Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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On the sides of the singles draws that play on Friday, there is plenty of room for a new name to rise to the occasion. In the women’s bottom half of the draw, only six of the sixteen remaining players are seeded, and they combine for a grand total of one major title (Ostapenko). In the men’s second quarter of the draw, they combine for a grand total of one major final (Tsonga). With big opportunities at stake, here’s a look at what figure to be the must-see matchups on Day 5.

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Nick Kyrgios

A lot of people are talking about Kyrgios as a contender to make a deep run here. Kyrgios has two major quarterfinals two his name, including one in Australia, but that was three years ago. Tsonga is one of only two players with a higher seeding that stand between Nick and the semifinals, with the other being Grigor Dimitrov. Tsonga is a man Kyrgios idolized as a child. A decade ago, a young Nick attended all of Tsonga’s practice sessions, getting a different tennis ball signed by Jo every day. It was also a decade ago at this tournament that Tsonga reached his only major final. Jo had a poor year in 2017, but fought back to survive a tough five-setter against Denis Shapovalov on Wednesday. Will that have drained the energy out of Tsonga, or will that inspire a higher level of play? Their only previous meeting was last year in Marseille, which was a tight match that Tsonga won 6-4 in the third. With the Aussie crowd solidly behind him, this is a great chance for Kyrgios to take his career to the next level.

Grigor Dimitrov vs. Andrey Rublev

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Much like Tsonga, Dimitrov just barely survived a five-set battle in the second round. The difference is Dimitrov was facing a player ranked 186th in the world. It’s a sign that Grigor is struggling with the weight of expectations that come with his recent rise to number three in the world. He’ll have to play much better against Rublev, who eliminated Dimitrov at the last major. That US Open second round upset was in straight sets. The winner here will play the winner of the Tsonga/Kyrgios match. With no seeded players remaining on the other side of this half of the draw, the winner of that fourth round match will be favored to reach the semifinals. There’s a lot on the line, and I’m curious to see if Grigor can avenge the loss in New York and show he’s ready to live up to his seeding.

Elina Svitolina vs. Marta Kostyuk

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Kostyuk has been one of the biggest stories of the tournament so far. At just 15-years-old, the Ukrainian became the youngest player to win a match at the Australian Open since Martina Hingis. With her win on Wednesday, she became the youngest player in the third round of a major since Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Hingis and Lucic-Baroini achieved those feats over two decades ago. To say the youngster has impressed would be an understatement. On Friday, she’ll face the Ukrainian number one. Will that intimidate the fifteen-year-old, or will Svitolina feel the pressure of playing a much younger countrywoman? Svitolina has shown in the past she can succumb to nerves at the majors. She’s heavily favored to make her first major semifinal in a section of the draw where she’s the only seed remaining. That’s a lot of pressure, so this could be interesting.

Jelena Ostapenko vs. Anett Kontaveit

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Here we have two young players with big aspirations. Ostapenko has already realized much of her potential with her Roland Garros title last year. Kontaveit is yet to make such a breakthrough, but she has quietly established herself on the tour and is a seeded player here. Like Ostapenko, she also won her first career title in 2017, on the grass of ‘S-Hertogenbosch. The only time these two met was also in grass. While Kontaveit prevailed, that was three years ago and on a different surface so I’m not sure that reveals very much. Ostapenko was pushed in her last round by an unseeded opponent: she’ll likely need to find better form to win on Friday. Is she ready to become a consistent contender at the majors?

Rafael Nadal vs. Damir Dzumhur

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Damir Dzumhir is undefeated against Rafael Nadal. You can’t that say about many players, though it’s a bit misleading. They’ve only played once, in 2016 in Miami, and in a match where Nadal retired midway through the third set. While Dzumhur is the first seeded player Rafa will face at this Australian Open, he shouldn’t cause Nadal too much trouble. The number one seed has looked very strong through his first two rounds. Let’s see if Nadal can continue to build momentum as he looks to win his second title at the only major he’s only won once.
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Australian Open 2018 schedule for Day 5

(All times UK GMT)
Rod Laver Arena – midnight
KUMKHUM, Luksika (THA) vs MARTIC, Petra (CRO)
KOSTYUK, Marta (UKR) vs SVITOLINA, Elina (UKR) [4]
Not before 3.30am
DIMITROV, Grigor (BUL) [3] vs RUBLEV, Andrey (RUS) [30]
8am
KYRGIOS, Nick (AUS) [17] vs TSONGA, Jo-Wilfried (FRA) [15]
BERTENS, Kiki (NED) [30] vs WOZNIACKI, Caroline (DEN) [2]

Margaret Court Arena – midnight

ALLERTOVA, Denisa (CZE) vs LINETTE, Magda (POL)
CARRENO BUSTA, Pablo (ESP) [10] vs MULLER, Gilles (LUX) [23]
8am
NADAL, Rafael (ESP) [1] vs DZUMHUR, Damir (BIH) [28]
OSTAPENKO, Jelena (LAT) [7] vs KONTAVEIT, Anett (EST) [32]

Hisense Arena – midnight

BRYAN, Bob (USA) / BRYAN, Mike (USA) [6] vs MIRNYI, Max (BLR) / OSWALD, Philipp (AUT)
MERTENS, Elise (BEL) vs CORNET, Alize (FRA)
SEPPI, Andreas (ITA) vs KARLOVIC, Ivo (CRO)
Not before 5am
HARRISON, Ryan (USA) vs CILIC, Marin (CRO) [6]

Show Court 2 – midnight
EDMUND, Kyle (GBR) vs BASILASHVILI, Nikoloz (GEO)
SAFAROVA, Lucie (CZE) / STRYCOVA, Barbora (CZE) [4] vs OLARU, Raluca (ROU) / SAVCHUK, Olga (UKR)
ALBOT, Radu (MDA) / CHUNG, Hyeon (KOR) vs KONTINEN, Henri (FIN) / PEERS, John (AUS) [2]
KANEPI, Kaia (EST) vs SUÁREZ NAVARRO, Carla (ESP)

Show Court 3 – midnight
MOORE, Jessica (AUS) / PEREZ, Ellen (AUS) vs BEGU, Irina-Camelia (ROU) / NICULESCU, Monica (ROU) [10]
CHAN, Latisha (TPE) / SESTINI HLAVACKOVA, Andrea (CZE) [1] vs KALASHNIKOVA, Oksana (GEO) / LEPCHENKO, Varvara (USA)
STOSUR, Samantha (AUS) / GROTH, Sam (AUS) vs HON, Priscilla (AUS) / REID, Matt (AUS)
SCHWARTZMAN, Diego (ARG) [24] vs DOLGOPOLOV, Alexandr (UKR)

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Svetlana Kuznetsova Wins First Title Since Return From Surgery In Washington

The two-time grand slam champion has returned back to the winners circle following her six-month absence due to injury.

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Former world No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova saved four match points to defeat Donna Vekic 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, in the final of the Citi Open in Washington.

 

Kuznetsova, 33, fought back against the aggressive play of her opponent. Saving seven out of the 10 break points she faced in the match. Eventually, it was the experience of the Russian that guided her to the finish line as she hit 34 winners to 36 unforced errors to win her first title on the tour since the 2016 Moscow Open.

“It was a difficult week,” Kuznetsova reflected afterwards. “Tennis is always mental, if you lose or if you win, you always gotta stay focused.”

With both players contesting their first final of the season, it was Vekic who battled through what was a roller-coaster and tense opening set. At first, the seventh seed appeared on course to clinch the opener with ease after breaking Kuznetsova in the fourth game as she raced out to a 4-1 lead. Only to be pegged by the 2014 champion. Serving for the set at 5-3, a forehand error rewarded Kuznetsova the chance to break back. Prior to the following point, the Russian complained about the movement of the crowd just as Vekic was about to serve. Then the Croat hit a double fault with the two players exchanging words at the changeover.

Despite feeling hard done by, Vekic soon restored order in the match. As Kuznetsova served for a chance to level 5-5, she pounced one again as the former world No.2 faltered. Recovering from a 15-40 deficit to seal the opening set with the help of a Kuznetsova double fault on set point.

Vekic continued to fight with the help of her of some rapid shock-making. Fending off a break point to nudge ahead 4-3 in the second set. Although Kuznetsova refused to go away. Saving two match points, it was in the tiebreaker where the Russian managed to turn her fortunes around. Vekic missed out on another two chances to win the match, allowing Kuznetsova to nudge ahead 8-7. She was then able to force proceedings into a decider after a Vekic forehand slammed into the net.

