Australian Open Day 11 Preview: The Semifinals Commence - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 11 Preview: The Semifinals Commence

On Thursday in Melbourne, we’ll see the first men’s semifinal, as well as both women’s semifinals.

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We were one point away from the huge US Open rematch the tennis world was anticipating… until Karolina Pliskova’s stunning comeback over Serena Williams. Instead, Pliskova and Naomi Osaka will battle it out to make their second Major final. In the other women’s semifinal, one of the most inspiring semifinalists in recent memory takes on one of the most shocking. And three of the four remaining women are fighting to become the new world No.1. In the men’s semifinal to be played on Thursday, it’s the second year in a row where the ATP Next Gen Finals champion will face an all-time great in their first Major semifinal.

 

Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Karolina Pliskova (7)

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Pliskova holds a 2-1 edge over Osaka in their head-to-head. Karolina prevailed at the 2017 Rogers Cup in a match where Osaka retired early in the third set. Osaka won last March at Indian Wells, on the way to her big breakthrough title on the WTA tour. And in September of last year, Pliskova won in straight sets. Osaka handily took out Elina Svitolina in her quarterfinal, and should be totally fresh today. Just yesterday, Pliskova played an over two-hour, dramatic match with Serena Williams. Karolina was all but eliminated from the tournament, down 5-1 in the third set. That is until Serena was called for a foot fault on match point, then hurt her foot as the point played out, and lost the next six games. It was one of the most shocking turn of events ever seen in a Major quarterfinal. It’s also one of the biggest wins in Pliskova’s career, and the second time she’s upset Serena at a Major. But you have to expect that emotional match will be hard to come back from just one day later. Osaka is the better all-around player, with much better defensive skills, and more speed around the court. Pliskova though has been serving extremely well, and is undefeated this season, just like her Czech countrywoman in the other semifinal. Could we have an all-Czech final on Saturday? Perhaps, but I would give the slight edge to Osaka to advance to her second straight Major final.

Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Danielle Collins

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Kvitova is into her first Major semifinal since Wimbledon 2014, and her first since the home intrusion that left her with nerve damage in her left hand. Last year, she led the WTA with five titles, yet struggled at the Majors with a 4-4 record. But Kvitova has downed her opposition quite comfortably at this Major, and is yet to drop a set. It was heartwarming to see Petra brought to tears with happiness after her quarterfinal when asked by Jim Courier if she thought she’d ever be back in a Slam semifinal. She’ll face the unlikeliest of opponents, a 25-year-old American who had never won a match at a Major prior to this tournament. In that way, her run at this tournament is reminiscent of Marco Cecchinato’s semifinal run from Roland Garros last year. Collins has ruffled some feathers with her cocky demeanor and in-your-face attitude, but she’s backed it up with some ferocious groundstrokes. She hit Angelique Kerber right off the court in less than an hour, and then came back from a set down to dominate Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a one-sided 6-1 third set. These two actually just played a few weeks ago in Brisbane, their only career meeting. Kvitova prevailed in an extremely tight three-setter that lasted three full hours. It’s hard to imagine the unseeded and unproven Collins getting to the final, but it’s entirely possible if she gets hot again. And Kvitova is usually good for at least one poor performance at every Major, and she hasn’t had one yet. Also, the weather could play an important factor today. Temperatures are forecasted to get extremely toasty, and we’ve seen previously how Kvitova’s level can be impacted by the heat. All things considered, I would still expect the much more experienced Kvitova to find a way to defeat the relative unknown in a Major semifinal on Rod Laver Arena.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (14)

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Is Tsitsipas capable of taking down another GOAT contender at this tournament? Nadal is the man who put a stop to both of Stefanos’ other two breakout runs this past year. In the Barcelona final in April, Nadal lost just three games. And at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last August, Tsitsipas had defeated four top 10 players before Nadal beat him in straight sets in the final. And judging by Rafa’s form over the past 10 days, he’ll likely end Tsistipas’ tournament here as well. Nadal has won 15 sets and lost none, which is exactly what the doctor ordered for a man who has withdrawn or retired from the vast majority of hard court tournaments he’s entered in the past 15 months. Rafa is into his 30th career Major semifinal, and holds a phenomenal 24-5 record at this stage. He is however 0-2 in his last two Slam semifinals, with losses to Djokovic at Wimbledon and Del Potro at the US Open. But the following statistic supplied by ATP Media Info on Twitter is in Rafa’s favor: against players 21-and-under, he is 9-0 at the Australian Open, and 34-3 at all Grand Slam events. More good news for Nadal? He has only spent about 10 hours on court thus far, while Tsitsipas has spent about 50% more. Stefanos has shown his game is just as much substance as flash at this tournament, not only in his upset of Roger Federer, but also following up that career highlight by defeating Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinals. While just about all the statistics support a Nadal victory, I’m interested to see how much resistance Tsitsipas can provide.

