1 – the man under 25 (Alexander Zverev) to have reached the final 8 in Melbourne, with 3 more (Raonic, Sandgren, Thiem) who are under 30. Therefore, the NextGen has failed once more in the first Slam, despite the status of contenders reached by several of its members in the past few months, and despite the presence of 8 players under 25 in the Top 20 – Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Berrettini, Rublev, Shapovalov, Khachanov, Kyrgios. The failure becomes even more blatant if the sample is extended to the fourth round of the tournament, with just Kyrgios, Medvedev, and Rublev joining Sascha – the latter two are also the only ones who are still to turn 23. After all, the youngest Major winner is still Marin Cilic, born in 1988, and the world N.1 has constantly been a player over 30 since May 2017 – always members of the Fab Four, who have been holding on to the top spot since February of 2004. On the other hand, the women’s draw kept alive the opposite trend, with the oldest player reaching the quarter finals being Petra Kvitova, who turns 30 next month, a result that is in line with the rankings, in which Serena and Kerber are the only “mature” features, and more in general with the tendency of WTA tennis as a whole. As a matter of fact, since Serena’s last Slam triumph (3 years ago), all such tournaments have ended up in the grasp of players under 30 years of age (except for Wimbledon 2018, won by Kerber), and in some cases we’ve had teenagers (Osaka, Ostapenko, Andreescu) taking home the big prize.
10 – the months in which Dominic Thiem’s career has turned around. The Austrian had already reached the 4th spot in the rankings, in November of 2017, yet exclusively due to his clay-court prowess. At the end of 2018, Thiem had a meager 53% win rate on matches played on surfaces that weren’t his beloved, red realm: before his win in Saint Petersburg in the autumn of that year, he had played in 34 tournaments on fast courts without reaching a final, since the one he lost in Metz in 2016. The same dynamic occurred in his match-ups with other Top-10 studs: up to that point, he was 4-18 in matches played on hard or grass. The beginning of 2019 was very much the same, with an early retirement at the Australian Open, but then the collaboration with Nicolas Massù started, and with that some immediate relief happened, with his first Master 1000 win in Indian Wells, beating an experienced player like Gilles Simon and two members of the Top 20, Milos Raonic and Roger Federer. And while some people thought this would be a solitary spring flower, Thiem dispelled all doubts with an outstanding coda to the season, winning in Beijing and Vienna and reaching the semis in Shanghai and losing by inches at the ATP Finals in London against Tsitsipas. A further token of his exceptional play is the quality of the opponents he’s toppled in this stretch: among the current Top 8, he’s beaten everyone but Medvedev (although with Tsitsipas, Berrettini, and Djokovic he’s also lost), and he’s 12-6 against Top 10 opponents since 2019 Indian Wells. 3 Slam finals lost, plus the ATP Finals defeat, could lead to believe that Thiem isn’t a natural winner (especially when considering how close the last 2 nail-biter defeats were), but they’re more likely a testament to his improvements and to the close distance between him and a Slam win.
28 – the amount of players who have reached the semis in a women’s Major since Serena’s last win. After her 23rd trophy was lifted at the 2017 Australian Open, a kind of anarchy has taken over the WTA circuit. It’s incredibly hard to establish who the best athlete has been in this time-span, let alone for the fact that 7 different players have topped the rankings (Kerber, Pliskova, Muguruza, Halep, Wozniacki, Osaka, Barty), and for the fact that Williams herself has played 4 more finals and returned to the Top 10 despite playing a limited amount of tournaments. Had she won in Melbourne, the mercurial Muguruza might have well claimed the mantle of the most successful (she won at Wimbledon in 2017, reached the semis in Paris in 2018, and indeed reached the final in Melbourne last week), but that wasn’t to be. To draw a comparison, only Halep and Williams have reached more Slam semifinals, and Madison Keys is the only player who, aside from the Spaniard, has reached 3 (final at Flushing Meadows in 2017, semis in Paris and New York again in 2018). Since the spring of 2017, there’s only a pair who’s won multiple Slams: Simona Halep, who’s the most constant with 2 wins (Paris 2018 and Wimbledon 2019) and 2 finals (Paris 2017 and Melbourne 2018) and Naomi Osaka, who won twice in a row (the only woman to achieve that, at the 2018 US and the 2019 Australian Open) but has since lost her mojo, and is very close to falling outside the Top 10. The fact that the Rumanian seems to be the only regular performer in the last few years is confirmed by the 64 weeks she’s spent as the WTA N.1, almost thrice as much as the 25 weeks of Osaka and the 22 (and counting) of Barty.
