US Open Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 1 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Monday’s night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium is headlined by Serena/Sharapova and Federer/Nagal.

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Image via ubitennis.com/Art Seitz

No, that’s not a typo, and obviously Roger Federer will not be playing Rafael Nadal is the opening round.  Roger will face Sumit Nagal, the 190th-ranked player in the world from India.  But the other match in the Ashe night session is a legitimate blockbuster, featuring two of the sport’s biggest names in Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

 

Serena Williams (8) vs. Maria Sharapova

For all the hype regarding these two huge names drawing each other in the first round, in reality this is anything but a rivalry when it comes to the tennis.  Serena is 19-2 against Sharapova, with Maria’s last victory coming almost 15 years ago. This will be their first meeting at the US Open, as well as their first meeting since Sharapova released her autobiography in 2017.  In her book, Maria speculated that Serena has resented her since losing to her in the 2004 Wimbledon final. Maria wrote about Serena crying in the locker room after that loss, and Serena knowing that Maria heard her. It’s been comments like this over the years from both players that have made their off-court rivalry much more heated than on the court.  While Serena retired from the Rogers Cup final and withdrew from Cincinnati due to back spasms, she should be fully recovered for this opening round match. And Sharapova is just 2-4 since returning from another long injury layoff. The only variable here other than each woman’s health is how Serena will react to returning to Arthur Ashe Stadium for the first time since last year’s ugly US Open final.  Will Serena be rattled walking back onto this court, or motivated? Likely she’ll feel a bit of both, but not rattled enough to lose to Sharapova. Serena should advance easily.

Stan Wawrinka (23) vs. Jannik Sinner (Q)

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Sinner is a big-hitting 18-year-old from Italy who first caught the tennis world’s attention at his country’s biggest tournament earlier this year.  In front of a raucous crowd in Rome, Sinner came back from a set down to upset Steve Johnson. Jannik would then win a challenger event last month, and won three rounds of qualifying last week to make his Major debut today.  He undoubtedly has a bright future ahead, but is he ready to challenge a three-time Major champion? That’s a big ask, but Wawrinka has not been playing his best of late. Since reaching the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, Stan is just 4-4, and hasn’t won back-to-back matches this summer.  I like Sinner’s chances to push Wawrinka, but the 2016 US Open champion remains the favorite.

Angelique Kerber (14) vs. Kiki Mladenovic

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Speaking of 2016 US Open champions having a rough summer, Kerber arrives in New York on a three-match losing streak.  And since winning this title three years ago, Angelique is only 2-2 at this tournament. Her opponent today has had a rough few seasons since reaching the French Open quarterfinals in 2017, but has showed signs of coming out of that slump since hiring Sascha Bajin as her coach.  However like Kerber, Kiki arrives here on a three-match losing streak, including a loss in the qualifying draw of Cincinnati. Angelique owns a 4-1 edge in their head-to-head, with all of Kerber’s wins coming on hard courts. Mladenovic’s only win came on clay. Yet a Kiki victory today feels extremely possible given Angelique’s current form, and considering Kerber’s propensity for losing in the first round of Majors.  The German has done so four times in the last 14 Slams.

Taylor Fritz (26) vs. Feliciano Lopez

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The 21-year-old Fritz is now the No.2 ranked American man, and recently reached a career-high ranking of No.25.  He owns 35 match wins this year at all levels, which includes a Challenger title in Newport Beach as well as four qualifying wins which got him into both Masters events on clay.  And it’s been a stellar summer for Fritz, who won his first tour-level title on the grass of Eastbourne, and reached two finals on the North American hard court swing (Atlanta, Los Cabos).  On the other end of the spectrum, Lopez is a few weeks away from turning 38 years of age, and is obviously in the twilight of his career. Yet he’s still capable of big wins, as evidenced by becoming both the singles and doubles champion at Queen’s Club two months ago.  But in the best-of-five format, the much-younger Fritz is a clear favorite, especially considering Lopez retired after just a set-and-a-half last week in Winston-Salem due to fatigue.

