Australian Open Daily Preview: Djokovic, Murray, Sabalenka Face Familiar Foes - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Djokovic, Murray, Sabalenka Face Familiar Foes



Andy Murray on Friday morning in Melbourne (

On Saturday in Melbourne, third round singles action concludes, with plenty of room for new names to advance after the bottom half of both singles draws saw a plethora of upsets on Thursday.


Andy Murray won an epic encounter in the last round, defeating Thanasi Kokkinakis after five hours and forty-five minutes, in a match that ended after 4:00am.  After already spending over 10-and-a-half hours on court this week, what will Murray have left on Saturday against Roberto Bautista Agut, who had seemingly sent Andy into retirement four years ago at this same event?

Meanwhile Nine-Time Champion Novak Djokovic has struggled his way through two rounds with a significant leg injury, as his movement was obviously hampered on Thursday.   In the third round, he faces Grigor Dimitrov for the 11th time.  Dimitrov has advanced comfortably without dropping a set.

And Aryna Sabalenka is playing some of the best tennis of her career.  But on Saturday, she faces her friend and former doubles partner Elise Mertens, who partnered with Sabalenka to win this tournament in 2021.

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

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Elise Mertens (26) – Third on Margaret Court Arena

Sabalenka has cruised to this stage, losing only nine games across four sets.  And she’s now taken all 12 sets she’s contested in 2023, coming off a title run last week in Adelaide.  Aryna has reached the fourth round in each of the last two years in Melbourne.

Mertens has achieved that same feat in each of the last three years, and was a semifinalist here in 2018.  She was a modest 29-23 last season in singles, but won a hard court title in October.

Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 6-2, and has won their last five meetings.  Most recently, she defeated Mertens in the fourth round of the 2021 US Open 6-4, 6-1.  On Saturday, based on her recent strong form, Aryna is the favorite to defeat Elise for the sixth straight time.

Linda Fruhvirtova vs. Marketa Vondrousova – Third on 1573 Arena

Vondrousova upset Ons Jabeur in the last round, who was the runner-up at the last two Majors.  Marketa was a Major runner-up herself four years ago in Paris, but injuries have hampered her career ever since.  Still just 23-years-old, there’s seemingly plenty of time for the Czech to become a contender again.

Fruhvirtova is also a Czech player, though she’s six years younger than Vondrousova.  The 17-year-old is into the third round of a Slam for the first time, and her younger sister Brenda was also in this main draw, as a qualifier.  Linda first made waves on tour last March in Miami, where she upset Mertens and Azarenka on her way to the fourth round.  She won her first WTA title this past September in Chennai. 

Both players possess plenty of variety in their games, so this should be a fun contest.  But based on Vondrousova’s experience edge, especially at this level, I like her chances to advance.  Plus, since November, Marketa is now 12-2 at all levels on a hard court. 

Grigor Dimitrov (27) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic looked seriously hobbled at times during his second round match against Enzo Couacaud.  He suffered a hamstring injury two weeks ago in Adelaide, and admitted after his second round victory that his injury “is not ideal.”  Dimitrov is a considerable step up in competition for Novak, as his first two opponents were ranked 75th and 191st in the world.

The Australian Open is easily the best Major in Grigor’s career.  The Bulgarian has advanced to the quarterfinals or better four times since 2014.  But he was only 26-22 last season, and only 4-4 at Slams.

Djokovic has dominated their head-to-head 9-1, and 6-0 on hard courts.  Dimitrov’s only victory came 10 years ago on clay in Madrid.  While not knowing the full extent of his hamstring inury, after watching Djokovic fight his way through an abdominal injury to win this event two years ago, it’s hard not to pick Novak to fight his way to another victory over Grigor on Saturday.

Andy Murray vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (24) – 7:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

Murray can’t possibly recover enough to contend in this matchup, right?  Coming back from back-to-back five-setters, the second of which lasted nearly six hours and ended close to breakfast time, seems impossible for almost any athlete, much less a 35-year-old with a metal hip.

While Bautista Agut is also coming off a five-setter, against American qualifier Brandon Holt, his lasted nearly three hours less, and ended even more hours earlier.  Roberto is off to a strong start in 2023, as he was a runner-up just last week in Adelaide, where he lost the final in a third-set tiebreak to Soon-woo Kwon.

Four years ago in the first round of this tournament, Bautista Agut defeated Murray in a four-hour five-setter, with an on-court ceremony held thereafter for a thought-to-be retiring Andy.  But here Murray is, still gritting his way through five-setters and defeating players nearly 10 years his junior.  Roberto also beat Andy twice last year on hard courts, winning those four sets by score lines of 6-0, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.  Murray claimed their first three meetings, which occurred between 2014 and 2016.

But on this day, a drained Andy has to be considered a huge underdog, as he tries to reach the fourth round at a Major for the first time in six years.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Q) vs. Belinda Bencic (12) – Bencic is now 6-0 to start the year, coming off a title run in Adelaide.  She’s split two previous meetings against Schmiedlova on hard courts.

Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Dan Evans (25) – Rublev is vying to reach the second week for the ninth time out of his last 12 Majors.  Evans has only twice accomplished that.  These players are 4-4 against each other at all levels.

Tommy Paul vs. Jenson Brooksby – Brooksby took out second-seeded Casper Ruud in four sets on Thursday, while Paul outlasted Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in five.  This past summer in Cincinnati, Tommy defeated Jenson 6-3, 6-2.

Laura Siegemund vs. Caroline Garcia (4) – Garcia managed to defeat Leylah Fernandez in straight sets in the last round despite a stern test from the Canadian.  Two years ago at Roland Garros, Caroline easily prevailed over Laura, dropping just four games.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.


Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup

Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day



Image via Laver Cup twitter

After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.


Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”

American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.

“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”

After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:

“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”

The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:

“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”

Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”

Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.

Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.

T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2

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ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more



After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10


By Roberto Ferri

Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”

Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.

But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.

Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.

TOP 20

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A few comments:

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.

Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.

Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.

Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively  at the 2022 US  Open, drop 4 positions.

One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.


From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.

Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.


Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.

Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.

The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.

Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.


The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.

The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.

PositionPlayerCountryPtsYOB ATP rank
6Van AsscheFrance597200469
12Llamas RuizSpain3702002133

Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.


Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.

We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.

The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.

Seyboth Wild76Brazil30

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open



Love him, or hate him. But respect him.


No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.

Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.

Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.


Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.

It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.

Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.


At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.

The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.

Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.

Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.


Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.

Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.

The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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