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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Flavio Cobolli beats Ben Shelton to reach the quarter final in Geneva

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Flavio Cobolli came back from one set down to beat fourth seed Ben Shelton 4-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 at the Gonet Geneva Open. Cobolli has scored the second top 20 win of his career.

Shelton started the clay season with his second title in Houston and reached back-to-back third rounds in Madrid and Rome. The US player lost to Zhang Zhizhen in Rome. 

Cobolli reached his first Grand Slam third round at the Australian Open last January. During the clay season the Italian player he reached the third round in Madrid and pushed Sebastian Korda to third round in Rome. He beat Australian Open semifinalist Aslan Karatsev in straight sets to set up a second round match against Ben Shelton. 

Shelton earned the only break in the seventh game of the first set to serve it out after 38 minutes. The US player went up a set and a break in the third game and held on his serve to take a 4-2 lead. 

Shelton saved three break points at 4-3 in a marathon eighth game, but Cobolli converted his converted his fourth chance with a well-angled pass to draw level to 4-4. Cobolli rallied from 0-30 down to earn a set point. Shelton saved it with a big serve and held a long service game to force a tie-break. Cobolli earned three mini-breaks and dropped just one point to win the tie-break 7-1. 

Cobolli broke serve in the fourth game and saved two break points in the next game to consolidate. Cobolli broke for the second time in the seventh game after a double fault from Shelton. Cobolli hit an ace to bring up three match points. Shelton saved the first chance but Cobolli converted his second chance with another ace to set up a quarter final against Alexander Schevchenko., who reached the last eight, after Emil Ruusuvuori withdrew from the match due to illness. 

Cobolli scored his first top 20 win against Nicolas Jarry at this year’s Australian Open. 

“This year I have played against a lot of lefties. I like to play lefties and you saw today that I am really happy. It was a difficult match, but I am really happy”, said Cobolli. 

Yannik Hanfmann beat Andy Murray 7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 43 minutes. Hanfmann was leading 7-5 4-1 before the match was interrupted by rain. Hanfmann did not face a break point. The German player broke serve in the 11th game to win the first set 7-5. He broke serve in the third and fifth games and served out the second set on his second match point. 

Hanfmann set up a second round match against world number 1 Novak Djokovic. Denis Shapovalov won 12 of 13 games from 1-4 down to beat Federico Coria. The Canadian player set up a second round match against Tallon Griekspoor, who beat Christophen Eubanks 6-4 1-6 6-3. 

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Alexander Zverev beats Alejandro Tabilo to reach the third final of his career in Rome

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Akexander Zverev came back from one set down to beat Alejandro Tabilo 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 reaching the third final of his career at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and his first Masters 1000 final since 2022. 

Zverev reached his 11th career Masters 1000 final, equalling his compatriot Boris Becker for most Masters 1000 final appearances by a German man since the series started in 1990.

Tabilo earned a double break point with a forehand drop shot winner. The Chilean player forced an error with a topspin forehand into the corner to earn his first break in the fourth game for 3-1 after just 13 minutes. Tabilo saved two break points to consolidate the break for 4-1. Tabilo held three break points and hit a forehand return winner to break at love for 5-1. The Toronto-born Chilean player closed out the first set with drop-shot winners. He won 10 of the last 12 points of the first set. 

Zverev won his first service game of the second set to stop his losing streak. The German player held serve in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. 

Zverev double fault to face a break point. He saved it with a big serve and held serve for 4-3 in the seventh game. This year’s Auckland champion Tabilo held serve at love to force the second set to the tie-break. 

Tabilo earned the mini-break after Zverev made his fifth double fault at the start of the tie-break. Zverev pulled back on serve on the third point as Tabilo netted a backhand. Zverev went up a mini-break to take a 4-3 lead after one of the longest rallies of the match. Zverev converted his second set point to force the match the third set. 

Zverev earned three break points in the third game of the decider with a crosscourt backhand. Tabilo saved the first two break points, but Zverev converted his third break point to take a 2-1 lead, as Tabilo made a double fault. 

Zverev backed up the break with an ace to open up a 3-1 lead. Zverev earned a second break in the fifth game to take a 4-1 lead and closed out the win with his 10th ace of the match after 2 hours and 17 minutes. 

Zverev will face either Tommy Paul or Nicholas Jarry in the final. The Olympic champion will rise to world number 4 if he wins the Rome Masters 1000 title. 

Tabilo upset Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-3 last Sunday and backed up this win with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (12-10) win over Karen Khachanov in the fourth round. 

“I did not play well, but he was the reason why I did not play well. He came out hitting the ball extremely hard. A lot of dropshots. He was playing extremely aggressive. He did not let me play. I have to give credit to him for not allowing me to play my game”, said Zverev. 

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Taylor Fritz overcomes Grigor Dimitrov to reach the quarter finals in Rome

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Taylor Fritz overcame a tough battle to beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 6-7 (11-13) 6-1 reaching the quarter final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

Fritz has become the first US player to reach quarter finals at three different clay court tournaments in Monte-Carlo in 2022 and 2023, Madrid 2024 and Rome 2024. 

Fritz broke serve in the third game and saved two break points to hold serve for 3-1. The US player fended off five break points before breaking serve in the seventh game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Dimitrov earned a set point at 5-4 on Fritz’s serve, but the US player fended it off. 

Fritz hit a smash to save a second break point. The Delray Beach champion and Munich finalist fought all 11 break points he faced in the match. 

Dimitrov hit a forehand down the line to earn an early mini-break in the tie-break and took a 2-0 lead. Fritz pulled the mini-break back for 2-3, when Dimitrov missed a forehand. Dimitrov earned a second mini-break with a drop-volley winner to take a 4-2 lead. Dimitrov went up a 6-3 lead to earn three set points. Fritz fired a wide serve to save a third set point. Fritz fended off a fourth set point with a drop-shot. Fritz saved the fifth set point to draw level to 6-6, as Dimitrov made a double fault. Dimitrov hit another drop volley to earn his seventh set point, but Fritz saved it. Dimitrov saved a match point at 8-7 on a second serve. 

Dimitrov earned a seventh set point, but he hit a forehand pass wide to drop to 9-9. Fritz faced an eighth set point at 10-9 with his first double fault, but he saved it to draw level to 10-10, as Dimitrov hit his slice into the net. Fritz saved a ninth set point with a backhand down the line to draw level to 11-11. Dimitrov converted his 10th set point with a forehand down the line to close out the 19-minute tie-break. Dimitrov forced the match to the decider after 2 hours and nine minutes. Fritz dropped his first set at this tournament. 

After a four-minute bathroom break Fritz converted his fourth break point to open up a 2-0 lead in the third set. Fritz won 12 of the 13 break points on his serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Dimitrov faced a two break points in the sixth game. Fritz broke for the second time in the sixth game with a forehand to race out to a 5-1 lead. Fritz sealed the win with his 13th ace on his first match point. 

After losing in the first round at the Miami Open, Fritz reached the final in Munich and the semifinal in Madrid, where he avenged a 2023 Roland Garros loss against Francisco Cerundolo in the quarter final. 

“I feel like normally in those situations. I would be a lot more uptight and nervy, but honestly I felt pretty calm. I think it was tough because the sun was moving the whole match, and right in the tie-break is the first time it was bad for me on that side, so I threw in the double fault. I had a really good opportunity on a second serve return, and he hit it into my body and a bit slower than the other ones. I just caught it a bit early trying to get out the way of it. It’s easy to go back and dwell on that the whole third set, but I did a really good job at just putting it behind me and not thinking about that second serve return”, said Fritz. 

Fritz set up a quarter final match against Alexander Zverev, who beat Nuno Borges 6-2 7-5. Zverev has reached at least the fourth round at all Masters 1000 tournaments this year. 

Zverev earned an early break, but Borges broke back to draw level to 2-2. Zverev won four consecutive games to close out the first set 6-2. Zverev earned the decisive break in the 11th game to seal the win in 86 minutes. Zverev hit 25 winners to Borges’ eight and his 82% of points on his first serve. Zverev has improved his seasonal record to 25 wins to 9 defeats. The German player reached three semifinals at Los Angeles, Miami and Los Cabos.  

Zverev leads 4-3 in his seven head-to head matches against Fritz, but the US player won two of their last three matches. Zverev and Fritz have never faced off on clay. 

“We were lined up potentially last week to play in the quarter finals, but it will be fun. We will see what happens. We have played each other a good amount and known each other a long time, said Fritz.

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