Madison Keys To Face Svitolina In Blockbuster Last 16 Clash - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Madison Keys To Face Svitolina In Blockbuster Last 16 Clash

Madison Keys and Elina Svitolina are all set for another intriguing encounter at the US Open after straight-set victories.

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Madison Keys (@usopen on Twitter)

Madison Keys will face Elina Svitolina in the last 16 of the US Open for the second time in three years.

 

When they played in 2017, the American withstood an excellent fightback from the Ukrainian to win 7-6(2) 1-6 6-4. She went on to reach the final.

Fast-forward to 2019 and both players are in the World’s Top 10 and playing very good tennis. They both won their third-round matches in straight sets, but their respective clashes were very different.

For the American, it was a tale of two contrasting sets as she won 6-3 7-5. In the first one, she played superbly. She slammed down 8 aces and 14 winners to cruise to it in just 28 minutes.

Despite her high standard of play, something was not right with the World No.9. She called for the trainer between the sets and took some painkillers while Kenin took a tactical bathroom break.

The younger American made the stronger start to the second set. She put pressure on Keys’ serve and earned a total of six points across the older American’s first three service games.

Crucially, she failed to convert any of them, and the score rolled along to 4-3. At this stage, Keys requested to see the doctor, who checked her blood pressure and asked her plenty of questions. Happily, he declared that she was fit to continue.

Keys steels herself to close out the match

To the World No.10’s credit, she managed to raise her level a little bit from this point on. This uplift from Keys, along with the scoreboard pressure, seemed to weigh heavily on Kenin. She played a poor game on serve at 5-5, and the older American seized the opportunity to break.

Despite this, the set still looked to be heading for a tie-break when Keys fell 15-40 behind on serve. But once again the World No.20 failed to capitalise. She made two poor errors to allow the World No.10 to level the score. Keys then wrapped up victory two points later.

“I’m not feeling 100% tonight,” Keys said in her on-court interview. “I’m really glad I was able to get through in two (sets). It would have been a lot trickier if I had to play another set.”

She continued, “This was definitely a test. I’m really happy I was able to mentally get myself up mentally and keep competing, and to play some of my best tennis on the big moments.”

Svitolina brushes aside compatriot Yastremska

Elina Svitolina (@usopen on Twitter)

The American will probably need to be at her best in every sense when she takes on Svitolina in the next round, as the Ukrainian looks to be in excellent form.

In the first round, she comfortably beat American teenager Whitney Osuigwe in straight sets. Then she produced a superb performance to take down Venus Williams.

Svitolina had to work hard to win both of those matches. She ran nearly 5,900 feet against Osuigwe and then a remarkable 7,425 feet in two sets against Venus.

However, it was a different story when she faced Yastremska. The young Ukrainian played very poorly: she made 36 unforced errors and won just 15% of points behind her second serve.

Consequently, Svitolina did not have to play anywhere near her best to beat her 6-2 6-0. For most of the match, she simply put as much pressure as she could on the World No.32 during rallies and watched as the errors piled up.

Furthermore, the World No.5 only needed to run 3,419 feet during the match, which is less than half the distance she covered against Venus.

This could spell danger for Keys, because it means that Svitolina will be feeling very fresh when they face one another.

On the other, the American is the stronger attacking player of the two and she has enough power and skill to hit a great defender like the Ukrainian off the court. It promises to be a fascinating match.

Grand Slam

Rising Stars Of Men’s Tennis Lacking ‘Guts And Balls’ To Shine In Majors, Warns Boris Becker

The former player and coach of Novak Djokovic has issued a stern wake-up call to the future stars of the ATP Tour.

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Former world No.1 Boris Becker believes there needs to be more criticism towards the Next Gen of men’s tennis over their mixed results at grand slam tournaments.

 

Becker, who won his first grand slam title at the age of 17, have called upon the likes of Alexander Zverev to have ‘more balls’ and seize the moment in the big tournaments. At this year’s Australian Open only two out of the eight players to reach the quarter-final stage in the men’s draw are under the age of 26. Zverev at 22 and Dominic Thiem at the age of 26.

The outcome in Melbourne comes at a time where many are tipping 2020 to be the season where the next generation will breakthrough in the majors and end the dominance of the Big Three. A trio consisting of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Between them they have won the past 12 major titles.

“The young guns are missing a bit of guts. A bit of balls. A bit of “Ok, I’m here and I want to win and I’m going to do whatever it takes.” They all fit into the system a little bit and the question is who is advising them, who is coaching them.” Becker said on Eurosport’s Tennis Legends Vodcast.
“I think the whole picture knowing what it takes to win a major is not there with the younger players. They think it’s about tennis; it’s not about tennis, it’s about attitude and putting it out there on the line.”

In Becker’s view he believes that the young gun haven’t been able to cope well with the pressure placed on them. Linking their inability to breakthrough to the mental side of their game and not the physical.

“You don’t want to see Federer at 45 years old still winning against someone half his age! I think we should, in context, be a little more critical of them to wake them up.” He said.
“Everyone is catering to them and sugarcoating them –they are not winning any majors! That’s not good!”

Following his second round win at the Australian Open last week, Zverev warned that younger players are under more pressure than their predecessors. Blaming the growing impact of social media. The German has stated that he is limiting the time he spends on social media during his time in Melbourne, where he is yet to drop a set.

“Do I think is it more difficult for us than 20 years ago? Yes, maybe, because of the social media, mobile phones, of the opinions that everybody can spread out on the Internet.” Zverev commented on the pressure he and others players face.
“Even though when people say they don’t care, they still read it. In the back of their mind, they’re aware of it. So I think that is a massive difference.”

Weighing in on the debate, John McEnroe believes the problem goes beyond the mental side. Also criticising the next Gen, the self-proclaimed ‘commissioner of tennis’ says they lack a back up plan when something goes wrong.

“It’s more the mental part, but technically they haven’t advanced their games enough and they think it’s just going to happen.” McEnroe argues.
“You need to have a plan B or plan C if it’s not working particularly well. When you saw Federer play against Millman, he’s 38 years old,his opponent is playing out of his mind, and is really taking it to him –you can see his mind working, trying to figure out how do I break this guy down.’
“Federer tried four, five, six different things.He’d bring him in with the slice, he hit top spin, he tried to go down the line, he moved more cross-court, he started serving and volleying, he tried to bring Millman in –all those things happened within the match and he still barely won it.’
“I want to see Shapovalov and some of these young players make adjustments on the fly and that’s what the big thing is.”

At present on the men’s tour, Thiem and Daniil Medvedev are the only active players under the age of 30 to have won a set in the final of a grand slam tournament.

How have the top 20 players under the age of 26 performed at the Australian Open?

Name

Ranking and age

2020 Australian Open result

Daniil Medvedev RUS

WR 4, AGE 23

R4

Dominic Thiem AUT

WR 5, AGE 26

QF*

Stefanos Tsitsipas GRE

WR 6, AGE 21

R3

Alexander Zverev GER

WR 7, AGE 22

QF*

Matteo Berrettini ITA

WR 8, AGE 23

R2

Denis Shapovalov CAN

WR 13, AGE 20

R1

Andrey Rublev RUS

WR 16, AGE 22

R4

Karen Khachanov RUS

WR 17, AGE 23

R3

Note: Based on rankings as of 27/1/2020
* still in tournament

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Grand Slam

Simona Halep Keeps Her Cool To See Off Mertens Challenge

Simona Halep continued her impressive progress through the Australian Open draw with a straight-sets victory over Elise Mertens.

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Simona Halep (@Femei_din_sport on Twitter)

Simona Halep produced a superb performance to beat Elise Mertens 6-4 6-4 and secure her place in the quarter-final of the Australian Open for the fourth time.

 

The Romanian, 28, reached the final two years ago and lost an epic clash to Caroline Wozniacki. She has not dropped a set so far this year and she is probably quietly confident about her chances of winning the title (particularly with all the high-profile exits) but, as she said in her press conference after the previous round, she is focusing on each match as it comes.

“It’s a great performance by me to reach the quarter-finals again,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “I played against (Mertens) in the final in Doha last year. I was leading a set and 4-2 and then lost the match, so I knew I had to stay focused.”

She continued, “I had to calm myself down. When I get a little bit nervous, I get crazy on court. So I had to stay cool to get the energy from my box.”

Halep makes life difficult for Mertens

Halep’s calmness was a feature of the day. She dealt with most of the challenging moments in a composed manner and never let herself get derailed by a poor shot or a lost service. Consequently, she ended up with outstanding statistics: 21 winners and just eight unforced errors.

These numbers reflect the pattern of the match, which was established early on. Mertens went for her shots and tried to hit as many winners as possible. Meanwhile, Halep defended brilliantly and made sure her opponent had to play plenty of long points.

Each extended rally brought with it an increased risk of the Belgian making an unforced error. And it was a method that worked well, as the Romanian won 15 points with this method in the first five games.

With the help of those 15 unforced errors from Mertens, Halep earned a 3-2 lead thanks to a break in game three. During that game, the Belgian cancelled out her own winners with unforced errors. Despite this, she still managed to save three break points before the Romanian eventually seized the break with an excellent forehand winner.

The World No.17’s aggressive approach eventually paid off in game six. She struck three impressive winners to break Halep and make it 3-3.

Unfortunately for Mertens, the Romanian then demonstrated why she is a two-time Grand Slam champion. She put the setback out of her mind immediately and put the Belgian under all kinds of pressure in game seven.

Then Halep raised her game again and hit two stunning forehand winners to break Mertens easily in game nine. She clenched her fist in celebration, and then re-focused to secure the hold she needed to clinch the set 6-4.

Halep withstands Mertens’ fightback

Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

At the start of the second set, the World No.3 produced some sparkling tennis. She hit a precise forehand winner to seal an immediate break. Then she hit an extraordinary angled backhand winner at full stretch to move 2-0 ahead.

In game three, Mertens was 40-30 ahead. Then Halep hit three consecutive forehand winners to break the Belgian again. At that stage, it looked like she might run away with the set.

However, the World No.17 was not ready to concede defeat just yet. She struck two winners and a powerful forehand to earn three break points. Then the Romanian missed a backhand to confirm the break.

Both players enjoyed a rare love hold to move the score along to 4-2. Then Mertens won a series of long rallies to make it 4-3.

This gave the Belgian a platform to attack Halep’s serve. And she did it to great effect. She drove the Romanian back behind the baseline to win one point. Then she unleashed a huge forehand to earn a break point, followed by a classy volley to seal the break.

Both players contested the next game like their lives depended on it. They engaged in a series of long rallies, and eventually it just came down to which woman held her nerve. Halep eventually took it on her fifth break point when Mertens volleyed just wide.

The Romanian closed the match out clinically. She hit an unreturnable serve, a forehand winner and an ace to move 40-0 up. Then the Belgian missed a backhand and the clash was over.

Halep will now face either Anett Kontaveit or Iga Swiatek in the last eight. She will be the heavy favourite to win whichever player makes it through.

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Grand Slam

Australian Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

The second week begins with eight stellar fourth matchups.

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The eight women that play in singles today possess eight distinctly different styles and personalities, making for some intriguing clashes. On the men’s side, all eight players are inside the top 20 on the live rankings, creating some marquee matchups. But the most talked-about match of the day is certainly Nadal/Kyrgios.

 

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios (23)

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These two men were playing nice when speaking to the press on Saturday, but make no mistake: they do not get along. Kyrgios’ coming out party occurred at the expense of Nadal at the 2014 Wimbledon, when the then-wild card upset Rafa in the fourth round on Centre Court. More recently, they split two meetings in 2019. After Kyrgios defeated Nadal in Acapulco last year, Rafa presented Nick with a less-than-thrilled handshake. A few months later on the “No Challenges Remaining” podcast, 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 the all-too-common lack of effort. Kyrgios certainly gave full effort on Saturday, in his fifth-set tiebreak win over Karen Khachanov. But what will Nick have left after the longest match of his career? He spent a total of nine-and-a-half hours on court in the first week, compared to just five-and-a-half for Nadal, who has steamrolled the competition without the loss of a set. If Nick were 100%, I’d give him a considerable shot at winning in front of a raucous Australian crowd. But a depleted Kyrgios won’t have much chance of keep up with the 19-time Major champion.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Stan Wawrinka (15)

