Australian Open Draw Preview: Serena Slammed With A Tough Draw, Kerber Given Comfortable Start - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Draw Preview: Serena Slammed With A Tough Draw, Kerber Given Comfortable Start

Australian Open, the first grand slam of the 2017, has been drawn! As always, it brought a lot of great first round match-ups and roads to the title for different players.

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First Quarter

 

Topping the draw is the World No. 1 Angelique Kerber. Her first round opponent will be Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, who is currently playing in the semifinals of Hobart. This means she is in good form, but will also be fatigued for the match. Second round will either be a German derby with Carina Witthoeft or will be faced with a qualifier. Kerber’s third round opponent could be any of 27th seed Irina-Camelia Begu, Yaroslava Shvedova, Viktorija Golubic or Kristyna Pliskova. Any of them could play her, and all of them could give her a hard time. They are hard hitters, and on the right day could pull of the upset over Kerber. The No. 1 has looked very shaky in the first weeks of the season, suffering early losses to Svitolina and Kasatkina. The section from which will come Kerber’s Round of 16 opponent has a lot of potential upsetters for Kerber. 23rd seed Daria Kasatkina, who defeated Kerber in Sydney, Eugenie Bouchard, as well as a blockbuster first round between 15th seed Roberta Vinci and big-serving CoCo Vandeweghe.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Kerber on her way to semifinals can be 7th seed Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard had a solid start to the year, beating the likes of Stosur, Kasatkina or Kuznetsova in Brisbane, before retiring to Alize Cornet in the semifinals. This put some question marks around Muguruza, but she has been granted an easy first round match against Marina Erakovic. In the second round, she will most probably face Auckland champion Lauren Davis. Third round should again be a bit easier, with 32nd seed Anastasija Sevastova and Christina McHale being the most likely options. Overall a pretty easy intro into Australian Open for Muguruza. Her projected 4th round opponent is her countrywoman Carla Suarez Navarro, seeded 10th. However, she is far from a certain pick for the match. Suarez Navarro starts off against the dangerous Slovak Jana Cepelova, a serial upsetter who has wins over Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza under her belt. Even if she passes through her second round against Sorana Cirstea, she will be met by one of her difficult 3rd round opponents, Shenzhen finalist Alison Riske, Madison Brengle, who beat Serena at Auckland or 20th seed Shuai Zhang, last year’s quarterfinalist.

Second Quarter

4th seed Simona Halep is headlining the second quarter of the draw, and will most likely be the semifinal hurdle for Angelique Kerber. In the Romanian’s way will stand Shelby Rogers in the first round, and Ashleigh Barty or Annika Beck in the second round. Halep hasn’t started her season in the best fashion, falling to Katerina Siniakova in the second round of Shenzhen. Rogers played well so far in 2017, scoring wins over Bouchard, Sevastova and Arruabarrena, and their match should definitely be on upset alert. Halep’s expected 3rd round opponent is Monica Puig, but since her Olympic triumph in early August, the Puerto Rican has won only 4 matches, and has no wins in 2017 so far. It will most likely be here, as Puig will play Patricia-Maria Tig in the first round, also winless in 2017. This slump of other opponents may open the door of opportunity for 16 year-old Destanee Aiava, Australian wildcard who is the first player born in 2000s to play in a Grand Slam. The Australian will start her journey against a qualifier, and then play the winner of the aforementioned match between Puig and Tig. Halep’s potential Round of 16 opponent will either be 19th seed Kiki Bertens or 13th seed Venus Williams, who were both given pretty soft draws until their 3rd round clash.

On the other side of the quarter is 8th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who has gone 3-2 so far in 2017, reaching quarterfinals in Brisbane. 26th seed Laura Siegemund, former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, Shenzhen champion Katerina Siniakova and Julia Goerges are all going to be competing for one 3rd round spot against Kuznetsova, making it as hard as possible for her to proceed further. 11th seed Elina Svitolina is also gunning for the quarterfinals, with a potentially tricky draw looming ahead. First challenge will be Galina Voskoboeva, who is coming back from her hiatus, and her second round opponent will either be a qualifier or Francesca Schiavone, who is playing her last Australian Open. 3rd round opponent Pavlyuchenkova has also been solid this year, getting wins over Samantha Stosur and Svetlana Kuznetsova in Sydney.

