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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Alexander Zverev and Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova claim UTS title

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Alexander Zverev and Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova took the Ultimate Tennis Showdown titles in the Sudden Death. 

 

Zverev beat Felix Auger Aliassime 19-10 11-13 11-18 18-8 2-1. The German took the early lead in the final pulling away to 9-4 at halfway in the first quarter. The umpire made an overrule decision to give Auger Aliassime an ace. Zverev held on to win the first quarter 19-10. 

Auger Aliassime took a 9-4 lead in the second quarter, but Zverev used his next point x2 card to claw his way back to 8-9. Auger Aliassime led 12-9 with a minute to play. Zverev came back to 11-12. Auger Aliassime hit a passing shot to win the second set 13-11. 

In the third quarter both players were level at 8-8. Zverev used his Next Point x 2 card to take a 10-9 lead. Auger Aliassime won both his Nex point x2 cards to take a 13-10 lead en route to winning the third quarter 18-11. 

Zverev won both points against Felix Auger Aliassime’s Winner x3 Card and took a 7-3 lead in the fourth quarter. He held his own service points to pull away to 9-3. Auger Aliassime clawed his way back to 8-10. The Canadian player did not use his Next Pointx2 card with a forehand error. Zverev cruised to 18-8 forcing the match to the Sudden Death. 

Auger Aliassime won the first point with a powerful serve. Zverev hit an unreturnable first serve to save a championship point and converted his first own match point to become the second UTS men’s champion, as Auger Aliassime netted a backhand. 

“It was high-quality. It was intense. He was winning more cards in the middle of the set and then running away with it. I needed to focus a little better on the important points”, said Zverev. 

Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova also needed the Sudden Death to win the women’s final beating French player Alizé Cornet 16-8 12-11 11-14 9-16 3-1. Pavlyuchenkova led two quarters to love, before saving a championships point before taking the win in the sudden death. 

Pavlyuchenkova won two consecutive points on her own serve and two straight on Cornet’s serve at 5-5 in the first quarter. Cornet was the first to play a card with a take away one serve option, but Pavlyuchenkova won both of those points to cruise through to a 11-5 lead. Cornet dropped eight consecutive points, but she played a next point counts two card and converted one to claw her way back to 7-12. Pavlyuchenkova pulled away to 16-8. 

Cornet earned a 5-2 lead in the second quarter. Pavlyuchenkova used each of her cards and won two of those points to take a 6-5 lead, but she netted a backhand on one of the double points. As Cornet was serving at 11-9, Pavlyuchenkova fired two consecutive winners to draw level to 11-11. The Russian player won the deciding point to claim the second quarter 12-11. 

In the third quarter Pavlyuchenkova raced out to a 4-0 lead. Pavlyuchenkova used her card to force Cornet to serve and volley. The French player won both of her serve and volley points. Pavlyuchenkova hit two big serves to take a two-point lead at 8-8. Cornet won six of the next seven points to win the third quarter 14-11. 

Cornet started well in the fourth quarter and pulled away to a 8-3 lead, as Pavlyuchenkova missed an overhead that would have been worth two points. Cornet extended her lead to 11-5. Pavlyuchenkova showed signs of a comeback, but Cornet took the fourth quarter 16-9 forcing the match to the Sudden Death. 

Cornet saved one match point in the Sudden Death by forcing Pavlyuchenkova into a forehand error. Cornet attempted a drop-shot on her championships point. Pavlyuchenkova survived a long rally on her second championships point to claim the title. 

“I love winning no matter what it is. It’s just nice. There were so much nerves. Ihated the sudden death. I practiced it, but practice is much different. Now it was full on”, said Pavlyuchenkova. 

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Maria Sakkari Pondered Temporary Sport Switch During Tour Suspension

This summer could have looked very different for the world No.20.

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Greek tennis star Maria Sakkari could have been preparing to take part in a completely different sport this week if it wasn’t for the Palermo Open taking place.

 

The world No.20 considered switching her tennis shoes for running ones amid the uncertainty surrounding when the sport would start again. All professional tennis tournaments have been cancelled since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the WTA Tour is restarting this week in Italy.

