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.

Jakub Bobro

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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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WIMBLEDON: 10 Facts About Semi-Finalist Ons Jabeur

All you need to know about the Trailblazing Tunisian who has created history at The All England Club.

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image via twitter.com/wimbledon

Second seed Ons Jabeur achieved a new milestone for both her and her country at Wimbledon on Tuesday. 

 

The world No.2 battled back from a set down to defeat Marie Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the last four of a major event for the first time in her career. Jabeur has now dropped only one set in five matches played and is the highest ranked player remaining in the draw. Her major breakthrough comes seven years after she made her Grand Slam debut at the 2015 Australian Open. 

“I played really good from beginning of the second set, especially having a early break kind of helps me gain confidence,” said Jabeur.
“I know it wasn’t easy playing Marie. She gets all the balls and doesn’t make, to win a point, easy for me. I’m glad I stepped in with my game. I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially tactically I was playing some angles that she didn’t like much.”

To mark Jabeur’s Wimbledon milestone, here are 10 facts to know about her:-

  1. She is the first North African player – male or female – to reach a Grand Slam semi-final. The last woman from the entire African continent to reach a major semi-final was Amanda Coetzer at the 1997 French Open. 
  2. Her win over Bouzkova is Jabeur’s 26th Tour-level win on the grass.
  3. Jabeur has now won 83 matches over the past two seasons. This is more than any other player on the WTA Tour. 
  4. Has won 21 out of her last 23 matches.
  5. She is the only Tunisian woman currently ranked in the world’s top 700.
  6. Jabeur had failed to win back-to-back matches on her three out of her four previous appearances at Wimbledon in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She reached the quarter-finals in 2021.
  7. Coming into Wimbledon she has already earned more than $6.2m in prize money in her career.
  8. She has won three Tour titles in Birmingham (2021), Madrid (2022) and Berlin (2022). 
  9. Has beaten a top 10 player four times in her career – Dominika Cibulkova (2017 French Open), Simona Halep (Beijing 2018), Sloane Stephens (Moscow 2018) and Karolina Pliskova (Doha 2020).
  10. In October 2021 she became the first Arab player (mae or female) to crack the world’s top 10 in tennis. 

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Tatjana Maria – Reaching Wimbledon Semi-Finals is ‘Amazing’ But It Doesn’t Beat Parenthood

The underdog is enjoying her best-ever run at a major 15 years after making her debut.

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Image via twitter.com/wta

Germany’s Tatjana Maria reveals people once doubted her ability to return to tennis after having her first child. Now a mother-of-two, she has secured a place in the Wimbledon semifinals. 

 

The fairytale run of the world No.103 continued on Tuesday when she ousted compatriot Jule Niemeier 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, in her quarter-final match. Until the tournament, Maria had never been beyond the third round of a major event. However, that changed with high-profile wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko prior to Niemeier.

“It’s amazing. I mean, I tried to calm down a little bit in the locker room and to realize something, but it’s still hard to realize it,” she said of reaching the last four at Wimbledon.

Whilst some players prepare for their Grand Slam matches in the gym, Maria’s routine is somewhat unique. She began her day by taking her 8-year-old daughter to her tennis lesson. It wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she also has a 15-month-old baby.

“Outside of the court, nothing changes for me for the moment,” she said.  “I try to keep this going, everything the same. We keep going (to the tennis lessons) even if I’m playing the semifinals.”

Incredibly the 34-year-old returned to the circuit following maternity leave less than a year ago. It was during that absence that she decided to switch to a one-handed backhand. She has been ranked as high as 46th in the world and has two Tour titles to her name. 

“A lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand,” she said.
“I showed it last time already that I am back. I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child. Still, everybody was doubting.’
“I’m still here and I’m a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming.”

Relishing in her best-ever performance at a major event, Maria is another example of a player having a breakthrough later in their career. To put her run in perspective, in the Open Era only five other women have reached the semifinals at Wimbledon after turning 34.

However, in Maria’s eyes, her achievements on the court can’t beat her top priority off the court.

