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

 

ATP

Alexander Zverev Denies Using Phone During Match At ATP Finals

The world No.7 has insisted that he didn’t break any rules at the season-ending event.

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LONDON: Reigning ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev has denied allegations that he was swiping through his phone during a sit down in his latest match in London

 

A series of Twitter users posted footage of the German placing his hand in his bag. It appeared as if he was using a phone or some sort of electronic device. Using his thumb to either press a button or swipe something. Despite the allegations, Zverev has denied any wrongdoing. 

“My phone was in the locker room. I always leave it there. I don’t know what they saw, but it was definitely not a phone.” Zverev replied when quizzed in his press conference. 

Under rules set out by the ATP, it is an offence for players to use their phones during matches and they could potentially be penalised. The rule is in place as part of fight against match-fixing in the sport. 

“A player is not allowed to use any electronic devices (e.g. CD players, mobile phones, etc.) during matches, unless approved by the Supervisor.” The 2019 ATP rulebook states. 

Despite the 22-year-old stating his innocence, questions remain about what he was looking at inside his bag. Which is located next up the chair of the match umpire. Asked to explain, he said it might have been ‘an empty water bottle.’ 

 

Zverev will play his final match of the round-robin stage at the ATP Finals against Daniil Medvedev. He is currently 1-1 in the group after defeating Rafael Nadal before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Wednesday. 

“Days like this happen. It’s just how it is in sports.” Said Zverev after his latest loss. “Against Rafa, I played a great match. Today I didn’t. This is just how it is sometimes, even though I have to give credit to him. He played really well.”
“There are a lot of things that I did not do great, and I have to change that to have a chance on Friday.”

There are three possible scenarios in which Zverev can qualify for the semi-finals. The most simple is that if both he and Nadal or Tsitsipas win their next matches. He can also qualify if he loses to Medvedev in three sets and Tsitsipas wins. 

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ATP

ATP Finals Comeback The Wrong Example To Focus On, Insists Rafael Nadal

The world No.1 spoke bluntly about his latest performance at the ATP Finals in London.

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LONDON: Relieved, but not complacent is the best way to describe Rafael Nadal’s feelings following his turbulent win at the ATP Finals on Wednesday afternoon.

 

In what was a rematch of the US Open final, the Spaniard hit back at Daniil Medvedev to clinch a critical win. Coming back from a set behind and then a 1-5 deficit in the decider. The win was his first victory on the tour since withdrawing from the Paris Masters due to an abdominal injury.

“It was not one of the best performances of my career. Not at all. I really hope that I can play better.” The 33-year-old reflected after.
“I was better than the other day, of course. I have been playing a better level of tennis than the first day in general terms. To win this match was a combination of a lot of things: luck, some mistakes by Daniil and some good moments from myself at the end.”

It is understandable as to why a perfectionist like Nadal was far from pleased with his latest win. Despite it reviving his chances of winning the season-ending tournament for the first time in his career. His 26 winners were canceled out by 27 unforced errors. Furthermore, his second service winning rate dropped at the match progressed from 62% in the first set to 45% in the second.

“In general terms, knowing that I was not able to practice the way that I would like before the tournament, to be able to increase the level since two days ago to today like this is a very positive thing and I’m very happy with this.” The Spaniard affirms.
“Winning or losing is another thing.” He added.

The implications of Nadal’s win not only means that he extends his perfect record of winning the decisive tiebreakers at the ATP Finals (3-0), his quest to end the season as world No.1 has also been helped. Although a certain Novak Djokovic could spoil the party if he wins the tournament this week.

The 19-time grand slam champion has been praised numerous times for his fighting spirit displayed on the court. Illustrated by his latest win on the tour. However, he believes this shouldn’t be the example for rising stars of the game should focus on.

“The example is not the comeback. The example, in my opinion, is not breaking a racquet when you are 5-1 (down) in the third or not lose your self-control when things are not going the right way.” Nadal explained.
“Just staying positive, staying on the court, accepting that the opponent is playing a little bit better than you and accepting that you are not that good. That’s the only example.”

Nadal will next play Stefanos Tsitsipas on Friday. He has now won 52 matches on the tour this season.

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ATP

Relentless Rafael Nadal Fights Back From The Brink In ATP Finals Thriller

The king of clay is back on track in London after staging an audatious comeback.

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LONDON: Rafael Nadal staged a dramatic last-minute comeback to defeat Daniil Medvedev in a three-set roller-coaster at the ATP Finals.

The world No.1 struggled with his rhythm at times and looked to be on the verge of a loss after going down 0-4 in the decisive set. However, an emphatic fight back saw the Spaniard prevailed 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4), after more than two-and-a-half hours of action. Providing a much-needed boost to his chances of qualifying for the semi-final stage. 

 

“Honestly, I have been super lucky. That’s the real thing.” Said Nadal, who also saved a match point. “I feel sorry for Daniil, that is a tough loss for him. He was playing much better than me in the third (set) and today was one out of 1000 that you win. It happened to me today.”

Wednesday’s meeting at The O2 was the first clash between the two since their memorable battle at the US Open. On that day, Medvedev came back from two sets down before being edged out in the decider during what was a marathon encounter. Like New York, the two were once again locked in a roller-coaster battle. Illustrated best by the fact that Nadal only won three more points than Medvedev (108-105).

A series of gut-busting rallies saw the world No.1 being placed constantly under pressure by his Russian nemesis. A 54-minute opening set saw just one break point opportunity arising in 12 games played. That was when Medvedev had a chance to nudge ahead to 4-3 due to some tentative play from his opponent, but the Spaniard battled back once again.

It would be in the tiebreak when Medvedev secured the breakthrough he sought. A deep return forced Nadal to produced a costly error to elevate the world No.4 to a 5-3 lead. Then another tight-looking forward from the Spaniard followed to hand Medvedev two set point chances. He converted on his first with the help of a 131mph serve out wide.

Sensing the possibility that he could lose a second consecutive round-robin match in the tournament for the first time since 2009, Nadal responded valiantly. Displaying the emphatic fighting spirit that has won him many fans over the years. A break at the start of the second set revived his winning hopes. Rapidly gaining in momentum, he soon leveled the match at a set apiece after a Medvedev forehand drifted wide.

Despite Nadal’s best efforts, it looked like he was down and out once again. A lull in his form saw the 19-time grand slam champion go behind 1-5. However, he refused to be complacent with a loss. Some tentative play from Medvedev opened the door for him to hit back and level 5-5. Sending the crowd into hysterics. He would then go on to prevail in the tiebreaker after a hawk-eye call declared a Medvedev shot out on match point.

“When you have the first break at 5-3 then you are only one break away. I know from my experience how tough it is to close the match.” Nadal commented on how he managed to come back into the match.
“Especially when you are two breaks in front and you lose the first one. At that moment I thought I had a chance. I think I played a bit better towards the end.”

The triumph has done Stefanos Tsitsipas a huge favor, who Nadal will play on Friday. The Greek can secure his place in the semi-finals if he beats Alexander Zverev in straight sets later today.

“He is a great player. He has a lot of energy – very young. He is having an amazing season so it will be a very tough one.” Nadal said of Tsitsipas. “I hope to be ready for that. Let’s try to make that happen.”

Nadal’s win also has significance on the race for the year-end top spot. Novak Djokovic is now required to win the tournament if he wants to clinch the position.

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