Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Djokovic, Barty, Nishikori Among Players Pulling Double Duty - UBITENNIS
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Djokovic, Barty, Nishikori Among Players Pulling Double Duty

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Ash Barty practicing in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Wednesday’s schedule provides one of the best days of tennis you’ll see all year.  And as far as doubles is concerned, the best you’ll likely see until the next Olympic Games.  The mixed doubles event begins on Wednesday, featuring many players still alive in other disciplines.  Mixed doubles and men’s singles will play their round of 16 matches on Wednesday, while women’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles will play their quarterfinals.  With all remaining players in all five draws competing, the 28th of July boasts 28 critical matchups throughout the day, just 48 hours before medals will begin to be rewarded.

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Daniil Medvedev (2) [ROC] vs. Fabio Fognini (15) [ITL] – 11:00am on Centre Court

Despite their lopsided Australian Open final earlier this year, Medvedev may be the player most likely to prevent Djokovic from winning the gold medal in men’s singles.  But they would not meet in the draw until the gold or bronze medal match.  And Medvedev first needs to deal with Fognini, who has plenty of experience upsetting top players.  As per Tennis Abstract, Fabio owns 15 top 10 victories in his career, with four of them notably over Rafael Nadal.  However, he’s now lost 12 of his last 13 matches against the top 10, dating back to over two years ago.  And unlike clay and grass, Medvedev is fully comfortable on a hard court.  Since November of last year, Daniil is a formidable 27-3 on this surface.  And he is yet to drop a set through two rounds.  All four of their prior meetings occurred on hard courts.  The Italian took their first encounter, four years ago in Cincinnati.  However, the Russian has claimed their last three, though two of them went to a deciding set.  Representing one’s country can often yield unexpected results, as we’ve already seen in this event.  But on a hard court, Medvedev is a solid favorite to reach the quarterfinals.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Ash Barty and Storm Sanders – 1:00pm on Court 6

This is a women’s doubles quarterfinal featuring the last two women’s singles Major champions.  Krejcikova and Siniakova are also three-time Slam champs in doubles, most recently winning Roland Garros.  Barty has actually reached six Major finals in doubles, though she’s only prevailed in one: the 2018 US Open, with partner CoCo Vandeweghe.  In the semifinals of that event, Barty and Vandewedge dismissed Krejickova and Siniakova in straight sets.  That was one of three victories in 2018 for Ash and CoCo over the Czech team.  A year later, the team of Barty and Victoria Azarenka went 2-1 against them.  In singles, Ash and Barbora just met a few weeks ago in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, with the Australian prevailing in straight sets.  Before Tuesday, that was Krejcikova’s only singles loss since the second week of May.  Barty and Sanders are good friends, but they are not an established team, as they regularly play with other partners.  The experience edge is decidedly with Krejcikova and Siniakova, who are 27-6 this year alone, with three titles.  As motivated as Barty is to win a medal for Australia, especially after her loss in singles, the top seeds in women’s doubles remain the favorites.  Regardless, Barty still has another chance for a medal, as she’s also in the mixed doubles draw with John Peers.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Belinda Bencic (9) [SUI] vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (13) [ROC] – It was Bencic who took out Krejcikova in singles on Tuesday.  Now she faces this year’s other French Open finalist, who has only allowed opponents seven games through six sets thus far.  Bencic leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they’re 2-2 on hard courts, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing most recently, a year ago in Dubai.

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (16) [ESP] – Djokovic is now 36-3 on the year, and 11-0 on hard courts.  The 22-year-old Spaniard reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last month, but when he played Djokovic a month earlier in Rome, earned only three games.  Djokovic will also play mixed doubles later in the day, with partner Nina Stojanovic.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) [CRO] vs. Ben McLachlan and Kei Nishikori [JPN] – Mektic and Pavic are now an absurd 50-5 this season, with eight titles.  McLachlan and Nishikori lost their only previous match this year as a team, though they didn’t drop a set in their first two rounds.  Kei will also play Ilya Ivashka of Belarus in singles earlier in the day.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) [GRE] vs. Ugo Humbert (14) [FRA] – Last year at the Paris Masters, their match was decided by three tiebreaks, with the final and decisive one going to the Frenchman.  Humbert has now won three titles over the past 18 months, though all on faster surfaces than this.  Also on Wednesday, Tsitsipas will team with Maria Sakkari against Gabriela Dabrowski and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Garbine Muguruza (7) [ESP] vs. Elena Rybakina (15) [KAZ] – This will be a slugfest between two of the WTA’s hardest hitters.  Last month on the grass of Berlin, Muguruza defeated Rybakina in straight sets.

Diego Schwartzman (8) [ARG] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – This could be one of the most competitive and compelling matches on the day.  Schwartzman has nabbed two of their three prior matches, all on hard courts. 

