Australian Open Stats: The Strength Of Djokovic In Deciders, The Diversity Of The Women’s Tournament - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Stats: The Strength Of Djokovic In Deciders, The Diversity Of The Women’s Tournament

The Serbian is 31 out of 41 in 5th set situations, and 4 out of 5 in Slam finals. 28 players have reached the semis in a female Slam in the last 3 seasons, while Zverev was the only player under 25 to reach the quarter finals.

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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

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US Open Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud Play for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz at the end of Friday’s semifinal (twitter.com/usopen)

History will be made on Sunday at the US Open.  In an unprecedented men’s championship match, the winner will not only earn their first Major title, but also become the World No.1 for the first time.  So much is on the line for both 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 23-year-old Casper Ruud.

 

Alcaraz comes from humble beginnings, growing up in a small village called El Palmar in Murcia, Spain.  His father was a semi-professional tennis player, and Carlitos picked up the game from a very young age.  In 2018, he joined the tennis academy of former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, who quickly recognized the talent and potential of Alcaraz, and has been his primary coach ever since.  His idol is fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

Ruud is the son of former top 40 player Christian Ruud, who also serves as his coach.  Casper grew up in Oslo, Norway, and continues to set new records for Norwegian players: the first to win an ATP title, to reach a Major final, and to be ranked in the top 10.  And like Alcaraz, his idol is Rafael Nadal.


Casper Ruud (5) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Alcaraz is looking to become the youngest World No.1 in history, and the first teenager to ever achieve that feat.  He is the youngest men’s finalist at a Major since Nadal at Roland Garros in 2005.  Just last year, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100.  But since last summer, he has skyrocketed up the rankings.  He leads the tour with 50 match wins in 2022, and is 5-2 lifetime in ATP finals.

Ruud, currently ranked No.7, is looking to make the biggest rankings jump to No.1 of all-time.  This is his second Major final out of the last three, after being a surprise finalist three months ago in Paris.  In that championship match, he was routed by Nadal 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.  Overall, Casper is 9-4 in finals.

Alcaraz is 2-0 against Ruud, having claimed both those matches in straight sets.  They occurred a year ago on clay in Marbella, and six months ago in the final of the Miami Masters on a hard court. 

It’s hard to fathom Carlitos will be close to 100% physically on Sunday.  He is coming off three consecutive five-set wins that went late into the night or the morning, and even had to save a match point in his especially epic five-setter against Jannik Sinner.  As per Ravi Ubha, Alcaraz is the first player since Andre Agassi in 2005 to win three straight five-setters in the round directly before a Major final.  However, the youngster is remarkably fit, and continues to recover surprisingly well from his grueling five-set battles.

The second half of Ruud’s road to this championship match was considerably less complicated, spending over four hours less on court than Alcaraz since the fourth round.  Casper will be the much fresher competitor, yet even though he possesses previous experience in a Major final, he has much less experience in defeating top players.  He is 0-5 at Slams against top 5 opposition.

Unlike Ruud, Alcaraz has a favorable record against the top 10, having claimed seven of his last nine matches.  His incredible mix of speed and power make his game nearly impenetrable when he’s at his best.  And considering his comfortable victories over Casper in the recent past, Carlitos is the favorite to win his first Major title and become the new World No.1.


Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship match will be played at 1:00pm local time.  It’s Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3) vs. Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend.  Krejcikova and Siniakova are vying for their sixth Major as a team, and their third of the season.  This title would complete their career Grand Slam.  McNally was a finalist at last year’s US Open alongside Coco Gauff.  Townsend is a two-time Slam semifinalist, including earlier this season at Roland Garros.  This is only Katy and Taylor’s second event as a team.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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US Open Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur Play for the Women’s Singles Championship

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Iga Swiatek during Thursday’s semifinals (twitter.com/usopen)

The championship match in women’s singles at the last Major of the year is fittingly between the two best players of 2022.  They are also two of the sport’s most likable competitors, with plenty of flair and aggression in their games.

 

Iga Swiatek 56-7 this season, with six titles, all of which were accumulated during a 37-match winning streak.  The world No.1 has more than double the points of all other players this season.  And the two-time Roland Garros champion has now achieved her first Slam final on a hard court.

Ons Jabeur is 44-13 on the year,with two titles.  She will reach a career-high ranking of No.2 based on this result, her second Major final this summer.  Ons is the first woman to achieve back-to-back Major finals since Serena Williams in 2019.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Swiatek’s best tennis has often escaped during her this event, and she’s spoken openly regarding the court speed and tennis balls not being to her liking.  But she has still advanced to this final fairly economically, dropping only two sets through six matches.  Iga has now claimed her last nine matches against top 10 opposition, and is a perfect 9-0 in tournament finals within the last two years, claiming all nine of those in straight sets.

