Australian Open Day 10 Preview: Two Men’s Quarterfinals Featuring Top 10 Players Highlight Wednesday’s Play - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 10 Preview: Two Men’s Quarterfinals Featuring Top 10 Players Highlight Wednesday’s Play

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This is the first time Daniil Medvedev has advanced this far at a Major outside of New York (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The seeds have held on this half of the men’s singles draw, making for two blockbuster quarterfinals.

 

Rafael Nadal is just three wins away from his record-breaking 21st Major, but Stefanos Tsitsipas stands in his way today.  Tsitsipas has beaten Nadal before, and made a name for himself by upsetting another 20-time Slam champ at this event.  The other men’s quarterfinal features the top two Russians in the world, who are playing the best tennis of their careers.  On the women’s side, two Americans who are also at their best, and are also close friends, will do battle for a spot in tomorrow’s semifinals.  And world No.1 Ash Barty looks to return to the semis of her home Major, against a savvy 24-year-old who like Barty has a lot of options in her arsenal.

Each day during this fortnight, this preview will analyze the day’s most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Wednesday’s singles quarterfinals will begin at 11:00am local time on Rod Laver Arena.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Karolina Muchova (25)

Neither player has dropped a set this fortnight.  Barty has done so despite a hamstring issue, and Muchova has done so despite playing two tight matches against top 20 seeds in which every set went beyond 5-5.  Expect to see plenty of variety in the rallies between these two eclectic players.  Barty is not a huge server, but she’s so effective at using her serve to set up the point, and to keep herself in control.  In three of her four matches, she’s won more than 75% of her first serve points, and more than 50% of second serve points.  The only match where she dipped below those levels was the only match where she was pushed to a tiebreak.  She’ll need to keep those percentages high against Muchova, who has averaged more than five breaks of serve per match.  Barty and Muchova have met once before, which was at the 2018 US Open, with Ash prevailing in straight sets.  A significant factor on Wednesday could be the lack of fans, as that may help Barty stay relaxed and feel less pressure without thousands of Aussies in attendance.  I like Ash’s chances to reach her second consecutive Australian Open semifinal.

Jennifer Brady (22) vs. Jessica Pegula

These two good friends have entertainingly sent messages back and forth through their camera lens signatures during this tournament.  Like the day’s other WTA quarterfinal, they’ve only played once.  That occurred last summer at the Western & Southern Open, with Pegula upsetting Brady in straights.  While that match will loom in both women’s minds today, it should be noted that match took place shortly after Brady won her first WTA title earlier that month in Lexington, so a letdown on that day was understandable.  Jen has not letdown at all during this event, as she’s yet to drop a set and has comfortably dismissed her opposition.  The 25-year-old has a great forehand and a lively serve, and has only been broken twice thus far.  She’s accomplished that with her first serve percentage below 60% in three of her four matches, which means she’s actually yet to serve her best.  Pegula is also a good server, and has worked hard to improve that aspect of her game since hiring David Witt as her coach, who spent many years working with Venus Williams.  26-year-old Pegula has kept her second serve points won above 50% in all her matches, which will be crucial against an aggressive player like Brady.  Jess has earned impressive wins over Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka to achieve her first Slam quarterfinal.  But Jen has the edge in power, movement, and experience, and should be able to advance to her second straight semifinal at a hard court Major.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Andrey Rublev (7)

This is the quarterfinal many have been anticipating since the draws were released.  Like Brady and Pegula, these are two friends who grew up together in the sport.  And over the past year, they’ve been two of the sport’s best players.  Medvedev is on an 18-matching winning streak, which includes 10 victories over top 10 opposition.  Rublev was the ATP’s winningest player last year, accumulating 41 match wins and five titles in an abbreviated season.  Medvedev has owned their rivalry to date, with a 4-0 record.  And he’s claimed all four of those matches in straight sets.  But Andrey continues to up his level, as he’s the one who has not dropped a set this tournament.  His serving has been stellar, allowing only three breaks of serve through four matches, while striking 49 aces.  Based on how well he’s playing, it would be surprising if Rublev cannot wrestle at least a set or two away from Medvedev, though Daniil remains the favorite considering their history.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)

Remember when it was a question as to whether Nadal would even play this event due to a lower back injury?  That feels like a distant memory, as Rafa’s form has improved with each round, winning all 12 sets he’s played.  But Tsitsipas is Nadal’s most formidable opponent yet, and the 22-year-old is also playing some stellar tennis.  Stefanos received a walkover in the last round from an injured Matteo Berrettini.  He’ll certainly be fully fresh for this match, though three full days without playing in the middle of a Slam can often disrupt a player’s momentum.  Nadal is 6-1 against Tsitsipas, with the Greek’s victory coming in 2019 on clay at the Madrid Masters.  Their only meeting at a Major was two years ago in the semifinals of this event, with Nadal dropping only six games against a tired Tsitsipas, who was coming off five consecutive matches that went four or five sets.  On this day, Stefanos will walk onto the court with much more energy, and much more experience in big matches.  This has been the round of this event where Rafa has frequently stalled.  In his career, Nadal is only 6-6 in Australian Open quarterfinals.  A Tsitsipas victory feels entirely possible, though Nadal must be favored.  Not only because he’s won 15 of the 18 sets they’ve played, but also because he’s Rafael Nadal.

Other Notable Matches on Day 10:

Three of the top four seeds have reached the women’s doubles semifinals.  In the first semi, it’s two-time Major champions Barbora Krejcokova and Katerina Siniakova (3) vs. Darija Jurak and Nina Stojanovic, who upset the top seeds Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.

In the other semifinals, it’s 2019 US Open champs Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Nicole Melichar and Demi Schurrs (4), a newly-formed team this season.

Wednesday’s full order of play is here.

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Iga Swiatek double bagels Karolina Pliskova to win Rome

Iga Swiatek dominated Karolina Pliskova for 46 minutes to win the Rome title.

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Iga Swiatek (@InteBNLdItalia - Twitter)

Iga Swiatek is the 2021 BNL D’Italia Open champion after beating Karolina Pliskova, the number ninth seed, in 46 minutes. The Pole thrashed her opponent 6-0, 6-0 with the help of 17 winners as she lost only 13 points the entire match.

 

“I’m really happy, I’m kinda overwhelmed because at the beginning of this tournament I wouldn’t even dream of winning and it was super tough, we have to fight and obviously Karolina (Pliskova) had a great run here,” said Swiatek.

The number 15 seed got off to the best possible start having no issues in her opening service game and in the following game it was visible her Czech opponent was having issues with her serve.

Pliskova would serve a double fault to give the first breakpoint of the match and the Pole took to take an early 2-0 lead and from there it was one way traffic.

The number nine once again would double fault to gift another breakpoint at 3-0 and the 19 year old pounced with her powerful forehand to go up a double break and would break one more time to seal the first set in 19 minutes.

Fans at the Foro Italico were expecting a response in the second set from Pliskova but it was utter dominance from the Pole and again the number nine seed again struggled with her serve double faulting on breakpoint at 1-0 to once again give the early break.

There was a mini fight back from the Czech at 2-0 when she managed to earn two breakpoints to try and get back in the match but the number 15 seed would save both and hold serve.

The next game she continued to attack and play her aggressive game style earning two more breakpoints and breaking one more time to take a 4-0 lead and you could sense this match was going to be over very quickly.

Swiatek would seal the win with another one of her trademark forehand winners to take the match and the title which will boost her on Monday to number nine in the world and her first appearance in the top 10.

After the match Pliskova admitted today was not her day, “You have days like this in where things are not going your way,” Pliskova said in her trophy ceremony speech.

“That was the day today I still tried but it was not working for me. I will just quickly forget about today. I had some great matches here. Final is always a great week, great tournament.”

Both players will now head to Roland Garros with Swiatek looking to successfully defend her title.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Championship Sunday in Rome

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Novak Djokovic expended a lot of energy and emotion on Saturday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

On Sunday, it will be the 57th installment of the most prolific men’s rivalry of the Open Era, as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal play for the men’s championship.  Djokovic is going for his record-extending 37th Masters 1000 title, and his sixth in Rome, while Nadal is looking to tie Djokovic with 36 Masters titles by winning Rome for the 10th time.  After playing for nearly five hours on Saturday, what will Djokovic have left in the championship match?

 

In women’s singles, Karolina Pliskova has reached her third consecutive final in Rome.  She’ll face the reigning Roland Garros champion, Iga Swiatek, who is making her WTA 1000 final debut.  In men’s doubles, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are one match away from an astounding sixth title of the season.  And in the women’s doubles, the final is yet to be set, as one semifinal is still to be played.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Iga Swiatek (15) – Not before 2:30pm on Center Court

Each of these players have saved match points to reach this championship match: Pliskova against Ostapenko, and Swiatek against Barbora Krejcikova.  Outside of the match against Krejcikova, Swiatek has not dropped a set this week.  But unlike Pliskova, Swiatek had to play both her quarterfinal and semifinal on Saturday, spending almost twice as long on court.

Iga has now claimed 14 of her last 15 matches on clay, with her only loss coming at the hands of world No.1 Ash Barty.  Meanwhile, Karolina hasn’t reached a final or semifinal at any event held outside of Rome since January of last year.  As much as Pliskova has excelled the last three years in Italy, Swiatek’s recent form makes her the favorite in their first career meeting.  Iga’s more versatile game, and more positive attitude, give her a distinct advantage.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2) – Not before 5:00pm on Center Court

Djokovic leads their overall head-to-head 29-27, but Nadal leads 18-7 on clay, and 5-3 in Rome.  This is their first match since last year’s Roland Garros final, which went decisively to Nadal in straight sets.  On clay, Rafa has now taken their last four encounters, with Novak’s last victory on this surface coming in the final of this event five years ago.

After saving match points and surviving an epic clash with Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, Nadal has won his last four sets by scores of 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.  That includes a straight-set victory over Sascha Zverev, who defeated him just a week prior in Madrid.  Following a few subpar performances this clay court season, Rafa appears to have found his top level, just in time for Roland Garros.  This is a familiar pattern for Nadal, and a big problem for Djokovic, who will certainly be playing on tired legs.  Neither of these men have been a Masters champion this year, but that will change on Sunday, and it will likely be Nadal.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (5) – Mektic and Pavic are a sensational 36-4 in their first season as a team.  Ram and Salisbury won last year’s Australian Open, but lost to Mektic and Pavic earlier this year in Miami.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (4) vs. Sharon Fichman and Giuliana Olmos – the winners of this semifinal will face Kristina Mladenovic and Marketa Vondrousova in the championship match later in the day.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Nadal cruises past Opelka to reach 12th final in Rome

Rafael Nadal is into yet another final in Rome after beating Reilly Opelka.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The Spaniard eased his way past his 7ft American opponent to reach another final in the Italian capital.

 

Rafael Nadal is into his 12th final in Rome after beating the American Reilly Opelka in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in 92 minutes in his 500th match on clay and only needed to hit 13 winners in the victory.

“It’s not an easy and beautiful match to play against a player like Reilly (Opelka) who only gives you a few options on your return and he can also play quite aggressive from the baseline, he has good shots and it was important for me to save those breakpoints at the beginning of the match”.

It was actually the American with the first chance to break in the match at 2-1 when he earned four chances to break but the Spaniard pulled out his big serve and saved all four before holding serve.

The very next game the Manacor, Mallorca native went on the offensive and earned his first breakpoint of the match and managed to convert on it to take the early 3-2 lead.

After consolidating the break the American saved three breakpoints with the Spaniard pushing for the second break but managed to hold serve and the number two seed would serve out the first set.

The second set followed a similar pattern to the first with both players holding their opening service games with ease and this time it was the world number three with the first chance to break.

Nadal would break at the third time of asking to once again take an early 2-1 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve out the match and set up a clash with either Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Sonego.

In his post match interview Nadal spoke about the prospect of playing another final on Sunday in Rome.

“The work is done, I think I did a lot of things well, I had a good spirit the entire week, there are a lot of positive things I did on court this week and it’s important for my confidence to be back in such an important final, I will have a tough opponent either Djokovic or Sonego but I need to be ready, I need to play my best tennis and that is what I am looking for”.

Djokovic currently leads the head to head with Nadal 29-27 while Sonego has yet to face the Spaniard.

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