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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Richard Gasquet reaches his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Miami 2013

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Frenchman Richard Gasquet edged past this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2 after 2 hours and 12 minutes to reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal since the 2013 Miami Open.

 

 Gasquet missed six months of action after undergoing groin surgery last January.

The French player set up a semfinal against David Goffin, who reached the semifinal after his Japanese opponent Yoshihito Nishioka withdrew from the match due to illness.

The first set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Bautista Agut hit a backhand wide at 1-2. Gasquet sealed the tie-break when Bautista Agut hit a forehand long.

Bautista Agut earned two breaks of serve in the second set and sealed it, when Gasquet made his third double fault on set point.

Gasquet broke serve with a volley in the third game of the decisive set. The French player went up a double break to race out to 4-1 lead. He saved two break points to hold his serve at deuce before serving out the third set on his first match point.

“I know how tough it was to come back. I know the moments I had at the start of the year, so I just wanted to enjoy, to fight. It is not easy to come back after six months out, but I am here. I am in semis tomorrow”,said Gasquet.

 

 

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Danil Medvedev cruises past Jan-Lennard Struff to set up an all Russian quarter final against Andrey Rublev

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Ninth seed Danil Medvedev cruised past Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3 6-1 in 66 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

 

Medvedev committed just 12 unforced errors and won 18 of Struff’s 25 second serve points.

 Medvedev broke twice in the second and eighth games to win the first set 6-2. The young Russian player got two consecutive breaks in the second and fourth games to race out to a 4-0 lead and held his service game at deuce after saving a break point in the fifth game. Struff held his serve to get his first game on the scoreboard, but Medvedev sealed the win on his first match point. The Russian player has improved his head-to-head record to 3-0 againt Struff.

Medvedev has won 11 of his past 13 matches during the North American hard-court season. He has a solid 41-16 record this season. He finished runner in two consecutive finals to Nick Kyrgios at Washington and to Rafael Nadal in Montreal.  In the quarter final the Russian star will face his compatriot Andrey Rublev, who upset Roger Federer 6-3 6-4.

Recent Wimbledon semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut cruised past Miomir Kecmanovic 6-1 6-2 in just under an hour setting up a quarter final against Richard Gasquet, who beat Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka beat Australian player Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-4 in 83 minutes with one break in each set. Nishioka rallied from 4-6 down in the tie-break of the first set to edge Adrian Mannarino 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 in 1 hour and 37 minutes.

“It was a great match and I got better as it went on. I am feeling sharp. I am feeling great now and I am looking forward to the quarter finals of a Masters 1000. I have nothing to lose”, said Goffin.

 

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Roger Federer Crashes Out Of Cincinnati Masters

The seven-time champion has suffered a blow to his preparations for the US Open.

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World No.3 Roger Federer has been knocked out of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati after falling in straight sets to Russia’s Andrey Rublev.

 

The 20-time grand slam champion struggled to find his range as he was overwhelmed by his fearless opponent during the 6-3, 6-4, loss. Despite the huge disparity in experience between the two, 21-year-old Rublev managed to dominate the majority of rallies with the help of some heavy hitting. Producing 17 winners to six unforced errors, compared to Federer’s tally of 19 and 20.

“I respect him a lot, I respect all the top players a lot, but today when I was going to court I was going there to win.” Rublev said during an interview with Amazon Prime.
“I was not going (to the match) to enjoy. I was going to fight, try to win and do my best.”

Rublev’s shock win saw the underdog outdo the Swiss maestro in almost every area of the match. Winning the most first serves (85% to 63%), second serves (57% to 63) and a bigger majority of points at the net (5/6 to 7/19). Breaking him twice in the opening set and once in the second. The Russian, who is 70th in the world, is the lowest ranked player to defeat Federer on the tour since Thanassi Kokkinakis at the 2018 Miami Open.

The loss leaves a mark on Federer’s impressive record in Cincinnati, which he has won a record seven times. It is the first time he has failed to reach the quarter-final stage since losing to Ivo Karlovic in the third round back in 2008.

“He was playing well. I was maybe struggling especially on the offensive, because overall I didn’t think I was feeling the ball badly.” Federer reflected during his press conference. “It’s just, you know, sort of fast-court conditions and when you sometimes then can’t rely on that serve to go or on the one-two punch, which I didn’t think was excellent today from my side, you need an opponent that maybe lets you get by some tougher moments, but he didn’t do that.”
“He was super clean. Defense, offense, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere. So it was tough for me, but excellent match by him. I was impressed.”

Rublev now has a meeting with compatriot Daniil Medvedev in what will be his first quarter-final at Masters level. Medvedev has reached the final of tournaments in Washington and at the Rogers Cup since Wimbledon. He is yet to drop a set this week and brushed aside Jan-Lennard Struff 6-2, 6-1, in his third round match.

“It’s going to be an interesting match for Russia.” Rublev previewed. “It will be a tough match for me because the way he plays. Nobody likes to play him.”
“I lost to him in a Challenger a few years ago, so it’s going to be interesting tomorrow.” He added.

The latest victory is only Rublev’s second over a top five player in his career. His first was against Dominic Thiem at the German Open last month.

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