US Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

These are the matches to watch at Flushing Meadows.

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Thursday at the US Open, there will be appetizing action all throughout the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer resume their campaigns. Meanwhile the rising stars of the sport will be bidding to make their mark.

 

Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire

Roger Federer will move to the day session on Thursday, scheduled second on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Federer is 6-0 lifetime against Paire, but their last match was quite the entanglement. Earlier this year in Halle, Roger had to save two match points to survive a third set tiebreak. As has been the pattern in his career, Paire’s backhand failed him under pressure at the end of that match. Federer looked extremely sharp in his opening round, but will need to stay on his toes against Paire. The veteran Frenchman can cause headaches for his opponents, though he can also self-destruct on court. We know he’s capable of upsetting top players in New York: he took out Kei Nishikori in the opening round in 2015. But if Federer plays as well as he did on Tuesday, Paire should not be able to cause him much grief.

Aryna Sabalenka vs. Vera Zvonareva

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The 20-year-old Sabalenka has been the revelation of the summer on the WTA tour. In the US Open Series, she defeated six top 20 players. Aryna was a semifinalist in Cincinnati, and won her first WTA title just last week in New Haven. She was pushed by American Danielle Collins in her opening round here, but fought through to prevail 6-4 in the third. Her opponent on Thursday is a 33-year-old former US Open finalist, playing in the main draw of the Open for the first time since 2011. Zvonareva came through qualifying to get into her first Major since the 2015 Australian Open, after a few years of retirement. In her final round of qualifying in New York, she had to save match points to come back from a big third-set deficit. Then in the first round of the main draw, her opponent served for the match before Vera mounted another comeback. This is of course their first meeting, and Sabalenka should get through this based on her recent form. But Aryna must be a bit drained after playing so much tennis over the past few weeks, and the past few days have shown us the fighting spirit of Zvonareva. This is an intriguing matchup to start the day out on Court 13. The winner may face Petra Kvitova on Saturday.

Dominika Cibulkova vs. Su-Wei Hsieh

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This match will open the day’s play on Court 11. These are two of the most fun players on the WTA tour to watch. Hsieh played in two of the most entertaining women’s matches of 2018: her three-set loss to Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open, and her upset of World No.1 Simona Halep at Wimbledon. Her unorthodox style of slices mixed with flat groundstrokes can drive her opposition crazy. Meanwhile the 5’3” Cibulkova is one of the toughest competitors out there, with a great defense-to-offense skillset. Dominika has won all three of their previous matches in straight sets, and was the player who defeated Hsieh at Wimbledon following her upset of Halep. However, it’s worth reiterating Hsieh’s success at the Majors this year. Still Cibulkova should be favored here, and would possibly face Angelique Kerber in an enticing third round matchup.

Frances Tiafoe vs. Alex De Minaur

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This ATP Next Gen battle will be the last match of the day on Court 17. Their only previous meeting was last year in Brisbane, where De Minaur, as an Australian wild card, defeated Tiafoe in a tight three-setter. A year later in Brisbane is when Alex really made a name for himself with his run to the semifinals. The very next week in Sydney, the 19-year-old made the final. And earlier this summer in Washington DC, De Minaur advanced to his second tour-level final. 2018 has also been a breakout year for Tiafoe, who won his first ATP title in Delray Beach. In addition, Frances was a finalist on the clay of Estoril earlier this year. He recently reached a career-best ranking of 38th in the world. Both players got their first-ever US Open wins on Tuesday. The defensive skills of De Minaur could frustrate Tiafoe, but Frances will look to use the energy of the American crowd as he did in his opening round. This should be a good one, and could be a matchup we see deciding tournament titles in years to come.

