Djokovic and Federer the favourites in Stan Smith, but is Rafa the contender in the other group? - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic and Federer the favourites in Stan Smith, but is Rafa the contender in the other group?

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Could Nadal’s late season resurgence see him dominate Ilie Nastase Group?

Ubaldo Scanagatta and Tennis Channel’s Steve Flink Comment the ATP World Tour Finals Draws (AUDIO)

 

Flink: “Nadal should be happy to be in his group”

If the Stan Smith Group looks somewhat predictable, with two Grand slam champions, tennis fans can be reassured that the Ilie Nastase Group is anything but. This article previews each singles player from both groups, and attempts a prediction as to how each group might eventually pan out.

Stan Smith

Novak Djokovic: The World Number 1 has had a scintillating year, winning three of the four Grand Slams, and six of nine Masters titles. He is the three-time defending champion in London, and will be the favourite to extend his run. Crucially for Djokovic, the player who has given him the most issues this year, Stan Wawrinka, has been drawn in the other group. Will certainly fancy his chances over Tomas Berdych, who he was drawn with last year, and defeated 6-2, 6-2. Kei Nishikori has had an injury plagued year, so should be little of little danger to Djokovic. Roger Federer is the major threat. He loves indoor tennis, and if Djokovic becomes unstuck in one match it would be with Federer.

Roger Federer: His season has been strong, highlighted by two Grand Slam finals, including his first In New York since 2009. He was beaten though in each by Djokovic. Federer loves indoors tennis, but has failed to defeat Djokovic in their last four meetings on the surface. Yet if anyone has the best chance of defeating Federer in the group stages, then Federer is the man. Has beaten Nishikori in their last two meetings, and Berdych in their last three. Question marks over his early Paris exit to John Isner.

Tomas Berdych: Has had a good if slightly underwhelming year, but has done well to qualify for sixth consecutive year. A telling stat is that he has failed to beat any of the opponents he is set to face in the group this season. He has been soundly thrashed by Federer twice, though did play Djokovic close in all three of their meetings this year. He did not encounter Nishikori this year. Lack of wins over top players is the apparent weakness In Berdych’s game this year.

Kei Nishikori: The Japanese star takes his place at the ATP World Tour Finals for the second time, though without a Grand Slam final display to back him up this time. Has beaten fellow contenders Ferrer and Nadal this year, but has no wins against his group opponents, though like Berdych, he took a set from Djokovic in their meeting in Rome. Inconsistent with injury this year, but has proven that when fit, can still beat the best. He has only met played one match, versus Djokovic, against his group opponents this season, so could be considered something of a wildcard.

Group Prediction:  1. Djokovic 3-0, 2. Federer, 2-1, 3. Nishikori 1-2, 4. Berdych 0-3.

Ilie Nastase

Andy Murray: The Brit leapfrogged Roger Federer into second place in the rankings at the back-end of the season, and his reward is avoiding Djokovic in the group stages. That said, Wawrinka, Nadal, and Ferrer are noteworthy opponents. Yet he has won both meetings with Ferrer this season, including a meeting on the Spaniard’s favoured surface of clay. He also beat Nadal on clay for the first time, in their only match this year, but he has struggled against Rafa in previous meetings at the World Tour Finals. Hasn’t played Wawrinka this season, so an interesting matchup in store there. The underlying subtext of the Davis Cup Final could have an impact on Murray’s focus, and he can’t afford any slip-ups against the quality of opposition he faces this year.

Stan Wawrinka: Should Stan be happy or relieved to have avoided Djokovic in the group stages? He is probably the only player capable of making a question of that this season. Beating Djokovic in the Roland Garros final solidified Wawrinka’s credentials as a genuine force, after his fortuitous win over Nadal in the Australian Open. A brilliant year punctuated by a few surprise losses but impressive titles, means that we never really know what to expect from Stan, except that he normally rises to the occasion in big events. Pushed Federer all the way in a tense semi-final in London last year, Stan will be looking to go one better in 2015

Rafael Nadal: After a comprehensive defeat to Djokovic at Roland Garros, followed by early defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open, some had begun to write Rafa off. Yet he is a true champion, and has signalled his return to somewhere near his good is not best form. He destroyed Wawrinka in Shanghai but lost to him in Paris. Finals in Beijing and Basel suggest he is in form, and played Federer close in the latter final. Gone is the almost afraid Rafa from the beginning of the year, replace by a force that could easily go all the way in London. He still dominates the head-to-head with all three in the group. He leads Murray 15-6, Ferrer 23-6, and Wawrinka 13-3. This might actually make him the favourite in this tight group.

