US Open Day 14 Preview: Dominic Thiem And Alexander Zverev To Lock Horns For Maiden Grand Slam Title - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 14 Preview: Dominic Thiem And Alexander Zverev To Lock Horns For Maiden Grand Slam Title

Thiem dominates his rival in their head-to-head but Zverev have already proven in the tournament he has what it takes to fight back when needed.

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Dominic Thiem on Arthur Ashe Stadium (usopen.org)

Either Dominic Thiem or Sascha Zverev will win their first Major title on Sunday.

 

Dominic Thiem spent much of his career categorized as a clay court specialist who struggled outside the terra boute.  The 27-year-old has claimed 10 clay titles, and reached the semifinals or better the last four years at Roland Garros.  But over the last few years, his results have drastically improved on hard courts.  He was the champion at Indian Wells last season, and a finalist at both the ATP Finals and the Australian Open.  Thiem has now reached his second consecutive Major final, and his fourth overall.  As he mentioned in Friday’s post-match interview, he is looking to avoid joining players like Andy Murray in losing their first four Slam finals.  This is the best opportunity he’s had yet, in his first Major final without Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic as opposition.

Sascha Zverev has long been expected to be a future Major champion.  But his previous performances at the Slams were disappointing.  Between 2017 and 2019, Zverev won three Masters 1,000 titles, was a finalist at three other Masters events, and claimed the 2018 ATP Finals.  During that same span, he only reached two Major quarterfinals, both at Roland Garros.  But that changed this year, when he advanced to his first semifinal in Melbourne.  And now he has taken advantage of an open draw to reach his first championship match at a Major. 

Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Sascha Zverev

These two friends have played nine times, with Thiem prevailing on seven of those occasions.  Zverev’s only two victories have come in best-of-three matches.  At Majors, Thiem is 3-0.  On hard courts, Dominic leads 3-1, with Sascha’s win occurring four years ago.  They also met at the most recent Major, with Thiem winning in four sets at January’s Australian Open.  Based on their history, and their individual Slam experience, Thiem is the favorite.  However, both men are well aware of that, which may impact their play.  Dominic knows this is easily his best chance to win a Major, and that he’s expected to do so.  And while a Slam final is new territory for Sascha, the German may play more freely knowing the pressure is more on Thiem.  Unlike Friday’s semifinal against Pablo Carreno Busta, where Zverev played an extremely tight first two sets as the heavy favorite, I suspect he’ll be much tougher from the start today. 

As ugly as that semifinal was, Sascha should be applauded for fighting back from two sets down.  And notably, he’s reached his first Major final without his father/coach with him in New York, and without the presence of his team’s newest member, David Ferrer.  While Zverev is surely in close contact with them, securing six wins without their attendance exhibits growth.  But over the course of five sets, Thiem is usually the steadier player.  Zverev can often regress to his passive, error-prone ways.  And Sascha’s second serve remains an issue, especially under pressure.  Through six rounds, Zverev has struck 49 double faults.  That won’t work against a player who has broken serve 32 times during this fortnight.  While the pressure will be more on Thiem, the Austrian has plenty of experience in the latter stages of Majors.  Dominic is the favorite to become the ATP’s first maiden Slam winner since Marin Cilic at the 2014 US Open.

Five things to know about the final

  1. Thiem is seeking to become the second Austrian man to win a major title after Thomas Muster at the 1995 French Open.
  2. Zverev is the youngest major finalist in men’s tennis since Novak Djokovic at the 2010 US Open. Victory would make him the youngest Grand Slam winner since Juan Martin del Potro’s triumph in New York back in 2009.
  3. Whoever wins will become the 150th male player in tennis history to win their maiden major title. The last person to do so was Marin Cilic back in 2014.
  4. Heading into the final Zverev has spent a total of 17 hours and 16 minutes on the court during his six previous rounds. This is almost four hours more than Thiem’s tally of 13 hours and 28 minutes. Furthermore, the German has only faced one top-25 seed in his previous rounds compared to Thiem who has played three.
  5. Thiem leads their head-to-head 7-2 and has won all three of their previous meetings in grand slams.

The head-to-head breakdown

YearEventSurfaceRNDWinnerResult
2020Australian Open
Australia
Outdoor HardSFDominic Thiem36 64 763 764
2019Nitto ATP Finals
Great Britain
Indoor HardSFDominic Thiem75 63
2018Roland Garros
France
Outdoor ClayQFDominic Thiem64 62 61
2018ATP Masters 1000 Madrid
Spain
Outdoor ClayFAlexander Zverev64 64
2017Rotterdam
Netherlands
Indoor HardR32Dominic Thiem36 63 64
2016Beijing
China
Outdoor HardR32Alexander Zverev46 61 63
2016Roland Garros
France
Outdoor ClayR32Dominic Thiem674 63 63 63
2016Nice
France
Outdoor ClayFDominic Thiem64 36 60
2016Munich
Germany
Outdoor ClaySFDominic Thiem46 62 63

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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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