10 intriguing ties of the Australian Open Men's First Round (10-6) - UBITENNIS
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10 intriguing ties of the Australian Open Men’s First Round (10-6)

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The Auckland winner has a tough opening match in Melbourne (image via currentevents.today)

The first round of a Grand Slam is often the most exciting, with sixty-four matches to be played, there is always scope for shocks, new names rising to the occasion, or an veteran rolling back the years to re-awaken past glories. I preview some interesting matches that could perhaps go under the radar, others that could provide potential shocks, and the matches that many will naturally be drawn to in the opening round.

 

10. Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs Pablo Andujar: So neither of these two players are seeded. So what? Andujar is ranked 59th compared to Herbert’s 167th. That in itself is enough to make this match interesting. Andujar has a shocking record on hard-courts recently, winning just two matches on the surface in 2015 (excluding Davis Cup). He beat 251st-ranked Frank Dancevic and a Jarkko Nieminen well on the way to retirement. It is worth mentioning that he lost in the first round last year to Marius Copil, who was ranked 194th, and that is a lower ranking than Herbert currently possesses. Herbert is also in fine form, having had to defeat Gastao Elias and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in qualifying. Pick: Herbert in straight sets. 

9. Julien Benneteau vs Nicolas Almagro: In previous years at a grand slam this match-up would not have taken place in the first round, and odds are that in a draw these men would both have a bracket with a number next to their names indicating a seeding. But those days are gone for both. They have struggled with injury. For Almagro, a nasty foot injury curtailed most of his 2014 and he has yet to rescale the heights that took him to a top-ten ranking. Benneteau missed all of 2015 post Indian Wells. Almagro at least most of 2015 even if his form was not great, and this event two years ago brought his best-ever run at a grand slam, when he served for a place in the semi-finals against David Ferrer. Benneteau played a Challenger event last week, and was well off the pace in a defeat to Alejandro Falla, where he picked up just three games. Pick: Almagro in straight sets.

8. Martin Klizan vs Roberto Bautista-Agut (24): Bautista-Agut will be cursing his luck to have been drawn against Klizan because this meeting is fraught with danger. These two have never met at a grand slam before, but have played each other five times (three times at ATP events and twice further down the ranks of professional tennis). The problem for Baustista-Agut is that though owning a 4-1 lead in all meetings, he has only been able to win in straight sets once. Matches involving players like Klizan are always about the day, and whilst he probably does not boast the upset potential that the likes of Ernests Gulbis or Marcos Baghdatis have claimed in the past, the Slovakian left-hander will be hard to defeat. Bautista-Agut is in fine form though, picking up the Auckland title, and will hope to carry that form into the the first slam of the year. Pick: Bautista-Agut in five sets. 

7. Noah Rubin vs Benoit Paire (17): This is one for the romantics of shocks out there but this match is undoubtedly an interesting one. Rubin is one of the lowest-ranked players in the draw, by virtue of his winning the USTA Challenger competition that yielded an Australian Open wildcard to the American who performed best over three Challengers towards the end of last season. An in-form Benoit Paire is one who can defeat the very best, as Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils, Nick Kyrgios, and Grigor Dimitrov will all testify, having lost to the Frenchman in 2015. He may have improved his ranking considerably over 2015, in fact he lost in the first round of qualifying in Melbourne last year. But his year was still punctuated by losses to the likes of Tim Puetz and Marco Chuidinelli. A lot will depend on which version of Paire will show up. Rubin has not had a lot of experience at this level, and this is in fact just his second appearance in the main draw of a slam, and his first at the Australian Open. Pick: Paire in four sets.

6. Dominic Thiem (19) vs Leonardo Mayer: Mayer is perhaps the most difficult draw for seeds in the first round. The Argentinian is a good server, at home more than most of his countrymen on hard-courts, and he reached his career high ranking of 21 just last year. Thiem is one of those youngsters on the rise, along with Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios. But there are times where Thiem still looks out of his league against experienced opponents, and is not immune to surprising defeats. They have played three times including a match in a qualfying draw, with Thiem leading 2-1. Thiem’s wins were both tight, whilst Mayer won comfortably in the other. Pick: Thiem in five sets.

Highlights of Thiem vs Mayer from the Nice ATP final in 2015.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds8PP4MGgNY

 

 

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Jamie Murray Speaks Out On Wimbledon Dilemma

The two-time mixed doubles champion shares his thoughts about the current situation and the problems that could arise.

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Former world No.1 doubles player Jamie Murray says he is unsure how much longer Wimbledon can be delayed this season ahead of a crucial meeting on its future next week.

 

The All England Club is set to hold an emergency meeting to make a final decision as to what to do with this year’s tournament. Including the possibility of cancelling the event for the first time since 1945. The tennis calendar has been brought to a standstill due to the covid-19 pandemic. There have been more than 500,000 cases of Coronavirus worldwide, according to John Hopkins University.

Speaking about Wimbledon’s potential decision during an interview with BBC Scotland’s The Nine, Murray admits that organisers face a difficult decision. Saying it would pose as a big challenge for them to reschedule the event. Both the ATP and WTA are currently reviewing their calendars with the French Open now taking place a week after the US Open.

“I don’t know how long they could push it back,” said Murray.
“They’re desperate to have their event on, it’s still over three months away and a lot can change in that time,” he added.

Murray has featured in the doubles main draw at Wimbledon every year since his debut back in 2006. He has won the Mixed doubles trophy twice in 2007 (with Jelena Jankovic) and 2017 (with Martina Hingis). The 34-year-old currently has a doubles ranking of 34th.

“For them, optics don’t necessarily look great, I guess, if there’s sporting events all over the world getting cancelled and they’re trying to crack on with things.” He commented on the scheduling difficulties.
“There’s a lot of other stakeholders, a lot of other tournaments to consider. Even things like daylight for the tournament. Once the tournament gets put back, there’s less and less daylight. When you play at Wimbledon normally, you can play until 10 at night.”

The UK is currently in a lockdown with members of the public only allowed to leave their houses for specific reasons. Furthermore, 1.5 million people have been advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks. The government is hopeful that they can flatten the spread of the disease within this period, which is extremely close to the Wimbledon start date.

According to AFP News, any decision to scrap this year’s tournament is likely to have a massive financial impact. Between 2017-2018 Wimbledon made an estimated pre-tax profit of $52 million with over 90% of that invested back into British tennis. Furthermore, the BBC could also suffer a big blow. It is reported that the broadcaster pays in the region of $72 million for the TV rights.

It is unclear as to what day the decision will be made next week. Since its creation in 1877, Wimbledon has been cancelled a total of 10 times before. All of which happened during the first world war (1915-1918) and second (1940-1945). The event has never been delayed or scrapped during peacetime.

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Resumption Of ATP Tour Uncertain, Admits Chairman

The chief of the men’s tennis tour has issued an update concerning the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

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It is still uncertain that the men’s tour will resume on the date previously set out due to the ongoing Coronavirus threat, according to one of the chiefs of men’s tennis.

 

ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has provided a date about the current situation in a statement. At present both the ATP and WTA Tours have been suspended until June 7th in a joint agreement by the two. A decision that has wiped out the entire European clay court swing and triggered the French Open to be controversially delayed until September. No top-level tournament have taken place since the last week of February.

“Unfortunately, the repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across all areas of society, as well as by our players, tournaments, and the Tour,” Gaudenzi said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is bigger than any sport. The current situation raises many questions which we empathize with greatly, and we are working hard on evaluating all options.
“Our ability to address any supportive measures will be best guided once we know the duration of the crisis and when the Tour will resume, which remains unknown at this time. This remains an evolving situation that will require significant time to deal with in the coming weeks and months, and we must avoid making any rushed decisions without knowing first when the crisis will end. Understanding the full duration and scale of this crisis will be critical to addressing any measures related to its repercussions.”

At present the next tournaments on the men’s calendar are in Estoril, Portugal and Munich, Germany. Although both of those are still up in the air. In Portugal their premier football league has been cancelled until further notice and there have been more than 2000 cases of covid-19. Although that number is significantly less than other countries, their health care system is already under pressure. Meanwhile, Germany has implemented strict measures.

There are also fears over if Wimbledon will be able to go ahead as planned. The UK is currently in a lockdown for an estimated three weeks. That will take it up to roughly April 15th if there isn’t any further extension. It is expected that a final decision by the All England Club will be made next month. Although they reportedly ruled out the idea of moving the event into the slot that was filled by the Olympics, which will now take place in 2021.

“Sources at the All England Club suggested on Tuesday that, amid the huge uncertainty, it makes little sense now to postpone The Championships from their current start date of June 29,” the Daily Mail reports.
“The delayed window is not considered significant enough extra time to warrant the enormous upheaval of rescheduling the big fortnight. For now the official policy is to stick with the current arrangements, even though major sports events are falling like nine pins.”

Gaudenzi, who is a former player himself, has stated that all grass-court events are currently on the ATP calendar as planned. However, it is possible that this could change in the coming days due to the unpredictability of Covid-19.

“We continue to assess all options related to preserving and maximising the calendar based on various return dates for the Tour. It goes without saying that full cooperation with the other governing bodies is essential. We are in close discussion with all the grass-court events and they remain on the calendar as scheduled at this time,” he said.
“The reality is this is a rapidly evolving situation and there is no option other than to take this day-by-day and week-by-week.”

Throughout the suspension, the ATP rankings have been frozen. An approach the WTA has also taken.

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Murray Brothers Still Hoping To Play Wimbledon Together

The British duo are hoping to one day join forces at their home grand slam, but is isn’t as simple as that.

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Former world No.1 doubles player Jamie Murray admits that there is still a sense of uncertainty surrounding the comeback of his brother Andy to the ATP Tour.

 

The 34-year-old has revealed that he and his brother are hoping that they will be able to join forces at Wimbledon one year before one of them retires from the sport. Jamie is just a year older than Andy. The two have never played together in a grand slam before. Their last last tournament played was at the 2019 Washington Open.

“We don’t know what will happen with Andy’s hip but we hope he’s going to get back fit and healthy and get back on to the court,” Jamie told the Scotsman.
“I haven’t seen him for a while – this break will give us the chance to catch up – but I know he’s been practising which is good news.
“We’ve always said we wanted to play Wimbledon one time together before we stop and hopefully we’ll get that chance.”

Three-time grand slam champion Andy hasn’t played a competitive match since the Davis Cup finals last November. He has been sidelined from the tour due to what was initially thought to be pelvic bruising. Although it is now believed that the discomfort he has been experiencing in the groin area is related to soft tissue growing around his metal hip. The medical term is called heterotopic ossification, which is defined as an abnormal growth of bone in the non-skeletal tissues.

It is the latest blow for the injury-stricken player, who has also undergone two surgeries on his hip in a bid to prolong his career. In a recent interview with Amazon prime, Andy admitted that he was ‘thinking the worst’ with the prospect of being forced to go under the knife once again. At present this is not the case with the Brit currently continuing his rehabilitation.

“It’s been difficult, the emotional ups and downs of just not knowing what’s going on and then being given potential worst case scenarios and thinking this might be it.” He said.
“You go into scans thinking if you get the wrong news from this then it’s done. So it’s hard from that respect, but thankfully that’s been really good.
“I’ve been practicing on these courts the last couple of weeks and been feeling quite well. Practiced two, two-and-a-half hours some days and it’s [the injury] has been responding well so fingers crossed it stays that way.”

Former top five player Tim Henman recently watched Andy in action during a training session. Describing his play as ‘hitting the ball well’ before adding that he is ‘building up his strength all the time.’ Andy has won 46 ATP titles and spent 41 consecutive weeks as world No.1

Due to the suspension of the tour, it is unclear as to when either of the Murray brothers will be returning to action. This year’s Wimbledon Championships are also in doubt due to the Covid-19 pandemic with a final decision on the event being played set to be made next month.

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