David Ferrer. It is testament that Ferrer is yet again here this year. His participation in previous years has largely relied on playing more tournaments than just about any other player. Yet this year, an elbow injury curtailed his involvement in Wimbledon, and forced him to miss a large chunk of the season. He has instead relied on performing well in the events he has been able to play. No wins in three meetings this year vs Murray/Nadal, and did not face Wawrinka. He has a losing record against both Murray (6-11) and Nadal (6-23), and has lost his last three meetings with Wawrinka, even if he does still edge the head-to-head (7-6). Ferrer is a dogged competitor, but the feeling is his ability to earn wins in London will be more down to his opponent’s games than his own.

Group prediction: 1. Nadal 2-1, 2. Wawrinka 2-1, 3. Murray 2-1, 4. Ferrer 0-3

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Australian Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Yesterday’s heat will be replaced by much cooler conditions, but the wind will continue to make its presence known around the grounds.

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A day before seeded players start to run into each other in the singles draws, many top seeds will be considerable favourites on Thursday. Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Daniil Medvedev, and Dominic Thiem should all advance without significant trouble. So let’s take a look at the seeded player who will face some dangerous floaters on Day 4.

 

Belinda Bencic (6) vs. Jelena Ostapenko
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Ostapenko claimed their only previous meeting in 2018 at Indian Wells. However, both players are in very different players two years on. After years of battling injuries, Bencic finally returned to the top 10 last season. Her 2019 was highlighted by 50 match wins, two titles, and her first Major semifinal at the US Open. By contrast, the 2017 French Open champion had a losing record last year. Ostapenko has been racking up the unforced errors and double faults on tour. Bencic is by far the steadier player, with much more variety in her game. And considering the Australian Open has been the worst Major for Jelena in her career, I like Bencic to advance to the third round.

Nick Kyrgios (23) vs. Gilles Simon
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There’s been speculation that Kyrgios will be motivated to play well this fortnight by the wildfire situation in his home country. Nick seemed to be taking matters very seriously on Tuesday, in a straight set first round win. Though as we’ve seen for years now, his effort level can vary greatly from match to match. His 35-year-old opponent is a former top 10 player now ranked outside the top 50, and was 0-4 in the second round of Slams last year. But Simon’s lack of pace can drive players crazy, as we saw here in Melbourne a few years ago when he drew 100 unforced errors out of Novak Djokovic. The first and only previous encounter between these players was six months ago in Washington, which Kyrgios took in straight sets on his way to that title. An inspired and focused Kyrgios should have no problem taking care of the tricky Frenchman again today.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Lauren Davis
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The diminutive Davis took part in an epic affair here two years ago, when she went down in defeat to Simona Halep 15-13 in the third. The 26-year-old American struggled to recover from that match until mid-last year, when she gained some traction on the ITF circuit and went on to defeat the defending champion, Angelique Kerber, at Wimbledon. So the flat-hitting Davis is fully capable of taking it to less powerful players like Svitolina. And the fifth seed comes into this event a bit undercooked, with her only lead-up match being a 6-1, 6-1 loss at the hands of another American, Danielle Collins. But Svitiolina is 4-0 lifetime against Davis, losing only one of nine sets played. I don’t see a strong reason why the result would be different today.

