Wimbledon Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Saturday at The Championships, the first week of play will conclude, and we should be left with 16 ladies and 16 gentlemen in singles by day’s end.

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With the departures of Venus Williams and Madison Keys on Friday, only two of the top 10 seeds remain in the ladies’ draw. One of those seeds is already through to the round of 16, as Karolina Pliskova has reached that stage for the first time at Wimbledon. The other is the world number one, who today will play a tricky third round opponent. In the gentlemen’s draw, we’ve also seen a fair amount of upsets, but many top names remain. They include Nadal, Djokovic, Del Potro, and Zverev, all of whom will take the court on Day 6.

Rafael Nadal vs. Alex De Minaur

The world number one and seventeen-time Major champion will open play on Centre Court. He’ll face this 19-year-old Australian for the first time. De Minaur jumped into the tennis pool and made a big splash in his home country six months ago. Alex notched seven total victories between his semifinal run in Brisbane, and his run to the final in Sydney. A familiar face has been in his player’s box: Lleyton Hewitt, one of De Minaur’s idols, has been coaching the young Australian. De Minaur’s style is reminiscent of Hewitt’s: quick movement around the court, flashy counterpunching, and plenty of pumping himself up. He’ll need to utilize every bit of those tactics against the all-time great on the other side of the net, though it likely won’t be enough to threaten Nadal unless Rafa has a day off. Even though Nadal’s had many of those in recent years at The All England Club, he’s looked fully comfortable in the hot and dry conditions thus far. This collision of generations should be fun to watch, and perhaps it’s a glimpse of a future star on Centre Court.

Simona Halep vs. Su-Wei Hsieh

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As the men’s number one plays on Centre, the women’s number one will start the day’s play on No.1 Court. Halep has weathered the upset storm in the ladies’ draw through two rounds. She has really solidified herself as the undisputed best player in the world, not only with her first Major title in Paris, but also with her consistency. Simona is now 15-2 at Grand Slam events this year, and has a great chance to improve on that record in a wide open draw. Grass may not be her best surface, but she’s made the semifinals at SW19 before, and has to be considered one of the favorites to win the title with so many other big names already out of the tournament. Her opposition on Saturday though, who is her third straight opponent from Asia, is no pushover. The 32-year-old veteran from Taipei is a former doubles number one, with two Grand Slam doubles titles to her name. She’s no slouch in singles either, as we saw at the Australian Open earlier this year. She pushed Angelique Kerber in a highly-entertaining fourth round battle. Hsieh plays with a lot of spin and slices, which of course can be highly effective on the grass. However, Su-Wei has never been farther than this round in singles at Wimbledon, and only twice beyond this stage in singles at any major. In their only previous meeting, on a hard court in 2013, Halep won in three sets. While the contrast in styles should provide entertaining rallies, Simona should prevail.

Angelique Kerber vs. Naomi Osaka

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The second match of the day on Centre Court will see a counterpunching lefty, and former Wimbledon finalist, against an up-and-coming righty who just bludgeons the ball. This is a rematch from the first round of last year’s US Open, the first time these two met. On that day, Osaka dismantled Kerber, dropping just four games in the process of the upset. They would play twice more at the end of 2017, with Kerber getting revenge in both of those matches. Osaka has really upped her game in 2018, most notably in her stunning tournament win at Indian Wells. The very next week in Miami, she thumped Serena Williams. Naomi already has 27 wins on the year, and now sits at a career-high ranking of 18th. A few weeks ago in Nottingham, Osaka showed she’s comfortable playing on grass by making the semifinals. The third round at Majors has been a bit of a road block for Osaka thus far in her career at Majors: she’s just 1-6 at this stage. Like Osaka, Kerber is also having a strong 2018. Angelique has 34 wins this year, and won the title in Brisbane. The German has made the quarterfinals or better at Wimbledon in three of the past six years, and has only done so in even years. Based on that numerology, she’s due for another deep run here, and that is entirely possible in a quarter of the draw which has already seen Garbine Muguruza eliminated. This may be the sturdiest test Kerber faces in returning to the semifinals at SW19. When Osaka is on, she can hit just about anyone off the court. Kerber will need to rely on her defensive skills as well as her experience on grass, while also using and the angles she’s so good at finding to move Osaka around and put her in uncomfortable positions. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this one plays out.

