Australian Open Daily Preview: Friday Provides Many Excellent Third Round Matchups - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Friday Provides Many Excellent Third Round Matchups

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Ash Barty on Wednesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Seeded players begin to collide in the draws on Friday, making for some stellar contests throughout the day.  Major champions Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Victoria Azarenka all face significant opposition, while some of the ATP’s most impressive young stars will square off to secure their spots in the round of 16.

 

Normally this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   But with so many great matchups on Day 5, that number has been expanded to six.  Friday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Elina Svitolina (15) vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Azarenka has been dominant through two rounds, losing only seven games.  She’s keeping her momentum going after her great run at Indian Wells in October.  By contrast, Svitolina came into this tournament on a four-match losing streak, dating back to a dismal 6-1, 6-1 loss at the hands of Jessica Pegula at Indian Wells.  And this rivalry has been completely one-sided to date.  Azarenka leads 4-0, and that includes a straight-set victory last March in Doha.  With warm temperatures forecast for Friday, conditions will be quick, which should reward the dictating style of Azarenka.  I like Vika’s chances to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in six years.


Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (31) – Third on Rod Laver Arena

This should be a lot of fun, with two of the ATP’s heaviest hitters trading blows.  They first played just a few months ago in Vienna, in an extremely tight match which Alcaraz claimed in a third set tiebreak.  Berrettini is yet to play his best tennis this month.  Coming off an oblique injury that forced him out of the ATP Finals, Matteo went only 1-2 at the ATP Cup, and needed four sets to prevail in both of his first two rounds.  Meanwhile, Alcaraz has looked phenomenal, not dropping a set at the next Major after his thrilling Grand Slam breakthrough in New York.  Berrettini will need a high percentage of first serves, and a high number of winners off his blistering forehand.  But over the course of five sets, a fully-fit Alcaraz should be able to wear down the Italian and advance.


Denis Shapovalov (14) vs. Reilly Opelka (23) – Third on Margaret Court Arena

Shapovalov has struggled his way through two rounds, playing a total of nine sets.  On Wednesday, he spent nearly four-and-a-half hours on court against Soon Woo Kwon.  Opelka has required three less sets, and four less hours, to reach the third round.  This will be the first main draw meeting between the left-handed Canadian and the big-serving American.  Reilly seems primed for a deep run at a Major.  Last season, he reached two Masters 1000 semifinals, and made his first appearance in the fourth round of a Slam in New York.  If he can push several sets to a tiebreak, he has a strong chance to prevail, especially if Denis is feeling physically drained.  But considering Shapovalov’s returning prowess, Denis remains the favorite.  He’s a great shot-maker, and enjoys having a target to aim for.  Opelka will likely provide him with plenty of targets, as he came to net 30 times during his three-set win on Wednesday.


Ash Barty (1) vs. Camila Giorgi (30) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Barty’s victories thus far have been comprehensive, allowing her opposition a total of three games through four sets, and spending less than an hour on court in each match.  Giorgi has been impressive as well, having yet to drop a set.  And it was only five months ago, on this same surface, when Camila earned the biggest title of her career, at the WTA 1000 event in Canada.  She has made great strides in better controlling her aggression, and choosing when to go for a winner.  But she is 0-3 against Barty, with their most recent encounter occurring four years ago at this event.  Giorgi is capable of beating almost anyone on almost any day, but Ash’s well-rounded game makes her a significant favorite.


Naomi Osaka (4) vs. Amanda Anisimova – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

Both women are undefeated to start off 2022.  Osaka won three matches in a tune-up event on these same grounds before withdrawing, while Anisimova won a tune-up event at Melbourne Park.  With Darren Cahill added to her coaching team, Amanda has rediscovered the form that made her a French Open semifinalist in 2019.  Her backhand is formidable, yet overall her groundstrokes and serve don’t quite compare to that of Osaka’s.  Naomi has appeared rather confident on court despite taking a near-four-month break from competition to end 2021.  But a matchup against an in-form player of Amanda’s caliber is a dangerous draw for Osaka, who has only played five matches since early September.


Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Karen Khachanov (28) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Nadal has also only played five matches since last summer, when he underwent a procedure on his foot.  And he’s often been tested by Khachanov, most notably at the 2018 US Open, when they played a high-quality four-setter which lasted well over four hours.  Out of their last 10 sets played, six of those sets have been decided by tiebreaks, and two of the others ended with a score of 7-5.  Yet, Rafa has managed to prevail all seven times they’ve met, with five of those occasions coming on hard courts.  The big-swinging Russian possesses a style which has often flustered Nadal throughout his career, but is yet to maintain a high enough level to secure more than one set in a match.  And all six of those aforementioned tiebreaks have gone the way of Rafa.  Despite Nadal not being fully match tough, there’s not much evidence to support a probable outcome other than an eighth victory for the 20-time Major champion.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Jelena Ostapenko (26) – It’s a matchup of surprising Roland Garros champions.  In Dubai last March, Krejcikova allowed Ostapenko only four games.

Paula Badosa (8) vs. Marta Kostyuk – When asked about facing Kostyuk after her second round win, Badosa stated “When they ask me who can be the next star, I always say Marta.”  Kostyuk took out Sara Sorribes Tormo on Wednesday, while Badosa has lost only seven games through four sets.

Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (28) – Neither woman has lost a set yet.  Last summer in Canada, they participated in an extended contest, with Sakkari prevailing 6-4 in the third.

Cristian Garin (16) vs. Gael Monfils (17) – Through two rounds, Garin has played 10 sets and spent over nine hours on court, while Monfils has easily claimed all six sets he’s played, and spent only three hours on court.  Two years ago at the inaugural ATP CUP, Monfils defeated Garin in straight sets.

Pablo Carreno Busta (19) vs. Sebastian Korda – Both men prevailed after grueling five-set battles on Wednesday.  After testing positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia, and barely practicing leading into this event, what will Korda have left after a nearly five-hour second round match? 

Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Radu Albot (Q) – Zverev is yet to drop a set, and Albot is yet to face a player ranked inside the top 100.  Though three years ago at the US Open, Radu pushed Sascha to five sets.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP and WTA removes rankings points from Wimbledon

Players playing Wimbledon have no ranking points to play for.

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The ATP responded in regards to the ban on Russian and Belorussian players that was made by the tournament.

 

The ATP has officially responded to Wimbledon banning all Russian and Belorussian in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has wreaked havoc on the world of sports.

Russian and Belorussian players up to this point have been playing under their name and not their country.

The ATP released a statement in regards to the decision that was made.

The move essentially makes Wimbledon an exhibition event meaning players who decide to play won’t be able to move up in the world rankings and points won’t have to be defended.

Wimbledon made the announcement in April that they would placing the ban as the All England Club stated the possibility of the Russian government using players success as propaganda for the reason behind the move.

The ATP responded by saying the ban violated their agreement and discriminating against players since they compete as individuals. Removing points seemed like the only feasable move to make.

Russian and Belorussian players are allowed to play at the French Open which begins this Sunday in Paris. Danil Medvedev who is currently the 2nd ranked player in the world was asked about the move.

I’m not in ATP taking the decisions, I’m not in Wimbledon taking the decisions. Maybe it’s government pushing them, maybe it’s their decision. There a lot of mistakes behind this. So if I can play I’m going to be happy to play. I love Wimbledon as a tournament.”

He also added that if he couldn’t play there this year he would try to play next year and play good.

The WTA has also followed suit but this time has also penalized some of the warm-up tournaments.

Wimbledon is currently scheduled to start on June 27th and will culminate with the final on Sunday July 10th.

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Rafael Nadal Dismisses Favourite Status And Talks About Foot Pain Ahead Of Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal begins against Jordan Thompson on Monday.

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Rafael Nadal (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has dismissed that he is the favourite for Roland Garros after admitting that his foot pain is still present.

 

Nadal searches for his 14th Roland Garros title over the next two weeks but enters with doubts.

This is after the Spaniard went out at the quarter-final stage in Madrid to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.

That was followed by a third round exit in Rome where he, literally, limped out to Denis Shapovalov.

Now Nadal approaches the tournament in a situation where it is unknown whether he can claim a 22nd grand slam title in the French capital.

