Jared Donaldson faces Francis Tiafoe in Australian Open Qualifying, tough draw for Britain's Dan Evans - UBITENNIS
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Jared Donaldson faces Francis Tiafoe in Australian Open Qualifying, tough draw for Britain’s Dan Evans

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Jared Donaldson has been handed a big test in the form of compatriot Francis Tiafoe (Image via itftennis.com)

The Australian Open is set to begin tomorrow, though it is not a draw filled with names like Roger Federer, or Novak Djokovic. Instead, the Australian Open Qualifying event is starting. Here the names are a mixture of young talent, on their way up, players trying to have mid-career success, or veterans trying to stay in the games as long as possible. Some names like Radek Stepanek, and Dustin Brown will be familiar. Others like Duckhee Lee, Taylor Fritz, and Oliver Anderson might just become familiar.

The toughest draw in Australian Open Qualifying probably belongs to twenty-first seed Jared Donaldson. As a seeded player, he was entitled to believe that he would receive a favourable draw for at least the first two rounds. What he got instead was nightmare first round as he faces another young American star in Francis Tiafoe.

Qualifying top seed Luca Vanni faces an unpredictable match against Britain’s Dan Evans. Evans actually leads the head-t0-head having won the inaugural meeting at a futures event six years ago. That also took place on a hard-court. The third-round seed for Vanni or Evans is Bjorn Fratangelo, who must likely defeat teenage sensation Duckhee Lee in round two.

Third seed Tim Smyczek, who successfully qualified last year before losing to Nadal in the second round, have a favourable draw, with Kenny de Schepper the biggest name in his section. Likewise fourth seed Alejandro Falla, who might have to face recent ATP quarter-finalist Thomas Fabbiano in the third-round.

Fifth seed Jan Lenard-Struff’s section includes Tour veteran Radek Stepanek, Marinko Matosevic, and Alejandro Gonzalez. Sixth seed Lukas Lacko could face Mirza Basic, who enjoyed a strong finish to 2015.

Seventh seed Marsel Ilhan has a tough draw, with Aleksander Nedovyesov, Aldin Setkic and Ryan Harrison making stiff competition. Eighth seed Go Soeda must face the likes of Maximillian Marterer, Alexander Kudryavtsev, and likely the winner of the Tiafoe/Donaldson clash to progress.

Beginning with the bottom half of the draw, Michael Berrer, who reversed a career retirement decision last year, starts against Tristan Lamasine. All eyes will be on his second-round match though, as that could include Taylor Fritz, who starts against Hiroki Moriya. Norbert Gombos has a tricky path to meeting either Berrer or Fritz, as he has to face the winner of Mischa Zverev or Andrea Arnaboldi’s encounter, if he beats Roberto Marcora.

Tenth seed Radu Albot starts against Jan Mertl, and could face German Daniel Brands in the third round. Three Frenchman feature in that section. Eleventh seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin starts with Zhe Li of China, and his projected seed for the final round, Gastao Elias, has a very tough start against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Yuichi Sugita and Dennis Novikov make up the final seeds of the third quarter, with Ante Pavic and James Ward, who starts against Peter Polansky, also featuring.

Tatsumo Ito has a nice draw, as his seeded third-round opponent Andre Ghem, is more suited to clay events than hard-courts. However, Oliver Anderson, who recently defeated Dennis Novikov and Tim Smyczek also features here.

Kimmer Coppejans and Igor Sijsling have some tough matches to negotiate if they are to meet in the final round. Alex Bolt, Karen Khachanov, and Grega Zemlja are all names capable of springing a shock.

Dustin Brown and Konstantin Kravchuck have a good chance of meeting, as the only name in their section likely to cause trouble is Andrey Golubev.

The final section sees home hope John-Patrick Smith start against Michael Linzer. He could eventually face young Swede Elias Ymer, who plays Renzo Olivo first.

Selected first-round matches with predictions in bold

(1) Luca Vanni vs Dan Evans

(3) Tim Smyczek vs Jose Pereira

Henri Laaksonen vs (24) Alejandro Gonzalez

Francis Tiafoe vs (21) Jared Donaldson

Taylor Fritz vs Hiroki Moriya

Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs (20) Gastao Elias

(12) Yuichi Sugita vs Ante Pavic

James Ward vs Peter Polansky

(13) Tatsumo Ito vs Marton Fucsovics

 

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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