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

‘He Could Become An Excellent Player’ – Remember Roger Federer’s Grand Slam Debut 21 Years Later

More than two decades ago on this day was the start of where it all began for the former world No.1. But what did he and his opponent think about his first match played at a major?

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Roger Federer at the 1999 French Open

On this day 21 years ago the most decorated grand slam champion in the history of men’s tennis began his major career.

 

Roger Federer embarked upon the 1999 French Open as the youngest player in the field and yet to break into the world’s top 100. Aged 17, the Swiss player was yet to play in the final of an ATP Tournament and only managed to enter the Roland Garros main draw thanks to a wild card. His opponent was third seed Pat Rafter who at the time was at the peak of his career. The Australian had won back-to-back US Open titles leading up to the tournament.

Undoubtedly the odds were piled heavily against a young and inexperienced Federer, but he still managed to make his mark. Surprisingly taking the first set before Rafter fought back to eventually win 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.

“The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,” the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote at the time.

Rafter echoed a similar view to L’Equipe during his post-match media engagements. He went on to become one of the few players to have a perfect winning record against Federer of 3-0. Also defeating him twice during the 2001 season.

“The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.”

Rafter’s prediction came true but even he at the time didn’t expect the 17-year-old to go on and become one of the greatest. Now Federer holds the records for most grand slam titles (20), most weeks as world No.1 (310) and has won more ATP Awards than anybody else (37). Approaching the age of 39, he remains a prominent fixture in the world’s top 10 18 years on from his debut.

Federer has spoken about his first taste of a grand slam a few times in the past. One of his most notable observations was during a conversation he had with Rafter at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. When speaking about losing his one set lead, the Swiss maestro said it was partly to do with his mental weakness and showing too much respect to the top guns at the time.

”I was up a set and I was just 17 years old and I wasn’t expected to win,” Federer recounted. ”I think I got broken in the second set and I was like ‘Oh, God, what am I doing?’
”Next thing you know I’m losing 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. It was very mental. I had a lot of respect for the older generation who were already accomplished. Obviously stars like Pat were, for me, people I really looked up to, even though I knew I could beat them. Mentally I was not so solid.”

Rafter has also admitted that his 1999 victory was partly down to the mental weakness of his rival during a 2018 interview with Blick newspaper. However, he blames losing the first set on never playing Federer before.

“I met Roger for the first time at the French Open in 1999. It was his grand slam debut. Since I did not know his game at the time, it took me some time to adjust to him. That’s why I lost the first set,” he said.
“Roger’s biggest handicap was his mental maturity, he was only 17 years old. That was one of the reasons why I came back and win in four sets.”

Whilst the French Open was where it all began for Federer, his record in the major is the worst out of the four grand slams. It is the only one he has failed to win multiple times, claiming his sole title back in 2009. Overall, he has played in the main draw 18 times with a win-loss of 70-17.

How old was the current top 10 when Federer made his grand slam debut?

  1. Novak Djokovic – 12
  2. Rafael Nadal – 12
  3. Dominic Thiem – 5
  4. Roger Federer – 17
  5. Daniil Medvedev – 3
  6. Stefanos Tsitsipas – 9 months
  7. Alexander Zverev – 2
  8. Matteo Berrettini – 3
  9. Gael Monfils – 12
  10. David Goffin – 8

(numbers in years unless otherwise stated)

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Grand Slam

‘Global Announcement’ Regarding Revised 2020 Calendar In The Works, Says French Open Chief

Guy Forget has issued an update regarding the current status of the clay-court major.

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The governing bodies of tennis are hoping to announce their plans for the remainder of the 2020 season in unison, according to the tournament director of the French Open.

 

Guy Forget has told French radio station Europe 1 that he is working with the ITF, ATP and WTA on a ‘global announcement’ regarding what the rest of the tennis season would look like when it resumes. All professional events have been either cancelled or suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes that the sport could resume in August, however, there is still uncertainty around the US Open with a final decision set to be made in June.

The uncertainty surrounding Flushing Meadows is also problematic for the French Open, which is set to take just two weeks after the event concludes. Forget has stated that he is working with the USTA to ensure that the two major events do not collide. The French Open had originally planned to start on May 24th before being delayed due to the pandemic.

“The official announcement has not been made yet. It (the French Open) will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October,” Forget told Europe 1.
“We’ve been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.
“There are so many question marks. The city of New York is more affected by the coronavirus than France. They also have a lot of organisation problems, they will make an announcement mid-June to say how it’s going to be like for the US Open.”

Whilst the USTA is contemplating taking place behind closed doors, Forget is confident that his event will be able to welcome fans in some capacity. At present, France has banned all events that involve 5000 or more people. More than 500,000 tickets were sold for the tournament last year.

“We’ll see how the situation is in a couple of months. We will adapt to what the government will say. We have to be ambitious and optimistic,” he said.

The French Open is scheduled to be held from September 20th until October 4th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the defending champions in the men’s and women’s draws.

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Chances Of Fan-Less US Open Rising Amid Warning From Former Champion Marin Cilic

The former world No.3 believes such a move would devalue the tournament, but it is the best option the USTA has?

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The last player outside of the Big Four to win the US Open title believes the motion to play the event behind closed doors will feel like playing practice matches instead of a grand slam.

 

2014 champion Marin Cilic has voiced his concerns as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) continues to ponder what to do with the major event. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with officials hoping to restart the Tour in August. However, there are concerns about the chances of the US Open taking place as originally planned due to New York being one of the most affected states in America by Coronavirus. More than 20,000 people have died in New York from the virus.

One option under consideration is hosting the event without any fans due to fears that the venue could become a COVID-19 hotspot with many people gathering in one place. Last year a record 737,872 fans visited the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center over two weeks. Such a move would be a huge financial loss for the organisers, but the event would still be able to go ahead. However, Cilic isn’t convinced that it would be the right move.

“I just feel that it’s going to more or less feel like practice matches,” he said during an interview with Reuters.
“It’s always going to be … in the years to come, ‘oh, you know that guy won a U.S. Open in 2020 without fans’. I don’t think it’s going to have that weight…
“It wouldn’t be the best scenario.”

Whilst it may not be the best scenario in the eyes of Cilic, it does appear that the USTA will be heading in that direction. Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo posted a message on Twitter in which he said he is willing to partner with sports teams who will play events without fans. A possible lifeline for the US Open.

“New York State is ready and willing to partner with major sports teams that are interested in playing games safely, without fans. If our professional sports teams can make it work (and be safe) on their end, we’re supportive,” he wrote.

Originally the CEO of the USTA, Mike Dose, said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the tournament would be played behind closed doors. However, that view has since significantly changed with more now leaning in favour of that option.

Lew Sherr is the Chief Revenue Officer of the USTA. Speaking to The Sports Business Journal, he said he has been surprised by the reception he has received from sponsors over the idea of a no-fan US Open with many viewing it as an historic event.

“Two months ago, it just didn’t feel like you could stage the celebration or the spectacle that is the U.S. Open in a no-fan scenario and have it be what we think of as the U.S. Open,” Sherr said.
“As we’ve gone forward, I’ve come around to recognizing what an achievement it would be to play, and how much our fans are missing the game and would be excited to see the competition, and that you need to think about it differently. It’s a different event. It would be broadcast differently, it would be consumed differently, it’s not just playing the U.S. Open as you know it, with empty seats.”

A final decision on the US Open will be made next month.

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