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Australian Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Thursday’s scheduled is jam-packed, featuring both world No.1’s, both Williams sisters, and 2014 Champion Stan Wawrinka.

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Stan Wawrinka (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright : @Sport Vision)

Day 4 will include some big names facing off in second round matches, as several former top 10 players battle their way back from injuries and subpar results. Are any of them ready to take out a high seed? Let’s take a deeper look at Thursday’s most compelling contests.

 

Garbine Muguruza (18) vs. Johanna Konta

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Here are two top players from previous years coming off disappointing 2018 seasons. After winning a Major title in both 2016 and 2017, Muguruza went just 8-4 at Grand Slam events last year. Konta had an even worse year, going 2-4 at the Slams and is consequently unseeded at this event. The British No.1 then split with yet another coach, Michael Joyce, and is now working with Dimitri Zavialoff, the former coach of Stan Wawrinka. Konta played for nearly three hours on Tuesday, outlasting Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in a third set tiebreak. Muguruza spent almost two hours less on court, winning her opening round in straight sets. Konta holds a 2-1 edge over Muguruza, with Johanna’s last win coming during her breakout run at the 2015 US Open. Garbine has been dealing with a leg injury to start the year, and retired from both the Hopman Cup and the Sydney warm-up event. The healthier and more confident Konta should be favored here over the 18th seed.

Milos Raonic (16) vs. Stan Wawrinka

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What a brutal draw for the 16th seed. After drawing Nick Kygrios in the first round, Raonic gets Three-Time Major Champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round. Milos took out an injured Kyrgios in straight sets, while Wawrinka was down a set to Ernests Gulbis before Gulbis had to retire with a back injury. Stan is 4-2 lifetime against Milos, though the Canadian took both of their last two matches. Raonic won a five-setter at the Australian Open three years ago, and defeated Wawrinka in straight sets at last year’s US Open. The fast-paced hard courts in Melbourne should play to Milos’ advantage, especially since Stan likes having more time to set up his big swings. But Wawrinka is determined to recapture his past glory, and certainly has fond memories of some great Australian Open wins. Recent form and results favor Raonic, but don’t count out the fighting spirit and shot-making of Wawrinka.

Serena Williams (16) vs. Eugenie Bouchard

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Serena needed only 49 minutes to win her opening round match. Similarly, a rejuvenated Bouchard dropped just three games on Tuesday, and also advanced in less than an hour. It’s been a rough few years for Bouchard, who has struggled with her confidence and admitted to losing her love for the game. Six months ago, the 24-year-old was barely ranked inside the top 200. But she ended 2018 by advancing to the final in Luxembourg after coming through qualifying, and is now back in the top 100. Bouchard has lost both times she’s faced Serena, though they haven’t played since 2014. Still, Serena played top-notch tennis on Tuesday, and should comfortably advance here. There are no parts of Bouchard’s game that should complicate matters for the 23-time Major champion.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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This is a rematch from the 2008 Australian Open final. That would be the first of 14 Major singles titles for Djokovic (and counting), while Tsonga has never returned to a Grand Slam final. That final 11 years ago was their first career meeting. Overall Djokovic is 16-6 against Tsonga, and has won 13 of their last 14 matches. Jo’s last victory came at the Rogers Cup in 2014. Tsonga now finds himself ranked 177th in the world, as he missed over six months of 2018 due to injury. But the Frenchman got three solid wins in Brisbane to begin 2019, and took out Martin Klizan in straight sets on Tuesday. Djokovic though is at the height of his abilities, and will be too much for the returning Tsonga to handle. The crowd in Australia is quite fond of Jo, so perhaps he can feed off their energy to make this a fun one to watch.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Sofia Kenin

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The world No.1 impressively came back from a set and a break down against Kaia Kanepi in the opening round, with Kanepi sending a barrage of powerful groundstrokes across the net. That was Halep’s first victory since Cincinnati five months ago. She is still rediscovering her form after shutting down her 2018 season early due to a back injury. Kenin, a 20-year-old American, arrives at this second round encounter with a lot of momentum. Sofia was heartbroken after the final women’s match of 2018, when she lost a near four-hour epic at the Fed Cup final to Katerina Siniakova. But she quickly got over that emotional loss, and won her first WTA title just a few days ago in Hobart. Kenin could push Halep on Thursday, and keep in mind it was another young American, Lauren Davis, who pushed Simona to 15-13 in the third set a year ago in Melbourne. The result here will likely depend upon how close to her best Halep is. Tuesday’s comeback win will give her some much-needed confidence, and she should get through this challenge as well if she plays as she did during the second half of her opening round.

