Germany Sweeps Canada To Send Them Packing At ATP Cup - UBITENNIS
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Germany Sweeps Canada To Send Them Packing At ATP Cup

Canada faces Germany in their second tie of the ATP Cup on day two of the event as Jan Lennard Struff took on Milos Raonic while Denis Shapovalov took on Alexander Zverev.

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Jan-Lennard Struff (image via https://twitter.com/ATPCup)

Germany have set up a must-win showdown again Serbia at the ATP Cup after travailing over Canada in their opening group match on Wednesday. Despite a loss it the doubles, wins by Jan-Lennard Struff and Milos Raonic secured their victory in the tie.

 

Struff surprises Raonic 7-6(4), 7-6(2)

First on court was Milos Raonic taking on the tricky German Jan-Lennard Struff in the first singles match. Both players did well at holding serve and it was proving to be a tight match.

There wasn’t a breakpoint during the entire first set and it would be decided by a tiebreaker and the German number two got off to a flying start winning the first three points of the breaker playing some great tennis and winning some great points with his big forehand.

He won three more points and at 6-1 Raonic made a attempt at a comeback and made it all the way back to 6-4 but that was as close as he got as Struff would seal the set with another error from the Canadian 7-6.

The Canadian put pressure on the German in the first game of the second set earning his first breakpoint of the match with a scintillating backhand winner passing shot.

The Warstein, Germany native would immediately save it with a big serve that the tall Canadian couldn’t return and would go on to hold serve and respond by earning a breakpoint in the very next game and he would convert as Raonic sent a ball long to earn the first break of the match.

The Monte Carlo resident responded right away winning four straight points on the German serve including an amazing forehand down the line winner to go back on serve in a match that was going back and forth.

He would hold serve and there wasn’t another breakpoint until 4-3 when Struff had five chances but Raonic would save each of them to survive the game.

Once again the set headed to another tiebreaker and it was almost deja vu as Struff jumped out to a 6-1 lead but this time he wouldn’t crack under the pressure and take the breaker 7-2 and the match in straight sets.

“I played him three times before, lost two, and I’m very happy to have tied against him, and it was a very tough match. He was serving really good in the first games, and it was very tough to put the ball back in play. But I managed to stay good in my service games, and I’m very happy with the win,” said Stuff.

Zverev gets by Shapovalov 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4)

Next on court was the battle of the number ones as Denis Shapovalov took on Alexander Zverev and ironically the last time these two players met was the ATP last year and the Canadian won that one easily in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.

The first set was a pretty tight affair with both young guns going at it and once again proving to be another great match. The first breakpoint of the match occurred at 5-5 which belonged to the world number 7 but it immediately saved by the 12th ranked player.

A tiebreaker decided the first set where Shapovalov got the early break on the second point of the breaker winning a long intense rally with a great forehand winner.

That break was all he needed and he would end up taking the tiebreaker 7-5 and was one set away from evening the tie at one point apiece.

The German responded in the seconded set breaking in the third game of the set with an amazing backhand return winner that caught the Canadian by surprise to take a 3-1 lead.

He would consolidate the break by holding serve and on the next changeover Shapovalov took a medical timeout to have the trainer work on his shoulder.

It seemed to work as the world number 12 held serve and had two chances to break right back but Zverev was up to the task of saving them and managed to hold serve.

He would serve out the second set to take it 6-3 and force a deciding third set to decide the winner of the match. The Nassau, Bahamas resident got off to the faster star getting a break point early in the set but couldn’t finish the point and an unforced error cost him dearly.

At 2-2 the Richmond Hill, Ontario native served an untimely double fault which gave the German two break points but Shapovalov came up with two big serves to save them and managed to hold serve.

Once again at 3-3 there was breakpoints for the world number seven but they were quickly saved by the Canadian in a match that was going back and forth. Zverev had two more chances at 5-5 but again couldn’t finish and the 21 year old held serve.

The match would be decided by a tiebreaker once again and it was the world number 12 who got off to the faster start jumping out to a 3-1 lead before Zverev stormed back to win the next two points and even the breaker at 3.

Shapovalov would throw in another untimely double fault at 3-4 to give the German the break he needed and he would serve out the match to take it 6-7, 6-3, 7-6.

“It was kind of a typical first match of the season where I had a lot of chances but let them go a little bit. In the end I did a good job I think winning the tiebreak, played some good points and getting the win for Germany is the most important thing right now,” the 2020 US Open runner-up told reporters.

Canada is officially eliminated from the ATP Cup with a 0-2 record meanwhile Germany and Serbia will meet on Thursday to decide who goes to the semi finals.

“Winning a team event, winning something for your country it’s one of the biggest things in our sport. I think the ATP Cup is just as big as the Davis Cup right now, with the new format that the Davis Cup is having, so it’s — we want to go match by match. Tomorrow we got the defending champions, that’s not going to be easy for us,” Zverev commented on the tournament.

