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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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Round of 16 Concludes on Monday

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Marin Cilic on Saturday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

On Monday in Melbourne, the remaining singles quarterfinalists will be decided.  Major champions such as Simona Halep, Marin Cilic, Daniil Medvedev, and Iga Swiatek seek further Grand Slam glory.  Meanwhile, players like Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Aryna Sabalenka are looking for their first Major title.

 

Each day, this preview will highlight the most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Elise Mertens (19) vs. Danielle Collins (27) – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Collins was a surprise semifinalist here three years ago, and is coming off an intense three-set battle against Clara Tauson on Saturday.  Mertens was a semifinalist in the year prior, and has quietly advanced thus far without dropping a set.  Notably, both women are still alive in the doubles draw as well, so they’ve accumulated plenty of wins this past week in both disciplines.  Collins will look to dictate play with her aggressive groundstrokes, while Mertens will utilize her consistency and guile.  They have split two previous meetings, with Collins claiming their hard court encounter, which was just a few months ago in Chicago.  When the American is striking the ball as much confidence as she is now, she is tough to beat in these fast conditions.


Simona Halep (14) vs. Alize Cornet – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

After an injury-laden 2021, Halep appears fully healthy and ready to contend for her third Major title.  She’s allowed her opposition only 12 games through six sets, and won a warm-up event on these same grounds.  Cornet considered retirement last year, but the 32-year-old is surely glad she decided not to, as she’s reached the fourth round of this event for the first time since 2009.  After upsetting Garbine Muguruza in the second round, she came back from a set down to take out another seed, Tamara Zidansek.  Surprisingly, Cornet is 3-1 against Halep, though they haven’t played in nearly seven years.  And based on Simona’s current form, the Romanian is a considerable favorite to achieve her sixth Australian Open quarterfinal.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Not Before 2:00pm on John Cain Arena

It’s been two years since Cilic had advanced to the second week at a Major, and he’s now vying for his first quarterfinal since 2018.  Auger-Aliassime is seeking his third consecutive quarterfinal at a Major.  The 21-year-old Canadian crushed Dan Evans in the last round, while the 2014 US Open champion upset fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in four sets.  Their head-to-head has been quite lopsided to date.  In three matchups since July of 2019, Cilic has been victorious all three times, and has claimed six of seven sets contested.  And Marin has done so during a span where his best tennis has often alluded him.  Felix will surely be eager to join his close friend Denis Shapovalov in the quarters, but I give the slight edge to Cilic considering their history.


Jannik Sinner (11) vs. Alex de Minaur (32) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Both these young players have taken advantage of kind draws to this stage, as this will be the first seeded player either has met.  For Sinner, this is his third appearance in the round of 16 out of the last four Majors, and he was a quarterfinalist at the 2020 French Open.  De Minaur reached the quarters at the 2020 US Open, and this is the farthest he’s been at a Slam since.  Their only previous encounter also occurred in 2020, which went to the Italian in three sets, in the quarterfinals of Sofia.  De Minaur will be the underdog, as he does not possess the offensive weaponry of Sinner.  However, the Australian thrives when competing for his country, and will likely make this a compelling affair.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

On his eighth attempt, Fritz has finally broken through to the fourth round of a Major, with a five-set victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, who as usual was not an easy out.  Tsitsipas arrived in Melbourne without much match play, and without many expectations, due to an elbow injury that forced him out of the ATP Finals in November.  But the Greek has advanced rather comfortably to the second week of this fortnight for the third time in four years.  When these two met at the Paris Masters in 2019, Tsitsipas prevailed in straight sets.  I expect Fritz to play rather freely coming off such a big, nerve-wracking win, and knowing he’s not the favorite in this matchup.  The 24-year-old American has the ability to apply plenty of pressure to the Roland Garros finalist with his strong serve and penetrating groundstrokes.  And considering Stefanos’s last few Majors ended with upsets to less-accomplished players (Tiafoe, Alcaraz), it would not be shocking to witness another upset on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Maxime Cressy – With Zverev eliminated from the tournament, Medvedev is an even stronger favorite now to win his second consecutive Major.  It will be interesting to see how his game matches up with the serve-and-volley style of Cressy, who has won 11 matches this month in Australia (including qualifying).

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Sorana Cirstea – Swiatek has methodically dismissed her opponents thus far, which is reminiscent of her title run at Roland Garros two years ago.  Cirstea has already upset two top 20 seeds (Kvitova, Pavlyuchenkova), and is looking for her first Major quarterfinal since the 2009 French Open. 

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Kaia Kanepi – The way Sabalenka continues to advance despite her double faulting woes is one of the most inspiring stories of this event.  Kanepi is 6-3 lifetime in the fourth round of Slams, and gained plenty of wins towards the end of last season, winning two ITF events.  When they played in a tune-up event last year on these same grounds, Kanepi won in three.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Italian perfection as Matteo Berrettini outlines Australian Open title credentials

Matteo Berrettini is into the Australian Open Quarter-Finals where he will face Gael Monfils.

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Matteo Berrettini (@Tennis - Twitter)

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini put on a masterclass performance to beat Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets.

 

Across some media outlets before the match, there was concern that previous abdominal and other injury issues may catch up with the seventh seed.

As well as the physical effects of the long five-set tussle with young star Carlos Alcaraz in the previous round, dubbed Matteo’s Escape from Alcaraz.

Berrettini swatted aside such doubts to outlast the Spaniard 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes, to set up a mouth-watering quarter final against Gael Monfils.

The 35-year-old Frenchman is yet to drop a set. The two played out a five-set classic back in 2019, in the US Open quarter finals, where the Italian edged it.

Against Carreno Busta, however, the first set was nip and tuck with both players holding strong on serve.

In the first ever meeting between the pair, the Rod Laver Arena crowd knew they were in for a treat, as Berrettini nailed a fine passing shot down the line at two games all, 30-0 down.

And this was Berrettini’s hallmark throughout the match, fighting for every point against the Carreno Busta serve.

The 25-year-old Italian pounced at five games all, converting the first of two break points, and served out the set with some thunderous tennis, 7-5.

Carreno Busta had to play some clutch tennis in the second set, holding serve all the way through just to stave off the 6 ft 6 giant that is Berrettini.

It went to a tie-breaker where five successive points from the Italian’s racquet threw up four set points.

The 19th seed and two-time US Open semi-finalist saved two of them, with a monster forehand for the first.

But Berrettini was serving bombs, and Carreno Busta was powerless to return, and the Italian gladiator let out a roar as he stole the second set.

The third set was equally as impressive from Berrettini, who must surely be considered a serious title contender to match Daniil Medvedev, on this performance.

Carreno Busta was doing everything at the beginning of the third set just to keep in touch with the Italian.

At 2-1 up, Berrettini sensed an opening and nearly had the Spaniard, with four deuces, but Carreno Busta just about held on.

Out of nowhere, the end was nigh at 5-4 to the Italian, as Berrettini battled back from 15-40 down to deuce, and Carreno Busta completely capitulated, handing his opponent match point.

The seventh seed made no mistake and sealed an impressive straight sets victory, and with it a first quarter final in Australia.

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America’s Jessica Pegula Stuns Maria Sakkari At The Australian Open

Jessica Pegula is into the Australian Open quarter-finals for a second year in a row.

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Jessica Pegula (@FirstServeTnnis - Twitter)

Jessica Pegula’s love affair in Melbourne continues as she made a second quarter final in Australia in the space of 12 months.

 

It’s safe to say that Sakkari, having reached last year’s French Open and US Open semi-finals, has had better days.

And the Greek will be disappointed at how she didn’t turn up today, going down 7-6 (7-0), 6-3 to Pegula.

The American goes on to face the world number one, Ash Barty, who beat Amanda Anisimova, and has still not dropped a set in these championships.

Pegula got the perfect start as she broke the world number eight in the opening game, and won eight consecutive points, and soon built a 3-1 lead.

But Sakkari,26, broke back to level the opening set at 3-3.

The 21st seed begin to throw in some fine slices and drop shots and was rewarded as she broke again, and held serve to go 5-3 up.

The Greek then showed why she is so highly regarded in the sport, as she broke back and levelled at five-all.

The fifth seed had to dig deep as she held her serve, covering the net well.

But Pegula, 27, dominated the tie-break with some powerful groundstrokes and sealed it 7-0 with an ace.

The 21st seed, kept her level high in the second set and broke in game four, and a powerful cross-court backhand winner saw her race into a 4-1 lead.

Sakkari held her next two service games, but so did Pegula as she confirmed her place in the last eight on her second match point.

The rise of the New Yorker from 61 in the world last January, to hovering above the top 20, is some story.

After the match, she had this to say on Margaret Court Arena.

“It was a hot out there today, so I didn’t really want to play a lot of long points. I really had to step up and be aggressive when I had the chances to,” she said.

“Luckily, I was able to capitalize on that today and play a pretty clean match.”

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