Third Quarter

Definitely the hardest section to predict is the third quarter. Starting off the quarter is 6th seed Karolina Pliskova, Brisbane 2017 champion. She will have the challenge of facing the unorthodox Monica Niculescu in the second round, and one of Ostapenko or Putintseva, both very tricky opponents, but the big-serving Czech should get through. 4th round is full of tough players, leading with 22nd seed Daria Gavrilova, who looks to be the most likely to reach the Round of 16. Even though Bacsinszky is the higher seed, she hasn’t played this year yet and is going to play Camila Giorgi. Players like Ana Konjuh and Kristina Mladenovic are going to be there to push the players to the best of their abilities.

Highest seed in the third quarter is 3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole is in great form as she is currently in the final of Sydney facing Johanna Konta. On the way there, Radwanska beat McHale, Duan and Strycova without losing a set. For a player like Radwanska, a very physical and grinding player, one of the keys to Grand Slam success is making sure her matches are short, to not drop sets in the early stages of the tournament, or she will be fatigued and more prone to lose. This is something that will be hard to do, as the World No. 3 kicks-off her Australian Open against Tsvetana Pironkova, to whom she lost at Roland Garros. Follow that with a 3rd round against Alize Cornet and a 4th against Samantha Stosur or Elena Vesnina, and Radwanska will have to put together a series of impressive performances to keep herself in the tournament.

Fourth Quarter

The final quarter is headlined by the odds-on favorite and 2nd seed Serena Williams. The American was slammed with incredibly difficult opening two rounds, starting against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic. The 19 year-old has a tough season behind her, dropping to No. 48 after she made the Top 10. She has won the most recent match in 2015, when Bencic beat Williams on her way to the biggest title of her career so far in Montreal. Williams’ second round will either be against Yanina Wickmayer, or former No. 5 Lucie Safarova, who also suffered through an injury-ridden 2016, and is looking to redeem herself in the new season. After the 3rd round, the American will have a chance to catch her breath as she was drawn against probably the weakest seed in the tournament, Timea Babos. Other possibilities like Nicole Gibbs or Irina Falconi won’t do much damage either. 4th round will bring a must-watch match for sure with any of the possibilites, from the seeds Barbora Strycova and Caroline Garcia to floaters like Andrea Petkovic or Kateryna Bondarenko.

Serena’s quarterfinal opponent is projected to be 6th seed Dominika Cibulkova. After a great finish to 2016, she will attempt to continue her form into 2017. The Slovak’s draw is pretty soft, with none of Allertova, Knapp or Hsieh being a threat in the two opening rounds. The third round isn’t the worst either, with 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova who is struggling for stability, Sara Errani, Ekaterina Alexandrova and Risa Ozaki. Round of 16 for Cibulkova will be a round of hell, with many different players who can threaten her looming from that section. Most notable is 9th seed Johanna Konta, defending her 2016 semifinal. Konta is in great form in 2017, reached the Sydney final in which she will play Agnieszka Radwanska. 17th seed Caroline Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka could also prevent Cibulkova from reaching quarterfinals, if given the chance.

My Predictions

Australian Open is always the most difficult slam to predict, simply because we don’t have that much data about the players in this year yet, and it takes serious tennis knowledge to be able to predict, yet I will take a crack at it nonetheless.