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Nadal won’t play Acapulco due to lingering back issues

Rafael Nadal’s continued back problems rule him out of Acapulco.

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Rafael Nadal (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

The Spaniard went on social media to announce he is not going to travel to Mexico.

 

Rafa Nadal went on Twitter today to announce he has decided not to play in Acapulco this year due to a lingering back issue but apparently that’s not the full story.

Nadal also pulled out of Rotterdam which starts on Monday stating the back injury he suffered in Australia was holding him back but another piece was made public today that the main reason Nadal won’t play is the tournament finances.

Usually a player of Nadal caliber will be attracted to smaller events by what is called an apperance fee which is basically a fee paid to the player to show up and play. Due to the pandemic and the fact most tournaments have lost revenue due to no fans or limited capacity budgets have decreased to a fraction.

The Spaniard also stated the reason he played in Australia with the injury was because it was a grand slam and if it was any other tournament he would have pulled out.

We saw another instance where John Isner called the ATP system broken after the Miami Masters cut its prize money and said it’s not fair and that tournaments should be properly audited.

In Nadal case the apperance fee would be roughly estimated from $500,000 to one million dollars and that will most likely include travel and accomodation.

Acapulco is scheduled for Monday March 15th to the 20th which means fans can probably expect to see Nadal back in action in time for Miami.

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Gilles Simon To Take Break From Tennis After Montpellier Exit

Gilles Simon looking to take a break from tennis as his ‘heart is no longer’ in the game.

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Gilles Simon (@Welovetennis - Twitter)

After exiting his home tournament in Montpellier earlier in the week, Gilles Simon has decided to to take a break from tennis.

 

The veteran Frenchman crashed out in the opening round to Dennis Novak on Tuesday in Montpellier after a frustrating Australia swing.

Simon went out in the opening round of the Australian Open as well, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas, winning only four games.

So it will come as no surprise that Gilles Simon has decided to take a break from tennis in an attempt to regain some motivation.

Speaking on Twitter Simon said he needed to preserve himself mentally, “My heart is no longer there to travel and play in these conditions,” the Frenchman stated.

“Unfortunately I have to take a break in order to preserve myself mentally. Hoping that morale returns as soon as possible. Thank you to all the faithful for your support. See you soon.”

This news could be the start for more players to do the same with prize money decreasing and a potential freezing of the rankings on the horizon, the motivation to compete may decrease at a rapid rate.

Also, the injury list continues to rise with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Sofia Kenin, Karolina Muchova, Kirsten Flipkens and Donna Vekic just to name a few suffering bad injuries over the Australian swing.

What happens next, remains a mystery but nobody can blame Simon’s decision as the 36 year-old contemplates his tennis future.

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Rafael Nadal Withdraws From Rotterdam Due To Back Injury

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Rotterdam due to ongoing back problems.

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Rafael Nadal (@WeAreTennisITA - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from next week’s ATP 500 event in Rotterdam due to a back injury.

 

The Spaniard’s back problems have started since before the Australian Open which he managed to play the tournament in Melbourne with the problem.

Eventually Nadal lost in his Australian Open quarter-final to Stefanos Tsitsipas from 2 sets to love up.

Despite playing in Melbourne, Nadal’s back problems continue to derail his schedule as he has now withdrawn from Rotterdam.

In a statement on Twitter, Nadal said that after consulting his doctor it was not the best idea to play Rotterdam.

“It is with great sadness that I have to forfeit from Rotterdam. As most of the fans know, I suffered back problems in Australia that started in Adelaide and continued in Melbourne,” Nadal said.

“We found a temporary solution that allowed me to play without pain in the second week of the tournament. Once I got back to Spain I visited my doctor and together with my team they’ve advised not to play this upcoming week.”

Nadal’s 10 year hiatus from the tournament continues as he looks to recover from the problem as soon as possible.

The 20-time grand slam champion’s main priority will be the clay-court swing where he can win a record-breaking 21st grand slam title.

Nadal’s next scheduled tournament will be the Miami Masters in late-March.

Meanwhile Nadal could now lose his world number two ranking next week as the top seed which is now Daniil Medvedev could replace him there.

The recent Australian Open finalist will need to reach the final if he wants to become the world number two but will face stiff competition in Holland from the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Milos Raonic.

The tournament will start on the 1st of March.

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