Let’s turn our head away from the court and look around Melbourne Park. There’s a lot going on in this event, catering for a public from 8 to 80
It’s Saturday and Melbourne wakes up under a low, heavy sky which “weighs like a lid on the groaning spirit”.
Not so for Aussie families: off they go to Melbourne Park, as early as 8AM, mums and dads with their children for Kids Tennis Day, a carnival of outdoor activities, entertainment and – obviously – tennis, on the very same courts where the pros will play edition 105 of the Australian Open. This is the Australian Open, too, and Tournament Director CEO Craig Tiley, definitely found a winning formula for this wonderful event, improving each and every year.
To make the venue – located close to the CBD – even easier to reach by foot, a walking bridge has been built to join Melbourne Park directly to the heart of the city, Federation Square and an entertainment area, with live music, and food and drinks stalls has been erected just outside the gates.
At 12 o’clock, the sun is out and the young crowd then moves to the Rod Laver Arena to watch the big stars, Federer, Djokovic, Raonic and local Gavrilova in a number of tennis related gags along with Kung Fu Panda, the penguins of Madagascar and a number of (to me unknowns) Trolls, while on the outside courts the last round of the qualifying tournament starts: a battle to the death to get a spot on the main draw, which is worth prestige, the possibility of playing against King Roger on the first round (or even on the second, given the draw (LINK) and money, a lot of money, an impressive $50,000 to play in the first round.
And so players like the Kazakhstani Alexander Bublik of 1997, all of a sudden will end up doubling their career money prize. Better does the Russian Anna Blinkova, turned 18 a few months ago, who almost triples it.
While the players are fighting the opponent and the wind, adding to the families back from the Rod Laver Arena, new crowd pops in (FREE entrance today), teenage girl trying to sneak peak the abs of the players while changing shirt during change of ends, and boys in their 20s day-dreaming while looking at the hotties on court. Oh well, some might also be interested in tennis, but I tell you, for a number it’s a social event, a great opportunity for a selfie with a known or not-so-known player, still worth an update on their social network: hey, look who I am hanging out with.
There’s quite a walk from the change room to court 15 and so plenty of opportunity for the autograph and selfie hunters. Not mentioning the players who are already in the main draw and are practicing one last time before the tournament begins. I must mention I most probably save the doubles tournament of Anna Kalinskaya by collecting and handing over the heart shaped dampener flown in the air after her return and landed at my feet: I mean I had the heart of Kalinskaya at my feet.
It’s past 5 o’clock when the last match ends. In the men’s qualifying singles only 3 out of the first 8 seeds access to the main draw: good ol’ Stepanek, young gun Tiafoe and Fratangelo. Great result for young Rubin, Bublik, Rublev and Opekla. As far as women are regarded, the only surprises where the defeats of seed n.2 Tatiana Maria and n.3 Kai-Chen Chang both in round 2. Excellent performances by young Russians Blinkova and Vikhlyantseva.
All done, then. And now, let the show begin!
US Open Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud Play for the Men’s Singles Championship
History will be made on Sunday at the US Open. In an unprecedented men’s championship match, the winner will not only earn their first Major title, but also become the World No.1 for the first time. So much is on the line for both 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 23-year-old Casper Ruud.
Alcaraz comes from humble beginnings, growing up in a small village called El Palmar in Murcia, Spain. His father was a semi-professional tennis player, and Carlitos picked up the game from a very young age. In 2018, he joined the tennis academy of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who quickly recognized the talent and potential of Alcaraz, and has been his primary coach ever since. His idol is fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
Ruud is the son of former top 40 player Christian Ruud, who also serves as his coach. Casper grew up in Oslo, Norway, and continues to set new records for Norwegian players: the first to win an ATP title, to reach a Major final, and to be ranked in the top 10. And like Alcaraz, his idol is Rafael Nadal.
Casper Ruud (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
Alcaraz is looking to become the youngest World No.1 in history, and the first teenager to ever achieve that feat. He is the youngest men’s finalist at a Major since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005. Just last year, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100. But since last summer, he has skyrocketed up the rankings. He leads the tour with 50 match wins in 2022, and is 5-2 lifetime in ATP finals.
Ruud, currently ranked No.7, is looking to make the biggest rankings jump to No.1 of all-time. This is his second Major final out of the last three, after being a surprise finalist three months ago in Paris. In that championship match, he was routed by Nadal 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. Overall, Casper is 9-4 in finals.
Alcaraz is 2-0 against Ruud, having claimed both those matches in straight sets. They occurred a year ago on clay in Marbella, and six months ago in the final of the Miami Masters on a hard court.
It’s hard to fathom Carlitos will be close to 100% physically on Sunday. He is coming off three consecutive five-set wins that went late into the night or the morning, and even had to save a match point in his especially epic five-setter against Jannik Sinner. As per Ravi Ubha, Alcaraz is the first player since Andre Agassi in 2005 to win three straight five-setters in the round directly before a Major final. However, the youngster is remarkably fit, and continues to recover surprisingly well from his grueling five-set battles.
The second half of Ruud’s road to this championship match was considerably less complicated, spending over four hours less on court than Alcaraz since the fourth round. Casper will be the much fresher competitor, yet even though he possesses previous experience in a Major final, he has much less experience in defeating top players. He is 0-5 at Slams against top 5 opposition.
Unlike Ruud, Alcaraz has a favorable record against the top 10, having claimed seven of his last nine matches. His incredible mix of speed and power make his game nearly impenetrable when he’s at his best. And considering his comfortable victories over Casper in the recent past, Carlitos is the favorite to win his first Major title and become the new World No.1.
Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship match will be played at 1:00pm local time. It’s Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3) vs. Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend. Krejcikova and Siniakova are vying for their sixth Major as a team, and their third of the season. This title would complete their career Grand Slam. McNally was a finalist at last year’s US Open alongside Coco Gauff. Townsend is a two-time Slam semifinalist, including earlier this season at Roland Garros. This is only Katy and Taylor’s second event as a team.
Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.
US Open Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur Play for the Women’s Singles Championship
The championship match in women’s singles at the last Major of the year is fittingly between the two best players of 2022. They are also two of the sport’s most likable competitors, with plenty of flair and aggression in their games.
Iga Swiatek 56-7 this season, with six titles, all of which were accumulated during a 37-match winning streak. The world No.1 has more than double the points of all other players this season. And the two-time Roland Garros champion has now achieved her first Slam final on a hard court.
Ons Jabeur is 44-13 on the year,with two titles. She will reach a career-high ranking of No.2 based on this result, her second Major final this summer. Ons is the first woman to achieve back-to-back Major finals since Serena Williams in 2019.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
Swiatek’s best tennis has often escaped during her this event, and she’s spoken openly regarding the court speed and tennis balls not being to her liking. But she has still advanced to this final fairly economically, dropping only two sets through six matches. Iga has now claimed her last nine matches against top 10 opposition, and is a perfect 9-0 in tournament finals within the last two years, claiming all nine of those in straight sets.
Jabeur was only 10-8 this season on hard courts prior to this fortnight, and went just 2-3 on this surface in August after her highly disappointing loss in the championship match at Wimbledon, where she won just four of the last 16 games after securing the first set. However, she dropped only one set in her first six rounds, and dominated a red-hot Caroline Garcia in the semifinals by a score of 6-1, 6-3. Ons is 2-3 in finals this year, and only 3-6 lifetime.
Swiatek and Jabeur have split four previous meetings, and split their two encounters on hard courts. They played once before at a Major, with Ons prevailing in three sets in the round of 16 at last year’s Wimbledon. When they met this season, in the final of Rome on clay, Iga was comfortably victorious 6-2, 6-2.
Swiatek will look to dictate play from the baseline, but will need to cut down on her unforced error count. In all of her six matches this tournament, she has struck more errors than winners, averaging a -8 differential. Jabeur is an excellent server, especially for her height, but will need to dramatically increase her first serve percentage. In her semifinal against Caroline Garcia, it was only 43%. Iga’s aggressive returns would easily exploit that on Saturday.
Based on her play this year, as well as her outstanding record in finals, Swiatek is the favorite to win her third Major title. But regardless of the outcome, if these two competitors both play anywhere near their best tennis, they could create one of the most memorable finals in recent memory.