35 – the number of weeks as world N.1 that separate Novak Djokovic from Federer’s record tally of 310. Currently on a 16-wins streak (he’s 22-2 in his last 24 encounters as well), he’s won his eighth Australian Open crown at the end of an edge-of-the-seat final against Dominic Thiem in which he’s adfirmed once again his status as an incredible deciding set performer – he’s 31-10 in 5-setters – and specifically in bouts with history at stake, sitting at 4-1 in Slam finals that go the distance. The Serbian now leads the Big Trophies race against his ever-present rivals, having won 56 between Slams, ATP Finals, and Master 1000 titles (Federer and Nadal have 54 each, 55 for Rafa when including the 2008 Olympic gold medal). Above all, he’s now closer on the Slam tally, having won his 17th trophy, right behind Nadal’s 19 and Federer’s 20. In terms of weeks as the number one, Djokovic is now 10 weeks away from Pete Sampras, a gap he should fill quite easily before setting his eyes on Federer. In order to overtake the Swiss, Djokovic needs to keep the throne until October: till then, Djokovic has to retain a considerable amount of points (2000 at Wimbledon, 1000 in Madrid, 720 in Paris, 600 in Rome, 500 in Tokyo), but, given his current form, that doesn’t look like an impossible feat for him, especially with basically a full season’s schedule to be played still, and, given his continuity since 2008 (bar the first half of 2018), odds are that he’ll be able to reach this lofty milestone.
Article originally published on ubitennis.com and translated by Tommaso Villa
Roland Garros Daily Preview: A Busy Day of Second Round Action on Wednesday
Wednesday’s schedule is overflowing with big names and compelling matchups. Four of the top six men’s seeds will play their second round matches, and all face intriguing opposition. Defending champion Novak Djokovic plays Alex Molcan, who is coached by Novak’s longtime coach, Marian Vajda. 13-time champ Rafael Nadal faces France’s Corentin Moutet, who took out 2015 champ Stan Wawrinka in the first round. Spain’s new rising star, Carlos Alcaraz, takes on fellow Spaniard and accomplished clay courter Albert Ramos-Vinolas. And third-seeded Sascha Zverev goes against Sebastian Baez, who won a clay court title last month in Estoril.
However, the day’s most competitive ATP matches may not involve those top names. Second round clashes Sebastian Korda and Richard Gasquet, as well as between Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric, could prove to be two the day’s best men’s singles contests.
Women’s second round action on Wednesday features a blockbuster matchup, as 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu meets Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic. In a battle of two Major semifinalists from 2021, Maria Sakkari takes on Karolina Muchova. And five other Major singles champions will take the court (Kerber, Kvitova, Azarenka, Stephens, Raducanu).
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Wednesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Sebastian Baez – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier
This is a dangerous draw for Zverev, as Baez is one the 2022’s fastest-rising players. The 21-year-old from Argentina started the year ranked 99th, but is now 36th, having accumulated 28 match wins at all levels, and claiming a clay court title last month in Estoril. He was also a finalist earlier this year on clay in Santiago. These players met just two weeks ago in Rome, with Zverev prevailing in two tight sets. I expect another tight affair on Wednesday, especially since Sascha has a history of getting involved in five-setters at Roland Garros. In the last four years here, he’s played eight of them. However, it’s worth noting his record in those matches is 7-1. Zverev’s fire power should enable him to get past the up-and-coming Argentine.
