Wimbledon Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Thursday’s schedule is headlined by the much talked about second round matchup between Rafael Nadal and Kick Kyrgios.

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Nick Kyrgios (@Wimbledon - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

Serena Williams and Roger Federer will be heavy favorites today against opponents ranked outside the top 100, but Nadal gets to deal with the curious case of Nick Kyrgios.  Meanwhile the women’s No.1 as well as the defending champion has been banished to No.2 Court, in a baffling decision by the scheduling department.  But that shows just how loaded these halves of the singles draws are on what should be an extremely compelling Day 4 at The Championships.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Nick Kyrgios

Five years ago here at Wimbledon, Kyrgios made a name for himself by dismissing Nadal on Centre Court in the round of 16. That was Nick’s first of two times advancing to a Major quarterfinal, but it’s been over four years since he’s repeated that feat. The 24-year-old Australian now finds himself ranked outside the top 40, with only 19 wins over the past 52 weeks. But the often-uninvested Kyrgios usually gets up for matches against “The Big Three,” and he upset Nadal earlier this year in Acapulco on his way to that title.

Rafa presented Nick with a less-than-thrilled handshake following that loss, as there’s definitely some bad blood between these two. On the No Challenges Remaining podcast in May, Kyrgios described Nadal as acting “salty” whenever Nick defeats him. Rafa, like many, respects Nick’s talent, though not all his on-court antics, or all-too-common lack of effort. This all makes for a highly anticipated return to Centre Court for this rivalry, which is tied at 3-3 heading into today.

It will be crucial for Kyrgios to get an early lead and get into Nadal’s head, especially in a best-of-five match that significantly favors the fitness and fighting spirit of Rafa. In the past, there’s been times when Nadal has been rattled by opponents who do not show him full respect, such as Robin Soderling. But I expect Nadal to take Kyrgios out rather easily today.  He’ll be eager to avenge his loss here from 2014, and Nick has not been playing well or focusing well of late.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck

Ash Barty (@TennisAustralia – Twitter)

The French Open and Birmingham champion is on a 13-match win streak, but runs into a tricky opponent in her second round. Van Uytvanck made the round of 16 here a year ago, with upsets over Garbine Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit. And she took out two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Tuesday. The 25-year-old from Belgium has flat groundstrokes well-suited for the grass, though no WTA player’s game may be better suited for grass than that of the world No.1. In their only previous meeting, Barty prevailed last summer at the Rogers Cup in straight sets. With all the confidence she’s currently playing with, I suspect we’ll see a similar result here.

Petra Kvitova (3) vs. Kiki Mladenovic

Petra Kvitova (@WilsonTennis – Twitter)

Kvitova looked to be in fine form on Tuesday despite the left arm injury that forced her to miss over a month of action. Petra has beaten Kiki seven of the eight times they’ve played, though Mladenovic has been a much more confident player since adding Sascha Bajin to her team. That being said, grass is historically Mladenovic’s worst surface, as she has a losing record at SW19. This should be rather smooth sailing for the two-time champion, but will be a good indication of just how serious a contender Kvitova should be considered.

Jan-Lennard Struff (33) vs. Taylor Fritz

This is a rare second round encounter between two players ranked 33rd or higher in the world. Struff got bumped up into a seeded position in the draw when Borna Coric withdrew from the tournament. And Fritz is now actually ranked slightly higher than Struff thanks to his title win last week in Eastbourne, a result that occurred after the seedings for this tournament were set.

The 29-year-old German is nearly a decade older than Fritz, but the veteran is coming off his best result at a Major, having made the fourth round of Roland Garros six weeks ago. Both men are currently at career-high rankings, and both easily won their first round matches in straight sets. In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to Fritz, who is on a six-match grass court winning streak, and seems the more comfortable player on this surface.

Matteo Berrettini (17) vs. Marcos Baghdatis

The 34-year-old Cypriot has announced he will retire after this tournament. A semi-finalist here in 2006, Baghdatis has spent most of this season playing challenger events, as he’s ranked outside the top 100. Marcos got a solid, straight set win in the first round, though he now faces one of the fastest-rising stars on tour. The 23-year-old Italian started the year ranked outside the top 50, but recently debuted inside the top 20 after claiming two titles within two months. Berrettini triumphed on clay in Budapest as well as on grass in Stuttgart. Matteo is obviously comfortable on grass, as he also reached the semis in Halle. In his title run in Stuttgart, he didn’t face a break point the entire week.  Based on Berrettini’s current level, this will likely be the swan song for the ever-likable Baghdatis.

