Ash Barty and Alex de Minaur will have no Aussies rooting them on from the stands, as fans will not be allowed inside Melbourne Park for at least the next five days.
In action between top 20 seeds, two of the sport’s biggest young ball strikers, Matteo Berrettini and Karen Khachanov, collide in what should be a crackling third round clash. Men’s title contenders Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev, and Andrey Rublev will also play on Saturday. On the women’s side, Karolina Pliskova faces a fellow countrywoman who upset her 13-11 in the third at Wimbledon two years ago. And in another matchup featuring top 20 players, Belinda Bencic takes on Elise Mertens, who has won 10 of her last 11 matches.
Each day during this fortnight, this preview will analyze the day’s most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule. Saturday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Ash Barty (1) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (29) – Not Before 7:00pm on MCA
While Barty didn’t play for nearly a full year prior to last week, she’s now prevailed in 17 of her last 19 matches. This will be her first encounter with Alexandrova, a 26-year-old Russian who won her first WTA title last year on a hard court. But Ekaterina has never been beyond the third round of a Major, and doesn’t possess the firepower or guile to threaten Barty when Ash is at her best. However, Barty wasn’t at her best on Thursday despite winning in straight sets. She became quite frustrated on court, and was visibly hampered by a left leg injury. Ash pulled out of her scheduled doubles match yesterday. So Alexandrova could be a good litmus test for just how healthy the world No.1 truly is.
Matteo Berrettini (9) vs. Karen Khachanov (19) – Not Before 5:00pm on JCA
They played three times in 2019, with the Italian victorious on all three occasions. Berrettini won twice in straight sets on grass, though they went to a decider in their own hard court meeting. Khachanov was the first of these two 24-year-olds to breakthrough on tour, reaching the second week at five Slams between 2017 and 2020, and winning the 2018 Paris Masters. He’s 5-1 this month in Melbourne, though he lost his only match against a player ranked inside the top 70. Berrettini was ranked outside the top 50 until 2019, when he won two ATP titles and reached the US Open semifinals. He’s also 5-1 over the last few weeks, but owns victories over three top 15 players. These fast-playing courts in Melbourne should favor Matteo, as Karen likes having more time to set up his groundies. Berrettini will likely extend his record to 4-0 against Khachanov.
Karolina Pliskova (6) vs. Karolina Muchova (25) – First on RLA
In the fourth round of the 2019 Wimbledon, these two Karolinas played for three hours and eighteen minutes, with Muchova outlasting Pliskova to reach her first Slam quarterfinal. Their only other previous matchup was two years ago at this event, with Pliskova winning in straight sets. Neither woman has dropped a set through two rounds. Pliskova will of course have the power advantage, while Muchova possesses many more options in her eclectic game. With new coach Sascha Bajin on her team, I expect Pliskova to come out with a good mindset today, and a better plan on how to overcome her talented countrywoman.
Belinda Bencic (11) vs. Elise Mertens (18) – Third on RLA
Expect a lot of dynamic, prolonged rallies in the first career meeting between these two players with well-rounded skillsets. After an excellent 2019 in which she won nearly 50 matches and returned to the top 10, Bencic went just 8-8 last year, and missed some play due to injury. Unfortunately, that’s just the latest of many injury layoffs throughout the young career of the 23-year-old. Meanwhile, Mertens has reached the quarterfinals or better at seven of her last eight events. And the 25-year-old won the Gippsland Trophy just last week. Benic required three sets in both of her first two rounds, while Mertens won both in straights. All evidence supports a Mertens victory on Saturday.
Fabio Fognini (16) vs. Alex de Minaur (21) – Last on MCA
What will Fognini have left after a dramatic four-hour affair just 48 hours ago? He saved match points and prevailed in a fifth set tiebreak against Salvatore Caruso. Fabio then exchanged some heated words with his countryman after the match, with the Italians having to be physically separated. De Minaur was heartbroken to miss last year’s Australian Open after suffering an injury at the ATP Cup, so the 21-year-old will be extra motivated to reach the round of 16 at his home Slam for the first time. And he’ll certainly be the fresher man today, as he’s advanced without losing a set. In another first career meeting, De Minaur should be favored despite the lack of an Aussie crowd.
