US Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Matteo Berrettini in a Rematch of the Wimbledon Final - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Matteo Berrettini in a Rematch of the Wimbledon Final

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Matteo Berrettini walking onto Louis Armstrong Stadium on Monday (Andrew Ong/USTA/usopen.org)

This will actually be the third straight Major where Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini collide.  In the Roland Garros quarterfinals, as well as the Wimbledon men’s singles championship match, Djokovic prevailed in four sets.  This is the round where Novak’s path to the Grand Slam becomes more complicated, with a likely semifinal against Sascha Zverev, and a potential final against Daniil Medvedev, awaiting him.  Can Matteo’s blistering serve-and-forehand combination derail Novak’s quest on these fast courts?

 

Also on Wednesday, Olympic gold medalists Sascha Zverev and Belinda Beneic will take on a pair of first-time Slam quarterfinalists: South Africa’s Lloyd Harris and 18-year-old British sensation Emma Raducanu.  And Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova will do battle with Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who took out 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu in an epic three-and-a-half-hour affair.

Belinda Bencic (11) vs. Emma Raducanu (Q) – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

These are two of the sport’s most in-form players, and that could make for a stellar quarterfinal.  Neither player has dropped a set during this event, and in Emma’s case, that includes three qualifying matches.  Since Wimbledon, the teenager is now 18-4 at all levels (including qualifying), and has completely dominated her last two opponents by scores of 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1.  Since the Olympics, Bencic is now 13-1, and impressively outlasted Iga Swiatek two days ago in a first set tiebreak by the score of 14-12.  And comparing Bencic to Raducanu’s last two opponents, Belinda has a lot more offensive weapons than Sara Sorribes Tormo, and is unlikely to make as many errors as Shelby Rogers did on Monday.  Bencic would seem to be the favorite to reach the semifinals in her second consecutive appearance in New York.  However, Emma will certainly feel inspired by seeing fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez upset Elina Svitolina in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, and the crowd will likely get behind the young underdog.

Sascha Zverev (4) vs. Lloyd Harris – Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Zverev is two wins away from returning to the final of this tournament, where he was two points from winning a year ago.  He’s won 15 consecutive matches, and only lost three of 36 completed sets during this streak.  And he’ll be a considerable favorite against Harris, who had only once advanced to the third round of a Slam prior to this event.  But the 24-year-old South African is in the midst of a career-changing season.  He was a finalist in Dubai, upset Rafael Nadal in Washington, and took out three significant seeds this fortnight (Khachanov, Shapovalov, Opelka).  They’ve played twice on hard courts within the past year, with both matches going to Sascha.  The German won a deciding set 6-0 last fall in Cologne, and defeated Lloyd in straight sets just a few weeks ago in Cincinnati.  With the way Zverev has been serving and striking his groundstrokes, it’s hard to imagine him not returning to the semifinals.

Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. Maria Sakkari (17) – 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Sakkari’s arduous victory over Bianca Andreescu ended at 2:13am Tuesday morning.  She is one of the fittest athletes in the sport, but that had to take a lot out of her both physically and emotionally.  This is easily the Greek’s best result since the heartbreak she suffered at Roland Garros, losing 9-7 in the third of her semifinal against Barbora Krejcikova after holding a match point.  Between the French Open and this event, she was only 5-4.  Pliskova was having a subpar year until Wimbledon, where she reached her second Major final, nearly five years after her first.  Later in the summer, she was a finalist in Montreal and a semifinalist in Cincinnati.  Their two previous encounters occurred in Rome in consecutive years.  In 2018, Sakkari won 7-5 in the third.  In 2019, Pliskova prevailed in straight sets.  In the rubber match, the fresher player will be Pliskova, whose power game on these fast courts should enable her to achieve her first US Open semifinal since 2016.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Matteo Berrettini (6) – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Overall Djokovic leads their head-to-head 3-0.  In addition to their two recent four-setters at Majors, Novak beat Matteo soundly at the ATP Finals by a score of 6-2, 6-1.  So could Wednesday be any different than their three past matchups?  Well, Berrettini’s serve and forehand always provide him with a puncher’s chance, especially on courts as fast as these.  Notably, with a chance of rain on Wednesday evening, this could become an indoor match.  That would seem to favor Djokovic, who has a much better indoor record than Berrettini, and cooler and slower conditions would help smother the Italian’s power.  But the X factor in this match may be the same as many other matches this fortnight: the crowd.  Matteo is an extremely likeable player, and a big underdog in this matchup, so I expect the New York audience to strongly support him against Novak, who has never been a crowd favorite in Flushing Meadows.  Berrettini’s best chance to overcome Djokovic is to use the crowd to energize himself, and to distract Novak from the task at hand.  However, Djokovic is no stranger to people cheering his opponent, and often uses that as fuel.  And let’s be clear: Djokovic remains the favorite to reach his 12th US Open semifinal, as he has never lost in this round of the tournament.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev And Taylor Fritz Looking Forward To Diriyah Cup

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz will start their Australian preparations in Saudi Arabia next week.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (@WeAreTennisTR - Twitter)

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz are looking forward to boosting their Australian Open preparations when they compete in the Diriyah Cup in Saudi Arabia.