Novak Djokovic vs. Kyle Edmund

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This will conclude the day’s schedule on Centre Court, and will be the match Great Britain follows most closely. Edmund is now the British number one, and is also the only Brit remaining in either singles draw. I normally would not bring up the World Cup in a tennis preview, but England’s quarterfinal match against Sweden will likely conclude right around the start of this match. That result may impact the Centre Court crowd’s energy, and Edmund will be counting on them to be boisterous as he faces the three-time former champion. Don’t misunderstand that statement: Kyle has a real chance to win this match. He hasn’t just been handed the title of British number one in Murray’s absence: he’s earned it. His semifinal run in Australia was highly impressive, and included victories over two top 12 seeds. He even defeated a returning Andy Murray last week in Eastbourne. Edmund’s now ranked 17th in the world, a career high, and his ranking will likely improve regardless of today’s result. As for Djokovic, he’s shown signs in the last two months of regaining his mojo, but we’ve also seen him blink in pressure situations. This can be summed up in one word: Cecchinato. Djokovic holds a career 3-1 edge against Edmund, but Kyle won their last meeting exactly two months ago today in Madrid. This could easily turn into an extended, thrilling encounter on Centre Court. Edmund has a great one-two punch with his big serve and snappy forehand, and he may seriously complicate matters for Djokovic.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Kei Nishikori

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In the last match on No.1 Court’s schedule, it’s a big opportunity for a player with all the potential in the world to show he’s ready to step up. Nishikori is of course the more accomplished player, even though he’s currently the lower-ranked player after missing much of the past year due to injury. However, Kyrgios is the better grass court player, and the player so many are waiting on to realize that potential. Nick made the quarterfinals of Wimbledon as a 19-year-old in 2014, but has not gone any farther at any major in the last four years. Kyrgios didn’t play any singles matches during the European clay court season, and pulled out of Roland Garros citing an elbow injury. He returned to play on the grass of Queen’s Club, where he earned solid wins over Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund, and Feliciano Lopez before losing a close match to Marin Cilic in the semifinals. Unfortunately his dramatics on court have not subsided, even in relatively comfortable victory. Kyrgios found many reasons to complain to the chair umpire, the crowd, his box, and himself during a straight sets victory over Robin Haase on Thursday. It’s that negative attitude which may cost him against Nishikori. Kei is not back to his best form, and has never played his best on grass, but he’ll never defeat himself as Nick will. Nishikori is 3-0 lifetime against Kyrgios, though they’ve never met on grass. On paper, Kyrgios should win this match, but the result may rest on whether Kyrgios can meet this occasion. I’m not sure what we’ll see today: the Nick that played so confidently and won three tiebreaks over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Australia this year, or the Nick who too often gives off such bad energy on court. Until he consistently proves otherwise, I’ll expect the latter.

Order of play

Play starts at 11:30 BST on each court unless stated
Centre Court (from 13:00 BST)
1. Alex De Minaur v Rafael Nadal
2. Angelique Kerber v Naomi Osaka
3. Kyle Edmund v Novak Djokovic

Court 1 (from 13:00 BST)
1. Simona Halep v Su-Wei Hsieh
2. Ernests Gulbis v Alexander Zverev
3. Nick Kyrgios v Kei Nishikori

Court 2
1. Juan Martin Del Potro v Benoit Paire
2. Dominika Cibulkova v Elise Mertens

Court 3
1. Ashleigh Barty v Daria Kasatkina
2. Jelena Ostapenko v Vitalia Diatchenko
3. Jiri Vesely v Fabio Fognini

Court 12
1. Alison Van Uytvanck v Anett Kontaveit
2. Carla Suarez Navarro v Belinda Bencic
3. Karen Khachanov v Frances Tiafoe

Court 18
1. Gilles Simon v Matthew Ebden
2. Daria Gavrilova v Aliaksandra Sasnovich

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Statistical Deep Dive: Sinner At Rotterdam One Year Later

Jannik Sinner’s Rotterdam title compared with his run to the final last year.

