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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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Jasmine Paolini lifts her first WTA title in Portoroz

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Jasmine Paolini claimed the first WTA Tour title of her career in Portoroz. The Italian player came back from two breaks down in the opening set to beat Alison Riske 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in the final after 1 hour and 45 minutes.

 

“I think it’s been an amazing week here in Portoroz. I just feel very happy. It’s a big achievement for me, to win my first title. On hardcourts, it’s special. I think I was maybe a bit relaxed. I understood more about the game. I tried to change the rhythm of the game with higher balls, and I think that was the key”, said Paolini. 

Paolini beat Dayana Yastremska in the first round, Sorana Cristea in the quarter final, and Yulia Putintseva. The 25-year-old Italian player beat three top 50 players in a row in her final three matches this week. 

After a trade of breaks in the opening two games, Riske went up a double break to take a 5-2 lead. Paolini pulled one break back in the eight game from 3-5. The Italian broke at love in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5, as Riske was serving for the set. Riske rallied from 2-5 to 4-5 in the tie-break. 

Paolini earned two set points at 6-4 and converted her first set point when Riske sent an overhead long. Paolini broke serve in the fifth game with a forehand winner down the line to take a 3-2 lead. Paolini won the final five games and sealed the second set 6-2 with an error-forcing forehand.

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Clare Tauson claims her second WTA Tour title at the age of 18

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World number 70 Clare Tauson has won the second WTA Tour title of her career at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open this season beating Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 4-6 6-4 in the final after 2 hours and 3 minutes. 

 

Tauson enjoyed a great week in which she up number 4 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-1) in the second round and this year’s Olympic finalist Marketa Vondrousova 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the semifinals. Tauson won her first title as a qualifer in another indoor tournament in Lyon last March in just her second Tour-level tournament. Tauson also won the WTA 125 trophy in Chicago last August beating Emma Raducanu, who went on to win the US Open last week. 

Tauson is one of the four players born in 2002 ranked in the the tpè 100 alongside Raducanu, the other US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and Marta Kostyuk. 

The Danish teenager is the seventh player to claim more trophies, joining Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty, Barbora Krejikova, Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Danielle Collins and Daria Kasakina. 

Ostapenko won the Luxembourg tournament on her debut at this tournament in 2019 and had been undefeated before today’s tournament. 

Tauson has become the fourth player to successfully defend the Luxembourg title after Jana Novotna, Martina Navratilova and Kim Cljisters. 

Ostapenko hit a smash to break Tauson to take a 6-3 lead. The Latvian player earned an early break to take a 2-1 lead. Tauson broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Ostapenko fired return winners to take a 2-1 lead with a break. Tauson broke back with two straight return winners. Tauson fended off two break points to hold serve after a marathon five-deuce for 3-2. Ostapenko was broken after a fourth double fault, when she was serving to stay in the match at 4-5. 

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