Australian Open Day 4 Preview: Top Women’s Seeds May Be Tested on Thursday - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 4 Preview: Top Women’s Seeds May Be Tested on Thursday

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Coco Gauff on Tuesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Defending champion Sofia Kenin, as well as the fifth and sixth seeds Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova, will all face challenging second round opposition.

 

However, top-seeded Ash Barty will be a heavy favorite, especially after how excellently she played on Tuesday.  In the men’s draw, Rafael Nadal is just six matches away from winning a record-breaking 21st Major title, and should advance comfortably today despite his lower back issues.  Young Australian talent will be involved in the day’s most appetizing men’s matchups, with Alex de Minaur and Thanasi Kokkinakis taking on two of the ATP’s flashiest shot-makers. 

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

Karolina Pliskova (6) vs. Danielle Collins – 11:00am on RLA

Just last week in the Yarra Valley Classic, Collins took out Pliskova in two tiebreak sets.  That was the only previous meeting between these two Australian Open semifinalists from 2019.  For Pliskova, that was her seventh time reaching the quarterfinals or better out of the last 10 Majors.  But over the past two years, Karolina hasn’t done so once.  In the offseason, she hired Sascha Bajin as her coach, who formerly worked with Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.  Collins advanced to the quarters at the last Slam in Paris, defeating Garbine Muguruza along the way.  Both women have collected a lot of wins down under to start the last few seasons.  Collins’ level can fluctuate from week-to-week, but she’s hard to stop once she picks up momentum within a tournament.  And based on last week’s result, I’d call the American a slight favorite on Thursday.

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Kaia Kanepi – Not Before 1:00pm on MCA

Kanepi spent the fall on the ITF circuit, but accumulated 15 match wins and three titles on both clay and hard courts.  And she earned four wins last week, reaching the final of the Gippsland Trophy, her first final since 2013.  Kaia has made a career out of upsetting players at Majors, and has reached six Slam quarterfinals.  22-year-old Kenin has played in two of the last three Major finals, but is yet to play her best tennis in 2021.  She lost in the quarters of Abu Dhabi to Maria Sakkari, dropping 12 of the last 14 games.  And Kenin was walloped last week by Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-2.  This match is a definite upset alert, though Kenin has exhibited how good she is at finding ways to win even when her best tennis escapes her.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (WC) – Third on RLA

Kokkinakis’ career has been quite challenging to say the least.  The 24-year-old has experienced multiple serious injuries, so many that he even considered retiring from the sport.  The ATP has a detailed outline of his struggles here.  Prior to Tuesday, it had been two years since he won an ATP-level match, and six years since prevailing at his home Slam.  It’s no wonder he got emotional two days ago after a decisive 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 victory.  But is Thanasi ready to challenge a top five player on his country’s biggest court?  That’s a big ask for a man who has only played two matches since September of 2019.  And especially considering Tsitsipas only allowed Gilles Simon four games on Tuesday.  But this should be a fun one to watch, with a raucous Aussie crowd inside Rod Laver Arena.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Coco Gauff –  Not Before 7:00pm on RLA

Over the past two years, Gauff has upset Venus Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Johanna Konta at Majors.  But the 16-year-old experienced a bit of the sophomore slump coming out of the tour shutdown last year, and has struggled with her serve.  She looked sharp on Tuesday though, advancing in straight sets.  Svitolina did as well, though she was thoroughly tested in a two-hour two-setter by Marie Bouzkova.  The Ukranian has reached the third round of this event in six out of the last seven years.  Elina can often become too defensive on court, allowing her opponents to dictate play.  If Coco can serve well and fully utilize her power on these fast courts, this could be her next big moment at a Slam.

Alex de Minaur (21) vs. Pablo Cuevas – Not Before 7:00pm on MCA

These are two of the quickest men in the sport, which should result in some incredible rallies.  Cuevas has made a name for himself by striking highlight reel-worthy shots each year.  He also drew rave reviews for his highly-entertaining social media posts during the hard quarantine in Melbourne.  But the 35-year-old from Uruguay excels on clay, and has never been beyond the second round of a hard court Major.  Last year, Pablo went just 2-7 on this surface.  Meanwhile 21-year-old de Minaur already nabbed a hard court title to start the year.  The Australian No.1 should be able to advance without too much trouble, to the delight of the night session crowd.

Other Notable Matches on Day 4:

2009 champion Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Michael Mmoh (Q), a 23-year-old American who survived a four-hour five-setter two days ago against Viktor Troicki.  Nadal easily prevailed on Tuesday, but spoke after the match of how his lower back injury is negatively impacting his play.

In a battle of Australians, Ash Barty (1) vs. Daria Gavrilova (WC), a former top 20 player who is fighting her way back from serious foot issues.  On Tuesday, Barty required only 44 minutes in a 6-0, 6-0 drubbing of Danka Kovinic.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Roberto Carballes Baena.  Medvedev is on a 15-match winning streak, while the 27-year-old Spaniard only has 10 career ATP wins on hard courts.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Thiago Monteiro.  Since the start of 2020, Rublev is 46-10, though he lost his only previous encounter with the 26-year-old Brazilian, in 2019 on clay.

Belinda Bencic (11) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Bencic is 3-2 against the two-time Major champion.  They played twice last February, and split those two hard court meetings.

Thursday’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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