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)

ATP

Federer And Nadal: Their History In 40 Photos

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Forty matches, forty pictures. The match Federer and Nadal are playing today could be their last one on grass.

 

Let’s see what’s happened before, in pictures.

 

2004

1 – Miami, 3T: Nadal b. Federer 6–3 6–3

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Editorial

2019 French Open: Where The ‘Fedal’ Twain Shall Meet Again

The re-igniting of the Fedal rivalry at the French Open has renewed implications, going beyond the event itself

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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, French Open 2005
Photo Credit: Live Tennis

For a while now, make that years’ worth, we have been waiting for a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal clash at the US Open. The draws have been made, either they have been grouped in the same half – and one has fallen short – or they have happened to be in different halves entirely, and have never met.

 

One reason for the higher-than-usual (in the last couple of years) pangs to see Fedal square-off in New York is because of how each of their meetings in the three other Majors has been. We have seen Nadal end Federer’s reign as the favourite at Wimbledon, and the Australian Open. The first result coming about after multiple attempts while achieving the second, in a far easier manner.

But it is what we have had the opportunity to see in Roland Garros that has kept this rivalry distinct and blazing, impervious to time passing by. Twelve of their previous 38 matches have come at the three Majors. Five of these 12 meetings have come by in Paris, four in finals and once in that fated semi-final in 2005, which in the truest of terms was the origin of this rivalrous duopoly. And, it had to happen the way it did for audiences to understand the significance of what this rivalry was and would continue to be.

Though, for a moment, let us imagine an alternate reality. A reality in which the Swiss, instead of the Spaniard, won their first meeting and the ones to follow thereafter. Let us think of an alt-verse where results at the 2008 French Open and Wimbledon did not turn out the way they did. And it was the Mallorcan in place of the Basel-born who needed a coincidental intervention to halt the latter in his tracks in Paris, the following year.

If all of these had transpired, would we have felt the same way about the two being the nemesis of each other? What hold would each player have had in our lives? Would we be thinking of them as a duology, where each player is one half of a pair that has added to men’s tennis’ qualitative appeal?

Indeed, they would have been rivals still but we would not have seen them as equals – as the greatest of the game – despite the clear unevenness in their head-to-head, albeit in Federer’s favour. Most of all, if they had been slated to play in the semi-final of the French Open nearly a decade-and-a-half removed since their first meeting there under such envisioned reality, perhaps, we would not have been this excited about the prospective match-up.

The reality as we know it is so much better. In its moments of exultation and in times of despair – for the players, their fans and even for the supposedly unbiased viewers – reality has presented the players as humans. Each match between Federer and Nadal has seen both players put forth this quality – humanness – at the forefront while vying for wins. Regardless of how easy or hard the results have come by for either player.

When Federer and Nadal step onto the court for their 39th meeting, they will try to do the same all over again, impassive to time’s turning. As Federer said, “Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise, nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance…For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches here for me to win to get there. That’s why I’m very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he’s that strong and he will be there.

In a way, this match is also about getting closure, specifically in the French capital.

Where Wimbledon and the Australian Open have given us relative cessation, the French Open has remained in limbo in its one-sidedness. This contest, coming at a time when both have different highs at their backs, promises to be an interesting pivot for them to revisit their rivalry and their legacy at the Majors.

Even as it rekindles exigency for more of their matches at the Majors. Not only in Flushing Meadows later in the year, but perhaps in the soon-to-follow Wimbledon championships, too, in a unique kind of second wind.

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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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