Australian Open Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Day 1 at the Australian Open will certainly be newsworthy, as it may just be the last match in the great career of Andy Murray.

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The big news heading into this fortnight is Murray announcing at a pre-tournament press conference that he will retire this year due to his ailing hip. Andy said he’d like to play his last match at Wimbledon in July, but admitted his hip may force him to make the Australian Open his last professional tournament. The former world No.1 described how his much pain his hip is causing, as he’s unable to even tie his shoes pain-free.

 

Monday will also see the opening round matches of both defending singles champions, Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki. In addition, both world No.2’s, Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber, will take to the court. They’ll all be heavy favorites on Day 1 (as long as Nadal is healthy), so this preview will focus what should be Monday’s more intriguing matchups around the grounds.

Roberto Bautista Agut (22) vs. Andy Murray

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A three-time Major champion, and five-time runner-up in Melbourne, Murray will play his first Australian Open match since 2017, when he was upset in the fourth round by Mischa Zverev. Andy played only 12 matches last year, and lost to Daniil Medvedev in his second match of this season two weeks ago in Brisbane. This past week in Melbourne, he barely got a few games off Novak Djokovic in a practice match, and couldn’t even finish out the second set due to his hip. This foreshadowed Andy’s retirement announcement just a few days ago. In what could be his last match, he’ll face a man who is rarely an easy out, and who arrives in strong form. Bautista Agut already has a title in 2019, which he won in Doha. That run featured victories over Tomas Berdych, Stan Wawrinka, and World No.1 Novak Djokovic. It was Roberto’s first title since February of last year, as well as the first title since the sudden passing of his mother last May. While Murray is 3-0 versus Bautista Agut, having never dropped a set, I expect a very different story to be told on this day. It will obviously be an emotional occasion for Murray, though playing against Andy under these circumstances will not be an easy task for Roberto. But with questions as to whether Murray will even be able to play out the match, Bautista Agut is the clear favorite.

Kyle Edmund (13) vs. Tomas Berdych

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We go from the former British men’s No.1 to the current. A year ago, this tournament was the breakout event for Edmund, where he made his first Major semifinal thanks to upset wins over Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dimitrov. A year later, Kyle arrives in Melbourne with a lot of points to defend, and at less than 100% physically. He ended his 2018 by withdrawing from the Paris Masters in October due to a knee injury. After losing in the first round of Brisbane two weeks ago, he withdrew from Sydney last week, with his knee still bothering him. Currently ranked at a career-high of 14th in the world, Edmund could see that number as much as double with an early loss here. His opponent on Monday is also coming off an injury layoff, as Berdych was sidelined for much of 2018 with a back injury. But the former world No.4 started off 2019 with a strong performance in Doha, where he advanced to the final, losing to Bautista Agut in three sets. Berdych prevailed in his only previous meeting with Edmund, at the Doha event in 2016. Even though that was over three years ago, Tomas may very well be the favorite today considering Edmund’s knee issues.

Barbora Strycova (32) vs. Yulia Putintseva

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This should be a fun one in the late afternoon out on Court 5. While it’s unlikely either woman will contend for this title, these are two of the spunkiest players on tour. Strycova, a 32-year-old veteran, is coming off another Fed Cup title in November. She’s 0-2 so far this season, though she’s advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open in each of the last three years. Barbora is a feisty competitor, but so is Yulia. Just last week in Sydney, we saw how fiery Putintseva can be on court. She was emphatically encouraging the crowd to get behind her during a comeback victory over Sloane Stephens. The 24-year-old has been a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in two of the last three years, but is yet to get out of the first week at any other Major. Strycova holds a 2-1 edge in their head-to-head, though Putintseva won the last time they played, in last year’s French Open fourth round. Since she’s currently playing with a bit more confidence, I like Yulia’s chances to pull off what would be a slight upset.

Katerina Siniakova vs. Belinda Bencic

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The winner of the Court 13 contest will play the winner of the Strycova/Putintseva match. Here we have two young players who come into 2019 with good momentum. Like Strycova, Siniakova was a part of the Fed Cup championship team from the Czech Republic. Katerina went 2-0 in singles that weekend, which included a near four-hour dramatic victory over American Sofia Kenin, which clinched the title for her country. The 22-year-old also won the doubles title at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon last year. Bencic was a standout on the WTA tour as a teenager, making the US Open quarterfinals at the age of 17, and winning the Rogers Cup a year later by taking out both Serena Williams and Simona Halep. Injuries have forced her to miss huge chunks of the last several seasons, as this former top 10 player has been playing a mix of WTA and ITF events to rebuild her ranking. Last year in Melbourne, she upset Venus Williams in the opening round. Bencic had a strong end to 2018, going 13-3 at her last four tournaments. She’s also coming off her second consecutive Hopman Cup title with Roger Federer, and was a semifinalist last week in Hobart. Belinda will feel at home playing in Australia, and should be favored to defeat the dangerous Siniakova in their first-ever tour-level meeting.

Marin Cilic (6) vs. Bernard Tomic

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It’s hard to be sure what to expect in this late night battle on Margaret Court Area. Cilic, a finalist one year ago, could fall outside the top 10 with an early loss in Melbourne. He’ll certainly be feeling pressure on Monday, and we’ve seen Marin choke away so many leads over the past six months. And while Cilic is coming off a Davis Cup triumph to end 2018, he comes into 2019 with a knee injury that forced him to withdraw from Pune earlier this month. An encouraging sign came a few days ago at the exhibition event in Kooyong, where Marin defeated Kevin Anderson. And then there’s Bernard Tomic. A year ago, instead of playing the Australian Open, he had a short, embarrassing stint on the Australian reality show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” The former Australian No.1 wasn’t ranked high enough to play in the main draw in Melbourne, and was eliminated in qualifying. His ranking plummeted to as low as 243rd in the world as of last May. But courtesy of a challenger title in Mallorca, and an ATP 250 title in Chengdu, Bernard is now back inside the top 100. But is he ready to defeat a former Major champion in front of his home country? If he gives his best effort on Monday, I expect the Australian crowd to get behind him. But he could just as easily not, in which case I would not be surprised if they booed him. These two played nine years ago at the Australian Open, with Cilic prevailing in five sets. They’ve split two other career meetings, and haven’t played since 2015. Cilic should pull this one out, though he’s been anything but reliable as of late.

Other notable matches on Day 1:

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  • Two-Time Defending Champion Roger Federer (3) vs. Denis Istomin, who famously upset Novak Djokovic here two years ago.
  • Defending Champion Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck.
  • Rafael Nadal (2), in his first match since the US Open, vs. Australian Wild Card James Duckworth.
  • 2016 Champion Angelique Kerber (2) vs. Polona Hercog.
  • In the tallest Grand Slam singles match to ever be contested, 6’10” John Isner (9) vs. 7’0” Reilly Opelka.

FULL ORDER OF PLAY

ROD LAVER ARENA — Day session
M. Sharapova (30) versus H. Dart (Q)
J. Duckworth (WC) versus R. Nadal (2)
P. Hercog versus A. Kerber (2)
Night session
A. Van Uytvanck versus C. Wozniacki (3)
D. Istomin versus R. Federer (3)

MARGARET COURT ARENA — Day session

J. Goerges (14) versus D. Collins
S. Stephens (5) versus T. Townsend
Not before 3:00pm AEDT
A. de Minaur (27) versus P. Sousa
Night session
From 7:00pm AEDT
A. Barty (15) versus L. Kumkhum
M. Cilic (6) versus B. Tomic

MELBOURNE ARENA

K. Anderson (5) versus A. Mannarino
M. Sakkari versus J. Ostapenko (22)
K. Edmund (13) versus T. Berdych
Not before 6:00pm AEDT
R. Bautista Agut (22) versus A. Murray
Not before 7:00pm AEDT
P. Kvitova (8) versus M. Rybarikova

1573 ARENA

J. Ponchet (Q) versus C. Garcia (19)
G. Dimitrov (20) versus J. Tipsarevic
A. Riske versus K. Bertens (9)
Not before 5:00pm AEDT
M. Ebden versus J. Struff

Court 3

A. Kalinskaya (Q) versus A. Sabalenka (11)
S. Tsitsipas (14) versus M. Berrettini
E. Perez (WC) versus Y. Wang
F. Lopez versus J. Thompson

COURT 5

C. Eubanks (Q) versus N. Basilashvili (19)
M. Puig versus A. Pavlyuchenkova
Y. Putintseva versus B. Strycova (32)
I. Begu versus A. Petkovic

COURT 7

A. Sharma (Q) versus P. Hon (WC)
P. Badosa Gibert (Q) versus K. Birrell (WC)
P. Gojowczyk versus K. Khachanov (10)
F. Delbonis versus J. Millman

