US Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Starts His Quest to Complete the Grand Slam - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Starts His Quest to Complete the Grand Slam

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Novak Djokovic practicing last week in New York (twitter.com/usopen)

Novak Djokovic is seven wins away from becoming the first man to win the calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.  In doing so, he would win his 21st Major title, surpassing both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most all-time.  Tennis history is within Novak’s reach, but how will he handle this momentous occasion?

 

In addition to the men’s World No.1, Tuesday features the women’s World No.1 Ash Barty, who faces former World No.2 and 2010 finalist Vera Zvonareva.  Arthur Ashe Stadium will also be headlined by 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu and 2020 runner-up Sascha Zverev.

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

Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Sam Querrey – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

The Olympic gold medalist and Cincinnati champ arrives on an 11-match winning streak, but also amidst further accusations of domestic abuse becoming public.  He released a statement denying those allegations, and stated he is taking legal action against the publication and the author.  Will this distract from his tennis at this event?  Perhaps, but he’ll still be a considerable favorite against Querrey.  The 33-year-old American was a quarterfinalist in 2017, but outside of that run is 0-5 in his last five appearances.  And Sam is 2-7 this season on hard courts, having lost his last six matches on this surface, dating all the way back to February.  Zverev won their only prior encounter in straight sets, which was two years ago on a hard court in Beijing.  There’s no reason to believe Tuesday’s result will be much different.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Vera Zvonareva – Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium

What a year Barty is putting together.  The Wimbledon champ is 40-7, with five titles.  She has separated herself from her competition, leading the WTA rankings by over 3,000 points.  But this is the only Major where she is yet to advance beyond the fourth round, as she’s stalled there in her last two appearances.  Zvonareva has achieved further singles success in New York, as she reached a final and a quarterfinal in consecutive years.  However, that was a decade ago, and Vera has only earned two tour-level wins this summer.  Also, last week in Cleveland, she withdrew due to injury.  So this should be a straightforward first round victory for the Cincinnati champion.

Karolina Muchova (22) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – Fourth on Court 6

This is not the highest-profile match of the day, but it will likely be one of the best.  Muchova has excelled at Majors of late, reaching a semifinal in Australia and a quarterfinal at Wimbledon.  And Karolina is yet to lose before the third round of the US Open in three appearances.  Sorribes Tormo has participated in some of the WTA’s best matches this season, especially her Miami battle against Andreescu and her Wimbledon clash with Kerber.  And in Tokyo, she upset Barty in the first round.  Her defensive skills, and her lack of unforced errors, can frustrate more aggressive players like Muchova.  Their clash of styles could make for another epic affair.  As impressive as Sara has been this season, with 27 wins, she remains only 5-17 lifetime at Slams.  And these fast courts should reward Muchova’s offense, making her the favorite to advance.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (Q) – 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Rune is an 18-year-old from Denmark with a lot of promise.  He won the junior event at the 2019 French Open, and has won 13 straight matches this month at all levels, which includes two Challenger titles.  But facing the 20-time Major champion inside the sport’s biggest stadium will be an entirely new experience for the teenager.  And as mentioned, Djokovic is a man on a mission.  He is not only chasing history; he is also looking to avenge the embarrassment of getting defaulted from this event a year ago for hitting a lines judge with a ball.  I fully expect Novak to show some nerves during this fortnight, but a loss on Tuesday evening would be utterly shocking.  Still, I am curious to see how Rune performs on this big stage, and just how sharp Djokovic looks after the disappointing losses he suffered in Tokyo.

Bianca Andreescu (6) vs. Viktorija Golubic – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

This will be Andreescu’s first time on Ashe since winning the event two years ago.  She missed all of 2020 due to injuries and travel restrictions.  Bianca played excellently earlier this year in Miami, reaching the final, but has struggled ever since.  The 21-year-old has now dropped six of her last eight matches, with those two wins coming against players ranked 96th and 172nd in the world.  And in the first round, she’s facing an opponent with plenty of confidence.  Golubic has amassed 45 wins this year at all levels, and was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon.  Also, she won a silver medal in women’s doubles at the Olympic with Belinda Bencic.  While this is a tricky first round draw for the 2019 champ, I suspect Andreescu will grit her way to victory.  Bianca has done just that many times in the last few years, even when her best tennis escapes her.

Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. Catherine McNally (WC) – The Wimbledon finalist has won 15 of her last 19 matches.  McNally is a 19-year-old American who reached the third round a year ago.

Matteo Berrettini (6) vs. Jeremy Chardy – Berrettini has only played two matches since the Wimbledon final due to a thigh injury, which was still taped up during practices last week in New York.  Chardy advanced to the quarterfinals at the Olympics, but lost to Matteo in Marseille two years ago in two tiebreak sets.

Belinda Bencic (11) vs. Aranxta Rus – The Olympic gold medalist has won nine of her last 10, and was a semifinalist here in her last appearance two years ago.  Rus is on a 6-match losing streak at Majors, though she won consecutive lower-level titles this month on clay.

Denis Shapovalov (7) vs. Federico Delbonis – Shapovalov was one set away from the semifinals a year ago, but achieved his first Major semi last month at The Championships.  However, he’s currently on a four-match losing streak.  Delbonis reached the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters in May as a qualifier, with three top 25 victories.

Alex de Minaur (14) vs. Taylor Fritz – This will be the last match of the evening on Louis Armstrong Stadium.  Three years ago on the same court, de Minaur saved seven match points before succumbing to Marin Cilic in five sets at almost 2:30am.  Fritz let a two-sets-to-one lead slip away last year against Shapovalov, and like Denis has lost his last four matches.

Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Felix Auger Aliassime Wins First Ever Roland Garros Match In Five Sets

Felix Auger-Aliassime earned his first ever victory at Roland Garros.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (@MatchPointCAN - Twitter)

The Canadian found himself down two sets to none but fought back to pull off the comeback in a thrilling five set victory.

 

Felix Auger Aliassime is into the second round of the French Open for the first time in his career after battling back to beat the Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas in five sets 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in three hours and 14 minutes.

The Montreal native finished the match serving 14 aces and hitting 52 winners in a match that featured a lot of long rallies from behind the baseline.

“It was a dream for me to play here, it was an honor and my first time on Phillipe Chatrier and my first win at Roland Garros and I had to work hard to get it and credit my opponent he played very well today.”

The Peruvian started the match by breaking the number nine seed right out of the gate and at 3-1 managed to turn that break into a double break as he served out the first set with ease.

The first two games of the second went on serve but again the world number 122 seemed to play better as the Canadian looked stunned, searching for answers.

The Lima native once again took an early lead to take a 3-1 lead and again that seemed like enough for the Peruvian as he served out the second set and was one set away from an improbable upset.

The third set is where the Canadian started to turn things around and his groundstrokes seemed to have more precision. At 2-1 it was the Montreal native who got the first break of serve.

After consolidating the break the world number nine was hungry for more and turned that break into a double break and it looked like the match was turning in his favour.

The Canadian served out the third set to send it to a fourth looking to send it to a decider.

The Montreal native rode the momentum from winning the third into the fourth set where after holding the opening service game got the early break once again taking a 2-0 lead.

At 5-3 with the Peruvian looking to stay in the set, Auger Aliassime managed to get another break to win the set and send the match to a fifth set.

The fifth set stayed on serve until 4-3 when the Canadian had four chances to break and at the fourth time of asking he was able to break and serve out the match to complete the comeback.

After the match in his on court interview he was asked about the adjustments he made in the third set to turn the match around and pull off the win.

“I tried to give myself some more space and a little more time, my opponent at the beginning was playing very quick, aggressive, and flat so I tried a couple things and I also served better and after that it was easier.”

The Canadian will next face either Aslan Karatsev or Camilo Ugo Carabelli in the next round.

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Ons Jabeur Suffers Shock Exit At Roland Garros To Magda Linette

Magda Linette handed out the first upset of Roland Garros by defeating Ons Jabeur.

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Magda Linette (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur has become the first major casualty of this year’s Roland Garros after a 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5 defeat to Magda Linette in the opening round.

 

The Tunisian was one of the most in-form players of the clay court swing having won Madrid and made the final of Rome.

However Linette took the match to Jabeur and played some of the best tennis of her career to stun the sixth seed.

Linette will play Martina Trevisan or Harriet Dart in the second round.

Jabeur made a great start to the match as she broke the Pole early for a 2-1 lead with a good mix of power and variety.