Maria Sakkari (4) vs. Karolina Muchova – Second on Court Suzanne Lenglen
Their only previous encounter was a doozy. Last year on clay in Madrid, Muchova dominated the first set 6-0, Sakkari took the second in an extended tiebreak, but Karolina eventually prevailed 7-5 in the third. That’s one of many painful losses Maria suffered last season, with the most painful coming in the semifinals of this event a year ago, when she went down in defeat despite holding a match point over eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova. Sakkari has persevered extremely well, and started off 2022 16-4, though she’s just 4-3 on clay this season. However, Muchova is only 6-2 the entire year, as an abdominal injury kept her off the court. The more in-form Sakkari should be favored to avenge her loss to Muchova from a year ago.
Belinda Bencic (14) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier
This is a rematch from the semifinals of the 2019 US Open semifinals, when Andreescu was victorious after two extremely close sets on her way to her maiden Major title. That semifinal remains Belinda’s best performance at a Slam. And the French Open has easily been her worst Major, where she is 6-5 lifetime, and never advanced beyond the third round. But Bencic is having a strong clay court season, with a 10-2 record, and a title in Charleston. Andreescu has missed a lot of time over the last few years, including the first three months of 2022. Yet she’s a decent 7-3 on the year, with her only three losses coming to top 15 players. And on a big stage such as Court Philippe Chatrier, Andreescu usually brings her best tennis. I give the Canadian the slight edge to grit out the upset over Bencic after a significant battle.
Sebastian Korda (27) vs. Richard Gasquet – Fourth on Court Suzanne Lenglen
Both players completed their first round matches on Tuesday due to rain, leaving them no day of rest, though they both won in straights sets and should feel rather fresh. Korda eliminated Australia’s John Millman, while Gasquet dismissed South Africa’s Lloyd Harris. It was this event two years ago where Sebi made his Major breakthrough, reaching the fourth round in just his second main draw appearance at a Slam. The 21-year-old American is the only player to earn a victory over Carlos Alcaraz this season on clay, and also achieved a clay court semifinal in Estoril. Gasquet spent much of this month playing Challenger events, though he did reach a tour-level semi of his own just last week in Geneva. Clay is not Richard’s strongest surface, but he was a quarterfinalist here in 2016. He’ll certainly be motivated by the inspiring efforts of his fellow countrymen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles from Tuesday. And with this match scheduled late in the day, he’ll benefit from a rowdy French crowd behind him. However, Korda’s more reliable groundstrokes should allow him to get past the Frenchman, with an Alcaraz rematch perhaps awaiting him in the third round.
Grigor Dimitrov (18) vs. Borna Coric – Fourth on Court 14
Dimitrov is a meek 13-11 lifetime at Roland Garros, but he is a solid 9-4 on clay this season, and was a semifinalist in Monte Carlo. Coric is trying to rediscover his form after missing a full year of action due to shoulder surgery. He’s just 2-6 at all levels since returning, and was on a five-match losing streak coming into this event before earning a first-round win over Carlos Taberner. Borna has a clay court title on his resume, and has previously fought his way to victories at Majors in matches he had no business winning. The 2020 US Open comes to mind, when Coric came back from seemingly sure defeat against Stefanos Tsitsipas, saving six match points along the way. I would not be surprised if he pushes Dimitrov on Wednesday. Yet Grigor seemed perfectly comfortable in his opening round, dropping only three games, and is the favorite in this match as well.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Angelique Kerber (21) vs. Elisa Jacquemot (WC) – Kerber survived the first round of this event for only the second time in seven years, and did so in thrilling fashion. Angie defeated Magdalena Frech in an over three-hour affair, and was cheered on vociferously by the Parisian crowd. On Wednesday, she plays France’s Jacquemot, a 19-year-old who earned her first Major win on Monday.
