Dominic Thiem Hails Raducanu’s US Open Run, Backs Djokovic To Come Back Stronger - UBITENNIS
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Dominic Thiem Hails Raducanu’s US Open Run, Backs Djokovic To Come Back Stronger

The world No.8 gives his verdict on the events which unfolded during this year’s US Open championships.

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Emma Raducanu reacts during a Women's Singles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 8, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

Dominic Thiem has described Emma Raducanu’s unprecedented run to the US Open title as a milestone moment in the history of women’s sport.

 

The British 18-year-old stunned the world of tennis in New York by becoming the first ever qualifier to win a major title. Raducanu entered the tournament ranked 150th in the world and was only playing in her fourth WTA Tour event. Nevertheless, she won 10 matches in a row without dropping a single set. During her run she beat top 20 players Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari. In the final she defeated fellow rising star Leylah Fernandez.

Reacting to Raducanu’s breakthrough performance, Thiem says it was ‘one of the greatest’ moments ever witnessed in sport. The Austrian won the US Open in 2020 but was unable to defend his title this year due to a wrist injury.

“For me, it’s one of the greatest achievements ever in women’s sports,” Thiem told Omnisport on Monday.
“It’s an incredible journey if you look at the stats. She didn’t lose one set the whole tournament. She came from qualifying and she didn’t even play one tiebreak.
“That’s simply amazing and something that probably was never witnessed before.
“And also the way she plays, her technique, the way she moves, somehow she brought it up to a new level for the whole game … it was great to see.”

Raducanu is the first female player from her country to win a major tournament since 1977. As a result of her New York triumph, she has surged up the rankings to a high of 23rd in the world and has an outside shot at playing in the WTA Finals later this year depending on her results at upcoming events.

Shortly after lifting the US Open trophy, Raducanu says she will continue to take things as they come and has vowed to stay grounded. Although that might be easier said than done for an athlete who has gone from being relatively unknown to becoming one of the most sought after athletes in the world in less than a year.

“For me, I don’t feel absolutely any pressure,” she said. “I’m still only 18 years old. I’m just having a free swing at anything that comes my way. That’s how I faced every match here in the States. It got me this trophy so I don’t think I should change anything.”

Djokovic was under pressure

Novak Djokovic in action during a Men’s Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Monday, Sep. 6, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

As for the events that unfolded in the men’s tournament at Flushing Meadows, Thiem believes nerves played a part in Novak Djokovic’s final performance. The world No.1 lost in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev who won his maiden major title at the age of 25. Djokovic was on the verge of achieving the Calendar Slam which hasn’t happened on the men’s Tour since in 1968. Following his defeat, the Serbian described the past few months on the Tour for him as ‘emotionally very damaging.’

Despite suffering a blow in his quest to become the most decorated Grand Slam singles player in the history of men’s tennis, Thiem believes Djokovic will bounce back even stronger in the new season.

“I expect him to be as strong as ever in 2022. I think after he won in Roland Garros, everybody was only talking about the calendar slam – first about the golden slam, and then about the calendar slam,” Thiem told Stats Perform on Monday.
“He [Djokovic] was under pressure. Nobody can feel that or anything like that because of it being the calendar slam.
“I can feel it in a smaller way, probably from last year’s final and from some other matches. And at some points it’s just getting to you. And so, I really felt for him as well towards the end of the match.
“So, it can happen that it also makes him even stronger next year when all these talks and all this pressure is not that big anymore.”

Medvedev’s win has raised questions once again about if there is a changing in the guard happening in men’s tennis with the next generation breaking through and ending the dominance of the Big Three. Djokovic, who is the youngest member of the Big Three, was the only member of the duo who played in New York this year. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal withdrew from the event due to injury.

For me, there are three GOATs in the game, and each of them has achieved something very unique,” Thiem commented.
“So it’s still the same for me as it was before. The three of them are the best in the history to me.
“And I’m only super happy to be in the same era with them and to be able to compete with them. Hopefully many more times next year again.”

