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

Tennis Australia Suffers Major Financial Loss Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Millions has been lost over a 15-month period, according to an official document.

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Tennis Australia’s staging of the 2021 COVID-19-affected Australian Open came at a huge financial cost, according figures published in their annual report.

 

The governing body has revealed that between June 30, 2020 and September 30, 2021 they suffered a total loss of AUS$100.02 million which equates to roughly $71M in US dollars. Part of the heavy loss is linked to the hosting of this year’s Australian Open in accordance to rules related to the pandemic. Charter flights were provided to players for them to fly into the country. Then they all have to go through quarantine at designated hotels. To add to the financial burden, during the Grand Slam fans were banned from attending for a five-day period after Melbourne went into a snap lockdown. On the days the event was opened up to the public it was for a limited capacity crowd.

It was also confirmed that Tennis Australia used all of their AUS$80M cash reserves and subsequently had to borrow an additional AUS$40M loan in order to help them with their staging of next year’s Australian Open.

It is hoped that the organisers will be able to regain some of their financial loss in January where the country will host a series of ATP and WTA tournaments prior to the Melbourne major. As it currently stands, the Australian Open will be operating with full capacity crowds which maximises their earning potential from the visiting fans. There is also no mandatory quarantine required for players arriving in the country. Instead, they will have to take a COVID-19 test both before and upon arrival. Furthermore, they must also be double vaccinated in order to play.

Officials are hoping to stage the 2022 Australian Open in more normal circumstances despite the threat of the recently discovered Omicron variant which scientists are still looking into. The first case of community transmission of the variant in Australia was discovered on Friday in New South Wales.

“We’re still waiting. I’ve been talking to the government … there’s still a lot of unanswered questions around this (new COVID-19 variant),” tournament director Craig Tiley told the Nine Network earlier this week.
“I think in the next 14 days we will have some clarity, but at this point, the plans are going ahead as they are.”

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th.

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Grand Slam

Nick Kyrgios Backs Australian Open Ban On Unvaccinated Players But Opposes Mandatory Vaccinations

The world No.90 landed himself in some hot water after making some comments on the No Boundaries podcast.

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Tennis star Nick Kyrgios says recent comments made by him on a podcast were taken out of context after he was accused of calling for next year’s Australian Open to be cancelled.

 

The former top 20 player spoke about the upcoming event and other issues on the No Boundaries podcast which he is a co-founder of. During one part of the discussion, Kyrgios said that he doesn’t think that the Australian Open should go ahead due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The country has had one of the strictest rules in the world regarding the pandemic with many cities being placed into a lockdown for almost a year and heavy restrictions being placed on international travel.

I don’t think the Aus Open should go ahead, just for the people in Melbourne – you’ve got to send a message,’ Kyrgios said on the podcast.
‘How long did (Melbourne) do in lockdown? 275 days or something?’

However, the 26-year-old later clarified his comment and said his point was more about the people living in Melbourne and not that the tournament should be cancelled. Kyrgios reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open back in 2015 and has made eight consecutive appearances in the main draw. This year he reached the third round before losing to Dominic Thiem in five sets.

“To say that I’d want the Australian Open cancelled, I think that was the sentence that got taken out of context,” he said in a video on his Instagram account. “It’s more so for the people of Melbourne who have gone through hell and back. I think it’s been … nearly 300 days of lockdown and your freedom has been, you know, taken away from you.”

Next year’s Melbourne major is still yet to publicly confirm their entry requirements amid growing speculation that players will only be allowed to play in the tournament if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is due to a health mandate being implemented in Victoria which requires all essential workers, including elite athletes, to be vaccinated. Premier Daniel Andrews has previously told journalists that he would not be making any exceptions to the rules for players.

Weighing in on the topic of vaccinations, Kyrgios said the idea of having a policy on Tour which requires all players to be vaccinated is ‘morally wrong.’ Novak Djokovic is among a group of players who have not revealed their vaccination status. Prompting speculation over if he will travel to Australia next January or not.

“(NBA player) Kyrie (Irving), Novak (Djokovic), these guys have given so much, sacrificed so much,” Kyrgios commented. “They’re global athletes who millions of people look up to and I just feel like it’s so morally wrong to force someone to get vaxxed. There’s other solutions around it.”

However, Kyrgios has also said that he thinks it is ‘morally wrong’ for unvaccinated players to be allowed in Melbourne.

I don’t think it’s morally right to accept players from overseas that aren’t vaccinated to come into our country.” He stated.

Although Tennis Australia is yet to confirm their policy, media sources are reporting on Tuesday that unvaccinated players will be banned from the tournament. According to ABC Australia, Victorian Sports minister Martin Pakula told reporters that unvaccinated players would be banned from the Australian Open along with unvaccinated fans and staff.

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Roger Federer Unlikely To Play Australian Open Next Year

One of Federer’s coaches has issued an update concerning his recovery from injury.

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Roger Federer Wimbledon 2021
Roger Federer (SUI) playing against Adrian Mannarino (FRA) in the first round of the Gentlemen's Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 2 Tuesday 29/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

It appears that Roger Federer’s return to professional tennis will not occur in Australia after one of his coaches described the chances of him playing in the first Grand Slam of 2022 as ‘very few.’

 

Ivan Ljubicic has issued an update on the 20-time Grand Slam champion who has not played since his quarter-final loss to Herbert Hurkacz at Wimbledon. Shortly after that defeat, Federer underwent a third operation of his knee following a consultation with his medical team. He has already undergone two minor surgeries on his knee during the first half of 2020, as well as a separate procedure back in 2016.

Speaking in Zurich during a sponsor event for Mercedes-Benz back in September Federer said ‘the worst is behind him’ but he is taking his recovery slowly. Speaking about his progress earlier this week, coach Ljubicic said the Swiss maestro is unable to recover ‘as quickly as he used to’ due to his age. Admitting that the prospect of Federer returning to action at Melbourne Park is unlikely.

“I think there are very few chances, he is still recovering and knowing him, he wants to be sure he can play to win the tournament and be at 100%,” Ljubicic told Stats Perform.
“So I think the Australian Open is not a real possibility right now. But he will go step by step because he is 40 years old now and he needs to be patient. He cannot recover as quickly as he used to.”

Federer has won six out of his 20 major titles at the Australian Open with the most recent occurring back in 2018. He also missed the tournament this year due to his knee. Prior to this, he had made 21 consecutive appearances at Maelbourne Park (2000-2020).

However, Ljubicic is optimistic that Federer will return to competition and retirement talk is currently not on the cards despite his age. According to the ATP, only six players older than Federer have an official ranking but none of those are currently ranked in the top 200. Although Feliciano Lopez is the same age as him but is a couple months younger.

We have spoken and I can guarantee he wants to return to playing tennis. When he decides to stop he will retire, but I don’t think it’s going to happen all of a sudden.” Ljubicic stated.

During his career, Federer has won 103 ATP titles and has earned more than $130M in prize money.

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