COURT 8

D. Vekic (29) versus K. Mladenovic
B. Mattek-Sands versus Z. Hives (WC)
R. Opelka versus J. Isner (9)
G. Monfils (30) versus D. Dzumhur

COURT 10

M. Mmoh versus R. Albot
O. Jabeur versus T. Babos
A. Rublev versus M. McDonald

COURT 12

K. Boulter versus E. Makarova
B. Haddad Maia (Q) versus B. Pera
M. Basic versus H. Laaksonen (Q)
Not before 5:00pm AEDT
C. Norrie versus T. Fritz

COURT 13

M. Kecmanovic (Q) versus F. Verdasco (26)
J. Kubler (WC) versus T. Fabbiano
B. Bencic versus K. Siniakova
Not before 4:00pm AEDT
K. Flipkens versus A. Sasnovich

COURT 14

H. Watson versus P. Martic (31)
G. Garcia-Lopez versus R. Haase
M. Polmans (WC) versus D. Kudla

COURT 15

S. Cirstea versus R. Peterson
F. Tiafoe versus P. Gunneswaran (Q)
A. Kontaveit (20) versus S. Sorribes Tormo
Not before 5:00pm AEDT
A. Seppi versus S. Johnson (31)

COURT 19

Y. Bonaventure (Q) versus S. Vickery
L. Tsurenko (24) versus E. Alexandrova
T. Ito (Q) versus D. Evans (Q)
Not before 5:00pm AEDT
Y. Nishioka versus T. Sandgren

COURT 20

M. Vondrousova versus E. Rodina
P. Cuevas versus D. Lajovic
R. Molleker (Q) versus D. Schwartzman (18)
Not before 4:00pm AEDT
V. Lapko versus J. Larsson

COURT 22

S. Travaglia (Q) versus G. Andreozzi
M. Niculescu versus A. Anisimova
V. Troicki (Q) versus R. Carballes Baena

Grand Slam

Government Minister Sheds Light On Australian Open Schedule

A member of the Victorian Government has given a new update concerning the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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It is likely that the Australian Open will not be getting underway on its planned date of January 18th following recent comments by a government minister.

 

Negotiations between Tennis Australia and local officials are ongoing amid uncertainty over when the Grand Slam event will start. Last week plans for next year suffered a heavy blow after it was confirmed that players will not be allowed to enter the country in December as previously hoped. Instead they can enter from January 1st but will then have to go through a 14-day quarantine where they will not be allowed to play any competitive tennis.

In the wake of the ruling, speculation is mounting that the Australian Open will be delayed. If not, players will only have a four-day period between finishing their quarantine and playing their first tournament of the new year.

Martin Pakula, who is the sports minister for the Victorian Government, said on Wednesday that it was likely there would be a slight delay to the start of the competition due to what he describes as ‘very complex negotiations.’

“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter rather than longer delay. I don’t want to unduly repeat myself but these are very complex negotiations,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Pakula as saying.
“I’m still confident we’ll have an Australian Open, and we’ll have one in the early part of the year.”

It is also still unclear as to what will be happening to other tournaments that were set to be held in the country such as the ATP Cup, Brisbane International and others. Tennis Australia had previously said they intend to relocate some of their events to Melbourne in order to minimise travel. However, due to the delay in players arriving those plans are in doubt. If they were held after the Australian Open, it would have a significant impact on both the ATP and WTA Tour calendars.

“There’s a number of potential dates on the table. I’ve seen reports that suggest that it’s likely to be delayed by a week or two. I think that’s still most likely,” said Pakula. “But it’s not the only option. As you know, the French Open was delayed by many months and Wimbledon didn’t occur at all.
“I still think it’s much more likely that it will be a shorter [delay] rather than a longer one.”

Pakula has also confirmed that the conditions of the ‘biosecure bubble’ which players will be kept in are yet to be finalized. Although he says there will be a rigorous testing system in place.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said over the weekend that a date for the Australian Open should be confirmed within 14 days.

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Rafael Nadal Urges Calm Over Australian Open As Officials Search For Solution

The world No.2 has confirmed his intentions to play at the Grand Slam but there are fresh doubts over when it will be getting underway.

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20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has urged his peers to remain patient amid growing uncertainty over what the start of the 2021 season in Australia will look like.

 

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the government of Victoria refused a plan for 550 players to travel to the region next month in a move that could force a delay to the start of the Australian Open. Instead players will not be allowed to arrive until January 1st and then they will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine process. As it stands during that time they are reportedly allowed to train but not play in tournaments.

