Australian Open Daily Preview: Sunday Delivers Several Blockbuster Fourth Round Matchups - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Sunday Delivers Several Blockbuster Fourth Round Matchups

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Barbora Krejcikova on Friday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The round of 16 begins on Sunday in Melbourne in the men’s and women’s singles draws.  Australia’s Ash Barty will face the player who upset Naomi Osaka in third-set tiebreak, Amanda Anisimova.  Sascha Zverev takes on a player who has claimed two of their last three meetings, Denis Shapovalov.  And in a meeting of Major champions, reigning Roland Garros champ (in both singles and doubles) Barbora Krejcikova will do battle with Victoria Azarenka, who was the victor here in 2012 and 2013.

 

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


Paula Badosa (8) vs. Madison Keys – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

These are two of the hottest players in the sport.  Badosa has won 16 of her last 19 matches, and has started the year 8-0.  Keys is on an eight-match win streak of her own, a stark turnaround coming off a disappointing season where she went only 11-15.  During her press conference on Friday, Madison said “I think for me it’s so easy to get suckered into just trying to hit hard.”  She also described how adding more shape to her shots and looking to come forward has improved her game in 2022.  Both players came through grueling matches on Friday.  Badosa looked completely spent after overcoming Marta Kostyuk 6-4 in the third, while Keys survived a third-set tiebreak against Qiang Wang.  In their first career meeting, Badosa is the favorite considering her recent form and more all-around game, though Madison is an extremely dangerous opponent when she is striking the ball with confidence as she is now.


Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Victoria Azarenka (24) – Second on Rod Laver Arena

Their only previous encounter took place in October of 2020 in Ostrava, with Azarenka prevailing in three.  But 15 months later, Krejickova is an entirely different player.  Her previous success had come in doubles, though that changed last season when she accumulate 45 match wins and three titles, including her first Major singles title in Paris.  This is only her eighth main draw appearance at a Slam, and she’s now reached the fourth round or better on five occasions.  Krejickova came back from a set down on Friday to defeat another French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko.  However, no player has been more impressive through three rounds than Azarenka.  Her set scores so far are the following: 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, 6-2.  She completely dominated Elina Svitolina in the last round.  Vika’s current form, and her previous success at hard court Majors such as this, make her the favorite to advance.


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Denis Shapovalov (14) – Not Before 3:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

Overall Zverev leads their head-to-head 3-2.  The German claimed their first two meetings, before losing the next two.  And most recently, at last February’s ATP Cup, Zverev was victorious in third-set tiebreak after nearly three hours.  The 2021 ATP Finals champion is yet to drop a set, while Shapovalov has played 13 sets through three rounds, and spent over four more hours on court.  I expect Denis to play freely against a higher-seeded player, and to be the first man to take a set off Zverev this fortnight.  But over the course of five sets, Zverev’s serving prowess and consistent groundstrokes should allow him to reach the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year.


Ash Barty (1) vs. Amanda Anisimova – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Barty has been an elite player for several years now, but she may currently be at her highest level yet.  The World No.1 has now held her serve in 58 straight service games.  Much like Azarenka, she’s yet to be tested at this event.  But that may change on Sunday, as Anisimova is also playing the best tennis of her career.  And also like Barty, she’s undefeated in 2022.  Working with Australia’s own Darren Cahill this month has paid immediate dividends.  The 20-year-old American saved two match points in defeating Osaka, the defending champion, in a high-quality affair.  Defeating another multi-time Slam champ just two days later is a tall task.  And it was Ash who ended Amanda’s last great run at a Major, winning in three sets during the 2019 Roland Garros semifinals.  Barty should be favored to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive year.


Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (19) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

What condition will Berrettini be in following an over four-hour epic against Carlos Alcaraz?  Not only did that match go all the way to a fifth-set tiebreak, but Matteo also rolled his ankle during the fifth set.  None of the Italian’s matches this week have been straightforward, as he was pushed to four sets in his first two rounds.  The good news for Berrettini is Carreno Busta has also contested some grueling matches, playing nine sets across the last two rounds.  And last year, Matteo didn’t lose at a Major to any player not named Djokovic.  Surprisingly, this will be their first career meeting.  Keeping in mind what Matteo has already endured at this event, and how his body has often broken down in the past, this is a great opportunity for Pablo to move beyond the fourth round of this tournament for the first time.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Jessica Pegula (21) – Sakkari is 2-0 against Pegula, which includes a victory last March in Miami decided by a third-set tiebreak.  The American was a surprise quarterfinalist here a year ago, while the Greek achieved two Major semifinals last season.

Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Adrian Mannarino – In his 13th appearance, Mannarino has reached the round of 16 at this event for the first time.  He did so through impressive wins over Hubi Hurkacz and Aslan Karatsev.  But he is 0-2 against Nadal, who is only 12 sets away from winning a record-breaking 21st Major.

Gael Monfils (17) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic – Like Berrettini, Monfils suffered an ankle scare on Friday, but seemed to be unaffected.  And he’s been on fire to start 2022, winning a title in Adelaide, and claiming nine straight sets this week.  Kecmanovic was drawn to face fellow countryman Novak Djokovic in the first round, but in Novak’s absence, has made Serbia proud with his deepest run at a Major to date.  Just two months ago in Bercy, Monfils defeated Kecmanovic 6-3 in the third.


Sunday’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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