Australian Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

In the eight singles matches to be played on Monday, all sixteen players are seeded, making for some blockbuster round of 16 matchups.

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Serena Williams (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

On the women’s side of the draw that plays on Day 8, all remaining players are top 20 seeds. They include the world No.1, the most recent WTA Finals champion, the 2018 US Open champion, and the GOAT. On the men’s side, 14-time Major Champion Novak Djokovic is joined by seven men playing for the first Major title.

 

Simona Halep (1) vs. Serena Williams (16)

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It’s the current No.1 vs. the most dominant No.1 of the last two decades, who has spent a total of six years atop the rankings. If Halep loses today, she’ll be at serious risk of losing the top spot. Simona came into this tournament on a five-match losing streak, dating back to August. She’s had little match play over the past four months due to a back injury, which also limited her offseason training. Halep was almost down and out in both of her first two matches last week, but fought back to survive. And on Saturday, she easily dispatched Serena’s sister, Venus. Serena meanwhile has been utterly dominant in her first tournament since the highly controversial US Open final. In six sets, she’s lost only nine games. But she’s yet to face a seeded player, much less the world No.1. Serena has owned Halep in the past, winning eight of their nine previous meetings. Halep’s only victory came at the 2014 WTA Finals, a loss which Serena quickly avenged later that same week in the final. Halep also brings a leg injury into this match, though that did not seem to deter her at all against Venus. Simona does not have much in her game that can bother an in-form Serena, but Halep is the type of player whose defense and counter punching can be successful against the 23-time Major champion if she starts spraying errors. Halep’s best chance is to prolong points, and the match, as long as possible. With only eight tournaments played in the last two years, Serena cannot be described as fully match-tough. Still, Serena is the favorite to advance here.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Daniil Medvedev (16)

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Medvedev could be the first real challenge to Djokovic’s title hopes in Melbourne. The 6’6” big-hitting Russian has had a stellar last six months, with 30 match wins and two hard court titles. He’s yet to be challenged this fortnight, having not dropped a set. While he’s 0-2 against Djokovic, they haven’t played since 2017, and Medvedev is a much more dangerous foe today. Djokovic had a startling loss of composure on Saturday, given he was up two-sets-to-love against Denis Shapovalov. He dropped the third set after receiving a code violation for cursing at a fan. That was the only chink in the armor of the six-time champion during the first week of play. As we saw many times during week one, the top players usually have no trouble with the young upstarts of the ATP tour. While Medvedev has the kind of power that can hit through Djokovic, I doubt he can do that for three full sets. And Daniil will surely be a bit overwhelmed by playing against Novak on Rod Laver Arena in his first round of 16 at a Major. I don’t think this will be straightforward for Djokovic, but I fully expect him to prevail.

Karolina Pliskova (7) vs. Garbine Muguruza (18)

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The winner here will play the winner of Halep/Serena. This is a classic example of what Mary Carillo coined many years ago as “big babe tennis:” two power players who will be content to slug it out from the baseline. I was surprised to see Pliskova holds a decisive 7-2 edge over Muguruza. Garbine’s only wins came at Roland Garros in 2013 and two years ago in Cincinnati. Pliskova has taken seven of eight meetings on hard courts, though this will be their first match at a hard court Major. Karolina is undefeated so far this season, having won the title in Brisbane to start the year. She’s on an eight-match winning streak, though she hasn’t been winning easily. Five of those matches went three sets, but she’s been clutch in comfortably closing out all third sets played. Muguruza played one of the best matches of the tournament thus far, a three-set win over Johanna Konta that went past three in the morning. She impressively recovered to take out Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets in the third round. An interesting factor in this matchup in Pliskova’s current coaching team. Rennae Stubbs and Conchita Martinez are splitting coaching duties between them, as television duties prevent Stubbs from being a full-time coach. Martinez is the coach who temporarily stepped in for Sam Sumyk to coach Muguruza at Wimbledon two years ago, a tournament which Garbine won. I was surprised Conchita did not continue as a part of Muguruza’s team following that success. Conchita will certainly be able to share some useful information about Muguruza’s game with Pliskova. Also interestingly, Stubbs did commentary of Pliskova’s match on Saturday for ESPN in the US. It was unique to hear a coach be so forthcoming, and even critical, of her own player on television. Perhaps most revealing was Stubbs speaking of Pliskova’s struggles to remain positive on court. But with two positive mentors on her team, Karolina has been on the upswing of late, while Muguruza has been anything but reliable. This is a great opportunity for Pliskova to get a rare victory over the two-time Major champion.

Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Milos Raonic (16)

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I’m fascinated to see how this one plays out. They’ve split their two prior matches, both taking place in 2017, and neither on a hard court. The last time they played was at that year’s Wimbledon, when Zverev let a two-sets-to-one lead slip away and faded in the fifth. Sascha’s struggles in the best-of-five format are well documented, to the point where his lack of results at the Majors must be a huge mental hurdle for the 21-year-old. This is only Zverev’s third match in the fourth round of a Major, with only one quarterfinal appearance to date. And he’s up against a resurgent Canadian, who has come through a tough draw that already included Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka. Zverev has looked shaky at times, needing five sets to overcome the unseeded Jeremy Chardy in the second round. Sascha is coming off the biggest title of his career two months ago at the ATP Finals, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through at a Major. I’m just not convinced it will happen here. Milos has been playing wonderfully, and serving at an extremely high level. The 28-year-old is eager to contend for titles again, as he hasn’t lifted a winner’s trophy in over three years. If he continues to serve as well as he has, this may not be Zverev’s day.

Elina Svitolina (6) vs. Madison Keys (17)

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Speaking of season-ending champions who are yet to advance to a Major semifinal, Svitolina also falls into that category. Despite having 13 career titles to her name, and an astonishing 13-2 record in tournament finals, the quarterfinals are as far as Elina has advanced at a Slam. Madison Keys is the complete opposite: a player who has thrived at Majors, but struggled everywhere else. The 23-year-old is looking for her fifth quarterfinal out of the last six Grand Slam events. Keys has gotten to the round of 16 without any issues, having not dropped a set despite playing no warmup events as she dealt with yet another injury. Svitolina can’t say the same, as she was down 3-0 in the third before mounting a comeback to defeat Shuai Zhang in a near three-hour third round. The vulnerability of Elina’s second serve was fully evident on Saturday, as she spun in serves as slow as the low 60’s (mph). Keys will be happy to wallop such serves if given the opportunity. Madison is 2-0 lifetime against Elina, including a three-set win at the 2017 US Open. I like Madison’s chances of making that 3-0 on Monday based on her current form.

Other notable matches on Day 8:

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  • US Open Champion Naomi Osaka (4) vs. the always tricky, and never boring, Anastasia Sevastova (13)
  • Japan’s other star, Kei Nishikori (8), vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (23), in their first-ever meeting
  • In a battle of countries from 2018’s Davis Cup final, Borna Coric (11) vs. Lucas Pouille (28)

Order of play

Rod Laver Arena | Play begins from 1am GMT

  1. (4) Naomi Osaka (Jpn) v (13) Anastasija Sevastova (Lat)
  2. (4) Alexander Zverev (Ger) v (16) Milos Raonic (Can)
  3. (1) Simona Halep (Rom) v (16) Serena Williams (USA)
  4. (1) Novak Djokovic (Ser) v (15) Daniil Medvedev (Rus)

Margaret Court Arena | Play begins from 12am GMT

  1. (17) Madison Keys (USA) v (6) Elina Svitolina (Ukr)
  2. Alize Cornet (Fra) & Petra Martic (Cro) v Samantha Stosur (Aus) & Shuai Zhang (Chn)
  3. (18) Garbine Muguruza (Spa) v (7) Karolina Pliskova (Cze)
  4. (23) Pablo Carreno-Busta (Spa) v (8) Kei Nishikori (Jpn)

Melbourne Arena | Play begins from 12am GMT

  1. Andreja Klepac (Slo) & Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Fra) v Astra Sharma (Aus) & John-Patrick Smith (Aus)
  2. (13) Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) & Johanna Larsson (Swe) v (2) Timea Babos (Hun) & Kristina Mladenovic (Fra)
  3. (1) Barbora Krejcikova (Cze) & Katerina Siniakova (Cze) v Elise Mertens (Bel) & Aryna Sabalenka (Blr)
  4. (11) Borna Coric (Cro) v (28) Lucas Pouille (Fra)

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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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