Speaking in his pre-tournament press conference Nadal dismissed his chances and claimed his foot pain is still present, “I mean, for sure not, because the results says that I am not, but is something that never worried much to me, no?,” Nadal said when asked if he was the favourite to win the title.

“Of course one of the candidates. I considered myself during all my tennis career one of the candidates here, because I achieve tournaments before here, and now on Friday, before the tournament start, I don’t think I am the
favourite at all. But you never know what can happen.

“It’s not about gonna disappear now. It’s about if the pain is high and strong enough to allow me to play with real chances or not. But in my case, is something that I live every day with that, so is nothing new for me and is not a big surprise.

“So I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros, no? And if I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I will not be here.

“So I am just working as much as I can, and practicing as good as possible. My real goal is just put me in a position that I am healthy and playing enough good tennis to give myself good chances.”

Time will tell whether Nadal has healed in time to be a contender for Roland Garros and claim his second grand slam of the season.

One thing we do know though is that the Spaniard has a tricky draw with Novak Djokovic looming in the last eight and Carlos Alcaraz awaiting in the semi-finals.

Despite the tough draw Nadal admitted he doesn’t really think about the draw until he faces the players he has to play, “I mean, mentally for me it doesn’t matter,” Nadal said.

“In terms of tennis, of course the top of the draw you see the names, of course is a very tough one. But we are in a Grand Slam, and you never know what can happen, no? You know, remain a lot of things to happen, to probably arrive to the matches that you are thinking, you know.

“I mean, the only thing that I can say is of course I know everything. For me never have been a problem that. I am probably humble enough in that case to just be focused on my first match. Doesn’t matter if I know where I am exactly and what, you know, possible opponents I can have.

“Only thing that I would like is be the player that, one of the players that you think can face these other great players.”

Before Nadal can think about Djokovic or Alcaraz, the 21-time grand slam champion will have to overcome his first obstacle in Jordan Thompson on Monday.

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Novak Djokovic Drawn Against Nadal And Alcaraz In Top Half Of Roland Garros Draw

Novak Djokovic begins his Roland Garros campaign against Yoshihito Nishioka.

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Novak Djokovic (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

World number one Novak Djokovic has been drawn against Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz in the top half of the men’s draw at Roland Garros.

 

Djokovic is looking to claim a record-equalling 21st grand slam title at Roland Garros as well as successfully defend his title.

However to do that the Serb will have to go through both Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz en route to the final.

In his opening match Djokovic will face Yoshihito Nishioka before possibly facing Alex Molcan who is coached by Djokovic’s former coach Marian Vajda.

Jenson Brooksby and Diego Schwartzman stand in Djokovic’s way of a blockbuster quarter-final with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.

The winner of that match could face Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals with the Spaniard projected to meet Alexander Zverev in the last eight.

Meanwhile Nadal will open his campaign against Jordan Thompson before potentially facing Stan Wawrinka in a rematch of the 2017 final.

Botic Van De Zandschulp and Felix Auger-Aliassime are potential opponents for Nadal before a titanic quarter-final match.

Meanwhile in the second quarter of the draw Alcaraz and Zverev both face qualifiers in the opening round.

Alcaraz could face Sebastian Korda, who he lost to in Monte-Carlo, and Cameron Norrie en route to the last eight.

While Zverev would face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Taylor Fritz before a showdown with Alcaraz.

In the bottom half of the draw Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas could meet in the last eight.

Tsitsipas, who was two sets to love up in last year’s final, will face Lorenzo Musetti in the opening round.

There could be a last 16 meeting for Tsitsipas with Denis Shapovalov however the Canadian will face in-form rising star Holger Rune in the opening round.

Ruud’s opening match will be against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who is playing his final Roland Garros of his career.

In the bottom quarter, Andrey Rublev will meet Soonwoo Kwon in his opening match with the Russian potentially facing Jannik Sinner in the last 16.

While Daniil Medvedev takes on Facundo Bagnis in his opening match in what will be his second tournament back since surgery.

Medvedev could be scheduled to meet Miami Open semi-finalist Miomir Kecmanovic in the third round.

Here is the draw with play beginning on Monday:

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