US Open Daily Preview: How Will Friday’s Breakout Stars Perform on Sunday? - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: How Will Friday’s Breakout Stars Perform on Sunday?

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Carlos Alcaraz after his thrilling upset over Stefanos Tsitsipas (twitter.com/usopen)

In back-to-back-to-back matches Friday on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Carlos Alcaraz, Leylah Fernandez, and Frances Tiafoe upset top five seeds in deciding sets.  However, backing up the biggest win of your young career is one of tennis’ biggest challenges.  How will these burgeoning stars fare in the round of 16?

We are indeed down to 16 men and women in the singles draws, with all players only four matches from the title.  That includes Novak Djokovic, who is just 12 sets away from an historic calendar-year Grand Slam.  Day 7’s play is highlighted by four fascinating women’s matchups, as well as Friday’s late night delight, Frances Tiafoe, facing Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who also prevailed that evening in five sets.

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

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Simona Halep (12) – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

This has been a dynamic rivalry over the last several years, and it’s tied at 5-5.  Halep famously made a huge comeback against Svitolina at the 2017 French Open, saving a match point going down 5-1 in the second set, and taking the third set 6-0.  Their only other match at a Slam occurred in the 2019 Wimbledon semifinals, where Simona dominated 6-1, 6-3.  After suffering a serious calf injury in May, Halep had only played two matches leading into this event.  Her leg may still be taped up, but she’s performed excellently through three rounds, especially in a three-set win over Elena Rybakina on Friday.  Svitolina is having a good summer, winning the bronze medal in Tokyo, and capturing a title just last week in Chicago.  And Elina is yet to drop a set this fortnight.  It seems she could be poised to earn her first win over Halep at a Major, and return to the US Open quarterfinals for her second straight appearance.

Angelique Kerber (16) vs. Leylah Fernandez – Not Before 1:00pm on Louis Armstrong Stadium

Fernandez took full advantage of Naomi Osaka’s inability to close out their third round match, thrilling Arthur Ashe Stadium with her energetic game.  However, Angelique Kerber is back in a big way.  There was talk she was thinking of retiring from the game just a few months ago, but the German is now on a 17-2 run, with those two losses against World No.1 Ash Barty.  Angie reversed what had been a one-sided rivalry with a red-hot Sloane Stephens in the last round, and should be brimming with confidence.  In their first career meeting, the 2016 champion should be able to advance beyond the promising 18-year-old Canadian.

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Elise Mertens (15) – Third on Louis Armstrong Stadium

These two are good friends, and up until recently, frequent doubles partners.  Mertens is currently the No.1 doubles player in the world, and now teams with Su-Wei Hsieh.  Together, they won the women’s double championship at Wimbledon.  Sabalenka decided to take a break from playing doubles to focus solely on singles, which perhaps was a factor in reaching her first Major semifinal in singles at The Championships.  And she leads Mertens 5-2, claiming their last four matches.  The last three have all been straight-setters.  Elise’s singles results have stagnated over the last few months, with an 8-7 record since the grass court season began.  On these fast courts, the power game of Sabalenka should be able to hit through her close friend.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Tiafoe’s five-set win over Andrey Rublev was simply electrifying.  But at nearly four hours long, and ending at 2:14am, it is not conducive to allowing the American to further capitalize on his momentum.  And Frances has failed to win four straight matches at tour level since his run to the 2019 Australian Open quarterfinals.  If he was able to play at the same level he attained on Friday, he could easily win this contest.  But maintaining that level from match-to-match has proven to be difficult for Tiafoe.  And it won’t help that Auger-Aliassime has elevated his game this year, as was fully evident in his own impressive victory on Friday evening over the perpetually-tough Roberto Bautista Agut.  In their first-ever encounter, I like Felix to advance to the quarterfinals at his second consecutive Major.

Barbora Krejickova (8) vs. Garbine Muguruza (9) – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

As Ben Rothenberg highlighted, this is the first Slam match between two WTA top 10 players in nearly two years, since Ash Barty played Petra Kvitova at the 2020 Australian Open.  And this is a rematch from just a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, which Krejickova won 6-2 in the third.  In that final set, Barbora served excellently, getting in a high percentage of first serves, and winning almost all of her first serve points.  They also met earlier this year in the final of Dubai, with Muguruza prevailing in straight sets.  But six months later, Krejicikova is the much hotter player.  She is 28-3 since mid-May, with her only three losses coming to women who went on to win those events (Barty at Wimbledon and Cincinnati, Bencic in Tokyo).  Krejcikova has won all six sets she’s played this week, and she should be favored to keep on winning come Sunday.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Diego Schwartzman (11) vs. Botic Van De Zandschulp (Q) – Schwartzman is yet to drop a set, and will be a considerable favorite against the 25-year-old qualifier, who played 14 sets in his last three matches. 

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Dan Evans (24) – The 31-year-old Brit survived a fifth set tiebreak on Friday against Alexei Popyrin.  But he’ll be hard-pressed to contend with Medvedev, as he’s been dismantling the competition through three rounds.

Carlos Alcaraz vs. Peter Gojowczyk (Q) – What will Alcaraz have left physically and emotionally after his dramatic, epic victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas?  This is an excellent fourth round draw for the 18-year-old, as Gojowczyk is ranked 141st in the world, and like Van De Zandschulp, already played 14 sets this week.

Sunday’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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