Roland Garros Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

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France's Caroline Garcia looks to equal her best result at a Major with a win today (rolandgarros.com)

With three rounds completed, five of the top eight seeds remain in both the men’s and women’s draws.  But upsets have abounded, with six players ranked outside the top 100 advancing to the fourth round.

The men’s finalists from the last two years, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, are just two wins away from a meeting in this year’s semifinals.  Today both men will be huge favorites against an American qualifier and a French wild card.  But the most intriguing ATP match of the day is the first of likely many battles between two Next Gen stars who have the potential to win Majors.  Meanwhile, the women’s favorite faces stiff competition, in an impressive 19-year-old Polish teenager.  And one of two Frenchwomen remaining in the draw looks to upend a seeded player for the third time this fortnight.

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Caroline Garcia

A quarterfinalist here three years ago, Garcia is vying to equal that result at a Major for the first time since.  Caroline has already taken out two top 20 seeds: Anett Kontaveit and Elise Mertens.  And she’s 3-1 lifetime against Svitolina.  However, their last meeting was two-and-a-half years ago, and Svitolina is the more improved player since that time.  Elina reached her first two Major semifinals a year ago, and has won 14 of her last 15 matches.  She was defeated soundly by Marketa Vondrousova in Rome, but rebounded quickly to win the title a week ago in Strasbourg.  Garcia’s offensive skills have been on full display during the first week here, but they’ll be thoroughly challenged by the movement and counterpunching of Svitolina.  The 1,000 French fans allowed on the grounds will surely almost all be inside Court Philippe-Chatrier for this one.  But their energy may not be enough to overcome a confident Svitolina in these slow conditions.

Simona Halep (1) vs. Iga Swiatek

This is a rematch from this same round a year ago, when Halep dominated Swiatek.  Simona needed just 45 minutes on that day to prevail 6-1, 6-0.  And the 2018 champion comes into this match with a ton of momentum.  Halep is 23-2 on the year, and is on a 17-match winning streak.  She’s won her last three events played: Dubai, Prague, and Rome.  Despite all that, Swiatek will be a tricky opponent.  She has breezed through three rounds without dropping a set, averaging 29 winners to 17 unforced errors per match.  And she’s won 29 of 37 points at net, an example of how versatile her game can be.  This is Iga’s third appearance in the fourth round of a Major, though she’s yet to advance farther.  While Halep remains the favorite, Swiatek should make this a much tighter affair than a year ago.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Yannik Sinner

It’s the 2018 ATP Finals champion against the 2019 Next Gen Finals champ.  Zverev has rebounded rather nicely from the heartbreak he experienced 21 days ago in New York.  The 23-year-old German is looking to reach the quarterfinals here for the third consecutive time.  This is new territory for the 19-year-old Italian, who only owned one match win at a Major prior to this event.  But Sinner has been extremely impressive thus far.  He steamrolled David Goffin in the opening round, and is yet to drop a set.  And Zverev is still prone to the service yips at times, like his second round match on Wednesday when he hit more double faults than winners.  If he does that today, the crisp ball striking of Sinner will make him pay.  The reward for the winner?  A likely quarterfinal appointment with the King of Clay.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Sebastian Korda (Q)

Nadal is 96-2 at Roland Garros.  Yet today he faces a man who is undefeated in the main draw of the French Open.  However, that’s burying the lead: the 20-year-old Korda has only played three main draw matches here.  But that doesn’t make what Sebastian has done this past week unimpressive.  The son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, the American had previously never won a match at a Slam.  He’ll most certainly be outmatched today by the 12-time champion on Rafa’s favorite court.  Despite playing only three matches leading up to this event, Nadal has looked sharp, and hasn’t dropped a set.  But I’m curious to see how the youngster accounts for himself in this high-profile situation

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Hugo Gaston (WC)

Is Gaston ready to upset another big-hitting former champion?  The 20-year-old Frenchman, ranked 239th in the world, shocked 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka two days ago in five sets.  Hugo had never before won a tour level match prior to this fortnight, so this is a huge accomplishment for the left-hander.  But upsetting an in-form Thiem, who won his first Major three weeks ago, is another story.  Like Nadal, Thiem has also won all nine sets he’s played.  And Dominic hasn’t lost here prior to the semifinals since since 2015.  If Thiem wins today, he may face his close friend Diego Schwartzman in the next round.

Other Notable Matches on Day 8:

Rome runner-up Diego Schwartzman (12) vs. Lorenzo Sonego, a 25-year-old Italian who is making his debut in the fourth round of a Slam.

2016 semifinalist Kiki Bertens (5) vs. Martina Trevisan (Q), a 26-year-old Italian who had never won a match at a Major prior to this past week.  She’s already upset Coco Gauff and Maria Sakkari in this tournament.

Two-time Major doubles champion Barbora Krejcikova vs. Nadia Podoroska (Q), a 23-year-old Argentine who has only dropped one set in six matches played since the qualifying rounds.

In a women’s doubles match featuring two players still alive in singles, Veronika Kudermetova and Shuai Zhang (8) vs. Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (9).

In men’s doubles, Four-time Major champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (6) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic, who were finalists last month at the US Open.

Sunday’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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