US Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Former Grand Slam champions Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza continue their campaigns on Thursday.

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The grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (usopen.org).

After a straightforward first round, upsets ran amuck on Wednesday, with seven women’s seeds bowing out of the tournament.

 

And with a pair unseeded Major champions in action on Thursday, the seeds may continue to fall.  In the highest-profile women’s match of the day, it’s the battle of Belarus, between a two-time Australian Open champion and a top-five seed.  And the men’s lineup is highlighted by 2012 champion Andy Murray facing one of the sport’s most promising young stars.

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Victoria Azarenka

Their only previous meeting came at this same event last year, when Sabalenka prevailed in three tight sets.  Sabalenka serves a bit bigger than Azarenka and will look to dictate points from the start.  However, Azarenka is an excellent returner, which was fully evident last week when she defeated one of the WTA’s best servers, Johanna Konta.  Vika hadn’t won a match between last year’s and this year’s Western & Southern Open, but is now on a six-match win streak.  Sabalenka was playing good tennis pre-pandemic, as she was the champion in Doha.  But Aryna is yet to win back-to-back matches since the WTA restart last month.  Azarenka should be slightly favored based on her current momentum.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (15) vs. Andy Murray

Both of these men are coming off extremely grueling encounters just two days ago.  Surely they won’t mind being scheduled last on Arthur Ashe Stadum this evening.  Murray needed nearly five hours to come back from two sets down against Yoshihito Nishioka on Monday.  At the same time, Auger-Aliassime played a set and an hour less to take out Thiago Monteiro.  That was Murray’s first win at a Major since the 2018 US Open, while it was Felix’s first-ever win at this event.  Recovery will be crucial to today’s outcome, especially for Andy and his metal hip.  Felix continues to secure success at smaller events, like earlier this year when he was a finalist in both Rotterdam and Marseille.  But he’s a meager 3-4 at the Majors, and is an unproven commodity in best-of-five.  Despite the epic skirmish Andy endured just 48 hours ago, his grit and experience may be enough to reach the third round of a Slam for the first time since Wimbledon 2017.  In a match where both men will undoubtedly feel drained, the guile and tennis IQ of Andy Murray will be crucial.

Garbine Muguruza (10) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova

It’s nice to see Tsvetana Pironkova back in the mix.  The 32-year-old Bulgarian advanced to the second week of Wimbledon twice a decade ago, with victories over Venus Williams in back-to-back years.  She also reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros in 2016.  Her unorthodox forehand often contains as much slice as a Steffi Graf backhand.  But this is not only her first appearance at a Major in three years, it’s her first event at any level since Wimbledon 2017.  Pironkova suffered a shoulder injury in 2017, and then gave birth to her first child in 2018.  This will be her first career meeting against Mugruza, who reached her first hard court Major final this past January.  Reunited with Conchita Martinez as her coach, Garbine has regained the confidence she had lost in recent years.  While Pironkova is a tricky second round draw, especially when you’ve never faced her before, Muguruza is still a heavy favorite to reach the US Open third round for only the second time.  It’s a big ask for Pironkova to defeat a two-time Slam champion in her second match back.

Alex de Minaur (21) vs. Richard Gasquet

The 21-year-old Australian reached the fourth round of a Major for the first time a year ago at this event, with a solid upset over Kei Nishikori.  He continued that momentum through the fall, with a title in Zhuhai and reaching the final in Basel.  Unfortunately, he injured himself to start 2020 at the ATP Cup, and had to miss his home Slam.  Gasquet was a semifinalist here seven years ago, and a quarterfinalist in 2015, but is just 3-4 in New York since.  The veteran Frenchman has suffered multiple injuries in recent years.  He underwent hernia surgery at the beginning of 2019, yet returned to form rather quickly, reaching the semis in Cincinnati last August.  Like de Minaur, Gasquet missed this year’s Australian Open, due to a knee injury.  Gasquet is still dangerous when his groundstrokes are on, but the fit and speedy de Minaur has the advantage in the best-of-five format.  The fast-playing courts also favor Alex, as Richard prefers a little more time to set up his big swings.