Taylor Fritz (29) vs. Kevin Anderson
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The biggest question here will be what does Anderson have left after his first round, a match that went to a fifth-set tiebreak and wasn’t decided until after 1:00am local time Wednesday morning. And that was only Kevin’s fourth match since Wimbledon, as he missed nearly six months of action due to a knee injury. Meanwhile the 22-year-old American is coming off the best season of his career, winning his first ATP title in Eastbourne and reaching two other finals later in the summer. Fritz would normally be outmatched by Anderson, as there’s not much he does better than the South African. But against a depleted Anderson who lacks match play, Fritz should be favored to prevail in their first career meeting.

Danielle Collins (26) vs. Yulia Putintseva
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Well this is guaranteed to be a feisty contest, with two of the WTA’s most boisterous players. But it is not guaranteed to be a long affair. They’ve played twice in the past year, with neither match lasting an hour. Last summer on the grass of Eastbourne, Collins retired down 5-0 in the first set. And just two weeks ago in Brisbane, Collins prevailed 6-1, 6-0 in 58 minutes. The American already has six match wins to start the year, with victories over top names like Svitolina, Bencic, and Kenin. Putintseva came through qualifying in both Brisbane and Adelaide earlier this month, so she’s also playing with some confidence. Collins is defending semifinal points from a year ago, and seemed to be feeling the pressure in her opening round match, which she escaped 6-4 in the third. I expect her to relax a bit more following that scare, and we’ve seen how dangerous she can be when she’s on. Danielle will be capable of dictating play in this one, and should be the victor.

Other notable matches on Day 4:
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  • 19-time Major champion Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Federico Delbonis, a 29-year-old from Argentina who has never won more than three games in a set in three previous matches against Nadal.
  • Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka (15) vs. Andreas Seppi, who upset Roger Federer in Melbourne five years ago.
  • Karolina Pliskova (2), who has reached the second week at all of the last seven hard court Slams, vs. Laura Siegemund, who is 1-0 against Pliskova. That match occurred three years ago on clay in Siegemund’s home country of Germany.
  • The always-entertaining Gael Monfils (10) vs. the nearly-seven-foot-tall Ivo Karlovic, who will turn 41-years-old next month, and on Tuesday became the oldest man in the Open Era to win a match at this event.
  • Dominic Thiem (5), who lost in the second round here a year ago, vs. Australian Alex Bolt (WC), who reached the third round here last year.

Order of play (time in GMT)

Rod Laver Arena

From 00:00am
G. Muguruza v A. Tomljanovic
L. Siegemund v K. Pliskova (2)

Not before 3:00am
E. Gerasimov v A. Zverev (7)

Not before 8:00am
H. Dart v S. Halep (4)
R. Nadal (1) v F. Delbonis


Margaret Court Arena

From 00:00am
B. Bencic (6) v J. Ostapenko
D. Medvedev (4) v P. Martinez
P. Hon v A. Kerber (17)

Not before 8:00am
A. Seppi v S. Wawrinka (15)
E. Svitolina (5) v L. Davis


Melbourne Arena

From 00:00am
D. Vekic (19) v A. Cornet
J. Moore/A. Sharma v A. Barty/J. Goerges
A. Bolt v D. Thiem (5)

Not before 7:45am
N. Kyrgios (23) v G. Simon


1573 Arena

From 00:00am
C. Bellis v K. Muchova (20)
G. Monfils (10) v I. Karlovic

Not before 3:30am
T. Fritz (29) v K. Anderson
D. Jakupovic/R. Olaru v T. Babos (2)/K. Mladenovic (2)


Court 3

From 00:00am
Z. Diyas v A. Blinkova

Not before 3:00am
L. Hewitt/J. Thompson v J. Nam/M. Song
J. Munar v A. Popyrin

Not before 7:00am
M. Ymer v K. Khachanov (16)


Court 5

From 00:00am
S. Arends/R. Berankis v J. Melzer (12)/E. Roger-Vasselin (12)
M. Demoliner/M. Middelkoop v T. Sandgren/J. Withrow
J. Duckworth/M. Polmans v A. Harris/C. O’Connell
Y. Lee/F. Wu v S. Kenin (16)/B. Mattek-Sands (16)


