US Open Daily Preview: 2021’s Last Major Begins with a Stellar Day 1 Schedule - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: 2021’s Last Major Begins with a Stellar Day 1 Schedule

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A look at Arthur Ashe Stadium on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (twitter.com/usopen)

For the first time since January of 2020, a Grand Slam event will be staged with 100% capacity, a welcome change from the fan-less US Open of a year ago.  And Monday’s Order of Play offers some big names, blockbuster matchups, and compelling stories.

 

Action on Arthur Ashe Stadium kicks off with a rematch of the 2017 women’s singles final, followed by the 2012 men’s singles champion taking on the third seed.  The night session features a two-time champion, as well as a 2019 finalist facing a 2013 semifinalist.  And elsewhere on the grounds, two of the sport’s most tenured, well-liked players may contest the last matches of their respective careers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the five most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Simona Halep (12) vs. Camila Giorgi – 11:00am on Grandstand

Since tearing her left calf muscle three months ago in Rome, Halep has only played two matches, as she also suffered an adductor injury in Cincinnati.  Her coach Darren Cahill revealed on ESPN that Simona has been skipping some practice days this past week to rest that latest injury.  So the two-time Major champion is not 100%, short on match play, and only 1-2 at this event since 2017.  That’s the year she drew 2006 champion Maria Sharapova in the first round.  A year later, she was upset by the always-dangerous Kaia Kanepi.  In 2019, she was taken out in a third set tiebreak by American Taylor Townsend.  Now she faces the red-hot Italian, who just two weeks ago won the biggest title of her career in Montreal.  Giorgi has taken 14 of her last 19 matches, and she’s exactly the type of player that Halep can feel helpless against: a big-hitting baseliner.  Camila has become more selective as to when she goes for her signature winners, often waiting until she’s in a winning position.  Their only other match occurred six years ago in Miami, which went to Halep in straight sets.  But an injured Simona, and a much-improved Camila, could be the recipe for another first round upset.

Madison Keys vs. Sloane Stephens – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

The women’s championship match from four years ago was the pinnacle of both players’ careers.  But 2021 has not been kind to either woman.  Madison’s season has never recovered since a positive COVID test prevented her from traveling to Melbourne.  She has a 10-12 record, and is on a four-match losing streak.  Sloane started the year on a four-match losing streak of her own, and suffered tremendous personal loss, as multiple close family members passed away due to COVID.  Stephens found some success on clay, but went just 2-3 this summer on hard courts.  Overall Sloane leads their head-to-head 4-2, though they’re 1-1 this year, having split two clay court contests.  They have not played on this surface since their US Open final.  In their return to Arthur Ashe Stadium, I favor the 2017 champion.  Sloane is the better player in longer rallies, and has a bit more confidence than Madison currently possesses.

Stefanos Tsistipas (3) vs. Andy Murray – Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Murray is one of only three men in the draw who have won this event (Djokovic, Cilic).  Like Keys, Andy wasn’t able to travel to Melbourne due to a positive test.  He is only 6-6 on the year at tour level, and 0-4 against top 20 players, failing to secure a set.  That’s a bad sign when you draw the No.3 seed in the opening round.  And no one has won more matches this year than Tsitsipas, who is 48-14.  Defeating one of the world’s best players in the best-of-five format feels like too tall a task for a man who has battled multiple severe injuries over the last four years.  At an event painfully missing four all-time greats (Serena, Venus, Federer, Nadal), it’s great to have Andy competing.  Let’s just hope this isn’t the last time we see him on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Marie Bouzkova – Not Before 7:30pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

No one in the tennis world has garnered more attention over the last three months than Osaka, from her decision to skip press conferences and eventually withdraw from the French Open, to lighting the torch at the Tokyo Olympics.  Yet almost none of the talk about Naomi has related to her actual tennis, as she’s only played five matches this summer.  That is not ideal preparation for the defending champion, who inspired many a year ago not only with her performance, but her social activism.  While currently not in top form, she remains a heavy favorite on Monday evening, against a player who is 1-9 lifetime at Majors.  However, the 23-year-old from the Czech Republic is far from a pushover, and has earned victories within the last few years over the likes over Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, and Simona Halep.  So this should serve as a litmus test of how confident the four-time Major champ is feeling.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Richard Gasquet – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Over the last few years, Medvedev has been the best hard court player not named Djokovic.  The second seed has gone 56-11 on this surface since last season, with five titles.  And as per Tennis Abstract, he’s won 23 of his last 24 hard court matches against players ranked outside the top 20.  That’s a category Gasquet falls into, as the former World No.7 is now ranked 79th.  The 35-year-old Frenchman is 1-8 against the top 10 within the last two years.   However, he’s yet to be dominated by Daniil.  Last fall in St. Petersburg, Medvedev required three sets to put away Gasquet.  And three years ago in Montpellier, the veteran defeated the Russian 6-3, 6-0.  But in 2021, Daniil is a far more developed player, and should be able to easily dispatch of Gasquet in front of a New York crowd that went from loathing to loving Medvedev in 2019.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Garbine Muguruza (9) vs. Donna Vekic – The US Open has easily been the worst Major in Muguruza’s career, as she’s 7-8 lifetime.  Vekic was a quarterfinalist two years ago, though she’s only 10-10 this season, and underwent knee surgery in February.  They have split two previous meetings.

Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Ivo Karlovic (Q) – Rublev has now collected 41 wins in each of the last two seasons.  Karlovic came through qualifying, and the 42-year-old has stated this may be his last professional event. 

Danille Collins (26) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro – Similarly, a cancer-free Carla announced she will retire after this tournament.  Collins went on a tear this summer, winning 12 straight matches and two titles.  They’ve also split two prior encounters.

Marin Cilic (30) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber – The 2014 champion has achieved the third round or better at this event in every appearance since 2011.  He’s 5-7 against the 37-year-old German, though Kohlschreiber has lost four of his last five matches.

Angelique Kerber (16) vs. Dayana Yastremska – The 2016 champion is 14-2 in her last three tournaments.  Yastremska missed much of 2021 due to a doping suspension, which was eventually reversed.  She’s just 3-5 since returning to action

Casper Ruud (8) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – Ruud has amassed 50 wins over the last 12 months, while Tsonga is only 1-8 during the same span, as he’s long battled lower back issues. 

Daria Kasatkina (25) vs. Tsvetana Pironkova – This should be a fun matchup between two of tennis’ most creative players.  Pironkova was the surprise of last year’s event, with a run to the quarterfinals in her first tournament since 2017.  Kasatkina has rediscovered her form this year, resulting in 33 match wins and four finals.

Barbora Krejcikova (8) vs. Astra Sharma (Q) – Krejcikova has now claimed 25 of her last 28 matches.  Sharma is a 25-year-old Australian who was a mixed doubles finalist in Melbourne two years ago.

Victoria Azarenka (18) vs. Tereza Martincova – Azarenka was the runner-up last year, but is yet to reach a tour final this season.  Martincova is a 26-year-old Czech who advanced to the final of Prague last month.

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Nina Stojanovic – Sabalenka has accumulated 38 wins this year, but is only 4-3 since reaching her first Slam semifinal at Wimbledon.  Stojanovic is 1-6 in her singles career at Majors. 

Roberto Bautista Agut (18) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Bautista Agut is surprisingly only 2-3 the last three years at this tournament, and a subpar 25-20 in 2021.  Kyrgios has only played 13 matches in the last 18 months due to the pandemic as well as injuries, and went 1-3 on hard courts this summer. 

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

ATP

Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Roger Federer Claims Happiness Over Tennis Retirement In Emotional Last Match

It was an emotional evening in London as Roger Federer said goodbye to tennis.

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Roger Federer (@LaverCup - Twitter)

Roger Federer has said that his retirement from tennis was full of joy not sadness after an emotional occasion at the Laver Cup.

 

The career of one of the greatest tennis players of all time is over after 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer played his last match of his career at the O2 Arena in London.

Federer teamed up with Rafael Nadal to take on Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock with the American pairing claiming victory 4-6 7-6(2) 11-9 to level the tie for Team World at 2-2.

However celebration was limited as the whole venue celebrated, cried and soaked up the emotion that Roger Federer’s career was over.

There were tears from Federer, his family as well as rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the end of an era was upon Tennis.

Even a performance from Ellie Goulding saw the Arena’s emotion get stronger as the Swiss maestro said goodbye to a sport he has played since he was a kid.

However despite the tears Federer claimed after the match that it was a day of celebration not sadness as he closed a big chapter of his life, “It’s been a wonderful day. I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I’m happy I made it through,” Federer told the BBC website.

“It’s been the perfect journey. I’d do it all again. Everyone’s here, the boys and girls. My wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t.

“Being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even if I felt something would go during the match. I am so glad I made it through and the match was great. I couldn’t be happier.”

After 1,750 matches in his career, Federer now faces the prospect of leaving the sport he has know for over 20 years as a professional tennis player.

But Federer gave the biggest hint yet that he wants to continue to be apart of the sport for the future.

Speaking to the press Federer claimed that he wants to travel around the world to say thanks to those who didn’t have a chance on Friday evening, “Hopefully we’ll see each other again on a different type of tennis court, somewhere around the world,” Federer was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“I think the message from me was just making sure I relay my passion for the sport to the fans. I have no plans whatsoever, where, how, when. All I know, I would love to go and play places I have never played before or go say thank you for years to come to all the people that have been so supportive of me.

“The hard part about the Laver Cup was that tickets were already sold out. The people who maybe would have also loved to be here couldn’t make it. Maybe there is another way down the stretch we can party all together.”

An incredible career was celebrated, rejoiced and soaked in by the whole of Tennis and now Federer gets to reflect on a once in a lifetime career.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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