US Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays for the Grand Slam Against Daniil Medvedev - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays for the Grand Slam Against Daniil Medvedev

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Novak Djokovic after his semifinal win on Friday (twitter.com/usopen)

Novak Djokovic is just one match away from achieving what no player has done since 1988 (Steffi Graf) and no man has done since 1969 (Rod Laver): completing the Grand Slam.  It’s a term often misused to describe a Major tournament, but the Grand Slam is specifically winning all four Majors in the same calendar year.  Incredibly, it would also be his 21st Major overall, surpassing both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most all-time in the men’s game.  This could be one of the most monumental days in tennis history.

 

But Daniil Medvedev is keen to play spoiler.  This is the third Major final for the 25-year-old Russian, which have all come on hard courts, his signature surface.  Two years ago at this event, he pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets in a thrilling championship match, winning over the same New York crowd that had booed him throughout the tournament.  Seven month ago in Australia, he was dominated by Djokovic by a score of 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.  However, it seems the Russian is ready to provide much more resistance on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Daniil Medvedev (2) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Overall Djokovic leads their head-to-head- 5-3, with the Australian Open final serving as their last encounter.  Novak leads 4-2 on hard courts, and 2-0 at Majors, with both matches occurring in Melbourne.  Medvedev’s three victories have come at Masters 1000 events and the ATP Finals.  And that’s the crucial point here: Daniil has never defeated Novak in best-of-five, nor been able to push him to a fifth set. 

Djokovic has become a master of this format, as evidenced by his run this fortnight.  He has dropped the first set in his last four matches, yet remarkably won them all rather comfortably.  Even when Sascha Zverev forced a fifth set in Friday’s semfiinals, Novak took that set 6-2.  Medvedev’s run in New York has been much more straightforward, dropping only one set.  He’s been clinical in dismissing opponents, and I found his complete lack of celebration after defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in the semifinals quite revealing.  Daniil fully expected to win that match, and will not be satisfied unless he takes the title.

This should be a stellar final, with so much on the line.  I do not anticipate another straight-set victory for Djokovic like earlier this year.  We really haven’t seen Novak tighten up at a crucial moment while chasing the Grand Slam at either Wimbledon or the US Open, but that must happen at some point, right?  And this is not Rod Laver Arena, where Djokovic has never lost in the championship match.  The Serbian is surprisingly only 3-5 in finals on Arthur Ashe Stadium.  I think Medvedev truly believes he can win this match, and would revel in going down in history as the player who prevented Novak from completing the Grand Slam.  However, I cannot get the words Novak said in his post-match interview on Friday out of my head: “I am going to treat my next match like it is the last match of my career.”  Djokovic realizes what a unique opportunity this is to secure two of tennis’ greatest feats on the same day, and is ready to give absolutely everything he has to make that happen.  Echoing the famous sentiment of Billie Jean King, Novak has treated the pressure of this moment as a privilege.  He has fully embraced it, and I do not see him being denied.


Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship will be decided, as Coco Gauff and Katy McNally play their first Major final against 2019 Australian Open champions Sam Stosur and Shuai Zhang at 1:00pm local time on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Goes for her 31st Consecutive Victory

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A shot from the grounds of the French Open (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

This century, as per the WTA, Iga Swiatek is tied for fifth-most 6-0 sets won in a season.  And it’s still only May.  The 2020 champion will look to continue her dominance on Saturday against Danka Kovinic, won who an ITF-level clay event earlier this month.

 

Other third round action on Saturday includes Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Paula Badosa.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Cristian Garin – 11:00am on Court 14

Rublev won a clay event in Belgrade last month, yet went just 2-2 between Madrid and Rome.  Thus far, he’s dropped a set in each of his first two matches.  So Andrey is not currently in his top form.  And his history at this event is rather up-and-down: he reached the quarterfinals in 2020, but lost in the first round in his other two previous appearances.  Garin excels on this surface: all five of his career ATP titles have come on clay, and he advanced to the fourth round here a year ago.  After surprisingly struggling on clay this February in South America, where he went 0-3, the Chilean was a semifinalist in Houston and a quarterfinalist in Madrid.  Andrey is 2-0 against Cristian, which includes a win on clay three years ago in Hamburg.  Garin should certainly test Rublev, and if he does, Andrey needs to avoid allowing his temper to get the best of him as it recently has.  But the seventh seed has the necessary fire power to dictate play and prevail.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Danika Kovinic – 12:00pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Kovinic is a 27-year-old from Montenegro who, after never getting beyond the second round of a Major for eight years, is now into the third round at the second consecutive Slam  At January’s Australian Open, she upset US Open champ Emma Raducanu.  And she’s 12-4 this year on clay at all levels.  But defeating another Slam champ on Saturday will be a daunting task.  Swiatek has not lost since February 16th, and she’s 16-2 lifetime at this event, with her only losses coming against top 10 opposition (Halep, Sakkari).  Iga is a huge favorite to make the second week of this event for the fourth straight year, something she’s never failed to do.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic (28) – Second on Court Suzanne Lenglen

