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
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
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
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
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:
- 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)
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
From 7:00pm AEDT
A. Barty (15) versus L. Kumkhum
M. Cilic (6) versus B. Tomic
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
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
A. Kalinskaya (Q) versus A. Sabalenka (11)
S. Tsitsipas (14) versus M. Berrettini
E. Perez (WC) versus Y. Wang
F. Lopez versus J. Thompson
C. Eubanks (Q) versus N. Basilashvili (19)
M. Puig versus A. Pavlyuchenkova
Y. Putintseva versus B. Strycova (32)
I. Begu versus A. Petkovic
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
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
M. Mmoh versus R. Albot
O. Jabeur versus T. Babos
A. Rublev versus M. McDonald
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
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
H. Watson versus P. Martic (31)
G. Garcia-Lopez versus R. Haase
M. Polmans (WC) versus D. Kudla
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)
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
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
S. Travaglia (Q) versus G. Andreozzi
M. Niculescu versus A. Anisimova
V. Troicki (Q) versus R. Carballes Baena
Ashleigh Barty Earns First Grand Slam Quarter-Final With Thrilling Win Over Sharapova
Ashleigh Barty beat Maria Sharapova in an exciting three-set match to progress to her first Grand Slam quarter-final.
Ashleigh Barty overcame Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in a gripping match to advance to the first Grand Slam quarter-final of her career at the Australian Open.
The Australian, 22, has risen steadily up the rankings since she returned to tennis in 2016 following a spell away playing cricket for the Brisbane Heat.
And today she sent the home crowd on the Rod Laver Arena into raptures by beating one of the most famous players in the sport with a performance full of character.
“(Sharapova) is an absolute champion,” Barty said in her post-match interview. “I knew that I just had to keep chipping away and just trust the work we’ve done (to prepare).”
She continued, “I know that I can match it with the best when I execute (the way I want).”
In the first three games of the match, both players held serve easily. However, the games got tighter and tighter as the set wore on, and eventually Sharapova earned the first break point in the seventh game.
Barty saved it, and soon had a couple of chances to break the Russian. She was ultimately unable to take them, but it was clear by now that serving was no longer the dominant force in the match.
This was especially true in game nine, as Sharapova was fired up by her gutsy hold. She cut out the errors from her play, hit deeper and harder and earned two break points.
The Australian saved them both, but then made a double-fault to hand the Russian another chance. And she gifted the World No.30 the break with a loose backhand that went wide.
It proved crucial, as Sharapova held to love to close out the first set 6-4.
Barty turns it around in the second set
The five-time Grand Slam champion put Barty’s serve under pressure again in the first game of the second set, but the Australian held firm to fend her off.
The World No.15 started to use her variety more effectively in the next few games, and it eventually unsettled Sharapova so much that she played a succession of poor shots and dropped her serve in game four.
Barty backed up the break with a dominant service game to move 4-1 ahead. She then put a bit of pressure on the Russian’s serve and watched the World No.30 fall apart and lose the game to love.
To the delight of the home crowd, the Australian quickly wrapped up the second set 6-1 to level the match at one-set all.
Barty holds off Sharapova comeback to seal win
Sharapova took a lengthy bathroom break to compose herself, and she was greeted by a chorus of boos when she returned to the court.
Either that upset the Russian, or she was still thinking about the second set, because she played an awful first service game and dropped her serve for the second time in succession.
And things got worse for the World No.30 from then on, as Sharapova failed to take advantage of a 15-30 scoreline on Barty’s serve and then proceeded to lose her own serve again and fall 3-0 behind.
On the other side of the net, the Australian remained calm and continued to play sensible, calculated tennis to consolidate her lead at 4-1.
But there was another twist around the corner, as Barty made a couple of errors to hand the Russian two break points. Sharapova took the second to cut the deficit to 4-2.
In the next game, the World No.15 tried everything to restore the double break, but the five-time Grand Slam champion dug in and held onto her serve.
Remarkably, it looked like the Russian was about to draw level in game eight when she earned two break points. However, she failed to take her chances and Barty held on to lead 5-3.
Sharapova then held to make sure the Australian would have to serve for the match. And for a couple of minutes, it looked like she would do it easily when she raced into a 40-15 lead.
But the Russian slammed a huge forehand winner and then Barty double-faulted to make it deuce. The World No.15 wasted another match point with an error, but she eventually sealed the win at the fourth time of asking with an ace.
Milos Raonic Pleased To Be Tested Ahead of Zverev Clash
Milos Raonic spoke about his tricky matches so far at the Australian Open and his upcoming clash with Alexander Zverev.
Milos Raonic looks in excellent form. He has beaten three difficult opponents, Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and will now face an even tougher fourth, Alexander Zverev, in the last 16.
Although the Canadian has only dropped one set so far, he has been challenged all the way, and the main reason his matches have remained relatively short is because he has produced his best tennis at key moments.
“I have been pushed,” Raonic said. “I have been having stressful moments in matches that I’ve handled quite well. I think that gives me some ease going into sort of the challenges further along.”
The Canadian continued, “I haven’t had the chance to play that many matches over a long period of time now, so to have that kind of test and to do well I think is pretty good.”
Raonic not sure experience gives him the edge over Zverev
Next, Raonic faces one of the biggest challenges in tennis when he takes on the World No.4. And he is not convinced by any suggestion that his past successes at Grand Slams give him an advantage.
“I think it’s irrelevant because you don’t know how those things are going to play out. That’s on his end of things. I’ve been here quite a few times now, the start of the second week. I’ve got to just focus on the things I know I need to do.”
“If any of this Grand Slam talk has any effect on him, it can creep in, but I can’t impose that kind of pressure on him. I’ve got to use my game to put pressure on him. I don’t know if the situation will get to him or not.”
This approach speaks volumes of Raonic’s level-headed nature, as does his assessment of the dangers of relaxing during his encounter with Herbert after facing two stronger opponents before him.
“It was something that I was well aware of that I didn’t want to let happen. He’s played well this week. He beat Querrey first round, who is a similar player to me and he managed to fend that off. Then he played Chung in the second round, who was defending a run to the semis here, so I knew he was doing things well.”
“He also won the first few matches in the first tournament of the year, I believe, so I knew he had been playing well over the last little while. It could have happened, but it wasn’t an issue today.”
Australian Open Day 3 Preview: Five Must-See Matches
The Australian Open action continues with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber looking to continue their search for another grand slam.
By Matthew Marolf
Wednesday’s schedule features names like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, Kerber, and Wozniacki.
With those big names all heavy favorites in their second round matches, this preview will dig deeper into what look to be Day 3’s more competitive matchups. They include some exciting youngsters, as well as a few veterans exceling late in their careers. To the relief of players and fans alike, Wednesday is forecasted to be much cooler than the first two days of the fortnight in Melbourne.
Kevin Anderson (5) vs. Frances Tiafoe
Anderson is one of the hottest players on tour, and continues to build upon the momentum of the last two seasons. The 32-year-old South African ended 2018 by advancing to the semi-finals in his ATP Finals debut, and started 2019 by winning the title in Pune. With a strong showing in Melbourne, he could make his debut inside the top four. He took out a tricky first round opponent in Adrian Mannarino in four sets on Monday. He has another tricky draw here in the 20-year-old up-and-coming American. Last year saw Tiafoe win his first ATP title at Delray Beach, upset Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych in Miami, and advance to the final in Estoril. Frances is an explosive shot maker with great speed around the court. These players met three times last year, all on hard courts. Anderson won each match, though Tiafoe twice pushed him to a final set. Anderson should prevail here as well, but Tiafoe could easily complicate matters if he plays well and keeps his unforced error count relatively low.
