Melbourne Summer Series Daily Preview: Play to Resume on Friday with 70 Matches, Featuring Serena, Nadal, Djokovic, Osaka - UBITENNIS
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Melbourne Summer Series Daily Preview: Play to Resume on Friday with 70 Matches, Featuring Serena, Nadal, Djokovic, Osaka

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Serena Williams on Wednesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/WTA)

After all play was canceled for Thursday, some players will now need to play twice on Friday.  And with rain in the forecast throughout the day, the three roofed stadiums, as well as the indoor practice facility, may need to be fully utilized to complete play.  The WTA has announced they will institute a 10-point tiebreak in place of a full third set for the rest of this week

 

The order of play includes the top five WTA players in the world, and the top three from the ATP.  Friday will be the third and final day of round robin play in the ATP Cup, as Saturday’s semifinal matchups will be solidified.  The first two WTA 500 events will present quarterfinal action, highlighted by a rematch of last year’s Australian Open final.  The two ATP 250 events will play both third round singles and quarterfinal contests today.  And the last WTA 500 event, which had a delayed start for the players who were in hard quarantine, will see the top seeds play their opening matches.

This preview will narrow down the scheduled 70 matches to the most prominent ones to watch throughout a chaotic day. 

Friday’s ATP Cup matches will be played on Rod Laver Arena and John Cain Arena starting at 10:00am local time.  The WTA 500 and ATP 250 events are scheduled to start between 10:00am and 11:00am depending on the court, and depending on the rain.


The ATP Cup, a Round Robin Team Event between 12 Nations

Top Players: All of the ATP top 10 except the injured Roger Federer.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Sascha Zverev (GER) – Second Match on RLA

Both men defeated Denis Shapovalov earlier this week, though Zverev needed an extra set to do so.  Novak leads their head-to-head 4-2, and has nabbed three of their four hard court encounters.  The other singles match between Dusan Lajovic and Jan-Lennard Struff could be a tight one.  The winning team will qualify for the semifinals.

Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA) – Second Match on JCA

Both men were walloped by Matteo Berrettini earlier this week.  Their history has been decisively one-sided, with Thiem owning a 6-0 record over Monfils.  Dominic has taken their last 11 sets played.  In the tie’s other singles match, Dennis Novak may just be the favorite against Benoit Paire.  Novak upset Fabio Fognini on Tuesday, while Paire’s lack of effort against Fognini was an embarrassment to the sport.  Italy has already advanced to the semifinals, meaning Austria and France have been eliminated.

Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) – Not Before 7:00pm on RLA

Will Nadal play today after withdrawing from his match on Tuesday due to lower back pain?  If he does, he should feel rather confident against Tsitsipas, with a 6-1 record lifetime.  Stefanos took out Alex de Minaur on Wednesday in straight sets.  John Millman will be a heavy favorite against Michail Pervolarakis in the other singles match.  The winning team will go on to the semis. 

Diego Schwartzman (ARG) vs. Kei Nishikori (JPN) – Not Before 7:00pm on JCA

Both men were soundly defeated by Daniil Medvedev earlier this week.  Nishikori is 3-1 against Schwartzman, though Kei is still fighting his way back from an extended injury layoff.  Guido Pella takes on Yoshihito Nishioka prior to this contest.  Russia has already secured the advancement spot out of this group.


The Yarra Valley Classic, a WTA 500 Event

Top seeds remaining: Ash Barty, Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza

Ash Barty (1) vs. Shelby Rogers – First Match on MCA

The world No.1 survived a bit of a wobble on Wednesday against Marie Bouzkova, in just her second match since last February.  Rogers has won 10 of her last 13 tour-level matches, with victories over Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova.  Barty claimed their only previous encounter in straight sets, four years ago at this same venue.

Sofia Kenin (2) vs. Garbine Muguruza (6) – Second Match on MCA

Last year in Melbourne, Kenin upset Muguruza to win her first career Major.  Kenin also won their other previous matchup, two years ago in Beijing.  She struggled in the last round against fellow American Jessica Pegula, while Muguruza has dropped only five games over four sets this week.

Serena Williams (5) vs. Danielle Collins (13) – Third Match on MCA

The fiery Collins is yet to drop a set through three matches this week, including a win Wednesday over Karolina Pliskova.  Serena has taken eight of her last nine completed matches.  This will the first career meeting between the two Americans.


The Gippsland Trophy, a WTA 500 Event

Top seeds remaining: Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina

Simona Halep (1) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova (9) – Fifth Match on MCA

Halep has looked sharp this week, and has only been defeated once since last February.  That loss came at the hands of French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who was taken out Wednesday by Alexandrova.  They’ve split their two previous matches, both contested on hard courts in 2019. 

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu – Seventh Match on MCA

Osaka dropped the first set Wednesday to Katie Boulter, but came back strong to win 12 of the last 16 games.  Begu required over three-and-a-half hours to subdue Johanna Konta two days ago, with both players saving multiple match points in a dramatic affair.  Osaka and Begu have never played before.

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Elise Mertens (7) – Eighth Match on MCA

Both women earned solid victories Wednesday against dangerous opponents: Svitolina over Jelena Ostapenko, and Mertens over Caroline Garcia.  Svitolina leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Mertens’ only win came in Melbourne three years ago.


The Grampians Trophy, a WTA 500 Event

Top seeds: Belinda Bencic, Victoria Azarenka, Elena Rybakina, Maria Sakkari

Victoria Azarenka (2) vs. Yulia Putintseva – First Match on Court 3

This will be the two-time Australian Open champion’s first match since October, and her first against Putintseva.  Azarenka has prevailed in 18 of her last 22 matches.  Putintseva has also been in good form, winning 11 of her last 15.

Angelique Kerber (8) vs. Ons Jabeur – Second Match on Court 8

Surprisingly, these two tour veterans have never played before.  In their opening round matches, Kerber needed three sets to advance, while Jabeur dropped just two games. 


The Murray River Open, an ATP 250 Event

Top seeds remaining: Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Borna Coric

Borna Coric (4) vs. Nick Kyrgios (13) – Second Match on 1573

Well this should be interesting.  Recently on Twitter, Coric insinuated Kyrgios is a hypocrite for questioning the behavior of other players, while Nick called Borna “boring” and said he has a “peanut of a brain.”  Kyrgios struggled with his body two days ago in a long three-setter, and also struggled to control his emotions.  He has split four meetings with Coric, with the last three all going to a deciding set. 

Stan Wawrinka (1) vs. Alex Bolt – Third Match on 1573

The 2014 Australian Open champion is quite popular down under, but the crowd won’t be on his side in this one.  Bolt is a veteran Aussie who pushed Dominic Thiem to five sets on these grounds a year ago.

Grigor Dimitrov (2) vs. Alexei Popyrin – Third Match on Court 3

Speaking of Aussies, Popyrin is a 21-year-old Australian who has reached the third round in Melbourne two years in a row, with victories over Dominic Thiem and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  Dimitrov has exceled down under, with three of his five Major quarterfinals coming at Melbourne Park.


The Great Ocean Road Open, an ATP 250 Event

Top seeds remaining: Karen Khachanov, Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik Sinner

Karen Khachanov (2) vs. Kevin Anderson – First Match on Court 5

Anderson grabbed their only previous meeting, three years ago in Miami.  Khachanov has struggled a bit since the tour restart last summer, with a 12-9 record. 


Friday’s full order of play is here.

ATP

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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