Johanna Konta (16) vs. Daria Kasatkina

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Following nearly two years of poor results, the British No.1 came roaring back this spring.  Konta accumulated 15 match wins on clay, historically her worst surface. That run includes two finals, as well as a French Open semifinal.  She followed that up by returning to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. But after suffering an upset in that quarterfinal at the hands of Barbora Strycova, she fell in the opening round of both Toronto and Cincinnati.  And Konta is also on a three-match losing streak in New York, since reaching the round of 16 here in 2016. Her opponent today is also quite the streaky player. After a breakout 2018 season, Kasatkina is an abysmal 10-16 this season.  But Daria is way too talented for her current form to last much longer. And she owns a 2-1 record against Konta, which both wins coming last year on hard courts. If Konta serves well, she should be able to control her destiny today. However, if she does not, Kasatkina has enough variety in her game to frustrate Konta, and send the Brit home in the first round of this tournament for the third straight year.

Other notable matches on Day 1:

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Defending champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roberto Carballes Baena.  Djokovic hasn’t lost in the first round of a Major in almost 14 years, and his opponent is only 2-8 in his career at Slams.

In the first match of the day on Arthur Ashe Stadium, French Open champion Ash Barty (2) vs. Zarina Diyas.

Roger Federer (3) vs. Sumit Nagal (Q).  This will be Nagal’s main draw debut at the US Open.

2014 finalist Kei Nishikori (7) vs. Marco Trungelliti (Q).  Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times has a great profile on Trungelliti here.  And as Ben also highlights, Marco is 4-0 in the first round of Majors.  Meanwhile Nishikori has been suffering from an elbow injury.

Italian No.1 Fabio Fognini (11) vs. Reilly Opelka.  Fognini hasn’t played since the Rogers Cup, where he was suffering from a foot injury.  The 6’11” American upset Wawrinka at Wimbledon last month.

Two-Time US Open champion Venus Williams vs. Saisai Zheng, who won her first WTA title in San Jose earlier this summer.

In what could be the last Grand Slam match of his career, Janko Tipsarevic vs. Denis Kudla.  Tipsarevic announced he will retire at the end of this year.

Order of play

Arthur Ashe Stadium – 5pm (BST) start time

Zarina Diyas vs Ashleigh Barty [2]

Novak Djokovic [1] vs Roberto Carballes Baena

Not before 12am

Serena Williams [8] vs Maria Sharapova

Roger Federer [3] vs Sumit Nagal

Louis Armstrong Stadium – 4pm start time

Tereza Martincova vs Karolina Pliskova [3]

Prajnesh Gunneswaran vs Daniil Medvedev [5]

Saisai Zheng vs Venus Williams

Not before 12am

Stan Wawrinka [23] vs Jannik Sinner

Misaki Doi vs Madison Keys [10]

Grandstand – 4pm start

Marco Trungelliti vs Kei Nishikori [7]

Angelique Kerber [14] vs Kristina Mladenovic

Sam Querrey vs Juan Ignacio Londero

Sofia Kenin [20] vs CoCo Vandeweghe

Court 17 – 4pm start

Johanna Konta [16] vs Daria Kasatkina

Fabio Fognini [11] vs Reilly Opelka

Elina Svitolina vs Whitney Osuigwe

Not before 10pm

Taylor Fritz [26] vs Feliciano Lopez

Court 5 – 4pm start

Eugenie Bouchard vs Anastasija Sevastova

Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Samantha Stosur

Zachary Svajda vs Paolo Lorenzi

Nicolas Jarry vs Milos Raonic [21]

Court 10 – 4pm start

Carolina Garcia [27] vs Ons Jabeur

Adrian Mannarino vs Dan Evans

Gregoire Barriere vs Cameron Norrie

Carolina Dolehide vs Qiang Whang [18]

Court 13 – 4pm start

Tomas Berdych vs Jenson Brooksby

Kwon Soon-Woo vs Hugo Dellien

Viktorija Golubic vs Zhang Shuai [33]

Zhu Lin vs Xin Yu Wang

Court 4 – 4pm start

Petra Martic [22] vs Tamara Zidansek

Monica Niculescu vs Dayana Yastremska [32]

Corentin Moutet vs David Goffin [15]

Yoshihito Nishioka vs Marcos Giron

Court 6 – 4pm start

Marton Fucsovics vs Nikoloz Basilashvili [17]

