Australian Open Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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The 2017 Australian Open was one of the most thrilling and dramatic Grand Slam events of all-time. Can the 2018 version match last year’s excitement?

 

It will have to do so without several big names: Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, and Kei Nishikori are all absent. In addition, major champions like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, and Garbine Muguruza arrive in Melbourne with many questions surrounding their physical condition.

The upcoming Australian fortnight will surely be full of intriguing and surprising storylines, as all Grand Slam events are. Let’s take a look at some of the most enticing matches on Day 1’s schedule.

Rafael Nadal vs. Victor Estella Burgos

This will be Nadal’s first official match in two months, since his loss (and subsequent withdrawal from the tournament) against David Goffin at the ATP Finals. As Christopher Clarey of the New York Times recently reported, Nadal has never won a major without a playing a warm-up event, and usually needs a tournament win leading into a major to give himself momentum. How will his knees react to returning to best-of-five set matches on hard courts? There’s definitely many doubts regarding Rafa’s chances, but he did easily win the last hard court major just a few months ago. And he’ll surely be eager to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss in the Australian Open final against Roger Federer. Nadal be a big favorite on Monday, and hopefully this match reveals where his game is and how his body is feeling.

Venus Williams vs. Belinda Bencic

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Last year, Bencic was drawn to play Serena Williams in the first round of the Australian Open. Bencic was not in good form a year ago, but this year she’s playing extremely well heading into her first round match against Venus. After suffering multiple injuries, the 20-year-old returned in September and subsequently went 28-3 at lower-level tour events. She won four titles and ended 2017 on a 15-match win streak. Just last week, Bencic won the Hopman Cup with partner Roger Federer. Momentum clearly favors Bencic, as Venus lost her only match thus far in 2018 to a resurgent Angelique Kerber. That being said, Venus is 4-0 lifetime against Belinda, having never dropped a set. This is an extremely tough challenge in the opening round for last year’s Australian Open finalist.

Jack Sock vs. Yuichi Sugita

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Sock’s seeding at number eight is by far the highest of his career, coming off the best results of his career at the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals. Can Sock transfer that success to the majors? He’s never advanced farther than the fourth round at a Grand Slam event. Just two weeks ago, he was playing Sugita at the Hopman Cup when he was forced to retire after dropping the first set due to a hip injury. Jack subsequently lost in his opening round match last week in Auckland. Sugita also defeated Sock in their other previous meeting, just last summer in Cincinnati. Ranked 41st, Sugita is one of the highest-ranked players Sock could draw in the first round. Considering all this, Sugita should be considered the favorite on Monday.

Andrey Rublev vs. David Ferrer

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This is a rough first round draw for Rublev in his first major as a seeded player. Ferrer struggled to win matches through the first half of last year, but in the summer he played more like the David of old. Ferrer won the title in Bastad, and made the semifinals at the Masters 1,000 event in Cincinnati. And just last week, Ferrer advanced to the semifinals in Auckland. Meanwhile, 2017 was a breakout year for Rublev. He won his first tour title in Umag, and made his first major quarterfinal at the US Open. Rublev started 2018 by making the final in Doha. This will be the first meeting between two players hitting with confidence, and could easily become a prolonged four or five set battle.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas

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The ATP Next Gen campaign will be on full display here, with the 18-year-old Canadian against the 19-year-old Greek. Shapovalov has made more waves than Tsitsipas thus far, but Tsitsipas impressed many already in 2018 with his upset of Richard Gasquet in Doha. He also defeated David Goffin in October, so it’s obvious the teenager has game. In a recent article on the ATP website, Stefanos stated he expects to advance to at least the third round at the Australian Open. That’s a big goal for a man who is yet to get his first win at a major. After taking the tennis world by storm last summer, Shapovalov has simmered a bit. He’s just 3-8 in his last 11 matches. This may a good chance for Tsitsipas to upset his younger, yet more accomplished opponent.

