Prodigies set for match-up in the final round of Australian Open Qualifying as Reilly Opelka and Casper Ruud both win - UBITENNIS
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Prodigies set for match-up in the final round of Australian Open Qualifying as Reilly Opelka and Casper Ruud both win

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Reilly Opelka has made it through to the final round of Qualifying, and will face another junior prodigy in Casper Ruud (Image via Zimbio.com)

A blockbuster final round of qualifying in in the Australian Open is set up as two teenagers prepare to face off for the right to feature in the main draw. Reilly Opelka (19) and Casper Ruud (18) both won their matches to meet on the main tour for the first time after encouraging junior careers.

 

Jan Satral defeats Yasutaka Uchiyama 76 16 97. The Czech backed up his win over twelfth seed Alessandro Giannessi with a tough grinding win over young Japanese Yasutaka Uchiyama. The Czech took a tight first set before crumbling in the second. A tight final set was finally won by Satral nine-seven.

(11) Evgeny Donskoy defeats Matthew Ebden 76 46 62.  Donskoy has not had it easy in his first two rounds of qualifying. After struggling against Dmitry Popko in the first round, Matthew Ebden, who is more known his grass court expertise, gave the eleventh seed a real battle. It was Donskoy who produced the clutch performance in the third set, going up two breaks in the final set.

Noah Rubin defeats (32) Roberto Carballes Baena 64 36 62. Young American Noah Rubin continued his fine start in qualifying as he ground down thirty-second seed Carballes Baena in three sets. Carballes Baena had broken Rubin in his first two service games, but immediately surrendered the advantage back both times, and Rubin pulled away in the first. Carballes Baena won the second but his serve broke down again in the third, another seed out.

Luca Vanni defeats Alexander Sarkissian 36 63 62. Luca Vanni recovered from losing the first set against the in-form American Sarkissian. Sarkissian had beaten the seeded Henri Laaksonen in the first round, but failed to back up his first set display in the this one, winning just five games in the next two sets.

Jurgen Melzer defeats (13) Taro Daniel 63 62. Former Roland Garros semi-finalist Melzer is still alive in qualifying after he defeated thirteenth seed Daniel in comprehensive fashion. Melzer will need to beat twentieth seed Rajeev Ram to make the main draw.

(20) Rajeev Ram defeats Marcelo Arevalo 61 46 86. Ram was in the main draw directly last year, but has seen his ranking fall significantly since winning his second Newport title a few years ago. He had a comfortable start with his match against Arevalo, but was forced to fight hard in the second and third sets, eventually winning an over-time third set.

Blake Mott defeats (14) Tobias Kamke 62 64. Qualifying has been tough for the Aussies so far, with few making it through so far. Blake Mott is one still in with a chance though, after shocking the fourteenth seed in surprising fashion. Mott only dropped six games in the match, as Kamke’s game regressed back to the form that saw him barely win a match in the first half of 2016.

James McGee defeats (30) Vincent Millot 62 64. McGee and most will face off unseeded in their section after they both took down seeds. McGee’s contribution was to beat Millot. Things had not started well as Millot had broken early. McGee quickly settled though, recovering the break, and dropping just five games after losing that first service game.

Alex Bolt defeats Matthias Bachinger 64 76. Alex Bolt was another who recovered from an early deficit to enjoy a straight sets win. Bolt was also down an early break against the German Bachinger. Bolt also recovered, and won a close encounter taking the second seed on a tiebreak to see another Aussie in with a chance of qualifying for the main draw.

(26) Julien Benneteau defeats Guilherme Clezar 75 60. Julien Benneteau is more used to being seeded twenty-sixth in the main draw, not qualifying. The Frenchman has not let that dampen his spirits though, adding Clezar’s name to Milojevic’s in terms of straight sets wins. Clezar is more comfortable on clay, and fell away badly after a close first set.

Reilly Opelka defeats Mitchell Krueger 63 76. Opelka is the joint-tallest player on ATP records, sharing the feat with Ivo Karlovic. Unsurprisingly, Krueger struggled to make inroads against the former Junior Wimbledon winners serve. Opelka broke in the first before using a tiebreak to finish the match in the second set.

Casper Ruud defeats Jonathan Eysseric 63 36 63. Young Norwegian is a highly-rated junior. His best results have to date come on clay however, and he struggled a little with the left-handed Eysseric in the match, as the Frenchman used his confident net coverage to take time away from the teenager. Ruud took advantage of some errors though, breaking in the first when Eysseric hit an errant smash. Ruud will face the 6’11 Reilly Opelka in the final qualifying round, a tantalising prospect.

