Wimbledon Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Wimbledon Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

It’s the best day of the tennis year, with all round of 16 singles matches being played within a 12-hour period on Manic Monday at The Championships.

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Elina Svitolina (@WilsonTennis - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

An astounding 80 Major singles titles are represented by the players who advanced to the second week of the ladies’ and gentlemen’s singles draws. In a unique day on the tennis calendar, Serena, Roger, Rafa, Novak, Petra, Simona, and Ash will all take to the courts of The All England Club on Day 7. With so much action taking place all over the grounds at SW19, this preview will take you through the best matches to focus on as the day progresses.

Elina Svitolina (8) vs. Petra Martic (24)

Out of the four women’s singles matches that start off the day at 11:00am local time, this may be the closest and most exciting contest. Svitolina is into the fourth round of Wimbledon for the second time in three years, but is yet to advance farther. The eighth seed missed all of April due to a knee injury, and went just 2-3 in May on the clay.  She also lost in the opening round of both her grass court tune-up events. But the 24-year-old Ukranian appears to be healthy again, and competed well through the first week of this tournament. Her 28-year-old opponent is currently at a career-high ranking of 24th in the world, coming off her first Major quarterfinal last month in Paris.

Just like Svitolina, this is Martic’s second time into the round of 16 here. And Petra has truly battled her way to this stage, requiring three sets in each of her first three matches. Svitolina leads their head-to-head 3-1, though they’ve never met outside of a clay court. Elina’s movement and consistency should be enough to overcome the tricky style of Petra. However, Martic is fully capable of throwing enough different speeds and slices at Svitolina to make this compelling, and Svitolina can often make a straightforward match quite complicated for herself.

Roberto Bautista Agut (23) vs. Benoit Paire (28)

Rafa and Serena will play on the main stadiums at 1:00pm, but they’ll both be very heavy favourites. This match out on Court 18 will likely be a much more competitive encounter. Both these men are prone to dramatic battles at Grand Slam events. Bautista Agut reached his first Slam quarterfinal earlier this year in Australia, but needed to survive three five-setters to get there. He reached his third Wimbledon round of 16 in much different fashion: without dropping a set.

Roberto impressively took out the tenth seed, Karen Khachanov, in straight sets on Friday. Meanwhile Paire is now into his fourth round of 16 at a Major, but is yet to forge farther ahead. Like Roberto, he also struggles to advance easily at Majors. At Roland Garros, none of his four matches were straight sets, and two went the distance.  But the 30-year-old Frenchman is having a great season, with 29 match wins and two clay court titles. However, Bautista Agut has never lost to Paire, with eight victories counting challenger events and qualifying rounds. Paire has plenty of flair and variety which the grass can reward, but Roberto must be considered the favourite considering their head-to-head.

Petra Kvitova (6) vs. Johanna Konta (19)

This will be the second match of the day on Centre Court, and it could be a classic grass court serving affair between two of the WTA’s best servers. Both women have played excellent such matches here in past years. Kvitova’s 2014 match with Venus Williams comes to mind, which Petra claimed 7-5 in the third after just the second break of the entire match. And two years ago against Donna Vekic, Konta survived an outstanding service clash to prevail 10-8 in the third.

Kvitova arrived in London unsure if she could even compete due to a left arm injury, but she’s looked sharp through three rounds. Konta has also played well, and fought back from a set down against a game Sloane Stephens on Saturday. Kvitova is 3-1 against Konta, though they’ve split their two grass court meetings. As well-liked as the two-time Wimbledon champion is, the British crowd will still be loudly behind their female No.1. And Johanna is playing with a lot of confidence, having accumulated 15 clay court wins on historically her worst surface. This should be an electric occasion, with a three-setter seeming likely. I give Konta the slight edge: she’s the healthier player, and currently has more momentum. And it’s been five years since Kvitova has reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, having struggled here since her last title.

Simona Halep (7) vs. Coco Gauff (Q)

At the same time Kvitova/Konta play on Centre, this match will occur on No.1 Court. Is this where the fairytale story of the 15-year-old qualifier comes to an end? To this dismay of many fans who have been enthralled by Coco’s shocking and thrilling run, a Halep victory appears the most likely outcome. Including qualifying, Gauff has already played six matches over the last two weeks. Competing that much at this level is completely new for the American upstart.

And Halep played some excellent tennis on Friday, allowing two-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka just four games. Simona just has too much experience, too much defence, and too much consistency for Gauff. While it was an American teenager that took out Halep at the French Open, in 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, I just don’t see that happening again here. But even if Coco’s tournament comes to an end today, what an amazing ride it’s been.

Roger Federer (2) vs. Matteo Berrettini (17)

This will be the final match of the day on Centre Court. When the draws were finalized, this was the opponent that I felt could best challenge Federer ahead of the semi=finals. The 23-year-old Italian has come into his own in 2019, with 34 match wins at all levels, and two tour-level titles. Last month on the grass of Stuttgart, the 6’5” Berrettini grabbed the trophy after not being broken all week. Matteo has a great game for the grass, with a big serve and penetrating groundstrokes.

But what will he have left after a four-hour, nineteen minute epic against Diego Schwartzman on Saturday in which he saved three match points? Coming back just 48 hours later after all the physical and emotional energy spent in that five-setter to play the eight-time champion on Centre Court is a huge undertaking. While he can still push Federer if he plays his best, Roger is fresh and in great form, and is a solid favourite to reach an absurd 17th quarterfinal at The Championships.

Other notable matches on Day 7:

Seven-time champion Serena Williams (11) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro (30). Serena has completely dominated Carla throughout their careers, with a 6-0 record. Suarez Navarro has never won more than five games in any of their matches.

Two-Time champion Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Joao Sousa, the first Portuguese man to advance this far at Wimbledon. He eliminated the Brit’s last male hope, Dan Evans, in five sets on Saturday evening.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Ugo Humbert of France. The 21-year-old only possessed one win at a Major prior to this fortnight.

French Open champion Ash Barty (1) vs. Alison Riske, a 29-year-old from the United States who won a grass court event in s-Hertogenbosch last month.

Karolina Pliskova (3), the player many have named the best active woman yet to win a Major, vs. Karolina Muchova, a 22-year-old who is also from the Czech Republic.

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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