Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Singles Championship - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Singles Championship

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Rafael Nadal after winning on Friday in Melbourne (twitter.com/usopen)

Rafael Nadal is just one win away from a record-breaking 21st Major singles title.  He is in a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, and this would be the first time Nadal takes the lead.  Federer held match points when playing for his 21st three years ago at Wimbledon, but was stopped by Djokovic.  Novak had his chance just four months ago in New York, where he was also playing for the elusive Grand Slam, but was stopped by Daniil Medvedev.  On Sunday, Medvedev has the opportunity to play spoiler again, and in the process, become the first man in the Open Era to win their second Major at the Major directly following their first title.

 

Also on Sunday, at 3:00pm local time, it’s the women’s double championship match, with Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Anna Danilina and Beatriz Haddad Maia.  The Czech team is vying for their fourth Major as a team, and were finalists here a year ago.  This is the first Slam final for both Danilina and Haddad Maia.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Rafael Nadal (6) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

This is a rematch of the 2019 US Open championship match, when Nadal was up two sets before Medvedev came storming back in his first Major final, with Rafa eventually prevailing 6-4 in the fifth after nearly five hours.  A month prior, Nadal had completely dominated Medvedev in their first career meeting at the Canada Masters, by a score of 6-3, 6-0.  They’ve also met twice at the ATP Finals, where they have split two tight three-setters. 

Nadal has expressed how shocked he is by this run, as he’s somewhat surprised to be playing at all.  Undergoing foot surgery several months ago, Rafa wasn’t sure whether he would be able to play again.  But since returning, he’s gone 9-0, and has reached his 29th Major final, where he owns a record of 20-8.

In the absence of Djokovic, Medvedev has asserted himself as the sport’s best hard court player.  Over the past 12 months, he’s 60-9 on this surface.  This is his third consecutive hard court Major final, and his fourth overall.

As Rafa likes to say, players must suffer on court, and both of these men certainly have this fortnight.  Nadal described suffering from heat stroke during his five-set quarterfinal against Denis Shapovalov, while Medvedev contested perhaps the most exhausting match of the tournament in his quarterfinal against Felix Auger-Aliassime.  However, both men recovered well, and appeared the fresher player in each of their semifinals, where both prevailed in four sets. 

Their last three matchups have been close, dramatic affairs, and I expect another one on Sunday, especially with so much history on the line.  And above any statistics or strategy, that may be the biggest factor on this day: who will better meet this moment?  Medvedev took advantage of how nervous Djokovic was at the US Open to claim his first Major title, but defeating another all-time great at the very next Major is a formidable challenge

With Federer and Djokovic absent, and coming back from foot surgery, 35-year-old Nadal is fully aware of what an important, fleeting opportunity this is to win his 21st Major.  He will certainly feel nerves during this match, but he will also cherish the simple fact that he’s able to play, and is competing for another title of any kind.  And there has not been a more ferocious competitor in the history of the sport than Rafa.  Five years ago, another 35-year-old named Federer returned from a prolonged injury layoff to win the Australian Open.  History may repeat itself, and in turn be made, on Sunday in Melbourne.


Sunday’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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