Other notable matches on Day 4:

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  • Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Jeremy Chardy, who came through in a fifth set tiebreak on Tuesday
  • Naomi Osaka (4) vs. 21-Year-Old Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who upset Australia’s Daria Gavrilova on Tuesday
  • Kei Nishikori (8), who barely survived his opening round match thanks to his opponent cramping and retiring, vs. 39-Year-Old Ivo Karlovic
  • Venus Williams, who needed almost three hours to prevail in the first round, vs. the never-dull Alize Cornet
  • US Open Semifinalist Anastasija Sevastova (13) vs. 18-Year-Old Canadian Qualifier Bianca Andreescu, who upset Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams on her way to the final in Auckland two weeks ago.

Order of play

Rod Laver Arena | Play begins from 12am GMT

Viktoria Kuzmova (Svk) v (6) Elina Svitolina (Ukr)
Stan Wawrinka (Swi) v (16) Milos Raonic (Can)
(1) Simona Halep (Rom) v Sofia Kenin (USA)
Eugenie Bouchard (Can) v (16) Serena Williams (USA)
(1) Novak Djokovic (Ser) v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra)

Margaret Court Arena | Play begins from 12am GMT

Ivo Karlovic (Cro) v (8) Kei Nishikori (Jpn)
(4) Naomi Osaka (Jpn) v Tamara Zidansek (Slo)
Alize Cornet (Fra) v Venus Williams (USA)
(4) Alexander Zverev (Ger) v Jeremy Chardy (Fra)
Johanna Konta (Gbr) v (18) Garbine Muguruza (Spa)

Melbourne Arena | Play begins from 12am GMT

Madison Brengle (USA) v (7) Karolina Pliskova (Cze)
Anastasia Potapova (Rus) v (17) Madison Keys (USA)
(24) Hyeon Chung (Kor) v Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Fra)
Alexei Popyrin (Aus) v (7) Dominic Thiem (Aut)

Court 5 | Play begins from 12am GMT

(1) Oliver Marach (Aut) & Mate Pavic (Cro) v Simone Bolelli (Ita) & Andreas Seppi (Ita)
Kimberly Birrell (Aus) & Priscilla Hon (Aus) v Harriet Dart (Gbr) & Anett Kontaveit (Est)
Radu Albot (Mol) & Malek Jaziri (Tun) v (8) Ben McLachlan (Jpn) & Jan-Lennard Struff (Ger)

Court 7 | Play begins from 12am GMT

(3) Jamie Murray (Gbr) & Bruno Soares (Bra) v Roman Jebavy (Cze) & Andres Molteni (Arg)
(16) Shuai Peng (Chn) & Zhaoxuan Yang (Chn) v Victoria Azarenka (Blr) & Ashleigh Barty (Aus)
(21) David Goffin (Bel) v Marius Copil (Rom)
Lleyton Hewitt (Aus) & John-Patrick Smith (Aus) v Marcus Daniell (Nzl) & Wesley Koolhof (Ned)

Court 8 | Play begins from 12am GMT

(21) Qiang Wang (Chn) v Aleksandra Krunic (Ser)
(32) Philipp Kohlschreiber (Ger) v Joao Sousa (Por)
Ryan Harrison (USA) v (15) Daniil Medvedev (Rus)

Court 10 | Play begins from 12am GMT

(3) Gabriela Dabrowski (Can) & Yi Fan Xu (Chn) v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (Cze) & Marketa Vondrousova (Cze)
Amanda Anisimova (USA) & Danielle Collins (USA) v (9) Raquel Atawo (USA) & Katarina Srebotnik (Slo)
Pauline Parmentier (Fra) & Maria Sakkari (Gre) v Xinyu Jiang (Chn) & Qiang Wang (Chn)
Elise Mertens (Bel) & Aryna Sabalenka (Blr) v (15) Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) & Demi Schuurs (Ned)

Court 12 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Astra Sharma (Aus) & Isabelle Wallace (Aus) v Jennifer Brady (USA) & Alison Riske (USA)
(7) Hao-Ching Chan (Tpe) & Latisha Chan (Tpe) v Ellen Perez (Aus) & Arina Rodionova (Aus)
(10) Irina-Camelia Begu (Rom) & Mihaela Buzarnescu (Rom) v Lizette Cabrera (Aus) & Jaimee Fourlis (Aus)
(13) Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) & Johanna Larsson (Swe) v Timea Bacsinszky (Swi) & Vera Zvonareva (Rus)

Court 13 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Luksika Kumkhum (Tha) & Evgeniya Rodina (Rus) v Alison Bai (Aus) & Zoe Hives (Aus)
Ilya Ivashka (Blr) v (23) Pablo Carreno-Busta (Spa)
(28) Lucas Pouille (Fra) v Maximilian Marterer (Ger)

Court 14 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Guido Pella (Arg) & Hans Podlipnik-Castillo (Chi) v (11) Rajeev Ram (USA) & Joe Salisbury (Gbr)
Taylor Harry Fritz (USA) & Cameron Norrie (Gbr) v Mirza Basic (Bih) & Damir Dzumhur (Bih)
Andrea Petkovic (Ger) & Monica Puig (Pur) v (11) Eri Hozumi (Jpn) & Alicja Rosolska (Pol)
Matthew Ebden (Aus) & Robert Lindstedt (Swe) v Steve Johnson (USA) & Denis Kudla (USA)

Court 15 | Play begins from 12am GMT

James Duckworth (Aus) & Jordan Thompson (Aus) v Kenneth Skupski (Gbr) & Neal Skupski (Gbr)
Laura Siegemund (Ger) v (28) Su-Wei Hsieh (Tpe)
Shuai Zhang (Chn) v Kristyna Pliskova (Cze)
Bernarda Pera (USA) & Rebecca Peterson (Swe) v (8) Su-Wei Hsieh (Tpe) & Abigail Spears (USA)

Court 19 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Jack Sock (USA) & Jack Withrow (USA) v (2) Juan Sebastian Cabal (Col) & Robert Farah (Col)
Raluca Olaru (Rom) & Galina Voskoboeva (Kaz) v (2) Timea Babos (Hun) & Kristina Mladenovic (Fra)
Dalila Jakupovic (Slo) & Irina Khromacheva (Rus) v Zarina Diyas (Kaz) & Yulia Putintseva (Kaz)
Philipp Oswald (Aut) & Tim Puetz (Ger) v Pablo Cuevas (Uru) & Fernando Verdasco (Spa)

Court 20 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Sorana Cirstea (Rom) & Jelena Ostapenko (Lat) v Ying-Ying Duan (Chn) & Vera Lapko (Blr)
Timea Bacsinszky (Swi) v Natalia Vikhlyantseva (Rus)
Evgeny Donskoy (Rus) v Filip Krajinovic (Ser)

Court 22 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Alexa Guarachi (Chi) & Alison Van Uytvanck (Bel) v Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Blr) & Taylor Townsend (USA)
Veronika Kudermetova (Rus) & Sabrina Santamaria (USA) v Belinda Bencic (Swi) & Donna Vekic (Cro)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) & Anastasija Sevastova (Lat) v Xinyun Han (Chn) & Darija Jurak (Cro)

1573 Arena | Play begins from 12am GMT

(27) Camila Giorgi (Ita) v Iga Swiatek (Pol)
(12) Elise Mertens (Bel) v Margarita Gasparyan (Rus)
(12) Fabio Fognini (Ita) v Leonardo Mayer (Arg)
Taro Daniel (Jpn) v (25) Denis Shapovalov (Can)

Court 3 | Play begins from 12am GMT

Bianca Vanessa Andreescu (Can) v (13) Anastasija Sevastova (Lat)
(11) Borna Coric (Cro) v Marton Fucsovics (Hun)
Alex Bolt (Aus) v (29) Gilles Simon (Fra)
(23) Carla Suarez Navarro (Spa) v Dayana Yastremska (Ukr)

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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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