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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Lleyton Hewitt Admits Pride After Australia Reach First Davis Cup Final For 19 Years

Lleyton Hewitt admitted he is proud after Australia reached their first Davis Cup final since 2003.

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Lleyton Hewitt (@CopaDavis - Twitter)

Lleyton Hewitt admitted he was proud of his Australian Davis Cup Team after they reached their first Davis Cup final for 19 years.

 

Australia reached their first Davis Cup final for 19 years after defeating Croatia 2-1.

After singles wins for Borna Coric and Alex De Minaur it was Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson who pulled off the upset over Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic to seal victory for Australia.

The Aussie pairing were victorious in a 6-7(3) 7-5 6-4 victory as they sealed Australia’s place in the Davis Cup final for the first time since 2003.

It’s a proud moment for captain Lleyton Hewitt, who will be competing in his fourth Davis Cup final but a first as captain, “I just couldn’t be prouder of these guys and the heart and the passion and the pride that they are playing with out there,” Hewitt told Tennis Australia’s website.

“It’s great. Obviously Australia has a really rich history in this competition, and we have been fortunate enough to win it on a lot of occasions, back a long time ago.

“I know how much it meant for me as a player to get the opportunity to play in finals. So I’m thrilled that these boys get that opportunity on Sunday.”

Sunday will be Australia’s 48th Davis Cup final as they seek to win a 29th Davis Cup title.

The last time Australia competed in a Davis Cup final was back in 2003 in front of a full house at the Rod Laver Arena where Hewitt was influential in a 3-1 victory over Spain.

Although Hewitt admitted it would be nicer to play the final in Melbourne, the Australian captain said that winning the title would mean a lot, “I’d love it to be in Australia,” Hewitt said.

“I’m disappointed the boys don’t get to play in front of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena. It would be very satisfying and especially if you do it with a lot of my good mates around in the coaching staff as well, it would mean a lot.”

The final will take place on Sunday with Australia facing the winner of the second semi-final between Italy and Canada.

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The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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EXCLUSIVE: Davis Cup Chiefs Want To Make Event As Prominent As A Grand Slam

 With the Davis Cup about to kick off, Enric Rojas, CEO of Kosmos unveils his ambitions in an exclusive interview with Ubitennis

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By Federico Bertelli 

The tennis season is blasting its last fireworks. After the Next Gen Finals, the ATP finals in Turin have been grabbing the headlines. However, the focus switches to the Final 8 of Davis Cup which will be starting on November 22nd in Malaga. 

 

Just a few months ago Ubitennis had a chat with Alberto Costa, Tournament Director of the Davis Cup. Now, we have had an exclusive interview with Enric Rojas, CEO of Kosmos Tennis. The Organization was founded by Gerard Piqué who acquired Davis Cup rights from the ITF in 2018. We look into the present and future perspectives of the Davis Cup, as well as the newly created partnership between ATP, ITF and Kosmos.

UBITENNIS: First of all, I would like to talk about this news that quite caught everyone by surprise, the partnership between Kosmos, ITF and ATP. What are the scopes, the range and the time horizon of this collaboration?

ROJAS: We have been working on this agreement for several months. It’s going to unite the different actors and establish some cornerstones we will be able to build on. First of all, the fact that the ATP has consolidated and protected the weeks dedicated to Davis Cup (at the beginning of February, mid-September and at the end of November). A strategy that has been agreed on listening to the players as well. 

Starting from 2019 the format has undergone several changes to try not to disrupt the plans of the players and to reach the maximum coverage and attendance in the various rounds. Players can plan their season already at the beginning of the year and there are management and promotional synergies that we want to exploit. For example, Kosmos now sells the rights to Davis and ATP does the same with the Finals and the various Masters 1000, so we are trying to figure out the best way we can work together. Personally, I believe that there are certainly possible developments. Important aspects to be taken into account are betting and data as well. We definitely want to talk to ATP and IMG to see which strategies are to be implemented and with whom we are going to implement the vision we will define.

With regard to the OTT (an acronym that stands for over-the-top and that indicates streaming services via IP released from traditional streaming platforms, such as the well-known DAZN, Ed.) it is certainly something we have in mind, but not in the medium term. In some territories, we may think, in the more distant future, about a coexistence between traditional media and direct distribution. But in any case, we are not worried because we do not have uncovered markets and the coverage of the event is already global. At the organizational level, partnering with ATP has meant that on the main board the 6 seats are divided equally: 2 ATP, 2 Kosmos and 2 ITF. However, as we continue with the collaboration, other specific aspects will also be defined. ITF and Kosmos already had a consolidated system, in which we included ATP. The ATP will have its say in many dossiers: for example, if there are calendar changes or different options on the Final 8, the ATP and its players will be able to express their views. Kosmos will maintain leadership on operational and commercial issues.

UBITENNIS: If I understand correctly then the choice of the new venue for the Final 8 of Davis (Malaga has been selected to host the 2023 and 2024 editions) will be shared between the various places and could be in Europe or elsewhere.

