By Matthew Marolf
At the start of this fortnight, there were 109 Major singles titles represented in the singles draws, Despite many former champions bowing out in the first round, we still have 91 of those championships present as the second round commences.
53 of those titles are owned by “The Big Three.” It’s now been 17 years since someone not named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, or Murray claimed the gentlemen’s singes trophy. That seems unlikely to change this year, but who will step up to challenge those all-time greats in this tournament?
Karen Khackanov (10) vs. Feliciano Lopez
It’s the Paris Indoors champ from last fall against the Queen’s Club champ from just 10 days ago. Khachanov won both of their previous meetings, including earlier this year in Indian Wells, though both matches were played on hard courts. The 37-year-old Spaniard set a record on Monday by appearing in his 70th consecutive Grand Slam singles draw. Wimbledon has been his best Major in his career, having reached the quarterfinals three times, though not since 2011. Lopez was actually a double champion at Queen’s Club last month: not only prevailing in the singles event, but also teaming with Andy Murray to take the doubles title.
Meanwhile the 23-year-old Russian struggled this season after winning his first Masters 1,000 event to close out 2018, with almost as many losses as wins in the first six months of this year. He did however gain some traction by advancing to his first Major quarterfinal last month at Roland Garros. While low-bouncing grass courts would normally favour the slicing and serve-and-volleying of Lopez, the 6’6” Khachanov is no slouch on the grass, and will like hearing the reports of the ball bouncing higher than usual on these courts. This could easily become an extended affair, which might also favor the significantly younger No.10 seed. I give him the slight edge to overcome Feliciano on this day.
Sofia Kenin (27) vs. Dayana Yastremska
There are few WTA players with more confidence right now than Kenin. The 20-year-old American upset Serena Williams at the French Open, then saved three match points against Belinda Bencic to win her second title of 2019 on the grass of Mallorca. In her second round, she faces a 19-year-old Ukranian who is a former junior Wimbledon finalist.
And Yastremska also has two titles in 2019, having won in both Hua Hin and Strasbourg. That Strasbourg run included wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Caroline Garcia. On Monday, Dayana took out the always-dangerous Camila Giorgi in her Wimbledon main draw debut. Both of these players prefer to go for their shots and dictate play, so the one who maintains the lower unforced error count will likely prevail. In what could be a preview of a matchup for years to come, the more experienced Kenin is the favourite.
Stan Wawrinka (22) vs. Reilly Opelka
At the only Major he’s never won, Wawrinka could be a force on these slower-paced grass courts if he can reach the second week. Stan was twice a quarterfinalist here, in 2014 and 2015, but is a meek 3-4 here since that time. And the 6’11” 21-year-old American is not an easy draw on this surface regardless of how the courts are playing. Opelka can be an acing machine, and easily won his Wimbledon debut on Monday in straight sets.
Earlier this year, he won his first ATP title at the New York Open. Reilly is a player that could be a force at SW19 in the future. But for now, Wawrinka will cherish the small amount of extra time these courts will allow to return Opelka’s booming serves, and should find his way through this tricky second round opponent. If he does, he may face Milos Raonic on Friday in a blockbuster third round matchup.
Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Danielle Collins
It will be the in-your-face style and power game of Collins against the oft-negative attitude and stylish guile of Sevastova. The 25-year-old American had never won a match at a Major prior to her surprising run to the Australian Open semi-finals six months ago. Sevastova also reached her first Slam semi-final within the past twelve months, though she’s been a consistent presence on tour for several seasons now.
Collins has been unsuccessful in following up on her Melbourne result, only once winning back-to-back matches since January. She has a losing career record on grass, while Anastasija has 19 wins on this surface since 2016. The defence and slicing of Sevastova should be enough to curtail Collins’ offense and force enough errors for the Latvian to reach the third round of Wimbledon for the first time.
Daniil Medvedev (11) vs. Alexei Popyrin (Q)
Medvedev has become one of the ATP’s strongest performers, and currently sits in sixth place in the year-to-date rankings. Over the past twelve months, he’s accumulated 57 match wins, which includes three titles. The 6’6” Russian has a game well-suited for grass, and is coming off a semi-final appearance two weeks ago at Queen’s Club.