Ivana Jorovic vs Iga Swiatek

Peng Shuai vs Varvara Pechenko

Guido Pella [19] vs Pablo Carrena Busta

Court 7 – 4pm start

Cristian Garin [31] vs Christian Eubanks

Elena Rybakina vs Karolina Muchova

Borna Coric [12] vs Evgeny Donskoy

Caty McNally vs Timea Bacsinszky

Court 8 – 4pm start

Monica Puig vs Rebecca Peterson

Pierre-Ougues Herbert vs Alex de Minaur

Dominik Koepfer vs Jaume Munar

Court 9 – 4pm start

Mariam Bolkvadze vs Bernarda Pera

Jana Cepelova vs Hsieh Su-Wei [29]

Philip Kohlschreiber vs Lucas Pouille [25]

Ricardas Berankis vs Jiri Vesely

Court 11 – 4pm start

Thiago Monteiro vs Bradley Klahn

Lauren Davis vs Johanna Larsson

Andreas Seppi vs Grigor Dimitrov

Magdalena Frech vs Laura Siegemund

Court 12 – 4pm start

Denis Kudla vs Janko Tipsarevic

Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs Jennifer Brady

Maria Sakkari [30] vs Camila Giorgi

Jack Sock vs Pablo Cuevas

Court 14 – 4pm start

Ana Bogdan vs Harriet Dart

Margarita Gasparyan vs Priscilla Hon

Laslo Djere vs Miomir Kecmanovic

Hubert Hurkacz vs Jeremy Chardy

Court 15 – 4pm start

Steve Darcis vs Dusan Lajovic [27]

Fiona Ferro vs Daria Gavrilova

Viktoria Kuzmova vs Alison Van Uytvanck

Elliot Benchetrit vs Damir Dzumhur

Grand Slam

REPORT: French Open Attendance To Be More Than Halved Amid COVID-19 Threat

It is understood that the number of fans allowed to attend daily has been cut by roughly 55%.

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This year’s French Open has been forced to dramatically reduce their initial plans for 11,500 daily visitors, according to information obtained by L’Equipe newspaper.

 

The number has reportedly been cut to just 5000 following a ‘governmental decision’ linked to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organisers had originally set out plans for three separate zones with two holding up to 5000 people and an additional welcoming 1500. However, it has now emerged the new number will only be applied to one specific zone where the premier Philippe-Chatrier Court is located. Meaning that it is possible that matches played on courts Suzanne-Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu will not be opened to the public.

In recent days France has seen a rise in coronavirus cases and reported 9784 new infections in the country on Wednesday. A slight dip of France’s all-time high of 10,561 which was recorded last Saturday. It is understood that the decision to reduce the crowd size at Roland Garros is also based on spikes in other countries apart from France.

There has been no official comment from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) but L’Equipe reports that the change has been made in line with new local government guidance. The ruling will have no impact on next week’s qualifying tournament which is being played behind closed doors.

Leading up to the clay-court major some players have voiced caution about attending the event with crowds. Outspoken player Nick Kyrgios, who is not playing in Paris this year, went as far as accusing organisers of not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Former champion Simona Halep has also voiced her own concerns.

“I just read that they will have fans,” Halep told reporters earlier this week. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

The French Open will start on September 28th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the reigning champions but Barty will not be defending her title due to travelling concerns related to COVID-19.

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Grand Slam

‘Her Values Are Not What Tennis Stands For’ – Andy Murray Backs Calls To Rename Margaret Court Arena

The British tennis star is the latest top name to hit out at Court over her history of anti-gay comments.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has said the Australian Open should consider renaming one of their premier courts after Margaret Court due to her controversial views.

 

The former world No.1 says 78-year-old Court, who holds the record for most singles Grand Slam titles won, doesn’t represent the values of the sport. Despite being one of Australia’s most decorated tennis players of all time, Court has a history of making various anti-gay views but maintains that she is not homophobic. She once said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘ and during her playing career described rival Martina Navratilova as a ‘bad role model’ due to her sexuality. In other incidents she also boycotted Qantas airlines due to their support of marriage equality and publicly criticised former player Casey Dellacqua for having a baby with her same-sex partner.

