Australian Open Day 3 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Australian Open Day 3 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

The Australian Open action continues with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber looking to continue their search for another grand slam.

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Roger Federer at the 2019 Australian Open (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

By Matthew Marolf

Wednesday’s schedule features names like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, Kerber, and Wozniacki.
With those big names all heavy favorites in their second round matches, this preview will dig deeper into what look to be Day 3’s more competitive matchups. They include some exciting youngsters, as well as a few veterans exceling late in their careers. To the relief of players and fans alike, Wednesday is forecasted to be much cooler than the first two days of the fortnight in Melbourne.

Kevin Anderson (5) vs. Frances Tiafoe

Kevin Anderson (zimbio.com)

Anderson is one of the hottest players on tour, and continues to build upon the momentum of the last two seasons. The 32-year-old South African ended 2018 by advancing to the semi-finals in his ATP Finals debut, and started 2019 by winning the title in Pune. With a strong showing in Melbourne, he could make his debut inside the top four. He took out a tricky first round opponent in Adrian Mannarino in four sets on Monday. He has another tricky draw here in the 20-year-old up-and-coming American. Last year saw Tiafoe win his first ATP title at Delray Beach, upset Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych in Miami, and advance to the final in Estoril. Frances is an explosive shot maker with great speed around the court. These players met three times last year, all on hard courts. Anderson won each match, though Tiafoe twice pushed him to a final set. Anderson should prevail here as well, but Tiafoe could easily complicate matters if he plays well and keeps his unforced error count relatively low.

Anett Kontaveit (20) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich

Anett Kontaveit (zimbio.com)

2018 was a breakthrough year for Kontaveit, who is now ranked inside the top 20. Her season was highlighted by upsetting Jelena Ostapenko at this tournament a year ago, taking out Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the semifinals in Rome, defeating Petra Kvitova at Roland Garros, and making the final in Wuhan. Kontaveit again upset Kvitova to start off her 2019 season in Brisbane. Sasnovich also impressed last season, and is the highest-ranked player to not be seeded at this tournament. She was a finalist a year ago in Brisbane, and upset Kvitova at Wimbledon. And 2019 has gotten off to a strong start for Sasnovich. She upset Top-Seeded Elina Svitolina in Brisbane, and came through qualifying in Sydney to reach the semifinals. Both Kontaveit and Sasnovich won their first round matches rather easily. Kontaveit holds a slight 4-3 edge in their head-to-head. They played three times last year, with Sasnovich taking both of their 2018 hard court meetings. In what could easily be a prolonged, three-set battle, Sasnovich should be slightly favored based on her recent hard court success over Kontaveit.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) vs. Viktor Troicki

Stefanos Tsitsipas (zimbio.com)

Tsitsipas was a revelation on the ATP tour in 2018. He advanced to the finals in Barcelona and Toronto, losing to Rafael Nadal on both occasions. The 20-year-old went on to win his first ATP title in Stockholm, and then also took the trophy at the second annual ATP Next Gen Finals. Troicki was ranked as high as 12th in the world back in 2011, but is now all way down at No.200, as he’s battled injuries over the last several years. The 32-year-old veteran is still a dangerous opponent, as evidenced by getting his seventh-straight five set match win in Monday’s first round. Viktor can be a dogged, yet emotional competitor. If he has anything left after come through qualifying and winning a five-setter, he could make things interesting for the young 14th seed. Tsitsipas though has enough game to where he should pull through in his first career meeting against Troicki.

Lesia Tsurenko (24) vs. Amanda Anisimova

Lesia Tsurenko (zimbio.com)

Tsurenko has been experiencing a late-career surge. The 29-year-old advanced to her first Major quarterfinal at last year’s US Open, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the process. And just two weeks ago in Brisbane, she upset Naomi Osaka on her way to the final, where she was up a set and a break before succumbing to Karolina Pliskova. On the other side of the spectrum, Anisimova is a 17-year-old who has already made a strong impression on the tour. The American upset Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells last March, and advanced through qualifying all the way to the final in Hiroshima in September. She has a big game, and some have already tipped her as a future Major champion. Jon Wertheim recently even suggested she could be the next teenager to win a Major. Is Anisimova ready to upset a seed at a Major? She has the fire power to do so, but I still favor the more experienced and in-form Tsurenko in what should be a fascinating contest.

Roberto Bautista Agut (22) vs. John Millman

Roberto Bautista Agut (zimbio.com)

Roberto is coming off the match that captured everyone’s attention on Monday, his thrilling five-set victory over the soon-to-be-retired Andy Murray. He’ll need whatever energy he has left on Wednesday, as the crowd will again be against him as he plays the veteran Australian. Millman does not possess any big weapons, but is a tenacious competitor who will not go away easily. And he’s coming off the match of his career at the last Major, when he upset Roger Federer at the US Open. On a terribly hot and humid day in New York, Millman outlasted Federer in the near-unbearable conditions. Bautista Agut is 3-0 lifetime against Millman. They both possess similar games, with Roberto being just a bit stronger in almost every category. But if Bautista Agut is feeling less than 100% on Wednesday, Millman is the kind of opponent that can grind the last bits of energy out of him. With the crowd in Melbourne solidly behind him, a Millman upset could just happen.

Other notable matches on Day 3:

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. 31-Year-Old Australian Matthew Ebden.
Roger Federer (3) vs. British Qualifer Dan Evans.
Angelique Kerber (2) vs. 22-Year-Old Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
Maria Sharapova (30) vs. 23-Year-Old Rebecca Peterson.

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Ashleigh Barty Earns First Grand Slam Quarter-Final With Thrilling Win Over Sharapova

Ashleigh Barty beat Maria Sharapova in an exciting three-set match to progress to her first Grand Slam quarter-final.

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Ashleigh Barty overcame Maria Sharapova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in a gripping match to advance to the first Grand Slam quarter-final of her career at the Australian Open.

The Australian, 22, has risen steadily up the rankings since she returned to tennis in 2016 following a spell away playing cricket for the Brisbane Heat.

And today she sent the home crowd on the Rod Laver Arena into raptures by beating one of the most famous players in the sport with a performance full of character.

“(Sharapova) is an absolute champion,” Barty said in her post-match interview. “I knew that I just had to keep chipping away and just trust the work we’ve done (to prepare).”

She continued, “I know that I can match it with the best when I execute (the way I want).”

In the first three games of the match, both players held serve easily. However, the games got tighter and tighter as the set wore on, and eventually Sharapova earned the first break point in the seventh game.

Barty saved it, and soon had a couple of chances to break the Russian. She was ultimately unable to take them, but it was clear by now that serving was no longer the dominant force in the match.

This was especially true in game nine, as Sharapova was fired up by her gutsy hold. She cut out the errors from her play, hit deeper and harder and earned two break points.

The Australian saved them both, but then made a double-fault to hand the Russian another chance. And she gifted the World No.30 the break with a loose backhand that went wide.

It proved crucial, as Sharapova held to love to close out the first set 6-4.

Barty turns it around in the second set

The five-time Grand Slam champion put Barty’s serve under pressure again in the first game of the second set, but the Australian held firm to fend her off.

The World No.15 started to use her variety more effectively in the next few games, and it eventually unsettled Sharapova so much that she played a succession of poor shots and dropped her serve in game four.

Barty backed up the break with a dominant service game to move 4-1 ahead. She then put a bit of pressure on the Russian’s serve and watched the World No.30 fall apart and lose the game to love.

To the delight of the home crowd, the Australian quickly wrapped up the second set 6-1 to level the match at one-set all.

Barty holds off Sharapova comeback to seal win

Sharapova took a lengthy bathroom break to compose herself, and she was greeted by a chorus of boos when she returned to the court.

Either that upset the Russian, or she was still thinking about the second set, because she played an awful first service game and dropped her serve for the second time in succession.

And things got worse for the World No.30 from then on, as Sharapova failed to take advantage of a 15-30 scoreline on Barty’s serve and then proceeded to lose her own serve again and fall 3-0 behind.

On the other side of the net, the Australian remained calm and continued to play sensible, calculated tennis to consolidate her lead at 4-1.

But there was another twist around the corner, as Barty made a couple of errors to hand the Russian two break points. Sharapova took the second to cut the deficit to 4-2.

In the next game, the World No.15 tried everything to restore the double break, but the five-time Grand Slam champion dug in and held onto her serve.

Remarkably, it looked like the Russian was about to draw level in game eight when she earned two break points. However, she failed to take her chances and Barty held on to lead 5-3.

Sharapova then held to make sure the Australian would have to serve for the match. And for a couple of minutes, it looked like she would do it easily when she raced into a 40-15 lead.

But the Russian slammed a huge forehand winner and then Barty double-faulted to make it deuce. The World No.15 wasted another match point with an error, but she eventually sealed the win at the fourth time of asking with an ace.

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Milos Raonic Pleased To Be Tested Ahead of Zverev Clash

Milos Raonic spoke about his tricky matches so far at the Australian Open and his upcoming clash with Alexander Zverev.

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Milos Raonic looks in excellent form. He has beaten three difficult opponents, Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and will now face an even tougher fourth, Alexander Zverev, in the last 16.

Although the Canadian has only dropped one set so far, he has been challenged all the way, and the main reason his matches have remained relatively short is because he has produced his best tennis at key moments.

“I have been pushed,” Raonic said. “I have been having stressful moments in matches that I’ve handled quite well. I think that gives me some ease going into sort of the challenges further along.”

The Canadian continued, “I haven’t had the chance to play that many matches over a long period of time now, so to have that kind of test and to do well I think is pretty good.”

Raonic not sure experience gives him the edge over Zverev

Next, Raonic faces one of the biggest challenges in tennis when he takes on the World No.4. And he is not convinced by any suggestion that his past successes at Grand Slams give him an advantage.

“I think it’s irrelevant because you don’t know how those things are going to play out. That’s on his end of things. I’ve been here quite a few times now, the start of the second week. I’ve got to just focus on the things I know I need to do.”

“If any of this Grand Slam talk has any effect on him, it can creep in, but I can’t impose that kind of pressure on him. I’ve got to use my game to put pressure on him. I don’t know if the situation will get to him or not.”

This approach speaks volumes of Raonic’s level-headed nature, as does his assessment of the dangers of relaxing during his encounter with Herbert after facing two stronger opponents before him.

“It was something that I was well aware of that I didn’t want to let happen. He’s played well this week. He beat Querrey first round, who is a similar player to me and he managed to fend that off. Then he played Chung in the second round, who was defending a run to the semis here, so I knew he was doing things well.”

“He also won the first few matches in the first tournament of the year, I believe, so I knew he had been playing well over the last little while. It could have happened, but it wasn’t an issue today.”

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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.

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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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:
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  • 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

 

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