US Open Daily Preview: Can Teenagers Leylah Fernandez and Carlos Alcaraz Extend Their Thrilling Runs? - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Can Teenagers Leylah Fernandez and Carlos Alcaraz Extend Their Thrilling Runs?

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Leylah Fernandez on Sunday after defeating Angelique Kerber (twitter.com/usopen)

Leylah Fernandez and Carlos Alcaraz are two of three teenagers to reach the US Open quarterfinals, along with Emma Raducanu, who will play on Wednesday.  It was only two years ago when a then-19-year-old Bianca Andreescu won this title.  Will another teenager become champion this week in New York?

 

Fernandez and Alcaraz have two well-established stars standing in their way: Elina Svitolina and Felix Auger-Aliassime.  They are joined on Tuesday’s schedule by another improbable quarterfinalist, qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp, who will face 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev.  And the day’s most blockbuster matchup sees two top 10 seeds square off, in Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejickova.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Botic Van de Zandschulp (Q) – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

What an effort by the 25-year-old Dutchman, ranked 117th in the world, to advance to the quarterfinals.  Botic dropped the first set in each of his three qualifying matches, as well as his first three matches in the main draw.  He’s taken out two top 15 players in Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman, the two best wins of his career.  But what could be possibly have left after 18 sets played across four main draw matches, and 27 sets played over the last 13 days?  Meanwhile, Daniil Medvedev has been purely dominant through four rounds, dropping only 32 games through 12 sets.  This should be a straightforward victory for the World No.2, who is looking to advance to the US Open semifinals for the third straight year.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Leylah Fernandez – Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Can Leylah Fernandez upset a third consecutive top player?  Her shocking wins over Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber, each after losing the first set, exhilarated the New York crowd.  The Canadian will be the underdog again on Tuesday, and will certainly have the audience behind her.  If she can maintain her level from the last two sets of her last two matches, while taking balls early and using her lefty-ness to create sharp angles, she has a legitimate shot of becoming a semifinalist.  However, Svitolina is yet to drop a set this fortnight, and is playing with supreme confidence coming off her Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo.  She’s also on a nine-match winning streak, dating back to her title run two weeks ago in Chicago.  Svitolina claimed their only previous meeting in straight sets, last year in Monterrey, which incidentally is the event where Fernandez won her first WTA title this year.  Elina’s speed around the court will counteract some of Leylah’s offense, and her experience should prove to be a crucial asset.  Svitolina was a semifinalist in her last appearance here two years ago, and I like her chances to repeat that feat.

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Barbora Krejcikova (8) – 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

The biggest question in this match could be the condition of Krejcikova.  At 6-5 in the second set of the last round against Garbine Muguruza, Barbora took an extended medical timeout off court, later describing that she couldn’t breathe and felt dizzy.  Once returning to court, Krejcikova would close out the match in a second set tiebreak, much to the chagrin of Muguruza and her team, who were not happy about the long break, or the time Barbora was taking between points.  If the French Open singles and doubles champion is fully recovered, she’s the favorite on this day.  Krejcikova has now won 29 of her last 32 matches, and is another player who has not dropped a set thus far.  Notably, Sabalenka did take their only prior meeting in three sets, last fall in Linz.  But Barbora is a completely different player now, with few holes in her game, and more variety than Aryna. 

Felix Auger-Aliassime (12) vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

This is the only singles quarterfinal of the day where neither player has previously reached a Major semifinal.  Auger-Aliassime was one match away from doing so at Wimbledon, but lost in four sets to eventual runner-up Matteo Berrettini.  Alcaraz only debuted at the Grand Slam level this year, and is now the youngest men’s singles quarterfinalist of the Open Era, and the youngest man into the quarters of any Major since Michael Chang at 1990’s French Open.  These two men both find inspiration in the Nadal family.  Carlos idolizes Rafa, while Felix is currently coached by Rafa’s uncle and longtime coach, Toni.  Felix’s considerable edge in experience, as well as his superior serve, should enable him to achieve his first Major semifinal.  However, this is another case where the crowd will be firmly cheering on the teenager, and Carlos has embraced that energy and used it to propel himself to victory.  Alcaraz plays with a level of belief rarely found in players his age, while Auger-Aliassime has been known to tighten up under pressure.  But the Canadian has displayed impressive composure in recent wins over Sascha Zverev and Frances Tiafoe, and I think he’s ready to take his career another step forward.

Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

ATP

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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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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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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