Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Federer, Nadal, Kerber, Wozniacki, and Sharapova will be featured on Friday, with those last two names facing off in a blockbuster third round match-up.

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Caroline Wozniacki (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

With the third round of play already upon us, Friday will be the day seeded players start to collide in the singles draws. On the halves of the draws playing today, 18 of the 32 seeds have made it this far. The Wozniacki/Sharapova clash will take top billing on the women’s schedule, while Rafael Nadal’s first-ever meeting with an exciting Australian teenager will be the marquee men’s match of the day.

 

Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Maria Sharapova (30)

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It’s the 2008 Australian Open champion vs. the 2018 champion. Both women have looked extremely sharp through two rounds. Neither have dropped a set, and Sharapova has only lost three games in the four sets she’s played. Sharapova is 6-4 lifetime against Wozniacki, dating back to their first meeting almost 11 years ago, though they haven’t played since 2015. Wozniacki’s four victories have all come on hard courts, including the two previous times they’ve squared off at a Major (the 2010 and 2014 US Opens). The deciding factor here will be if Sharapova can keep her unforced error and double fault counts down despite Wozniacki’s defensive abilities. Caroline will force Maria to hit more shots to end a rally than Sharapova’s previous opponents. Maria hit seven double faults in the first round, but cut that number down to only two in the second round. However, I suspect Wozniacki’s movement and down-the-line groundstrokes will spell trouble for Sharapova.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Alex de Minaur (27)

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If the Australian No.1 has anything left after his four-hour victory on Wednesday, this could be a lot of fun. De Minaur is the third straight Australian that Nadal has faced this week. There were a lot of questions as to Rafa’s condition ahead of this fortnight, his first event since the US Open. He worked to heal multiple injuries in the fall, but still had to pull out of Brisbane two weeks ago with a thigh strain. Nadal though showed no signs of being less than 100% in his first two rounds. De Minaur must be a bit tired coming off Day 3’s five-setter, and considering he’s now played seven matches over the past 11 days. Alex claimed his first career title just last week in Sydney, and is now at a career-high ranking of 29th in the world. Hopefully the physically fit 19-year-old can recover ahead of this encounter. One thing we know for sure is he will give 100% of whatever energy he has left. With former Australian No.1’s Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic struggles, both losing in the first round, de Minaur now finds himself sharing the Australian spotlight with the country top female player, Ashleigh Barty. But both de Minaur and Barty have seemed to embrace the pressure of playing at home so far this year. Still, defeating Nadal in the best-of-five format remains one of the sport’s tallest tasks. De Minaur’s speed and fighting spirit should make this an exciting affair, but Rafa is still the favorite to advance.

Aryna Sabalenka (11) vs. Amanda Amisimova

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This could be a thrilling glimpse into the future of tennis, with two powerful young players who will likely contend for Major titles sooner than later. Sabalenka is actually some pundits’ pick to win this tournament. The 20-year-old from Belarus has already become a force in the sport. She burst onto the scene last year, accumulating a tally of 51 match wins in 2018. Her momentum built as the year progressed, winning her first tour-level titles in August and September. Her success has continued in 2019, winning the Shenzhen event to start the year. Anisimova, a 17-year-old American, started to turn heads last year at Indian Wells, with straightforward upsets over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Petra Kvitova. She’s been most impressive this week in Melbourne, especially in her victory over the 24th seed, Lesia Tsurenko, where she dropped only two games. The older and more experienced Sabalenka is the favorite, but the red-hot Anisimova is capable of making this very interesting.

Diego Schwartzman (18) vs. Tomas Berdych

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Surprisingly, this will be the first career meeting between these two veterans. Schwartzman’s best result in Melbourne came one year ago, when he advanced to the fourth round and gave Nadal all he could handle in a stellar match. Berdych is a two-time semifinalist at this tournament, and has made the quarterfinals or better in seven out of the last eight years. The Australian Open has easily been Tomas’ most consistent Major. Berdych is coming off a long injury layoff in 2018, but has quickly returned to good form. The 33-year-old made the final in his first tournament since June in Doha, and won his first two matches in Melbourne in straight sets. That included a first run victory over the 13th seed, Kyle Edmund, who was a semifinalist last year. Schwartzman meanwhile has already played nine sets of tennis this week, and barely survived his second round against Denis Kudla. Diego was down 4-2 in the final set before taking the last four games and the match. That near-four hour battle will surely leave Schwartzman’s tank less than full. And with Berdych playing well again, Tomas should be able to defeat another seed on Friday.

Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Belinda Bencic

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Kvitova is attempting to make inroads at a Major for the first time in a long time. Twice a Wimbledon champion, she has only made two quarterfinal appearances at Majors in her 16 most recent Grand Slam events. Petra has been extremely successful outside the Majors, winning five tournaments last year, and taking the title in Sydney just last week. She eased through her first two rounds here, losing only nine games. Kvitova is noticeably slimmer and fitter to start off the 2019 season, which will hopefully help her as the fortnight progresses. Bencic is still working to rebuild her career after multiple injury setbacks. She defeated two tough unseeded opponents thus far in Melbourne, in Katerina Siniakova and Yulia Putintseva. And she knows how to beat a big-serving and big-hitting top name at the Australian Open: last year she upset Venus Williams in the opening round. Kvitova is 2-0 lifetime against Bencic, winning all four sets they’ve played. Judging by Kvitova’s form this month, she’ll dictate play and be a tough out. But Petra’s level can greatly vary from match-to-match, and she can ill afford a dip against the talented and resurgent 21-year-old.

