US Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

After the shocking scenes of Sunday, when heavy favourite Novak Djokovic was defaulted for his careless behaviour, what is next at this unique and bizarre US Open?

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Arthur Ashe Stadium (usopen.org)

As the second week of the fortnight commences, this tournament has a renewed air of unpredictability.  With Novak’s hasty exit, we are guaranteed to have a new men’s Major winner for the first time since 2014.  And with two multi-Slam winners upset by Americans yesterday, the women’s draw feels as volatile as ever. 

 

Serena Williams (3) vs. Maria Sakkari (15)

This will start the day’s order of play on Arthur Ashe Stadium at noon local time.  It is a rematch from 13 days ago on these same grounds, which was a bizarre affair.  Serena served for the match in the second set, but failed to close it out.  After Sakkari grabbed the set in a tiebreak, an exhausted Serena half-tanked the third set, losing it 6-1.  Serena will surely be eager to avenge that defeat.  The six-time US Open champion has looked better with each passing round, especially in the second two sets of a comeback win over former champion Sloane Stephens.  Sakkari is into her second consecutive round of 16 at a Major, but is yet to advance farther.  Her movement and defense frustrated Serena two weeks ago, but it’s hard to imagine a repeat of that feat.  Just four match wins from her 24th Major, Serena will be much more motivated to fight for the victory today.

Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (15)

In the next match on Ashe, is Felix ready for his breakout moment at a Major?  If his form through three rounds is any indication, the answer may be yes.  After overcoming a stern test from Thiago Monteiro in the first round, he dominated a depleted Andy Murray.  But his most impressive performance came on Saturday, as he dismantled Corentin Moutet with the loss of just five games.  Auger-Aliassime has been serving expertly, is a great mover, and can thump his groundstrokes.  But the second seed is a big step up in competition.  Despite a bad showing two weeks ago at the Western & Southern Open, Thiem looked strong in week one.  This will be their first career meeting, and Auger-Aliassime’s first appearance in the fourth round of a Slam.  I’m curious to see Thiem’s return position against the Canadian’s first and second serve, and if he adjusts for each.  Dominic usually stands close to the lines judges behind the court while returning.  Felix has one of the best first serves on tour, yet his second serve can be suspect.  Thiem is the favorite, though Auger-Aliassime may be motivated to join his close friend Denis Shapovalov as the first Canadians in the US Open quarterfinals.  And with Djokovic gone, Thiem will know what an opportunity this is to secure his first Major.

Matteo Berrettini (5) vs. Andrey Rublev (10)

This will be the third match of the day over on Louis Armstrong Stadium.  And it’s a rematch from this same round a year ago, when the Italian pulled off what was considered an upset over the 2017 quarterfinalist.  Berrettini went all the way to the semis last year, and is playing well again in New York this year.  He’s the only player left in either singles draw who is yet to be broken.  But Rublev has been one of 2020’s strongest performers.  He started the year on an 11-match win streak, earning him back-to-back hard court titles in Doha and Adelaide.  Berrettini leads their head-to-head 3-1, and 2-1 on hard courts.  This seems to be a matchup that favors Matteo, who is not bothered by the strong ball coming off Rublev’s racquet.  However, Rublev is an improved player from a year ago, and fully capable of the win, especially if Berrettini’s serving quality dips.  This should be a good one.

Daniil Medvedev (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe

This will start the night session on Ashe.  Last year’s runner-up is 2-0 against the 22-year-old American, which includes a four-set win earlier this year in Melbourne.  Tiafoe has been impressive during this fortnight, especially in coming back from two-sets-to-one down against the ultra-fit John Millman.  An Australian Open quarterfinalist in 2019, Frances struggled mightily following that career highlight.  However, he’s recaptured his mojo with the help of new coach Wayne Ferreira, a two-time Australian Open semifinalist.  But Medvedev has looked stellar here thus far, comfortably claiming all nine sets played and averaging less than two hours on court per match.  As we saw here a year ago, the Russian is hard to beat when he builds momentum. 

