Roland Garros Day 2 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 2 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Early rain is forecast to subside by midday, which would allow the new roof on Court Philippe-Chatrier to remain open (rolandgarros.com)

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will chase history starting today in Paris.

For Serena, this is her 10th attempt at securing what has become an elusive 24th Major title.  For Nadal, it’s his second bid to tie Roger Federer for most men’s Major singles titles.  Also on Monday, the sport’s newest Major champion, Dominic Thiem, plays his first match since achieving that feat.  In a tough opening round draw, he faces another US Open champion, Marin Cilic.  They are joined today by fellow Slam champs Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Monday will be a busy day around the grounds of Roland Garros.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Marin Cilic

Just like yesterday, the men’s lineup is headlined by a meeting between two Major winners: the 2014 and 2020 US Open champions.  In this unusual 2020, Thiem is back on court for another Major just 15 days after his US Open triumph.  But Thiem should be fresh, coming off a rarity in his career: taking two weeks off.  And this is Dominic’s best Slam: he’s reached the semifinals or better the last four years, and was the runner-up to Nadal the last two years.  By contrast, this has been the worst Major for Cilic, though he has reached the quarterfinals twice since 2017.  But it’s been a rough two seasons for Marin, who has not advanced beyond the fourth round of a Slam since 2018.  Over the last two years, Cilic is just 7-5 on this surface.  And he’s 0-3 lifetime against Thiem, which includes a four-set loss just a few weeks ago at the US Open.  There’s no evidence to support a different outcome today.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (28) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

This should be quite the battle between two Russian veterans.  Kuznetsova was the champion here in 2009, though she hasn’t gone beyond the fourth round since 2014.  Pavlyuchenkova has reached six Major quarterfinals in her career, including here in 2011, though she’s never advanced farther.  Anastasia has actually been the better player in recent years.  She reached two finals last fall, and the quarters of the Australian Open in January.  Kuznetsova is just 1-7 at Majors in the last three years, yet she’s shown glimpses of her best tennis outside the Slams.  She was the finalist in Cincinnati a year ago, and reached the semifinals of Doha earlier this year.  Kuznetsova leads their head-to-head 6-3, which includes their only meeting on clay, four years ago in Paris.  The clay certainly favors the former champion, who is the favorite in what could be a grueling encounter between two great fighters.

Gael Monfils (8) vs. Alexander Bublik

Well this is guaranteed to be entertaining.  Both these unorthodox players prioritize having fun on court, sometimes at the expense of logic.  Expect to see underhand serves, tweeners, and plenty of wry smiles.  Monfils has reached the quarters or better here four times, though not since 2014.  And while he won back-to-back hard court titles in February, the Frenchman is 0-2 on clay this month.  23-year-old Bublik is only 4-8 in his career at the Majors, but did reach the quarters of Hamburg last week as a lucky loser.  And he owns victories this year over top 20 players Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.  However, Monfils has not lost in the first round of his home Slam since his debut 15 years ago.  I don’t see that changing today, as there’s nothing Bublik does significantly better than Monfils.  Their first career meeting should further reveal that.

Marketa Vondrousova (15) vs. Iga Swiatek

21-year-old Vondrousova was a surprise finalist here last June.  She stormed through six rounds without dropping a set, taking out four seeded players along the way.  Marketa would only play three more matches in 2019, as wrist surgery interrupted her upward trajectory.  She started this season just 3-7, but regained some form two weeks ago in Rome, where she walloped Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-0 on her way to the semifinals.  Her opponent today is another of the WTA’s most promising stars: a 19-year-old from Poland who has already reached the round of 16 at two Majors.  That includes last year at this event.  Like Vondrousova, Swiatek had surgery following last year’s US Open, due to a foot injury.  But Iga did not lose any momentum, advancing to the fourth round of the Australian Open in her first tournament back.  This will be the first of what will hopefully be many matches between two engaging players with plenty of variety in their games.  Vondrousova will surely feel pressure to back up her result here from a year ago, though that may be a bit alleviated with the knowledge she will not immediately lose her ranking points due to the current rankings freeze.  But Swiatek is a tough first round draw, and it would not be surprising for the teenager to defeat the 2019 runner-up.