There was some consultation for Canada who won their doubles match to end the tie 1-2 in Germany’s favour.

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic Seals Final Showdown With Tsitsipas After Paul Victory

Novak Djokovic will look to capture his tenth Australian Open title on Sunday.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic is into the Australian Open final after a 7-5 6-1 6-2 victory over Tommy Paul.

 

Djokovic will have the chance to claim his tenth Australian Open title and his 22nd Grand Slam title after a dominant straight sets victory.

Paul gave a good account of himself in his first Grand Slam semi-final but was ultimately outmuscled by Djokovic.

Djokovic’s bid for history will now go through Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.

Competing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, Paul settled into the match playing some dynamic tennis to force Djokovic into early errors.

Djokovic started the match in rather erratic fashion but managed to save a break point to hold in the opening game.

However the former world number one found his range eventually as some world-class returning capitalised on nerves from the American as he broke and held for a 3-0 lead.

The Serb’s variety in pace and depth of shot was too much for the American as he dictated the tempo of the rallies.

Once Paul held serve to settle into the match in the fourth game, Djokovic’s onslaught continued as another break in the next return game secured another break and a comfortable 5-1 lead.

What would follow would not be in the script though as Djokovic produced more and more errors with Paul’s stubborn and dynamic style finding confidence as he punched holes through the Serb’s game.

Djokovic couldn’t convert set point and was broken twice as Paul reeled off four games in a row to level the opening set at 5-5.

In the end Djokovic would produce his best tennis when it mattered most with the Serb holding to love and then breaking on his first opportunity to take a tight opening set 7-5.

Although the opening set was littered with errors and erratic from both players, Djokovic produced a consistent standard in the next two sets as he improved the level on serve.

Once again Djokovic took a 5-1 lead in the second set and despite late resilience from Paul, the Serb held his nerve to wrap up a two sets to love lead.

The world number 35 had his moments of world-class tennis but ultimately it was Djokovic who was too strong as a further two breaks of serve sealed his place in a tenth Australian Open final.

After the match Djokovic commented on the state of his hamstring injury, “It’s great, and perfect and 100%,” Djokovic gladly commented in his on-court interview.

“Yeah – we’ll say against Stefanos in two days! Of course you are not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament but we put in a lot of of hours in the off season. I know what’s expected and I have been in so many positions in my career.

“It’s a great battle, with yourself and the opponent. Long rallies and you could feel the heavy legs in the first set but I was fortunate to hold my nerves. After that I was swinging through the ball more and I am just pleased to get through another final.”

Djokovic and Tsitsipas will face each other in a second Grand Slam final after Djokovic won the Roland Garros final in 2021 in five sets.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles, the most-ever in men’s singles.  Djokovic is 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, and hasn’t lost a match in Australia in over five years.  Can anyone prevent the nine-time champion from winning this event for a 10th time?

In the semifinals, Djokovic faces Tommy Paul, who prior to this fortnight had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a Major.  In the other men’s semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is 0-3 in Australian Open semis, takes on Karen Khachanov, who is into his second semifinal in as many Majors.

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.  The women’s doubles semis include top singles names such as Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula, while the mixed doubles final will serve as Sania Mirza’s retirement match.


Karen Khachanov (18) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas has achieved his fourth semifinal in Australia out of the last five years, but he is yet to advance farther.  And he’s only claimed one of 10 sets in his three previous Australian semis, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2019, and Daniil Medvedev in both 2021 and 2022.  Stefanos is now a perfect 9-0 in 2023, and has only dropped one set during this fortnight.

Khachanov is into his second consecutive Major semifinal.  The 26-year-old is vying for his first Slam final, and his first final at any event in over a year.  Karen has dropped two sets through five matches, and has now defeated three straight seeded players (Tiafoe, Nishioka, Korda).

Tsitsipas has dominated their rivalry to date, leading their head-to-head 5-0.  Four of those matches were on hard courts, and three of them were straight-set victories for the Greek.  As per Tennis Abstract, out of the 13 sets they’ve played, Karen has only managed to break seven times, while Stefanos has broken 17 times.  And with plenty of Greek support in the crowd at this event, Tsitsipas is a considerable favorite to reach his second Major final.


Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Tommy Paul – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic has claimed 22 of his last 24 sets in Australian Open semifinals and finals, with the only two sets lost both coming in the 2020 final against Dominic Thiem.  His domination in the last two rounds of this tournament throughout his career is only rivaled by that of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Despite the hamstring injury that Novak suffered leading up to this tournament, he has only dropped one set to this stage.  In his last six sets, he’s only allowed his opposition an average of two games per set.

Paul has taken advantage of an open quarter of the draw, in which seven of the eight seeds lost within the first two rounds (Ruud, Fritz, Zverev, Berrettini, Schwartzman, Kecmanovic, Davidovich Fokina).  Yet even as many pointed to Tommy as the favorite to make the semis amidst younger, inexperienced Americans in this quarter (Brooksby, Wolf, Shelton), Paul did not faulter.  The 25-year-old is one of the fastest players on tour, and will debut inside the top 20 on Monday.

