Australian Open Daily Preview: Opportunities Abound in the Bottom Halves of the Draws - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

Australian Open Daily Preview: Opportunities Abound in the Bottom Halves of the Draws

Avatar

Published

on

Felix Auger-Alisassime earlier this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

In the bottom half of the women’s singles draw, only nine of the 16 seeded players have survived the first two rounds.  And of the players remaining, only two have won a Major (Halep, Swiatek).  In the bottom half of the men’s draw, 10 seeds remain, and again only two Slam champs (Medvedev, Cilic).  There is plenty of room for new names to make extended runs into the second week of this Major.

 

Each day, this preview will highlight the most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.


Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (31) – Second on Margaret Court Arena

It would usually sound ridiculous to say it’s quite shocking to see the second seed reach the third round, but that’s the case with Sabalenka, who has persevered despite the embarrassing service issues she’s currently enduring.  However, Vondrousova will be a considerable step up in competition, as Aryna’s first two opponents were ranked 100th or lower.  And Marketa arrives with a lot of confidence.  The 2019 Roland Garros runner-up was the Olympic Silver Medalist six months ago in Tokyo, and followed that up by achieving three semifinals between September and October.  She’s yet to drop a set this week, which includes a victory over one of the WTA’ fastest rising players, Ludmilla Samsonova.  While Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 2-1, which includes a straightforward win last March in Miami, that was well before her serving woes.  Through four matches in 2022, Aryna has averaged nearly 18 double faults per match.  If that continues on Saturday, Vondrousova will surely take advantage and advance.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Dan Evans (24) – Not Before 5:00pm on John Cain Arena

This is a rematch of the championship match from a warm-up event on these same grounds a year ago.  On that day, both men were vying for their first ATP title.  Evans met the moment, comfortably winning 6-2, 6-3.  For Auger-Aliassime, that’s one of eight finals he’s reached in his career, and he’s yet to even win a set.  However, Felix is the much more accomplished player at Majors, having achieved his first quarterfinal in July at Wimbledon, and his first semifinal in September at the US Open.  Dan is yet to advance that far at a Slam.  The Canadian has complicated matters for himself this week, playing two grueling matches, averaging four hours on court each day.  By contrast, Evans received a walkover in the last round, and spent less than two hours winning his opening round in straights.  Despite all that, I expect Felix to recover fairly well, and be able to dictate play against the British No.2. 


Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Daria Kasatkina (25) – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

This should be a compelling matchup between two aggressive players with plenty of variety and high tennis IQ’s.  And they are both in excellent form.  They have combined to allow their opponents only 16 games through eight sets thus far.  And both accumulated some solid wins heading into this event: Swiatek defeated Leylah Fernandez and Victoria Azarenka, while Kasatkina beat Sofia Kenin and Garbine Muguruza.  Their only previous meeting occurred last June on the grass of Eastbourne, with Kasatkina prevailing in three.  That was part of a resurgent season for the 24-year-old Russian, who started the year ranked 72nd, but ended it ranked 26th.  Yet Daria has not advanced beyond this round of a Major since Wimbledon 2018, while Iga was the only WTA player to reach the fourth round at every Slam last year.  And when Swiatek starts dominating as she has this week, it’s extremely challenging to deter her.


Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Marin Cilic (27) – Last on Margaret Court Arena

After competing in an exhibition event last month in Abu Dhabi, Rublev was one of many players to test positive for COVID-19.  After quarantining and recovering, he has described how physically spent he was after practicing in the days leading up to this fortnight.  But he has been dominant through two rounds, dropping only 13 games across six sets.  And the Russian has recently owned his rivalry with Cilic.  While Marin claimed their first meeting, which was seven years ago on clay while Andrey was ranked outside the top 200, Rublev has taken the last four.  All of them have been on hard courts, and three of them were decided in straight sets.  However, since last June, Cilic has been playing his best tennis in years.  He won Stuttgart, and reached back-to-back finals in Russia.  I expect the 2014 US Open champion to make this a highly competitive affair, yet Rublev’s fire power should enable him to prevail.  On what is forecast be another scorching day in Melbourne, his groundstrokes will be even more punishing.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Benoit Paire – Tsitsipas overcame an impressive challenge from Sebastian Baez on Thursday night, while Paire upset Grigor Dimitrov earlier in the day.  The Greek is 3-1 against the Frenchman, and has only lost seven games in their last five sets.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – This is a rematch from the US Open quarterfinals, where Medvedev downed the Dutch qualifier in four.  Medvedev was not pleased with how certain members of the Aussie crowd treated him on Thursday while facing Nick Kyrgios, and I’m curious to see if they continue to bother him on Saturday.

Simona Halep (14) vs. Danka Kovinic – Halep’s set scores thus far have been 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, and 6-0.  The 2018 finalist is looking fully healthy after injuries sidetracked her last season.  Kovinic upset another Major champion, Emma Raducanu, on Thursday. 

Roberto Bautista Agut (15) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – Bautista Agut lost only four games in the second round.  Fritz is yet to lose a set, and soundly defeated fellow American Frances Tiafoe on Thursday.  Roberto is 5-1 against Taylor, and has claimed their last three encounters in straight sets.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

Focus

ATP and WTA removes rankings points from Wimbledon

Players playing Wimbledon have no ranking points to play for.

Avatar

Published

on

(@FOS - Twitter)

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.

Continue Reading

Focus

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

Rafael Nadal begins against Jordan Thompson on Monday.

Avatar

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Focus

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

Novak Djokovic begins his Roland Garros campaign against Yoshihito Nishioka.

Avatar

Published

on

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:

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending