Australian Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

Australian Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic face tricky tests on Day six of the Australian Open as they look to make the second week.

Avatar

Published

on

Simona Halep (zimbio.com)

By Matthew Marolf

 

With cooler temperatures and no rain in the forecast, Saturday should deliver some high-quality tennis on the courts of Melbourne Park.

On the halves of the singles draws playing today, 22 of 32 seeds have held true to the third round. That’s  an impressive number by recent standards, especially in regards to the WTA. As Pam Shriver highlighted on Twitter, this is the first Major since Wimbledon 2009 that the top eight women’s seeds all advanced to the third round.  Consequentially, we’re in for some great matchups heading into the first weekend of the tournament.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Venus Williams

Both of these Major champions survived dramatic matches to reach this blockbuster third round encounter.  After coming back from a set and a break down against Kaia Kanepi on Tuesday, Halep came back from 2-4 down in the final set to defeat Sofia Kenin on Thursday. Venus also needed three sets in her first two matches, but soundly won the third set against both Mihaela Buzarnescu and Alize Cornet.

I would assume both of these players will be less than 100% physically on Saturday, as they’ve each spent almost five hours on court. And Halep hurt her leg during her second round, though she downplayed the severity of the injury following the match. Venus and Simona have played five times before. Venus took the first three meetings, while Simona prevailed in the last two. Venus actually hasn’t won more than two games in a set in those two most recent matches, including their Rogers Cup contest in August.

Venus is eager to start off 2019 strongly after a disappointing 2018, and this is a great opportunity to get a big win over the world No.1, who is not at her best. But we’ve seen so many cases of Halep’s fighting spirit both this year and last year in Melbourne. I’m not betting against Simona’s ability to find a way to win this one as well.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov (25)

Novak Djokovic (zimbio.com)

This will the first career meeting between the 14-time Major champion and the 19-year-old Canadian phenom.  Shapovalov struggled a bit heading into this tournament, going 1-5 at his last five events. As Tennis Channel in the US outlined, his team was working to make some adjustments to his groundstrokes, and his form suffered as a result. But Denis won both of his first two rounds in Melbourne in straight sets, so it seems he’s feeling more comfortable on court again. Djokovic also is yet to drop a set, and has been playing magnificent tennis since July of last year.

Of course the world No.1 is the favourite here, but the lefty shot-maker has a fighting chance if he continues to rack up the winners. In his first two matches, he hit a combined 94 winners, while only striking 58 unforced errors.  Djokovic’s movement though will force Shapovalov to find even sharper angles and hit closer to lines, so maintaining such a positive winner-to-error ratio will be extremely challenging.

Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh (28)

Naomi Osaka (zimbio.com)

Here we have two of Asia’s highest-ranked players on the WTA tour. Osaka has quickly become one of the world’s best players, as well as one of the most popular.  Unlike many of her peers, Naomi has thus far avoided a drop in form following her maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open. The 21-year-old had strong results in Asia in September, and comfortably won both of her opening rounds this week in Melbourne. Hsieh has one of the more unique styles on tour, playing with little pace, and a mix of flat groundstrokes and low-bouncing slices.

Hsieh gives her opponents different responses than most other players, often throwing them off balance.  The 33-year-old from Taipei is a two-time Major doubles champion, and former doubles No.1.  2018 was one of her best seasons of singles results. A year ago in Melbourne, she upset both Garbine Muguruza and Agnieszka Radwanska.  Hsieh then went on to upset Halep in a great match at Wimbledon. She’s a lot of fun to watch, and could cause nightmares for Osaka. In their only previous meeting, Osaka prevailed in three sets at a small grass court event in 2015. Naomi should pull through here as well as long as she doesn’t let Hsieh’s play prevent her from playing her game.

Elise Mertens (12) vs. Madison Keys (17)

Elise Mertens (zimbio.com)

This could be a good one, between two former Australian Open semi-finalists.  Keys has been one of the WTA’s most consistent performers at the Majors, reaching the quarterfinals or better at four of the last five. She’s done so while struggling outside the Grand Slam events, and while dealing with some injuries. At non-Majors last year, she went just 13-10.  Madison is coming off another yet another injury in her career, as her left knee caused her to skip the tournaments leading up to this one. And she has a new coach this season in Jim Madrigal, who previously coached a few American ATP players.

Keys is 1-0 against Mertens, having defeated her in straight sets on her way to the 2017 US Open final. Elise though is a much better player now, coming off a breakout 2018 which saw her claim 46 match wins. Her rise started in earnest a year ago in Australia, winning the title in Hobart and making the semi-finals in Melbourne. While Mertens does not possess the weapons of Keys, she’s a much steadier player who will rarely defeat herself.

Neither player has a dropped a set thus far during this fortnight. As with most of Madison’s matches, she can control the result here if she plays her best. She’s looked confident and comfortable on court this week, and I have a feeling she’ll successfully overpower Mertens on this day.

Daniil Medvedev (15) vs. David Goffin (21)

Daniil Medvedev (zimbio.com)

Medvedev is not a guy who garners a lot of headlines, but he’s a dangerous player with a big game who has quickly climbed the rankings. The 22-year-old Russian first made an impression on tour a year ago, when he came through qualifying to claim the title in Sydney. He would go on to win two further hard court titles last year, in Winston-Salem and Tokyo. And he started off 2019 by making the final in Brisbane, with victories over Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Through two rounds in Melbourne, no opponent has taken more than three games in a set off Medvedev. Daniil is the real deal, and could easily soon contend for Major titles.

However, Goffin is the type of opponent that can diffuse the power of Medvedev. Goffin is great as using the opposition’s pace against them, and is one of the quickest players around the court. David reached a career-high ranking of No.7 in the world in 2017, but never reached his peak level of play last year as he sustained multiple injuries. The style clash between these players should make for an entertaining four or five setter. Medvedev is yet to get farther than the third round at a Major, but I suggest that will change today.

Other notable matches on Day 6:

Serena Williams (16) vs. 18-Year-Old Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska, who already knocked out Sam Stosur and Carla Suarez Navarro.

Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Australian Wild Card Alex Bolt, who saved four match points to defeat Gilles Simon in five sets on Thursday.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini (12) vs. Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta (23), who are both yet to drop a set this week.

 

Focus

The Most Emotional Moments From The 2021 Australian Open

With everything going on in the world, and the 14 days of quarantine players went through before playing this event, it’s no surprise there were so many emotional moments during this past fortnight.

Avatar

Published

on

Alexei Popyrin provided a refreshing dose of excitement with a loud Aussie crowd in attendance (ausopen.com)

The first Grand Slam of 2021 provided the tennis world with plenty of tears and jubilation throughout it’s two-week period. There was epic match comebacks, injury misfortunes and victories for those who has been absent from the game in recent months due to a variety of issues. UbiTennis looks back at those emotional moments that took place during the Australian Open.

 

Gael Monfils in tears after his first round loss

Prior to the pandemic, Monfils had won two consecutive titles in Montpellier and Rotterdam.  But since the tour restart, he’s now 0-6, and lost in five sets in the opening round to Emil Ruusuvuori.  His comments are in French, but he was asking for “mercy” during his press conference.

“I don’t have any confidence. I would like to get out of this nightmare but I can’t,” Monfils said.
“I don’t know when it’s going to end. It’s hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I’ve lost again. I can’t serve, I’m playing badly. I’m being honest and it’s going to take time.”

Bianca Andreescu wins her first match in 16 months

The 2019 US Open champion didn’t play at all in 2020, due to injuries and pandemic restrictions.  She’s described many low moments she experienced during that time.  And after going through 14 days of hard quarantine upon arrival in Melbourne, with her coach testing positive for COVID-19, the Canadian was holding back tears after winning her opening round in three sets.

“I feel pretty damn good,” Andreescu said afterwards in an on-court interview. “I mean the match wasn’t easy at all and I’m super, super happy with how I fought it out, especially towards the end.”

Alexei Popyrin saves match points to stun David Goffin

This was the first exciting match to take place in front of a full audience in nearly a year, as Aussies packed Court 3 to cheer on the comeback win of the 21-year-old Australian.  Popyrin saved four match points in the fourth set tiebreak, and the crowd reaction to his victory sounded amazing.

“I think it just shows that the work I did in pre-season, the mentality that I’ve taken on this year is all paying off, and my game is improving, and I can feel that,” Popryin commented on his victory.

Thanasi Kokkinakis wins his first match since 2019

Kokkinakis’ struggles with injuries over the years are well-documented, so it’s understandable the 24-year-old Aussie was brought to tears in picking up his first tour-level win in 18 months, especially at his home Slam.

“At 5-0 (in the third set) I felt this massive roar and cheer from the crowd and I started tearing up,” Kokkinakis said.
“It was a bit of a soft moment but there was just so much stuff behind the scenes to get back to that point that not a lot of people realise.
I definitely got a bit emotional.
“I had a lot of friends and family there watching. They probably made up about 90 per cent of the stands, so I’m appreciative of that.
“Just playing with that energy and crowd and being able to win – there was so much work behind the scenes and so much pain – it’s just a massive relief.”

In the second round Kokkinakis took Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets before getting knocked out of the tournament.

 Venus Williams suffers a nasty ankle injury

This was hard to watch.  Venus screamed out in pain and hobbled around the court after injuring her ankle.  And she had arrived on court with an injured knee.  After a long timeout to address both injuries, with a despondent Venus in tears, she showed her grit by finding a way to finish out the match in the event’s most inspiring moment.

You can’t always prepare for the triumph of the disaster in sports or in life. “You can’t control it all. What you can control is how you handle the ups and the downs,” Williams later wrote on Instagram.
“No matter the outcome I always hold my head high and I leave everything I have on the court.
“I never look back in regrets because no matter the odds I give it all.
“You don’t have to look back when you leave it all out there. Always look forward, the deepest dream you could be…”

Nick Kyrgios saved two match points in a five-set epic

In another emotional moment involving an Australian, Kyrgios’ epic 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Ugo Humbert was a thrilling affair on Nick’s favorite court, John Cain Area.

If you were in my head, I was just thinking about all the s*** I was going to cop if I lost that match,” Kyrgios told the Nine Network after the match.
“I don’t know how I did that, honestly, it’s one of the craziest matches I’ve ever played.”

Kyrgios lost in the third round to Dominic Thiem.

Donna Vekic in tears after ousting Kaia Kanepi

Vekic was immediately in tears after converting her own match point, advancing to the second week of the tournament despite losing six straight matches coming into this event.

Matteo Berrettini battles through pain to defeat Khachanov

The Italian suffered an abdominal injury during the third set, and was teary-eyed after closing out the match in straights.  He would have to withdraw from his fourth round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas due to the injury.

““I felt something on my ab. I thought that [it] wasn’t something really big, but the next day when I woke up I felt it was big. So I spoke to the doctors and they told me, ‘Look, it can get [much] worse’. So it’s not worth trying. I’m not 100 per cent. To beat these guys, you have to be 100 per cent. I think it’s not really professional to step [onto court] when you’re not the best.” Berrettini commented on his injury.

Stefanos Tsitsipas fights back to defeat Rafael Nadal

Tsitsipas became only the second man to ever do so at a Grand Slam event, and described himself as “speechless” when interviewed after the match.

Serena Williams’ wave goodbye after her semifinal loss

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1362260576446132226

This felt like more than simply “See you next year, Melbourne.” Serena stopped her stride as she exited the court, waving and placing a hand to her heart. After being asked about the moment in press, she broke down and quickly exited the room.

Continue Reading

Focus

Australian Open Day 14 Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Daniil Medvedev for the Men’s Championship

Avatar

Published

on

Novak Djokovic is 17-10 in Major finals (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Djokovic is 17-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals.  Medvedev is 20-0 in his last 20 matches.  One of those streaks will end on Sunday.

 

11 years ago at this event, Novak Djokovic won his first Major title.  It would take three more years for Djokovic to win his second, but he went on a tear over the last decade, claiming 16 Slams between 2011 and 2020.  Regardless of today’s result, he is guaranteed to remain the world No.1, and will overtake Roger Federer for the most weeks at No.1.  A win today would place him just two Majors behind Federer and Nadal, with half of his Slam titles coming on Rod Laver Arena.

Four years ago at this event, Daniil Medvedev made his Grand Slam debut, losing in the first round of the 2017 Australian Open to American qualifier Ernesto Escobedo.  Two years later in Melbourne, Medvedev would advance to the second week of a Slam for the first time, and achieved his first Major final later that year in New York.  That was part of a run where he reached six consecutive tournament finals, winning three of those events with a match record of 29-3.  Due to a drop in form, as well as the pandemic tour shutdown, it would be another year before he would win another title.  But now he’s on a similarly impressive streak, winning his last 20 matches, and 12 in a row over top ten opposition.  With a win today, he would not only earn his first Major, he would also ascend to No.2 in the world, becoming the first man outside “The Big Four” to do so since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

The men’s doubles final will also take place on Sunday, with the defending champions looking for their second consecutive title in Melbourne.

Sunday’s action will begin at 3:00pm local time with the men’s doubles championship, followed by the men’s singles championship at 7:30pm.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 4-3 overall, and 3-2 on hard courts.  Their only previous match at a Major occurred at this tournament two years ago, when Djokovic prevailed in four sets, but not without Medvedev exhausting the eight-time champion.  Daniil’s first victory would come later that year on clay in Monte Carlo.  A few months later, at the Cincinnati Masters, Medvedev was down a set and a break when he decided to just start bludgeoning the ball, hitting Djokovic right off the court.  Medvedev also claimed their most recent encounter, comfortably winning in straight sets last November at the ATP Finals.

