US Open Daily Preview: The Most Improbable Major Final of All-Time - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: The Most Improbable Major Final of All-Time

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Leylah Fernandez after winning her semifinal on Thursday evening (twitter.com/usopen)

Two months ago, Leylah Annie Fernandez lost in the first round of Wimbledon 6-1, 6-2.  Following that one-sided loss, Fernandez described she felt “embarrassed” by that effort, and vowed to improve.  Well just one Major later, she has made gigantic strides forward.  Leylah has won four consecutive three-setters over top players, including three top five upsets (Osaka, Svitolina, Sabalenla).  She turned 19-years-old during this event, yet has demonstrated more composure than her superiors in crucial moments.  Leylah is the daughter of an Ecuadorian father and a Filipino Canadian mother, an immigrant family who have become emotional when speaking of how Canada opened its doors and helped their dreams come true. 

Two months ago, Emma Raducanu was ranked 338th in the world.  She was offered a wild card into Wimbledon qualifying, which she declined, and her coach successfully fought for a wild card into the main draw.  The 18-year-old thrilled British audiences, reaching the fourth round without dropping a set.  Emma would have to retire from her fourth round match due to breathing issues, as it seemed the pressure and scrutiny that came with her overnight success was a bit too much.  But the way she has rebounded so quickly, becoming the first qualifier to ever reach a Major singles final, and winning nine consecutive straight-set matches, is an extraordinary accomplishment.  Emma is the daughter of a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, and shares a Canadian connection with Leylah, as she was born in Toronto.

Both Leylah and Emma have taken full advantage of their older, more-experienced opponents tightening up under the pressure of facing a teenager, exposing the fragility of their superiors.  They will compete in the first unseeded final in Grand Slam history, and it will be fascinating to watch.

Leylah Fernandez vs. Emma Raducanu (Q) – 4:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Three years ago, these two players met in the second round of the junior event at Wimbledon, with Raducanu prevailing 6-2, 6-4.  This will be the first of what the tennis world hopes will be many matches at tour level.  Their roads to this championship match have been strikingly different.  Fernandez has endured six extremely tight matches, going 5-0 in tiebreaks this fortnight.  Raducanu has claimed all 18 sets contested since qualifying, and done so without even playing a tiebreak.  Emma’s best chance of winning may be to avoid tiebreaks and keep the sets straightforward, as unlike Leylah, her poise is yet to be tested in a tiebreak.

Both players have been hugging the baseline, taking shots early and taking time away from their opponents.  Raducanu’s serve and groundstrokes provide her with a stronger opportunity to dictate play, and she’s kept her stats extremely clean.  Through six rounds, she has struck 132 winners, and only 88 unforced errors, and she’s only been broken five times.  But how will her game hold up against the lefty-craftiness of Fernandez, which has frustrated so many right-handed opponents? 

The biggest factors today will go beyond tactics.  Leylah has spent over five hours longer on court across their six main draw matches, which must have taken a toll.  And we’ve seen many times before how the player who upsets many top seeds on the way to the final often loses that final.  However, the most important factor will be which teenager better handles this incredible moment.  Fernandez has thrived as the underdog throughout this event, but how will she perform as the higher-ranked player?  Raducanu has looked nothing like the player who could not complete her fourth round match at Wimbledon, showing a remarkable amount of growth in such a short time.  Considering she will be the fresher player, and should feel less pressure as the lower-ranked competitor, I like Emma’s chances of becoming the 2021 US Open women’s singles champion.

Also on Saturday, the mixed doubles championship will be decided, as the No.2 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury play Giuliana Olmos and Marcelo Arevalo at 1:00pm local time on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Jack Draper Stuns Tiafoe in Stuttgart; Becomes New British Number One

The Brit serves up astonishing 31 aces in just 17 service games

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Britain’s Jack Draper was pushed all the way before beating defending champion Frances Tiafoe in a third set tie-breaker to reach the semi-finals of the Boss Open in Stuttgart today – a result which also makes him the new British number one.

