US Open Daily Preview: Djokovic, Andreescu Headline Monday Evening on Ashe - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Djokovic, Andreescu Headline Monday Evening on Ashe

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Novak Djokovic on Sunday in Flushing Meadows (twitter.com/usopen)

The fourth of seven hurdles on Novak Djokovic’s path to the Grand Slam is a relatively-unknown 20-year-old American.  But Jenson Brooksby has the ability to deeply frustrate opponents, and could do just that against the 20-time Major champion.

 

Bianca Andreescu is now 10-0 at this event, and seems to be rounding into form after a disappointing season.  But she faces Maria Sakkari, who is having a great season, and played an epic match against Bianca this past March in Miami, in a match decided by a third set tiebreak.

Also on Monday, Olympic gold medalists Sascha Zverev and Belinda Bencic take on two other dangerous, fast-rising 20-year-olds.  And two of the first week’s most exciting players, Shelby Rogers and Emma Raducanu, will play for a spot in the quarterfinals.

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.

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Belinda Bencic (11) – 11:00am on Louis Armstrong Stadium

Swiatek is the only WTA player to reach the second week at all four Majors this year.  However, she’s only gone beyond the fourth round once, back in June at the French Open.  These two players met seven months ago in Adelaide, with Iga comfortably prevailing 6-2, 6-2.  But Bencic is a much different player now, coming off her gold medal in singles and silver medal in doubles at the Olympics.  She’s won 12 of her last 13, and is yet to drop a set this fortnight.  Swiatek has gritted her way through back-to-back tough victories, but overcoming a red-hot, uber-confident Bencic may be too much to ask.

Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Jannik Sinner (13) – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

They played twice last fall, and split the two meetings.  Sinner upset Zverev at Roland Garros, while the German avenged that loss a few weeks later in Cologne.  Sascha explained he was sick during their French Open encounter, which seemed an odd omission to make during a surging pandemic.  Jannik would later question that claim, telling Italian Newspaper Corriere he thought Zverev was just making excuses for his loss.  So there is definitely some bad blood between these two.  Considering the way Zverev has been easing his way through this draw, and his current 14-match win streak, the higher seed remains the favorite to advance.  Sinner’s results are continually improving, but he is coming off a tiring five-setter with Gael Monfils, which won’t help his chances on Monday.

Shelby Rogers vs. Emma Raducanu (Q) – Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Rogers’ comeback from 5-2 down in the third to upset World No.1 Ash Barty in a tiebreak was scintillating.  A year ago, she also pulled off some late night magic at this event, saving three match points in a third set tiebreak to take out Petra Kvitova.  Can she return to the quarterfinals for the second straight year?  Raducanu was impressive in a whole different way on Saturday, utterly dominating Sara Sorribes Tormo, one of this season’s toughest outs, by a score of 6-0, 6-1.  Through six matches these past two weeks, including qualifying, Emma has not dropped a set, or even been pushed to a tiebreak.  Returning to the round of 16 at the very next Major after she had to retire in this round of Wimbledon due to breathing issues is quite remarkable.  Based on current form, Emma is the favorite.  But as Shelby mentioned in her on-court interview after defeating Barty, the crowd has often been the entity deciding who wins this past week, and they will certainly be strongly behind the American.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jenson Brooksby – 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

This would seem like a generous fourth round draw for Djokovic, but Brooksby has quickly become a force.  He hits a heavy ball, and possesses a strong tennis IQ.  At tour level this summer, he’s 11-3, having reached the final of Newport, and the semifinals of Washington.  But I question how fresh he will be having already played 13 sets through three matches, especially for a player not accustomed to best-of-five tennis.  While the crowd will certainly boost his energy, Djokovic should be able to advance, though likely after the American causes him some frustration.

Bianca Andreescu (6) vs. Maria Sakkari (17) – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Let’s hope this is at least half as good as their aforementioned classic earlier this year in Miami.  That was the last event Andreescu played at the level we have come to expect from the 2019 champion.  Since that tournament, she was only 4-6 before arriving in New York.  But after grinding her way through a tough opening round against Viktorija Golubic, she’s rediscovered her form on the same grounds where she won her Major title.  But Sakkari has played excellently throughout the year, and comfortably closed out all six sets she played last week, including a solid win over two-time Slam champ Petra Kvitova.  In that match, she won 89% of first serve points.  Andreescu’s returning was one of the keys to her triumph here two years ago, which will be crucial against a player protecting their serve so well.  But with Bianca getting her mojo back, I’m not betting against her.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Reilly Opelka (22) vs. Lloyd Harris – The 24-year-old “Servebot” is yet to drop a set, and has taken nine of his last 11 matches.  Harris upset Rafael Nadal last month in Washington, and Denis Shapovalov two days ago here.  When they played just a few weeks ago in Toronto, Opelka prevailed in a third set tiebreak.

