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

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

Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash

The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.

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Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.

 

2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.

Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.

“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”

Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.

There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.

“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”

Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.

“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”

The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.

“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.

During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

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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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