US Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

US Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

In a change from recent events, the women’s draw has seen significantly less upsets than the men’s through two rounds.

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US Open 2019 (photo via Twitter, @usopen)

22 of the 32 WTA seeds have survived this far, while less than half the seeded male players advanced to the third round.  And while that would normally make “The Big Three” heavier favorites, Novak Djokovic is battling a considerable injury, and Roger Federer has not been himself.  And on the women’s side, it still feels the number of possible champions is in the double digits. Who will make it through to the second week and emerge as the top contenders?

 

Serena Williams (8) vs. Karolina Muchova

Serena was furious with her form in her second round match against American teenager Katy McNally, feeling she made way too many errors with her forehand.  McNally was able to take the first set, and frustrated Serena will her all-court game. Muchova also plays with a lot of variety, which was on full display yesterday in her third-set tiebreak win over Su-Wei Hsieh.  Muchova’s game could also complicate matters for Serena. But the 23-time Major champion will benefit from having a day off, while Muchova grinded out that tough second round win in warm temperatures just yesterday. In their first career meeting, it may take Serena some time to figure out 23-year-old Czech, but I’m confident she’ll do so in the end.

Madison Keys (10) vs. Sofia Kenin (20)

This is a rematch from the Cincinnati semifinals just two weeks ago, where Keys prevailed in straight sets.  But Kenin took their other prior encounter, back in May on the clay of Rome. Madison went on to win the title in Cincinnati, and comes into this match on an eight-match winning streak.  But Kenin has been one of the hottest players on tour this summer, as she was semifinalist in both Cincy and Toronto. Neither woman has dropped a set this week in New York, so this should be good.  As usual, the match will likely rest on Madison’s racket, as she can dictate play with her power. However, Kenin has quickly proven herself to be one of the WTA’s most dogged competitors, and she won’t succumb to defeat easily.  But Keys loves playing at this tournament, with a 13-2 record over the past few years, so she’s the favorite to advance in this all-American matchup.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Dayana Yastremska (32)

We go from an All-American matchup to an all-Ukranian matchup.  Svitolina ousted a game Venus Williams in front of a raucous crowd in the last round, and now faces the challenge of taking on a countrywoman five years her junior.  It’s been a breakthrough season for Yastremska, who’s won two titles and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. And she has the firepower to take it to the fifth seed, who prefers to stay on the defense.  Just earlier this summer in a straight set victory over Victoria Azarenka in Toronto, Dayana struck 47 winners. And speaking of Azarenka, this matchup is reminiscent of her Belarusian battle of generations against Aryna Sabalenka.  The younger competitor won on that day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened here as well. It seems only a matter of time before Yastremska is making deep runs at Majors, and I think she could take the next step today.

Kei Nishikori (7) vs. Alex de Minaur

Get ready for some tremendous rallies from two of the ATP’s speediest players.  Nishikori has reached the quarterfinals at every Major this year, establishing himself one of tennis’ most reliable performers at big events.  Kei benefitted from the retirement of Marco Trungelliti halfway through their opening round, and overcame a fourth set comeback from American Bradley Klahn on Wednesday.  Meanwhile the 20-year-old Australian was forced to play his second round match yesterday due to rain, but easily defeated the 31st seed Cristian Garin in straight sets.  De Minaur was twice a champion this season, in both Sydney and Atlanta.  He loves playing on the hard courts, and pushed former champion Marin Cilic to 7-5 in the fifth here a year ago.  Alex thrillingly saved six match points before Cilic closed out that battle. In their first career meeting today, it feels like de Minaur is primed for a breakthrough.  This is his fourth time into the third round of a Major, but he’s yet to advance farther. Based on the way he’s been serving, and his competitive streak, Alex may just upset the former US Open finalist in what I expect will be an extended affair.