Anett Kontaveit (20) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
2018 was a breakthrough year for Kontaveit, who is now ranked inside the top 20. Her season was highlighted by upsetting Jelena Ostapenko at this tournament a year ago, taking out Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the semifinals in Rome, defeating Petra Kvitova at Roland Garros, and making the final in Wuhan. Kontaveit again upset Kvitova to start off her 2019 season in Brisbane. Sasnovich also impressed last season, and is the highest-ranked player to not be seeded at this tournament. She was a finalist a year ago in Brisbane, and upset Kvitova at Wimbledon. And 2019 has gotten off to a strong start for Sasnovich. She upset Top-Seeded Elina Svitolina in Brisbane, and came through qualifying in Sydney to reach the semifinals. Both Kontaveit and Sasnovich won their first round matches rather easily. Kontaveit holds a slight 4-3 edge in their head-to-head. They played three times last year, with Sasnovich taking both of their 2018 hard court meetings. In what could easily be a prolonged, three-set battle, Sasnovich should be slightly favored based on her recent hard court success over Kontaveit.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) vs. Viktor Troicki
Tsitsipas was a revelation on the ATP tour in 2018. He advanced to the finals in Barcelona and Toronto, losing to Rafael Nadal on both occasions. The 20-year-old went on to win his first ATP title in Stockholm, and then also took the trophy at the second annual ATP Next Gen Finals. Troicki was ranked as high as 12th in the world back in 2011, but is now all way down at No.200, as he’s battled injuries over the last several years. The 32-year-old veteran is still a dangerous opponent, as evidenced by getting his seventh-straight five set match win in Monday’s first round. Viktor can be a dogged, yet emotional competitor. If he has anything left after come through qualifying and winning a five-setter, he could make things interesting for the young 14th seed. Tsitsipas though has enough game to where he should pull through in his first career meeting against Troicki.
Lesia Tsurenko (24) vs. Amanda Anisimova
Tsurenko has been experiencing a late-career surge. The 29-year-old advanced to her first Major quarterfinal at last year’s US Open, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the process. And just two weeks ago in Brisbane, she upset Naomi Osaka on her way to the final, where she was up a set and a break before succumbing to Karolina Pliskova. On the other side of the spectrum, Anisimova is a 17-year-old who has already made a strong impression on the tour. The American upset Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells last March, and advanced through qualifying all the way to the final in Hiroshima in September. She has a big game, and some have already tipped her as a future Major champion. Jon Wertheim recently even suggested she could be the next teenager to win a Major. Is Anisimova ready to upset a seed at a Major? She has the fire power to do so, but I still favor the more experienced and in-form Tsurenko in what should be a fascinating contest.
Roberto Bautista Agut (22) vs. John Millman
Roberto is coming off the match that captured everyone’s attention on Monday, his thrilling five-set victory over the soon-to-be-retired Andy Murray. He’ll need whatever energy he has left on Wednesday, as the crowd will again be against him as he plays the veteran Australian. Millman does not possess any big weapons, but is a tenacious competitor who will not go away easily. And he’s coming off the match of his career at the last Major, when he upset Roger Federer at the US Open. On a terribly hot and humid day in New York, Millman outlasted Federer in the near-unbearable conditions. Bautista Agut is 3-0 lifetime against Millman. They both possess similar games, with Roberto being just a bit stronger in almost every category. But if Bautista Agut is feeling less than 100% on Wednesday, Millman is the kind of opponent that can grind the last bits of energy out of him. With the crowd in Melbourne solidly behind him, a Millman upset could just happen.
Other notable matches on Day 3:
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. 31-Year-Old Australian Matthew Ebden.
Roger Federer (3) vs. British Qualifer Dan Evans.
Angelique Kerber (2) vs. 22-Year-Old Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
Maria Sharapova (30) vs. 23-Year-Old Rebecca Peterson.
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Impressive Barty Puts Australia Back On Track In Brisbane Against Belarus
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