Indian Wells Day 12 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Day 12 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

The women’s finalists will be decided today, and we’re also just one round away from a possible Federer/Nadal semifinal.

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Rafael Nadal (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Roger and Rafa both have to win today against tough 22-year-old opponents. Federer will face Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who has already upset three seeded players during this tournament. Nadal will square off with Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who already won a Masters 1000 title last November in Bercy. And how about a day schedule that includes not only Roger and Rafa, but also Novak Djokovic? He’s in the doubles semifinals with Fabio Fognini, facing the established team of Lukasz Kubot and Mercelo Melo.

 

As the men’s semifinalists are solidified on Friday, both women’s semifinal matches will be decided. And in both, proven WTA commodities will be challenged by red-hot youngsters: yet another 22-year-old, and an 18-year-old Canadian. Belinda Bencic and Bianca Andreescu have been racking up wins this year by blasting winners past their opponents. But Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina are two of the tour’s best defenders, and will not give up their spots in the final without a fight.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Karen Khachanov (12)

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Nadal is 5-0 lifetime against Khachanov, with all those matches taking place within the past two years. But the last time they met, it was a thriller. In the US Open third round just six months ago, Rafa needed four sets, as well as four hours and 23 minutes, to get through this big-hitting opposition. Now they’ll play again on US soil, and Khachanov will only need to win two sets to be victorious today, a more feasible task against Nadal. Since winning the biggest title of his career at the Paris Indoors four months ago, Karen really struggled, with a 4-5 record coming into this tournament. He lost in his opening round of all three tournaments he played in February. But Khachanov has built momentum over the past week in Indian Wells, a run highlighted by a straight set win over John Isner, the eighth seed. Nadal meanwhile has rebounded nicely at this tournament, coming off disappointing losses at the Australian to Novak Djokovic and in Acapulco to Nick Kyrgios. Rafa is fully comfortable playing in Indian Wells, even citing this as his favorite tournament of the year. He enjoys being outside of a big city, and is a guest at the home of the tournament owner, Larry Ellison. While I hope this match is even half as good as the last time they met on US soil, Nadal is a strong favorite to advance to a likely 39th meeting with Federer.

Angelique Kerber (8) vs. Belinda Bencic (23)

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Belinda Bencic is back. After suffering from multiple injuries over the past few seasons, the 22-year-old is on fire in 2019. She started the year by teaming with Roger Federer to defend their Hopman Cup title. And now she’s on a 12-match winning streak, having won the Premier 5 event in Dubai just a few weeks ago. In that one week, she secured four top 10 wins, over Sabalenka, Halep, Svitolina, and Kvitova. All four of those matches were three-set wins, two of which went to a third set tiebreak. And in another three-setter just yesterday, Bencic outlasted Karolina Pliskova in a great display of ball striking from both sides of the net. And surprisingly, Bencic has won three of four matches played against Kerber. Two of those wins were on US hard courts, in New York and Cincinnati. Kerber did win their last meeting, but that was on grass at Wimbledon last year. Bencic is much better on hard courts than grass, and is playing at an elite level again now. Can her aggressive returns and pinpoint groundstrokes remain consistent against the defensive skills of Kerber? Based on what we’ve seen of late, I say yes, especially if this goes three sets. And we may just see her play against a rising star even younger than her in the final.

Other notable matches on Day 12

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  • Elina Svitolina (6), who has already survived back-to-back dramatic three setters to reach this semifinal, vs. Wild Card Bianca Andreescu, who just destroyed Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals
  • Roger Federer (4) vs. Hubert Hurkacz, in their first career meeting
  • Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo (6) vs. Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini

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Frances Tiafoe scrapes through in five, faces Taylor Fritz next at the Australian Open

Frances Tiafoe battled past Marco Trungelliti to set up a second round meeting with Taylor Fritz at the Australian Open.

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Frances Tiafoe (@usta - Twitter)

America’s Frances Tiafoe needed to dig deep on day two of the Australian Open to defeat a spirited Marco Trungelliti 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

 

In the second round the 23 year-old will play a familiar face in fellow American Taylor Fritz, who by contrast prevailed in straight sets against German qualifier Maximilian Marterer, 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 6-2.

Fritz and Tiafoe know each other well from their junior days and also featured in the second edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals back in 2018.

Fritz will certainly be the fresher of the two when they face off in the all-American clash on Thursday.

There will be some regret from Tiafoe that he didn’t get the job done in four sets, but the Argentine qualifier played well above his ranking of 198 in the world.

Trungelliti was crunching the ball from the baseline, throwing up two break points, only for Tiafoe to save them with some big hitting of his own.