Daniil Medvedev (5) vs. Feliciano Lopez

Medvedev has been the winningiest player on tour this year, especially over the past month.  But perhaps all that tennis is finally catching up with him. Daniil has played 18 matches since July 30th, and appeared to be battling fighting body cramps in his four-set win yesterday.  Today he faces one of the oldest yet fittest players on tour in 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez, who also won their only previous meeting two years ago on clay.  And Feli can still go in singles: he was the Queens Club champion just a few months ago. Yet Lopez also had an exhausting match of his own yesterday against Yoshihito Nishioka.  On a hard court, Medvedev remains the favorite, as long as his body cooperates.

Other notable matches on Day 5:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Denis Kudla, a 27-year-old American into the third round of a Major for the second time.  How will Djokovic’s shoulder be two days after he was in obvious pain?

Roger Federer (3) vs. Dan Evans.  Federer is 2-0 against the 29-year-old Brit, but Evans pushed him to two tiebreaks in Australia earlier this year.

Ash Barty (2) vs. Maria Sakkari (30).  Barty owns a 2-1 record in their head-to-head, though Sakkari claimed their only meeting in the US, last year in Indian Wells.

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Ons Jabeur, a 25-year-old from Tunisia who has never been farther than this stage of a Slam.

Stan Wawrinka (23) vs. Paolo Lorenzi, a 37-year-old lucky loser from Italy who spent nearly 13 hours on court in his last three matches, with almost five hours of that coming yesterday afternoon.

Johanna Konta (16) vs. Shuai Zhang (33).  Konta has a 4-1 edge, with Shuai’s only win coming in her home country of China.

Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Petra Martic (22).  They’ve split two previous meetings, both played on clay.

Order of play

Arthur Ashe Stadium – 5pm (BST) start

Roger Federer [3] vs Dan Evans

Not before 6.30pm

Serena Williams vs Karolina Muchova

Not before 12am

Sofia Kenin [20] vs Madison Keys [10]

Novak Djokovic [1] Denis Kudla

Louis Armstrong Stadium – 4pm (BST) start

Ons Jabeur vs Karolina Pliskova [3]

Maria Sakkari [30] vs Ashleigh Barty [2]

Not before 7.30pm

Stan Wawrinka [23] vs Paolo Lorenzi

Not before 12am

Elina Svitolina [5] vs Dayana Yastremska [32]

Feliciano Lopez vs Daniil Medvedev

Grandstand – 4pm (BST) start

Alex de Minaur vs Kei Nishikori [7]

Johanna Konta [16] vs Zhang Shuai [33]

Fiona Ferro vs Qiang Wang [18]

Dominik Koepfer vs Nikoloz Basilashvili [17]

Court 17 – 4pm [BST] start

Pablo Carrena Busta vs David Goffin [15]

Grigor Dimitrov vs Kamil Majchrzak

Court 10 – 4pm [BST] start

Petra Martic [22] vs Anastasija Sevastova [12]

 

 

 

 

Grand Slam

Na-Lae Han, Tatsuma Ito Clinch Australian Open Wildcards

With just over a month to go, wildcards for the first grand slam of 2020 have already been decided.

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Han Na-Lae (image via wtatennis.com)

South Korean player Na-Lae Han is set to make her grand slam debut at the Australian Open next month after winning the Asia-Pacific playoff tournament in Zhuhai, China.

 

The 27-year-old, who was the top seed in the tournament, downed Ayano Shimizu 6-2 6-2 in the final to secure her spot in Melbourne. Han is currently ranked 182nd in the world and has won a trio of ITF $25,000 titles this season. She is currently the only player from her country to be ranked inside the top 300 on the WTA Tour.

“It’s the first time I played Ayano. I am really happy to win the championship and to capture the wildcard,” Han told Tennis Australia.

Han was hoping for double success after also taking part in the doubles draw alongside compatriot Choi Ji-hee. However, the duo lost in the semi-finals. Han won her first and so far only WTA title at the 2018 Korean Open in the doubles with Choi. The wildcard was secured by the Chinese Taipei pairing of Ya-Hsuan Lee and Fang-Hsien Wu.

In the men’s tournament Japan’s Tatsuma Ito upset top seed Jason Jung 7-5, 6-4, to seal his place. 31-year-old Ito has been ranked as high as 60th in the world and will be playing in the main draw of the Australian Open for the sixth time in his career. However, he last won a match in the tournament back in 2013. This year he reached the main draw after coming through qualifying, but lost in the first round to Dan Evans.

“I really enjoyed this moment” said Ito after his win. “I moved through into the main draw after qualifying this year. It was very tough for me and my body. It will easier next year (smiling).”

Elsewhere, South Korea’s Ji Sung Nam and Minkyu Song won the men’s doubles title. Meanwhile, China had a clean sweep in the junior competitions with Xiaofei Wang and Fangran Tian winning their events.

This year’s playoffs have been branded as a success by tournament director Isabelle Gemmel. It is the eighth consecutive year the tournament has taken place, which aim to promote top-level tennis in the region.

“Na-Lae Han was undefeated all week and Tatsuma Ito overcame a couple of tough matches to win the all-important main draw wildcard.” Said Gemmel.
“With two new countries, Korea and Japan, winning for the first time in singles, it underlines how the Asia-Pacific wildcard playoff has established itself as a key tournament in its own right and how valued it is in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The 2020 Australian Open will get underway on January 20th.

List of winners

MEN’S SINGLES: Tatsuma Ito (JPN)

WOMEN’S SINGLES: Na-Lae Han (KOR)

MEN’S DOUBLES: Ji Sung Nam and Minkyu Song (KOR)

WOMEN’S DOUBLES: Ya-Hsuan Lee and Fang-Hsien Wu (TPE)

BOYS’ SINGLES: Xiaofei Wang (CHN)

GIRLS’ SINGLES: Fangran Tian (CHN)

 

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Grand Slam

Margaret Court’s Tennis To Be Celebrated At Australian Open But Not Her Politics

Margaret Court will be invited to the Australian Open this year despite her political views.

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Margaret Court(@shopworldoffers - Twitter)

Tennis Australia will be celebrating Margaret Court’s tennis at the Australian Open in January but not her politics. 

 

Margaret Court has won 24 grand slam singles titles, the most of any female player in history as of now, and has been invited to celebrate 50 years since winning one of 11 Australian Open titles.

That year, she would also win all four grand slam titles, marking a historic year for Court in the context of her tennis career.

But for many Australians and people around the world that is not the way she is being remembered lately as it’s her politics that are taking over.

Just before the Gay Marriage Referendum vote in 2018, Margaret Court expressed her rather hateful views towards the LGBTQ community, calling transgender children the work of “the devil.”

Furthermore she claimed that tennis was full of lesbians, “Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but those couple that led took young ones into parties,” Court told Vision Christian Radio in 2017.

Those views have been criticised by many with the likes of Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova wanting her name stripped from the second biggest court at the Australian Open.

Now, a couple of years later after much debate, Court will be invited to the Australian Open for her incredible achievement 50 years ago as Tennis Australia announced today.

The Australian was thrilled to hear the truce given by Tennis Australia, “This is an incredible milestone for me, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has gone. It’s always wonderful to catch up with my fellow legends and I’m grateful to Tennis Australia,” Court said in Tennis Australia’s press release.

During the event a special documentary of Court reflecting back on that achievement will be released as well as this there will be in-stadium entertainment celebrating the event as well as a legends lunch.

But once again Tennis Australia once again distanced themselves from Court’s political views as they stated in their press release, “As often stated, Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” Tennis Australia said.

“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.

“#Open4All encompasses events such as the Glam Slam, an international LGBTQI tournament that has been held at the Australian Open for the past few years, and will be back for AO 2020.

“We have also hosted events for the National Inclusion Conference and have ongoing working relationships with the Pride in Sport Index and Stand Up Events. A full program of #Open4All events at Australian Open 2020 will be released in the coming weeks.

“The Australian Open is for everyone, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Melbourne in January 2020.”

Although, Court will continue to cause controversy especially considering Tennis Australia’s ‘tale of two halves’ press release.

The Australian will hope that it will be her tennis that will be remembered in January, but it won’t be a smooth ride on the road to being appreciated.

 

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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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