Kuznetsova’s resilience eventually wore her opponent down, who was close to tears after the match. Vekic admitted afterwards that she was dealing with leg pain and took a medical time out just before the start of the final set.

A double break in Kuznetsova’s favor in the decider guided her to a 5-0 lead. Enough of a cushion to enable her to close out the match after two-and-a-half hours of play to win her second Washington title.

“I know I’ve been a little bit lucky today,” she said.
“There’s something going on with Washington. I never lose here. I played two times and I won both.”

The victory comes after what has been a testing first half of the year for Kuznetsova. Left wrist surgery forced her to miss six months of the tour. Meaning that she didn’t start the 2018 season until March. Prior to the Citi Open, she had only won four matches in 10 tournaments played. Making her latest triumph even more special.

“Those times I had after the surgery, I had difficulties everywhere — personal, working different things. I switched coaches. I had lots of issues,” Kuznetsova explained. “But still, I rise again, and it’s really good for me.”

As a result of her latest win, Kuznetsova has risen 41 places in 87th in the world. Meanwhile, Vekic has jumped seven places to 37th.

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Davis Cup Reforms Face Late Opposition As Vote Looms

The proposed Davis Cup reforms have received strong criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe ahead of this month’s vote.

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David Haggerty (zimbio.com)

The upcoming Davis Cup reform vote has received some strong opposition and criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe. 

 

The vote is set to take place on the 16th of August, where federations will vote to change the 118 year old format to a one week season finale at the end of the year. The proposed move by Kosmos, has received fierce criticism and will need a two-thirds majority in order for it to be approved.

However with the vote just two weeks away Tennis Australia has been among the federations to oppose these reforms and have pushed this even further as they have wrote a letter expressing their discontent at the idea. The letter has been signed by the likes of John Newcombe, current Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.

The letter raises the following concerns, “We have written and spoken to the ITF President for several months now requesting clarity on the proposal from Kosmos, but this has not been forthcoming,” explained the letter, which is even signed by former ITF president Brian Tobin.

“Very large numbers are being referenced, but there is not enough detail to give us confidence this proposal will genuinely deliver enough additional value to players and the nations to offset the loss of home and away camaraderie and all the local marketing, facility investment and player development benefit that comes with those ties. In the absence of such important information, we have no choice other than to vote against the proposed amendments.”

However Tennis Australia isn’t the only federation to be against this move as Tennis Europe, who represent more than 50 member nations have also expressed their concern at the idea, “I am particularly concerned that there is hardly any information received from the ITF regarding bank guarantees for the proposed US$120 million per year which would be the $3 billion deal over 25 years, according to the original proposal,” President Vladimir Dimitriev explained in a separate letter.

“I have not yet seen a final and feasible explanation on how the business model or the governance structure will be either.”

The ITF do have the backing of Germany and France ahead of the move though with the AGM meeting set to take place in Orlando, Florida between the 13th and 16th of August.

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Serena Williams Withdraws From Montreal Due To Personal Reasons

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week due to personal reasons.

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Serena Williams (zimbio.com)

Former world number one Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week as she deals with some personal issues. 

 

The American suffered the worst defeat of her career last week when she lost 6-1 6-0 to Johanna Konta in San Jose. The 23 grand slam champion clearly wasn’t at her best and it now turns out that she had personal problems to deal with as this is the reason for her withdrawal in Montreal next week.

The recent Wimbledon finalist also felt that she could not play Montreal and Cincinnati in back to back weeks as she continues her comeback from pregnancy. The tournament director, Eugene Lapierre, admits that he is disappointed but still recognises the high quality field that is left, “Of course, we are disappointed that Serena will not be joining us, Fans were very much looking forward to seeing her in action,” explained Eugene.

“But beyond the disappointment, the tournament, as a whole, remains a high-level competition. The entire Top 10 is here, along with 22 of the Top 25. There are exciting matches in store from the outset.”

The American was set to play in Canada for the first time since 2015 before withdrawing today. The 23 time grand slam champion has played five events since returning from pregnancy and the results have been mixed as you can see below:

Indian Wells – Third Round

Miami – First Round

Roland Garros – Fourth Round

Wimbledon – Final

San Jose – First Round

Tatjana Maria will now replace Serena Williams in the main draw and the German faces Alize Cornet in the first round.

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