Draper’s biggest wins of his career came when he defeated world number five Stefanos Tsitsipas in Montreal last year as a qualifier, and also beating Felix Auger-Aliassime in reaching the US Open third round. However, today’s victory over Tiafoe confirms his ascent to the top spot in the British rankings, something which is extremely proud of.

“It’s an incredible privilege, an honour to be in that position,” he said afterwards. “I’ve been so lucky to have guys like Andy Murray, Cam Norrie and Dan Evans ahead of me all these years and they’re still in the mix pushing me, so it’s a real honour, a big milestone.”

Games went with serve in the opening set until Tiafoe broke when the scores were even at five games all. Tiafoe, whose three ATP titles have come on all three surfaces, survived a break back point in the next game to take the set with 15 winners and an impressive 71% of first serves in. The payers stopped briefly for a rain delay at the start of the second set.

“It was difficult, it wasn’t easy after the first set, I thought Frances played a really good game, just the one break.” Said Draper. “Going off, I was very frustrated, but then I came back really strong, I knew I had my opportunities and I knew I would have some more. I’m really happy with the way I served and competed and how brave I was at the end.”

As the second set continued, Draper missed two breakpoints when 4-3 ahead including a huge chance when he pushed his opponent out wide and approached the net – but put too much on his drop volley which Tiafoe punished. Draper had been serving unbelievably throughout the set with 11 aces overall, and blitzed through another love service game to go 5-4 up and apply some scoreboard pressure.

In the next game he hit a strong forehand up the line to win the crucial first point and then chased down a drop shot to hit another flashy winner to go 0-30 ahead. Tiafoe won the next point but then double faulted to give Draper set points – and he converted with yet another superb forehand up the line to level the contest at a set all.

Both players held serve easily at the start of the third but then tested each other out as the set progressed. Tiafoe fought through a deuce game and got to 30 all on Draper’s serve but the Brit averted the danger. Draper missed a match point when 5-4 up with a missed return but entered the tie-break in good shape – his first serve was almost unplayable winning over 85% when in.

“I’m incredibly happy with the win. I’ve lost all my last three third set tie-breakers so to come through today was really amazing, I’m really proud of my effort. I’m really happy with the way I served and the way I played; it was a really high-quality match. Frances was serving very well himself so to serve the way I did; it was a really big positive for me.”

Draper now goes on to face another American Brandon Nakashima who progressed after Jan-Lennard Struff withdrew with sickness. Speaking about his next opponent who was born in the same year as Draper, he said: “He’s someone who is an incredibly good young player, a really exciting talent, I think he had a lot of injuries last year like myself but he’s been rising this year and playing a lot of matches. Like everyone here, they’re all amazing players and it will be a tough battle.”

After the match, Draper spoke to Sky Sports and elaborated further about the positive influence of the other British top five, and about the Euro 2024 tournament beginning this evening.

“Those guys have all inspired me to be better. Obviously, Andy is a two-time Wimbledon and Olympic champion and has achieved so much in the game. For me he’s one of the greatest players. I’ve learned so much from those guys, the professionalism, the discipline and they’ve always been really good for me, just as a young player looking up to them and copying what they do so I’m very grateful for that.”

“[In the football]: Hopefully England can do one better than three years ago because we did well to get to the final. We have an incredibly strong team. It’s going to be a lot of tough matches but hopefully they can pull through.

On the other side of the draw, former champion Matteo Berrettini faced qualifier James Duckworth.  The Australian, who reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2021, could only manage 64% of first serve points won and committed 16 unforced errors while also facing eight breakpoints. A single break of serve in both sets was enough for the Italian to move forward into the semis, as he won 6-4, 7-5 with another strong serving display.

“It was a really solid match, especially on my serve, I didn’t give him any breakpoints,” said Berrettini afterwards. “I felt like the rhythm on the serve was really good, on grass it’s really important and in the right moments I stepped in and was more aggressive. It’s really important to put a lot of returns in and that’s what I tried to do and it worked out, and so I’m happy for that.

