Australian Open Day 2 Preview: How Will an Injured Rafael Nadal Perform on Tuesday? - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

Australian Open Day 2 Preview: How Will an Injured Rafael Nadal Perform on Tuesday?

Avatar

Published

on

Rafa was on the bench instead of on court during the ATP Cup (ausopen.com)

Nadal will begin his quest for a record-breaking 21st Major title, but he is battling lower back issues which forced him to pull out of last week’s ATP Cup.

 

The No.1 Italian Matteo Berrettini looked strong during the ATP Cup, though today he faces a tough first round draw in a two-time Slam finalist.  Stefanos Tsitsipas went 2-0 last week, and on Tuesday takes on a tricky tour veteran who is rarely an easy out.  On the women’s side, two-time champion Victoria Azarenka plays an American who has recently reached two WTA hard court finals.  And 2017 Roland Garros champion takes the court against a player with one of the sport’s most diverse games.  Intriguingly, all of the aforementioned matchups are first-time meetings.

Each day during the coming fortnight, this preview will analyze the day’s most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Laslo Djere – Third on MCA

Nadal has not played since the 21st of November, when he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals of the ATP Finals.  Rafa has been dealing with lower back pain since his first practice in Australia.  It prevented him from hitting serves in practice for about a week.  Djere is a 25-year-old Serbian who has won two ATP titles over the last two years.  However, they both came on clay.  On hard courts, Djere has not won a tour-level match in over a year.  So this should be straightforward for Nadal, but it all depends on how his back is feeling.

Matteo Berrettini (9) vs. Kevin Anderson – Not Before 7:00pm on MCA

I expect we’ll see a few tiebreaks between two big-serving ball strikers.  Berrettini had a breakout season in 2019, winning two titles and reaching his first Major semifinal.  But Matteo fought injuries last year, and went just 9-6.  Anderson has struggled with even more injuries, and is only 12-11 since the start of 2020.  Kevin earned two wins last week before going down in straight sets to Karen Khachanov.  For both men, the Australian Open has easily been their worst Slam.  Anderson is 13-12 here lifetime, while Berrettini is only 1-3.  Based on his strong form last week, Matteo should be able to advance, though likely not without a stern test from the South African.

Victoria Azarenka (12) vs. Jessica Pegula – Second on MCA

Since arriving in the New York bubble last summer, Azarenka is an impressive 19-4.  She won the Western & Southern Open, and reached the final of the most recent hard court Major.  Vika was one of the players forced to go through 14 days of hard quarantine upon arrival in Australia.  She came from behind last week to defeat a disgruntled Yulia Putintseva, saving match points along the way.  But that would be her only warmup match, as she promptly withdrew from the event as a precaution.  Pegula is a streaky player with considerable weapons.  The American reached the final in Adelaide during last year’s Aussie summer.  So while Azarenka remains the favorite, Pegula is a dangerous opponent when you’re short on match play.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Gilles Simon – Last on RLA

Tsitsipas made his big breakthrough at this event two years, upsetting Roger Federer on his way to the semifinals.  Stefanos suffered some heartbreaking losses last September, but quickly rebounded to achieve his second Slam semi in Paris.  This will be the 15th main draw appearance in Melbourne for Simon, who in 2016 famously drew 100 errors out of Novak Djokovic despite losing in five sets.  Tsitsipas has never played the cerebral Frenchman before, and Simon can be quite the frustrating opponent.  But Stefanos has a lot more firepower in his game, which the fast courts on Rod Laver Arena should reward.

Karolina Muchova (25) vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Fourth on Court 17

Muchova first made a name for herself at Wimbledon in 2019, when she reached the quarterfinals with three victories over top 20 seeds, including her fellow countrywoman Karolina Pliskova.  The 24-year-old has proven she can play on this surface as well.  Muchova’s only WTA title came on a hard court, and she reached the second week of last year’s US Open.  One can never be quite sure what to expect out of Ostapenko.  She reached the quarterfinals or better at three Majors between 2017 and 2018, but since that time has a 5-6 record at Slams.  Her go-for-broke style often dictates the outcome of matches, and she can often lose control of her emotions on court.   I like the all-around game of the more reliable Muchova in this matchup, as unlike Ostapenko, she can revert to Plan B or Plan C if necessary.

Other Notable Matches on Day 2:

Defending champion Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Maddison Inglis (WC), a 23-year-old Australian.  Kenin is coming off a 6-2, 6-2 drubbing at the hands of last year’s runner-up, Garbine Muguruza.

Garbine Muguruza (14) vs. Margarita Gasparyan (LL).  Muguruza lost to Ash Barty two days in the final of the Yarra Valley Classic.  Gasparyan reached the fourth round in Melbourne five years ago, but is just 4-10 at Majors ever since.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Danka Kovinic, a 26-year-old from Montenegro.  Barty’s title run last week was her first time on court since last February.  Ash has claimed 15 of her last 17 matches.

ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Vasek Pospisil.  Medvedev has won his last 14 matches, with 10 of those victories over top 10 opponents.

In a first round encounter between two accomplished top 40 players, two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Barbora Strycova, a 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist.  Kuznetsova leads their head-to-head 2-1, though Strycova nabbed their most recent meeting, three years ago at Wimbledon.

Teenage phenom Coco Gauff vs. Jil Teichman.  They just played nine days ago, with Coco prevailing in a third set tiebreak.

Tuesday’s full order of play is here.

ATP

Felix Auger Aliassime Goes The Distance To Win First Match In Rome

The Canadian was pushed to three sets in his opening match by Filip Krajinovic.

Avatar

Published

on

Felix Auger-Aliassime is into the second round of the BNL D’ Italia Masters in Rome after beating his Serbian opponent Filip Krajinovic in three gruelling sets 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.

 

The marathon encounter saw the Canadian hit 45 winners and 12 aces en route to victory. Avenging his loss to Krajinovic at the same tournament last year. His win-loss for the season now stands at 13-8.

” It’s always a tough match against him and I was happy I was able to win today,” the world No.20 said afterwards.

It was Krajinovic who got off to a fast start earning a breakpoint on the Montreal natives opening service game of the match and broke to take an early 1-0 lead. The Canadian responded at 2-1 earning his first two breakpoints of the match and breaking with a solid forehand winner to get the break back and go back on serve. At 3-2 the world number 20 had a chance to take the lead but it was saved by the world number 36. Nevertheless, he would go on to break for a 5-3 lead before serving out the match.

Auger-Aliassime started the second set with confidence and broke the Serb’s opening service game. It stayed on serve until the world number 20 was serving for the win when he ended up getting broken to level the set at five. The very next game the Montreal native had three looks at a breakpoint but again was denied and the second set would be decided by a tiebreaker.

The tiebreaker stayed on serve until 4-4 when Auger Aliassime managed to get the crucial break but squandered it the following point and gave his Serbian opponent a chance to serve it out which he did following a double fault.

The third and decisive set was a roller-coaster with the Canadian holding his opening service game and than having three more breakpoints which he would convert to take another early 2-0 lead. Krajinovic would respond once again earning a breakpoint the following game and getting the break back to go back on serve until 3-3 when the Serb had his first chance to take a lead in the third set but the Canadian would come up with a huge point to save it.

The next game Auger-Aliassime would have a look at another breakpoint and this time would convert to take a 5-3 and serve for the match but struggled to close it out and the world number 36 broke serve once again.

With the Serb serving to stay in the match the Canadian increased his game to another level and managed to earn two match points. Sealing his first match win in Rome with a huge forehand winner down the line.

After the match in his post match press conference Auger Aliassime spoke about how he was able to overcome the adversity of having two chances to serve it out.

” You have to believe and be resilient at times, I wanted to win badly so I dug deep and I found a way so I am happy that I was able to find a way with all the circumstances,” he said.

Auger Aliassime will next face the number eight seed at the tournament Diego Schwartzman. The Argentine currently has a 1-0 lead in their head-to-head with their last meeting coming last October in Cologne, Germany on a indoor hard court.

Continue Reading

Focus

Madrid Open Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev Plays Matteo Berrettini for the Men’s Championship

Avatar

Published

on

Italian No.1 Matteo Berrettini, on Saturday in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

Three years ago in Madrid, Sascha Zverev won this event, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final.  That was Zverev’s third Masters 1000 title, all earned within one year.  Sascha’s results at Majors have progressed since that time, though Sascha is yet to achieve his fourth Masters title, despite reaching three further finals.  The 24-year-old German has not dropped a set this week, which includes noteworthy back-to-back victories over the two best clay court players of the last five years: Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

 

Three years ago in Gstaad, Matteo Berrettini won his first ATP title, and his first of three on clay.  The 25-year-old Italian has claimed a total of four 250-level titles, including one just two weeks ago in Belgrade.  But this marks Berrettini’s first time advancing to the final of an event outside the 250 Series, though he notably reached the semifinals of the 2019 US Open.  Matteo has taken eight of nine sets played this week, and came back from a set and a break down in the quarterfinals against Cristian Garin, winning the last 11 games of that match.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (8) – Not Before 6:30pm

Zverev leads their head-to-head 2-1, though they’ve split their two clay court encounters.  At the 2018 Rome Masters, Zverev prevailed.  A year later at the same event, Berrettini prevailed.  Their only other meeting took place at the 2019 Shanghai Masters, which went to Sascha.  All three of their matches have been decided in straight sets.

Including his victories this week over Nadal and Thiem, Zverev is now on a three-match winning streak against top 10 opposition, ending a streak of five consecutive losses against the top 10.  Berrettini has only played two matches against the top 10 since the 2019 ATP Finals, as injuries have forced him to miss significant time from the tour.  Despite that, he’s now 16-3 this season, and currently on an eight-match win streak.

Zverev certainly has the experience edge in matches of this caliber, and has a bit more variety in his ground game, specifically his backhand.  Berrettini will look to dictate play with his powerful forehand.  Both players are capable of racking up a high ace tally, though Sascha’s second serve can be a recurring weakness.  While we’ve had two consecutive Masters events with first-time 1000-level champions crowned, Zverev should be favored to win his fourth Masters title, and his second in Madrid.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (3) – 3:30pm

The men’s doubles championship will also be decided on Sunday.  Mektic and Pavic are 32-3 in 2021, and looking to win their sixth title of the season.  A few weeks ago in the Monte-Carlo semifinals, they defeated Granollers and Zeballos in a deciding set tiebreak.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading

Focus

Sabalenka Wins 10th Career Title In Madrid

Aryna Sabalenka won her 10th career title in Madrid with a three set win over Ash Barty.

Avatar

Published

on

Aryna Sabalenka (@MutuaMadridOpen - Twitter)

The Belarusian beat the world number one in three sets to claim the title in the Spanish capital.

 

Aryna Sabalenka is your Mutua Madrid Open champion after beating the world number one and Aussie Ash Barty in three sets 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 hitting 34 winners and serving nine aces in the win.

“I’m really happy with the win, it was a crazy match and I’m really happy and it feels amazing right now”

The Belarusian got off to the best possible start holding her opening service game and going right to work on getting the early break which she did the following at the second time of asking with solid return forehand winner.

The Aussie looked out of sorts and in 25 minutes the number five seed had blitzed through the first set and won it not losing a game.

The world number one was determined to stay in the match and had four chances to break in the very first game of the second set and did at the fourth time of asking to take an early 1-0 lead.

At 2-1 the number five seed earned two chances to get the break back and go back on serve and she did just that with one of her powerful forehand winners.

The very next game the Belarusian struggled on serve and gave the world number one another chance to break after a double fault and she would break again.

That break was enough for the Aussie to take the second set and force a deciding third set for the title.

The first three games went with serve and at 2-1 it was the Aussie once again with two chances to break after another double fault but the number five dug in once again and managed to save both breakpoints and hold serve.

At 4-4 it was the Belarusian turn to apply pressure on the world number one and she earned three breakpoints and she would get the crucial break with a stunning return winner.

She would serve out the match to extract revenge on her Aussie opponent for beating her the previous week in Stuttgart and on Monday will be the new world number four.

After the match in her post match press conference Sabalenka told Ubitennis how she was able to overcome the adversity of losing the second set.

“That is why she is number one, she is always trying to find a way and she did it really well in the second set, the first set was a really quick one and I was surprised and in the second set she started using the slice more and moving better and was a little bit more aggressive, it was a great level during the entire match and I am really happy that I could finish it with a win”

Sabalenka will now travel to Rome to play in the Italian Open and as of Monday will be the new world number four when the new rankings are posted which is a career-high.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending