin Cilic.
Should Thiem beat Cilic then he could face tall American Reilly Opelka and Rome semi-finalist Casper Ruud before even getting to the second week.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka could wait in round four for the Austrian while Rome finalist Diego Schwartzman could be a last eight opponent.
Gael Monfils and Alexander Bublik will also clash in the pick of the first round in the third quarter.
Thiem is also in Rafael Nadal’s half, the man who is looking to win a 13th Roland Garros title.
The Spaniard will kick things off against Egor Gerasimov with Dan Evans or Kei Nishikori potentially awaiting in R3.
After a promising first week, Nadal could face John Isner or Fabio Fognini in the last 16, with Alexander Zverev awaiting in the quarter-finals.
The German, who recently lost an epic US Open final, will begin against Dennis Novak, with Alex De Minaur awaiting Zverev in R3. While the pick of the first rounds in Jannik Sinner against David Goffin.
In the top half, Novak Djokovic will begin against Mikael Ymer as he is arguably the best player in the world right now.
Hubert Hurkacz and Karen Khachanov are likely to stand in his way en route to the quarter-finals.
Potential last eight matches include Matteo Berrettini, Jan Lennard Struff and Pablo Carreno Busta.
While Roberto Bautista Agut will face Richard Gasquet in the pick of the first round matches in the second quarter.
Finally in the second quarter Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are on a quarter-final collision course with each other but face tough opening matches.
Medvedev takes on talented Hungarian Marton Fucsovics while Tsitsipas plays Jaume Munar.
Denis Shapovalov, Grigor Dimitrov and Andrey Rublev are among those lurking in the second quarter.
A tasty two weeks in Paris are set, with the main draw beginning on Sunday in the French capital.
Internazionali d’Italia Day 8 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Championships
The top two seeds will play for the women’s title, while Novak Djokovic vies for his fifth championship against whatever is left of the phenomenal Diego Schwartzman.
The 28-year-old Argentine has reached his first Masters 1,000 final. Less than 48 hours ago, he earned his first career win over Rafael Nadal. And late last night, Diego played a spectacular, three-plus-hour semifinal against Denis Shapovalov. Coming back to defeat the world No.1, who’s only loss this year was his own doing, seems unfathomable. However, Novak brought his New York crankiness with him to Rome this week, becoming extremely frustrated on court.
This is the third Rome final in four years for Simona Halep, though she’s yet to obtain the winner’s trophy. But the top seed is on a 13-match winning streak, and won her last two events played. Her opponent is on a nine-match winning streak in Rome, and looking to successfully defend her title.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (2) – 2:30pm local time
Halep leads their head-to-head 7-4, though Pliskova has claimed the last two. They’ve split their two matches contested on clay. That includes their most prominent encounter, in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, which Halep won in three sets. Simona was pushed to the limit yesterday by Garbine Muguruza, with her semifinal lasting an hour longer than Karolina’s straight set win over Marketa Vondrousova. But Halep should still feel fresh for today’s championship match. She did not play in New York, and all her other matches this week were straight-setters. Simona also should take a lot of confidence from out-dueling Muguruza yesterday afternoon. Much like Garbine, Pliskova has looked better this week with every passing round, and will look to utilize her power to overcome the two-time Major champion. By contrast, Halep will use her speed and returning ability. And based on Halep’s current form, her third Rome final may be the charm.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8) – not before 5:00pm local time
This is the 10th championship in Rome for Djokovic, with a 4-5 record previously. He’s actually lost his last three finals here, to Rafael Nadal, Sascha Zverev, and Andy Murray. Schwartzman will be the first seeded player Novak faces this week, though his opponents have caused him much anguish thus far. Diego’s efforts have been remarkable, playing an astoundingly high level. While Schwartzman is 0-4 against Djokovic, he’s pushed Novak in their two previous battles on clay. They went to a final set three years ago at Roland Garros as well as last year in the semifinals of this event. But expecting Diego to do so again today following his last two matches seems unrealistic. Djokovic is the favorite to win his fifth title, and gain momentum just six days ahead of the French Open.
Internazionali d’Italia Day 7 Preview: The Singles Semifinals & Doubles Finals
Following Diego Schwartzman’s stunning defeat of Rafael Nadal, are more upsets to come?
The most marquee match of the day is a WTA blockbuster between two Roland Garros champions. The other women’s semifinal will be decided between two Major finalists from the Czech Republic. On the men’s side, four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic is yet to face a seeded player, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been challenged by his competition, with another red-hot opponent today. And just 24 hours after what he described as his “best match ever,” Diego Schwartzman faces one of the ATP’s best players since the tour restart, who is poised to make his top 10 debut.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Garbine Muguruza (9)
It’s the 2016 French Open champion against the 2018 champ, both of whom are two-time Major winners. Top-seeded Halep has looked stellar this week, and is yet to drop a set. Muguruza’s road has been considerably more challenging. She’s had to fight hard to outlast some stiff opposition: Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, Johanna Konta, and Victoria Azarenka. So while that’s built Garbine’s confidence, it also means she’s spent almost twice as much time on court. Muguruza leads their head-to-head 4-2, which includes their most recent meeting, earlier this year in the Australian Open semifinals. However, their only two matches on clay have gone to Halep. And Simona is on a 12-match winning streak, having won her last two events played. These slow-playing courts in Rome favor the speed and defense of the top seed. A fresh Halep is the favorite to reach her third Rome final in the last four years.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Casper Ruud
Djokovic has not looked his best thus far, yet has survived some high quality tennis from the likes of Filip Krajinovic and Dominik Koepfer. Casper Ruud is another dangerous unseeded player who comes into this match with a lot of momentum. This week he already took out Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic, and Matteo Berrettini. The 21-year-old from Norway arrived in Rome with only two match wins at Masters 1,000 events. But Casper can play on the clay: earlier this season he reached the final in Santiago, and won his first ATP title in Buenos Aires. However, defeating the world No.1 in their first career meeting is a big ask. Novak’s only loss this year was his default at the US Open, and I don’t expect that to change today.
Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (12)
Vondrousova was the surprise finalist at last year’s Roland Garros. But due to injury, she would only play three more matches in 2019. It’s been a struggle for the 21-year-old lefty to return to form. Marketa was just 4-8 in this abbreviated season prior to this event. After surviving a few close calls earlier this week, she steamrolled two-time champion Elina Svitolina yesterday 6-3, 6-0. Today she faces another former champion. The winner here a year ago, Pliskova is on an eight-match winning streak at this event. Karolina dropped a set yesterday to Elise Mertens, but there’s no shame in that: Mertens is a tough out. And Karolina closed out that match with a 6-0 third set, playing her best tennis yet this week. In their only prior encounter, Karolina prevailed in straight sets last year on a hard court in Miami. Vondrousova’s variety could prove frustrating, and playing a much-younger countrywoman can be tricky. But Pliskova remains the favorite to reach her second consecutive final in Rome.
Diego Schwartzman (8) vs. Denis Shapovalov (12)
This is Diego’s second straight year advancing to the semifinals of this event, which are the only two occasions he’s done so at a Masters 1,000 tournament. For Shapovalov, it’s his fifth Masters 1,000 semi, and he reached the final last year in Bercy. Their first career meeting will also be one of the most important matches of their careers to date. Shapovalov has accumulated eight match wins over the last three weeks, reaching his first Major quarterfinal in New York. That’s a lot of tennis for the 21-year-old Canadian, including back-to-back three-setters over the last two days. But a lack of energy doesn’t ever seem to be Denis’ problem. And it would only be natural for Schwartzman to have a letdown coming off his first-career win over the King of Clay. With Mikhail Youzhny helping Shapovalov improve his shot selection, his offense is becoming more sustainable. He should be favored to play in Monday’s final.
Other Notable Matches on Day 7:
In the women’s doubles final, 2019 Wimbledon champions Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (1) vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru, who are in their first tournament as a team.
In the men’s doubles final, 2019 US Open finalists Marcel Garollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, the 2019 French Open finalists.
Full order of play is here.
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