Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold - UBITENNIS
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold

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Karen Khachanov celebrating victory earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

48 hours after ending Novak Djokovic’s bid for a Golden Slam, a feat only achieved by German Steffi Graf, Sascha Zverev looks to win another gold medal for Germany.  But a big-hitting Russian stands in his way, one who owns a winning record against Zverev on hard courts.

 

The last day of tennis in Tokyo will also host two gold medal matches in doubles.  In women’s doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have won three Majors, and now go for a gold medal against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.  For Bencic, it’s an opportunity to win a second gold medal in as many days.  

In addition, a pair of teams representing the Russian Olympic Committee will face off for gold in mixed doubles.  Will Elena Vesnina be able to recover from a devastating loss in Saturday’s women’s doubles bronze medal match?  Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova held four match points, only to lose the last six points of the match and fail to reach the podium.

Sunday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time.

Sascha Zverev (4) [GER] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – Second on Centre Court

Overall they have split four previous encounters, but Khachanov leads 2-1 on this surface, which includes their two most recent meetings.  And neither of those have been close.  At the 2018 Paris Masters, it was 6-1, 6-2.  At the 2019 Rogers Cup, it was 6-3, 6-3.  The event in Paris was the biggest title run of the Russian’s career, and a week where he also defeated Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.  However, he hasn’t won a title, or even reached a final, ever since.  And prior to his run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, Khachanov was only 16-14 on the year.  But it is worth noting he’s 4-0 lifetime in ATP finals, with his other three victories coming at 250-level events.

Zverev is certainly the far more accomplished player.  He owns 15 career titles, which includes four Masters events, as well as the 2018 ATP Finals.  And he’s reached the semifinals or better at Majors three times, something Khachanov is yet to achieve.   Though I do wonder just how much scar tissue was created by his loss in the final of last year’s US Open, where he was up two sets before eventually losing in a fifth-set tiebreak.  Both he and Dominic Thiem played a considerably nervy match, and this will be Zverev’s first best-of-five final since that painful loss.

And that could be a significant factor on this day: the men’s singles gold medal final is the only match at the Olympics that is best-of-five.  Zverev possesses a much stronger record in best-of-five, and a far superior record in five-setters.  As per Tennis Abstract, Sascha is 16-9 in fifth sets, compared to Karen’s record of 6-7.  And Khachanov’s two most recent five-set wins were not pretty.  A few weeks ago in the fourth round of Wimbledon, against Sebastian Korda, 13 out of the 18 games in the fifth set were breaks of serve.  And last summer at the US Open, he was only able to come back from two sets down thanks to the cramping of Jannik Sinner. 

So who is the favorite to win gold?  Their head-to-head favors Khachanov, while recent form and best-of-five experience favors Zverev.  And the German has been serving excellently throughout this tournament, striking 40 aces and only three doubles, especially impressive for a player who has suffered from double fault issues in the recent past.  However, Zverev had a much easier road to this final than Khachanov.  Other than Djokovic, Sascha faced no one ranked inside the top 40, while Karen beat three top 30 players.  The Olympics are an event which often produces surprising tennis results.  And these are two men who are known to get tight in big matches.  But considering the way Zverev has been serving, and the confidence boost his upset of Djokovic should provide, I give Sascha the slight edge to become an Olympic champion.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev (4) [ROC] vs. Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev [ROC] – Vesnina not only lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, she and Kudermetova also served for the championship a few weeks ago at Wimbledon, before losing 9-7 in the third.  And Vesnina and Karatsev were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros, the same event where Pavlyuchenkvoa lost in the women’s singles final.  Who will realize redemption on Sunday?

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic – The Czechs are of course the favorites, with three Major titles as a team.  The Swiss are a new team formed exclusively for this event.  But don’t count them out, especially with Bencic coming off a gold medal victory in singles on Saturday evening.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Australian Open: Steve Flink Talks Djokovic’s Fitness, Nearest Rivals And Future Of American Tennis

Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink joins Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta to discuss Novak Djokovic’s tenth Australian Open title.

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Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic won his tenth Australian Open title last week but what does the future hold for the Serb?

 

This was something that was discussed between hall of fame writer Steve Flink and UbiTennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta.

After Djokovic’s stunning straight sets win to claim a 22nd Grand Slam title, the pair discussed who the Serb’s future rivals may be for the rest of the season.

Flink stated that Alcaraz is Djokovic’s nearest challenger and would love to see them face off several times this season, “I think the smallest gap is between Djokovic and Alcaraz, I think we’ll found that out,” Flink explained.

“I think that’s what we need to see this year, Ubaldo. Is Alcaraz going to pick up where he left off last year, winning his first major, finishing the year number one. Has the temperament, has the game?