Murray joins a list of figures calling for a change along with Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe who both held an on-court protest back in January calling for the name change. The Brit argues that the controversy surrounding Court takes focus away from tennis and this should not be the case. This year the Australian was honoured at the Melbourne major with a low-key event to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.

“She has obviously offended and upset a lot of people over the years. I think the players certainly have spoken up, which is a positive thing,” Murray told pridelife.com.
“As far as renaming the venue. I think that yes, it’s something the sport should consider. I don’t know who makes the final decision on that but I don’t think her values are what tennis stands for. When you get to the Australian Open you want to concentrate on the tennis. Court’s views detract from that.”

Tennis Australia, who oversees the Australian Open, has previously distanced themselves from Court’s views. In a statement previously issued they said the decision to recognise the 50th anniversary of her triumph was solely due to her achievements and they do not endorse her views.

“Court was given a ceremony at the Australian Open this year to mark her achievements in the game, but the reception she received from the public was lukewarm,” Murray commented.

The issue of gay rights is rarely spoken about in the world of men’s tennis. Unlike the women’s game there are no openly gay male players and only a handful have publicly spoken about their sexuality in recent years. The most well known being former top 100 American player Brian Vahaly who came out after he retired from the sport.

“I think, certainly in men’s tennis, there have been a number of players who have come out as gay, but not while they’re competing. I think there’s still a stigma around it which obviously shouldn’t be the case,” said Murray.

There are various theories about the reasons where there may be no openly gay players on the Tour. Murray says he has never witnessed or heard homophobic comments whilst playing in the sport, but admits that it may be different if somebody did come out.

“I wouldn’t say that I have heard it in the locker room. If more gay men came out it’s something you might see more of potentially,” he explained.
“There have been a few things said in articles I’ve read where players have made homophobic comments, but I’ve not been in the presence of anyone when they have made homophobic comments in the locker room.”

Murray will return to action in less than two weeks time at the French Open in Paris.

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Nick Kyrgios Slams French Open Over Crowd Decision

The world No.41 explains why he is ‘disappointed’ with the French major as other players also voice caution about playing in front of crowds.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has accused officials at the French Open of not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously following their decision to allow spectators to attend.

 

The clay-court Grand Slam has created three separate zones where fans are allowed to attend with each of those having a daily capacity limit. The zones including court Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen will hold up to 5000 each. Meanwhile an additional 1500 spectators will be allowed to visit the area surrounding the third court, Simonne Mathieu. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says strict measures will be in place and their plans have been drafted following ‘advice from a committee of expert scientists.` Masks must be worn at all times by those attending.

Despite the measures that have been put in place, former top 20 player Kyrgios has criticised the move amid the number of cases in the country. France has recently seen a surge in their daily toll. On Tuesday they reported 7852 newly confirmed cases within a 24-hour period compared to 6158 the day before. Last Saturday the number surpassed the 10,000 mark.

“I am most likely not going to play,” Kyrgios told News Corp.
“Especially with the cases rising there. I don’t feel comfortable to go there and play.
“They are thinking about doing it with crowds. I don’t think the tournament is taking it seriously. It’s disappointing the level of seriousness they are taking towards it.”

Kyrgios hasn’t played a competitive match since February after choosing to skip the North American swing over concerns related to the pandemic. A decision that was also taken by the likes of Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. Although he also previously hinted that it is unlikely that he will be travelling to Europe this year and therefore ending his season early. A approach that was also taken by compatriot Ash Barty.

The 25-year-old isn’t the only player to have express concerns about crowds at Roland Garros. 2018 champion Halep told reporters at this week’s Italian Open, which is being held behind closed doors, that she is hopeful that officials at the venue will be ‘strict’ with the measures.

“I just read that they will have fans,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

Meanwhile, cautiously-speaking Nadal says it is a case of wait and see what happens in Paris. This year he is bidding to win the major for an historic 13th time.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s the situation’s going to look like in Roland Garros,” he told journalists on Monday when questioned about the French Open.
“Let’s see how the virus evolves the next couple of weeks. Hopefully in a good way. Doesn’t look like that, no? Let’s see. We need to be patient and we need to wait to see how the situation improves.”

Unlike the main draw, the qualifying rounds will be held behind closed doors in order to make it easier for players to move around the venue. The tournament gets underway on September 21st with the main draw starting the week after.

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