Australian Open Day 8 Preview: Italian Men and American Women Challenge Top Seeds - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 8 Preview: Italian Men and American Women Challenge Top Seeds

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Matteo Berrettini is looking to reach his second Major quarterfinal (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Three American women and two Italian men will play on Rod Laver Arena and vie for a spot in the quarterfinals.

 

Two of those American women are unseeded, and will look to upset top five players.  The other was a semifinalist at the last hard court Major, and may be a favorite to repeat that result this week.  The men from Italy will also face top five seeds, in a 20-time Major champion and a 22-year-old from Greece.  And two Russian men are just one round away from a highly-anticipated quarterfinal clash. 

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

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Jessica Pegula – 11:00am on RLA

Both women are yet to lose a set, despite facing some stiff competition: Svitolina in Coco Gauff, and Pegula in Victoria Azarenka.  And both women have improved as the tournament has progressed.  Svitolina allowed Yulia Putintseva only four games in the last round, and Pegula dropped just four games across her last four sets.  Their only previous match was just last month in Abu Dhabi, with Svitolina winning in straight sets.  The 26-year-old American has an aggressive ground game, and has practically broken opponents at will.  Through three rounds, Pegula has earned 16 breaks of serve.  This is new territory for Jessica, who is making her debut in the second week of a Major.  Svitolina’s second serve points won was below 50% in her first two rounds, so it will be crucial to keep that closer to the 71% she achieved in the third round.  Based on their recent encounter, and Svitolina’s advantages in the movement and experience departments, Elina should be able to reach her third quarterfinal in Melbourne.

Jennifer Brady (22) vs. Donna Vekic (28) – Second on RLA

25-year-old Brady has become one of the WTA’s most impressive performers since the tour restart last summer.  She won her first WTA title in Lexington, then achieved her first Slam semifinal, pushing eventual champion Naomi Osaka to the limit in an excellent match.  And Brady dominated during the first week here, with no opponent winning more than three games in a set.  Jen has a great serve and a formidable forehand, resulting in only one break of her serve thus far, and a total of 66 winners.  Vekic survived a grueling match with Kaia Kanepi two days ago, saving match points in an emotional comeback victory.  This is Donna’s fourth time in the round of 16 at a Major, but this appearance is quite a surprise, as she came into this event on a six-match losing streak.  Brady will be the one who can better dictate play, and should be able to control whether her destiny includes a spot in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Fabio Fognini (16) – Not Before 3:00pm on RLA

Nadal leads their head-to-head 12-4, with a 6-1 edge on hard courts.  But Fognini’s only win on this surface was significant.  It came at the 2015 US Open, when Fabio became the only man to defeat Rafa from two sets down at a Major.  In those last three sets, the Italian simply redlined and hit the 20-time Slam champ right off the court.  In his recent autobiography, “Warning: My Life Among the Lines,” Fognini described Nadal as “A volcano energy explosion, guided by discipline and method.”  So Fabio has the utmost respect for Rafa, but with four previous victories, he also believes he can beat him.  Nadal came into this tournament with lower back issues, though he’s seem rather unbothered.  Rafa has not dropped a set, and has gone back to his normal service motion as his back has improved.  And Nadal is 12-0 in his last twelve fourth round matches at this event.  I like Rafa’s chances to make that a baker’s dozen on Monday.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Shelby Rogers – Not Before 7:00pm on RLA

These two just played 11 days ago at this same venue, with Barty prevailing in a 10-point tiebreak after they split the first two sets.  There’s been some concern regarding the wrapping on Ash’s hamstring, and she pulled out of the doubles event last week.  But the world No.1 appeared unhampered two days ago in a solid win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.  Like the other American women in action today, Rogers is currently playing the best tennis of her career.  She’s coming off a quarterfinal run at the last hard court Major, when she upset Petra Kvitova in a third set tiebreak.  The 28-year-old also defeated Serena Williams last summer in Lexington, and is yet to drop a set this fortnight.  Thus far, Rogers has won an impressive 80% of first serve points.  If Shelby can maintain that level against Ash, she’s fully capable of upsetting Barty, especially with the Australian at less than 100%.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (9) – Last on RLA

The big question in this matchup is how Berrettini will feel after enduring pain in his rib area during the third set against Karen Khachanov two days ago.  The 24-year-old Italian was able to overcome the injury and defeat the Russian in three consecutive tiebreaks.  Tsitsipas overcame a stern five-set test from Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, but otherwise has only dropped nine games in six sets played.  Both players have been in strong form since the start of the ATP Cup two weeks ago.  They played in the first round of this event two years ago, with Tsitsipas winning in four tight sets.  They also met in the second round of qualifying at the 2017 US Open, with Stefanos advancing in a deciding set tiebreak.  If Berrettini is healthy, this should be another good battle today.  Though based on their past, and considering Matteo’s injury, Tsitsipas must be favored.

Other Notable Matches on Day 8:

ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old American who also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon three years ago.  Medvedev has won his last 17 matches, though he required five sets to finish off Filip Krajinovic on Saturday.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Casper Ruud (24).  Both men had excellent 2020 seasons: Rublev with 41 wins and five titles, and Rudd with 22 wins and one title.  Andrey is 2-0 against Casper, with both matches taking place within the last two years on clay.

In what should be a highly-entertaining affair, Elise Mertens (18) vs. Karolina Muchova (25).  Mertens claimed their only previous meeting in straight sets, four months ago on this same surface.  Neither woman has dropped a set through three rounds.

Monday’s full order of play is here.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Sabalenka Wins 10th Career Title In Madrid

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

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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.

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