Australian Open Day 2 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Grand Slam

Australian Open Day 2 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

In only the third week of the year, 2019’s first Major is already underway.

Published

on

On the men’s side, the “Big Five” own 54 of the last 56 Major titles, spanning the last 14 years. Their incredible dominance will inevitably come to an end soon, but perhaps not quite yet. Novak Djokovic is the favorite to win his third straight Major, and will remain world No.1 regardless of this fortnight’s results.

 

On the women’s side, the last eight Majors have been won by eight different players. An astounding 11 different women were capable of ending this tournament as the world No.1 at the start of play on Monday. And none of those 11 players are the odds makers’ favorite to win, with that of course being 23-time Major Champion Serena Williams. Her opening round match is one of the five matches previewed below.

Milos Raonic (16) vs. Nick Kyrgios
Embed from Getty Images

This is a blockbuster first round matchup, made possible by Kyrgios’ subpar 2018 season. The 23-year-old is now only the No.4-ranked Australian man, currently at 52nd in the world. He usually gets up for big matches like this, but in recent years has reacted in different ways to playing tight matches in Melbourne. Two years ago, he was booed as the home crowd sensed a lack of effort during an early round loss to Andreas Seppi. Last year however, Kyrgios played some great tennis in upsetting Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an electric Rod Laver Arena. Raonic has quietly rebuilt his ranking after missing much of 2017 due to injury, though he hasn’t won a title in over three years. They’ve split six previous meetings, with Kyrgios taking their only match on a hard court, in 2016 in Miami. With two of the biggest servers on tour, we’re in for a plethora of aces, and likely a tiebreak or two. As Kyrgios prefers, and usually requests, this will be a night match on the newly-renamed Melbourne Arena (formerly Hisense). The grounds-pass crowd of rowdy Australians will be eager to get behind Nick. This is a tough one to pick, but I slightly favor the steadier and more reliable player in Raonic.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Kaia Kanepi
Embed from Getty Images

This is a rematch from the opening round of the last Grand Slam event, when Kanepi upset the world No.1 at the US Open last August in straight sets. Since that time, Halep has only played three matches, and is 0-3. A back injury has hampered her play, and put an early end to her 2018 season. Last week in Sydney, she was taken out by Australian No.1 Ashleigh Barty. Simona is also now without Darren Cahill on her team, and is going without a coach for the time being. Halep is certainly far from her best right now. However, Kanepi herself hasn’t played at all since the US Open, due to an undisclosed injury. While an upset here feels entirely possible, and I don’t like Halep’s chances to advancing deep into the second week, I feel Simona will find a way to avenge her US Open loss on Tuesday.

Serena Williams (16) vs. Tatjana Maria
Embed from Getty Images

This will be Serena’s first match since the infamous US Open final last year. She did play two exhibition events leading up to this fortnight. In Abu Dhabi, she lost to her sister Venus in a third set decided by a 10-point tiebreak. But Serena went 3-0 in singles at the Hopman Cup two weeks ago. Notably at the Hopman Cup, she did hold her shoulder several times as the tournament progressed, so I’ll be curious to see if she is 100% here. If so, considering she made the final at both of the past two Majors so early into her comeback, I agree that she’s the favorite to win this tournament. And I’m confident she’ll be more determined than ever to win after feeling she was so wrongfully treated at the US Open. In her opening round, she’ll face a fellow mother. The 31-year-old Maria is ranked 73rd in the world, and shouldn’t give a healthy Serena too much trouble in their first career meeting. But all eyes will be on Serena in her first official match in over four months.

Mihaela Buzarnescu (25) vs. Venus Williams
Embed from Getty Images

Serena’s sister will also play her opening round match on Tuesday. Venus made a thrilling run to the final here two years ago, but is coming off a pretty lackluster 2018. Last season, she went just 17-11, and 4-4 at the Majors. She’s now ranked 36th in the world, and subsequently is unseeded here. She also arrives without a coach, as she parted ways with her longtime coach, David Witt, during the offseason. Venus though did get a nice win over Victoria Azarenka in Auckland to start her season. In Buzarnescu, Venus has actually gotten a relatively kind draw. Mihaela had the best season of her career last year, breaking into the top 20 thanks to her first career WTA title in San Jose. Unfortunately, just a few days later in Montreal, Buzarnescu rolled her ankle while deep into a third set against Elina Svitolina. This was quite an upsetting scene, as Mihaela laid on the court and screamed out in pain for several minutes. And sadly, Buzarnescu has lost all the momentum she had before the injury, going 0-5 since Montreal. These two have never played before, and both could use a win to gain some confidence. After going out in the first round of this tournament a year ago to Belinda Bencic, I think Venus will be keen to get the win here. If she plays well, she should be able to dictate play and get through this one.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Ernests Gulbis
Embed from Getty Images

