Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

On Friday in Melbourne, the men’s singles semifinals will be played.

Novak Djokovic is just two matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles, the most-ever in men’s singles.  Djokovic is 18-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals, and hasn’t lost a match in Australia in over five years.  Can anyone prevent the nine-time champion from winning this event for a 10th time?

In the semifinals, Djokovic faces Tommy Paul, who prior to this fortnight had never advanced beyond the fourth round at a Major.  In the other men’s semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is 0-3 in Australian Open semis, takes on Karen Khachanov, who is into his second semifinal in as many Majors.

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.  The women’s doubles semis include top singles names such as Barbora Krejcikova, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula, while the mixed doubles final will serve as Sania Mirza’s retirement match.


Karen Khachanov (18) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Tsitsipas has achieved his fourth semifinal in Australia out of the last five years, but he is yet to advance farther.  And he’s only claimed one of 10 sets in his three previous Australian semis, losing to Rafael Nadal in 2019, and Daniil Medvedev in both 2021 and 2022.  Stefanos is now a perfect 9-0 in 2023, and has only dropped one set during this fortnight.

Khachanov is into his second consecutive Major semifinal.  The 26-year-old is vying for his first Slam final, and his first final at any event in over a year.  Karen has dropped two sets through five matches, and has now defeated three straight seeded players (Tiafoe, Nishioka, Korda).

Tsitsipas has dominated their rivalry to date, leading their head-to-head 5-0.  Four of those matches were on hard courts, and three of them were straight-set victories for the Greek.  As per Tennis Abstract, out of the 13 sets they’ve played, Karen has only managed to break seven times, while Stefanos has broken 17 times.  And with plenty of Greek support in the crowd at this event, Tsitsipas is a considerable favorite to reach his second Major final.


Novak Djokovic (4) vs. Tommy Paul – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic has claimed 22 of his last 24 sets in Australian Open semifinals and finals, with the only two sets lost both coming in the 2020 final against Dominic Thiem.  His domination in the last two rounds of this tournament throughout his career is only rivaled by that of Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  Despite the hamstring injury that Novak suffered leading up to this tournament, he has only dropped one set to this stage.  In his last six sets, he’s only allowed his opposition an average of two games per set.

Paul has taken advantage of an open quarter of the draw, in which seven of the eight seeds lost within the first two rounds (Ruud, Fritz, Zverev, Berrettini, Schwartzman, Kecmanovic, Davidovich Fokina).  Yet even as many pointed to Tommy as the favorite to make the semis amidst younger, inexperienced Americans in this quarter (Brooksby, Wolf, Shelton), Paul did not faulter.  The 25-year-old is one of the fastest players on tour, and will debut inside the top 20 on Monday.

In their first career meeting, of course Djokovic is a huge favorite.  Prior to this fortnight, Paul had only once reached the second week of a Major, when he advanced to the fourth round six months ago at Wimbledon.  As per ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, Novak has beefed up his forehand this fortnight, averaging five mph’s more on that wing than a year ago.  And he’s also been serving excellently – Djokovic has only been broken three times in the entire tournament, with all three breaks coming against Grigor Dimitrov.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna vs. Luisa Stefani and Rafael Motos – This is Mirza’s last event before retirement, following a storied doubles career where she has won three Majors in women’s doubles and three Majors in mixed doubles.  Her and Mahesh Bhupathi won this event as a team 14 years ago, the first of Sania’s six Slam titles.  Bopanna won the mixed doubles event at Roland Garros in 2017.  Stefani was a bronze medalist in women’s doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.  This is a first Major final for both her and Motos.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Krejcikova and Siniakova have won six Majors as a team, three of which came last year, including this tournament.  This is Kostyuk and Ruse’s first event as a team since Roland Garros, where they made the quarterfinals.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (10) vs. Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (2) – Gauff and Pegula were finalists at Roland Garros last June.  This is Aoyama and Shibahara’s third Major semifinal, but they’re yet to go farther at a Slam.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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French Open Player Avoids Disqualification After Striking Fan With Ball

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Terence Atmane - photo by Ubitennis

Officials at the French Open opted not to default a player from his match after he hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan on the first day of the tournament. 

Terence Atmane, who received a wild card into this year’s draw, was involved in a tough five-set battle against Sebastian Ofner on Sunday evening. During the fourth set, Atmane found himself down 1-4, 30-30, when the incident unfolded. After hitting a shot that landed out, the Frenchman blasted a ball which unintentionally hit somebody in the crowd.

As a result of the incident, the match was halted for 15 minutes while the umpire and tournament referee addressed the situation, which included speaking to the person who got hit. Following the lengthy discussion, it was decided that Atmane would be issued with a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct but would not be disqualified. Prompting surprise from Ofner who went on to win the match 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 7-5.

“For me, it was a bit surprising, because if you do something like that on a small court, you have to be punished, you know?” The Associated Press quoted Ofner as saying after the match. “Because it’s not like you hit the ball normally. It was full power. The ball was so fast. Straight in the crowd. There were people disqualified for less.”

In the past players have been disqualified from a match for similar actions, including Novak Djokovic who was defaulted from his fourth round match at the 2020 US Open after hitting a lines judge with a ball. More recently, at last year’s French Open, doubles player Miyu Kato and her partner were defaulted after she accidentally but a ball girl. 

