Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Friday will be highlighted by two of the sport’s brightest young stars meeting for the second consecutive Major.

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At the US Open last summer, Naomi Osaka easily dispatched of 15-year-old Coco Gauff. But it’s what happened after the match that warmed the hearts of the tennis world. Seeing her younger opponent was upset after the loss, Osaka encouraged Gauff to join her for the post-match interview, in a touching display of kindness. Five months later, Is Coco ready to compete with Naomi? That’s only one of many appetizing third round matches today. Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Ash Barty, and the retiring Caroline Wozniacki will also be in action.

 

Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Coco Gauff

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Gauff only managed to take three games from Osaka in New York. And she struggled at times against Sorana Cirstea two days ago, squeaking out a victory 7-5 in the third. But I think she’ll be much more ready for the challenge of playing Osaka today. Since their US Open match, Gauff won her first title in Linz, and spent time training in the offseason with Serena Williams. However, no one has played better since the US Open than Osaka. She’s won 16 of her last 17 matches, claiming titles in both Osaka and Beijing. While I expect a more competitive match between these two today, Naomi remains the favorite.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) vs. Milos Raonic (32)

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Both men should be fully fresh for their first career meeting. Neither has dropped a set through two rounds, and Tsitsipas received a walkover on Wednesday as Philipp Kohlschreiber retired with a back injury. The 29-year-old Canadian has battled a plethora of injuries throughout his career, and again missed significant time in 2019. But he’s managed to perform very well at this event despite the injuries, reaching the quarterfinals or better in four of the last five years. While Tsitsipas is coming off the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals, he went just 1-2 at the ATP Cup, and is only 1-3 in his last four matches at Majors. In what could easily become an extended affair, I’m tipping Raonic to continue serving well and pull off the slight upset.

Roberto Bautista Agut (9) vs. Marin Cilic

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This is a rematch from last year’s Australian Open, which Bautista Agut won in four hours and five sets. That was the third of three five-set wins for the Spaniard here a year ago, as he also outlasted Andy Murray and John Millman. That was the start of Roberto’s best season to date, reaching the quarterfinals here and the semifinals at Wimbledon. By contrast, 2019 was Cilic’s worst season since his drug suspension in 2013. Marin has crumbled in pressure situations all too often, though he showed some great grit by taking out Benoit Paire in a fifth set tiebreak on Wednesday. But that had to take a lot out of Cilic, and he’s now faced with one of the ATP’s strongest competitors. Bautista Agut has won his last 10 matches, dating back to the Davis Cup in November. He should be favored to extend his winning streak to 11.

Petra Kvitova (7) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova

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It’s the 2019 finalist against one of the hottest players on tour. The 25-year-old Alexandrova is on a 12-match winning streak, including her ITF title run last month at Limoges and her first WTA-level title two weeks ago in Shenzhen. She’s now the Russian No.1, and looking to reach the fourth round of a Major for the first time. Kvitova survived a tight match two days ago against another up-and-coming player, Paula Badosa of Spain. Petra fought through hot and windy conditions in that match, and she’ll be pleased to find the weather cooler and calmer today. In their first career meeting, Kvitova should be able to control play and advance to the Australian Open round of 16 for the fourth time.

Roger Federer (3) vs. John Millman

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At the 2018 US Open, Millman took advantage of Federer’s suffering in extremely hot and muggy conditions, defeating Roger in four sets. That victory propelled the 30-year-old Millman to his first Major quarterfinal. John would struggle mightily over the next 12 months under the weight of new expectations, but finally rediscovered some confidence after last year’s US Open. He won a challenger event in Taiwan, and was a finalist at the ATP event in Tokyo. And Millman already has six match wins in 2020, with notable victories over Felix Auger Aliassime and Karen Khachanov. All that being said, he’ll still be a considerable underdog against the 20-time Major singles champion. Federer took both of their other previous meetings, and looked extremely sharp in his first two matches here. As Chris Fowler of ESPN highlighted, Roger has broken his opponent’s serve at the beginning of all six sets he’s played this week. Despite the lack of a warmup event, Federer is in fine form, and should advance comfortably against an opponent like Millman who does not possess any big weapons.