In their first career meeting, of course Djokovic is a huge favorite.  Prior to this fortnight, Paul had only once reached the second week of a Major, when he advanced to the fourth round six months ago at Wimbledon.  As per ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, Novak has beefed up his forehand this fortnight, averaging five mph’s more on that wing than a year ago.  And he’s also been serving excellently – Djokovic has only been broken three times in the entire tournament, with all three breaks coming against Grigor Dimitrov.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna vs. Luisa Stefani and Rafael Motos – This is Mirza’s last event before retirement, following a storied doubles career where she has won three Majors in women’s doubles and three Majors in mixed doubles.  Her and Mahesh Bhupathi won this event as a team 14 years ago, the first of Sania’s six Slam titles.  Bopanna won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2017.  Stefani was a bronze medalist in women’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.  This is a first Major final for both her and Motos.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Krejcikova and Siniakova have won six Majors as a team, three of which came last year, including this tournament.  This is Kostyuk and Ruse’s first event as a team since Roland Garros, where they made the quarterfinals.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (10) vs. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (2) – Gauff and Pegula were finalists at Roland Garros last June.  This is Aoyama and Shibahara’s third Major semifinal, but they’re yet to go farther at a Slam.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Elena Rybakina on Tuesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

On Thursday night in Melbourne, the women’s singles semifinals will be played.

 

The first semifinal is a battle between two Major singles champions, as reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina takes on two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.  The second semifinal sees four-time Slam semifinalist Aryna Sabalenka against Magda Linette, who had never advanced beyond the third round of a Major prior to this fortnight.

Also on Thursday, the men’s doubles semifinals will be played, starting at 1:00pm local time.


Elena Rybakina (22) vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Rybakina has only dropped one set to this stage, to last year’s finalist Danielle Collins in the third round.  She’s looking to defeat a third consecutive Major champion, after taking out Iga Swiatek and Jelena Ostapenko in the last two rounds.  And Elena is vying for her second final out of the last three Slams.

Azarenka dropped the opening set in both her third and fourth round matches, but still won both of those rather comfortably.  And in the quarterfinals, she soundly defeated World No.3 Jessica Pegula.  This is Vika’s first Australian Open semifinal in 10 years, since her back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.  Overall it’s her ninth Major semifinal, and she holds a record of 5-3 previously.  Though notably, she’s 5-0 in Major semis on hard courts.

Their only previous meeting occurred last March at Indian Wells, where Rybakina prevailed 6-3, 6-4.  However, at a tournament where Azarenka’s greatest success has happened, and in a round of hard court Majors where she’s been untouchable, it may be a big ask for Elena to overcome the two-time champion.  But it’s clear Rybakina feels she has something to prove, as she’s spoken openly regarding feeling slighted by the lack of ranking points, and lack of respectful scheduling, she’s received for her Wimbledon victory.  And these fast-playing courts in Melbourne reward her aggressive game.  I give Elena the slight edge to prevail on Thursday.


Magda Linette vs. Aryna Sabalenka (5) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Sabalenka is now a perfect 9-0 to start the year, and 18-0 in sets.  As per ESPN, she is just the sixth woman to win her first four Major quarterfinals, joining the impressive company of Ann Jones, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Elena Dementieva, and Naomi Osaka.  However, Aryna is 0-3 in Slam semifinals, having lost all three of those matches 6-4 in the third.

Linette is one of the more surprising Major semifinalists in recent memory.  Prior to this event, she was just 18-29 lifetime at Slams, and 0-5 in the third round.  But the veteran has now defeated four seeded players in a row (Kontaveit, Alexandrova, Garcia, Pliskova), and has only dropped one set in doing so.

Sabalenka is 2-0 against Linette, with both matches taking place on hard courts, and neither match being close.  Five years ago in Tianjin, Aryna won 6-1, 6-3.  Two years ago at the Tokyo Olympics, Aryna won 6-2, 6-1.  But I expect Sabalenka to tighten up on Thursday, as she’s fully aware of her painful history in this round of Majors.  And her double fault issues of the past resurfaced a bit during Wednesday’s quarterfinal, striking nine in total.  Linette is a smart, steady player who can take advantage if Sabalenka begins to commit unforced errors, which she can often do in bunches.  Despite all that, I still favor the power game of Aryna, and her improved second serve, to advance her into her first Major final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin vs. Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski – Chardy and Martin took out the third-seeded team of Arevalo and Rojer in the last round.  Nys and Zielinski eliminated the second-seeded team of Ram and Salisbury earlier in the tournament.

Rinky Hijikata and Jason Kubler (WC) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (8) – This is the Australian team of Hijikata and Kubler’s first event as a team, and they upset the top-seeded team of Koolhof and Skupski in the quarterfinals.  Granollers and Zeballos are looking to reach their third Major final of their partnership.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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