Australian Open Day 14 Preview: The Men’s Final - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 14 Preview: The Men’s Final

It’s the 53rd instalment of the most prolific rivalry in the open era of men’s tennis.



Here we are again, two of the best of all-time playing for the 15th time at a Major, and the 8th time in a Major final. Djokovic holds a slight 27-25 edge overall, and has taken 12 of their last 15 meetings. Nadal hasn’t beaten Djokovic on a hard court since the US Open in 2013. Rafa is 9-5 at Grand Slam events, and 4-3 in Slam finals. This is only their second meeting at the Australian Open, with the first of course being the epic, near six-hour 2012 final, which Djokovic won 7-5 in the fifth. Their last meeting was six months ago in the Wimbledon semifinals, the best and most pivotal match of 2018. It took two days to finish the over five-hour semifinal, which went to Djokovic, 10-8 in the fifth.


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Djokovic is 34-0 at the Australian Open as the top seed, which he is here. He’s also undefeated in Australian Open finals, winning all six times he’s advanced this far. Aside from the 2012 match with Nadal, he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008, and took out Andy Murray four times in Australian Open finals. Novak is 14-9 in Major finals overall, and has won eight of his last 10. While he was never fully challenged in this tournament, there were times he did not look his best, particularly against Daniil Medvedev in the round of 16. But a retirement from Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals gave Novak’s body some time to heal after the grueling Medvedev match, and he never looked better than in his obliteration of Lucas Pouille in the semifinals.
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After last year’s US Open, I stated that Nadal would never again win a hard court Major. Rafa is one match away from proving me completely wrong. Over the past 15 months, Nadal has withdrawn or retired from 10 of the 12 hard court tournaments he has entered. Aside from this tournament, the only hard court event he has completed was also the only one he prevailed in: last year’s Rogers Cup in Canada. Nadal has destroyed all competition during this fortnight, and has not lost a set. The last time Rafa went into a Major final without dropping a set was the 2017 French Open, where he dropped just six games in the final to Stan Wawrinka. Ravi Ubha noted on Twitter that Nadal’s 48 games dropped through six rounds here is the fewest ever for him at a non-clay Major. His average serve speed is 5 mph higher than a year ago, as reported by Darren Cahill of ESPN. The adjusted service motion he developed in the offseason has paid immediate dividends. Rafa has only been broken twice in this tournament, and not since the opening round. He holds a 17-7 record in Slam finals, though he’s only 1-3 in Melbourne, having lost his last three Australian Open finals. After defeating Roger Federer in 2009, he’s lost to Djokovic in 2012, Wawrinka in 2014, and Federer in 2017. As Christopher Clarey of the New York Times highlighted, a win on Sunday would put Nadal in the elite company of Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to have won each Grand Slam event at least twice.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)

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Both men come into this highly-anticipated final having spent almost exactly the same amount of time on court. They should be fully fresh for this historically-pivotal match. Djokovic is going for his third straight Major, and his 15th overall. Nadal is playing for his 18th Major, which would put him only two behind Federer for the first time since Federer won his second Major 15 years ago. It’s hard not to consider Djokovic the favorite at the Australian Open, but Nadal’s form the past two weeks has just been phenomenal. Rafa was so close to winning their last meeting, last year’s Wimbledon semifinal, so I’m sure he’d love to avenge that loss. However, Melbourne feels like Novak’s home turf, and he’ll be determined to not let Nadal prevail in his house. The cooler temperatures in the forecast for Sunday evening are to Djokovic’s advantage. He does not enjoy playing in the heat, and Nadal’s balls won’t bounce quite as high. Djokovic has dominated this rivalry over the past five years, yet Nadal has been the more impressive of the two at this tournament. Also keep in mind that Djokovic has not won his last three tournaments, all on hard courts. He lost to Karen Khachanov in Paris, Sascha Zverev in London, and Roberto Bautista Agut in Doha. All things considered, I just don’t see Rafa accepting a loss on this day. I’m picking Nadal to dethrone the king of Melbourne in another dramatic five-setter.


Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati



Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.


Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.

After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.

Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.

In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.

Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.

“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.

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Cincinnati Open Thursday Preview: The Round of 16

All round of 16 singles matches will take place on a loaded day of tennis.



Naomi Osaka (photo via Twitter, @PorscheTennis)

The women’s singles draw is particularly loaded, with seven of the top 10 seeds advancing this far. That leaves us with some stellar third round WTA matchups. And it includes all three women currently contending for the world No.1.