Kei Nishikori vs. Gael Monfils

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Starting off the night session on Louis Armstrong Stadium will be a meeting of two very fast movers around the court who have often been held back by injuries over the years. Nishikori of course is a former finalist in New York, and was a semifinalist the last time he played here in 2016. Kei missed last year’s event, and about six months of action overall, due to a wrist injury. His results this year have been sporadic as he’s worked to get back to 100%. He was a finalist in Monte Carlo, and a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon. Nishikori though went just 3-3 during the US Open Series. Monfils was also a semifinalist here two years ago, where he contributed a bizarre effort (or lack thereof). He appeared to be tanking during his semifinal against Djokovic, a strategy which proved successful in disrupting and annoying Novak for a bit. But in the two years that have followed, Monfils hasn’t gotten farther than the fourth round at any Major, and did not play any events in the US Open Series due to injury. Kei owns a 3-1 record over Gael, though Monfils won their most recent meeting last year at the Rogers Cup in a third set tiebreak. That avenged Nishikori’s win at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Kei saved match points to advance to the medal rounds. I like Nishikori’s chances to advance against the ever-unpredictable Monfils.

Other notable matches on Day 4:

  • Wimbledon Champion Angelique Kerber vs. Johanna Larsson
  • Wimbledon Champion Novak Djokovic vs. American Tennys Sandgren, a quarterfinalist this year in Australia
  • Plus Major Champions Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki, and Marin Cilic all in action.

ORDER OF PLAY DAY 4 – FULL SCHEDULE

Play begins 16:00 GMT unless otherwise stated

ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM (Play begins 17:00 GMT)

J.Larsson (SWE) vs A.Kerber (GER) [4]

B.Paire (FRA) vs. R.Federer (SUI) [2]

Play begins no sooner than 00:00 GMT

N.Djokovic (SRB) [6] vs. T.Sandgren (USA)

M.SHarapova (RUS) [22] vs. S.Cirstea (ROU)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG STADIUM

P.Kvitova (CZE) [5] vs. Y.Wang (CHN)

N.Mahut (FRA) vs. A.Zverev (GER) [4]

M.Keys (USA) [14] vs. B.Pera (USA)

Play begins no sooner than 00:00 GMT

G.Monfils (FRA) vs. K.Nishikori (JPN) [21]

L.Tsurenko (UKR) vs. C.Wozniacki (DEN) [2]

GRANDSTAND

A.Sasnovich (BLR) vs. D.Kasatkina (RUS) [11]

C.Garcia (FRA) [6] vs. M.Puig (PUR)

L.Pouille (FRA) [17] vs. M.Baghdatis (CYP)

Play begins no sooner than 00:00 GMT

M.CIlic (CRO) [7] vs. H.Hurkacz (POL)

COURT 17

N.Osaka (JPN) [20] vs. J.Glushko (ISR)

N.Kyrgios (AUS) [30] vs. P.Herbert (FRA)

E.Bouchard (CAN) vs. M.Vondrousova (CZE)

A.de Minaur (AUS) vs. F.Tiafoe (USA)

COURT 5 (Play begins at 17:00 GMT)

F.Fognini (ITA) [14] vs. J.Millman (AUS)

T.Townsend (USA) vs. J.Ostapenko (LAT) [10]

K.Mladenovic (FRA) vs. C.Suarez Navarro (ESP) [30]

L.Djere (SRB) vs. R.Gasquet (FRA) [26]

COURT 10

M.Kukushkin (KAZ) vs. H.Chung (KOR) [23]

K.Bertens (NED) [13] vs. F.Di Lorenzo (USA)

R.Haase (NED) vs. D.Goffin (BEL) [10]

K.Siniakova (CZE) vs. A.Tomljanovic (AUS)

COURT 13

V.Zvonareva (RUS) vs. A.Sabalenka (BLR) [26]

D.Schwartzman (ARG) [13] vs. J.Munar (ESP)

A.Krunic (SRB) vs. K.Flipkens (BEL)

COURT 7

J.Sousa vs. P.Carreno Busta (ESP) [12]

COURT 11

D.Cibulkova (SVK) [29] vs. S.Hsieh (TPE)

J.Benneteau (FRA) vs. J.Struff (GER)

COURT 12

M.Ebden (AUS) vs. P.Kohlschreiber (GER)

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic Seals Final Showdown With Tsitsipas After Paul Victory

Novak Djokovic will look to capture his tenth Australian Open title on Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic is into the Australian Open final after a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over Tommy Paul.

 

Djokovic will have the chance to claim his tenth Australian Open title and his 22nd Grand Slam title after a dominant straight sets victory.

Paul gave a good account of himself in his first Grand Slam semi-final but was ultimately outmuscled by Djokovic.

Djokovic’s bid for history will now go through Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.

Competing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, Paul settled into the match playing some dynamic tennis to force Djokovic into early errors.

Djokovic started the match in rather erratic fashion but managed to save a break point to hold in the opening game.

However the former world number one found his range eventually as some world-class returning capitalised on nerves from the American as he broke and held for a 3-0 lead.

The Serb’s variety in pace and depth of shot was too much for the American as he dictated the tempo of the rallies.

Once Paul held serve to settle into the match in the fourth game, Djokovic’s onslaught continued as another break in the next return game secured another break and a comfortable 5-1 lead.

What would follow would not be in the script though as Djokovic produced more and more errors with Paul’s stubborn and dynamic style finding confidence as he punched holes through the Serb’s game.

Djokovic couldn’t convert set point and was broken twice as Paul reeled off four games in a row to level the opening set at 5-5.

In the end Djokovic would produce his best tennis when it mattered most with the Serb holding to love and then breaking on his first opportunity to take a tight opening set 7-5.

Although the opening set was littered with errors and erratic from both players, Djokovic produced a consistent standard in the next two sets as he improved the level on serve.

Once again Djokovic took a 5-1 lead in the second set and despite late resilience from Paul, the Serb held his nerve to wrap up a two sets to love lead.

The world number 35 had his moments of world-class tennis but ultimately it was Djokovic who was too strong as a further two breaks of serve sealed his place in a tenth Australian Open final.

After the match Djokovic commented on the state of his hamstring injury, “It’s great, and perfect and 100%,” Djokovic gladly commented in his on-court interview.

“Yeah – we’ll say against Stefanos in two days! Of course you are not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of of hours in the off season. I know what’s expected and I have been in so many positions in my career.

“It’s a great battle, with yourself and the opponent. Long rallies and you could feel the heavy legs in the first set but I was fortunate to hold my nerves. After that I was swinging through the ball more and I am just pleased to get through another final.”

Djokovic and Tsitsipas will face each other in a second Grand Slam final after Djokovic won the Roland Garros final in 2021 in five sets.

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Novak Djokovic’s Father Say Australian Open Flag Incident Was ‘Unintentional’

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Srđan Đoković - foto: Fonet

The father of Novak Djokovic has said he will not be attending his son’s semi-final match at the Australian Open to avoid the possibility of any ‘disruption’ after being caught up in an incident on Wednesday.

 

Srdjan Djokovic has been forced to issue a statement after a video surfaced online of him posing with fans waving Russian flags with one of those also bearing the face of Vladamir Putin. Witnesses reported there was pro-Russian chanting with one of those also wearing a T-shirt bearing the letter ‘Z’ which is a symbol for the Russian army. 

The Russian and Belarussian flags, as well as items with the Z symbol, are banned from the Australian Open as a result of the war in Ukraine. Tournament organisers have implemented the rule since day two of the Grand Slam following an incident involving a Ukrainian player Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl in her match against Kamilla Rakhimovaon on the first day. 

62-year-old Srdjan said he never had any intention of causing controversy and said his family only want peace in the world. Although in his press release, he didn’t offer any apology for taking part in the photos. There had been claims that Srdjan was heard saying a pro-Russian phrase in the video but this has since been disproven. Journalist Sasa Ozmo confirmed the phrase used by him was ‘Ziveli, Ljudi’ which translates to ‘Cheers guys’ and also means goodbye. 

“I am here to support my son only,” Srdjan said in a statement on Friday. 
“I was outside with Novak’s fans, as I have done after all of my son’s matches, to celebrate his wins and take pictures with them. I had no intention of being caught up in this.
“My family has lived through the horror of war, and we wish only for peace.
“So there is no disruption to tonight’s semi-final for my son or for the other player, I have chosen to watch from home.”

No explanation has been given as to why Srdjan decided to pose for the pictures to begin with when it was visibly clear that the fans were holding a Russian flag. Especially given the current political situation with the war in Ukraine which the United Nations say has caused at least 18,358 civilian casualties, including 7,031 deaths. 

Ukraine’s Marta Kosytuk, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open women’s doubles tournament, said she was upset by the incident that took place. Speaking to reporters on Friday, she didn’t weigh in on saying if Srdjan should be banned from the tournament altogether but did point out that such situations ‘can’t be left unseen.’ 

