Australian Summer Daily Preview: Rafael Nadal Plays His First Singles Match in Five Months - UBITENNIS
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Australian Summer Daily Preview: Rafael Nadal Plays His First Singles Match in Five Months

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Rafael Nadal practicing last week in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Outside of an exhibition last month in Abu Dhabi, Rafael Nadal has not competed in a singles match in over five months due to a foot injury.  On Thursday, he returns to the singles court in Melbourne.  And he will be pulling double duty, as he also has a doubles match scheduled in the evening.  

 

Also on Thursday, ATP Cup action will decide which two countries will join Spain and Poland in the semifinals.  Group C’s singles matches alone feature seven top 25 players, and Group B contests are headlined by a top 10 matchup between Daniil Medvedev and Matteo Berrettini. 

In Adelaide, the schedule is highlighted by defending champion Iga Swiatek taking on US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez, in the first of what could be many career matchups between the 20-year-old from Poland and the 19-year-old Canadian. 

Each day, this preview will highlight the most prominent matches from around Australia.


Sydney: The ATP Cup, a Round Robin Team Event between 16 Nations

Top Players: Daniil Medvedev, Sascha Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud

Group Standings are here, Order of Play is here.

Daniil Medvedev [RUS] vs. Matteo Berrettini [ITA] – Second on Ken Rosewall Arena

Russia is currently in qualifying position with a 2-0 record, but Italy can spoil their plans if they win this tie.  Medvedev leads their head-to-head 2-0, which includes a match in the final of this event a year ago.  On that day, Daniil dominated proceedings by a score of 6-4, 6-2.

Sascha Zverev [GER] vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime [CAN] – Not Before 7:00pm on Qudos Bank Arena

All four teams in Group C are 1-1, leaving semifinal qualification wide open.  This is a rematch from a thriller at last year’s Wimbledon, where Auger-Aliassime let a two-set lead slip, yet held on to win in five.  However, that is Felix’s only victory over Sascha in their five meetings.


Adelaide: a WTA 500 Event, and an ATP 250 Event

Top WTA Players: Ash Barty, Aryna Sabalenka, Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa, Iga Swiatek

Top ATP Players: Gael Monfils, Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic

WTA draw is here, ATP draw is here, and Order of Play is here.

Iga Swiatek (5) vs. Leylah Fernandez – 11:00am on Centre Court

Swiatek was the only WTA player to reach the second week of every Slam in 2021.  Fernandez has only played four matches since her exhilarating run in New York.  Leylah will also play doubles later in the day, teaming with New Zealand’s Erin Routliffe against Australia’s Ash Barty and Storm Sanders.

Sofia Kenin (6) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Not Before 8:30pm on Centre Court

The 2020 Australian Open champion is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2021, when she was only 11-10.  Kenin re-added her father as her coach heading into this season.  Tomljanovic reached her first Major quarterfinal at The Championships last summer.  This is their first meeting at tour-level.


Melbourne: Two WTA 250 Events, and an ATP 25 Event

Top WTA Players: Naomi Osaka, Jessica Pegula, Simona Halep

Top ATP Players: Rafael Nadal, Reilly Opelka, Grigor Dimitrov

The WTA draws are here and here, and the ATP draw is here.  The Order of Play is here.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Ricardas Berankis (Q) – Third on Rod Laver Arena

Nadal was 24-5 in 2021, with all but one of his losses coming against top 10 opposition.  He’s never played 31-year-old Ricardas Berankis, who came through qualifying to defeat Marcos Giron in the first round.  Nadal will also play doubles later in the day out on Court 13, teaming with Jaume Munar to face Andrey Golubev and Franko Skugor.

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Maryna Zanevska – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Osaka overcame Alize Cornet in three sets on Tuesday, in her first match since the US Open.  Zanevska is a 28-year-old from Belgium who won her first WTA title at a 500-level clay event last July.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon

For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (Manuela Davies/USTA)

Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.

 

The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.

The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.

It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.

The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.

The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.

The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.

For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.

Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.

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‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open

Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.

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Image via https://mobile.twitter.com/ESPNtenis

World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.

 

The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.

Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.

“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.

A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.

O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.

“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”

Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.

“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”

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French Player Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours After Australian Open Defeat

The world No.40 was preparing to leave the country.

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Image via https://twitter.com/HumbertUgo/

Ugo Humbert is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 following his first round loss at the Australian Open on Tuesday.

 

Humbert, who was the 29th seed in the men’s draw, is understood to have produced a positive result during a routine procedure players have to conduct before they leave the country. It is unclear as to if he is currently suffering from any symptoms.

Humbert crashed out of the tournament to compatriot Richard Gasquet, who won their match 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6 (3), 6-3, in three hours and 18 minutes. Gasquet also tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia earlier this month but was given the all clear to play at Melbourne Park following a negative test. There was a 15-day period between the 35-year-old announcing on Twitter he had the virus and his first match against Humbert.

“I was tested positive on my exit test yesterday and I’ll stay one more week in isolation in Australia,” Humbert wrote on Instagram.
“Thanks for your support and see you soon.”

The 23-year-old has started his season by winning one out of four matches played. Prior to the Australian Open, he scored one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Cup in the group stages. However, following that victory he suffered losses to Alex de Minaur and Matteo Berrettini.

Tennis Australia is yet to comment on Humbert’s positive test.

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