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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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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