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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New York Open Saturday Recap: Kyle Edmund and Andreas Seppi Advance to Sunday’s Final

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The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Home of the New York Open

The Brit and the Italian both comfortably prevailed in their semifinal matches, and will play for the championship Sunday afternoon inside Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.

 

Kyle Edmund never trailed in Saturday’s first semifinal against fellow seed and ATP Next Gen upstart Miomir Kecmanovic.  In the second game of the first set, Kecmanovic was serving at 40-0, but then lost the next five points to drop serve, which included two double faults. Miomir’s next service game at 0-3 went to deuce, when Edmund promptly crushed two forehand return winners to gain a double break. Edmund would take the first set 6-1.

Kyle’s forehand was on fire in this match, with his backhand showing some noticeable improvements as well.  However, as the second set progressed, Kecmanovic started ripping his own forehand and backhand with much more authority. But at 4-4, Miomir lost control of his groundstrokes, resulting in a break at love. Edmund would then hit multiple aces in the final game, closing out the match 6-1, 6-4. Kyle won an impressive 79% of first serve points in the match.

Regarding the tighter second set, Edmund stated, “You play top players in the world, you expect a fight back.”

“I had to weather that storm a bit, he was gaining more confidence,” Kyle said.

In the second semifinal, Andreas Seppi also allowed his opponent just five games, eliminating qualifier Jason Jung by a score of 6-3, 6-2. Just like the first semifinal, Seppi broke his opponent in his first service game, and never looked back. Jung understandably started off a bit tight in his first-ever ATP semifinal, and never settled into the match. Seppi will now vie for his first title since 2012.

The singles championship match will take place Sunday at 4:00pm local time. Edmund leads their head-to-head 4-1, with a 4-0 edge on hard courts. Their last meeting was just last month in Auckland, where Kyle won 6-3, 7-6(4).

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Casper Ruud comes back from the verge of defeat to reach the final in Buenos Aires

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Casper Ruud came back from one set down to beat home favourite Juan Ignacio Londero 4-6 7-5 6-1 to reach the final in Buenos Aires. Ruud was three points from defeat, but he reeled off 10 of the last 11 games to win the match.

 

Londero broke Ruud for the first time at 1-1 in the opening set with a forehand and hit a forehand winner on set point. The Argentine drew an error from Ruud at 2-2 to break serve. Londero was broken at serve with three forehand errors, as he was serving for the match at 5-4. Ruud broke serve at love two games later, as Ruud drew level to 5-5 with a backhand return winner.

Ruud will play against Portuguese lucky loser Pedro Sousa, who reached the final after Diego Schwartman pulled out of the match due to a left leg injury.

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Andrea Petkovic Demands More Action From Tennis In Fight Against Racism

Andrea Petkovic has urged tennis authorities to make a stronger stance against racism.

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Andrea Petkovic (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Andrea Petkovic has demanded that more action needs to be taken if Tennis wants to tackle racism successfully. 

 

The German who is currently injured and is a part-time host for ZDF Sport has spoken about the need for tennis to take stronger action against Racism.

Speaking of her own experiences and background, Petkovic has urged the need for tennis to speak out on these issues more regularly, “We, in particular, as athletes who play abroad, get to know foreign cultures,” Petkovic said in an interview with Sueddeutsche.

“We are seen as role models and we should position ourselves against racism again and again. I myself am the daughter of a migrant family who came to Germany from the former Yugoslavia and was warmly welcomed here. Germany made this success possible for me, without the support of the German Tennis Association I would never have made it this far. 

“It makes me sad to see how things are developing, that the voices are getting louder from the right. However, a large majority in Germany are still resisting it.”

As her tennis career soon reaches its climax, Petkovic is starting to speak out on more sporting issues therefore putting pressure on tennis authorities to listen on these issues from a different perspective.

At the moment the German just had knee surgery, ruling her out of Indian Wells, and the 32 year-old admits her schedule will be lighter as the years go by, “I definitely want to play this year and maybe add the Australian Open 2021 to it. There won’t be that many tournaments. I listen to my body.”

The world number 80 will look to be fit for the WTA tournament in Stuttgart, which starts on the 20th of April.

 

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