When asked why he was so hard to beat on the faster surface he replied, “you should ask my opponents that! I think obviously for my weapons, my serve, it pays off on grass to play aggressively and that’s what I like to do. I’m using the slice as well on the backhand side and it’s important to play good in the important moments and being able to put pressure on your opponent when you’re serving is really important, and I think that’s the key. And when I step on grass, I feel like I want to play for hours and hours so here I am”

The 28-year-old is a big football fan, and was also asked about whether he would watch the opening match of the tournament. “Germany is playing tonight so I will watch tomorrow’s match. I love Germany but to supporting Germany is a little bit too much! Tomorrow is the start [for Italy] so good luck to the guys. Three years ago, we had really good memories during this time, so let’s see!”

Following Struff’s earlier withdrawal against Nakashima, it meant there was only one other quarter final today where Lorenzo Musetti progressed despite dropping the first set 4-6 to Hungarian Alexander Bublik. The Italian raced through the second set 6-1, and when he broke serve to go 1-0 ahead in the decider, Bublik retired.

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Rafael Nadal Announces Wimbledon Withdrawal, Will Play Bastad Ahead Of Olympics

Rafael Nadal has announced his schedule ahead of the Olympic Games.

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Rafael Nadal has announced that he will be playing the ATP 250 event in Bastad ahead of the Olympic Games as he will once again withdraws from Wimbledon.

The Spaniard is set for a massive summer as he competes in singles and doubles at the Olympic Games.

It was announced yesterday that he and Carlos Alcaraz will team up in the doubles event in Paris as Nadal searches for his third gold medal.

However Nadal’s big summer before the Olympics has been slightly altered in order to have the best preparations possible for the big event.

This is as Nadal has announced his withdrawal from Wimbledon with the Spaniard not playing the event since withdrawing from his 2022 semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

In more surprising news though Nadal announced on social media that he will be playing the ATP 250 event in Bastad, Sweden ahead of the Olympic Games, “During my post match press conference at Roland Garros I was asked about my summer calendar and since then I have been practising on clay. It was announced yesterday that I will play at the summer Olympics in Paris, my last Olympics,” Nadal explained on X.

“With this goal, we believe that the best for my body is not to change surface and keep playing on clay until then. It’s for this reason that I will miss playing at The Championships this year at Wimbledon.

“I am saddened not to be able to live this year the great atmosphere of that amazing event that will always be in my heart, and be with all the British fans that always gave me great support. I will miss you all.

“In order to prepare for the Olympic Games, I will play the tournament in Bastad, Sweden, a tournament that I played earlier in my career and where I had a great time both on and off the court. Looking forward to seeing you all there. Thank you.”

Nadal last competed at Bastad in 2005, where he won the title defeating Tomas Berdych in the final.

The tournament will take place the week after Wimbledon on the 15th of July with world number one Jannik Sinner scheduled to participate there as well.

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Rafael Nadal And Carlos Alcaraz To Team Up In Olympic Gold Bid

Rafael Nadal has been confirmed to compete at his third Olympic Games in Paris.

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Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz will team up and represent Spain in the upcoming Olympic Games.

The news was announced by Davis Cup captain David Ferrer at a press conference as he stated that Nadal and Alcaraz would team up at the Olympic Games.

Nadal has won Gold at the last two Olympic Games he has participated in and will fancy his chances of further success at Roland Garros, where he won 14 Grand Slam titles.

Meanwhile Alcaraz recently won the Roland Garros title in Paris to claim his third Grand Slam title.

Speaking about the Olympics Alcaraz stated that he is prioritising winning gold in Paris, “The Olympic Games are every four years and it’s a special tournament where you’re not only playing for yourself, but for a country, representing every Spaniard,” Alcaraz was quoted by The Score as saying.

“I think this year I’d choose Olympic gold.”

In addition to Nadal Pablo Carreno Busta, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Marcel Granollers complete the team.

On the women’s team Sara Sorribes Tormo and Cristina Bucsa will represent Spain while Paula Badosa has decided to use her last two protected rankings at Wimbledon and US Open, so will not be competing in Paris.

The tennis event at the Olympic Games begins on the 27th of July and concludes on the 4th of August.

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