The ATP has already acknowledged that ‘new challenges’ have arisen in an internal letter issued to their players. Should the Australian Open dates remain unchanged, there will only be a four-day break between quarantine ending and the Grand Slam starting.

Questioned about the situation following his exit from the ATP Finals on Saturday, Nadal said he and others just need to ‘accept the situation’ by respecting any decision taken by the government.

“I don’t know what’s the situation going to be yet,” he said. “We need to wait about what the (state) government there in Victoria says.
“We can’t do much from ATP position or just wait. We have nobody to say what they feel is better for his country.
“We just need to be patient and accept the situation that we are facing. That is difficult for everyone. We need to be flexible to understand the situation and to find a way to play as many tournaments as possible next year.”

The head of Tennis Australia, Craig Tiley, has tried to allay concerns in a statement released on Sunday. Providing an update on the current situation, he says a plan taking into account the ‘needs of the players, fans, partners and staff’ is currently being drawn up alongside the Victorian Government. Although it is unclear as to when it will be finalised or what the final decision will be.

“We are continuing our urgent talks with local health authorities regarding quarantining and bio-security requirements and are confident we will have decisions soon,” said Tiley.
“Tennis Australia is acutely aware of the need for certainty, but also conscious of reaching a solution with the State Government that ensures the safety of the entire community.”

The Australian Open isn’t the only issue, it is what will happen with other events such as the ATP Cup. Originally it was hoped that various tournaments which usually take place around the country would be moved to Melbourne in order to minimise travelling. Now due to the later than planned arrival dates and quarantine, it is possible some of these events could be axed. So far the only event confirmed to have the chop is the Australian Open junior tournament, which will take place later in the year.

Amid the uncertainty, Nadal says he is hopeful that the Tour would return to a degree of normality in the future.

“Hopefully with the vaccine, that ends soon and we can come back at least to close to normal in a couple of months, but now is a difficult situation,” Nadal concluded.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s ATP Finals is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in its history.

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Bombshell Puts Australian Tennis Events In Doubt

It is looking increasingly likely that players will not be allowed to play any tournament leading up to the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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The start of the 2021 tennis season has been dealt a massive blow as it has emerged that players hoping to travel to Australia next month will not be allowed to.

 

It is being reported that initial plans by Tennis Australia to allow roughly 550 players to enter their ‘bubble’ within the coming weeks have been blocked by the government in a move which may force the cancellation of any tournament set to take place prior to the Australian Open. A plan had been set out for players to arrive in December so they can enter into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. However, it now appears that the proposal has been denied due to COVID-19 protocols.

Unless there is a change of heart, players will not be allowed into the country until January 1st and then they will have to go through quarantine. Then under the current schedule the Australian Open will start just four days after. Players are not allowed to play any tournaments whilst in quarantine. The ATP, which is the governing body of men’s tennis, has issued an internal statement acknowledging that there are ‘new challenges’ concerning arrival times.

“In discussions with Tennis Australia over the past 24 hours, we have been informed there are some new challenges around the previously planned arrival dates for players and team members,” the ATP told its members.
“We continue to work with Tennis Australia on confirming plans for January, and we will provide an update as soon as more information is available in the coming days.
“We understand there is uncertainty about the start of the 2021 season, and we are working as hard as possible to deliver the best possible calendar of events to players, maximising points, jobs and prize money opportunities.”

Less than a week before the bombshell, Tennis Australia confirmed their desire to relocate various tournaments to Melbourne due to travel restrictions. The idea was for events usually held in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart to be moved to the area. However, it is now unclear as to what if any will go ahead now.

There have been rumours of the Australian summer potentially being extended into February which will allow for more events outside of the Australian Open to take place in the region. However, this has not been confirmed and there is no indication yet that the date of the Grand Slam will be moved back.

“Whether (players) need to be here in December… I don’t know that that necessarily means there isn’t an Australian Open,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.
“Whether there are lead-in tournaments, that’s to be worked through.”
“It has to be done safely, it has to be done properly. We are working very, very closely with Tennis Australia. They are working (with) all of their partners and we’re confident that we’ll finish up with an Australian Open.” He later added.

There is yet to be any public comment from Tennis Australia regarding the latest development. Although the CEO of the organisation, Craig Tiley, has confirmed to The Tennis Channel that the tune-up events for the Australian Open are now in jeopardy.

The Australian Open is scheduled to start on January 18th.

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