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.




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


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)


Women’s Tennis’ Best Player Wins Again




It wasn’t long ago that Naomi Osaka appeared to be a talented young tennis player who had lost her way. On a rather warm April day in Charleston, S.C., in the 2018 Volvo Car Open, the then 20-year-old had had enough. As perspiration streamed down her face while she walked to her bench on
the jam-packed smallish outside Althea Gibson Club Court, Osaka looked at her coach and made the remark that she didn’t want to be there. Of course, she was losing. Osaka finished that round of 16 match, eventually losing to Julia Goerges.


Obviously, Osaka wasn’t worried about the larger purse she missed by losing that day in Charleston. Money wasn’t that big a deal. Just two weeks earlier, Osaka had earned a $1.34 million check for winning the mega tournament at Indian Wells, Calif. The world was her game.
A few months later, Osaka won her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 U.S. Open. And now the powerful 5-11 native of Osaka, Japan, looks unstoppable with four Grand Slam titles in less than three years. Serena Williams probably is more worried about Osaka matching her record than Serena is
about surpassing Margaret Court in the number of Grand Slam titles.
Osaka is that good these days on the court, while making waves with her politeness and well-spoken interviews.

Jennifer Brady was no match for Osaka in Saturday’s Australian Open final, falling much the same way Serena Williams had been dominated a couple of nights earlier. Osaka just turned the6-3, 6-4 victory she posted over Williams to a 6-4, 6-3 over Brady and a second straight Australian Open title.
Brady tried to out-hit Osaka. That was a mistake as the 24-year-old former UCLA star couldn’t keep her over-hit balls on the court in the face of Osaka’s meticulously placed, yet powerful serves and ground strokes. Brady fell victim to Osaka’s near-perfect cross-court put-aways from both sides on short balls.

The first time I watched Osaka in person was in the 2017 Volvo Car Open when a red-hot Shelby Rogers (she had just beaten long-time friend Madison Keys) scored a straight-set victory as Osaka watched too many of her shots miss their mark. It was rather surprising even then as a 19-year-old that Osaka was often losing matches. Her game was already spectacularly based on power. She was so talented and good that she was a
can’t-miss future superstar. Osaka is a quicker version of Serena. She has the entire package of talent.

No one in women’s tennis probably has better control of her shots and serves in pressure situations than Osaka. She also must have some of the quickest feet in the game, while being able to fight off her opponent’s hardest-hit shots with her upper body strength. It’s not surprising that Chrissie Evert calls Osaka “the best player in the world.” She may be just that by a long ways.

James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at See his Post and Courier columns at and search for James Beck.

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Medvedev, Not Tsitsipas, Looks Like A Grand Slam Champion




Stefanos Tsitsipas looked like he might be a serious contender to win this Australian Open after his startling upset of Rafa Nadal in the quarterfinals.
But then, it wasn’t as much that Tsitsipas won that match as it was that Nadal lost it. Nadal was just out there the last two sets and the third-set tiebreaker after smothering Tsitsipas the first two sets.


Obviously, Nadal wasn’t himself physically after the first two sets. He was completely un-Nadal, even flubbing a pair of overheads in the tiebreaker. Those two overheads told the story for a player who quite possibly has the best overhead in men’s tennis. And then there was the string of miss-hit ground strokes by Nadal while repeatedly not even making a move for the ball at times during the last three sets as he watched Tsitsipas hit winners that normally would have been answered by Nadal.

Tsitsipas made the last two sets of his 3-6, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-5 win over Nadal look like eating a piece of cake. It was evident that he faced little resistance from Nadal. Yet, I for one was fooled into thinking that the athletic 22-year-old Greek was a little better than he really is.
Even John McEnroe was predicting that Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev might win 10 Grand Slam titles between them. If that happens, Medvedev likely will have to win all 10 by himself.

Tsitsipas just doesn’t look like a Grand Slam champion. At least, not in the Australian Open semifinals in his straight-set rout by Medvedev. Tsitsipas appeared to be following the sameformat against Medvedev that he used against Nadal, following two lackluster sets with an upgrade in his energy and play in a tight third set. Tsitsipas had Medvedev thinking the semifinals could be a repeat of the quarterfinals if the Russian didn’t pull his game together late in the third set to wrap up a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 victory and a spot opposite Novak Djokovic in the final. Of course, the young Greek might get better with age.