Madison Keys (12) vs. Shuai Zhang

The last time these two played, Keys left the court in tears.  After winning the first set in the fourth round of the 2016 Australian Open, a left leg injury hampered the American, who toughed out the match but lost in three.  This marked the first Major quarterfinal for Zhang, who had never won a match at a Slam prior to the event.  Shuai was ranked outside the top 100 at the time, and had recently considered retirement due to her struggles on tour.  Zhang would go on to reach another Major quarterfinal last year Wimbledon, though she’s only 4-8 lifetime at Roland Garros.  But Keys has become one of the WTA’s more consistent performers at Grand Slam events.  She hasn’t lost an opening round match since 2014, and has advanced to the quarters or better the last two years in Paris.  Zhang owns a 3-2 record against Keys at all levels, though Madison claimed their only clay court meeting seven years ago in Rome.  Madison retired from the US Open a few weeks ago with a neck issue, and hasn’t played since.  Zhang meanwhile earned three clay court wins last week in Strasbourg.  But if Keys is healthy, she has the tools to dictate the outcome, and overcome the painful memories of their last encounter.

Other Notable Matches on Day 2:

Three-time champion Serena Williams (6) vs. Kristie Ahn.  These Americans played just a few weeks ago in this same round of the US Open, with Serena prevailing in straight sets.

12-time champion Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Egor Gerasimov, a 27-year-old from Belarus.  While Gerasimov is 3-0 in the first round of his last three Majors, Nadal’s Roland Garros record of 93-2 is the real story.

2016 champion Garbine Muguruza (11) vs. Tamara Zidansek, a 22-year-old Slovenian who reached the final of a clay court event last year in Nuremberg.

A champion in Strasbourg just two days ago, Eliva Svitolina (3) vs. Varvara Grecheva, a 20-year-old Russian who came back from 6-1, 5-1 down to upset Kiki Mladenovic at the US Open.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Marton Fucsovics.  Medvedev leads their head-to-head 3-0, though Daniil is 0-3 in his career at the French Open.

Monday’s full schedule is here.

Grand Slam

Australian Open Considering Switching Women’s Final To Sunday In Future

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The Australian Open could become the first Grand Slam to break away from the tradition of women playing their singles final first. 

According to a report from the Australian Associated Press, tournament chief Craig Tiley is open to making such a move which wouldn’t require any approval from either the WTA or ATP. However, they would likely need to consult with players first and no changes are set to be made in 2025. 

The reasoning for making such a change is due to the women’s final usually being shorter than the men’s best with it being a best-of-three set match. Compared to the men who play the best-of-five. Their thinking is that due to the length of men’s matches increasing in recent years, staging it on a Saturday would enable more people to watch the entire match compred to a Sunday when many are consious about staying up late due to the working week starting on Monday. 

This year’s Australian Open saw Jannik Sinner bounce back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a epic encounter that lasted three hours and 46 minuites. Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka required an hour and 17 mnuites to beat China’s Qinwen Zheng and capture the title. 

Should such a switch take place, it is estimated that the Sunday finale would end at around 10:30pm local time instead of after midnight, which would make it more appealing to fans. Furthermore, it could throw the women’s final more into the spotlight. 

However, there will be obstacles that need to be addressed. The most significant for the Australian Open will be trying to ensure that their 48-hour recovery period between best-of-five-set men’s matches will still be followed. 

This year was the first time in history that the Melbourne major took place over 15 days with play starting on a Sunday. Organisers claimed that the move was done in order to prevent the number of late-night finishes. However, it has little effect on any matches that took place after the first round. 

It is throught that now the event is held over 15 days, it gives more room for organisers to schedule the men’s final for a Saturday. The proposal was discussed during this year’s Australian Open’s official debrief. 

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Grand Slam

It Wasn’t The Same Old Story On Sunday Down Under

Jannik Sinner won his first Grand Slam title on Sunday.

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(@janniksin - Twitter)

It’s been the same old story at the Australian Open for a long time in the men’s game.

One of the greats almost always would take the top prize Down Under. Either Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer or even Stan Wawrinka always prevailed since 2006 at Melbourne.

And then came Jannik Sinner in 2024.

None of the other superstars were still around for Sunday’s final.

A DIFFERENT AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Yes, this time it was a different Australian Open.

But actually Sinner may have written his own story when he upended Djokovic in the semifinals. Without that experience, the slender Italian may not have been able to handle the pressure that Daniil Medvedev sent his way in the final.

Sinner was ready for the finish line after shocking Djokovic in the semifinals. It just took time to get there.

Sinner played within himself most of the last three sets of the final. A first-time Grand Slam finalist, Sinner played as if he belonged there in those three sets.

But, oh, those first two sets when Medvedev dominated play with his backhand from the middle of the court. Backhands usually are reserved for the backhand side of the court, but not with the tall Russian on the court.

SINNER DIDN’T PLAY HIS GAME AT FIRST

In a similar manner as women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka, Sinner followed up a big semifinal win with his own Australian Open title. Only, Sinner had to fight for five sets to accomplish his dream Down Under with a 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Medvedev.

