US Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

With a chance of thunderstorms on Monday in New York, some of today’s fourth round singles matches may be decided under a closed roof.

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Rafael Nadal (@usopen on Twitter)

Thankfully, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center now has two stadium courts that can be shielded from the rain.  And with all eight singles matches scheduled on those two stadiums, play should not be interrupted for any considerable length of time.  Arthur Ashe Stadium will be the place to see the day’s best matchups, which include 18-time Major champion Rafael Nadal, defending champion Naomi Osaka, and Canadian sensation Bianca Andreescu.

 

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Marin Cilic (22)

It’s a three-time US Open champion against the 2014 champion.  Nadal owns a 6-2 record over Cilic, with Marin’s only victories coming 10 years ago in Beijing, and last year at the Australian Open.  Nadal retired down 2-0 in the fifth set of that quarterfinal in Melbourne, though it was still a thoroughly deserved win where Cilic showed a lot of grit.  That’s something that’s been missing from Marin’s game of late, as he’s struggled to hold leads in matches. Cilic is just 25-20 since last year’s US Open, and hasn’t gone beyond the quarterfinals of any event during that time.  His serve has been quite a liability of late, as evidenced on Saturday as he served 17 double faults against John Isner. He was lucky the No.1 American let him off the hook by only converting one of 14 break points in the match.  But a service performance like that won’t hold up against a healthy and in-form Nadal, who is a strong favorite to advance to his ninth quarterfinal in New York.

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Belinda Bencic (13)

Enough can’t be said regarding Osaka’s classy and touching behavior after her dominating win over Coco Gauff two days ago.  Naomi played aggressive and decisive tennis in that match, but Bencic should provide a bit more resistance today. The 22-year-old from Switzerland has put together a solid year after her career was sidetracked by injuries at a young age.  Belinda started the year by winning the last Hopman Cup with Roger Federer, then won the title a month later in Dubai, where she defeated four top 10 players. And she is 2-0 against Osaka, with both of those wins coming this year (Indian Wells, Madrid).  She’s on the verge of returning to the top 10 for the first time in over three years. But Belinda hasn’t had the strongest of summers. She was only 2-2 in the US Open Series, and had to retire at the Rogers Cup due to a left foot injury. Bencic also benefitted from Anett Kontaveit withdrawing ahead of their scheduled third round match on Saturday.  Based on all that, as well as Osaka’s level from two days ago, Naomi should finally get her first win over Belinda.

Bianca Andreescu (15) vs. Taylor Townsend (Q)

What a tournament it’s been for 23-year-old American Taylor Townsend.  She was a few points from not even getting into this event in qualifying.  Just a few days later, she upset the Wimbledon champion on the sport’s biggest court in a third set tiebreak.  And as hard as it must be to come back and play after the biggest of your career, Townsend followed it up by defeating Sorana Cirstea in straight sets.  Her serve-and-volley play harkens back to yesteryear, and is refreshing at a time when baseline rallies are so common. But today she runs into the best WTA hard court player of 2019.  19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu already claimed titles this year at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup, and eased her way through this draw. This will be the first Major round of 16 for both women.  The late night crowd in Ashe will surely be rooting for Townsend, though I doubt it will be enough to overcome the all-court game and fighting spirit of Andreescu.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Diego Schwartzman (20)

Sascha Zverev must be exhausted.  He’s played 14 out of a possible 15 sets to survive this far, and has already spent 10 hours on court through three rounds.  With little confidence and some serious serving issues, he deserves credit for battling his way to this stage. And while his opponent today is nearly a full foot shorter than him, he’s one of the best battlers on tour, who rarely defeats himself.  Schwartzman has clocked nearly 50% less time on court than Zverev, and Diego is yet to lose a set. That being said, he’s also yet to face a seeded opponent. They’ve split two previous meetings, though Schwartzman’s victory was over five years ago on clay.  More relevantly, Zverev prevailed last year at the Paris Masters on a hard court. However, I just don’t see Sascha having one more great escape in him this fortnight. I like Diego to reach his third Major quarterfinal.

Matteo Berrettini (24) vs. Andrey Rublev

Berrettini has rather quietly made his way through the draw, and into this second consecutive round of 16 at a Slam.  As per the ATP, Matteo is playing to become only the second Italian man to reach the US Open quarterfinals, and the first in over 40 years.  The 23-year-old missed out on the hype of being one of the ATP’s much-hyped Next Gen stars, having only made his Major debut last year. Berrettini has really come into his own in 2019, with 37 match wins at all levels (including five at the Challenger level).  And he’s proved to be a threat on all surfaces: he won the Phoenix Challenger on a hart court, Munich on clay, and Stuttgart on grass. He was suffering from an injury after Wimbledon and didn’t win a match this summer on a hard court. By contrast, Rublev only rediscovered his form this summer after battling an injury of his own, which sidelined him for much of 2018.  He hasn’t looked back since upsetting Roger Federer in Cincinnati, taking out both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios at this event. They’ve played twice before, and each been victorious once. In a very open section of the draw, where the winner will face either Gael Monfils or Pablo Andujar to make the semifinals, the difference today may be Rublev’s experience. He’s the one who’s been to a Major quarterfinal before, and that was right here two years ago.

Other notable matches on Day 8:

Donna Vekic (23) vs. Julia Goerges (26).  Vekic is yet to drop a set, and is vying for her first Major quarterfinal.  Goerges was a semifinalist last year at Wimbledon, defeating Vekic in the fourth round of that event.  Julia leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Gael Monfils (13) vs. Pablo Andujar.  Monfils survived a thrilling five-setter on Saturday night against Denis Shapovalov.  This is Andujar’s first time in a Slam fourth round. The 33-year-old Spaniard only owned two match wins on a hard court this season prior to this run.  The ATP has a great look at Pablo’s inspiring journey here.  Monfils leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Elise Mertens (25) vs. Kristie Ahn (WC).  The 27-year-old American had never won a match at a Major before last week, but defeated two French Open champions to get here, and hasn’t dropped a set yet.  The WTA details her journey here.  Mertens is not only yet to drop a set, but hasn’t dropped more than three games in a set.

Cocomania may be over, but McCocomania is still running wild.  In a blockbuster women’s doubles match, it’s the undefeated team of Coco Gauff and Katy McNally (WC) vs. Victoria Azarenka and Ash Barty (4), two Major singles champions.

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (7) vs. Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow.  Mike Bryan and Jack Sock were the men’s doubles champions here a year ago, but only one will advance to the quarterfinals.

Order of play (singles matches only)

Arthur Ashe Stadium (5pm BST start)

Naomi Osaka (1) vs Belinda Bencic (13)

Alexander Zverev (6) vs Diego Schwartzman (20)

From 12am

Marin Cilic (22) vs Rafael Nadal (2)

Taylor Townsend vs Bianca Andreescu (15)

Louis Armstrong Stadium (4pm BST start)

Donna Vekic (23) vs Julia Goerges (26)

Andrey Rublev vs Matteo Berrettini (24)

From 12am

Kristie Ahn vs Elise Mertens (25)

Gael Monfils (13) vs Pablo Andujar

Grand Slam

French Open Chief Hoping To Ease COVID-19 Related Restrictions In Coming Weeks

Former world No.4 Guy Forget says he hopes to learn from the controversy caused by the recently cancelled Adria Tour.

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The man in charge of organising this year’s French Open has said he is optimistic that there will be more flexibility in the restrictions placed upon his event as it nears its launch.

 

Guy Forget has told Reuters News Agency that he believes the clay-court major will be nowhere as strict as the US Open, which will take place a couple weeks prior. The US Open is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and players will be subjected to various measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Including regular temperature checks and being limited to how many members of their team they can bring with them. It comes as parts of America reports a rapid rise in cases of the virus.

However, Forget believes that the COVID-19 restrictions set to be implemented in New York will not apply to his tournament because the current situation in his country is not as bad. According to the BBC, more than 29,000 people have died from COVID-19 in France compared to an estimated 132,000 in America.

“Luckily things are a bit more flexible in Europe and in France, especially,” Forget told Reuters. “Hopefully, what we’re going to announce will probably be even more flexible than what we did.”

Despite Forget’s optimism, there is also a lot of caution given recent events that have happened in the sport. The Adria Tour, which was founded by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, was cancelled after an outbreak of the virus among players. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and Borna Coric all tested positive, as well as some coaching staff. The event was criticised for a lack of social distancing with players attending parties, however it all took place in accordance with local government rules. Meanwhile, at the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atalanta Frances Tiafoe withdrew due to testing positive for the virus, but the event continued.

“Maybe some people were overconfident there,” Forget commented on the Adria Tour.
“Luckily no one got hurt really bad but even a few cases is too much and we want to avoid that as much as we can.
“We want to reassure everyone that having people getting ill will be terrible for us. Let’s be really careful, really cautious.”

At present, the French Tennis Federation plans to allow up to 20,000 people to attend the French Open daily with 10,000 on the final day. Equating to roughly 60% of its maximum capacity which is a figure based on ‘health-related information and the projected guidelines.’ Those attending will be required to wear masks whilst walking around the venue but not when sitting courtside.

“We all see soccer on television, it’s wonderful but something is missing without the crowds,” Forget said about the importance of a crowd.
“We are working closely with the administration, the government, to make sure we can provide some crowd while still following very strict security measures.”

The French Open is set to get underway on September 27th. Ash Barty and Rafael Nadal are the defending champions.

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Australian Open Chief Confident Event Will Take Place In January Amid COVID-19 Jump In Region

Craig Tiley has addressed concerns about the Grand Slam following a new outbreak in Victoria.

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The tournament director of the Australian Open has insisted that plans for next year’s tournament are on track despite a spike in COVID-19 cases around Melbourne.

 

Craig Tiley has stated that the Grand Slam will only take place in the city and there are no backup plans to potentially relocate the event in a worst case scenario. The Australian Open is held annually at Melbourne Park and this year attracted a record attendance of 812,174 people. Although there are concerns about the threat posed by COVID-19 with the Victoria State Government reporting another 66 cases of the virus on Friday. Making it the 17th day the daily infection rate has been in double digits. It is possible that the number could be higher with health minister Jenny Mikakos confirming around 10,000 people have refused to be tested with some claiming the virus to be a ‘conspiracy theory.’

According to ABC News Tiley and his team are planning for six scenarios concerning the Australian Open taking place, including the possibility of holding it behind closed doors. Although he is optimistic that the event and others also set to take place next January will go ahead as planned.

“Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning,” Tiley told AAP.
“The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we’ve seen with the current spike in Victoria.
“We’re optimistic the additional measures currently in place will be successful — and restrictions will continue to be eased over the coming months.”

The Tournament director has also confirmed that there will be little flexibility concerning the staging of next year’s event. Saying it will only take place in Melbourne and during January if it goes ahead. Although he is keeping a close eye on the two Grand Slams that are set to take place later this season.

“The US Open and the French Open are exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limiting entourages,” he said.
“Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.
“It’s difficult to predict exactly what will need to be in place as guidelines and protocols are changing week by week, and sometimes even day by day.”

This year’s US Open is set to get underway on August 31st, but will be held behind closed doors for the first time. Meanwhile the French Open, which starts only weeks after the New York major, plans to allow up to 20,000 fans to attend daily. Working out to be roughly 60% of its maximum capacity.

The last time the Australian Open didn’t take place was in 1986 due to a change in its hosting date from December to January. Founded in 1905, it is the youngest out of the four grand slam tournaments.

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Patrick Mouratoglou Cast Doubt On US Open Taking Place As Covid-19 Cases Soar

One top health expert has warned American lawmakers that the country could reach 100,000 cases of the virus per day.

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The coach of Serena Williams has said he is unsure ‘if it is a good move’ for the US Open to go ahead amid the ongoing COVID-19 crises.

 

Patrick Mouratoglou told Sky Sports that he believes it is ‘a bit crazy’ for the event to be going ahead as planned. This year’s Grand Slam in New York is taking place behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing strict measures to deal with the threat of COVID-19. Including regular testing and temperature checks. Players will also be kept essentially in a ‘bubble’ throughout and limited to where they can go. All tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic but the Tour is set to resume in August.

”With what’s happening at the moment in the US, with the number of cases of COVID-19 going higher and higher every day, I don’t think how that can happen,” Mouratoglou told Sky Sports.
“From outside, it looks a bit crazy to try to make it happen. So, I don’t know if it’s a good move.
“I wouldn’t say that if the situation was more stable like it is in Europe, then it’s a different story. But in the US and especially in New York and around New York is… I mean, the number of cases is increasing incredibly. So, I don’t know how reasonable that is to try to make it happen. And I don’t know if last minute the governor of New York will decide to cancel it because of course health first.”

Recently Dr Anthony Fauci, who is a top disease expert, told the United States Senate that he would not be surprised if the country soars to 100,000 cases of the Coronavirus each day. His warning comes as Reuters News Agency reports that there was a rise of more than 47,000 cases on Tuesday. The biggest jump in daily cases since the pandemic started.

As a result of the rise, New York has said that people travelling from 16 different states in America are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the city. According to USA Today this ruling applies to roughly 48% of the entire American population. Due to the uncertain situation, Mouratoglou believes it is still possible the US Open could get cancelled nearer the time.

“I think it’s completely possible that two weeks before he [Andrew Cuomo] decides I mean, considering the situation, this is not reasonable to bring people from all over the world there, mix them together and potentially put them in touch with one of the countries that has the most cases at the moment.” He said.

Some players are yet to clarify their plans for the Grand Slam and if they will be playing. Rafael Nadal, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep are some of those who have previously expressed their concerns. However, former champion and world No.1 Andy Murray says is it a ‘positive’ move for the event to be going ahead as well as the French Open which will follow shortly after.

“Getting the US Open and the French Open played this year is a good thing, I think. It’s positive, I just don’t like the way the French Open went about scheduling their event,” Murray told the BBC. “But we’re going to have to go back to playing at some stage. The most important thing is that the events are safe.”

The US Open is set to get underway on August 31st.

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