Also on Saturday, the mixed doubles championship match will be played at 12:00pm local time. It’s the Aussie team of Storm Sanders and John Peers (4) vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Peers and France’s Roger-Vasselin have both previously won a men’s doubles titles at their respective home Slams. Flipkens retired from singles after this year’s Wimbledon. Her and Sanders are both vying for their first Major title.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
US Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals
The men’s semifinals feature four players all vying for their first Major title. Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud is the only remaining man who has previously played in a Slam semifinal. Carlos Alcaraz, Frances Tiafoe, and Karen Khachanov are all making their debut at this stage of a Major. And both Ruud and Alcaraz have a chance to leave New York as the new world No.1 if they win the title, or if one reaches the final and the other loses in the semifinals. Which two men will advance to Sunday’s championship match, and which one will become a first-time Slam champ?
Also on Friday, the men’s doubles final will be played. And it is a blockbuster between the top two seeds.
Karen Khachanov (27) vs. Casper Ruud (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
Ruud has reached this semifinal rather efficiently, dropping only three sets. And in the one five-setter he played, he comfortably claimed the fifth set 6-0. Casper previously had the reputation of being a clay court specialist, but he’s now 17-6 this season on hard courts, and was a finalist at the Masters 1000 event in Miami.
Khachanov was a two-time Major quarterfinalist before this fortnight, yet those results came on clay and grass. He had never previously advanced beyond the third round of a hard court Slam. None of his matches at this event have been easy, as he lost at least set in each. Karen is coming off consecutive five-setters against Pablo Carreno Busta and Nick Kyrgios.
Their only prior encounter occurred two years ago on clay in Rome, with Ruud prevailing 6-1 in the third. And Casper looked extremely sharp in the last round against another big server, Matteo Berrettini, returning aggressively and breaking the Italian five times across three sets. Ruud will also be the fresher competitor on Friday, despite each player having two full days of rest. Casper should be favored to reach his second final out of the last three Majors.
Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe (22) – Not Before 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium
These are two of the sport’s most exciting, charismatic young stars. But only one will reach their first championship match at a Major this week.
Tiafoe has exhilarated the New York audience, and dropped only one set through five matches. He is a perfect 6-0 in tiebreaks during this tournament, and spent significantly less time on court than Alcaraz.
Carlitos has played consecutive epics that ended early in the morning. In the fourth round, he came back from a set down in the fifth to defeat Marin Cilic. In the quarterfinals, he played for five hours and fifteen minutes, and until nearly three in the morning, to overcome Jannik Sinner in what was easily the best match of the year to date.
Tiafoe and Alcaraz have only played once, a year ago on clay in Barcelona, with Frances winning in straight sets. Even though that was only 17 months ago, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100 at the time, and he’s now the ATP’s winningest player in 2022. However, while he’s one of the fittest athletes in the sport, he can’t possibly be 100% coming into this semifinal. Even by five-hour match standards, that quarterfinal with Sinner was incredibly taxing, with an extremely high level maintained throughout the match. And that will be a huge advantage for a confident Tiafoe, who also thrives playing in front of big crowds, and in night matches in his home country. I like Tiafoe’s chances of becoming the first American man to reach a Major singles final since Andy Roddick.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (2) – Ram and Salisbury are the defending champions, while Koolhof and Skupski are easily the best men’s doubles team of 2022, with six titles. These teams split two meetings earlier this year on hard courts.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Botic Van de Zandschulp beats Joao Sousa to reach the second round in Tel Aviv
Holger Rune reaches the second round at the Sofia Open
Dominic Thiem battles past Laslo Djere in three sets in Tel Aviv
Ilya Ivashka battles past Mikael Ymer in the longest match in the history of the Sofia Open
Cameron Norrie Vows To Make ‘Big Push’ In Bid To Reach Tour Finals
Roger Federer To Make Last-Minute Decision Over Laver Cup Participation, Says Coach
Juan Martin Del Potro Reveals Physical And Mental Trauma From Tennis Retirement
Andy Murray Calls For Earlier Start To Davis Cup Ties After Great Britain Loses Late-Night Thriller
Serena Williams’ Spectacular US Open Outfit Includes Diamond-Encrusted Shoes
US Open 2022: John McEnroe Lashes Out At Journalist In Midst Of Nadal Row
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) ITF President David Haggerty ’Satisfied’ With Davis Cup Format Despite Issues
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) ITF President David Haggerty Reacts To Federer’s Retirement
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Elena Rybakina’s Wimbledon Win Was Good But The Level Wasn’t Great
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE): Novak Djokovic Battles Past Norrie, Faces Kyrgios In The Final
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal
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