Round of 32
(1) Angelique Kerber def. (27) Irina-Camelia Begu
Coco Vandeweghe def. Eugenie Bouchard
(20) Shuai Zhang def. (10) Carla Suarez Navarro
(7) Garbine Muguruza def. Christina McHale
(4) Simona Halep def. Destanee Aiava
(19) Kiki Bertens def. (13) Venus Williams
(11) Elina Svitolina def. (24) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
(8) Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Katerina Siniakova
(5) Karolina Pliskova def. Jelena Ostapenko
(22) Daria Gavrilova def. Danka Kovinic
(14) Elena Vesnina def. Johanna Larsson
(3) Agnieszka Radwanska def. Maria Sakkari
(6) Dominika Cibulkova def. Sara Errani
(17) Caroline Wozniacki def. (9) Johanna Konta
(16) Barbora Strycova def. (21) Caroline Garcia
(2) Serena Williams def. Nicole Gibbs

Round of 16
(1) Angelique Kerber def. Coco Vandeweghe
(7) Garbine Muguruza def. (20) Shuai Zhang
(4) Simona Halep def. (19) Kiki Bertens
(11) Elina Svitolina def. (8) Svetlana Kuznetsova
(5) Karolina Pliskova def. (22) Daria Gavrilova
(3) Agnieszka Radwanska def. (14) Elena Vesnina
(17) Caroline Wozniacki def. (6) Dominika Cibulkova
(2) Serena Williams def. (16) Barbora Strycova

Quarterfinals
(1) Angelique Kerber def. (7) Garbine Muguruza
(11) Elina Svitolina def. (4) Simona Halep
(5) Karolina Pliskova def. (3) Agnieszka Radwanska
(2) Serena Williams def. (17) Caroline Wozniacki

Semifinals
(11) Elina Svitolina def. (1) Angelique Kerber
(5) Karolina Pliskova def. (2) Serena Williams

Final
(5) Karolina Pliskova def. (11) Elina Svitolina

 

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Carlos Alcaraz: “It means a lot for me to be part of tennis history”

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Carlos Alcaraz enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2022. Alcaraz has become the first teenager and the youngest ever year-end number 1 player. He started the year at world number 32 and finished it as world number 1 after winning his first Grand Slam title against Casper Ruud in the final of the US Open, two Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Madrid and two ATP 500 tournaments in Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. 

 

Carlos Alcaraz: “It means a lot to me to receive the Number 1 Trophy, to be part of tennis history, along with a lot of legends. It’s an amazing feeling. All the hard work pays off”. 

Alcaraz becomes the youngest Grand Prix men’s champion since Rafael Nadal at 2005 Roland Garros and US Open men’s champion since Pete Sampras in 1990.  He is the youngest player to beat both Nadal and Djokovic and the first to achieve this feat at the same clay-court tournament, beating them on back-to-back days en route to winning his second Masters 1000 title in Madrid 2022. 

Alcaraz becomes the first player outside the Big Four of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to finish the year at number 1 since Andy Roddick in 2003. The Spanish player won the joint most ATP Tour titles along Novak Djokovic. 

It is the first time since 1996 that two players from the same country have finished number 1 and 2. US stars Pete Sampras and Michael Chang were the last players to achieve this feat. 

Alcaraz is one the three new players in the year-end top 10 along world number 6 Felix Auger Aliassime and and Taylor Fritz. Alcaraz and Rune are the first pair of teenagers to finish in the top 15 since 1990. 

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The Ultimate Tennis Showdown returns in 2023

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The Ultimate Tennis Showdown plans to return in 2023. The tennis league was founded by coach Patrick Mouratoglou in 2020 when the ATP and the WTA Tours were shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The UTS announced that it will hold exhibition matches in July, September, November and December in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. 

The league introduces a series of innovative rules, including four 8-minute quarters, no second serves, relaxed code of conduct, sudden death tie-breaks, bonus cards and mid-match interviews with players, player nicknames. The goal is to attract a larger and younger tennis fanbase. 

The first edition of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown was held without spectators in Southern France in June 2020 to give players the chance to play matches when the ATP and WTA tournaments were not held during the covid-19 pandemic. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Felix Auger Aliassime, Danil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem highlighted the inaugural edition. 

Patrick Mouratoglou: “I cannot give too much away, but the roster will be impressive. Our first approach with Ultimate Tennis Showdown was to validate the proof of concept. Then in 2022 we raised capital to run the events in front of a real crowd”.

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Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune and Jack Draper are nominated in three categories for the 2022 ATP Awards

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The ATP has announced the Awards Nominees for the 2022 season for five categories: Comeback Player of the Year, the Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Stefan Edberg Sportsmanships Award and Coach of the Year. 

