Wimbledon Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Wimbledon Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Saturday’s schedule is simply stellar, with 65 Major singles championships represented in these halves of the ladies’ and gentlemen’s draws.

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Johanna Konta (@LTA - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

The British No.1 will face the 2017 US Open champion. A 23-time Major singles champion gets an early test in a rematch from last year’s semi-finals. A 20-time Major singles champion runs into his first seeded opposition, in a Slam semi-finalist from earlier this year. And an 18-time Major singles champion takes on a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist. Who will survive and advance to the second week of The Championships?

Sloane Stephens (9) vs. Johanna Konta (19)

This is a rematch from the French Open quarterfinals last month, when Konta put on quite a serving display and easily dispatched of last year’s Roland Garros finalist. A semi-finalist at her home Slam two years ago, Johanna saw her ranking drop as low as 50th in the world last year during a severely rough patch in her career.

And while clay was never a good surface for Konta, she went on a terra baute tear this season, rediscovering her mojo. Johanna is now 3-0 against Sloane, with all those victories coming in 2019. And her serve should do even more damage on the grass. With the British crowd on No.1 Court firmly behind her, I like Konta’s chances to make it 4-0 against Stephens.

Serena Williams (11) vs. Julia Goerges (18)

Speaking of 4-0, that’s Serena’s record against Goerges. She’s never even dropped a set to the 30-year-old German.  In last year’s semi-finals, Serena prevailed 6-2, 6-4. But Williams has battled injuries throughout 2019, and her slowed movement has been evident in her first two matches during this fortnight.

And that could prove costly when facing the offensive weapons of Goerges on this surface. Julia has been playing good grass court tennis, advancing to the final in Birmingham a few weeks ago. While this matchup still favours the seven-time champion, I expect Goerges to make this a much tighter battle than their previous encounters.

Roger Federer (2) vs. Lucas Pouille (27)

Roger Federer (@ATP_Tour – Twitter)

The 25-year-old Frenchman was a quarterfinalist here three years ago, and followed that up by also reaching the quarters in New York. In an impressive effort, Pouille took out Rafael Nadal in a fifth set tiebreak in the 2016 US Open. But he underperformed in the next two seasons, leading to him hiring 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach. The results came immediately, as Lucas reached his first Slam semi-final in Australia six months ago.

But the success did not last, as Pouille subsequently lost in the opening round of his next five tournaments. He reacted by playing a challenger event in Bordeaux, which got him back on the winning track as he claimed that clay court title. Lucas then went on to lose a heart-breaking five-setter to Martin Klizan in the second round of his home Major, though he did pick up a few impressive grass court wins over Feliciano Lopez and Daniil Medvedev leading up to this event.

Pouille was defeated in straight sets in his only previous match against Federer, which was five years ago on a hard court. After dropping the opening set of his first round match, Roger has looked sharp this first week. While Pouille will be his first true test here, Federer should advance comfortably. Lucas does not possess the fire power to trouble Roger on his favourite surface.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Tsonga holds a relatively strong 4-7 record against this all-time great, which includes a win in their only grass court meeting. However, that was eight years ago, and in a best-of-three match at Queen’s Club. And it’s been a challenging few years for the 34-year-old Frenchman. After undergoing knee surgery last year, Tsonga ended 2018 ranked outside the top 200.

Despite that, he’s been able to accumulate 21 tour-level wins this season. And a few weeks ago in Halle, he pushed Federer all the way to 7-5 in the third before going down in defeat. He’ll likely embrace the opportunity to return to Centre Court, and always has a chance on this surface when he’s firing winners.

But Nadal is currently in top form, and will feel even more confident after eliminating Nick Kyrgios in a contentious second round match on Thursday. After several years of early round exists at SW19, Rafa should smoothly navigate his way to the second week of Wimbledon for the third straight year.

Kiki Bertens (4) vs. Barbora Strycova

The No.4 seed is lucky to still be alive in this tournament. American Taylor Townsend had an easy forehand on match point in the second round, but dumped it into the net. Bertens was able to then take the second set in a tiebreak, and ran away with the third 6-2. While she’ll find relief in having a second life this fortnight, the competition only intensifies here.

Strycova reached her only Major quarterfinal five years ago here, and has a game well-suited for the grass. Also, the 33-year-old Czech beat Bertens in their only previous meeting. Kiki herself was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, a surprising result considering her losing record at The All England Club up until that time. Strycova is still a threat, though her best singles days are likely behind her. Bertens should play more freely today after surviving Thursday’s scare, and book herself a spot on Manic Monday.

Other notable matches on Day 6:

French Open champion Ash Barty (1) vs. 22-year-old Brit Harriet Dart.

Two-Time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (3) vs. Magda Linette, who upset Amanda Anisimova in the last round.

Kei Nishikori (8) vs. Steve Johnson, who survived a five setter over Alex de Minaur two days ago.

In the second round of the gentlemen’s doubles, Andy Murray and Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs. Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor (6).

And in their debut as a team, and their respective second matches of the day, Andy Murray and Serena Williams vs. Andreas Mies and Alexa Guarachi.

Grand Slam

Simona Halep To Change Grand Slam Schedule Ahead of Olympics

The Romanian is set to play extra events in the majors in a bid to boost her chances of winning a medal in Tokyo.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep has her eyes set on winning more than one medal at the 2020 Olympic Games after confirming she will play extra matches during three grand slam tournaments next year.

 

The 28-year-old intends to participate in the mixed doubles along with a yet to be decided compatriot. It will be a rare appearance for Halep, who has only played in two mixed doubles tournaments throughout her professional career so far. Doing so at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open with Horia Tacu.

Despite her lack of experience in the discipline, the Romanian is hoping to build some momentum in the grand slams next year. A two-time grand slam champion, she has focused solely on singles competition at every major for over four years.

“I have only Melbourne, maybe French Open, and grass. Grass is a little bit dangerous because the surface is tough and you can get hurt a little bit with the men’s serve.” Halep told reporters in Beijing.
“But the goal is to play all the time mixed doubles with my partner to get used to the game, to be able to achieve a good result at the Olympics.”

Halep made her Olympic debut back in 2012, but opted not to play in the 2016 edition. In London she lost in the first round of both the singles and women’s doubles competition. Halep is bidding to become only the third Romanian tennis player in history to win an Olympic medal. Following in the footsteps of Tecau and Florin Mergea, who won a silver medal together in Rio 2016.

“I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfil everything I have done in tennis,” Halep said following her triumph at Wimbledon in July. “It is a chance to play for my country and I have always loved to do that. The disappointment from [losing in Fed Cup] this year really hurt me so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream.”

The world No.6 has also been confirmed as her country’s flag-bearer for the upcoming event in Tokyo.

Playing through the pain

Whilst her long-term goal has been set out, Halep’s focus for the immediate future is on this week’s China Open. She kicked-off her campaign on Sunday with a clinical 6-1, 6-1, win over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Peterson was her first real test since withdrawing from Wuhan due to a back injury. Whilst the score looks positive, she is not getting too ahead of herself.

“I’m not 100 percent recovered, I still feel pain,” said the sixth seed.
“Always when you have an injury, it’s a little bit risky.
“But I accepted it, I took the risk.”

A former runner-up of the tournament, Halep is hopeful of having a strong run. Beijing is her first tournament since turning 28 on Friday. To mark the occasion, she celebrated the milestone at one of the world’s most prestigious landmarks.

“Every year it’s nice to come back here,” she said. “This tournament’s a big tournament and important for everybody, and the atmosphere is very nice. You can see everyone is focused on their job.
“This year I celebrated my birthday at the Great Wall. It was actually the first time I’ve visited the Great Wall after coming here many years in a row. I think it’s going to be a good week for me—even if I was a little bit injured last week, I feel good now. I’m feeling good to play and to win matches.”

Halep will play Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round on Monday.

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ATP

Roger Federer Can Win Australian Open, Says Laver

The 81-year-old speaks out about the world No.3.

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Roger Federer (@usopen on Twitter)

Tennis legend Rod Laver has back world No.3 Roger Federer to add to his record-breaking grand slam tally in the future.

 

The 38-year-old currently holds the record for most major singles won by a man at 20. However, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are closing in on that tally. Djokovic is currently on 16 and Nadal in one adrift on 19 following his latest triumph at the US Open. Meanwhile, Federer has only featured in the final in one out of the last six grand slam tournaments. Doing so at Wimbledon in July where he failed to convert two championship points against Djokovic. His last major title took place at the 2017 Australian Open.

Despite the recent lack of major silverware for the Swiss Maestro, Australian great Laver believes he can still challenge for the biggest titles in the sport. Saying that it is possible that Federer could continue playing until the age of 40.

“He seems to be fine and that’s what counts. If you love the game as much as you do, that’s fine.” He commented on Federer’s longevity in the sport.
“I also give Roger a very good chance of winning the Australian Open again in Melbourne in January.”

Laver admits that it is possible that the two other members of the Big Three could end their careers with more titles than Federer. Nadal is five years younger than him and Djokovic is six. However, he believes there is one thing that separates him from the others.

“Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all big champions. But Roger surpasses tennis, the world of sport, and sports in general in a way that no one in history has done before him. He is the most recognized athlete in the world and a figurehead for this great game.

The first encounter between Laver and Federer took place 13 years ago in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Since then, the two have formed a bond with Laver saying they ‘clicked’ straight away.

The biggest example of the friendship between the two is perhaps best illustrated by the Laver Cup. An annual team tournament where Europe takes on the rest of the world. Similar to that of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Named in honour of the tennis great, Federer is one of the co-founders of the event. Which has since been granted a place within the ATP Calendar. Although no ranking points are on offer.

This year’s edition will be held in Switzerland for the first time. Critics have been quick to point out the disparity between the two teams. Europe consists of all players ranked inside the top 20 compared to one from the world team. However, Laver dismissed the significance.

