US Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Grand Slam

US Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Saturday is headlined by a blockbuster third round matchup between two of the sport’s biggest new superstars.

Published

on

Naomi Osaka (@TennisChannel - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

To kick off the night session on Arthur Ashe Stadium, defending champion Naomi Osaka faces 15-year-old American phenomenon Coco Gauff. Earlier in the day on Ashe, another fast-rising teenager, Bianca Andreescu, takes on last year’s Australian Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki. And on the men’s side, some of the ATP’s most exciting players are in action: Nick Kyrgios, Gael Monfils, Denis Shapovalov, and Rafael Nadal.

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Coco Gauff (WC)

Osaka is on a 16-match winning streak at hard court Majors, dating back to last year’s US Open. There were a lot of questions coming into this event regarding her knee, which forced her to retire in Cincinnati. While she struggled a bit in her opening match, she easily advanced in straight sets on Thursday. But now she’ll face a situation eerily similar to last year’s ugly US Open final, where the crowd will be squarely against her, and exuberantly cheering on her opponent.

Coco Gauff has electrified the audience on Louis Armstrong Stadium this week, enduring two thrilling three-setters.  Tonight she makes her Arthur Ashe Stadium debut, and looks to advance to the round of 16 for the second consecutive Major. As impressive as Coco has been, expecting a 15-year-old to defeat the defending champion and world No.1 on tennis biggest stadium may be too much. And I’m not sure how much Gauff will have left emotionally after already playing two dramatic matches this week. Osaka’s experience on this court, as nightmarish as some of it is, should pay dividends. If Naomi maintains her level from the last round, she should advance here.

Bianca Andreescu (15) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (19)

What 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu has achieved this year is quite something. The Canadian came out of nowhere to win two Premier events, at Indian Wells and in her home country’s biggest tournament, the Rogers Cup. Overall this year at all levels, Andreescu is 38-4. Her four losses are all to current top 30 players. One of those was a mid-match retirement, and the other three were tight three-setters. While she missed several months of the year letting her body recover from injury, she hasn’t lost a completed hard court match in six months. Her talent and fight have been on full display in 2019.

One of her first hard court victories this season came at the expense of Wozniacki, back during the first week of the year in Auckland. Caroline is a two-time finalist in New York, and loves playing here. But she’s been struggling with rheumatoid arthritis over the past year, and has only played 40 matches since last year’s US Open. After coming back from a set down twice already this week, I’m not sure how much she’ll have left today. I like Bianca’s chances to advance to the fourth round of a Major for the first time in her career.

Nick Kyrgios (28) vs. Andrey Rublev

This will be the late night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Whoever decided to schedule Kyrgios late on a Saturday night is asking for trouble. Despite showcasing some of his usual drama, Nick has played extremely well through two rounds. He’s yet to drop a set this week. And he beat Rublev in their only prior encounter, last year on a hard court in the Russian’s home country.

But a year later, Rublev is a much stronger player, having recovered from a lower back injury that side-tracked his career. The 21-year-old upset Roger Federer two weeks ago in Cincinnati, as well as Stefanis Tsitsipas earlier this week. He’ll surely be a tough out, but I suspect Kyrgios will be motivated in front of the late night crowd, as he was on Tuesday night against Steve Johnson. And considering Nick’s immense talent, the match will be on his racket.

Gael Monfils (13) vs. Denis Shapovalov

Monfils has rather quietly put together a solid year, with a title and three other semi-final appearances. He’s on the verge of cracking back into the top 10 with a few more nice runs this season. And the US Open has been the Frenchman’s second best Major: three times he’s reached the quarterfinals or better. Meanwhile two years ago here, Shapovalov reached his first round of 16 at a Slam in just his second Major main draw. But Denis is yet to repeat that feat.

Prior to Winston-Salem last week, the 20-year-old Canadian had a losing record on the year, though he’s already accumulated five match wins since adding former US Open semi-finalist Mikhail Youzhny to his team at that event.  This will be the first career meeting between these two, and they’ll open the night session on Louis Armstrong Stadium. While most eyes will be on Osaka and Gauff at that time, I imagine this match will draw a good crowd of day session ticketholders who won’t be able to get into Ashe at night. Monfils loves a good audience, and he’s the favourite here based on recent form. He should be able to negotiate a large amount of errors out of Shapovalov.

John Isner (14) vs. Marin Cilic (22)

It’s the American No.1 against the 2014 US Open champion. However, neither man has experienced a good 2019.  Isner’s year started off pretty well, reaching three semi-finals before advancing to the final in Miami. But John suffered a stress fracture in his foot during that final, and missed three months of the year. And while he did win the grass court title in Newport, he went just 3-3 on North American hard courts leading up to this event.