“It hurts a lot because there were specific rules, they were printed out outside that this is not allowed to bring flags and so on,” said Kostyuk.
“Really hurts that they were out there for some time, they were on the court, in the stands as well.
“I don’t know, I just don’t understand, it really hurts and I don’t understand how this can be possible.”

As for Djokovic, he hasn’t commented on the matter leading up to his semi-final clash with Tommy Paul. The former world No.1 is bidding to win the Australian Open title for a historic 10th time in his career.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles, the most-ever in men’s singles.  Djokovic is 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, and hasn’t lost a match in Australia in over five years.  Can anyone prevent the nine-time champion from winning this event for a 10th time?

In the semifinals, Djokovic faces Tommy Paul, who prior to this fortnight had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a Major.  In the other men’s semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is 0-3 in Australian Open semis, takes on Karen Khachanov, who is into his second semifinal in as many Majors.

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.  The women’s doubles semis include top singles names such as Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula, while the mixed doubles final will serve as Sania Mirza’s retirement match.


Karen Khachanov (18) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas has achieved his fourth semifinal in Australia out of the last five years, but he is yet to advance farther.  And he’s only claimed one of 10 sets in his three previous Australian semis, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2019, and Daniil Medvedev in both 2021 and 2022.  Stefanos is now a perfect 9-0 in 2023, and has only dropped one set during this fortnight.

Khachanov is into his second consecutive Major semifinal.  The 26-year-old is vying for his first Slam final, and his first final at any event in over a year.  Karen has dropped two sets through five matches, and has now defeated three straight seeded players (Tiafoe, Nishioka, Korda).

Tsitsipas has dominated their rivalry to date, leading their head-to-head 5-0.  Four of those matches were on hard courts, and three of them were straight-set victories for the Greek.  As per Tennis Abstract, out of the 13 sets they’ve played, Karen has only managed to break seven times, while Stefanos has broken 17 times.  And with plenty of Greek support in the crowd at this event, Tsitsipas is a considerable favorite to reach his second Major final.


Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Tommy Paul – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic has claimed 22 of his last 24 sets in Australian Open semifinals and finals, with the only two sets lost both coming in the 2020 final against Dominic Thiem.  His domination in the last two rounds of this tournament throughout his career is only rivaled by that of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Despite the hamstring injury that Novak suffered leading up to this tournament, he has only dropped one set to this stage.  In his last six sets, he’s only allowed his opposition an average of two games per set.

Paul has taken advantage of an open quarter of the draw, in which seven of the eight seeds lost within the first two rounds (Ruud, Fritz, Zverev, Berrettini, Schwartzman, Kecmanovic, Davidovich Fokina).  Yet even as many pointed to Tommy as the favorite to make the semis amidst younger, inexperienced Americans in this quarter (Brooksby, Wolf, Shelton), Paul did not faulter.  The 25-year-old is one of the fastest players on tour, and will debut inside the top 20 on Monday.

In their first career meeting, of course Djokovic is a huge favorite.  Prior to this fortnight, Paul had only once reached the second week of a Major, when he advanced to the fourth round six months ago at Wimbledon.  As per ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, Novak has beefed up his forehand this fortnight, averaging five mph’s more on that wing than a year ago.  And he’s also been serving excellently – Djokovic has only been broken three times in the entire tournament, with all three breaks coming against Grigor Dimitrov.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna vs. Luisa Stefani and Rafael Motos – This is Mirza’s last event before retirement, following a storied doubles career where she has won three Majors in women’s doubles and three Majors in mixed doubles.  Her and Mahesh Bhupathi won this event as a team 14 years ago, the first of Sania’s six Slam titles.  Bopanna won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2017.  Stefani was a bronze medalist in women’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.  This is a first Major final for both her and Motos.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Krejcikova and Siniakova have won six Majors as a team, three of which came last year, including this tournament.  This is Kostyuk and Ruse’s first event as a team since Roland Garros, where they made the quarterfinals.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (10) vs. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (2) – Gauff and Pegula were finalists at Roland Garros last June.  This is Aoyama and Shibahara’s third Major semifinal, but they’re yet to go farther at a Slam.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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