“To be a mum is for me on the top of my life. So I think it helps me in tennis too because now my priority is my kids,” she explains. “I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.’
“If I go out there, I want my kids to be happy, that they are healthy, that everything is okay. That’s the most important thing for me in my life.”

Maria made her Grand Slam debut back at Wimbledon in 2007. 

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Novak Djokovic Survives Almighty Sinner Scare to Reach Wimbledon Semis

The dramatic encounter featured a fight back, multiple breaks of serve and even an injury scare.

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Reigning champion Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to keep his hopes of winning a seventh Wimbledon title alive after ousting Jannik Sinner in a five-set thriller.

 


Djokovic, who only dropped six games against Sinner in their previous Tour meeting, was forced to battle back from two sets down to prevail 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in a roller-coaster encounter on Center Court. The triumph marks Djokovic’s 84th win at the tournament which is the joint-second highest tally in history alongside Jimmy Connors. Only Roger Federer has won more.

“Huge congratulations to Jannik today for a big fight. I’m sure that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for him on the big stage. He’s mature for his age and is already an established top 15 player over the last few years,” said Djokovic.
“He was unfortunate today but he has plenty of time.”

Taking on one of the most promising future prospects of men’s tennis, Djokovic’s latest encounter was a match of two halves. Initially, he appeared as if he would suffer a shock loss to world No.13 before he managed to conjure up an emphatic comeback. Breaking Sinner’s spirit who was bidding to become only the third Italian man to reach a Wimbledon semi-final in history.

“We had two different matches. He was the better player for two sets. (Then) I went out for a toilet break, had a little pep talk (with myself) in the mirror,” the 20-time major winner revealed.
“Sometimes in these circumstances where not much is happening positively for you on the court in terms of tennis. These things are necessary – a little break and pep talk to try to recuperate.’
“I was fortunate to start well in the third set by breaking his serve and that gave me the confidence boost. I saw a bit of doubt in his game and my experience of these kinds of matches helped me.”

The first set was a roller-coaster encounter between the two tennis titans on Center Court. Reigning champion Djokovic started out guns blazing by winning seven points in a row before Sinner got onto the scoreboard after prevailing in a 17-shot rally. The top seed looked to be in full control until a double fault on break point enabled his rival to bounce back. Continuing to play some inspired tennis with blistering shot-making, a cross-court winner enabled the Italian to break once again and this time had the chance to serve the opener out. A task he passed with flying colors.

Continuing to take his game to Djokovic, Sinner appeared unfazed about trying to become the youngest men’s semi-finalist at SW19 since 2007. Producing powerful hitting from the baseline, the 20-year-old extended his lead two games into the second frame. A stunning backhand volley followed by a Djokovic error elevated him to a 2-1 advantage. Spurred on by the crowd, the unprecedented onslaught continued with the help of some costly errors from the Serbian. He sealed the double break with the help of a successful Hawk-Eye challenge before securing a two-set lead in his favor with the help of a 122mph service.

Facing a swift exit, Djokovic once again illustrated the fighting spirit that he is renowned for. Capitalizing on a blip in form from Sinner, he cruised through the third set to resurrect his chances. 

Steaming rolling his way into a decider, Djokovic continued his dominance during the fourth frame by winning four straight games. However, closing that set out was full of drama. First, Sinner suffered an injury scare after going over his ankle before continuing. Then Djokovic fended off a break point and squandered two set points before closing it out. 

A stunning sliding passing shot in the decider set Djokovic up with a chance to break and move to a game away from victory. Something he did with the help of a Sinner error which the Italian instantly regretted by putting both his hands on his head. After that mishit, Djokovic ended the clash with a love service game. 

“I’ve been blessed to play professional tennis for 20 years but nevertheless I go through those doubtful moments like everybody else. The inner fight is always the biggest fight. Once you win the fight the external circumstance is more likely to go in your favor. I knew I could turn this match around. I have done that a few times in grand slams.” Djokovic concluded.


 

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