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By Federico Bertelli

Let’s delve into Jannik Sinner’s triumphant journey at the ABN Amro Open and compare it with his 2023 campaign. Service and down-the-line backhands were the keys to victory.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. This is the version of Sinner that his opponents tasted, and it’s also the title of a Daft Punk song; the clip particularly reflects what the rest of the ATP circuit has been thinking about Jannik for some months now: an android emerging after a heavy upgrade. Jokes aside, as the sunshine double is about to start, we thought it wise to rewind and closely examine Sinner’s recent victories.

The focus of our analysis is the Rotterdam tournament: Sinner’s performance was spotless, a feat not seen since 2001 when Lleyton Hewitt, after his victory at Flushing Meadows over Pete Sampras, managed to repeat his success in Tokyo. If the Italian were to win next week under the California sun as well, he would be the first in ATP tennis history to win two consecutive ATP tournaments after the first Slam. But before we dive into the action of the Indian Wells, let’s scratch the surface of Sinner’s victory in the Netherlands a bit. The comparison is plausible as the Italian reached the final in both editions, playing 5 matches in each case.

Draw: The 2024 run was undoubtedly smoother compared to 2023, both on average and in absolute terms. In 2023, the average ranking of Sinner’s opponents increased significantly, from 50.6 in 2023 to 97 in 2024. This means that, in general, we can assume that the journey, at least on paper, was easier. Also, in absolute terms – considering the lowest ranking of an opponent faced – there was a notable difference. In 2023, the insurmountable obstacle was the Russian Medvedev, then the blue’s nemesis and number 3 in the rankings. In 2024, it was a more approachable De Minaur – number 11 in the ATP ranking – against whom the H2Hs have also always been in favour of Jannik.

Source, ATP data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Comparison of Opposing Players’ Rankings

Break Points: One aspect frequently discussed about Sinner in the last 12 months is his overall growth in all areas: technical, physical, and mental. However, it’s not news that Jannik is mentally tough. Surely, Sinner will continue to tirelessly work on this aspect, as he has always stated, but his starting base has always been enviable. And the results are there for everyone to see. Despite facing a number of break points in the tournament equal to 20 in both 2023 and 2024 – which perhaps was unexpected given the more modest caliber of opponents – the Italian’s response was undeniable. An 80% break point save rate, compared to 65% in 2023 and against an ATP tour average of 61%. (Note: The tour average refers to the average of the last 52 weeks of players who have competed in ATP level tournaments). This figure, among other things, underscores Jannik’s solidity, already above average in 2023.

Source, ATP data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Comparison of Break Points Saves, Years 2023-2024

Service – Overall Statistics: Another aspect that has been frequently discussed is Jannik’s improvement in his service game; indeed, the data speaks for itself. Both in terms of the percentage of first serves in play and in terms of effectiveness in converting such a play situation into a point, Sinner has significantly elevated his game. Working on the percentage of first serves in play was the number one priority to improve the Italian’s game performance, and the efforts of Vagnozzi, Cahill & co. have paid off handsomely. In 2023 in Rotterdam, the percentage of first serves in play was 57%, in line with the general performances recorded by Sinner up to that point. Considering that the ATP tour average was 62%, it’s clear this was an aspect still needing improvement until last year. However, the conversion rate from good became excellent. In 2023 in Rotterdam, the conversion rate of points on the first serve stood at 74%, a figure above the tour average, which is at 72%. In 2024, however, we witnessed a further leap forward, reaching the 80% threshold.

