Australian Open Day 9 Preview: The Quarter-finals Commence - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 9 Preview: The Quarter-finals Commence

We’re down to eight men and eight women remaining in the singles draws, and some established names are sharing the space with some fresh faces.

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The bottom half of the men’s draw was rocked on Sunday evening with Stefanos Tsitsipas’ shocking and thrilling upset of the two-time defending champion, Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal is now the only man on this side of the draw to have ever previously advanced this far at a Major. In the women’s bottom half, it’s a similar story. We have a two-time Wimbledon champion, a five-time Major quarter-finalist who is yet to advance further, and two women new to this stage. Will experience prove to be key, or can the debuting Major quarter-finalists continue to break new ground?

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Frances Tiafoe

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This is Nadal’s 37th Major quarter-final, and he’s 29-7 in this round. However, it’s worth noting he’s only 5-5 in quarter-finals at the Australian Open. Rafa has quieted the doubts regarding his physical status coming into this tournament. He’s utterly dominated his first four opponents, with no sets lost and only one that went to a tiebreak. Nadal dismantled Tomas Berdych on Sunday, losing just one game in the first two sets. Frances Tiafoe has been one of the biggest breakout stars in a tournament that’s had many. The 21-year-old American upset Kevin Anderson in the second round, and backed that up with a comeback victory over Andreas Seppi in five sets. And on his 21st birthday in the fourth round, Tiafoe upset Grigor Dimitrov in four. It’s hard to imagine Frances will have much left in the tank, especially up against perhaps the most unforgiving competitor in the sport’s history. In their first career meeting, Tiafoe’s only real chance will be to successfully hit winners early in points. This should be another straightforward win for Nadal on his way to the semifinals.

Petra Kvitova (8) vs. Ashleigh Barty (15)

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Speaking of red-hot lefties who have destroyed their opposition, Kvitova is yet to allow an opponent more than four games in a set at this tournament. She’s on a nine-match win streak, dating back to her title last week in Sydney. This is actually a rematch from the exceptional Sydney final, where Kvitova defeated Barty in a final set tiebreak. Petra is now 3-0 against Ash, though their last two matches both went the distance. I was concerned Kvitova would be exhausted during this fortnight coming off the hard-fought final in Sydney just two days before this tournament began. Fortunately a slimmed-down and fit Kvitova has looked extremely fresh. A long-time sufferer of asthma, I’m sure the cooler conditions in Melbourne have helped her. Barty is coming off the biggest win of her career, after taking out Maria Sharapova in a dramatic match to reach her first Major quarter-final. The Aussie No.1 will have the full backing of the crowd on Rod Laver Arena. But with the way Kvitova has been playing, defeating her will be a tall task. Petra is looking for her first Major title since the last time she won Wimbledon in 2014. Unless her level significantly drops today, I like her chances.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) vs. Roberto Baustista Agut (22)

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These two men have been inspirations in Melbourne. The 20-year-old Tsitsipas shocked the tennis world by upsetting 20-Time Major Champion Roger Federer in an excellent match on Sunday night. And Bautista Agut is coming off a personally challenging year, where he dealt with the sudden death of his mother as well as an ailing father. That makes it all the more impressive that he’s yet to lose a match in 2019. And consider the names he’s beaten this year: they include Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, and Karen Khachanov. That’s six current or former top 10 players. With fellow Spaniard David Ferrer retiring later this year, Roberto has earned the right to inherit the affectionate title of “Little Beast,” as coined by Brad Gilbert. After winning his first round of 16 match at a Major in his tenth attempt, despite an extremely tough draw, what could the 30-year-old possibly have left? He’s survived three five-setters, and been on court for over 14 hours through four matches. However, one thing I learned this past week is to count out Bautista Agut at your own peril. And Tsitsipas is coming off the match of his life: a victory over his idol that lasted nearly four hours. An emotional and physical letdown following such a win would not be surprising. And Stefanos did appear to be cramping a bit midway through the fourth set of that match. But with a more offensive game, and a strong belief in himself, Tsitsipas should prevail in his first career meeting with Bautista Agut.

Danielle Collins vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

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I don’t believe anyone had this pencilled in as a quarter-final when the draws were announced. The 25-year-old Collins had never won a match at any Major prior to last week. But wow, did she make a statement by demolishing the No.2 seed, Angelique Kerber. The feisty Collins basically took the racquet out of the 2016 champion’s hand, hitting 29 winners in the 14 games that were played in that match. Pavlyuchenkova similarly blasted 46 winners (although they came with 53 unforced errors) in upsetting the fifth seed, Sloane Stephens. Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel in the US correctly suggested how dangerous Pavlychenkova might be at this tournament after her second round upset of another top 10 player, Kiki Bertens. The 27-year-old is certainly a streaky player. She’s only been to the fourth round at a Major six times in her singles career, but she’s reached the quarter-finals on five of those six occasions. And while Anastasia is yet to win one of those quarter-finals, this is a huge chance to do so against an American college player who is completely inexperienced at this level. One would assume Collins will be hard-pressed to maintain her incredible form of a round ago, coming off the biggest win of her career. In another first-time career meeting in today’s quarter-finals, the experience of Pavlyuchenkova should prove to be valuable.

Order of play

ROD LAVER ARENA

Not before 0130 GMT

  • 22-Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) v 14-Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

Not before 0330 GMT

  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) v Danielle Collins (USA)

Not before 0800 GMT

  • 8-Petra Kvitova (CZE) v 15-Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
  • Frances Tiafoe (USA) v 2-Rafa Nadal (ESP)

Davis Cup

Davis Cup: Team Leaders Deliver in Bratislava, Canada-Slovakia 1-1

Shapovalov and Klizan dispose in straight sets of their n.2 opponents. Day 2 will start at 11 with a delicate doubles rubber

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Denis Shapovalov (left) and Felix Auger Aliassime (right) playing Davis Cup foto: Srdjan Stevanovic/Starsportphoto ©

Under the watchful eye of ITF President David Haggerty, who was present in Bratislava for one of the Qualifying Ties of his new “creature”, Slovakia and Canada have closed the first day with one win each.

Despite a 3 pm start time on a working day, the AXA National Tennis Center Arena in Bratislava was almost two-thirds full at the beginning of the day, with a small but colorfully noisy group of Canadian supporters.

It was up to Filip Horansky (n.199 ATP) to represent the home team in the first rubber when he had to face the n.1 Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, n.25 of the world ranking and one of the most interesting teenage prospects of the by-now-infamous “Next Gen”. Horansky put together a solid effort, tried to exploit his bigger habit to play on clay, but eventually he had to succumb to a better player with more powerful weapons. For most of the match the Slovak player was able to sustain the baseline rally with Shapovalov, however he never had any answer to Denis’ accelerations with forehand and backhand, and as the match progressed, he started appearing more and more tired, his energies being burned at a much faster rate than he is normally accustomed to.

Both sets were decided by one break, on the seventh and on the eleventh game respectively, when Shapovalov capitalized his dominance on serve and return and open Canada’s account in this tie.

I believe I played a solid match, especially on serve – said Shapovalov after the match – I feel very confident playing on clay, I have transitioned very well from clay and also this court suits very well my game: balls do not just stop when they touch the ground, it is possible to hit through the court, and this helps me”.

As Shapovalov was talking to the press, his best friend Felix Auger Aliassime was having a dream debut in Davis Cup. With Slovakia 0-1 down, Klizan’s point had become indispensable for the home team, and this pressure was making Klizan play extremely tense and far from his potential. Auger Aliassime got to a 5-2 lead before a calming speech by Slovak captain Dominik Hrbaty was able to relax Slovakia’s n.1 who came back winning five games in a row taking the first set in 50 minutes. The Canadian teenager looked unable to find an answer to the long and slow rallies imposed by Klizan, who would suddenly accelerate into baseline high-speed winners. “I couldn’t have hoped for a better start – said Auger Aliassime – but eventually he raised his level, I started missing shots that shouldn’t be missed, so he eventually imposed his game”. Klizan eventually got to 7-5 5-2 before he could close 7-5, 6-2.

Saturday morning at 11 the Canadian couple will presumably take the stage for the doubles rubber against Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay.

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Naomi Osaka Swats Aside Svitolina To Move Ahead In Race For No.1

Naomi Osaka progressed to the Australian Open semi-final and moved ahead in the race for World No.1 with a dominant win over Svitolina.

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Naomi Osaka (Australian Open Twitter account - @AustralianOpen)

Naomi Osaka continued her impressive rise to the top with a commanding 6-4 6-1 win over Elina Svitolina that sealed her place in the Australian Open semi-finals.

