US Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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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.

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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 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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Daniil Medvedev Gave Rafa Fans The Scare Of A Lifetime

Charleston Post and Courier columnist James Beck reflects on the US Open men’s final and what the future might have in store.

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NEW YORK — Rafa, you gave your followers quite a scare.

 

No. 19 looked like it was in the books when you got the first break point of the ninth game of the third set. But it wasn’t, and the second break point flew by as well.

Oh well, it was just 5-4, Daniil Medvedev. There was still time to close out the match in three sets. But after deadlocking the set at 5-5, you won only one point in the last two games of the set.

IT MIGHT BE A LONG NIGHT

Settle back, Rafa Nadal fans. It might be a long night.

The men’s final of Sunday’s U.S. Open was going the distance, even though Nadal served with double game points in the decisive 10th game of the fourth set, but still lost the set.

Nadal even served for the match with a 5-2 lead in the fifth set. He lost that one on a time violation first-serve penalty leading to a double fault to end the game.

Was it time to get worried about Rafa getting No. 19 this night? Was this going to be a Serena-like  case of bad fortune for Nadal? Of course, Serena Williams one day earlier had failed again for an all-time tying No. 24 Grand Slam title.

It could have happened to Nadal, too. Anything could have, judging from the way his tall and amazingly agile and quick Russian opponent was playing.

MIGHTY SERVE ENDED A HISTORIC FINAL

Nadal looked like he had a lock on No. 19 again before wasting two match points with Medvedev serving the ninth game of the fifth set.

Rafa even had to fight off a break point in the 10th game before ending the nearly five-hour marathon with a perfectly place serve down the middle.

He went flat on his back in disbelief, and Medvedev went around the net. The two embraced.

It, indeed, was one of the most memorable moments in the history of Grand Slam tennis.

Finally, a 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory that pushed Nadal’s Grand Slam championship total to within one of Roger Federer’s all-time record.

AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE BY BOTH PLAYERS

This was simply an amazing match that left a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, mostly of Nadal supporters, drained. It was that riveting.

This had to be one of the greatest U.S. Open finals ever.

Medvedev put on an unthinkable display of grit and talent, a sheer desire to win. Medvedev and Nadal  were like acrobats at times as they moved around the court to pull off amazing tennis stunts. Anything was possible because of the two players’ athletic abilities.

Nadal is definitely for real. But if his 23-year-old Russian opponent is for real, as he certainly appeared Sunday night, the Australian Open isn’t going to be a picnic for Federer, Nadal or the injured Novak Djokovic, or anyone else.

And then there’s the French Open where Rafa will be heavily favored to get No. 20 if he fails in Melbourne. Of course, if Rafa plays the way he did in the first two sets on Sunday, he may notch No. 20 Down Under.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? WHY NOT A DRAW?

What happens if both Nadal and Federer are tied for the all-time lead with 20 Grand Slam titles each?

If they’re deadlocked in another year or two, it might be time for a permanent dual timeout for both players. As sad as such a day would be, it would be a day to celebrate. Co-record holders wouldn’t be a bad way to go since retirement is inevitable for these two great players.

Although Federer demonstrated at Wimbledon and Nadal showed Sunday night, they can still rival the best tennis has to offer, but the rest of the men’s tennis game isn’t going to take a break waiting for these two greats to retire. Medvedev and his likes will continue to close the gap until there isn’t one.

PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD

As a result of what happened in Sunday’s U.S. Open final, the days ahead will add even more pressure for both Nadal and Federer each time a Grand Slam rolls around.

Federer already has felt that pressure, both here and at Wimbledon, as he tried to widen his lead over Nadal and Djokovic. Even Nadal seemed to feel some of the same pressure Sunday night while trying to close out Medvedev.

After defeating Federer in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic called Federer “one of the greatest ever” in his acceptance comments after the match. Federer frowned, but Djokovic was right.

Djokovic knows, because he’s not out of the all-time race just yet.

It would be nice if Federer and Nadal could/or would retire at the same time, and join Rod Laver as the greatest men’s tennis players ever. But just not quite yet.

 

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at 

http://www.postandcourier.com/search/?l=25&sd=desc&s=start_time&f=html&t=article%2Cvideo%2Cyoutube%2Ccollection&app=editorial&q=james+beck&nsa=eedition

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US Open A Ratings Hit In North America

Both the men’s and women’s finals managed to attract some record TV viewing figures.

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Bianca Andreescu’s win over Serena Williams in the final of the US Open was the most watched women’s final on ESPN of all time, according to official figures.

 

The Canadian 19-year-old rallied to a 6-3, 7-5, win over the former world No.1 to claim her first grand slam title. Her triumphed attracted an overnight rating of 2.7 million on ESPN. A 13% increase on last year (2.4) when Naomi Osaka defeated Williams. At its peak, which was towards the end of the second set, the rating was as high as 3.9. ESPN has also confirmed that the 2019 women’s final was their joint-highest US Open rating of all time.

Across the border, Andreescu’s win also made history in her home country of Canada. An average audience of 3.4 million watched her match on TSN and RDS with a peak of 5.3 million. Making in the networks most watched tennis match in history. It is also the most-watched broadcast since the Toronto Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championships. TSN has also noted that Andreescu’s run has helped them achieve a 69% rise in views compared to 2018 to 10.7 million people watching the grand slam at some point. Meanwhile, their digital platforms have achieved a 145% year-on-year rise with 13 million impressions on TSN’s social media platforms.

There was also success for the networks with the men’s final. Rafael Nadal edged out Daniil Medvedev in a dramatic five-set encounter. The Spaniard was leading by two sets, before his opponent drew back to draw level. Forcing a tense decider. Their encounter was ESPN’s most popular men’s US Open final since 2015 and a 33% increase on 12 months ago. It attracted an overnight rating of 2.0. The 2015 clash between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer scored a 2.4 rating.

The strong broadcast numbers coincide with what has been a record year for the New York major. A record 737,872 fans attended the event over two weeks with the Arthur Ashe Stadium managing to have 23 out of 24 sell out sessions. The number doesn’t include the ‘Fan Week’ that took place before the start of the main draw. 115,355 people attended that to bring the overall figure to 853,227.

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