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

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

Andy Murray’s Hunt For A Wimbledon Doubles Partner Sparks Interest From Women’s Elite

The chance to play alongside the former world No.1 at SW19 has attracted a lot of interest from past and present players from the WTA Tour.

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Sir Andy Murray of Great Britain is pictured during day four of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

LONDON: Andy Murray’s recent difficulty in finding a mixed doubles partner for the upcoming Wimbledon Championships has prompted a series of WTA players to offer their services.

 

The three-time grand slam champion returned to competitive tennis on Thursday at The Fever-Tree Championships. Winning his first round doubles match alongside Feliciano Lopez. After the victory, the former world No.1 confirmed that he will be playing with Pierre-Hughes Herbert at the All England Club and he is also interested in contesting the mixed doubles.

“I’ve asked singles players who had already committed to playing doubles, and they didn’t want to commit to playing in three events, which I completely understand because it’s a lot. If you have ambitions to go far in the singles, you maybe don’t want to commit to playing all three.” He said.

One of those players Murray approached was French Open champion Ash Barty, who declined his offer. The Australian is currently in the race for world No.1 and is seen as one of the favorites to claim the ladies singles title in three weeks time.

“I’m sure I will find another great partner, providing I feel good enough to play the men’s and mixed doubles. That said, I need to wait and see how I’m feeling first.” Murray wrote in a piece for the BBC.

Fortunately for Murray, the offers to play alongside him has started flying in on social media. Kirsten Flikens, who is a top 30 doubles player, was one of the first to come forward. The Belgian teamed up with Murray before at the 2006 Wimbledon championships as well as the now-defunct International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).

Barbora Strycova has already won two doubles titles on the WTA Tour this season with Hsieh Su-Wei. On Instagram, the Czech expressed her willingness to work alongside the Brit.

“I heard rumors that you got rejected a couple of times when finding a partner for mixed doubles in Wimbledon. I swear I wouldn’t do the same mistake as that.” Strycova wrote.

Elsewhere on social media, there was a couple of other light-hearted offers made.

https://twitter.com/BillieJeanKing/status/1141872812841472001

https://twitter.com/CoCoVandey/status/1141860447936585728

https://twitter.com/caseydellacqua/status/1141861486538547200

It is safe to say that Murray can easily find a partner for Wimbledon, which will get underway a week on Monday. The only question is who will it be?

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Grand Slam

Marcos Baghdatis And Iga Swiatek Among Initial Wimbledon Wildcards

Marcos Baghdatis and Iga Swiatek have received a wildcard for Wimbledon as the third grand slam of the year approaches.

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Marcos Baghdatis (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

Marcos Baghdatis and defending Juniors champion Iga Swiatek are among the initial wildcards for Wimbledon. 

 

The initial wildcards for Wimbledon have been announced this morning with former Wimbledon semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis among the Men’s wildcards.

Having not played since May and not appeared on the main tour since February, Baghdatis is a surprise choice for a wildcard spot given the options.

Players such as Nicolas Mahut, Feliciano Lopez and Dustin Brown were seen as candidates for a main draw wildcard but it seems that at the moment that spot has been given to the Cypriot.

Joining Baghdatis as main draw wildcards on the men’s side is the British trio of James Ward, Jay Clarke and NCAA champion Paul Jubb.

Meanwhile on the women’s side, last year’s Women’s junior champion Iga Swiatek has been given a wildcard after her incredible rise.

Since winning the Juniors title last year, Swiatek has reached her maiden WTA final, risen to number 65 in the world and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros.

Joining Swiatek, as the British wildcards are Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and Katie Swan as there are four more spots to be announced.

As more wildcards are yet to be announced, the likes of Feliciano Lopez, Dustin Brown and Katie Boulter could still receive a main draw wildcard.

Meanwhile in the doubles event Lleyton Hewitt has once again received a doubles wildcard despite ‘retiring.’ The 2002 singles champion will team up with compatriot Jordan Thompson.

Here are the wildcards below, with the singles draws taking place a week on Friday:

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ATP

Greg Rusedski Tips Tsitsipas To Become The Next Federer

The Greek sensation has been backed to rise to the top of the world rankings.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo by chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski has praised Next Gen star Stefano Tsitsipas by saying he has characteristics similar to that of Roger Federer.

 

The former world No.4 believes the greek has what it takes to conquer the men’s tour. So far this season Tsitsipas has played in four ATP finals, winning titles in Marseille and Estoril. In total, he has won 32 matches on the tour this year. The joint-highest alongside Rafael Nadal. At the age of 20, he is already the first man from his country to reach the semi-final of a grand slam and crack the top 10.

“He’s so much better as a player than he was a year ago and he’s getting better,” Rusedski told Amazon Prime.
“His transitioning game coming forward, playing doubles so much more this year. I think he will be a Wimbledon champion as well as a world number one. He’s that good.”

Continuing his tribute to the world No.6, the Brit believes he plays similar to some of the stars of the game. Tsitsipas is currently 10-15 against top 10 opposition in his career and has defeated every member of the Big Three at least once. The most recent being against Nadal at the Madrid Open.

“He reminds me of a young Roger Federer. A guy who’s got that full package.” Rusedski analyzed.
“He looks a little bit like Bjorn Borg the way he walks around the court but what I like, he’s a complete player and he has this mental fortitude where he believes he belongs.”

Tsitsipas is the top seed at this week’s Fever-Tree Championships in London. He will be hoping for a strong run ahead of the Wimbledon championships, which he reached the fourth round at last year. Looking ahead to the grand slam, he is optimistic about the prospect of ending the dominance of Nadal and Co. It has been 16 years since a player outside of the Big Four (counting Andy Murray) has won Wimbledon.

“I want to be honest. I would love to see something different this year,’ he said.
‘Hopefully, it can be me, but I think it’s good for the sport to have a bit of variety, something different. It’s boring to see all these guys winning all the time. Djokovic is the reigning champion.”

Tsitsipas will play Kye Edmund in his first match at Queen’s.

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