US OPEN – If Serena Williams (1) is to win a 4th major title this year at the US Open to complete the calendar slam, her 5th in a row as she is the 3-time defending champion, it will not be an easy road. Her path to the final is laid with new and familiar foes. She is pitted in the quarter being nicknamed “The American Quarter” as it houses her sister Venus Williams (23), Sloane Stephens (29), Madison Keys (19), Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Brengle just to name a few. There are also several non-Americans, Aga Radwanska (15) and Belinda Bencic (12), also in this section and they both have a win against Serena this year. Serena will require both mental and physical strength something she has in spades to lift her 22nd major here at the US Open to equal Steffi Graf on the all-time major winners list.
Fortunately for Serena she does not have to play all these players to get to the semifinal but she might have to get by most of them. She could face Stephens in the 3rd round then Keys or Radwanska in the Round of 16 and either Bencic or her sister Venus in the quarters. There is also the newly minted top 10 Karolina Pliskova (8) who could very much be Serena’s opponent in the last 8.
Serena is in the top half with 2006 champion Maria Sharapova (3) who is slated as her semifinal opponent if the seeds hold true to form. Sharapova is coming into this event without playing a single match since her semifinal loss to Serena at Wimbledon earlier this summer. She opens her campaign against a former compatriot Daria Gavrilova who now plays for Australia. Gavrilova took out Sharapova in a tough 3-set match in Miami earlier this year. Sharapova avenged that loss later on in Rome but the edge might be in Gavrilova’s favour since she is coming into these championships, match tough unlike Sharapova.
Sharapova’s path has a few more Russians in the midst with Svetlana Kuznetsova (30) former champion here back in 2004 as a possible 3rd round opponent and Ekaterina Makarova (13) last year’s semifinalist in the Round of 16. However, they might not prove to be much of a challenge for her as Kuznetsova has not played any tennis since the French Open and Makarova has twice had to withdraw from tournaments this summer hardcourt series with injuries. On the other end of this half are Ana Ivanovic (7), Carla Suarez-Navarro (10), Jelena Jankovic (21) and Eugenie Bouchard (25) all of whom has the potential of really doing well here at the Open and doing just as equally bad.
It should be noted that Bouchard has been seen around the grounds of the tournament hitting with tennis legend Jimmy Connors. Bouchard who recently parted ways with Sam Sumyk is coachless at the moment. Bouchard’s management team released a statement saying that this collaboration between Bouchard and Connors has “no long-term plans” and that Connors and Bouchard “have been friends for a long time” and he is only helping her this week as he too is in New York.
The bottom half of the draw is relatively tame compared to the top half as Simona Halep (2) should have an easy time to the semifinals. The Romanian has shown herself in the last few weeks as being a serious contender for this title. She made it to two consecutive finals at Toronto and Cincinnati in the two big warmup tournaments this summer. She is definitely peaking at the right time especially since losing first round at Wimbledon and was unable to make it to the 2nd week of the French Open. Alize Cornet (27) and Sabine Lisicki (24) should not be much of a bother for Halep though they can be formidable opponent especially Lisicki who possesses a huge game albeit a very inconsistent one.
In this both half, there is the very dangerous floater in Victoria Azarenka (20) who is a two-time finalist here (2012-2013). She has come with a few points of winning this title back in 2012 and has shown throughout this year that she is ready for the big time. She is not in the same half as Serena who knocked her out of both the French Open and Wimbledon so she should be in good position to make some noise here once again. She would have to get by Angelique Kerber (11) in the 3rd round and Lucie Safarova (6) in the Round of 16. Safarova has not been consistent since her run at the French Open but she is capable of playing inspired tennis and might just play her way again to another major final.
There is always a question mark next to the name of Petra Kvitova (5) at any tournament particularly if it is not the grass courts of Wimbledon. The fact that she has now be been diagnosed with mononycleosis (mono) and lost a significant amount of weight, even more doubts is cast upon her at these championships. She lost in the 2nd round last year and the brutal hot and humid conditions in New York do not suit her. Nonetheless, she too is capable of getting her act together to play inspired tennis especially since there are no real danger in her section other than Julia Georges or Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (32) in the 3rd round. Andrea Petkovic (18) or Garbine Muguruza (9) could be her opponent in the 4th round and Caroline Wozniacki (4) in the quarterfinals.
Wozniacki too is facing some doubt at these championships. She is coming off injuries and some poor results at both Toronto and Cincinnati. She has elected to play the final tune-up tournament this week before the Open in Connecticut despite claims that she is being forced to play events by the WTA to avoid penalties. This is her fourth tournament in as many weeks this summer before coming into the Open. She would have to get past American Christina McHale in the 2nd round and possibly Flavia Pennetta (26) in the next. It would be a battle if both Wozniacki and Pennetta were to get that stage with the odds being in the favour of the Italian.
Roger Federer Plays Down Air Quality Concerns Ahead Of Australian Open
Roger Federer has rejected concerns that air quality will affect the Australian Open ahead of his first round match on Monday.
Roger Federer has rejected the idea that air quality concerns will be a factor at this year’s Australian Open.
Recently air quality has been fairly unsafe as a recent result of the Australian bushfires that have impacted many parts of the country.
Melbourne has been one of the cities that has been impacted the most with many animals, firefighters and civilians suffering.
As the Australian Open approaches, it has also affected the first grand slam of the year with many players in qualifying suffering on Tuesday and Wednesday with conditions being deemed unsafe to compete in.
This has raised concerns about the tournament itself, which starts on Monday and one player that has been criticised in his lack of action is Roger Federer.
The 20 time grand slam champion is on the ATP Players Council and today he broke his silence, insisting that the air quality shouldn’t be a factor at this year’s Australian Open, “No, I don’t worry. From what we were told yesterday in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300. Ours is set at 200,” Federer told the media on Saturday.
“From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range. We’re not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know. That’s when maybe effects really become bad. No, I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke. Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again. It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times.
“I think communication is key from the tournament to the people, to the media, to the fans, to the players, because you do hear it’s not safe to be outside, keep your pets inside, close your windows. You have court calls, then you look at the haze and everything, it doesn’t look good. I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.”
Conditions are expected to get safer in time for the first week of the grand slam as rain has hit the latter stages of the past week in Melbourne.
Although Federer has played down concerns of the air quality causing harm to the players, it is still is a cause for concern amongst tournament directors if the conditions played a part in the second week.
As for Federer, he starts his Australian Open campaign against Steve Johnson on Monday and is taking the tournament one match at a time, “I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,” Federer said.
“Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough. I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low. No, I’m excited to play Steve. He’s a good guy. I think with his old-school playing – big forehand, slice backhand, good serve – I think it’s going to be a nice match for me, as well.”
The Swiss will be looking for his 7th Australian Open title in Melbourne and his third in four years but will have to play Novak Djokovic before the final. The match with Johnson will be third on Rod Laver Arena on Monday after Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams play their matches.
Elena Rybakina reaches her second consecutive final in 2020
Elena Rybakina beat British qualifier Heather Watson 6-3 4-6 6-4 after 2 hours and 16 minutes in the Hobart International semifinal setting up a final match against China’s Zhang Shuai.
Rybakina has become the first player to reach back-to-back finals in the first two weeks of the year since Agnieszka Radwanska in 2013. The Kazakh player finished runner-up to Ekaterina Alexandrova last week in Shenzhen.
Rybakina earned the first break in the first game, but Watson broke back with two forehand winners in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Rybakina broke for the second time with a crosscourt forehand in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and sealed the first set with another break on the first set point, as Watson hit her dropshot into the net.
Rybakina saved three break points with two aces and a service winner, but Watson converted her fourth chance with her forehand return winner.
Watson went up a double break with a forehand pass and held her serve to race out to a 5-1. Rybakina converted her second break point chance to claw her way back to 3-5.
Rybakina earned two break points in the 10th game, but Watson saved the first chance with a backhand winner before serving out the second set with consecutive service winners.
Watson saved a break point in the second game of the third set as Rybakina made a backhand error. Rybakina fended off a break point chance in the fifth game with a down-the-line backhand winner. Rybakina converted her second break point chance with a drop-shot winner on the match point.
“It was a really tough match. I was still missing all these balls in the second set. In the last few games I was playing really risky, and I am really happy that I won this match”, said Rybakina.
Rybakina set up a final against Zhang Shuai, who reached the third WTA final of her career after a 6-3 6-4 win over Veronika Kudemertova.
Zhang earned three break point chances at 2-1 with a backhand crosscourt winner and converted her first chance after Kudemertova sent her forehand wide. Kudemertova won two hard-fought service game at 4-2 and at 5-3. Zhang closed out the set on her second set point in the ninth game.
Both players held on their service games in the second set until 4-4. Zhang earned a break point in the ninth game, as Kudemertova made a forehand error. The Chinese player got the break, as Kudemertova made her forehand error. Kudemertova earned her first two break points of the match, as Zhang was serving for the match. Zhang held her serve at deuce, as Kudemertova missed returns on the next four points.
“The winter training went really good for me. Training with the national team, a lot of coaches helped me, so I was already ready before this tournament. I think all matches I played really well this week, and also a lot of the Chinese fans are coming to cheer for me, so I have had a lot of motivationto win”,said Zhang Shuai.
Benoit Paire sets up all-French final against Ugo Humbert in Auckland
Benoit Paire battled past Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 with six breaks of serve to his ninth career ATP Tour final at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
Paire went up a double break in the first and seventh games to build up a 5-2 lead. Hurkacz pulled a break back after two double faults after two double faults from Paire. The Frenchman served out at love in the 10th game.
Paire went up a break at 15 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Hurkacz broke back at love to draw level to 3-3. Both players held on their next service games setting up a tie-break. Hurkacz cruised through to winning the tie-break 7-1.
After a trade of breaks at the start of the third set Paire broke twice in the fourth and eighth games to seal the decider 6-2.
“It was not easy. Not everything was perfect, but it is never easy against Hubert. He is a very good player and a tough opponent. I hope tomorrow will be better and I hope to enjoy the final”,said Paire.
Paire sets up an all-French final against his compatriot Ugo Humbert, who edged past John Isner 7-6 (7-5) 6-4. Humbert has reached the maiden final of his career after losing in the semifinal in Marseille, Newport and Antwerp in 2019.
Humbert and Isner went on serve with no breaks to set up a tie-break. Isner saved two set points from 3-6 but Humbert won the tie-break 7-5. Humbert started the second set with an early break to take a 1-0 lead. Isner saved five break points and held his serve at deuce, but Humbert won his final two service games at love to clinch the second set 6-4.
“I am really happy about this win. It was a great match. I returned very well and I played good on the key points. I am really happy to reach my first final”,said Humbert.
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