On the other side of the net, Cilic has been a shell of his former self. Marin has been battling his nerves for the past year, and more recently some service yips have become evident. Cilic leads their head-to-head 8-3, but Isner has claimed three of their last five meetings. Their most notable encounter was at Wimbledon in 2015, when Cilic prevailed 12-10 in the fifth. This will be a mid-afternoon match on the Grandstand, which will surely be filled with vocal American support for Isner. Considering the way Cilic has choked under pressure so many times of late, Isner should be favoured in a match that will likely involve a few tiebreaks.

Other notable matches on Day 6:

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Hyeon Chung (WC). It’s nice to see Chung healthy and back in the mix, but I’m not sure how much he’ll have left after barely surviving against Fernando Verdasco in a fifth set tiebreak on Thursday night.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Aljaz Bedene. Zverev has already played two five-setters this week, and Bedene is another player who came through in a fifth set breaker on Thursday.

Kiki Bertens (7) vs. Julia Goerges (26). Bertens leads their head-to-head 2-1, though they’ve never played on a hard court.

Belinda Bencic (13) vs. Anett Kontaveit (21). This will be their first career meeting, with the winner playing either Osaka or Gauff.

2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. Kristie Ahn (Q), a 27-year-old American who had never won a match at a Major prior to this week.

ATP

Roger Federer Pulls Out Of French Open Following Surgery

The unexpected announcement means the former world No.1 will be out of action for at least almost four months.

Published

on

20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will miss the entire clay-court season after confirming that he has undergone surgery on his right knee.

 

The world No.3 underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday in his native Switzerland following consultation with doctors. A minimally invasive procedure that involves the examination and treatment of the joint. Federer said his right knee was ‘bothering him for a little while’ and that doctors are ‘very confident of a full recovery.’ The 38-year-old also missed six months of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.

In a statement, Federer confirmed that he will not be playing another tournament until the grass season. Ruling him out of the upcoming North American hard-court swing, as well as the French Open. The only clay court tournament he was due to play in 2020.

“My right knee has been bothering me for a little while.” Federer said on social media.
“I hope it would go away, but after an examination, and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday (Wednesday).”
“After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery.”
“As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogotá (exhibition), Miami and the French Open. I am grateful for everyone’s support. I can’t wait to be back playing again soon.”

Concerns about Federer’s current form started during his run at the Australian Open where he lost in the semi-finals to Novak Djokovic. In Melbourne, the Swiss player experienced issues with his right leg. He described played down the issue as ‘pain and problems’ following his quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren, which he took a medical time-out during.

“Of course, you want to be 100% to be able to train again, then get ready for hopefully Dubai. Right now it’s only guessing. I’m very happy that I don’t feel any worse than when I started (the match). That’s for me super encouraging.” He told reporters on January 30th,

Nevertheless, Federer has recently been in action. Almost two weeks ago, he took on Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in South Africa and won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.  The clash was in aid of the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports early childhood education in six southern African countries, including South Africa. An estimated $3.5 million was raised, according to the associated press.

Should everything goes to plan, Federer’s next tournament will now be the Halle Open, which he has a lifetime contract to play at unless injured or ill. The tournament starts on June 15th.

It is only the second time in his career, Federer has undergone the knife whilst playing on the tour. The first was back in 2016 when he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

 

Continue Reading

Grand Slam

Australian Open Stats: The Strength Of Djokovic In Deciders, The Diversity Of The Women’s Tournament

The Serbian is 31 out of 41 in 5th set situations, and 4 out of 5 in Slam finals. 28 players have reached the semis in a female Slam in the last 3 seasons, while Zverev was the only player under 25 to reach the quarter finals.

Published

on

1 – the man under 25 (Alexander Zverev) to have reached the final 8 in Melbourne, with 3 more (Raonic, Sandgren, Thiem) who are under 30. Therefore, the NextGen has failed once more in the first Slam, despite the status of contenders reached by several of its members in the past few months, and despite the presence of 8 players under 25 in the Top 20 – Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Berrettini, Rublev, Shapovalov, Khachanov, Kyrgios. The failure becomes even more blatant if the sample is extended to the fourth round of the tournament, with just Kyrgios, Medvedev, and Rublev joining Sascha – the latter two are also the only ones who are still to turn 23. After all, the youngest Major winner is still Marin Cilic, born in 1988, and the world N.1 has constantly been a player over 30 since May 2017 – always members of the Fab Four, who have been holding on to the top spot since February of 2004. On the other hand, the women’s draw kept alive the opposite trend, with the oldest player reaching the quarter finals being Petra Kvitova, who turns 30 next month, a result that is in line with the rankings, in which Serena and Kerber are the only “mature” features, and more in general with the tendency of WTA tennis as a whole. As a matter of fact, since Serena’s last Slam triumph (3 years ago), all such tournaments have ended up in the grasp of players under 30 years of age (except for Wimbledon 2018, won by Kerber), and in some cases we’ve had teenagers (Osaka, Ostapenko, Andreescu) taking home the big prize.

