Rafael Nadal sends Spain through to the ATP Cup final - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal sends Spain through to the ATP Cup final

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Rafael Nadal came back from one set down to beat Alex De Minaur 4-6 7-5 6-1 to send Spain through to the final of the inaugural edition of the ATP Final at the Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney. Roberto Bautista Agut beat Nick Kyrgios in straight sets to send Spain in front in the first match.

 

Nadal went down a set and did not earn a break point until De Minaur served to stay in the second set at 6-4 5-6, when the Australian player sliced a backhand into the net. Nadal converted his first break point chance in the 12th game to clinch the second set.

De Minaur broke serve in the first game at 15, as Nadal made a forehand error. The home player held to love to seal the first set 6-4 after a forehand down the line winner in the 10th game, as he served for the first set.

Nadal dropped just six points on his serve and converted his first break point in the 12th game when De Minaur sent a backhand long.

Nadal broke three times in a row to win the third set 6-1 to set up a blockbuster final against Serbia.

“It was tough at the beginning of the match as Alex was playing at a very high level and my energy was a little lower than usual. Yesterday was a very long day in heavy conditions. It’s going to be a super tough final against Serbia. Novak likes to play here and Serbia has a great team and is playing very well, but Roberto played an amazing match this afternoon and we have a great team, so we are ready for it”, said Nadal.

 

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Alexander Zverev Cruises Past Verdasco To Set Last 16 Clash With Rublev

Alexander Zverev is into the last 16 of the Australian Open after a comfortable victory over Fernando Verdasco.

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Alexander Zverev (@TennisChannel - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev cruised into the last 16 after a 6-2 6-2 6-4 win over Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open.

 

The German dominated from start to finish as he served 15 aces to blast past Verdasco and reach the last 16 without dropping a set.

Next for Zverev will be Andrey Rublev after the Russian won his 15th consecutive match to edge past David Goffin in four sets.

It was a strong start from Zverev, who uncharacteristically had not needed five sets so far and had preserved a lot of energy.

Although he had struggled against Verdasco in the past, he served well and struck the ball cleanly as he took a 4-0 early advantage.

As for the Spaniard, he was clearly struggling to find any rhythm as he hit 10 unforced errors as well as creating only one break point.

The first set was sealed in 36 minutes and the second set was heading in a similar direction as Verdasco looked lethargic.

Another early break was sealed for the 7th seed as the unforced error count continued to mount for the Spaniard as Zverev created four break points during the set.

Some good use of the angles helped Zverev get another break towards the end of the set as his movement was also looking very good this week.

A 2 set lead was restored for Zverev as he looked to be in control but Verdasco was capable of comebacks before and he made a good start to the third set.

Some more aggressive and accurate play saw him finally take the match to the German and test his opponent’s defensive skills.

There were a few more errors than usual from Zverev as Verdasco upped the intensity and varied the pace of the ball to capitalise and get his first break of the match for a 4-2 lead.

However that wave of momentum didn’t last long for the Spaniard as the German showed good pace from defensive positions.

This allowed him to assume control of the match again and a run of four consecutive games sealed the match as well as a place in the last 16.

A highly impressive first week from Zverev sees him not drop a set so far after looking so underwhelming at the ATP Cup.

Next for Zverev is Andrey Rublev who won his 15th consecutive match to seal a 2-6 7-6(3) 6-4 7-6(4) win over David Goffin.

The Russian hit 19 less unforced errors than his Belgian opponent as he continued his hot-streak and will provide a stern test for Zverev on Monday.

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Simona Halep Unfazed By Big Name Exits Ahead Of Australian Open Second Week

Simona Halep remains focused on her own Australian Open campaign despite many big name exits.

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Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Simona Halep remains unfazed by early exits of the big seeds as she approaches the second week of the Australian Open.

 

Many big names have failed to make the second week with the likes of defending champion Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova crashing out before the fourth round.

However one name that still remains heading into the last 16 in Melbourne is Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who produced a clean performance to dismiss Yulia Putintseva 6-1 6-4.

Hitting 26 winners, Halep easily progressed into the last 16 as she aims for a third grand slam title of her career following victories in Paris and London.

Despite being the biggest seed left in her half of the draw, Halep has remained focused even amongst the exodus of the big names, “Well, I’m not focusing on others, as you know,” the Romanian told the press.

“I know at this level everything can happen, so that’s why sometimes I’m a little bit stressed, sometimes I’m relaxed, because everything can happen.

It’s just a tournament, and I’m sure that for you guys it’s a little bit of shock when the top-10 players are losing, but it’s life and we cannot be 100% every day. So we go ahead, and if I’m still in the tournament, it’s a good thing.”

Even though the fourth seed won’t admit it, now is a big chance for Halep to make her second Australian Open final with many big names from her half crashing out.

Next for Halep is 16th seeded Elise Mertens, who defeated Cici Bellis 6-1 6-7(5) 6-0, and the Romanian knows the threat that she poses, “She has a good game, like she plays fast, close to the baseline. We played many times, so it’s enough to know how she’s playing and what I have to do against her.”

As Halep approaches the second week, the Wimbledon champion also told the media that she feels more relaxed heading into the latter stages of slams, So maybe I relaxed a little bit more. And I don’t see that these tournaments very high that I cannot touch them,” Halep said about the possibility of winning grand slams.

So I feel more confident, and I feel that actually I know that it’s really tough to get match by match and to win seven matches, but I know it’s possible.”

The Romanian’s next match will be on Monday.

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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.

 

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