Court 7

From 00:00am
M. Pavic (10)/B. Soares (10) v L. Bambridge/B. McLachlan
S. Sorribes Tormo v A. Kontaveit (28)
E. Perez (12)/S. Stosur (12) v L. Arruabarrena/O. Jabeur
P. Gojowczyk v P. Carreno Busta (27)


Court 8

From 00:00am
S. Johnson/S. Querrey v C. Hsieh/Y. Lu
A. Rodionova v K. Bertens (9)
D. Goffin (11) v P. Herbert
G. Garcia Perez/S. Sorribes Tormo v M. Adamczak/K. Srebotnik


Court 10

From 00:00am
G. Minnen/A. Van Uytvanck v S. Aoyama (10)/E. Shibahara (10)
Y. Duan (9)/S. Zheng (9) v H. Carter/L. Stefani
N. Cacic/D. Lajovic v M. Gonzalez (15)/F. Martin (15)
S. Hsieh (1)/B. Strycova (1) v M. Bouzkova/T. Zidansek


Court 11

From 00:00am
R. Ram (11)/J. Salisbury (11) v M. Fucsovics/C. Norrie
V. Kudermetova (13)/A. Riske (13) v S. Peng/S. Zhang
K. Muchova/J. Teichmann v C. Gauff/C. McNally
C. Bellis/M. Vondrousova v E. Mertens (3)/A. Sabalenka (3)


Court 12

From 00:00am
J. Chardy/R. Lindstedt v P. Cuevas/G. Pella
A. Pavlyuchenkova (30) v T. Townsend
G. Duran/D. Schwartzman v L. Kubot (2)/M. Melo (2)
K. Flipkens/T. Townsend v T. Maria/A. Sevastova
D. Jurak/N. Stojanovic v K. Bondarenko/A. Krunic


Court 13

From 00:00am
X. Han/L. Zhu v N. Kichenok/S. Mirza
N. Basilashvili (26) v F. Verdasco
S. Kwon/J. Millman v S. Gonzalez/K. Skupski
A. Blinkova/Y. Wang v A. Kontaveit/M. Minella


Court 14

From 00:00am
E. Alexandrova/I. Bara v K. Christian/A. Guarachi
I. Swiatek v C. Suárez Navarro
H. Hurkacz/V. Pospisil v J. Murray (14)/N. Skupski (14)
B. Krejcikova (4)/K. Siniakova (4) v A. Friedsam/L. Siegemund


Court 15

From 00:00am
G. Barrere/A. Mannarino v U. Humbert/F. Tiafoe
N. Hibino/M. Ninomiya v L. Hradecka (11)/A. Klepac (11)
A. Cornet/F. Ferro v Z. Diyas/E. Rybakina
D. Collins (26) v Y. Putintseva


Court 19

From 00:00am
A. Bedene v E. Gulbis
Y. Sugita v A. Rublev (17)
S. Kuznetsova v C. Giorgi/K. Peschke (8)
D. Schuurs (8) v F. Stollar/D. Yastremska


Court 22

From 00:00am
D. Krawczyk/J. Pegula v I. Begu/K. Pliskova
E. Mertens (16) v H. Watson
M. Sakkari/A. Tomljanovic v G. Dabrowski (6)/J. Ostapenko (6)
J. Isner (19) v A. Tabilo

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Roger Federer Thrashes Krajinovic To Secure 99th Australian Open Victory

Roger Federer convincingly cruised into the last 32 in Melbourne with a straight sets win over Filip Krajinovic.

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Roger Federer (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Roger Federer sealed a 99th Australian Open victory of his career with a 6-1 6-4 6-1 win over Filip Krajinovic. 

 

The Swiss continued his bid for a 21st grand slam title with an emphatic straight sets win over Filip Krajinovic that lasted 92 minutes.

Next up for Federer is John Millman after the Australian knocked out in-form 31st seed Hubert Hurkacz 6-4 7-5 6-3.

It was a dominating display from the start for Federer as his forehand looked sharp from the very beginning against a dangerous Krajinovic.

