US Open Day 9 Preview: The Quarterfinals Commence - UBITENNIS
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US Open Day 9 Preview: The Quarterfinals Commence

Will Naomi Osaka and Alexander Zverev live up to expectations in New York?

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

Eight men and eight women are just three matches away from Grand Slam glory.

On the men’s side, all remaining players are age 27 or less, meaning the champion will become the youngest active male to win a Major.  This will mark the first Grand Slam event in four years with someone not named Roger, Rafa, or Novak lifting the winner’s trophy.  The women’s side includes three mothers for the first time in the Open Era.  One had not won a match in a year until two weeks ago, another hadn’t played a tournament in over three years, and the other is the best female player of all-time.  In a fortnight full of inspiring stories, what will unfold during the next six days?

Yulia Putintseva (23) vs. Jennifer Brady (28)

Jennifer Brady is playing some great ball.  The 25-year-old was the champion in Lexington a few weeks ago, and is into her first Major quarterfinal without dropping a set.  With a versatile serve, penetrating groundstrokes, and improved movement, Brady’s opponents have failed to find a weakness to manipulate.  But she’s 0-2 against Putintseva, who twice before has reached this stage of a Major (both times at Roland Garros).  Also 25-years-of-age, Yulia survived a dramatic and controversial battle against Petra Martic on Sunday, which saw both players take medical timeouts at inconvenient times for their opponent.  Putintseva brings the drama wherever she goes, and is a feisty competitor who is not opposed to talking some trash.  But despite her strong ground game, Yulia does not possess the weapons or speed of the American.  Brady is a considerable favorite to reach the semifinals of her home Slam.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Borna Coric (27)

This is a rematch from the second round of the 2017 US Open, a match in which Zverev was goaded into many 30-40 ball rallies instead of harnessing his power game.  Coric would grind his way to a four-set win on that day.  Three years on, Zverev is a much-improved player.  Despite his second serve yips resurfacing last week, they’ve been less of an issue through four rounds, with 71 aces to 29 double faults.  By contrast, Coric has struggled of late, but his grit was on full display in his epic comeback two rounds ago over Stefanos Tsitsipas, where he saved six match points.  That was Borna’s second consecutive five-setter, which ended past 1:00am local time.  However, he bounced back impressively two days later, ousting Jordan Thompson in straight sets to reach his first Major quarterfinal.  Overall, Coric leads their head-to-head 3-1, with Zverev’s only win coming in Miami two years ago.  But if Sascha serves well and plays aggressively, he should be able to reach his second consecutive Slam semifinal.  Coric will not defeat himself and is a great counterpuncher, yet Zverev can better dictate play.

Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Shelby Rogers

Could we have an all-American semifinal?  Perhaps, though Rogers faces a much taller task then her friend Jen Brady.  Osaka was the champion here two years ago, and is the only woman to win back-to-back Majors since Serena Williams did so in 2015.  While Naomi withdrew from the Western & Southern Open final 10 days ago due to a hamstring injury, and still has it wrapped, it does not appear to be effecting her play.  She served exceptionally well two days ago against Anett Kontaveit, winning 84% on her first serve and 82% on her second.  Rogers fought hard and deserves full credit for reaching for first Major quarterfinal, despite Petra Kvitova double faulting on match point in the final set tiebreak.  Rogers has talked of focusing on her fitness during the pandemic shutdown, and the results have followed.  Just a few weeks ago in Lexington, she came back from a set down to upset Serena Williams.  Rogers does have three match wins against Osaka, though two were those were at lower level events, and the other was three years ago on clay.  Even without a partisan crowd filling Arthur Ashe Stadium, the American will surely be nervous in the biggest match of her career, having never advanced beyond the third round of a Major previously.  And with Osaka hitting the ball as soundly as she is, Naomi is a strong favorite to reach her third Slam semifinal.

Denis Shapovalov (12) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (20)

Like today’s other men’s quarterfinal, this is also a rematch from the 2017 US Open.  In the fourth round three years ago, Carreno Busta prevailed after three tiebreak sets against an 18-year-old Canadian making his debut in the second week of a Major.  The Spaniard has also claimed their other two hard court meetings, with Shapovalov’s only victory coming on clay.  But Denis has shown this fortnight that he’s now a more complete player.  He escaped near-defeat against Taylor Fritz to win in five, then followed it up with a strong effort to take out David Goffin in four.  Carreno Busta advanced after Novak Djokovic was infamously defaulted on Sunday.  However, it’s worth noting Pablo is a former semifinalist here, and it was his defiant play which brought that frustration out of Novak.  But with Denis’ superior offensive skills, I like Shapovalov to extend his best-yet run at a Major.

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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