Other notable matches on Day 5:

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    Roger Federer (3) vs. 21-Year-Old Taylor Fritz, who upset Gael Monfils on Wednesday
  • Angelique Kerber (2) vs. Australian Wild Card Kimberly Birrell
  • In a battle of countries with vocal supporters in Melbourne, Australian No.1 Ashleigh Barty (15) vs. Maria Sakkari of Greece
  • Sloane Stephens (5) vs. Petra Martic (31), who advanced to the fourth round here a year ago
  • Karen Khachanov (10), who won the Paris Masters in November, vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (22), who has already survived two dramatic five-setters this week.

Order of play

Rod Laver
Barty v Sakkari
Fritz v Federer
Sharapova v Wozniacki
De Minaur v Nadal
Kerber v Birrell

Margaret Court
Tsitsipas v Basilashvili
Anisimova v Sabalenka
Stephens v Martic
Collins v Garcia
Cilic v Verdasco

Melbourne Arena
Berdych v Schwartzman
Sasnovich v Pavlyuchenkova
Dimitrov v Fabbiano
Kvitova v Bencic

1573 Arena
Bautista Agut v Khachanov (third on)

Court 3
Tiafoe v Seppi (second on)

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Gilles Simon To Take Break From Tennis After Montpellier Exit

Gilles Simon looking to take a break from tennis as his ‘heart is no longer’ in the game.

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Gilles Simon (@Welovetennis - Twitter)

After exiting his home tournament in Montpellier earlier in the week, Gilles Simon has decided to to take a break from tennis.

 

The veteran Frenchman crashed out in the opening round to Dennis Novak on Tuesday in Montpellier after a frustrating Australia swing.

Simon went out in the opening round of the Australian Open as well, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas, winning only four games.

So it will come as no surprise that Gilles Simon has decided to take a break from tennis in an attempt to regain some motivation.

Speaking on Twitter Simon said he needed to preserve himself mentally, “My heart is no longer there to travel and play in these conditions,” the Frenchman stated.

“Unfortunately I have to take a break in order to preserve myself mentally. Hoping that morale returns as soon as possible. Thank you to all the faithful for your support. See you soon.”

This news could be the start for more players to do the same with prize money decreasing and a potential freezing of the rankings on the horizon, the motivation to compete may decrease at a rapid rate.

Also, the injury list continues to rise with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Sofia Kenin, Karolina Muchova, Kirsten Flipkens and Donna Vekic just to name a few suffering bad injuries over the Australian swing.

What happens next, remains a mystery but nobody can blame Simon’s decision as the 36 year-old contemplates his tennis future.

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Rafael Nadal Withdraws From Rotterdam Due To Back Injury

Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Rotterdam due to ongoing back problems.

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Rafael Nadal (@WeAreTennisITA - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has announced his withdrawal from next week’s ATP 500 event in Rotterdam due to a back injury.

 

The Spaniard’s back problems have started since before the Australian Open which he managed to play the tournament in Melbourne with the problem.

Eventually Nadal lost in his Australian Open quarter-final to Stefanos Tsitsipas from 2 sets to love up.

Despite playing in Melbourne, Nadal’s back problems continue to derail his schedule as he has now withdrawn from Rotterdam.

In a statement on Twitter, Nadal said that after consulting his doctor it was not the best idea to play Rotterdam.

“It is with great sadness that I have to forfeit from Rotterdam. As most of the fans know, I suffered back problems in Australia that started in Adelaide and continued in Melbourne,” Nadal said.

“We found a temporary solution that allowed me to play without pain in the second week of the tournament. Once I got back to Spain I visited my doctor and together with my team they’ve advised not to play this upcoming week.”

Nadal’s 10 year hiatus from the tournament continues as he looks to recover from the problem as soon as possible.

The 20-time grand slam champion’s main priority will be the clay-court swing where he can win a record-breaking 21st grand slam title.

Nadal’s next scheduled tournament will be the Miami Masters in late-March.

Meanwhile Nadal could now lose his world number two ranking next week as the top seed which is now Daniil Medvedev could replace him there.

The recent Australian Open finalist will need to reach the final if he wants to become the world number two but will face stiff competition in Holland from the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Milos Raonic.

The tournament will start on the 1st of March.

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John Isner not happy with the cut in prize money for Miami Masters

John Isner took to Twitter to raise some issues about the ATP and latest state of affairs in Tennis.

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John Isner (@usta - Twitter)

The American took to social media to vent his frustration saying it doesn’t make sense.

 

John Isner took to twitter today after hearing the news that the Miami Open will be cutting its prize money down with the singles champion only taking $300,110 with a first round loser only winning $10,000 in prize money.

Isner and many other players on tour believe the tournament should be forced to due an audit to truly reveal what their finances are and to see if they are hiding anything.

“How about a true audit to see how much tourneys are actually hurting and then a money formula after the event to reconcile?”

“Amazing we still don’t have this in a lot of our big events. How does that make any sense?” 

He also tweeted about the promoters saying the system the ATP uses is broken.

The American also spoke of the unfairness in the cuts the players are taking in comparison to the actual events.

“So players should take a 60% cut and 80% champions cut while ATP executives keep full salaries, benefits, and expense accounts? Make that make sense. Seems just a little bit hypocritical, don’t ya think?”.

Isner finally believes the players should benefit from the tournament not just in the short term but over a long tenure.

““Tennis is plagued by conflict and lack of transparency”

The tournament is scheduled for March 23rd at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and the tournament has confirmed they won’t be doing a quarantine like the Australian Open.

The players will need to provide a negative PCR test to board a flight to the US and once they land they will be tested once again and isolate until a negative result is shown.

The players will only be allowed at the hotel and the venue and any player who doesn’t respect the rules will be subject to penalties and be withdrawn from the tournament.

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