Roland Garros Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Novak Djokovic is six matches away from his 18th Major singles title.

Thursday’s schedule features Major champions Djokovic, Kvitova, Muguruza, Stephens, Kenin, and Ostapenko.

The unseeded 2017 women’s champion will face the second seed in the day’s most marquee matchup.  Also on Thursday, how will Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, the finalists in Hamburg just four days ago, bounce back after their five-set comebacks in the first round on Tuesday? By the end of the day, the singles draws will be narrowed down to 32 men and 32 women.

Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Jelena Ostapenko

About 20 years ago, Mary Carillo coined the term “big babe tennis” to describe the new era of powerful WTA ball strikers.  These two players certainly fit that description.  And they have contested some extremely close encounters.  In their only meeting at a Major, Pliskova prevailed 10-8 in the third at the 2017 Australian Open.  In their only meeting on clay, Pliskova prevailed again, 6-4 in the third two years ago in Stuttgart.  In their most recent meeting, Ostapenko was victorious 7-5 in the third.  Overall Karolina leads their head-to-head 3-2.  While Ostapenko was the champion of this event three years ago, she’s 2-4 in her other appearances at this event.  Pliskova was a semifinalist here that same year, and similarly has a losing record in Paris outside of that run.  But Karolina is the steadier player, whereas Jelena can litter up the stat sheet.  And Ostapenko came into this event just 6-6 on the year.  All this makes Pliskova the favorite to take out the former champion.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Pablo Cuevas

This is a rematch from just last week in Hamburg, where Tsitsipas won in straight sets.  Their most prominent meeting was last year in the championship match of Estoril.  That was also a straight set victory for Stefanos, which has been the result each of the three times they’ve played.  Tsitsipas has been through a lot in the last 16 months: his heartbreaking loss here a year ago to Stan Wawrinka, choking away a 5-1 fourth-set lead to Borna Coric at the US Open, and losing to Andrey Rublev in last week’s final after serving for the match.  Despite all those setbacks, and despite being down two sets on Tuesday to Jaume Munar, Stefanos fought his way back to win in five. That revealed a lot of grit in the 22-year-old, especially on the same court as his five-hour loss to Wawrinka.  While Cuevas is one of the ATP’s most entertaining shot-makers, Tsitsipas will feel confident coming off Tuesday’s comeback.  And their history will only enhance Stefanos’ conviction.

Aryna Sabalenka (8) vs. Daria Kasatkina

It’s nice to see Kasatkina back on court after a sad scene two weeks in Rome.  During a first set tiebreak against Victoria Azarenka, Kasatkina took a spill, and was forced to retire due to a right ankle injury.  Daria was understandably upset, surely not only from the physical pain, but also from retiring after some of the best tennis she’s played in two years.  Azarenka could not have been more comforting to her opponent in that moment, holding her and sharing words of encouragement, which was heartwarming to see.  Kasatkina may not be fully recovered, but she was close enough to defeat Harmony Tan on Tuesday, dropping only three games.  And today she faces Azarenka’s fellow Belarusian, which should make an appealing clash of styles.  Sabalenka is one of the game’s hardest hitters, which contrasts from the flair and diversity in the game of Kasatkina.  Their only previous meeting was 12 months ago on a hard court in Beijing, where Dasha prevailed after two tight sets.  The clay would seem to favor Kasatkina, who was a quarterfinalist here in 2018, and a champion on clay in Charleston three years ago.  Sabalenka is just 2-2 lifetime at Roland Garros, and has a losing record in her career on clay.  But Aryna arrives with a bit of confidence, coming off a semifinal run last week in Strasbourg.  Still, an upset by a rejuvenated Kasatkina seems the more likely outcome on this surface.

Dusan Lajovic (22) vs. Kevin Anderson

The two-time Major finalist has struggled since returning from injury at the start of this year, with a record of only 5-7.  Anderson arrived in Paris on a four-match losing streak, before taking out Laslo Djere in straight sets.  He is 2-0 in his career against Lajovic, which includes a clay court victory two years ago in Madrid.  But the 30-year-old Serbian is coming off the best season of his career.  Dusan was a finalist last year in Monte Carlo, and reached his first Major quarterfinal at this tournament a year ago.  These heavy conditions should favor the clay court skills of Lajovic, and take significant pace off Anderson’s ball.  Today is a great opportunity for Lajovic to gain his first victory over the South African.

Andrey Rublev (13) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Just like his fellow Hamburg finalist Tsitsipas, a depleted Rublev lost the first two sets of his first round match on Tuesday before fighting his way back to win in five.  And he’ll face another stern test today in the 21-year-old Spaniard.  Davidovich Fokina won 27 matches on clay last year at all levels, and advanced to the round of 16 at the US Open just a few weeks ago.  But Rublev is one of this season’s best players, with three titles on two different surfaces and a total of 26 match wins.  Rublev just bludgeons the ball, and can outhit almost anyone when he’s at his current level.  While the slow conditions and a strong clay court player he has never faced will be challenges, Rublev should be able to reach the third round of this event for the first time.

Other Notable Matches on Day 5:

2016 men’s champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Ricardas Berankis.  They just met last month at the Western & Southern Open, with Djokovic prevailing in straight sets.

2016 women’s champion Garbine Muguruza (11) vs. Kristyna Pliskova, the left-handed, identical twin sister of Karolina Pliskova.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (7) vs. Jasmine Paolini, a 24-year-old Italian who earned her first win at a Major on Monday.

2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens (29) vs. Paula Badosa, a 22-year-old Spaniard who won the junior title here five years ago.

Reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Ana Bogdan.  The 27-year-old Romanian claimed their only previous meeting, though that occurred over four years ago in Rogers Cup qualifying on a hard court.

Thursday’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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