Other notable matches on Day 5:

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  • Serena Williams (8), who displayed intense anger with her form on Wednesday, vs. Qiang Wang (27), who lasted only 44 minutes against Serena at last year’s US Open in a 6-1, 6-0 pummeling.
  • Novak Djokovic (2), who lead Serbia to the ATP Cup two weeks ago, vs. Yoshihito Nishioka, who has reached the third round of a Major for the first time.
  • Australian Ash Barty (1) vs. Russian teenager Elena Rybakina (29), who won a total of 57 matches at all levels last season.
  • Diego Schwartzman (14) vs. Dusan Lajovic (24). When they played in Melbourne two years ago, Schwartzman survived 11-9 in the fifth.
  • Caroline Wozniacki, who pulled off impressive comebacks in both sets against Dayana Yastremska in the second round, vs. Ons Jabeur, who loves utilizing the slice against her opponents.

Order of play

Rod Laver Arena

A. Barty (1) versus E. Rybakina (29) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
Q. Wang (27) versus S. Williams (8) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
Y. Nishioka versus N. Djokovic (2) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
N. Osaka (3) versus C. Gauff Women’s Singles 3rd Round
J. Millman versus R. Federer (3) Men’s Singles 3rd Round

Margaret Court Arena

D. Schwartzman (14) versus D. Lajovic (24) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
E. Alexandrova (25) versus P. Kvitova (7) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
M. Keys (10) versus M. Sakkari (22) Women’s Singles 3rd Round
S. Tsitsipas (6) versus M. Raonic (32) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
S. Zhang versus S. Kenin (14) Women’s Singles 3rd Round

Melbourne Arena

L. Hewitt (WC) J. Thompson (WC) versus J. Nam (WC) M. Song (WC) Men’s Doubles 1st Round
O. Jabeur versus C. Wozniacki Women’s Singles 3rd Round
M. Cilic versus R. Bautista Agut (9) Men’s Singles 3rd Round
G. Pella (22) versus F. Fognini (12) Men’s Singles 3rd Round

1573 Arena

D. Jakupovic R. Olaru versus T. Babos (2) K. Mladenovic (2) Women’s Doubles 1st Round
M. Fucsovics versus T. Paul Men’s Singles 3rd Round
A. Riske (18) versus J. Goerges Women’s Singles 3rd Round
T. Sandgren versus S. Querrey Men’s Singles 3rd Round

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Andy Murray Set For 2017 Rematch With Wawrinka As Thiem Handed Tough Route In Paris

Dominic Thiem is given a hard draw at Roland Garros as Andy Murray meets a familiar foe in his first match.

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(@ESPNtenis - Twitter)

Andy Murray set for a 2017 Roland Garros rematch with Stan Wawrinka as Dominic Thiem handed difficult draw in Paris.

 

The Roland Garros draw has served up some tasty first round encounters with the main talking points taking place in the third quarter.

In that third quarter, sees a rematch between two grand slam champions from an epic semi-final in 2017.

Of course that match is Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in what is Murray’s first appearance in Paris since that match.

A couple of days ago, the duo were practicing in a sign of reminiscing their past, now they will do more than that when they take on each other in the first round.

However the tasty matches don’t stop there as the recent US Open champion Dominic Thiem has been given a rotten draw which includes a first round match against another former US Open champion, Marin Cilic.

Should Thiem beat Cilic then he could face tall American Reilly Opelka and Rome semi-finalist Casper Ruud before even getting to the second week.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka could wait in round four for the Austrian while Rome finalist Diego Schwartzman could be a last eight opponent.

Gael Monfils and Alexander Bublik will also clash in the pick of the first round in the third quarter.

Thiem is also in Rafael Nadal’s half, the man who is looking to win a 13th Roland Garros title.

The Spaniard will kick things off against Egor Gerasimov with Dan Evans or Kei Nishikori potentially awaiting in R3.

After a promising first week, Nadal could face John Isner or Fabio Fognini in the last 16, with Alexander Zverev awaiting in the quarter-finals.

The German, who recently lost an epic US Open final, will begin against Dennis Novak, with Alex De Minaur awaiting Zverev in R3. While the pick of the first rounds in Jannik Sinner against David Goffin.

In the top half, Novak Djokovic will begin against Mikael Ymer as he is arguably the best player in the world right now.

Hubert Hurkacz and Karen Khachanov are likely to stand in his way en route to the quarter-finals.

Potential last eight matches include Matteo Berrettini, Jan Lennard Struff and Pablo Carreno Busta.

While Roberto Bautista Agut will face Richard Gasquet in the pick of the first round matches in the second quarter.

Finally in the second quarter Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are on a quarter-final collision course with each other but face tough opening matches.

Medvedev takes on talented Hungarian Marton Fucsovics while Tsitsipas plays Jaume Munar.

Denis Shapovalov, Grigor Dimitrov and Andrey Rublev are among those lurking in the second quarter.

A tasty two weeks in Paris are set, with the main draw beginning on Sunday in the French capital.

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Internazionali d’Italia Day 8 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Championships

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Diego Schwartzman played one of the best matches of the year Saturday night against Denis Shapovalov (internazionalibnlditalia.com)

The top two seeds will play for the women’s title, while Novak Djokovic vies for his fifth championship against whatever is left of the phenomenal Diego Schwartzman.

 

The 28-year-old Argentine has reached his first Masters 1,000 final.  Less than 48 hours ago, he earned his first career win over Rafael Nadal.  And late last night, Diego played a spectacular, three-plus-hour semifinal against Denis Shapovalov.  Coming back to defeat the world No.1, who’s only loss this year was his own doing, seems unfathomable.  However, Novak brought his New York crankiness with him to Rome this week, becoming extremely frustrated on court.

This is the third Rome final in four years for Simona Halep, though she’s yet to obtain the winner’s trophy.  But the top seed is on a 13-match winning streak, and won her last two events played.  Her opponent is on a nine-match winning streak in Rome, and looking to successfully defend her title.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (2) – 2:30pm local time

Halep leads their head-to-head 7-4, though Pliskova has claimed the last two.  They’ve split their two matches contested on clay.  That includes their most prominent encounter, in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, which Halep won in three sets.  Simona was pushed to the limit yesterday by Garbine Muguruza, with her semifinal lasting an hour longer than Karolina’s straight set win over Marketa Vondrousova.  But Halep should still feel fresh for today’s championship match.  She did not play in New York, and all her other matches this week were straight-setters.  Simona also should take a lot of confidence from out-dueling Muguruza yesterday afternoon.  Much like Garbine, Pliskova has looked better this week with every passing round, and will look to utilize her power to overcome the two-time Major champion.  By contrast, Halep will use her speed and returning ability.  And based on Halep’s current form, her third Rome final may be the charm.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8) – not before 5:00pm local time

This is the 10th championship in Rome for Djokovic, with a 4-5 record previously.  He’s actually lost his last three finals here, to Rafael Nadal, Sascha Zverev, and Andy Murray.  Schwartzman will be the first seeded player Novak faces this week, though his opponents have caused him much anguish thus far. Diego’s efforts have been remarkable, playing an astoundingly high level.  While Schwartzman is 0-4 against Djokovic, he’s pushed Novak in their two previous battles on clay.  They went to a final set three years ago at Roland Garros as well as last year in the semifinals of this event.  But expecting Diego to do so again today following his last two matches seems unrealistic.  Djokovic is the favorite to win his fifth title, and gain momentum just six days ahead of the French Open.

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Internazionali d’Italia Day 7 Preview: The Singles Semifinals & Doubles Finals

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Court Centrale will not be as empty on Sunday, with 1,000 seats opened up to the public (internazionalibnlditalia.com)

Following Diego Schwartzman’s stunning defeat of Rafael Nadal, are more upsets to come?

 

The most marquee match of the day is a WTA blockbuster between two Roland Garros champions.  The other women’s semifinal will be decided between two Major finalists from the Czech Republic.  On the men’s side, four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic is yet to face a seeded player, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been challenged by his competition, with another red-hot opponent today.  And just 24 hours after what he described as his “best match ever,” Diego Schwartzman faces one of the ATP’s best players since the tour restart, who is poised to make his top 10 debut.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Garbine Muguruza (9)

It’s the 2016 French Open champion against the 2018 champ, both of whom are two-time Major winners.  Top-seeded Halep has looked stellar this week, and is yet to drop a set.  Muguruza’s road has been considerably more challenging.  She’s had to fight hard to outlast some stiff opposition: Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, Johanna Konta, and Victoria Azarenka.  So while that’s built Garbine’s confidence, it also means she’s spent almost twice as much time on court.  Muguruza leads their head-to-head 4-2, which includes their most recent meeting, earlier this year in the Australian Open semifinals.  However, their only two matches on clay have gone to Halep.  And Simona is on a 12-match winning streak, having won her last two events played.  These slow-playing courts in Rome favor the speed and defense of the top seed.  A fresh Halep is the favorite to reach her third Rome final in the last four years.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Casper Ruud

Djokovic has not looked his best thus far, yet has survived some high quality tennis from the likes of Filip Krajinovic and Dominik Koepfer.  Casper Ruud is another dangerous unseeded player who comes into this match with a lot of momentum.  This week he already took out Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic, and Matteo Berrettini.  The 21-year-old from Norway arrived in Rome with only two match wins at Masters 1,000 events.  But Casper can play on the clay: earlier this season he reached the final in Santiago, and won his first ATP title in Buenos Aires.  However, defeating the world No.1 in their first career meeting is a big ask.  Novak’s only loss this year was his default at the US Open, and I don’t expect that to change today.

Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (12)

Vondrousova was the surprise finalist at last year’s Roland Garros.  But due to injury, she would only play three more matches in 2019.  It’s been a struggle for the 21-year-old lefty to return to form.  Marketa was just 4-8 in this abbreviated season prior to this event.  After surviving a few close calls earlier this week, she steamrolled two-time champion Elina Svitolina yesterday 6-3, 6-0.  Today she faces another former champion.  The winner here a year ago, Pliskova is on an eight-match winning streak at this event.  Karolina dropped a set yesterday to Elise Mertens, but there’s no shame in that: Mertens is a tough out.  And Karolina closed out that match with a 6-0 third set, playing her best tennis yet this week.  In their only prior encounter, Karolina prevailed in straight sets last year on a hard court in Miami.  Vondrousova’s variety could prove frustrating, and playing a much-younger countrywoman can be tricky.  But Pliskova remains the favorite to reach her second consecutive final in Rome.

Diego Schwartzman (8) vs. Denis Shapovalov (12)

This is Diego’s second straight year advancing to the semifinals of this event, which are the only two occasions he’s done so at a Masters 1,000 tournament.  For Shapovalov, it’s his fifth Masters 1,000 semi, and he reached the final last year in Bercy.  Their first career meeting will also be one of the most important matches of their careers to date.  Shapovalov has accumulated eight match wins over the last three weeks, reaching his first Major quarterfinal in New York.  That’s a lot of tennis for the 21-year-old Canadian, including back-to-back three-setters over the last two days.  But a lack of energy doesn’t ever seem to be Denis’ problem.  And it would only be natural for Schwartzman to have a letdown coming off his first-career win over the King of Clay.  With Mikhail Youzhny helping Shapovalov improve his shot selection, his offense is becoming more sustainable.  He should be favored to play in Monday’s final.

Other Notable Matches on Day 7:

In the women’s doubles final, 2019 Wimbledon champions Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (1) vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru, who are in their first tournament as a team.

In the men’s doubles final, 2019 US Open finalists Marcel Garollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, the 2019 French Open finalists.

Full order of play is here.

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