Full order of play for day 1

Rod Laver Arena
Jelena Ostapenko (7) vs Francesca Schiavone
Venus Williams (5) vs Belinda Bencic
Grigor Dimitrov (3) vs Denis Novak

Night session (from 7pm local/8am GMT)
Rafael Nadal (1) vs Victor Estrella Burgos
Daria Gavrilova (23) vs Irina Falconi

Margaret Court Arena
Sloane Stephens (13) vs Zhang Shuai
Matthew Ebden vs John Isner (16)
Samantha Stosur vs Monica Puig

Night session (from 7pm local/8am GMT)
Mihaela Buzarnescu vs Caroline Wozniacki (2)
Kevin King vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (15)

Hisense Arena
Sofia Kenin vs Julia Goerges (12)
Timea Babos vs Coco Vandeweghe (10)
Yen-Hsun Lu vs Marin Cilic (6)

Not before 6.45pm local/7.45am GMT
Nick Kyrgios (17) vs Rogerio Dutra Silva

Court 2
Taylor Townsend vs Magdalena Rybarikova (19)
Dominika Cibulkova (24) vs Kaia Kanepi
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Denis Shapovalov

Not before 4pm local/5am GMT
Yuichi Sugita vs Jack Sock (8)

Court 3
Kevin Anderson (11) vs Kyle Edmund
Jaimee Fourlis vs Olivia Rogowska

Not before 3pm local/4am GMT
John Millman vs Borna Coric
Ivana Jorovic vs Elina Svitolina (4)

Court 5
Kirsten Flipkens vs Alison Riske
Philipp Kohlschreiber (27) vs Yoshihito Nishioka
Gerard Melzer vs Nikoloz Basilashvili
Jana Fett vs Misa Eguchi

Court 7
Irina-Camelia Begu vs Ekaterina Makarova (31)
Vitkor Troicki vs Alex Bolt
Peng Shuai (25) vs Marta Kostyuk
Ruben Bemelmans vs Lucas Pouille (18)

Court 8
Pablo Carreno Busta (10) vs Jason Kubler
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (15) vs Kateryna Kozlova
Marcos Baghdatis vs Yuki Bhambri

Court 10
Duan Ying-ying vs Mariana Duque-Marino
Federico Delbonis vs Gilles Muller (23)
Denisa Allertová vs Pauline Parmentier
Elias Ymer  vs Mackenzie Mcdonald

Court 12
Pablo Cuevas (31) vs Mikhail Youzhny
Aleksandra Krunic vs Anett Kontaveit (32)
Viktorija Golubic vs Kateryna Bondarenko
Nicolas Jarry vs Leonardo Mayer

Court 13
Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs Denis Istomin
Jennifer Brady vs Magda Linette
Gilles Simon vs Marius Copil
Anna Karolína Schmiedlová vs Daria Kasatkina (22)

Court 14
Monica Niculescu vs Mona Barthel
David Ferrer vs Andrey Rublev (30)
Luksika Kumkhum vs Johanna Larsson
Salvatore Caruso vs Malek Jaziri

Court 15
Alize Cornet vs Wang Xinyu
Kiki Bertens (30) vs Catherine Bellis
Paolo Lorenzi v Damir Dzumhur (28)
Dustin Brown vs Joao Sousa

Court 19
Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Andreas Haider-Maurer
Maria Sakkari vs Katerina Siniakova
Carla Suarez Navarro vs Magdalena Fręch
Casper Ruud vs Quentin Halys

Court 20
Alison van Uytvanck vs Petra Martic
Andreas Seppi vs Corentin Moutet
Ivo Karlovic vs Laslo Djere
Viktória Kužmová vs Elise Mertens

Court 22
Dudi Sela vs Ryan Harrison
Diego Schwartzman (24) vs Dusan Lajovic
Nicole Gibbs vs Viktoriya Tomova

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Why It Is Right To Criticise Novak Djokovic Over His Chat With Chervin Jafarieh

The world No.1 is entitled to his beliefs, but there is a fine line.

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Novak Djokovic is undoubtedly one of the greatest tennis players of all time given his record-breaking career that has seen him claim 17 grand slam titles and win more prize money than any other player in history. He is an idol of thousands and is one of the most influential people in Serbia. The position is a great honour, but it is also one that places him under strict scrutiny at times.

 

This scrutiny opens him up for criticism. Just earlier this week he posted a video on his Instagram account of him training at a facility in Mallorca. Prompting accusations that he broke lockdown rules before it was later confirmed that the mistake lied with the owners of the venue. It could be argued that Djokovic gets a more hostile reception from the tennis community compared to his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Just look at last year’s Wimbledon final. With all of this in mind, there is fresh uproar over a recent chat he held and quite rightly so.

The world No.1 recently held a discussion with Chervin Jafarieh, who is known for his holistic approach to health. The purpose of their Instagram Live talk was to explain what Djokovic describes as the ‘natural detoxification process of the body.’ During one part of their discussion, they touched on the belief that the molecular structure of water can be changed by simply meditating or thinking. Basically, if you have bad thoughts, it will make bad water.

“I know some people that, through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they managed to turn the most toxic food, or maybe most polluted water into the most healing water, because water reacts. Scientists have proven that in experiment, that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what has been said,” Djokovic said.
“I truly believe that we should continuously every single day remind ourselves when we sit, that we sit without cameras, without phones, without watching things and stuff. Or even worse, having nervous [and] conflicting discussions at the table with your close ones during your meal.”

The concept is based on research conducted by pseudo-scientist Masaru Emoto. However, the reason why Djokovic has come under fire for endorsing this view is because of the many questions surrounding it. First of all, it lacks scientific validity. In one article written by professor William Reville, he points out that Emoto was never a scientist (he was a doctor of alternative medicine) and conducted a triple blind study that actually disproved this theory which Djokovic has publicly promoted. Furthermore, EU-funded Germany water company mitte.co, says mainstream science has been unable to replicate Emoto’s findings because of the ‘unspecified techniques” used. It is also interesting to note that Emoto was offered to take part in the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge where he could prove his theory but declined.

Of course, people have their own beliefs and should never be criticised for them. Although Djokovic finds himself in a tough box. Due to his status, he has the ability to inspire and influence many. A lot of which he has already done for the good with his love and respect for everybody.

But in this case he should be held to account for giving such a high profile platform to Jafarieh. A person who has minimal information online.

Jafarieh is the mastermind behind wellness brand CYMBIOTIKA, which is a leading dietary supplement that is known for ‘creating pure, clinically-backed supplements.’ Looking at the website, it may appeal to many for numerous reasons. The products are said to help reduce anxiety, boost your immune system and calms the central nervous system. This sounds like a bunch of great products until you do look beneath the surface.

“We are not responsible if information made available on this site is not accurate, complete or current. The material on this website is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information.” The terms and conditions of the website read.

Researching further the Frequently Asked Questions of the CYMBIOTIKA website states that ‘results are not guaranteed.’

Despite these issues, there will likely be a surge of interest around these products. After all, if a top athlete like Djokovic has been taking similar health remedies, it must have positive effects? A perfectly justifiable reasoning, but also one that shows Djokovic’s responsibility concerning these matters.

It is not for me to say what he should or shouldn’t express. Djokovic is renowned for his mental strength on the court and standing up for what he believes in. As Mary Carillo from The Tennis Channel notes he is not one who doesn’t like change.

“It’s not a surprise Novak speaks in these ways. This I find particularly dangerous. He’s not the kind of guy whose favourite music changes in every room he moves in… I’m very disturbed that Djokovic and that other guy are saying you can change toxic water to drinking water.” She said.

Djokovic is a sporting icon and nothing changes that. His controversial chat has already gained more than 500,00 views and not necessarily all of it was bad. However, to give a platform to somebody who sells questionable products is one that should be concerning. After all, if they were perfectly fine, why would the company advise the public to look at other sources of information beforehand?

This is why I think it is right to criticise Djokovic.

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Of Novak Djokovic, A Champion And Above All A Great Man

The Serbian donated one million euros to the hospitals in Bergamo, and did so without publicity. This is a great example of the great person he is, despite the crowd abuse he had to endure at Wimbledon against Federer. His authenticity has always been there, all the way since those Players Parties in Monte Carlo.

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Novak Djokovic did something amazing, and the unprompted nature of his act did all but magnify his gallantry.

 

I’ve met him a few times, for instance when I was invited to the Players Party in Monte Carlo as either a comedic advisor or even as an actor, and I have to say that, whether one can like his brand of tennis which is – perfunctory to say – extraordinary, to be able to witness the charm, the spontaneity, and the effort he put in his duties as dancer, singer, and all-around showman, reinforced my first impression of him as a genuinely decent guy, not a conceited persona. This is why I always thought the attitude of the crowd during the last Wimbledon final against Federer to be utterly disgraceful to say the least. It’s one thing to choose a champion to cheer for, and another to disrespect his opponent, to the point of taking away from him the joys of victory and celebration. And as a matter of fact, Nole barely acknowledged his success. Sure, he will have thoroughly enjoyed it in his heart, but some bitterness must have crept in – and this is just unfair.

Many have said that Novak is constantly hurt by the greater popularity of Federer and Nadal, who had a head start in seizing the love of tennis fans, and then could live off it as with a trust fund. I don’t think Nole is jealous of his rivals. However, it is only human that he wishes for his humane side to be acknowledged a little more, as it happens in Serbia, where he is second to none in the estimation of his people. This happens in Italy as well, for the most part, thanks to his fluency in the language that allows him to fully be himself wherever he goes, be it in stand-up comedy skits, at music festivals, or simply among the crowd. When he says that Italy is his second home, he says it sincerely, and that is true for his wife Jelena too, since she studied in Milan. When he says it, he’s not pandering to Roger and Rafa’s fans, he knows that they won’t switch sides. He has no obligation to say it, he does because he means it. Every single tournament winner thanks the organisers and the crowd, claiming that it’s the best event that could possibly be, we know it, it’s part of the game. But Djokovic, who loves Rome and its tournament, and is loved by the city in return, doesn’t mince words when he says that some things could and should be improved, especially in terms of court maintenance – his honesty should be appreciated.

We should also be more accepting of the diplomacy that his political role in the ATP Council entails at times, leading him to leave some questions unanswered. I don’t always agree with what Novak says, such as during the Gimelstob affair, at least initially. At the same time, though, it can’t be easy for a man in his position to pick a side during a quarrel like the one happening between the ATP Cup (backed by Tennis Australia) and the Davis Cup, a competition he has an unbreakable bond with, because of what it meant for him and for Serbia when they won it in 2010, changing the trajectory of his career for good, and for the better.

He’s stated publicly that he’s in favour of the creation of a single team event, but he knows very well that the interests at stake – involving multi-year contracts signed by Tennis Australia on one side, and by the ITF, Piqué, and Rakuten on the other – are not easily reconcilable, and thus he knows very well that his statement might sound hypocritical or utopian. However, being a “politician” of tennis, he’s aware that what he said is what the fans who do not have any economic agendas wish for, namely one competition that wouldn’t betray too much the storied past of the Davis Cup.

Well, I got caught up in the writing as usual, even if I was doing it on my phone with the idea of putting on paper just a couple lines (!) to commend Novak on his incredible gesture, and this is even more noticeable since I can only use one finger while writing on my phone (my children write at supersonic speed, and I have no idea how). All I wanted to do was to thank Novak Djokovic for being such a great champion, and even more for being such a great man. All that’s left to say is… NOT TOO BAD! To Nole,

Ubaldo

P.S. I’ll always regret missing the chance to play with him in Australia, when he told me, “Bring your racquet tomorrow!” Just one minute of that heinous spectacle of personal embarrassment would have been enough for me to be contented with myself! Alas, the temperature reached 40 degrees and the humidity was such that all outdoors play was suspended, and naturally I had no way to get onto the indoors ones between matches. That night Nole all but apologized and said: “We’ll do it in Rome then!”

Article translated from ubitennis.com by Tommaso Villa

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Tennis In The Time Of Covid-19

There will be tennis again, but along the way there should be memories of triumphs that rise above the challenges that these times engender. Existence can hinge on more than tennis, but the game will survive a pandemic with a lot of patience and ingenuity.

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By Cheryl Jones

It’s April. Tennis hasn’t been cancelled, but it’s been sidelined by something much bigger than the sport itself. The Covid-19 virus has taken center stage. It’s doubtful that Rafael Nadal will be taking his yearly bite out of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, even though Roland Garros has merely been rescheduled for September. Paris’ delay could eventually lead to cancellation, gauging the way things are now. Roger Federer is likely having mixed feelings about the cancellation of most major events that he was planning to skip anyway, having had knee surgery quite recently. Andy Murray has probably been weighing the events of the day, trying to decide if he should retire and become an expert on the rare species of bats that have taken up residence on his property – or maybe not.

 

There’s a likelihood that the stars of the tennis world are doing just what everyone else is doing – sheltering in place, reading that book that’s been on the shelf gathering dust, or maybe like Federer trying to hit balls against a wall to get back into condition. Of course it is snowing and windy and cold in Switzerland this time of year, but as Chaucer once said – time waits for no man. Evidently, not even Roger Federer.

Having a good deal of time on my hands, having read three of those dusty books and missing tennis, my mind began to wander. I thought about others that were confined to their homes, much as I am here in Southern California. Because this was a rather unplanned sequestering, most folks have had to make-do with what they have on hand.

Last week, ESPN, hungry for sports news, where thanks to the virus, none exists, showed Federer hitting balls against a backboard on his private court. I imagined that he had to make sure there were no gut strings involved that would grow gummy in the wet and wild weather. Then I thought, what if his supply of synthetic strings ran low? A crafty guy like Federer would have something on hand. He would have known that he needed to rehab and there should have been a way to make that happen. What better way to get in shape for tennis than with tennis?

I imagined that he called his good friend Rafa and the two of them surely would have chatted about the dilemma Roger was having. He needed to rehab, but he had way too much gut and not enough synthetic string. As problems go, this should have been inconsequential, in the scheme of things, but it wasn’t. They both knew that their livelihood should not depend on the lack of suitable manmade product. The chitchat that the two greats exchanged would have been light and airy – How are the kids? How about the newlyweds? How’s the fishing going? Kids are fine; marriage is fine; fishing isn’t what it once was, but life is good. Wait – fishing… Rafa might have remembered that he left a tackle box in Roger’s huge garage. Recalling the contents, he would have said, “Check the stash of fishing line, No?”

A glimmer of hope would have painted a smile on Roger’s face and off he would go to check the garage for the tackle box. Looking in every crevice of the space that was carefully catalogued and organized for convenience, he might finally have spotted the box. It was filled with hooks and lures. Not much in the way of fishing line, but when he moved the top drawer, there under it all, was a supply of fishing line. It would have been cold out there. Roger would have stuffed his pockets with spools of various test weights. (Fishing line is gauged by the size of fish it could be strong enough to reel in.)

He would have jogged back into the house, thrilled with his find. After all, the sporting goods stores were all on hiatus because the places had been declared non-essential businesses. The thought of that had left him muttering about who made those decisions? But, he would have headed for his stringing machine, hoping all the while for a miracle.

He would have tried the 16-pound test line first. It was easy to evenly string the test racquet he had selected. But when he struck a ball, it nearly sliced the little green orb into pieces. By then, his wife, Mirka would have entered the picture and procured the strangely strung racquet for slicing hardboiled eggs to make uniquely cubed egg salad sandwiches. With those snacks, their four kids would have memories to share with their own children, someday. Who but a child of the father of an invention could have been so lucky?

A determined Roger would have moved on to another test case (or test racquet) then. He would next have tried the 40-pound test. The curly string would have been a clear example of over-kill, but he persevered. After it had seemed satisfactory, the excited Federer would have swiftly donned his outside clothing and ambled to the soggy court. In mere seconds, his racquet would have been immune to the wet, icy air. He would have swatted ball after ball toward his anxious opponent – the wall. Satisfied to having solved his pressing issues, at least for the day, he would have again dialed up his Spanish friend. The line would have crackled and a friendly voice would have answered, No?

Yes! Would surely have been Roger’s reply. The two friends would have marveled at their ability to think outside the box, even though the solution had been in the tackle box all along.

There will be tennis again, but along the way there should be memories of triumphs that rise above the challenges that these times engender. Existence can hinge on more than tennis, but the game will survive a pandemic with a lot of patience and ingenuity.

 

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