Sofia Kenin (2) vs. Elise Mertens (16)

In the last match of the evening, it’s the American No.1 and Australian Open champion.  Is it possible for the second seed and most recent Major champion to be advancing quietly?  That seems to be the case with Kenin, who keeps proving doubters such as myself wrong.  She did not drop a set in the first week, which included a tricky match against One Jabeur two days ago.  But she faces another tough opponent today in Mertens, who already has 11 match wins since the tour restart.  They’ve played twice before, both times in 2019.  While both were tight three-setters, Kenin came out on top both times.  With her game clicking, Kenin should be favored to make it 3-0 despite the consistency of the Belgian.

Other Notable Matches on Day 8:

Karolina Muchova (20) vs. Victoria Azarenka.  Muchova narrowly escaped defeat on Saturday, prevailing 9-7 in a third set tiebreak against Sorana Cirstea.  Azarenka is 8-0 in the last two weeks, dropping only one of seventeen sets played.

Alex De Minaur (21) vs. Vasek Pospisil.  The Australian is 2-0 against the Canadian, with both matches decided on hard courts.  De Minaur is vying for his first Major quarterfinal, while Pospisil was a quarterfinalist five years ago at Wimbledon.

In a match between two good friends, Alize Cornet vs. Tsvetana Pironkova.  Cornet is 0-4 in her career at this stage of a Major.  Pironkova has been the story of the tournament, defeating two top 20 seeds in her first event since Wimbledon 2017.

ATP

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal To Quarantine In Adelaide Ahead Of Australian Open

The world’s best players are set to face off against each other in a new exhibition tournament at the end of this month.

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The highest ranked players in the world of tennis will travel to Adelaide instead of Melbourne to quarantine under a new deal announced by Tennis Australia.

 

Under the terms agreed with the Southern Australian Government, the three highest ranked players on both the ATP and WTA Tour’s will travel to the region. The decision has been made to help ease the pressure on Melbourne who are close to their capacity of holding 1000 players and their teams. Adelaide is set to quarantine around 50 people ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2021.

Under part of the deal, an exhibition tournament will take place in the region as part of an incentive for them agreeing to help. Should all of the top three players take part, the event would feature Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem on the men’s side. Meanwhile, the women’s field will feature home favourite Ash Barty, Simona Halep and Naomi Osaka. The event will be played on January 29 and 30.

“We’re right up to the edge of people that can quarantine in Melbourne so we needed some relief,” Australian Open chief Craig Tiley told the Tennis Channel.
“We approached the South Australian government about the possibility of them quarantining at least 50 people, but they wouldn’t have any interest in doing it because there’s no benefit for them to do it to put their community at risk if the players then go straight to Melbourne.
“But it would be a benefit if they played an exhibition tournament just before they came to Melbourne, so the premier (Steven Marshall) has agreed to host 50 people in a quarantine bubble and then have those players play an exhibition event.”

The conditions of the Quarantine will be the same as it will be in Melbourne with players only allowed to leave their room in order to train during the 14-day period. Should anybody break protocol, they could face up to a AUS$20,000 fine, possible risk of criminal sanction and even deportation from the country.

“We think this is a great opportunity to launch before we go into the season. This a state and city who have just invested $44 million in building a new stadium. So this is a nice way to say thank you,” Tiley added.

Melbourne will still remain the primary location for tennis with the region hosting a series of events both before and after the Australian Open. On the men’s tour, the plan is to hold two 250 tournaments and the ATP Cup during the first week of February. Meanwhile, the WTA is set to stage two 500 events during the week starting January 31st and then a 250 tournament immediately after the Australian Open.

Speaking about Melbourne Park, Tiley is hopeful that between 50% and 75% of its usual capacity will be used by fans. To put that into perspective, last year the US Open was played behind closed doors and the French Open significantly reduced their capacity due to the pandemic.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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Australian Open Axes Hotel Quarantine Contract Following Legal Threat

The decision comes after residents voiced concern that international tennis players pose a potential health risk to them.

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Tennis Australia has been forced to relocate one of their player accommodation venues after residents threatened to take the government to court.

 

Earlier this week a group of penthouse owners at the Westin Hotel in Melbourne confirmed that they were contemplating legal action, arguing that international players posed a health risk to them. The group also claims that they have been given insufficient information about the arrangements which has been disputed by the local government.

Despite assurances by officials that the residents would not be interacting with the players due to part of the hotel being sealed off, it has been decided to no longer use the Westin. It is unclear as to how many players would have been staying at the venue.

“The Australian Open team has been working closely with COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) on suitable quarantine hotel options in Melbourne. Several hotels in Melbourne have already been secured, including a replacement for the Westin, to safely accommodate the international playing group and their team members as well as allow for them to properly prepare for the first Grand Slam of the year. The health and safety of everyone is our top priority,” a statement from Tennis Australia reads.

Lisa Neville, who is the country’s minister of police, said the decision to change venue has been taken in order to prevent the risk of the Melbourne major being delayed once again. Ms Neville said she was first made aware of the concerns on Sunday.

We became aware on Sunday that there were some concerns that had been expressed by the residents in the apartments,” she said.
“We were also concerned this may delay the standing up of the Australian Open so we’ve gone through a process of securing a new site.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players arriving in the country must quarantine for 14 days before they are allowed to play professional events. Although they are allowed to train during this period. As a result, the Australian Open will be taking place during February for the first time in more than 100 years.

According to abc.net.au, the government will publish a list of hotels that will be used for quarantine next week. Players are set to start arriving in Australia from January 14th.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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Australian Open Facing Legal Action Over Quarantine Plans

Less than two weeks before players are set to enter a mandatory quarantine, residents at one hotel are considering taking Tennis Australia to court.

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The Australian Open is facing a new crisis with a group of apartment owners launching a legal case to not allow players to stay at their premises.

 

Residents at the Westin Melbourne says they were given insufficient information about plans for players to stay at the Westin ahead of the Grand Slam and argue they pose a health risk to them. The venue has been chosen as one of the premises when players from around the globe will stay during a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the country. During the quarantine, they are not allowed to play professional tournaments but will be permitted to train. Players are set to start arriving in Melbourne from January 14th.

“At 84, I’m in the vulnerable group and it’s shocking the way they tried to ram this through without any attempt to consult with us,” owner Digby Lewis told Fairfax.
“I’m more than happy to toss in $10,000 or $20,000 to help the legal fight, it’s bloody shocking.”

According to The Age newspaper, the legal action is being considered by the 36 owners of penthouse apartments in the hotel, including many who live there on a permanent basis. One of their plans of action could include trying to obtain a last-minute injection which would prevent players from arriving if the court agrees to issue one.

The Victorian government formally approved the quarantine plan on December 18th and apartment owners were then notified on December 23rd. Although they insist that they never agreed to the terms.

“It’s incredibly arrogant to ambush us this way as if it’s a done deal. There are substantive public health and legal issues that have not even been examined,” apartment owner Mark Nicholson told The Age and the SMH.

In a statement issued to Reuters news agency, a representative from The Westin hotel has insisted that residents will not be in contact with players throughout their stay. They will be using separate entrances and lifts into the venue in accordance with their ‘COVID safe’ guidelines.

Their floor will remain exclusive while there will be no reticulation of ventilation between the floors,” the statement outlines.

Jacinta Allan, who is the acting Premier of Melbourne state, has also tried to ease any concerns the residents have. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Allan said a ‘rigorous assessment’ was conducted before the hotel was approved to host international athletes.

“The Westin, like every venue, went through a rigorous assessment, very strict infection prevention measures have been put in place in all of the venues,” she said.
“The very clear advice is that arrangements have been put in place so there is no contact between the existing residents and the people staying associated with the Australian Open.
“There are separate entrances, there are separate floors, there are floor monitors on every floor, there is 24/7 Victoria Police presence associated with every venue.”

The development is the latest setback for Tennis Australia and their plans for the Grand Slam. Due to the pandemic the Australian Open has had to be delayed until February for the first time in more than 100 years. Officials originally hoped for players to arrive in the country from December before the government ruled against it.

The Australian Open will get underway on February 8th.

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