 

10 – the months in which Dominic Thiem’s career has turned around. The Austrian had already reached the 4th spot in the rankings, in November of 2017, yet exclusively due to his clay-court prowess. At the end of 2018, Thiem had a meager 53% win rate on matches played on surfaces that weren’t his beloved, red realm: before his win in Saint Petersburg in the autumn of that year, he had played in 34 tournaments on fast courts without reaching a final, since the one he lost in Metz in 2016. The same dynamic occurred in his match-ups with other Top-10 studs: up to that point, he was 4-18 in matches played on hard or grass. The beginning of 2019 was very much the same, with an early retirement at the Australian Open, but then the collaboration with Nicolas Massù started, and with that some immediate relief happened, with his first Master 1000 win in Indian Wells, beating an experienced player like Gilles Simon and two members of the Top 20, Milos Raonic and Roger Federer. And while some people thought this would be a solitary spring flower, Thiem dispelled all doubts with an outstanding coda to the season, winning in Beijing and Vienna and reaching the semis in Shanghai and losing by inches at the ATP Finals in London against Tsitsipas. A further token of his exceptional play is the quality of the opponents he’s toppled in this stretch: among the current Top 8, he’s beaten everyone but Medvedev (although with Tsitsipas, Berrettini, and Djokovic he’s also lost), and he’s 12-6 against Top 10 opponents since 2019 Indian Wells. 3 Slam finals lost, plus the ATP Finals defeat, could lead to believe that Thiem isn’t a natural winner (especially when considering how close the last 2 nail-biter defeats were), but they’re more likely a testament to his improvements and to the close distance between him and a Slam win.

28 – the amount of players who have reached the semis in a women’s Major since Serena’s last win. After her 23rd trophy was lifted at the 2017 Australian Open, a kind of anarchy has taken over the WTA circuit. It’s incredibly hard to establish who the best athlete has been in this time-span, let alone for the fact that 7 different players have topped the rankings (Kerber, Pliskova, Muguruza, Halep, Wozniacki, Osaka, Barty), and for the fact that Williams herself has played 4 more finals and returned to the Top 10 despite playing a limited amount of tournaments. Had she won in Melbourne, the mercurial Muguruza might have well claimed the mantle of the most successful (she won at Wimbledon in 2017, reached the semis in Paris in 2018, and indeed reached the final in Melbourne last week), but that wasn’t to be. To draw a comparison, only Halep and Williams have reached more Slam semifinals, and Madison Keys is the only player who, aside from the Spaniard, has reached 3 (final at Flushing Meadows in 2017, semis in Paris and New York again in 2018). Since the spring of 2017, there’s only a pair who’s won multiple Slams: Simona Halep, who’s the most constant with 2 wins (Paris 2018 and Wimbledon 2019) and 2 finals (Paris 2017 and Melbourne 2018) and Naomi Osaka, who won twice in a row (the only woman to achieve that, at the 2018 US and the 2019 Australian Open) but has since lost her mojo, and is very close to falling outside the Top 10. The fact that the Rumanian seems to be the only regular performer in the last few years is confirmed by the 64 weeks she’s spent as the WTA N.1, almost thrice as much as the 25 weeks of Osaka and the 22 (and counting) of Barty.

35 – the number of weeks as world N.1 that separate Novak Djokovic from Federer’s record tally of 310. Currently on a 16-wins streak (he’s 22-2 in his last 24 encounters as well), he’s won his eighth Australian Open crown at the end of an edge-of-the-seat final against Dominic Thiem in which he’s adfirmed once again his status as an incredible deciding set performer – he’s 31-10 in 5-setters – and specifically in bouts with history at stake, sitting at 4-1 in Slam finals that go the distance. The Serbian now leads the Big Trophies race against his ever-present rivals, having won 56 between Slams, ATP Finals, and Master 1000 titles (Federer and Nadal have 54 each, 55 for Rafa when including the 2008 Olympic gold medal).  Above all, he’s now closer on the Slam tally, having won his 17th trophy, right behind Nadal’s 19 and Federer’s 20. In terms of weeks as the number one, Djokovic is now 10 weeks away from Pete Sampras, a gap he should fill quite easily before setting his eyes on Federer. In order to overtake the Swiss, Djokovic needs to keep the throne until October: till then, Djokovic has to retain a considerable amount of points (2000 at Wimbledon, 1000 in Madrid, 720 in Paris, 600 in Rome, 500 in Tokyo), but, given his current form, that doesn’t look like an impossible feat for him, especially with basically a full season’s schedule to be played still, and, given his continuity since 2008 (bar the first half of 2018), odds are that he’ll be able to reach this lofty milestone.

