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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Matteo Berrettini reaches his second Masters 1000 semifinal

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Matteo Berrettini has reached the second Masters 1000 semifinal of his career with his 5-7 6-3 6-0 win over Cristian Garin at the Madrid Mutua Open at the Caja Magica. 

 

Berrettini fought back from 3-6 1-3 down by winning 11 consecutive games to take the win in the third set. 

Garin earned an immediate break in the first game, but Berrettini broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. Garin won seven consecutive points from 5-5 15-30 to claim the first set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game thanks to a backhand passing shot. 

Garin went up a 3-1 lead in the second set with a break in the third game. Berrettini broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 with a forehand winner on the break point. 

Berrettini earned his second break to take a 5-3 lead, when Garin made three unforced errors. The Italian player served out 6-3 at love with an ace.

Berrettini broke serve in the first game and saved two break-back points in the second game to hold serve for 2-0. Berrettini earned his double break in the third game, as Garin made two consecutive unforced errors at 40-40. Berrettini held serve at duece to race out to a 4-0 lead. Garin missed four game points in the fifth game before dropping serve to trail 0-5, when he committed a double fault and an unforced error. Berrettini served out the third set at love with his 14th ace after 2 hours and 6 minutes to secure his spot in his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Shanghai 2019.    

“I am really proud that I came back from not an easy place mentally after my injury. I really worked hard. There were days. There were days where I wasn’t really feeling into practice because I felt like kind of there was a lot of work to be done. Sometimes I was feeling kind of unlucky that I got injured again. It was just tough, but I came back stronger in Belgrade. For here, I proved to myself that I am strong inside”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini will take on Casper Ruud in the semifinals. They will battle for a spot into their first Masters 1000 final. Ruud beat Berrettini in the quarter final in Rome last year. 

“I think he is a great player, especially on clay. He has been playing really good, really solid so far this season. We always had tough matches. Last year in Rome it was a really tough match. Still if I think about it, it hurts. I am really looking forward to get my revenge, not in a bad way, but just in a way that’s in a sport way”, said Berrettini. 

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Casper Ruud reaches his third consecutive clay Masters 1000 semifinal

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Casper Ruud beat Alexander Bublik 7-5 6-1 to reach his third career Masters 1000 semifinal at the Madrid Mutua Open after advancing to this stage in Rome in 2020 and Monte-Carlo in 2021. 

 

Ruud backed up his win in the third round against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday with a straight set win over Bublik. Ruud won 8 of the final nine games and hit 19 winners to seal the win in 69 minutes. Ruud hit nine forehand winners to just two unforced forehand errors.

Ruud broke Bublik in the 11th game on his fourth set point to take the first set 7-5, as Bublik was serving at 5-6. The Norwegian player broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to claim the second set 6-1 in 69 minutes. 

The son of former Norwegian player Christian Ruud has not broken yet and faced his first break point this week against Bublik. 

Ruud becomes the seventh unseeded ATP player to advance to the semifinals in Madrid. He will face either Matteo Berrettini or Christian Garin in the semifinal. 

 “It’s a great feeling. It’s my third Masters 1000 semifinal and my third in a row on clay. I am just playing the tennis of my life for the moment and I am enjoying it. I have just had an unbelievable motivation to play the European clay swing and when we didn’t get to play it last year, I was very sad. I think I have just double motivation compared to last year”, said Ruud.

Ruud will move up to at least world number 16 in the ATP Ranking next week. 

“I did a lot of good work when we had the corona break last year. I trained really hard on the weekdays and took the weekends off. I think that worked well. When we started well, I felt good again. I think I am a much better player mentally, physically and playing-wise as well. I am hitting the ball and playing the heavy clay-court game that I like to play”, said Ruud. 

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Aryna Sabalenka beats Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to set up a re-match of the Stuttgart final against Ashleigh Barty

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Aryna Sabalenka has reached her third final of the season with a 6-2 6-3 win over six-time Grand Slam quarter finalist Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinal of the Madrid Mutua Open. 

 

Sabalenka earned her first break to take a 3-1 lead. She hi a series of forehands in the final game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Sabalenka raced out to a 4-0 lead with a double break. Pavlyuchenkova earned her first break points, but Sabalenka held serve for 5-0. Pavlyuchenkova pulled one break in the seventh game and held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Sabalenka hit two backhands to earn her first match point and sealed the win with her fourth ace .  

Sabalenka has extended her win-loss record to 23-6 (including 9-1) this year. She has won the opening tournament of the season and lost the Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix final to Ashleigh Barty. 

Barty and Sabalenka will meet again in the Madrid Mutua Open this week in the re-match of the Stuttgart final

The Belarusian player has not dropped a set this week. The Belarusian player won 73 % of her second service points and converted four of her break points against Pavlyuchenkova, who had won their only previous head-to-head match in Toronto in 2019. 

“I think my game has improved a lot on the clay court. For sure, it’s given me some confidence, but there are still so many things to work on. I am just really with my level here in Madrid. I think from the side it looks like everything is going my way. Some games I did not feel my serve. Some games something wasn’t working. It’s always part of the process, but I am really happy that from the side, it looks like everything is going my way”,said Sabalenka. 

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