Tsitsipas might sneak up and win a major when the other new stars of the game see their games briefly fall apart or the “Great Three” of Nadal, Roger Federer and Djokovic have faded into just legends of the game. Of course, there is a chance that Medvedev could cool down before or during Sunday’s
championship match against the rubber-like Djokovic. But maybe not. I could see Medvedev wearing Djokovic down. This will be Medvedev’s second Grand Slam final. He may be ready this time to pull it off this

Djokovic is a phenomenal talent, especially in Rod Laver Arena in the middle of the U.S. night. His only weakness has been his physicality. He has shown that weakness throughout his career, although not enough to prevent him from winning 17 Grand Slam titles, just three behind Nadal
and Federer. You might say Djokovic has owned Rod Laver Arena. Eight titles Down Under is almost as amazing as Nadal’s 13 French Open crowns. Nearing his 34th birthday, Djokovic, of course, is a little younger than both Nadal and Federer. But Novak is less than a year younger than Nadal. Federer is 39 and looking a lot like Super Bowl wonder Tom Brady.

James Beck has been the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at See his Post and Courier columns at and search for James Beck.

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If Rafael Nadal Can Struggle With Self-Confidence, So Can You!

Ubitennis spoke to sport psychology consultant Adam Blicher about the role of believing in oneself in tennis.





The best tennis players look and act very self-confident, but we forget that what they are experiencing might be completely different from what we are able to see from the outside. They too are experiencing uncertainty and doubt. Just like you and I. Some days, you feel like you move effortlessly, and it almost seem like you can’t miss the court with your forehand. Other days you doubt if you can even put your forehand into the court.


20-time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal talked in press conferences about his lack of self-confidence in 2015. He expressed how he did not experience the feeling of self-confidence despite the fact that he will go down in the history books as one of the best players the world has ever seen.

So if you sometimes get the thought that you are the only one struggling with confidence, remember that even the best players in the world struggle. The best players in the world are not super-humans who only have positive thoughts, are always motivated and feel very self-confident.

Also remember that more self-confidence is not always better. There is a very fine line between having high self-confidence and having too big of an ego. If you are having too big of an ego, it often leads to not preparing well enough, or you might get a little bit too cocky in the way that you are going about your performance.

That said, it can also be problematic to not experience any self-confidence at all which might then lead you to dwell and to struggle with quick decision-making on the court. You might find yourself accepting to hit too many backhands instead of covering more of the court with your forehand; or, instead of stepping up close to the baseline, you find yourself playing more defensive a meter behind the baseline.

We need to redefine our understanding of self-confidence. We cannot let out emotional state dictate our performances as our emotions are fleeting and very hard to control. If you try to control your emotions all of your focus and energy will be occupied fighting an internal battle instead of having full awareness on your gameplan and executing your shots fighting the outside battle against the player on the other side of the court.

The act of self-confidence comes before the feeling.

When Rafael Nadal talks about his lack of self-confidence, he is talking about the feeling of self-confidence. Rafael understands that he can’t control the feeling, but what he can control is his actions. He understands that the antidote to the doubt, and the worries that is creeping in on him, is courage. The courage to step up to the line, covering two thirds of the court with his weapon and keep following his gameplan despite the feeling of self-confidence not being present at all times.

Rafael understands that the feeling of self-confidence is a bonus that comes after the good performances. Not the other way around as many tend to think. Many are stuck in the belief that we need to feel or think in a certain way before we are able to perform well. That “if I only had more self-confidence, then I would perform better.” Maybe in reality it’s about having the courage to act like you already had the confidence in order to provide yourself with the opportunity of performing well. Then, after the good performance, the nice feeling of self-confidence might arise as a bonus making it easier to be courageous in your actions for the next match.

Remember that the act of self-confidence comes before the feeling.

Adam Blicher
Danish Sport Psychologist Consultant Adam Blicher is a member of the International Sport Mental Coach Association

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