Winning 86% of points on his second serve helped Federer as he secured two breaks of serve to win a 19 minute set 6-1.

As for Krajinovic, he was struggling to offer anything to counter-attack Federer’s intensity and pace in the early stages of the match.

Even heading into the net, didn’t help the Serb’s cause as his approaches were met with ridiculous passing shots from the 38 year-old.

There was some resolve from Krajinovic though after pulling back the early break deficit after capitalising on some Federer forehand errors.

However the resilience from the world number 41 was quickly snuffed out as Federer returned to his best to get the break back and hold serve to seal a two set advantage.

As Krajinovic was struggling with an arm injury, the third seed continued his assault by flattening out the backhand and continuing to be aggressive.

Winning eight of the last nine games secured Federer’s 99th Australian Open victory and a place in the third round in Melbourne.

It was a flawless display against a tricky opponent but Federer knows he will need to keep this level if he has any chance of winning a third Australian Open in four years.

Next up for Federer is John Millman who defeated an in-form Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets to reach the last 32 and the 38 year-old will be looking for revenge after losing to the Aussie at the 2018 US Open.

After the match, Federer was wary of what awaits him on Friday, “He’s a super good guy, unbelievably tough opponent. There aren’t many as fit as him out there,” Federer said.

“They’re the guys I respect the most out there, because they get the most out of their game. I hope it’s going to be a great match with some great rallies.”

 

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Feisty Serena Williams Overcomes ‘Internal Problems’ To Reach Australian Open Third Round

The former world No.1 didn’t have it all her own way at Melbourne Park on Wednesday.

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Serena Williams (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

A series of almighty shouts and roars erupted from Serena Williams throughout her second round win over Tamara Zidanšek at the Australian Open.

 

Seeking a record-equalling 24th grand slam title, the eighth seed battled to a 6-2, 6-3, victory over the 22-year-old world No.70. Conducting her usual display of power hitting on the court, Williams was highly animated during her latest encounter with various screams and shouts of ‘come on.’

“It was a good match for me. She was a really good fighter and she didn’t let me win.” Williams said during her on court interview.
“I was up forty-love on both her serves (in the second set) and I got a little bit frustrated. There were so many errors in a row and I just had to battle through that, my own internal problems.” She added.

Despite the seemingly one-sided score, it was a far from perfect performance from the former world No.1. Her 25 winners produced were cancelled out by 28 unforced errors. At times she also struggled behind her second serve by winning just 46% of points and could only convert four out of 14 break point opportunities. However, in spite of those blips Williams still had the firepower and skill to topple her fellow top 100 player in just under 80 minutes.

It has been 22 years since Williams last lost in the second round at Melbourne Park. Taking to the court for her latest match, the 38-year-old started off guns blazing against the Slovenian. Who is yet to beat a top 10 player in her career. Twice she dismantled the Zidansek serve during the opener. At the start of the match she immediately broke with the help of a forehand shot from her opponent drifting wide. Four games later, Williams eased to the double break. Enabling her to clinch a 6-2 lead in just 32 minutes.

Despite her dominance on the Rod Laver Arena, there were still areas of Williams’ game to work on. Especially concerning her at times tentative forehand that produced both outstanding winners and a few lacklustre mistakes. However, the eighth seed did receive a reprieve from Zidansek, who confusingly appeared be reluctant to hit the ball to her temperamental forehand side.

The frustration of the American grew throughout the second frame due to her inability to break. Twice she held a 40-0 advantage against the Zidansek serve, but failed to capitalize on those advantages. Despite the blips, Williams managed to establish her lead once again. Breaking for a set and 4-3 lead to close in on victory. Blasting her way to her first match point, Williams prevailed with a forehand winner that sailed past her rival.

“I knew I had to play better. I couldn’t keep making unforced errors like that.” Said Williams
“I knew that I had to step up or it was going to be a long evening for me.’
“I know I have a great forehand and backhand. I just had to rely on it a bit more and not question myself so much.”

In the next round Williams will play Chinese 27th seed Wang Qiang. Wang thrashed Fiona Ferro 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match.

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