Sinner appeared to play far differently from his victory over Djokovic when he controlled the court with his aggressive play and power.

This time, Sinner started things conservatively with few aggressive winners, repeatedly leaving the corners wide open for Medvedev’s crafty, but hard hit strokes. Medvedev made Sinner  pay a price with a style of play that was just the opposite.

Medvedev played close to the baseline and aggressively hopped on balls with his backhand in whip-lash fashion. He hardly had to move as he conserved energy.

THE STRATEGY ALMOST WORKED TO PERFECTION

Medvedev’s strategy worked like a charm until Sinner served the ninth game of the third set as Medvedev once needed only six points for a possible Grand Slam title. Sinner managed to overcome a deuce score to win that game.

Medvedev fell behind 30-0 serving the 10th game of the set and then Sinner got his first set point. Sinner made it stand up and it was a new game after that.

Sinner didn’t appear to be ready for Medvedev’s game the first two sets, but the Italian then came alive. He became prepared for Medvedev, even after losing the first two sets.

Of course, Sabalenka got her boost from a surprising, but solid win over talented Coco Graff in the women’s semifinals. Sabalenka then was never really challenged by Qinwen Zheng in the final.

Sinner’s final was much different.  He was somewhat lucky to escape with  a win.

Medvedev almost wrapped up the title in the ninth game, but it didn’t happen. As a result, Sinner may have started his own success story in Grand Slam finals.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Daniil Medvedev Plays Jannik Sinner for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Daniil Medvedev during Friday’s semifinals (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The men’s singles and women’s doubles championship matches are on Sunday in Melbourne.

Across the last 10 hard court Majors, Daniil Medvedev has now advanced to six championship matches, half of which have come in Melbourne.  In those finals, Medvedev is a meek 1-4.  However, this is the first time Medvedev is looking across the net at a man not named Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, the two winningest male singles players of all-time at Grand Slam events.

And Medvedev can thank Jannik Sinner for that, who for the third time in their last four meetings, defeated Djokovic in Friday’s semifinals to reach his first Major final.  Since adding Darren Cahill to his team 18 months ago, one of tennis’s best coaches of all-time, Sinner’s game has continually and significantly improved, most evident in his three victories over Djokovic since November.  On Sunday, the most dominant male player of this fortnight looks to break more new ground in his young career.

Earlier on Sunday, in the women’s doubles championship match, it’s Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko (11) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2).  This is a first Major final for Kichenok, and a first in doubles for Ostapenko.  Su-Wei has won seven Majors in doubles, including her first mixed title earlier this week, and is 7-1 at this stage of Majors.  Mertens has won three Majors in women’s doubles, including Wimbledon in 2021 alongside Su-Wei.


Jannik Sinner (4) vs. Daniil Medvedev (3) – Not Before 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Through six rounds, Sinner has dropped just one of 19 sets, which came against Djokovic in the semis.  But even that match was a rather comfortable win for the Italian, who lost only six games in the three sets he claimed.  Jannik has not just been the best ATP player this fortnight: he’s been the best ATP player since the last Major, with a record of 26-2.  The 22-year-old is 10-4 in ATP finals, with this of course being by far the biggest of his career to date.

Medvedev endured a much more complicated path to this final, completing 25 out of a possible 30 sets, which included three five-setters.  Two of those came in the last two rounds, against Hubert Hurkacz and Sascha Zverev.  Daniil has spent six more hours on court than Jannik, and has played for over 11 hours during the second week alone.  He is 20-16 in ATP Finals, with all 20 titles coming at different events.  But Medvedev can be rather streaky in finals: after losing five in a row, he won seven of eight, yet has now lost his last three.

And those last two losses came at the hands of Sinner, who beat him in both Beijing and Vienna.  Jannik also defeated Daniil in the semifinals of the ATP Finals in November, though all three of those recent matches were tight.  Prior to that, Medvedev had dominated their head-to-head 6-0, which includes two finals earlier in 2023.  All ten of their meetings have taken place on hard courts, and this is their first at a Major.

Based on their recent history, as well as their individual form this fortnight, I favor Sinner to win his first Major on Sunday.  While he’ll surely be nervous in the biggest match of his life, and could experience an emotional letdown coming off ending Novak’s undefeated record of 20-0 in Australian Open semis and finals, Jannik will be the much fresher player on this day.  Plus, he will feel confident after those three recent wins over Daniil, who has a lot of scar tissue to overcome in Major finals.  And after facing Medvedev so much within the past year, Sinner is well-versed on how to take advantage of Daniil’s deep return position.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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