US Open Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

US Open Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Sunday is headlined by a rematch of the 2016 men’s singles final.

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Novak Djokovic - US Open 2019 (photo via Twitter, @USOpen)

That will be the nightcap on Arthur Ashe Stadium, proceeded by a big-time fourth round affair between two WTA top 10 seeds.  During the day on Ashe, 43 Major singles title will be in action, as Roger Federer and Serena Williams play their round of 16 matches.  And the race for WTA No.1 ranking still hangs in the balance, with the top three players in the world all having the chance to leave New York with that crown.

 

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stan Wawrinka (23)

This is their first match since the US Open final of three years ago, when Wawrinka stunned Djokovic in four sets to win his third Major.  That was just 15 months after Stan had also stunned Novak in the French Open final in four sets. But those are two of only five Wawrinka victories in this rivalry, compared to 20 for Djokovic.  They’ve combined to create some epics in recent times. Stan and Novak played four five-setters at hard court Majors between January 2013 and January 2015, with Djokovic taking three of the four.  The biggest question today is regarding the condition of the world No.1’s shoulder. It didn’t seem to drastically impact his form in a straight set win over Denis Kudla, though he remained tight-lipped regarding the extent of the injury.  And Novak mysteriously arrived to the grounds extremely late on Friday, delaying his scheduled practice multiple times. Of course Wawrinka has battled his own injury troubles in recent years, but appears to be as healthy and well-conditioned as he’s been in over two years.  Many of Novak and Stan’s greatest battles have occurred late at night at Slams. In front of an engaged New York crowd on a Sunday night, I think Stan will play inspired tennis, and push Djokovic farther than his shoulder will allow him to go on this day.

Roger Federer (3) vs. David Goffin (15)

After some seriously subpar tennis in his first two rounds, Federer cleaned up his act on Friday against Dan Evans, dropping only five games.  And he’s 8-1 against Goffin, with David’s only victory coming at the 2017 ATP Finals. They most recently met on the grass of Halle in June, where Federer prevailed in the championship match 7-6, 6-1.  Goffin will force Federer to hit a few more balls than most opponents, but doesn’t posses a weapon that can really threaten the 20-time Major champion. As long as Federer plays more like his third round match than the first two, he should advance comfortably.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Madison Keys (10)

Keys owns a 2-1 record over Svitolina, which includes a win in this same round at this same tournament two years ago, which was also a night match on Ashe.  But earlier this year in Australia, Svitolina got the best of Keys in the round of 16 of that event. This is the one Major where Elina is yet to advance beyond this round, while Keys has made the semis or better here two straight years.  Neither woman has dropped a set to this stage. Keys comes in on a nine-match winning streak, having won the title in Cincinnati. But Madison was clearly feeling under the weather on Friday, and was lucky to escape her match against fellow American Sofia Kenin in straights.  She’ll need to be close to 100% to overcome the excellent defensive skills of Svitolina. But Svitolina is the more consistent competitor, so I give her the slight edge on this day considering Keys’ health, and her history of up-and-down play.

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Johanna Konta (16)

This is a battle between two of the WTA’s best servers.  Their history has been quite one-sided, with Pliskova taking six of their seven encounters.  That includes their most recent meeting, in the championship match of Rome. However, Konta’s only win did come on a hard court, three years ago in Beijing in a third set tiebreak.  This will be their first match at a Major. Like Svitolina, this is the only Slam where Konta hasn’t appeared in a quarterfinal. She could be catching Pliskova at an opportunistic time, as Karolina hasn’t looked her best through three rounds here.  But as their head-to-head shows, this matchup just does not favor the British No.1. Pliskova should advance to the quarters here for the fourth straight year.

Alex de Minaur vs. Grigor Dimitrov

This is a huge moment for both men, at very different stages of their careers.  The 20-year-old Australian is into the fourth round of a Major for the first time, after an excellent upset of Kei Nishikori two days ago.  And to say the 28-year-old Bulgarian has been slumping since winning the 2017 ATP Finals is an understatement. But he’s taken advantage of an opening in the draw, with the withdrawal of Borna Coric ahead of their second round match, and facing a lucky loser in the third round who was coming off two consecutive five-setters.  De Minaur and Dimitrov have never played before, but Alex is definitely the more in-form player, with considerably more confidence. Grigor will have to remain consistently offensive to counteract the speed and service skills of de Minaur. I just don’t see it being enough, and like Alex to schedule a likely meeting with Federer on Tuesday.

Other notable matches on Day 7:

Serena Williams (8) vs. Petra Martic (22).  In their first career meeting, Martic vies for her second Major quarterfinal, after reaching her first a few months ago in Paris.  By contrast, Serena is playing to reach her 52nd quarterfinal at a Slam.

Ash Barty (2) vs. Qiang Wang (18).  Barty leads their head-to-head 2-0, and Qiang is making her round of 16 debut at a Major.

The US Open’s new villain, Daniil Medvedev vs. Dominik Koepfer (Q), a 25-year-old from Germany who will crack the top 100 for the first time in his career after this event.  The ATP has an informative piece on Koepfer here.

Coco Gauff may have been eliminated in singles, but she’s still alive in the doubles event.  Scheduled third on Louis Armstrong Stadium, it’s Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke (9) vs. Coco Gauff and Katy McNally (WC).

And in case you haven’t gotten your full Kyrgios fix yet, Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer (16) vs. Marius Copil and Nick Kyrgios.

Order of play for singles matches only (time in BST)

Arthur Ashe Stadium 

17:00:
(3) Roger Federer (Swi) v (15) David Goffin (Bel)
(8) Serena Williams (USA) v (22) Petra Martic (Cro)

00:00
(5) Elina Svitolina (Ukr) v (10) Madison Keys (USA)
(1) Novak Djokovic (Ser) v (23) Stan Wawrinka (Swi)

Louis Armstrong Stadium 

16:00:
(18) Qiang Wang (Chn) v (2) Ashleigh Barty (Aus)
(16) Johanna Konta (Gbr) v (3) Karolina Pliskova (Cze)
(9) Nicole Melichar (USA) & Kveta Peschke (Cze) v Cori Gauff (USA) & Catherine McNally (USA)

Not before 21:00:
Dominik Koepfer (Ger) v (5) Daniil Medvedev (Rus) 

Grandstand 

16:00: Alexa Guarachi (Chi) & Bernarda Pera (USA) v Caroline Dolehide (USA) & Vania King (USA)

Not before 17:30:
Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) v Alex De Minaur (Aus)
Anna Kalinskaya (Rus) & Yulia Putintseva (Kaz) v Shuai Peng (Chn) & Alicja Rosolska (Pol)
(8) Marcel Granollers (Spa) & Horacio Zeballos (Arg) v (10) Rajeev Ram (USA) & Joe Salisbury (Gbr)

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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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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