Amanda Anisimova (27) vs. Donna Vekic (Q) – Anisimova took out Naomi Osaka in the opening round. Vekic is a former top 20 player who has battled injury in recent years. Two years ago on clay in Rome, Amanda overcame Donna in two tiebreak sets.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Alex Molcan – Djokovic’s last loss in the second round of a Major was at the 2017 Australian Open, at the hands of Denis Istomin. Molcan is a 24-year-old from Slovakia who reached finals at two 250-level clay events this season. Last year on clay in Belgrade, Novak defeated Alex in straights.
Carlos Alcaraz (6) vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas – Alcaraz is now 29-3 on the year, and is currently on an 11-match win streak. Ramos-Vinolas was a quarterfinalist here in 2016, and has won four clay court titles in his career, including this February in Cordoba. Alcaraz has claimed both of their previous meetings.
Rafael Nadal (5) vs. Corentin Moutet (WC) – Despite questions regarding the status of his chronically-injured foot, Nadal prevailed easily on Monday, dropping only six games. Moutet beat Stan Wawrinka in four sets the same day.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
Madrid Open champion Ons Jabeur stunned in Paris
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur has crashed out of the French Open in the first major shock of the tournament
Having become the first African woman to win a Masters 1000 in Madrid, Jabeur was well fancied to rival Iga Świątek for the title.
The two also met in the final of the Italian Open, but a meeting this fortnight was cruelly dashed by Poland’s Magda Linette, who came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.
After the two-hour, 28-minute epic, Jabeur had this to say.
“Obviously I was expecting better but we say maybe something happens bad because there is something good happening in the future.
“Hopefully I will play the grass season at Wimbledon, but I don’t know. It’s a time to reflect and see what happens next.”
Another big shock occurred as 19-year-old Dianne Parry sent her home support into ecstasy as she shocked second seed defending champion Barbora Krejčíková.
The Czech going down 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi took another major scalp after her Australian Open exploits as she downed 10th seed Garbiñe Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
American sensation Amanda Anisimova comfortably beat an out of sorts Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4.
Meanwhile, the tournament favourite Świątek remains on track to win her second Grand Slam title after crushing Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.
“I just want to keep going. I am aware that one day my streak will stop,” Świątek said.
“I am 100 per cent focused on my tennis, not on stats or not on some numbers.
“I focus on my game and being kind of in a bubble. That’s what I’ve been doing the past weeks and I’m going to continue doing that here.”
Roland Garros Daily Preview: Two Veteran Frenchmen Play Their Last Roland Garros
A pair of 37-year-old Frenchmen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, have announced this will be their last Roland Garros. Simon will retire at the end of this season, while this will be Tsonga’s last tournament. With both drawing formidable, seeded players in the first round, Tuesday may be the last French Open match of their long careers.
With 12 matches postponed from Monday due to rain, Tuesday will be an extra busy day in Paris. And Tuesday night’s matchup is a meeting of two men who were up two-sets-to-none last year over eventual champion Novak Djokovic: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lorenzo Musetti.
Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule. Tuesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.
Denis Shapovalov (14) vs. Holger Rune – 11:00am on Court 12
Shapovalov has reached the quarterfinals or better at every other Major, but he is 2-3 lifetime at Roland Garros, and is yet to get out of the second round. However, he has some significant results on this surface, including two Masters 1000 semifinals, and a victory two weeks ago over Rafael Nadal. It would seem only a matter of time before Denis makes a deep run at this event, though that may not happen this year, as his opponent on Tuesday is on a steep upward trajectory. Rune is a 19-year-old from Denmark who impressed in 2021 by taking a set off Novak Djokovic at the US Open, as well as winning four Challenger titles. He has carried that momentum into 2022, by winning another Challenger title, and then his first ATP title, both on clay. In his Munich title run, Holger upset Sascha Zverv. And just last week, he was a semifinalist in Lyon. So this is a very dangerous opening round draw for Shapovalov, especially considering his lackluster history at this event.
Casper Ruud (8) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (WC) – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier
This match may mark the end of an illustrious career for Tsonga. The Frenchman was a Major finalist in 2008, and has won 18 ATP titles, including two at the Masters 1000 level. But injuries have severely impacted his last several seasons. Since the start of 2020, Jo is only 4-19 at all levels, and is currently ranked 297th in the world. In what will be his last tournament, he has drawn one of the ATP’s best clay court players. Ruud has accumulated seven titles on this surface, six of which have come since last May. Just a few days ago in Geneva, Casper defended his title. It would be shocking is Tsonga could pull off the upset, but hopefully Jo can at least provide the Parisian crowd with some of his signature flair and shot-making in what will likely be his swan song.
Paula Badosa (3) vs. Fiona Ferro (WC) – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier
Badosa is the third seed, and the second-highest seed remaining following Barbora Krejickova’s exit on Monday. But is she a top contender for this title? She was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, and went 17-3 on clay last season. Yet in 2022, she’s only 6-4 on this surface. Ferro made a run to the fourth round of this tournament two years ago, though she’s spent much of the past year injured, and is currently ranked outside the top 100. It would be surprising if the Frenchwoman can truly test Badosa, but Paula’s performance level could be a good indicator of just how serious her title chances are.
Pablo Carreno Busta (16) vs. Gilles Simon (WC) – Fifth on Court Simonne Mathieu
Like his friend and fellow countryman Tsonga, Simon has achieved a lot: 14 ATP Titles, and a career-high ranking of No.6. But he’s also had a rough few seasons. Gilles went 6-24 at all levels last season, and only has one tour-level win in 2022. And he also received a tough draw in the sixteenth seed, as Carreno Busta is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist, and was the runner-up last month in Barcelona on clay, where he earned impressive victories over Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman. Pablo is 4-2 lifetime against Gilles, and has taken their last three meetings in straight sets. All evidence indicates this will be the last match for another accomplished French player at his home Slam.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier
Last year in the fourth round, Musetti won the first two sets against Djokovic in tiebreaks. But in the last three sets, the Italian mustered only one game, eventually retiring down 4-0 in the fifth. That was a disappointing end to a breakthrough run for the 20-year-old, as it was his first appearance in the second week of a Major. And Musetti has struggled ever since. He has failed to win three consecutive main draw matches in the past year. Meanwhile, Tsitsipas has his own demons at this event. Not only did he also fail to capitalize on a two-set lead over Djokovic last year, but he also lost a heartbreaker in 2019 to Stan Wawrinka, in a five-set, five-hour epic. But Stefanos leads the ATP with 31 wins this season, 14 of which have come on clay. And he’s 2-0 against Musetti, which includes a victory last May on clay. The Greek is a heavy favorite to advance on Tuesday evening.
Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:
Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Facundo Bagnis – Medvedev is 0-1 on clay this season, having missed nearly two months of action due to hernia surgery. Bagnis is a 32-year-old from Argentina who won a Challenger event on clay two months ago.
Jelena Ostapenko (13) vs. Lucia Bronzetti – Ostapenko went on a nine-match win streak in February, but the 2017 champion is 0-5 since. Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who is 9-3 this year on clay at all levels.
Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Soonwoo Kwon – Rublev won a clay title last month in Belgrade, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final. He’s 2-0 against Kwon, with both of those contests occurring in February of this year.
Simona Halep (19) vs. Nastasja Schunk (LL) – Halep is a modest 4-2 on clay this season, as her partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou is yet to pay dividends. Schunk is a 18-year-old German who has reached two ITF finals this season.
Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Chloe Paquet – Sabalenka is only 13-11 on the year, and this is the only Major where she’s yet to reach the second week. Paquet is a 27-year-old from France who achieved five finals at ITF events in 2021.
Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.
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