Other Notable Matches on Day 6:
20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Cameron Norrie, a fellow lefty who has never advanced farther than this round at a Slam.
2018 WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Yulia Putintseva (26). Putintseva won their first match back in 2012, but Svitolina has claimed their last five.
2019 ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Mikael Ymer, a 22-year-old from Sweden who is into the third round of a Major for the first time.
2020 ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Filip Krajinovic (28). Their only previous meeting went to Krajinovic in straight sets, two years ago at Indian Wells. Medvedev is on a 16-match winning streak.
Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Feliciano Lopez. Rublev has taken 27 of his last 31 matches. 39-year-old Lopez hasn’t reached the fourth round at a Major since 2015.
Saturday’s full order of play is here.
Petra Kvitova beats Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to advance to the quarter final in Doha
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova knocked out Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 6-3 to advance to the quarter finals at the Qatar Total Open in Doha. Kvitova hit 31 winners to 19 unforced errors.
Kvitova saved two break points to hold serve after two deuces. Kvitova broke twice in a row to win the fisrt set 6-1. The Czech saved three of the four break points she faced.
Pavlyuchenkova took a 3-1 lead with a break in the fourth game of the second set, but Kvitova reeled off five games with three consecutive breaks to close out the second set 6-3.
Number 8 seed Victoria Azarenka rallied from a slow start to beat German qualifier and Roland Garros quarter finalist Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-2.
Siegemund broke serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Azarenka broke back in the fifth game of the first set to draw level to 3-3. Siegemund was unable to convert eight game points in a marathon seventh game featuring 12 deuces. Azarenka converted her fourth break point to take a 4-3 lead, but Siegemund broke back to draw level to 4-4. Azarenka broke again in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4.
Azarenka raced out to a 5-0 lead with three breaks, but she was not able to serve out the win on her first attempt in the sixth game. Siegemund pulled one break back in the sixth game. Azarenka sealed the win on her fifth match point with a hold in the eighth game to secure her spot in the quarter finals.
Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit cruised past three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 6-1 6-4 to advance to the third round. Kontaveit dropped her serve once in the entire match.
Kontaveit went up a double break in the second and fourth games to cruise through to a 6-1 win in the opening set. The Estonian player raced out to a 4-1 lead with two consecutive breaks. Kerber pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Kontaveit held her next service games to claim the second set 6-4. Kontaveit has extended her win-loss record to 4-1 in her five head-to-head matches against Kerber.
This year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Jessica Pegula beat 2016 Doha finalist Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 7-5.
Pegula earned a double break in the third and seventh games to close out the first set 6-2.
The second set started with three consecutive breaks. Pegula took a 2-1 lead with two breaks in the first and third games. Ostapenko broke back at love to draw level to 4-4 after winning 12 consecutive points from 2-4 down.
Pegula won 12 of the last 14 points from 4-5 down to claim the second set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game.
Maria Sakkari eased past Madison Keys 6-2 6-2 with two breaks in each set. The Greek player earned an early break at love in the third game to take a 3-1 lead. Sakkari converted her fourth break point after eight games to win the first set 6-2. Sakkari saved a break point and broke twice in a row in the fifth and seventh games to win the second set 6-2.
Alexander Bublik pulls off the biggest win of his career as he upsets Alexander Zverev in Rotterdam
Alexander Bublik produced the biggest win of his career to reach the second round in Rotterdam.
The Kazak world number 43 stunned the tennis world beating the number three seed and world number seven.
Alexander Bublik is through to the second round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam at the Ahoy after beating the world number seven and number three seed Alexander (Sascha) Zverev in straight sets 7-5 6-3. Bublik hit 21 winners in the match while Zverev finished the match with 20 unforced errors.
A good start for the German
Zverev hadn’t played a match since losing in the Australian Open quarterfinal vs Novak Djokovic a couple of weeks back so we didn’t know if rust was going to be an issue.
The German actually got off to a great start earning two break points in the opening game of the match and managed to get the early break and we though this was going to be the in form Zverev we are used to seeing.
At 4-3 the Kazak had a chance to go back on serve setting up two break points with a brilliant passing shot and breaking the very next point as the number three seed missed a volley at the net to even the set at 4-4.
With the world number seven serving to stay in the set the world number 43 went on the attack and managed to earn a set point with a stunning forehand winner.
He would break and take the first set 7-5 winning the next point with a great finish at the net with a overhead.
The Kazak pulls it off
After both players held their opening service games in the second set the German had a chance to take another lead and broke to take an early 2-1 lead as Bublik hit an untimed unforced error.
The Kazak would once again bounce back and this time break to go back on serve at 3-3 as the German was struggling making lots of unforced errors. The very next game he had five breakpoints to take the lead and it took him until the fifth break chance to get it done as he would break with a superb passing shot to take a 5-3 lead.
Bublik would serve out the match to take it in straights and send another seed packing. After the match Bublik gave his thoughts about the big win in an on court interview.
“Well I mean ya beating Sascha is great I guess, the match was up and down for both of us, I don’t think he played well today , I didn’t play well either, had some problems with the serve, I was a bit more consistent today, I was a bit more lucky in a few shots here and there, I believe I had more luck than he did today but I’m happy to get through”.
Bublik will face Tommy Paul in the next round with a chance to make the quarterfinals after making the final last week in Singapore and falling just short.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Ousts Gerasimov In Rotterdam Opener
The 22-year-old was made to work harder than he expected during his opening match.
It was a tricky day at the office for Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas who ousted Belarus’ Egor Gerasimov in the first round of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
The second seed required nearly two hours to score a 7-6(4), 7-5, win over the world No.76 who reached the semi-finals of the Open Sud de France last week. Tsitsipas was tested throughout the 116-minute clash but managed to prevail with the help of 31 winners against 29 unforced errors.
“I had to play more consistently and also what I increased in the [key] moments was the speed of my ball, which felt kind of floppy before. He had a solid game, he was serving well at times. He wasn’t missing a lot, so it was difficult,” atptour.com quoted Tsitsipas as saying afterwards. “I think once I put in my head that I needed to fight and I [couldn’t] take [any] single moment for granted, things changed and I felt the confidence.”
During what was a roller coaster opening set, the second seed let out bursts of frustration as he failed to tame his opponent on the court. Tsitsipas broke for a 3-2 lead and looked to be gaining momentum after leading 40-0 in the following game. Then a series of costly mistakes from the Greek enabled Gerasimov to claw his way back and level. Much to the bemusement of the world No.6 who smash his racket on the floor out of anger at one stage.
As both players continued to exchange in lengthy rallies, a tense tiebreaker eventually separated the two. Trading mini breaks, Tsitsipas secured the breakthrough he sought a couple points later with the help of a backhand error from his opponent to move him ahead 5-4. This time he was able to consolidate the lead to clinch the opener after hitting an unreturned serve down the centre of the court.
It was a case of deja vu in the second set for Tsitsipas who saw another break advantage come and go within two games during the early stages. Once again he struggled to pull away from his rival who produced some high quality tennis that exceeded his current ranking position. Nudging ahead to a game from victory at 6-5 Tsitsipas managed to snatch the match with the help of two consecutive errors from Gerasimov.
Despite playing in Rotterdam for the fifth year in a row, it is only the second time Tsitsipas has won a main draw match at the tournament. The first time was last year against Hubert Hurkacz who he will coincidentally play against in the next round of this year’s edition.
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