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.

 

 

 

 

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing

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Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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