You cannot say the same about the men’s singles draw. The bottom half has just been decimated, with the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, and yesterday’s upsets of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori, and Sascha Zverev. That opens up a huge opportunity for a surprise finalist in this Masters 1,000 event. But in the men’s top half, four of the top five seeds on this half remain, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Normally this daily preview contains one men’s match and one women’s match, but with so many great women’s matches today, let’s dig deeper into two WTA matchups.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh

Osaka has been talking openly about having fun on court for the first time since the Australian Open. However, after watching her play the past few weeks, I’m not fully convinced that’s the case. I’m sure having fun is her goal, but she may be overcompensating. Naomi has been giving Kevin Anderson a run for his money in the fist-pumping department, and can often be seen talking to and laughing at herself on court. It’s nice to see her trying to stay positive, though it appears she may be masking a bit of fragility. And Osaka cannot afford to be feeling fragile against this opponent. Hsieh can be one of the most frustrating players on tour with her unique style. While Osaka owns a 3-1 record against her, Hsieh was the victor in their only previous North American hard court meeting, which was earlier this year in Miami. Naomi is currently in a three-way race for the No.1 ranking, and a loss today would open the door for Ash Barty or Karolina Pliskova to surpass her heading into the US Open. Osaka didn’t play her best yesterday, but hung on to win in three sets. If she doesn’t up her level today, she very well may go down in defeat.

Elina Svitolina (7) vs. Sofia Kenin

This will be their third meeting. They split the previous two, both of which occurred on a North American hard court earlier this year. Svitolina was victorious in Indian Wells, while Kenin’s win came just last week in Toronto. The 20-year-old American has been building a stellar resume this season, with 33 match wins and two titles. 22 of those match wins are on hard courts, and half of those have taken place in North America. Kenin is on the verge of breaking into the top 20, and is currently 14th in the year-to-date rankings. Meanwhile Svitolina is coming off a considerable breakthrough last month at Wimbledon, where she finally won a Major quarterfinal in her fifth try. But the American appears to be the more in-form player, and will benefit from the energy of a night session crowd in her home country. She has a more aggressive playing style than Svitolina, which the courts in Cincinnati should reward.

Other notable matches on Thursday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Anett Kontaveit. This is a rematch from the semifinals in Miami earlier this year, where Barty prevailed 6-3, 6-3.

Simona Halep (4) vs. Madison Keys (16). Halep owns a 5-1 record against Keys, with Madison’s only victory coming in their first match nearly six years ago.

In a battle between former Major champions, Sloane Stephens (8) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Donna Vekic vs. Venus Williams. Venus claimed their only other encounter, at Wimbledon in 2016.

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Rebecca Peterson (Q). The 24-year-old from Sweden already has victories this summer over Sloane Stephens, Barbora Strycova, and Johanna Konta.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (Q). A US Open semifinalist two years ago, Carreno Busta is now ranked outside the top 50, and is 0-2 against Djokovic.

Roger Federer (3) vs. Andrey Rublev (Q). Similar to Carreno Busta, Rublev was a US Open quarterfinalist two years ago, but is now ranked 70th in the world.

In men’s doubles, Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray (PR) vs. Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock (WC). Harrison and Sock are both now ranked outside the top 150 in singles as they’ve struggled with form and injuries.

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Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic’s Big Four reunion in Cincy



ATP Cincinnati, Andy Murray, Western and Southern Open
Photo Credit: Western and Southern Open Twitter

A few years before, there existed a quartet called Big Four in men’s tennis. At certain points in their time-line of dominance, injuries plagued each member of this four-member group. However, the severity of their affliction in one player, Andy Murray, saw his name erased from this elite pocket. Thus, the Big Four was reduced to the Big Three with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer making up the troika.


At the 2019 Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, three of the erstwhile Big Four troupe reunited as they re-entered the circuit’s circus. And each player had a different path leading up to the event, too, underlining how divergent their careers had become despite overlapping scheduling.

The 2016 season was the common catalyst leading to this divergence. From Federer’s injury to him pausing his season to focus on rehab after Wimbledon, to Djokovic pushing his boundary as a marauder and completing the non-calendar Slam, and to Murray ending the season as the world no. 1. The year in consideration also threw up other names – Nadal’s season ended in an agony of injury, while Stan Wawrinka won his third Major at the US Open. In its bounty of giving and taking, 2016 changed how we looked at these players – especially the first four – and the irrevocability of assumption that these guys could get past any hurdles stopping their way.

Juxtaposing with Cincinnati, in the three years since 2016, Federer and Djokovic have vaulted past their share of physical problems. Yet, in the Ohioan city, they have different motivations guiding them. This is the first time that Djokovic has entered the Cincinnati draw as the defending champion. Meanwhile, after having been drawn in the same half as the Serbian, Federer has the proverbial score to settle against him. “I can’t wait for my next rematch with Novak or my next time I can step on a match court and show what I can do,” the 20-time Slam champion said in one of his pre-tournament media interactions in Cincinnati.

There are a few opponents to get past before their slated semi-final meeting occurs. Nonetheless, their sustained competitiveness adds its fervour to the already-hefty top-half of the men’s draw. In the midst of their respectively successful opening rounds, Murray’s first-round defeat to Richard Gasquet in straight sets became a contextual misnomer for comebacks.

Yet, Murray’s was the most stirring return. This was not because of the emotional crossroads that had sprung up at the 2019 Australian Open regarding his retirement. But on account of how farther Murray had leapt to put his physical frailties behind and re-join the singles Tour. And, the Briton’s determination to do so is reminiscent of 2016, all over again. It’s the completion of the circle of how Murray had pushed hard to become the world’s best player and now, he is trying just as much to regain his footing back.

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