ROJAS: Yes, that’s right. At the beginning of 2023, we will start the selection process and it will be open to anyone, so we hope to have as many options as possible to evaluate. Many elements will be involved: the commercial aspect, a sports perspective… and a very important element will be where the Finals will be played. Holding Davis Cup Final 8 in a place close to where the ATP Finals are played is obviously a preferential element.

UBITENNIS: In terms of the impact of the event and attractiveness of rights, how do you consider yourself today? At the level of an ATP Masters 1000? And compared to a Slam how do you position yourself? For instance, the Australian Open sold the rights of the event to Down Under broadcasters alone for about $50 million.

ROJAS: The data are correct; our ambition is to position ourselves approximately at the level of a Grand Slam. The reality, however, is that from all points of view (viewers, sponsors, television rights …) we are around the level of an ATP Masters 1000. As a starting point, it is already a good result from our point of view, but our long-term ambition is to rise even higher.

 In our business plan, the goal is sooner or later to reach the prestige of a Slam. And it is essential that the event has the typical Davis Cup atmosphere. I’ll give you some numbers: the first match of the Final 8, Australia Netherlands will have a 70/75% full stadium (which means 6000 spectators: in 2019 in Madrid it was difficult to go beyond 3000 spectators when the Spanish team wasn’t playing). And for a great match like Italy vs USA, which unfortunately is played at 10 am on a weekday, we expect to have at least 7000 spectators, and there will be less than 20% of unsold tickets. Having two months to promote the event has been crucial.

UBITENNIS: Let’s move on to the sports aspects: Davis Cup is scheduled after the US Open and after the indoor tournaments at the end of the season. Does this mean that the September round and the November Finals will always be played on fast surfaces and likely indoors? Is the idea that there could be Davis Finals on clay or grass to be discarded?

ROJAS: This new agreement and calendar allow to have group stages and Finals practically anywhere in the world; in September every option is basically possible: North America after the US Open, Asia before the swing in the East which sooner or later, once COVID is over, will be resumed, or go to Europe where the indoor season begins. For the moment, the group stages and the Final 8 are to be played in the same conditions and on the same surface. We are not obliged to, but our idea is that everything ought to be homogeneous, to provide homogeneous logistics (between the various group stages in September) and scheduling (between the group stage in September and the Final 8 in November). In addition, playing indoors is simpler in terms of organization as it becomes possible to play at any latitude, without hindrance. Moreover, considering that the ATP Finals have been consolidated as an indoor event for several years, maintaining a consistency between Finals and Davis Cup is also an advantage for players, who are known to suffer from surface changes, both technically and physically. To sum up, currently, we have two fixed points: the same surface both for the September group stage and for the Final 8 in November, in indoor conditions. In order not to change the cards on the table with the ATP Finals.

UBITENNIS: Which is the process of deciding the surface? In a recent post-match interview in Vienna Taylor Fritz had complained about the condition of Davis Cup courts, which despite being indoor was very slow. Did you make this choice especially to compensate for the fact that indoor conditions are faster?

ROJAS: No, we have not had this kind of approach. It is true that there have been some comments in this sense, on the courts being slow, but it was not specifically planned. We tried to maintain similar conditions to those in Malaga and Madrid even in September (although there will inevitably be differences since Madrid is at a high altitude whereas Malaga is at sea level, with the sports hall a few hundred meters from the beach, with greater humidity, Ed). The combination of courts and balls impacts the conditions too.

UBITENNIS: We have taken a look to the future: but to conclude, what’s your opinion about this 2022 edition that has seen important innovations? Are you satisfied with how it has gone so far?

ROJAS: Definitely: in the group stage in September we had a total turnout of over 110,000 spectators in the 4 cities, an excellent result; already higher than the total turnout of the Final 8 of 2019 and 2021. And considering how the tickets for the Final 8 are selling, we believe that we can reach a total of over 170,000 total spectators. In the group stage, of course, having a team playing at home is a driving factor. However, this aspect is proving to be less relevant for the Final 8, which means that the event is starting to take off. We have seen from the sales data that among ticket buyers the Dutch are in the lead, followed by Italians and British (obviously many had bet in advance on the qualification of Norrie and his teammates).

Another relevant figure will be that of the television and social media audience after Malaga, but if we compare the 2022 group stage with 2021, we have doubled the attendance, this means that we are heading in the right direction ; I can also give you a further preview: in the week of Malaga, we are going to have a meeting between Kosmos and the federations that organized the group stages to understand what we can improve to generate interest between September and December. Speaking of federations, Italy and Holland gave us a big hand by buying ticket packages for their members and it was a consistent support in terms of sales. Going into detail, to this day more than 55% of tickets have been sold to fans who are outside the Malaga region (outside Andalucia) and 21% will come from outside Spain, another sign that makes us believe that we are on the right track towards a renewed interest of the public.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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