Wimbledon Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Her First Singles Match in a Year - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Her First Singles Match in a Year

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Serena Williams during media day on Saturday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

One year ago, Serena Williams left Centre Court in tears, as she was forced to retire after just six games of her first round match due to a leg injury.  On Tuesday, she returns to Centre Court in what will be her first singles match since that emotional moment. 

 

Also on Tuesday, Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a third consecutive Major title.  After winning both the Australian Open and Roland Garros, he now owns 22 Slam titles, two more than both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.  And for the second straight year, one of “The Big Three” arrives at SW19 halfway to the calendar year Grand Slam.

Other top names playing their opening round matches on Day 2 include Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, RG runner-up Coco Gauff, Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, as well as Wimbledon champions Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, and Petra Kvitova.  With 10 matches postponed from Monday due to rain, and six more to be concluded, Tuesday will be an extremely busy day, as 80 singles matches are scheduled around the grounds of The All England Club.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Jana Fett (Q) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

In the absence of the defending women’s singles champion Ash Barty, Swiatek has been selected to open Centre Court play on Day 2.  And it has now been over four months since Iga has lost a match.  The definitive world No.1 is on a 35-match win streak, and is coming off her second Major title in Paris.  However, Swiatek remains an unproven commodity on grass.  She’s only 4-4 lifetime on this surface.  Three of those four victories came last year during this event, when she advanced to the fourth round and lost to Ons Jabeur in three sets.  Fett is a 25-year-old whose most memorable tennis moment is unfortunately a painful one.  At the 2018 Australian Open, she was up 5-1 in the third over eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki, yet failed to convert two match points and eventually lost 7-5.  Jana will be a huge underdog in her first meeting with Iga, who has rarely been challenged in 2022.


Simona Halep (16) vs. Karolina Muchova – Second on No.1 Court

After missing last year’s tournament due to injury, this will be Halep’s first match at The Championships since defeating Serena Williams in the 2019 final.  And she faces perhaps the toughest draw any seeded player has been presented in the opening round.  Muchova has reached the quarterfinals in both of her previous appearances at The Championships.  She also was a semifinalist at the 2021 Australian.  Karolina missed the first few months of this season due to injury, yet despite the lack of play, upset Maria Sakkari at Roland Garros.  Yet in the very next round, injury again struck Muchova, as she rolled her ankle and was forced to retire in tears against Amanda Anisimova.  She seemed to recover quickly, as she was back on court two weeks ago in Berlin, where she lost her only grass court tune-up match to Ons Jabeur.  Halep is a solid 26-8 on the year, and went 6-2 this month on grass, achieving two semifinals.  Her partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou is yet to pay significant dividends, but perhaps that is about to change, as Patrick knows all about coaching players to Wimbledon titles.  Halep and Muchova have never played before, which makes this match all the more unpredictable.  But based on recent form, I give Simona the slight edge to provide Karolina with her first early-round loss at The Championships.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Francisco Cerundolo – Second on Centre Court

This will be Nadal’s first match at Wimbledon, and first match on grass, in three years.  But the last two times he played at The Championships, Rafa reached the semifinals, where he was stopped by players name Djokovic and Federer.  After requiring injections to his injured foot before every match he played at Roland Garros, Nadal has stated his foot is feeling much better heading into this fortnight.  Cerundolo was a shocking semifinalist at this year’s Miami Open, which was the first ATP event not played on clay where Francisco ever won a match.  Since that run, the 23-year-old has struggled mightily, with a 2-5 record.  An upset over Nadal on Tuesday would be startling, though all eyes will be on how comfortable Rafa looks on his injured foot.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) vs. Maxime Cressy – Third on No.3 Court

Auger-Aliassime made a Major breakthrough at this tournament a year ago, defeating Sascha Zverev in five sets to reach his first Major quarterfinal.  But on Tuesday, he faces a challenging first round opponent in Cressy.  The 25-year-old advanced to the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, and is coming off a title run on grass two weeks ago in Eastbourne, where he beat three top 20 players (Opelka, Norrie, Fritz).  His serve-and-volley style is a perfect fit for this surface.  And we’ve seen Felix play tightly early on in Majors, including just last month when he lost the first two sets of his opening round in Paris to a player ranked outside the top 100.  With the Canadian’s good friend Hubi Hurkacz getting upset on Monday, a similar upset on Tuesday of a player who went deep at this event a year ago feels fully possible.


Harmony Tan vs. Serena Williams (WC) – Third on Centre Court

It is quite startling to see Serena Williams as a wild card.  But the former multi-time world No.1 finds herself without a ranking after not competing for a full year.  She played two doubles matches last week in Eastbourne with Ons Jabeur, though this match will be much more revealing regarding her status as a contender to secure her 24th Major singles title.  Serena has said she enjoyed not training for much of the past year, partially due to injury, though she’s surely confident in her physical conditioning if she entered this singles draw.  Tan is a 24-year-old ranked 113th in the world, and is only 2-6 lifetime in the main draw of Majors.  And Harmony has never won a tour-level match on grass.  This is as kind of a draw an unseeded Serena could ask for, and should enable her to earn her first singles victory since last year’s Roland Garros.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Cristian Garin – The 2021 finalist is an undefeated 9-0 on grass this season, coming off titles at both Stuttgart and Queen’s Club.  By contrast, Garin is 0-2 this season on this surface, and is 5-8 lifetime.  Matteo leads their head-to-head 2-1.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Gauff followed up her run to the final of Roland Garros with a semifinal run on grass in Berlin.  Ruse is a 24-year-old who captured a WTA title on clay last July. 

Petra Kvitova (25) vs. Jasmine Paolini – On Saturday, Kvitova claimed her first title in over a year in Eastbourne.  Paolini is a 26-year-old Italian who won her first WTA title last September in Slovenia.  Petra has taken both their prior encounters in straight sets. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Alexander Ritschard (Q) – Tsitsipas is only 3-4 at The Championships, though he won a grass court title on Saturday in Mallorca.  Ritschard is a 28-year-old making his main draw debut at a Major. 

Garbine Muguruza (9) vs. Greet Minnen – After winning the 2021 WTA Finals, Muguruza has struggled with her form and injury.  The 2017 champion is only 8-11 on the year.  Minnen is a 24-year-old who reached the third round of last year’s US Open. 

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Fritz was a champion on Saturday in Eastbourne.  Musetti is a 20-year-old Italian who is 0-2 on grass in 2022. 

Bianca Andreescu vs. Emina Bektas (Q) – Andreescu is vying for her first win at The Championships.  Bektas is a 29-year-old looking for her first main draw win at any Major.

Sloane Stephens vs. Qinwen Zheng – Stephens was a quarterfinalist here nine years ago.  Qinwen was the only player to take a set off Swiatek at the French Open.  Two months ago in Charleston, Zheng defeated Sloane 6-0 in the third. 

Denis Shapovalov (13) vs. Arthur Rinderknech – Shapovalov was a semifinalist a year ago, but arrives at SW19 on a five-match losing streak.  Rinderknech reached a final in Adelaide to start the season, and won a Challenger title on clay a few weeks ago.  And in Doha, Arthur upset Denis 6-4, 6-4.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

ATP

Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Andreescu edges Kostyuk to reach semis in Hua Hin

Bianca Andreescu is into the semi-finals in Thailand.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BenLewisMPC - Twitter)

The Canadian is into the final four in Thailand after beating the Ukrainian in straight sets.

 

Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the semifinal of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after beating the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 in one hour and 28 minutes.

The number one seed hit 19 winners and won 69% of her first serve points in a match where she had an amazing start but was dealt some adversity in the second set.

“I don’t think I started playing bad in the second set,” Andreescu said. “I think she just raised her game and she is always a tough opponent so I wasn’t expecting anything easy.”

The Toronto native who was making her first trip to Thailand came out to a flying start breaking three times in the first set en route to serving a bagel 6-0 set in a mere 25 minutes on court.

Riding the momentum into the second set, the Canadian broke again in the first game and at 3-1 went up a double break and found herself up 5-1 and a game away from the semis.

That’s when the number five seed started fighting back and at 5-2 broke Andreescu for the first time in the match and won the next two games to level the set at 5-5, using her powerful forehand to do it.

The set and the match were ultimately decided by a tiebreaker where the top seed got the early lead at 4-2 and served out the set and match at 6-3 in the breaker to secure the win.

After the match in her on-court interview, she was asked about her chances in the next match.

“I am hoping to win the tournament and I really believe in myself and if I get the support I need hopefully I can win the next two matches.”

Andreescu will face another Ukrainian in the semi-finals Lesia Tsurenko who had no issues getting past the German Tatjana Maria in straight sets 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

In the other two quarterfinal matches, Lin Zhu of China beat the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes to set up an all-Chinese semi-final with the number seven seed Xinju Wang.

Wang needed three sets to get past the Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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