Roland Garros Day 13 Preview: The Men’s Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Roland Garros Day 13 Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Diego Schwartzman vies to become the third man to ever defeat Rafael Nadal at the French Open (rolandgarros.com)

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are one round away from a highly-anticipated championship match with historical implications.  However, that opportunity is not promised for either man. 

Rafael Nadal may be 98-2 at Roland Garros, but he’s 0-1 against Diego Schwartzman this past month.  While Nadal is yet to lose a set this fortnight, he’s still not as match tough as he likes to be, with only eight matches played since February.  And Schwartzman is brimming with confidence, coming off an epic, over five-hour victory against US Open champion Dominic Thiem in the last round.

Novak Djokovic may be 36-1 in 2020, but he was clearly in distress from neck and arm pain during his quarterfinal.  And Djokovic remains edgy on court, as he was consistently yelling in frustration two days ago.  Plus, he’s twice been defeated by Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has won 15 consecutive sets since the opening round.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Diego Schwartzman (12)

20 days in Rome, Schwartzman earned his first career victory over Nadal in his tenth try.  And he did so in convincing fashion: 6-2, 7-5.  Diego would go on to reach his first Masters 1,000 final in Rome.  Now three weeks later in Paris, he’s advanced to his first Major semifinal.  He had not dropped a set this fortnight until his dramatic clash with Thiem in the quarters.  As tight as that match was, Schwartzman was the better player throughout, and had opportunities to win each set before tightening up at some key moments.  While that match was physically and emotionally demanding, Diego has the benefit of two full days rest. 

However, Nadal’s 98-2 record at this event, and his 9-1 record against Schwartzman, speak volumes.  While Rafa’s yet to be really tested thus far, and is lacking the amount of reps he prefers leading into a Major, he remains a heavy favorite.  Through five matches, Nadal has broken serve 32 times, and has averaged nine more winners than unforced errors per match.  Despite Diego’s current momentum, defeating Rafa at Roland Garros remains tennis’ most difficult task.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 3-2, and claimed their only previous match on clay in straight sets.  This will be their first meeting at a Major.  It’s a second Slam semifinal for Tsitsipas, nearly two years after his first.  The 22-year-old has overcome heartbreaking losses over the past 16 months, namely at this event last year and at last month’s US Open.  But Stefanos has continually bounced back promptly.  Since dropping the first two sets in the opening round, he’s only been broken three times over 15 sets.

Djokovic hadn’t dropped a set himself until his quarterfinal against Pablo Carreno Busta, when neck and arm discomfort clearly impacted his performance.  He also experienced neck pain at August’s Western & Southern Open, with his coach Goran Ivanisevic even giving him a 5% chance of being able to play.  But Novak did play, and go on to win the event.  There’s no way of knowing if this is a similar issue, or if Djokovic will recuperate as quickly.  But without substantial evidence that his body will hamper him, Novak should still be favored today.  His ability to turn defense to offense, thanks to his movement, flexibility, and intelligence, should outdo the shot-making of Tsitsipas over the course of five sets on this surface.

Other Notable Matches on Day 13:

In the first women’s double semifinal, three-time Major champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic (2) vs. Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (4), who are two-time Major champions.

In the second semifinal, recent Istanbul champs Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk (14) vs. Nicole Melichar and Iga Swiatek.  Iga is of course is the breakout star of this tournament, and has already advanced to the women’s singles final.

Friday’s full schedule is here.

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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