Reilly Opelka defeats Casper Ruud for Australian Open main draw berth, Radek Stepanek also through - UBITENNIS
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Reilly Opelka defeats Casper Ruud for Australian Open main draw berth, Radek Stepanek also through

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The 6’11 Opelka won a match-up of young talent, defeating Norway’s Casper Ruud in straight sets (Zimbio.com)

It was a case of young and old in Melbourne, as a variety of teenagers and veterans alike successfully qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open.

 

Reilly Opelka was not even born when Radek Stepanek turned pro in 1996, yet the teen and the veteran were on an equal footing in the final round of qualifying, both winning through to the main draw.

(1) Radek Stepanek defeats John-Patrick Smith 62 64. The wily Czech veteran disappointed the home crowds by knocking out Australian Smith in easy fashion. Stepanek has competed in all but one of the Australian Open tournaments between 2003 and 2017, missing only in 2015. He will again feature in the main draw.

(2) Frances Tiafoe defeats (25) Tim Smyczek 36 60 75. Frances Tiafoe will feature in his first Australian Open main draw, as he recovered from a set deficit to defeat fellow seed and compatriot Tim Smyczek. Tiafoe earned two break points at five-four in the fifth, but instead was forced to wait until the next game by Smyczek, but Tiafoe was not to be denied.

(29) Go Soeda defeats Marco Trungelliti 62 36 64. Trungelliti won five matches last year, through qualifying and into the third round. This year he fell in the qualifying round, despite beating third seed Josef Kovalik in the upset of the week. Soeda went up an early double break in third, and survived an attempted comeback from Trungelliti to qualify.

Andrey Rublev defeats (22) Peter Polansky 64 36 63. The young Russian’s development appeared to regress in 2016, with his ranking slumping. However, a great start to the year continues after knocking out the experienced Canadian Polansky in three close sets.

(6) Bjorn Fratangelo defeats Hiroki Moriya 46 64 64. Sixth seed Fratangelo fell at this stage last year, and lost in the main draw to Stephane Robert as a lucky loser. This time the former Roland Garros Junior Champion made sure, even though it took a comeback against the Japanese to ensure his progress.

Ivan Dodig defeats Di Wu 61 75. There was disappointment for Asia as China’s Wu failed at the final hurdle in 2017. The big serving Dodig eased through the first set before Wu kept the second set tight. The former main draw seed ultimately broke late on though to make the first round.

(31) Thomas Fabbiano defeats Andre Ghem 76 64. Ghem had done this section of the draw a favour by knocking out the highest-ranked seed in the form of Joao Souza in the first round. He could not replicate enough of that form in the final round however, going down to the Italian thirty-first seed Fabbiano.

(10) Lukas Lacko defeats (18) Denis Kudla 62 62. These two had met on the ATP tour before in closer circumstances than this match eventually became. Kudla had been forced to battle through the first two rounds, and Lacko himself survived a tough match with Maximo Gonzalez. Lacko ran away with this one though, denying Kudla the chance to defend the second round main draw points he had earned last year.

Noah Rubin defeats (11) Evgeny Donskoy 62 64. Noah Rubin was a wildcard winner in the main draw last year, knocking out Benoit Paire in three tiebreaks. Forced to qualify this time around, the young American did so in style, adding the Russian eleventh seed to the scalp of thirty-second seed Roberto Carballes Baena he had taken in the second round. Arguably the shock of the round on the men’s side.

Blake Mott defeats James McGee 76 36 63. Delight for the home crowd as an Aussie did make it through qualifying. Mott survived a battle with Irishman McGee to make the main draw of his home slam. A great effort and he can look forward to the vociferous support of the crowds at Melbourne Park in the main draw.

Reilly Opelka defeats Casper Ruud 76 63. These are two highly-rated juniors, and it was Opelka who came through. At 6’11 Ruud failed to make any inroads against the American’s serve, and after handing over an early mini break in the tiebreak, he rather fell away quickly, Opelka securing the win after breaking the Norwegian’s serve in the middle of the second set.

Jurgen Melzer defeats (20) Rajeev Ram 62 36 63. A surprise in ranking but not perhaps in form. Ram has mainly competed on the doubles tour for the past few years, and though Melzer is now thirty-five, the former Top ten Austrian still has a fearsome forehand. He found the shot often enough to knock out the American, whose singles game is far more suited to grass.

  • At the time of writing some matches including those of Lee-Bublik, Vanni-Satral, and Bolt-Benneteau had yet to be completed.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas reaches his seventh quarter final of the season in Barcelona

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Last week’s Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-3 in 84 minutes to secure his spot in the quarter finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Tsitsipas has extended his win-loss record to 24-5 in the 2021 ATP Tour season.

 

The first set went on serve with no break points until the 12th game, when De Minaur made his seventh unforced error of the set to give Tsitsipas two set points. De Minaur saved a set point with a drop shot winner. Tsitsipas hit a forehand to get the first break of match on the next point to seal  the first set 7-5.

De Minaur converted his third break point in the first game of the second set and held his serve to take a 2-0 lead. Tsitsipas won five of the next six games with two breaks of serve in the fourth and eighth game to clinch the second set 6-3. 

The young Greek star has reached at least the quarter finals at all seven tournaments he has played in 2021. 

Tsitsipas set up a quarter final against Felix Auger Aliassime, who beat Denis Shapovalov 6-2 6-3. Tsitsipas leads 3-2 in his five head-to-head matches against Auger Aliassime and beat his younger Canadian rival 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the Acapulco quarter final. 

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Andrey Rublev sets up quarter final clash against Jannik Sinner in Barcelona

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Last week’s Monte-Carlo finalist Andrey Rublev battled past Albert Ramos Vinolas 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 after 2 hours and 27 minutes to reach the quarter finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

 

Rublev opened up a 4-1 lead with a break in the fourth game of the opening set. Ramos Vinolas broke back in the seventh game to draw level to 4-4. Rublev claimed the first set 6-4 with his second break in the 10th game. 

Ramos Vinolas saved two break points to hold serve after six deuces for 3-3. The next games went on serve en route to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-4 with two mini-breaks. 

Rublev went up a 4-2 lead with a break in the fifth game of the third set, but Ramos Vinolas recovered once again by breaking back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Rublev converted his second break point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. Ramos Vinolas was not able to convert four break points at 4-5 and Rublev closed out the third set with a forehand winner. 

“Nothing has changed. I didn’t learn my lessons. The most important thing is that I managed to win today. When you are not doing something correctly, but you are still winning matches, it gives you confidence. Albert was playing much better than me early in the third set, but you never know which way it will go”, said Rublev.  

Rublev set up a quarter final against Jannik Sinner, who edged past Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (11-9) 6-2 after 1 hor and 52 minutes. Rublev met Sinner only once in the Vienna Round of 16 last year, but the Italian was forced to withdraw from the match withdrew from the match due to a right foot injury.  

Bautista Agut earned his first break in the third game, but Sinner broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Sinner saved a break point in the fifth game to hold serve fo 3-2 at deuce. The world number 19 broke serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead, but he wasted a set point in the ninth game. Bautista Agut broke back to draw level to 5-5. Both players held their next service games en route to the tie-break. 

Sinner saved three set points at 5-6, 7-8 and 8-9 in the tie-break of the first set before winning the tie-break 11-9 on his third set point. 

Sinner earned an early break in the first game and saved a break-back point to open up a 2-0 lead. The Italian player saved three break points to hold his serve in a very long fourth game. The 2019 Sofia Open and Great Ocean Road Open champion went up a double break to take a 5-2 lead. Sinner has improved his head-to-head record to 3-0 against Bautista Agut. Earlier this year the Italian Next Gen player beat his Spanish rival in three sets in the Dubai Round of 16 and in the Miami semifinal.

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Ash Barty Insists No Queue Jumping Involved As She Gets Covid-19 Vaccine

The world No.1 says she is pleased to have a ‘small layer of protection.’

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Ash Barty has confirmed that she was one of the players to receive a COVID-19 vaccination during a Tour event in Charleston.

 

The tournament and Plantation Pharmacy, a local drugstore, formed an agreement which offered all players a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 vaccination to players participating in two events. The Volvo Open and 2021 MUSC Health Women’s Open which took place at the same venue the week after.

Barty confirmed for the first time earlier this week that she and her coach Craig Tyzzer took up the offer. Speaking to reporters from the Stuttgart Open, the former French Open champion stated that she ‘didn’t jump any queues’ to get the vaccine. Joining the likes of Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka who have also had their doses earlier in the year.

“We were looking at different avenues to try and get vaccinated without jumping the queue in Australia to see what our options were, and we weren’t able to get much of an answer before we left in March,” said Barty.
“We were able to get the vaccine, as were a lot of other players, through the Tour and that they had organised through a certain pharmacy that had extras, and that was important to me knowing that those who were the most vulnerable were able to get it first.”

The 24-year-old missed most of the season last year due to travelling concerns related to the pandemic. In total she missed nearly 11 months of the Tour before returning to action in Melbourne in February. Since then, Barty has won the Yarra Valley Classic and Miami Open.

“It was nice to know that we have got that small layer of protection,” she added.
“We still do the right things and abide by all the rules and the guidelines set in place by the Tour but knowing that we had that little bit of extra protection puts us at ease a bit more.”

This week the Australian is seeking her first trophy on the clay since her triumph in Roland Garros back in 2019. The top seed in Stuttgart, she kicked-off her campaign on Wednesday with a 6-0, 7-5, win over former champion Laura Siegemund. She will play either Jelena Ostapenko or Karolina Pliskova in the next round.

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