Matteo Berrettini (6) vs. Oscar Otte (Q) – Otte is one of four qualifiers to make the fourth round in singles, and also came through qualifying at Wimbledon, eventually winning his main draw opening round 13-12 in the fifth.  Berrettini won in five on Saturday against Ilya Ivashka.  Three years ago at Roland Garros, Matteo defeated Oscar in four sets.

Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (13) – It’s the Wimbledon runner-up against the Roland Garros runner-up.  Pliskova claimed their first sets meetings, though Pavlyuchenkova has won the last two.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Home hope Ash Barty stays on course to win the Australian Open

Ash Barty has cruised into the second week at the Australian Open without dropping a set.

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Ash Barty (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

World number one Ash Barty comfortably confirmed her place in week two of the Australian Open beating Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3.

 

In recent seasons, Barty had been weighted down by expectations on her home territory.

This was far from the case against Giorgi as Barty snuffed out any chance of an upset with a near fault-less performance.

Both players came out striking the ball well, but it was the top seed that broke first racing into a 2-0 lead.

Giorgi was landing some stunning groundstrokes, but this was not enough to stop Barty, who broke again at the end of the first set to clinch it 6-2.

The Australian held to love at the beginning of the second set as the Italian looked to find a way back into the match.

Barty began to find her groove and moved her opponent around the court with some sublime shot making.

The Italian kept things interesting but was eventually broken as the top seed took a 4-2 lead.

With the crowd behind her, Barty continued to hold serve, engineering three match points, but she only needed one.

After the match, Barty chatted to former champion Jim Courier and had this to say.

“Yeah, I thought tonight was really clean. I thought I looked after my service games really well. I did well to come out of a really tricky one at love-40 down. Overall, a pretty good performance I think,” she said.

The home favourite also praised Giorgi’s performance.

“Yeah, I thought I was out of my weight class, that’s for sure. The way she hits the ball and can control the centre of the court is incredible.

“It was my job to get her off that baseline, whether it was short, or it was deep, or it was out of her strike zone.

“It’s tough when you’re up against the wind but I think I was able to use my slice effectively,” she said.

A much tougher test awaits the Aussie in American star Amanda Anisimova, as the 20-year-old stunned four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in three sets.

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Amanda Anisimova Knocks Out Naomi Osaka In Australian Open Thriller To Reach Last 16

Amanda Anisimova is into the last 16 of the Australian Open with a thrilling win over defending champion Naomi Osaka.

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Amanda Anisimova (@Tennis - Twitter)

Amanda Anisimova continues her unbeaten start to the season by knocking out defending champion Naomi Osaka 4-6 6-3 7-6(10-5) in a classic match at the Australian Open.

 

The American hit brutal shots and powered past the Osaka defence to knock out the defending champion in a classic match.

Osaka had two match points but ultimately couldn’t be aggressive enough in the big points to outmanoeuvre Anisimova.

Next for Anisimova is world number one Ash Barty in the fourth round on Sunday.

It was a tentative start from Anisimova as the American hit a couple of double faults and failed to establish early control.

The defending champion took advantage to break in the opening game and her defensive game was causing trouble to Anisimova’s power game.

Osaka threatened with the double break but Anisimova found her stride in the crucial moments to fend off break points.

In the middle of the opening set, Anisimova started to anticipate Osaka’s serve better and created her first break point of the match.

However Osaka remained firm and with good angles and devastating power managed to hold serve to take the opening set 6-4.

In the second set both players had to produce their bold patterns of play on big points to resist opposition pressure.

Despite Osaka’s great returning ability, Anisimova managed to fend off the Osaka power and turn defence into attack.

For all of the American’s attack it was her variety that earned her the break as a drop shot slice sealed the break for 3-1.

From then on Anisimova controlled the tempo of the second set and produced big serving as the American took the second set 6-3 to level the match at one set all.

The final set saw both players bring their best tennis at the same time as both players had early opportunities to break.

Neither converted although it was Osaka who always looked the more dangerous with her angles and different heights causing Anisimova problems.

Towards the tail end of the set, Osaka had two match points to seal the victory but Anisimova’s brutal power saw her hold for 5-5.

In the end a tiebreak would settle this thrilling contest and it was Anisimova who raced to an early lead and never looked back as she clinched one of the best wins of her career.

After the match Anisimova admitted she was speechless, “I’m speechless. I can’t stop smiling. I’m just laughing. I absolutely love this,” the American said in her on-court interview.

“Going into this match I knew I had to be playing sharp if I wanted to give myself a chance. She is an absolute champion so I knew I would have to step up my game and be aggressive.

“I’m honestly so grateful that I was able to play so well today and get this win. It means a lot. Every single day here is an amazing opportunity. I’m just thinking about having fun and I’m looking forward to my next round.”

A history-making win for Anisimova who will play world number one Ash Barty for a spot in the quarter-finals.

As for Naomi Osaka she will look to recover in time for March when she plays Indian Wells and Miami.

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Italian Journalist rates Camila Giorgi, Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego’s Australian Open hopes

The Italians are making big strides in Melbourne as they search for a place in the second week.

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Matteo Berrettini (@Tennis - Twitter)

The Australian Open continues on Friday with day five of the action.

 

In the women’s draw, world number one and home favourite Ash Barty takes on Italy’s Camila Giorgi on Rod Laver Arena.

But before that, top ranked Italian and last year’s Wimbledon finalist, Matteo Berrettini, continues his campaign against rising star Carlos Alcaraz of Spain.

https://twitter.com/SK__Tennis/status/1483716802408431620

On 1573 Arena, 25th seed Lorenzo Sonego goes in search of his first fourth-round appearance in Australia, as he entertains Miomir Kecmanovic.

Saturday will see 2019 Next Gen Finals winner, Jannik Sinner, play Andy Murray’s conqueror, Taro Daniel, for a place in round four.

I managed to catch up with our very own Vanni Gibertini, and ask for his thoughts on Italian tennis’ hopes for this tournament.

Question 1: On Friday, can Camilla Giorgi cause Ash Barty any problems, if any? What is the strongest part of the Italian’s game?

Answer: Camila has only one way to try to win this match; just prevent Barty from playing tennis, going all-out on any chance she gets.

Barty has too much tennis for her. Actually, Barty has too much tennis for just about anyone on the WTA Tour, so she could be overpowered.

Luckily for Camila, that’s the game she’s been playing all her life, but she will need to be at the top of her game, and her serve needs to help her in a big way.

Question 2: Is this the Slam that we will see Jannik Sinner make a real statement of intent, in your opinion?

Answer: Sinner has not been very lucky with draws at Slams, except for Roland Garros 2020 when he faced a very subdued David Goffin in the first round (the Belgian had just had his wedding postponed by the pandemic).

He then went on to reach the quarter-finals where he lost to Rafa Nadal.

In this tournament, he finds himself with a viable path to the quarter-finals, and needs to prove to the world, and, himself, he belongs in the top 10 club he entered in, at the end of 2021.

I see him getting to the quarters where he will face Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in the semis.

Question 3: Is the draw opening up for Lorenzo Sonego to get past Miomir Kecmanovic and go further on in this tournament?

Answer: This is a chance of a lifetime for Sonego.

Kecmanovic in the 3rd round of a Major, with the prospect of Gaël Monfils or Cristian Garin to reach the quarter finals, is a draw that would raise a lot of money, if it was auctioned off.

But the same goes for Kecmanovic, so it will be a fight.

Sonego worked on his shots during the off-season: the motion of his serve has been tweaked, as well as his backhand grip.

That may take time to digest, so it’s a question mark whether this Sonego 1.2 will pass the stress test.

But he’s in good shape, eager to play and has a great heart, and he won’t give up until he hasn’t a drop of energy left in his body.

Question 4: With Novak Djokovic‘s absence, could Matteo Berrettini win the Australian Open, or will the powerhouse of Carlos Alcaraz provide a potential stumbling block to his tournament hopes?

Answer: Matteo is an example of self-belief, so he definitely believes he’s in the mix to raise the trophy a week on Sunday.

Physically he’s probably still around 60%, and he’s going into a match with Alcaraz where he has everything to lose.

Bookmakers have him as the underdog, but he has the weapons to make his own fortune.

If he can get past the young Spaniard, it could be the win he needs to go very deep into this tournament.

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