Roland Garros Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 6 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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Simona Halep will be pleased to be scheduled on the only court at Roland Garros with a roof, as there's a strong chance of rain in Paris on Friday (rolandgarros.com)

Third round singles matches begin on Friday, the first day where seeded players run into each other in the draws.

12-time champion Rafael Nadal is 95-2 at this tournament, and it would be shocking if he were to lose today against an unseeded opponent.  But the favorite on the women’s side faces a tough test, in the player who knocked her out of this tournament a year ago.  In addition, the top remaining Frenchwoman tries to take out another top 20 seed.  On the men’s side, the winner of the most recent Major takes on this season’s winningest player on clay.  And the runner-up from that last Major will face the most surprising Slam semifinalist in recent tennis history.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Amanda Anisimova (25)

Last year in the quarterfinals, the American teenager upset the 2018 champion 6-2, 6-4.  That was Anisimova’s breakthrough, reaching her first Major semifinal.  Just a few months later, Amanda suffered the sudden loss of her father.  While the 19-year-old is yet to equal her result from this event a year ago, she remains a talented teenager with a huge upside.  And she’s still very capable of defeating top players.  That was evident earlier this year in Doha, where Anisimova beat Elina Svitolina in straight sets.  But Halep is clearly the WTA’s best player this season, with a 22-2 record, three titles, and a current 16-match winning streak.  While Simona will remember how dangerous Amanda can be on this court, she’ll also come into this match with a better idea of how to expose her weaknesses.  Halep should be able to avenge her loss from a year ago.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Casper Ruud (28)

This will be the first career meeting between two of the ATP’s best clay courters.  The US Open champion is a two-time runner-up here, and has reached the semifinals or better the last four years.  And 10 of Thiem’s 17 career titles have come on this surface.  Ruud is 16-4 on clay this season, advancing to the semifinals or better at every clay event he’s played.  While Casper is coming off a five-set win against Tommy Paul in the last round, that’s about as brisk a five-setter as you’ll see, clocking in at just over two-and-a-half hours.  So the 21-year-old should be fully fresh for this match.  But upsetting a man who over the past four years at this event has only lost to players named Nadal or Djokovic is a tall task.

Elise Mertens (16) vs. Caroline Garcia

Caroline Garcia achieved her only Major quarterfinal here three years ago, and peaked at No.4 in the world a year later.  After a rough two years saw her fall as low as No.50, she’s showing signs of her prior form.  Garcia upset Karolina Pliskova at the US Open, and took out Anett Kontaveit this past Sunday.  Today she faces one of the WTA’s most consistent performers.  Mertens has reached at least the quarterfinals at six events in this shortened season, including two weeks ago on the clay of Rome.  Elise’s defensive skills will force Garcia to hit a few more balls today than the Frenchwoman may prefer.  While both their previous meetings were on hard courts, Garcia claimed them both.  On her country’s biggest court, with a French crowd cheering her on, a rejuvenated Caroline has the ability to make it 3-0 against Mertens if she stays aggressive and hits her targets.  But Mertens’ variety often drags some subpar tennis out of bigger hitters like Garcia, as we saw at the US Open when she defeated Sofia Kenin.  Neither result would be surprising in what should be one of the day’s more closely contested matches.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Marco Cecchinato (Q)

Two years ago at this event, Cecchinato made a shocking run to the semifinals of this event, defeating three top 10 seeds: Pablo Carreno Busta, David Goffin, and Novak Djokovic.  Until this week, that was the only time the 28-year-old Italian had won a match at a Major, going 0-12 in the first round of every other Slam played.  That includes a loss at this year’s Australian Open to Zverev, their only prior encounter.  Sascha must still be reeling from the heartbreaking loss in his first Slam final just a few weeks ago.  And he continues to involve himself in extended matches early in Majors.  On Wednesday, he went five sets and nearly four hours with Pierre-Hugues Herbert.  While Zverev remains a favorite to advance, this match has an unpredictability vibe considering the players involved.

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (27)

Not many people are talking about the third seed as a contender here, but that could be an unforced error.  Even though Svitolina has endured some tough losses at this event in the past, she reached two Major semifinals last year.  And she can play on the clay: Elina owns five career titles on this surface, including just last week in Strasbourg.  Today will be the first time she faces the 25-year-old Russian, who was a champion earlier this year in                  Shenzhen.  But most of Alexandrova’s success has come on other surfaces.  Ekaterina has a losing record on clay over the last two years.  Svitolina’s more all-around game is preferable on clay, and should carry her to another victory on this surface today.

Other Notable Matches on Day 6:

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefano Travaglia, a 28-year-old Italian who defeated Kei Nishikori in five sets on Wednesday.

Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka (16) vs. Hugo Gaston, the only Frenchman remaining in the draw who is ranked 239th in the world.

Kiki Bertens (5) vs. Katerina Siniakova.  Bertens survived a dramatic affair with Sara Errani two days ago, where Kiki cramped and left the court in a wheelchair after sealing match point.  Siniakova is a two-time Major doubles champion, who has split two previous meetings with Bertens.

19-year-old Iga Swiatek vs. Genie Bouchard, who has advanced to the third round of a Major for the first time in almost four years.

Rome runner-up Diego Schwartzman (12) vs. Norbert Gombos, a 30-year-old Slovakian who until a month ago had never won a match at a Slam.

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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Focus

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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