His 19-year-old opponent made his first impression on the tennis world six months ago in his home country of Australia, where he upset Dominic Thiem and pushed Lucas Pouille to five sets. In a straight sets win on Monday over Pablo Carreno Busta, Popyrin hit 56 winners and won 87% of first serve points. Alexei possesses enough power where he can dictate the outcome here, but the challenge will be maintaining a high level for three sets against a steadier player the calibre of Medvedev.
Other notable matches on Day 3:
Defending champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Denis Kudla, a 26-year-old American who reached the fourth round here in 2015.
Last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson (4) vs. 35-year-old Janko Tipsarevic, who claimed a five-setter over Yoshihito Nishioka on Monday.
Karolina Pliskova (3), who already has three titles in 2019, vs. 2016 OIympic gold medalist Monica Puig. Pliskova has claimed all four of their previous meetings.
Simona Halep (7) vs. fellow Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, who has just eight match wins since injuring her ankle in Montreal last August.
Monday’s biggest headline-maker Coco Gauff (Q) vs. 2017 semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova. Can the 15-year-old build upon her breakout win over Venus Williams?
Quarantine Drama: Players And Support Staff Warned For ‘Challenging Behaviour’ Amid Argument Over Rules
Officials and players are at a disagreement over the rules concerning who is deemed a ‘close contact’ of somebody who test positive for COVID-19.
The Commissioner for COVID-19 Quarantine in Victoria says she will tolerate no rule breaking by those staying in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open after a fourth confirmed test emerged on Sunday.
Emma Cassar said that there have been incidents of ‘challenging behaviour’ from both players and members of their teams in relation to the rules set out. Due to the pandemic, everybody has to go into a 14-day quarantine but the process has turned more complicated following a series of positive tests by those travelling on plans funded by Tennis Australia. The latest case involves a member of the broadcast team flying from Los Angeles.
The Australian government has ruled that everybody on board a plane where somebody has tested positive for the virus must go into a stricter form of quarantine where they must remain in their room and are not allowed to train outside. This has affected more than 40 players on two different flights from Abu Dhabi and another from Los Angeles. As it currently stands 62 people have been deemed close contacts of the four cases, three of which were announced on Saturday, according to Fox Australia.
To add to the drama, Cassar has confirmed that some players and their team members have already been given a warning for what she says is ‘challenging behaviour.’ Branding their actions as ‘dangerous acts that we can’t tolerate.’
“I can give you two examples – a player who opened his door to try and have a conversation with his training mate down the hallway. Again, he’s got a phone, you can pick up the phone and use the telephone as opposed to putting you and others at risk,” she said.
“The other was another gentleman who shouted some UberEats to some other people on the floor and was praising his great efforts and opened his door to do so.
“It is very low level, but they are dangerous acts that we cannot tolerate … they have been formerly warned, and Victoria Police will continue to follow up those who haven’t been spoken to yet.”
Even more extraordinary is the confirmation that extra police have been sent to the hotels where players are quarantined. Repeat offenders have been warned they could be fined or even transferred to a ‘complexed care hotel’ where a police officer stays outside their door.
Did the players know?
In regards to the quarantine process, some have questioned the transparency of the rules which has been set out. Critics have argued that they were never informed that should someone test positive on a plane everybody on board would have to isolate for 14 days.
World No.12 Belinda Bencic has gone as far as saying that the rules have been changed upon arrival in Melbourne. A view that has also been expressed by Alize Cornet, Yulia Putintseva and Sorana Cirstea.
“We made our decision to come here from rules that were sent to us. Then we arrived and received an information/rule book with more/new rules that we did not know about,” Bencic wrote on Twitter.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has addressed those statements by saying that all players were informed that this would be a possible scenario that they would face. Leading up to the quarantine, all players and their teams should have been sent documents detailing their stay.
“The determination of who was and who wasn’t a close contact was going to be entirely up to the health department, and they’re doing what is necessary in order to keep our community safe,” he told Channel 9 TV.
“Obviously what has changed over the last several weeks is the new UK strain, which is more infectious, and there’s obviously a great desire by all of us to make sure that doesn’t come into our community.
Although the motion that the rules have changed in some capacity is disputed by Commissioner Cessar who stated that no adjustments to the policy will be made in the coming days.