Paula Badosa [ESP] vs. Marketa Vondrousova [CZE] – Both players upset favorites to win this event: Badosa took out Iga Swiatek, while Vondrousova ousted Naomi Osaka.  Swiatek will get a rematch with Badosa in mixed doubles, as she teams with Lukasz Kubot against Badosa and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig [CRO] vs. Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury [GBR] – The Brits have played excellently, winning four straight sets over four accomplished doubles players.  Dodig is a five-time Major champion between men’s and mixed doubles.  He and Filip Polasek defeated Salisbury and Rajeev Ram to win February’s Australian Open.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Round of 16 Concludes on Monday

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Marin Cilic on Saturday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

On Monday in Melbourne, the remaining singles quarterfinalists will be decided.  Major champions such as Simona Halep, Marin Cilic, Daniil Medvedev, and Iga Swiatek seek further Grand Slam glory.  Meanwhile, players like Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Aryna Sabalenka are looking for their first Major title.

 

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


Elise Mertens (19) vs. Danielle Collins (27) – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Collins was a surprise semifinalist here three years ago, and is coming off an intense three-set battle against Clara Tauson on Saturday.  Mertens was a semifinalist in the year prior, and has quietly advanced thus far without dropping a set.  Notably, both women are still alive in the doubles draw as well, so they’ve accumulated plenty of wins this past week in both disciplines.  Collins will look to dictate play with her aggressive groundstrokes, while Mertens will utilize her consistency and guile.  They have split two previous meetings, with Collins claiming their hard court encounter, which was just a few months ago in Chicago.  When the American is striking the ball as much confidence as she is now, she is tough to beat in these fast conditions.


Simona Halep (14) vs. Alize Cornet – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

After an injury-laden 2021, Halep appears fully healthy and ready to contend for her third Major title.  She’s allowed her opposition only 12 games through six sets, and won a warm-up event on these same grounds.  Cornet considered retirement last year, but the 32-year-old is surely glad she decided not to, as she’s reached the fourth round of this event for the first time since 2009.  After upsetting Garbine Muguruza in the second round, she came back from a set down to take out another seed, Tamara Zidansek.  Surprisingly, Cornet is 3-1 against Halep, though they haven’t played in nearly seven years.  And based on Simona’s current form, the Romanian is a considerable favorite to achieve her sixth Australian Open quarterfinal.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Not Before 2:00pm on John Cain Arena

It’s been two years since Cilic had advanced to the second week at a Major, and he’s now vying for his first quarterfinal since 2018.  Auger-Aliassime is seeking his third consecutive quarterfinal at a Major.  The 21-year-old Canadian crushed Dan Evans in the last round, while the 2014 US Open champion upset fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev in four sets.  Their head-to-head has been quite lopsided to date.  In three matchups since July of 2019, Cilic has been victorious all three times, and has claimed six of seven sets contested.  And Marin has done so during a span where his best tennis has often alluded him.  Felix will surely be eager to join his close friend Denis Shapovalov in the quarters, but I give the slight edge to Cilic considering their history.


Jannik Sinner (11) vs. Alex de Minaur (32) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Both these young players have taken advantage of kind draws to this stage, as this will be the first seeded player either has met.  For Sinner, this is his third appearance in the round of 16 out of the last four Majors, and he was a quarterfinalist at the 2020 French Open.  De Minaur reached the quarters at the 2020 US Open, and this is the farthest he’s been at a Slam since.  Their only previous encounter also occurred in 2020, which went to the Italian in three sets, in the quarterfinals of Sofia.  De Minaur will be the underdog, as he does not possess the offensive weaponry of Sinner.  However, the Australian thrives when competing for his country, and will likely make this a compelling affair.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

On his eighth attempt, Fritz has finally broken through to the fourth round of a Major, with a five-set victory over Roberto Bautista Agut, who as usual was not an easy out.  Tsitsipas arrived in Melbourne without much match play, and without many expectations, due to an elbow injury that forced him out of the ATP Finals in November.  But the Greek has advanced rather comfortably to the second week of this fortnight for the third time in four years.  When these two met at the Paris Masters in 2019, Tsitsipas prevailed in straight sets.  I expect Fritz to play rather freely coming off such a big, nerve-wracking win, and knowing he’s not the favorite in this matchup.  The 24-year-old American has the ability to apply plenty of pressure to the Roland Garros finalist with his strong serve and penetrating groundstrokes.  And considering Stefanos’s last few Majors ended with upsets to less-accomplished players (Tiafoe, Alcaraz), it would not be shocking to witness another upset on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Maxime Cressy – With Zverev eliminated from the tournament, Medvedev is an even stronger favorite now to win his second consecutive Major.  It will be interesting to see how his game matches up with the serve-and-volley style of Cressy, who has won 11 matches this month in Australia (including qualifying).