Thiem is set to return to competitive tennis at the start of 2022 after ending his season early due to injury.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Opportunities Abound in the Bottom Halves of the Draws

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Felix Auger-Alisassime earlier this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

In the bottom half of the women’s singles draw, only nine of the 16 seeded players have survived the first two rounds.  And of the players remaining, only two have won a Major (Halep, Swiatek).  In the bottom half of the men’s draw, 10 seeds remain, and again only two Slam champs (Medvedev, Cilic).  There is plenty of room for new names to make extended runs into the second week of this Major.

 

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


Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (31) – Second on Margaret Court Arena

It would usually sound ridiculous to say it’s quite shocking to see the second seed reach the third round, but that’s the case with Sabalenka, who has persevered despite the embarrassing service issues she’s currently enduring.  However, Vondrousova will be a considerable step up in competition, as Aryna’s first two opponents were ranked 100th or lower.  And Marketa arrives with a lot of confidence.  The 2019 Roland Garros runner-up was the Olympic Silver Medalist six months ago in Tokyo, and followed that up by achieving three semifinals between September and October.  She’s yet to drop a set this week, which includes a victory over one of the WTA’ fastest rising players, Ludmilla Samsonova.  While Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 2-1, which includes a straightforward win last March in Miami, that was well before her serving woes.  Through four matches in 2022, Aryna has averaged nearly 18 double faults per match.  If that continues on Saturday, Vondrousova will surely take advantage and advance.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Dan Evans (24) – Not Before 5:00pm on John Cain Arena

This is a rematch of the championship match from a warm-up event on these same grounds a year ago.  On that day, both men were vying for their first ATP title.  Evans met the moment, comfortably winning 6-2, 6-3.  For Auger-Aliassime, that’s one of eight finals he’s reached in his career, and he’s yet to even win a set.  However, Felix is the much more accomplished player at Majors, having achieved his first quarterfinal in July at Wimbledon, and his first semifinal in September at the US Open.  Dan is yet to advance that far at a Slam.  The Canadian has complicated matters for himself this week, playing two grueling matches, averaging four hours on court each day.  By contrast, Evans received a walkover in the last round, and spent less than two hours winning his opening round in straights.  Despite all that, I expect Felix to recover fairly well, and be able to dictate play against the British No.2. 


Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Daria Kasatkina (25) – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

This should be a compelling matchup between two aggressive players with plenty of variety and high tennis IQ’s.  And they are both in excellent form.  They have combined to allow their opponents only 16 games through eight sets thus far.  And both accumulated some solid wins heading into this event: Swiatek defeated Leylah Fernandez and Victoria Azarenka, while Kasatkina beat Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza.  Their only previous meeting occurred last June on the grass of Eastbourne, with Kasatkina prevailing in three.  That was part of a resurgent season for the 24-year-old Russian, who started the year ranked 72nd, but ended it ranked 26th.  Yet Daria has not advanced beyond this round of a Major since Wimbledon 2018, while Iga was the only WTA player to reach the fourth round at every Slam last year.  And when Swiatek starts dominating as she has this week, it’s extremely challenging to deter her.


Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Last on Margaret Court Arena

After competing in an exhibition event last month in Abu Dhabi, Rublev was one of many players to test positive for COVID-19.  After quarantining and recovering, he has described how physically spent he was after practicing in the days leading up to this fortnight.  But he has been dominant through two rounds, dropping only 13 games across six sets.  And the Russian has recently owned his rivalry with Cilic.  While Marin claimed their first meeting, which was seven years ago on clay while Andrey was ranked outside the top 200, Rublev has taken the last four.  All of them have been on hard courts, and three of them were decided in straight sets.  However, since last June, Cilic has been playing his best tennis in years.  He won Stuttgart, and reached back-to-back finals in Russia.  I expect the 2014 US Open champion to make this a highly competitive affair, yet Rublev’s fire power should enable him to prevail.  On what is forecast be another scorching day in Melbourne, his groundstrokes will be even more punishing.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Benoit Paire – Tsitsipas overcame an impressive challenge from Sebastian Baez on Thursday night, while Paire upset Grigor Dimitrov earlier in the day.  The Greek is 3-1 against the Frenchman, and has only lost seven games in their last five sets.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – This is a rematch from the US Open quarterfinals, where Medvedev downed the Dutch qualifier in four.  Medvedev was not pleased with how certain members of the Aussie crowd treated him on Thursday while facing Nick Kyrgios, and I’m curious to see if they continue to bother him on Saturday.