“I do not think so. The team World has excelled in both Laver Cups in doubles and also celebrated one or two big victories in singles. I expect it to be exciting.” He said.

The three-day 2019 Laver Cup will get underway in Geneva on Friday.

List of players participating

 Team Europe
Captain:  Björn Borg
Vice-captain:  Thomas Enqvist
Player Rank
 Rafael Nadal 2
 Roger Federer 3
 Dominic Thiem 5
 Alexander Zverev 6
 Stefanos Tsitsipas 7
 Fabio Fognini 11
 Team World
Captain:  John McEnroe
Vice-captain:  Patrick McEnroe
Player Rank
 John Isner 20
 Milos Raonic 24
 Nick Kyrgios 27
 Taylor Fritz 30
 Denis Shapovalov 33
 Jack Sock 208

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Grand Slam

Daniil Medvedev Gave Rafa Fans The Scare Of A Lifetime

Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on the US Open men’s final and what the future might have in store.

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NEW YORK — Rafa, you gave your followers quite a scare.

 

No. 19 looked like it was in the books when you got the first break point of the ninth game of the third set. But it wasn’t, and the second break point flew by as well.

Oh well, it was just 5-4, Daniil Medvedev. There was still time to close out the match in three sets. But after deadlocking the set at 5-5, you won only one point in the last two games of the set.

IT MIGHT BE A LONG NIGHT

Settle back, Rafa Nadal fans. It might be a long night.

The men’s final of Sunday’s U.S. Open was going the distance, even though Nadal served with double game points in the decisive 10th game of the fourth set, but still lost the set.

Nadal even served for the match with a 5-2 lead in the fifth set. He lost that one on a time violation first-serve penalty leading to a double fault to end the game.

Was it time to get worried about Rafa getting No. 19 this night? Was this going to be a Serena-like  case of bad fortune for Nadal? Of course, Serena Williams one day earlier had failed again for an all-time tying No. 24 Grand Slam title.

It could have happened to Nadal, too. Anything could have, judging from the way his tall and amazingly agile and quick Russian opponent was playing.

MIGHTY SERVE ENDED A HISTORIC FINAL

Nadal looked like he had a lock on No. 19 again before wasting two match points with Medvedev serving the ninth game of the fifth set.

Rafa even had to fight off a break point in the 10th game before ending the nearly five-hour marathon with a perfectly place serve down the middle.

He went flat on his back in disbelief, and Medvedev went around the net. The two embraced.

It, indeed, was one of the most memorable moments in the history of Grand Slam tennis.

Finally, a 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory that pushed Nadal’s Grand Slam championship total to within one of Roger Federer’s all-time record.

AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE BY BOTH PLAYERS

This was simply an amazing match that left a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, mostly of Nadal supporters, drained. It was that riveting.

This had to be one of the greatest U.S. Open finals ever.

Medvedev put on an unthinkable display of grit and talent, a sheer desire to win. Medvedev and Nadal  were like acrobats at times as they moved around the court to pull off amazing tennis stunts. Anything was possible because of the two players’ athletic abilities.

Nadal is definitely for real. But if his 23-year-old Russian opponent is for real, as he certainly appeared Sunday night, the Australian Open isn’t going to be a picnic for Federer, Nadal or the injured Novak Djokovic, or anyone else.

And then there’s the French Open where Rafa will be heavily favored to get No. 20 if he fails in Melbourne. Of course, if Rafa plays the way he did in the first two sets on Sunday, he may notch No. 20 Down Under.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? WHY NOT A DRAW?

What happens if both Nadal and Federer are tied for the all-time lead with 20 Grand Slam titles each?

If they’re deadlocked in another year or two, it might be time for a permanent dual timeout for both players. As sad as such a day would be, it would be a day to celebrate. Co-record holders wouldn’t be a bad way to go since retirement is inevitable for these two great players.

Although Federer demonstrated at Wimbledon and Nadal showed Sunday night, they can still rival the best tennis has to offer, but the rest of the men’s tennis game isn’t going to take a break waiting for these two greats to retire. Medvedev and his likes will continue to close the gap until there isn’t one.

PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD

As a result of what happened in Sunday’s U.S. Open final, the days ahead will add even more pressure for both Nadal and Federer each time a Grand Slam rolls around.

Federer already has felt that pressure, both here and at Wimbledon, as he tried to widen his lead over Nadal and Djokovic. Even Nadal seemed to feel some of the same pressure Sunday night while trying to close out Medvedev.

After defeating Federer in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic called Federer “one of the greatest ever” in his acceptance comments after the match. Federer frowned, but Djokovic was right.

Djokovic knows, because he’s not out of the all-time race just yet.

It would be nice if Federer and Nadal could/or would retire at the same time, and join Rod Laver as the greatest men’s tennis players ever. But just not quite yet.

 

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at 

http://www.postandcourier.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=james+beck&nsa=eedition

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