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Sorana Cirstea – Swiatek has methodically dismissed her opponents thus far, which is reminiscent of her title run at Roland Garros two years ago.  Cirstea has already upset two top 20 seeds (Kvitova, Pavlyuchenkova), and is looking for her first Major quarterfinal since the 2009 French Open. 

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Kaia Kanepi – The way Sabalenka continues to advance despite her double faulting woes is one of the most inspiring stories of this event.  Kanepi is 6-3 lifetime in the fourth round of Slams, and gained plenty of wins towards the end of last season, winning two ITF events.  When they played in a tune-up event last year on these same grounds, Kanepi won in three.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Italian perfection as Matteo Berrettini outlines Australian Open title credentials

Matteo Berrettini is into the Australian Open Quarter-Finals where he will face Gael Monfils.

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Matteo Berrettini (@Tennis - Twitter)

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini put on a masterclass performance to beat Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets.

 

Across some media outlets before the match, there was concern that previous abdominal and other injury issues may catch up with the seventh seed.

As well as the physical effects of the long five-set tussle with young star Carlos Alcaraz in the previous round, dubbed Matteo’s Escape from Alcaraz.

Berrettini swatted aside such doubts to outlast the Spaniard 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes, to set up a mouth-watering quarter final against Gael Monfils.

The 35-year-old Frenchman is yet to drop a set. The two played out a five-set classic back in 2019, in the US Open quarter finals, where the Italian edged it.

Against Carreno Busta, however, the first set was nip and tuck with both players holding strong on serve.

In the first ever meeting between the pair, the Rod Laver Arena crowd knew they were in for a treat, as Berrettini nailed a fine passing shot down the line at two games all, 30-0 down.

And this was Berrettini’s hallmark throughout the match, fighting for every point against the Carreno Busta serve.

The 25-year-old Italian pounced at five games all, converting the first of two break points, and served out the set with some thunderous tennis, 7-5.

Carreno Busta had to play some clutch tennis in the second set, holding serve all the way through just to stave off the 6 ft 6 giant that is Berrettini.

It went to a tie-breaker where five successive points from the Italian’s racquet threw up four set points.

The 19th seed and two-time US Open semi-finalist saved two of them, with a monster forehand for the first.

But Berrettini was serving bombs, and Carreno Busta was powerless to return, and the Italian gladiator let out a roar as he stole the second set.

The third set was equally as impressive from Berrettini, who must surely be considered a serious title contender to match Daniil Medvedev, on this performance.

Carreno Busta was doing everything at the beginning of the third set just to keep in touch with the Italian.

At 2-1 up, Berrettini sensed an opening and nearly had the Spaniard, with four deuces, but Carreno Busta just about held on.

Out of nowhere, the end was nigh at 5-4 to the Italian, as Berrettini battled back from 15-40 down to deuce, and Carreno Busta completely capitulated, handing his opponent match point.

The seventh seed made no mistake and sealed an impressive straight sets victory, and with it a first quarter final in Australia.

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America’s Jessica Pegula Stuns Maria Sakkari At The Australian Open

Jessica Pegula is into the Australian Open quarter-finals for a second year in a row.

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Jessica Pegula (@FirstServeTnnis - Twitter)

Jessica Pegula’s love affair in Melbourne continues as she made a second quarter final in Australia in the space of 12 months.

 

It’s safe to say that Sakkari, having reached last year’s French Open and US Open semi-finals, has had better days.

And the Greek will be disappointed at how she didn’t turn up today, going down 7-6 (7-0), 6-3 to Pegula.

The American goes on to face the world number one, Ash Barty, who beat Amanda Anisimova, and has still not dropped a set in these championships.

Pegula got the perfect start as she broke the world number eight in the opening game, and won eight consecutive points, and soon built a 3-1 lead.

But Sakkari,26, broke back to level the opening set at 3-3.

The 21st seed begin to throw in some fine slices and drop shots and was rewarded as she broke again, and held serve to go 5-3 up.

The Greek then showed why she is so highly regarded in the sport, as she broke back and levelled at five-all.

The fifth seed had to dig deep as she held her serve, covering the net well.

But Pegula, 27, dominated the tie-break with some powerful groundstrokes and sealed it 7-0 with an ace.

The 21st seed, kept her level high in the second set and broke in game four, and a powerful cross-court backhand winner saw her race into a 4-1 lead.

Sakkari held her next two service games, but so did Pegula as she confirmed her place in the last eight on her second match point.

The rise of the New Yorker from 61 in the world last January, to hovering above the top 20, is some story.

After the match, she had this to say on Margaret Court Arena.

“It was a hot out there today, so I didn’t really want to play a lot of long points. I really had to step up and be aggressive when I had the chances to,” she said.

“Luckily, I was able to capitalize on that today and play a pretty clean match.”

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