 

The tournament takes place from the 8th-10th of December with the 12 player tournament offering the perfect preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year.

As well as Tsitsipas, Rublev and Fritz, the field includes some of the world’s best players including Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Cameron Norrie, Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka.

Speaking ahead of the event Tsitsipas claimed that the event will be very good preparation ahead of the Australian Open which starts on the 16th of January, “This is going to be very good preparation for me,” Tsitsipas told The National.

“Most players choose to have an off period from tennis but for me, it’s very important to get matches in before I travel to Australia. So having good competitors to compete against (top players), this is the best preparation that I can have before starting the 2023 season.

“I know that the people in Saudi Arabia may not have the opportunity to see tennis players like us very often. So, for sure, I’m going to give it my best. I’m going to have a good time.”

Saudi Arabia has held a whole host of events including formula one and Golf events with there being more and more concerns from fans over sports-washing given the country’s human rights record.

However the Greek isn’t too concerned about that and is looking forward to exploring the country’s culture:

“I’m happy they’re introducing a big event like this, and in the heart of Saudi Arabia to give opportunities to citizens from all over the world to explore this beautiful country, through its sports, through its very rich heritage and culture, and through other activities that are available within the country.”

As for Fritz, the American is coming off a career best season having won his maiden Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells as well as reaching the semi-finals at the ATP Finals.

The 25 year-old said that playing against the best players in the world will only help his preparations for the Australian Open, “I think it’s going to help prepare for the Australian Open and for the rest of the year because I can start out by playing against the best players in the world,” Fritz claimed.

“The field is so strong, so it’s always great to surround yourself with a lot of great players. People should come to support because hopefully it’ll be a lot of good tennis.

“Hopefully they’ll be cheering for me to win. They can expect a lot of big hitting, big serving, and hopefully some nice shot-making.”

Finally Rublev said that competing in Saudi Arabia will help find his level with the Russian having an inconsistent end to the season at the ATP Finals.

Rublev is looking to break more ground in 2023 as he searches for his Grand Slam breakthrough, “I think it’s really great because sometimes when you finish the season and you have eight weeks of not playing tournaments, you start to feel a bit stressed or nervous because you can’t tell if you’re improving or not,” Rublev admitted.

“So these kind of events help to check how your level is at the moment because you compete against other great players.”

The tournament begins on Thursday and will last for three days.

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Emma Raducanu Draws Inspiration From Andy Murray Ahead Of 2023

Emma Raducanu spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career.

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(@HeartThamesNews - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu has spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career and is optimistic about turning her form in 2023.

 

The former US Open hasn’t had too bad of an off-season after receiving her MBE for her services to sport.

Raducanu made history in 2021 as she won the US Open as a qualifier at 18 years of age.

However the Brit has yet to back that up with Raducanu changing coach on a number of occasions as she looks for some stability in 2023.

Speaking in a recent interview with Grazia Raducanu said that she believes that momentum can change quickly in tennis and that confidence is the key to success, “[In tennis] it could look like it’s all going down, down, down and just not getting any better,” Raducanu was quoted by tennishead as saying.

“Just one match can have a big influence on your confidence and once you have confidence and the momentum comes, you feel like you can’t lose. It’s a very individual sport – people are friendly but it’s difficult to be really close with those you’re competing with.”

One player that can relate to what Raducanu is saying is Andy Murray with confidence being a key theme of the highs and lows of Murray’s career.

Raducanu said that she talks to Murray regularly about the highs and lows of tennis, “Andy Murray is so good to talk to because he’s been through pretty much what I’ve been going through,” Raducanu said.

“I have always looked up to him and watched him winning his first Wimbledon and the Olympics.”

Raducanu will hope that she can use Murray’s words as inspiration for next season as she currently sits at 75 in the world.

The Brit will start her season in 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand on the 2nd of January.

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Fernando Verdasco Given Two Month Doping Ban

Fernando Verdasco has been banned from tennis until the 8th of January.

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Fernando Verdasco (@UniversTennis - Twitter)

Fernando Verdasco will miss the first week of the 2023 season after being provisionally suspended for two months after testing positive for the drug methylphenidate.

 

The former world number seven tested positive for the drug at the Challenger event in Rio De Janeiro and has accepted a voluntary ban until the 8th of January.

As well as testing positive for the drug methylphenidate, Verdasco had also forgot to renew his Therapeutic Use Exemption despite the Spaniard admitting that he was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In a statement published today the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), explained why his ban has been shortened from two years to two months, “The ITIA accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” they said in a statement on his website.

“In the specific circumstances of this case, based on the player’s degree of fault the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme allows for the applicable period of ineligibility to be reduced from two years to two months.”

The 39 year-old will as a result miss the first week of the new season with the Spaniard being currently ranked at world number 125.

In 2022, Verdasco’s best results on the ATP tour were quarter-final performances in Buenos Aires and Estoril while he also won a challenger title in Monterrey in March.

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