“I want to see Djokovic and Alcaraz play this year, I hope maybe 3-4 times at least and I think that could be great for the game and that maybe the biggest test would be to play the young Alcaraz who’s so fearless.”

Reflecting on the Australian Open Flink was very impressed with the way the world number one played over the two weeks especially managing his injury.

Flink thinks that Djokovic getting to world number one is a great achievement given the circumstances, “Just imagine how far ahead he would be in the rankings,” the Serb explained.

“If he had 2000 points for Wimbledon as he should have received, he’d be way way ahead of the pack. But just the fact he got back to number one which no one was really expecting since last fall is a great achievement.

“He was all along the overwhelming favourite to come back and win the Australian Open for the tenth time. However I honestly believe that he was genuinely very worried about his leg. Some people didn’t want to believe that but I definitely believed it because he got hurt in Adelaide and then you saw he was cancelling practice sessions in the middle of the leading up to the Australian Open.

“He was very worried and he kept wearing that strapping on his leg. Plus there was those medical time-outs he was taking in the earlier rounds and I don’t think it was until he played De Minaur in the fourth round that he was physically close to his best. And then from that point on he looked pretty invincible but I do think coming in he had deep concerns about his physical condition.”

Also in their chat, they discussed other rivals to Novak Djokovic such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Holger Rune and Sebastian Korda.

There was also much encouragement from Flink over the future of American men’s tennis with him comparing the current generation to the mid 1990’s, “This is the best group we’ve had since you have to go back, I mean we can look at the Roddick-Blake-Fish era and yes I mean Roddick was the last American man to win a major singles title at the 2003 US Open. And Blake was in the top five in the world and Fish had some great exploits but this group has more depth,” Flink explained.

“This is more like the mid-90’s, I’m not saying we’re going to have a Sampras, Courier, Chang, Agassi, you know the greatest American generation but all of these guys starting with Fritz and Tiafoe and then Korda who we already mentioned and Tommy Paul, his first major semi-finals despite the fact he lost to Djokovic in straight sets, Tommy Paul has burst into the top 20.

“And we’ve got an awful lot of talent in the top 50 now, I haven’t been this encouraged in a long time. I think it’s a very impressive American line-up.”

Below you can see the full video where they also discuss who has the most potential between Jannik Sinner, Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Musetti.

Video Breakdown:

00:00: Intro

00:26: Discussion over Djokovic’s level and injury concerns at Australian Open.

3:40: Reflecting on Djokovic’s post Wimbledon form

4:38: Reflecting on Djokovic’s physical state in comparison to Nadal and Djokovic’s competition

7:23: Discussion about Tsitsipas

12:45: Further discussion about Alcaraz  

14:55: Talk about Medvedev’s disappointing form

16:32: Talk about Ruud’s style of play

18:10: Talk about Auger-Aliassime

20:24: Discussion about Holger Rune, Sebastian Korda and American Tennis

24:26: Discussion about biggest potential amongst Sinner, Berrettini and Musetti

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Andreescu edges Kostyuk to reach semis in Hua Hin

Bianca Andreescu is into the semi-finals in Thailand.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BenLewisMPC - Twitter)

The Canadian is into the final four in Thailand after beating the Ukrainian in straight sets.

 

Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the semifinal of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after beating the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 in one hour and 28 minutes.

The number one seed hit 19 winners and won 69% of her first serve points in a match where she had an amazing start but was dealt some adversity in the second set.

“I don’t think I started playing bad in the second set,” Andreescu said. “I think she just raised her game and she is always a tough opponent so I wasn’t expecting anything easy.”

The Toronto native who was making her first trip to Thailand came out to a flying start breaking three times in the first set en route to serving a bagel 6-0 set in a mere 25 minutes on court.

Riding the momentum into the second set, the Canadian broke again in the first game and at 3-1 went up a double break and found herself up 5-1 and a game away from the semis.

That’s when the number five seed started fighting back and at 5-2 broke Andreescu for the first time in the match and won the next two games to level the set at 5-5, using her powerful forehand to do it.

The set and the match were ultimately decided by a tiebreaker where the top seed got the early lead at 4-2 and served out the set and match at 6-3 in the breaker to secure the win.

After the match in her on-court interview, she was asked about her chances in the next match.

“I am hoping to win the tournament and I really believe in myself and if I get the support I need hopefully I can win the next two matches.”

Andreescu will face another Ukrainian in the semi-finals Lesia Tsurenko who had no issues getting past the German Tatjana Maria in straight sets 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

In the other two quarterfinal matches, Lin Zhu of China beat the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes to set up an all-Chinese semi-final with the number seven seed Xinju Wang.

Wang needed three sets to get past the Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes.

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