Other notable matches on Day 4:

Seven-time champion Serena Williams (11) vs. Kaja Juvan (Q), an 18-year-old from Slovenia.

Eight-time champion Roger Federer (2) vs. Jay Clarke (WC), a 20-year-old from Great Britain.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber (5) vs. Lauren Davis (LL), who has struggled mightily since her epic match with Simona Halep at the 2018 Australian Open.

Kei Nishikori (8) vs. Cameron Norrie, a 23-year-old and current British No.2.

Kiki Bertens (4) vs. Taylor Townshend, a 23-year-old lefty from the United States.

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Johanna Konta Speaks About Charity Work Ahead Of Second Half Of Season

Johanna Konta talks about her work with charity as she looks to end the season strong.

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Johanna Konta (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Johanna Konta has spoken about her charity work as she prepares for the final grand slam of the season. 

 

It has been an encouraging 2019 so far for the Brit after reaching the finals in Rabat and Madrid as well as reaching the last four at Roland Garros.

Although that was met with disappointment and criticism at Wimbledon after her quarter-final exit to Barbora Strycova, Konta is looking to continue the momentum in the American summer.

However for now, the world number 15 is taking her mind off tennis to focus on her charity work and in particular tackling homelessness.

Recently Konta visited the prime minister on the subject and spoke to the WTA Website about why she feels passionately about homelessness, “Homelessness has always been a big thing that’s close to my heart, that I want to help,” Konta said.

“I met a young lady called Kenny, who has come through Centre Point and it’s through them that she’s got her shift here with The Clink.”

The Brit is an ambassador for the charity CentrePoint, who support young homeless people in London since 1969 as homelessness has been a big problem in the UK.

The Clink provided catering for the event an 10 Downing Street, which was about bringing young people who are at risk of violence and helping them talk to businesses and role models to see how they can not take to crime.

On her visit, Konta explained why it was a dream come true to go to 10 Downing Street, “I feel like you’re walking through history, especially as you walk up the stairs and you see all the Prime Ministers through time. It’s inspiring and I feel very lucky.”

Next for Konta is the Rogers Cup in Toronto, which starts on the 5th of August as she prepares for the final grand slam of the year at the US Open.

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Wimbledon Day 13 Preview: The Gentlemen’s Final

In a championship match with significant GOAT implications, Roger Federer plays for a record-extending 21st Major, as Djokovic defends his title and vies for his 16th.

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Roger Federer (@Wimbledon - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

In 25 days, Roger Federer will turn 38 years of age. Remarkably, here he is in his 31st Major final, and his 12th at The All England Club. His most recent Slam final came 18 months ago in Australia, where he defeated Marin Cilic in five sets. Playing the French Open last month for the first time since 2015, and advancing to the semi-finals on his worst surface, provided Roger with considerable confidence. After falling to Rafael Nadal in Paris, he avenged that loss here on Friday in a thrilling semi-final. But in order to win his ninth Wimbledon, he’ll need to do something he’s never done before: defeat both Nadal and Djokovic at the same Grand Slam event.

One year ago, Novak Djokovic arrived at SW19 ranked outside the top 20. After holding all four Majors at once, he hadn’t claimed another in over two years. But a semi-final victory over Nadal would propel Djokovic to win three consecutive Slams. He’s now the definitive world No.1, and looks to pull within four Major titles of Federer, and within two of Nadal.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roger Federer (2)

This is their third time playing in the gentlemen’s singles final. In 2014, Djokovic pulled out the win in five sets, a turning point in Novak’s career having lost his last five Major Finals outside of Australia. A year later, Djokovic prevailed in four. Overall Novak has the slight edge in their head-to-head 25-22, and has taken eight of their last 10 meetings. At Majors, Djokovic leads 9-6, and hasn’t lost to Federer at a Slam in seven years, which was their first Wimbledon matchup in the 2012 semi-finals.

Both men needed three sets and about three hours to win their semi-finals, though Federer’s match against Nadal was the tighter and more draining affair. For Roger, coming back less than 48 hours later to play the other GOAT contender, who is also nearly six years younger than Federer, is a huge ask. But if Roger plays with the same energy he did on Friday, he has a shot. He’ll need to serve even better than in the semi-finals, as he faces the best returner in the game.

The crowd could play a critical role here. They’ll undoubtedly be raucously behind Roger, and we saw on Friday against Roberto Bautista Agut how bothered Novak can get by crowds cheering for his opponent. He receives it as disrespect, though he often seems to thrive on it. But Novak would be wise to not outwardly mock the Centre Court audience today, as it will only increase their enthusiasm for Federer. On paper, Djokovic is a solid favourite. There’s no real weakness in his game, and the best-of-five format plays to his advantage, especially if this goes the distance.

However, we saw on Friday the magic Roger is still capable of on Centre Court. He’ll know this may be one of his last chances to win a Major, though will that inspire him or unsettle him? We saw Serena Williams tighten up under similar circumstances yesterday. While I don’t think this will be a blowout like the ladies’ championship match, Djokovic will be too much for Federer to overcome in the end. Novak will be joining Simona Halep at the champions ball on Sunday evening.

Other notable matches on Day 13:

In the ladies’ doubles final re-scheduled for today due to the length of the gentlemen’s doubles final, singles standouts Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (3) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu (4), who upset the defending champion in the semi-finals.  Singles semi-finalist Strycova would become the new doubles No.1 with a win today.

In the mixed doubles final, which has unfortunately been bumped to No.1 Court, French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Latisha Chan (8) vs. 42-year-old Roberto Lindstedt and Jelena Ostapenko, who is a former junior champion here, and was a singles semifinalist a year ago.

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Wimbledon Day 12 Preview: The Ladies’ Final

Serena Williams goes for a record-tying 24th Major, while Simona Halep tries to solidify her Hall of Fame resume with her second.

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Serena Williams (@SI_Tennis - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

A year ago at The All England Club, Serena played in her first Major final in 18 months, in just her fourth tournament after a life-threatening child birth. She was outplayed on that day by Angelique Kerber. Two months later in New York, she again reached the final. But in highly controversial fashion, she went down in defeat again to Naomi Osaka.

As usual, Serena did not play for the rest of 2018. And she spent the first six months of this season battling injuries, only playing 12 matches ahead of this fortnight. But as she has so many times, Serena has rounded into form as Wimbledon progressed. This is the moment of redemption she’s been waiting for since last September’s US Open, where she feels she was treated unjustly.

Despite cutting her 2018 season short due to a back injury, Halep ended the year as the world No.1 for the second consecutive time. And after Darren Cahill stepped down as her coach in the offseason, she went without a title for the first six months of this year, and dropped to No.7 in the rankings.

Now on her worst surface, she’s into her fifth Major final. Simona only dropped one set on the way to this championship match, and has spoken of how she finally feels fully comfortable on the grass.

Simona Halep (7) vs. Serena Williams (11)

Serena has owned Halep throughout their careers. Their head-to-head is 9-1 in Serena’s favour, with Simona’s only victory coming in the round robin phase of the 2014 WTA finals on an indoor hard court. It’s worth noting that just a few days later, Serena avenged that loss in the final, dropping just three games. Their only match on grass was their first, here at Wimbledon in 2011. Serena took that in three sets over a young and undeveloped Halep.

Their most recent meeting was six months ago in the fourth round of the Australian Open, which Serena also won in three. As with so many of her matches, if Serena plays her best, it’s hard to imagine her losing. Her movement, which was so hampered at Roland Garros due to her knee, has improved as this fortnight has progressed.

But Halep won’t be overwhelmed by this moment or this opponent, and has the consistency and movement to push Serena, especially if the GOAT gets tight. Simona will desperately need to get in a high percentage of first serves, as Serena will crush her soft second ones. While the nerves will certainly be present for Serena, I think her determination will defeat her nerves in the end, as she will Halep.

Other notable matches on Day 12:

In the gentlemen’s doubles final, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (2), easily the best doubles team in the world this year, vs. the French team of 37-year-old Nicolas Mahut and 35-year-old Edouard Roger-Vasselin (11).

In the ladies’ doubles final, singles standouts Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (3) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu (4), who upset the defending champion in the semi-finals.  Singles semi-finalist Strycova would become the new doubles No.1 with a win today.

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