 

 

 

 

Grand Slam

Carlos Ramos Won’t Umpire Serena Williams’ US Open Matches Following Infamous Clash

They two will be kept apart, but will it be enough to stop people talking about their previous confrontation?

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23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos will be kept apart during the US Open following their high-profile spat at the tournament 12 months ago.

 

During the final of the US Open last year, controversy erupted when Ramos issued Williams with a violation for receiving coaching from the stands. Something which is prohibited in grand slam tennis. A livid Williams denied any wrongdoing immediately after. Suggesting the decision was sexist before calling the official a ‘liar’ and a ‘thief.’ In total, Williams was hit with three violations that resulted in a game penalty.

Stacy Allaster, who is the president of the USTA, has confirmed that Ramos will not be allowed to officiate Williams or her sister’s Venus’ matches during the grand slam. Saying that she didn’t want to cause a ‘distraction.’ This decision is said to be applied only to the 2019 tournament.

“We don’t need to go there,” Allaster told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “There are more than 900 matches here over the three weeks, and there are lots of matches for Carlos to do.”
“We want to be focused on the competition and want to go forward,” she added.

Ramos, who is from Portugal, was never found guilty of doing anything wrong during the match. The International Tennis Federation issued a statement shortly after the incident. In it, they said that Ramos ‘undertook his duties as an official, according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.’

Regardless of the move by the USTA to try and stay clear of the Williams-Ramos incident, it is set to be thrown back into the media spotlight in the coming days. Sports network ESPN will air a documentary called “Serena vs. The Umpire” on Sunday for the first time. It will be narrated by Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, Jr.

“We’re exploring stories that are unresolved and have layers to them, and that’s certainly the case with what happened at last year’s US Open women’s final,” said John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Special Projects and Original Content. “With this and subsequent stories, viewers will follow along with Don on his deep dive for truth.”

The TV program is set to include Patrick Mouratoglou, who is the coach of Williams. Pam Shriver and Chris Evert are also set to feature.

The US Open will get underway on August 26th.

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Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks

Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?

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Madison Keys (@VolvoCarOpen on Twitter)

Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.

 

Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.

Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.

“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”

The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.

“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”

Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.

“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.

The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.

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ATP

Inspired By The Old Guys, Richard Gasquet Reaches Cincinnati Quarters

The former top 10 player gives an estimate on how much longer he will continue playing tennis for.

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Richard Gasquet, Rolex Paris Masters 2018, Simple Messieurs, 1er Tour, Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

When Richard Gasquet made his debut at the Cincinnati Masters back in 2005, Diego Schwartzman had just turned 13. 14 years later, the Frenchman continues to prove that age is just a number.

 

Taking on Schwartzman in the third round of this year’s tournament, Gasquet ousted the Argentine 7-6(6), 6-3, in their clash on Thursday. The encounter was by no means a walk in the park for the world No.56, who was forced to save a duo of set points during the opening tiebreak. Nevertheless, he prevailed with the help of 11 aces as he won 75% of his first service points.

“Of course it was an important first set. He was leading 6-4 in the tiebreak. It was the key of the match to win this set, because it was a one-hour-long set, physically very difficult.” Gasquet said during his press conference.
“I felt more confident winning it and then I could break him start of the second set, winning 3-0. I started well. Of course the last game was tough for me. I felt a little pressure, but it was a good game for me.”

It is only the second time Gasquet has managed to reach the last eight of the tournament and the first since 2016. An impressive outcome for a player who missed the first five months of 2019 due to a groin operation.

At the age of 33, Gasquet is approaching the final stages of his career. Which currently features 15 ATP titles and a ranking best of seventh in the world. However, the Frenchman is only the 15th oldest player currently in the top 100 on the ATP Tour thanks to a growing trend of players playing later in their careers. Something which inspires him.

“I don’t know how long I will play. Maybe two, three years.” He estimates. “It’s tough to say. I still like it (tennis). And of course, it’s a big longevity for me, but you see a lot of players who are playing late now, so it helps for me to play more and more.”

Whilst maintaining an optimistic outlook about his future, Gasquet knows better than anybody the demands the sport has on a person’s body. He also missed a chunk of the 2017 season due to his health and injury.

“When I was 20 years old, I didn’t see physio so much. But now, at 33, I need to see the physio every day.” Said Gasquet.
“That’s the difference, the big difference. As a teenager, when you’re young, of course, it’s easier to recover faster. Now at 33, you have to be very careful.”

Gasquet will play Dominic Thiem next, who is almost eight years younger than him. Should he win, he would reach the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time since the 2013 Miami Open.

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