Matteo Berrettini (6) vs. Ugo Humbert

This could be one of the most competitive matches of the day, between two aggressive, young, and hungry players.  Berrettini was a surprise semifinalist here a year ago, which was the highlight of a breakout 2019.  Matteo qualified for the ATP Finals thanks to 43 match wins and two titles.  Humbert is a 22-year-old Frenchman who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon last year, and won his first ATP title this year in Auckland.  Their only previous match was three years ago at the Challenger level, which Ugo claimed with the loss of just three games.  In a match that could easily go either way, Berrettini’s experience may on these courts may prove vital.  Matteo’s confidence was surely buoyed by staying busy this summer, playing exhibitions and garnering quality wins over many top 20 players.  Spending several weeks against stiff competition like Thiem, Tsitsipas, and Bautista Agut helped keep the Italian match tough.

Other Notable Matches on Day 4:

Six-time US Open champion Serena Williams (3) vs. Margarita Gasparyan.  Serena is 2-0 against Gasparyan, with two straight-set victories at Majors.

A semifinalist last year, Grigor Dimitrov (14) vs. Marton Fucsovics.  The 28-year-old Hungarian defeated Dimitrov just last week on these same grounds.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (2) vs. Leylah Fernandez, a fast-rising 17-year-old Canadian who was a finalist earlier this year in Acapulco.

Three-time Major finalist Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Sumit Nagal, who just earned his first match win at a Major on Tuesday.

Last year’s runner-up Daniil Medvedev (3) vs. Christopher O’Connell, who like Nagal had never won a match at a Major prior to this week.

Order of play (time in GMT)

ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM

From 5pm
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
L. Fernandez (CAN) v S. Kenin (USA) (2)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
S. Nagal (IND) v D. Thiem (AUT) (2)

From midnight
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
M. Gasparyan (RUS) v S. Williams (USA) (3)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN) (15) v A. Murray (GBR)

LOUIS ARMSTRONG STADIUM

From 4pm
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
K. Scott (USA) v A. Anisimova (USA) (22)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
V. Pospisil (CAN) v M. Raonic (CAN) (25)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
S. Stephens (USA) (26) v O. Govortsova (BLR)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
C.O’Connell (AUS) v D. Medvedev (RUS) (3)

From midnight
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
A. Sabalenka (BLR) (5) v V. Azarenka (BLR)

COURT 17

From 4pm
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
T. Pironkova (BUL) v G. Muguruza (ESP) (10)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
G. Barrere (FRA) v A. Rublev (RUS) (10)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
M. Berrettini (ITA) (6) v U. Humbert (FRA)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
M. Keys (USA) (7) v A. Bolsova (ESP)

COURT 5

From 4pm
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
A. Kuznetsov (RUS) v K. Khachanov (RUS) (11)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
S. Cirstea (ROU) v J. Konta (GBR) (9)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
C. Moutet (FRA) v D. Evans (GBR) (23)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
C. McNally (USA) v E. Alexandrova (RUS) (21)

COURT 11

From 4pm
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
A. de Minaur (AUS) (21) v R. Gasquet (FRA)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
F. Tiafoe (USA) v J. Millman (AUS)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
S. Vickery (USA) v I. Swiatek (POL)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
E. Mertens (BEL) (16) v S. Sorribes Tormo (ESP)

COURT 4

From 4pm
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
J. Cabal (COL)/R. Farah (COL) (1) v J. Melzer (AUT)/E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
K. Muchova (CZE) (20) v A. Kalinskaya (RUS)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
J. Wolf (USA) v R. Carballes Baena (ESP)

COURT 6

From 4pm
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
D. Vekic (CRO) (18) v P. Tig (ROU)

From 6pm
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
E. Escobedo (USA) v S. Caruso (ITA)
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
D. Inglot (GBR)/A. Qureshi (PAK) v J. Sock (USA)/J. Withrow (USA)
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
E. Escobedo (USA)/N. Rubin (USA) v R. Bopanna (IND)/D. Shapovalov (CAN)

COURT 7

From 4pm
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
O. Jabeur (TUN) (27) v K. Kanepi (EST)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
M. Cilic (CRO) (31) v N. Gombos (SVK)
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
I. Dodig (CRO)/F. Polasek (SVK) (4) v J. Murray (GBR)/N. Skupski (GBR)

COURT 8

From 4pm
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
M. Sakkari (GRE) (15) v B. Pera (USA)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
E. Ruusuvuori (FIN) v C. Ruud (NOR) (30)
WOMEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
A. Cornet (FRA) v Y. Bonaventure (BEL)

COURT 9

From 4pm
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
M. Arevalo (ESA)/J.O’Mara (GBR) v J. Rojer (NED)/H. Tecau (ROU)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
J. Brady (USA)/C. Dolehide (USA) v O. Kalashnikova (GEO)/A. Kudryavtseva (RUS)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
G. Dabrowski (CAN)/A. Riske (USA) v N. Dzalamidze (RUS)/I. Khromacheva (RUS)
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
N. Lammons (USA)/N. Monroe (USA) v J. Peers (AUS)/M. Venus (NZL)

COURT 12

From 4pm
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
R. Bautista Agut (ESP) (8) v M. Kecmanovic (SRB)
MEN’S SINGLES – ROUND 2
G. Dimitrov (BUL) (14) v M. Fucsovics (HUN)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
T. Babos (HUN)/K. Mladenovic (FRA) (1) v K. Christian (USA)/G. Olmos (MEX)

COURT 14

From 4pm
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
S. Fichman (CAN)/D. Jurak (CRO) v K. Peschke (CZE) (4/D. Schuurs (NED) (4)WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
N. Melichar (USA) (3/Y. Xu (CHN) (3) v K. Flipkens (BEL)
A. Van Uytvanck (BEL)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
A. Li (USA)
B. Pera (USA) v S. Aoyama (JPN) (6/E. Shibahara (JPN) (6)

COURT 15

From 4pm
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
M. Purcell (AUS)/L. Saville (AUS) v K. Krawietz (GER)/A. Mies (GER) (6)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
A. Friedsam (GER)/K. Siniakova (CZE) (8) v U. Arconada (USA)/C. McHale (USA)
WOMEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
J. Pegula (USA)/S. Rogers (USA) v V. Kuzmova (SVK)/A. Sasnovich (BLR)
MEN’S DOUBLES – ROUND 1
M. Demoliner (BRA)/M. Middelkoop (NED) v N. Mahut (FRA)/J. Struff (GER)

Grand Slam

REPORT: French Open Attendance To Be More Than Halved Amid COVID-19 Threat

It is understood that the number of fans allowed to attend daily has been cut by roughly 55%.

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This year’s French Open has been forced to dramatically reduce their initial plans for 11,500 daily visitors, according to information obtained by L’Equipe newspaper.

 

The number has reportedly been cut to just 5000 following a ‘governmental decision’ linked to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Organisers had originally set out plans for three separate zones with two holding up to 5000 people and an additional welcoming 1500. However, it has now emerged the new number will only be applied to one specific zone where the premier Philippe-Chatrier Court is located. Meaning that it is possible that matches played on courts Suzanne-Lenglen and Simonne-Mathieu will not be opened to the public.

In recent days France has seen a rise in coronavirus cases and reported 9784 new infections in the country on Wednesday. A slight dip of France’s all-time high of 10,561 which was recorded last Saturday. It is understood that the decision to reduce the crowd size at Roland Garros is also based on spikes in other countries apart from France.

There has been no official comment from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) but L’Equipe reports that the change has been made in line with new local government guidance. The ruling will have no impact on next week’s qualifying tournament which is being played behind closed doors.

Leading up to the clay-court major some players have voiced caution about attending the event with crowds. Outspoken player Nick Kyrgios, who is not playing in Paris this year, went as far as accusing organisers of not taking the pandemic seriously enough. Former champion Simona Halep has also voiced her own concerns.

“I just read that they will have fans,” Halep told reporters earlier this week. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

The French Open will start on September 28th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the reigning champions but Barty will not be defending her title due to travelling concerns related to COVID-19.

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Grand Slam

‘Her Values Are Not What Tennis Stands For’ – Andy Murray Backs Calls To Rename Margaret Court Arena

The British tennis star is the latest top name to hit out at Court over her history of anti-gay comments.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has said the Australian Open should consider renaming one of their premier courts after Margaret Court due to her controversial views.

 

The former world No.1 says 78-year-old Court, who holds the record for most singles Grand Slam titles won, doesn’t represent the values of the sport. Despite being one of Australia’s most decorated tennis players of all time, Court has a history of making various anti-gay views but maintains that she is not homophobic. She once said that the women’s tour was ‘full of lesbians‘ and during her playing career described rival Martina Navratilova as a ‘bad role model’ due to her sexuality. In other incidents she also boycotted Qantas airlines due to their support of marriage equality and publicly criticised former player Casey Dellacqua for having a baby with her same-sex partner.

Murray joins a list of figures calling for a change along with Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe who both held an on-court protest back in January calling for the name change. The Brit argues that the controversy surrounding Court takes focus away from tennis and this should not be the case. This year the Australian was honoured at the Melbourne major with a low-key event to mark the 50th anniversary of her calendar Grand Slam.

“She has obviously offended and upset a lot of people over the years. I think the players certainly have spoken up, which is a positive thing,” Murray told pridelife.com.
“As far as renaming the venue. I think that yes, it’s something the sport should consider. I don’t know who makes the final decision on that but I don’t think her values are what tennis stands for. When you get to the Australian Open you want to concentrate on the tennis. Court’s views detract from that.”

Tennis Australia, who oversees the Australian Open, has previously distanced themselves from Court’s views. In a statement previously issued they said the decision to recognise the 50th anniversary of her triumph was solely due to her achievements and they do not endorse her views.

“Court was given a ceremony at the Australian Open this year to mark her achievements in the game, but the reception she received from the public was lukewarm,” Murray commented.

The issue of gay rights is rarely spoken about in the world of men’s tennis. Unlike the women’s game there are no openly gay male players and only a handful have publicly spoken about their sexuality in recent years. The most well known being former top 100 American player Brian Vahaly who came out after he retired from the sport.

“I think, certainly in men’s tennis, there have been a number of players who have come out as gay, but not while they’re competing. I think there’s still a stigma around it which obviously shouldn’t be the case,” said Murray.

There are various theories about the reasons where there may be no openly gay players on the Tour. Murray says he has never witnessed or heard homophobic comments whilst playing in the sport, but admits that it may be different if somebody did come out.

“I wouldn’t say that I have heard it in the locker room. If more gay men came out it’s something you might see more of potentially,” he explained.
“There have been a few things said in articles I’ve read where players have made homophobic comments, but I’ve not been in the presence of anyone when they have made homophobic comments in the locker room.”

Murray will return to action in less than two weeks time at the French Open in Paris.

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Nick Kyrgios Slams French Open Over Crowd Decision

The world No.41 explains why he is ‘disappointed’ with the French major as other players also voice caution about playing in front of crowds.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has accused officials at the French Open of not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously following their decision to allow spectators to attend.

 

The clay-court Grand Slam has created three separate zones where fans are allowed to attend with each of those having a daily capacity limit. The zones including court Philippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen will hold up to 5000 each. Meanwhile an additional 1500 spectators will be allowed to visit the area surrounding the third court, Simonne Mathieu. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) says strict measures will be in place and their plans have been drafted following ‘advice from a committee of expert scientists.` Masks must be worn at all times by those attending.

Despite the measures that have been put in place, former top 20 player Kyrgios has criticised the move amid the number of cases in the country. France has recently seen a surge in their daily toll. On Tuesday they reported 7852 newly confirmed cases within a 24-hour period compared to 6158 the day before. Last Saturday the number surpassed the 10,000 mark.

“I am most likely not going to play,” Kyrgios told News Corp.
“Especially with the cases rising there. I don’t feel comfortable to go there and play.
“They are thinking about doing it with crowds. I don’t think the tournament is taking it seriously. It’s disappointing the level of seriousness they are taking towards it.”

Kyrgios hasn’t played a competitive match since February after choosing to skip the North American swing over concerns related to the pandemic. A decision that was also taken by the likes of Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep. Although he also previously hinted that it is unlikely that he will be travelling to Europe this year and therefore ending his season early. A approach that was also taken by compatriot Ash Barty.

The 25-year-old isn’t the only player to have express concerns about crowds at Roland Garros. 2018 champion Halep told reporters at this week’s Italian Open, which is being held behind closed doors, that she is hopeful that officials at the venue will be ‘strict’ with the measures.

“I just read that they will have fans,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be very strict.
“We cannot be with the fans, we cannot be with the people that are not in the bubble, so I think they will be separate. Hopefully it’s going to be safe, and we will feel like here, like in the bubble.”

Meanwhile, cautiously-speaking Nadal says it is a case of wait and see what happens in Paris. This year he is bidding to win the major for an historic 13th time.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what’s the situation’s going to look like in Roland Garros,” he told journalists on Monday when questioned about the French Open.
“Let’s see how the virus evolves the next couple of weeks. Hopefully in a good way. Doesn’t look like that, no? Let’s see. We need to be patient and we need to wait to see how the situation improves.”

Unlike the main draw, the qualifying rounds will be held behind closed doors in order to make it easier for players to move around the venue. The tournament gets underway on September 21st with the main draw starting the week after.

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