 

Carlos Alcaraz and his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero have received a total of three nominations. Alcaraz has been nominated for the Most Improved Player of the Year alongside Maxime Cressy, Jack Draper and Holger Rune. This award will be given to the player who reached a significantly higher ATP Ranking by year’s end and who showed an improved level of performance through the year. 

Alcaraz is the youngest and first teenage player in ATP Rankings history since 1973, rising to top spot at the age of 19 after his US Open title after ending the 2021 season at world number 32. He beat Casper Ruud in the 2022 US Open final, becoming the youngest Grand Slam men’s champion since Rafael Nadal won the 2005 French Open, and the youngest US Open champion since Pete Sampras in 1990. 

Former world number 1 junior player Holger Rune broke into top 100 in January 2022 and ended the season in the top 10 after winning his first Masters 1000 title in Paris Bercy. 

French-born American born Maxime Cressy broke into Top 100 in January 2022 and achieved a career-high of world number 31 in August 2022. 

Jack Draper and Holger Rune have been nominated in both the Most Improved Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year categories.

Draper started the 2022 season outside the top 200 and broke into the top 50 reaching world number 45 last October. During the 2022 season Draper reached his first ATP Tour semifinal in Eastbourne as wild card. He earned the biggest win of his career over world number 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to reaching the quarter final at the Montreal Masters 1000 as qualifier and beat Felix Auger Aliassime to reach the US Open third round. 

Alcaraz has also been nominated for the Stefan Sportsmanship Award for the first year alongside Felix Auger Aliassime, Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud and Frances Tiafoe. The player, who conducted himself at the highest level of professionalism and integrity, who competed with the utmost spirit of fairness and who promoted the game through his off-court activities.

The nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year are are Borna Coric, Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and Wu Yibing. The player who has overcome serious injury in re-establishing himself as one of the top players on the ATP Tour. 

Coric beat world number 3 Rafael Nadal as world number 152 en route to his title in Cincinnati, becoming the lowest-ranked champion in Masters 1000 series history. 

Thiem fell out of top 300 last June after losing to Hugo Dellien at Roland Garros, but he returned to good form last autumn when he reached the semifinals at the 2022 European Open after beating Hubert Hurkacz. The Austrian player beat Tommy Paul in a tight three-set match with two tie-breaks after saving two match points. 

Wawrinka returned to his best form last October, when he beat world number 3 Casper Ruud and Brandon Nakashima at the Swiss Open in Basel, climbing 15 positions up to the top 150 in the ATP Ranking. 

Wu Yibing did not play from March 2019 to January 2022 due to injuries, rising from 1869 in March 2022 to career-high number 173 in August 2022 after winning titles at Orange Park, Orlando Challenger, Rome, USA Challenger and Indianapolis Challenger. 

The candidates for the the Newcomer of the Year are Holger Rune, Jack Draper, Jiri Lehecka, Ben Shelton, Chun-Hsin Tseng. The Newcomer of the Year is the Next Gen player who broke into the top 100 for the first time in 2022. 

Lehecka broke into the top 100 in February 2022 before reaching his career-high of world number 59 in August 2022 and qualified for the Intesa San Paolo Next Gen Finals. The Czech player world number 12 Denis Shapovalov for his first ATP Tour Main Draw win en route to reaching the semifinal at the ATP 500 tournament in Rotterdam as a qualifier. 

Shelton achieved his career-high of world number 165 at the age of 19 last August, becoming the third highest-ranked teenager behind Alcaraz and Rune. He beat world number 5 Casper Ruud to reach the third round in Cincinnati in his Masters 1000 debut, becoming the youngest US player to beat a top 5 opponent since Andy Roddick at Montreal in 2001. 

Chun-Hsin Tseng broke into top 100 last June and reached a career-high of world number 83 last August. He qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. 

The nominees for the Coach of the Year Award are Juan Carlos Ferrero (Carlos Alcaraz), Frederic Fontang (Felix Auger Aliassime), Goran Ivanisevic (Novak Djokovic), Michael Russell (Taylor Fritz) and Christian Ruud (Casper Ruud). 

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