Simona Halep (14) vs. Danka Kovinic – Halep’s set scores thus far have been 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, and 6-0.  The 2018 finalist is looking fully healthy after injuries sidetracked her last season.  Kovinic upset another Major champion, Emma Raducanu, on Thursday. 

Roberto Bautista Agut (15) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – Bautista Agut lost only four games in the second round.  Fritz is yet to lose a set, and soundly defeated fellow American Frances Tiafoe on Thursday.  Roberto is 5-1 against Taylor, and has claimed their last three encounters in straight sets.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Friday Provides Many Excellent Third Round Matchups

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Ash Barty on Wednesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Seeded players begin to collide in the draws on Friday, making for some stellar contests throughout the day.  Major champions Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Victoria Azarenka all face significant opposition, while some of the ATP’s most impressive young stars will square off to secure their spots in the round of 16.

 

Normally this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   But with so many great matchups on Day 5, that number has been expanded to six.  Friday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Elina Svitolina (15) vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Azarenka has been dominant through two rounds, losing only seven games.  She’s keeping her momentum going after her great run at Indian Wells in October.  By contrast, Svitolina came into this tournament on a four-match losing streak, dating back to a dismal 6-1, 6-1 loss at the hands of Jessica Pegula at Indian Wells.  And this rivalry has been completely one-sided to date.  Azarenka leads 4-0, and that includes a straight-set victory last March in Doha.  With warm temperatures forecast for Friday, conditions will be quick, which should reward the dictating style of Azarenka.  I like Vika’s chances to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in six years.


Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (31) – Third on Rod Laver Arena

This should be a lot of fun, with two of the ATP’s heaviest hitters trading blows.  They first played just a few months ago in Vienna, in an extremely tight match which Alcaraz claimed in a third set tiebreak.  Berrettini is yet to play his best tennis this month.  Coming off an oblique injury that forced him out of the ATP Finals, Matteo went only 1-2 at the ATP Cup, and needed four sets to prevail in both of his first two rounds.  Meanwhile, Alcaraz has looked phenomenal, not dropping a set at the next Major after his thrilling Grand Slam breakthrough in New York.  Berrettini will need a high percentage of first serves, and a high number of winners off his blistering forehand.  But over the course of five sets, a fully-fit Alcaraz should be able to wear down the Italian and advance.


Denis Shapovalov (14) vs. Reilly Opelka (23) – Third on Margaret Court Arena

Shapovalov has struggled his way through two rounds, playing a total of nine sets.  On Wednesday, he spent nearly four-and-a-half hours on court against Soon Woo Kwon.  Opelka has required three less sets, and four less hours, to reach the third round.  This will be the first main draw meeting between the left-handed Canadian and the big-serving American.  Reilly seems primed for a deep run at a Major.  Last season, he reached two Masters 1000 semifinals, and made his first appearance in the fourth round of a Slam in New York.  If he can push several sets to a tiebreak, he has a strong chance to prevail, especially if Denis is feeling physically drained.  But considering Shapovalov’s returning prowess, Denis remains the favorite.  He’s a great shot-maker, and enjoys having a target to aim for.  Opelka will likely provide him with plenty of targets, as he came to net 30 times during his three-set win on Wednesday.


Ash Barty (1) vs. Camila Giorgi (30) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Barty’s victories thus far have been comprehensive, allowing her opposition a total of three games through four sets, and spending less than an hour on court in each match.  Giorgi has been impressive as well, having yet to drop a set.  And it was only five months ago, on this same surface, when Camila earned the biggest title of her career, at the WTA 1000 event in Canada.  She has made great strides in better controlling her aggression, and choosing when to go for a winner.  But she is 0-3 against Barty, with their most recent encounter occurring four years ago at this event.  Giorgi is capable of beating almost anyone on almost any day, but Ash’s well-rounded game makes her a significant favorite.


Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Amanda Anisimova – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

Both women are undefeated to start off 2022.  Osaka won three matches in a tune-up event on these same grounds before withdrawing, while Anisimova won a tune-up event at Melbourne Park.  With Darren Cahill added to her coaching team, Amanda has rediscovered the form that made her a French Open semifinalist in 2019.  Her backhand is formidable, yet overall her groundstrokes and serve don’t quite compare to that of Osaka’s.  Naomi has appeared rather confident on court despite taking a near-four-month break from competition to end 2021.  But a matchup against an in-form player of Amanda’s caliber is a dangerous draw for Osaka, who has only played five matches since early September.


Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Karen Khachanov (28) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Nadal has also only played five matches since last summer, when he underwent a procedure on his foot.  And he’s often been tested by Khachanov, most notably at the 2018 US Open, when they played a high-quality four-setter which lasted well over four hours.  Out of their last 10 sets played, six of those sets have been decided by tiebreaks, and two of the others ended with a score of 7-5.  Yet, Rafa has managed to prevail all seven times they’ve met, with five of those occasions coming on hard courts.  The big-swinging Russian possesses a style which has often flustered Nadal throughout his career, but is yet to maintain a high enough level to secure more than one set in a match.  And all six of those aforementioned tiebreaks have gone the way of Rafa.  Despite Nadal not being fully match tough, there’s not much evidence to support a probable outcome other than an eighth victory for the 20-time Major champion.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Jelena Ostapenko (26) – It’s a matchup of surprising Roland Garros champions.  In Dubai last March, Krejcikova allowed Ostapenko only four games.

Paula Badosa (8) vs. Marta Kostyuk – When asked about facing Kostyuk after her second round win, Badosa stated “When they ask me who can be the next star, I always say Marta.”  Kostyuk took out Sara Sorribes Tormo on Wednesday, while Badosa has lost only seven games through four sets.

Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (28) – Neither woman has lost a set yet.  Last summer in Canada, they participated in an extended contest, with Sakkari prevailing 6-4 in the third.

Cristian Garin (16) vs. Gael Monfils (17) – Through two rounds, Garin has played 10 sets and spent over nine hours on court, while Monfils has easily claimed all six sets he’s played, and spent only three hours on court.  Two years ago at the inaugural ATP CUP, Monfils defeated Garin in straight sets.

Pablo Carreno Busta (19) vs. Sebastian Korda – Both men prevailed after grueling five-set battles on Wednesday.  After testing positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia, and barely practicing leading into this event, what will Korda have left after a nearly five-hour second round match? 

Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Radu Albot (Q) – Zverev is yet to drop a set, and Albot is yet to face a player ranked inside the top 100.  Though three years ago at the US Open, Radu pushed Sascha to five sets.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Daniil Medvedev Plays Nick Kyrgios in the Second Round

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Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Cup (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Two players who have been labeled as tennis’ bad boys will meet on Thursday in Melbourne.  But it is unfair to lump them together.  One is the reigning US Open champion and on the brink of becoming the No.1 player in the world.  The other hasn’t reached a Major quarterfinal in seven years, and is currently ranked outside the top 100.  However, Nick Kyrgios often plays his best tennis at his home country’s biggest tournament.  And he has a history of upsetting top players like Daniil Medvedev.

 

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


Garbine Muguruza (3) vs. Alize Cornet – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Nearly five years after her last Major title, is Muguruza ready to win another?  She’s coming off the third biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals, and was the runner-up in Melbourne two years ago.  But Cornet is far from an easy out.  The Frenchwoman has scored many upsets over top players throughout her career, most notably over Serena Williams at Wimbledon in 2014.  And last June on grass in Berlin, Cornet defeated Muguruza in a third set tiebreak.  However, Muguruza’s dictating power should allow her to avenge that loss on Thursday.