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When these two met four months ago in the US Open quarterfinals, Wawrinka had no answers for Medvedev’s unique style of play. Stan’s offense was muffled by Daniil’s movement and variety on that day. Their only other encounter was at Wimbledon in 2017, when Medvedev upset an injured Wawrinka in Stan’s last match before undergoing knee surgery. The 23-year-old Russian has certainly been the better player over the last six months. Daniil has a lot of confidence coming off his run of six straight hard courts finals last season. Wawrinka has struggled at tour events of late, while at the Majors he’s shown he still has some magic left in him. The US Open was his second Slam quarterfinal of 2019. He reached the same round at the French Open, thanks to his epic, five-hour victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. And despite playing nine sets in his first two rounds, he should be relatively fresh after receiving a second-set retirement from John Isner on Saturday. That was certainly welcome after Wawrinka revealed he was battling illness earlier in the week, and even vomited multiple times during his five-setter against Andreas Seppi. I expect Stan to arrive on court with some better tactics this time out, but still give Medvedev the slight edge in what could easily become an extended affair.

Simona Halep (4) vs. Elise Mertens (16)

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Halep leads their head-to-head 2-1, though Mertens prevailed when they last played a year ago in Doha. That was on Elise’s way to her first WTA Premier title. Mertens’ best results in her career have been on hard courts. She was a quarterfinalist in New York last year, and a semifinalist here two years ago. Other than a tiebreak set she lost to Cici Bellis in the last round, she was dominant in week one, losing only six games in her other six sets. Simona has also looked sharp thus far, having yet to drop a set. The slower conditions this year in Australia should favor the defense and movement of Halep. I suspect this will be a tight matchup, but favor Halep to advance.

Dominic Thiem (5) vs. Gael Monfils (10)

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This is a fourth round battle between two top 10 players, and two of the sport’s most impressive athletes. But they have a rather unique and one-sided history. Thiem is 5-0 against Monfils, having taken 11 of 13 sets played. They were due to meet on three other occasions, but withdrawals by both players prevented those matches from happening. Monfils had less troubling advancing to this stage than Thiem, who played a total of nine sets in his last two matches. In both those rounds, Thiem held significant leads, but let his opponent back into the match. Neither Thiem nor Monfils has historically been a strong performer at this Major, though Dominic is much-improved on hard courts since 2018. And with such a lopsided head-to-head, Thiem should possess the necessary confidence and fire power to reach his first Australian Open quarterfinal.

Sascha Zverev (7) vs. Andrey Rublev (17)

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Rublev has been on fire since the Davis Cup last November, and is currently on a 15-match winning streak. Meanwhile Zverev has not been at his best, suffering with service issues and battling off-court distractions. 2019 was not his best year, but it also wasn’t all that ugly. Zverev still managed to qualify for the ATP Finals despite struggles both on and off the court. But Sascha should be feeling good about his tennis coming off week one, where he didn’t drop a set through three rounds. And he owns a 3-0 record against Rublev, who has never taken a set off him. While Andrey may be a bit worn down from playing so much tennis this month, he just has so much more momentum than Zverev. And the 22-year-old Russian will be the first real test for Zverev in this tournament, so we’ll see how the German’s serve holds up under pressure. I foresee Rublev’s groundstrokes proving too much for Zverev, leading Andrey to his second Major quarterfinal.

Other notable matches on Day 8:

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  • 2016 champion Angelique Kerber (17) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (30). The 28-year-old Russian has a slight 7-6 edge in their head-to-head, and claimed their most recent encounter last September. Pavlyuchenkova is 5-1 in the fourth round at Majors, having not lost at this stage in 10 years.
  • Kiki Bertens (9) vs. Garbine Muguruza. Reuniting with Conchita Martinez has already paid dividends for Muguruza, who just destroyed Elina Svitolina on Saturday, hitting 31 winners and only 9 unforced errors. Garbine is 2-0 against Kiki in both of their recent hard court meetings, and Bertens had a losing record in Melbourne prior to this fortnight.
  • Anett Kontaveit (28) vs. 18-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland. Kontaveit dominated Belinda Benic two days ago, losing only one game in a 49-minute match. Swiatek is one of the WTA’s most talented and fastest-rising stars, set to debut inside the top 50 next week. Kontaveit won their only previous encounter last summer in Cincinnati.

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