Australian Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Saturday’s schedule is filled with compelling matches, as seeds begin to clash in these halves on the singles draws.

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Nick Kyrgios (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf 

 

Out of today’s 16 singles matches, seven will be contested between seeded players. On the women’s side, this is the first Major in over a decade that all top 10 women’s seeds advanced into the third round. With a lack of significant upsets through two rounds, we’re in for some marquee matchups as the first weekend of the tournament commences.

Karen Khachanov (16) vs. Nick Kyrgios (23)

When these two last met, Kyrgios turned a second round loss in Cincinnati into quite the circus. Nick was hit a record fine of over $100K, with his worst offenses including cursing at (and spitting in the direction of) the chair empire. In the second round two days ago, Kyrgios had a few similar outbursts directed towards his team. But otherwise Nick has appeared focused and motivated through two rounds.

Normally he would be an underdog against Khachanov in a best-of-five match, as the Russian has been the better player at the Majors over the past few seasons. However, Karen barely survived a gruelling second round match against Mikael Ymer on Thursday evening, which went over four-and-a-half hours and was decided in a fifth set tiebreak. Khachanov looked emotionally and physically drained following that encounter, and struggled to even get back to his feet when falling to the court after match point. With the Aussie crowd behind him, and a possible match against Rafael Nadal looming in the next round, I expect an inspired Kyrgios to prevail.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Garbine Muguruza

Elina Svitolina (@TennisChannel – Twitter)

It’s startling to see no number next to Muguruza’s name, as the two-time Major winner is unseeded at a Slam for the first time in six years. That’s due to a dismal 2019 where she went 22-16 overall, and just 6-4 at the Majors. But she’s shown signs of rediscovering her confidence this month, with seven match wins to start the year. And she pulled out both her matches here in Melbourne despite suffering from illness. Muguruza made a coaching change in the offseason which should surely help her game, reuniting with Conchita Martinez, who helped guide her to a Wimbledon title a few years ago.

Garbine will need all the energy and confidence she can muster against one of the WTA’s best defenders. While Svitolina had a rough start to the year, losing 6-1, 6-1 to Danielle Collins in Brisbane, she’s yet to drop a set this week. She is 6-4 lifetime against Muguruza, and 5-1 on hard courts. I expect Muguruza to have a strong year ahead, but I suspect Svitolina will prove to be too much for her to handle on this day.

Stan Wawrinka (15) vs. John Isner (19)

Stan Wawrinka (@WeAreTennis – Twitter)

Wawrinka’s had a rough road thus far, playing nine sets and over six-and-a-half hours through two rounds. By contrast, Isner has played two less sets and spent nearly two less hours on court. The American has benefited from drawing clay court specialists in his first two rounds. While Isner is the lower seed, he’s 3-1 against Wawrinka, though it’s worth noting three of those matches took place in 2011 or earlier.

But Stan has achieved significantly better results at this event, with Isner possessing almost as many losses as wins in Melbourne. And John has struggled to recapture momentum after suffering a stress fracture in his foot last March during the Miami Open final. With the Melbourne courts playing a bit slower than usual, and the weather a bit cooler, that will slow down Isner’s big serve, and allow Wawrinka extra time to set for his big groundstrokes. I like the Stanimal to reach the round of 16 here for the seventh time.

David Goffin (11) vs. Andrey Rublev (17)

It’s one of tennis’ speediest players against one of its biggest strikers. Their only previous meeting was also arguably the biggest win of Rublev’s career.  In the fourth round of the 2017 US Open, the Russian prevailed in straight sets to reach his first Major quarterfinal. But soon after, a back injury would derail Andrey’s career, with his ranking dropping outside the top 100 a year ago. Rublev finally got his mojo back last summer, with wins in August over Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, and Stefanos Tsitsipas. And he’s only gotten hotter from there. In October, he won the Kremlin Cup in his home country on his 22nd birthday. He then went 4-0 at the Davis Cup in November. And Rublev is undefeated in 2020, already accumulating 10 match wins and two titles. Overall he’s on a 14-match winning streak, and is 22-3 since October.

While not quite as impressive, Goffin also had a nice summer and fall. And he went 3-1 to start the year at the ATP Cup, defeating both Grigor Dimitrov and Rafael Nadal. David’s defense will force Rublev to hit a few more winners than normal, and likely draw more errors. And as great as Rublev has been, the high volume of tennis he’s played this month will catch up with him sooner than later. However, I’m not betting against a player as confident as Rublev, who has the firepower to control his destiny in this match.

Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (30)

Karolina Pliskova (@thefield_in – Twitter)

Is Karolina Pliskova finally ready to win a Major? The general consensus is she’s the best player yet to claim one, and she’s reached the second week at the last seven hard court Slams. She’s hoping the additions of Dani Vallverdu and Olga Savchuk to her coaching team will help get her over the hump. She certainly started off 2020 the right way, winning the title in Brisbane. And she’s the only player since September to defeat defending champion Naomi Osaka.  Karolina faces a player today who likes playing in Australia.

Pavlyuchenkova has reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne two of the last three years. And the 28-year-old Russian is coming off a strong fall season, as she was a finalist in both Osaka and Moscow. The problem for Anastasia is she’s 0-5 against Pliskova, winning only one of the 11 sets they’ve played. They have similar styles, though Karolina possesses a bit more power, control, and speed. While Pliskova should comfortably advance, this match may be a good gage of how serious a contender she should be considered.

Other notable matches on Day 6:

Rafael Nadal (@AustralianOpen – Twitter)

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (27). Rafa has a history of dominating his fellow Spaniards, and he’s 4-0 against Carreno Busta.

Dominic Thiem (5) vs. Taylor Fritz (29). Both men survived five-setters in their last round.  Thiem is 2-0 against Fritz, with two four-set victories at recent US Opens.

Simona Halep (4) vs. Yulia Putintseva, who upset Danielle Collins on Thursday 7-5 in the third.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. 20-year-old Australian Alexei Popyrin. They played six months ago at Wimbledon, with Medvedev prevailing in four.

US Open semifinalist Belinda Bencic (6) vs. Anett Kontaveit (28). They were due to play in this same round of last year’s US Open, but Kontaveit withdrew due to illness.  Anett sat out the rest of 2019 as she battled that illness and also had a small operation.

 

Grand Slam

US Open To Allow Full Capacity Crowds A Year After Being Held Behind Closed Doors

The announcement is the latest step in a gradual return to normality in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The US Open will become the first Grand Slam to take place without any restrictions on the number of spectators attending since the COVID-19 crises turned into a worldwide pandemic.

 

The Associated Press has confirmed that the USTA, who are in charge of the tournament, will allow 100% fan capacity throughout the entire two weeks. Something that hasn’t happened at a major event in tennis since the 2020 Australian Open. The announcement is a dramatic contrast to last year when Flushing Meadows was held behind closed doors amid a surge of cases in the region.

Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state had reached their target of issuing 70% of the population at least one COVID-19 vaccination. He has now lifted ‘state-mandated’ restrictions across both commercial and social settings with immediate effect. However, masks will still need to be worn at large venues for the time being. According to the latest COVID-19 figures, New York reported 450 new cases last week which was the lowest-level since the pandemic began.

The development is a major boost for the USTA who suffered big financial losses last season. According to information provided in September, US Open revenue fell by an estimated 50% and the USTA expected their net operating profit to decline by roughly 80%. To put this into perspective the 2018 event generated $300M in revenue.

In 2019 a total of 737,872 fans attended the US Open over a two-week period and a further 115,355 attended during the fan week. Making it the first time the tournament has welcomed more than 850,000 people to the event.

Tickets for the 2021 tournament are set to go on sale next month with all court tickets and ground passes being available. No information on the pricing of those tickets have been released yet.

There has been a steady rise of fans allowed to attend major tournaments in the sport. At the French Open 5000 spectators were allowed to attend daily to begin with before the number increased to 13,000 later in the tournament. Meanwhile, Wimbledon will start at 50% capacity and rise to 100% for the finals.

The US Open takes place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, New York.

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Wimbledon Award Wild Cards To Former Champions Andy Murray, Venus Williams

Here is a list of which players have received passes into this year’s tournament.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray will make his 13th appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon after being awarded a wild card on Wednesday by The All England Club.

 

Murray, who won the men’s title in 2013 and 2016, is currently on the comeback from a groin injury which forced him to miss three months of the Tour this season. The latest setback for the Brit who has also undergone two hip surgeries in recent years in order to prolong his career. Murray is currently participating at the Cinch Championships in Queen’s where he beat Benoit Paire in his first round match on Tuesday.

“Look, I love playing tennis,” an emotional Murray said following his win over Paire.
“Obviously, competing is why you put in all the hard work.
“The last few years, I’ve not go to do that as much as I would have liked so, yeah [it’s] just great that I’m out here and able to compete again.”

Another player to receive one of the initial wild cards is Spanish rising star Carlos Alcaraz who is currently ranked 78th in the world. The 18-year-old recently reached the third round of the French Open as a qualifier and won a Challenger title on clay. Last month he broke into the ATP top 100 for the first time to become the youngest player to do so since Borna Coric in 2014.

As for the women, Venus Williams has been given entry into the main draw. At the age of 40, Williams is one of the oldest players on the WTA Tour and she has only won three out of 18 matches played since the start of 2020. She is a five-time champion at Wimbledon with her most recent triumph taking place back in 2018. It will be her 23rd main draw appearance at Wimbledon.

Regarding the British players, Jay Clarke, Liam Broady, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart have all been awarded wild cards. So has youngster Jack Draper, who stunned Jannik Sinner at Queen’s earlier this week.

Full list of wild cards

GENTLEMEN’S SINGLES

  1. Carlos ALCARAZ (ESP)
  2. Liam BROADY (GBR)
  3. Jay CLARKE (GBR)
  4. Jack DRAPER (GBR)
  5. Andy MURRAY (GBR)
  6. To be announced
  7. To be announced
  8. To be announced

LADIES’ SINGLES

  1. Katie BOULTER (GBR)
  2. Jodie BURRAGE (GBR)
  3. Harriet DART (GBR)
  4. Francesca JONES (GBR)
  5. Samantha MURRAY SHARAN (GBR)
  6. Venus WILLIAMS (USA)
  7. Not used – Next direct acceptance
  8. Not used – Next direct acceptance

GENTLEMEN’S DOUBLES

  1. Liam BROADY (GBR) and Ryan PENISTON (GBR)
  2. Jay CLARKE (GBR) and Marius COPIL (ROU)
  3. Lloyd GLASSPOOL (GBR) and Harri HELIOVAARA (FIN)
  4. Alastair GRAY (GBR) and Aidan MCHUGH (GBR)
  5. Stuart PARKER (GBR) and James WARD (GBR)
  6. To be announced
  7. To be announced

LADIES’ DOUBLES

  1. Naiktha BAINS (GBR) and Samantha MURRAY SHARAN (GBR)
  2. Harriet DART (GBR) and Heather WATSON (GBR)
  3. Sarah Beth GREY (GBR) and Emily WEBLEY-SMITH (GBR)
  4. Tara MOORE (GBR) and Eden SILVA (GBR)
  5. To be announced
  6. To be announced
  7. To be announced

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Wimbledon Finals To Be Played In Front Of Full Capacity Crowd In UK first Since Lockdown

The grass-court Grand Slam has been granted a special exemption from the government which will allow them to welcome thousands to the tournament over a two-week period.

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The Wimbledon Championships received a major boost after being listed as a pilot event by the British Government which allows them to welcome more spectators than the current restrictions.

 

Under the agreement, The All England Club will start the tournament welcoming 50% of it’s ground capacity to the venue which is more than double what was estimated a few weeks ago. The limit will gradually increase as the tournament progresses until finals weekend when both the women’s and men’s title matches will be played in front of 15,000 fans. Making it the first outdoor sporting event in the country that will take place in front of a full capacity crowd since the country went into it’s first lockdown last year.

The announcement coincides with the British government announcing a four-week extension to their plans of ending all restrictions currently in place due to the pandemic. The delay has been triggered due to concerns related to the Indian variant and its transmission rate. However, Wimbledon has been added to the Events Research Program which is a series of pilot events being used to monitor the spead of COVID-19 at sporting and entertainment events.

“We are continuing to work closely with the Government to finalise the details including the requirements for Covid-status certification for spectators,” the All England Club said in a statement.
“We are pleased to have worked closely with the government, public health bodies, and our local authority in Merton, to confirm that, as part of this next phase of pilot events, the Championships 2021 will begin on Monday 28 June with 50% capacity across the grounds, building to full capacity crowds of 15,000 on Centre Court for the finals weekend.
“This will enable us to fulfil our aspiration of staging the best Wimbledon possible within the current circumstances, with the health and safety of all those who make Wimbledon happen – our guests, competitors, members, staff, media, officials, local residents, and partners – remaining our highest priority.”

Last year Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time in the Open Era and was the only major not to take place. However, the grass-court major had the luxury of having pandemic insurance which substantially helped cover their costs. The tournament does not have such a policy this year however.

The Wimbledon Championships will start on June 28th. Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep are the defending champions.

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