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

Wimbledon Set To Change Historic All-White Dress Code Rule

The clothing policy at the the grass-court major, which dates back to the Vcitoria era, has been under increasing scruity in recent years.

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) playing against Venus Williams (USA) on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 3 Wednesday 30/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

It is understood that The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) are having discussions about making changes to its dress code following concerns from female players. 

 

The Telegraph is among a series of sources to report that organizers are speaking with the WTA about changing their policy to address players’ concerns about playing in white whilst going through their menstrual cycle. Whilst no official announcement has been made, it is underwood that there will be a relaxation on what colour underwear and bras are worn. Although the top layer of clothing must remain completely white. 

During this year’s championships, there was a protest shortly before the women’s finals called ‘Address The Dress Code.’ During an interview worth The Guardian, protesters said they wanted to highlight the anxiety women face whilst playing in their whites. 

More recently, tennis coach and former British Fed Cup captain Judy Murray told The Daily Mail that more players needed to speak out on the issue to drive a change to the policy. Murray, who is the mother of three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, has also called for the inclusion of women in the decision-making panel when it comes to these matters. 

“One of the biggest problems previously in sport was that it was always white shorts, white kit and so on in lots of different sports. Everything was white. Nearly all sports have moved over to colour now.” Said Murray. 

“I think it’s certainly a much more open talking point, but it would probably need more of the players to speak out openly about the trauma it can cause you, if you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing. I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that.”

In a statement sent to The Telegraph, the AELTC confirmed that they are currently looking into making adjustments to the dress code. As it currently stands, the rule states that all players must wear almost all white whilst playing and practising at the Grand Slam. However, around the neckline and the cuff of sleeves can be in colour but no thicker than 1cm. The same applies to Caps (including the underbill), headbands, bandanas, wristbands and socks. 

“Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us, and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.” The AELTC said. 

The all-white policy can be traced back to the 1870s when it was widely considered that white was best at not showing sweat. During the Victorian era, it was viewed as improper to visibly sweat. The tournament has since continued with this tradition. 

Next year’s Wimbledon will begin on Monday, July 3rd. 

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Nick Kyrgios Urges Officials To Allow Djokovic To Play Australian Open

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Nick Kyrgios has lent his full support to Novak Djokovic and his bid to be allowed to return to the Australian Open next year. 

 

Nine-time champion Djokovic is currently waiting to see if government officials will waive his ban from entering the country. Earlier this year, the former world No.1 was deported from Australia following a high-profile dispute regarding the legality of his visa. Djokovic said he was told by Tennis Australia that a medical exemption would allow him entry into the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. Something the border force and government deemed not to be a legitimate reason. After winning his first court case regarding the process of how his detention was handled, a second at the High Court ruled in favour of the government, who decided to deport him. 

Under Australian law, deportations such as these result in a three-year ban from returning to the country. However, Djokovic is hoping his ban will be removed by the latest administration who are said to be more sympathetic to the matter. 

Weighing in on the debate during the opening of the NBA store in Sydney, Kyrgios said it was important for the sport that the best players participate. Citing the recent retirement of Roger Federer, he argues that the remaining members of the Big Three must continue showing their presence at major events. 

I hope he is here, for the sport,” WAtoday quoted Kyrgios as saying.
“We just saw one of the legends leave the sport, Roger, and that’s going to be some shoes that no one is ever going to be able to fill.
“While Novak and Rafa [Rafael Nadal] are still around, we need these types of players. Otherwise, the people of Australia love the AO, Ash Barty brought us crowds, me and Thanasi [Kokkinakis] won it.
“We want to see the best players in the world there. Me being a competitor, I want to see Novak there.“

Djokovic’s potential presence at Melbourne Park would make him one of the key contenders for the title and could make it tougher for Kyrgios to claim his first Grand Slam title. The two locked horns in the final of Wimbledon earlier this year with Kyrgios claiming the first set before losing in four. 

“Of course, you want to have those guys there,” he said.
“He’s some of the reason why I play. As a kid, you want to play the best players in the world in the best stadiums. Hopefully, he is there.
“He’s had a rough run the last nine months and not being able to play here, play here, not being able to play here, hopefully, Australia welcomes him with open arms this time.”

Djokovic has won the Australian Open men’s title more times than anybody else in history. It is unclear when a final decision regarding his participation in the 2023 tournament will be made. 

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‘Unofficial’ Signs Give Novak Djokovic Hope Of Australian Open Return

The tennis star has given an update on his chances of returning to Melbourne Park following his deportation from the country.

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NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Novak Djokovic says he is cautiously optimistic that he will be allowed to play at the 2023 Australian Open as legal negotiations continue. 

 

The 21-time Grand Slam champion was deported from the country in January following a high-profile legal battle with authorities over his visa. Djokovic said he was told he could use a medical exemption to enter the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19. At the time all arrivals needed to be vaccinated. The Australian border Force declared that exemption to be invalid and therefore his visa. Djokovic was then moved to an immigration facility before winning a court hearing over how his case was handled. However, in a second legal hearing, the High Court backed the government’s decision to deport the tennis star. 

As a result of being removed from Australia, Djokovic is currently banned from re-entering for three years. However, there is hope that this ban could be waived with the help of a new administration coming to power which is understood to be more sympathetic to the situation. 

“When it comes to Australia, there are some positive signs, but unofficially,” Djokovic said during a recent interview with Sportal“We are communicating through my lawyers in Australia. In fact, they are communicating with the authorities in charge of my case. I hope to have an answer in the next few weeks – whatever that answer might be, but of course I am hoping for a positive one – so that I have enough time to prepare for the start of the season, if that start is going to happen in Australia.”

Not everybody is thrilled by the prospect of the Serbian being allowed back into Australia. Former Home Affairs minister Karen Andrews has previously described such a move as a ‘slap in the face for those in Australia who did the right thing and got vaccinated.’ 

Djokovic is still not vaccinated against COVID-19 and has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t intend on doing so. In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, he explained that he had reservations about what is injected into his body and was cautious about the side effects. The COVID-19 injection has been deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“I respect that everyone has a different way of thinking in relation to my situation and my circumstances. After all, I have never offended anyone or ever tried to be disrespectful in any way. I always tried to show that it is important for everyone to have the right and freedom of choice.” He said. 
“For the choices I made, I knew there would be certain consequences like not going to America, and that is it. For Australia it was a different case, I had the exception, but in the end it did not work out. We know what happened, let’s not go back. This time I am waiting for the permission again. It is a good thing that they have now opened the borders for unvaccinated foreigners travelling to Australia. I have that ban, I hope it will be lifted. As I said, it is not in my hands, I hope the people in the Australian Government will give a positive answer, that is all.”

Djokovic is the most decorated male tennis player in Australian Open history with nine titles to his name. That is three more than his nearest challenges (Roy Emerson and Roger Federer both won the event six times). It was at Melbourne Park where he won his first major title back in 2008. 

“I really want to go there, I am over what happened this year and I just want to play tennis, it is what I do best. Australia has always been the place where I have played my best tennis, the results speak for themselves, so I am always extra motivated to go there. This time even more, so. I am hoping for a positive answer.” He concluded. 

The Australian Open will start on January 16th. It is unknown when a final decision regarding Djokovic’s participation will be made. 

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