Wimbledon Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Today is one of the most special days of the tennis year: Day 1 at The Championships. The grass of The All England Club is pristine, as the ladies and gentlemen don their all-white playing attire.

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Roger Federer (zimbio.com)

For the first time since the 2016 Australian Open, the six most prolific Major singles champions in the sport are all present: Serena, Roger, Rafa, Novak, Venus, and Maria.  An astounding 103 Major singles titles are represented in the singles draws.

 

Federer and Nadal have combined to take the last six Majors.  Will someone break that streak? It feels like we may be a due for a change.  Meanwhile, the last seven Majors have seen seven different women prevail. Will we have an eighth different champion in a row?  That seems entirely possible, with so many women in contention for the title.

Each day during the upcoming fortnight, we’ll preview the best match-ups on that day’s order of play.

Roger Federer vs. Dusan Lajovic

For the eighth time in his career, Roger Federer will open play on Centre Court at 1pm on Day 1.  Tradition dictates that is the honor bestowed to the defending gentlemen’s champion. Federer is the top seed, though he’s ranked number two in the world.  Nadal has a 50-point lead over Federer, but Wimbledon’s seeding formula puts a bigger weight on grass court results, thus bumping Roger up to the top seeding.  Federer overtook Nadal atop the rankings a few weeks ago with his victory on the grass of Stuttgart, but gave it back just one week later by losing to Borna Coric in the final of Halle.  Federer arrives at SW19 with a 25-3 record on the year, with three titles. The only previous time Roger has faced Dusan Lajovic was actually last year at Wimbledon, with Federer winning a second round encounter in straight sets.  The 28-year-old from Serbia has never been farther than that round at The Championships. Dusan has shown he’s capable of stepping up on a big stage, as we saw when he upset Juan Martin Del Potro in a third set tiebreak just two months ago in Madrid.  However, that was on clay. On Federer’s preferred surface of grass, Roger will be a heavy favourite to get the first of seven wins needed to win his ninth Gentlemen’s Singles Trophy.

Serena Williams vs. Arantxa Rus

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The last match of the day on Court 1 will be the SW19 return of Serena Williams, in her first match since her seventh Wimbledon title two years ago.  Serena is on a 14-match winning streak at The All-England Club, dating back to 2015, though she is only seven matches into her 2018 comeback from child birth.  She is currently ranked 181st in the world.  Williams looked better with each victory at Roland Garros, but had to pull out of her fourth round match with Maria Sharapova due to a pectoral injury.  One month later, she speaks of not yet being back to 100%. Serena told the press this weekend that she’s yet to serve at full speed during practice. Of course we’ve seen Serena play herself into form during a Major many times before, so she is a legitimate threat to win this tournament for the eighth time.  She has never before faced her opponent on Monday, a 27-year-old from The Netherlands who is also currently ranked outside the top 100. This is the first Major singles appearance for Rus in five years, having spent the last several seasons playing in the minor leagues of the sport. This should be a straightforward victory for the 23-time Major singles champion, but all eyes will be on how close to her best Serena appears to be.

Grigor Dimitrov vs. Stan Wawrinka

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This is a blockbuster opening day matchup to conclude the day’s schedule on Centre Court, made possible by Wawrinka’s current ranking of 224 in the world.  Stan is still not back to 100% following knee surgery which forced him to miss the second half of 2017. He is just 5-9 on the year, and went 1-2 in the grass court lead-up events.  His opponent on Monday has also struggled in 2018. After winning the biggest title of his career the last time he played in London, at November’s ATP World Tour Finals, Dimitrov has failed to follow-up on that result.  Grigor is yet to win a title this year, and has only appeared in one tournament final. While he is a former semifinalist at Wimbledon, that was four years ago, and he hasn’t gone passed the fourth round since. I was surprised to find Dimitrov is 4-2 lifetime against Wawrinka, a three-time Major champion.  He’s won their last four meetings, including their only match on grass. Grigor is the favorite here, but considering his current lack of confidence, the result of this one is far from defined. What I do know is we’ll see some exquisite one-handed backhands on the lawns of The All England Club.

Richard Gasquet vs. Gael Monfils

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Here’s another marquee first round contest with two more of the most pleasurable players to watch on tour: Gasquet for his unique one-handed backhand, and Monfils for his athleticism and flashy shot-making.  Their last two meetings actually both came on grass last year, with one victory going to each in two tight matches. Overall Monfils has a slight 9-7 edge against Gasquet, though Richard is the stronger grass court player, and comes into Wimbledon with more momentum.  Gasquet won his first title since 2016 just a few weeks ago on the grass of s-Hertogenbosch. Of course he’s also two-time Wimbledon semifinalist, while Monfils has never been beyond the third round. That being said, you can never be quite sure what to expect from these two, especially in the uncomfortable position of playing a fellow countryman and friend.

Elina Svitolina vs. Tatjana Maria

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Here we have a possible upset alert involving a top five seed on Day 1.  While Svitolina already has three titles on the year, she was upset in the round of 32 in both of her last two tournaments by the same player: Michaela Buzarnescu.  Elina of course is yet to go farther than the quarterfinals at a major, and is just 5-5 in her career at Wimbledon on her weakest surface. Meanwhile, Tatjana Maria is one of the hottest players on tour.  The German just won the first singles title of her career on the grass of Mallorca. Svitolina is 1-0 against Maria, but their only meeting was two years ago on a hard court. Tatjana is coming off the best result of her career, and should play freely knowing all the pressure is on her opponent.  This could be a dangerous first round for the world number five.

Order of play

(Play starts at 11.30am GMT unless stated)
Centre Court – 1pm
1. Roger Federer v Dusan Lajovic
2. Varvara Lepchenko v Caroline Wozniacki
3. Stan Wawrinka v Grigor Dimitrov

Court 1 – 1pm
1. Donna Vekic v Sloane Stephens
2. Liam Broady v Milos Raonic
3. Arantxa Rus v Serena Williams

Court 2
1. Marin Cilic v Yoshihito Nishioka
2. Johanna Larsson v Venus Williams
3. Gael Monfils v Richard Gasquet
4. Elina Svitolina v Tatjana Maria

Court 3
1. Sam Querrey v Jordan Thompson
2. Ajla Tomljanovic v Madison Keys
3. John Isner v Yannick Maden
4. Coco Vandeweghe v Katerina Siniakova

Court 12
1. Karolina Pliskova v Harriet Dart
2. Daniil Medvedev v Borna Coric
3. Norbert Gombos v Kevin Anderson
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova v Barbora Strycova

Court 18
1. Lucas Pouille v Denis Kudla
2. Ekaterina Alexandrova v Victoria Azarenka
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas v Gregoire Barrere
4. Julia Goerges v Monica Puig

Court 4
1. Evgeniya Rodina v Antonia Lottner
2. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez v Gastao Elias
3. Malek Jaziri v Jared Donaldson
4. Tereza Smitkova v Viktoriya Tomova

Court 5
1. Peter Polansky v Dennis Novak
2. Luksika Kumkhum v Bernarda Pera
3. John-Patrick Smith v Andreas Seppi
4. Lesia Tsurenko v Timea Babos

Court 6
1. Alexandra Dulgheru v Kristyna Pliskova
2. Petra Martic v Ekaterina Makarova
3. John Millman v Stefano Travaglia
4. Vera Lapko v Christina McHale

Court 7
1. Gilles Muller v Michael Mmoh
2. Aleksandra Krunic v Madison Brengle
3. Ryan Harrison v Roberto Carballes Baena
4. Viktorija Golubic v Ons Jabeur

Court 8
1. Mona Barthel v Yanina Wickmayer
2. Camila Giorgi v Anastasija Sevastova
3. Yuki Bhambri v Thomas Fabbiano
4. Radu Albot v Pablo Carreno Busta

Court 10
1. Sergiy Stakhovsky v Joao Sousa
2. Yafan Wang v Anna Blinkova
3. Lukas Lacko v Benjamin Bonzi

Court 11
1. Magdalena Rybarikova v Sorana Cirstea
2. Jason Kubler v Guido Pella
3. Laslo Djere v Paolo Lorenzi

Court 14
1. Jan-Lennard Struff v Leonardo Mayer
2. Kiki Bertens v Barbora Stefkova
3. Irina-Camelia Begu v Katie Swan

Court 15
1. Nicolas Jarry v Filip Krajinovic
2. Viktoria Kuzmova v Rebecca Peterson
3. Steve Johnson v Ruben Bemelmans

Court 16
1. Philipp Kohlschreiber v Evgeny Donskoy
2. Ricardas Berankis v Mackenzie McDonald
3. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova v Kristina Mladenovic
4. Aryna Sabalenka v Mihaela Buzarnescu

Court 17
1. Shuai Zhang v Andrea Petkovic
2. Ivo Karlovic v Mikhail Youzhny
3. Adrian Mannarino v Christian Garin
Not Before: 6:00pm
4. Kateryna Bondarenko v Lucie Safarova

TO BE ARRANGED
Not Before: 5:00pm
1. Aljaz Bedene v Cameron Norrie

TO BE ARRANGED
Not Before: 5:00pm
1. Agnieszka Radwanska v Elena-Gabriela Ruse

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Dominic Thiem Ousts Rafael Nadal For Maiden Australian Open Semi-Final

Dominic Thiem edged out world number one Rafael Nadal in four sets to reach his first Australian Open semi-final.

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Dominic Thiem (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Dominic Thiem edged out Rafael Nadal 7-6(3) 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(6) to reach the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time. 

 

In a stunning performance, Thiem eventually held his nerve to win all three tiebreaks in the match and secure a place in the last four.

The result means Nadal will lose his world number one if Novak Djokovic can win an eighth Australian Open title in Melbourne.

As for the Austrian, he will meet Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals on Friday.

In a rematch of the Roland Garros final, it was Thiem who had the more aggressive start to the match as he was red-lining the ball across the court and created break point opportunities.

Nadal’s clutch serving remained crucial though to survive the Austrian’s early surge. This was important as Nadal would soon show why he has won 20 grand slam titles as he played his best tennis when it mattered.

A good mix of pace and variety troubled Thiem as the Spaniard earned the first break of the match for a 5-3 lead in the opening set.

Despite the early setback, the Austrian continued to raise his level especially on the backhand side, producing a lot of winners. A forehand return winner sealed the break back immediately on his third opportunity.

Both men would continue to cancel each other out with insane cross-court angles as the opening set went to a tiebreak.

Dominating from the baseline, the 5th seed took control and wrapped up the opening set 7-6(3) in 68 gruelling minutes.

In the second set, Nadal continued to be the aggressor especially on the forehand as he realised how crucial the set was going to be.

An increased amount in unforced errors for Thiem proved costly as the world number one opened up a 4-2 lead in the second set.

But once again, Thiem struck back as a loose and nervy game from the Spaniard saw the Austrian level up at 4-4 in a tense point in the match.

Another tiebreak loomed as Thiem failed to take his chances after Nadal’s uncharacteristic unforced errors. However he didn’t make the same mistakes in the tiebreak as a net cord-forehand combination secured three consecutive points and a two set lead.

A two set advantage was a comfortable lead for Thiem but it doesn’t guarantee victory especially against one of the best competitors tennis has ever seen.

A cleaner set was produced from Nadal as he dug in deep to hold his service games and create some opportunities to break especially off the forehand.

Eventually those opportunities came as a tentative Thiem service game saw Nadal create two set points. A netted baseline shot from the world number 5 saw the Spaniard grab the third set as he roared in delight to the packed Rod Laver Arena crowd.

The momentum was now firmly with Nadal, who had better intensity as the forehand was firing against Thiem’s defensive skills.

However the Austrian’s mental strength has improved and he managed to overcome the Nadal storm by saving two break points as well as gaining the immediate break advantage.

There was trouble for the world number one now as Thiem’s serve was improving as he continued to outsmart and outpower the Spaniard.

Threats of a double break were quickly snuffed out by the 2009 champion and that would soon cost Thiem as he couldn’t serve out the match. The world number one took advantage of the Austrian’s nerves to break for 5-5.

Both men held their nerve afterwards to force a fourth set tiebreak, the third of the day. Yet again it would be Thiem who would win the tie-break as he booked his place in a maiden Australian Open semi-final.

After the match, Thiem declared his delight at one of the biggest victories of his career, “All the match was on a very good level, we both were in great form, that’s what can happen with two players in that form,” the Austrian said in his post-match interview.

I felt I was lucky in the right situations. It’s necessary as he’s one of the greatest of all times, one of the biggest legends in this sport, so you need a little luck to beat him.”

It was a stunning performance which now sees him meet good friend Alexander Zverev for a place in the final. As for Nadal his search for a second Australian Open title continues and could still lose his world number one ranking should Novak Djokovic win his eighth title in Melbourne.

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Australian Open Day 10 Preview: The Quarter-Finals Conclude

Wednesday is highlighted by a rematch of the French Open final from the last two years.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf 

 

Rafael Nadal is one win away from securing his world No.1 ranking, though I’m sure he’s much more concerned with being three wins away from winning his record-tying 20th Major title. But standing in his way today is an opponent who has beaten him many times before. The other men’s quarter-final features the 2014 champion and a Next Gen standout who has excelled on the ATP tour, but is yet to make a deep run at a Major. On the women’s side, we have a pair of two-time Major champions against two women looking to reach their first Slam semi-final.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Dominic Thiem (5)

This is a marquee quarterfinal between two top five seeds. Nadal leads their head-to-head 9-4, with all but one of those matches taking place on clay. Their only hard court meeting was certainly a memorable one. In the 2018 US Open quarterfinals, they played for almost five hours, and past 2:00am, in a match decided by a fifth-set tiebreak.  Thiem should take a lot of positives from that encounter despite the loss, and he’s only improved his hard court game since that time.

Dominic has won four hard court titles in the past 16 months, including the Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells. And just two months ago, he reached the championship match at the ATP Finals, with wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. This is his first time advancing to the quarters in Australia, but this run is not surprising based on his recent hard court resume. The slower courts in Melbourne this year work to Dominic’s favour, though Rafa will like that temperatures are forecast to rise over the next few days. But with this being a night match, it’ll get rather cool as this match goes on. Nadal has looked good through four rounds here, and passed a stern test supplied by Nick Kyrgios two days ago. However, I think this may be Thiem’s time to shine. He was oh-so-close to beating Nadal in their last hard court match, and he’s a much-improved player since hiring Nicolas Massu as his coach. In what will surely be a highly-competitive affair, I’m tipping Thiem to pull off the upset.

Sascha Zverev (7) vs. Stan Wawrinka (15)

Alexander Zverev (@usopen)

Can this be true? Zverev, who has historically become entangled in long matches during the first week of Majors, has won four rounds here without dropping a set. It’s even more startling when you consider he went 0-3 at the ATP Cup to start the year, where he had terrible troubles with his serve. In his post-match interview on Monday, he spoke of how finding peace in his personal life has lead to good results on court. The 22-year-old has reached his third Slam quarterfinal, and his first off clay. He’ll certainly be the fresher player today, as Stan not only battled an illness last week, but has already played two five-setters.

That includes his comeback victory over Daniil Medvedev two days ago. And Zverev is 2-0 against Wawrinka, with both victories coming on hard courts. But this is a case where experience at this stage of a Major will be crucial, and Stan has plenty of that. This is his fifth quarter-final in Melbourne, and his 18th at all four Majors. Wawrinka has proven himself to be a big-match player, and excels in the best-of-five format. As improved as Zverev’s serve has been this fortnight, Wawrinka remains the bolder and more aggressive player, which is usually critical in matches like this. With that in mind, I like Stan’s chances to return to the Australian Open semi-finals for the first time in three years.

Simona Halep (4) vs. Anett Kontaveit (30)

Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

The 24-year-old Kontaveit has been a rising WTA star for a few years now, but she appears ready for her big breakthrough. This run has literally come out of nowhere, as an illness forced her to withdraw from the US Open and miss the rest of the 2019 season. Her coach, Nigel Sears, told the media that she was hospitalized for a week and had to undergo surgery. This resulted in a substantial weight loss, and a lack of activity for three or four months. But here she is into her first Major quarter-final, thanks to some impressive play. She dropped just one game to the sixth seed, Belinda Bencic, and came back from a set down to claim a tight match over a talented teenager, Iga Swiatek.

But today Kontaveit runs into an in-form Halep, who has reunited with Darren Cahill and is yet to drop a set at this event. These two players have similar, all-around games, though Halep is a bit more consistent, and a bit more skilled defensively. And Simona is 2-0 against Anett, having comfortably won the four sets they’ve played.  Halep should be favoured to reach her second semi-final in Melbourne.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (30) vs. Garbine Muguruza

Garbine Muguruza (@WeAreTennis – Twitter)

Speaking of Roland Garros and Wimbledon champions in good form, Garbine Muguruza is back. She seems to be rejuvenated with Conchita Martinez back as her coach. When her former coach, Sam Sumyk, missed Wimbledon a few years ago to undergo a medical procedure, Conchita filled in, and coached Muguruza to the title. Garbine split with Sumyk during the offseason, and is playing her best tennis in a few years with Martinez as a full-time coach.

But guess who Sumyk coaches now? That would be Pavlyuchenkova.  This union has also paid immediate dividends, though the 28-year-old Russian has been playing great tennis since the fall. Pavlyuchenkova outplayed a game Angelique Kerber on Monday, extending her record in the fourth round of Majors to 6-1. The problem is she’s 0-5 in Slam quarter-finals. And she’s 1-4 against Muguruza, with the only win coming via a Garbine retirement. Muguruza just has a bit more game than Pavlyuchenkova, and she’s been on fire since overcoming an illness last week. Garbine took out two top 10 seeds in the last two rounds, via scores of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, and 6-3. While Sumyk will certainly have some sage advance for how to play against Muguruza, I don’t see it being enough considering Garbine’s current level.

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(VIDEO) Roger Federer Pulls Off Houdini Act To Set 50th Djokovic Meeting

Ubitennis is joined by Rene Stauffer to discuss Roger Federer’s miraculous win over Tennys Sandgren at the Australian Open.

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Roger Federer (@atptour - Twitter)

It was another dramatic day at the Australian Open as Roger Federer pulled off a miraculous comeback to edge out Tennys Sandgren 6-3 2-6 2-6 7-6(8) 6-3 to reach the Australian Open semi-finals. The Swiss saved 7 match points as he survived the three and a half hour clash to set up a 50th meeting with Novak Djokovic. Below Ubaldo Scanagatta and Rene Stauffer discuss Federer’s miraculous win against Sandgren. 

 

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