Shapovalov battles back to beat Marco Cecchinato in Geneva - UBITENNIS
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Shapovalov battles back to beat Marco Cecchinato in Geneva

Denis Shapovalov battled past Marco Cecchinato to reach the Geneva quarter-finals.

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Denis Shapovalov (@atptour - Twitter)

The Canadian needed three sets and over two hours to overcome losing the first set en route to a three set win over his Italian opponent.

 

Denis Shapovalov booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Gonet Geneva Open after beating the Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-7, 7-5, 6-1 in two hours and 22 minutes.

The first four games of the match went on serve and at 2-2 it was the world number 15 who would earn the first three breakpoints of the set and break using his powerful forehand to take an early lead.

The Brescia, Italy resident pushed back in the following game and managed to earn two breakpoints of his very own but the Toronto native did a good job saving both and holding serve.

At 5-4 Shapovalov found himself serving for the first set and that’s when the world number 105 stormed back saving it and that’s when the Canadian serve imploded and he served back to back double faults to give the break right back.

The very next game the world number 15 tried to get the break back but the Italian was up to the task of saving it and saved two in the game and forced a tiebreaker to decide the first set.

The first six points of the break were tightly contested and at 3-3 that’s when the Italian ran away with the breaker winning three points in a row and to everyone surprise managed to steal the set.

The Canadian was determined to bounce back in the second set and after holding the opening service game of the set he earned a breakpoint but again failed to convert.

The world number 105 earned his first two breakpoints of the set at 2-2 but the Toronto native would save both with his big serve and it stayed on serve until 6-5 when the Canadian found himself with two set points and would convert to send it to a deciding third set.

The world number 15 started the third set carrying the momentum from winning the second set and once again after holding the opening service game had two chances to break and would convert on his second opportunity to take an early 2-0 lead.

It stayed on serve until 4-1 when the Canadian once again earned three breakpoints and would break before serving out the match. He will next face Laslo Djere of Serbia who managed to upset another Italian Fabio Fognini.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Olympic Gold Medalists Face Differing Challenges

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Belinda Bencic on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Six months ago in Tokyo, Sascha Zverev and Belinda Bencic earned the biggest achievements of their young careers: winning an Olympic Gold Medal for their country.  Now they have their sights set on claiming their first Major, though neither has a straightforward second round draw.

 

Wednesday’s schedule also includes top names like Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Daniil Medvedev.  However, with all of those stars being strong favorites on Day 3, other matches featuring some of the sport’s most exciting performers may be the day’s most compelling affairs.

Each day this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Victoria Azarenka (24) vs. Jil Teichmann – 11:00am on Kia Arena

It was 10 full years ago when Azarenka won her first Major in Australia, a feat she would repeat just 12 months later.  Despite reaching three finals in New York, she’s still trying to secure her third Slam title.  Injuries sidelined her several times throughout 2021, yet she still put together a strong 28-9 record on the year.  Teichmann had a breakout 2021, reaching semifinals in both Adelaide and Duabi to start the year, and upsetting three top 12 players during a run to the final in Cincinnati.  But she may be overmatched against an in-form two-time former champion, who dropped only four games in the first round.


Belinda Bencic (22) vs. Amanda Anisimova – Third on Kia Arena

Anisimova was very close to being eliminated from this tournament in the first round.  The 20-year-old American was down a set and a break to Arianne Hartono, and a point from going down a double break in the second set, before storming back to win in three.  However, that near-defeat is not revealing of her recent form, as she started the season by winning a title on these very grounds.  Anisimova has been working with Darren Cahill on a trial basis in Australia, which has already paid dividends.  Bencic has continued to play well following her Tokyo triumph, where she won medals in both singles and doubles.  Three years ago on grass in Mallorca, Belinda defeated Amanda 6-2, 6-2.  Coming off such a close call on Monday, I suspect Anisimova will play freely on Wednesday, and I would not be surprised if she upset the Olympic Gold Medalist.  When her groundstrokes are on, especially her backhand, there aren’t many players who can tame Anismova’s aggression.


Carlos Alcaraz (31) vs. Dusan Lajovic – Third on 1573 Arena

Coming off his star-making run in New York, Alcaraz went right back to work in the opening round here, easily prevailing in less than two hours.  Lajovic required nearly twice as long to overcome Marton Fucsovics in five.  The 31-year-old Serbian advanced to the second week of this event a year ago.  However, the rest of his 2021 season didn’t go as well, ending the year with a record of 18-28.  And he started 2022 by going 0-3 at the ATP Cup.  I expect to see some extra fight out of Dusan during this tournament, as I anticipate many of the Serbian players will be motivated by what occurred over the past two weeks with Novak Djokovic.  But taking out one of the sport’s most formidable newcomers, especially when you’re coming off a five-setter, is a tall task.


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. John Millman – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Following his first round victory, Zverev admitted things had not gone to plan, and he had not played his best.  Despite that, Sascha still prevailed in straight sets, escaping two tight sets via tiebreaks.  He may not be able to afford such dips in his level against one of Australia’s grittiest competitors.  Millman will certainly enjoy plenty of crowd support, and he has taken out big names at Majors before.  At the 2018 US Open, he upended Roger Federer in extremely hot and humid conditions.  And at the 2019 French Open, though he lost, Millman pushed Zverev to five sets.  However, I fully expect Sascha to up his game on Wednesday.  The German won 41 hard court matches last year, and claimed five titles, including the ATP Finals.  He seems primed to make his second Slam final sooner than later, perhaps even at the end of next week.


Gael Monfils (17) vs. Alexander Bublik – Last on Margaret Court Arena

Well this match is pretty much guaranteed to be entertaining, featuring two players who often choose the more fun shot over the smarter shot.   Monfils struggled to find any form following the pandemic shutdown, as playing in front of empty seats did not inspire him.  But with fans back in the stands, Gael’s results have improved.  He started the year by winning his first title in two years.  By contrast, Bublik played well in the first half of 2021, propelling him to a career-high ranking some September, yet his results fizzled later in the year.  During 2020’s autumn edition of Roland Garros, Bubik defeated Monfils in four sets.  But with his mojo back, the Frenchman is the favorite to avenge that loss on Wednesday.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Lucia Bronzetti (Q) – On Monday, Barty needed less than an hour to dismiss Lesia Tsurenko 6-0, 6-1.  Bronzetti is a 23-year-old Italian who reached five lower-level finals last season.

Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Yannick Hanfmann (Q) – Nadal was another straight-set victor in the first round.  Hanfmann is a 30-year-old German who took out Thanasi Kokkinakis with the loss of just seven games, as the Australian was drained from his title run last week in Adelaide.  Three years ago at Roland Garros, Yannick earned only six games against Rafa.

Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Xiyu Wang (WC) – Krejickova advanced almost as easily as Barty, by a score of 6-2, 6-0.  Xiyu is a 20-year-old from China who on Monday gained her first victory in the main draw of a Major. 

Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Stefan Kozlov (WC) – Berrettini overcame some considerable stomach issues to secure a four-set win on Monday.  Kozlov is a 23-year-old American who is making his Slam debut, thanks to claiming two Challenger titles in November to earn his wild card.

Naomi Osaka (13) vs. Madison Brengle – Osaka won comfortably in the opening round, while Brengle beat Dayana Yastremska by the bizarre score line of 6-1, 0-6, 5-0(RET), with Yastremska retiring one game from defeat. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Andy Murray Battles Past Basilashvili In Three Hour Marathon At Australian Open

Andy Murray produced a resilient performance to reach the second round at the Australian Open.

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Andy Murray (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Andy Murray battled past 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4 to reach the second round of the Australian Open.

 

It was another typical Andy Murray grand slam match as a three hour marathon was won by the Brit to reach round two.

The three-time grand slam champion has beaten Basilashvili twice in the space of seven days and will now face Taro Daniel on Thursday.

Murray dominated the opening set against an error-prone Basilashvili as his defence was already peaking.

Three consecutive breaks gave Murray the set lead after taking the first set 6-1.

Basilashvili would return the favour in the second set as the Georgian continued to hammer his shots off of both wings.

A 4-1 double break lead was established as we would get the first frustrated mutterings from Murray.

The former world number one would get one of the breaks back but Basilashvili’s consistent firepower would prove too much for Murray’s stubborn defence as another break sealed the second set 6-3.

Into the third set, Murray would control the dynamic of the set on serve as he made bold patterns of play on big points.

An exchange of three breaks in a row saw Murray come out on top as he looked to use a mixture of power and defensive solidity to outmanoeuvre Basilashvili.

The Georgian saved three set points to force Murray to serve out the set but that didn’t matter as the Brit closed out the set comfortably for a 2 sets to 1 lead.

Nothing was easy for Andy Murray in grand slam tennis though and although he recovered a break deficit and saved set point, a poor start to the tiebreak saw Murray playing catch-up.

Basilashvili held his nerve and closed out the tiebreak 7-5 to force a deciding set.

In the final set Murray set a fast tempo winning the first eight points and being the aggressor taking 3-0 and 4-1 leads.

Once the Brit took his foot off the gas that allowed Basilashvili to get back into the match and continue to hit winners that would outpower Murray’s defence.

4-1 was 4-4 and Murray had to rely on his good returning skills when it really mattered to come through.

A 99th unforced error from the Georgian sealed Murray’s emotional delight in clinching another five set triumph at a grand slam.

After the match a delighted Murray reflected on his journey, “It’s been a tough three or four years but I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here,” Murray said in his on-court interview.

“I’ve played on this court many times and the atmosphere is always incredible. It is where I thought I had potentially played my last match but to win a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t have asked any more.”

Murray will now return on Thursday to play Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel.

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Casper Ruud Withdraws From Australian Open Due To Ankle Injury

Casper Ruud has had to withdraw from the first grand slam of the season.

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Casper Ruud (@TennisChannel - Twitter)

Casper Ruud has withdrawn from the Australian Open after rolling his ankle in practice a couple of days ago.

 

The eighth seeded Norwegian announced the news in a press conference ahead of his scheduled match with Alex Molcan.

In a statement Ruud explained the injury and told journalists that it was very disappointing to not play the opening grand slam of the season, “I had to pull out of this year’s Australian Open due to an ankle injury,” Ruud said in his press conference.

“Two days ago in practice I rolled or twisted my ankle. I hoped that I would be able to recover and be able to step on court today with the two days that I had, but rolling an ankle usually maybe needs some more time. I tried everything I could to be ready, but unfortunately I’ve decided that I’m not a hundred percent ready and I will not be able to play a hundred percent like I have to compete at this level. That’s the final decision.

“Disappointing. I had a great time here last year, reaching the fourth round, the best result I had in a Grand Slam. Was hoping I could try to do the same this year obviously, maybe a step further.

“This year the Grand Slams will be a big goal for me because last year, except for this one, I felt like I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in a Grand Slam. My game relies a lot on having good footwork. When you’re ankle is not responding, cannot take your explosive movements, take the stopping/starting movements, then it’s tough to perform well.”

Despite the injury Ruud is optimistic that he can still make the golden swing in South America next month and revealed it was more a tendon issue.

Ruud will lose 180 ranking points after reaching the second week here last week and hopes to recover in order to make a deep run at Roland Garros in May.

Lucky loser and ATP Cup hero Roman Safiullin has now taken his spot in the draw.

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