A monstrous backhand down the line sealed the opening game.

The 31-year-old from Santiago del Estero continued to hustle the Tiafoe serve, breaking the American in the third and ninth games to seize the opening set 6-3.

A sublime lob from Trungelliti saw him race into a 2-1 lead in the second set and threaten an unlikely upset.

However, the 2019 Australian Open quarter-finalist suddenly burst into life at 2-2, as he tucked away a backhand winner to seal his first break of the match.

Tiafoe roared with delight and soon levelled the match at one set all with a tidy ace.

The American’s hard-court prowess eventually began to show in the third, as he eventually took his third break point to move 2-1 ahead.

He then secured the double-break with a rasping cross-court forehand return to leave Trungelliti on the brink.

Tiafoe duly wrapped up the third set 6-2 with some big serves.

The fourth set began on serve and a cheeky Tiafoe serve and volley saved a crucial break point, as the American held on for 2-2.

However, the Argentinian was not to be denied as he broke the world number 34 to move 4-2 ahead.

Trungelliti then served out the fourth set, just as the sun was beginning to set in Melbourne, taking it 6-3 to level the match at two sets all.

With the crowd urging him on, Tiafoe nailed a crucial volley at the beginning of the fifth to hold serve.

He then broke Trungelliti for a 2-0 lead, who could only volley into the net.

Tiafoe never looked back and served out a morale boosting win with an ace to seal his place in round two.

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Grigor Dimitrov downs Jiri Lehecka to begin Australian Open campaign

Grigor Dimitrov began his Australian Open campaign with a four set victory.

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Grigor Dimitrov - Indian Wells 2021 (foto Twitter @BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov continued his good form as he saw off the challenge of Czech qualifier Jiri Lehecka.

 

The former world number three came through 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

He will next play boisterous Frenchman Benoit Paire in round two, which promises to be a fairly even match-up.

Lehecka, who came through three rounds of qualifying, tested Dimitrov throughout.

In the Bulgarian’s opening service game, four break point opportunities came the way of the Czech.

Some clutch serving and an exquisite backhand volley at the net, saved the critical fourth break point as Dimitrov hung on.

At 2-1 down, Lehecka served and volleyed to save two break points as the set stayed on serve.

The qualifier continued to impress as he cracked a forehand winner to level up at 3-3.

Eventually Dimitrov adapted to his new surroundings, playing on court 7 show court, as the decisive moment came at 5-4 where he finally broke Lehecka to clinch the opening set.

Dimitrov saved a break point at the beginning of the second set, as Lehecka began to apply pressure to the Bulgarian’s serve.

The point of the match soon came at one-all 40-30, as a quick flick of the wrist from Dimitrov saw him execute a fine trademark backhand cross-court winner. Lehecka was left standing and simply had no chance.

In the tennis world, the Bulgarian is seen as possessing one of the best backhands in the world alongside Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet.

More serve and volleying from Lehecka dug him out of a hole at 2-1 down as he saved a break point. A thumping forehand from the Czech levelled the set at 2-2.

A rare double fault at 3-3 from Dimitrov gave Lehecka the break and he closed out the set with an ace, 6-4.

In the third, Dimitrov held to love in his opening service game and broke the youngster in the second game to seal a crucial break.

With the set on a knife edge at 5-3, 40-30, Lehecka went long after a lengthy baseline exchange as Dimitrov moved two sets to one up.

The fourth set was perhaps the most compelling as both players refused to back down on serve.

At 5-4 down Dimitrov continued to serve strongly and duly held, before nailing the critical break at 5-5 with a dipping forehand winner that landed in, to the delight of his Bulgarian supporters.

The 26th seed was then taken to deuce but it wasn’t enough as Dimitrov sealed it 7-5 to move into yet another second round at Melbourne Park.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Olympic Gold Medalists Face Differing Challenges

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Belinda Bencic on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Six months ago in Tokyo, Sascha Zverev and Belinda Bencic earned the biggest achievements of their young careers: winning an Olympic Gold Medal for their country.  Now they have their sights set on claiming their first Major, though neither has a straightforward second round draw.

 

Wednesday’s schedule also includes top names like Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Daniil Medvedev.  However, with all of those stars being strong favorites on Day 3, other matches featuring some of the sport’s most exciting performers may be the day’s most compelling affairs.

