US Open Daily Preview: Friday Provides a Fantastic Order of Play - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Friday Provides a Fantastic Order of Play




Garbine Muguruza practicing last week in New York (

In what has been an incredibly busy few months in the tennis world, fans have been spoiled with some truly awesome daily schedules.  But Friday’s lineup is one of the best yet.  The women’s singles matches alone feature seven Major singles champions, with two clashes seeing those champions colliding. 


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

Garbine Muguruza (9) vs. Victoria Azarenka (18) – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

This pair of two-time Slam champs have split four previous meetings.  But their most relevant encounter may be their first one.  Five years ago in Miami, Azarenka took out Muguruza in two consecutive tiebreaks.  The reason for the relevancy is based on geography.  Aside from a title run four years ago in Cincinnati, Garbine is yet to play her best tennis in North America.  She was 7-8 lifetime at the US Open before this fortnight, while Azarenka is now 42-13 at this event.  Vika is a three-time runner-up here, including a year ago, and has won seven WTA 1000 titles on this continent.  Additionally, Muguruza has struggled to rebuild momentum after injury sidetracked her season in the spring.  This should be a great battle with some blistering groundstrokes, but the location makes Azarenka the favorite.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Daria Kasatkina (25) – Third on Grandstand

The prior matchup may lack finesse, but this one surely will not.  Expect a steady helping of dynamic, dramatic rallies, with every part of the court fully utilized.  Svitolina has been consistent yet unspectacular in 2021, reaching eight quarterfinals, but only achieving her first final and title just last week in Chicago.  And most notably, she won the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.  Kasatkina’s season has been a bit more up-and-down, but she’s advanced to four finals, winning two of them.  While their roads have been different, both players hold 34 match wins on the year.  But what has not been even is their rivalry.  Svitolina leads 5-0, and has taken 10 of 12 sets played.  That information makes Elina is a definitive favorite to reach the fourth round for her fourth consecutive appearance.

Angelique Kerber (16) vs. Sloane Stephens – Not Before 4:00pm on Louis Armstrong Stadium

Speaking of lopsided head-to-heads, this has been all Sloane.  Except for the first time they played nearly 10 years ago, Stephens has dominated Kerber.  Overall the 2017 champion is 5-1 against the 2016 champion.  Across their last four matches, contested between 2015 and 2018, Angie has managed only 14 games in eight sets.  This week has presented Stephens with a truly brutal draw: first her good friend Madison Keys, then Coco Gauff, and now the three-time Major champion.  Kerber has been on a tear the last few months, claiming 15 of her last 17 matches, with the only two losses coming at the hands of World No.1 Ash Barty.  But she does not enjoy this matchup, and considering how Stephens has been ripping her forehand, Sloane may earn herself another tough draw in the round of 16: Naomi Osaka.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (12) vs. Robert Bautista Agut (18) – 7:00pm on Louis Armstrong Stadium

Two years ago in the round robin stage of the revamped Davis Cup in Spain, Bautista Agut defeated Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  Last October in Cologne, the Canadian avenged that loss in three sets.  This will be the rubber match.  The Spaniard is certainly the more proven commodity in best-of-five, but Roberto hasn’t played his best this season.  Bautista Agut hasn’t advanced to a final in nearly six months, and is just 6-3 at Slams.  Felix broke through to his first Major quarterfinal at Wimbledon, taking out Sascha Zverev in five.  His subsequent loss to friend Matteo Berrettini in that quarterfinal was the start of a 1-4 run for the 21-year-old, yet he earned two impressive victories in Cincinnati, over Berrettini and Olympic silver medalist Karen Khachanov.  Bautista Agut has been completely unchallenged through two rounds, but he has not advanced beyond the third round here since 2015.  This feels like Felix’s moment to shine, especially with Toni Nadal in New York and a part of his team.

Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Earlier this year in Miami, Tiafoe made himself the late night delight, thrilling crowds with consecutive comeback victories during the evening sessions.  Frances will again play under the lights on Friday, against one of the ATP’s best performers of the last two years.  Rublev is coming off his second Masters 1000 final of the season, and has reached the second week of this event three out of the last four years.  This will be the first time Rublev and Tiafoe play, and Frances sounds ready for it.  After his victory on Wednesday, when told who his next opponent would be, the American proclaimed, “That’s what I want, I want him bad.”  A motivated Frances is quite dangerous, but Miami is the only tour-level event this year where Tiafoe has won three matches.  Winning his third match of this fortnight against the fifth-seed is a tall task, though he should make this a highly-entertaining affair regardless of the result.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Simona Halep (12) vs. Elena Rybakina (19) – Last year in Dubai, they had an epic encounter, with Halep prevailing in a third set tiebreak.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Pablo Andujar – 35-year-old Andujar has attained some good results this season, including victories over Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.  But taking out Medvedev on a hard court would be his most impressive upset yet.

Barbora Krejcikova (8) vs. Kamilla Rakhimova (LL) – Krejcikova continues to be red-hot, allowing her competition only eight games through four sets this week.  Rakhimova is an 18-year-old Russian who took Johanna Konta’s place in the draw as a lucky loser, and has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Much has been said regarding Tsitsipas time spent off the court this week, but he’s refused to let that distract from his tennis.  Alcaraz is an extremely promising 18-year-old who won his first ATP title this summer in Umag. 

Elise Mertens (15) vs. Ons Jabeur (20) – Mertens saved six match points in her opening round to stay alive in the draw, and immediately burst into tears upon victory.  Jabeur has 39 wins this year, and dropped just one game in the last round.

Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Leylah Fernandez – Osaka received a walkover on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts her form, as she’s short on matches this summer.  Fernandez is an 18-year-old Canadian who won Monterrey back in March.

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Danielle Collins (26) – This will be another slugfest, or will it be?  Sabalenka took a hard fall on Wednesday, and Rennae Stubbs reported Aryna’s playing hand was severely bruised.  If they do play, Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 2-0, which includes a three-set win three years ago in New York.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.


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

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




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.




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.




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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