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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Andy Murray Makes Retirement Hint After 500th Hard Court Win In Dubai

Andy Murray won his 500th hard court match in Dubai, placing him fifth on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray further hinted at retirement after securing a 500th hard court win of his career in Dubai.

The former world number one picked up his second win of the year with a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov.

In typical Andy Murray fashion, the Brit came back from a set down to defeat the out-of-sorts Canadian as he progressed to the second round.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVj537F-wQ

The win means Murray now has 500 career wins on a hard court and that is an achievement the world number 67 is proud of, “It’s not bad,” Murray told the ATP website as he sits fifth on the all-time list of hard court wins.

“Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

However those post-match comments weren’t the most shocking ones as Murray once again hinted at retirement this season.

The Brit has made subtle remarks that this year may be his last one but Murray’s comments today suggests that he may have already made his decision, “I probably don’t have too long left but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months,” Murray was quoted by ESPN as saying.

“I still love competing and still love the game but it gets harder and harder to compete the older you get, to keep your body fit and fresh.”

If the end is near for Murray than the Brit will look to end his career on a high for the next few months.

Before thinking about retirement Murray will look to go further in Dubai when he takes on either Ugo Humbert or Gael Monfils in the second round.

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Perspective And Fatigue: The Two Sides Of Iga Swiatek’s Dubai Defeat

Iga Swiatek spoke about perspective and fatigue after her semi-final exit in Dubai.

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Iga Swiatek showed two sides to her defeat in Dubai as the world number one surprisingly failed to win the title despite being the favourite in the semi-finals.

Heading into her semi-final in Dubai, Swiatek was heavy favourite to win her second consecutive WTA title after claiming the title in Doha the week before.

However Swiatek was unsuccessful in her bid to reach the final as she lost to Anna Kalinskaya 6-4 6-4.

It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Swiatek who missed a golden opportunity to establish even more dominance ahead of Indian Wells.

As all champions do Swiatek offered perspective to her defeat as she looks ahead to the rest of the season, “I mean, I’m angry but on the other hand, there aren’t many players that actually survive these kinds of tournaments so I just kind of have to let it go and accept it,” Swiatek was quoted by Tennis Majors.

There was not only perspective offered but also fatigue as expectations and pressure can force simple mistakes from the best players in the world.

The world number one acknowledged Kalinskaya’s performance but did admit her own performance contributed to the defeat, “Today I would say, I mean she [Kalinskaya] played well and for sure she deserves to be in the final, but I feel like it was more about me and my level,” Swiatek told Tennis Majors.

“I wanted to be focused on myself and I wasn’t really able to implement any tactics that I had. Usually, when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game but today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t. Day by day, it was a little bit worse.”

Swiatek will hope to re-energize herself ahead of the sunshine double in America.

Last year Swiatek lost to eventual champion Elena Rybakina in the semi-finals at Indian Wells before withdrawing from Miami.

The Pole will look to improve last year’s performance when she plays Indian Wells, which starts on the 6th of March.

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‘Speechless’ Mensik Reaches Maiden ATP Final In Doha

Jakub Mensik is into his first ATP final in Doha.

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Jakub Mensik admitted he was left speechless after reaching his first ATP final in Doha.

The 18 year-old continued his remarkable week with a 6-4 1-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Gael Monfils.

The Czech Republican produced clinical tennis as he beat the 2018 champion to reach his maiden ATP final.

After the match Mensik admitted he was left ‘speechless’ and spoke about the influence Monfils had on his career, “It is amazing. Hopefully not the last one [final]. Incredible week so far,” Mensik told the ATP website.

“Today again with Gael, he played unbelievable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game.

“I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless.

“I told him when I was young I watched him a lot on the TV. One of the biggest showman on court. He is a great guy, so hopefully in the future we will meet once again. The rallies were so fun with him.”

Mensik has so far beaten three former champions this week as he also defeated Andy Murray and Andrey Rublev this week.

Now Mensik will aim to win his first ATP title as he takes on Karen Khachanov in Saturday’s final.

Should Mensik win the title he could climb to 75 in the world as he started the week at 116 in the world.

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