However Linette seemed confident in her tactics and shot-making as she broke straight back, seemingly deflecting everything the Tunisian had to offer.

Jabeur used her experience and great angles though as she improved her level as the set went on, breaking in the fifth and ninth games to claim the opening set.

The Pole went off court to have a medical time-out after the opening set after finding some pain in the upper leg.

Despite the break Jabeur continued to cause Linette troubles with the Pole having to dig deep and save a couple of break points with bold patterns of play.

In the eighth game Linette turned up the aggression and made Jabeur cover a lot of ground as the Tunisian was forced to save three break points in the eighth game.

Jabeur was becoming frustrated and a comfortable straight sets victory turned into a second set tiebreak with the Tunisian looking tighter than usual.

Linette capitalised on this and continued her confident ball-striking and decision making to take the tiebreak 7-4 and force a deciding set.

The Madrid champion lacked a clinical edge and with the rain falling in Paris, Jabeur couldn’t find a consistent answer to Linette’s power.

A break to the Pole saw the Tunisian contingent in Philippe-Chatrier stunned but like the champion she is Jabeur fought back with an immediate break back.

Some big serving in the eighth game fended off another wave of Linette aggression as Jabeur created a half-chance in the tenth game to seal a break to claim victory.

However Linette continued to be bold and was met with the ultimate reward as from 40-15 up, Jabeur missed a smash to give the Pole hope.

That was all the world number 56 needed as Linette converted her only match point with a forehand unforced error from Jabeur as the first shock of this year’s Roland Garros occurred.

A disappointing result for Jabeur given her clay court form and she would have felt she was the best placed to challenge Iga Swiatek for the title.

However Swiatek’s compatriot Linette played the match of her life to seal a place in the second round at Roland Garros where she will play Martina Trevisan or Harriet Dart.

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Naomi Osaka Speaks About Mental Health And Lack Of Preparation Ahead Of Roland Garros

Naomi Osaka has a blockbuster opening round against Amanda Anisimova at Roland Garros.

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Naomi Osaka (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

Naomi Osaka has spoken about mental health and lack of preparation ahead of this year’s Roland Garros.

 

It was this time last year that Osaka decided to withdraw from Roland Garros and Wimbledon due to her mental health after her announcement about not participating in press conferences.

Fast forward 12 months and the three-time grand slam champion is in a good shape mentally as she aims to be back at the top of the sport.

Speaking in her pre-tournament press conference, Osaka spoke about mental health and reflected on her experiences from last year, “I know like after last year’s French Open that the next slam I played was the US Open and they have like these little like retreats or things like that in the players lounge,” the Japanese star said.

“I found it to be a very interesting experience to go to the Olympics and to like walk through the Village and people were thanking me and stuff. So I think athletes kind of all go through the same thing. It’s just like people don’t really talk about it.

“Like when I first came here, I was very worried. I was just kind of worried if there would be people that like — of course I also didn’t like how I handled the situation, but I was worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would just kind of bump into them.

“But I think like everyone has been really positive, for the most part. Of course I’m still thinking about it, and I’m like kind of also prepping just in case like I go on the court and a fan says something like in Indian Wells. Yeah, for the most part I think I’m okay.”

It’s good to see Osaka in a good mental state as she looks to face her demons and continue to make progress up the rankings.

On the court, it’s been a frustrating clay-court swing for Osaka who faced an early exit in Madrid before withdrawing from Rome.

Speaking in her press conference Osaka said there was no way she was going to miss the event in Paris, “There is no way I’m not going to play this tournament, so like of course you kind of have to manage things, but at the same time, like, I’m going to pop a few painkillers, like it is what it is,” Osaka admitted.

“I have actually played a lot of Grand Slams with something. I actually, Australia, when I played Kvitova, like for five matches I had this really bad back thing. So I think maybe there is a possibility I could play really good when I have an injury, because I feel like I don’t have anything to lose.

“I don’t know, for me I find it a bit ironic, like this clay court season is the one that I spent the most like preparation on, and it was really unfortunate that I had to pull out from Rome and I couldn’t do that well in Madrid.”

Osaka will begin her Roland Garros campaign against the in-form Amanda Anisimova.

The duo met at the first grand slam of the season in Melbourne where Anisimova edged out the match in a last set tiebreak.

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