Roland Garros Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Championship - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Championship

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There will likely be less smiling between these two men on Sunday with so much on the line (rolandgarros.com)

Rafael Nadal vies for a record-tying 20th Major title, while Novak Djokovic looks to win his 18th.

 

The implications of this match are massive.  A Nadal win would tie him with Roger Federer for most men’s Major singles titles.  A Djokovic win would make the three-way race for the most Slams tighter than ever before.

In 2005, Rafael Nadal won his first Major title in his debut at this event.  15 years later, he is an unprecedented 99-2 at Roland Garros, and a 12-time champion.  The only two men he has ever lost to at the French Open are Robin Soderling and his opponent today.  Nadal and his team have spoken of the pandemic emotionally impacted Rafa, causing him to decline defending his title at last month’s US Open.  There was much speculation that Nadal was not as strong a favorite in this unique edition of Roland Garros.  He arrived with only three matches played in six months, and on the heels of a loss in Rome to Diego Schwartzman.  Then Rafa himself talked about his displeasure with the tournament’s change to a slower-playing Wilson ball.  And the cooler conditions in the October staging of this event are not to Nadal’s liking.  But none of that has deterred the King of Clay thus far.  As Simon Cambers highlighted, this is the sixth time he has reached the final here without dropping a set.  Rafa is 25-0 in semifinals and finals at Roland Garros.  With a loss today, this would become only the third year since 2005 that Nadal failed to win a Major.  With a victory today, he’ll win his record-extending 100th match and 13th title at the French Open.

In 2005, Novak Djokovic made his Major debut.  But unlike Nadal, he did not win his first Slam until 2008.  And then Djokovic went another three years until capturing his second.  And Novak did not win this event until 2016, in his twelfth attempt.  That was the year after he finally defeated Rafa at this event in his seventh try.  This is Novak’s first trip back to the championship match of Roland Garros since he won four years ago.  But Djokovic has dominated in 2020, with a record 37-1.  The only blemish to his record was the infamous default at the US Open, when he errantly hit a lines judge with a ball.  That’s one of many controversies Novak has been a part of this year.  They also include an exhibition tour utterly lacking of social distancing, which lead to many people, including himself and his wife, coming down with COVID-19.  And the forming of a new players’ association (PTPA), with its suspect timing and lack of female representation, drew much criticism.  But Djokovic has excelled on the court despite those off-court distractions.  He’s on an 11-match winning streak, going back to his title run in Rome last month.  However, his last two matches were concerning.  Novak was in obvious neck and arm pain in the quarterfinals.  And despite holding a match point in the third set of his semifinal, he failed to close it out, spending an additional two sets (and two hours) on court less than 48 hours ago.  With a win today, he’ll become to only man in the Open Era to win each Grand Slam event twice.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2) – 3:00pm local time

This is the match the tennis world has been anticipating since this fortnight began.  It’s a showdown between two of the most prolific champions of all-time.  And it’s the most prolific rivalry of this generation.  Djokvoic leads their head-to-head 29-26.  At Majors, Nadal leads 9-6, and they’re tied 4-4 in Major finals.  On clay, Rafa leads 17-7.  In some startling symmetry, Nadal claimed 14 of their first 18 meetings, but Djokovic has now taken 14 of their most recent 18.  This is their first match at Roland Garros in five years, after meeting here seven out of ten years between 2006 and 2015.

Djokovic is attempting to do what no man has done before: defeat Nadal in the last two rounds of the French Open. But if Djokovic is ever going to defeat Nadal in a French Open final, this may be his best chance.  Rafa’s ball will not bounce as high or as far in these heavy conditions, with Sunday forecast to be rather cool.  And Nadal is lacking the amount of pre-event match play he usually requires to be at his best.  However, Djokovic’s hiccup in Friday’s semifinal may have been revealing.  Novak knew how important it was to put that match away quickly, so he’d be fully fresh for today.  But with the intimidating task of playing Rafa on his mind, he blinked.  Novak should still be relatively close to 100% physically, yet I wonder what that did to his psyche. 

Beating Rafa on clay in a best-of-five match remains the sport’s toughest task.  Novak has done it before, and in their most recent such meeting, yet only once out of seven times.  And never in the last two rounds of Roland Garros.  Until Djokovic proves otherwise, Nadal must be considered the favorite in a French Open final.

Other Notable Matches on Day 15:

In the women’s doubles championship at 11:30am Paris time, three-time Major champions Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic (2) vs. Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk (14), the only players to notch a victory over Iga Swiatek this fortnight, defeating her and Nicole Melichar in the semifinals.

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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