Each day this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Victoria Azarenka (24) vs. Jil Teichmann – 11:00am on Kia Arena

It was 10 full years ago when Azarenka won her first Major in Australia, a feat she would repeat just 12 months later.  Despite reaching three finals in New York, she’s still trying to secure her third Slam title.  Injuries sidelined her several times throughout 2021, yet she still put together a strong 28-9 record on the year.  Teichmann had a breakout 2021, reaching semifinals in both Adelaide and Duabi to start the year, and upsetting three top 12 players during a run to the final in Cincinnati.  But she may be overmatched against an in-form two-time former champion, who dropped only four games in the first round.


Belinda Bencic (22) vs. Amanda Anisimova – Third on Kia Arena

Anisimova was very close to being eliminated from this tournament in the first round.  The 20-year-old American was down a set and a break to Arianne Hartono, and a point from going down a double break in the second set, before storming back to win in three.  However, that near-defeat is not revealing of her recent form, as she started the season by winning a title on these very grounds.  Anisimova has been working with Darren Cahill on a trial basis in Australia, which has already paid dividends.  Bencic has continued to play well following her Tokyo triumph, where she won medals in both singles and doubles.  Three years ago on grass in Mallorca, Belinda defeated Amanda 6-2, 6-2.  Coming off such a close call on Monday, I suspect Anisimova will play freely on Wednesday, and I would not be surprised if she upset the Olympic Gold Medalist.  When her groundstrokes are on, especially her backhand, there aren’t many players who can tame Anismova’s aggression.


Carlos Alcaraz (31) vs. Dusan Lajovic – Third on 1573 Arena

Coming off his star-making run in New York, Alcaraz went right back to work in the opening round here, easily prevailing in less than two hours.  Lajovic required nearly twice as long to overcome Marton Fucsovics in five.  The 31-year-old Serbian advanced to the second week of this event a year ago.  However, the rest of his 2021 season didn’t go as well, ending the year with a record of 18-28.  And he started 2022 by going 0-3 at the ATP Cup.  I expect to see some extra fight out of Dusan during this tournament, as I anticipate many of the Serbian players will be motivated by what occurred over the past two weeks with Novak Djokovic.  But taking out one of the sport’s most formidable newcomers, especially when you’re coming off a five-setter, is a tall task.


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. John Millman – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Following his first round victory, Zverev admitted things had not gone to plan, and he had not played his best.  Despite that, Sascha still prevailed in straight sets, escaping two tight sets via tiebreaks.  He may not be able to afford such dips in his level against one of Australia’s grittiest competitors.  Millman will certainly enjoy plenty of crowd support, and he has taken out big names at Majors before.  At the 2018 US Open, he upended Roger Federer in extremely hot and humid conditions.  And at the 2019 French Open, though he lost, Millman pushed Zverev to five sets.  However, I fully expect Sascha to up his game on Wednesday.  The German won 41 hard court matches last year, and claimed five titles, including the ATP Finals.  He seems primed to make his second Slam final sooner than later, perhaps even at the end of next week.


Gael Monfils (17) vs. Alexander Bublik – Last on Margaret Court Arena

Well this match is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining, featuring two players who often choose the more fun shot over the smarter shot.   Monfils struggled to find any form following the pandemic shutdown, as playing in front of empty seats did not inspire him.  But with fans back in the stands, Gael’s results have improved.  He started the year by winning his first title in two years.  By contrast, Bublik played well in the first half of 2021, propelling him to a career-high ranking some September, yet his results fizzled later in the year.  During 2020’s autumn edition of Roland Garros, Bubik defeated Monfils in four sets.  But with his mojo back, the Frenchman is the favorite to avenge that loss on Wednesday.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Lucia Bronzetti (Q) – On Monday, Barty needed less than an hour to dismiss Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1.  Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who reached five lower-level finals last season.

Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Yannick Hanfmann (Q) – Nadal was another straight-set victor in the first round.  Hanfmann is a 30-year-old German who took out Thanasi Kokkinakis with the loss of just seven games, as the Australian was drained from his title run last week in Adelaide.  Three years ago at Roland Garros, Yannick earned only six games against Rafa.

Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Xiyu Wang (WC) – Krejickova advanced almost as easily as Barty, by a score of 6-2, 6-0.  Xiyu is a 20-year-old from China who on Monday gained her first victory in the main draw of a Major. 

Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Stefan Kozlov (WC) – Berrettini overcame some considerable stomach issues to secure a four-set win on Monday.  Kozlov is a 23-year-old American who is making his Slam debut, thanks to claiming two Challenger titles in November to earn his wild card.

Naomi Osaka (13) vs. Madison Brengle – Osaka won comfortably in the opening round, while Brengle beat Dayana Yastremska by the bizarre score line of 6-1, 0-6, 5-0(RET), with Yastremska retiring one game from defeat. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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