Anett Kontaveit (6) vs. Clara Tauson – 11:00am on Margaret Court Arena

Since hiring Dmitry Tursonov as her coach, Kontaveit has accumulated an astounding record of 33-5.  During that span, she’s earned four titles, reached the championship match at the WTA Finals, and nearly won another event last week in Sydney, losing to Barbora Krejcikova 14-12 in a third set tiebreak.  But Tauson could provide some legitimate resistance.  The 19-year-old from Denmark has been lauded by many as a future top player, and she advanced to three finals at multiple levels to close out 2021.  Three years ago, Clara was a junior champion in Melbourne.  Their first career meeting could be a tight one, though Kontaveit remains the favorite with her punishing groundstrokes and recent form.


Taylor Fritz (20) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 1:00pm on John Cain Arena

This is a tough second round draw for both Americans, who are not only close friends, but have also been playing some good tennis over the last few months.  Fritz reached the semifinals in Indian Wells, the final in St. Petersburg, and the quarters in Bercy.  And to start off 2022, he scored upset wins over Cam Norrie and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the ATP Cup.  Tiafoe scored a thrilling victory over Andrey Rublev at the US Open, and reached the final in Vienna.  However, Frances went 0-2 to begin the year, and required five sets to advance beyond the 198th-ranked player in the world on Tuesday.  With Fritz taking their last two encounters, I like his chances of making it three in a row.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Third on Kia Arena

Based on his ATP Cup triumph, and reaching new heights at the last two Majors, much is expected of the 21-year-old Canadian.  But after securing the first set in his opening round, Felix would promptly drop seven straight games, complicating matters to where he was forced to come back from a two-sets-to-one deficit.  Falling behind against the 22-year-old Spaniard would be even more dangerous.  Alejandro easily advanced in straight sets on Tuesday, and debuted inside the top 32 last year thanks to some strong results on both clay and hard courts.  In their first career meeting, Auger-Aliassime should still be favored to advance, but not without an extended battle with a player who can often exhaust his opponents with his consistency and endurance.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Nick Kyrgios – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

No one has been playing better on hard courts than Medvedev, who has won 83 of his last 92 matches on this surface.  Meanwhile, Kyrgios has only played 16 singles matches in nearly two years, with an 8-8 record.  Yet Nick has remained a reliable source of dramatic matches at the Australian Open.  A year ago, he overcame Ugo Humbert 6-4 in the fifth.  And two years ago, he outlasted Karen Khachanov in fifth-set tiebreak.  However, those compelling victories occurred in his favorite slot: the night session on John Cain Arena.  This match will be on Rod Laver Arena, where he has not won a match since 2018.  And while Kyrgios is 2-0 lifetime against Medvedev, neither of those matches were best-of-five.  While I expect Nick will keep this competitive, with thorough inspiration fromd the Australian crowd, Medvedev’s defensive skills will likely prove to be too much.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Xinyu Wang – Sabalenka overcame her recent service woes to win in three on Tuesday, and thanked Mark Philippoussis for his advice on her serve.  Xinyu is a 20-year-old from China who won her first main draw match at a Slam in the first round.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (10) vs. Sam Stosur (WC) – In her last singles event, Stosur delighted the Melbourne crowd on Tuesday by coming back from a set down to earn only her second win at this event since 2015.  Pavlyuchenkova has reached the quarterfinals here in three of the last five years, and won her opening round decisively, dropping only three games.  Stosur leads their head-to-head 5-4, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Sebastian Baez – Tsitsipas appeared unhampered by his recent elbow surgery on Tuesday, easily prevailing in straight sets.  Baez is a 21-year-old from Argentina who won a five-setter on the same day.

Andy Murray (WC) vs. Taro Daniel (Q) – What will Murray have left in the tank after his latest grueling contest at a Major?  He played for five sets and nearly four hours in the first round.  Daniel has won nine straight sets since qualifying began last week, and recently hired Sven Groeneveld as his coach.

Emma Raducanu (17) vs. Danka Kovinic – In the opening round, Raducanu rediscovered some of her magic from New York, taking out Sloane Stephens in three.  Kovinic is a 27-year-old from Montenegro who has never been beyond the second round at a Major.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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