Jabeur was only 10-8 this season on hard courts prior to this fortnight, and went just 2-3 on this surface in August after her highly disappointing loss in the championship match at Wimbledon, where she won just four of the last 16 games after securing the first set.  However, she dropped only one set in her first six rounds, and dominated a red-hot Caroline Garcia in the semifinals by a score of 6-1, 6-3.  Ons is 2-3 in finals this year, and only 3-6 lifetime.

Swiatek and Jabeur have split four previous meetings, and split their two encounters on hard courts.  They played once before at a Major, with Ons prevailing in three sets in the round of 16 at last year’s Wimbledon.  When they met this season, in the final of Rome on clay, Iga was comfortably victorious 6-2, 6-2.

Swiatek will look to dictate play from the baseline, but will need to cut down on her unforced error count.  In all of her six matches this tournament, she has struck more errors than winners, averaging a -8 differential.  Jabeur is an excellent server, especially for her height, but will need to dramatically increase her first serve percentage.  In her semifinal against Caroline Garcia, it was only 43%.  Iga’s aggressive returns would easily exploit that on Saturday.

Based on her play this year, as well as her outstanding record in finals, Swiatek is the favorite to win her third Major title.  But regardless of the outcome, if these two competitors both play anywhere near their best tennis, they could create one of the most memorable finals in recent memory.


Also on Saturday, the mixed doubles championship match will be played at 12:00pm local time.  It’s the Aussie team of Storm Sanders and John Peers (4) vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.  Peers and France’s Roger-Vasselin have both previously won a men’s doubles titles at their respective home Slams.  Flipkens retired from singles after this year’s Wimbledon.  Her and Sanders are both vying for their first Major title.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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US Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals (twitter.com/usopen)

The men’s semifinals feature four players all vying for their first Major title.  Roland Garros runner-up Casper Ruud is the only remaining man who has previously played in a Slam semifinal.  Carlos Alcaraz, Frances Tiafoe, and Karen Khachanov are all making their debut at this stage of a Major.  And both Ruud and Alcaraz have a chance to leave New York as the new world No.1 if they win the title, or if one reaches the final and the other loses in the semifinals.  Which two men will advance to Sunday’s championship match, and which one will become a first-time Slam champ? 

 

Also on Friday, the men’s doubles final will be played.  And it is a blockbuster between the top two seeds.


Karen Khachanov (27) vs. Casper Ruud (5) – Not Before 3:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Ruud has reached this semifinal rather efficiently, dropping only three sets.  And in the one five-setter he played, he comfortably claimed the fifth set 6-0.  Casper previously had the reputation of being a clay court specialist, but he’s now 17-6 this season on hard courts, and was a finalist at the Masters 1000 event in Miami.

Khachanov was a two-time Major quarterfinalist before this fortnight, yet those results came on clay and grass.  He had never previously advanced beyond the third round of a hard court Slam.  None of his matches at this event have been easy, as he lost at least set in each.  Karen is coming off consecutive five-setters against Pablo Carreno Busta and Nick Kyrgios.

Their only prior encounter occurred two years ago on clay in Rome, with Ruud prevailing 6-1 in the third.  And Casper looked extremely sharp in the last round against another big server, Matteo Berrettini, returning aggressively and breaking the Italian five times across three sets.  Ruud will also be the fresher competitor on Friday, despite each player having two full days of rest.  Casper should be favored to reach his second final out of the last three Majors.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe (22) – Not Before 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

These are two of the sport’s most exciting, charismatic young stars.  But only one will reach their first championship match at a Major this week.

Tiafoe has exhilarated the New York audience, and dropped only one set through five matches.   He is a perfect 6-0 in tiebreaks during this tournament, and spent significantly less time on court than Alcaraz.

Carlitos has played consecutive epics that ended early in the morning.  In the fourth round, he came back from a set down in the fifth to defeat Marin Cilic.  In the quarterfinals, he played for five hours and fifteen minutes, and until nearly three in the morning, to overcome Jannik Sinner in what was easily the best match of the year to date. 

Tiafoe and Alcaraz have only played once, a year ago on clay in Barcelona, with Frances winning in straight sets.  Even though that was only 17 months ago, Carlitos was ranked outside the top 100 at the time, and he’s now the ATP’s winningest player in 2022.  However, while he’s one of the fittest athletes in the sport, he can’t possibly be 100% coming into this semifinal.  Even by five-hour match standards, that quarterfinal with Sinner was incredibly taxing, with an extremely high level maintained throughout the match.  And that will be a huge advantage for a confident Tiafoe, who also thrives playing in front of big crowds, and in night matches in his home country.  I like Tiafoe’s chances of becoming the first American man to reach a Major singles final since Andy Roddick.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (2) – Ram and Salisbury are the defending champions, while Koolhof and Skupski are easily the best men’s doubles team of 2022, with six titles.  These teams split two meetings earlier this year on hard courts.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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