“The rules of close contacts haven’t changed, and there’s no other way you can consider this. If you’re on a plane for 16 to 24 hours in air that circulates throughout the plane, you are a close contact,” she said.
“The program is set up to keep people safe. We will not be modifying the program or watering it down under any circumstances.”
Whilst there are ongoing discussions concerning the scheduling of tournaments taking place during the first week of February, Tiley has confirmed that the Australian Open start date of February 8th will remain unchanged.
24 Players In Isolation After Positive COVID-19 Tests On Australian Open Charter Flight
It is understood that Kei Nishikori and Victoria Azarenka are among those to be affected by the latest development.
Tennis Australia has been dealt a new blow to their preparations for the Melbourne Grand Slam after it was confirmed two people tested positive for COVID-19 on one of their flights.
A member of the flight crew and one passenger who was on Flight QR793 from Los Angeles Airport have tested positive for the virus. It has been reported by journalist Pablo Amalfitano that the coach of Lauren Davis, Edward Elliot, is the passenger who has tested positive. Although he reportedly claims that the result is a false positive.
A total of 79 people were on the flight with 24 of those being players such as Kei Nishikori, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Alison Riske, Vaskek Pospisil and Tennys Sandgren. Sandgren did test positive prior to the fight but was given the all clear to travel after it was deemed that he was ‘viral shedding.’
Due to their possible exposure to COVID-19 Australian health officials have instructed all players to isolate for 14 days and they will not be allowed to leave their room to train in what will be a big setback to their preparations.
“The Chief Health Officer has reviewed the flight and has determined that everyone on board needs to isolate and will be confined to their rooms for the 14-day quarantine,” a leaked email sent to players read. “We know this is not how you imagined your preparations for the AO would start but our entire team is here to support you and do everything that we can to get you through this.”
News of the positive tests was first reported online by the players themselves after they uploaded a leaked email detailing what had happened before Tennis Australia had a chance to publish a statement.
“We are communicating with everyone on this flight, and particularly the playing group whose conditions have now changed, to ensure their needs are being catered to as much as possible, and that they are fully appraised of the situation,” Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley commented.
“Our thoughts are with the two people who tested positive on the flight and we wish them well for their recovery.”
Doubles specialist Artem Sitak, who was on board the plane, commented on the situation by giving an update to his followers on Instagram. The Russian-born New Zealand player is currently ranked 78th in the world and has won five ATP titles so far in his career.
“We’re all deemed close contact. I asked for a bike, so hopefully I’ll get one and stay in shape,” Sitak said. “We’ll probably be out on the 29th of January and head straight into the ATP 250 a few days after.
“Obviously not great, but that’s the risk we were all taking. They kind of warned us this was going to be at the discretion of the Australian government, Australian health authorities if something like this happened. It’s just unlucky that two of them contracted the virus.”
In a later update the 34-year-old confirmed that he has had a bike delivered to his room. |
Meanwhile, Japanese media have confirmed that all of Nishikori’s team has tested negative for the virus but the former US Open finalist will be training alone in his room.
The first series of tournaments are set to take place in Melbourne a week before the Australian Open on January 31st.
List of affected players
- Victoria Azarenka
- Sloane Stephens
- Kei Nishikori
- Tennys Sandgren
- Nicholas Monroe
- Santiago Gonzalez
- Artem Sitak
- Guido Pella
- Alison Riske
- Marcos Giron
- Vasek Pospisil
Note – list is incomplete and compiled via news agencies
Tennis Australia Back Tennys Sandgren To Fly Internationally Despite Positive COVID-19 Test
The world No.50 is said to be allowed to fly following intervention from tennis boss Craig Tiley.
Tennis Australia has insisted that adequate health and safety protocols are being followed after it was confirmed that one player will be allowed to enter their bio-secure bubble less than a week after testing positive for CVOVID-19.
Tennys Sandgren, who reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open last year, posted a series of tweets detailing his dilemma. The American said he tested positive for a second time on Monday after also doing so during Thanksgiving before going on to cast doubt on his abilities to travel. However, in a separate tweet written less than two hours later he confirmed that he was on a plane before calling Australian Open director Craig Tiley ‘a wizard’ for his intervention.
“Wait, hold on I think they are trying to get me on 15 minuets after the plane was supposed to depart.. my bags still aren’t checked,” Sandgren wrote.
