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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The Most Emotional Moments From The 2021 Australian Open

With everything going on in the world, and the 14 days of quarantine players went through before playing this event, it’s no surprise there were so many emotional moments during this past fortnight.

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Alexei Popyrin provided a refreshing dose of excitement with a loud Aussie crowd in attendance (ausopen.com)

The first Grand Slam of 2021 provided the tennis world with plenty of tears and jubilation throughout it’s two-week period. There was epic match comebacks, injury misfortunes and victories for those who has been absent from the game in recent months due to a variety of issues. UbiTennis looks back at those emotional moments that took place during the Australian Open.

 

Gael Monfils in tears after his first round loss

Prior to the pandemic, Monfils had won two consecutive titles in Montpellier and Rotterdam.  But since the tour restart, he’s now 0-6, and lost in five sets in the opening round to Emil Ruusuvuori.  His comments are in French, but he was asking for “mercy” during his press conference.

“I don’t have any confidence. I would like to get out of this nightmare but I can’t,” Monfils said.
“I don’t know when it’s going to end. It’s hard. Every time I get here I feel judged, I’ve lost again. I can’t serve, I’m playing badly. I’m being honest and it’s going to take time.”

Bianca Andreescu wins her first match in 16 months

The 2019 US Open champion didn’t play at all in 2020, due to injuries and pandemic restrictions.  She’s described many low moments she experienced during that time.  And after going through 14 days of hard quarantine upon arrival in Melbourne, with her coach testing positive for COVID-19, the Canadian was holding back tears after winning her opening round in three sets.

“I feel pretty damn good,” Andreescu said afterwards in an on-court interview. “I mean the match wasn’t easy at all and I’m super, super happy with how I fought it out, especially towards the end.”

Alexei Popyrin saves match points to stun David Goffin

This was the first exciting match to take place in front of a full audience in nearly a year, as Aussies packed Court 3 to cheer on the comeback win of the 21-year-old Australian.  Popyrin saved four match points in the fourth set tiebreak, and the crowd reaction to his victory sounded amazing.

“I think it just shows that the work I did in pre-season, the mentality that I’ve taken on this year is all paying off, and my game is improving, and I can feel that,” Popryin commented on his victory.

Thanasi Kokkinakis wins his first match since 2019

Kokkinakis’ struggles with injuries over the years are well-documented, so it’s understandable the 24-year-old Aussie was brought to tears in picking up his first tour-level win in 18 months, especially at his home Slam.

“At 5-0 (in the third set) I felt this massive roar and cheer from the crowd and I started tearing up,” Kokkinakis said.
“It was a bit of a soft moment but there was just so much stuff behind the scenes to get back to that point that not a lot of people realise.
I definitely got a bit emotional.
“I had a lot of friends and family there watching. They probably made up about 90 per cent of the stands, so I’m appreciative of that.
“Just playing with that energy and crowd and being able to win – there was so much work behind the scenes and so much pain – it’s just a massive relief.”

In the second round Kokkinakis took Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets before getting knocked out of the tournament.

 Venus Williams suffers a nasty ankle injury

This was hard to watch.  Venus screamed out in pain and hobbled around the court after injuring her ankle.  And she had arrived on court with an injured knee.  After a long timeout to address both injuries, with a despondent Venus in tears, she showed her grit by finding a way to finish out the match in the event’s most inspiring moment.

You can’t always prepare for the triumph of the disaster in sports or in life. “You can’t control it all. What you can control is how you handle the ups and the downs,” Williams later wrote on Instagram.
“No matter the outcome I always hold my head high and I leave everything I have on the court.
“I never look back in regrets because no matter the odds I give it all.
“You don’t have to look back when you leave it all out there. Always look forward, the deepest dream you could be…”

Nick Kyrgios saved two match points in a five-set epic

In another emotional moment involving an Australian, Kyrgios’ epic 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Ugo Humbert was a thrilling affair on Nick’s favorite court, John Cain Area.