Ofner, who is currently ranked 45th in the world, says he was told that Atmane avoided a big punishment because the person the crowd was fine and ‘saw the ball coming.’ 

“The referee said, ‘Oh, yeah, I was talking with the lady. The lady said at the beginning it was hurting but now it’s fine, and everything was OK. She saw the ball coming. So it’s not enough for disqualification.’ I think if he would see how it was, maybe he would decide different,” he said. “A little bit more unlucky and it’s going directly in the face. And then something can happen (like) a broken nose or whatever.”

The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has so far made no public comment on the matter.

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French Open: Stan Wawrinka Beats Murray In Battle Of Former Grand Slam Champions

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Stan Wawrinka - Parigi 2022 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Stan Wawrinka produced a solid display to beat long-time rival Andy Murray in what could be the Brit’s final appearance at the French Open.

Wawrinka, who won the Paris title back in 2015, rallied his way to a 6-4, 6-4, 6-1, win over former world No.1 Murray in what was the second-oldest match-up to take place at the tournament this century. At the age of 39, Wawrinka has become the oldest player to win a match in Paris since his compatriot Roger Federer did so three years ago. The Swiss No.1 hit 35 winners past his opponent in what was their 23rd meeting on the ATP Tour. 

“My first words were respect for a great champion,” Wawrinka said about the exchange the two had at the net afterwards. 
“I love watching him (Murray) play and fighting against him. We have had a lot of good fights in the last 15 years. A lot of emotion when we played here (at Roland Garros).”

Coming into the tournament, there have been questions raised about the current form of both players. Wawrinka had only won three matches in his four previous tournaments played and is yet to score consecutive wins this year. Meanwhile, Murray’s start to the clay swing was marred by an ankle injury and he has only played three matches on the clay this season before Paris. 

However, it was Wawrinka who managed to come out on top with the use of some of his signature backhand winners. Throughout the first two sets, he won 75% of his first service points without dropping serve and broke Murray once in each of those. 

Then at the start of the third frame, he pounced once again with yet another backhand winner to break as a lacklustered Murray continued to produce costly errors. Paving the way for Wawrinka to storm to a largely one-sided victory. He earned his first match point with a winner down the line before closing the clash out with an almost identical shot. 

“I love to work a lot in front of a crowd like this,” Wawrinka explained. 
“I’ve shared a lot of emotion with this crowd and they gave me a lot of energy to fight.
“In my head, I am still a young guy, I am still a kid. I just want to live this moment in front of this crowd.”

Murray’s loss occurs in what could be his last-ever French Open appearance. In recent months he has spoken about ending his career in 2024 but it yet to make a formal announcement. Should this be the case, he ends his Roland Garros career with a win-loss record of 39-12. His best run was to the final in 2016. 

This year is Wawrinka’s 19th appearance at Roland Garros and he is one of only two players in the Open Era to have won 11 five-set matches at the Grand Slam. The other to do so is Gael Monfils. It is the second time he has beaten Murray in the first round of the tournament after 2020. 

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French Open: Jack Draper Serves Up Trouble and is Upset by Dutch Qualifier De Jong

Brit Draper loses his longest ever tennis match in only his second five-setter of his career.

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Jack Draper crashed out at the first hurdle at the French Open after a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 3-6, 6-3 loss to world number 176 Jesper de Jong – a qualifier who had come through three rounds to reach the main draw – who next faces third seed Carlos Alcaraz. 

In a titanic tussle lasting over four hours, the British number two could not find any rhythm on his serve, getting just 50% of his first deliveries in while winning only 51% of his second serves – resulting in him being broken an alarming nine times over the five sets.

“My serve has been a problem this year,” said Draper after the match. “I’m trying to change it to make it better, and obviously I’ve made those changes in the last few weeks. So, it’s not comfortable, especially in a grand slam playing in a fifth set on a second serve. You know, the confidence isn’t there at the moment on my serve, and it’s a problem I’m going to have to work on with coaches and see where I can make it more consistent because, yeah, it’s really letting me down.”

Dutchman De Jong took the opening two sets and was heading for a surprising routine victory before Draper showed some admirable fight to win the third on a tie-breaker before taking control of the fourth to push the match into a decider after a one-hour rain delay.

Draper, still only 22 with huge potential, still has time to understand how to navigate the fluctuations of long five setters and will be disappointed with the outcome of the fifth when he threw in yet another double-fault at 30-40 down in the seventh game to hand his opponent the initiative.  “I battled my way back, started playing a decent level. There was a lot of ebbs and flows in the match. That’s five-set tennis. I’m kind of learning that the more I play,” he added. 

Elsewhere in other results, sixth seed Andrey Rublev dropped a set in a tough battle against Japan’s Taro Daniel and next faces Spain’s Pedro Martinez, while eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz survived going two sets to one down before coming through easily in five against Shintaro Mochizuki from Japan. 

Bulgaria’s 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov recorded a routine win against American Aleksandar Kovacevic and French veteran, and wildcard Richard Gasquet was arguably more impressive in his straight sets win over Borna Coric of Croatia and potentially plays second seed Jannik Sinner next. 

However, in perhaps the biggest upset of the day, French number one and 17th seed Ugo Humbert lost 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in a match close to three hours and in front of home fans on Suzanne-Lenglen stadium court. 

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