Australian Open Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Roger Federer and Petra Kvitova continue their Australian Open campaigns as we approach week two of the Australian Open.

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Roger Federer (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

In the halves of the singles draws that play on Sunday, 49 Major singles titles are represented by the players that remain.

Day 7 features a nice mix of new faces making big waves, veterans looking to recapture past glory, and two leading contenders for the title of GOAT. The round of 16 begins today, which is when the draw really takes a definitive shape, and favourites become more apparent. With temperatures due to remain cool, we should be in for some more tremendous tennis.

Roger Federer (3) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (14)

It’s the first official meeting between the 37-year-old all-time great, and the flashy 20-year-old newcomer.  Though they did unofficially play a few weeks ago at the Hopman Cup, with Roger prevailing in two tiebreakers. Federer has looked exceptionally sharp in his first three rounds this week, having yet to drop a set and having only been broken once. Mary Carillo on Tennis Channel in the US suggested Federer’s current level is more like his superb form of 2017, rather than his slightly lesser form of 2018.

Tsitsipas is the first seeded player Roger will encounter, and it should be a lot of fun to see this clash of generations on Rod Laver Arena. Tsitsipas needed four sets to win each of his first three rounds, and has spent almost three more hours than Federer on court. Taking out the 20-time Major champion in the best-of-five format is a lot to ask of Tsitsipas, in only his second time in the fourth round of a Major, but I’m curious to see how he accounts himself in this occasion.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Tomas Berdych

Rafael Nadal (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

Nadal holds a 19-4 record over Berdych, and has won an astounding 18 of their last 19 matches. However, Tomas’ sole victory in the past 12 years came at this tournament four years ago, when he won a straight set quarterfinal. The courts in Melbourne are even faster now than in 2015, which should play to Berdych’s advantage, though many have said Rod Laver Arena plays a bit slower this year. These two also met here in 2012, a quarterfinal match which Nadal took in four sets.  Of course their most notable match is the 2010 Wimbledon final, Berdych’s only Major final, which Nadal won in straight sets.

Much like Federer two years ago, Berdych arrived in Melbourne after an extended injury layoff looking healthy and refreshed. And he loves playing at the Australian Open, where he’s 7-0 the last seven times he’s advanced to the round of 16. Tomas has already taken out two top 20 seeds during this fortnight, in Kyle Edmund and Diego Schwartzman. The problem for Berdych is Nadal has also looked really good coming off his own injury layoff.  With a new service motion, Nadal has only dropped serve twice to this stage. As well as Berdych has been playing in 2018, Nadal remains the favourite. But if Rafa is going to contend for this title, it’s crucial to avoid extended matches. Four or five set affairs could aggravate Nadal’s knees, and Berdych is fully capable of making this a long battle.

Ashleigh Barty (15) vs. Maria Sharapova (30)

Maria Sharapova (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

The Australian No.1 already has seven match wins in her home country this year, going back to last week in Sydney when she lost a stellar final to Petra Kvitova in a third set tiebreak. Barty has won all six sets she’s played this week, and has matched her best result at a Major by reaching the fourth round, which she also did at last year’s US Open.  This will be the biggest match in the career of the athletic yet reserved Australian. Is she ready to overcome against the fierceness of the five-time Major champion?

This week in Melbourne, Sharapova has played some of the best tennis since her return to the sport almost two years ago. Her three-set win over the defending champion, Caroline Wozniacki, was especially impressive on Friday. In recent years though, Sharapova has often struggled to follow up such victories. The only previous time these two stepped onto the court was last year on the clay of Rome, a match Sharapova took in three sets. As talented a ball striker as Barty is, I’m not convinced she’s ready to overcome the will of Sharapova. With speculation she may soon call it a career due to her lack of success, Maria will be keen to prove she’s still a contender to compete for Major titles. It feels like she’s due for a run into the second week at a Slam, and I would not be surprised if Barty is a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.

Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Amanda Anisimova

Petra Kvitova (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

Wow, how impressive was Anisimova in her shellacking of the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka on Friday? The 17-year-old has everything: power, speed, finesse, and composure. Now that everyone is talking about her as not just a future Major champion, but a contender for this title, will she remain composed under the weight of new expectations?  Well she’ll find reassurance in her 1-0 career head-to-head against the eighth seed.

It was Anisimova’s straight set victory over Kvitova at Indian Wells last year that first put the tennis world on notice.  Much like her previous round with Sabalenka, this match will be almost all offense, from two of the WTA’s biggest sluggers. Kvitova comes into this match on an eight-match win streak, fresh off her title last week in Sydney. That run also saw Kvitova defeat Sabalenka, as well as Kerber and Barty.  Kvitova has only twice advanced farther than the fourth round in her last 16 Majors, though Anisimova had never won a match at a Slam prior to this week.  I have no idea who will prevail here, but I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

Marin Cilic (6) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (22)

Marin Cilic (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

Cilic is fortunate to find himself back in the round of 16 in Melbourne. He was down two match points in his last match, but luckily he was facing a player who is even more prone to choking leads away than he is, that being Fernando Verdasco.  His opponent today has been anything but a choke artist. Bautista Agut already has two five-set wins in this tournament, including his dramatic match on Day 1 against Andy Murray. Roberto also impressively defeated the 10th seed, Karen Khachanov, in straight sets. Just like Kvitova, Bautista Agut is on an eight-match win streak. He started 2019 by taking the title in Doha, which included a massive win over the world No.1, Novak Djokovic.

Cilic is 4-1 lifetime against Bautista Agut, though Roberto’s only victory also came in their only meeting at the Australian Open. The 30-Year-Old Spaniard prevailed in straight sets here three years ago. As tight as Cilic has played in pressure situations of late, I think Friday’s comeback win over Verdasco will free him up a bit. And Bautista Agut will surely be feeling nerves considering he is 0-9 at this stage of Grand Slam events, having never been to a Major quarterfinal. Is Roberto ready to finally breakthrough?  The winner here will play the winner of Federer/Tsitsipas on Tuesday.

Other notable matches on Day 7:

Angelique Kerber (2) vs. Danielle Collins, who had never won a match at a Major prior to this week.

Sloane Stephens (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Grigor Dimitrov (20), with Andre Agassi in his coaching box, vs. 20-year-Old Frances Tiafoe, in his first Major round of 16.

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Medvedev fights past Auger Aliassime to reach the semis

Daniil Medvedev saved match point and came from two sets to love down to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime and reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

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Daniil Medvedev (@DavisCup - Twitter)

The Russian pulled off an incredible comeback against the Canadian in a match that went the distance.

 

Danil Medvedev was pushed to the limit but managed to beat the number nine seed Felix Auger Aliassime in five sets 6-7, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 in four hours and 42 minutes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I really don’t know how I was able to win, I was not playing my best, and Felix was playing unbelievable and serving so well and to be honest he was all over me.”

Neither player had an issue holding serve in the first set and it was decided by a tiebreaker which was also tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break at 3-2 as he ended up winning the tiebreak 7-4.

The second set stayed on serve until 3-2 when the Montreal native earned another breakpoint and broke serve with that one break of serve was enough for him to serve out the second set.

The third set was also decided by a tiebreaker and with the world number nine looking to close out the match it started to rain and there was a short delay to close the roof.

Medvedev took full advantage getting the early break in the breaker and won it 7-2 taking the third set and sending the match into a fourth set.

The fourth once again stayed on serve until 5-4 when Auger Aliassime had a matchpoint on the Russian serve but the world number two was able to save it with a big serve.

After holding serve to make it 5-5 the Moscow native managed to break serve and served out the fourth set to send the match into a deciding fifth set.

In the second game of the fifth set after holding serve the Canadian had three more chances to break but was snubbed by the Russian big serve and the following game, Medvedev got the crucial break to take a 2-1 lead.

Auger Aliassime called for the trainer at 3-2 and took a medical timeout to work on his ankle which had been taped before the match and at 4-3 had another chance to break to go back on serve but failed to convert.

At 5-4, the world number nine had two more chances to break serve and stay alive but again was denied by the Russian who was able to serve it out and book his spot in the final four of a grand slam.

After the match, he spoke about finding ways to come back in the match and pulling off the improbable comeback.

“I want to make him work and if he wants to win he has to fight till the last point and it worked and I managed to raise my level during the game especially in the tiebreak and I felt the momentum change after the roof closed.”

Medvedev will now face the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals on Friday after he was able to beat the Italian Jannik Sinner in straight sets in a rematch from last year’s semi-final.

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Australian Open: Iga Świątek stumbles past Kaia Kanepi to make the semis

Iga Swiatek outlasted Kaia Kanepi in a gutsy match to reach the last four in Melbourne.

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Iga Swiatek (@TennisPodcast - Twitter)

Former French Open winner Iga Świątek overcame some serious woes to outlast Kaia Kanepi in a 3-hour battle.

 

The 20-year-old bounced back from losing the first set to eventually triumph 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.

This included the Pole serving 12 double faults.

She will have to improve dramatically in a short turn around of just 24 hours, as she faces the power play of Danielle Collins on Thursday.

The American will no doubt be the fresher of the two, winning in contrast, a comfortable straight sets.

https://twitter.com/BJKCup/status/1486212998796648448

Świątek and Kanepi both held their first three service games, before things began to get really interesting mid-way through the opening set.

A sloppy game from the Pole, including two double faults, gave the break on a plate to the Estonian.

At 36, Kanepi is one of the most experienced players on the WTA, and the seventh seed could ill afford to be handing out freebies.

The veteran made every use of the new balls, serving powerfully and tucking away a forehand smash to move 5-3 up.

Świątek then stumbled through her own marathon service game, that included a whopping nine deuces, and four break points/set points saved.

Kanepi’s service game was far from straight forward also, as she finally took the opening set after four deuces, and on her ninth set point, 6-4.

At the beginning of the second set, Świątek played another shaky service game to surrender the break to Kanepi.

A powerful cross-court backhand drive from the Estonian left her opponent on the floor, and it didn’t look like being the Pole’s day.

But Świątek dug in, and after four deuces on the Kanepi serve, she broke back.

At this point, the momentum suddenly shifted towards the Pole as she held serve before stealing the double break.

Świątek soon surged into a 4-1 lead, having won four games in a row, and looked to be cruising towards the second set.

But Kanepi held and broke back, before a comfortable hold saw her level at 4-4.

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1486206899263528962

The second set trickled away on serve and a tie-break was needed to separate the pair.

But Świątek played the smarter tie-break, and four straight points saw her seal it 7-2, as Kanepi’s wayward backhand went long.

After a 69-minute second set, the youngster clenched her first, as Rod Laver Arena roared, with the match going to a decider.

All the energy was with Świątek, who broke at the beginning of the third, as she moved ahead 2-0, with Kanepi panting and struggling after over 2 hours in the Melbourne heat.

To her credit, she fought back, breaking the Warsaw native to level at 2-2.

But in a topsy turvy match, Swiatek broke and held to lead 4-2 and close in on a semi-final place.

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1486279587634245633

The pole secured the double break but surrendered her own before finally prevailing in a marathon match point, to make the semi-finals for the first time in Australia.

After the match she had this to say: “I’m really glad that I still have my voice because I was shouting so loud.

“This match was crazy and without the energy of the stadium I think it would’ve been really hard to win it.”

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1486209694964273156

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Quarterfinals Conclude

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Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Wednesday’s men’s singles quarterfinals feature four top 10 players.  Daniil Medvedev faces Felix Auger-Aliassime in a rematch of the US Open semifinals.  And in matchup between ATP Next Gen champions, Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on Jannik Sinner.

 

On the women’s side, 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek is joined by three players who have never reached a Major final.  Danielle Collins was a semifinalist here three years ago, Kaia Kanepi is 0-6 lifetime in Slam quarterfinals, and Alize Cornet had never previously reached the quarters.  With both of Wednesday’s WTA quarterfinals being first-time matchups, there is plenty of room for new territory to be seized.


Danielle Collins (27) vs. Alize Cornet – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Both players survived grueling matches on Monday in scorching afternoon temperatures.  And the forecast is even hotter for Wednesday.  Collins required nearly three hours to hit her way through Elise Mertens, while Cornet and Simona Halep suffered during the hottest part of the day.  Both Collins and Cornet eventually prevailed 6-4 in the third.  The American is much more accustomed to playing in the heat, and is much more capable of controlling her destiny with her aggressive groundstrokes off both wings, especially her crosscourt backhand which was on fire in the last round.  With Danielle’s previous experience at this stage of a Major, she should be favored to achieve her second Australian Open semifinal.


Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Kaia Kanepi – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Swiatek overcame a considerable hurdle on Monday.  Prior to her fourth round match, she had lost three of her last four matches at Slams when dropping the first set.  But as per Tennis Abstract, every time in her career when she’s then won the second set, she’s gone on to win the third as well, just as she did against Sorana Cirstea.  For Kanepi, this round presents the biggest hurdle of her career, as she’s lost all six times she’s appeared in a Slam quarterfinal.  Kaia has only won one of 13 sets in those matches, which have occurred at the other three Majors.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also held an 0-6 record in Slam quarterfinals, before breaking through in her seventh try at last year’s Roland Garros.  While the big-swinging Estonian seems due for a similar breakthrough, Swiatek’s more consistent, versatile style will likely draw plenty of errors from Kanepi.  Iga remains the favorite to reach her second Slam semifinal.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Jannik Sinner (11) – Not Before 3:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

A big factor in this match will be how much Tsitsipas has left physically, and how his elbow feels coming off a five-set battle with Taylor Fritz.  Stefanos also contested back-to-back four-setters in his two rounds prior.  Sinner has advanced much more comfortably, losing only one of 13 sets, and should be the far fresher player.  Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three matches have taken place on European clay.  Sinner feels primed for a breakthrough, and his authoritative groundies may keep Tsitsipas on the defensive.  Despite Stefanos’ significant edge in experience, the 20-year-old Italian has a great chance to achieve his first Major semifinal.  However, it likely won’t come without a huge fight from the Greek.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Their aforementioned US Open semifinal from this past September was pretty one-sided, with Medvedev prevailing in straight sets.  And their rematch just a few weeks ago at the ATP Cup was even more so, with Daniil dominating Felix 6-4, 6-0 in only 68 minutes.  Their first meeting was by far their tightest, when the Russian needed a third-set tiebreak to beat Auger-Aliassime at the 2018 Canada Masters, when the Canadian was ranked outside the top 100.  As impressive was Felix’s last two victories have been over Dan Evans and Marin Cilic, Medvedev has appeared completely unbothered by Auger-Aliassime’s game.  And I expect Daniil to remain much more positive today after his unprofessional conduct against Maxime Cressy, where he openly complained his opponent was “lucky.”  He will be happy to be back on Rod Laver Arena, as he expressed frustration with getting scheduled on Margaret Court Arena multiple times.  He’ll also be happy not to be facing a tricky serve-and-volleyer like Cressy.  Medvedev should be able to advance to his fourth consecutive semifinal at a hard court Major.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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