If you were in my head, I was just thinking about all the s*** I was going to cop if I lost that match,” Kyrgios told the Nine Network after the match.
“I don’t know how I did that, honestly, it’s one of the craziest matches I’ve ever played.”

Kyrgios lost in the third round to Dominic Thiem.

Donna Vekic in tears after ousting Kaia Kanepi

Vekic was immediately in tears after converting her own match point, advancing to the second week of the tournament despite losing six straight matches coming into this event.

Matteo Berrettini battles through pain to defeat Khachanov

The Italian suffered an abdominal injury during the third set, and was teary-eyed after closing out the match in straights.  He would have to withdraw from his fourth round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas due to the injury.

““I felt something on my ab. I thought that [it] wasn’t something really big, but the next day when I woke up I felt it was big. So I spoke to the doctors and they told me, ‘Look, it can get [much] worse’. So it’s not worth trying. I’m not 100 per cent. To beat these guys, you have to be 100 per cent. I think it’s not really professional to step [onto court] when you’re not the best.” Berrettini commented on his injury.

Stefanos Tsitsipas fights back to defeat Rafael Nadal

Tsitsipas became only the second man to ever do so at a Grand Slam event, and described himself as “speechless” when interviewed after the match.

Serena Williams’ wave goodbye after her semifinal loss

https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1362260576446132226

This felt like more than simply “See you next year, Melbourne.” Serena stopped her stride as she exited the court, waving and placing a hand to her heart. After being asked about the moment in press, she broke down and quickly exited the room.

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Australian Open Day 14 Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Daniil Medvedev for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic is 17-10 in Major finals (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Djokovic is 17-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals.  Medvedev is 20-0 in his last 20 matches.  One of those streaks will end on Sunday.

 

11 years ago at this event, Novak Djokovic won his first Major title.  It would take three more years for Djokovic to win his second, but he went on a tear over the last decade, claiming 16 Slams between 2011 and 2020.  Regardless of today’s result, he is guaranteed to remain the world No.1, and will overtake Roger Federer for the most weeks at No.1.  A win today would place him just two Majors behind Federer and Nadal, with half of his Slam titles coming on Rod Laver Arena.

Four years ago at this event, Daniil Medvedev made his Grand Slam debut, losing in the first round of the 2017 Australian Open to American qualifier Ernesto Escobedo.  Two years later in Melbourne, Medvedev would advance to the second week of a Slam for the first time, and achieved his first Major final later that year in New York.  That was part of a run where he reached six consecutive tournament finals, winning three of those events with a match record of 29-3.  Due to a drop in form, as well as the pandemic tour shutdown, it would be another year before he would win another title.  But now he’s on a similarly impressive streak, winning his last 20 matches, and 12 in a row over top ten opposition.  With a win today, he would not only earn his first Major, he would also ascend to No.2 in the world, becoming the first man outside “The Big Four” to do so since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

The men’s doubles final will also take place on Sunday, with the defending champions looking for their second consecutive title in Melbourne.

Sunday’s action will begin at 3:00pm local time with the men’s doubles championship, followed by the men’s singles championship at 7:30pm.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 4-3 overall, and 3-2 on hard courts.  Their only previous match at a Major occurred at this tournament two years ago, when Djokovic prevailed in four sets, but not without Medvedev exhausting the eight-time champion.  Daniil’s first victory would come later that year on clay in Monte Carlo.  A few months later, at the Cincinnati Masters, Medvedev was down a set and a break when he decided to just start bludgeoning the ball, hitting Djokovic right off the court.  Medvedev also claimed their most recent encounter, comfortably winning in straight sets last November at the ATP Finals.

Djokovic experienced a bumpier road than usual to this championship match.  He played four straight matches that went at least four sets, and struggled mid-tournament with an abdominal injury.  Medvedev picked up his first-ever five-set win over Filip Krajinovic, but otherwise hasn’t dropped a set in his other five matches.  Daniil has served magnificently during this fortnight, striking 74 aces and just 18 double faults, and winning 81% of first serve points.  It will be crucial for the Russian to maintain those levels against the best returner of all-time.  However, that will be extremely challenging considering temperatures are forecast to be quite cool on Sunday evening, resulting in the courts playing a bit slower.  Djokovic has also been serving extremely well, and has hit an inordinate amount of aces this tournament, with 95 aces and 21 doubles.  Both men will look to attack their opponent’s second serve, which Medvedev was much more effective at doing three months ago in London, winning 61% of second serve points compared to only 43% by Djokovic.

Medvedev is vying to become the newest Major champion in the sport, and to become only the third man outside “The Big Four” to defeat one of “The Big Four” in a Slam final (Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin Del Petro).  He’ll surely strut onto the court believing he can win: not only due to his current winning streak, but also recalling the way he was able to push Rafael Nadal to the brink of defeat in his first Slam final.  However, until Novak Djokovic loses a semifinal or final on this court, he must be considered the favorite to win his 18th Major title.

Other Notable Matches on Day 14:

In the men’s doubles final, it’s defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (5) vs. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek (9), who won two tour titles in 2019.  Rajeev Ram already won the mixed doubles title on Saturday with Barbora Krejcikova.

Sunday’s full order of play is here.

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Australian Open Day 12 Preview: Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas Battle in the Semifinals

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Stefanos Tsitispas, after his emotional victory over Rafael Nadal on Wednesday (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The winner will play for their first Major title on Sunday against Novak Djokovic.

 

25-year-old Daniil Medvedev has reached his third semifinal out of the last five Slams, all on hard courts.  He will walk onto Rod Laver Arena with a 19-match winning streak, dating back to the Paris Masters in November.  This is also a third Major semifinal for 22-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, though unlike Medvedev, he’s yet to advance farther.  Two days ago, he pulled off an amazing comeback victory over Rafael Nadal, becoming only the second man to defeat Nadal from two sets down at a Major.

Three significant doubles matches will also take place on Friday, including the championship match in women’s doubles, featuring two of the top three seeds.

Friday’s doubles action will begin at 1:00pm local time, with the men’s semifinal to start at 7:30pm.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5)

It’s the 2020 ATP Finals champion against the 2019 ATP Finals champion.  Medvedev has dominated their rivalry 5-1.  And it’s a rivalry that started out quite bitterly.  In their first meeting, at the Miami Open in 2018, they exchanged harsh words after the match, as both were frustrated by extended toilet breaks the other man had taken.  In comments since that incident, they’ve expressed a bit more respect for each other.  Medvedev claimed their first five encounters, with Tsitsipas prevailing in their most recent one, during his run to the title at the 2019 ATP Finals.  Their only previous match at a Major occurred at the 2018 US Open, which Daniil won in four sets.  The Russian should be the physically and emotionally fresher player today.  While Medvedev did appear to be cramping a bit after his three-set win over Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals, he spent two full hours less on court Wednesday than Tsitsipas.  Stefanos fought late into the night for over four hours against Nadal, though the Greek did receive a walkover in his previous round from an injured Matteo Berrettini. 

Medvedev has been serving excellently this fortnight, striking 57 aces and just 15 double faults.  And he’s won 80% of first serve points through five rounds.  Tsitsipas’ service numbers have not been as strong until he played Nadal, when his serving was simply stellar, with 17 aces and no double faults.  Stefanos not only won 79% of first serve points against the all-time great, he impressively earned 69% of second serve points.  Breaks of serve may be crucial on another hot day in Melbourne, so the man who holds serve more comfortably will have a significant advantage.  But considering their history, as well as Medvedev’s current winning streak, Daniil is the favorite to reach his second Major final. 

Other Notable Matches on Day 12:

In the women’s doubles championship match, it’s 2019 US Open champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (3), who won two Majors in 2018.

In the men’s doubles semifinals, it’s defending champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (5) vs. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares (6), who won two Slams in 2016, and are undefeated since re-forming their team this year.

And Salisbury will also play in the mixed doubles semifinals, as it’s Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury vs. Sam Stosur and Matthew Ebden (WC), who the Aussie fans will undoubtedly be cheering on.

Friday’s full order of play is here.

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