Australian Open Day 9 Preview: 45 Major Singles Titles Represented in Tuesday’s Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 9 Preview: 45 Major Singles Titles Represented in Tuesday’s Quarterfinals

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Serena Williams is 8-4 lifetime in the quarterfinals of this tournament (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The day’s most marquee matchup features two multi-time Major champions colliding.

 

Serena Williams is three wins away from her 24th Slam title, but the WTA’s most consistent performer of the last seven years stands in her way today.  No woman has won more Majors over the last three years than Naomi Osaki, though she now faces one of the sport’s most unique and frustrating opponents.  On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic seems to be relatively healthy despite an injury scare two rounds ago.  On Tuesday, he takes on a man who was just two points from winning the last hard court Slam.  Grigor Dimitrov upset the champion of that last hard court Slam in the last round, and will play the first man in 25 years to make the quarterfinals in his Grand Slam debut.

Each day during this fortnight, this preview will analyze the day’s most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Tuesday’s singles quarterfinals will begin at 12:30pm local time on Rod Laver Arena.

Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh

Osaka is coming off a thrilling fourth round contest on Sunday, when she saved two match points in a comeback victory over Garbine Muguruza.  Su-Wei is the oldest player in the Open Era to make her debut in a Major quarterfinal.  Naomi didn’t seem all that excited upon hearing the news of facing Hsieh, as her unorthodox style and strategy has driven many an opponent crazy.  And Su-Wei owns a previous victory over Osaka, which came two years ago in Miami on a hard court.  However, that was during a span when Naomi was slumping, as she had just split with her coach, and was adjusting to the expectations that come with being a Major champion.  And though most of their other four prior meetings have been close, Naomi has claimed them all.  Osaka will be well aware of the adjustments she needs to make in her game against Su-Wei, and should play freely after escaping defeat in the last round.

Grigor Dimitrov (18) vs. Aslan Karatsev (Q)

While Dominic Thiem was obviously at less than 100% on Sunday, Dimitrov played extremely well to dismiss him comfortably.  Grigor was also the beneficiary of a retirement the round before from Pablo Carreno Busta, and is yet to drop a set.  This run feels similar to his semifinal run at the 2019 US Open, when the draw opened up a bit for the 29-year-old Bulgarian, and he played some stellar tennis at crucial moments.  Karatsev is the most shocking men’s quarterfinalist in recent memory.  The 27-year-old Russian had never even played in the qualifying event of a Major prior to last fall’s Roland Garros.  At this month’s ATP Cup, teammate Daniil Medvedev referred to Karatsev as their “secret weapon.”  Aslan has played the best tennis of his career since the tour restart last summer, and won 18 of 20 Challenger matches to close out 2020.  Karatsev can just bludgeon the ball, and has served extremely well.  He’s averaged 10 aces per match, and was only broken twice through his first three rounds.  Also, he’s shown he’s a fighter, as he came back from two sets down against a tight Felix Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16.  Like Felix, we’ve often seen Grigor play tentatively in big moments, so that’s a concern today against a man he’s never faced before and likely knows little about.  And Dimitrov often doesn’t excel when he is expected to win.  But Grigor will still be the favorite against a player who is in completely uncharted territory.

Simona Halep (2) vs. Serena Williams (10)

This is the first time they will meet since Halep played the match of her life, dominating Serena in the championship match of Wimbledon in 2019.  That’s only one of two victories for Simona in this rivalry, as Serena has owned this rivalry 9-2.  They played at this event two years ago, with Serena prevailing in three sets.  Both women fought their way through grueling encounters on Sunday: Halep against Iga Swiatek, and Serena against Aryna Sabalenka.  After that match with Sabalenka, Serena spoke with ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs about how she’ll need to improve her first serve percentage going forward.  In that match, it was only 52%, and dipped all the way down to 36% in the second set.  Halep is a great returner who would love to see a high number of second serves coming her way.  But this match will be on Serena’s racquet, as her power should be able to decide the outcome on these fast-playing courts.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (6)

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 5-2, which includes a close three-set win just two weeks ago on this same court during the ATP Cup.  Novak was not sure if he’d be able to play two days ago after an injury to his right side, the details of which he has chosen not to disclose.  But the eight-time champion looked pretty healthy during a four-set win over Milos Raonic on Sunday night.  Zverev has been quietly advancing through this draw, winning his last 12 sets after dropping the first set of his opening round.  Sascha may prefer the lack of attention this fortnight, as ex-girlfriend Olga Sharypova recently made allegations of domestic abuse against Zverev, allegations which Sascha has denied.  He also had a recent legal dispute with his former agent, and has faced criticism of his pandemic-related decision making.  His tennis hasn’t been impacted thus far, though this will be his first high-profile matchup of the fortnight. His second serve woes have subsided, at least for now.  Through four rounds, Zverev has struck 65 aces and only 16 double faults.  He’ll need to continue serving like that to have a chance against the best returner in the game.  If he does, Sascha has a definitive chance to win, especially with Novak fighting an injury.  But on a court where Djokovic feels right at home, the 17-time Major champion remains the favorite to reach a ninth Australian Open semifinal.

Other Notable Matches on Day 9:

In the women’s doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Strasbourg champions Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs (4) vs. Coco Gauff and Katy McNally, who won two WTA titles in 2019.

In another quarterfinal, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (7).  Mertens and Sabalenka both lost in the fourth round of singles, but won the 2019 US Open as a team.  Aoyama and Shibahara are yet to lose this year, picking up two titles thus far. 

And in a men’s doubles quarterfinal, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert (8).  Mektic and Pavic are undefeated since teaming up this season, with two titles.  Mahut and Herbert were champions here two years ago, which completed their career Grand Slam.

Tuesday’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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