Australian Open: Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova Drawn In Same Quarter - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open: Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova Drawn In Same Quarter

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The draw for the 2018 Australian Open has been made and reigning world number one Simona Halep could face Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals, whilst Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki are also on course to meet in the last four.

 

With seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams missing her fourth successive Grand Slam tournament, there will be a new champion in Melbourne and six players have the chance to become the world number one.

The world number one, Simona Halep is bidding to win her first Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne, and she has a tricky path of becoming the last woman standing, whilst Caroline Wozniacki is back at world number two in the world, she will be looking to seize the opportunity of winning an elusive major as she has been handed a relatively kind draw.

Top seed Halep has not won a match in Melbourne since reaching the quarterfinals in 2015 as she has suffered first round defeats in her last two visits. The two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist opens her campaign against Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the 27th seed could await in the third round, and either Australia’s 18th seed Ashleigh Barty and or No.16 seed Elena Vesnina could be Halep’s fourth round opponent.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova, the sixth seed could be Halep’s potential quarterfinal opponent in Melbourne. The Czech faces Veronica Cepede Royg in the first round, and the Paraguayan almost upset Pliskova on Court Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open last year. Pliskova could face fellow Czech, the No.29 seed Lucie Safarova in the third round, and a mouthwatering clash with ninth seed Johanna Konta could be on the cards in round four.

Second seed Wozniacki can ease her way into the tournament as she faces Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu. It is a winnable first round match for the 2011 semifinalist. Should the Dane advance she could face 15th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the quarterfinals last year, completing her set of reaching the quarterfinals at every Grand Slam.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the seventh seed or last year’s semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe, seeded 10th could prove to be a tricky obstacle for Wozniacki to overcome in the quarterfinals. Ostapenko defeated the Dane in three sets in the quarterfinals en route to winning Roland Garros last June, and Vandeweghe overpowered the second seed in their fourth round encounter at Wimbledon last year.

Third seed  Garbine Muguruza has a nightmare mini-section of the draw to deal with as she aims to win her first Grand Slam hardcourt title. She begins her campaign against a French wildcard in Jessika Ponchet. Should she progress, the two-time major winner could face 26th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a two-time semifinalist in Melbourne in the last four years in the third round, a resurgent 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber or 2008 winner Maria Sharapova could be formidable fourth round opponents.

Sharapova faces Germany’s Tatjana Maria in the first round, and she could face 14th seed Anastasia Sevastova in the second round. The Latvian upset the five-time Grand Slam winner in their fourth round clash at the US Open last year.

Last year’s runner-up Venus Williams has a mouthwatering first round clash with Belinda Bencic. The Swiss won the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer on Sunday but it could be an omen for the seven-time Grand Slam winner as her sister Serena defeated Bencic in the first round last year, and went on to win the title.

Williams could face 31st Ekaterina Makarova, who is a regular fixture in the latter stages in Melbourne in the third round and either the in-form 12th seed Julia Goerges or Australia’s 23rd seed Daria Gavrilova in round four.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina could meet Williams in the quarterfinals but she opens her campaign against a qualifier, and should she reach the second round, the Ukranian will have to be on the top of her game, when she faces Maria Sakkari or Katerina Siniakova. US Open champion Sloane Stephens, seeded 13th could meet Svitolina in round four.

The Australian Open gets underway on Monday 15th January.

 

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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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‘Super Confident’ Nick Kyrgios Admits Admiration for Medvedev Ahead Of Clash

Nick Kyrgios has had positive things to say about Daniil Medvedev ahead of their second round meeting in Montreal.

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Nick Kyrgios (@atptour - Twitter)

Nick Kyrgios has spoken highly of world number one Daniil Medvedev ahead of their second round clash in Montreal.

 

Kyrgios is in some of the best form in his career having reached the final of Wimbledon last month.

That has been followed up by a doubles title in Atlanta and a singles and doubles triumph in Washington.

Now the Australian is into the second round in Montreal after defeating Sebastian Baez 6-4 6-4.

Now Kyrgios takes on the ultimate challenge as he takes on world number one Daniil Medvedev who heads into the match in form himself having beaten Cameron Norrie to win the Los Cabos title.

Speaking ahead of the match the Australian admitted he was confident but has nothing but admiration for Medvedev’s game style, “I know I’ve got Medvedev next which kind of sucks,” Kyrgios told the Tennis Channel.

“I feel like against pretty much any player right now, I’d feel extremely confident. Obviously I feel confident going up against him, but we all know what he can produce. It’s going to be a good match for sure. I’m a bit tired but I’m gonna try and give him a good run.

“I’d like to play 95 per cent of the draw in the next round but if it’s anything like today, I know there’s going to be a lot of balls coming back and it’s going to be tough. A part of me wants the challenge, but a part of me knows it’s not going to be easy at all. I’m not gonna shy away from it, I’m going to do everything I can to recover and rest.

“But he’s a hell of a player and it’s incredible to see how he plays. He returns so far back, hits some crazy shots that we’ve never seen before. He does it his own way, he’s unorthodox and really special in the game. I love watching him play because he just looks so crazy out there, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.

“I love people who just play the way they want to play. He’s comfortable in his own skin so hopefully it will be two contrasting styles as well. Not going to get much different tennis from me, I’m going to serve massive and play big and try to dictate. If I do that well, usually it works.”

Kyrgios is hoping to have good results this week as well as next week in Cincinnati so he can be seeded for the last grand slam of the year at the US Open.

The duo have met on three occasions with Kyrgios leading the head-to-head 2-1 but it’s Medvedev who won their last meeting at the Australian Open in four sets.

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Bianca Andreescu survives thrilling match against Kasatkina in Toronto return

Bianca Andreescu reached the second round in her home tournament while Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu crashed out.

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(@Andreescu_Fans - Twitter)

The 2019 champion made her return three years after winning the title and reached the second round to the delight of the Canadian fans.

 

Bianca Andreescu is into the second round of the National Bank Open being hosted at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto, Ontario after beating the San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.

Although the scoreline seemed pretty routine this match had everything with highs and lows for both players but the Toronto native managed to get through.

“She played really well, super consistent and I am so happy I had that mental toughness to get through in two sets and that was key for me.”

In the first set both players got off to a very nervous start as the first five games of the match were breaks of serve before Andreescu was able to secure the first hold of the match to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3 with the Russian serving the Canadian earned two set points but was denied by the number 11 seed and the next game broke the world number 53 to go back on serve at 5-5.

The Toronto native responded by breaking right back once again and served for the set for the second time but Kasatkina broke once more to force a tiebreaker.

The Russian found herself up 4-2 but lost the following two points and the Canadian fought back and managed to take the tiebreaker 7-5 and the first set 7-6 in one hour and 25 minutes.

Dealing with high blood pressure she was seen by the trainer and the doctor during the break between both sets and she was given medication to rectify the problem.

Once again holding serve seemed to be the issue as after the world number 53 held the opening service game of the second set she broke to take an early 2-0 lead.

Kasatkina responded by breaking right back and holding to even the set at 2-2 and broke once again using her powerful forehand on breakpoint to seal the break.

Again she failed to consolidate the break and the Canadian broke her right back and after consolidating the break broke again to take a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve out the match.

Andreescu wasn’t able to close it out as the number 11 seed broke right back but in the following game, the Canadian responded by winning the match on her opponent’s serve.

After the match in her post-match on-court interview, she was asked if she felt the exact same emotions she had back in 2019 and what she will remember from the match.

“I wished I enjoyed it a bit more and I was really looking forward to having that positive attitude that I always have.”

Andreescu will now face Alize Cornet on Wednesday after the Frenchwomen was able to beat another Frenchwomen Caroline Garica in a tough three-set match on Monday night.

A busy Tuesday in Toronto

It was a busy day in Toronto and here are some of the other results from day 2 at the National Bank Open.

Belinda Bencic the number 12 seed got by the Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, and Naomi Osaka was forced to retire down 7-6, 3-0 against Kaia Kanepi due to a back injury.

Amanda Anisimova beat the Canadian wild card, Carol Zhao, in straight sets as well 6-3, 6-1, and Camila Giorgi, the defending champion, ousted the number nine seed Emma Raducanu also in straight sets 7-6, 6-2.

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