Although if it wasn’t for Palermo staging the eagerly awaited return of tennis, Sakkari reveals that she might have instead switched her focus to athletics in order to maintain her competitive thirst. Taking part in the Greek athletics championships. Her discipline of choice would have been the 100 meters which her fitness trainer believes she would have made the final in.

“If the Tour was cancelled I was going to compete in the 100m track and field event at the National Championships,” Sakkari told reporters on Sunday.
“Greece National Championships starts on Aug. 8. We were kind of joking with my fitness coach, but inside of me I really needed competition.
“There were rumours going around that the Tour would get cancelled so I thought if the Tour gets cancelled I need to find something. I’m fast, I knew I was not going to win it for sure because I’m not a professional. But yeah, I was thinking of doing that.”

Sakkari can run 100M in a time of 12.7 seconds but that is without both running spikes and starting blocks. Her idea stemmed from the type of training she was doing back in Athens during the tour shutdown. Although tennis remains her first priority.

“I started playing tennis on May 4th, but before that, I was working with my fitness coach at outdoor areas where we were allowed to work out,” she said. “I was running a lot. I think I was running more than I ever did.”

In Palermo Sakkari will be the third seed in the draw and faces Czech Republic’s Kristýna Plíšková in the first round on Monday. The world No.20 started 2020 by winning nine out of 15 matches played on the Tour with her best runs being to the fourth round of the Australian Open and semi-finals of the St Petersburg Open.

We’re back in competition so I’m blessed,” Sakkari said. “Blessed to be back.”

Sakkari is bidding to win the second WTA trophy of her career this week after triumphing last year at the Morocco Open.

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The Trial Has Ended: David Ferrer Is Now A Head Coach Of Alexander Zverev

The former French Open finalist is set to become a regular face on the men’s Tour once again but in a differnt capacity.

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By Emil Evtimov

David Ferrer is the new head coach of Alexander Zverev alongside his father Alexander Sr. The news was revealed by the world No.7 after his win against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in Nice.

 

In the beginning of July Zverev announced that he and Ferrer will work together on a trial basis for two weeks in Monte Carlo. Now the German confirmed that the former world No.3 and Roland Garros finalist will be on his side as a coach at least until the end of the year. 

“The trial period is over. We are together. We understand each other great and now we are a team,” said Zverev.

Ferrer won’t be the first prominent name in team Zverev. Previously the three-time Masters 1000 champion worked with Juan Carlos Ferrero and Ivan Lendl. Since the end of his relationship with Lendl, Zverev has been trained mainly by his dad.

“David and my father are both my head coaches now. My dad doesn’t get any younger. Both are extremely important for the team.”

For Ferrer this will be the first coaching experience. His playing career ended in May 2019 during the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid with his last opponent on the court being none other than Zverev.

For quite a long time Zverev was considered the big star from the young generation but in 2019 was a bit overshadowed by players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and  Daniil Medvedev.

The German began 2020 with a great performance at the Australian Open reaching the semifinals where he lost to Dominic Thiem in four sets.

Zverev is on the entry list for the first tournament after the pandemic – the Western & Southern Open which will be staged in New York to create a “protective bubble” for the US Open. The 23-year old talks also about the Grand Slam tournament, saying he would prefer it not to happen, although he is going to play at this point.

“It is a bit crazy to play the US Open now. I would prefer if it would not happen and we just restart in Europe. Because of the pandemic it is not the right time to fly. But when they host the open – what shall we played do? Especially when everyone plays’ it is about ranking points, too. At this point I didn’t think about withdrawing. If everyone reacts within hygiene rules and it will be similar to the NBA bubble it could work out.”

Zverev was one of the tennis players most criticized for his behaviour during the pandemic. The reason was his participation in the Adria Tour where he and his colleagues weren’t following the social distancing rules very strictly. The German gave a negative test for COVID-19 after finding out about the positive test of Grigor Dimitrov. He promised to be in quarantine for safety reasons but was seen partying a few days after. This caused a criticism from Nick Kyrgios, as well as a Twitter war between the Australian and German legend Boris Becker.

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