The 2014 Australian Open champion never got back to the peak of his abilities in 2018 coming off serious knee surgery the year prior. A year ago, Wawrinka was clearly still physically struggling, and went out in the second round of this tournament to Tennys Sandgren. Overall he went just 17-17 last year, though he did show signs of rediscovering his form as the season progressed. Meanwhile it’s also been a rough few years for Gulbis, who has battled multiple injuries. 18 months ago, Ernests was ranked 589th in the world. But Gulbis is now back inside the top 100, and is coming off a run to the final in Stockholm last October. However, the 30-year-old Latvian has only two wins in his entire career at the Australian Open. He’s 2-8 lifetime in Melbourne, and hasn’t won a match since 2014. These two veterans have surprisingly only played once before, and that was almost a decade ago on clay. I like Wawrinka’s chances to advance here, in which case he’d play the winner of the Raonic/Kyrgios match on Thursday.

Other notable matches on Day 2:
Embed from Getty Images

  • Six-Time Champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Qualifer Mitchell Krueger
  • US Open Champion Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Magda Linette
  • ATP Finals Champion Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Aljaz Bedene
  • WTA Finals Champion Elina Svitolina (6) vs. Qualifer Viktorija Golubic
  • Dominic Thiem (7), who went 0-3 in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago vs. the unpredictable Benoit Paire.

Order of play

Rod Laver Arena

  • D. Aiava (WC) vs M. Keys (17)
  • T. Maria vs S. Williams (16)
  • A. Zverev (4) vs A. Bedene

evening session

  • N. Djokovic (1) vs M. Krueger (Q)
  • N. Osaka (4) vs M. Linette

Margaret Court Arena

  • K. Majchrzak (Q) vs K. Nishikori (8)
  • T. Zidansek vs D. Gavrilova
  • V. Williams vs M. Buzarnescu (25)

evening session

  • S. Halep (1) vs K. Kanepi
  • B. Paire vs D. Thiem (7)

Melbourne Arena

  • K. Muchova (Q) vs Ka. Pliskova (7)
  • B. Coric (11) vs S. Darcis
  • L. Siegemund vs V. Azarenka
  • S. Stosur vs D. Yastremska

not before 0800 (GMT)

  • N. Kyrgios vs M. Raonic (16)

1573 Arena

  • F. Fognini (12) vs J. Munar
  • E. Bouchard vs S. Peng (WC)
  • P. Andujar vs D. Shapovalov (25)
  • V. Golubic (Q) vs E. Svitolina (6)

Court 3

  • J. Konta vs A. Tomljanovic
  • S. Zheng vs G. Muguruza (18)
  • T. Daniel vs T. Kokkinakis (Q)
  • S. Wawrinka vs E. Gulbis

Court 5

  • I. Ivashka vs M. Jaziri
  • N. Vikhlyantseva (Q) vs V. Lepchenko (Q)
  • F. Krajinovic vs M. Cecchinato (17)

Court 7

  • E. Mertens (12) vs A. Schmiedlova
  • A. Bolt (WC) vs J. Sock (WC)
  • C. Giorgi (27) vs D. Jakupovic
  • J. Tsonga (WC) vs M. Klizan

Court 8

  • Q. Wang (21) vs F. Ferro
  • H. Chung (24) vs B. Klahn
  • P. Kohlschreiber (32) vs Z. Li (WC)
  • D. Cibulkova (26) vs S. Zhang

Court 10

  • P. Parmentier vs A. Potapova
  • L. Vanni (Q) vs P. Carreno Busta (23)
  • J. Chardy vs U. Humbert

Court 12

  • Z. Diyas vs A. Krunic
  • L. Djere vs E. Donskoy
  • M. Granollers vs M. Copil
  • S. Kenin vs V. Kudermetova (Q)

Court 13

  • A. Ramos-Vinolas vs M. Fucsovics
  • D. Kasatkina (10) vs T. Bacsinszky
  • S. Voegele vs S. Hsieh (28)
  • A. Popyrin (WC) vs M. Zverev

Court 14

  • L. Harris (Q) vs D. Medvedev (15)
  • B. Fratangelo (Q) vs G. Simon (29)
  • C. Suárez Navarro (23) vs C. Burel (WC)
  • Kr. Pliskova vs A. Blinkova

Court 15

  • N. Jarry vs L. Mayer
  • B. Andreescu (Q) vs W. Osuigwe (WC)
  • L. Zhu (Q) vs M. Gasparyan
  • M. Marterer vs G. Sakharov (Q)

Court 19

  • I. Karlovic vs H. Hurkacz
  • M. Brengle vs M. Doi (Q)
  • L. Pouille (28) vs M. Kukushkin
  • I. Swiatek (Q) vs A. Bogdan

Court 20

  • S. Querrey vs P. Herbert
  • M. Barthel vs A. Sevastova (13)
  • D. Goffin (21) vs C. Garin
  • V. Kuzmova vs K. Kozlova

Court 22

  • J. Vesely vs R. Harrison
  • G. Pella vs J. Sousa
  • A. Cornet vs L. Arruabarrena

 

Grand Slam

Stellar French International Club Cocktail Reception

The first Tuesday of Roland Garros annually features a morning cloud burst which soaks Paris, and in the evening the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, and Mark Winters and his wife Cheryl Jones, who are Ubitennis contributors, regularly attend the affair. Winters provides his impressions of this year’s May 28 th gathering.

Published

on

Photo taken by ubitennis

There is another consistency at Roland Garros, beside Rafael Nadal winning the Coupe des Mousquetaires on the final Sunday. (The Spaniard has now won twelve titles.) The first Tuesday of the tournament usually is replete with rain clouds that never seem to dampen the spirit of those in attendance at the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. The morning weather on May 28th, sported puffy rain clouds. But this year’s downpour began with a blast of hail that softened to intermittent showers throughout the day.

 

Following the script of recent years, the storm actually abated before the 7:00 pm soirée, which is an annual activity supported by the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT). Last year there was record setting attendance of near 300. Though an official account was not given for the 2019 gathering, it seemed to be nearly as large.

Thierry Pham is so polished that he would clearly be comfortable hosting the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. As President of the French IC and a member of the Executive Council of the International Clubs, he welcomed those in attendance. After his introductory remarks he turned the podium over to Bernard Giudicelli, President of the Fédération Française de Tennis and the Chairman of the French Davis Cup.

Giudicelli pointed out the changes that had been made at Stade Roland Garros, calling attention to the refurbishing of Court Philippe Chatrier and the addition of a new venue,  Court Simonne Mathieu, which is truly an architectural marvel. He added that next year, lights will be added to those two courts, along with Court Suzanne Lenglen, and Court No. 4. But, the pièce de résistance came with his revelation that in 2020, Court Philippe Chatrier would have a retractable roof.

There was an all-star cast on hand. There were so many “Who’s Who” tennis names that it would be impossible to mention everyone. Frew McMillian and his wife, Sally, were part of the mix. So, was Ubaldo Scanagatta, the effervescent Italian who plays an important role in his country’s IC.

Having first met Gail Beneditti, when she was coaching the elite French junior girls, including Amelie Mauresmo, the first question I ask when I see her at the affair is – Are you still undefeated in ITF senior competition? Year after year, her record has been unblemished. But much to my surprise she had finally lost a match. In the middle of May, Heidi Eisterlehner of Germany had downed the former Australian player, who is now a French citizen, in the Women’s 70 final at Cervia, Italy.

Among the Americans, who joined me, to enjoy the festivities were USIC President J. Donald Tansey and his wife, Marie, Jim Lowenstein, Carol McCracken and Mark Lindblom.

The always affable Francoise Dürr (Browning) lived for ten years in Phoenix, Arizona. Over twenty-five years ago, she returned to France and is now residing near Paris. Admitting that it had been a while since she had spoken English, the 1967 Roland Garros singles’ titlist shared wonderful insights regarding today’s “game.” She went on to offer recollections about the slams she had played, along with the special place in her heart that she has for Roland Garros. She extolled the tournament’s panache, along with the wonders of Paris, while chatting with “The Two Marks” (Lindblom and Winters).

While waiting to enter restaurant “Le Roland-Garros”, where the cocktail reception was held, I met Etienne Lecoeur of the French IC. We talked a little bit about our backgrounds. Then he mentioned his current focus – Cambodia. It seems as if Lecouer, the founder and CEO of DoubleSlash, a company that among other things provides assistance to needy communities around the world, has borrowed a page from Jean Borotra, who began the French IC in 1929. Borotra was known for his spirit, as well as his concern about the game and those who played it.

Lecoeur is attempting to bring tennis to the disadvantaged in Cambodia. His project is far reaching and insightful. Any USIC members interested in learning more about his plans should contact him at etienne@doubleslash.com

During his speech, Giudicelli noted, “The Fédération Française de Tennis has invested in the future. We have faced some difficulties, but there is a lot of support and passion in the organization (FFT).”

He concluded saying that he hoped everyone enjoyed Roland Garros this year and that they should plan on returning next year to see the new and improved Stade Roland Garros.

As everyone present agreed, 2020 will be memorable for the tournament as well as the French IC.

Continue Reading

Grand Slam

Five French Open Talking Points

Following the completing of the 2019 tournament on Sunday, here are five topics worth further discussion.

Published

on

photo by Gianni Ciaccia

From the unexpected to the predictable, this year’s French Open had it all. Ash Barty stunned the women’s draw to win her maiden grand slam titles. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal continued his dominance of the men’s section. The past two weeks in the French capital have been full of drama.

 

Here are five takes from this year’s tournament.

1) Another Slam, and another event where the women receive unfavourable scheduling.

Tournament officials made some egregious scheduling decisions during this fortnight. Some conflicts were unavoidable due to rain, and thankfully a roof will resolve that issue next year (at least on one court). But there were many instances where the tournament could have done a better job in presenting the women’s matches. One example is bringing Djokovic and Thiem back on Saturday to complete their semifinal rather than try to finish it on Friday. There ended up being much more sunshine on Friday evening after the match had already been postponed. Even if the Djokovic/Thiem match had not concluded on Friday night, enough tennis could have been played where it would have avoided the delay of the women’s championship. This is now the second time in the last four Majors the WTA final was bumped for a men’s semifinal. And there were other smaller mistakes made as well, such as scheduling a blockbuster Sloane Stephens/Garbine Muguruza match at the end of the day following both Federer and Nadal on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Many fans left after the two all-time greats played, leaving an extremely muted atmosphere for a match between two Slam champions. It would be wiser to schedule a women’s match in between Federer and Nadal. While the women’s draw was lacking the star power of the men’s in the second week, tournaments too often do the women no favours in enabling star power to be created. And on seven of the first nine days of the tournament, the women were scheduled first on Chatrier at 11:00am, playing in a mostly-empty stadium as the French fans eat their lunch.

2) If the French care more about lunch than Federer versus Nadal, they don’t deserve to host a Major.

The number of empty seats for the Federer/Nadal match at 1:00pm Friday, as well as the next day for the resumption of Djokovic/Thiem as 12:00pm, was astonishing and disgraceful. This was an issue on every day of the fortnight, but was even more shocking with the sport’s greatest rivalry on the court. As Ben Rothenberg highlighted on Twitter, French officials even used ball kids to fill in the empty seats in the lower level of Chatrier on Saturday. And I’m not kidding when I suggest it might be worth considering a different city to host the sport’s fourth Grand Slam event. Indian Wells would be a strong choice to be upgraded to a Major, or starting a new Slam event in Asia would certainly be good for the sport’s growth. Short of downgrading this tournament, officials should take a page out of the USTA’s book, and move the start of play on Chatrier to later in the day. With a roof and lights on the way, play on Chatrier should not begin before 1:00pm or 2:00pm. Or at a minimum, the tournament should allow grounds pass ticket holders into the lower bowl of Chatrier until the French’s precious lunchtime is over.

3) It’s long overdue for the French Open to institute final set tiebreaks.

This is another way in which this tournament is lagging behind the other Majors. While it’s absurd how all four Slams have different rules for final sets, at least the other Majors have introduced a tiebreak at some point. Once players get to 6-6 in the final set, especially the men who have played five full sets by that stage, isn’t that enough? It’s preferable for the fans, the tournament schedule, the television schedule, and players alike to have a discernable end in sight. Players who win extended fifth sets rarely advance much further in the tournament after such an overdose of tennis.

4) Let’s end this debate now: there is nothing unfair or unsportsmanlike about underhand serving.

This has become a much talked about topic of late, due to the 30th anniversary of Michael Chang’s victory in Paris, as well as current players such as Nick Kyrgios reintroducing this tactic to the sport. But there’s really no debate here. An underhand serve is a fair and strategic tactic, no different than a drop shot. With many players standing so far back to return serve, I’m surprised this hasn’t been used more often. Anyone crying foul over this strategy being applied is just plain wrong.

5) Despite the valid criticisms of the tournament, let’s celebrate all the compelling storylines provided.

A player who walked away from the sport at the age of 18, due to the pressure and travel involved, comes back to win a Major on their least-preferred surface. A former champion struggling to regain their top form after serious knee surgery, battles through one of the sport’s most promising young fighters in a match that went over five hours, in surely the match of the tournament, if not the year. A 37-year-old Frenchman most well-known for being on the losing end of tennis’ longest match gets to share what was perhaps his two last victories at home with his young son, who joined him on court. And of course, the King of Clay wins his twelfth title at the same Grand Slam event, giving him a 24-0 record in the semifinals and finals. No other sport provides us with such a plethora of great moments throughout the entire year.

Continue Reading

ATP

Rafael Nadal’s French Open Dominance In Numbers

Ubitennis takes a closer look at the King of clay’s record at Roland Garros.

Published

on

Rafael Nadal (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Once again Rafael Nadal has come out on top in his beloved French Open. On Sunday he downed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. Claiming 2000 ranking points and winning €2,300,000 in prize money. He has now overtaken Novak Djokovic in the ATP Race To London standings and has a 780-point lead.

 

Named the king of clay due to his dominance on the surface, here is the extraordinary numbers behind Nadal’s performance at the French Open so far in his career.

$22 million: According to data from atptour.com, Nadal had earned a total of $22,051,715 in prize money from the French Open alone. That amount is more than what players such as Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl and Lleyton Hewitt won during their entire careers. Overall, Nadal’s prize money earnings currently stands at $109,533,646. The third highest of all time.

93: Nadal has won a total of 93 matches at the French Open since he made his debut back in 2005. This equates to 36% of all victories he has achieved at a grand slam level so far in his career. His win over Thiem on Sunday was his 260th overall.

33: By defeating Thiem, Nadal has become the oldest French Open winner for 47 years and the third oldest in the Open Era at the age of 33 years and six days. The only older men to win the title were Andrés Gimeno in 1972 (34 years, 306 days) and Ken Rosewall in 1968 (33 years, 220 days).

18: He now has 18 grand slam titles to his name, which is the second highest in history. Although he is not too concerned about breaking rival Roger Federer’s record in the future.

Grand Slam collection
French Open – 12
US Open – 3
Wimbledon – 2
Australian Open – 1

12: Nadal has now won the tournament 12 times in his career. In the history of tennis no other player has managed to win the same grand slam that amount of times. In the Open Era the only player to have won 12 titles at tour-level tournaments was Martina Navratilova in Chicago.

12-0: The world No.2 has never lost a final at the French Open. Five of his wins have been in straight sets and seven has been in four sets. He is yet to go the full distance in a final at Roland Garros.

2005: bt Mariano Puerta (ARG) 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5
2006: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6
2007: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2008: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-1, 6-3, 6-0
2010: bt Robin Soderling (SWE) 6-4, 6-2, 6-4
2011: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1
2012: bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5
2013: bt David Ferrer (ESP) 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
2014: bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
2017: bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-2, 6-3, 6-1
2018: bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
2019: bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1

3: Nadal has won the title three times without dropping a single set. He achieved the milestones in 2008, 2010 and 2017.

2: Only two people have managed to get the better of the Spaniard on the Paris clay. Robin Soderling was the first in 2009 when he prevailed in the fourth round. Six years later, Novak Djokovic was victorious in their quarter-final clash at the 2015 tournament. Nadal also didn’t win the title in 2006, but withdrew before his match due to injury.

Continue Reading

Trending