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

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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