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

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

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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