Coming off a near two-month layoff for hernia surgery, and an 0-1 record on clay this season, not much was expected of Medvedev heading into this fortnight.  But he’s played at a high level this week, and is yet to drop a set.  However, Kecmanovic will be a big step up in competition.  The 22-year-old is in the top 20 of the year-to-date rankings, thanks to 25 match wins.  Miomir has achieved six quarterfinals this season, and he’s coached by a man who knows plenty about playing on clay: two-time French Open semifinalist David Nalbandian.  Medvedev and Kecmanovic have never played before, and an upset of the No.2 seed would not be shocking considering Miomir’s recent form, as well as Daniil’s lack of play and lack of love for this surface.


Paula Badosa (3) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (29) – Third on Court Suzanne Lenglen

This is their third meeting this season, and Badosa crushed Kudermetova in their first two.  In Indian Wells, Paula won 6-3, 6-2.  In Madrid, it was 6-3, 6-0.  However, Veronika claimed their three earlier encounters, two of which occurred last year, and one of which was on clay.  Kudermetova reached a clay final last month in Istanbul, but then promptly lost three straight matches heading into this event, including the Madrid loss to Badosa.  Paula was an excellent 17-3 on clay last year, though she’s yet to play at her top level this season on this surface.  But based on their recent history, Badosa is a considerable favorite to even their overall head-to-head.


Holger Rune vs. Hugo Gaston – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

These are two of the ATP’s most exciting young stars, who will deservedly receive the spotlight of the night session on Saturday night in Paris.  21-year-old Gaston made his Major breakthrough at this event two years ago, as the Frenchman electrified the Parisian audience with his surprising run to the fourth round.  Hugo defeated two-time finalist Dominic Thiem in five sets, and then almost upset another Major champion Stan Wawrinka, eventually losing in five, but not before hitting an astounding 58 drop shots.  19-year-old Rune made a name for himself at last year’s US open by taking a set off Novak Djokovic.  And within the last two months, Rune has claimed two clay titles, one at Challenger level and one at tour level.  Holger is yet to drop a set this week, while Hugo again enthused his home country with a victory over Alex de Minaur in a fifth-set tiebreak.  The French crowd played a huge role in that outcome, and they’ll look to do the same on Saturday evening.  But in their first career meeting, the more in-form player should be favored, and that definitively is Rune.  Prior to this tournament, Gaston was only 4-9 on the year.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Camila Giorgi (28) – These are two of the WTA’s hardest ball strikers.  They have split two previous meetings, with their clay court matchup going to Sabalenka.

Jessica Pegula (11) vs. Tamara Zidansek (24) – Pegula has required 19 match points across her first two matches to advance.  Zidansek was a surprise semifinalist here a year ago, but had a losing record on the year coming into this event.  Two years in Auckland, Pegula defeated Zidansek 6-2, 6-3.

Hubert Hurkacz (12) vs. David Goffin – Hurkacz has advanced via two three-setters, while Goffin has advanced via two four-setters.  Just a few weeks ago in Rome, Goffin overcame Hurkacz in two sets decided by tiebreaks.

Marin Cilic (20) vs. Gilles Simon (WC) – Simon is one of the best stories of this first week.  Gilles was 1-4 at tour level this season, but in his last Roland Garros, the Frenchman has thrilled the Parisian crowd with surprising victories over Pablo Carreno Busta and Steve Johnson.  And he’s 6-1 lifetime against Cilic, with Marin’s only win coming in a five-setter at the 2014 US Open.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Mikael Ymer – Tsitsipas has really struggled through two rounds, already spending nearly eight hours on court.  Ymer is yet to go beyond the third round of a Slam, and is 0-3 against the Greek.

Elena Rybakina (16) vs. Madison Keys (22) – Rybakina was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, though Keys has reached the quarters or better twice.  This is their first meeting.

Casper Ruud (8) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (32) – Despite owning seven ATP titles on clay, Ruud is 0-3 in the third round of Roland Garros.  Sonego reached the fourth round two years ago, and is yet to drop a set this week.  Ruud is 3-0 against Sonego, and has won six of their seven sets.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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David Goffin upsets Frances Tiafoe and Marin Cilic rolls on

David Goffin will play Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday for a place in the last 16.

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David Goffin (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Belgium’s David Goffin displayed his specialist clay-court skills as he fought back to beat Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

 

After losing the opening set 6-3, the Marrakesh Open champion won a crucial second set tie-break 7-6 (7-1).

Then never looked back to win the third and fourth sets 6-2, 6-4 to cement his place in the round of 32.

After the match he had this to say.

“It was a tough battle, especially when you lose the first set, and you have to turn it around.”

Physically it was not easy but it’s good that I managed to finish in four sets.

“I’m very happy to be in third round again. It means a lot, of course,” he said.

“I’m playing well at the moment. Physically, mentally, my tennis is there.

“It was my goal to come back and play my best tennis. So, I’m very happy.”

His next opponent will be far from easy as Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 over former French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Gilles Simon’s dream campaign before retiring in the autumn continues as he made light work of Steve Johnson.

The American going down in straight sets 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6).

Simon’s next opponent is none other than Marin Cilic.

The Croatian is slowly returning to form, but will be more than happy to have seen off the dangerous Hungarian Márton Fucsovics.

Storming back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas kept his title hopes alive as he stuttered past Czech Zdeněk Kolář.

A tight four sets and three tie-breaks needed to book his place in round three, coming through 6-3, 7-6 (10-8), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (9-7).

He will play Sweden’s Mikael Ymer next.

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Amanda Anisimova Finds Enjoyment In Tennis After Stellar 2022 Season Continues

Amanda Anisimova will play Leylah Fernandez in the last 16 on Sunday.

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Amanda Anisimova (@usta - Twitter)

Amanda Anisimova is enjoying her tennis again after her stellar 2022 season continues in Paris.

 

The American had to overcome a tough challenge against the tricky Karolina Muchova.

Last year’s semi-finalist was leading the Czech Republican 6-7(7) 6-2 3-0 before Muchova’s injury struggles continued and she retired.

As for Anisimova, her form season has continued as she has now won three or more matches in her last four tournaments and has risen up the rankings.

One of the reasons for this Anisimova states is her finding enjoyment in her tennis again, “I think this whole year I’ve just, I don’t know, it’s just different for me this year playing, I just really enjoy like the fight and being out there and just every single point,” Anisimova said in her press conference.

“Last year I don’t think tennis was my first priority. I think that I was just struggling too much off court and I couldn’t really enjoy the game. And, yeah, it was different, so, yeah, I’m just happy with how this year has been going and finding my game again and just be out there playing and having fun.

“I just reset and I, I don’t know, started playing a bit better, so that’s something that I worked on and, yeah, like last year was difficult for me, but I’ve turned things around. I’m enjoying playing tennis more now so, yeah, just my outlook is different.”

Anisimova’s tennis has been a lot more enjoyable to watch and it’s clear to see that the American is enjoying her environment and the way she plays tennis now.

On the flip side, the last couple of years have been a struggle for Anisimova with personal struggles to deal with as well as a lot of anxiety.

Recently Simona Halep suffered a panic attack in her second round match at Roland Garros leading to defeat.

Anisimova reflected on her experiences and admits tennis can be a stressful sport, “I don’t know with other players what they experience, but I feel like for me like when I’m rushing and I’m worrying more and overall I think that what I worked on is just to slow down when I’m aware that it’s happening and just try to take my time and just breathe,” Anisimova told the press.

“I think the awareness part is the biggest key to those situations. I wouldn’t say it’s like such a big thing, like because tennis matches, they’re always stressful, I think, the whole match. I think with experience over the years you learn more and as you play on the big stadiums it’s just comes with experience and, yeah, just learning all the lessons you can.”

Anisimova’s experiences have certainly helped her as she looks forward to the second week at Roland Garros.

Next for the American will be US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez who edged out Belinda Bencic in three sets.

Bencic was the highest seed left in the bottom half in the draw but Fernandez was too strong as she advanced to the last 16.

Fernandez leads the head-to-head heading into Sunday’s clash.

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