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 Over the past 15 months, Nadal has withdrawn or retired from 10 of the 12 hard court tournaments he has entered.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.


Elise Mertens Edges Simona Halep To Win Maiden Premier Level Title

Elise Mertens won the biggest title of her career with a three set win over former world number one Simona Halep in Doha.



Elise Mertens (@elise_mertens - Twitter)

Elise Mertens won her first Premier title in Doha after edging out Simona Halep 3-6 6-4 6-3 in a dramatic final. 

The Belgian played some aggressive tennis as she tired out Simona Halep to win her first ever premier-level title of her career.

After a long medical time-out which lasted about eight minutes since the last point, Mertens came back from a set and a break to seal a great title which involved beating three top 10 players.

Despite losing a gruelling final, Halep will move back up to world number two heading into next week’s Premier 5 event in Dubai.

It was all about Halep for the first set and a quarter as she dictated the rallies with some sensation backhand shots, using her movement well.

Although there was good returning from Mertens, she couldn’t break down a very good Halep who just looked in control of every point.

After four breaks of serve, the Romanian inched closer towards the title as she took the first set 6-3 in 35 minutes. The Belgian needed to improve her first set to have a chance of winning the title.

The second set started with a share of breaks as Halep looked in fighting-fit shape to seal her first title of 2019 after a great week of tennis.

Then came the major talking point of the match as Mertens took an off-court medical time-out as the match didn’t restart until eight minutes later.

That would be the turning of the match as the Belgian controlled the match from that point onwards with some aggressive backhands and some neat serving.

As a result Halep’s momentum had been taken away as she struggled to cope with the break and couldn’t find her rhythm back.

With many break points not being converted by either player the world number 21 struck in the ninth game with a break to love and converted her first set point in the next game to force a decider.

After a Halep medical time-out, Mertens broke on the first game and a crucially long service hold was the big boost that the unseeded player needed.

It wasn’t to be Simona’s day as a third break in the set secured the best win of Mertens’ career so far to lift the Doha title.

After a disappointing Fed Cup campaign for Belgium, Mertens beat Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber and Halep today to ensure the best week of her career.

As for Halep she will return to world number two as the emotions of last weekend and the brutal wins of Julia Goerges and Elina Svitolina caught up with her today.

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Petra Kvitova Praises Dubai Field As Svitolina Given Tough Title Defence

Petra Kvitova has praised the Dubai field ahead of another great week in the Middle East as Elina Svitolina prepares to defend her title.



Petra Kvitova (@AusOpen - Twitter)

Petra Kvitova has praised the Dubai field ahead of a tough week in the UAE as defending champion Elina Svitolina is handed a tough draw. 

The Australian Open finalist has praised the ‘unbelievable’ quality that is on show in Dubai as nine of the world’s top 10 are playing next week.

While Kvitova may not be looking ahead to the title she could face 7th seed Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals as the draw was announced today.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina has been given a tough path ahead of her title defence though as the likes of Donna Vekic, Garbine Muguruza and Naomi Osaka stand in her way.

Attending the draw ceremony alongside Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova praised the tough Dubai field ahead of the tournament start on Sunday, “Every tournament is difficult, and this [field] is unbelievable,” Kvitova told The National.

“We have so many great players playing here. Of course, it’s always tough to win a tournament and it’ll be the same here.”

The draw has seen Kvitova potentially face Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals, with Caroline Garcia and Daria Kasatkina also in her section of the draw. As the prospect of reaching a third final in 2019 is not something to think about yet for the second seed, “It’s a long way to go so I’m not thinking of that.”

Meanwhile in the top half of the draw Elina Svitolina could face Donna Vekic as she faces a tough path to defending her title.

Other players in Svitolina’s section include Garbine Muguruza, who plays Dayana Yastremska in her opening match who beat her in Hua Hin a couple of weeks ago.

Also world number one Naomi Osaka awaits for the Ukrainian as the Australian Open champion looks to play her first tournament without the guidance of Sascha Bajin.

Here is the full draw with action beginning on Sunday:

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Dominic Thiem Edges Cuevas To Remain Unbeaten In Buenos Aires, Schwartzman Awaits

Dominic Thiem has extended his unbeaten streak to 11 matches in Bueno Aires after edging past Pablo Cuevas to reach the semi-finals.



Dominic Thiem (@SectaDeportivaa - Twittter)

Dominic Thiem won an 11th consecutive match in Buenos Aires as he edged out Pablo Cuevas 4-6 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals. 

After a slow start the Austrian won 73% of first service points to seal a place in the last four as he made it 11-0 in the Argentinian capital.

In the semi-finals he will play good friend and doubles partner this week Diego Schwartzman, who comfortably beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

The other semi-final will see Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato take on Guido Pella, who saved match points against Jaume Munar.

There was a threat to Thiem’s unbeaten streak early on as his Uruguayan opponent got off to the perfect start with a break in the third game.

Struggling on serve and failing to create any break point opportunities Thiem surrendered the first set in 34 minutes to the world number 78.

However the world number eight adjusted tactically and remained focused on the task at hand as he took a 3-0 lead. Despite being broke back while serving for the set, the top seed broke straight back to force a deciding set as he looked a relieved figure.

The deciding set went in similar fashion with the only exception being that Thiem wasn’t broken back this time. After holding his lead from 3-0 up, Thiem served out the match to secure his first ATP semi-final of the season.

After edging past Cuevas, the world number eight will now play Diego Schwartzman in the last four in what is set to be a busy day for the duo.

Not only will they play against each other in singles, they will also team up with each other in doubles as they reached the semi-finals there as well.

The talented Argentinian defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-q 7-5 to reach the last four in his home country and will look to end Thiem’s unbeaten streak on Saturday afternoon.

The other semi-final will see Marco Cecchinato play Guido Pella with the action starting at 2pm local time.

While in New York the action starts at 4pm local time with Brayden Schnur taking on Sam Querrey and John Isner playing Reilly Opelka in the semi-finals.

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