Djokovic experienced a bumpier road than usual to this championship match.  He played four straight matches that went at least four sets, and struggled mid-tournament with an abdominal injury.  Medvedev picked up his first-ever five-set win over Filip Krajinovic, but otherwise hasn’t dropped a set in his other five matches.  Daniil has served magnificently during this fortnight, striking 74 aces and just 18 double faults, and winning 81% of first serve points.  It will be crucial for the Russian to maintain those levels against the best returner of all-time.  However, that will be extremely challenging considering temperatures are forecast to be quite cool on Sunday evening, resulting in the courts playing a bit slower.  Djokovic has also been serving extremely well, and has hit an inordinate amount of aces this tournament, with 95 aces and 21 doubles.  Both men will look to attack their opponent’s second serve, which Medvedev was much more effective at doing three months ago in London, winning 61% of second serve points compared to only 43% by Djokovic.

Medvedev is vying to become the newest Major champion in the sport, and to become only the third man outside “The Big Four” to defeat one of “The Big Four” in a Slam final (Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin Del Petro).  He’ll surely strut onto the court believing he can win: not only due to his current winning streak, but also recalling the way he was able to push Rafael Nadal to the brink of defeat in his first Slam final.  However, until Novak Djokovic loses a semifinal or final on this court, he must be considered the favorite to win his 18th Major title.

Other Notable Matches on Day 14:

In the men’s doubles final, it’s defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (5) vs. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek (9), who won two tour titles in 2019.  Rajeev Ram already won the mixed doubles title on Saturday with Barbora Krejcikova.

Sunday’s full order of play is here.

Continue Reading

Focus

Australian Open Day 12 Preview: Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas Battle in the Semifinals

Avatar

Published

on

Stefanos Tsitispas, after his emotional victory over Rafael Nadal on Wednesday (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The winner will play for their first Major title on Sunday against Novak Djokovic.

 

25-year-old Daniil Medvedev has reached his third semifinal out of the last five Slams, all on hard courts.  He will walk onto Rod Laver Arena with a 19-match winning streak, dating back to the Paris Masters in November.  This is also a third Major semifinal for 22-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, though unlike Medvedev, he’s yet to advance farther.  Two days ago, he pulled off an amazing comeback victory over Rafael Nadal, becoming only the second man to defeat Nadal from two sets down at a Major.

Three significant doubles matches will also take place on Friday, including the championship match in women’s doubles, featuring two of the top three seeds.

Friday’s doubles action will begin at 1:00pm local time, with the men’s semifinal to start at 7:30pm.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)

It’s the 2020 ATP Finals champion against the 2019 ATP Finals champion.  Medvedev has dominated their rivalry 5-1.  And it’s a rivalry that started out quite bitterly.  In their first meeting, at the Miami Open in 2018, they exchanged harsh words after the match, as both were frustrated by extended toilet breaks the other man had taken.  In comments since that incident, they’ve expressed a bit more respect for each other.  Medvedev claimed their first five encounters, with Tsitsipas prevailing in their most recent one, during his run to the title at the 2019 ATP Finals.  Their only previous match at a Major occurred at the 2018 US Open, which Daniil won in four sets.  The Russian should be the physically and emotionally fresher player today.  While Medvedev did appear to be cramping a bit after his three-set win over Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals, he spent two full hours less on court Wednesday than Tsitsipas.  Stefanos fought late into the night for over four hours against Nadal, though the Greek did receive a walkover in his previous round from an injured Matteo Berrettini. 

Medvedev has been serving excellently this fortnight, striking 57 aces and just 15 double faults.  And he’s won 80% of first serve points through five rounds.  Tsitsipas’ service numbers have not been as strong until he played Nadal, when his serving was simply stellar, with 17 aces and no double faults.  Stefanos not only won 79% of first serve points against the all-time great, he impressively earned 69% of second serve points.  Breaks of serve may be crucial on another hot day in Melbourne, so the man who holds serve more comfortably will have a significant advantage.  But considering their history, as well as Medvedev’s current winning streak, Daniil is the favorite to reach his second Major final. 

Other Notable Matches on Day 12:

In the women’s doubles championship match, it’s 2019 US Open champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3), who won two Majors in 2018.

In the men’s doubles semifinals, it’s defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (5) vs. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares (6), who won two Slams in 2016, and are undefeated since re-forming their team this year.

And Salisbury will also play in the mixed doubles semifinals, as it’s Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury vs. Sam Stosur and Matthew Ebden (WC), who the Aussie fans will undoubtedly be cheering on.

Friday’s full order of play is here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending