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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Dayana Yastremska Out Of Australian Open After ITF Upholds Provisional Ban

The attempt by the 20-year-old to play in the first grand slam of 2021 has failed amid speculation of another appeal to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

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It’s official Dayana Yastremska will not be competing at the Australian Open this year after an appeal to a provisional doping ban was rejected.

The world No.29 has travelled to Melbourne hoping she would be able to play the first grand slam of the year but now is out of the tournament. She had earlier tested positive for a banned substance Metabolite Mesterlone but was given a chance to appeal a provisional suspension. Explaining why she was able to board a flight organised by Tennis Australia in spite of ITF rules. The rulebook states that players serving a provisional ban are not allowed to participate in activities organised by a tournament.

 

An application by Dayana Yastremska to lift the provisional suspension imposed on her on 7 January 2021 under Article 8.3.1(c) of the 2020 Tennis Anti-Doping Programme has been denied by the Chair of the Independent Tribunal convened to hear her case,” the ITF said in a statement.
“This decision is subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Ms. Yastremska, WADA and the National Anti-Doping Center of Ukraine.”

Yastremska has denied any wrongdoing and says she has ‘scientific evidence’ that her positive test was a result of contamination. Although she didn’t elaborate any further as to what that evidence is.

Only a very low concentration of mesterolone metabolite was detected in my urine,” she wrote in a statement. “Given that low concentration and my negative test two weeks earlier, I have received scientific advice that the result is consistent with some form of contamination event.”

The 20-year-old is among 72 players who have been placed into strict isolation in Melbourne following a series of positive COVID-19 cases detected on flights en route to the country. She is not allowed to leave her room for 14 days and even then she will be prohibited from entering Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, following to the latest ruling.

The announcement is a major blow to the beginning of Yastremska’s season. She will have to wait to see what happens next and if she is able to make another appeal before the next event after the first grand slam of the year.

There have been no official statement from Yastremska or her team following the ITF’s decision.

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Corrado Barazzutti believes that Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner can win a Grand Slam title in the future

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Italian Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti told in an interview to Italian Sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner have the chance to win a Grand Slam title in the future. 

 

“Matteo has made a step forward in his career by joining the top 10. It’s important that he could train for the 2021 season without injuries. He needs to play many matches to find a good rhythm and the confidence. I hope that the calendar can help him. He is a relative newcomer and he has still room for improvement. Don’t rule Fabio Fognini out. He underwent two surgeries and it was not easy to recover from that and return to his best shape. As he was trying to find a good rhythm by playing some matches on the Tour, he was tested positive for the Covid-19. When he was training with me until October, he could not fully train, because the pain had not disappeared. First he has to return to his best shape. The first months will be difficult, but I am sure that he will return to his best level during the clay season. Jannik Sinner will have the opportunity to train with Rafael Nadal in Australia and this experience will make him grow. He will have to deal with the pressure. Everyone expects great results soon and will have ups and downs. I think that Matteo and Jannik can win a Grand Slam title in the future. Berrettini has already played a Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open. Sinner reached the quarter final at Roland Garros. In a Grand Slam tournament what matters most is to be competitive for two weeks. Players need to be lucky with the draw. The Big Three will not be at the top for a long time and our players will take advantage and fight for the big titles. There are good players like Salvatore Caruso, Gianluca Mager and Stefano Travaglia. If I can bet 1 euro, I would focus on Marco Cecchinato. He has reurned to his best shape and will be again one of the most competitive players on clay. A semifinal at Roland Garros can not be forgotten in three years”, said Barazzutti. 

Italy could host some round robin of the revamped Davis Cup Finals in Turin in 2021. A 10-week bidding process opened this week for European cities interested to join Madrid in hosting the next edition of the Davis Cup, which will be held over 11 days across three host cities. 

“Davis Cup organisers contacted me to ask for an opinion on the the new format. I told them that hosting the Davis Cup in three days would help this event return to its old tradition, hoping that the crowd will be able to attend our matches soon. It will be very emotional, but at the same time a big responsibility. It will not be enough just to take part in this event”. 

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Dominic Thiem dreams to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros

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Last year’s US Open champion Dominic Thiem lost two consecutive finals to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019. The Austrian player faced the Spanish legend four times in his favourite Grand Slam tournament and won just one set in the final in 2019. Nadal beat Thiem 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 in three hours to lift his 12th Roland Garros title. 

 

Last October Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in the final of the 2020 French Open in three sets, while Thiem lost an epic quarter final clash against Diego Schwartzman after five hours. 

Thiem reached the Roland Garros Junior final in 2011. He made his debut in the senior tournament in 2014 and lost to Nadal in straight sets. In 2016 Thiem reached the French Open semifinal and lost to Djokovic in straight sets. 

Thiem was the only player who beat Nadal on clay in 2017 and 2018. 

Thiem ended Nadal’s 19-match winning streak on clay to reach the Rome Masters 1000 semifinal before losing to Djokovic in straight sets. The Austrian star did not drop a set and beat Djokovic 7-6 6-3 6-0 en route to his second straight Roland Garros semifinal, but he lost to Nadal 6-3 6-4 6-0. 

Thiem beat Alexander Zverev to advance to his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, but he lost to Nadal in the final. He became the second Grand Slam finalist from Austria, joining 1995 Roland Garros champion Thomas Muster. Thiem beat Nadal en route to his second consecutive Masters 1000 final in Madrid ending the Spaniard’s 50-set clay winning streak.

Thiem won an ATP 500 title on clay in Barcelona (beating Nadal and Danil Medvedev) and beat Nadal on this surface for this surface for the fourth consecutive season becoming the second player to earn four wins or more over Nadal on clay. 

In a recent interview to the German website Sportschau.de Thiem talked about the biggest goal of his career.

“My biggest goal is to win the French Open. I like the tournament the most, and the conditions suit my game. I played the junior final in 2011, and I have wanted to win it ever since. Rafael Nadal is in a league of his own at Roland Garros. I am confident against him at other tournaments, but it becomes extra tough on Court Phillippe Chatrier. He lost twice in 16 years in Paris; that’s insane. Rafael should be the favourite in Paris for another year or two. Nadal is in a class of his own, and I don’t know if I trust myself to do it I have never managed to beat him there. Beating him on this center court is probably one of the hardest things there has ever been in sport, but it’s still my goal and I will try again in 2021.. ”, said Thiem. 

Thiem is one of the biggest favourites at the upcoming Australian Open. He finished runner-up in the Australian Open final last year losing to Novak Djokovic and hopes to avenge this defeat next February at Melbourne Park and win the second Grand Slam title of his career. The Austrian player claimed his first US Open title in his fourth Grand Slam final after beating Alexander Zverev in five sets after 4 hours and 2 minutes. After winning his first Grand Slam title, Thiem believes that he can win more Major tournaments. 

“I definitely want to win the Australian Open. I go to every and want to win it, perhaps with the exception of Wimbledon. In a match I have not loosened up now because I have won a Grand Slam. I am just as nervous as before. That won’t change until the end of my career. I also know that when I play well and I am well prepared, my chances are good to get far. My preparation in the off season went very well. I worked a lot on my physical preparation. It was very nice to spend the Christmas holidays at home in Austria with my family”. 

Thiem led Djokovic by two sets to one in last year’s Australian Open final and admitted that it took time to get over this defeat. 

“Over time, I have learnt to deal with defeats better. Of course there are defeats that really hurt. Last year’s defeat in Australia was one of those, and I must have gnawed at it for tow, three or four months”. 

Thiem is spending 14 days of quarantine in Adelaide with five other players and their training partners. He thinks that the 72 players, who are forced to stay in their room for 24 hours in hard lockdown in Melbourne, will pay the price after 14 days of lockdown. 

 “It’s clear there is a complete inequality of opportunity. All players are fresh out of their pre-season. They are in really good shape and have top fitness. If you can’t leave your room for 14 days, it does not matter how much fitness you do in the room, a lot of it just goes away, but that’s the risk we all took. It’s very bitter and unfortunate. For all the players in Melbourne, I think it’s OK. They can train as it was planned. Fortunately, those who are in hard quarantine, will have nine days before the start of the Australian Open”. 

Thiem has been used to quarantine, as he spent 14 days in New York last summer before winning the first Grand Slam tournament of his career. “I am now used to quarantine and I know what to expect. The bubble was a big change in New York, but I have experienced that in Paris, Vienna and London. The situation is not worse in Australia. It is not easy to play a tournament behind closed doors. We expect a bug cheers from the fans after a great rally, but we do not hear anything from the crowd. In these circumstances we feel alne on the court”.

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