Article originally published on ubitennis.com and translated by Tommaso Villa

Continue Reading

Grand Slam

Tennis Great Margaret Court Claims Unfair Treatment At Australian Open

The 24-time grand slam winner has responded to a high-profile protest against her in Melbourne by two former players for the first time.

Published

on

Controversial tennis figure Margaret Court has come out fighting following her appearance at the Australian Open by accusing the organisers of unfairly treating her.

 

The 77-year-old was invited to the tournament to mark the 50th anniversary of her career grand slam. When she won all four major titles during 1970. However, the appearance was one that caused controversy. The Australian, who is now a Christian pastor, has been criticised over the years for her controversial views and statements. She said earlier this year that LGBT teaching in schools is ‘controlled by the devil.’ In other incidents she has said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘, once described rival Martina Navratilova as a ‘bad role model’ due to her sexuality, 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.

Nevertheless, Tennis Australia proceeded to mark Court’s anniversary. However, they released a statement saying that their decision was to mark her achievements and not her as a person. During an on-court presentation, the 24-time grand slam champion wasn’t given a microphone to speak to the crowd. Something she has since blasted.

“They think because I’m a preacher I’m going to preach the gospel,” Court told Court’s Channel 9 News. “There is a time to speak and a time to not.
“I think they (Tennis Australia) said they were going to honour me but not celebrate me because of my stance and my views on gay marriage and all those areas, which I’ve got nothing against people who are gay.
“From the tennis side of it, where they pointed the finger at me and tried to discriminate against everything that I’ve done.”

Tennis Australia (TA) has since played down Court’s cries of discrimination. In a statement they confirmed that the tennis legend were flown into Melbourne from Perth with 20 family members and were issued with 100 tickets for the tournament. She also had a launch in her honour. The organisation has called out the former player for not expressing her displeasure until now.

“TA covered the cost of flights, accommodation, breakfasts and executive club access, for the family, along with hospitality at the event, which included more than 100 tickets over the two weeks,” the statement said.
“Margaret agreed to all these arrangements … prior to her arrival in Melbourne. We are very disappointed to hear now of her complaints, none of which were expressed to us during her time at the Australian Open.”

‘I feel sorry for him’

Ongoing calls to remove Court’s name from one of the premier facilities at the Australian Open were highlighted by two other former tennis greats. John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova held a banner which publicly called for the name of the arena to be changed to four-time champion Evonne Goolagong. Navratilova took to the microphone to speak with the crowd after playing her legends match, but was cut off.

Court has claimed she tried to have a ‘one-to-one’ talk with Navratilova, but was unable to. She has also partly expressed remorse for once sayingMartina is a great player, but I would like someone at the top who the younger players can look up to. It is very sad for children to be exposed to homosexuality.’ Navratilova won 59 major titles during her career with 18 of those occurring in singles.

“That’s going back 30 years or more. I apologised to her if it hurt her.” She replied when challenged.
“Just the two of us on our own, I would have like to speak with her and that didn’t happen.”

Even more vocal in their opposition to Court was McEnroe, who described her as ‘offensive and homophobic’ during a three-minute monologue broadcasted on Eurosport. Not that deters her in any way.

“I always thought I got on quite well with John McEnroe and I’ve always respected him. I feel sorry for him that he speaks like that and that he can’t separate one part of life to another,” she said.

As to the protest by Navratilova and McEnroe, the Australian has slammed it as ‘very wrong.’ Arguing that it was inappropriate for such actions to occur. Although they both insists that they have no regrets despite breaking protocol at the tournament.

“I’d never go to another nation, whatever I thought of the person, I would never say, ‘Hey, you should take their name off a building.’ And I think that was very, very wrong.” She states.
“You know, there are a lot of those people who do agree with me.
“I walked around and people touched me on the shoulder and said, ‘Thank you for being my voice.’ I’ve never had one person come and say: ‘I hate you’.”

Court remains the most decorated singles player in grand slam history with 24 titles.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending