Serena tested by fellow American Mattek-Sands - UBITENNIS
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Serena tested by fellow American Mattek-Sands



US Open – Few predicted the high drama that unfolded on Arthur Ashe in the Serena Williams (1) v fellow American wildcard entrant Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Mattek-Sands came out on court in what could only be described as “on fire” as she seized control of the match and near looked ready to upset history in the making. However, the Serena legacy is nothing without the epic comeback matches. This match on the night, might not be the best one of the many Serena has played but it might be the most important one. Serena took the last 8 games of the match to win it 3-6 7-5 6-0 and move into the Round of 16 on Sunday.  [S]he’s a great closer. She always has been. I think she gains momentum and gets pumped up, pumps herself up, and I think that’s why she’s able to close matches out really well,” said Mattek-Sands after the match.


Mattek-Sands raced out to a 3-0 lead. Serena was missing by a country-mile as errors poured off her racquets. She held serve and broke to get back on serve at 2-3 but Mattek-Sands was relentless. She remained focused and error-free as she broke again for a 4-2 lead and consolidated the break for 5-2. What was most surprising in this opening set was the number of break point chances Serena missed. She had break point chances in nearly all of Mattek-Sands games including the pivotal 8th game when Mattek-Sands was serving for the set. Mattek-Sands did not so much win these crucial points as opposed to Serena gave them away. She was rushing on her shots, hitting wide of the mark and taking up poor court positions in light of the shots she was going for. She was 1/7 on break points in the set whereas Mattek-Sands converted on the two chances that she had. Thus in just 37 minutes, Mattek-Sands was up a set and Serena was a set away from losing. Mattek-Sands had a single unforced error in the set compared to 14 from Serena.

Serena down a set was not usually reason to panic but the problem was that Serena’s game was not improving. She again squandered 5 more break points. Mattek-Sands looked poised for the upset and then in the 8th game, the unseeded American blinked. Serena broke for 5-3 and served for the set. However, it seemed that the pressure of the moment got too much for Serena as she too took this moment to blink and was broken. Mattek-Sands leveled the set at 5-5 and it looked like this was going to be an upset of the 21-time major champion. The crowd was aghast of this possibility. The tension both inside and outside the stadium.

Serena sensing the urgency of the matter responded in her classic manner. She raised her level to “unplayable”. “I knew that I could play better, so with that in the back of my mind — because I made a lot of errors, but I knew, like, this wasn’t the best game, my best game,” Serena said after the match. Mattek-Sands could not keep pace with her compatriot and soon it became clear that the danger of Serena losing was not about to happen on the day. Serena held serve for 6-5 and broke her opponent to take the set 7-5. In the 3rd set, Mattek-Sands became a mere spectator in the match winning only 9 of the 34 points played. Serena bageled her compatriot to take the match 3-6 7-5 6-0 in an hour and 49 minutes. After the match, Mattek-Sands said this of Serena, “[W]hen she’s really confident in her shots. Obviously she starts ripping the ball really hard and timing it well and taking balls on the rise. I think you can feel the pressure.”


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Low Expectations Elevates Alexander Zverev To Greater Heights At Australian Open

The world No.7 opens up about why he has struggled at grand slams in the past and how he has changed it this year.



Heading into this year’s Australian Open few had their money on Alexander Zverev staging a deep run after his far from perfect start to the season.


At the ATP Cup the German lost all three of his singles matches to top 20 opposition. He looked rusty, erratic and perhaps suffering from the consequences of playing a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer throughout the off-season. However, at Melbourne Park the 22-year-old has managed to find his footing to remind everybody how much of a threat he can pose at the biggest tournaments of the sport.

This was evident in his latest match against Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals on Wednesday. A three-time grand slam champion who branded his previous match as the best he has played since undergoing surgery. It looked at if Wawrinka would be a stern challenger, but Zverev held his ground to prevail 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Admittedly, it wasn’t a flawless performance at times by the world No.7, who struggled early on. However, he was able to prevail with the help of 13 aces and 34 winners.

Zverev’s victory is a new milestone in his career. He has now reached the semi-finals of a major for the first time. To put this into perspective, prior to this year, he had only reached the quarter-finals twice at the French Open out of 18 grand slam main draw appearances.

“The Grand Slams maybe meant too much for me,” Zverev commented on his previous misfortunes.
“This year I actually came into the Australian Open with absolutely no expectations because I was playing horribly.’
“As I said, it’s going to be a process beginning of the week with the first few matches. I hope I could just get through them and start playing them better as the tournament gets along.
“This is what happened. I hope I can still continue to play better in the semifinals and hopefully maybe in the final.”

In recent year’s Zverev has been tipped as one of the successors to the illustrious Big Three and with good reason. Outside of that group, him and Andy Murray are the only active players to win three or more Masters 1000 titles. He is also a former ATP Finals champion and has won a total of 11 ATP titles. Speaking moments after his win over Wawrinka, he was quick to dismiss the victory as the greatest achievement of his career to date.

“I did win the World Tour Finals, so…. If I get to the final (of the Australian Open) it will be the greatest day of my life, but I like titles.” He said.

Throughout his career, he has had the luxury of working with former stars of the sport. Previously collaborating with Juan Carlos Ferrero and Ivan Lendl. However, both of those partnerships failed to live up to expectations. Instead, it is Zverev’s father who has been the key behind his success in recent times.

“There are a lot of opinions that I should get a new coach. There are a lot of opinions I should change it up. But every time I’m working alone with my dad, we can prove that we can win big titles and go to the further stages of big tournaments.” Zverev explained.
“He’s made me the player that I am. In my opinion, there is no need to change.’
“If he tells me he’s tired then I will get some help, but I think he will be part of my team for a very long time.”

It isn’t just his father that has had a positive impact on the German and his recent surge. Zverev believed at the majors in the past he has ironically been too focused on winning. Something he has changed this week in his bid for a maiden Australian Open title.

“Grand Slams were always the week where I kind of even wanted it too much.” He explained.
“I was doing things way too professionally. I was not talking to anybody. I wasn’t going out with friends. I wasn’t having dinner. I was just really almost too, too focused..’
“I’ve changed that a little bit this week. I’m doing much more things outside the court..”
“Maybe this is a steppingstone. Maybe this is how it should happen. We’ll see how it goes now in two days’ time.” He added.

Zverev is the first German man to reach the semi-final of a major since Tommy Haas at the 2007 US Open. He will play either Rafael Nadal or Dominic Thiem next.

Should he win the title this year, Zverev has pledged to donate all of his prize money to the Australian bush fire appeal.

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Living In The Moment Pays Off For Garbine Muguruza At The Australian Open

The former world No.1 speaks out about the factors behind her winning run at the Australian Open.



Garbine Muguruza - Australian Open 2020 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

Tennis can be a very technical sport with a lot of planning and preparation needed at times. Although for Garbine Muguruza the less she thinks the better she performs at the Australian Open.


It is hard to argue with the approach taken by the two-time grand slam champion given her resurgence at the tournament. On Wednesday Muguruza disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3, to reach her first major semi-final since the 2018 French Open. It is also the first time she has ever reached the last four in Melbourne Park. Although the Spaniard admits that there is room for improvement after hitting 21 winners along with 21 unforced errors in her latest encounter.

“At the beginning of the match I wasn’t feeling so good and said to myself that I had to find a solution.” Muguruza said during an interview with Eurosport Spain.
“I felt better, used my mind and my mentality to stay focused. Even if you’re feeling bad, it doesn’t matter.”

The breakthrough comes after what was a roller-coaster 2019 season for the former world No.1. During that year she split with long-term coach Sam Sumyk, exited the world’s top 20 for the first time in four years and at one stage won just one match in six tournaments played. So what has triggered the revival of Muguruza?

Besides a reunion with Conchita Martinez, who was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week, it is her mental approach to the tournament. It is no longer a case of looking ahead, but just taking it day-by-day. The Australian Open is the first major she has been unseeded in since 2014.

“I came not feeling great. I wasn’t really thinking, How far will I go? I had enough already thinking, How will I go practice today?” She said.
“I took every day at a time. Like that, each day I was gaining a better feeling instead of getting frustrated thinking in the future.”

One journalist during her press conference described Muguruza’s revival as ‘coming back from a coma two years ago.’ A phrase the Spaniard didn’t completely agree with. Between 2016-2018 the 26-year-old won four out of her seven WTA titles. Including both the French Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2017).

“I think a ‘coma’ is a pretty strong comment.” She replied.
“I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years. That’s how I see it. I don’t see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don’t go your way.’
“You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.”

Patience, as well as discipline, could be key in her upcoming semi-final clash with Simona Halep, who reached the final of the Australian Open two years ago. She leads their head-to-head 3-2, but lost their only grand slam encounter at the 2018 French Open in straight sets.

“I think it will be a tough match. I think that no matter when you play top five, it’s always deep in a tournament. It’s a semifinal, so of course I’m expecting a big player.” Muguruza previewed.
“I think she’s (Halep) a very solid player. She plays very consistency through all these years.” She added.

Muguruza’s upcoming semi-final clash with Halep will take place on Thursday. The last Spanish woman to reach the title match in Melbourne Park was her coach Martinez back in 1998.

The head-to-head between Muguruza and Halep

  • 2018 French Open, clay, SF, Halep 6-1 6-4
  • 2017 Cincinnati, hard, F, Muguruza 6-1 6-0
  • 2015 Stuttgart, clay, R16, Halep 3-6 6-1 6-3
  • 2015 Fed Cup Week 1, hard, R1, Muguruza 6-4 6-3
  • 2014 Wuhan, hard, R2, Muguruza 2-6 6-2 6-3

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Australian Open Day 10 Preview: The Quarter-Finals Conclude

Wednesday is highlighted by a rematch of the French Open final from the last two years.



Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf 


Rafael Nadal is one win away from securing his world No.1 ranking, though I’m sure he’s much more concerned with being three wins away from winning his record-tying 20th Major title. But standing in his way today is an opponent who has beaten him many times before. The other men’s quarter-final features the 2014 champion and a Next Gen standout who has excelled on the ATP tour, but is yet to make a deep run at a Major. On the women’s side, we have a pair of two-time Major champions against two women looking to reach their first Slam semi-final.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Dominic Thiem (5)

This is a marquee quarterfinal between two top five seeds. Nadal leads their head-to-head 9-4, with all but one of those matches taking place on clay. Their only hard court meeting was certainly a memorable one. In the 2018 US Open quarterfinals, they played for almost five hours, and past 2:00am, in a match decided by a fifth-set tiebreak.  Thiem should take a lot of positives from that encounter despite the loss, and he’s only improved his hard court game since that time.

Dominic has won four hard court titles in the past 16 months, including the Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells. And just two months ago, he reached the championship match at the ATP Finals, with wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. This is his first time advancing to the quarters in Australia, but this run is not surprising based on his recent hard court resume. The slower courts in Melbourne this year work to Dominic’s favour, though Rafa will like that temperatures are forecast to rise over the next few days. But with this being a night match, it’ll get rather cool as this match goes on. Nadal has looked good through four rounds here, and passed a stern test supplied by Nick Kyrgios two days ago. However, I think this may be Thiem’s time to shine. He was oh-so-close to beating Nadal in their last hard court match, and he’s a much-improved player since hiring Nicolas Massu as his coach. In what will surely be a highly-competitive affair, I’m tipping Thiem to pull off the upset.

Sascha Zverev (7) vs. Stan Wawrinka (15)

Alexander Zverev (@usopen)

Can this be true? Zverev, who has historically become entangled in long matches during the first week of Majors, has won four rounds here without dropping a set. It’s even more startling when you consider he went 0-3 at the ATP Cup to start the year, where he had terrible troubles with his serve. In his post-match interview on Monday, he spoke of how finding peace in his personal life has lead to good results on court. The 22-year-old has reached his third Slam quarterfinal, and his first off clay. He’ll certainly be the fresher player today, as Stan not only battled an illness last week, but has already played two five-setters.

That includes his comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev two days ago. And Zverev is 2-0 against Wawrinka, with both victories coming on hard courts. But this is a case where experience at this stage of a Major will be crucial, and Stan has plenty of that. This is his fifth quarter-final in Melbourne, and his 18th at all four Majors. Wawrinka has proven himself to be a big-match player, and excels in the best-of-five format. As improved as Zverev’s serve has been this fortnight, Wawrinka remains the bolder and more aggressive player, which is usually critical in matches like this. With that in mind, I like Stan’s chances to return to the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time in three years.

Simona Halep (4) vs. Anett Kontaveit (30)

Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

The 24-year-old Kontaveit has been a rising WTA star for a few years now, but she appears ready for her big breakthrough. This run has literally come out of nowhere, as an illness forced her to withdraw from the US Open and miss the rest of the 2019 season. Her coach, Nigel Sears, told the media that she was hospitalized for a week and had to undergo surgery. This resulted in a substantial weight loss, and a lack of activity for three or four months. But here she is into her first Major quarter-final, thanks to some impressive play. She dropped just one game to the sixth seed, Belinda Bencic, and came back from a set down to claim a tight match over a talented teenager, Iga Swiatek.

But today Kontaveit runs into an in-form Halep, who has reunited with Darren Cahill and is yet to drop a set at this event. These two players have similar, all-around games, though Halep is a bit more consistent, and a bit more skilled defensively. And Simona is 2-0 against Anett, having comfortably won the four sets they’ve played.  Halep should be favoured to reach her second semi-final in Melbourne.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (30) vs. Garbine Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza (@WeAreTennis – Twitter)

Speaking of Roland Garros and Wimbledon champions in good form, Garbine Muguruza is back. She seems to be rejuvenated with Conchita Martinez back as her coach. When her former coach, Sam Sumyk, missed Wimbledon a few years ago to undergo a medical procedure, Conchita filled in, and coached Muguruza to the title. Garbine split with Sumyk during the offseason, and is playing her best tennis in a few years with Martinez as a full-time coach.

But guess who Sumyk coaches now? That would be Pavlyuchenkova.  This union has also paid immediate dividends, though the 28-year-old Russian has been playing great tennis since the fall. Pavlyuchenkova outplayed a game Angelique Kerber on Monday, extending her record in the fourth round of Majors to 6-1. The problem is she’s 0-5 in Slam quarter-finals. And she’s 1-4 against Muguruza, with the only win coming via a Garbine retirement. Muguruza just has a bit more game than Pavlyuchenkova, and she’s been on fire since overcoming an illness last week. Garbine took out two top 10 seeds in the last two rounds, via scores of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, and 6-3. While Sumyk will certainly have some sage advance for how to play against Muguruza, I don’t see it being enough considering Garbine’s current level.

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