Source, ATP Data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Service Performance Comparison

To understand how high this figure is, just look at the leaderboard rankings of the last 52 weeks. In terms of first serves converted into points, 80% is the threshold of absolute excellence. Consider that the two most impressive serving machines ever seen on a tennis court, Karlovic and Isner, had career averages of 83% and 80%, respectively.

ATP Leaderboard

Finally, a somewhat surprising data point is the success performance on the second serve. The Italian won 60% of the points on his second serve in 2023, while in 2024, “only” 56%. This rate is evidently more than sufficient to win matches and tournaments, but in 2023, it was not a problem at all, on the contrary.

Delving further into detail and referring to more detailed analyses (for the metrics used, we also refer to the general description found here), the analysis is further enriched. The data reported are the result of TennisViz processing, on data owned by Tennis Data Innovations (TDI).

Service – Detailed Data: The service performance, in terms of precision and reliability of the shot under pressure, has improved from all perspectives. Among the various metrics available, there are some of interest. Starting with the accuracy on the first serve, i.e., the distance with which the serve is placed from the service lines, measured in cm. Referencing a post from the X Tennis Insights account, we have an overview.

Source: TennisViz on TDI Data

In Rotterdam in 2023, Sinner executed this shot with an accuracy of 57 cm, better than what was measured over the course of the year. But in 2024, this figure impressively dropped to a notable 52 cm, in line with that of Hurkacz. We’ll spare you the statistical details, but the result (highly debatable, given the small sample size) is as follows.

Of course, there are many other variables that explain the yield on the first serve, but the inverse correlation between serve speed and precision is not bad, and generally leads us to say that serving at 125 mph with an accuracy of 52 cm, combined with an average quality in return shots, guarantees an untouchable performance of 80% of points won on the first serve. If the quality is that of Sinner’s serving machine, even less will suffice.

Continuing with the quality of the service shown by Sinner, another data point that deserves further exploration is that of unreturned serves, where the opponent fails to return the serve back into play. Here too, Jannik performed exceptionally well, with aces and opponents’ missed returns bringing home an impressive 40% in 2023 and an exceptional 42% in 2024. Remember, in tennis, variations of 1% can make the difference between a solid top ten player and a Grand Slam title winner. To put it in perspective, the ATP average is 38%.

Source: @Tennisinsight

Finally, to conclude the chapter on the serve, one last piece of data, which we’ve kept in reserve for the most deserving who have persisted in reading up to this point; do you know what the percentage of first serve balls on break points was in 2023? And in 2024? Well, we’ll present it to you in a table, and we’ll add nothing more:

Source: TenniViz on TDI Data

In 2023, when serving on break points, the first serve landed much less than usual in crucial moments. In 2024, however, the Italian did not lose his composure at all, serving as if it were any other point… not bad at all.

Performance in rallies: in this case, we rely on [metrics developed by TDI and TennisViz, which obviously carry the ATP brand](https://www.atptour.com/en/news/insights-introduction); (bonus: if you happen to watch a match on ATP TV, these advanced metrics are just a click away, in the stats section of the App).

Source: TenniViz on TDIData

It’s notable how Jannik has leveled up both in his ability to convert points where he had the advantage (conversion score) and in managing to seize the initiative from opponents when they were in a favorable position during the rally (steal score). Lastly, the final data point: from the baseline, with the current form of Jannik, it’s tough to come out on top, and if we consider his aptitude for turning defense into offense, the puzzle for his opponents is almost unsolvable. Indeed, this explains the overwhelming 56% of points won from the baseline, significantly above the ATP average. This data also finds an explanation in a significant tactical adjustment, the more pronounced use of the down-the-line backhand variation. The backhand crosscourt is already a comfort zone for Sinner, which he can comfortably use to extract points, like a boxer working his opponent with jabs; if we add that now Sinner is also able to find the down-the-line solution at the right moment, again, it spells trouble for his opponents. In 2023, Sinner hit 19.5% of his backhands down the line, while in 2024 this percentage rose to 31.4% in the Rotterdam tournament. A change that helped him tip the scale further in his favor in baseline battles.

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Juan Carlos Ferrero Remaining Positive Despite Carlos Alcaraz’s Poor Form

Juan Carlos Ferrero remains confident of Carlos Alcaraz’s abilities despite his poor form.

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Juan Carlos Ferrero is looking on the positive side despite Carlos Alcaraz’s poor form.

After winning Wimbledon last year, many people thought that Carlos Alcaraz would dominate the ATP tour over the next year.

However since then, Alcaraz has lost his world number one ranking with the Spaniard not winning a trophy since capturing his second Grand Slam title at SW19.

There are concerns that Alcaraz’s form is dipping with Jannik Sinner potentially overtaking him in potential to challenge Novak Djokovic at the big events.

Despite the lack of titles to Alcaraz’s name, there is no reason to worry for coach Juan Carlos Ferrero as he is confident that the Spaniard’s lack of form is normal, “He has been achieving good results,” Ferrero claimed in an interview with Marca.

“The Cincinnati tournament was a shame because we were one point away. At the US Open, he made the semi-finals. When you play with such good people, it is difficult to win every tournament.

“For any player, not winning tournaments can affect your confidence level. For very good players, it is important to achieve the results that one sets in their path. Of course Carlos wants to win, but I see him well, I don’t see him with any type of desire, and that is very important.

“He doesn’t have the stress of I want to win, I want to win. He wants to do things well and wants to improve in every aspect that he can, and at 20 years of age there are many. The objectives are there. Every tournament that goes, the objective is to achieve a good result.

“And if he is physically well, a great result for him is to win. When you have that level and that potential, it is not bad to think that. Then, when you don’t get it, you have to know how to manage it and come out just as motivated.”

Ferrero brings a great level of experience and composure to the Alcaraz team having been in the Spaniard’s position many times when he was a player.

The Spaniard’s experience is evident as he claimed that failure isn’t a bad thing for Alcaraz to go through, “Not every year you can win six or seven tournaments and that doesn’t mean it will be a failure,” Ferrero was quoted by tennis 365 as saying.

“[Michael] Jordan and Tiger [Woods] didn’t win every Grand Slam and every ring every year. We cannot call that a failure. There are many positive things in a year even if you have earned less.

“You may have evolved in aspects that can be useful for the future. That’s where we are. The most important thing is that he is happy, that he trains well, that traveling makes him happy and from there he generates good tennis, which is what he loves. We all agree on that.”

Alcaraz will look to return to his best when he looks to defend his title in Indian Wells which starts on the sixth of March.

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Daria Kasatkina And Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Lead Calls For VAR In Tennis

There have been calls for VAR to be introduced into the sport.

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Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina have called for VAR to be implemented in tennis.

The calls have came after Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik in Dubai.

As Bublik lead 6-5 in the final set, Rublev shouted in the face of an umpire allegedly swearing in Russian which was picked up by one of the officials.

This saw Rublev be disqualified from the event with Bublik reaching the final in Dubai.

However as a result of the incident players have called for a VAR review system with the video showing inconclusive proof of whether Rublev did swear in Russian.

Leading the calls for such innovation are Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as the duo called for VAR to be introduced on twitter, “So you can just disqualify a player, take away all his points and money, without even checking the video? What a joke, yet another confirmation that we need VAR in tennis and an electronic appeal system in all tournaments,” Kasatkina said on social media.

VAR has been implemented in football and also a similar system in rugby with mixed results.

It’s clear though that more technology would help umpires identify whether a grounds for disqualification would be necessary.

So far VAR has been trialled at the Next Gen Finals and the Nitto ATP Finals.

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