“Wow I’m on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath too long.. Craig Tiley is a wizard,” he later added.
The decision to allow Sandgren to head to the ‘bio-secure bubble’ in Melbourne comes amid what has been dubbed as one of the strictest COVID-19 measurements taken by a country for athletes. All players arriving in Australia are required to go through a 14-day quarantine period where they will be only allowed to leave their rooms for training. Should anybody break the rules they face a fine of up to AUS$20,000 and even deportation.
As to why Sandgren is allowed to enter the bubble despite testing positive is a due to the fact those who recover from the virus can still continue to test positive over the coming weeks. Tennis Australia says their decision has been made after the local health authority reviewed Sandgren’s medical file. Although it is unclear as to what evidence they had to prove that Sandgren didn’t contract the virus for a second time which is possible.
“In the case of Tennys Sandgren, who has self-disclosed that he previously tested positive in late November, his medical file had to be reviewed by Victorian health authorities,” a Tennis Australia statement reads.
“Upon completion of that review he was cleared to fly. Any recovered case must go through this process in order to have an opportunity to travel here for the Australian Open . No one can travel without either proof of a negative test or this special clearance from authorities confirming they are not infectious.’
“Upon arrival all players are immediately placed in a secure quarantine environment for 14 days under the authority of COVID Quarantine Victoria, and will undergo a more rigorous testing schedule than most returning travellers.”
Lisa Neville, who is the Australian Minister for Police and Emergency Services, confirmed that Sandgren has been declared as somebody who is ‘viral shedding from a previous virus’ according to health experts. Neville also stated that anybody who test positive for COVID-19 the first time or are ‘infectious’ would not be allowed to play in the Grand Slam.
It is estimated that around 1200 players and their teams will be landing in Australia within the next few days to begin their quarantine. Under protocols set out by the local government and Tennis Australia, they will all be subject to daily COVID-19 tests and allowed to train upto five hours a day. Most of the players will be staying at hotels in Melbourne however, the top three players on both the ATP and WTA Tour’s will be staying in Adelaide.
The Australian Open will start on February 8th.
The ATP updates the 2021 calendar with two new tournaments in Singapore and Marbella
EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Players Can’t Act Like Spoilt People’
Roberto Bautista Agut apologizes after comparing the Australian Open bubble to prison
Veronika Kudermetova builds up to the Australian Open with confidence after her breakthrough tournament in Abu Dhabi
Rafael Nadal joins star-studded Rotterdam field
Ion Tiriac Launches Fresh Tirade Against Serena Williams
REPORT: Novak Djokovic Sends Letter To Australian Open Chief Over Quarantine Measures
Fitness Not The Reason Behind Roger Federer’s Australian Open Withdrawal, Says Official
Australian Open Champion Sofia Kenin Loses Management Contract
EXCLUSIVE: How Matt Roberts Became One Of The Voices Behind The Tennis Podcast
Steve Flink: “Medvedev Deserved To Win, But Is This Really The Onset Of A New Era?”
Steve Flink On The Decline Of American Men’s Tennis: “We Need To Start Attracting The Best Athletes Again”
French Open, Steve Flink: “Nadal is inhuman. He can play three or four more years and retire with Djokovic”
Scanagatta And Flink: “We Both Think Djokovic Will Win The French Open, So Nadal Will Definitely Pull It Off!”
Steve Flink: “Djokovic Will Be Happy About The French Open Draw”
Latest news2 days ago
Novak Djokovic announces his schedule for the 2021 season
Hot Topics1 day ago
Novak Djokovic Never Demanded Changes To Quarantine Rules, Says Tennis Australia
Hot Topics2 days ago
Novak Djokovic’s Quarantine Letter Fails To Win Over Officials
Hot Topics1 day ago
Victoria Azarenka Calls For Calm As Two Australian Open Players Test Positive For COVID-19
ATP2 days ago
Alexander Zverev Ditches Federer’s TEAM8 Management Firm To Return To His ‘Roots’
Focus2 days ago
Who Are The Best Hard Court Creators In The Last 12 Months?
Davis Cup2 days ago
Davis Cup Finals To Be Extended To 11 Days But With Fewer Teams
Hot Topics1 day ago
What Does The Future Hold For Ekaterina Alexandrova?