The result moves the Japanese player, 21, into pole position in the race for World No.1 and she will stay there unless Petra Kvitova reaches the final or Karolina Pliskova wins the tournament.

The first five games of the opening set of the quarter-final were closely-contested, but both players still held serve without ever being taken to deuce.

All of that changed in the sixth game. Osaka really started to trouble Svitolina with her weight of shot, and the Ukrainian eventually succumbed to the third break point she faced.

The Japanese player surrendered her advantage immediately with a poor service game. Then she re-discovered her rhythm immediately to break Svitolina again.

But the World No.6 justifiably has a reputation as a fighter, and she drew on all her battling qualities to break straight back for the second time in a row.

That made it 5-4 to Osaka, and many would have expected the set to settle down again at this point. It did not happen, as the Japanese player put the Ukrainian’s serve under pressure again to force 0-40 three break points.

Svitolina dug in to save all three but, when she faced a fourth, she netted a backhand and the set went to Osaka.

Osaka races through the second set

Elina Svitolina (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

The World No.6 completely fell apart on serve in the second game of the second set. Consequently, she rapidly found herself facing a set and 0-3 deficit in the match.

At the changeover, Svitolina called for the trainer because she was suffering from pain in her right shoulder. She received some treatment and then the action continued.

Victory looked almost certain for the reigning US Open champion at this stage. And she cemented that impression when she – incredibly – broke the Ukrainian for the fifth time in succession to make it 4-0.

Osaka had a slight wobble in game five. She made a couple of unforced errors to hand Svitolina a break point.

However, the World No.6 did not take advantage of the chance and, although she finally held serve in game six, she must have known the fight was over.

The Japanese player completed the formalities with a comfortable hold. She finished the match with two aces and a decisive smash and celebrated with a low-key fist-pump and a smile for the crowd.

“I tried to be as consistent as I can,” Osaka said in her post-match interview. “She’s a really great player and it’s unfortunate that she got injured.”

She continued, “Today I just had one goal – to try as hard as I can and not get angry. I didn’t do it well in the last two rounds but I think I did it well this time so I’m really happy with how I played.”

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Rafael Nadal storms into semi-final with dominant win over Tiafoe

Rafael Nadal progressed to his fifth Australian Open semi-final with a comprehensive win over rising star Frances Tiafoe.

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Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Rafael Nadal produced an impressive performance to see off Frances Tiafoe 6-3 6-4 6-2 and advance to the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the fifth time.

The emphatic scoreline means that the Spaniard, 32, is still yet to drop a set in the event this year. And it sets him up perfectly to push on and try and claim his second title in Melbourne.

It was a disappointing end to the American’s run. However, he can be justifiably proud of his efforts, especially during his wins over Kevin Anderson and Gregor Dimitrov, and it was clear to see today that his previous matches had taken a lot out of him.

Nadal raced through his opening service game to win it to love. He then immediately attacked Tiafoe’s serve and gained an immediate break.

That was all the Spaniard needed. He dominated on serve throughout the set and won 20 of the 23 points behind it, which enabled him to wrap it up 6-3 in just 31 minutes.

Tiafoe fights hard in the second set

The American made the worst possible start to the second set. He played a poor game on serve and lost it to love.

To his credit, Tiafoe responded well and fought for everything in the next few games. He earned his first break point of the match in game four after he won a 20-shot rally. However, he sent his next return just long.

The American then got another chance immediately when Nadal pulled a forehand wide. But again Tiafoe was unable to take advantage as he hit a backhand long.

Those turned out to be Tiafoe’s only opportunities in the set, as the World No.2 eventually held after three more deuces and went on to take it 6-4 without facing any more alarms on his serve.

Nadal ends Tiafoe’s challenge with early break

When Nadal broke the American in the opening of the third set, as he had done in the first two sets, the match already seemed as good as over.

Tiafoe hung in for a few more games to keep it to one break. However, his resistance ended when he made some tired errors and dropped his serve in game seven.

Fittingly, Nadal closed out the match with another commanding game on serve, which included a trademark forehand winner down the line.

“For me it’s very emotional to be back in the semi-finals here in Melbourne,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “I’ve had some dramas at this event during my career so to be back in the semi-final after a while means everything to me.”

The Spaniard continued, “I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things that have happened. To keep competing at this level is why I wake up every morning to go on court or go to the gym with the goal to be a better player.”

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